Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Har baras kay "haéñ" din pachās hazār!

It is your 44th Birthday, Sab.

I just thought I'd write a little note to tell you
how much we miss you, physically,
but hold you in our hearts every moment
and always will.

Every birthday you used to come to our house
and we'd take a photograph of you, too.

We'd go in the evening to your house to celebrate your birthday with a delicious meal that you'd have cooked. Ragni was always amazed at your cooking (and the cake, too).

One of Sab's birthday pics at her home (with Ragni)

Now you are no longer with us.

But that amazing place
that you gifted to us
in Karachi is here.
And it is loved!

This evening (20the June 2018) we will celebrate your birthday there. See the poster that Shaheen Jaffrani made. Its full of colours, like you were.

There will be our favourite Espresso, of course.
I will drink one for you and one for me.

There will be Conversations about you and what you did for so many people in the Open Mic session. There will also be performances by the artists you helped bring up and gave them the love they deserved and more.

You always loved Music. All sorts. 

Wish you could see us now and see how happy we are to talk about you and your affection and intelligence and the sheer magic that you always were.

Your heart was so full of love for everything.

Before I leave T2F I will drink The Hipster that you adored. 

From all of us,
this is what we can give you now
… and forever.

Friday, May 18, 2018

13th May 2018

A sweet memory and a 'Thank You' to many.

Sabeen Mahmud and I
Life at PN/T2F has been wonderful, exciting, and - occasionally - crazy, too. As many of you know, Sabeen Mahmud started this project 10 years ago. For the entire world her assassination on 24th April 2015 was a great shock and a larger moment of disbelief. For people like me who still go to T2F it seems that looking at her door often makes us think she is busy inside and will step out any moment – until the truth, once again, comes to our mind. It leads to a few tears, or just a long silence.

I was among the original Board of PN/T2F governors (there were 5 more in it, other than Sab and I: Mahenaz Mahmud (Sabeen's mother), Nuzhat Kidvai (my wife), Dr Ghazala Aziz, Actress and Designer Sonya Rahman, and Seema Malik.

Soon after Sabeen's assassination I resigned from the Board. It was impossible to work there without her. But, again, 26 years of a very close association with her was a tragedy I just couldn't leave. I constantly helped the Executive Director Marvi Mazhar (whose departure was sad and I have mentioned this elsewhere) wherever/whenever I was needed.

PN/T2F is a great place and will get better and better as long as it follows Sabeen's policies and adds more (but similar) new policies as time goes by.

It's encouraging to know how more such places are now opening up in Karachi, thanks to Sabeen's ideas and constant insistence that we need many such places all over Karachi and in the rest of Pakistan.

Towards the end of 2016 Mahenaz Mahmud decided that she would not want to continue this operation, though some of us did advise her against it because PN/T2F was a gift to Karachi. But her tragedy, of course, was far greater than those many of us felt. Finally she decided to get in touch with Khalid Mahmood (he had joined as Director on the PN/T2F Board later) and owned the building PN/T2F was in. He had given it to Sabeen at 50 paesa per month for each of the two floors for as long as PN/T2F worked and, he too, felt that PN/T2F should continue.

Finally KM agreed to take over the Chairmanship of the Board and asked that all Board Members resign and he would choose a new set of Board Members who lived in Karachi. He did ask Mahenaz several times but she did not accept to be on the Board — but he gave her Sabeen's room to use as long as she wanted. (She has, only recently, left the room and said that she hardly ever comes there.)

Eventually he succeeded in getting 5 more members and asked me to join the Board, too, as he wanted an older person who had been around at PN/T2F to be on the Board. I agreed, specially with Nadeem Khalid and Khalid Ahmad also pressurising me.

It was required that we choose an Executive Director to join us and several were interviewed.  Rabeea Arif (who had worked with us for many years) was chosen to join us on August 1st, 2017. Sadly, just a few days of her agreeing to join us she called up and said she was marrying and moving to London right away. Pity for us — but Congrats to her :)

I arrived back from visiting my daughter, Ragni Marea, in NY on the night before and was asked to resign from the Board of Governors and take up the Executive Director post starting on the 1st August. (You can't be on the Board and be an Executive Director under Government Regulations.)

