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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

RIP Mrs Colaco

Thanks for all the wonderful things you did for us!

Mrs. Marie Colaco
died in Canada yesterday.

Sadly, Marie Colaco School no longer exists.
But it was a really great school …
(and it was the first non-Church private English school in Karachi)

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dunno why I wrote this … but I had to!

Watching a documentary on Africa and its various countries two days ago on BBC I discovered a religion that has been there before Christianity and Islam … and still exists. There were hundreds of worshippers dancing and praying, while many Christians and Muslims stood on the roads to see them going past and no one decided to harm anyone.

… and I thought:

Years ago (when I was trying to study in Lahore) some friends and I saw a wall that said in large letters: "قادیانی کافر ہیں" (Qadianis are Kafirs).

Under it someone had written in small letters: "اور شیعہ کچھ کم نہیں" (and Shias are not much less either). 

While some of us giggled college-boy giggles, we all soon thought that this was hardly something to be written on the city walls. Three friends from that crowd went there at night — with an 'expensive' spray can (considering we were broke all the time) — and wiped it off in 'really-bad-black': The three friends were a Sunni, a Shia, an Ahmadi! (Thanks Drs. Kamal, Naqvi, Zayb — if you ever read this.)


With the Shia killings becoming more and more common, unbelievably common, many people have now started to address the matter. In print one does see someone write a small letter … and a few good and strong people write even their views in articles. It is true that almost all do say that this is not Islam, it is just a band of hooligans that have taken the religion away from us. Let me add, though, that this applies mainly to the English press.

Urdu has a much larger audience and they do not write as many things against this, sadly. They stick to  the news that it has happened and it's terrible. Most add close-up pictures of grieving families and relatives crying. Again, there are exceptions. But just exceptions, though!

Most TV shows continue to focus on how far up the paénchaas must be from the ankle for the prayers to be really heard, and how our lives are going to be according to the 15-second responses by wonderful Islamic 'astrologers and num-err-ologists' and show some pictures but try and not dwell too far upon these.


Apart from the above horrible tales of Shia massacres (imagine two/three bus-loads killed after the passengers ID cards were 'examined') we now also have added Hindu girls who suddenly realised — at anything near 14 years of age, usually — that the gods they prayed to were 'baseless'. They immediately decide to become Muslims and get ready to go to heaven by marrying a gentleman of faith (and the longest possible beard) in the area they live in. 

This has been going on for a long time, but, originally, was an occasional 'personal enmity' or 'land-grabbing' that led to it. 'Love thy neighbour' has now become 'Marry your enemy', it seems. And it must look like she asked for it. Thousands of fundos in trucks, vans, motorcycles, with a mulla leading the lot, marched into the mosque where one girl was recently converted. (I am waiting to see when a Hindu boy converts to Islam and decides to take a Muslim wife whether we will see similar joyful scenes.)
What people do to their enemies has never scared me after I discovered that Sahir Ludhianvi's father named him Sahir because he had a person he disliked who was called Sahir! He thought every time he beat Sahir he would at least have 'beaten' his 'enemy' too.
I realize, of course, that some Hindus, including the younger brother of a friend of mine from St. Pat's, also ran away after the 1965 war with India for being 'hounded' (Good word, this! Covers up a lot …) by our 'agencies' (Excuse me, but whose 'agents' are they? Certainly not mine!) checking to see if he and his family were Indian spies. While he was born in Karachi in 1948Krishan's last 4 generations had lived in Karachi and had decided in 1947 to stay in Pakistan.


Then there our Christian friends. Strangely, in a country where it's laws do not really 'allow' the chance of blasphemy to take place (unlike the USA) — and a death sentence is sure if the person is guilty — we have a Christian boy caught for having written words against the Prophet on a wall. He was taken to the Police. They wanted to see the words, naturally. But the people who complained about the boy had washed the place clean so that the words would not be 'visible to other Muslims' (as the news report said). Chalo. He was in jail and some Western country took him away when the time was ripe.

Now there are even more and more blasphemy cases and the people are, generally, Christians (but you can add a Hindu here and there, too). The courts are small. It takes months - sometimes years - to try them all out. And our pious people want justice! So they kill the [wo]man at their next visit to the court. 

An 11-year-old Christian girl, with Down's Syndrome, has recently been found guilty of burning the pages of the Qur'an. We have her in 'jail' for the last few days and just three days ago, on Twitter, someone has just told us that the Police say she is 16 and has no Down's Syndrome!  Let's see where we go with that …


It's pointless to mention Jews here. Many were chased out after the 1967 war in the Suez area for 'possibly' being 'Israeli spies'. Three of them were people whose families I knew … and one was a senior officer in the Karachi Port Trust.


