Familiar food, in unfamiliar places: a Karachi Kheer in South Holland

This story was originally pitched and sold to a newspaper, but since the publication isn't going ahead I'm posting it here.  

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Shahzad Kazmi is touting the benefits of agave nectar in the kitchen of Hills & Mills. The tiny town of Delft in south Holland is more known for being the birthplace of Johannes Vermeer than a hub for vegans, but Hills & Mills - which bills itself as a pure food cafe - is packing in fans of both.

Kazmi and his enterprising family have struck on a winning, and yet unlikely formula: turning popular South Asian food into hipster-friendly concoctions. Pakistani or Indian food isn't popular in Holland, let alone in this historic town in the southern province. But dishes like spicy nihari and haleem, the grains-and-meat stew, have been unlikely hits with the residents of Delft, along with the decidedly-unPakistani raw cocoa bars.

On a Wednesday afternoon, Kazmi - who arrived in Holland in 1976 as a 19-year-old and worked for 40 years in restaurants and catering - lifts the lid on a pot for the dinner service: a familiar chicken korma, but with the addition of sweet potato. At Hills & Mills, the traditional South Asian rice pudding of kheer is made with soy milk - something that would perhaps be considered unimaginable in most households in Pakistan - but one that Kazmi insists gives it great flavor and colour. There are no sodas on the menu, which also features a quinoa salad and banana-mango bread.

It's a far cry from his hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, where quinoa is only just beginning to pop up in upscale restaurants.

"Cooking was always a hobby," Kazmi says. His father worked for the Pakistani air force, and Kazmi migrated to London at the age of 17, but then moved to Holland on an aunt's advice.

He would cook for friends, at social and religious events, and at home for his (now divorced) Dutch wife, and kids. "I love cooking and eating," Kazmi says. "I could only fry an egg when I was in Pakistan. I lived in England for a couple of years alone and I learned how to make lamb chops, that sort of thing. But when I came to Holland and had a proper family life, that is when I started cooking properly and stocked the house with lentils etc."

But the transition from a home cook to the chef of an organic food restaurant seems like a leap, particularly given the stereotypes surrounding South Asian food as being unhealthy.

"You're not considered a good cook in Indian or Pakistani restaurants if the food isn't oily," Kazmi says.

Turning Pakistani dishes into paleo food seems like a tall order, but one that the family seems to have taken up as their personal challenge.

His sons - entrepreneurs Sheraz and Nawaz Kazmi - hit on the idea of taking their father's culinary skills and incorporating new food trends into a restaurant. Hills & Mills opened in the summer of 2012. Three years later, the cafe, which seats 30, is often booked to capacity. It helped that they opened in Delft, where nothing similar existed, and at the cusp of people discovering organic food and gluten-free diets.

Sherryl, the Hills & Mills manager, and Kazmi's daughter-in-law has seen dietary requirements multiply in the three years since the restaurant opened. "These days everyone has an allergy or an intolerance," she says. "We get lists - 'we can't eat this, we can't eat that' - but it's fine. We want to serve anyone. We don't have allergies ourselves but it's really hard for people who have a list of requirements to find a restaurant they can eat at and feel welcome. Sometimes it is difficult, but it is rewarding when five people come up and they have a different requirement and you can make them happy."

Sheraz Kazmi says that while his father sometimes has to be convinced about using certain ingredients or lowering the spice factor, he is the first to say that they can adapt recipes if they know what people need.

The familial nature of the business and the cafe is paying off - the family has ventured into opening up a salad bar in Delft. While some competitors have cropped up, the Kazmis believe what sets them apart is the soul of the restaurant: Shahzad Kazmi, who is branded as 'Papa Kazmi' - a name apparently bestowed upon him by a loyal customer. Kazmi credits his family's hard work, prayers, and authenticity: "People aren't stupid. They know what the real thing is."

Kazmi's fame is set to spread further: a cookbook featuring his recipes and sepia-tinted photos of Kazmi and his family over the years is being released this December. (Available here)  It features stylised images of the dishes, which is a rarity for Pakistani cuisine, given the stodgy look of most curries. Kazmi shows off the meatball curry for Wednesday's dinner - the meatball is almost tennis-ball sized, so it "looks good" in a bowl instead of just a couple of smaller ones. But ultimately, it's the taste that trumps everything.

