A True Renaissance Woman - Tahira Amir Khan

To sum up who Tahira Khan is in one word would be an injustice to the vast areas of expertise that she has honed her skills in over the years. She started out in the technology business as co-founder of MicroUsability Pte Ltd, kicking off a career which has lasted 15 years and seeing her head Mobile Alliance Singapore, an initiative to develop Singapore as a mobile innovation hub. To the average man, that might be the definition of success but Tahira wasn’t satisfied and seeking a greater vision, placed herself in a cocoon for 9 months in prayer, meditation, fasting, reflection and research. This culminated in her magnum opus, a book entitled “Through the Golden Door : The Doorway to our Advancement”, adding the title of ‘author’ to her ever-expanding CV. For her achievements, she was awarded the ASEAN Lady of Excellence and Inspirational Award in November 2016. This inspirational and driven lady now seeks to add pageant queen to her portfolio as a contender for Miss and Mrs Singapolitan Islandwide 2017. We speak to her to find out more about her experiences and what she has learnt from the pageant so far.

Why did you join this pageant in the first place?

I had never really thought of joining a pageant ever. I was very academic, very much into reading and all those kinds of stuff. I loved building my mind and body. I did a lot of sports. But I always had a slight aversion to focusing on physical beauty. Even though I was told when I was young that I was good looking and beautiful, I didn't want that to be what people focused on. Also partly because of the way my parents brought me up. My father's side is Afghani while my mother's,  Pakistani. At that time, women in these cultures were always suppressed. So there was this thing in my family about going against the predominant stereotype and educating our women. My father was always focused on our knowledge and education. We were ingrained with that thinking that gaining knowledge was more important over all else.

But later on in life, I went through some spiritual experiences and realised that I needed to get rid of my judgements. Even though I was running my business, I never really wanted to be the star. I was always leading from the back. But I realised that if I wanted to pass on a message to people, I needed to be in the forefront and speak to people. This pageant was the right choice to give me the publicity that I needed, especially when I became an author and released my book early last year, I had specific messages which I wanted to say to people. The pageant would give me the avenue to reach out to these people.

I also realised that life should not just be about building on the beautiful mind and that I was neglecting the good looks that I had been blessed with. I should take what God has given me as a blessing and not be afraid of people thinking that I’m vain and all that. But at the same time, stay humble. The pageant is a way for me to be part of this world and not just live in my own world.

What are some of these messages you want to convey to people through this pageant? 

When I was writing my book, I found out that there was one message that was uniform throughout all the information that I was processing.  Unity. It was one thing that  I would say, was absent or taken away from my life. There was a lot of disunity in the family, from the beginning in terms of relationships and  I also felt a lot of disunity from God. In terms of family, we lost a lot of money and faced quite a number of legal battles over the years. My family runs a business and there were conflicts over the running of it between even my brother and I (fortunately all resolved) .There were also conflicts with religion and beliefs between my relatives. We had a mix of 4 different races in my family - Afghani, Pakistani, Iranian and Kashmiri. They all have different beliefs and I found that I was the one bringing them together. Unifying my relatives. I also had a very deep connection with God since young and even took a year off when I was 19 to go study the scriptures. That was when I realised that the one thing that was taken away from me and absent in my life was the thing that I strived for and wanted to bring forth as a message to the world today.

In the world today, there is a lot of separation and segregation which cause some of the biggest problems. What drives separation and segregation are the bestowing of titles and placing of labels on others. I was from a very wealthy family and that separated us from people who were not wealthy like us. I remember back in school, the other children used to say  “Don't mix with Tahira, she's too rich.” It's interesting because I never liked the separation, I didn't like having that wealth. Later on, I made choices to go through poverty at certain points in life. I stopped certain earnings and went through poverty. So unity is the underlying message that I want to bring across through to people through this platform. It’s actually the subject of my book!

Tell us more about why and how you wrote this book.

