A personal point of view as I was participating for the first time.
National Book Foundation is an organization which is purely book based and encourages writers and reading throughout the year. Once a year they hold this festival.
After Nigar Nazar had taken me to the LLF (Lahore Literary Festival), she asked her friend Afshan if she would consider me too for the reading session. So, my name was put in for NBF – the National Book Festival – in Islamabad. We enjoy each other’s pursuits and she has roped me into several of her projects.
Spring is a time of fresh beginnings and of hope. It is a time of flowering of all your efforts. It is the time when you are ready to come close to the fruits surfacing from your efforts. Most of all to look into a lovely fresh start in your life.
Islamabad’s Ninth Avenue or the Agha Shahi Road has a short span of blossoming spring. It is amazing for a few days and hopefully a couple of weeks, you will find lots of cars stopping by the roadside, to capture these moments of beauty:
So, this is a glimpse into the spring in Islamabad which I love. As far as spring in my life is concerned, it has come in several ways….
I’ve always thought that my Dad is one of the unlikeliest of world travelers. A farm boy from rural Western Canada, he loves peace and quiet, the countryside, tractors, good coffee and meals that involve potatoes. And yet, like a hobbit leaving the comforts of the Shire, he has spent much of his adult life in parts of the world that would scare even many seasoned explorers.
One day, when I was 16 years old, my Dad was driving me in an old Russian Jeep from Kabul to the town of Torkham on the border with Pakistan. My wisdom teeth had made an early appearance and needed to come out. I had a dental appointment in Islamabad, Pakistan the following day.
As I looked out at the barren, dusty mountains and rocky gorges, I prayed for an adventure. I didn’t tell Dad this of course, and I imagined that he…
Don’t know about you, but each month is just going so fast. The important thing is that as life is moving on, we are achieving some goals, while some are getting left out. (That too, I’m sure is good.) Naturally, I don’t share everything – I have my privacy needs too! So, a big fat Alhamdolillah and thanks to our Almighty, who helps us through the rough edges of life, and gives us the courage to have such wonderful times too.
My dad’s 91st birthday on 2nd of March:
My dad was born in 1927 in Surag a village near Pindi Gheb, (Yes, Gheba is our family name, as we are the original family of this region.) Pindi Gheb is located around 100 kilometers West of Islamabad. My Dad’s birthday is 2nd March. I was wondering how to celebrate it. On 28th February, I thought, ‘why not call my Dad’s favorite people and let him have a blast?’ I hadn’t had the opportunity to serve them anything so far, with their innumerable hospital visits and good will. So, I sent messages on WhatApp to all the adorable friends, army personnel and family. ‘Why not meet him when he is hale and hearty?’ I thought. Sure enough. There they all were on his birthday – around thirty of them!
His brother and sisters came over with their families. Even the Generals and the one serving General came over too. I was a bit apprehensive knowing it is against protocol to suddenly invite someone so senior without preempt.
But, when General Qamar heard, he just came over with huge floral bouquets, like everyone else. He was saying, ‘You had my number why didn’t you call me?’ Then I told him. He said, ‘For Brig. Sarfaraz, I’ll come at a minutes notice!’ That is the kind of response I had from Dad’s other cadet, General Saeed uz Zafar, who in spite of not feeling too well, came over with his usual wonderful gifts (the maroon sweater, which I had been searching for my dad, and couldn’t find, with flowers, and sadqa for the staff.’ I managed to get Mum and my gifts from his favorite Bonanza shop in F-10. I got some nice food made by my cook, baked the birthday cake myself and got his favorite seekh kebabs from Cheema and Chattha.
I could see he enjoyed it all.
Saadullah Bhai passes away:
My whole family was heart broken at this news. Nataliya managed to dig out these pictures. She was just four years old when she got to know them first. Here they are at a party at our home. We called them G-9 brothers, and here we are the G-9 sisters.
Sqn. Ldr. Saadullah Lodhi was a very close friend of my husband’s. We were neighbours in Quetta in 1986-88. We have such fond memories of him, his wife Naveen and sons Azam and Monty. They moved to Fremont, near San Francisco later on. His wife often held grand parties at their home, in fact we all did. We just needed an excuse to have fun. There would be a lot of songs and dances. Bhai would often sing, and all of them would pull each other’s legs all the time! So much so, that we had musical evenings in Karachi too, having our musical evenings till 6.00 am while the city would be in curfew.
