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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ups & Downs - Part 2 - Mainly Lahore and Back (twice!)

Note: This is Part 2 of a long and personal posting so it may not interest many of you. But I am doing it as a form of catharsis.

[The last post ended with this: Before we took off, Ghazala and I bumped into Unaizah, a wonderful kid we both first got to know via Qavvaalis and, later, I met (and became very fond of) through Insiya and her parents who have family ties with Una. She and her young hubby were travelling together. For them, the flight would soon take on a whole different meaning.]

The flight to Lahore was not too eventful (except for the screaming child in the seat ahead who, yet again, made me wish Birth Control could be retroactive!) until we were 10 minutes away from landing. The announcement caught us by total surprise! Weather in Lahore had made it impossible for us to land and we were being sent back to Karachi. Islamabad weather, we were told, was just as bad and no airport close-by could take such a large aircraft. Damn.

The only thing that brought a smile to my lips was the barjastah recital of a suitable Faiz line by the very young man who had been sitting to my right, in fashionably tattered jeans. Always excited at meeting young people who still have links to their heritage, I started talking to him just when the young sarangi wizard, Murad, appeared and said I was being called by Ghazala (who was sitting with Shubha and company on the upper deck). As Murad turned, the young man - whom I later got to know as First Class cricketer Agha Sabir (with a passion and confidence in whatever he does that all the young should have) - said, "Isn't he the person who accompanies Shubha Ji?". This floored me. A rare treat, indeed, to meet someone in that age group who is aware of such things. When I told him that Shubha was on the flight and, yes, I knew her, he requested me to let him have a photo taken with her. "When it rains", he told me, "our house is filled with her songs". I hope their house infects the ones close to them; Karachi could do with more such homes.

{Later, in the lounge - I know I am jumping the gun a bit, but it won't do any harm to the main narrative - I called him over (he had been standing at a distance, not willing "to intrude upon friends talking to each other") and arranged his photo-op. He thanked her profusely, disappeared and returned with a box of chocolates that he shyly handed over to Shubha and slunk away. The next day he phoned me (we had exchanged cards) and thanked me for being so helpful. This, Mr. Lahori Businessman, is Pakistani culture AND decent upbringing!!! }

Back to the chronological events: The flight delay had ruined our plans. We had all been looking forward to an evening at Coocoo's or Food Street. The rains and the aankh-micholi that the bijli would now play was sure to prevent this even if we did go back soon. We were were full of disappointment and confusion. Shubha and company were of the view that they should cancel their Lahore trip and take off for Delhi the next morning from Karachi.

When the plane landed, as is the usual method in PIA, no one was willing to keep the passengers updated. Even an announcement saying that a decision would be taken in a few minutes and could we relax would have made us feel better and stopped many from getting up and opening hatracks and pulling their luggage down. Adding to the confusion were passengers spreading different stories, which they received from the various stewardesses and stewards whom they cornered and who, in turn, rather than admitting that they did not yet know, spun a quick yarn to be able to get away from the passengers. Soon we were told that only those pasengers who had no baggage in the hold and wished to stay back in Karachi could disembark. The rest were to wait while the plane refuelled and made another attempt to go to Lahore, since the weather had improved there.

As I sat, I saw Una in the aisle, looking around with a worried face. She caught my eye and signalled for me to come to her and her husband. I thought they were going to ask for my opinion in order to make a decision about disembarking or staying aboard. When I got to her, she told me - almost inaudibly - that she had called up Lahore on her cellphone to tell them of the flight change and had been informed that her mother had just expired in Lahore, the body was being flown back, and she wanted to get out.

Nothing prepares one for such situations. Perhaps she felt that, as an older person, I'd be able to do something. But what does one say or do? I ran to tell the hostess the problem and get her to let Una out. ASAP. But, in any case, the doors had opened and the young couple rushed out. I sat, dazed, thinking of Tayyaba, Una's mother, a truly wonderful, gushing and warm person whom we had become close to fairly quickly. She had gone to attend her nephew's wedding and, at an age with which death is not usually asociated, she was suddenly no more! No warning! (And, as I learnt later, at the Soyem, wrong diagnosis. As a diabetic, she had a massive silent heart attack .. and no one at the hospital she was taken to diagnosed it until many hours later, when it was too late.)

Almost 20 minutes later we were told that everyone had to proceed to the Transit Lounge and await the next announcement. I was horrified, as I entered the lounge, to see Una still sitting there in tears. She and her husband were not being allowed out because the security guys needed to see the couple's airtickets stamped by PIA and the airline didn't have the stamp with them and had sent for it from some other department. I lost it! While I ranted and raved at the desk about how Una must be feeling and that their inefficiency was no reason to penalize her in her state, a government official of sorts overheard the story and told the desk guy to forget the stamp and just get someone from PIA to accompany her out. Someone immediately did ... and I hope Una was out quickly.

On entering the Lounge we were handed little green cards that many passengers thought were coupons for beverages to be consumed while waiting. So there was a rush to the refreshments counter and loud arguments on learning that they were not entitled to anything unless the delay was fairly long. Don't know what long means ... it certainly seemed long to those who wanted a beverage. Smokers, of course, could not wait and are above the law in this country. They smoked everywhere and one threesome looked around proudly, feeling especially cool and having their photos taken with mobile-phones while they smoked leaning against pillars with 'No Smoking' signs. Officials from airlines and CAA passed by with no effort at directing them to a designated area.

