By Nudrat Mustafa
There are very few people who start off and maintain people’s interest in whatever they do. Arsalan Naseer got famous by making amazing comic content on Facebook with the name of Comics By Arsalan. From the beginning, we have seen him achieving more and more success with the creative content that he has. Let’s see what he has to share about his professional life and a side of his which is not known by people, but we have got that!
- Please tell us about your background, education, family, dob.
I was born in an Army family, so that means I have been travelling all around the country throughout my life. Have had my basic education in military schools but then went to Ireland for my bachelors in business. So after 5 years of doing all odd jobs that included me being a flower boy, pizza delivery boy, and cashier I finally landed up in a white collar job after my degree. I thought that this was it, a good job, an apartment and a good life style abroad but soon realised that it wasn’t. No matter how ‘cool’ living abroad sounds, there was still something missing. So I decided to leave the job, move to England to do my masters (in marketing) and move back to Pakistan. Every sane person told me that I will be regretting this decision of moving back to Pakistan soon, but turned down they were not right J I love being back and I consider this perhaps the best decision that I made.
- How have you developed humour in your personality?
I think I have a pretty lame sense of humour, in fact I don’t even find my own jokes funny. People who actually know me do consider me witty at times, but I don’t think I have a humorous personality actually; in fact I am quite serious most of the times. About the kind of humour that you see in my work, I think I use it as a tool to deliver the message more effectively. People tend to understand the point better if its presented in a humorous manner J .
- What drew your attention to making comics and giving social welfare messages in them too?
It was when I came back to Pakistan I realised that the mainstream media was too busy reporting stressful events happening all around us. So I decided not to watch News channels but to my horror, I started seeing all that stuff on my facebook timeline as well. That’s when I realised that maybe we should introduce humour to the Social Media. Back then there were not many Pakistanis producing humours content for the social media so I thought maybe I should initiate? I was good at doodling so made a comic and asked my friend whether he finds it funny? He said that yeah it’s not that bad so I thought of sharing it on the Social Media.
- Hurdles in any field cannot be ignored. What difficulties you have to face in Pakistan, keeping in mind your distinctive profession?
I don’t do it professionally actually. I work at a Telecom operator in the Corp Communications dept. Initially there were many who told me that I am wasting my time, some ‘friends’ even told me that they feel ashamed of letting others know they know me. But then things do take a turnaround quite quickly. I actually thank everybody who supported me in the start and also those who didn’t.
- Whom do you take inspiration from?
I might be wrong but I consider the biggest problem that the youth here has is they take ‘inspirations” too seriously at times they don’t even realise when they start copying their inspirations. There have been too many CBA inspired artists that have surfaced in the recent years, which to me is a waste of talent and uniqueness. I consider myself quite an average guy but one thing is for sure, I don’t really take inspirations from anyone when it comes to creativity. That perhaps is one of the reasons why I suck at it.
- You are very vocal about your opinion about celebrities/ politicians. Did anyone ever threat you or any spat worth sharing?
Most of my opinion is shared in good humour actually. I am quite a laid back person in real life and not many things happening in the media and politics effect me. I just find these subjects to be of interest for many so I crack jokes about them just to have a good laugh. That said, at times people forget that it’s a “comic” page and maybe they take things too seriously. There have been many threats actually, mostly from the supporters of some of the political parties but at times even from the reps of the Political parties themselves. I don’t really call them threats as they deliver the message quite ‘cleverly’ showing concerns about my safety. That said, as a Muslim, we believe that no harm or goodness can reach us unless Allah almighty wants it for us. Maybe those VIPs driving with a caravan of police patrol think otherwise.
- Recently you have started reviewing advertisements as well, and people love it. How has been the feedback of the brands you make fun of?
It has been great actually, I did use to do reviews in the past as well but they were mostly in the form of a blog. They ranged from Movie reviews to trailers and TVCs as well. Now I do it in a video format. About the brands they have been kind enough actually. I do have a disclaimer at the start of each of the reviews that actually “apologises” to all those involved in the production because I actually how much effort these people put in to create something like a TVC. Brands have been super cool actually! In fact people a quite renowned “fizzy drink” brand contacted me just to tell how funny they though the review on their TVC was. Maybe they wanted to kill me with “kindness” but nevertheless they have been super cool!
- Similarly, any nasty comment or feedback by any celebrity?
None Actually! I do have quite a few friends from the industry! They all love it ….. as long as its not on them!
- How do you tackle critics and their cynicism?
Criticism is actually quite healthy what I didn’t use to understand in the early years was that out front “hatred” and cyber bullying some people choose to do. What I failed to understand was that a person who considers me important enough to ‘follow’ would also express their hate. But that too was in the early years, now I actually agree with all those who tell me that I “suck”
- Describe your typical work routine.
I have a day job! So I wake up early, which I hate doing cause I am not a morning person at all. My office commute is quite long actually so I spend most of my time in my car in traffic jams! Then the office is till 6 and after that I spend the rest of my day in the traffic jams back home! I wouldn’t call myself a gym freak but I do love spending time in the Gym! So basically on a typical day I don’t have any time to be creative.
- Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?
I don’t consider myself wise enough to share the big ideas of life actually but someone once told me that the strongest trees have the deepest roots. The more grounded we are the better the chances of surviving storms that life throws our way. Life can be tough (at times ) and everyone has their own battle that they are fighting.
- Ok, Arsalan, knowing you from past few years, we have seen a shift in your personality towards Sufism/religion. Would you like to share what got you closer to this side?
I wouldn’t call myself an expert in religion, but yes I was and still am a seeker and recently I have been receiving answers to many.
I believe that we are being tested, at times, by granting things to us and also by taking things away from us. Ask any successful person if they are content with life now? And they would never say yes. When Allah grants us Material Gains we soon realize that the joy of receiving it was quite short lived and we start seeking bigger & better dreams. So the point to ponder here is that what is it that we are actually seeking? Are we ever going to achieve it or is it just a rat race that we don’t even now we are part of?
In reality we don’t own anything and the sooner we realize this, the better. When I was living abroad I was making a good living, but soon I realized that money isn’t the answer. When I came back to Pakistan, I got somewhat famous on Social media and started hanging out with the local Celebrities. Getting to know these people closely I realized that with all the wealth, good Looks & fame, they are not too content with their lives either. So I questioned, what is it exactly that we are seeking? I was never a saint, I am still not one but I believe all the life experiences (good or bad) are actually shaping us into something unique and beautiful. God doesn’t need a Language to speak to us, he is constantly reaching out to us and we only need to tune ourselves to that frequency to be able to understand his messages. This can only happen when we start working on our own self.
We are divided between ‘preachers’ who are busy judging others and ‘literate’ modern Muslims who think that having knowledge about Islam without implementing it on their own self will give them the answers.
- How have you experienced your life being changed, after this shift?
I think people in my life can respond to that better as they have to bear with me. Personally I am glad that I am at least trying (me failing at it every day is another story though). I do see a huge change in the perception of how I take life now, but just when you think you have unlocked it all you are reminded that this not even a drop in the ocean. I believe one life time isn’t enough to gain all that knowledge that Allah has made available for us. This also makes us realize what our true worth actually is and perhaps this ‘humility’ is exactly what makes us “ashraf ul Makhlukkat”.
- Any life hack you want to share with your fans through the platform of our magazine?
I would rather appeal your readers to let me know if they have figured out any of the life hacks but just for the sake of answering your question, I guess one life hack (especially to the younger ones ) would to be very careful of whom you share your time and space with. Surround yourself with Positive people and beware of energy vampires (they do exist). Seek positivity and true knowledge, and you will be guided.