Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Remembering you …

It launches at T2F on the 26th.

This is your first book, Sabeen,
and it has you being written about in
Newspapers and Magazines.
It has poems
(including one that you wrote).
It has people from all over the world talking
about you and your courage and love for humanity
and more, more, more.


Here is the cover in the English part



Here is the inside page behind the English Cover



Here is the inside page behind the other side's  Cover



Here is the cover in Urdu & Sindhi
with Mina's painting of you that she gave to me.



 •

I cried reading all of it.
But I do that on most days, anyway.





Sunday, October 22, 2017

Urdu Boliyay, Sēkhiyay, Pa∂hiyay


(There are no names of people/institutions given here for I don't want to start a battlefield on my blog. Its just the truth; that's all.)

•••••

It is so strange and much of it bears repetition, too - so excuse me if you have heard me say some of these things before. But this sign always amuses me.

Forget about the 'spellings' — after all, the thought is good :)


A friend of mine from Chiniot said to me after seeing this picture that the user "should be excused. Its not his mother language, after all - and you must love his sentiments". He added a shayr for me:

کہو اردو کو چِٹ کر دیں، کہو اردو کو پَٹ کر دیں
ہمارا  کیا  ہے  یارو ، ہم  تو  پنجابی  رسالے  ہیں

•••••

When my daughter was at Karachi Grammar School as a 10 year old (I think, but don't exactly remember), the students in her class had to go to the Library and take some books home, including an Urdu book. They were protesting to their teacher that they did not want to take Urdu books now. ("They are so-o-o boring!", said one student).

The teacher - Karachi born, but from Lucknow's parents who had migrated soon after 1947's Partition - said to the class: "اگر تم اردو نہیں سیکھو گے تو نوکروں سے کیسے بات کرو گے" ("If you don't understand Urdu, how will you talk to your servants").

•••••

Many years ago my brother-in-law was at a hospital (he died there). One of the junior doctors had a surname that seems familiar, so i asked her and she was the daughter of one of our greater humorists. I said it must be thrilling to be his daughter and she must tell me more about him. She said she had never read any of his writings. I said, "Never? That's odd. He is brilliant." She said she doesn't't like humour … or reading much apart from her course books. For days I couldn't overcome this shock.

•••••

A large school in Pakistan has many Urdu books that they publish. I saw a bunch of them at one point and started to read them. The back page of every book - and there books for many classes - had 2 little blurbs that were from 2 major poets of Urdu. And they both said the books were marvellous (or something similar).

When I started reading the books I had two problems:

The first one was of Gender Equality, specially considering that this school has an overwhelming majority of female teachers. My surprise began when I saw the illustration of a person coming out of his car at home, after having spent a day at the office. His driver opened the door. His wife and daughter ran out to greet him and both asked him what he'd brought for them. Hmmm. Apart from employing several female teachers, here was a man who worked and a woman who stayed home, cooking perhaps. And a daughter for whom he was a provider of toys. The other thing that struck me was that many children in stories had a heavily Pakistani Dress and no Western Clothing, which I found odd, too, because it was different in their schools. The 2 genders (this was before the Government added a Third Gender) didn't really 'meet' in the book as they do in schools which have both sexes (as some of their schools do!) … but I suppose this could be a Government order; I wouldn't know.

The second problem was about Urdu: Many shayrs were wrong or badly written and 'naa-maozooñ'. So I called up the two poets and said this to them. Both had one similar answer. They had seen only the first volume and it was alright. True! But they had never seen the other volumes of books. 

Bad and awful marketing and salesmanship!

And bad Urdu, too.
I did complain but I don't think much has happened.

•••••

A few years ago I was a consultant to a leading publisher here. Their books went to many major schools. While going through their software etc., my eyes would also fall on their books, many of which I bought often.

One day I saw a bunch of Urdu books for classrooms which were supplied by this publisher. I thought I'd take a look at them. The blurb at the back that had a word that had حح in the middle. Obviousy no such word exists. So I said to the woman sitting near me that there is a misprint here and we should find out what the real word is (I couldn't figure it out at all) and since they are being reprinted this year they should rectify it. I was told that all the books were written (from the first to the last class, junior to senior) by a marvellous teacher and I can't question her.

