MOHEMIN MEHMOOD: FRAME BY FRAME
Conducted by: Ali Tariq, Mahnoor Abdullah, Talah Imam
It’s about four p.m. It’s a nice, breezy day, with a fairly blue sky, and we’re seated here in the NBS café, with the smells of coffee galore. Mohemin just came back with some business from the Dean (because ‘bare log’), and as we seat ourselves down in our haphazardly arranged chairs, he’s holding a book in his hand, presumably related to his field of business, and wholly indiscernible to any of us.
As we’re about to begin, in the humblest manner, Mohemin exclaims that he admittedly feels pressured with the prospect of an interview. His concern, while easily dismissed, is wholly earnest, and we all smile ever so slightly. It really doesn’t feel as if we’re seated here with the president of one of the biggest societies on campus. Rather, it’s more like we’re sitting next to a senior ready to give out some advice that we’ll either strive to implement, or that will make us crumble at our mere existence. Let’s just hope this goes well.
Ali: So Mohemin, the President of the NUST Media Club sits before us. How is life in general for you?
Uh… life’s been tough. I feel that I’ve always achieved everything in life by hard struggle. Even before joining university, I was an underconfident guy, whose confidence had been lost because he didn’t get admission here initially. So, to regain that confidence, I had to work on myself. Overall, it’s been harsh since childhood. There were some issues going on then as well, but here I am now: happy, and I guess famous in NUST *laughs*.
Ali: And I suppose, excited about the future? Do you feel motivated about what’s to come?
Yes. I have a staunch belief in God’s ability, and in destiny. I really have this belief that if you’re working in the right direction, and if you’re working hard, then God will reward you. So, I’m pretty hopeful for my future; that I’ll be able to do something with my life.
Ali: Well, we can all agree that university is a transformative experience in these four years. Being someone who is juggling student life and being the President of NMC, how do you think this experience of inculcating leadership has shaped your overall personality? Has it made you, dare I say, more dominant?
No, it hasn’t really made me dominant. Basically, I’ll give you an overview of when I joined the Media Club: I couldn’t sit here and talk like this. I was the guy who would sit at the end of the meeting and not talk to anyone.
I realized that the motive behind joining NMC is not sitting at the end, watching people interact and talk about what’s going on. Gradually, I started bringing myself forward. I came forward for the first time in a meeting, and then kept going and going, until eventually, I was appointed as the Team Lead of my team – Admin Events. I had to learn everything through my hard work.
Now, I know the work of around 14 portfolios, and I had to learn all that by myself. For example, if you, as a Director, would say at the end of the year that you learned your work through this Office Bearer, I didn’t find that in my case. I had to learn it myself. Eventually, what this did to me was that for the things which I didn’t initially get – be it in this society or in life – I’m going to create them for the next recruits in my own tenure. So I want to be a more, uh… friendly President? But, haan, it still stays that I’m the President, and that no wrong thing or action can happen in front of me.
Ali: So you feel that in this regard, societies are a way to hone skills and hone talent, and that is basically what you want to do with NMC?
Yes. That’s also the main reason why we created our Talent Pool as well.
Ali: Some people feel that the workload of societies is too much with academics, making societies very intimidating to be in. Do you think societies should be perceived that way?
I completely disagree with people who say that the workload of societies is too much. It’s really not. I am studying right now in NBS, and my classes also go till five. I am working right now; I’m a collaborator in a startup, and I’m looking over a society. I had this same routine last year as a General Secretary, on top of that, I chose to look over fourteen portfolios myself. I just had a goal to bring this society up, and bring good exposure to all the people involved. You have to segment your life and divide your time. My sleep is of six hours, which is normal. I study eight hours, and I work for the society and the startup, and complete my duties on time.
Ali: So, have you worked in any central events?
I wanted to create my name and just relate it with NMC. The only event I was related with was NIMUN, and I was a marketing executive there.
Ali: Clearly you have committed yourself very wholeheartedly to the society, and you’ve organized a lot of events as an event head, including the Media Fest. What is the most head-scratching thing about organizing any event, like the thing that irks you the most in the whole process?
Yaar, maza apna aata hai. I’ll give you an example: the Anwar Maqsood event was our first event last year, and we had to send people back (because the hall was absolutely full). When the event finished, and everyone stood up and started clapping for Anwar, the feeling was… extraordinary. I was like, on the seventh sky, that, bus yehi hai. You know, I am thinking of opting for Event Management as my career. Basically, bohat maza aata hai. The love that you get from people, even though that doesn’t happen at every event, and you still have to hear a few insults, for example at the Media Fest, but when you organize something great, you feel proud, aur bus event arrange karane ka maza hai.
Ali: Obviously, with such a position comes a significant amount of importance for you. Considering this is such a big society on campus, there must be expectations on you understandably to deliver as a President. Based on how you’ve worked these past three years, have you gotten better at handling the pressure that comes from that?
Absolutely. When I first joined NMC, I was an executive, and I had to handle just one task. When I came as an assistant director, I had to handle just one team comprising of 18-20 people. Then I came to the top, and to the most life-changing experience, as General Secretary. It taught me one thing: that you should stay humble, because sometimes, things don’t turn out as you expect them to be. As General Secretary, my biggest failure was the carnival. In terms of the management, I had to apologize to the people, like *holds palms together* “Please maaf kar do. I know I’ve brought you out by calling the name of my institution, NUST, and I’m representing my institution, but I’ve failed you guys. Please mujhe maaf kar do.”
And, that was a turning point. When I looked back, no one was standing with me – maybe just four to five people out of a society of 200. So, that was a turning point, but it groomed me in the sense that I went back to my hostel and thought, “Where did I go wrong?” I realized that in everything, I was in the ‘Assistant Director phase’, taking everything upon myself, and not delegating anything to the team. So, I changed my working style from there. I moved towards delegating tasks more rather than going ahead and doing them myself.
