Thursday, 24 December 2015

Guests are coming

It’s an unlucky day, there is so much dust around and Karachi Water Board has gifted us with empty tanks.  The desire for drops of water is increasing minute by minute. Chained behind walls, we serve to shiver the legs with our beauty. Family planning seems to be an important factor in our lives, fixed in numbers usually six and often the number varies in the records of NADRA. Born to be slaves like the Africans, our existence refers to comfort only. Living in highly populated areas, we have neighbors too, distinct in everything: quality, color and size. Within a single family we all have same features, sixlets, can be a term of reference, so that no communication gap occurs. We live a harsh life, locked behind wooden doors with no sunlight, we are at a miles distance from the real world.

We can sense someone close to us, the door seems to be opening. A monster has come up to pick us and put on a great show. We move from our comfort zones, ‘it seemed as if, we haven’t moved for years, the muscles have become stiff. Our bodies are going to be washed today there is so much dust on us. ‘Get ready, be prepared are the slogans’. The masters have realized our worth in their life, drops of water fall on our bodies, and we feel the comfort, clothes and bodies are cleansed again and again so that no dirt remains on our figures. We will be representing our master, the supreme council has gathered. We can hear a lot of talk around us, probably the guests have come. It’s time to march close to them, first they try to hide us, then parade us like prostitutes. Shifting us from place to place, milking us with water as pure souls, they present us in front of strangers. As a battalion we march towards our ultimate journey, the guests are hundred eyed, looking at us from each angle, touching us weirdly while others move us again and again. Coughing over us, they love to lick us. With each second, they get dirtier. Sometimes our neighbors resemble their animal nature, smoke on our faces trying to exploit our beauty, the whiteness we bear, and they try to destroy the makeup done by our masters with Fair n lovely. While others leave their dirt on our hearts. We are washed by the masters again and imprisoned, again; the guest hadn’t bidden fairly on us.

Every week we have such guests and we undergo the same torment. The UN seems to be sleeping when our rights are being exploited. One day we will draft a new constitution for ourselves. Sometimes we are dressed differently too, bearing tattoos on our bodies and try to attract the guests, so they are pleased by our kindness.

Some of us lose their hearts and die, leaving others behind; like the Hindus, Christians and Muslims we don’t have any graveyards and we are thrown by our masters in dustbins as if we don’t matter to them ever. We don’t belong to any sect which can appeal on our behalf in front of the men in black. We leave our family behind with a disastrous future as the master’s welcome new slaves. Nobody gives an ear to our worries. No NGO protests for us, our society has no mayor or feudal lord who can fight for our rights. Even the Americans do not favor us.

Some of us, are awarded life imprisonment waiting for death to come to us. Probably that is why the NAP ordinance has been issued to release the pain from our bodies at once.

Sunday, 7 June 2015


 The soil of Sindh bears religious purity, as it is the place where the flag of Islam was hosted for the first time. Sufi leader Laal Shahbaz Qalandar spread the message of pureness in every knock and corner. With great pomp and show, the Urs of the Sufi leader is celebrated by the devotees for three days. Music, dance, traditional food and culture of Sindh reflect out during the Urs. The present generation seems to be unaware of the beauty of culture this place has and historical tales that are attached with the leadaer Laal Shahbaz.

The shrine of Laal Qalndar which stands tall and can be observed from a far off place was renovated by the great Mughal conqueror Akbar and then by Kalhoras who gifted the soil with Sindhi Kashi tiles and mirror work. The main door of the shrine is Gold plated which was gifted by Shah of Iran for this religious place. 
Sehwan attracts thousands of devotees during those three days, songs of Abida Parveen seems to provoke the Sufi soul in devotees and announces the beginning of  Urs, and people start to get up on their feet and dance on “dama dam mast qalandar” lyrics. The dhammalan escatic swirl of the head and the body, includes men and women to dance on the beats of naqqara, a big barrel drum, together as if they are celebrating the achievements of Qalandar. The Urs along with its religious colors, has its economic value as well, from the bus conductors to the local shop keepers all seems to profit a lot during the Urs.

Beside the shrine of Qalandar, his two devotees also attract people. Bodla Bahr and Jumman Jate, just as Abdullah Shah Ghazi as it is said saves people of Karachi from floods; Jumman Jute’s grave near water saves the people of Sehwan from flood and any other natural disaster. Beside the shrine of Qalandar is ‘Laal Bagh’ where there is greenery. Qalandar preached Islam near a tree in this Bagh. The tree still stands today, which is 800 years old and is seen as a symbol of religious purity by the devotees. People who came to visit the shrine also visit the bagh and some devotees pass under this tree to get spiritual blessings and their wishes to get fulfilled.