"People say there is a lot of taste in my cooking. Whatever I make is with a lot of love," Kazmi says. "Anyone can cook, but no one can cook the same way. There is a difference."

Kazmi, who is 60, says he is happy to have his own venture, but might retire in the next decade. For now, he is enjoying the unexpected success and unfamiliar ingredients, as well as being the toast of Delft. "Customers just say - 'Papa Kazmi, make whatever you want.'"

The Firsts #1: Love is a shiny balloon

What does it mean to do something for the first time? To learn a skill you never thought you could, to stand up for something you didn’t quite know you felt so strongly about, to tick something off a list of 20/50/1000 things to do before you die? What does it feel like to be at the crossroads of should and must?

Over the next few months, I’m going to talk to people who are doing something for the first time and what this feels like for a series called The Firsts. Some of the conversations in this series are from rejected pitches and disjointed bits of leftover reportage. A note: these aren’t always going to be uplifting stories.

But I’d like to hear from anyone who’s taking on something new: whether you’re about to light your first cigarette or get married or are heading to jail. Write to me at saba[.]imtiaz[@]gmail[.]com.

And for now, here’s #1

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Hasnain Hussain, 11, and Sunny John, 15, selling Valentine’s Day balloons for the first time

Hasnain: I’ve never done this before. It’s school and tuition, that’s it. But Saturday and Sunday are a holiday. It’s Happy Valentine’s Day, that’s why we’re selling these balloons. We’re doing this because we’re a bit poor.

I’ve never sold anything before.

It doesn’t feel nice, but there is also something enjoyable about it.

It’s [not nice] because I have to do this. I don't have a choice. 

We want to sell all of these balloons. There are 60 balloons over there. They cost one hundred rupees each.

I’ll do this next year if I’m forced to.

Sunny: This was our elder brother’s idea. We’re all friends. This is the first time we’re selling balloons.

Our brother picked out this spot. This is a signal, so cars stop here. Our brother said stay here, and people will come up to you to buy them. So if people gesture to us, then we sell the balloons.

We won’t do this next year; we’ve seen what happens. It isn’t nice when someone refuses to buy them - your heart gets broken.

A person only does this if he’s forced to.

If we sell all of these, our brother will earn 60,000. Its up to him whether he gives us anything. Even if he doesn’t give us anything, that’s okay.

He’s a very close friend. He’s the one who put up the money for this.

We’re trying to help him. Actually, he's the one who needs the money. So we’re helping him. This is what we’re friends for – to help someone out in their time of need.

Hasnain: We’re very strong friends. We’ve known each other since childhood. If someone needs something, then we’re there to support them. We just don’t abandon them.

Excuse me, aap kahan jarahe hain?

It was the summer of 2015. It was the worst of times. Somehow it always seems like the worst of times.

And then the Pakistani Internet – sweaty, tired of a punishing heat wave and struggling to find joy – broke. A series of ads – so over the top they seemed like ironic parodies – circulated in an endless loop online, forcing birthday wishes and political discussions off Facebook, turning news feeds into an unending video stream.

Waseem Hassan Sheikh had arrived.

**

Pakistan’s illustrious history of ‘viral’ internet content dates back to the early 2000s: an image of a flooded underpass in Karachi titled the largest swimming pool in Pakistan/Asia/the world, a series of photos taken in a cyber café, Aadat.

The Pakistani internet has immortalized many since then: Aamir Liaquat Hussain’s off-camera take, Zohair Toru, the impassioned Imran Khan fan who literally could not stand the heat, or the brilliant video for Taher Shah’s Eye to Eye, and Asif and Mudassir's friendship.

But Waseem Hassan Sheikh is not off the cuff, nor as overtly manufactured as Eye to Eye. Sheikh is an artist. He is a writer and a director and an actor. He is a filmmaker. He is the star of Chauburji. He is the star of Lahore. He is the star of Facebook and Twitter and Daily Motion. He is chased down the streets of Lahore by young men and women, all demanding to take a selfie with him.

