I recently had the privilege of interviewing two amazingly talented and skilled Pakistani women. Emma Alam, the first Pakistani to win the World Memory Championship and a two Guinness world record holder, and Kisa Zehra who is a Guinness world record holder and a U.K Speed Reading Champion.
A young Pakistani girl, Emma Alam, has been recently ruling the headlines of news channels because of her exceptional memory skills. This had led her to win the 29th World Memory Championship. Alam broke three world records and competing against 300 participants from around the world. Her impeccable memorization abilities led her to win the Gold Youth Avicenna Award 2021 by the Brain Trust Charity U.K. She was also recognized as the Pride of Pakistan by ISPR, Ministry of Defence.
The World Memory Champion is also a recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award by the United States of America president, Joe Biden. Emma Alam has won 19 medals and 7 trophies in National and International Competitions while also being a 2 Guinness World Record Holder and a World Mind Mapping Junior Champion. Emma Alam is the first Pakistani to win the “World Memory Championship.”
Along with Emma Alam, Syeda Kisa Zehra, who also belonged to Team Pakistan, broke the world record and was awarded a Gold Medal in the 29th World Memory Championship for memorizing 241 fictitious dates in 5 minutes. Syeda Kisa Zehra’s memorization skills led her to become a Guinness World Record Holder. Syeda Kisa Zehra is also a gold medalist for the U.K Speed Reading Championship 2019.
Both of these young Pakistani girls were trained by Sania Alam who is a corporate trainer for Speed Reading, Memory skills, and Mind-Mapping. Sania Alam is also 1 of the only 4 in the world for being a Senior Licensed Instructors for Super Learning.
Q: For Ms. Emma, along with winning the Gold Youth Avicenna Award 2021 by The Brain Trust Charity U.K and being recognized as the Pride of Pakistan by ISPR, Ministry of Defence, you have also won several impeccable medals and renowned trophies too. What we’d like to know is, how has your childhood impacted you to be the person that you are today?
Emma Alam: My childhood was pretty normal I would say. Studies are a contributing factor to how your parents see you as successful or not. When I was young, I had no interest in my studies. I used to struggle. I wouldn’t remember anything. Because the learning methods that they used when I was studying in school did not suit me at all. Basically, after I took the training, I got to know that in school they don’t teach you any learning methods, right? Your parents and your teachers simply hand you the books and they say, this is the material, you have to absorb in your brain somehow and then give the exams.
Nobody teaches us “how-to,” which is why then the students turn to the struggle of the road method, which is actually not even a proper method. It is just that you are trying to cram information into your brain through repetition and repetition. And that’s just a struggle. It’s time-consuming and that method did not suit me at all. So I was not good at studies and as I got older, my grades stooped even further and my parents started to get concerned, obviously. Then they came across this institute of Future Learning and they enrolled me. And in this institute, I finally learned “how to learn,” “how to memorize,” “how to study,” which is when I realized how much of a lack there is of this very fundamental skill in our educational system.
Q: For Ms. Kisa, you have been a Gold medalist for the 29th World Memory Championship along with being a Guinness World Record Holder and winning many prestigious championship awards, what we’d like to know is, how has your childhood impacted you to be the person that you are today?
S. Kisa Zehra: I would say it is very similar to Emma because when I was young, I hoped between different schools, between 4 to 5 schools! Trying to see which one suited me the most and obviously there is a huge flaw in the education system and that is the students are not taught how to learn. Therefore, I did struggle a lot.
My father comes from a finance background and that is why he expects us to excel in our studies at our best and I was struggling in that factor, hahaha! When my father dug deep and he saw that futuristic learning was providing some courses, he said, why not take a shot! I believe it was definitely worth it because I would not have been here, I would not have been here if it were not for futuristic learning. As Emma said, as I got older, the studies got harder, so my grades automatically started to get lower.
Q: In Pakistan, there is not much awareness in the educational sector of the rural communities, especially amongst young girls. If you got the chance, would you like to contribute in some way to helping the young girls of your country to pursue the same career and professional aspirations as you? If yes, then how would you do it?
Emma Alam: The reason why I started competing and the reason why my parents and I decided to go for this, was because there is no awareness of this in Pakistan at all. I wanted to take this as competition was because not only did I want to make my country proud but I also wanted to inspire youngsters like me to learn to use their brain and I am so glad that ever since I’ve won, I’ve had so much support and so much love from all over social media. There have been millions of people congratulating and millions of people who suddenly got to know that there is such a thing happening in Pakistan. It is an asset for the country.
There are such technologies available, there is such an institute available where students can come and learn that fundamental skill. Because what we don’t realize is that our brain is actually faster than the fastest computer on Earth because who designed that computer? Our human brain did. Who designed the submarines that can go underneath the deepest depths of the ocean? Our brain did. Who designed the rockets that can travel to space? Our brain did. And yet, when it comes to studies, we have to absorb the information that is given to us, we struggle. Why is that? Because for example, when you go to a store, you buy a certain gadget.
