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Thursday, November 08, 2018

There is a reason to support T2F …

Sabeen Mahmud, born 20th June, 1974, was assassinated on 24th April, 2015 by those that hated Pakistan.

She was marvellous in every way. I knew her for 26 amazing years as a Student, as an amazing Colleague, as a Friend, as a member of my Extended Family, as a Mentee, and as a Mentor!

I was in the car behind her a few seconds later, after the event at T2F, and had just turned left when she was shot. I was at the hospital when she was pronounced dead.

Sabeen started T2F (The Second Floor - since it was on that floor where she opened it).. There were 6 other founding members and I was one of them*.

The concept behind T2F - a not-for-profit NGO, was to have a place to sit and chat and discuss things with others that one rarely, if ever, met otherwise. 

One object was supposed to ensure that guns and violence would end. People would listen to others. Discuss and talk about their views. Learn from each other. At least be willing to understand that in a free country there were going to be 'other' views, too … and, if not agreeing with them, one could allow them to exist. Or change them through discussions.

In most cases ARGUMENTS meant FIGHTS; T2F felt that DISCUSSIONS promoted UNDERSTANDINGS.

The exhibition space of T2F was meant for Large Discussions, Qavvaalis, Music, Book Launches, Science ka Adda, Urdu Preservation Project, Arts, Performances, Photography Shows, Plays. Even courses or small discussions helped many people to share their ideas. People from around the world have spoken or performed at T2F. 

There have been many other things that T2F has done: Creative Karachi Festival at Alliance Francaise (another one coming up shortly!), T2F supporting SOT recently at Beach Luxury, and many more.

Internationally it held Dil Phaink in London - a large exhibition of taking Karachi to London! It won an Award from Prince Claus Funds in Nederlands.

When Sabeen was assassinated, major newspapers and events around the world - from Universities to the main road events - mentioned her, wrote articles about her, featured her in books, and even composed music about her.

All this has survived, often with great difficulty, for 11 years now. Most of it through support by its fans. 

You must understand and believe that supporting T2F is a tribute to the greatest public place in Pakistan. Drop a tip when you attend an event. Whether it is a rupee or thousands, in cash or by bank account. It needs your support to go on.

If you are into Qavvaalis, do go to the Arts Council T2F Fundraiser with Fareed and Abu. Tickets are Rs 2000 each and the evening will be truly great.

I left T2F after Sabeen's death …
for working without her seemed impossible.

I rejoined as Director when Khalid Mahmood took the place over from Sabeen's mother, who found it difficult to carry on working there through this terrible tragedy. KM and others wanted a person there who had been part of the original team.

Having left the Directorship on the 1st August 2017, I stayed on as Executive Director until we found Arieb Azhar who joined us and then I left the place, finally.

But only 'officially'.
T2F is part of my life and will always be
the centre outside my own house.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Place of Learning

Well, yes. I know that's difficult right now. Too many pressures. Not enough alternatives available. And the Governments in the Majority World don't really want their children educated: Why would an educated person vote for the ones that are now in Power.

Learning is something we all do. Every day. From the time we are born to the time we die … though schools do lessen the habit and sometimes completely take it out. The Forces, of course, ask you to leave that habit outside when you join them and make you do whatever the Command says you must. Remember: Enemies become friends and change back into enemies as the Governments feel.

Education may, at one point, have meant the same. In some Universities it still does — though it seems to be changing about who you can invite as guest lecturers. Anyway, that was before Governments altered Histories and ever-changing goals, with no allowances to discuss alternatives or different views. Soon Corporations got on and even started adding books with heavy corporate ideas into the books. What? Well, look at the Math book with 'a little help' from McDonald's.

At my schools (I started mine at 7 years and changed into 4 of them … but for goodish reasons), I was regarded as an average student. I passed my Senior Cambridge in 1956 in the Second Division with one A, five Bs, and an F in one subject.

Most teachers (though I must admit that Messers D'Souza, Nazareth, and Chohan, didn't agree with them) thought I was not a good student at all … while I thought I was being forced to learn subjects that were of no interest to me. I adored Maths, Physics, Literature, Urdu (as a First Language. No, not the Second Language that was really crazy). If the subject was of my interest, I really could do well. If not, it was nearly a Zero …

Part of my loves of these subjects came from my father, Azhar Kidvai, who was a Medical Doctor and an Urdu poet … and even sang reasonably well (something I couldn't do, how hard I may have tried). The love of Maths came from his engineering father, Safdar Ali Kidvai, who changed my near-zeros in that area to an ardent love in the 4 months that he was here for his operation.

My memory was good: I could go to a Mushaérah and come back remembering most of it and recite my favourite shayrs to my mother. But I could not use my memory to learn and regurgitate things that I had no interest in. And that has become the most important thing these days in schools.

My tastes were varied. I loved Music: Western Classical, Eastern Classical, Jazz, and great Pop. I adored films, from the Silent ones to the latest - if they were really good. I worshipped Comics and felt that some of them were like pieces of Art. But I guess they were not — until Joe Sacco appeared!!! I adored books. Read a lot of them. You'll be able to see most of these in a Library that wants to use the books, music, films and more for the public. It should happen in a year, I hope.