This is why.

TVC_Butt Restaurent-Directed By-Waseem Hassan Sheikh- Hassan Studio 1 Lahore-0323-8826984

Posted by Waseem Hassan Sheikh on Tuesday, 30 June 2015


 

I am in Lahore. I call Sheikh to schedule an interview. The place we’re supposed to meet at is closed, so he suggests that I wait at a nearby Yasir Broast, where the staff looks at me with the kind of suspicion reserved for single women seated by themselves. Sheikh is late. He finally walks in wearing a shiny grey suit, his hair covered by a cap. We walk to his office: It has a desk, a seating area, and an old poster for Sheikh’s filmmaking services. We are joined by a friend of his, who turns to me and asks: Is he really the hero of the internet?

‘Yes’ seems like an understatement.

**

Waseem Hassan Sheikh makes two kinds of ads: One is the run-of-the-mill ad that proliferate on local cable networks, a basic slideshow with superimposed title cards.

But Sheikh’s calling card is the elaborately detailed, kitschy production that sets set up a whole scene. There’s an executive raging over the office electricity bill, or a man taking two women out to dinner. There is a back story and context and a narrative. What’s going to happen next? What will Sheikh do or say or wear? Will he even appear in the ad? In his latest, Sheikh and a woman dressed as turbaned snake charmers play the flute and attract curious locals following them ala Pied Piper. The box opens, only to reveal locally made burgers (Johnny and Jugnu). In an ad for Hanif Tailor – which Sheikh did not make – he plays a prospective groom looking for a tailor to make his clothes, and is prompted on by a sister-in-law to visit the tailor’s shop. In another, a woman is drawn to his scent (Kit Kat Talcum Powder) and begins using it herself. There are attempts at infusing glamour (Talcum Powder portrays Sheikh as alluring and worldly), or the obsession with the media (Sheikh plays a reporter in the ad for Al Sheikh Fan). There are references to local culture. One ad features a riff off a stereotypical Punjabi film where an angry father sets on his daughter, Bano, when she comes home late, demanding to know where she’s been. She, in turn, lifts up a bag of haleem, winning everyone over.

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Posted by Waseem Hassan Sheikh on Thursday, 30 July 2015

 

**

Waseem Hassan Sheikh is 30 years old. He started off as a medical rep, where he honed his marketing skills and learnt, firsthand, what it felt like to taste success and freedom. He graduated from Punjab University with a BA in journalism, and spent a year working as a sub-editor at the Daily Khabrain newspaper, where he helped to put out the sports and showbiz pages. But his real interest was in editing and production, and it helped that his brother is a filmmaker. Sheikh assisted on plays and films, and then ventured into making ads and short documentaries. Over the last three or four years, he estimates that he has made thirty to fifty ads.

But on January 7, 2015, Sheikh appeared in an ad he’d made for Butt Murgh Channay and Bong Paye, after a client’s family suggested he take up acting. The next ad was for Al Sheikh Fan, which his team insisted he star in. He started uploading the ads on Facebook after he realised people were stealing his ideas.

But each ad went viral, one after the other. And one day, he uploaded the ad for Kit Kat Talcum Powder and went home.

He only turned on his computer the next morning.

There were “15, 16 lakh likes.”

“I only tagged it so that no one would steal it but God gave me respect and fame,” he says.

**

Sheikh still seems a little surprised by his own success, or at least the sheer force of it. Every day, he says, there are calls and offers for work and requests for photos. He opens up his Facebook page, and the notifications bar is a blur of red. A friend of his once described the reaction to an ad as “net pe siyaapa para hua hai”. But Sheikh’s legend appears to have transcended the internet. He was sitting at Al Sheikh Fan one day when two kids on a donkey cart passed by and asked the owner 'aap kahan ja rahe hain?'  Or the Kozi Haleem folk, whose ad with ‘Bano’ became such a huge hit that their owner says “sannu bhag hi Bano de lage ne.” (We are only blessed because of Bano) Sheikh heard of someone ordering haleem from the shop over the phone from Chanda Qila, Gujranwala, and arranging delivery with a nearby Gujranwala-Lahore van service that would drop it off en route.