Terrorism seems to lose its feet near this place and never a heart-rending news is heard except the heat that kills a few. Those three days are marked as the cultural identity of Sindh as the true colors of Sindh spring out, Malakhro (wrestling), Sughran Jee Katchery (talks of the folks), musical concert, dhammal and Adabi conference try to reflect the historic culture of Sindh. Yet the present generation is unconscious of the culture Sufism has with it, and they seem to be interested in the western culture.
We live in an age of science, yet the place attracts thousands of people who gather as if a mela is being staged. On the other hand, the youngsters are unconscious of this essence which the Sufism culture embodies and do not feel that pleasure in their veins. For them, Urs of Qalandar is just another public holiday. Our course books need to comprise chapters which talk about the culture of Sehwan and the contribution of Laal Shahbaz Qalandar. Likewise, the historical palace of Mahraja Sehbastan, also known as Chupat Raja, should be given a thought by the Culture Department of Sindh. As it is our heritage.

Neither the power of crowns and Kings, nor the might of armies equals the force of a Qalandar. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

“How to bring peace in Karachi through Arts, Sports and Culture”

  If you are a criminology student, you would love to report Karachi’s criminal stories. The love and hate relationship of gangsters and political clashes. But that’s not the true picture of Karachi. Its true colors lie in the folk music played at Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine, the folk plays enacted at IBA, bike racing on the streets of sea-view and food stalls at Burns Road. These are the true colors which have been killed by the strikes, target killings and terrorist activities.

“Blood can be defeated by the colors of culture only”

Books present the real life of Karachi. But they have traces of blood on them now. Each strike leads to closure of Karachi’s biggest book market Urdu Bazaar. But the spirits can never be defeated, these shopkeepers have opened small shops near footpaths so that the booklovers can never die and so the book. The stalls are set on every Sunday near Regal Chowk and you could find all the treasure there. Be it a strike or any other tragedy the stalls are always set up to entertain the book lovers.

“Book is the real hope to kill criminal minds”

Libraries should be opened all weekends even on strikes so that a peaceful arena is always there for the citizens. Ethnic conflicts over the years in Karachi have increased, clashes over gatherings or religious practices play a party to it. This can be undone by a joint gathering. People from different ethnic backgrounds should gather at Jinnah’s tomb. Hence a feeling of brotherhood and unity is created. Millads and Conferences should be organized collectively. So that non state actors have no part to separate us.

Sports and Arts are the real building blocks. But the terrorist activities have made our grounds barren and arts is only presenting the darker side of Karachi. Painting competitions should be organized and the theme should be Peace. So that the true colors of Karachi are reflected. The barren grounds should be filled again by the participation of public. But such tournaments should be organized which attract the audience. Traditional games should be organized like Malakra besides Horse riding. And our ancient culture should be promoted which is dying.

Karachi has traces of blood on it but that’s not its history. The Sufi music being played at the Urs of Ghazi’s shrine spread the voice all over the sea. The Hindus’s Mantars sang near the Bin Qasim park in a temple has its own beauty. Hence the sea is rejoiced by the two cultures. It’s time that these events should be broadcasted on television rather than criminal’s most wanted shows.  The media should highlight the peaceful facts of our culture rather than killings in the park and life of feudal lords.

Let’s relive the art and life of Karachi unless it would die out behind blood and strike.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

"A British library seeking our attention”

Frere Hall is one of the many remnant buildings that the British has gifted us and still exist in Karachi. In the Days of British Raj, Frere hall serves as the hub of Karachi's socio cultural activities. Imagine a scene of Hollywood movie in which the British are dancing in the middle of the hall. The picture would be exactly the same here.
The building was built in honor of Sir Henry Bartie Edward Frere, who can be imagined as a champion for the Nationalists. As he made sufficient efforts in making Sindhi Language as the official language under his office.

In order to gather attraction to this building different events are organised against the backdrop of this building, like Karachi Eat Festival and Vintage Car Festival. So with my friends I decided to go in the vintage car festival. Every eye was praising the beauty of the cars, its color and engine. The more the prize gets higher there mouth opens a bit more .But its actual beauty hasn't been portrayed by far.Beside the park stands a great architectural wonder hardly the eyes notices it.