In 1957-58 I went to two colleges. Thrown out by the first one in Lahore for reasons that they knew, I joined another one in Karachi … and walked out of an exam, running away (despite being an only child and much loved) to join the Merchant Navy. (More on the walk-out and going ships in another blogpost.) 

Once I became a Junior Officer on the ships, I started to teach Cadets who came from colleges, some even with a degree in Maths. They knew very little … and, invariably told me they'd forgotten most stuff after exams (which had happened less than 6 months before they joined us). I had to teach them Maths and a lot more. Most of them were joining the Merchant Navy to see the world but couldn't pick out countries in a world map. 

I felt that these students, too, had been taught 'wrongly' (like I was) … but how could one say this with any assurance? So I started to try and understand Education and Teaching.

Having read several books from the greats: Russell, Dewey, Piaget, Freire, Kohl, Kohn, Postman, and many many more (see the lists of some of these at the end of this post) … I soon also met the BBC B Computer in January 1982. Wow! Later I also added an Apple IIe. Both went away after I got a Macintosh in 1984.

BBC B Micro

All of these taught me how much Education could be supported by these technologies. So I started a computer company (the first Educational Computing company in Pakistan: Solutions Unlimited, now run as a consultancy by my wife, Nuzhat Kidvai). The computer companies went further ahead. First I opened Enabling Technologies - a multi-medea company (which was later run, independently, by my once-partner Jehan Ara, now heading P@SHA and Nest I/O). Finally, BITS - a venture that began as a collaboration with BSS in Lahore and me in Karachi. Later on the Lahore BITS stopped, because they wanted to continue to serve their Education base.
(Sabeen Mahmud was part of this from the time she was almost 15 years old until a few years later she became my full-time Partner at BITS. I was with her when she formed T2F … and BITS became a net-based consultancy. The day she was assassinated, after a session at T2F where I was also present, our car was only 10 seconds away from her when her mother phoned and said they'd been shot.)
For those who believe having no real Education is terrible,
believe me, it's not!
As long as you get into something you really love.


Having no academic experience, I was called to seminars to speak about Education and my sickness of it having turned into what it now was. I spoke at IBA (Karachi) several times, spoke at several schools, taught at Karachi's Teacher's Resource Centre, went to Apple Conferences, taught teachers from Kuwait at the Melbourne University, attended schools to see what Windows did in Education (almost nothing!) versus Apple that did a lot of what students and I loved. But, of course, Windows machines were cheaper and forced Teachers to teach nothing of Education, except Computer Science, initially. Visited MIT and worked in a Conference that was run by Nicholas Negroponte

I met and worked with Seymour Papert and spent a lot of time with Roger Schank (whom I have had come over to Pakistan many times). At Hakim Saeed Sahab's insistence — he changed the requirement of being a PhD to head a Department and said 'PhD or equivalent' — I headed the first New Media Department in Pakistan at Hamdard U and taught there for three years. The course that I taught, because I insisted that it be vetted, was accepted by a Canadian University as being a good course.

I am a Consultant to Beaconhouse School Systems for who knows how long. I have helped them open up TNS (The New School) and taught teachers there. I also worked with them to start the Beaconhouse National University — which is an NGO and gives them no money, unlike what many people think. The School of Learning has had me for many talking sessions and Cedar College has me on their Board of Advisers.

So it works.
Drop Out if you must.
But do Drop In and love what you do.

My talks at all of these, whether teaching teachers or students, had always included several things that I thought were essential - unlike the people who put their money into building schools (and, often, secretly accepting my views). Here are some of the things I talked about from 1989 to 2009 in my presentations, lectures, workshops …

* Grades are Degrading *

* Let's get back to the One-Classroom Schools *

* Life isn't about 45 minutes for each item —
so why do we have 45 minute periods? *

* Power tends to corrupt,
PowerPoint corrupts them completely. *

* A country's Geography decides its History:
Why two subjects? *

* There should be no Competition. *

* Let children learn by doing. *

* The Story-Based Curriculum is the best bet. *

* Children are different.
Schools want them to be the same. *

I must admit that many feel changing schools to useful places - to teach children how to learn forever and improve their lives - is too difficult to do. This is true because they are pressured by book-selling companies and some amazingly funny educators*, hardware companies that want boxes to be put out, parents who think they know education because they went to a school or college, teachers who think that because they have done this for years they truly understand today's kids (and write stupid reports that always seem to say 'could have done better'), and the ones that only do this for finances: The is why Dr Eqbal Ahmad called such schools "The McDonald's educational equivalent" at a conference in Karachi. (Do visit and learn more about the world.)

We need Parents/Teachers trained about Education/Learning and to understand that they are training children for a future that they know very little about. A child who enters a school today will not have many of the jobs that we work with now when s/he comes out of School or College. In their lives they may even have to change jobs several times and relearn things or understand several new ideas. Many children will drop out of Education to do things that parents couldn't have even thought of. Non-formally educated kids can now go into many major companies if they can do stuff that schools never teach.