Or there’s this story:

“Aik banda wahan pe four hundred ki haleem le raha tha. Maine usse kaha ‘Bhai itni Haleem, proney agaye ne?’ Waise as a joke, usko nahin pata tha ye ad maine banaya hai.  Usne kaha ‘Mera dost Sheikhupura thanay mai pakra hua hai kisi case main to main us se milne ja raha hoon. To maine subah jab uss se phone pe kaha ke main aaj milne aaraha hoon to kehta hai ‘yaar agar tu milan aya hai te bano di haleem vi le aayein.’”
“Some guy came and bought four hundred rupees worth of haleem. I jokingly asked if he’d suddenly had visitors arrive. He said ‘My friend is being held at a police station in Sheikhupura in some case. When I called this morning to tell him that I’d be coming to visit, he asked that I bring Bano’s haleem along.”

**

What is it about these ads? Why are they so successful? How does a man in a police lock-up know about Bano and Kozi Haleem? There are dozens of advertisements on Pakistani television channels, and tens more on local cable networks. There are ads rife with childhood nostalgia and ads that feature celebrities and ads that show a postcard perfect Pakistan that only exists on a storyboard.

But Sheikh shows us who we really are, because Sheikh is the Don Draper of the middle class.

People are derisive about the middle class and the urbanization of cities like Lahore. They are squeamish about admitting their own small town roots and starts in small neighbourhoods in poky houses, with an assortment of relatives and friends called Bunty and Pappu.

But Sheikh and his ads celebrate the middle class: the people who are loud and have louder families. They want to save a buck and tell everyone just how they did it. They may wear jeans that don’t fit quite well, but they pull it off with a confidence that comes with a new identity. They like to eat. They guffaw at jokes. They laugh – they really laugh, the kind of hysterical, addictive laughter that is a product of Lahore, the vestiges of the zinda dil.

In Mad Men, Don Draper ruminates: "When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere, just ask him. If you listen, he'll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going, and that he woke up. If you listen, he'll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel or dreamt of being perfect. And then he'll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn't perfect. We're flawed, because we want so much more. We're ruined, because we get these things, and wish for what we had."

We forget why we are watching a Waseem Hassan Sheikh production. We want more. We may have covered up our roots, but we are still there, guffawing privately at a bawdy joke, hoping that our jeans hide our sizeable derrières, blaming our weight on our genes and being big boned, and wondering whether we've really made it at all. Sheikh – as he does in his video for Johnny and Jugnu – is leading people to their destination: the new urban Lahore that puts on a fake accent and wants discounts on ceiling fans.

Sheikh knows where you’re going, and he knows where you came from.

“Our public - they wear a suit, a tie – but when you ask, basically someone’s studied till the fourth grade, or the eighth,” he says. “Basically, we are simple people. Our education rate is low. And I’ve seen that people [in upscale neighbourhoods] have enjoyed the ads more.”

So when Sheikh pitched the flute charmer idea to the Jonny and Jugnu owners, one guy piped up that the outlet was in ‘Defence’, the subtext being that the ad wouldn’t work with the upmarket area’s residents.

Sheikh countered:  “Bhai sunn, zyada painday Defence main hi hain”

Then the owners proved his point by asking everyone in the room if they understood the concept.

They all did.

 “Actually no matter how much we change the culture or nature or become very educated... if your link is paindu then that has to emerge in one way or another,” he says.

(Sheikh recently caught someone out as a paindu for pronouncing police as pliss, something, he says, paindus are wont to do)

But being paindu or uneducated, he says, is not a bad thing.

**

There’s a great back story to all of the ads, I point out.

“Sometimes, our people here...” Sheikh starts, and then launches into a description of an ad for BMW, which shows that the only sound one can hear in the car is of a girl's earrings tinkling. 

“A lot of people saw this idea but they didn’t get it. Because this is a silent message. Hamari awam jo hai na desi, parhe likhe mix hain.. unko THA karke na to phir unko samajh aati hai.”

