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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A look at Abrahamic Religions — 2

Part 1 is here in case you missed it.

Let's take a further look at the whole Old Testament (OT). I'll start with Genesis since that applies to Jews and Christians alike, with both claiming that it was dictated by their Gods. I have used the plural version (Gods) because they are not the same: YHWH (although pronounced 'Yahweh', the vowels are never written down) is the Jewish God; Jesus is the Christian God.

[Given the fact that Allah, the 'Muslim God', is also different from the other two mentioned above, I wonder how these religions are considered to be similar when their very basis is different. But that would lead us to other stories about Ibrahim/Abraham or Ahlé Kitaab - so let's forget about it here. Maybe you can ask some scholar for their views. Mohammad Sheikh's video about Ahlé Kitaab, for example, is totally different from what the majority of Muslims believe.]

As a starting book of the OT (and as part of the Pentateuch) it has several errors in it. While I accept that it has changed, anyone changing a religious work - unless s/he is evil - is more than likely to remove the 'bad' or 'inaccurate' parts, if any, and make the book even better. This certainly did not happen in this book. I can't believe that these changes were made by scholars or believers۔ Let me start with Chapters 1-5 of Genesis in this post.

Genesis 1

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

There was Light and Dark? Really? These are effects that take place as the Earth revolves around itself and continues to do so around the Sun. But this goes on until this happens:

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,
15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.
16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.

Well, the lesser light (the Moon) doesn't agree with God and comes out, fairly frequently, in the day time. This is apart from the fact that it's actual Light is its reflection of the Sun.

17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,
18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.
And God saw that it was good.
19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

God 'SAW'? Does He have eyes, too?
Genesis 2
It took 6 days to create all this.

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

Rested? Does he get tired?
I mean, it's not physical labour for him, no.
Of course there are other things to Create, too.
So let's have a Creation Story. Right.

Genesis begins with two contradictory creation accounts.

In the first creation story,
humans are created after the other animals.

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [Genesis 1:25-27]

In the second story,
humans were created before the other animals.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. [Genesis 2:18-19]

In the first creation story,
the first man and woman were created simultaneously.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [Genesis 1:25-27]

In the second account,
the man was created first,
then the animals,
then the woman from the man's rib.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.... And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. [Genesis 2:18-22]


There is a small problem, here, too. For Genesis 5.2 states that He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Adam” when they were created.

Rabbinic discussions about the two versions of Creation and 'the androgyne' can be found in Genesis Rabbah and Leviticus Rabbah, which are collections of midrashim (ancient writings attached to the Bible by Jews) about the books of Genesis and Leviticus. In Genesis Rabbah the rabbis wonder whether a verse from Psalms offers insight into the first version of Creation, perhaps indicating that ‘adam was actually a hermaphrodite with two faces':

“You have formed me before and behind’ (Psalms 139:5)… Rabbi Jeremiah b. Leazar said: When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first ‘adam, He created it with both male and female sexual organs, as it is written, ‘Male and female He created them, and He called their name ‘adam, (Genesis 5:2). Rabbi Samuel b. Nahmani said, “When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first ‘adam, He created him with two faces, then split him and made him two backs – a back for each side.” (Genesis Rabbah 8:1)



By the way, I am not even counting another story in which Adam has a wife before Eve. Her name was Lilith.

Here's Lilith for you. 

Though Lilith is not mentioned in the Torah/OT, this is how she was described in the Jewish tales:
According to the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith was Adam’s first wife but the couple fought all the time. They didn’t see eye-to-eye on matters of sex because Adam always wanted to be on top while Lilith also wanted a turn in the dominant sexual position. When they could not agree, Lilith decided to leave Adam. She uttered God’s name and flew into the air, leaving Adam alone in the Garden of Eden. God sent three angels after her and commanded them to bring her back to her husband by force if she would not come willingly. But when the angels found her by the Red Sea they were unable to convince her to return and could not force her to obey them.  Eventually a strange deal is struck, wherein Lilith promised not to harm newborn children if they are protected by an amulet with the names of the three angels written on it —  
“The three angels caught up with her in the [Red] Sea…They seized her and told her: ‘If you agree to come with us, come, and if not, we shall drown you in the sea.’ She answered: ‘Darlings, I know myself that God created me only to afflict babies with fatal disease when they are eight days old; I shall have permission to harm them from their birth to the eighth day and no longer; when it is a male baby; but when it is a female baby, I shall have permission for twelve days.’ The angels would not leave her alone, until she swore by God’s name that wherever she would see them or their names in an amulet, she would not possess the baby [bearing it]. They then left her immediately. This is [the story of] Lilith who afflicts babies with disease.” 
(Alphabet of Ben Sira, from "Eve & Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender" pg. 204.)
Some tales tell us that Lilith changed her form into a Serpent and came to Eve and Adam to ask them to eat the fruit that God had said they shouldn't.


