From Anthropology to Films
What have you been working on since graduating from LUMS?
I’ve been a media professional working in print, broadcast and now film. I actually tried on a bunch of hats while I was still at LUMS interning everywhere really except for banks, because I just don’t get numbers (true to a SS stereotype) to test how far my Social Sciences education would go. I interned at a newspaper, a development agency, an advertising agency and a multinational FMCG. When I graduated I began writing for The News and then I went on to the U.S. for my masters where I worked for Esquire magazine, various bureaus across America, and for Al Jazeera English. Currently I’m working in cinema while also doing documentaries for VICE NEWS and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy films.
How did your time at LUMS prepare you for this?
During my time at LUMS we saw so much change from student bodies to student led social political movements and all that pushed me to be critical and cognizant of the world about me. To try to see the world as a connected cause and effect rather than in an insulated monolithic way- to me that’s the greatest gift I got from LUMS. Apart from of course, the many nights of croaking songs on the streets, the walks and rickshaw rides around Lahore, the many quarrels in the dorms that instilled a greater sense of self, independence and courage for standing for what I believed in, in me.
Why did you chose this line of work?
I remember that LUMS had organized a films festival somewhere in my sophomore or junior year and I saw this fabulous 2-3 minute short documentary on forced marriage that just sat with me for years and I so desperately wanted to be a filmmaker and just didn’t know how. So I did what I could do; I wrote, I got a journalism degree, I worked as a producer and finally learned the chops to be a film maker.
Why would you recommend any of the Social Sciences majors to current students?
It’s the only education you will get that will open your mind. There’s no rote learning. No right answers. No 2+2. It’s the only discipline that tries to explain to you the absurdity of the human condition and how best to cope with it, all the while training you to be a great leader in whatever field you choose. It teaches you how to be accepting of others, how to work with people different (often annoying and frustratingly different) from you and makes you a well-rounded well balanced individual who can contribute to any conversation anywhere- from discussing economics and social policy to psychology to philosophy to politics to marketing, fashion, to business. And trust me when I say this, you don’t learn anything about any job till you’re on it. There’s no manual to be the best marketing director at a leading FMCG, no codified bible on being a social entrepreneur. So wrongfully believing, as your parents would insist, a finance, technology or economics degree is all you need to be successful is just wrong. Every job is different, every company and its culture very particular to its own, and you will learn to play a very specific role suited to that organization by working inside it. They don’t expect you to know all the answers, but they do expect you to be creative and incisive and a team player-all skills that you are taught pursuing a degree in social sciences just as you are with any other degree.
Anything else you would like to add:
In a world as polarized and divisive as ours, it is essential for every responsible citizen of the world to try to understand herself and others. The best thing for every individual is to grow her mind. And a Social Sciences major makes your mind and your spirit grow. It also gives you the confidence and the mental bandwidth to stand next to the world's greatest minds and talents and hold your own.
What advice would you give to a LUMS student or graduate interested in your field ?
This is the best degree that LUMS has to offer. This is what makes LUMS what it is. All other schools in the country can teach you finance and economics and tech, but this is the only school that will teach you some uncomfortable truths about the world that will shatter your deeply cherished long held, often wrong, beliefs about the world and allow the best version of you to come in its wake. Even if you don’t choose to do a Social Sciences major, take as many SS courses as you can. Push yourself to learn things you would never otherwise consider, like philosophy or the sociology of religious fundamentalism, or cities and development and watch yourself grow. You know when people ask if there's something different about LUMS grads? This is the magic dust. This is the discipline that makes LUMS students appear so polished and distinguished. Remove social sciences from the mix, and you'll see LUMS graduates appear as uninspiring as the next graduate churned out from any polytech institute around the country.