Sunday, February 28, 2010

Karachi Kahani.Sitarey, Chooriyaan, siwayyan.

Karachi Kahani..Sitarey, Siwayyan, Chooriyaan.


A Reminiscent Short Story By Meherzaidi.


Eid bhi ajab rang laati hai! Neelay, peelay, chamakte, chamakte!

We would all gather around the Mehndi waali, well in those days there were no professional mehndi waalis, just any lady in the house would be up to the job. All girls except me. Yuk, yuk, I would run away from the house and start playing in the Galli or nearest park. Parks were aplenty in Nazimabad number Chaar ,green lawns, flower beds and  Jhoolas. I loved the swing, guess it did help me becoming so tall. All my troubles will be forgotten once I had my Baari, my turn on the swing, reaching higher and higher , almost touching the sky with my Chappal adorned feet. Then there were games like, Chupan Chupaie, Phisal Manda, Lattoo and Gilli Danda. I  only played Chupan Chupaie, the hide and seek with almost half of Nazimabad number Chaar, as our space and the park was big enough . Phisal Manda I only played when in a naughty mood , when we would put soap bars, washing ones all over the covered verandah of our house and slip all over.

Life was so free, safe and childlike. All play, and no work. School work and school time just passed away. No tuitions, no difficulties. All rich and poor children studying together, playing together,singing together.

Eid would bring with itself great joy. Chaand Raat, Chooriyan ,Siwayyan and above all Eidi. We would bathe and dress in new clothes, shoes and be ready to receive the Eidi, crisp money when daddy returned from his Eid ki Namaaz. This ritualistic prayer was a very special occasion with menfolk. They would go to their various favorite places like, Polo ground, mostly government, rich, dignitaries and other political people. In Our Nazimabad, be it number, 1,2,3 or four, there were Maidaans, like Bara Maidan, Chota Maidaan. As soon as the menfolk returned we would all sit down and have the feast of breakfast which consisted of Kachoris, dahi baray,aloo cholay, which came much later in fashion maybe more availability or more Punjab influence. Then the traditional sweet meats like Gulab Jaman, Barfi, Pera, Baloo Shahi, Boondi Ke Laddoo, and our favorite ,Sheer Qorma. The semolina sweet milky, rich preparation had Khoya, Badam , Pista, Naryal and of course Khajoor. We would slurp, slurp , and slurp to our utter delight till our little bellies bursted and we would feel uncomfortable around the waist.

Life was a fun ride.

Then there were these shimmering Sitarey, the golden and colored shiny sequins, which made the scarf look magical. I would dream that I was a queen, a princess, a beautiful Nargis, when I would dance around playing with the Dopatta, too big for me as it would be made for a lady.

I did not like the other eid, the Baqra Eid as they called it. Smell of strange blood and meat still repulses me. Not being a vegetarian I still loathe this memory.

The bangles and the dresses were worn with love and longing. “Jab Tak Gota Kinari Se na sajay, achha nahi lage” would say an old lady as she would carefully handle a dress or a scarf. Simple ritual of adorning the clothes was another occasion. The Chooridar Pyjama  is etched in my memory. I would carefully place a piece of paper and slip the cotton edge of this pajamas and made sure that all the creases were in place near the lower end of my legs. A Saleem Shahi Jooti would complete the picture. Dressed to kill , I would run out to play with my friends Salma, Ghazala, though much older in Nazimabad number Chaar. As I grew older, my father’s masjid became the Nursery mosque and my friends changed too but the flavors and the adornments of Eid remained the same and to this day all children in Karachi have this Eid whether in Nazimabad or Nursery or Defence. The sweat meat marts changed fromMulla Ahmed Halwai, Abdul Khalique, to Anjarwala,and Nirala though both shops have opened their other outlets. The variety also changed , more Bengali, Gujrati and even Arab sweets added. Now every area has good sweet shops and we know where the people are coming from when they bring the sweets as tokens for their love in weddings, Aqiqaas, Meelaads, and other occasions. Well multinational franchised goods like Dunkin Doughnuts never match this tradition. Somehow, I feel so unfulfilled, so unloved when a cake or doughnut or even brownie pack is gifted. I want my tradition. I want my childhood,. I want my memories of the sweetest days in Karachi.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Karachi Kahani.. Guriyan, Gharondey, Titliyan

Karachi Kahani…Gurya, Gharondey, Titliyan.
(A reminiscent short story) By Meherzaidi.