When my husband took us all to Fremont in 2008, Saadullah bhai’s wife’s sister gave us her house to live in. She moved off to her children’s place so we could enjoy ourselves. Every morning, bhai would be there to have chit chat with us, carrying bread and eggs or some other food items. Naveen, her sisters and their husbands, all took such care of us, we felt completely at home. What with Salim Mastan bhai driving our family to see Stanford University and San Francisco which became a memorable drive for us. The lovely brunch arranged at Saadi Bhai and Naveen’s place with our usual singing session is still vivid in my mind’s eye. Our memories are endless, and one’s heart breaks to know his cancer too was discovered at fourth stage, like my husband’s. May Allah rest his soul in peace. Naturally, I’m in touch with the sons and wife, whom we all are very attached to. Indeed, to Him we belong, and to Him we return. So, it has been a sad phase in life, it has taken me a lot of effort to keep my equilibrium going.
A sad patch in life:
My lovely mother also had a bad fall. It caused her a black eye. Thank God it is healing really well. Luckily, there wasn’t much pain involved, but she has bruises in several places. She is needing extra care, so I help her in bathing, and going to the washroom. I’m grateful to God for keeping her in good shape and spirits in spite of it all. The first thing she said after the fall was: ‘I’m getting ready for the big event.’ So, I knew she has her sense of humor intact. That was a big relief.
The happy one:
There is some very good news coming up too. (Yes, the ‘event’.) That is also there. So, Allah makes sure He gives us happy surprises and good times too, to keep us in good form.
No. I’m not telling you now, only that as I speak to you, a lot of preparations are going on at home.
A big Thank You to the One up there!
First Solo Paintings’ exhibition of Asrar Farooqi’s Exhibition at Nukta Studios and Gallery:
Asrar Farooqi had left his home at the age of fifteen to pursue his interest in arts. It was because he realized, no one will let him become an artist. How he managed to support himself and find a mentor to help him on this journey is interesting; He supported himself by painting large billboards which were the done thing before the penaflex billboards started being made through computers. You had to be very skilled to make paintings of well known actors for cinema houses. Anyhow, he lived in Lahore for a while, then moved to Rawalpindi-Islamabad and worked with Ghulam Rasul.
He found his niche when he met Mansoor Rahi and Hajra Mansoor who took him under their caring wings. That is when he found his success. His first exhibition is the climax of his two qualities: belief in his own talent and passion for art, and secondly the art of being a good student. He gives great regard to his teachers and mentors, and listens keenly to their input on his work. That is why he asked them to be the chief guests at his first solo exhibition.
The Sui Northern Gas issue.
You see, what happened was that I needed to change the gas bill to my name. Previously it has been coming in my late husband’s name. As you know, I’ve been running around other spins in my life, and I was letting this one be. Last month there was a notice on the bill to get the ID card of the owner of house verified by their office. Now, I know my husband’s CNIC card has also expired. So, this had to be done. So, I called their office, and they told me to bring over such and such papers. So, I took along the papers to their office, and found out , it is not so simple!
Yesterday, I ran from pillar to post trying to go through the process of Sui Northern Gas, to do the needful. It seemed simple till the work began… Sigh, it was horrifying. It started with the horrific traffic jam in I-9 area, (it was a hint!).
The number of times I went to two offices and the stamp paper shop across the road, is lost, as my head was literally spinning at the end of it. All this in spite of the cooperation of the said persons; By the end, I got to know the guard outside, and he laughed that we know each other very well now, Mr. Nawaz, Mr. Nazar (who was absent due to the traffic, he was also absent on Friday last when I’d gone at 12.30 pm.) Then, Mr. Iqbal and Mr. Sana-ullah. Literally, towards the end, I’d just sit down and wait, and the people behind the counter would call me out, waving their hands trying to distract me from my phone. I was the only lady in the office, it was the men doing the spinning dance all the time too. Or should I call it the ‘relay race’: you went to point A, then waited for your turn, got a signature, on a paper, then to point B, then waited your turn, then got a signature. Then you had to go to the Stamp paper guy, (thank God, he knew all that was to be done.) The second time, I had to go, I asked for a cup of tea. When I offered to pay, he said, ‘it was your destiny.’ (yeh to ap ka naseeb mein tha!) When some papers had to be re-done, the stamp paper man did them all again, I thought he would make me pay again too, but he did it for free.