Bam. 

“The other thing is that when you’re making a production you should create an environment around it, set the mood. Now look at the ‘aap kahan jarahe hain’... there’s an environment. There’s suspense. The snake charmer.. there’s suspense there. All of these things are different.”
"Ye hat ke cheezain hain."

I keep coming back to this idea. How do the hat ke cheezain come about? Why is there so much suspense? How does Sheikh’s mind work? How does he remain creative, given that he acts, directs, writes, edits and does voiceovers? How does he keep coming up with ideas?

“Actually this is your conceiving... what you’re conceiving when you’re sitting in a gathering. I was at a seminar with other directors and the question was directors. People gave one answer to the other. But I gave them the proper, exact answer, which is theoretical and practical: Direction, I said, is the name of two things: one, technique, the second, God gifted. Right? Direction rests on these two wheels. Now the ideas that I gave.. those are my God gifted creations”

Sheikh doesn’t divulge his creative process.

“Dekhain har cheez ka Punjabi mai kehte hain ola hota hai.”

“This is my privacy, my secrecy.” He smiles. “This is a God gifted thing.”

**

Sheikh now wants to make ads for all kinds of companies, particularly multinationals. His budgets range from a hundred thousand rupees and upwards, and his aim is to complete a project within a week. He has a team of people on call. He has not given many interviews because he wanted to focus on his work, and mostly because he doesn’t quite think he has made it yet. “I am still learning.” He wants to make a TV serial, and eventually, a film. “I will move with the passage of time. I'm very selective. Any work takes time. I work step by step.”

**

Sheikh describes how his fans hunt him out. A girl who chased him all the way to Regal, a group of boys who he was convinced were going to mug him but wanted a photo. None of this is new to him, though. He saw success early, he says, “I was a superstar there.”

“I saw this success, right? I saw it in the medical field. And I saw here that people saw my ad and became fans. There, I’d pass by and people would become my fans. Log mere deewanay hote they. I feel like it’s just added on to the same success. Nashay main nasha barha.”

What’s ironic is that Sheikh’s fans in the big cities – the ones who smirk at his videos, who think they’re better off than him – are the ones who have no qualms chasing him down or asking for selfies. At a recent wedding, a group of girls approached him after two days of hesitation.

“When I go to Defence, girls take selfies with me on the street... but in back[ward] areas, people hesitate.”

He knows that people are disparaging about the advertisements, that they mock him and laugh at him. He’s seen people fight on Facebook – and tried to mediate – and he’s gotten abusive messages. But he doesn’t mind, at least not when he can sense that the messages reek of jealousy. He has a sense of perspective – an ad, after all, is just an ad. It’s not such a huge issue. And he believes that as a public figure, he now belongs to the people.

**

Sheikh was always a star.

“I was always stylish, right from the start. At that time I started this trend of bell bottoms which every boy in my neighbourhood copied. I would start the trend. When I was at college, the boys would ask where I was when they’d go shopping. Now that I’m in the frontline in the media, I’m a star for everyone, but I was also a star in my circle of friends, but behind the screen. Even if I would do something wrong people would copy it.”
Sheikh started other trends: white trousers, and then an all-white outfit paired with a multi coloured belt. “I did that get up, and everyone in the neighbourhood copied it, in one color or another. Then I made an off-white three-piece [suit] which I also used in an ad.”

“I don’t focus on dressing so much now. I used to do it a lot more before. Before there was just college, going shopping... now there are liabilities, I also have to look at the business. You need time to do something. Even if you develop a style you need time for that.”

**

We talk about his future plans, his ads, his work in Lahore, which for now is enough to keep him going. He tells me about his studio and the offers for work he’s had in the last few months. I ask him for a final message. Sheikh is thoughtful.

“Jo zindagi hai na woh bohat kam hai mohabbat ke liye,” he says. “Usko kisi taur par bhi nafrat ka element na dein.”

