"The spirit of a lioness"
Aware that Aminah Haq does not give interviews easily placed more of a responsibility on me to do justice to a story that I knew was not an easy one to obtain, especially since I knew she was planning to retire immediately after she marries in the near future. I therefore decided to put aside the usual questions regarding her career and supermodel status, and understand the woman behind the persona. Sitting composed, completely devoid of make-up, Aminah spoke with a confidence and passion that reflected a spirit only few can possess.
“I have been modelling for the last eight years, and the funny thing is that unlike a lot of girls who make it big in the first few years and then ride their success, I had to work really hard the entire time. I don’t have the perfect bone structure or figure, neither am I tall... However recently I have begun to feel that I have reached a saturation point where my modelling is concerned.” Said Aminah. “I love what I do but at the same time, I am getting married and I understand that in our society, it is very hard meeting somebody who firstly accepts you for what you are, then to top it off, meeting their family who also do the same.
I am very realistic about the limitations prevalent here. On top of all that, I am the kind of person who has fought for the last eight years to have my own life and independence. It has been wonderful, but I have come to a point where I realise, you can’t have your own way in everything. I am moving to a place in my life where my priorities are changing, I want to work and do interesting things, but I don’t want to ride on my success to a point where people start asking me to leave. I don’t want to be one of those models that are thirty something, and people are tired of them. I want people to remember me at my peak. All these factors are rounding off to make me realise that by next year I should be retiring and moving on to a different level. As my life and priorities are changing, I am becoming very sure that I must move on from here.”
"My fiancé is from an extremely conservative background.” Continued Aminah. “With any thing in life, you have to give up something to gain something. And when I choose him, I give up this lifestyle. It’s not like I am not scared of giving up my independence. However I am also looking forward to being able to have time for myself. Not to have to worry about the things the average girl does not have to worry about. To actually be taken care of. I can take a little time off and figure out what I want to do next. Even though I have thoroughly enjoyed what I have done, I have also had to work because it became a necessity. I have not had the luxury to be able to take time off to try some other line of work. Its not like I had oodles of cash to help me along the way. I have actually lived like a man, worrying about bills, salaries and day-to-day living. With modelling and acting, it is all about ‘now’. If one is not with the present moment, the opportunities don’t knock twice.”
“In this society I have stood up for so many of my rights that people have condemned me for my attitude. But I have understood that one cannot fight everything, one cannot take up the world at large, and you must choose your battles carefully. To be settled in a marriage, especially in this country, there is a lot a woman has to compromise on and I have no qualms about my choices. I have fought enough battles.” She smiled. “When one is an independent woman it is very different from the average girl who has graduated from a prestigious college and is twiddling her thumbs waiting to get married. The saddest thing in all of this is that, women in our society are condemned by other women. Since most women have not had the freedom, opportunity or courage to live their lives the way they have wanted to, they cannot stand to see any woman enjoy her freedom and success. They are the ones who are the first to label a girl, ‘bad’. I fail to understand what is wrong with a woman leading her own life. So far I have ensured that neither my work nor my relationship is compromised.”
At this point I hesitantly asked Aminah about a recent interview on TV, where her father, Mustafa Khar, had emotionally mentioned the schism in their relationship. “A lot of people have been talking about the interview Farah Shah did with my father, and first of all I want to say that it isn’t any bodies business, what my relationship with my father is.” Said Aminah. “The sad thing is that it is a very sorry state of affairs, but it is not one of those situations where this needs to be declared in the media. All I will say is that there seems to be more in the press and national TV regarding the situation than what has actually transpired in real life. I haven’t seen my father in the last twelve years, so I feel that if anything has to be addressed, it should be done so directly to me. This is a very delicate issue and parental affairs are not something that should be discussed in the media. I just feel that if someone genuinely wants to get through to another, then obstacles do not count, especially when it is your own child you are talking about. Lets be realistic, do you think just a phone call will do? There is a lot of water under the bridge and you can not just snap your fingers and expect a child you’ve abandoned to come running. Since it was my father who chose to walk out of my life all those years ago, then it is not for me to make the first move. A lot of damage must be taken care of before that can happen. The ball is in his court, but that doesn’t mean that these things should be announced in the media. Where my identity is concerned, I have made my own name and standing. I have not been Aminah Khar since the age of three, I am Aminah Haq.”
I then asked her to detail some of the difficulties a single working woman faces living independently, and she replied, “It has been very hard to live on my own, but at the same time, if you have the courage to do it, it is probably the most satisfying and rewarding thing that you can ever do in your life. When I moved to Karachi, everyone gave me premonitions of doom, but I was very sure of what I was doing. There are certain decisions that I have made that have sucked, but unless you learn things by doing them, you are never going to figure out your true potential. I had to move, if I hadn’t, my work would not have progressed. It was a real struggle living on my own, but in terms of work, it did wonders for me. I wanted to plug my self into the whole entertainment industry and only Karachi could offer all of that. It had become crazy for me to commute between Lahore and Karachi all the time. The first year was so very hard.
I had to live in different places, and had no car and I still do not have a car. Then I finally moved into a tiny apartment where I still live. My mother was initially very upset with my decision and it took months to start getting her comfortable with my living alone, then there was all the expenditure and sometimes I just did not how to make ends meet. I used to feel very lonely and very unprotected. But I had known all of this before moving. When I would go to pay bills or when I travelled, I would be bothered without reason, and there was nothing I could do about it. I could not make a scene every time. I just had to bear with it. People think I live a life of luxury, but they are wrong. Everything I earn goes into supporting myself