‘If one person spent almost six hours doing one thing, it is because your ‘systems’ are lacking!’ I mentioned to one official named Sanaullah. I was told,
‘it is up to you to make a noise. Only then something will be done.’ Un-till and unless systems are not improved people will be continued to be harassed. Literally, I made friends even with the guys who were running pillar to post along with me. We had a camaraderie – suffering the same running around. Of course, this can be improved. It is possible. The way the NADRA office has improved to become one of the best in the world, is amazing, I’m sure this department too, can improve. The staff is accommodating, more can be done: here are my suggestions:
Have the desks of the next step personnel nearby. Or give one person more authority, so the applicant doesn’t have to run for next step.
Have a stamp paper and photocopy desk within the office. (This would help in not having to cross the traffic and road every time!)
Have a bank representative there too, who can take the payment and give a voucher.
Have another staff member at all desks during lunch break – to save the customers’ time. (– otherwise, have a cafeteria with good washrooms for customers, nearby.)
So, suddenly, when I was told the lunch break has begun, now I’ll have to come back after an hour. They gave me home work too, ‘go to bank and make the payment of the bills so far’ and a couple of more photocopies. (I had brought the latest gas meter readings in a picture taken on my phone in the morning before coming.) So, off I went looking for a bank. The place was all new to me, there was also a severe parking problem. As I looked around flustered I found the Artech Home. I couldn’t help driving in. Thrilled to see something I’m so interested in.
I walked in to this ‘wonderland’ with soft music playing and lovely furniture – with lovelier prices – around me. Just loved the ambiance. Osama the Manager there told me they are the ones who designed Silver Oaks in F-10 Islamabad which is a beautifully constructed building. My husband and I had visited it with its split level four bedroom flats, studio apartments etc. it has a class all its own.
I really loved the designs here, and took these pictures with permission:
Since it was a tough day, I got free after 3.00 pm. – though I had got there at 11.30 am. (Yes, and I had already spent about two hours on last Friday too!)
Often I’m told not to get involved in so many things. Well, I’ll have to do the boring, drudgery stuff anyway. Why put a stop to the ‘cherry on the top’? No Sir! Yes, I’ll slow down my life one of these days. Right now, I’m just so happy and honored to do so many wonderful things.
Generation Rahi party for Hajra Mansoor and Mansoor Rahi.
So, I barely had time to get back home, change and be fresh to go for another function across town, where I was to be the anchor person at a wonderful event. It was being held at the Adventure Complex in Shakarparian – a hilly range in Islamabad. A minute before it began, I was told that I’ll be conducting the function in Urdu language. Though I love Urdu, I feel less confident in it, as English is my mother tongue. (- More about that in another blog!) I was told, it should be a piece of cake, since I’m into Iqbal’s poetry which is mostly in Urdu. True. So, I usually say a silent prayer which Moses (who used to stammer) used to pray to God. ‘Please God, remove the impediment from my speech, and help me to convey my thoughts with ease.’ Well, between us, I say this prayer also before writing a difficult piece. Thank goodness it all went well.
Anyhow, the event was to celebrate our mentors’ achievements and to thank them. To congratulate them for the tribute they received during the 9th National Exhibition at the National Art Gallery. Specially, to celebrate the Life Achievement award received recently by Hajra Mansoor from Jamshoro University, out of artists from 60 countries.
So, this is what I’ve been up to lately.
Stay blessed lovely ones. Sorry for long blog. I’m sure you would skip what you didn’t want to read. That is fine, I do it too. As long as you read the parts that interest you! 😉
Today, it is your birthday. – I won’t say how old you are – as at this phase in life, ‘age just becomes a number.’ And we both have reached that age in life! – I’m just amazed at how many milestones you have attained within these years.
Just a cursory look at what Wikipedia has to say about you, gives one an idea of what you are all about. I’m flattered to realize that you have always given time to any of my requests to speak to my dear friends here in Islamabad. (Just want them to have the few moments of enrichment that one feels whenever you speak.) I’ve watched you talk on a one-on-one or a one-on-five-hundred-persons sessions – both are the same!