**

Maybe Sheikh will remain in this small office forever. Maybe he’ll go on to, ala Don Draper, make an ad for Coke someday. Maybe he’ll become part of our nostalgia, the ad we search for aimlessly on YouTube to remind ourselves of when we were younger and miserable and cynical. And maybe, when we look at those ads again, we’ll remember what we were really like.


Desi girls, desi feet


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In the classic 1972 film Pakeezah, Salim Ahmed Khan (Raaj Kumar) boards a train at night and turns his gaze onto a sleeping Sahibjaan (Meena Kumari). Sahibjaan turns in her sleep. Her anklets tinkle. Khan reads a Ghalib couplet from the book by her side – and steals her bookmark - and stares at her feet. In the morning, she finds this letter:

 “Muaaf kijiyega, ittefaqan aap ke compartment mai chala aya tha. Aap ke paon dekhe, bohat haseen hain. Inhein zameen par mat utariyega - maile hojayeinge.” -  Aap ka aik humsafar
“My apologies, I came into your compartment by chance. I saw your feet, they are very beautiful. Do not let them touch the ground – they will be soiled.” - Your fellow traveler

Khan complimenting Sahibjaan’s feet is a plot hook because Sahibjaan, who plays a courtesan, is used to being admired for her looks and mannerisms and ability to dance, and she’s taken in by this mysterious admirer who has only chosen to comment on her feet. Of course, because they are a courtesan’s feet, Sahibjaan is marked for condescension and judgement, including (spoiler alert) by Khan. Sahibjaan sings of chance meetings and journeys, but her dreams and nightmares are haunted by the whistle of a train and this passenger. Of course, he breaks her heart and spirit, and she flees from him - on foot. And in her final moments, she proves a point by dancing on shards of broken glass, showing off her bloodied feet and tormented soul.

But there’s obviously some kind of lasting quality to the basic element of this dialogue, which is perhaps why searching for ‘Pakeezah feet’ online turns up image after image of Kumari’s henna-patterned feet. Over 40 years after the release of Pakeezah, Meena Kumari’s feet are immortalized on the Internet – along with those of thousands of other women.

Welcome to the world of desi feetfies on Instagram.

I found #desifeet by chance: I was checking out a pair of shoes online, and clicked on the hashtag in the caption. #desifeet led me to a seemingly unending stream of photos of feet – bare, patterned with henna, in heels and kolapuris - belonging to desi women.

I checked today. There are over 15,000 photos hashtagged with #desifeet on Instagram.

 

Why is this a thing?

Why isn’t this a thing?

In her fantastic essay on #selfies, Rachel Syme points out:

“We are living in times of peak-selfie, and therefore, peak selfie-hatred. When a phenomenon leaks so completely and quickly into the cultural water supply, people are bound to get freaked out. Sure, men and women have been taking pictures of themselves for years, and they were painting themselves before that, and they were carving their faces onto rocks before that. But the selfie, a photograph of oneself with an immediate and distinct social component built into the process, that is something very new.”
“Nothing destabilizes power more than an individual that knows his or her own worth, and the campaign against selfies is ultimately a crusade against widespread self-esteem.”

But what of the feetfie?

Is it safer to take a photo of your feet than your face? Is there less judgement? Is there a photo of your feet circulating on the internet? Who is looking at your feet? Why did you take a photo of your feet? And how has this dialogue from Pakeezah – and the fascination with South Asian feet – endured?

Mock it, deny it, criticize it, and pretend you don't have a photo of your feet on your phone, but the obsession with women’s feet – their size, colour, shape – looms large in South Asia. Feet are mentioned in poetry and songs, including the impossibly addictive dance song Double AddiThe chorus: Tera lak na kithey tut jave, ni addi hun holi maar ve warns women not to stamp their heel too strongly for fear they’ll break something. Children are told that the sign of a dayan ­– a banshee/witch – is her outturned, ugly feet. Women used to (and perhaps still?) judge prospective daughters-in-law by the state of their feet. (The formula: delicate feet – docile daughter-in-law, large feet – aggressive hussy. The counter to this is the myth told to girls that if your second toe is longer than the big toe, you’ll rule over your mother-in-law. Cue frantic toe pulling.)