Woh zamaney bhi ajab the!  We played with dolls and what dolls were they. Some tall, some short, some fat, some thin, some lovely ,some well ordinary looking. Just like us. Kaleidoscopic. Almost all were handmade , Kapre Ki Guryan! Plastic had not arrived, thank god, at least not in Karachi, then. Fabric dolls are my weakness, even today. Whenever I enter a new Defence Ka House in Karachi, my eyes look around for a doll, at least one fabric doll in the showcase, somewhere in a small decoration niche, a memory, loving of a sweet grandmother, a Nani or a Daadi. But then, there are no showcases, no unique furniture pieces, polished lovingly, cherished, passed from mother to daughter, over generations. There are only over-priced, copied furniture all over the house, landscaped, interior-designed, always the same.Naanis, Daadis have also changed. Gone are the white, usually, cotton saris with coloured borders, gone are the Chooridaar Pyjamas , gone are the paraphenilious Paandans! These grandmothers were also like hand made dolls. Precious, unique,  panoramous.
“ Ayiee Munni zara Mujjan se paan to laadey” . Bilquis’s grandmother would call out to me just as I was preparing to take my four fabric dolls to Salma’s house to play. Mujjan was an uncle of Bilquis, my younger sister’s friend, best friend. He always seemed to have everything ready if any thing was short ranging from Paans to sewing machine oil. I think he was very organized, unlike the uncles of today, fast, furious, proactive? Uncles and  aunties in thise days or you could say Mamoos, Chachas, Khalas, Phoopis , were real. Caring, sympathetic, loving, empathetic, beautiful, elegant, handsome, masculine ,always human.
Nowadays they are either Amitabh Bachan, Aishwaiyria Rai or worst still Usama Bin Laden. I would gather all my dolls in my arms , straightening out my creases, run towards the gate. Mujjan uncle would hand me the Paan leaves, even before my asking, as if he had heard as soon as grandmother spoke. His consideration.
My dolls were four that I remember, even more but I have no love for the ones I forgot. There was the one in red saree, tissue saree. She had a shiny gold Gota border.Gota was such a real ,precious lining . Not plasticized, applied, worn once and twice and forgotten like nowadays. It was applied with loving care, on borders of Sarees, Dopattas and sometimes, though rarely on Daamans, lovingly, carefully while the crafter sat on Takhats, wooden couches or divans, with cotton Chaddors ,borderwali! Kept in steel trunks for ages, to be taken out and worn again in the next generations. Eternal, Saccah or real. Putting thread in the needle was also an expertise. “Zara Sooiey Mein Dhaga Tau Daal The, Larki”. Any older lady would ask the younger one. Eyeglasses were uncommon then . Disliked also as if they were ugly appendages, like sixth finger or cleft palate! Ladies even today go for contact lenses, blue, green to match with dresses. Vanity, female vanity!
So my dolls would wear sarees, Chooridar pyjamas, frocks Baluchi or Multani embroidered Shalwar Kameez. They usually had eyes made of black thread, imitating Kaajal, like actress Zeba, or Shamim Ara. Mom always liked Nutan and Rezia Sultana. She liked women of elegance, tall stately saree clad elegance. I have a faint, faint yet clear memory of snow, ?Raj Kapoor and Vayjanti Mala, A horse carriage, a song and an Indian film in Nazimabad number “Do”, in   Naseem cinema .So my dolls would sit with us talks to us, fight amongst themselves and will be covered over with cloth at night, each night carefully lest they came alive. Tradition, grandmotherly instructions. We were also careful  not to keep them undressed. Always had to dress them up carefully, quickly. I often wondered at their wirey legs, long and ugly, bendable usually. Their stomachs were also full of cotton. So till late I would buy my daughter cloth dolls from Karachi Pearl Continental Hotels’ gift shop. This shop is also like Karachi, grown with me over the years, always there in the corner.
Then there were houses to be made , for dolls, for us, for the rain. These were usually made from cardbox, an important ingredient in my childhood. No chipboard . Often mud.
I loved the mudhouses, gharondey, as they would call them.
Somehow the dolls never fitted inside. The house were small, their doors small. We would all sit happily outside, us and the dolls. All alive and happy.
Then there were Titliyan. Coloured, patterened , flitting all over the two gardens we had in our house in Nazimabad number Chaar. Full of flowers, big, big crysanthemums, red, pink and even black roses, fragrant, shiny, majestic almost doll like standing in their Kiyari , quietly, in rain, in the summer.
My sister learnt her  “incessant, passionate gardening” while I played with dolls and I remember a dog doll I had made myself out of  towel with two button eyes . This I put near a small side gate and imagined the passerbys to be afraid of. The passerbys so important in my childhood, real, important for different reasons than today.
Dolls would solve our problems. Dolls would give us joy. Dolls would give us life. Experience.