Just remember that He said to them that they could eat everything except fruit from that one tree. You may be surprised (as were they, perhaps) later.


More next week!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

And what a man he was …

(August 9, 1927 – January 24, 2016)


My friend, Roger Schank - many of you have heard him at Education Conference's in Pakistan - said about Minsky in John Brockman's Edge years ago.

Marvin Minsky is the smartest person I've ever known. He's absolutely full of ideas, and he hasn't gotten one step slower or one step dumber. One of the things about Marvin that's really fantastic is that he never got too old. He's wonderfully childlike. I think that's a major factor explaining why he's such a good thinker. There are aspects of him I'd like to pattern myself after. Because what happens to some scientists is that they get full of their power and importance, and they lose track of how to think brilliant thoughts. That's never happened to Marvin.


My interest in Marvin Minsky started with this amazing book:

The quote on the cover is from Isaac Asimov:
"270 brilliantly original essays … on how the mind works"


Marvin's writing was always easily understood in this collection,
(but I found him difficult in some later writings).

Here is an example from the book I've read twice.


This was soon followed by the
wonderful interactive Voyager CD of the book
(for the Macintosh). Sadly those CDs don't run any more.


It was 1997 and I attended Nicholas Negroponte's conference for a Young Generation that were going to be Citizens of A New World. Minsky was there, too, and I talked with him very briefly. He was leaving in the next few hours for a trip somewhere.

Later that night many of the participants had dinner together and I bought the Extended Edition of Perceptrons there. This was Marvin Minsky's book written with my hero Seymour Papert.

I had met Papert earlier (having attended two of his lectures, including one in Pakistan), and had gotten to know him well.

My young colleague, Farhat-Said Pervez, attended his lectures at MIT and I met him with her (and her husband, Anjum Pervez) that night again. I got him to autograph my copy of the book but, sadly, Minsky had left, so I didn't have his autograph.

After dinner we moved to a party dance floor at MIT and I met Gloria Minsky, Marvin Minsky's wife, wearing her fabulous red eyeglasses. I had a lot of fun talking to her. We danced, ate some Samosas during our break (they were cooked by the Indian students with one token Pakistani!), and chatted for quite a while. I said to her that I had missed getting Marvin's autograph for the book … and she said I should come over the next morning to his office and she'd meet me there. I said surely he won't be back tomorrow, and she said "No — but bring the book."

I arrived the next morning and she took the book and handed it to Marvin's Secretary, asking her that when Marvin gets back she should get this book autographed and posted to me. I gave them my address but kept wondering if I'd ever get that book back.

In 3 weeks I got the book by post. Wow!

We then sat in his office and had Coffee. She told me about her family. Her work. Her daughter's work at MIT. Then she asked about my life. I spoke to her about running away from Education. My life at sea in the Merchant Navy. And my recent Multimedia work. I mentioned to her at some point that my original family years ago was Jewish. She laughed and said, "You must have been a Minsky, originally." I asked her why did she think so … and she said when you are old you'll see how closely like Marvin your looks are. I just thought that was a crazy thing to say …


Now two of my friends from MIT tell me I look like him.
Here's Minsky at a Conference.


(It was an amazing experience to attend this Conference: Apart from spending time with Nicholas Negrponte, I also met Alan Kay and had a rather long conversation with him — and 18 years later I interviewed him at Beaconhouse School of Tomorrow Conference in Karachi last year. Another wonderful person I met, who is now a close friend of mine, was Shahidul Alam, the brilliant photographer, who is on the Board of National Geographic. Finally, I was also a partner at the student sessions with John Perry Barlow, an essayist, a writer, a human rights activist, and founder of EFF, who was the Lyricist for the Grateful Dead!)

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Friday, January 22, 2016

A look at Abrahamic Religions — 1

I was brought up in a Sunni Muslim household, but my grandfather's second marriage (after my grandmother died) was to a (Twelver) Shia lady, so I had enough on my plate to see both sides of the view. My father, who was once a strong Atheist up to his late 40s, slowly became a very strong believer, later. However, he was an avid reader and allowed me to read all sorts of books, which included religious works as well as Freethinking authors.