Don't forget this: At the end of their school career the child scores an A (actually too many A's, now), having spent days at school and then paying more than the school fees to Tutors. The Schools take out glorious ads saying this is what we did to the students. Baaah … How about placing pictures of the failed kids who were with you for years and this is what you did to them!

The trend that I love most is Microschools. Read this and get to know more about them. It is absolutely essential if you are a parent. Or even a student. While the UK started this, take a look at Brooklyn, NY, where many such schools are happening. Go here.

Recently, thanks to a friend, Jawad Ali, I came across Portfolio-School.  It's a school in New York run by Babur Habib (from Karachi) and Doug Schachtel … and it made my day. I hope to go there and see the school and enjoy myself thoroughly. This would be a great gift to me just after my 78th birthday. You must visit their website. Go there now.

In November we have a great conference in Karachi. It's at the Beach Luxury Hotel, 3rd/4th November. SOT's Conference this time is called The World of the Future - Reimagined. Loads of people are coming in from worldwide as well as Pakistan (and India, too, if they get their Visas). They'll look at how the world is shaping up in all directions, discuss numerous subjects, and the impact that they'll have in the future of Education, as well.

And Babur Habib will be there, too.

Some SOT Conference details are here for you. The following five, broadly-overlapping dimensions will be explored:
* A Symbiotic Future (focal points: artificial intelligence in governance, fourth industrial revolution, effects of technology on concepts of gender, human sexuality & reproduction)

* A Balanced Future (focal points: sustainable economic development, environment and climate change, gender, minorities, the end of poverty and the future of humanity)

* An Expressive Future (focal points: art as a universal language, the role of visual and performing arts in effecting change, global vs. local languages, freedom of expression)

* An Inclusive Future (focal points: unity through diversity, inclusion of the economically disadvantaged, learning differences, gender bias in education, sports and other pursuits, non-binary gender issues, barriers for change)

* An Unknown Future (focal points: safe learning spaces, personal security and data security, navigating a world increasingly under surveillance, new directions in science)


Go to Amazon and look for these people.
There'll be tons of books by them that you'll love.

Finally, a couple of interesting notes for you.

* Book Publish Companies
An Educator

Just a couple of small thoughts. Roger Schank and I were discussing (after the first SOT Conference) the possible future of today's schools. Both were against what the schools taught. We thought they should end soon if we can get around the pressures. The Head of a major publishing company in Pakistan was with us and said this is a ridiculous idea. What would her company do? As if we had put up schools to ensure that her company succeeds over what children needed.

She also added that children would get to talk to each other in schools (not that they don't in their mohallās!) … and I though that if they ever did that in the class, the teacher would ask them to shut up, since it "is not a playing field. Break is the time …"

The same night we had a dinner at the host's house where I asked a really senior, fully qualified, educator (who was about to head a University shortly) if he ever needed Pythagora's Theorem in his everyday life — since he thought Roger's idea was stupid. He said "yes; I always do."

This was (not verbatim but almost accurately) his answer: Whenever I come to a triangular patch in a field where I could go straight and then turn right to get to my destination, I think of the Pythagora's Theorem and work out that it would be easier to cross the patch at an angle because it would be shorter. (Hmmm!)

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Āj Mohsin Ehsan bohat yād āé …

Mohsin Ehsan
a very dear friend who is no longer with us.


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Wednesday, July 04, 2018

India? No! Sindh∂is? Yes!

The recent laws in India
Going to India 2 or 3 times a year seemed normal a few years ago, but the recent rules have mede this impossible. Although the new High Commissioner from India has promised that things will get better (good luck to him!), it won't be until laterlaterlater in this year. On the other hand, what happens laterlaterlater is not something all of us can decide now, actually, with the extreme right wing been given the powers to stand up in our elections by a Commission: People are still trying to understand what they are committing to, though many people I have met seem to have very similar ideas about why this is happening.

No point discussing this here, for Democracy does mean differences of opinion, so I will let their opinions stay … but I may try to change them in conversations, though. Democracy, right!!!

The first thing that happened was my 'Indian' niece, Sahar Zaman, who ran a lovely Art Program on TV, is a wonderful Artist and Designer, and runs a News broadcasts on TV, refused to come to Pakistan (for a School of Tomorrow Conference) because she thought it would be dangerous here. The Media in India obviously supports this view, so I could not change her opinion.

(Media here is - er, was - better,
but it's also headed that way, either by choice or by force.)

Months later my niece decided to host a show on her grand-uncle (and my Chacha Jania), playback singer and film actor, Talat Mahmood, in 2 places in India (so far)

Talat Mahmood & Sahar Zaman

I so wanted to go. I called her up to ask for the dates — and she said I shouldn't try to come because of 'various reasons' (I won't mention all of them here, though, but lack of Visas was one of them.)