In the building exists a library. The first question that came to my mind when I went near this historical building was do the doors get open or not? Ironically an old men tried to enter the library but a guard shouted that "it’s close". Then a shopkeeper nearby told us that it is open for five days from 9 am to 5 pm. While its doors remain shut off on Saturdays and Sundays. So it is unfortunate in gathering a large public on weekends. And I was unfortunate to enter the building. But I have decided one day I will.

On Sundays the hall presents a different outlook. As books are found outside the library. As there was a book bazaar today in the courtyard where it is possible to purchase some old out of print books. I purchased a book by Tariq Ali "The leopard and the fox" which is a play on the politics of 80's. Whose normal prize is Rupees 495 but luckily I got it in just 150 rupees thanks to my friend Shahzaib. 

However the library was on the less attractive side and people were mainly enjoying the event. I wonder how many people would be coming in the library on regular days. Beside these social events I believe more efforts should be made to promote the reading culture and the beauty that lies in the library. And Literature festivals should be arranged in this historical building so that the true picture is presented rather than the social one. If you ever cross the road near the Frere Hall do visit this historical library and enrich your brain with some books.

Photography By : Hassan

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Karachi exhaling the new, inhaling the old

The sun is spreading its light and the birds announcing the message of God that O! Lovely creatures open your eyes and get enrich with the beauty of the sea, the atmosphere, the shrillness the birds are facing they want everyone to feel it. The sounds of shore slowly marching ahead and spreading over the soil is bringing a pleasant smell to one’s senses. The light of God has spread more and the sky has fully turned on and darkness gone. With unusual amounts of guests, walking over the shore, some feeling the water and other’s chanting sounds that seems to come from the depth of their vocal cord. Announcing that today is Sunday and they want to spend most of their time at sea. These chanting slogans and excitement makes the neighbors near the Sea view get onto their feet as soon as possible. As if we are guests to all these people and we are welcoming a worst day. People from far off places came to visit Sea-view and Sunday is the best time for it. There is a fact that those who come from rural areas to Karachi if they haven’t visited Sea-view than their journey is incomplete. Young guns go crazy on their bikes and their silencers make the worst sound they imagine themselves to be doing a Hollywood action film scene.

Families, couples, young guns and sometimes disabled children came to enjoy and feel the atmosphere which indeed is very different and if you have been there you can smell it right now. The sea is calm; the smell acts as a magnet and the joy is never ending. The neighbors due to unusual guests all the time are sometimes fed up of so much joy. And they wish the Government should banned picnics on Sunday.

We had two guests my cousins at our home that have come from Larkana. After they got free from their busy schedule we finally planned to go to Clifton and Sea-View as it is the famous spot for visitors. So finally the day came and on Sunday after eating lunch we left our home for Clifton. I was accompanied by my sister and two guests.
It was 31st of July on the eve of Eid when we switched on our televisions and we heard that many people have drowned in the sea. It appeared as a common story because once in a week or on weekends many young souls lose grip over their legs and go deep into the water and are drowned. The life guards can’t stop them they seem to be dysfunctional and they can only help people to survive by putting their lives in the sea.  Initial reports informed that three young souls and a 12 year old girl have been drowned near famous picnic spot “Do Darya”. But after people arose their voices that more people are missing, government washed their eyes and awakened from a long sleep, the rescue teams expanded their search activities and rescued more bodies whose breath was no more and subsequently the amount kept on increasing as administration failed and Navy with their helicopters came into the battlefield rescuing innocent soldiers and at the end it was reported that more than 40 people lose their souls in water. 

The car starts, put into gear and moves slowly and starts to march towards the destination. In the middle of the journey, our guests were enlightened by our tales about the earlier tours with our other cousins. Meanwhile my cousin asked me that can I take them to Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine. So we decided to pray at the shrine. My last visit was before 2007.

