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Monday, May 31, 2010


Today at Karachi Press Club

Against the massacres in Lahore

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What IS the matter?

It was facebook that had us worried just a little over a week ago. Then came anything between 600-1000 sites that were also blocked. Sabeen, Awab, Abid, and myself, went into the KPC to lodge a protest about why we think the 'internet multiple ban' was stupid and - when necessary - the pages that carried information that was causing the protest should have been banned. There we faced enough protests and had to run out or move away.

How badly a press, about whose freedom we had all fought, had turned us away.

On Tammy Haq's TV show the ban was being discussed. One of the guests was JI's Mairaj-ul-Huda — an out and out liar who insisted that no crimes had ever been committed in the Danish Cartoon protests, when all of us remembered the Lahore scenes.

Amazing how a self-proclaimed guardian of truth could speak such lies … and with a straight face.

Then came Friday. Lahore burst into flames. Ahmedis were murdered in cold blood. The police whizzed around but did little. The two people who were eventually caught by two Ahmedi boys - who held them down for 30 minutes - and were given over to the policemen who came in. The police fired shots in the air to say that they'd won. Won? 93 dead, 110 injured … and you've won?

Not a soul from the government, politicians, leaders, celebrities, sportsmen - no one really -  could find the time to call up the victims, the children, the families, and offer them sympathy. 

Then came Sunday. We woke up to the news that Israelis had bombed/ raided the ships heading out with food and medicine equipment to Gaza. Talat Hussain of Aaj TV was one of the 40-50 members on the ship that was hit. We wait for him, now, to come back and tell us more about it.

The Israelis did have a spokesman on the news channels. He said the crowd (that had Al Qaeda support!!!) had opened fire. You climb their ship in open seas and they raise white flags. You say they opened fire?

Time to go to bed, tonight…

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

the day after

bullets … attack… mosque … those were the three things i got from a call from lahore ...

i switched on the tv. it was too near the jum'a prayers and my heart caved in. how many would they get today?

from the moment i switched the tv and flipped through channels all i got was the unfolding horror of what was happening. bullets. blow-ups. crackers. noise. police trying to get in and seemingly unable to do anything. and the voice of anchors being able to tell us that two 'worshipful places of a minority community' had been hit.

of course. you couldn't say mosques or anything resembling that. it was supposed to be against the law. you couldn't say - moments later, as the figures started coming through - 4 shaheeds. they were ahmadis. anchors were moving slowly from 'prayers' to 'worshipping', wondering if saying shaheed was against the law.

it took us almost 4 hours of looking at the screens to see how badly the 'places of worship' had been hit. and then the rushes of seeing the injured sent to hospital, the bodies sent to morgues or clinics.

was there anyone who was going to say something? would the government say anything? ok … the laws may prevent them from going to the janazas when they take place, but what about offering the widows, the children, the aggrieved some word of solace, some sympathy?

not yesterday.
not today.

oh, cm shahbaz had a quick piece on tv about his getting reports that night to tell him what happened ... but did he say anything to make the victims feel better? no.

there were others, too, who later on went on to the tv and the print media to say it was raw, zionists, americans, jews, afghanis — anything but pakistanis. we never do anything like this, do we?

it was one of the worst days of my life. we've been through tortuous days before ... but, this time, i knew that we were not going to get the kind of anger that we hear. we were not going to get the crowds ranting and raving. after all, they were non-muslims — which is bad, itself. but, to top it all, they were ahmadis. what a way to exist …

the evening came and went. i had to go to a blogger awards meeting. all evening i sat there, looking at 'tweetie' on my phone to see what was happening. death tolls climbed up. [today i read that it's more than 93 who have died. over a 110 have been injured.]

life got worse as i discovered about the deaths of a couple of people. we also heard of a friend's father and uncle having just missed the bullets. they were now out, running from one place to another, arranging for dead bodies to be wrapped up, friends informed.
this was not enough: coming back home i received a message that was from someone whose father had 'suggested' that she should commit suicide. yes! [don't get me wrong. it's a really weird family.] she was feeling depressed. i sent her a message and she soon came back with a zillion things, a lot of which were fairly meaningless and ridiculous to me. but i think i helped her, despite her anger: she did get out of the suicide mood. the fear of living with a family like that is awful.
went into bed. thinking. crying a bit. the ahmadis need a place to live safely. in this country. their being non-muslim is a matter that the court has decided — so that is ok, in 'legal' terms, until someone alters that. but for them to be hounded out of everything. for them not to say 'salaam alaéküm', or use the standard symbols that have become part of our lives ('insha allah', for example) that even our hindu-christian-parsi friends use, for them never to read the qurán or pray in public ... there are a million such things.

i fell asleep and woke up frequently at night: what else one can do to help them. is there a way? is there any way that the useless parts of these laws can be revised if not completely removed? can there be any way that the stupid passport forms don't ask us to write obscenely strange stuff about them? the taliban might tell them to leave pakistan or be killed, and sms messages jump up about their deaths ... is there no way we can tell them to stay here and be [at least] as happy as the rest of the minorities?

today there was much to read: there is tazeen's beautiful post: we all have blood on our hands

and there are others. some that i read:
we are all ahmadi
our collective shame
targeting the ahmadis  
are all pakistanis equal
maén baaghi hooñ
original sin

On monday, 31st may, there will be a call for a rally at the karachi press club. if you are here, hope you'll get to kpc and help us tell them — and many others — that there are people who care.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

What a star you were, MG!