Jashn-e-Talat Announcement

Her lovely husband, Dhiraj, who is also an Artist, Traveller, and a Designer of the strangest of things that attract a lot of audience, is now holding a Mango Festival in Art and probably has good mango stuff to eat there, too, apart from his delightful Mangoes. I am sure I could have gotten Dassahris, Lang∂ās, Lakhnavva Safaedās, and much more if I went. 

Dhiraj Singh
But a NO is a NO and I can't travel to India again
until some miracle happens.

(Actually that doesn't ever happen!)

Sitting in Karachi hasn't been too bad. I've had delightful Dassahris and Lang∂ās, here, and despite being constantly reminded that its against my Diabetes (it's not!) I eat three mangoes a day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. And my sugar count remains ok.

3 Mangoes a day is fine!
A little digression - but still about mangoes and diabetes: I used to check my blood sugar count every three months, since my father was Diabetic. So I discovered that I was in the beginning of Diabetes. Rushed off to a Diabetic Expert as fast as I could. She told me that I should eat from a list she gave me. There were no Mangoes on that list. I was teaching at Hamdard University, heading a New Media Class, and used to eat Mangoes everyday during our lunch with my Vice Chancellor, Dr. Qazi, who was also a Diabetes patient. (He was a wonderful man who died recently.) The Diabetician told me that if I didn't eat mangoes this year my life would get me 2 more years. Shit! I left her and went back to eating mangoes. Can you imagine 2 more years of life without mangoes?

Dr Qazi - we all miss you!

These days my life is full of delightful Sindh∂is, sent to me first by Umer Khan of Champion Mangoes. And you can even send them to USA.

Umer Khan

This was added to later by
Hana Tariq and Zawwar Taufiq
a piece by Qasim Aslam that started as
The History Project and has now spread much further!

Hana Tariq

Zawwar Taufiq

Finally, a large crate was sent by Marvi Mazhar (from her Mangoes grown in her gaõñ). She's a lovely Architect and loves preserving heritages. She did the CAP's National History Museum in Lahore (Karachi will also take place, some day, IF the Sindh Government[?] agrees …)

After having done so much work in Karachi (take a look at the Cantt Station, folks) and in parts of Sindh. She also runs PCCC, a place worth going to if you are in Karachi. 

Marvi Mazhar

Happy Summer, friends!

… and Peace, forever!

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Dream Fulfilled: Mustafa Zaidi Event at T2F

Mustafa Zaidi Ki Yād Mayñ
Born 1930 Murdered 1970

It was really such a great event. All my dreams came true. For years after MZ's murder (although the courts asked us to consider it a suicide … and, sadly, many people believed it) I have been wanting to do something for his memory. Something that would put the record straight … instead of the idiotically crazy pictures that the press painted for us (and I feel that Jang, a newspaper that actually surpassed the sales of all other dailies in Pakistan, did). Something that would indicate what he was as a poet! He was one of our greatest poets that lived for just 40 years before death engulfed him and left us poorer in poetry.

But it wasn't just that …

It left us all poorer in the love of a man who always told the truth; poorer for a generation that had not even heard of him (thanks to the lack of availability of his books); the bans on his appearing on radio and tv broadcasts; the erasures of his lovely works from those libraries; and the actual poorness of that man's last few years when he didn't even have enough money to phone his family often.

After a ridiculous 303 movement — the removal of maybe many crooks but one that included a lot of decent people who were shunted out by President Yahya Khan (on advice from many who had personal grudges against them). The News says that "Yahya Khan’s military regime had summarily dismissed 303 civil servants and government functionaries, but did not prosecute them." That's not true, really. Blocks were put on MZ by having his passport confiscated and a ban was placed on his travels so that he could not see his family, a family that loved him and he loved so much. 

MZ mentioned this in a poem ("Pahla Pat'thar"). We all loved the poem … but the press refused to print it.

He then went to the two people who were known here as the speakers of freedom … but they, too, thought that it was wrong, so he wrote another poem ("Banaamé Idāraé Lail-o-Nahar"). Always worth listening to on his only audio CD: "The One and Only Mustafa Zaidi" — a collection that I have. It is now available at T2F (or by post in Pakistan if you pay the mailing charges).

Both became poems that the crowd celebrated and repeated to each other. But they were never published. You can read it now in the (almost!) full selection of his külliyāt.

The book is now available everywhere.
Why did I say almost? There were two lines that were omitted in this collection … I have them and can read them out to you if we meet ;)

It was soon after his death that I kept telling Nuzhat (my wife) that it was something we needed to do. The press was unfair. The politics was unfair. The people who read all this were being prejudiced because they neither knew the man … and even if they did, they thought the press must be right about him.

To the world he became the lover of Shahnaz Gul (a one year encounter in 40 years of his life!) …something that his wife, Vera, has to talk about, if she wants to.

How many people who read these posts can look into their own lives and not admit their 'other loves' after marriage. Many, I am sure.  Men and Women. But that's the theme of Hypocrisy. Blame others, not yourselves. One that now seems to pervade everyone … even more by the recently converted religiosity people. The first poem above says that, too, for MZ knew where we were heading.

