By Sonya Rehman
There’s something about her. I don’t know what it is. But what I do know is this: she’s the type of girl who you instantly adore and want to ‘possess’ or ‘claim’ in some way.
I first met Shehrbano Saiyid during our Fulbright orientation in Albany before the onset of grad school in the US in 2010.
You know, over time, as you get to know someone, your opinion of them changes, the closer you get? Not with Shehrbano. What you see is what you get. Calm, serene, lovely, maternal – that’s Shehrbano. Her loving, mysterious little face – which I’d often see around campus, would warm my heart, even in the thick of winter.
Shehrbano’s always been a bit of a mystery to me. If you know her and have met her, you’d agree. But I think that’s what draws people to her. She doesn’t ‘try’ hard to wow anyone – either by wit, charm or intellect.
She is who she is – black and white…and perhaps that’s what I found especially confusing. An utter lack of an ego or pretense…this fluid personality, like one of those beautiful, massive, shimmering bubbles that the bubble-blowers at the park in the city make…the type of bubbles that catch every tone and colour of its surroundings – absorbing and reflecting everything, floating about, no fuss, nothing, just existing, in the moment.
To me, that was and always will be my perception of Shehrbano.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is this: keep your judgment at bay – everyone carries within them a unique, stunning pearl in the form of their spirit.
So yesterday, when I came across an article on Shehrbano in The News about her “making history” for organizing and leading the first all women mountaineering team to summit THREE 6000 meter peaks (“close to 20,000 feet”) within just SIX days in Pakistan, I found myself laughing and choked up at the same time.
She did it. She went ahead and accomplished something in her typical, quiet, composed way. I was surprised, and yet, funnily enough – not very surprised.
I must also mention that the other members of the team who accompanied Shehrbano were young and inspirational women (hailing from the Shimshall Valley in Hunza) aged 18 to 25. Unbelieveable. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited (more so, really) than when Moin Khan decided to travel all the way from San Francisco to Lahore – on a motorcycle.
As mentioned in an official press release (a press conference was held in Karachi in late January, this year, presided over by Shehrbano and her team):
“Saiyid said that the main aim of the climbing and filming project was to promote the cause of women in sports, speak for women’s independence and their right to pursue their goals and ambitions whether it’s mountain climbing or any other profession. In addition to that the project was initiated as a means to help promote tourism in Pakistan and highlight issues that affect it. Saiyid hoped to use the press conference as a platform for bringing Shimshalli locals in front of the public to talk about their area themselves with its tourist potential, culture, village life and socio-economic challenges.”
Earlier today, Shehrbano plugged a status on her Facebook page which left me incredibly moved. It read:
“These girls are my inspiration…I would not have reached a single summit without them dragging me up rocky, icy sections; carrying my backpack for me at times and even carrying me on their backs across rivers…and I don’t mean the men…the women carried me on their backs literally and helped me down the mountain as well. These records are theirs…”
To Shehrbano and her team of strong, unyielding, inspirational and beautiful young women, thank you for making your country proud. I hope with all my heart stories and accomplishments such as yours instigate other young Pakistanis to nurture the will to stir tangible change.