God’s Own Malayalis: Sana Khader, Embracing The Artist Within Her

From what we, at PinkLungi, have learnt is that when you truly put heart into your passion, there is no going back. When we watched the TED Talk by Sana Khader, who goes by the name Zannist on the internet, we saw that passion within her.

Sana, who hails from Kozhikode, loved experimenting with arts and crafts ever since she was a child. She adored the colours and vibrancy it brought to her mundane life. In fact, she was very intrigued by the things she could make with craft materials. During her Engineering days, she would take some time off during the weekends to try out new crafts, thereby, improving her skill set to a large extent. It was around the same time, she had started penning down her thoughts about her life on letters which were sent across the world. Her pen pals from various countries are one of the reasons Zannist started in the first place. They pushed her to take a leap a faith and find a new perspective in life. 

Contrary to popular belief, working with crafts requires a lot of patience, and perseverance, which people often disregard. Sana had recently opened up about this during her interview with Mathrubhumi, where she talked about how people often question the price tag for her work. All she said is that a lot of hard work goes into what looks pretty in the eyes. Over time, she garnered a lot of attention for her work, especially after she started posting it on her Instagram handle, Zannist. In fact, after a point, she could pay for all her expenses during her final years in college because her business started generating enough revenue. Now, Sana holds workshops all over Kerala to spread her knowledge and give others the opportunity to embrace their creativity. She wants people like her to experience what it feels like to do something they’re passionate about. Sana is truly an inspiration. It is her love for arts and crafts which touches the heart.

We had the opportunity to speak to Sana Khader who was kind enough to take some time off to share some thoughts despite her busy schedule. We can definitely say that she is a force to be reckoned with. 

What prompted you start off with arts & crafts?

I was really passionate about paper related works since kindergarten. As a child, I used to make itsy-bitsy things using stuff I could find. And my passion for working with paper led to this career.

When you’re not working on products for Zannist, what do you do?

I usually work on 4-5 products every day. So if I have some free time, I try to spend it with my family. When I started Zannist, I was a workaholic and didn’t spend time with family. There were even times when I would ignore guests because I was engrossed in work. But now I realise that one has to have a work-life balance, and so I try to make time for myself and my family.

Who would you say has been an inspiration to you?

My mom has been my source of inspiration. I see her work day and night for us, and she does not get anything in return. I have seen her dedication and determination, and that’s why she is my inspiration.

What have you learnt by being friends with people from 32 countries? Why do you think people should make friends with people from other cultures?

When I tried making friends from other countries, my objective was to learn something that I wasn’t exposed to here – other cultures and languages. So I chose people from different countries that I wanted to know more about. I have learnt about their cultures, and through them, I’ve learnt about their country. I am also trying to learn their languages. I’ve not made much progress so far, but I’ll keep trying.

I believe that one should interact with people from different parts of the world as it would expose us to other cultures and mannerisms. They won’t see you in the same way as someone from your culture. They will most probably have a different way of thinking, different perspectives. And it is this exchange of culture that makes it worthwhile.

What is the biggest challenge you faced while starting up?

The biggest challenge I faced, and still face, is that people see the products I make and say that it is expensive. They try to bargain, but what they don’t realise is that even for a tiny product there’s quite a lot of time and effort that is invested. They seem to only value the product and not the artist’s effort that has gone into the making of the product.

What advice would you give someone who is starting out with pursuing their passion as their career?

My advice would be to do a lot of research. You should ask yourself if it is a worthwhile pursuit. What benefits would you get from it? Is there an audience? Do you have the time and patience to see it through to execution? Can you keep improving?

How would your parents describe you?

My parents would describe me as active and talkative. They keep saying that I can go on and on about any topic.

What was the first commercial product you created?

The first commercial product was an album for a friend. She paid me ₹450 for it, and that was my first commercial product.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

Here’s what a typical day would look like – I wake up, I pray. I sleep again. I wake up. After breakfast, I read for half an hour (something that I’ve been doing for the past 2 years). I read at least a page. Then I get to work. I work on my orders until noon. I have lunch, take a nap. Wake up, and finish my orders. After that, I watch movies and use my phone. I don’t touch the phone when I’m working for time flies when you’re on the phone. I have dinner at 8 PM and go to bed.

I try to avoid using the phone before I go to bed and right after I wake up too. This is something I’ve been trying to inculcate in myself. Keeping the phone away 30 mins before I go to bed and after I wake up has created some positive changes in my life, and so it is something that I’d advise everyone to try and follow.

What’s your favourite Kerala dish?

My favourite Kerala dish is uzhunnu dosa, especially ones that my mom makes. I love it with chutney. And I like it because it was what my mom would serve as breakfast when I was a kid going to school.

Name three countries you would love to visit soon?

Ireland, the Netherlands, and Malaysia.

I want to visit Ireland because my friend Alisha is there, the Netherlands because I want to see what Amsterdam looks like, and Malaysia because my friend Fana lives there.

Where do you see Zannist in the next 3 years?

I am trying to build my own brand, my identity, my website, and my shop. Hopefully, things will go well.

Aishwarya Gopinathhttps://pinklungicom.wordpress.com/
A foodie at heart, an aspiring novelist, and an enthusiastic writer by nature, I love to dig deep into culture and lifestyle of the place and people around me. I hope to make people cry, laugh, smile, angry, and satisfied with my writing.

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