Each one of your audience feels that you are talking to him/her only – and with all your sincerity. It doesn’t come difficult to you, as you truly are that. I’ve known you to share a washroom with your staff in your Teacher’s Development Center in Karachi. I’ve seen you eat with your staff too! I’ve seen you treat every member of your staff or friends or family like they are important to you. – Which is something new to this Pakistani culture. This is why when you say something one listens, because you truly do ‘walk your talk!’
I say ‘Sir’ to you, because you are my teacher, my guide, and a friend whom I have deep regard for. I pray that you may have a long, healthy, happy life, full of more fulfillment of your dreams and aspirations. I pray that you may continue having the happy family life with your wonderful wife and three talented children.
Abbas Husain, you were already a well-known personality before I met you for the first time, when I heard you speak in 1997 in Karachi. The lecture at PAF’s prestigious Air War College, was on ‘last twelve Surahs of the Holy Quran’. By now, you are literally known for your talk on this topic. I’ve also seen you refine the same lecture every time I’ve heard you on the topic. That is what I like the constant growth and development that you demonstrate in whatever you do. Which is the sign of a great teacher! You have a knack of making the ordinary into the extraordinary! (I mean, how much more can you know about verses which one has been reading again and again since childhood?) But when you put them together, a whole new dimension emerges from each one. You just go on connecting them together as they’ve never been connected before! So, well, it was then I found out you have initiated the first Teacher’s Development Center. Being a teacher myself, I realized how valuable such an establishment was.
It was the first of its kind.
My husband was posted to Islamabad in 1998. Some years later in 2005 I went to Karachi from Islamabad, giving up my teaching job, only to attend the Master Teacher’s Course. At MTC, I was a part of the MTC 8th batch. – That was a memorable hundred hours of intense training at your center. It is a one-month course. A time which was at once enriching and fulfilling. That is when, I had gone with a sprained ankle, and I was the only student who got an extra chair to place my injured foot on. We were the batch who sang in the break times and had a lot of fun too. I had gone there, a stranger, and found many friends, who even gave me an amazing birthday party. (I know you must have been behind it) During lectures, that morning, I knew something else was taking place in the TDC, but couldn’t imagine what. How could I know, you all would be busy trying to give me a surprise birthday party. When we went for the break, I found the room fully decorated – all for me. The rest of the class also joined up to give me gifts and it was real fun.
The girls (!) were encouraged to do aerobics for ten to fifteen minutes daily, during the breaks. Privacy was given to us all, the men were asked to leave the class room. One felt better, as the intense classes were daily 9.00 – 5.00 pm. I’d stay even later, as I’d gone all the way for this. It was my desire to learn as much as was possible. Sir would share his books with me, and talk about the many international writers he knew, including Gai Eaton Islam and the Destiny of Man. Martin Lings Muhammad and several others.
The personal library is available to all students and of course it is also a treasure house. I would love spending a lot of time there, specially enjoying the fact that I could borrow from here too.
We would often discuss writers, whom I’d never discussed with anyone, as only you had read them. Of course, you are a mine of information, and this keeps increasing as you get new books all the time.
Why wouldn’t it increase? You go all the way to South Africa to meet your own mentor who is a Dutchman. You gain your deep insight and have so many sources of your own knowledge. So, it was a pleasure when last month you delivered a beautiful talk on how to be anchored in a time of turbulence:
This is probably the best part of meeting you. Every time, there is so much more to learn from you. You have scholars as mentors in Pakistan also, especially in Karachi. Yet, your sense of humor is ever present. The jokes keep happening and coming in-between the serious stuff.
Back in June 2005, our whole batch was taken to Marriot for three days to attend a three-day seminar on Education, which was attended by world-wide educationists and was chaired by the legendary Anita Ghulam Ali. There were people coming from the US of A, as well as from India. Interestingly, the Indian educationists and ours found lots in common and found a great deal to exchange. As it was interactive, so the sessions were well attended. It was my first encounter with the world of educationists in an international forum.
