Life as Faiq by day, Aashi by night

Published: March 2, 2015

"I was to go with a pseudonym ‘Aashi Shah’ and establish a network of clients through social media and word of mouth." PHOTO: ARSALAN FARUQI

Aashi, a transgender who is Faiq by day and Aashi at night, says,

“Living a discrete life is not everyone’s cup of tea.”

It was an uphill task getting in touch with a person from this community who would willingly sit down and disclose the issues they face every day without much exaggeration and clichéd responses. We searched for one such individual from traffic signals to the slums of Karachi and eventually through a reliable source, we managed to reach Faiq’s apartment in a posh neighbourhood of Defence in Karachi.

Faiq was expecting us and greeted us with warmth and with great courtesy, which reflected upon his excellent upbringing and which raised our curiosity as to why he chose to live a secret life and whether he has a family in this city.

“I was raised in a conservative family of five in Nazimabad. My father was a government employee and was ashamed of my existence. Since childhood, I had this natural inclination towards floral prints, dolls, jewellery and the likes, and used to imitate famous female celebrities. My family, which included my parents, a younger sister and brother, had initially ignored this tendency in me and considered it as part of growing up. However, it was after the age of 16 that they realised that something was wrong which was now obvious through my accent, the way I walked, my gestures and some unusual biological changes that had started to occur.

This created panic in the family and the very next day, I was standing in front of a doctor who after examining me thoroughly, took my parents to a private room nearby and whatever discussion took place was never revealed to me. All that I remember was that my mother came out with tears in her eyes and my father with a frown on his face, who grabbed my hand and without saying a single word, drove us back home. Everyone in the family was told to keep quiet about it, and I was told to wear baggy clothes and avoid any kind of socialising at school.

I was lucky I was allowed to continue my studies, which I did and managed to graduate in psychology from a college in Karachi and later on a certification in hotel management. By that time, I had grown up into an adult with some obvious biological changes and that’s when my life took a U-turn.”

We were honestly amazed at the poise and grace Faiq had shown discussing some harsh and dark realities of his life and were naturally intrigued as to what happened next. After a long pause and tears in his eyes, he continued.

“I was asked to leave my home. The same home where I was born in, grew up, played with my siblings, spent some of the best years of my life, and here I was being asked to leave this abode just because I was becoming an embarrassment to the family. I did not even try to reason with my parents because this was a reality that I had to live with and this was just another phase of my life where I had to be strong and ready to take the challenge head on. With a heavy heart, I left my home and my family and rented a small apartment in a commercial area of Defence. For the initial six months, my father supported me financially and occasionally visited me to make sure that I was doing okay.

Each time he visited me, I greeted him with a smile on my face and never displayed any kind of anger or pain that was literally eating me up from inside. After retirement, his income trimmed down to a pension and that was when I stepped out in search for a job. After a month long search, I ended up securing a position at the commissioner’s office in the administration department. Initially, there was plenty of resistance by the staff but then I made an effort to win them over with my no-nonsense attitude and commitment towards my work. There are plenty of transgenders who are working at homes as domestic help, working for the government availing the two per cent job quota and providing services in the fashion industry.”

Photo: Arsalan Faruqi

The next question that we threw at Faiq regarding his engagements after work gave us an entirely new dimension to his personality.

“I met this man named Wajid Sheikh who visited as a customer but slipped his business card to me and asked me to call him for he had an excellent proposition for me. Willingly or unwillingly, I did place that call and took his offer. I was to first get in touch with a similar group of transgenders through Mr Wajid and get briefed up on some part time work that they were all involved in. I met Ms Komal, the manager of the discrete community that Mr Wajid was running, and was introduced to a totally new world where I was to use my ‘special features’ and my sexual orientation to satisfy a certain segment of the society which was running into hundreds if not thousands. I was to go with a pseudonym ‘Aashi’ and establish a network of clients through social media and word of mouth.

I became a dancer who used to entertain men at different gatherings and parties. This was initially hard on me for I had belonged to a conservative family background but the pay was really handsome and I gave in. There was no looking back and I quickly reached great heights in this entertainment segment. I now am Faiq by day and Aashi by night. My father and brother have completely broken all ties with me for which I can’t blame them. However, it’s my mother who often calls me to inquire about my health and to see if I’m doing fine. I chose this path myself and will face the consequences accordingly. I still miss my home though and I know for a fact that from what I have become, they will never accept me back so why fret about it. Financially, I’m independent and will even be willing to help them out if they ever need my help.”

