The majestic Mohatta Palace blushed in a shy shade of pink as the cool Karachi breeze flirted with the delicately swaying pallus of saris, chiffons and silks. It was an evening that championed 100 women – Miracle Women, to be exact – and the sight couldn’t have been more beautiful. It was almost as if Fatima Jinnah, Pakistan’s most celebrated woman and last resident of the palace, had opened up her home to welcome these women who had kept her legacy alive. Not an easy task in patriarchal Pakistan. And so the blushing Mohatta Palace served as the ideal venue for an event hosted by Pond’s to honour 100 truly inspirational achievers from real, reel and all walks of life and their miraculous journey.
One has seen countless award shows over the years, shows commemorating films and their stars, television and music celebrities and even achievements made in the world of advertising. But this was one of the rare instances where ‘common’ women from all walks of life were elevated to stardom. These were women who haven’t really enjoyed a high profile (though there were many public figures too) and who had come under the spotlight for their accomplishments and for succeeding at the biggest challenge of all: to balance a personal and professional life.
From Naila Naqvi, owner of the successful Pie in the Sky franchise to Roshanneh Zafar for her philanthropic enterprise, Kashf Foundation. A baker and a molecular pathologist, a designer and teacher, a blogger and an experienced journalist…the event brought everyone on one platform and made no fuss about who was bigger, better, senior, junior, less or more meritorious. It has to be said that the mention of some ‘miracle women’ on the list did raise a couple of well-groomed eyebrows; their accomplishments were not outstanding nor were their journeys miraculous but it was dignified not to question their moment of glory. It was also refreshing to see divisions that often rest on age, social clout and/or even marital status completely erased from the movement. The only thing in common amongst all these women is that they weren’t men.
Anila Weldon, Atiqa Odho, Chef Sai, Maheen Kardar Ali, Rukaiya Adamjee, Saeeda Mandviwalla, Samina Peerzada, Shamaeel Ansari, Dr Tasneem Nakhoda and Vaneeza Ahmed. Pond’s selected these 10 women last year and called them ‘Miracle Mentors’. The Miracle Mentors were tasked to select a further 10 women each, who they felt worthy of the honour. One wasn’t surprised by the diverse selection of women, all different with varying levels of achievement, but by the fact that there was no shortage of them. A moment of pride hit the audience when 100 beautiful and unapologetically well-turned out women assembled on the grand stage for the finale.
It was a brief ceremony but a very graceful one at that. The only oddity, perhaps, was the selection of performing artists at the event. Zoe Viccaji, Asrar and Humera Channa, though extremely talented and entertaining in their own, came across as a rather disjointed group when put together. The dances, choreographed by Breakhna, were lackluster and offered no additional value to the performances. One would have thought that the presence of high profile male stars, serenading to the honourable women, would have been more befitting. It would also have added a little, necessary excitement to an otherwise sophisticated albeit bordering-on-monotonous evening. Asrar, out of the three acts stole the show with his light-hearted rendition of his new track, ‘Ishq Hawa Mein’. It’s a cinch to become a super-hit as is he.
An informal narrative between Imran Aslam and Zeba Bakhtiar (who filled in for the original choice, Feryal Gauher who couldn’t make it to Karachi on time) kept the evening in sync with the idea of honouring Pakistani women through history. They brought up heroines of Punjabi folklore as well as screen idols, politicians as well as young activists, musicians, designers, journalists and even heads of state. These were women who had helped Pakistani women hold their heads high in pride. The narrative was poetic and emotional, even bringing a tear or two to the eyes of the audience.
Movements, campaigns and awards specific to women are held across the world, especially those hosted by female-centric magazines like Cosmpolitan and Glamour but it is for the first time that an initiative of this magnitude was taken in Pakistan. That alone is commendable.
But the end of the successful gala brings us to the most important question: is the Pond’s Miracle Journey a one-off whim for quick publicity or does it have the sincerity and commitment to continue as an annual tradition? Will Unilever manage to honour their commitment to herald the women of Pakistan year after year or will every year pose a dark shadow of ambiguity as to whether the show will go on or not. This uncertainty, of course, stems from the constantly dwindling status of the Lux Style Awards. Despite being 13 years old and starting with as much, if not more, passion and enthusiasm, the LSAs today stand with the strength of a flickering candle in the wind. One cannot say whether it’ll fade away or whether some new surge of energy will fuel its fire. What one can emphasize on is the importance of keeping traditions alive and honouring commitments once they are made.
Promising to make Pond’s Miracle Journey a movement that will continue through the year and culminate in an annual gala, the 110 women (10 Mentors and their 100 Miracle Workers) of 2014 were asked (at the event and via email) to nominate their successors. First of all, the ideal arrangement would be for the organizers to nominate their ten core women and then allow them to nominate a further 10 each, just as it was originally done, and so there is some ambiguity as to how this movement is to proceed. Secondly, what are the 100 women to do with their newly found fame? A shield on the mantle will serve as a pleasant reminder of a lovely evening but wouldn’t engaging them and/or assisting them with furthering their respective causes be better? It’s food for thought.
–Photography by Faisal Farooqui
The Miracle Women
Jeannette Vargas Faruque
Mehnaz Alavi Diwan
Naiza H. Khan
Saima Jamil Ashraf
Maha Ahsan Rahim
Sadiah Ahsan Pal
Amina Mujib Khan
Meenu Baig Muhammad
Mehnaz Naveed Shah
Bina Saira Zafar
Huma Ijaz Zaman
Maheen Kardar Ali
Andleeb Rana Farhan
Ayesha Ahmad Kasuri
Natasha Anwar Nabi
Sereena S Chaudry