Nurayah Sheikh

She paints the walls of Karachi, she is an educator at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and she caters from home under the label of Handmade by Nurayah & Shabbo. When it comes to multitasking skills, one must learn them from Nurayah Sheikh, also a mother of two teenagers. “My 9-5 job is at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, where I have been for the last 10 years. I am part of a lot of organisations such as Pursukoon Pakistan which gives artists a creative platform to work for the betterment of the city. Also I run a catering business from home with my mother since about 8 years,” says Nurayah.

Life often poses difficult decisions before us and one such difficult moment for Nurayah was choosing between pursuing her Masters and getting married, where she chose the latter. As life progresses, a woman keeps adding to her plate and manages to juggle all the balls together. “Whenever challenges have come, I have just taken them in stride and balanced everything. I think that’s the beauty of a woman – her ability to multitask,” maintains Nurayah. What she enjoys at Indus Valley is to work with the capabilities of young artists and especially those who have special needs. “I really have to strive to be a good instructor to bring out the best in my students, which can be difficult.” When working on her community projects, there is again a different set of challenges that she faces along with her female students. “We paint on the walls in different areas in Karachi to beautify the city and spread messages of peace. I make it a point to take my female students with me so they know how to cope with different comments that people make and to make them street smart. Men passing by in cars and buses sometimes whistle, sometimes pass unpleasant comments but as women living in Pakistan, we must know how to deal with such remarks and situations,” explains Nurayah.

When it came to motherhood, Nurayah found a way to create the perfect balance for herself. “With my first one, I cut down on my teaching hours because I thought that it was a sacrifice I had to make at that time. The experience was also new and exciting. I improvised when my second child was born by starting my home catering business. I tried to balance not being able to go out of the house by being within the home space and working with that.” However, as her children grew up, she was back in the game and has her plate full to date. “I’m on the go the whole day, I wake up at 6 am and I am out of the house with my kids in the morning. I go teach, I come back, I am working in the kitchen or on a project somewhere.” She feels that financial independence is extremely important for any woman and at times, she needs to be a partner to her spouse rather than someone who is being looked after constantly. Though she spends minimal time on self care and enjoys her work more than anything else, she does take out time for music, movies and her loved ones. 

Nurayah Sheikh firmly believes that women are constantly giving bits of themselves to their spouses, parents, siblings and children but that does not make her less, it just increases her value and worth. This is exactly what she projects through her art as well. For her, her Miracle Moment happens every now and then when any one of her students matures to do great things in life. She believes that she is a reflection of her mother who “never stepped out to work but from cutting our hair to stitching our clothes to cooking, she did everything.” That is what Nurayah also aspires to be, a wholesome woman, who, along with her family, takes herself forward as well and maintains her individuality. 

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