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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yesterday (Oct 23, '07)

First came the shockingly sad news that a dear friend and poet, Fehmida Riaz, known most for her feminist poetry and activism, learnt just yesterday of the death of her 29-year old son in the USA . Young Kabir had drowned 3 weeks ago - on October 7th - while swimming. His friend, despite trying hard, was unable to pull him back from the strong current. The process of tracing his next of kin in Pakistan was circuitous and strange. But does that matter anymore?

Ever since the news of Kabir's death, these (unconnected) lines have been going through my mind:

A son of this land, Laid long ago to rest, Wakens now, To bring you peace.

Listen to Kabir, Who pleads with you: Wars of hatred Do no honour to God. Ram and Rahim both Will shun a loveless land.

Fehmida Riaz - Translated by Salman Kureishi

I was informed by Ajmal Kamal, who also told me that Fehmida was leaving for the USA at night. Since my wife, Nuzhat, was returning from Lahore at 8 PM I decided to wait for her and make the condolence visit together. Next, at 7.30 I heard my daughter speak to Nuzhat on her cellphone. Strange, I thought. The plane could not have landed 30 minutes early. I was informed that the plane had been diverted to Faisalabad and she was just getting off the plane but had no idea why this had been done. A steward had said the pilot had received instructions from airlines. Many other passengers called their homes, too, only to be greeted by excited and worried family members wanting to know if everything was ok. Everyone, other than Ragni & I, it seems, had been watching TV tickers running and claiming PK305 suspected of having a bomb on board! How discreet! It would have been best to announce- once the plane had landed - that the flight had made it safely to Faisalabad after being suspected of having a bomb aboard. Imagine the panic in the hearts of the viewers who had loved ones aboard. As is usual in such cases, the PIA Staff (inspired by the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock, I think) maintained the suspense throughout, even after landing - though passengers did see the ticker tape on the TV sets as they were being escorted to the lounge. Only one young steward, we learnt later, was kind enough to say to an old lady passenger on the plane a few minutes before landing, when she asked why they were being diverted: "J-j-j-ust recite the K-k-kalima and p-pray that we land s-s-safely!" We all heaved a sigh of relief when the flight finally took off and arrived at Karachi airport at 00:20 ... but tthe sole, confused-looking PTV cameraman didn't have much luck (at last as long as I was there) when none of the tired and sleepy passengers seemed interested in talking into the microphone he kept hesitantly shoving into their faces. But one must not bad-mouth PIA. They are consistent in their ways. Especially when it comes to flight delay situations. And yesterday, too, they made sure that during their 4 hour delay they did not break their prime rule for such emergencies: "Say nothing. Feed no one!"



Blogger Quizman said...

Reminds me of the old joke in the subcon about how the abbreviations of Air India (AI) and PIA were arrived at, based on their safety record.

PIA = Please Inform Allah
AI = Allah Informed

26 October, 2007 22:27

Blogger cheesoo said...

i have had the pleasure of hearing fehmida riaz read, and am a great fan of her work. this is sad news indeed.

02 November, 2007 10:48


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