At school I was very interested in the Bible … which was taught to us by a Catholic Priest, as we could not have a copy of the Bible. Why? Because it was among the books that were not allowed for people to have. Only Priests were allowed to have them, because there were things in it that "the people would have misunderstood the book", as my Vice Principal, Father Todd, said to me. Actually, in the 1229AD Council of Toulouse one of the items was this:
Canon 14. We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; unless anyone from motive of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.

The Church forbade Catholics from reading the Holy Bible by placing it on the index of Forbidden Books. The Bibles placed on the Index of Forbidden Books were also Protestant Bibles that lacked 7 books and/or were badly translated versions of the Bible. Soon after Pope John XXIII announced Vatican II in 1962, the Bible became something that Catholics could buy (but, preferably, not read without a Priest being present, as I was told by a Catholic friend).


Later on, after I went to sea in the Merchant Navy, I decided to read most religious books in a Chronological Order (as far as one could determine the dates). These and the works of Toynbee and Durant were remarkably good. As were Bertrand Russell's works. My time at Sea was absolutely amazing!

So here I am, trying to write down a few things that many people, including close family and  friends,  are unaware of  or seem to misunderstand because of the various peculiar stories. I will choose the Muslim stories and quote a couple of Aayahs from the Qur'an. Later on I will also quote some parts from the Jewish and Christian Holy Books.


The majority of Muslims believe that there are Four Books that Allah sent:
  1. Züboor (Hazrat Daüd/David's book — a small part of which is in the Old Testament (OT). 
  2. Taoraét (Torah) - the first 5 books of the OT, also known as the Pentateuch. The word Taoraét means 'Laws' — Generally accepted as the word Allah gave to Hazrat Müsa/Moses. These are in the OT.
  3. Injeel — which refers to the New Testament (NT). The word Injeel means 'Glad Tidings' (Evangelism comes from this) — Generally accepted as the word that Allah gave to Hazrat Isa/Jesus.
  4. The Holy Qur'an.
A smaller sect among Muslims believes that since this belief part is written in the Qur'an, there is no reason that it should name itself, since 'we know' that Qur'an is the word of Allah. The Four Books, according to them, are the ones that Qur'an mentions: Three Books mentioned above the Qur'an in my earlier para — and one that came before all of them — The Book/Scripture of Hazrat Ibrahim/Abraham, which is no longer available to us.

Quranic Verse Surah 87 Aayaas 17-19
But the Hereafter is better and more enduring.
And this is in the Books of the earliest (Revelation),
The Books of Abraham and Moses.

Quranic Verse Surah 53 Ayaa 37
And of Scripture of Abraham who fulfilled all that Allah ordered him.


The OT has many more books apart from the Pentateuch, of course. OT contains 39 (Protestant) or 46 (Catholic) or more (Orthodox and other) books, divided, very broadly, into the Pentateuch (Torah), the historical books, the "wisdom" books and the prophets.

One story, given further rise by Voltaire, was that the number of books in the Bible were decided in the Nicene Council in 325AD. Part of the idea was that many books were placed on top of each other and the ones that fell were discarded. This is untrue, though people still use this story without knowing the facts. It actually took many centuries when all this happened.

The Nicene Council, that gave rise to the Nicene Creed, was an ecumenical meeting that decided many things, of which the most important were these:

1. Jesus Christ is described as "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God", proclaiming his Divinity. (# This means that he is not just God, but also the Son of God.)
(Note: The Council of Constantinople (now Istanbul) was convened by Emperor Theodosius in 381AD. It further affirmed the divinity of the Holy Spirit, which up to that point had never been clearly stated anywhere in the Scripture.)
2. The view that 'there was once that when he was not' was rejected to maintain the co-eternity of the Son with the Father.

3. Independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the Council.

There were many other orders, among which was a prohibition of Usury. This was different from Interest according to some documents. A loan may be considered usurious because of excessive or abusive interest rates. There may be other factors, too. In Pakistan and other Muslim countries Usury is taken to mean InterestUsury is prohibited in many Christian countries but many of them look at it differently from Interest.