Years later, when I was heading Enabling Technologies, we decided to do a CD-ROM (Do you remember what those were?). I decided to do one for MZ, first. Sabeen Mahmud loved his poems after I recited them for her and really loved the idea I had for the beginning of the CD-ROM and we decided that it would bring him back to life.

But … with MZ's books missing from the market, and no voices that I could gather other than what I had with me, added to the fact that many parents and others had removed his books from their libraries in case children would know about this mis(represented) man, plus the banning of Mustafa Zaidi's work from Radio and TV, would make for very few people interested in him. So we chose to do 'Faiz - Aaj Kay Naam' as a CD-ROM. There was lots available for Faiz, anyway. And we loved him, too. The Faiz CD-ROM had 16+ hours of amazing works. We hoped we'd do MZ the next time. As events passed we realised that a few kids, who had access to computers, knew nothing of MZ and their parents rarely understood or used computers. Pity.

Finally, back to our event …

The guests at T2F were superb:

Ismat Zaidi, MZ's daughter, who read out and talked about MZ in ways that we never would have known;

Saba Zaidi, Irtiza Ji's daughter (and MZ's niece), who talked of him;

Nusrat Zaidi, a 93-year old cousin who was a close friend of MZ, despite the age difference, talked about his humanity and love;

Nargis Saleem, the daughter of Dr Omar - a very close friend of MZ - who read MZ's letters to her father;

Khalid Ahmad who read out a few poems of MZ;

Our wonderful poet, Iftikhar Arif, who spoke for long and had so many wonderful things to say about MZ and our own lives in general (a person who is always worth listening to);

… and the moderator, Asif Aslam Farrukhi, who handled the occasion brilliantly. I am glad that he is on T2F's list as an advisor.

If you missed the programme (it was broadcast LIVE and will be on YouTube, too), here it is for you again.

One of the T-Shirts that I was wearing (now available at T2F and can be mailed out to anywhere in Pakistan, if you are willing to add the mailing price on it) had this shayr on it.

I knew there'd be an objection and a person in the audience did raise it. He said the shayr was wrong. There was no kahēñ but it was koē. I pointed out that MZ had written koē, but a young college boy went up to him and said that the word, Kahkashāñ, was meant for Milky Way and not Galaxies. We all knew that was the galaxy we could see with the naked eye (and still can, if the annoying lights that hide all the stars in the city don't block out the sky at night). In fact we never had a word for galaxies in Urdu (now we do: we say گیلکسی ) … so MZ agreed and changed it to koē. He wrote that to the publisher when the work was going to be printed in his book and the publisher added kahēñ to the book … but forgot to correct it in the preface that was written. So now we have both available, with the correct one in the poem and the original in the preface. Take your pick. I'll stay with new one.

We have had many people writing to us about the live broadcast. Some who missed it are waiting for it to go on YouTube.

Naseer Turabi (whom Saba and I contacted and got no response from him) was a very close friend of MZ. Now he says we wish he had been contacted. We did, NT! Several times. And would have loved you to be there. Don't worry we'll do another one next year on him and you'll be there, we hope.

We sadly missed Tina Sani who was supposed to come and sing a piece or two of MZ's poems … but she was extremely busy on that day and forgot. You'll be on the next programme, too, Tina!

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Iqbal Ismail Calcuttawala

6th January 1940 — 19th December 2017

Iqbal always referred to himself as Iqi,
while I, like his other friends, called him Icky.

In this post I'll call him Iqbal throughout.

About the beginnings of our friendship

Abdul Razzak Marfani

Abdul Razzak Marfani, whom I had met in 1951 and who remained a great friend until his death, took me to his older friend, Ismail Haji Suleman, to listen to classical music. After that I used to go to Ismail Sahab very often (he lived not too far from my house), and one day I met Iqbal there.

I asked him why he was there, knowing that he had never discussed music with me (I had and have a large collection of music with me). He asked me why I was there. I said Ismail Sahab loved music. He said you know him? I said yes. "Well", said Iqbal, "he's my father."

I had known Iqbal since 1952 since a comic-vaala (Noor Miāñ), who travelled all over Karachi on his bicycle, loaded with comics and books, used to bring comics for Iqbal and me and saw us both at sweet shop in Soldier Bazaar and introduced us. We became friends and Iqbal used to come to my house frequently after that to exchange comics with me … and I'd go to his Māmoooñ's house where he lived with his uncles, Aziz and Jahangir, in a series of houses where his other uncles lived.

By the way a US$ was Re. 1, then,
(yes, just Re. 1)  and is Rs. 112 now.

In 1953 I joined St. Pat's and found Iqbal to be my classmate there. He and I became even closer friends. We were serious competitors in our Math classes where either he or I came first in every test. He loved Literature, too, and we bought books from the Comic-Vaala who was now carrying some classics and the Mad Comic (which later became Mad Magazine).

