Khanzada Asfandyar Khattak: The one who dances for peace

An interesting conversation with one of the best dancers of the nation

 

Khanzada Asfandyar Khattak is from the 11th generation of Khushal Khan Khattak, the famous warrior-poet of Pashtuns. He belongs to the family of the Nawabs of Teri (a former princely state established in 1550, which comprised of Karak and Kohat Districts).
Asfandyar's parents settled in Islamabad in 1980s. He studied from Beaconhouse School till A Levels. He did 4 year BBA followed by MBA from COMSATS, Islamabad. Asfandyar has been associated with development sector since 2001. He has worked with several foreign-funded projects, such as USAID, USIP, UNICEF, British Council, Oxfam, TAF, etc. He performs fusion of Pashto, Khattak, Afghan - Logari and Qataghani, Persian - Afshari with Kathak and Bharatnatyam. Recently team YOLO had the opportunity of having a conversation with Khanzada  Asfandyar Khattak and this is what he has to say.

 

When was it that you realized that you have a flair for dancing?

"Ever since I remember, I have been dancing!" Right from my early childhood, I was fond of dancing all the time - at parties, engagements, weddings and otherwise too. In 2001 there was a newspaper advertisement which read “Classical dance classes (Kathak) for women and children.” So I rang up and told them neither am I a woman nor am I a child however I still want to learn dance so what should I do. So initially I learnt basic dancing from Saima Khushnood but could not continue with it owing to my studies.

 

What made you realize that dance should be pursued as a career?

It was in 2007 that I got the chance of performing in the phantom of the opera where I performed kathak steps on an English track. Surprisingly a girl in the audience who was also a part of the play referred me to Madam  Indu  Mitha. So I immediately took her number and contacted her and began to learn dance from her (Kathak and Bharatnatyam)

Initially did you come across any opposition from your family?

Every regular family would want their children to pursue career such as medicine and engineering etc. The thing is that parents can accept other people‘s children to be different but they can’t accept their own children to pursue unique careers. So learning Kathak dance was initially not acceptable to my family as well. With the passage of time my parents have accepted my hobby and passion.  I belong to a Pashtun family so being from the 11th generation of Khushal Khan Khattak, the Khankhel family of the Khattak tribe, my parents had all the more reason to stop me from dancing. Nevertheless I had all the more reason to dance because Khushal Khan Khattak was himself a hero who stood up against the Mughals for Pashtun dignity. He took his sword (his poetry and his pen) against the Mughal Empires. Being his great grandson I have taken his fight against hatred and intolerance in the society.

What is it that you want to accomplish as a dancer?

As a dancer I want to have peace of mind and happiness as dance is perhaps the only thing that makes me happy. My dream is to take dancing to other countries where there are a lot of Pashtuns since dancing has no language, so anybody can enjoy it.

What is the biggest challenge that you have come across so far in your career?

All the discouragement and negative comments made by people concerning my dance and ghungroos has been a challenge for me. Some people are of the view that why on earth a male would do dancing therefore it is not acceptable to them.

When you entered this profession did you find other dancers welcoming?

Yes, they were helpful. I am not a very fussy person I get along with people easily so it never creates any problem. I think we should think beyond petty jealousies and rivalries.

 

Will you like to give our readers any message?

First of all a big thank you to YOLO (you only live once) this is what I realized when I decided to pursue dancing.  I wanted to dance so that is what I do. Likewise if anyone wants to play a Rubab or drums so he/she should do that. The thing is that people will discourage you but you have to go through the sea of discouragement to achieve your goal.



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