I said she might be a great teacher to compile all these things but the problem could be the typist who actually put all this on the computer. I was told, with a sneering look of someone who did not believe me, to go to the department and talk to somebody there.

Off I went to the gentleman who headed that and pointed out the mistake to him. He said the word must be in our dictionary and "after all, you don't know all the Urdu words, do you?" … so I said can you show me this word and he pointed to the dictionaries lying in front and said I should look there. So I did … and found it in none of the dictionaries (as I had known that there wouldn't be one).

Having told him that he said I should talk to the teacher who wrote the book. I said I am not going to call her; this is not my department. He should. A couple of days later, nothing had happened. So I walked down to the place where Urdu books were being written or proof-read. Seated there were two people I knew: A well-known Urdu writer and a well-known Urdu poet. Showed them the mis-spelled word. Both said this doesn't exist. I asked one of them to go and talk to the head of the firm and was told that this department does not deal with Education.

Finally I decided to go to the head myself and explained that this book is going into schools and has been doing very well there. Could the head please talk to her team since the book is being reprinted and make sure its altered. A month later, when my contract expired, I left. Saw the new vversion in Urdu Bazaar. Yep. There was this word with حح still there!

•••••

Recently I have come across a lot of people in my job where I interview people that we are employing. Many of them write in their CVs 5 stars for their English Language and 3 or 4 stars for their Urdu. Always saddens me. Its our National Language and apart from those who don't speak Urdu at home or use a different language (and can be excused), there are many who come from strong 'Urdu-speaking' (what a silly name THIS is!) families. 

Of late I interviewed a young 'educated' girl. She gave me her name and her surname. It was  the name of a very well-known poet and traveller (and someone I knew well when he was alive). I said are you related to this gentleman or is this just another name. She said she was his grand-daughter. Oh wow! Apparently he had a grand-daughter and a younger grand-son. My question was if she enjoyed his books, since we were all in love with them. I was told that her mother has a large library and her father had asked him to read one of his books but that was all she had read. Her Urdu was weak (she could speak it perfectly, though) and when I asked if her younger brother's Urdu was better, she said "Oh, I am much better". End of story.

•••••

It's true that if you go into a higher middle class restaurant, or to a top class restaurant, everyone speaks to each other in English in a city that has thousands of people who should speak in Urdu: To each other; to their children; to the waiters. I have been many times asked by foreigners if we don't have a common language since everyone speaks to everyone in English.

Now, of course, you have to walk into a large superstore and mothers with hijābs stretched across their head-to-toe, are speaking to 3 year old kids in English. Yes, its important that you teach kids English (but that's for a while, coz soon you'll have to teach them Chinese), but my father's generation grew up years ago - he was born in 1900 - and many of his friends and relatives went to Aligarh, Allahabad, and other Universities. They could speak, read, write Urdu with as much fluency as they could do the same in English. Several of them were poets and prose writers and some chose English while others chose Urdu.

•••••

When Sabeen met me, she was 14-and-a-half at that time, and I was surprised by her saying Ādāb (which is what we'd always said until many people in my extended family have given it up to say "Assalām-o-Alaéküm"). Her Urdu was very Karachiite … and she hated her school for having neglected to teach good Urdu or anything else that was about this country. But she insisted that she would learn Urdu from us. And she did. She adored the words that often my wife and I would use and noted the "مزیدار" ones down so she could use them :)

When Sabeen was assassinated a could of months before she became 41, we all missed her a lot  …and while I miss her at work and as a friend, I miss her brilliant Urdu, too. She spoke like a full-fledged Urdu-lover, loved Faiz and Jon Elia, could make a speech with rarely an English word if she had started in Urdu, and she went on to start learning bits of Persian to keep up with Qavvālis that she adored.

I brought up 'waiters' a little while ago because when Sabeen and I would often go to a restaurant, I was always amused when the waiter would address us in English while Sabeen would tell him "اپنی زبان بولو نا" (Speak your own language … ) and then a little while later she'd say "پانی میں برف ڈال دو" and often the waiters wold say "You want ice, ma'am".


