Humaira is a happily married woman and a mother to a wonderful daughter. Food is her passion and she has managed to turn her passion, her love, into her business. She is running Cafe Aylanto in Karachi for almost 20 years now and travels to Lahore often to manage the second branch of her restaurant there. She, at this point in her life, is having a ball designing menus, developing new recipes and looking after the general experience of her guests. However, even after meeting with a great deal of success and carving out a special name for herself in the restaurant business in Pakistan, she does not shy away from taking on new challenges and seeks to constantly improve herself.
Being in the restaurant business in Pakistan comes with its own challenges. Many amenities which may be taken for granted in the developed world are a constant source of difficulties and complications in a city like Karachi. One day you may face a power shortage and on another a transport strike. Sometimes rain plays havoc with the city and at other times there is no running water at the restaurant premises. These issues make running a business quite stressful. “You could have a restaurant full of guests, packed with a 100 people and you realise that the gas supply is cut!” explains Humaira. “There are moments when everything from the morning turns out wrong and everything is falling apart. That’s when you really want to throw in the towel and crawl back into bed. However, common sense prevails and after you get yourself back to calmer positions you relax and go back to work again.”
She recalls that when Cafe Aylanto first opened its doors, there was no concept of restaurants. “To change old mindsets and move people from hotels to our restaurant for something more personal, cosy and out of the ordinary, was a big challenge.” She relates an anecdote pertaining to the time when she had just come back from Italy after participating in a coffee-making training. “I came back with amazing roasted beans and was ready to make the best coffee ever. I decided to make some nice espressos, introduced them to our guests, but when they looked at the tiny espresso shots, they were shocked! Just convincing them that espresso coffee is served in a shot and not huge mugs, to which they were accustomed, was a task in itself.”
The determined, go-getter Humaira admits that she loves what she does. “I am a workaholic! I like getting things done quickly. I can’t be sitting in one place too long. Not even to watch an episode of a TV show!” However, she consciously schedules in time for her husband, her daughter and her own self. She adds that “Women are perfectionists. They want to be the perfect wives, understanding mothers, loving daughters and great hosts. Once in a while they need to realise they matter. From time to time it is important for a woman to put herself first.”
Humaira believes financial independence is very important, not just for her but for any other woman. It gives her a sense of self-esteem and confidence. “The feeling of knowing that you can stand on your own two feet is just great even if you have family support.” As far as ageing is concerned, Humaira reveals that she does not believe in fighting it since it is a natural process. However, she does try to eat healthy and exercise to keep herself fit. “I am a nature loving person so I go for holidays, take walks, swim and enjoy some time on the beach.”
“My Miracle moment comes just about every day. It’s the time when my guest gets up from his table, satisfied, and happily exclaims ‘wow, I loved my meal!’ That’s the minute I think I’ve done it.” Humaira says with a content smile. Steve Jobs said “The only way to do great work is to do what you love.” Humaira shows just that with her miracle journey.