Here's are two pieces from Wikipedia that show that it was permissible in lots of areas. 
Certain negative historical renditions of usury carry with them social connotations of perceived "unjust" or "discriminatory" lending practices. The historian Paul Johnson, comments:

Most early religious systems in the ancient Near East, and the secular codes arising from them, did not forbid usury. These societies regarded inanimate matter as alive, like plants, animals and people, and capable of reproducing itself. Hence if you lent 'food money', or monetary tokens of any kind, it was legitimate to charge interest. Food money in the shape of olives, dates, seeds or animals was lent out as early as c. 5000 BC, if not earlier. ...Among the MesopotamiansHittitesPhoenicians and Egyptians, interest was legal and often fixed by the state. But the Hebrew took a different view of the matter.
Jewish Laws allowed it with foreigners and not other Hebrews: 
The Hebrew Bible regulates interest taking. Interest can be charged to strangers but not between Hebrew.
Deuteronomy 23:19 Thou shalt not lend upon interest to thy brother: interest of money, interest of victuals, interest of any thing that is lent upon interest.
Deuteronomy 23:20 Unto a foreigner thou mayest lend upon interest; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon interest; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou puttest thy hand unto, in the land whither thou goest in to possess it.

The Holy Bible has many versions that various sects of Christians follow, but let me stick to the one that I know well — The King James Version — when I quote from it. I will, of course, include the Pentateuch in it, so that my Jewish friends are included.


The books of OT obviously do not have Jesus in them and the Jews do not recognise him as a Prophet or God Incarnate. The OT & the NT has nothing about Islam's Prophet, so the Jews and the Christians do not accept him as a Prophet, either. The Qur'an, however, recognises many Prophets from the OT and accepts Jesus as a Prophet. The Muslims, however, do say that the OT/NT have been altered heavily and are not in their original form.

The current understanding by scholars is that OT was written over a long time — the rough dates are given here. This, of course, does not make OT the Word of God. However the Pentateuch (The books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) is supposed to be the Word of God according to Jews/Christians. It was written, according to researchers, in 1445BC to 1405BC, by Hazrat Musa/Moses. 

I find this rather odd, since God could not have ordered Moses to write the last lines of Deuteronomy.

Chapter 34
The Death of Moses
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah,across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oathto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him[a] in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moabthirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses. 
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
An Important Note

Most Muslims believe that, in Christianity, Jesus is the Son of God. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity ("threefold") defines God as three consubstantial persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; that is "one God in three persons". 

Here is a popular figure from one of their school books.


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Saturday, January 09, 2016

Lahore to vaaqai Lahore haé

The most important thing for me was Nirala Sweets in Lahore, after they took there Karachi shops away. I loved their Sugar Free Barfis, their Sugar Free Laddoos, and their Sugar Free Gulab Jamuns. The Gulab Jamuns were so good that even my non-Diabetic friends loved them much more than the regular types.

A few months ago I went to Lahore and went off to purchase the stuff. No shops. Asked a few friends. They said they've been closed for a while.

I wrote my regrets on Facebook and Hareem Sumbul replied that they had been closed, like many others, and will open in a while. It was just a Kitchen problem that they had to solve according to Ayesha Mumtaz of the Punjab Food Authority.

This time I went in, hoping, and my Facebook tells the story.

I rang up Chashni and they said they have the three Sugar Free things, too. So off I went on my way to the airport to collect them … and found they were great. So that's a place where you all should go when you need Sugar Free sweets.

(They also have other sweets which were good, too. I tried quite a few. Yes, yes … I have Diabetes. But I am 75, so I can't really be bothered by a few sweets once in a while. I mean how fast will Death approach me if I occasionally have them, yaar. At this age many of my friends are dead, even without Diabetes. Also, I am only taking things away and providing very little to the Society at this age. So its OK to occasionally beat the system before it beats me.)

Right. So, off I went to the airport, walked right in to the Passenger Lounge, turned towards the toilet — and Lo. And Behold. This is what I see there:

(Sorry. I had to write that on their pic.)

I was surprised. No one among my friends who travel often to Karachi had told me that Nirala does exist at the airport. So I walked up to the shop and the guy said they had no Sugar Free stuff any more. Not in their airport shop, anyway. Airport shop?

"What? You have other shops in town? Where?" 
"Sir, they have changed their name, now. Its called Chashni."
"Oh, so the Chashni I went to is really Nirala. Great."
"They don't say that, sir, because Nirala has not paid Taxes. So they've changed their name."
"Really! Then why is this one not called Chashni?"
"Sir, when they send us the money we'll change it, too."

Things work if you have the money. Otherwise they don't. But who cares?

What's the truth, then? I think it is a family business, like Farhat Shereen said. And the members have fought. One group will now be called Nirala and the breakaway group will be Chashni. (And the guy at the airport shop should not have told me, whether its true or not, about the tax that was not paid.)