By now, The TDC has taught over 30,000 teachers. – Whereas you have personally taught over 55000 teachers. To date there have been 17 MTC courses teaching 472 educationists. Lately, due to Ramzan dates falling in summer vacations (the time when the course takes place, ) there was a break. Luckily these began again from last July. This years’ MTC is to begin on June 25th and shall end on July 19th 2018.
It was a brochure for the course which I had seen on my principal’s desk, when I took the course. It was so exciting for me. Learning has its own euphoric moments which are rather unmatched by anything else. It is truly a eureka moment. A good teacher is one who is also learning, so she or he can realize, how difficult learning is, first hand. So, that there is more understanding with the students.
It is hoped that such courses are begun in Lahore and Islamabad also. The good thing is that teachers all over the country now benefit from this institution through their online courses for teachers. This information is available at the TDC Facebook page.
Abbas Husain, you are the advisor for many organizations like HEC, Roots School System, The City School, Beacon House, as well as many more. Your spiritual sessions and your audio tapes and information are available to all.
This is a good opportunity for me to thank you for always being there for me, with your timely advice. Your knowledge is so wide-ranged, it is a pleasure talking to you. One always learns. Stay blessed, as you truly bless us all with your presence and your attention. Happy birthday Abbas Husain, my teacher and friend.
Really don’t want to deprive you of some interesting things that I’ve been up to. Specially, because these could have some value in your life too, wherever you are, and whatever you do. Sometimes, some very unexpected things happen, and you let them happen, and you wonder how you hadn’t even considered them earlier!
Somehow, life takes you to what is really needed by you. Because, it was meant to happen, I was meant to be at the LLF.
It was Nigar Nazar my cartoonist friend who took me to Lahore with her.
She said, “You are the writer, publisher, and you aren’t going! You better go with me tomorrow, I’ll book the seats and take you along.” It was ten pm the previous night at a mehndi function. We could barely understand each other over the blast of the music.
by Usman and his friends – and how we can help them achieve their goal.
While Facebook is the bane of all jokes, yet its usefulness cannot be denied. There are many youngsters who have left it and gone on to Instagram and other greener pastures. – Hopefully those pastures have less of the ‘old cronies’ like myself in them! Anyhow, since I followed the youth on Instagram, I was approached by Usman. He said, ‘I felt I had to contact you as you seem to be the kind of person who could support us. I felt very humbled in front of all that he has achieved. Anyhow, I offered to go over to his school and see what it is all about.
They have built a school for poor street children. They pay the rent for it and give them uniforms, books and have provided teachers for them. These young people have actually taken the children off the streets and given them something to be proud of, an education. The children are not only getting educated but also are getting ‘tarbiyat’ or grooming for a better life ahead.
In 2008, I visited the Museum of Flight near Seattle, in Everett, in USA, with my family. I was happy to see a woman who had come there alone on a wheelchair with a person to assist her. It was heartening to see this woman who must be in her eighties, visiting the museum. Like any Pakistani, I felt bad that one never sees such a sight in Pakistan. Though the elderly do come over with their families, but a person seldom comes on the wheelchair, as facilities are hard to find here. It would be the same in case of any handicapped or special person who has the time to visit such museums yet, has no facility of the kind. Anyhow, I’m just showing you this place, so when you come to Islamabad next, do go over to visit this memorial and museum.
You will love it, as I did. It is not too large either and can be seen within an hour and a half if you are in a hurry. Otherwise, a couple of hours would be lovely too.
However, I have a wheelchair for each of my parents, and decided to take them to see the Islamabad Museum on February 27th 2018. Since I had to take Dad’s helper along, so there wasn’t enough space for two wheelchairs. I thought, there would certainly be another one at the museum, so we went off.
The Sir Syed Memorial is located on the service lane at right angle to the Serena Hotel in G 5 area. We reached well in time, however, we found that there wasn’t another wheelchair there. So, we decided to leave one parent outside in the car, to enjoy the lovely weather, while the other one saw the museum. It was a challenge, but what else could we do? Being the sweet persons they are, they happily agreed.
Most of my married life, I’ve loved cooking. Then one day, my mother-in-law – God bless her soul- said, ‘Shireen, it is good that you like to cook yourself. Remember there are days when you are unable to cook, so make sure your helper is able to cook instead of you. Sometimes, you are out of the home or have guests, then let him do the cooking.’