Painting by Syed Ali Wasif.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Expressive impressions Three artists from Karachi Grammar School.

Abdullah Khan Good morning!.Finding  impressions.Abdullah Khan.

...Expressive impressions…Three artists, a canvas of feelings.

An exhibition of artists work was held at the peaceniche gallery, “Firaar” meaning escape at the T2F .
Carving our perspectives, etching the skeletons of our subconscious, we are what you made us.”
Zeerak Ahmed…growing up in artists family, she now studies art at Hiram College ,USA.
She expresses herself with subtle, shaded , faded images, of children that affect her from “Sunday Bazaar” in Karachi. Little afghan boys that she meets every Sunday while shopping. The fading is representive of their unknown past, insignificant present, faded future. Their existence only existent by the faces that we connect with our eyes, for fleeting moments, while they carry our “Bojh”, our materialistic burden. The lifeline of our mundane,plasticized daily existence.In a way she is expressing the entire question of “existentialism”, in a way like Sartre or like Pablo Picasso. She is a very modern painter,in every sense of the word. Individualistic, with a strong social comment. I wish her a bright future.
Shoaib Rizvi has entered the world of painting as a form of expression amongst his varied art persuits like sitar playing, acting in stage dramas. His paintings use the bright colours and imagery that you may find in paintings of common Pakistani painter , sometimes at the back of truck. This beautiful expression colour palette was chosen by these truck or rickshaw art painters because these are the colors available for metal painting. It is his theme of the paintings that shows his deep eye into the visual treasures available all around him, be it in everyday life or the perceptions of others. This young man will do well if he pursues his career in medicine but this painting pursuit should not be given up, only refined. He may gain immensely if he learns the fine art of miniature painting as I can see he touches that.
Abdullah Khan is a 19 year old freshman at ringing College of Arts and Design, Florida. His interest in painting started as he was interested in documenting, archiving his experiences. He creates his “Visual paintings as experiences, memories. He is greatly influence by people. I find his interactive, paintings, collages as a very modern form of expression, totally creative. Labelling him will be belittling this very entertaining, sensitive artist. I wish him a very bright future too be it in painting or any other media art.
Shoaib with his paintings.

Shoaib with his paintings.

Shoaib's fantasy world...and Karachi.

The North mountain escape to "holiday"

Prescription..his view of demons as a sea!

My beautiful Sawat, Kaghan, naran, my beautiful country..Shoaib
religious leanings and dreams. Shoaib.

Faces, images, lives by Zeerak Ahmed.

Love a dog, kill a goldfish. Zeerak.

Faces show all. Zeerak Ahmed .

Ageing experience. Abdullah Khan.


Abdullah Khan Taazi Taazi Khabrein.

Urnay Ki Koshish, an attempt to flight, a life take offy Abdullah Khan.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Random Thoughts..Pakistan Happenings.

