Islamabad Tea Seller Became A Model After This Photo Went Viral

fotorcreatedThe world moves in mysterious ways sometimes; a chance event can change a life for the better or worse. While often it is our own actions that have these kinds of repercussions – sometimes it’s the actions of others that transform the way we live.

A young man from Islamabad, Pakistan recently found that even the simplest action from a stranger can suddenly change the world forever. Arshad Khan sells tea from a stall in Islamabad. His modest lifestyle offers no access to the internet or social media but a single photograph that went viral changed his life forever and made him world-famous.

Humble Beginnings

001-humble-beginnings-fa58f38662a95ebaa1e1efdacf95ef5eArshad Khan worked as a “chai walla” (tea salesperson) and he had a small stand in an Islamabad market. He’d taken to selling tea only recently having sold food and clothes in the past. His timing was perfect. In October 2016 he’d set up his stall and was serving tea when Jiah Ali came into his life.


002-instagrammed-709927Jiah Ali, a young Pakistani woman, was on a mission to capture the sights and sounds of Islamabad and preserve them on her Instagram account. She caught sight of Arshad and snapped away capturing his good looks and sparkling eyes for her social media audience. She also gave the pictures a caption.

“Hot Tea”

003-hot-tea-f3566ad688af86ac439ae1550a43fc04In a play on words, which works as well in Pakistan as it does in America, she labeled the image “hot tea,” a nice double entendre meant to flatter Khan by pointing out his good looks. However, both she and Arshad were completely unprepared for what was to happen next…

There’s Viral And Then There’s VIRAL

004-there-s-viral-and-then-there-s-viral-df956204ce5875a1e237f3e0d798b739Jiah’s Instagram account attracts a small but dedicated audience normally and at first Arshad’s picture captured nothing but a few comments. Then suddenly – things went viral. Overnight, the whole of Pakistan had seen Arshad’s image and then the image appeared on Indian and English social media too.

He Didn’t Know

005-he-didn-t-know-710008Arshad, if you remember, had no access to social media and no smartphone. He didn’t know that he had become an overnight sensation. That is until his tea stand was suddenly flooded with Pakistani ladies coming to admire his good looks and charm in real life. He says he found that experience terrifying – so what came next must have been a huge shock.

A Helping Hand

006-a-helping-hand-710016In fact, Arshad Khan thought he was in trouble! He still didn’t know that he’d become a superstar until his friends finally clued him in. Fortunately, Jiah Ali – the photographer – was on hand to help him update people on social media about his life. She explained that he was both confused and overwhelmed by the attention.

Fitin Steps Up To The Plate

007-fitin-steps-up-to-the-plate-710053Then the Pakistani clothes company, Fitin, stepped up to the plate and offered Arshad his first modeling contract. He made his debut under the caption “Chai wala is no more chai wala, now he is fashion wala,” on the company’s website. Arshad now realized he had to step up his game too.

The Management Arrive

008-the-management-arrive-003ed65026f33114f1268cbcae9c2105So Arshad Khan, once a humble tea seller, hired a management team. Their job was to take care of him and help him with his newfound status. One of the first things that they did was get him started on social media as well as enrolling him for English language lessons.

Good Morning Pakistan!

009-good-morning-pakistan-a1810f30b56da7604a914e12e982c037His next appearance was on “Good Morning Pakistan” the popular Pakistani breakfast show where he was introduced to the nation and was given the chance to explain how to make the perfect cup of tea. Then he was offered a makeover – let’s see how that turned out shall we?

Goodbye Chai Wala

010-goodbye-chai-wala-e0f0e427fecb1c0a1fc3c6cb256d29a3The outcome of the makeover was incredible; all the traces of his humble chai wala background were gone and in their place was a young man who looked suave and cool in a suit. He also modeled a traditional Pakistani outfit during the makeover and looked completely at home in it.

Still A Good Man

011-still-a-good-man-5712f8c2c5f427d93092d56195f3dbaeArshad, however, remains a humble man. He told the Associated Press: “I am not an educated person and cannot claim that I will become a doctor or a judge, all I want to say is that I will help those children who are deprived of education. If I get enough money, I will set up schools for children.”

One Last Thing

012-one-last-thing-a094f4dbd47648439ec25400686e92bdHe hasn’t lost touch with his family, either. Arshad told the AP: ” I feel it is due to my mother’s prayers that I have become a model from a tea seller.” He is one of 18 children in his family and he’s pledged to help them all get out of poverty if he can.

Arshad Kahn is living proof that a single random act from a stranger can dramatically improve one’s life for the better. We think it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

It’s clear that fame’s not going to Arshad’s head, but rather that he will use his good fortune to benefit others in the future. We wish him every success in that venture and we hope that you will too.

Something extraordinary may be waiting for you or your loved ones today or tomorrow as well. It only takes a single kind action to change the world for the better.


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