“From Lahore With Love” is a line of postcards that are not just pieces of paper – they are stories about Lahore. Stories as told by the fabulous Sonya Rehman. She is a person with incredible talent working as a teacher, journalist, photographer and an entrepreneur.
Getting to know Sonya Rehman was not just a pleasure but a true wonder. People of substance are hard to come by, and every now and then, when life hands them to us we take it without question. Here is our conversation with the incredible Sonya Rehman:
Essentially, who is Sonya Rehman?
Just another journalist trying to make her mark in the world (cue to violin music).
We hear you attended the prestigious Columbia University to earn an M.S in journalism. Tell us a bit about your experiences.
I learnt more outside the classroom than on campus. We had great teachers who always kept us on our toes – we were out in the field almost every day. It was crazy, intimidating and fun. I remember once I had to travel to Queens – my assignment was a crime story and I had to go to the crime scene and suss out sources for my report. It was a rainy, strange day, and I kept messing up my route (took the wrong train a few times). I distinctly recall a bunch of 14-15-year-olds on the train; one of them was talking about his girlfriend and was proudly telling his friends that he threatened to slash her face. He was laughing. Another time, I remember, late one night, on my way back to my dorm, I saw this beautiful girl, she could’ve been a model – she had endless legs, was in skinny jeans and an emerald-coloured halter top. She was giggling away, sitting on the lap of this handsome Wall Street looking guy (suited, booted). Next to them was a homeless woman (you could tell by her get-up) who was staring at the couple in complete awe. It was the strangest, saddest thing I’ve ever seen. As the woman looked at this gorgeous couple in complete wonder; I looked at the three of them from the corner of my eyes – what stayed with me was the way the homeless woman was looking at the couple, almost as if they were a dream, a mirage…
Anyway, it was an 11-month course of study, too short, I really wish I could’ve stayed longer, because, yes, as clichéd as this is going to read: New York is one amazing, thriving, mad city. I hope to go back soon.
We understand you are a journalist, photographer, entrepreneur and even a teacher! Which one of these do you like to identify yourself as?
I haven’t a clue – it’s so strange you know, sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to eventually stick to. But I’ve always felt an urgency, as if time is too short, that’s why I try to do/experience everything I can, anything that inspires and moves me. I wish I was a trust fund baby. Ah, the good life!
Do you feel all your career paths are essentially interconnected? Or are they completely separate?
I’d like to think they’re inter-connected: teaching has made me more empathetic as a person, perhaps too sensitive, I love my students very much…that, I think, has really opened my heart up and that change has really helped my writing, I’ve become more observant and sensitive to the world around me.
What would be the defining moment you decided to become a journalist?
Finance. I sucked at finance in my undergrad program and almost flunked. I sweet-talked my way to a pass, woohoo! The drudgery of finance led me to a refuge, and that refuge was journalism and writing.
Journalism can be a rewarding experience. How has it rewarded you?
In every way possible – mainly the people I meet and interview; the stories out there…that’s rewarding, when people trust you and share their stories with you.
How do you disconnect from work?
It’s really hard – I tire myself out thinking of things to do, things to write, and deadlines to meet. I give myself panic attacks. I’m a workaholic and I think it’s pretty awful. Not good for one’s health. But I’ve recently started watching an insane amount of TV series. It’s heaven, such a great mental escape.
Was this career path always “the” dream? If not, what was?
Music. I wanted to be a flutist. Something I regret to this very day.
We hear you love photo walks? What do you love the most about it?
The freedom of walking around Lahore armed with a heavy camera, waiting to slam any chichoraa who tries to harass you!
Tell us a bit about “From Lahore With Love”
It’s a postcard start-up that was launched in the summer of 2012. I do the photography, and apart from postcards and postcard boxes, I just introduced notebooks to my product line.
What inspired you to begin this unique business?
My torrid love affair with Lahore.
We understand that you have been in this business for three years! What are some of your defining moments?
Seeing my postcards in print for the first time, and then, of course, when people started buying them. It felt pretty great.
Also, initially, for a good year and a half, no one was really interested in stocking my postcards – I knocked on many doors, even got in touch with some galleries. It was disappointing, but I was like, oh f it. Eventually a friend got me a solid contact at Liberty Books and that’s how it panned out.
Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. You could be in any given career path but still be an entrepreneur. Do you agree?
Oh totally. One of my colleagues is a TA at the college where I work, and she bakes amazing cakes on the side – she has her own little business alongside her day job.
Where do you currently retail?
My merch is currently stocked at two Liberty Books outlets (one at the Mall of Lahore and the other at Avari Hotel, Lahore). This month they’re also soon to be stocked at Ferozesons (in Gulberg Galleria, Lahore).
What are your future plans for “From Lahore With Love”?
I’d like to eventually see it as a stationary, fashion and lifestyle brand. I’d love to be Pakistan’s Lisa Frank, minus the LSD-trip colours.