His house where Munchi, Anwar, Joe, Rahat, and I visited often had windows everywhere. All the outside walls had windows, but not like you normally get. There was almost a foot or more between them and another window appeared. And that was not all. Every room had windows, You could see from the rooms into the areas in the foyer, the table-tennis table room, or another place. And even that was not all. You could see between rooms, too, for there were windows there also. We always called it The Windows House and insisted that it was the windows that had been put together with bits of concrete to make it stand up and look like a house.

Iqbal didn't like Indian Classical Music at all and, though his father told me to get him interested, he never got into it — except that he fell in love with V G Jog's LP and had me get a copy for him from London, though I doubt if he ever played it, coz I don't remember a record player at his house. Perhaps he gave it his elder māmooñ who had a tremendous collection of music at his house.

Purchased in London after concert of Jog Sahab

Iqbal was a tremendous friend and it would take years to fill these pages with numerous stories that I would like to write about, but here are just a few …

The most important one was this!

Iqbal got his first car from his father. It was an Opel Rekord, (I can't remember the exact year but it was late 59-60), and he had a driver teaching him to drive. He drove it to my house and we went out for a ride and reached Old Clifton (where that lovely little Church was). I said I wanted to learn to drive, too, so he got into the passenger seat and I was given some instructions and I went around once and was coming back when I saw a bus parked there. Why did I accelerate? I don't know. Iqbal insisted to our friends that I was relaxing and had my feet crossed! However, I hit the bus really hard and its petrol shot out and people got out. The car was a total wreck. And it wasn't yet insured. And Iqbal had no driving license, either.

The Police came and arrested us and took us to the Thaana where Iqbal called his father's friend and i called an elder cousin of mine. They soon arrived. My cousin knew the Police IG and phoned him up. Iqbal's father's friend (who hadn't informed The father yet) also came with money. He paid the Bus Driver and the Policemen at the Thaana. To answer their question about who was driving, I said I was. Iqbal said to me not to take the blame for him since he was driving. No one really found out about it for months (except our school friends who were told the whole story and asked to shut up about it). Iqball's father only knew that Iqbal was driving and didn't ask us to pay — a great gift by Iqbal, for my father would not have been able to pay back a single paisa from his really poor life.

Oh, one other thing that I must mention. I had a fracture in my left shoulder and was taken to Dr. Habib Patel's Clinic where he joined it an put figure-of-eight bandages on it. A month later I was X-Ray'd and the bone had become slightly crooked in joining. Dr. Patel thought it would be easy to break it, much to my dismay. He broke it again and rejoined it. A month later I had another X-Ray session and the bone was now in a slightly S-shape. Still gives me pain on really cold nights.

One problem (and one that also persist till now) is that my left hand never got its strength back and I can't really hold on to things that I can with my right hand. However, it was time to celebrate. My friends and I, along with Iqbal , went to Bohri Bazaar to the famous Lassi/Halvah shop. Iqbal said he was buying cigarettes and came in much later. In the meanwhile we ordered our stuff and as the waiter delivered it I reached out with my left hand and took the halvah. Obviously, I couldn't hold it and it fell on the seat next to mine. The plate was lifted and the waiter went to get a cloth to wipe the stain — when Iqbal arrived and decided to sit on it. We all said don't sit there but he thought we were joking and sat on it. And didn't budge, while we all looked at each other and said Iqbal, there's halvah there — but no reaction happened. When we got out of the restaurant (dhaaba?) and headed back to the car, the driver said to Iqbal 'Āp kay patloon mayñ kyā hüā haé', he put his hand behind his back and shouted at all of us saying why did we make it sound like a joke?

One thing that I told his family while we were talking about Iqbal's life with us - and no one knew about it at all - was that he was looking after a Glue Factory in Hyderabad (Sindh). It belonged to his uncle or father, I don't remember now. And he was supposed to go and see it, often. So the trip was something we did two or three times. At one point, on the way back, the car overturned and overturned again and became straight, but on the side of the road. Everyone of us thought: I am alive but every one else must be dead! But no! Everyone came out of the car and hugged each other. We all helped and lifted the car slightly to face the road. Got into the car and drove off, with everything working. Wow!

There are so many things think of now. The class picnics; going out to Churches for Christmas and New Year's Masses; the parties - clean ones at his house but not so clean at Munchie's house (where drinks were served, too — but I didn't ever see Iqbal drinking until I saw in his book (mentioned next) that he did drink on one occasion in 1974, when his grandmother had died and he went into a pub and drank himself hoarse). He was a very straight Muslim who didn't think that killing anyone was anything but a bad idea! He was entirely anti-violence and loved Peace. His friends, like our classmates - for example - Eric Lobo, Kaikashru Baria, Louis D'Cruz, Shankar Khilnani, and many others were products of mixed marriages, Parsis, Christians, Hindus, and more.

When Iqbal was about to get married to Nasim he took me to the airport. In those days you could go up and watch passengers coming down from the craft, eat at a lovely restaurant there, and even walk up and meet the passengers coming off by walking almost to the plane. So I saw her with him and then we got home. He was the first one to get married and Nasim & Iqbal met very frequently, with him driving all the way to Iqbal Town, where I lived. We would go everywhere at night, eating food or just driving around.

