Omar began his tour d’horreur as the black sheep of a prominent Pakistani family. He was not conventionally ambitious. He went to college in America and graduate school in England, but couldn’t bring himself to become an academic. Upon returning to Pakistan, he failed the civil service exam (to the amusement of his father, a diplomat) and took a job teaching high school, which he did for almost ten years, though he found it boring. Mostly he did what he loved-he watched movies. All kinds, from mainstream Bollywood epics to obscure second- and third-tier Hollywood films to the indigenous outpourings of Lollywood, Pakistan’s own film industry. And he ate ice cream.
He ate a lot of ice cream. Having gone to college in Boston in the 1980s, the heyday of the independent ice cream store, he had acquired a taste for natural flavors and organic ingredients, as well as admiration for the “smoosh-in” (the original ice-cream-and-candy-bar hybrid). But the ice cream back home was brightly colored, generic, and tasteless. Worse, the ice cream shops in Islamabad were aimed squarely at children, complete with Mickey Mouse murals. One day Omar decided to try his hand at making ice cream for himself. When the results were encouraging, he thought about selling it to others, and in August 1995 he and his younger brother Ali opened a makeshift business out of their parents’ Islamabad home. It would not be safe for children. They called it the Hotspot.
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