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Nitasha Syed: Freshly brewed stories


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SHE may have grown up in Canada, but Nitasha Syed was always proud of her Pakistani heritage. That deep connection to her roots, along with a desire to show the positive side of Pakistan at a time of negative media portrayals led her towards creating Shaam Ki Chai.

The fascinating YouTube talk show available globally, celebrating Pakistan’s untold stories, sees her speak to interesting guests from diverse fields.

It challenges biases, inspires a new narrative of understanding and reveals fascinating untold stories.

Eastern Eye caught up with the talented talk show host to find out more.

Who is the most memorable person you have interviewed?

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Moneeza Hashmi. A pioneer, she was the first female general manager of Pakistan’s first media channel. She was one of the first women to be on air in Pakistan when PTV was established in 1964. She ran Pakistan’s largest TV network through several wars, political changes and martial law.

The daughter of legendary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, she spoke about her path-breaking journey in Pakistani media, her father’s incredible legacy and his heartbreak over Partition.

How do you select the guests for your show?

I come up with a list of potential guests who are relevant to topics I want to cover for the season and reach out to them. I schedule a small pre-interview to get a sense of their journey and the story they would like to tell.

How does season three compare to the previous two?

Season three is focused on the 1947 Partition and asks the question, ‘who are we as Pakistanis?’ I wanted to go back to the very first days of Pakistan and capture the stories of how Pakistan started.

We explore life through architecture, media, food and lived experiences. This also includes voices of the youth, to define what it means to be Pakistani and their view on Partition.

What inspired the interesting title of the show?

I am personally very connected to the concept of ‘shaam ki chai’ (afternoon tea). It was an ‘almost’ daily occurrence in my grandmother’s house, where the whole family and friends gathered for late afternoon tea.

We would connect as a family, catch up with each other, and discuss important topics. I wanted to recreate those moments of honest interactions in the talk show.

Have you learned anything new while making the show?

It’s been one big learning experience. My background is in computer science, so I know nothing about having a show.

In the past three years I’ve learned how to storyboard, direct, edit, conduct interviews. And how easy it is to mess up the sound quality of a video.

In season three, I had my first full team (director, producer, sound, editor), so a lot of learning came with that.

What, according to you, makes for a great interview?

The right storyline. Everyone has so many interesting things to share, but you can’t cover everything. Going deep into specific areas gets more interest from our audience, versus a general overview of everything someone has accomplished.

Who would you love to interview in the future?

Imran Khan.

The show is called Shaam Ki Chai. How much of a tea drinker are you?

I love tea. I make a big pot on the stove every morning. I usually use black loose tea, cardamom, cinnamon and anise star in my daily tea mix.

What inspires you?

The idea that I can make a positive impact in the narrative of Muslims in the world (even if it’s a small change).

Why should we all tune into your talk show?

To learn about Pakistanis doing really cool things. You’re going to find stories of struggle, triumph, success, and failure.

If you’re Pakistani, then it’ll make you think deeply about what it means to be one. If you’re not, then you’re going to learn about really cool stuff.

YouTube: @ShaamkiChai


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