Karachi besides its ethnic and Political activities is also famous for its largest Sufi shrine, located near sandy shores of the city; Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine has its own symbolic presence. The Shrine attracts the beauty of the city because the admirers believed that the reason cyclones usually miss hitting Karachi is squarely due to the mystical power and presence of Shah Ghazi’s spirit that resides within the shrine. Of course many people also laugh off such beliefs but even to this day there are number of people who believe the shrine is encompassed with supernatural powers that Fautus failed to earn. But still the shrine enjoys devotional power and which is only fulfilled when devotees pray on the shrine and their souls are gifted with supreme peace. The shrine is dated back to 1400 years ago but the first picture which appeared in newspapers was taken around 1950’S in which the shrine was just a tiny, shaky hut on top of a sandy hill in Clifton area. During the 1960’s a whole culture of festivities including Qawalli and dhammal became regular practice at Urs, along with this small shops began emerging around the shrine. And in 2007 the shrine appeared more beautiful when extensive repair, cleaning up and renovation job on the shrine was done. But the militant extremists have gone so deep in their hatred against the state that this shrine which is land of peace and symbol of hope for many devotees was bombed on Oct 7th 2010. The blast went off at the entrance as people were queuing up to enter the shrine. Many innocent devotees and believers were butchered to death. Media reports that more than eight were killed and over sixty were injured. As a reaction a strike was called on the other day as it is a common practice. The shrine survived the carnage and kept on attracting many homeless and downtrodden believers.

We finally reach Clifton Road but when our feet touch the soil, we saw dug-up roads, mounds of earth, choked thoroughfares and alleyways, all were presenting an image of Moen-Jo Daro. It was all due to construction work on a flyover and two underpasses on the site. The area appears to be barren especially the recently renovated Bagh Ibane Qasim and lots of other historic places such as Jehangir Kothari Parade and ancient underground Shree Ratneshwar Madadev Temple.
The temple’s existence is of historic importance. The stairs of the temple lead to as many as six levels, situated in the opposite direction under the parking area many believe it is under Bagh Ibne Qasim. The tunnel which lie in the fifth and sixth basement levels leads to Mohatta Palace, fourth level is courtyard on the terrace there is a cement pigeon house with clean water, situated so near to the sea a sweet water springs at its lowest ebb is another nature’s miracle. Just as the followers of Ghazi believes that the shrine holds the sea back from flooding the sea. The Hindus believe that Lord Shiva third eye watches over the sea and keep it in check. But many of the rocks in the cave have developed fresh cracks due to the digging and heavy construction work outside. But the Hindus haven’t appealed against this development; they are indeed trying to reduce violence between Hindus and Muslims.

We cross this ancient ruin for a good cause left by the mastermind owner of Bahria Town and reach our destination i.e. the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi. But the shrine which is famous for its spiritual power was under high security zone now and in order to reach the stairs which were zig zag in the earlier days when I have visited the place. We have to cross high small security street and twice we were checked. And finally we reached the stairs and went to pray at the shrine. There were a lot of devotees praying, reciting in loud voices; some were snapping pictures, others crying with their heads bowed and in a line we have to stand to pray at the shrine. Finally after a long lane our turn came but 15 seconds was the time, there were some “protectors or soldiers of the shrine may be” who don’t let you stand for more than 15 seconds and ‘move ahead move ahead’ were the instructions. So in 15 Seconds we came out. I hardly know what my cousins prayed at the shrine in such a valuable time.But it was a technique to let everyone pray as there are enormous amount of devotees. Now we live in an age of terrorism where not even mosques, religious saints and Sufis are protected. But our internal security measures can let to make a difference.  Walking back to the main entrance from the stairs, in between we snap some pictures so that my cousins can relive the memories. And walking again through the security lane we reached the main road from where we have to go to Sea-View.
 Passing through the Hyperstall mall, the sea was attracting us towards itself; the first sign of it gave you an everlasting joy.  But as we reached near the sea my sister suddenly said why there are no people around the sea? Memories of the past events flashes back in my memory, the complaints of the neighbors that we read in the newspapers, the car racing, the bikes going crazy and families and couples at the sea side. We finally parked the car near the street, the car parking instructor was not there so the extortion money was saved. When we arrived there we saw very few people there and then we came to know that section 144 has been implemented and government has banned bathing in the sea. Life guards were standing nearby and they were stopping people from going into sea. Perhaps the government in state of confusion banned not only bathing but walking near the sea as well. Police vehicle was marching on the soil, the sea I think was also in the state of terror and the water which on usual days is on the shores almost near to the end of the footpath was too far thatday. We were unaware of the fact that the government could ban going to the sea-view for so long because almost a month has passed since the incident occurred. But we didn’t give up we felt the soil, snapped some picture and also tried to play with the law and tried to wet our feet’s in water but as we go near to the water , sound of whistle kept on increasing and warning came up that don’t go near the water. Perhaps bathing and getting your feet’s wet are two different things I guess but it was the precautionary measure for future I guess. I didn’t want my cousins to break the law and spent a day at Clifton police station. So we stayed at the shore, saw the sun playing with us. Eating chaat there, we finally left the place as darkness was spreading its shades and the street lights were closed not to be opened till the government orders. And we left the sea for our home with little disappointments in our heart. But days after I was happy to read that people are allowed to visit and bath in the sea. And the sea was spreading its magic again.

