“Try sharing whatever you have in abundance; time, money or skills”, says Comedian Junaid Akram
In a country like ours where negativity looms over our heads almost at all given instances, laughter works as the best medicine. However, it’s very hard to make people laugh and anyone who manages to do so deserves massive applause. But have you ever seen anyone incorporating the element of humor for the grooming and betterment of the society? Junaid Akram is not your average standup comedian, he’s a digital influencer who makes us laugh at one instance and shakes up our conscience in another. You’d see him put you through fits of laughter and you’ll see him scolding us for something we’re doing wrong as a society and you’ll also see him working for one social causes after the other.
Born into a large middle-class family of six children, Junaid Akram stepped into the breadwinning race at a very early stage in life. He started off by working as a waiter in the metropolis while his friends and classmates went on to colleges and universities. He even sold bun-kababs and dropped flyers in cars halted on signals and went every mile, working harder than ever just to provide a better living standard for his family. In 2011, he moved to UAE and it was in UAE that he became a social media sensation. He has returned to Pakistan recently with the determination of doing something for the society.
How it started:
A shy person in real life, it was his humor that made Junaid popular. The empowering feeling that this success brought with it motivated him to take this up on a more regular basis. He then made a YouTube channel where he, along with his friends, made vlogs. One such vlog got hit overnight with 60,000 views and people from countries whose names he had never heard of began approaching him. It was around this time that he moved abroad and lost touch with his friends and began making videos addressing the society. Junaid is a firm believer in Oscar Wilde’s quote where he said, If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh or they’ll kill you.
He has no expertise in camera handling so most of his videos are non-edited and recorded in one go using his smartphone.
On being a social media sensation:
“The ability to make someone’s day is the highlight of my work. I remember this one time not too long ago when I had lost my job, I had lost my house and I was literally living in my car, it was during this time that Pakistan lost a match to India and the whole internet was in a rotten mood. I thought to myself, whatever I’m going through is a result of my own shortcomings and even though I can’t change my own life at least I can try to make someone’s day and recorded a video then and there and uploaded it on Facebook, it was a massive hit and the next day my inbox was flooded with messages claiming how this video was an instant mood lifter. I live for moments like these.”, recalled Junaid.
But it hasn’t all been rosy. Junaid’s private life is not private anymore and his every action gets scrutinized by the public. He told Twittistaan that people often message him on Snapchat and ask for his wife’s picture. People invade his privacy by taking his pictures when he’s out with his family. “I think our people don’t know where to draw a line and they end up doing stuff that’s downright offensive.”, said Junaid Akram.
Financial circumstances may not have let Junaid Akram study at IBA (something he had always wanted), but when the students of IBA did a case study on his life, it became his life’s biggest achievement.
Internet and Negativity:
On the question of hate mail, Junaid said that the internet is a toxic place and he has received all kinds of threats and hate mail. But he also said that we live in the best of times. So much knowledge is just a click away. So if someone decides to be negative then it’s their mentality and the only thing you can do is ignore them.
In a society like ours, you’ve to glamorize things to make them appealing for people. Our youth goes to the mall, checks in, snaps around and comes back home with the contentment that this makes them cool. Junaid Akram believes that by building libraries he’s not only providing a safe space for the avid readers but it will also spur others to come to the library for reading. This is his approach towards promoting the reading culture. He believes building an online portal with thousands of ebooks would’ve been an easier way out but physical things always have a greater impact and ebooks are more convenient but at the same time, they’re distracting. He intends to build a network of such public libraries all over Pakistan just for the sake of promoting reading among Pakistani youth.
Junaid himself only recently started reading books and so far The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson is his personal favorite and he recommends it to people of all ages.
Other social work:
Junaid along with his friend, Mobeen-ul-Haq recently revamped a government school in Karachi. From the tattered ruins to a functional school today, they invested their time and rigorous labor in setting up the school along with the help of donations they managed to do a pretty decent job.
He believes for the good to happen someone has to take initiative. Previously, the two friends had successfully run a Ramzan drive to feed the wayfarers, travelers and needy during the Holy month.
Message for the readers:
We will leave you with Junaid Akram’s message for the readers: “Be kind and be mindful. It is very easy to be nasty to someone but it takes up a lot of effort to be nice to someone but still make all the efforts you can and be nice. Also, try sharing whatever you have in abundance- time, money or skills. Always prefer sharing things over acquiring them. Try and inculcate the habit of sharing in your children too and spend time with them and build their personalities so that they become good citizens in future. When it comes to helping others, readily help everyone but do not make them dependent on yourself, as they say, ‘Teach a man how to fish, do not feed him fish.’”