Dawn Tv started its Urdu transmission finally. Thank God. half the news anchors had muddled accents in English. Then such a large Pakistani people, 170 million of them understand Urdu.Inspite of the apparent hatred of Sindhi speaking, Baluchi speaking and even Pushto speaking folks, Urdu is widely understood and spoken.Their first Urdu programme, Sawal went so ,so. They even showed a clip where an elderly citizen said "Ulloo Ka Pattha" meaning an owl's son ,an expletive , though mild in Urdu. Mr. Kaira rightly objected that this should have been edited. Matiullah Jaan , the spikey anchor did not have to keep the whole clip uncensored to give it a sting . Was he competing with the other Urdu channel anchors who are using shouting voices, banging tables, pointing and even devilish cynical laughter as a means of attack the guest. Well, even love and sex becomes so dramatic or even vulgar in Urdu . Well, sort of. But it will be better if he invites one guest and takes a detailed answer and give some sense of the question and answer to the viewer.
Then the second programme, by Mr. Wusatullah of BBC Urdu fame also hosted a call in "Bolna Zaroori Hai" or "talking is essential" program. The first topic ,of making Sindhi a national language or all regional languages national was discussed. Amar Jaleel blamed the Quaid, then  Pakistanis, and finally Urdu speaking for not letting Sindhi come as a national language. He even said that Urdu speaking should not be afraid of Sindhi. The issue is survival of Sindhi as a language of the masesand not Urdu. He had no answer to the genuine questions as to why there was no work of creating content in Sindhi for children's curriculum and teaching science and maths in Sindhi in order to improvr the standard of education in Sindh. This has been proven that the education foundation if given in mother tongue makes a solid foundation.This is the problem with the supporters of regional languages , especially Sindhi language.Instead of a proactive role they are using the blame and conspiracy theory role to the detriment of their cause. I wish the younger generation realises this fault and improves. How have they managed to advocate their cause now that they are themselves in power in Center also?On the whole this program is interesting.
Then there was the joker on Geo TV. Sorry to use this word for a guy who appeared religious with a beard, safa on his head, and all the get up reading his views out from a Rs. 25. register, playing with his hair, scratching often, almost once even towards his nose. The speech was flabbergasting. All the sermon was directed against the present rulers whom he said" were of bad moral character,a contrast to the sahaba of the Medina era". "Our failure as a nation is that we are not teaching real "religion" to the youth and look what they are becoming by becoming doctors, engineers etc. All materialistic vocations". He has come out of some 300years cave. Woken up now. Hasnt he seen the dead bodies in Nowshera blast, and Gilgit masjid blast and Karachi Ashura blasts. Wasnt it about "real" religious teachings. Or is it that Shias are neither Pakistanis or Muslims.I am sure that he would even dismiss the Sikh Pakistani's kidnapping and beheading as a false story by a rival TV channel. They should not use the disguise of a religious programme to vomit such venominous political ideals. they should not take the name of the prophet (peace be upon him) with such ideas and motives.

the new religious bigotist stars on Geo.

So Geo TV presents pelvis gyrating, barely clad Indian ladies on one hand and calls every one a morally corrupt person except themselves on the other. What kind of education is Geo Tv giving? what are they teaching our youth who is already polarized, intolerant, dogmatic, rigid and confused. Also our literacy rate is so low. With media groupes like Geo, Pakistan does not need an external enemy. They should stop this joker coming in their tv whatever his pseudo- religious credentials.
Then there is this horrible video about ?Nowshera police doing violence on women and children .They say that they have 50 or 60 videos. Mallam Jabba is a resort area. I amsure thes guys represent a mentality that says that women should not come to places for sightseeing. The fanatic Muslim militants like eFazlullah of Malakand has many followers. These guys seem to be the same.Frontier government should seriously investigate and punish these criminals.
The kidnapping and beheading of Sikh citizen should also be investigated and culprits caught and punished.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

An Indigo Universe... Nur Jehan Bilgrami.

An Indigo Universe… Nur Jehan Bilgrami.
Nur Jehan Bilgrami with Meher Afroze.

Cotton white indigo.

When man  started to say something did he need language or did he use art as an expression. This is debatable. But the ancient cave paintings show all over the world that man used pigment to colour the sketches and paintings he made to express his thoughts and records events, his religious beliefs, objects around him, rituals, animals, trees and other artifacts. He understood the use of  colour to express the variety and nuances of his feelings. The use of red, blue and green has been the earliest, in paintings. Indigo as a dye has been used since ancient times in South Asia. India was the place where Indigo dye was used to colour fabrics. Japan , in fact the whole of Far East and South East Asia, discovered Indigo and has used it as a dye whether for silk, cotton fabric, for traditional crafts and pottery or even hair dye to give hair a more blacker shade.

Indigo dyed curtains..Japanese Craft.
Nurjehan  Bilgrami is an artist of true individuality and as she strives to discover the intricacies and difficulty of Indigo dyeing, a new vista, a new Universe beckons her to interact. Indigo dyeing is an art in itself, a difficult art. Indigo dyes when of natural origins are neither water soluble nor easily penetrating the surface of a fabric. In order to apply the colour, Japanese have mastered various techniques like Shibori . In Pakistan Ajrak dyeing is an art form which Nurjehan has been doing since sometime As the shades have continued to present themselves, dancing in Indigo blue, Nurjehan’s “Cosmos” comes alive. The paintings are born, almost as if by a “celestial” process.

Cosmos as if in a frame!