We can come to the Ahmadis, now. They deserve a really special treatment for they have been legally made religionless and, quite often, homeless. Look at our earthquake period and see how some of them were not given medicines or food because of their religion.

I realise that some religio-political parties always considered them non-Muslims. Our first Martial Law took place in Lahore because of a 'fight' between JI and Ahmadis (in which most accept that the Ahmadis were victims). But it was Mr. Bhutto who put the first 'official shot' into this when he was trying to get the Mullas behind him (mainly because he was being forced to leave). While the following video shows that he did this because of S. Arabia wanting him to put their religion as non-Muslim … but what were the S. Arabians going to do with Ahmadis who were coming from other countries where Passports have no Religion column. (Even ours didn't for a while, until President Musharraf went back on his own ideas and put it back in!) The Ahmadis would call themselves Muslims if asked and it would be their own lie/truth. Not a National Problem if you were from USA or hundreds of other countries!

Pakistanis recently killed several Ahmadis, individually and collectively (including in their mosques while they were offering prayers) … and Indonesia has become hotter than Pakistan (though we will take the lead, soon, I am sure). A couple of other Muslim places in the world are becoming heavily anti-Ahmadi. In an attack on the Ahmadis in Indonesia the man who got the longest sentence who tried to stop himself from being killed by beating someone who was attacking him. A much smaller sentence went to the people who actually killed a few Ahmadis. Amazing!!!


Sometimes I wonder how Jinnah Sahab (a Shia himself) would have felt about this when he asked Muslims to be counted, just to show that Pakistan was going to be their land … and many Muslims who followed him  - which included Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadis, Bohris, Aga Khanis - put their hands up to be counted. He certainly did not tell them (or his own family members) that they would not be counted as Muslims fairly soon after the country was formed.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Heck Out at the Strand Book Store


Saturday, August 11, 2012

NYC 2012 (3)

'Goodbye Time' was drawing near & I was to leave for Karachi.


Just in case you haven't read the first two parts, go here:

NYC 2012 (1)

Let's start a week earlier: It was Sunday, 15th July. Ragni had asked some friends to come to Pillow Café for a brunch so that I could meet them. I've always loved the drinks there and, probably, drank too much.

There were some old friends that I had met on my last trip and some new ones. They were wonderful to talk to and we had some rather interesting conversations — but mainly about Law (and Comics). A few were from Hampshire while others came from the CUNY Law School. There was a beautifully pregnant Nell. Here they all are:

From the Right: Ragni, Molly, Andrea, Lindsay, Lisa

From the Left: Ben, Julián, Thanu, Tharanga

Ragni, Nell, Andrea, Molly

Ragni, Adam

By the way, the word 'Pillows' also reminded me of what I got to sleep with in my bed in the spare room which used to be Ragni's room for studying.


A few days later we were supposed to go to Thanu's house for dinner but Ragni had a backache so we asked her to come over. A friend from Ragni's first college, Thanu is a regular part of their family. She's also a DJ, by the way. Thanu makes great tasting (spicy!!!) food and came over that night to cook for us. Her cooking was exotic (is that OK, Ragni?)
exotic |igˈzätik|


originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country
That's an Indo-Pakistani me, eating with Pakistani Ragni and her Mexican-American husband, lovely Italian food cooked by a Malaysian-SriLankan girl. Almost a UN dinner!

Despite spices that I always stay away from, I ate an awful lot. Thanks, T! (Oh, she also takes good pictures, as you can see here from one on her Instagram set.)

One day we decided to go to a movie.
Went to see The Dark Night Rises — a fun film.
Here's J & me in the lounge.

(Photo by Ragni)

On the way to the movies we had a really good drink at Coco Rob's street stall. Ufff! Melons and Coconuts and Pineapples and Sugarcane … all were there and the drinks were really colossal stuff. 

You must have a drink if you ever see him on the road.
He's a great conversationalist, too.

Just look behind the drinking counter and you can see a bit of a little jewellery stall where Julián found a lovely piece for Nuzhat and sent it to her with me.

(Photo by Julián)

The 'fish' on the right was really gorgeous … but the drawing that Ragni made for J's card, just looking at the fish, was superb. I am glad she has maintained her talent despite her legal aims ;)


Ragni, Julián, and I had dinner at The Black Swan.
It was absolutely wonderful in that very British-styled restaurant.
Great food. Good cocktails. Wonderful waiters.

On my last day we also had breakfast at Ms. Dahlia's. The scrambled eggs were great, but the coffee wasn't good at all so I had to have another cup elsewhere.


The one breathtaking exhibit that I also forgot to mention in my last post was that of my seeing a show of Photographer Robert Doisneau (who worked for Life for a while). It was a small selection of his thousands of images. 

