So we got to know Mahvish Ahmad aka Baji Blogger a little better in our series “Pakistani Expat Influencers” and we love how she hustles in life whilst using blogging as a creative outlet and shares her views with some top notch entertainment.
Mahvish Ahmad is a Lecturer-turned-blogger, a mama in boots, trotting through Europe, fighting the rain, catching trams and sipping warm coffee if/when her toddler naps. Currently based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Mahvish misses her old home in the beautiful Swiss Alps. She believes in pausing to notice the small things, loving unconditionally, and hogging on biryani unapologetically. Mahvish is a die-hard Pakistani at heart, who is eager to unlearn what she knows and pick some new cues from what Europe has to offer.
SS: What is your blog about? And what made you decide that this is what you wanted to do?
MA: Three years ago, I left Karachi and my job as a lecturer at the IBA to follow my husband’s career as a trailing spouse. Life took us to a small German speaking Swiss town called Schaffhausen. When we moved there, I had a newborn and a 6-year-old to take care of. The cultural shock was huge, the language barrier made making new friends difficult and the weather extremity presented its own challenges. Given the circumstances and the fact that I couldn’t go back to my profession of teaching without speaking the language, I felt extremely lonely during the initial months in an alien town. That’s when I started channelizing my creativity and the urge to make a difference into blog posts. Before moving, I was already writing fashion and travel articles for various Pakistani magazines, so blogging came as an organic choice.
When I started, I didn’t know what I turn to for as catharsis this will turn into a profession, which will not just generate an income but will also earn me a great deal of love and respect. I am extremely grateful to my audience who accepted and related to my daily aloo, pyaaz and poop stories at a time when the world of blogging was still very artificial. While sharing my daily life stories, I knew I am doing something a little different and wasn’t sure whether I will be accepted filter-less.But, I was sure about the fact that whatever I show will be REAL LIFE. It makes me happy that the real-ness turned not just into my signature style but also what my audience appreciates most about my space. Therefore, that is what I stick to even today. The genres I write in include motherhood, life experiences and the social injustices prevalent, esp viz a viz women, in the Pakistani society.
SS: How did you decide to blog about (your niche) or shift towards it?
MA: It was my audience feedback on my posts that led me pick the topics I now talk about. For example, every time I would talk about the ups and downs of married life, the posts would garner a lot of interest. That encouraged me to talk a lot about marriage and bringing up discussions on what a healthy relationship with your partner looks like. Discussions motherhood and the issues women face in Pakistan, such as lack of access to education and public spaces, or boys being more celebrated by the society than girls are also popular on my blog. Therefore, I talk about topics that are not just close to my own heart but also give my audience some food for thought and the motivation to change the current status quo.
SS: How do hate comments affect you?
MA: I will confess that in the initial year of blogging, hate comments would really get to me. Some would bother me so much that I’d stay up all night thinking about them. However, when I found managing my reaction to hate comments too difficult, I spoke a friend of mine, who is a practicing psychotherapist, to better understand why some people like to spew so much venom online.
My friend explained to me that people who lash out at others sitting behind the protection of their screen are in fact those who suffer from a psychological issues, as well as less than ideal relationships and home environments. Hence, when they see someone on Instagram who seemingly has a a better life than theirs, they find solace in attacking them. Trolls are not able to control things in their own lives, so they get a sense of control by spoiling the day of a person they don’t even know. When I understood the psychological aspect of cyber bullying, I realized that instead of feeling angry at online haters, I should be pitying them, and praying for their mental and emotional healing. From that point on, I have learnt to not engage with haters because it the engagement which gives them a high. I also understood that if someone has a problem with my content, it is THEIR problem and not MINE.
Of course, on bad days, a hate comment can throw you off the fence, but for sure, I am much better at managing my emotional response than I was in the beginning.
SS: Share one favouite post of yours that helped make a positive difference amongst your followers?