Her most recent exhibition at the Chawkandi Art Gallery using Indigo on paper shows her unique and complete artistry. She is a true expressionist , having her own style in modern abstract painting in Pakistan.Cosmos.

reflections in digital imaging and dyeing.
The dye seed or the 'Core"
frames, fabric , my universe!
The Photographer.


Why India Will Never Be Communist.

Mr. |Aijaz Ahmed gave a talk at the Peace Niche, T2F, in Karachi today. There was a good, prominent audience. bieng a Marxist intellectual from India, a lot of people were interested to know his views on  Communism in India. He gave a talk which reflected his views on what happened to communism in India. What were the political and ideological changes post Afghan Jihad in the region and how it had given rise and space to non- Marxist forces. The time was limited and the discussion was very limited. Many ,many questions have arisen out of this talk today and I am still thirsty for a discourse or discourses on these very pertinent issues in  the existence and survival of Marxism in the sub-continent.As an Indian citizen also,  that Mr.AiEjaz had his views coloured. His views were not puritanical Marxist.This brings us to the question as to what is the paradigm of Marxism in India? What is Indian Marxism? Why does a Marxist like Mr. Aijaz feel to define and find a comfortable niche or space in Indian citizenry and political framework?
Why does all the debate and rules about Marxism are transgresses by Indian non-acceptance of the existence of Pakistan even after 62 years and looked at in the context of the division of the sub-continent which Mr.Aijaz likeMr. Jaswanth Singh, finds very painful and unacceptable even today.
Many issues about Kashmir were also barely touched upon during the talk.
About the rise and prominence of RSS and other fundamentalist Hindu groups he says that they are a reaction to the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan post- Afghan Jehad. He blames
 USA for creating fundamentalists in Egypt, Afghanistan and says that the Hindu fundamentalists are getting more prominent and powerful in retaliation. My question is simple. Why if India is a functioning democracy with established Institutions and institutional mechanisms? what is the political vacuum? Then he says that the space vacated by left has been taken up by the fundamentalists. This maybe true in a very small part in Egypt and Afghanistan, but not India. And if India then why? Why and where is the vacuum in Indian polity?
If the rise of Hindutva is a response to Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan, then why this response in Pakistan? Is not Kashmir the factor in this anti-Muslimsentiment and grouping. He does blame the Muslimization of the Kashmir issue as a factor which is hindering the Indian approval of the right of self determination of Kashmiris.How can anyone ignore the religious identity of majority Kashmiris and only address it ithe context of  Jehadi issue. He maybe right in some part as he says that the Jamaate Islami and some other groups have made it a Jihadi issue.But then was not Pakistan created in the Muslim majority areas context. He says that the partition of the subcontinent is the most painful and wrong incident of history. Then he also says that post Maharashtran rise of Hindu fundmentalists parties, Muslims of India have to continuosly prove that they are good Indians. Then isn't that what was the creation of Pakistan is all about.
My question still is left unanswered that in a successful democratic state why and how the Hindu  fundamentalist   pressure is it justified and was Pakistan was afterall not justified in its creation.
Now some very serious questions about Marxism, its image and existence in the indian mind. Mr.Aijaz says that he is comfortable within the Indian democratic political system. He says that it is the superiority of a just judiciary under which he wants to live. Is this not a contradiction.Choosing the good points of Western liberal democracy. Marxist theory nowhere justifies a democracy especially with a just, superior judiciary. What are the Hegelian views? Why  Indian Marxism evolving towards a new compromise? Or is this an Indian system? No clarity on this.
Why are Indian communists compromising with Imperialism. Or maybe Mr. Aijaz has his own stand.
He says that communism in India has become a fringe ideology post Gandhian assasination. But isnt the whole world moved towards capitalism post USSR dissolution? Now post Western capatilistic financial crises, what will be the future of Marxism? In the world? In India?
It seem India will never be communist. It is evolving into a gradual capatilistic state with a distinct Indian flavor. It maybe a successful model but for its own hegemonistic designs, a regional political and military involvement beyond its control and its nuclearisation. How it addresses its poverty and social justice issues remains to be seen. If the bougeiose is happy with the current system of Western capatalistic leanings there is no place with Marxist experimentation.
Mr Aijaz was insistence that growth and economic progress  is not linked to liberal democracy. Then where is the proof of the Marxist link. His eulogised view of the current Chinese growth model is flawed. He said that China has invested in poor, underdeveloped regions like Tibet and shares with these regions, the  fruits of its economic growth. This is a farce. The human rights violations especially in Tibet, the ethnic hegemonistic designs over Uighuir Muslim populations is conveniently set aside by him. If this is the modern Indian face of Marxism, then where is the fundamental concept of equitrable social justice. Where is the difference between Marxism and Imperialism.
Thediscussion at peaceniche.

