Huda ul Nisa & Baseera Rafiqi
Soon after the September 2014 floods, a young engineer went into an overdrive. His mission: to help people rebuild their destroyed houses. His fee: nothing or just nominal.
But soon this boy found the cost of his bigheartedness. He was down with a severe chest infection. “When my father took me to a doctor, he asked him, ‘Is he a labourer?’” An X-ray showed his lungs were full of dust, a typical condition of construction labourers. But when he told the doctor he was an engineer, the doctor paused a while in surprise before proceeding with his prescription.
Meet SaqibMajeed. At 23, he is already a man of many parts.
A civil engineer by profession, Saqib usually has a busy schedule on hand. But after previous year’s great flood and the destruction it left behind, he thought 24 hours were too less for a day’s work. “We had to do a lot of planning and groundwork in the flood affected areas,” recalls Saqib. He runs a designing and engineering consultancy firm with his friend Nasir Rashid. “It was work, day in and day out, without any end,” says Saqib. There were houses to be rebuilt that had been razed to rubble. There were structures to be fortified and repaired. And in all this there was a lot of design work—computers, hand drawings sometimes only the mind's eye. “We did 300 cases and almost 60% we did free. Even for other cases for which we did the designing and drawings, we charged quite less than market rates.” We pausedSaqib and asked what the driving force was behind all this generosity. “We understood people had suffered. Our motto was to help as many people as we could.” And for a young engineer though there was a lot of money to be made, Saqib and his partner thought otherwise and wise. “We did not think of making money out of other’s tragedies,” says Saqib. Saqib comes from a family where almost everyone is an engineer-- uncles, cousins and siblings. So his parents thought engineering is what he must take up. But while engineering is the profession, Saqib’s obsession lies somewhere else. And it looks like somewhat of a mismatch. Making dry engineering drawings and pursuing an artistic interest like photography, well, we were sure surprised. But looking at his photographic work left us even more amazed. “I believe God has been very kind to me to gift me this talent,” says Saqib in a rather philosophical tone. What drives him to photography, we hasten to ask. “It is my passion. I just love to do it.” While he studied engineering at the SSM College, photography came by accident. “In 2006 I took some pictures at my uncle’s wedding. The angles were weird,” recalls Saqib almost self mockingly. But then he put some effort into learning it. “Thank Almighty, my skills are much better now.” In fact, Saqib wanted to be a photojournalist but his father stood in the way. “He told me that you cannot make a living out of it. They will pay you just 3000 bucks and all day you will be roaming the streets to get a good click,” Saqib recollects. In 2011, Saqib’s work was published in a local news portal for the first time. It was a cloud-nine feeling for him. “I used to email my work to the different publications but when I saw my work online, I was thrilled,” recalls Saqib as he relives the joy of that moment with a smile and a sparkle in his eyes. After that his work was carried by several online magazines including The Global Magazine.He also freelances for a local magazine, Counselor. Does Saqib make any money out of photography? He is quick to respond.“No, I don’t do it for money. Photography fascinates me and I do it for my inner satisfaction.” He adds he is happy just by seeing his work published. As a philosophical afterthought he adds,”If you do it for money, it cannot remain your passion. It then becomes business.” Money doesn’t seem to be a top priority with Saqib even in his profession. He could have easily moved out of the valley for a better pay cheque but chose otherwise. “I want to do something for my society and it’s betterment. I don’t want to move outside and earn. My people are more important to me.” Like his profession, Saqib doesn’t want to limit his obsession of art to himself alone. He runs an organization Art- Surpassing its Boundary which promotes and exhibits artistic work of other youth. “I want to provide a platform to young and budding photographers, artists, poets who want to showcase their work.” So how does Saqib balance engineering and photography? First there is a broad smile, then a studied answer. “While one is my profession and other is my obsession; one gives me bread and another gives me inner peace. So I find ways to manage and do justice to both.” And finally how would Saqib describe himself apart from what we know he is? “I cannot describe myself. Someone else can do it better.” We push him a little more for an answer, and then makes a confession.”I am shy.”