A woman of substance, an expression of beauty, charm, eloquence and a patriot at heart – Hina Khawaja Bayat is perfection personified, exemplary at whatever she does. She ventured into the field of journalism and then pursued acting as a career; her quality of work depicts her dedication and determination. She was raised up to believe that women are the strongest pillars of a society and Pakistani women should be brave and courageous, and they should be aware of their rights as they are vital to building a strong nation.
Recently, I had the honour of interviewing this woman, who is an inspiration not only for me but for many. Hina Bayat is a dignified actress who is gorgeous inside out. She herself is deeply inspired by a wonderful woman – her mother – who was her best friend and role model. Enlightening us about her relationship with her mother, she said, “She taught me to be grateful for everything we take for granted and to give back to society for all we have. She instilled in me a strong work ethic and sense of commitment. She taught me to hold up my head with dignity and yet remain humble and grounded.” She added, “I spent many summer holidays and weekends watching her work tirelessly to better the lives of others through her social work at Behbud, APWA, Kashaana-e-Atfaal, the Leprosy Centre and the Cancer Society.” Hina became appreciative of art, culture, poetry, music and theatre because of her mother’s inclination towards literature. She further mentions, “Annual trips to the Quaid’s mazaar for fateha and national day parades strengthened my sense of patriotism and appreciation for my freedom. Yet, I was taught that freedom came at a price - of honesty, hard work and sacrifice … every morsel I ate had to be halal!”
She left me quite awestruck because this level of moral conscience is not witnessed a lot these days. It truly reflects the values inculcated in her by her parents.
Highlighting the importance of family life, she went down memory lane and mentioned that she had, “a happy childhood enveloped in the love of my parents and three incredible sisters who are my friends, my confidants, my support system, my little mothers and my rocks. Whatever we are as adults, stems from our relationship as children. Being the youngest around, I was disciplined and pampered, in equal measure, secure and confident in the unconditional love and acceptance of my family.” She said that she always knew that even if she faltered or made a mistake, her family would be there to help her without being judgemental. According to her, this gave her strength to stretch her own boundaries, even taking risks others wouldn’t because she knew that if her intentions were right, her family would be her backbone.
What makes her exceptional? It is her ability to excel in whatever she does. She’s been an anchor-person, a columnist, an actor and an activist. Upon inquiring about the role she enjoys the most, she said, “I remember once writing an essay at school – I wrote that I wanted to ‘make a difference!’ That has been my motivation my entire life.” She further added, “I never compromise on my work ethic and give it my all to the best of my ability and I firmly believe that is when the Divine Hand guides you to success. Success too is a relevant term as we all weigh success in various measures. The fact that my work is appreciated and earns me respect is success to me. Years later if people refer to a drama with reference to my character or insist that I should resume my show as an anchor, it means that I have impacted their lives in some way.” She says that if given a chance today, she would do Geo Hina Ke Saath or Uljhan Suljhan in a heartbeat, as there’s a dire need to educate our masses. She feels such programming requires research and dedication which unfortunately, no one is willing to shoulder today.
According to her, formal and informal education, both, play a vital role in a person’s life. She said, “I was very fortunate to be blessed with great teachers at great institutions. The nuns at the Convent of Jesus and Mary reiterated the values I was given at home and provided fabulous academic standards.” She continued, “I graduated with a degree in Political Science, World History & English Literature. I then joined a 4-year, post-graduation collaborative program between the Pakistani and German governments and qualified as an Industrial Designer.” She believes education is not just about books, “it is about exposure through means beyond books. Music, dance, debates, declamations, social service endeavours and extra-curricular activities were encouraged at my alma mater, giving me the confidence that propelled me to become Prefect and then Head Monitor at school. At college too, I represented Pakistan at the International Youth Conference held in Karachi in 1986. My post graduate program exposed me to professional life, preparing me for the real world. Little did I know then that my design work would lead me to television production and my interest in history, art and political science, to a career in journalism and media. Nothing I have ever learnt is lost on me today – it’s a treasure I keep drawing from!”
Keeping in mind, how tough it is for any woman to survive in the showbiz industry in Pakistan, I asked Hina Apa about her family’s support towards this field, to which she replied, “I always say I come from a family of Liberal Conservatives – we are liberal in our thought but conservative in our values. I knew from the very outset that there were boundaries of decency I could never cross.” She also said, “I may have earned some enemies for not compromising on my principles but I definitely earned the trust and support of my family over the years for the very same reason.”
She strongly believes that after being married, the support of a husband plays an integral role in the success of a woman’s career and vice versa. She said, “I would not be half the person I am if it wasn’t for the incredible support of my husband. I feel blessed that not only did I marry my best friend, I married my soul mate! He has always given me ease emotionally and physically to pursue my dreams and fulfil my professional commitments, even freeing me from household responsibilities when required.” She further added, “Many times, I was disheartened by the biases I had to deal with during the days of Uljhan Suljhan and Geo Hina Ke Saath but he never allowed me to give up. He has always told me that I was a fighter, not a quitter!”
Coming from a loving, closely knit family, she believes in striking a balance between home and workplace. “I do make a special effort to make time for family and family commitments – my favourite ones being family holidays!” she said. When inquired about the long and exhausting work hours, she replied, “I am strongly against the 12-hour shift that is prevalent in our industry as it is not only illegal but also detrimental to an individual’s personal wellbeing. Work is important but never at the cost of your home and relationships.”
While discussing about gender discrimination in the industry, she said, “It is an unfortunate fact that being a woman can be a professional deterrent. I was faced with options of compromising my moral principles to get ahead in my career but I opted not to.” She added, “But I feel that it served to challenge and motivate me further to do what I believed in. I have never regretted the choices I made!”
Hina Bayat has been working extremely hard towards women empowerment and human development. She says, “True empowerment comes from self-confidence and self-esteem and for women to be empowered it is also crucial that men are not left out of the equation.” She wholeheartedly supports endeavours related to education and health as according to her that provides for real empowerment. She adds, “Participating on student forums and speaking at events like the I Am Karachi Talks, gives me a chance to interact with the youth through intelligent discourse and discussions and arriving at solutions to the issues at hand. I contribute my time in supporting organisations like Patient’s Aid Foundation, Special Olympics, The Citizens Foundation, Shaukat Khanum Trust, the Garage School, Indus Hospital, Child Aid Foundation, Special Children’s Education Institute and recently, the Footpath School. It may not be much but if my presence can make a small difference, I feel I have fulfilled my dream of making a difference.”
She’s also one of the found ing members of the organisation Actor’s Collective Trust (ACT). Sharing her vision she says, “Our media industry has mushroomed over the years lacking formal structure.” She explained, “ACT is the only legally registered, recognised body representing actors in Pakistan. The aim of founding ACT is to provide our actors a platform to address their issues, improve their working conditions and bridge the gaps that often result in exploitation of actors by producers or vice versa.”
Being her positive and optimistic self, she has high hopes for Pakistani film industry. She said, “I hope and pray that the sacrifices of our elders, the true founders of this beautiful country will not be forgotten or lost in vain. If only our youth would emulate the example of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and follow the teachings of our Holy Prophet (PBUH) in letter and spirit, Pakistan can become a leader in the comity of nations.” Lastly, she prayed with a sparkle of hope in her eyes for “2019 to be a year of Naya and Behtar Pakistan!”
Interviewing Hina Bayat Khwaja was an overwhelming experience for me as it evoked many emotions as we moved through various stages of the journey of life. I hope and pray that the youth takes women like her as an example and try to lead their lives with respect, dignity and strength. If we trust ourselves, have faith in Allah, we have the ability to bring about a positive change.HH
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