After I git married they came regularly when UI was home from my Merchant Navy trips (with Nuzhat). One of the first thing that happened was that we went out to eat Gol Gappas at Napier Road — known those days as the whore-hub of Karachi, until the Government banned it and the women moved into the best laid (no pun intended) places in Karachi! My wife who had never heard of Napier Road or its environment thought it was such a marvellous place: Lights up at all houses; people sitting on the floor as you could see through opening doors; all well-dressed. She said it was lovely to see so many Melāds going on and we told  her what it really was. Iqbal and I laughed like crazy that time.

One night we went to a place called Askar's Pono. The name seemed strange. We ordered food and asked the waiter to find out what Pono meant. He should come back with the food and the answer. We waited for a while and then we decided to move away, thinking the guy had not found out. Years later we walked into another restaurant called Taktiya Tikka Shop. Taktiya seemed a strange name so we asked the waiter what it meant. Lo and behold, it was the same waiter from Askar's Pono and he asked us if we were going to run away again!

Iqbal was the first in his family to have decided to leave business and go back to teaching, a job that he loved and never considered it a job. He wrote in Newspapers and Magazines. He talked of Finance - his pet subject - but also several other things. He wrote a book that must be read, specially if interested in the Bantva Memon family and its businesses. It's filled with wonderful stories that not many are familiar with. Well worth a read - considering that I am not a businessman but enjoyed it thoroughly

Excellent reading. If you can't find it, come to T2F.
There is a copy that you can read there.

In his Chapter 8 (My Story - 1947 Onwards) there is a whole page about my parents and me. My father and mother treated Iqbal and some of my other friends like they treated me - so I was always with 'siblings', though I really had none.

This was what he wrote on the book
that he gave to me.

Bye, Iqbal.

Nuzhat, Ragni, and I will miss you a lot.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

What a lovely evening …

Shaikh Ahmad Ali Shaoq Kidvai

Yesterday (16th December 2017) my evening was spent at the Arts Council where two of my Great Grandfather's brother's books were re-launched. Shaoq Kidvai was a major poet in his time and had many students, including one that, after his death, became my Great Grandfather's student: Üstād Qamar Jalalvi, whom we all loved. (A CD of Qamar Sahab's selected works is available at T2F.)

About the two books, I am thrilled that Ahmad Qidwai Bhai - a cousin of mine who is Shaoq Sahab's great grandson (as is his wife, Dr Ismat, who is Shaoq Sahab's great grand daughter) - did this colossal work, along with his cousins, and brought out one of Lucknow's finest poets back into the limelight. One book is composed of his 'Ghazals', and the other is 'Masnaviāt, Müsaddas, and Tavēl Nazmayñ'.

Among the works is Ālamé Khayāl. The foreword was written by my grandmother in 1925, when she was 39. It is a remarkable document and women (as well as men, of course) should read it. The book is written in a women's form of writing (Yes, they were not allowed to use certain men's styles!) and talks of the desires that women have — but were never allowed to express them. (You can read how I found the original book by going here.)

His Musaddasé Laél-o-Nahār is a great piece and talks about Muslims and their problems. Though not well-known like Hali's Musaddas it shares many thoughts and, according to Ahmad Bhai, it should be called Musaddasé Badhāli.

A long nazm Science & Religion (aka Ilmé Tabē'yāt aor Mazhab) is at the end of the book. It has many footnotes that show the poet's understanding of Science, at least at those times. Think of a poet who died in 1925 writing this. Truly amazing work.

You can buy the books by calling up +92-51-5159800 — and the money that you spend on the books will all be given to Nori Patients Welfare Society in Islamabad (+92-51-285-3926)) where the team runs a FREE surgery ward for Cancer Patients. 

(Listening yesterday to Rukhsana Saba, Iftikhar Arif, and Ahmad Qidwai was a wonderful experience. Plus the promise by Iftikhar to come over next time and have a long conversation at home about his days in Lucknow was a lovely idea and we are anxiously looking forward to it.)

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Thanks for the Music, iPod …

… but they are gone, now!


Released on October 23, 2001, just eight and a half months after iTunes came out on the Mac, I bought this at the end of November, 2001. What a delightful piece (and still my favourite iPod).

I soon got one for Nuzhat and she listens to it everyday at her work and travel. And its always carried by her in her old Altoids box.

Both iPods still work!
Of course! They are Apple Products, so obviously they work.


In a few years the iPods changed a bit in style and form … and, eventually, they got Screens. We could view and choose from lists of things we could put on them. By the way, they arrived with Apple Covers and Labels.

As I bought my 2nd and 3rd iPods almost as soon as they came out I could use them on different days with my Apple Speakers that are amazing. Sitting on a side table in our Dining Room, the air is filled with music all the time. The 2nd iPod (playing in the picture) has Eastern Music; the 3rd iPod has Western Music.