Bye, Lahore.

The plane that was to go at 6pm, didn't. I changed my airline and got another flight at 10pm. Went out for Coffee and a (sugared) snack. Came back and boarded. Slept all the way through, but just after I tried to stand up and put on the airplane's seat belt. They are right. You can only sit down and put them on.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

اك شعر جو دماغ میں مستقل آ رہا ہے

آپ كی یاد آتی رہی رات بھر 

مخدوم محی الدّین

چاندنی دل دكھاتی رہی رات بھر

فیض احمد فیض

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Müjhay 'Eman' Ho Gaya

This is Eman Khatri, my 12-year -old friend.
I got to know her because I know her siblings.

There's the multifaceted eldest sister, Sadia, who wanted to be so many things - ranging from a Scientist to an Astronaut to a Writer - but has, recently, 'settled' on another (temporary?) phase called Girls at Dhabas. She also helped with the images you see on the staircase of T2F if you go there ever. Originally the main images were painted by her younger sister, Fiza, who is a lovely artist. Currently in the USA , she may arrive any day/month/year in Karachi.

Eman is a lovely girl, full of fairly intelligent questions, and understands the answers much more than you'd imagine. Among other things, like reading books, she is very fond of Qavvaali. Her favourite Qavvaal is Subhan Nizami. She's been asking me to take her to a place where she could listen to him.

The answer lay in phoning Subhan and asking that I'd like to come over to his place with a few friends and listen to him for a while. Sunday was the date he chose and we (Sadia, Hadi, Eman, Vishal, Farieha) spent a lovely afternoon there.

When I told Subhan that Eman was his fan he smiled and said to her what she'd like to hear. She said "Ishaq mayñ tayray kohé gham" - surprising him (and tall of us). Subhan kept saying that this was amazing. Here is his rendition that afternoon.

He sang quite a few pieces and then, at the end, I asked him to recite "Man khaaké kafé paaé" … and heard Eman asking for the same piece at the same time.  Here it is.

"How do you know these qavvaalis so well, Eman?"
"I listen to them on the Internet!"

What a girl you are, Eman.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

An old tale put in for no rhyme or reason.

The First Rainbow

In The Legends Of Iavdik, it is written that there lived, in the heart of Mahgiaz, a beautiful maiden known to all as Nubia the Nubile.

The absolute personification of Youth and Sensuality, with firm apple-like breasts, half-open ever-moist lips, talkative eyes, soft tresses from which emanated the dizzying aroma of white musk - and a sensuously sad smile that made the beholder's blood rush in all directions - Nubia was admired by all. But while young men, for miles around, desired her, they all felt too inadequate to approach this Goddess-like Nymph. Thus, Nubia the Nubile was a lonely girl.

As Nubia the Nubile grew older, she became more and more content with her own company. Her greatest pleasure came in visiting the lake a little distance from her house. There she lay upon the cool ground or danced or ran and sang aloud.

When Nubia reached her 18th year (some say that in that year she looked more beautiful and alluring than she ever had) a strange thing happened. It was a sunny day in Spring and Nubia was sitting by the lake. There was an intoxicating fragrance in the air that was new to her. And the wild wind whistled a strange song through the trees, almost forming words - but, surely, only in her imagination. For the wind only whistles. The words she seemed to hear said, over and over, "True Love Is As Wild As The Wind".

The song of the wild wind lulled her to sleep and she lay with her back against her favourite tree for who-knows-how-long. Startled by the weight of something, that felt heavy and tender at the same time in her lap, she woke up. Lying next to her on the ground was a beautiful Unicorn and he had lovingly placed his head in her lap.

Until then, legend has it, the horn on a Unicorn's head used to be candy-floss-soft and filled with spun-yarn of every conceivable colour and shade. Nubia touched the horn hesitatingly. It felt warm and strangely exciting. She began stroking it gently. Suddenly the horn hardened and exploded and threw up a stream of what in today's world would probably be pixels of 16.8 million colours. But it was an Analogue World then and there were even more colours than our mind can grasp

The Legend of Iavdik goes on to say that these colours shot skyward to form the first Rainbow that the world had ever seen. And Nubia glowed with the radiance of the Sun, her world filled, from that day on, with the Essence of Love.


Hardly worth it … but I thought I should put it in my blogposts.
This was written years and years ago.

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Max[x] Your Life

The TV stations were generally so-o-o-o bad, I hardly have any of them ON any more. The TV set is mainly used to watch DVDs that I often buy and often download.

