Born in Pakistan, Zulfiqar Hussain could speak no English, as he found it difficult to integrate in a segregated education system in 1970s Bradford. But fast forward four decades and Hussain is now commanding a captive audience of business and marketing students.
The general hubbub of a university campus is dying down as the final few lectures finish; all that remain are international students and a few hardy souls working into the night. But at the heart of Leeds Metropolitan University’s Rose Bowl, one lecture theatre remains alive.
In the well of this theatre is Zulfiqar Hussain, a local entrepreneur, philanthropist and motivational speaker. He paces and pivots like a basketball player shielding the ball from his opponent. His right arm in a sling he tries to restrain himself from too much movement, but realises it’s a lost cause so takes the sling off.
As the bright theatre lights reflect off his thinning head of hair, he indulges in selling himself to the young audience, ever the opportunist. But then again when you have trekked a part of Everest, walked from Leeds to London with a victim who lost both legs in the 7/7 bombings and started your own charity, you’d be entitled to a little smug self-indulgence in your achievements.
After a good hour of talking of his experiences Hussain concludes his lecture and enthusiastic students gather around him like autograph hunters looking to get some scribbles from a Hollywood star, they scramble to get hold of Hussain’s business cards, which of course he is more than willing to hand out.
One thing that stands out is the energy Hussain possess, he proudly proclaims “I set crazy challenges and then set out to conquer them,” as he continues to pace methodically. On his philanthropic work he says, “I grew up with this concept of you keep a third for spending a third for saving and a third of charity. What’s the point of being the richest man in the graveyard?”
One thing got to me, what was his purpose of visiting Leeds Met? I asked him and the typical philosophical showman in him came to the fore, “what I often say to people is that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” From 1970s Bradford to present day Leeds, Hussain has gone from unlit wick to roaring fire.