A few years ago, when I ended my term as President of Mobile Alliance Singapore, I decided to drop everything and go into deep reflection, meditation and prayer for about nine months. I got tired of what I was seeing- the corruption in the world, especially when my company was managing a lot of government-level projects internationally and I noticed a lot of corruption in terms of business dealings and personal relationships.I became really disillusioned and felt that I wasn’t sharing anything with the world. While working on all these government contracts, I realised I had kept my spiritualism and wisdom under the carpet for too long.  I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing in life. So I decided to stop everything and find out what it was. I'd only see my family once every 7 to 10 days and went deep into fasting, judgements .research, meditation and prayer. I felt like I was undergoing a transformation.  

That was how the book came out.I never really planned for it and simply surrendered to what I was meant to do. It came out rather quickly actually and at times, a paragraph would just appear in my head like a ticker tape and it would make perfect sense. It brought across messages on how to break past titles and labels that we see in castes and cultures today and put an end to the disunity in our lives. I had two forwards for my book. One was written by a well-known person in the Muslim community, Ameerali Jumabhoy,  and the other was written by a Christian pastor who was a professor at a university in Canada. So even in that aspect, I wanted to unite people of different faiths.

What would you say was the turning point in your life?

When you have unity, it's partly driven by love but also by fear. The opposite of love is fear and when you have an absence of love in your life or you have too much fear in your life, it affects your relationships and causes disunity.  I was always driven by fear since I was a child. At the age of 13, I had an unfortunate incident when I went down to Pakistan to see a relative and at close to midnight, was molested and taken away by two men. At that point, I thought I was going to die and just wanted God to be there and give me the courage to face whatever was going to happen. Fortunately, I developed a presence of mind and courage to run for my life when they loosened their grip upon me.

 I hardly spoke to people after that for around a year. I never underwent any treatment for it. I didn't even want to speak to my own brother and father. Because I felt betrayed by men in general. Why did they do that to me? Why humiliate me? Why did men do this to me? Because I never spoke about it, for a person so fearful, I never got myself treated. Fear became a part of my life since then. Even when we had to fire people in my company, I had to leave the room because I was so fearful and sensitive. I was such a fragile person that even the smallest things would affect me.That’s what I really wanted to change in myself.  That’s why I put myself through all these experiences, including this pageant. To break me completely and then reassemble. Now, I am fearless. I can speak in front of a thousand people. I can do anything.

What have you learnt from this pageant experience?

It's teaching me more about the balance and to go past my judgements.I always make sure that even though I'm in the limelight now , to not allow my ego to come in and move away from humility. I always make sure that there is a balance and I maintain humility and groundedness daily. I’ve also built a bond with women of all backgrounds. I was always in a man's world, even when I was heading Mobile Alliance. It was mostly made up of men. The pageant has put me in a woman's world and it's good for me. It has also brought out more of my feminine side and I think made me more relatable and personable to others. I was always afraid of being all star and no substance. But what I’ve learnt is that if I’m all substance, but no one knows who I am, then what’s the point? Your message won’t be shared with the world. By the end of this pageant, I would like to be a person whom people can look at and say “I can talk to her.” A more personable and reachable person. I’ve put myself on a pedestal as a highly intellectual scientific person but now I want to be reachable at all levels and be able to relate to people from all walks of life.

Regardless of whether you win or not, what would you like to do after this pageant?

I have quite a few things lined up. My online TV channel, Golden Door TV, just launched recently. We intend to feature programs and shows which convey the underlying message of unity in a fun and engaging manner. I believe in a collaborative approach and will be co-authoring a Through The Golden Door extended series, which will expand upon the ideas in the original book. I’m also, of course, working on a sequel to Through the Golden Door and a young adult series, Adventures Through The Golden Door, which I hope will bring wisdom, knowledge and natural thinking to younger readers.

I would also like to be more involved in events and programs which not only bring across the message of unity but also lend wisdom to the masses. I have so much which I have in me and in my book that I would like to pass on in simple ways, whether it's through public speaking or otherwise. What I know and speak about is from deep within me and is ultimately, passion. I'm not just saying world peace.

What quote or expression would you print on a T-shirt that embodies your values and beliefs?

If we keep our hearts pure and golden, the destiny of man will be golden. 

Connect with Tahira:


Miss and Mrs Singapolitan Islandwide 2017 will be shown on Vijay TV and Star Plus, starting from 26th May. You can also catch the action on Youtube.

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