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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A poem I love …

A poem by Elizabeth Bishop that I adore.
I realized that it needed to be shared with a few friends today.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


I had kept it marked in my Poetry Speaks book in the hope of 'never having to put it on' … but after this morning it seemed that, like her poem - written when her friend had committed suicide - this had to be put on the blog.

The picture I 'manufactured' to go with it is not possible to put on now ... but it makes no difference.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne

“My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.” - Ms Lena Horne

The first black performer to be signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio and who went on to achieve international fame as a singer, died on Sunday night, aged 92.

The person she always credited as her main influence was not another singer but a pianist and composer, Duke Ellington's longtime associate, Billy Strayhorn. “I wasn’t born a singer,” she told Strayhorn’s biographer, David Hajdu. “I had to learn a lot. Billy rehearsed me. He stretched me vocally … and taught me the basics of music, because I didn’t know anything.” Strayhorn was also, she said, “the only man I ever loved,” but Strayhorn was openly gay, and their close friendship never became a romance. “He was just everything that I wanted in a man,” she said, “except he wasn’t interested in me sexually.”

Blacks, in those days, were not allowed to live in Hollywood, so Felix Young, a white man, signed for the house as if he was going to rent it. “When the neighbors found out, Humphery Bogart who lived right across the street from me, raised hell with them for passing around a petition to get rid of me.” Bogart, she said, “sent word over to the house that if anybody bothered me, please let him know.”

“The whole thing that made me a star was the war,” Ms. Horne said in the 1990 interview. “Of course the black guys couldn’t put Betty Grable's picture in their footlockers. But they could put mine.”

RIP, Ms Horne. You bought tons of jazz and laughter into our house …

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Wind

the wind.jpeg

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Chaalis Saal Pahlay

As a sailor I'd always felt odd about how someone married a girl, took her out of her home and environment where she'd probably been happy, brought her over to his own house, and then left her with his family and sailed away. She was now with a bunch of newly acquired family members - often far away from her own home - with whom she would need to start a whole new life, make acquaintances, tread the lines carefully, behave differently from the way she was brought up. Awful.

Of course, there was also the problem of marriage itself. I had always regarded it as a rather odd idea - something that a societal group had come up with when it was essential … and women did not have the say they are beginning to have now. Sooner, or later, I believed the institution will die out. I still believe that, despite a happily married life. The fact that it's been 40 wonderful years of marriage has not altered my feelings that this was something that may have happened to me but isn't always that way in most marriages.

In 1969, October, I got my first command of a ship and could have my wife on board. That was when marriage seemed better. And Nuzhat was the right person. Not only was she far from religion, at least in those days, but she also thought of marriage in much the same way as I did. She kept asking me, nearly into the day itself, to reconsider the possibility.

But 1970 offered no other way … and, on 8th May, we got married.

My mamooñ - Nuzhat's father - wanted me to be there with the baraat on time. No delays. Five o'clock in the evening at the Hotel Intercontinental. (He couldn't consider having the nikah at his house - something I'd have preferred - because he was afraid of people spitting his hated paan ki peek all over his lawn, I think.)

Five o'clock we were at the Hotel. Nuzhat's elder brothers were outside and we were told that no one had really arrived yet. So much for having your own guests come in at the right time.

It took a little while but, by 5.40, we were all seated for the nikah, to be performed by Maulana Ehtesham-ul-Haq (who became a Thanvi after he came out of the Thana, I suspect). I detested the old man for his ridiculous ideas - like considering blood transfusion as 'haraam' - but Mamoon Jan loved his voice and it was his choice, so we were stuck. (Part of the reason of my successful marriage may be the fact that I always felt that nothing this man did could be serious.)

The usual ceremony was followed by Aarsi Moos'haf  … where some old lady (a friend of Nuzhat's mother) was holding a mirror through which Nuzhat and I were to see each other for the first time since 'marriage'. She could not get the mirror right and I finally saw her looking awkwardly at me in the glass. I winked  and the poor woman nearly dropped the mirror.


What fun it is to sit today and talk of all those wonderful things that happened in those 40 wonderful years.

This is us, now :

And we hope we'll have a great many marriage anniversaries.

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