Sunday, September 24, 2017

As Faiz said …



Bahār ab aa keh kyā karay gi, keh jin say thā jashné shayr o naghma
Voh gül saré shākh jal gaé haéñ, voh dil tahé dām büjh gaé haéñ



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sabeen & Faiz

Dearest Sab, you always loved Faiz Sahab and read his Nuskha Haé Vafaa (نسخہ ہاےٴ وفا) often. We discussed his life and his politics. And you made (with me and the ETeam, which included Nuzhat's research and Jehan Ara's brilliant marketing) the wonderful Faiz CD-ROM, Aaj Kay Naam (آج کے نام) where every bit of your work was not just delightful and amazing but also remarkably fabulous.

Aaj Kay Naam
The CD-ROM
We had to invent things: No MP3 was available then; no Videos that could play full-screen at that time and were really stamp-sized. But our thanks to everyone working all night and more, we did all that. I can't forget that you had the Mac Cursor changed into a Pen Nib on that CD-ROM (I was stumped by your finding a way to do that!) …

The remarkable programming on Authorware … and its painful translation into a Windows-version was all done by you, despite your hatred for the Windows version. We all hated it, anyway. I remember that you'd written somewhere that you were 'forced' to do that because you were the youngest member in our strong pro-Apple team. Hahaha. But you did it!

The Brilliant Authorware - No Longer Available
In all of our efforts to have the CD-ROM out on time you worked very very hard. Programming the software, designing the screens, putting together my videos, and constantly talking to Muneera for the lovely booklet she produced, with Faiz's Nikaah-Naamah on the cover. Glad you brought that from Salima's house. And his only English Poem. And his audio-tape for his grand-children. Wow!!!

Our Golden Booklet
Despite everyone saying that you should go and see your grandfather - a person who loved you and someone you loved so much - since he was in hospital; but you continued working way into the night. Everyday. Until the CD was almost done.



You did see him in the last couple of days, but we lost him on Eed … and much before the CD-ROM could be launched.

•••••

There were many poems of Faiz that you read again and again. One was Raqeeb Say … a poem of the kind that I have never found the equivalent of in English or Urdu. It was sung so beautifully by Noor Jehan.

The other was a ghazal that we were crazy about and always asked Arshad Mahmud to sing it for us, whenever we met. It was, for us, a Karachi-ite ghazal to the core (although he wrote it in Lahore).

From Dasté Tahé Sang
When Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan visited our house (along with their delightful accompanists, Sudhir Nayak and Murad Ali), Arshad sang a couple of shayrs again for them.

•••••

T2F lives and will live on. Today I have taken over as its Executive Director and will continue for a while until another younger person - we hope to find one sooner (not later) - takes this over from me and stays on, following your legacy and improving and adding to its value.

Thank you, not just from me but everyone in Pakistan, for having conceived this place. We all so wish you were here.

•••••

Sabeen's Grave Today
I am reminded often of what LBJ said, when he took over as President of USA after JFK's assassination: "All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today."




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The T2F Readers 1 & 2


When T2F started 10 years ago Sabeen and I decided that every month we'd bring out a single magazine that we'd keep for reading at the old Ittehad T2F.

We did two of them in the next  months… and a once-regular visitor, who came to T2F almost every day, said: They are lovely. Why don't you print them and pass them around, free? Not that that would have been easy, what with printing costs. And then to give them out FREE?

I went up to him and whispered closely in his ear: We've done many things and have been called several names, but 'Chootiya' we have never been called.

A month passed and both magazines disappeared from T2F.
We were told that they had been taken away by him.
And he said he had our permission.

So the T2F Readers ended then.

For those who remember them, and for those who are new to T2F, I thought I'd celebrate Sabeen's 43rd Birthday by putting both of these as Downloadable PDFs today. The Cover Art was Sabeen's - a lovely designer - and the selections were mine. 


Click the links below.
Covers and Magazines will be Downloaded


T2F Reader Volume 1




T2F Reader Volume 2




Have a really happy birthday, Sab.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Tiger's Life

Birthdate
Assassination Date

Chinese Birthdates in 1974 and 2017
were in The Year of the Tiger