Whenever you buy it, there is always a user manual with it. Right? But where is the user manual for this fascinating instrument that is our human brain? That is something that is missing from our educational system and I would like to inspire more people to learn to use their brains.
S. Kisa Zehra: I would definitely agree with what Emma has been saying and I would also like to add on the definitely spreading awareness about this fact and slowly but surely, we will be able to implement technology into the education system so that it can reach out to every single student of our system who is trying to learn, and those who are trying to develop themselves. So, I think that this could be a very huge asset for our country.
Q: Ms. Kisa, Amidst winning numerous awards, can you please tell us about your most memorable moment throughout your professional journey?
S. Kisa Zehra: Well, I think I have quite a few but I will just name the top two. The first one was when I got to know that something like this existed and it worked! And how miraculously it worked was mind-boggling. I was like “Oh my God, the brain can work like that?” It’s such highly advanced equipment that I had no idea about. So that was a huge turning point where I realized that I did not have to be slow in my life regarding anything. And one more thing I would say was a very memorable moment was when I won my first medal, my first championship. That was very memorable and knowing that we had attained something that was revolutionary as well as a big step for Pakistan as a country, it was a very huge moment for me, and my country.
Q: Same question for Ms. Emma, can you tell us about your most memorable moment throughout your professional journey?
Emma Alam: My most memorable moment was when it was announced that I had won the championship. Because I have been training for hours on a daily basis. To make my coach so proud who spent two years investing her time in me and to know that it was all worth it. To make my country proud, to make my parents proud, and to receive so much love from all around the world. It was a really overwhelming experience and I was really happy.
Q: For Ms. Emma, how has being a world memory champion impacted your personal life?
Emma Alam: It has made my whole life, very very easy. Because I suddenly learned that, for example, if you talk about education, a normal person spends twelve years of their life in education. It takes that long because we struggle. We continuously spend double the time. For my studies, what used to take me a whole day to study and comprehend. And at the end of the day, I didn’t even remember that information!
Now, with super learning and with, these abilities to use my brain properly. I can complete all of that within two to three hours. Through super learning, the basic 12-year education can be completed very, very easily within the span of 2-3 years. So what the institute of Futuristic Learning Now actually says is that start learning after the age of ten because before the age of ten. Our brain isn’t developed enough, it isn’t in that stage where we can learn.
At that time, it is only exploring. So we start learning after the age of ten. And between 2 to 3 years, we’re done with our twelve years of education. Imagine how much we could achieve knowing how much we can use our brain, saving all of that time. Because at the end of the day, in this day and age, time is the most valuable commodity because the world is constantly adapting, it is constantly changing. There is so much new information we have to absorb.
Q: For Ms. Kisa, how has being a Guinness book of world record holder impacted your personal life?
Kisa: I would say that since taking all of these super-learning courses, I was able to get done with my studies much faster. I got the time to focus on things I never would’ve focused on otherwise if I was taking so long just to complete my studies. I got the opportunity to focus on my health, I got the opportunity to focus on different hobbies in my life that I would like to pursue.
For example, I also do graphic designing. I do gym and multiple other things I was able to focus on just because super-learning made it so much easier for me to get done with something that would’ve taken years to do. I would say the biggest impact that my personal life had was that I got the chance of doing the things I never would have imagined doing. I was able to explore different aspects of life and saw the world in a different view just because I got this training to speed up my process of learning and the way I was capturing different information.
Q: Ms Emma, What advice would you like to give to all the aspiring memory champions of Pakistan and all over the world?
Emma Alam: I would say, this sport is just like the Olympics for physical sport. There are Olympics of swimming, hockey, tennis, there are also Olympics of memory. Competitors from all around the world compete and they are the top mental athletes who have been training for years.
I would say that first of all, absolutely learn how to use your brain because we have no idea. And we cannot imagine how immensely capable our brain actually is. So I would say, first of all, learn this skill, and then all it takes is practice and consistency. And anyone can do it! Because memory isn’t something someone either has or doesn’t have. Or either someone’s memory is good or bad. But in fact, memory is something that anyone can build. Memory is like a muscle that we have not learned to use, we have not been using. That’s why it has gone weak. But anyone can start building at any moment in their life.
Q: Ms. Kisa, What advice would you like to give to all the aspiring memory champions of Pakistan and all over the world?
S. Kisa Zehra: I would say that we all have the same brain. Every single individual has a brain and all we have to do is unlock its potential. And it could do marvelous things. So, I would say, “don’t doubt yourself.” Just step ahead and do it. And then you’ll see how many various opportunities you can achieve through learning “how to learn.” And of course, anybody can become a world champion with the right techniques and tools given.