I took over this position and we kept looking for a Executive Director to eventually take over. Instead of the 2-3 months it took us almost 10 months to find a person who would be ideal for this position and we now have Arieb Azhar.

Arieb Azhar
Arieb Azhar, in case you don't know him, is a Pakistani musician who sings sufi and folk pieces. He also has a group that holds Music Festivals locally and abroad. AA also writes in Dawn on culture and society. He spent his studying time in Croatia and sings beautiful Croation folk songs.

AA is the second son of Aslam Azhar, the first Head of PTV, often called 'the father of TV' here. His plays were well known and Galileo is still talked about. His mother is Nasreen Azhar, a senior WAF activist. Here they are in Hyde Park.

Nasreen and Aslam Azhar

Running PN/T2F has been wonderful, as I said earlier. I'd now like to thank the Chairman and the various Board Members who made this possible.

Seher Naveed
I met Seher fairly recently though I had seen her art work earlier. She is also at Vasl and is extremely pleasant and advises us, through Shaheen Jaffrani (our Gallery Manager), on various art related events. Thank you, Seher. [Vasl is on the same building as PN/T2F are and Khalid's wife (Naila) and Faisal's wife (Adeela) run it.]

Faisal Siddiqui
Faisal Siddiqui is a brilliant Lawyer and a lovely columnist in Newspapers and Magazines. Although I have followed his work for a while, I have go to know him better since he joined us at the Board. Faisal loves the Truth and fights really hard for it. He certainly is great to have on this team and advises us on a number of things. Thanks Faisal. 

Aisha Gazdar
Aisha Gazdar is someone I have known for a very long time, but only because she is the daughter of film-maker Mushtaq Gazdar whom I knew from my childhood because his father and my father were very close friends. Her role has been very helpful to me because she asks a lot of very pertinent questions. Thanks Aisha.

Nazish Brohi
Nazish Brohi - a delightful activist, a WAF member, a wonderful columnist, and someone who brings a lot of sense here. I have known her for years and am so glad that she is on the PN/T2F Board. Keep doing wonderful things, Nazish. You are really superb.

Khali Ahmad
Khalid Ahmad: Having known him for lord knows how long, KA is an Activist, Theatre Director, Film Director, Story Writer, Actor, brilliant reader, Trainer, Flautist, music lover, Urdu lover, and a truly amazing friend. He can be contacted for so many things with his various backgrounds. Being on Board at PN/T2F his understanding is always needed in meetings and personal discussions for the ED. Thank you so much, Khalid.

Nadeem Khalid
Nadeem Khalid is such a wonderful person (as are his wife, Hoori Noorani). His understanding of Music, Literature, and Plays, is great and his understanding of Accountancy is superb (after all, he owns Herbion). In our worse periods - and there were many that he and KM saw - he loaned PN/T2F money to make sure that it paid its salaries and bills, he checked our accounts along with others, and helped us discover the amounts that people had been stealing while we were borrowing funds from other people. Thanks a lot NK. Your help, and your insistence that PN/T2F will survive and get better, has been great, both  to the institution and to me.

Its a pity that an organisation that did its best to support what was being left alone by Governments and most of the Media (Arts, Scientist talks, Discussions, Müshaerās, Qavvaalis, and even Classical Music) and offered help to people from every religion or creed … was being stolen from by its staff and even lied continuously to by a few of them.

Khalid Mahmood
Khalid Mahmood. What can one say about you? You completely surprised Sab and me when you gave her this place. I still can't get over it.

Your involvement - despite being the Head of the remarkable Getz Pharma and supporting the  Zindagi Trust (and much more, I am sure), your constant travels to different places inside and outside Pakistan, your opening factories in new countries - these are things that should have kept you busy, busy, busy. But you still find time to come and help us. Often. All it needs is a phone call and you are here.

(How can one even forget the work you have done outside T2F: Two examples: Your help with the EACPE for the films they have students make every year; and your generous support in the publishing of Hasan Aziz's wonderful book on Qavvaali: Kalām-e-Arifāñ.)

Honest, KM, I really do not know where to begin. And when I end I'll still be remembering what I must have left out by mistake. You gave us loads of money on loan when we would not have survived. You still haven't taken it back and will only take it back when PN/T2F is on its own feet. You increased the Salaries of people on the staff, you improved the Health Insurance policies of the Staff through your organziations, and have done much much more.