In the end the question remains, Is the world ready for Marxism? Are the bourgiose aware enough? Is the illeterate strong enough for "revolution"What is the international,universality of Marxist regimes. What will be the differences between Fascist rulers and Marxist revolutionary rulers. In the end
  the debate must continue. In Aijaz's own words, Marxism never ends it continues.It is yet to be completed. Utopia?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Karachi Kahani

Karachi Kahani…Barsat. (A reminiscal short story)


By Meherzaidi.


Tere Naina Sawan Bhadon, Phir Bhi Tera Man Piyasa, wailed the sweet melodious female singer from across the border, on “yeh Akashwani hai”. I would intently listen to the repeat of names who did “Farmaish”, repeatedly of the same songs so popular in those days. Someone from Ahmedabad, someone from Zahedan and someone from Karachi. It seemed that the pleasures were fully enjoyed, sucked up by these audience again and again.suddenly a diin. “Baarish ho gaee, Eeee!” everybody who was inside ran out. Rain in Karachi was such a pleasure. My cook would announce rain, as if it was his best salad, which he would insist that we ate with his ”Dicresson”, decoration he meant?

His name was Puttan, a thin man with topi on his head, loose pajamas in cotton, sherwani with worn out collar, high cheek bones and an “eternal” straw basket in his hand. This basket adorned all Karachi households till late, right upto a few years back.When the supermarket, superstores overtook our simple, “kiryana” or “Parchoon Ki Dukan Walla “merchant.

Back to Puttan. He would leave his kitchen early in the morning for grocery shopping everyday. By 12 noon his extensively laid table for lunch would be driving him crazy . The center would be a fresh vegetable salad platter. Carrots cut into long slivers, julienne and others. Beetroots always in the inevitable “Rose” design, and the “Moolis” which I hated when I was a kid. Every “sabzi” has to be eaten. God has created every vegetable and fruit in the season so that we eat and derive maximum benefit. My father would sermonize each time a child was hesitant to eat a vegetable. We would religiously chew, and chew. Puttan would beam from ear to ear, proud, swaying his thin frame, hands folded in front while my family enjoyed his lovingly prepared lunch. Sundays was a different story. I never remember Sunday lunch. Maybe the memory is overshadowed by other interesting Sunday doings and happenings.

This rain woud have a smell, “Soondhi, Soondhi , Mitti Ki Khushboo”. As the rain fell over the reddish brown sand of Karachi, so unpolluted , so clean on those days, almost delectable, we would scream and dance and get wet.

“Array Logo, Pakoray Tau Banao” was heard from the ladies. “Aur Kachorian Bhi” , some menfolk would interject. Pakoras and Kachoris were the gram and flour delicacies that were symbolic of the rain.

The pleasure I had was not from raindrops falling on my head, I do not like that even today, but from watching people using various contraptions to cover their heads and clothes. Rain being rare in Karachi, we hardly had umbrellas or raincoats. So I would simply howl with laughter when a guy would pass on a cycle using a hay sac, a “Bori” for a over.Someone would use a tarpaulin. Plastic was rare in those days , maybe not used at all.

So the raindrops would fall, at first a few sandgrains change their colour from lighter brown to darker brown. The pattern would fascinate me. I would lie still, my nose close to the floor, my eyes darting, chasing, following each wet drop as it changed the image of the sand particles. And then the whole earth would be soaked.

“Array Munni, Uth Saari Bheeg Jaigee” someone would nudge me up caringly. I would get up reluctantly, dusting my frock and looking down my skinny legs. We wore frocks of cotton and muslin in those days with simple “ Rabbar Ki Chappal”. So comfortable, cool and I think “Chic”. No Shalwars, no head scarves, no Muslim, no Christian, no Sunni, no Shia, no Hindu, no Yahudi. But then , during all my years in Karachi I have seen only one Pakistani Yahudi and that too when I was a young doctor 26 years of age. There were Bahais, Iranis and I thought he was a Bahai, but my older gentleman friend told me he was a Jew. But then in my childhood we were just all kids and our families were just families, and we just ate and played and fought with “Umroods and Badams”, fell sick, lighted “Phuljharees”, sang Latamangeshkar songs, watched Popeye cartoons and stared at “Suraj Girhan “ through carefully soot blackened mirrors.