Photo: Arsalan Faruqi

“Had the government and the civil society worked towards incorporating us into this society with equal opportunities for people from our community, I wouldn’t have been selling myself to make both ends meet and live a discrete life. I have to think a thousand times before visiting a doctor during illness and in public places, mothers distance their young ones from us, isolating us further and making a mockery out of our orientation. I have no other way but to use my skills to survive in this jungle of intolerance and narrow mindedness.”

Faiq’s phone rang, and he spoke with great confidence, apparently with one of the clients and fixed up a time an hour post our interview session. Faiq gave us a reality check and left us with a thousand questions which we, at least, had no answers to.

Arsalan Faruqi

Arsalan Faruqi

An entrepreneur with a degree in computer engineering and an MBA from IBA Karachi. He tweets as @arsalanfaruqi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • MHN2090

    The bitter realities of our society, even in a city like karachi we are unable to face this problem head on forcing people like faiq into following that they thselves detest.
    If we can’t support them then is it necessary that we have to force them isolation…? We of all people in the world who call themselves Muslims (at least the majority does) who proudly announce it to the world that we follow the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) is this what we really should be doing ?? Is the the sunnah which was left behind for us to act on ?
    I don’t know when we will be nature enough as a society to except everyone as humans and stop classifying them on the basis of sect. ,Colour, gendre e.t.c
    @aesalan faruqi a very well written article … I believe in a society that we are living u even need courage to be affiliated with a bold topic like this in any way… bravo..!!Recommend

  • WeirdHair

    The author of this profile uses male pronouns and adjectives while the subject of the profile identifies as female. I urge the Tribune moderators/editors to look into this matter and show sensitivity in these matters.Recommend

  • Queen

    If only we can develop the courage to accept people like Faiq in our society but sadly everyone around us is more concerned that “log kya kahein gai?”Recommend

  • Saira

    So Mr. Faiq had a proper education; contrary to the popular opinion that transgenders are not allowed equal opportunities! He got a day job; again got an opportunity to earn an honest living. YET… since he wanted more from life, he made a choice to make easy money by selling his “Unique” sexual orientation; here I doubt if he even believes it to be an disadvantage as it is earning him “Handsome Income” in his own words. Yet we are somehow to feel sorry for him?Recommend

  • zafar iqbal

    Good piece on a topic that our society has shoved under the rug.Recommend

  • Jagmohan Trivedi

    Arslan at first kudos to you to bring forth such a factual story of a hapless person.
    The questions raised are here very important,how the society has to adjust with
    an individual who is turned into a freak, a nature’s transformation imposed on him.
    Even on a person,who laboured hard to get quality education and a paying job,yet
    he is to face personal traumas,his own parents disown for the fear of stigma,social
    laughter,parts of society where he/she moves have vulture eyes to ridicule and exploit, and how he/ she adjust with natural flowering of his/her own body.Ultimately
    nothing but to accept the role of she in the night and he to disappear eventually in
    the day’s bright sunshine.
    Such a problem in conservative traditional society does
    not seem to go away in generations ahead,even Karachi a modern metropolis,can
    offer Afiq nothing more than what society at large wishes for transgenders,In the
    West society is more open and accomodative,hence laws have been passed not only
    for transgenders, but even to gay and lesbians to live their life as please.Slowly
    they are going to join even armed forces and nobody will frown on them and lucky
    ones will be deemed chivalrous,war heroes and entitled for state honours.Here
    comes in the dignity of a human being, a god’s creation of some limitation.Yet
    Atif of Karachi is a shining example of his courage and conviction in adopting
    she role to meet social needs and pass his life,as it is.Recommend

  • Saira

    This person had an opportunity to attend college and earn a degree unlike a host of underprivileged individuals. He moved out once he was of age and capable of earning his own living and the family did keep in touch till the time he decided to go astray. He had a honest day job, and yet somehow he didn’t seem it enough to satisfy the luxurious lifestyle he vied for; so fell for easy money making tactics by selling his “Unique” sexual orientation, which btw sounds like he thinks of an advantage now as it earns him an “handsome” income in his own words. He made a life choice on his own. So why are we to feel sorry again?Recommend

  • Seeee

    This was my concern too. Faiq clearly identifies as a she/her. It’s offensive to misgender her. This really needs to be looked into. Recommend

  • acceptance.