There are, of course, places like Laraib here that do give me fairly new DVDs, dowloaded from the same sites that I could, too, if I had the time. In fact, now that I am older, I do have the time, so I download movies and documentaries and music stuff every day. Going to Laraib has now remained only when a friend from Bangladesh drops in and he goes to buy his selections. I buy a piece or two, myself, then.

There are so many great TV Channels round the world that we can't see, regardless of the various 'blackboxes' that we may get from one company to the next. 'Get a 100 channels in our box', says the company and you can get about 60 that are of no use, about 10 that are repeats, and the few that are left are ok-ish (though the language is wrong during the long advertisements in some).

I keep missing BBC … no, not the one we see here but BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, BBC 4 , BBC 5 that I'd see in the UK. I miss ITV, entirely. And the lovely USA channels. And the beautiful Classical Music channels from around the world.

What about Netflix? What about the superb Video Series that are so much fun to watch? And what about the latest episodes of Scandal, Quantico, Downtown Abbey, and a zillion more. One has to download them after they've been released, cause Laraib will fill up a whole DVD before it releases it.

Then there's Radio. Of course we can get many channels on iTunes, but there are a hundred more. Pandora is brilliant, whether you are into Western or Eastern Music. I am into both ... but am in love with Pandora's Eastern Classical sets. Name an artist. Drop in the name. Listen to him or her. Wow! But what do I do in Pakistan? Its for outside this country so far.

There is, of course, the most wonderful YouTube that is also not allowed here. Oh to be able to see it on my larger TV station.


Ta-daa …


A few months ago, struggling with this problem, I bumped into a small shop that had the answer. The manager sold me a little Black Box for Rs 25,000 after I stayed with him and learnt everything about it in every way I could. He was not just wonderful, he was brilliant. So I got it and came home and plugged it in. And Voila!

Oh, once you've bought it, you never pay another amount to him.
Or to anyone.
Rs 25k gets you everything you want.

A small blackbox that has a light in front to say its ON. You put in a little dongle he gives you into the USB socket at the back. You plug it into the HDMI socket on your TV set. (If you don't have an HDMI socket you can use the RGB three socket, too - but its best to ask him. Some models have removed that now.) There's another USB socket at the back and you can add a USB or other Hard Disk there if its got movies and watch that, too. You connect the power supply. Switch on the box … and you are nearly on.

If you have an Internet WiFi, that's fine. Use it. But if you can actually get a cable from your Modem to physically get into the Ethernet port on this blackbox, its even slightly better.

Once you start, it warms up and then you have to set up the internet name and the password and wait. When you see Kodi on the screen, double click it (yes they give you a remote, too). It will get there and after a while it will read up and start adding stuff and connecting to the various things. You'll see that on your TV. Once that it done, you are on!

Click the TV settings and there are hosts of channels waiting for you. Over a thousand so far and more being added. Choose one and watch them LIVE. Yes LIVE. wherever they are.

Select a Movie/TV-Video link, like Genesis, and go …

Find a film. Millions of them there. I watched 1918 Silent Film there yesterday. Click the name ≥ but a choice is that when a whole list of channel names drop down choose item 4 or 5 first. All the top ones are generally busy if its a new film. The film loads. Go ahead and watch it.

Find A TV Serial, say Law and Order : Special Victims Unit. All 17 seasons are there. Choose one. Choose an episode. Click. Then choose the 4th or 5th item. Go!

Looking for the latest? Like you've just missed Martian that was in our Cinemas, recently. It's there. 


Get a YouTube channel on the list and use a free proxy. Watch anything you want on your TV from that channel. There's Vimeo and more, too.

Radio? Tons to choose from. SoundCloud and more. No limits. Add Google. Can be useful. Google Maps also make sense on a large screen. And the Weather on the top left tells you what its like outside your air-conditioned room.



OK ... I don't know if what I've said makes sense to you, but here's a number: +92-300-297-9065; call him. Tell him you'd like to see and buy SatMaxx if you find its worth it. He'll give you his shop's address. Go there. Come back smiling. And never ever miss anything from now. 

Mention my blog, if you like,
and he will take a little extra care!


If you have a 3D TV there are loads of movies for you to see. And, as I said earlier, there are many other movie sites that are also visible. Nothing is banned. The chwais is yours …


Good viewing!

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

When our beloved people die …

These are my views. You may agree or not.