This was Karachi when I was a kid, in Nazimabad number “Chaar”, an amazing neighborhood.

Right across my house was Salma’s house. A nice white house with many rooms at many levels. The garage they had  rented out to a shopkeeper, Ramzan. I remember buying some toffees and balloons from him to sell to other kids as an investment frequently.

“tan, tan tan” a ringing from the Kulfi walla would lure us. Creamy, fat cool, cool Kulfi. And if it were mango season, which would be in Monsoon rains, this was double treat. We never fell sick, never had diarrhea in those days. And when some child fell sick, it was a sad and so concern demanding site. But then we had doctor Mrs. Durdana in Nazimabad number Chaar. She was my school doctor too. The only time I dreaded a doctor was when I received a small pox inoculation on my deltoid on upper arm. I still have the mark. Not the kids today. They don’tneed small pox inoculation and they are so “Nakhraloo”.

Not us. There were kids from Lalookhet, Gujjan nala, and other hutment areas in those days. They would come to my school an we would study together, play together and enjoy the rain together. No boys, no girls. No sexuality in the forbidden sort of way. Just my childhood. And the precious, precious rain.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Karachi Kahani

Karachi Kahani.


(A collection of short stories -reminiscences).


“ Bua  aagayee, Bua aagayee”, we all would run every Friday morning,screaming joyously yet with a distinct apprehensive flavour. Was it Sunday morning. I guess it was Sunday morning back in the sixties when I was a carefree little girl with skinny legs and a very bright eyed face. I would wonder and wonder and wonder. Wonder was the prime emotion, at airplanes, grass hoppers, “Beer Bahootis” or the velvety red ladybugs so commonly found in Nazimabad number “Chaar” in Karachi. As the much awaited, celebrated and deserved rain would arrive in Mid June Monsoons in Karachi, these little velvety creatures would come out on the earth in plain areas and moundy terrain which was the site so prevalent in Karachi in the sixties. We would collect them in little glass jars and the joyous pleasure would be heard in our giggling, shrieks.

Back to ‘Bua’, she would come and we would surround her. My sister, a friend and myself. Looking up at her not so lined face. Neither age, nor poverty had made her face sad or unpleasant. She would smile, her eyes brightening and take off her “shuttle cock Burqa” and keep it aside. She was from a generation and times and culture that is lost to us now. She was an immigrant from Dehli. White “chooridaar “ pajamas, white “kurta” and her inevitable shuttle cock Burka.

Her “khichree” hair, a salt and pepper mix, barely thick would be wound in a tight platt, held with a rubber band. Piranda was also there sometimes. A black thready contraption which I never liked. She smelled of “paan”, coconut hair oil and an animated body odour which I guess now would have come from infrequent bathing.

“Idhar aa Munni” she would say, pulling me gently towards herself. “Tera sa Saaf hai ke nahin” looking for the inevitably dreaded “Joon “.She did not seem very fond of nit picking, of which some or most other ladies of that generation or sweet lost world were. She would sit by my terraced courtyard, in the bright shining morning sun, put coconut oil and massage our heads.

Oiling was a fun pastime. It seemed that a bond was formed between the massager and the massaged. The eternal pleasure that I felt during this activity remains as a desire, a pleasure to be sought to this day. Well a good head massage with a good talk, no matter what topic remains to this day a therapy. Aah, no replacement with the expensive Saunas, Spas and the likes of today with the cold ,cold, therapists . No feeling, no compassion. no soul talk. I would exchange my Bua’s head massage with a million dollar holiday any time, anywhere.

What did I read that week, “Angrezi Kahaniyaan”, Urdu definitely, and of course the Quran lessons. She was interested in what I learnt in Urdu stories. I was too young to read out anything to her so the general idea was sufficient. But then the imaginative mind of mine would add a sentence here or a story there. Maybe she was looking for a glimpse of the fantastic, Kings and Queens story reminiscent of “Dilli”. Maybe she wanted the refuge of flight of thought from the backyard to “Central Jail” Karachi where she resided. Perhaps her sad story of  residence in a “jhompri” with huge dignity, with her sons, without a future in her newly found land of dreams was smudged in that morning at our house where she was awaited, loved and desired to interact by us, the princesses of the household. She would put the boiled water in the pale. The bath was thorough with soap and warm water, out in the sun. It gave us the right “squeaky, cleanliness” so essential in those days when we ran in the sand, played on grass lawns, dug with fingers and hands, flower beds and pots. Planting flowers, imagining to have success with seeds as if by magic, waiting for “Bonas” to come out of the earth if we dug deep enough with our little fingers!