So Karachi which is known as the city of lights was hiding itself under article 144, security and terrorism for some time. But we are continuously struggling to make it better, passing through the security zone every day, breaking each wall that it is building around itself in the name of protection. Yes the new Karachi has replaced the old one. But still the old one is alive in our hearts and the sea, shrine and the parks they all are reflecting the joys of the past. And by visiting such places once a week we are being revolutionary against the government and atmosphere which is restricting the people of Karachi to make borders between it and ourselves. But we will break all the barriers and keep on living with the glories of the past.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

An Unforeseen Evil Approaching

I can sense a presence, as if someone is behind the wall waiting quietly and patiently foreseeing my every move and persistent enough waiting for the right moment to march with an army and attack. They shoot to kill and never miss, I’m terrified. These sounds haunt me like I’m a criminal being threatened by the cops. I can hear distant noises but there is a prevailing silence that makes me uncomfortable. I would have found my solace in knowing if someone was there to watch my back. But for me, it’s like a dream that can never come true. People abandon me for one reason or another, but I’m still not sure what it is. It has been like this for as long as I can remember; all I know now is that I’m all alone out in this battlefield with myself being the only reliable. I did not choose to be alone in life- destiny did.
Roaming around in the house isn’t my hobby, but sometimes, you just have to fight your fears making sure everything is in order and under control exactly as you want it to be. Sitting on the sofa watching a movie is all I can do when all other characters in my life are enjoying their life to the fullest. All I yearn for is to be part of someone’s life- not minding the characters being fictional. I am just about to witness an important scene in the movie in which the villain is walking towards the hero loaded with arms to finish him once and for all, but suddenly, something more important catches my attention. It isn’t the movie, but me. I can hear somebody in an attempt to break into the house. I grabbed the remote control and put the TV on mute. My eyes were on the TV but I was all ears. I wasn’t sure what frightened me more, the walking sound of Mark Wahlberg towards the enemy or the one that I heard while the TV on mute.
The barking dogs confirmed my suspicion that they had seen and sensed something irregular. A beastly presence lurking in the dark with evil desires. Watching the clock repeatedly didn’t comfort me because the sun has abandoned me like the rest of them. All I have now is just the 100-Watt bulb to help me beat the darkness that is growing not only within me but also around me, with every passing second.  I switched on and off the lights, to make sure that everything was normal and to reassure myself that there was a party going on in the house. But my heart knows it that the party has been over a long time ago.
 People think that artificial lights beat the darkness, yet unfortunately, it’s the light that comes from within that helps us to survive. I’m devoid of such light for reasons unknown and more complicated than Algebraic formulae to be figured out. People have weird concepts of safety and survival. They lock all the drawers but put the gold in their pockets. A sudden loud noise outside grabs my attention- “I have to be strong, I have to be strong. There is nothing wrong” I drilled myself with this idea now and then. I slowly got up from my sofa and tiptoed towards the door to check whether it was locked or not. Thankfully, it was still bolted tightly and firmly.

I am getting tired of being panic-stricken. All I want to do is to rest my head on a soft pillow and escape from all these worries, but it seems that even my freedom angels are conspiring against me. I cannot even wink for an entire second in peace, despite the tiredness of the entire world. I sometimes just want to close my eyes forever, but an unrecognized fear makes me sit up straight in bed. What follows is a storm of howling questions on the eternal submission of our soul to the soil, after which there is going to be no escape. This idea trembles me even more. I distractedly looked up at the TV. Another action movie had started, but you don’t want to watch it when you can sense a vivid trailer of it all around you.
What to do now? I want to read a book but I don’t want to see the traces of blood on it. So I gave up on this idea too. Then what can I possibly do to find some relief and peace of mind? An idea struck me like a thunderbolt, “Let there be light, for there is too much darkness in this world.” Let these lights spread its wings and paint the world in bright colors of love, beauty, hope and friendship. Just have a glass of dew, pick up a pen and a paper and slay all those evil thoughts that are scaring you to death.  When a stone hits your door and you open it in fear but there was no one but a ghost friend provoking your thoughts to come and be together on a piece of paper for eternity. When you spread the ink of words, all your fears are killed by your imagination as you enter another world where you get what you want; you become what you can only dream of and be on the top of the world like you always wanted to be.

                                          “What else can you do in loneliness than to write?”