Yesterday we had a ruling about Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of Salman Taseer. It was supported by most people in the media. This included many (including me) who oppose the death penalty and want him to get an un-parolable life sentence. Think of it: killing is an act of just a few minutes. And then he's dead. It shows human emotions that makes the Government murder a person — which is not really different from what the criminal did.

A long life sentence is something that is going to teach the murderer (all the time) about not just another man's life and the tragedy he caused the man's wife, children, friends, and followers … it will also make him think of his own wife and children. They, in fact, did nothing wrong and maybe someone needs to give them some help in ways to live.

Add to this, if you are pro-death, to the difficulties and the problems we have in our laws and how we frame and get people, often for the wrong reasons, denounced as criminals. Happens frequently. Just think of Aasiya Bibi, right now! I think the courts should move ahead and pardon her. To hang an innocent person is far worse …

But I also thought of ways beyond this murder.

What does the State (or the Government of that time that we have 'contracted' to run the State until the next elections) do when a person dies or is killed or gives up his/her life in a battle or war? How does it make sure that these people are honoured for a long time and our children and their children read about them or talk about them?

Nothing, really!

Let me tell you what we do: In the military circles many roads are named after such heroes … which is right. After all it was one of them who gave up his life fighting hard for the lives of the rest of us. His colleagues and his juniors honour him. He joined the forces, knowing that this was a risk he was taking. I feel sorry for his family, too. And their amazing courage.

Often, though, many main roads in the cities are named after them. I move around Karachi a lot …and go to Lahore, often. I can't recognise more than a couple of names and what they did. I ask young people in Lahore and they say so-and-so is a 'Shaheed', but they don't know which war with India he fought. I was also told that one person died in our 'war with Russia', when I knew that was not true.  Incidentally, how many main roads are named after war heroes? Take a look at this page, for example, and see. And you can find many others, too.

There's also a lot more that we miss out on.

Take the murders of Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Sabeen Mahmud, and may more. If the Government wants us to remember them, how about naming the places where they were murdered linked to their names. A Memorial Square, maybe? Perhaps with a link to their websites written on a stone under it … for the young go their often. Let them see what honest people, doing honest and respectable things, were killed for. By whom, too, if we really know.

A Salman Taseer Roundabout or a Shahbaz Bhatti Avenue shouldn't be too difficult. The Sabeen Mahmud Square - at the place where she was shot - should be no problem, at all. In fact the latter would be put up by DHA/CBC and show that they care, too, about the things these people did for this country: their country and our country.

How about Postage Stamps? They go on our mails abroad and within Pakistan. Let's have their images on them. That should be an ideal follow-up to the series of those who helped make Pakistan and have images on stamps already. After all, these people were the ones who tried to keep Pakistan safe and better for many of us. In fact people around the world held services for them.

I'd love to see small paragraphs in our Pakistan Studies books? Books that children get bored of reading fairly soon may become more exciting when we have newer paragraphs on people they have seen. And one can keep changing these every few years to keep them updated.

Do you think we can do this?

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Its all going to be online now …

Starting with my very first cartoons (and I mean my very first, coz I had never drawn one before) that started being published in The Friday Times, I did a few other things: A few cartoons for The News; A few Photos or Book Covers or Contents, suitably altered; a few Fake-Ads. And maybe a few more items.

Sadly, my dear friend, my adopted daughter, my mentee … and then my mentor, Sabeen Mahmud (Sab), is not here any more. And I can't even try to tell you how many of us feel about this. There are nothing but tears that flow out. Every few hours. Every day. And there are many silent sobs in between.

Sab had asked me to print quite a few of the cartoons and put them up at T2F for 3 days, beginning with my birthday. (I'll be 75 on the 2nd October this year). The cartoons & similar stuff is now being put up on Tooniyaat. If you go there, start with the oldest post (Howdy) and then move up. This way you'll get the chronological order in which they were published.

There was her idea of having me appear on a program at T2F, on the 2nd & 3rd October, where I'd be asked questions by her about my crazy life and crazier ideas. She mailed me a long list of questions that she'd ask. Yes, Sab. I will answer them, too, in Koee Mayday Dil Say Poochhay, a recent blog that I have started. The posts on these may be written, pod-casted, or video-casted.

Among things that Sab thought T2F would print some day would be my poetry book, and a collection of my father's stories, essays, and poems. My poems are now put up every Sunday, (though not in any chronological order). You can see them on Alam Zadah.

My father, Abi (or Azhar Kidvai), has a website now - and it is being added to every few days. It will have his entire collection, including all his verses in his own handwriting. There are some memories and some pictures, too.