  • Theone

    How is a person supposed to make an honest living if other people do not even give them a chance for an honest living. I was watching a documentary where people would not even eat food made by a transgender person. It’s all very disappointing but first and foremost people must change their mindset. Recommend

  • Salman Ahmad

    Some good words from Faiq but still he proved that transgenders prefer dancing over honest living both sides are to be blamed but Faiq is more to be blamed for the way he earns money he should have preferred earning through the commissioners office rather than becoming a dancer.Recommend

  • Rebellious

    Well this seems easy just by writing it in a comment but in real life even in west transgenders are subjected to hate, and are not accepted as a family member by there family. It’s not easy for these people to live a normal life. I dont feel sorry for him instead i feel sorry for the society and its role in not letting these people to live a normal life…. I dont think so he was honest enough in discussing his problems with the writer.Recommend

  • Rebellious

    well i am confused what should we call him/her.Recommend

  • samara

    dear faiq u r lucky to have such education why u r still running for that handsome haram income .. everyone’s has to pay for what they’ve done .. destroying urself willingly just to make someone realize their mistake is like shooting urself because u cant kill others .. plzz thinkRecommend

  • Z

    Totally agree with you Saira !Recommend

  • Shazra Jamal

    If his family had outcasted him like soneone with leprosy or plague and had infact accepted and tollerated him for what he was, he might not have gone astray. I sometimes wonder what is the sunnah way of dealing with such individuals…Recommend

  • disqus_2MbgHlhuvG

    I think it was more out of lack of acceptance. The point being that social attitudes can push them into isolation and they feel like that is the only field of work they will find acceptance in.Recommend

  • Dr. Shaikh

    People don’t get it, it’s not that they need your help or support, they demand/deserve acceptance, recognition and equal opportunities. But i don’t think we are to blame, even in the first world they are still facing problems, we as a naive nation of a conservative mindset has to evolve alot yet, time will come when we will recognize homosexuals, transgerders, bisexuals etc as they are. Recommend

  • Aziz Ur Rehman

    It is Faiq or Aashi, in either case deserves our full sympathy and cooperation to respectfully settle down in the society. However, some polluted persons in this transgender community are the cause of disfiguring of their status. But honestly we cannot blame them for all this. Government and the people themselves have never seriously pondered to absorb them in the society. I really feel sorry for them.Recommend

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    I was looking for information and your blog really helped me.
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  • Farah Kamal

    Ok so why the hell are you judging ‘Dancing’, as haram? all the top paid and watched movie actresses and actors dance and they are stars and celebrities and transgender dancers are Haram!!Recommend

  • WeirdHair

    From what I can surmise Aashi identifies as female and you use the pronoun her. But it would have been better if the author clarified with Aashi about this. Some prefer the gender pronoun “they” as it is gender neutral.Recommend

  • waqas

    You always have a choice… What ever the case is …u always have a choice.Recommend

  • AJ

    Everyone who is suggesting for faiq to leave haram income should give him a job; otherwise make your peace with it that your society does not accept transgenders and that too with a fact that many men have decided to dress as transgenders and begRecommend

  • Insane Society

    NIce one….the world isolates you …Just goint in office work and eat at home is not life brother….Just imagine tht u r considered a Filth in the society……..Recommend

  • Rebellious

    hmmm well i didn’t knew about the ‘they’ gender pronoun.. :)Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    Stupid article – dude had more privileges than most people. If he wants to have as much money as Pitbull then that isnt the government’s issue.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    That`s what I believe! you are hundred and ten percent correct!Recommend

  • intelektual

    The part where his own family cast him out ! workplace resisted and You don’t have any ides what kind of a job it was ! He could have been a clerk and maintain a discrete lifestyle is not cheap ! Not to mention living with no family !Recommend

  • intelektual

    First of you have no idea how much money he was making ! Secondly being a Cast out with no family nor friends, being and living an object of ridicule is what drives you towards that kind of behavior if transgenders were an accepted part of society things might not have been like they are right now for Fiaq.Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    That is true too.Recommend

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