His delightful picture — The Kiss — got him into a law suit because two different girls 'sued him' for taking 'their picture'. Later, he brought two young actors whose picture it really was! The original pic, signed by Doisneau for the couple, was sold for a fabulous amount. I think about $200,000 was paid. It has been offered to be bought for $345,00 now, but hasn't been sold.

My favourite picture from him, however, was his fabulous shot, Pipi Pigeon, taken at a cinema toilet in Paris. The kids are great to watch, but Pipi takes the cake!


It was my last day, another Sunday. I was to leave that evening and Ragni went down to get the mail that had come yesterday. I was so-o-o-o thrilled. Three things had arrived.

A bag that Sabeen had ordered. (It's stupendous!) …


… and a Camera Strap for me (which keeps the lens cover away)


BUT – finally. finally, finally — the book that I have been dying to get!

No marks. Almost as good as new. Wowowowow!!!

I had bought three copies of The Rape of the A*P*E* when I first saw it in a shop in 1973 (when Nuzhat and I were at sea on the lovely "m.v. Bagh-e-Karachi"). I had one copy hardbound in Karachi (pity that beautiful small binding shop has closed down now). The other two were left in their soft-cover to give to people who could read and give it back. Nuzhat gave one to her eldest brother who says he can't remember where it was (and doesn't, in fact, remember having seen it) — so we lost that! One a 'friend' took (without my saying he can have it) and now 'states' that he has lost it, too — though I am sure he has it!

Since the days that Amazon started doing business on the net I kept looking for it and have occasionally found somebody willing to sell a copy, often poorly kept, for anything between $74 to $205. There has never been a reprint of it (the original was by Playboy Press). At one time I did find one copy of it for $24 through an Amazon dealer but it had no cover and, even though I really wanted it, I decided not to get that one.

This time, two days days after reaching NY, I looked for it again and found one at an e-shop that sells old books. They'd bought it off in a set from someone whose husband had died … I called them up and they said they had it and were going to send it to me by post for (wait a minute …) $6.21 only. I ordered it, without telling them that Amazon had two copies that day on their site for $110 and $94, and received it just before I left. 


New York was a lovely trip after all!



(Union Square)

Goodbye Weeds … and everything else I enjoyed.

(Photo near Madison Park)


Ragni and Julian
for the beautiful time I had with both of you.

Hope there'll be time to see each other again!

And … Good Morning, Pakistan (or should that be Allah Hafiz?)

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

NYC 2012 (2)

The NYC trip — short though it was — had to take place because Ragni, who has given up her job and gone back to do her Masters in Human Rights Law, is working between her College break.

… and I was really missing her badly.

It was only a 2 week trip. I had to leave Brooklyn soon because Ragni was going to move out in 3 weeks to a new place to stay.

You can see the beginnings of the shifting in the picture below:

With Chovie at the new home: Picture by Ragni

Julián was going to go to Austin in a month and start a new job there for a few months. Life is tough in the USA for young people … but it is wonderful, too.

I got there on Saturday (8th July) evening, having left on the same day at 6AM from Karachi. Poor Julián had to carry my heavy suitcase up - but I guess a son-in-law has to do bad stuff like this :) Meeting them was a lot of fun and there were so many stories to tell to each other in the few days ahead. And a lot more to hear — specially about Ragni's courses and cases.

(It's been hard, Ragni, as I can see by this image from Instagram)

Thinking that I was fairly tired, I had wanted to go to bed … but Julián showed me a Keith Haring picture that he'd bought in the Brooklyn Museum

…  and said tonight was the last night of the KH exhibition. I became fully awake in the next few seconds and Ragni and I decided that we had to see the show before it ended. So off we went!

The museum was packed to capacity and we had to be in a long line waiting to get in. Hundreds of people, old and young, coloureds and whites, male-to-female, were arriving and leaving. It was the last night … but apparently it was like this on all days. We met three close friends of Ragni who had come there, too.

This exhibition had hundreds of things in it, from his work to works that featured him in newspapers, videos, and more — all done between 1978-1982! What an amazing man he really was! I saw him very briefly in his 'shop' in NY years ago! He loved kids, was a homosexual, seemed mad at society and loved it, too, until he died in 1990. One of my favourites was his poster below.

He once wrote: Generations of kids growing up now have the advantage of knowing that it [AIDS] is out there. Before it existed, it is something you never would have though about, that you could associate love or blood, or sperm, with the carriers of death. [...] The only good thing to come out is that it has put this real intensity to the time, that forces people to really rethink why they're here and why they're alive, and to appreciate every second'.