At some point we headed back to Lahore where we were driven by Najji to her house - a home where hospitality is king! - and where, like nowhere else, do I resent my having developed Diabetes! Waiting for us (well, not for me, I guess) were Shahid Sajjad, Salima & Shoaib Hashmi, and a couple of other friends. Going out was, as expected, OUT! But, an elaborate meal (with REAL Chapli Kababs from Dir!) was followed by a long night of fun. The visiting team kept us in stitches with their impersonations of singers and even dancers(!) ... and we left to rest.

I stayed with the Hashmis, from where I phoned Ragni who seemed to be feeling much better. I managed to check my mail and re-read her amazing letter from the cyber café again. The fear that there might be complications was heightened by her description of the accident, despite her wonderfully humourous approach to the whole thing --- Here's a kiss for your bravery and resilience, Ragni! --- and the subsequent way in which it was (mis)handled until the pain got worse and she saw a doctor.

Later in the day Nuzhat arrived. We spent the evening with our visiting friends and then all of us went off to Salimas, where a musical performance had been arranged, with Lahore's glitterati of stars in attendance: Naheed Siddiqui and Arifa Siddiqui, with her Ustaad-Husband Nazar Husain sahab, the last of our Sarod players, among them. I would have mentioned the father and son duo who turned up, but their poor and uncouth behaviour left me too disgusted to stain my blog with their names.

Back home (I had shifted from Salima's to my usual haunt) I slept badly - having been unable to contact Ragni. Woke up at 4 AM to check mail and see if there was an update ... and, yayyyyy! ... the report, which Professor Hayden had kindly sent on as soon as she had received it, showed that there was no fracture! Does one need to describe my joy? She has to wear a neck brace for 2 weeks, can start walking, going to classes from Monday, stay straight, and not pick up any weights. Of course there will be constant monitoring. But, heyyy ... the first news had nearly killed us!

The next day we saw Shubha, Aneesh, Sudhir, and Murad off in an emotional farewell. But not before Najji had served a breakfast that was as lavish as it gets. Superb quality and enough, in quantity, to have served 3 times the number present. This was followed by a visitor who also invited Shubha to return to Pakistan and perform in Lahore - and to not do so in Karachi! (I wonder if she's related to Mr. Businessman ... since this was certainly not an example of Lahore's usual hospitality.) I am sure that, despite some rather odd experiences they had with a couple of our musicians, they enjoyed their trip as much as we did theirs. Of course we had the further advantage of hearing them perform.

The evening was spent at BNU, where I presented the Faiz project to a small group. Professor Gulzar Haider, the Dean of the Architecture School, someone I respect immensely and have gotten to know very recently (he has just returned after many years in Canada), embarrassed me with an extremely generous but uncommon introduction that modesty prevents sharing with you.

But the week's ups and downs, smiles and tears, were far from over. Sabeen phoned and gave me the shocking news that a friend (and also the husband of a friend), had been found dead. The worse was to be revealed when the papers splashed it all over: He had shot himself!

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7 Comments:

Blogger insiya said...

who could've thought between the smiles and the songs on the 23rd at your house... that we'd have to see much sadness and many tears in the days that followed...

love, hugs, kisses: for ragni, yourself and aunty.

i hope to see you soon...

02 April, 2006 10:52

 
Blogger Xeb said...

Ouch! Its been one hell of a weekend for you!

06 April, 2006 10:45

 
Anonymous hira said...

dear zak,
i stumbled across your blog today (and i'm glad i did). i don't know if you remember me, we last met close to two years ago at your house. i'm hira, ragni's friend from lahore. i was in khi. recently to attend the wsf, was hoping i'd run into ummi and you there. ragoo later told me you were in lahore the whole time. hope you and ummi are well, and happy.
much love,
hira.

12 April, 2006 00:32

 
Blogger Napoleon blown apart said...

A most richly textured blog . As always…. :-)

What a strange coincidence of experiencing some of these highs and
lows in just matter of a few hours….. Some times life lets you be
taught in strange ways ….my heartfelt condolence to unaiza……nothing
replaces that grief except time I guess.

15 April, 2006 09:19

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As somebody who cares deeply for Inayat Ismail and his family I strongly suggest you remove your comments regarding the details of his death.

You may be a friend of Salima Hashmi's but you are certainly no friend of the family.

You have the right to publish what you want on your shitty little blog but definatley not at the expense of people's feelings and sentiments.



You have been told.

10 September, 2007 18:37

 
Blogger Zakintosh said...

Dear Anonymous

I was a friend of the deceased and a classmate (from school) of one of his brothers. Inayat and I mutually respected each other and enjoyed each other's company. There was no intention of hurting anyone's feelings via this post. I certainly would not have mentioned the way he died (and I gave no 'details' - as you accuse me of doing), had it not become common knowledge because of being in the papers.

That aside, since you are obviously also a friend and have found it offensive or painful, I would find it pointless to argue the point. I genuinely offer my apologies if the piece disturbed you.

I have now removed the reference and suggest you delete your comment, which - unfortunately - contains his name.

10 September, 2007 22:48

 
Anonymous the olive ream said...

@anonymous,
No matter how deeply you care for someone, there's no call for being so utterly rude. Great impression you've left for others with your words.

By the way, it is still ZAK's blog. He can write as and what he wishes. ZAK's a true gentlemen for obliging to your suggestion, even though you do not qualify who you actually are by hiding behind the 'anonymous' title.

And what is this nonsense about "you have been told"? What are you going to do? Regurgitate some more B-grade hollywood film dialogues?

Next time, learn to be tactful in your choice of words...or else leave your "shitty" comments to yourself.

12 September, 2007 22:05

 

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