In memory of Zubeida Aapa.

This article originally appeared in the Express Tribune.

Growing up as a girl in the Pakistani society, you had to know your totkay and your pakoray. What do you do if you can’t add wine to sauce? What’s the substitute for mascarpone cheese? How to achieve that perfect porcelain skin? How do you make the perfect gol roti to impress your in-laws? Worry not. Mrs Zubaida Tariq – or Zubaida Apaas everyone remembered her – had the answer.

Before we go deeper into emotional details. Here’s more about the woman that imprinted her presence in minds and hearts for generations to come. Zubaida Apa was born in Hyderabad Deccan, British India.

Her family migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and settled in Karachi, PIB Colony where she lived with her five older sisters and four brothers. In 1951, she lost her grandfather and then her father in 1953.

After the demise of her father, three of her sisters took over all the responsibilities of running the household. At the age of 21, Apa got married to her first cousin Tariq Maqsood.

Post her marriage in 1966, she lived on Jamshed Road and had two kids, a daughter named Shaha Tariq and a son Hussain Tariq.

Zubaida Apa was born into a prominent Urdu-speaking family known for producing littérateurs, intellectuals and artists. Her maternal granduncle was Bahadur Yar Jung, a Muslim nationalist of the Indian subcontinent.

The most notable of her siblings include Fatima Surayya Bajia – an Urdu novelist and playwright, Zehra Nigah, an Urdu poet and Anwar Maqsood, who is a popular poet, humourist, writer and entertainer. Her nephew Bilal Maqsood is the vocalist and guitarist for the very famous pop-rock band Strings.

While Anwar and Fatima had always been working in the industry as writers and creative producers, Apa’s career began much later. She appeared as the kindly matron in a cooking show and later grew to prominence as she wrote cookbooks and hosted many other programmes as well.

Apa’s first shows were all about these small household ‘totkay’ or tricks to fix little problems such as acne or badly cooked rice. For the average girl or housewife, Zubaida Aapa was a godsend.

When she first appeared onscreen, with her perfect hair, smiling disposition and cotton sari wrapped neatly across her shoulder, she captured the hearts of many women in desperate need of a domestic fairy godmother to help them out with matters of the kitchen.

She is also known to have hosted over hundreds of television and radio programmes across channels

Zubaida Apa became a household name – a force to be reckoned with. She was Pakistan’s Martha Stewart. No. She was undoubtedly better than Martha Stewart. Zubeida Apa’s legacy was free of financial controversy or fraud – She was loved for who she was and what she did all her life – which is be the kind, television mom who you could always rely on.

‘What was her appeal?’ – one wonders, as tributes come pouring in from all of Pakistan – the Pakistan that learnt how to get perfect golden brown onions and make impeccable Shahi Tukray from Zubaida Apa.

What makes her legacy so unique? With the plethora of hosts and entire channels dedicated to household programming and culinary classes, what was it about Apa that resonated with the audience on a level that made her a brand like no other?

It was perhaps her smiling demeanour and kindly nature that allowed onlookers to not see her as a teacher but as a sympathetic aunt who wanted to help out.

Her soft-spoken manner and hands-on, relatable tips and tricks were what most women, floundering under the fresh responsibilities and pressures of a new home at the in-laws, learnt from her.

Zubaida Apa stepped into the limelight to share her knowledge and her craft.  The fact that she had been a homemaker and gifted with the culinary arts, is what made her inherently relatable and admirable to many audiences across the South Asian diaspora.

There are many hosts today that have garnered love, respect, high esteem and followers that cherish and follow them religiously – but no one would have the impact that Zubaida Aapa did as a pioneer in the business.

She was exclusively known for her gastronomic, domestic and homemaking tips. Her name sold merchandise, inspired caricatures and she became the definitive and the last word on ‘home matters’. The cultural impact of her as an icon is undeniable.

Not only was she loved by millions, her unique and consistent style as a presenter, culinary artist and connoisseur will be hard to replace for many years to come.

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