The last iPod I bought and gave to my wife was the little one … and she will use it some day. Heheh. Well, she does, on a couple of days - but mainly its her first iPod that's heard by her all the time. 
My own first iPod was used for my morning walks. When I got my Pacemaker fitted I was told that I could not have the speakers in my ear and would need to have Bluetooth or ELS stuff. So I did buy 3 Bluetooth headphones.

One for Travel on long flights. The Naztech one has 30 hours of running time on it, so it works on my US Flights. And back.

One more that stays on my Treadmill at home.

And an Earbud that I use at work.


Of course the old iPod has no Bluetooth! But I added a little gadget to it and it works with any one of my Bluetooth Headphones. Isn't life wonderful.


Thanks, Apple.
We all knew the iPods had to go at some point.


Oh. Just one more thing :)
Here's a quote from my Facebook post when SJ died.

When engineers working on the very first iPod completed the prototype, they presented their work to Steve Jobs for his approval. Jobs played with the device, scrutinized it, weighed it in his hands, and promptly rejected it. It was too big.

The engineers explained that they had to reinvent inventing to create the iPod, and that it was simply impossible to make it any smaller.

Jobs was quiet for a moment. Finally he stood, walked over to an aquarium, and dropped the iPod in the tank. After it touched bottom, bubbles floated to the top.

 "Those are air bubbles," he snapped. "That means there's space in there. Make it smaller."

[Steve Jobs, we loved your insights and your involvement in design … and the perfection you brought to the world.]


And when one is talking about Music:

The STAX Electronic Headphone I bought in 1982 when I was in Hong Kong. Expensive (USD $1000) but brilliant. They are 35 years old and work beautifully. Generally attached to my HiFi system, they also attach to my iMac and, occasionally, to my Zoom Recorder for live recordings, I adore it.

Electronic Speakers are a must! Mine are Quad ESLand they have no standard speakers in them. They just have a stretch of a flat substance inside that is powered by electrics through a plug. The substance stays flat until the sound vibrates it and it moves forward and backwards, producing the cleanest sound possible. They were brought in Hong Kong in 1984 while I was there and shipped with my (late) friend Jalal Akbar's luggage when he came to Pakistan.

Take a look at how thin they are …

There is no added heavy Bass, so many Pop listeners don't use these … but for many people who listen to Classical and Pop, they do want to add Bass. Mordaunt Short makes a set-up with Quad's Speakers and their own Woofer added to it. A friend of mine has them and they do sound brilliant. Specially if you love the Bass.

I am an Analogue lover (oh I do have CDs, too) so my LPs and Tapes sound remarkable through my set-up. Specially my Reel-to-Reels, recorded on a Revox A77.
I had to spend my last £150 in 1971 (on my first trip on the ship with my wife, Nuzhat) to buy this at Imhofs in London. That makes it 46 years old. And what a piece of art and sound it is. Still used, if we have a classical session at home.

But I do add a Zoom H4
so that I can make CDs for T2F.

And all said and done, the Zoom is remarkably good,
specially with its wonderful microphones.


I listen to Western Classical, Opera, Jazz, Many Vocals, Eastern Shüdh Classical, Qavvāli, Some Pops from East and West, and tons of Spoken Word - much of which I have recorded (including Müshāérahs). Not too fond of heavy bass, I am fine with my Quad ESLs. But you've got to send good clean sound to them.

Since all my music is listened to on a Flat Setting (not in the way my photos below show, where I wanted you to see the Controls they have), my Quad Pre-Amp and Amp are the best bets. I have had their first product which has inputs for different forms of 78s, as well. Great for my large collection of 78s dating back to the First World War PLUS a few of much older classical pieces.

They started with a Pre-Amp called Acoustical

and eventually moved on to the Quad 33 that could play LPs, 45s, 78s, Reel-to-Reel Tape Formats and Cassettes … with controls that filtered the sounds to a T! Naturally I bought the 33.

But the PreAmps need an Amplifier, so the Quad 303was a must. It stayed for many, many years with me but it died during a Pakistani Electrical Whoooof … and no one could repair it here.

Sad to see you go, 303 :(


But Quad had a new Amp out, so I bought it; The Quad 306.

Sitting between my favourite Classical Composers.


The old Quad ESLs do exceedingly well. In any case, as old age approaches, my ears aren't as good as they were once … so no change of speakers would be welcome, now, anyway :)

Bye, guys. I have to go back and listen to Sant Andreu Jazz Band on my CD. Although I have a load of LPs that I listen to — and they are a lot better than CDs, anyway — I have stopped buying them. They disappeared and have now come back, but not sold here (and are far too expensive abroad).


Incidentally, Cassette Tapes are back, too. And a good Cassette Player beats the CDs, too. However, while finding the right piece and turning the tape over has been made easier, the best player is an expensive piece and you'll have to wait until more Cassette Tapes are released. But if you've got a large selection of Cassettes in your house, go for it. And get one that turns them into CDs or MP3s as well.


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