Whether she’s hosting glamorous red carpet events or riding on the outskirts of Kabul with the Women’s National Cycling Team of Afghanistan, Anoushey Ashraf has been a ray of sunshine from the get-go. This is why the VJ-turned-host seems to have been the perfect choice to host On the Road, which is Afghanistan’s first travelogue and one of the country’s most popular television shows.
Bitten by the travel bug, the 32-year-old shares she wants to “travel the world and show people that there are other people just like us and give them the opportunity to share some of their stories.” Anoushey recently returned from a 12-day trip around Afghanistan, shooting for the show that is set to air in Pakistan and Afghan channel Tolo by the end of this month.
On the Road has built a considerable fan base with its previous seasons, three of which were shot in Afghanistan and hosted by Mujeeb Arez. For the fourth season, the format changed and Mujeeb was joined by well-known Pakistani travel journalist Wajahat Malik, who showed him around the country while Mujeeb did the same in his home country. Now in its fifth season, Anoushey showed Mujeeb around in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, followed by the latter showing her cities in Afghanistan, such as Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul.
The series will allow audiences in both countries to witness the landscapes and cultures of their neighbours and will build awareness about the similarities between them while celebrating their differences. There has been a dearth of travel writers and documenters, primarily those who play a crucial role in creating a ‘soft image’ of Pakistan. Anoushey has been trying to work hard to establish herself as one, but shares, “Many channels here are more into the morning show concept. Who would be keen on investing money to send someone to another country and pay for their expenses when they wonder who would watch it?”
For this show, Anoushey was contacted by Tolo as their team knew through sources in Pakistan that she is a travel enthusiast. “We went for the TV show format because we wanted to target the masses but this should be taken up on social media,” she adds. Before the show airs on TV, Anoushey is updating her Facebook page called ‘Wandering Pakistanis’ and her personal Instagram account with videos and messages about her travels to Afghanistan.
Depending on its success, Tolo wants to take the show to India and Iran, and aims at covering the whole region. “I don’t think people get to see that side of Afghanistan at all. I saw women walking everywhere and taking public transport as well. They had their heads covered but that didn’t stop them from being independent. It’s much safer for them to walk around on the streets than it is for us,” Anoushey shares. “When we think of Afghanistan, we think hardliners and that people would be more conservative there, but they mind their own business.”
Earlier this year, Anoushey and Faizan Haque were set to embark on a road trip all the way up to the Chinese border. The two were to make an internet show of their adventures on ‘Wandering Pakistanis’. But Faizan met with an unfortunate accident on the way and they have had to postpone the plans until next August. She is currently hosting Subha K Dus on a local TV channel and is nervous about her acting stint on Sehra Mein Safar, set to air later this week.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2015.