Afshan Nasseri is a half Indian and half Irani who is a strategic management major, Her Lucknow Project caught our attention and We invited her to our Pakistan journal talk session where we host people of vision & inspiration.
In Conversation With The Founder Of “LUCKNOW PROJECT”
Tell us about yourself
My name is Afshan Nasseri, also known as lifesforliving! I’m 20 years old and am a Strategic Management major and Arabic minor at McGill University in Montreal. I’m half Indian and half Iranian. I dance, blog, do freelance brand consulting, love desi Fashion, and am constantly studying!
Which country do you come from/call home?
So I was born in Montreal but grew up in Boston, so I guess I’d have to call Boston home!
What exactly do you do on a day to day basis?
On a day to day basis, I go to class, go to dance practice, maybe do a shoot or write a blog post, cook some nice Desi food, and study. And of course, if I get time, I invite my friends over to eat or for a chai session.
Are there other activism projects of yours that you would like to reflect upon? Like Lucknow project.
The Lucknow Project was started by my mother and sister when I was around 7 and at 14 I took over the project. We work to improve the educational system of rural villages in the outskirts of Lucknow, India, along with health and quality of life. Improvements to the educational and health systems have led to broader community empowerment and a sense of a future for the younger generations. More specifically we have instilled English curriculums at private schools in our ancestral region and have created a fund for rations in the village.
we are huge fans of your Instagram. do you have any tips or tricks for achieving an aesthetically
awesome Instagram page?
Thank you!! I think my main tip would be to create engaging content. The market of bloggers and influencers is extremely saturated – we scroll through so much content in a day that it’s getting so hard to engage users. I think what has really allowed me to grow is my investment in each photo and caption. I really use Instagram as my mini diary – I don’t hold anything back. And I think that lack of “filter” allows me to be more relatable to whoever sees my posts!
Exactly what it is you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get you
photographs to do that?
I think each of my series has something different to say. It’s actually a way deeper process than some may think and I honestly need to give a huge shoutout to Ali Reza Malik @yeahokayali for teaching me how to get my photos to actually portray meaningful things. He really pushed me and never sugar coated anything. He taught me that photos should not just be taking a shot of your cool outfit in front of a coloured wall; there needs to be props and symbols! I actually do most of my brainstorming super late at night – I’ll just stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning because that’s when I feel creative for some reason. From there, I’ll sometimes get ideas like a black saree or something old Bengal and will go from there. I’ve even just made a whole shoot revolving around incense!
What is the best thing about India?
I think the best thing about India, as a girl from the west, is the fact that I can leave almost everything I know behind. I barely talk to anyone when I’m there (from home). I just take it as a time to refresh and re-evaluate what’s going on in my life. I find so many little things beautiful there, as cliche as it may sound. So going from there, I may have to say my favourite thing about India is riding alone in a rickshaw in Lucknow at sunset; everyone flies kites at this time and something about it looks insanely picturesque.
Would you share some of your most favourite pictures from Lucknow project?
what is something that you are passionate about?
I’m passionate about confidence! There have been so many times in my life that I have underestimated myself I think simply because I was afraid of failing. I still do it and need to stop. I think that in the moments where I have upheld great confidence, I have been able to achieve more than what I even thought was possible. I think the confidence one portrays really effects the way others perceive them. People are more inclined to trust people who are confident, I think.
Tell us about India, Are there more similarities in India and Pakistan than differences?
I, of course, love India but do have to recognize that as with every nation, there are so many issues in its society and politics. I think in terms of society and culture, Pakistan and India have the great similarity – I mean it’s only logical seeing as though they were one nation ~70 years ago. I think the major difference I see in Pakistan is a severe isolation the elite class, speaking from my own experience of course. In Lucknow, my home is practically located in a bazaar and I love roaming around in the streets and gallies, and I’ve even come to the point where I can do it alone while being socially conscious and aware of course. I think in Pakistan, particularly in Karachi and Lahore as I don’t know much about the other parts, it’s quite rare to see elite or higher class women (or even men) on the streets, walking to stores or the sabzi mandi. This could, in fact, be due to the security issues that Pakistan has suffered from, but I think it creates a lack of awareness and clear divide between classes.
How was the experience, when you visited Pakistan? Would you like to visit again?
My experience in Pakistan was amazing as I have quite a few friends there. I would love to visit again, but go to less touristy areas and be able to really experience all aspects of the cultures and regions in the country.
Is there anyone from Pakistan who has influenced you in any way?
As I mentioned, many of my close friends are from Pakistan (like still living there, just currently attending University with me). My roommate, in particular, Baraka, I could say influenced me by allowing me to realize that Pakistanis and particularly Indian Muslims are extremely similar in many ways.
I know you have your hands in many things right now so what advice would you give to a woman that
is struggling to balance her favourite things?
I think it’s always possible. You just have to get used to it. I used to hate waking up early, for example, but after I starting gaining more and more activities in my life that I loved, I began to wake up at 8 am to just fit everything in one day! And I loved it!
In today’s society, women are faced with many issues. What do you think is the biggest issue
and what are you doing to help us make that change?
I think the biggest issue regarding women in society is that we are held to a different standard. I rarely face this issue, I have to say, I think because my family is extremely progressive. My grandmother was a lawyer and had just as many degrees as my grandfather. My grandfather ceases to amaze me with the sense that his liberal and feminist outlook, particularly in India in the 50’s etc is just unheard of. He is constantly encouraging my sister and me to do every degree possible and has always expressed the importance of financial stability for women prior to even thinking about marriage. I think from this, I can extract that the issue of holding women to a lesser standard of men is often rooted in a family’s belief system. If men in your family are not treating you as equal and not proud that your salary is higher than theirs, then it kind of just goes downhill from there. I think to help make this change, I do as much as I can to constantly prove to myself that I am not held to any standard except for my own. And I think that through my blog, and as I am able to talk about certain accomplishments of mine, I can maybe encourage other young women to hold themselves to that same standard.
What is your favourite thing to do when you are not working?
Honestly, I love all of the work that I do so I don’t have much downtime! But, I love to dance. I’m on a fusion Desi dance team at McGill and it’s been such a great community for me these past three years. I also love to travel, read Urdu poetry, learn Urdu, and listen to qawwalis. Let’s just say my ideal moment is life is sitting on my roof in Lucknow on my Charpay listening to old Desi music at sunset.
How would you describe your personal style and is there a person who is a fashion inspiration to you?
I would describe my personal style as quite versatile. I often change my style depending on my location, but I think my dressing of choice is Indo-Western. I love wearing kurtas and dhoti pants, it’s just so impractical in the freezing cold of Montreal. I don’t have one fashion inspiration because I don’t think anyone particularly famous has the same dynamic as me (a western raised kid who’s obsessed with India?). But I do love Sonam Kapoor and Deepika Padukone’s style!
If you could raid one women closet whose would it be?
If you could offer any advice to 16-year- old self, what would it be?
Stop sweating the small stuff. My world was so minuscule when I was 16 that arguing with my first love sent me into fits of sadness. There is so much more to life than ourselves, and I’d really encourage myself to open up my eyes and realize all of the great things that I had the potential to accomplish.