Khaled Mahmud simplifies the art of designing well-being
With a practice that began nine years ago, out of pure innocence and a strong will to create something that could benefit not only him, but the environment as a whole, Khaled Mahmud has been a pioneer in sustainability. Although this very word is one he has avoided being associated with, it is undeniable that his work has, very subtly, planted the idea in the minds of thousands.
But who, really, is Khaled Mahmud? A restaurateur, an originator, an artiste -- there are many words that have been associated with him in the almost decade that he has been in the public eye. Whether it be for creating a space like Ajo for the youth and adults alike to make a habit of healthy eating, or promoting organically produced products through Made in Bangladesh, Khaled is known for his monumental contributions to the society at large. What we miss out on when reading about him, however, are the values he holds -- which could, undoubtedly, give us more insight on things around us.
So what is sustainable living? In Khaled’s words, it is a practice that comes from centuries of Eastern wisdom; something that a lot of people fail to see. “We look to the West to learn about it, but the wisdom we seek on the matter has existed around us since before we knew to look,” he says. Khaled also believes that the use of certain buzz words can get you the attention, but also makes your stance a political one. His practices and ethical values come from the heart, instead -- and all he seeks from them is the satisfaction of doing what is necessary.
According to Khaled, we are all rational animals who make irrational choices, out of ignorance. “The fact that plastic is harmful for the environment isn’t a discovery,” he says. “It has been common knowledge since it first went into production. People have chosen to be in denial about it for years; and now that the detrimental impacts are too hard to ignore, there’s a revolt against its use.” This is a simple example Khaled offered of the whole scenario -- which clearly demonstrates that people may choose to avoid acknowledging something they understand explicitly, until it starts affecting them.
The key here, he says, is actively participating in a conversation with yourself. True awareness comes from establishing within yourself the need to start practicing something, and truly understanding the importance of it. Once the need for such actions is ingrained in your mind, the purpose shifts from just wanting to go with the trend to gaining utmost satisfaction. Choosing to ignore the gravity of our lifestyle choices is, in a way, an ethical crime.
Khaled attempted to create a space for people to just be able to relax and think, while also being mindful of what food goes into their bodies; thus, Ajo was born. Starting from the ingredients used in the food to the packaging, there has been a lot of thought that went into the preparation, with the aim to provide “conscious food”. An idea space, as he calls it, Ajo is a restaurant that doesn’t just function as a restaurant -- it is an escape from the urban jungle, and a temporary relief from the vicious cycle of human life. Whether this scheme has been successful with the audience is a question that may not have a definitive answer. “The poet’s work is to write the poem,” he says. “It is, then, up to the audience to interpret it however they see fit.”
Ajo and MIB have both been created based on old, traditional values of the East, which many have forgotten. The purpose behind these renowned establishments is to not only make conscious, healthy choices, but to promote a culture of it. The youth need to be woken up, so they see more clearly the changes that need to be made in their everyday lives.
A large influence on the design and overall planning of both Ajo and MIB was that of dedicated meditation – which, Khaled says, is his method for his mental well-being. There are many a things we can learn from spirituality, which cannot necessarily be explained by science. But rooted deep in these very beliefs is a profound understanding of life, and our own selves. These are, of course, ideas that seem much too complicated to grasp, but Khaled aims to facilitate the well-being of people around him, and make it as simplified as possible.
Khaled says that when you try to define creativity, it loses its essence. Upon being asked what, in his opinion, is the formula for creativity, he instantly replied: “Honesty. Creativity is a journey, and there are many things a creative individual has to sacrifice in order to uphold his honesty. This is why, more often than not, these creative people may seem ‘miserable’ on the outside. But, in reality, the more honest they are, the bigger the force of creativity.”
The secret to a practical approach to life, according to Khaled, is maintaining a balance. This, he says, is the core belief behind Ajo -- demonstrated in the logo itself. The half spectacle-half sunglass design portrays the amalgamation of Eastern wisdom with Western knowledge. Being on either end of the spectrum can result in extremism, which limits how much we understand or what we do. What is important is to find the middle ground. “Don’t lose your alignment,” he says in the end. “That way, you can reach a bigger audience with what you do.”