Feet are painted with henna for weddings, they are polished and buffed, they are broken and bruised from work, they are shoved into every manner of  shoe, and they are swathed in thick socks to follow religious dictates or to protect them from the sun. Or both. They are stared at and stamped on. They are meant to make some kind of statement. And they are on Instagram: all 15,000 of them and counting.

And who is counting them? @desifeetgram, which has over three thousand photos of desi women’s feet, compiled over the last two years. @desifeetgram is run by a 26-year-old British-Pakistani who lives in the UK. He says he has a foot fetish. He prefers to stay anonymous. He describes himself as “mature and cheeky.” He is looking for photos of your feet. 

I interviewed him over Kik:

“My page can also help desi girls who are not confident about other body parts like their feet become more confident and make them post pictures,” he says. “When people comment and say nice things it makes them confident and also they never knew that their feet could excite others before so it's always a positive.”

So what was the idea behind the account? Why focus on feet?

There's a lot of feet pages on Instagram and a lot of people with foot fetishes. I’m desi and I have a foot fetish. I used to come across a lot of desi girls on Instagram with nice feet or feet pictures so I thought let's make a shoutout page so others can see beauty and also others that enjoy desi feet or have a foot fetish can see it too.

How are the photos submitted? Do you get photos sent to you or do you search for feet photos?

I sometimes search for photos, whether its hashtags or sometimes I just come across profiles and see pictures and I also get them via DM or Kik as some girls find my profile.

Do girls object if they see their photos on your page?

I always ask for permission to repost. Some say yes, some say no. I won’t post it if they say no.

Why desi feet? What is so special about desi feet?

It's only because I’m Pakistani myself and I thought I'd be different as there was no other desi feet shoutout pages at that time and I like being unique. Now there's a lot of desi feet pages and people like to copy and also some desi girls made separate profiles dedicated to their feet.

And do desi women pay more attention to their feet than other women?

I think it's all the same. Desi girls might have their feet out more as it is very warm in most desi countries so they usually wear sandals more often. But I think a lot of girls love attention nowadays - any type of attention - so if they get attention to their feet I have noticed they upload more pictures of their feet.

What are the most common kind of foot photos women post? Is it usually with new shoes or for a special occasion or just an everyday photo?

Sometimes I find profiles where a girl has randomly uploaded one picture of her feet and as soon as I give her a shoutout and she notices the attention, she starts uploading more pictures and more profiles. I have seen this with so many girls and some go to the extent of making profiles just for their feet. It's mainly new footwear, even special occasions, and then once they enjoy the attention some do it every day or every few days. They can also get asked by me to take more pictures, even of their soles, and they’re willing to do so for a shoutout.

And who are the people who like and comment on the photos? Is it men or women or both?

It's mainly men who comment or like the pictures but I get women followers too and even other girls that I have given shoutouts to previously. And it's more real as I’m finding pictures of normal, real girls which makes it more interesting and realistic. It's turned into a hobby. It is now part of my lifestyle where I upload pictures every day.

Can I ask why it's anonymous?

I am anonymous because on the profile I am just a shoutout page, I am not a real person. Foot fetishes are very common but people are not upfront about them and I don't advertise I have a foot fetish unless I get to know someone properly. I have my own personal profile. But every girl is tagged so if you click the image her profile will show. Some girls are new to it and they like it. Some dislike it and sometimes ask to get the pictures removed even after agreeing to post them. Some girls are used to it because their ex or current partner has a foot fetish so they understand it.

Why do girls like showing off their feet? Is it less personal than a selfie?

It could be each girl is different, some girls take pictures of their feet because they had a brand new pedicure or like the footwear or even the nail varnish or just the look of the feet. Some girls like the scenery behind them and some girls do it because they know guys will like it and they like the attention, every girl has different intentions.

Do you have a favourite desi celebrity who has nice feet?

There's a lot of desi celebrities that have nice feet but I don't have any favourites as I don't always keep an eye out for them.

Do you have a personal favourite kind of photo?

I personally like when the girl’s whole face and body is in the picture including her feet and it's obvious she is showing her feet.