MA: There are so many favourites that brought in great feedback. To mention one, I’ll talk about a video I did on Sex Education for children a couple of months ago which was an ‘eye opener’ for many in my audience, according to their feedback. Sex is such a taboo topic in our culture that many parents are not even aware of exactly why is it necessary to talk to our children about it. My video answered also such questions and the content was based on my discussion with not a psychotherapist but also with various blog audience members who shared their personal experiences with me viz a viz this topic.
If anyone would like to watch the video, here is the link: Sex Education For Children
SS: What is the worst and best comment you’ve ever gotten about your work?
MA: It is the best feeling when someone says that the positivity generated by my posts of self-help allowed someone get through a tough phase (such as a time of sickness, a long distance relationship or even divorce).
As for the worst comment, I don’t think I have received one that really shattered me. But yes, once a friend said that my audience is too ‘faarigh’ which is why the engagement on my blog is high. I felt quite upset at my friend for completely disregarding the hard work I put in or the kind of topics I talk about which drive the engagement and giving the credit to the ‘free time’ my audience members have. I am extremely proud of the kind of audience I have which has doctors, artists, activists, educationists, lawyers, small business owners and woman from all walks of life as a part of it. In today’s fast paced life, no one is ‘faarigh’ enough to engage on social media unless a post really speaks to them and I am grateful to all those who take out time from their busy schedules to share their feedback on my work.
SS: Who are your 5 favourite bloggers/influencers in Pakistan?
MA: This is not in any order of preference, and I have more than 5 favourites!
- Amtul Baweja of Patangeer for her humour and digs at desi aunties
- Maham of Desi Baguette for her undying commitment to entertain her audience
- Kanwal Ahmad of Soul Sisters Pakistan for everything that she makes us think about, the social injustices she highlights and for what she has achieved at such a young age
- Amber of A Wardrobe Affair for her styling and commitment to her platform
- Shahana Jan for her sense of observation and original video content
Can I please add a 6th? Fatima from Fatima Nama for bringing up different, yet extremely pertinent, topics on her space.
SS: What do you think is the difference between a blogger and an influencer?
MA: For me, an influencer is more than just pretty photos and is someone who educates people and inspires them to make positive changes in their lives. Whether it is a helpful makeup tip, a recipe, g good caption to read, a life lesson or entertainment, and influencer has something to add to the lives of her audience every time they visit her feed. For me to call someone an influencer, I’ll need content from that is relatable, inspiring, motivating, helpful AND fun.
SS: What are the challenges you face as an expat influencer catering to the Pakistani influencers VS Pakistani Influencers in Pakistan?
MA: The biggest challenge is not being able to receive physical products for paid collaborations with brands. Sometimes paying for courier services is unaffordable for brands, especially smaller businesses. At other times, because of customs issues, a lot of products such as liquids or cosmetics cannot be sent to me. Because of that, I do lose out on a lot of projects.
However, the flip side is, that if I had been living in Pakistan, I would perhaps never have thought of taking up this profession and would have continued with teaching. So, while being abroad does come in my way at times, I believe my experiences and learnings as a pardesi set my content apart from that of many Pakistani bloggers and help me bring something different to the table.
SS: What are your views on the “blogger culture” and one advice you’d like to give to all the new bloggers
MA: I think ‘blogger culture’ is a great thing because Instagram, YouTube and other social media apps give people the opportunity to showcase their talents, whether it is writing, creating makeup looks, shooting entertaining videos, cooking skills, home décor and literally anything under the sun. Without having the opportunity to create platforms on Instagram, these talents would never have come before the world to see. It is also amazing for all those who DO benefit from motivational talks, recipes, and makeup tutorials the influencers share with their audience. Hence,a I am all for this ‘culture’ and would say to anyone who wants to try to give it a shot. If the quality of your content is good, with time you WILL be able to attract those who think like you. My advice is to show your true self through your content instead of trying to follow trends or copying other people. If you are fake, it’ll show. Just be honest, be persistent, consistent, and eager to learn. Inshallah, it’ll work out.