I cried a couple of small tears (that I quickly put away) … thinking of all the wonderful things, from museums, to music, to art, to flowers, to everything else that a kid gets to see here while growing up. (BTW, here's a package about KH that you may want your children to see. It's a pdf download.)
Now imagine growing up in Karachi, where Ragni saw Police and Army Guards pointing guns directly at our car while we took her to school. Airplanes, Rockets, Bombs, and even a great big Submarine in the middle of the road were her 'artworks' to look at. Since then things have changed: We now have a   at every street corner, each one posted on a large panel on a building or a billboard, trying to be bigger than the last one you passed. This is supposed to tell the Muslims (those few who can read!) that this is what they should know. Really? Doesn't everyone know it already? Christians, Parsis, and Hindus, who live here, are taught the words in class one way or another. Think: Even McDonalds puts up a Kalima.
Coming out of the exhibition there were loads of people outside. It was a Saturday and the place around the museum was crowded with people who had come to dance at the hall or loiter on the streets, meet friends, have some frozen-yoghurt and continue having fun for the night. I left early with Ragni but Julian, Thanu, and other colleagues of Ragni who had turned up decided to stay on.

Coconut Yoghurt & Thanu (Picture by Ragni)

Although my own city was never this much fun (I don't think there is ANY city that is this much fun, anyway!), in my younger days, when I was at school, some of us friends, boys and girls, would stay awake till late at night and even walk miles home after movies or after a dance at my friend Munchi's house, eating a seekh-kabab on a stall in Sadar. Karachi, then, was wonderful and peaceful. Sigh!!!

Walking back to the underground station was great, too. I was told that the NY was hot … but apart from two days in the fortnight I stayed there the place was cool, almost like the early days of Karachi's winter. On the road back I met two more friends of Ragni. I was wondering if that happens all the time in NY or was it just tonight. But no. It happened on several days ;)

The next day was time to relax at home and chat. A small walk for an hour was all I did. Most time I played with Chovie and slept to get rid of my jet-lag.

It is difficult to write about a trip and have the dates and times strictly right, so I decided I'd post some of the things I really enjoyed … but in no special order. Hope you'll forgive this … but it will cover most of the trip, I am sure. And you can see all the pics on my Flickr site after this weekend.


Let me talk about the Apple Store. I had to get to one of them and this branch was the easiest since it was on the same train-route as Ragni's office was on. I went there to get a piece of equipment fixed for a cousin … but, then, he decided not to have it done. I came back, only to return to Apple Store one Friday morning for a free intro course to iBook Author. While I had used it a couple of times to try it out … there are several tutorials on the web … it was nice to be able to check out a few things with the tutor.

The Apple Store store is always crowded and people buy stuff

Some of them are being helped by Genius Bar attendees

… or are taught something or the other.

I don't think anyone other than SJ would have thought of this. Now there are a couple of other vendors  who have tried to follow him … but its not the same thing. This is really real! But following SJ, after saying that his stuff will not work, is not surprising. We saw it happen with the Mac … before Windows copied and followed it. We saw it happen, again, with the iPad before everyone else followed it. We even saw it with iPod and iPhone where Apple changed a contraption around and, soon, so did everyone else after they added a better interface and great software.

Macs were everywhere … whether it was Tekserve or Dr. Brendan

There was Music to be heard wherever you went. iPods, iPads, and numerous other makes were on the tubes and buses. More than that, though, were the free concerts. One of the concerts I attended was the Latin American Music Conference at my favourite spot in NY: Central Park. The place was crowded and everyone loved the show.

This concert was part of the over a hundred free concerts in NYC and another 100 free concerts in Brooklyn and Queens in the three months of Summer! We are not even looking at other suburbs and areas in New York, yet.

Think of so many free concerts in almost a 100 days … and a lot more that I did not follow. The fun and friendships - new and old - the amount of work required by the admin, the food-stalls and shops that cater to the public (thousands come!) …  It really is fantastic.

Some watched,

some danced,

some often just lay down to relax,

while others met friends,

and a few enjoyed themselves, drinking ;)

And my favourite squirrels were there, too ;)

Apart from walking around one has to taste some great breads in NY

and that requires a few rounds of drinks
(one does not live on bread alone!)

and some really heavenly ice cream. Ufff!

followed by coffee!!!

Starbucks is pretty ordinary for those of us who like their coffee to be really great (and one had to get to other places for such stuff), but Starbucks, bless its soul, is available everywhere … and has free WiFi at its premises, so one did venture into that at least twice a day. 

And if you want a touch of Desimerican food, there's always this!

Monsieur Singh offers Lassi's made into popsicle sticks.


One night Ragni, Julian and I went to Nuyoricon Poets Cafe. I was going there after 30 years. It was a brilliant night — as it always is. Great poetry!

If you happen to be in NYC some day and love Poetry (or even some music) do check up on their website and make it your point to go there!


The final part of the post will be up in a day or so.
Come back!

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