Mahvish Aziz, The Girl With Stormy Stories: #MyNewYear Contest Winners

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As part of the Pakistani blogging and writers community, I have gotten a chance to meet some wonderful Pakistani women who are doing amazing service to our homes and communities. Mahvish Aziz is probably someone you haven’t heard of till now, but surely will. She is the founder and owner of StoryStorms, a place of story telling and building art and intellect in young children.

(Awesome, right? Right!)

Mahvish Aziz has a way with words and this is probably the most enjoyable interview I have ever conducted. If you are someone who loves reading, you are going to love reading her response to all questions.

Mahvish Aziz is part of our growing Facebook community of Pakistani female bloggers called Pakistani Lady Bloggers (Women Only). She was the winner of our first blogging contest called #MyNewYear Blogging Contest where bloggers were encouraged to share their thoughts on the year past, the year ahead or in any other form they wanted to pick the topic. The contest judge was Shazaf Fatima Haider, the writer of the book How It Happened.

Mahvish’s entry touched a chord with all of us.

I am proud to introduce you to Mahvish Aziz, undoubtedly very talented with words.

Mahvish Aziz - founder StoryStorms
Mahvish Aziz – founder StoryStorms

1 – Please tell us something about yourself.

I’m Mahvish. I love glitter and lavender and I love geometric designs. I love geometric designs that are lavender and have glitter. I built my dream, an early learning space for children brick by brick. I make a mean Tres Leches cake. I dream of retirement in the Neelum Valley living in a wooden house adjacent the cold gushing streams; praying, reading, breathing. In an alternate universe, I’d be a figure skater. I write ghazals on my kitchen wall. Figures, I mostly use my kitchen for dancing. I have a very cool mom. Occasionally, I fine my husband when he doesn’t put down the toilet seat (well sort of- I take money out of his wallet and inform him the next day about our domestic penal code).

I dream of retirement in the Neelum Valley living in a wooden house adjacent the cold gushing streams; praying, reading, breathing.

I struggled very, very hard to become a mother. My dreams keep on changing. I have a fair set of challenges – but then again we all do. I’m scared of what the future holds. I worry about Chinese invasions. A lot. I feel a lot of pain when someone, anyone, is in a lot of pain. I don’t understand why we go to war – with each other and with our truest selves. I wish women ruled the world. I think women, all women are really brave because they fight fights only they know of- fights they know they might never win but keep at it anyway.

I love Pakistan. Azaadi songs always get me teary eyed. Did you know that the lyrics to our national anthem were written months AFTER the music was composed?

That’s me! In a nutshell.

2 – Who is Mahvish, the blogger? What is she trying to build through the medium of blogging?

Mahvish the blogger is a momager. Mommy manager by day, brownie inhaler by night. Usually blogs behind the bathroom door to avoid distractions that need the occasional feeding or nappy change.

She has some wild notion about changing things. Things mostly about herself and some about the current education system and how intently it’s educating children OUT of their creative capacities.

She’s wildly patriotic and wants a fortified ‘paak-saaf’ Pakistan – in all mannerisms and cadences that phrase has to offer. Her motto is this; Community. Belonging. Togetherness.

3 – Your entry for the #MyNewYear blog struck a chord with everyone. What made you write that particular piece for the contest?

Writing and baking are two things I do entirely for myself. Both give me tremendous satisfaction and an emotional high. Whilst baking, mostly manual, involves precision and measurements, writing is emotional and offers infinite extensions of oneself on paper. Writing is sometimes burnt and flat like my cookies and sometimes velvety and smooth like a Betty Crocker box cake.

Baking and writing help me think and process and create and vent and heal and make decisions for myself.

I wrote the last custard because having nana etched out in ink was important to my memory of him.

I wrote the last custard because having nana etched out in ink was important to my memory of him. Especially because towards the end of his journey, battling an illness, nana forgot who I was. He forgot what custard was. And custard and I were both pretty special to him. And he was always very special to me.

I wrote that piece purely for myself and set it aside. Discovering the contest was accidental! I suppose sometimes things are just meant to find each other and fit as if they never belonged elsewhere. Like writing and baking. Like nana and his Maker. Like the contest and the custard.

4 – You have a certain sparkle in your words. Do you plan to write a book I the future?

Yes Yes YES!! A children’s book! One that is in tandem with what I believe in and what I hope to accomplish through StoryStorms; community, belonging, togetherness.

5 – Tell us about StoryStorms and how it came it be?