Q: For Ms. Emma, What we’d like to know is how it all started. Can you tell us about the journey from being an ordinary girl to becoming a three Guinness World Record titleholder? Was it a dream you pursued or did you stumble upon this professional endeavor by accident?
Emma Alam: I had no awareness that this sport even existed as I already told you. I was a struggling student so you can tell that my memory wasn’t great at all. And I had no hope that my memory would get better. So, my parents stumbled upon this institute which is the institute of Futuristic Learning. And I took training from my coach, Sania Alam. She is actually one of the four people in the world who have senior-level certification to teach these technologies. Around the world, these things are already being implemented.
Not only in schools, but also in education systems, in fortune 500 companies like Apple Disney, and so forth. After I took the training, not only was I able to ace my studies effectively in less time. But I was so interested that I and my parents decided that we would want to take this further. Then I started taking training for the memory competitions and I trained for 6 to 8 hours daily. Because as I said, these are global competitions, in which from all around the world, the top athletes participate.
We’re supposed to memorize binary numbers. For example, just a random sequence of binary numbers we’re supposed to memorize in thirty minutes. And then we are supposed to memorize hundreds of names and faces. Hundreds of words, hundreds of spoken numbers. So to do that, you do need a lot of practice and a lot of consistency. And of course, a trainer!
Q: The same question goes for Ms. Kisa, can you tell us about your journey from being a young girl to a holder of many championship awards and a Guinness book of world records holder?
S. Kisa Zehra: Since I was young, I always wanted to do something big. And I did stumble upon this coincidently, just because of what was going on in my personal life regarding my education. And when I came across Futuristic Learning, I was like, “this is it,” and “this is what I need to do.”
And this is how I am going to make Pakistan proud, and this is how I will contribute to making Pakistan one of the top leading countries in the world rather than what it’s viewed on the news and the way it is perceived. I stumbled across this and went for it.
Q: For Ms. Emma, where do you see yourself five years from now? Both professionally and personally.
Emma Alam: In the category of mental sports, there are three different competitions. One is memory, of course, the second is mind-mapping and the third is speed reading. I would see myself in five years from now competing in all three of those competitions. Taking them further, making Pakistan proud in those three categories. And increasing mental literacy in Pakistan through inspiring, and breaking more Guinness world records.
Ms. Kisa, where do you see yourself five years from now? Both professionally and personally.
S. Kisa Zehra: I would also see myself doing the same. I also want to pursue more in this professional endeavor, I want to make Pakistan as strong as possible by competing in these championships, raising awareness all around that this thing is possible in our country. And that is my personal goal as well that I become as efficient as I can be in providing service to everybody.
Why we need more young girls like Emma Alam and Syeda Kisa Zehra?
At the 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development, Pakistan was amongst the top worst-performing countries in education. According to statistics and reports, 32% of primary school girls are out of their academic institutions. As compared to 21% boys. By 6th grade, 59% of girls are out of school. Whereas only 49% of the boys are out of school by sixth grade. The lack of educational awareness, especially amongst the rural communities has negatively impacted both boys and girls. However, it has had adverse effects on girls, resulting in a dangerous increase in child brides.
However, despite the challenges Pakistan has faced in the educational sector for the past few years, it has also contributed to producing talented young women. Women who have substantially contributed to positively impacting the world. Many notable Pakistani women have made their country proud through their impeccable humanitarian work and other skills. Some of those women were Malala Yousefzai, Muniba Mazari, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, and Arfa Abdul Karim Randhawa. And now, we have Emma Alam and Syeda Kisa Fatima.
Slowly but surely, Pakistan is improving its education system. And more youngsters are pursuing their career aspirations in numerous academic fields. Many factors have led the world to perceive the women of Pakistan as less talented and less capable. However, many talented Pakistani women have substantially contributed to shattering that stereotypical image of Pakistani women. In the eyes of international media and all around the world.
Pakistan is filled with immeasurable potential. However, there are very few academic and professional opportunities for youngsters to grow intellectually. However, as more young women in Pakistan attain global recognition in the educational sector, perhaps the Government of Pakistan will take certain positive steps towards reviving and improving the education system by introducing effective learning methods which will help the students in the long run instead of forcing them to cram information that they might forget at the end of the day.
Perhaps the aforementioned young women making history might initiate a much-needed conversation amongst the educational system. And inspire the education ministers to change their age-old methods of learning. Introducing an international teaching style that might help the future youth of Pakistan. To attaining convenient access to tools and techniques that they can use for honing their memory and learning skills. This might prove to be substantial for them in their professional endeavors. Perhaps then we can have more young women like Emma Alam and Syeda Kisa Zehra. Women who would use their skills for the betterment of their community and for making their country proud.