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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Abi: 11.04.1900 - 19.09.1963

Azhar Kidvai was born in Rampur (India) on 11th April, 1900

My father, Abi is what I called him, was named Azhar Kidvai by his father (Safdar Ali). Abi was also named Khaaqaan Alam (many people had two names in the olden days), but he rarely used this name after he grew up. In Urdu his name (ازہر قدوائ) had a ز and not ظ. Why? Think of Jaamaé Al Azhar. It means another thing when you write it with ظ. In English it was spelt with a K instead of Q. Why? Because the name is Turkish. Kidvais are descendants of Kazi Kidva who was a Turkish Judge under King Baber's rule. There is no Q for ق. There's just a K. Think of Koran. Also, و is written as V in Turkish, not W. Here is an image of their full alphabet.

The W for و was added when Hindustani Transliteration took place … earlier than Turkish Transliteration. This changed و into a W, despite the fact that the pronunciation is that of V.

A picture from a London Collection of Family Logos.
I have this in my house now in wood and brass.
The Latin translated to English means "I shall not altogether die'.

his blogpost, 52 years after his death, is to tell you of a new website that I have started putting up.It will get ready in a week or two but there are enough things there for you to see.

He went to MAO (Aligarh School and College) and did a BA in English Literature. Was arrested for his political views by the Brits ruling India. Later, he became a Doctor, was a Major in the British Forces during the Second World War. He was also a poet, a writer of stories and essays, and a great lover of classical music (Indian and Western). He sang fairly well, but only among friends. He used to do a wonderful Scottish accent, after having passed his Medicine from Edinburgh. He lived and practiced in Monifieth, a small town in Scotland.

His father, Safdar Ali, did send him there but then refused to send him money, though he had a lot of it. Abi's life there was odd, because of a lack of funds. He eventually was put into hospital where one of his kidneys had to be removed. I heard this from his friends, while he was alive. I asked him and he said he would never have told me this, because it was "between me and my father". (His father died in Dacca several years after Abi's death.)

Abi was an Atheist in his early life, but eventually became a rather strong Muslim. In his last few years one could always see him with a tasbeeeh, reciting his words of faith. He said eight prayers every day: the five Farz many do, plus TahajjüdChaasht, and Ishraq. The last time he prayed was only a few minutes before his death.

Despite being a strong Muslim and reading several religious books, he also read extensively in English and Urdu — Fiction and Non-Fiction. He introduced the writers to me, just as he gave me my love of music.

A strong Congress-person, he decided that we'd stay in Delhi … but our house and his clinic were burnt down so he migrated to Pakistan on a temporary basis (in 1947). Dr. Syed Mahmud (my wife Nuzhat's naana) and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said to him that the troubles in Pakistan would end in 5-6 months and we'd be 'good neighbours later'. These things never happened and showed how little the Congress knew what lay ahead.

Abi died at the age of 63, after several repeated heart attacks over the years, heavy diabetes, a constant ringing in his ears, occasional faintings, and - finally - a brain haemorrhage at Anklesaria Clinic, Karachi. He seemed well as I saw him, arriving in Karachi the day before from my trip. Sadly I was on duty on the ship that night/morning and did not see him pass away.


1. Yaad Daasht

2. Links: A collection of my previous blogposts about him.

3. Stories that were written from 1928 onwards and were published as Nai Paod (نئ پود) in 1939, two years after he wrote his last playlet. The original cover and the inside page (Printed 1000 copies : Price Re 1), are also scanned and shown here.

These are followed by scans from his own handwriting.
(In some places it has not been possible to remove the paper lines.)

4. Ghazals, that were kept in a ruled booklet and named Parvaaz. 

5. Rübaais, Qit'aas, Nazms - which were filed under a small folder, called Parvaaz 2.

6. Humorous verses which Abi wrote under the takhallüs 'Shaikh Ji'. He put them in a separate collection, called Laghv Goi.

7. Tasveerayñ — a collection of some images. More will be added as I find them.


This collection is dedicated to Nuzhat, who constantly insisted that I must print Abi's works. She loved the idea that I was going to print it with scanned images as far as the poems were concerned. It is also co-dedicated to our daughter, Ragni Marea, who loved her grandfather's stories.

Sabeen Mahmud loved his stories that I read out to her. I also recited a few of his verses. She had one piece on her softboard in her office. She wanted me to publish his works, specially in his own writings, under T2F's planned idea of opening up a publishing unit. That never happened.

The collection is now on the Internet
where many will be able to read it.

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