Sunday, September 27, 2009

Special Series - Interview with Novelist Sehba Sarwar

"Pakistan Paindabad has set others a model of what a blog/site should be."
Late Khalid Hasan, US correspondent for the Lahore-based Daily Times and The Friday Times
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Special Series - Interview with Novelist Sehba Sarwar

Understanding Pakistan through its artists.

[Text by Mayank Austen Soofi]

To showcase the alternative reality of Pakistan, Pakistan Paindabad presents an interview series with novelist Sehba Sarwar. This exclusive feature forwards the process that was started by holding exhaustive conversations with Islamabad-based painter Faiza Khan (read that interview here). The idea was that by celebrating the country’s artists, this blogsite could throw a momentary light on the inner - and the Other - world of Pakistan.

Ms Sarwar’s life that spans two continents is fascinating. Her parents were born and raised in Uttar Pradesh, now in India, and relocated to Pakistan a few years after the Partition. She spent her own teenage years in the Karachi of General Zia’s regime. Her childhood home was known for hosting artistic soirees. She then studied in USA; married a Mexican-American. She now has a daughter.

In 2004, Ms Sarwar’s first novel, Black Wings, was published by Alhamra Publishing. Presently, besides working on her new novel, she is also the director of a multi-media arts organisation in Houston.

While based in US, Ms Sarwar travels frequently to Pakistan. She has also spent time in India. No doubt her experience of Pakistan will interest all those who want a better understanding of this country. Ms Sarwar talked to Pakistan Paindabad about Karachi and Houston; about writing and writers; about boundaries and nations, and of course, about Pakistan.

Click here to read the first part of the interview.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Karachi Life - A Gay Man's Diary, Part II

"Pakistan Paindabad has set others a model of what a blog/site should be."
Late Khalid Hasan, US correspondent for the Lahore-based Daily Times and The Friday Times
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Karachi Life - A Gay Man's Diary

Being gay in Pakistan's biggest metropolis.

[Text by Jalaluddin; imaging by Mayank Austen Soofi; the picture is not of the author]

These are edited excerpts from Jalaluddin’s Tuzk e Jalali.

04 Rajab ul Murajjab 1430
Slowing Down

From now on I'll be blogging very irregularly. One of the reasons is the fear elicited by the fact that my blog has been quoted in the Indian and American online sites. The closet door is being banged at very hard. I have come out of the closet to my family and friends but that does not mean that I am ready to do it officially. Not in Pakistan. Sorry.

22 Rabi ul Awwal 1430
Good News

Ok. Ok. Ok. Depression is over. Thank God.

21 Zilhaj 1429
Let Me Go

I am in my depression phase again. I guess this has become so common for me that I can talk about it with a reasonable amount of detachment. With all the anger and hatred targeted at my parents, even though I came out to them, they keep pestering me to get married. They did not let me move out of the house, even though I could have.

I don’t think I can forgive them. There is this feeling of having lost five years of my life fighting with my parents on this one topic. It is a very long period of life, and I felt I was caged. I want my time back. I'm angry with myself for not having the courage to tell my parents that even if it would hurt them, and they might disown me, I want to live alone.

See, I wanted to be happy. I just thought that being parents they would allow me to make the choices that would direct my life. They did allow it, but on the other hand my mother cried every time I mentioned it.

All I can hope for is that during this bout of depression, I don’t end up with cut marks on the wrist like the last time.

[Click here to read the first part of the diary]

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Special Feature – 9/11, The Day Mr Jinnah Died

"Pakistan Paindabad has set others a model of what a blog/site should be."
Late Khalid Hasan, US correspondent for the Lahore-based Daily Times and The Friday Times
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The Day Mr Jinnah Died

The final day in the life of Pakistan’s founder.

[Text by Mayank Austen Soofi]

On the eve of Pakistan’s first Independence Day anniversary (August 14th, 1948), Mr Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, weighed only eighty pounds. He was seriously ill and was being looked after by his devoted sister Fatima and a team of doctors - not in Karachi, Pakistan’s then capital where Mr Jinnah had his official residence, but in Quetta in Baluchistan.

Lying in bed quiet all day, Mr Jinnah was surviving on a few cups of tea, coffee and plain water to swallow his pills. Both his lungs had been consumed by tuberculosis and lung cancer. When the doctor examined his pulse, he found that every tenth or fifteenth beat was missing. Mr Jinnah who was used to smoke an average of fifty Craven A cigarette daily was asked to reduce the intake to just one.

When doctors suggested him to move to Karachi, Mr Jinnah desired otherwise. He did not want his Karachi staff to see him being taken around in a stretcher. “Don’t take me to Karachi on crutches,” Mr Jinnah said. “I want to go there when I can walk from the car to the room. You know, from the porch you have to pass the A.D.C’s room and then the Military Secretary’s before you reach mine. I dislike being carried on a stretcher from the car to my room.”

By September, Mr Jinnah needed a oxygen mask to breathe. He also caught pneumonia. He had to be flown to Karachi.