In the next few semesters, things got much better, and now you know ke ab one thing happens and consequently, multiple things happen. So, this was the whole transition. Call it a transition or a transformation, but from top to bottom, I understood that every post has different requirements, aur un requirements ko poori nahi karo ge, to zaleel ho ge.
Mahnoor: Does that mean you’re not a perfectionist anymore?
No, I’m not a perfectionist. I do look for perfection, but if I don’t find it, then no problem. My seniors used to say that even if two people came to your event, and if you used that rightly to your advantage, your event is still successful. There is now this running thing in NUST that jab tak CIPS nahi bharo ge, carnival nahi bharo ge, aap ki society upar nahi jaye gi.
For me, even two people matter. For example, in the Farooq Hassan event, or the Mashaal Malik event that we did in 2017, four people came and cried (because of how emotional the sessions got), and I was literally happy that I provided this opportunity to those four people, where they came and expressed their grievances. Even though the turnout was around 20 people in a hall of 100 – I mean NMC was in a bad state at the time – I was happy, and I slept peacefully, thinking of what I brought to those four people.
Ali: It’s great that you’ve been through this whole process where NMC was transformed. Now, you say you’ve established a system under which things are done…
Talking about structure, if you are in ten societies, you can’t implement structure anywhere. You only need to be part of one central society or event. You should know its nitty-gritty, that yaar this is happening, and these are the problems. The biggest problem in NMC was that the HR team was not strong, and consequently, everyone used to make fun of it. Now, as the year progresses, you guys will know that I strengthened HR and due to that, many other things got strengthened as well. Last year, HR was under me, and it is also under me this year, so hopefully I’ll maintain the same system.
Ali: How do you keep yourself engaged, personally? What are your activities, hobbies, and all?
I wake up at 9, I attend classes till 1, and in the break between classes, we sit here and play ‘rang’. After that, I have a very good roommate who is like a brother to me; usually I call him or he calls me, and then we go out, have lunch-cum-dinner, and spend a good two to three hours outside NUST. We come back, I do my work if I have any, and if I am farigh, then I’ll play on my PS4. Otherwise, I mostly go to C2. I don’t really know why people like going to C1 so much. Honestly, it’s like nothing happens there. Everyone’s just… sitting around.
Talah: So basically, you prefer to keep yourself in a work-intensive environment?
Yes, I feel that all the time-wasting activities I had to do in life, I’ve done them during FSc and in school. I used to bunk school and my academy to hang out with friends. I used to lie at home about going to play squash to hang out with my friends, and we weren’t doing anything productive; it was either us using our phones, eating, or smoking. Even after everyone had gone to sleep, I used to slip out of the house at night to hang out with my friends again! *laughs*
But now, it’s different. University for me is where I can cultivate my personality. And this isn’t just some cliche thing that I’m saying. As you’ll get to know more about me, you’ll realize that these things have been implemented in my life. So, university should be the personality-making tenure of life, otherwise there is no point in studying in a university like NUST.
One thing that I observed is that if a student joins a university which does not give him a lot of exposure or opportunities, he graduates without growing as a person. Whereas in a university like NUST, you get grooming opportunities such as dress codes and societies. These things let you explore different career paths; for example, the HR Director working under me can now consider HR as a career option. Other than this, there are central events where you can socialize and make new friends – even if you only make two or three good friends, but, explore your university as opposed to just sitting idle. If nothing, just go and play some volleyball. When I’m with my friends, we don’t sit idle, we talk about something like current affairs or sports.
Mahnoor: Is this exactly how you were 3 years ago? I mean did you go to C1 and stuff?
I didn’t go to C1 at all. I remember that my roommate and I always used to go into the city to hang out rather than at C1. Even if we did go to C1, it was to do something specific, like to drink tea. I recall that everyone used to be going to C1, and I used to ask them why, and they replied “no reason”. What does that mean? I mean that it’s fine to go with your friends and enjoy, but keep yourself occupied with something productive.
If you see me at C1 with friends, it will always be because I have something to do such as a panaflex launch or a meeting. But you should know that I did not believe in this when I first came to NUST. I had been fired from NDS and had already gotten the third warning from NMC before. After requesting my director to demote me rather than firing me, I managed to stay in the society.
Ali: You’re a hostelite as you say. Where are you from, originally, if I may ask?
I’m from Lahore. We’re currently settled in Lahore but I’ve lived in many places because I’m actually an ‘Air Force brat’.
Ali: Oh! It’s the same with me. Has your father retired?
Yes, he retired a while ago. So, throughout my university, he’s been retired.
Ali: So, you must have had to shift to different places with his work and posting?
Yes, I’ve lived in Karachi for 6 years. I’ve lived in Mianwali and Gujranwala for 2 years each, and I’ve basically been shifting from place to place. I’ve even lived in China for 4 years, although I was very small when that happened.
Ali: I guess that does it for the interview. Now we’ll ask you some rapid-fire questions that I happen to have here.
Oh, this is going to be a pressure situation.
Ali: What is the best spot on campus for a hangout?
That’s a tough one. I’ll say C3.
Ali: Three things you can’t live without when you leave your hostel room?
My phone, cigarettes, and my watch.
Any quote or a line that defines you as a person?
I don’t know if it’s a word, but I’d like to call myself a struggler. Someone who has struggled for success.
Anything you would like to say before we end this interview?
I would like to say that keep working hard. Whatever you opt for, think hard before opting for it, and once you’ve opted for it, do it with full commitment. One way or another, it will definitely benefit you. The reason why I just stuck to NMC was that I wanted to achieve excellence in it.