The world was a fairy tale. The reality , a fairy tale. Then there was this Sunday morning, warm, full of sunshine.

The Lady Art Gallery Owners Of Karachi

The Lady Art Gallery Owners Of Karachi.

Karachi has it’s share of millions of art lovers, ranging from ordinary people like me to students, writers, intellectuals, journalists, and many more. The thriving , pulsating, blooming art scene in Karachi is kept alive by the artists themselves but amongst the major contributors to the showcasing and window dressing of this intense activity are the women gallery owners in Karachi, an enterpreuner lot in Karachi who have done much to introduce the artists and Pakistani art to the world.
Tallest amongst these is Mrs. Hussain of the Chawkandi Art Gallery, a pioneer art gallery situated in Supermarket area of Clifton, Karachi which has shown hundreds of artists and Pakistani art to the world. A visit to Karachi would be incomplete without the Chawkandi sojourn. The relaxed atmosphere, the quality of work and the genuineness of the artists being shown here are without doubt one of the best in Pakistan. A Chawkandi exhibition speaks for quality itself. Mrs Hussain has over the years ,some twenty or more, cultivated a large fan following for the gallery. We all love her exhibitions. Whether buying for ourselves or a reference to foreign visitors, a visit to Chawkandi will land you with genuine art treasure.

An enterprising art gallery owner is Sameera Raja of the Canvas Art Gallery situated near Nehre Khayyam, in Clifton. This gallery also boasts of interesting, good quality art shows ranging from painters like Faryal to innovative and diverse sculptor Amin Gulgee.I always wait for the exciting works to be displayed here for a real visual treat.
 Zenani Art gallery cannot be ignored when talking of art scene in Karachi. This gallery also owned and run by three enterprising ladies, has shown many a painter and sculptor to our visual and aesthetic pleasure. This is located near to Bed and Bath in the Tauheed commercial area of Defence, Karachi.
 One of the oldest venues and art school, run by a sculptor and artist par excellence of Pakistan is Rabia Zuberi’s Karachi School of Art. Here one can find a wide range of work from student artists to artists themselves.
A gallery that is now run by Mrs Ali Imam is in 1st Street ,Bath Island. Ali Imam was one of the first private art gallery owners in Karachi’s PECHS area. Ali Imam was a master artist ,painter of Pakistan.  He did much to introduce artists to the public and students alike. After his death his wife has been running this gallery which she shared much during his lifetime.I learnt much about art and painters like Gulgee, Bashir Mirza, Chughtai and others from him while walking back to school and stopping at his gallery for a visual treat every week with guided tour by the great painter himself. His gentle, genteel ways with young students I can never forget. Life was so beautifully leisurely in Karachi at those times, so un materialistic, so fine aesthetically, back in the sixties.
 A recent welcome addition to the Karachi art scene is Unicorn  art Gallery, again situated at Shahrahe Iran, Clifton, near the British consulate and Park Towerss Clifton. This also shows a wide and  precious array of authentic talented artists both older masters and new exciting artists. Their recent exhibitions of  Hussain and Tassaduq Sohail were a real feast for art lovers. Here you can also find silver jewellery designed by artists , now almost an art form  by women designers.
 A most recent but utterly charming art venue is Koel of Nurjehan Bilgrami at Clifton’s 26th street. This charming haunt has a cafĂ©, a courtyard sit in coffee shop or “Chowk” if you like and a small sit in space attached to an art venue. A recent exhibition showing many artists and themed “Black on Black” marks Koel’s anniversary as an institution promoting traditional art techniques like indigo dying , block printing so well served and kept alive by pioneers in Pakistan like Nurjehan Bilgrami.

.Noor Jehan Bilgrami with Meher Afroze at Koel Art Gallery.(11-2-2010)
Canvas Art Gallery.
The Arts Councils’ Ahmed Pervez Art Gallery is also being run by a lady curator nowadays. Here also true to tradition old and new artists and graduates of art schools’ work is being displayed for the general public and art lovers.Here one can buy good art pieces at reasonable prices as this is a genuinely art promoting venue.

Sameer Raja (Canvas )

The owner of Unicorn art Gallery.