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Artistic Calling: Zain Habib '89

Written by: 
Maura King Scully

By day, Pakistan native Zain Habib ’89 is a straight-laced banker, serving as executive director of African operations at London-based Habibsons Bank Limited. But when the sun sets, the Bentley management major turns musician, thespian and artist. His newly published first book of cartoons is called Ansada Fone (pronounced “answer the phone”) and features a quirky character who has a love/hate relationship with the telephone.

Where did you get the idea for Ansada Fone?
When I was a child, I loved to doodle, drawing random cartoons that made me laugh. I also used to do naughty things like making prank phone calls. One day, the two came together in one of those “ah-ha” moments, and Ansada Fone was born.

When did the book come out?
October 2007. It’s self-published. There’s a lot more I want to do with it, but it’s hard finding the time. I’m in the process of showing the book to distributors and talking to marketing companies. Stay tuned.

Do you enjoy your day job?
Absolutely! I get to travel and meet a variety of people – it’s fascinating. I oversee banking operations in Tanzania and South Africa, and actually lived in Tanzania for 18 months while we were setting up a bank there. That was very rewarding because I was part of building something from the ground up.

How do you reconcile your numbers side with your creative side?
It’s been a dream of mine, to be in business and do cartooning. Right now, my non-business side is left for nights and weekends. Luckily, my wife and daughter are very understanding. I play keyboard, guitar and drums for my own enjoyment. I like to write music when I feel inspired – and it’s better that way. If I had to get up every day and start composing at 9:00 a.m. that would kill the artistic side of me.

In addition to cartooning, I do what I call “concept art”: black-and-white drawings that have an embedded story. I want to invite the viewer to explore the meaning behind the drawing.

Were you into art at Bentley?
My senior year, I held an art exhibit with another student. The turnout was quite good, and people asked some very interesting questions. One caught me completely by surprise: A student looked at one of the drawings and asked, “How much is this for?” I was gob-smacked. “Excuse me?” I asked. “How much is this one? I’d like to buy it if I can afford it,” he said. I was very flattered and confused at the same time. He eventually got distracted and just moved on.

I’ve recently been asked to exhibit my drawings in a gallery in Karachi [Pakistan]. That student’s question still haunts me, however. I wonder what the price would have to be for me to part with one of my drawings.

If you could pursue one of your avocations full time, which would it be: music, art or drama?
My fantasy answer is that I’d love to direct a movie. I’m a big movie buff and particularly love horror movies. Having written, acted and directed many plays myself, I watch movies with a critical eye, analyzing what works and what doesn’t. My dream is to direct a movie so scary that it sets a new standard for horror movies, like The Exorcist did.

What’s next for Ansada Fone?
I’m well into Volume 2, with 80 cartoons already drawn. Volume 2 is much funnier. In one chapter, for example, the phone becomes possessed and a priest has to come and exorcise it. It’s a lot more fun because Volume 1 laid all the groundwork, introducing the characters. So Volume 2 can just take off.

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