At 2pm on September 11th, a Viking plane took off from Quetta carrying a feeble Mr Jinnah to the nation's Capital. A bed had been made up in the front cabin and oxygen cylinders and gas masks were kept at hand. The plane landed after about two hours at the Air Force base at Mauripur. This was the same place where Mr Jinnah had arrived from New Delhi about a year ago to take over the reins of the new Pakistan. There were thousands who had come to greet him then. But on September 11, there was no one at the airport.

Mr Jinnah was carried into an army ambulance which then sped south of the highway towards Karachi. After about four or five miles, the ambulance came to a stop. There was a breakdown due to some engine trouble. It could not start. The afternoon was humid, the September heat was oppressive and flies buzzed around Mr Jinnah’s face. He had no strength left to brush them off though his sister Fatima helped by fanning him. Meanwhile Mr Jinnah’s pulse started becoming weaker and irregular even as hundreds of cars, trucks and buses rumbled by. The highway was lined with huts belonging to refugees who had come from India. They had no idea that their Qaid-e-Azam lay dying right there on the road.

One hour passed this way.

Finally another ambulance came and Mr Jinnah reached the governor-general’s mansion at 6.10 pm. Four hours and ten minutes later he was dead. The last word he uttered was to his sister Fatima – ‘Fati’.

Mr Jinnah's remains, weighing seventy pounds, were buried the next day, covered in a simple shroud.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Personal History – The Karachi Quotient

"Pakistan Paindabad has set others a model of what a blog/site should be."
Late Khalid Hasan, US correspondent for the Lahore-based Daily Times and The Friday Times
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Personal History – The Karachi Quotient

Growing up in Pakistan’s biggest metropolis.

[This article by Imran Ahmed is written exclusively for Pakistan Paindabad; Pictures by Junaid Zuberi]

Many years ago a highly regarded geomancer, Raymond Lo, told me that based on my ‘Feng Shui’ elements I should live near a large body of water.

Given that I cannot afford a luxury condominium overlooking the Singapore marina, I make do with an HDB apartment that is near enough to the Singapore – Johor Causeway to satisfy his conditions!

As a Karachite, I was born in a city by the Arabian Sea. I take the sea for granted. I only recently realized that in almost every city I have lived water has played a large role in its history.

Karachi is special to me for many reasons.

My father bought our first family home in the city in 1984. The house is now our family ‘ancestral home.’ Many family histories are young in South Asia.

Our family is not the only family that chose to settle in Karachi. The Sindhi capital is like a mother who continually welcomes orphans – no matter that she has no food or shelter to provide them. It is in her nature to welcome and accept.

At Partition, in 1947 the city had an estimated population of 400,000. Today it is north of 16 million. Over 90% of the city’s residents are migrants, including about 1-1.5 million Afghanis who fled the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

I don’t call the Afghanis refugees anymore as they are not going home. (Their cuisine is delicious but very, very high cholesterol!) There are another approx. 500,000 - 1 million Burmese, Bengalis, Iranis and Africans permanently settled in the city. They are not refugees anymore either.

But no more about Karachi’s history.

The city provides me some of my earliest childhood memories. My initial recollections of Pakistan before my family moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates when I was ten. (Note that Abu Dhabi is a port city with a large body of water nearby!)

Playland, an amusement park in Karachi, is where I first rode bumper cars. Although it disappeared in 2007 to make way for a large 130 acre public park many Karachites remember the theme park fondly.

It is located adjacent to Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s mazar (mausoleum). The mausoleum has housed the tomb of Karachi’s protector and patron saint for almost 1400 years. The mazar is also the site where some pious soul relieved me of my wallet. I have no doubt that the pick pocket sought forgiveness for his actions by praying at the holy man’s grave soon after!

In the mid-1970s our neighbourhood was not fully developed. By walking around I could easily find ‘swamplands’ which soon became my fishing ‘lakes.’ In hindsight, homemade fishing lines were pretty effective at catching fish (or swamp fish are just starving and will eat anything).

The rocky open areas all around our residence made fantastic playgrounds for seven tiles and marbles. My best playmates were two Pashtun brothers who were the sons of a chowkidar (guard) at a neighbouring house.

We played together almost every afternoon – as soon as my mother decided the sun was not too strong. The fear of heatstroke was used very effectively by my mother to control my outdoor activities.

It’s funny but I never played cricket, hockey or any other field games. They just never appealed to me. I can’t say why.

I live in Singapore now. It is a city near the sea.

It is orderly, organized and well planned. In 2009, the resident population is approximately 5 million people. The government can tell you the exact number. The population became 5 million because the government had a target to achieve. The government also knows what the population (and ethnic mix?) will be in 2020.

Who really knows what the population of Karachi is today. And what the population will be in 2020? And where the new migrants will come from?

In my life I have learnt to respect the limitations of planning and the combined power of hope and faith. Karachi lives on hope and faith.

[The author runs a blog called The Grand Moofti Speaks. The photographer is a marketing professional in a financial services company in Karachi]

Total Karachi

Personal History – The Karachi Quotient

Total Karachi

Personal History – The Karachi Quotient

Total Karachi

Personal History – The Karachi Quotient

Total Karachi

Personal History – The Karachi Quotient

Total Karachi

Personal History – The Karachi Quotient

Total Karachi

Personal History – The Karachi Quotient

Total Karachi

Personal History – The Karachi Quotient