For the longest time, I have referred to myself as the founder of StoryStorms. But the truth is, I never found StoryStorms. StoryStorms found me. At a time I needed it the most. The quirky playroom, library and art room, the inventive outdoor play area, all of it found its way into my life one day.

The quirky playroom, library and art room, the inventive outdoor play area, all of it found its way into my life one day.

It was my dream yes, to run my own school. After all, I loved working with children. I found out very early in life it was my gift and I spent 10 years teaching at all kinds of institutes, volunteering at the Paeds Wards, assisting in sign language and working with special needs kids but a laugh-and-learn enrichment space like StoryStorms was never on the agenda.

Mahvish Aziz, founder StoryStorms
Mahvish Aziz, founder StoryStorms

StoryStorms emerged because of an overwhelming desire to matter. To belong. To not feel worthless all the time. It emerged because I felt myself retracting from who I always thought I would be. I found myself one evening, utterly depressed, not okay any more with the hand life had dealt me. It’s not that I resolved there and then to change and change it all, but I do remember praying, over the dishes I was scrubbing, for something to somehow change.

It was my dream yes, to run my own school. After all, I loved working with children. I found out very early in life it was my gift and I spent 10 years teaching at all kinds of institutes

‘The brightest rainbows shine after the biggest storms’ is one of my favorite quotes. Hence the name StoryStorms – we all have our storms, they shape who we are, thus they give us our stories. If you look closely at the logo, you’ll find a purple-pitted tornado, a glistening golden sun and a cloud with shimmery silver linings all imbued in rainbow tones.

What started off as a chain of cataclysmic thoughts I wanted initially to just shrug off, soon became a wild idea I desperately wanted to run away from. I was scared to death of all the possible failures I had conjured for myself and when I say ‘possible failures/loopholes/financial and spatial constraints/logistics’ I don’t mean it lightly, for I am a classical worrier. For those of us unfamiliar with this endearing term, this is what a classical worrying means; the uncanny ability to drive oneself crazy overthinking and overanalysing every minute detail and dialogue both real and imagined.

That being explained, I somehow puttered along an intensely stressful construction phase and found myself midst a physical tangible reality I still wanted to bail on.

Luckily for me, I had the most  amazing role model and found some creative courage (I hope Api’s reading this).

We started off small, very small. I made all the classic rookie mistakes from the classic rookie handbook and (hopefully) got them out of my system and from thereon, I watched in sheer amazement as parents and children began to trickle in and we began to really grow as a community.

I suddenly have the urge to quote Giles Andrea here, this excerpt from Giraffes Can’t Dance changed my life;

“Excuse me!” Coughed a cricket

Who’d seen Gerald earlier on.

But sometimes when you’re different

You just need is a different song.

 

So listen to the swaying grass

And listen to the trees.

To me the sweetest music is

Those branches in the breeze.

 

So imagine that the lovely moon

Is playing just for you-

Everything makes music

If you really want it to.

6 – You are trying to encourage reading and writing in young children. That’s a tremendous service on your part.  How has the response been?

I think it’s imperative that our children develop a relationship with books from a very early stage. Other than the wider known educational benefits, reading enables us to feel pain and loss and joy and experience forgiveness and redemption and courage. Reading allows us to liaise with characters exactly like ourselves and sometimes quite the opposite. It teaches our children how to process all these feelings by allowing them to interact with parts of themselves that were previously untouched.

Mahvish Aziz, founder StoryStorms
‘The brightest rainbows shine after the biggest storms’ is one of my favorite quotes – Mahvish Aziz, founder StoryStorms

The response towards PENHEADS– a creative writing program for older kids at StoryStorms has truly been phenomenal and as an educarer, quite the learning process. It’s both greatly rewarding and immensely humbling. We do everything it takes to produce good writing. And by that I mean singing and drawing and painting and dancing!

It’s great that writing is now recognized as an art form, but when it boils down to simply reading and writing, I prefer parents show the kids, not just tell them.

Simply, if we want our kids to read more, we need to role model reading. If we want our kids to write more we need to role model writing. It doesn’t necessarily imply reading a novel together or writing one out. Just about anything- a menu card at a restaurant or notifications sent by the schools can be read together. Weekly we-are-grateful-for lists or art-supplies-to-purchase lists can be drawn up. The best way to encourage children is to be a part of that process alongside them.

 

 

Mehreen Farhan

Blogger. Technology Enthusiast. Community Builder. Book hoarder. #TeamWordpress. Aspiring Moodler. 🚀