Just thanking you (and NK) doesn't seem to be enough but I guess that's all we can do. You are now busy with another building for PN/T2F and Vasl that will give it an even better area. Hope it gets built soon. Lots of thanks not just from me but everyone of us who always admire what you do.

Having left the Board of PN/T2F doesn't mean that I have left them in any way. I will remain an Adviser to the Board (along with Asif Aslam Farrukhi) and will always be there, anyway. It is just that 10 months have taken a lot of time away from my own work and I need to get back to most of it. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Evenings that you must come to …

When I was in school we used to go every Sunday to a Morning Show that had Cartoons and Comedies and Captain Marvel and Nyoka and more. Nishat Cinema ran the first membership for children for their shows. It was brilliant.

But that was before people started watching TV and then followed later with multiple films at home and got up at 11am and then at Noon and then at 1PM.



T2F decided we'd have occasional morning shows to see how they would go. That was on it's first place on Ittehad Avenue. The film we started with was What's Up Doc. It started at 11am. The place was crowded. There were many old people, a bunch of teenagers, and a few little kids.

We were asked to do this often … and we did that once a month for the next few months until we got pushed out of the old spot by a crooked landlord who kept our money, too. But I think I've mentioned that in one of my blogs so I won't go there.

Peter Bogdanovich's hilarious film, What's Up Doc, had Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal … and the the audience hadn't laughed so much in days. If you missed it (or want to see it again!), it's worth watching when T2F does this in Thinking Films on May 2nd 2018.

Sabeen and I loved many films (I've shown many of them in Thinking Films, so far) and we made a long list. I started the series with Cinema Paradiso - a great favourite of us both.

Here's a letter she wrote to me after watching it:
There are movies, and then, there are life-altering experiences.
I was a trifle apprehensive before watching Cinema Paradiso. I was exhausted after weeks of all-nighters at work, the film was in Italian with English sub-titles, and I’d heard so much about it being such a wonderful film, that I feared I might end up hating it.
However …
For over 2 hours, I sat mesmerized by one of the finest films ever made. Told mostly through flashbacks, Cinema Paradiso is about one man’s love affair with films, and his special friendship with a projectionist. That may not sound particularly exciting but I don’t want to give away the story. It was all about the small touches and details - the stunning direction, the gorgeous cinematography, adorable little Toto, Alfredo - the real hero, the priest whom you can’t help but like, the lilt of Italian dialogue (am so glad it wasn’t in English), the smoothness with which numerous other stories were told alongside the main plot without hype and confusion, the evolution of a little village, and of course, the myriad glimpses into the golden age of movies.
This is not a movie that you like or don’t like. It’s just too special to be conveniently boxed into a category or superficially commented on. Cinema Paradiso is a multi-sensory feast, and a movie made with heart, mind, and soul. Cinema Paradiso - at the risk of being labeled an inarticulate Gen X idiot - was simply awesome.
In awe. 
P.S. Zak, thank you for waiting patiently. One has to experience a little bit of what life has to offer (and take away) before watching Cinema Paradiso to truly appreciate it. And I do intend to watch it again, and again, so that I can focus on different aspects each time.
The next films on our Thinking Film series was Quo Vadis, followed by Luther and 12 Angry Men (the first black and white version).

Here's Sab on them in the same letter:
Quo Vadis brought to life the time of Nero in the most spectacular fashion. Luther coldly illustrated the unbelievable selling and branding machine that is religion. 12 Angry Men tore the infallible American judicial process to shreds. 
And the week after Eed we'll have more Thinking Films. The one to really watch will be what Sabeen talked about in that letter:
Judgement at Nuremberg placed 4 Nazi judges on trial before a panel of 3 American judges, for war crimes, and made me question seemingly simple notions of right and wrong till I felt sick to the bone. 
Judgment at Nuremberg is a 1961 American courtroom drama film that is 3 hours long! Directed by Stanley Kramer, and starring the great actors of that time — Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell, Werner Klemperer, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, William Shatner, and Montgomery Clift. Set in Nuremberg in 1948, the film depicts the Judges' Trial of 1947.

(I loved Montgomery Clift in this role … in fact I loved him in all of his roles. The others were all brilliant, too, as they were remarkable actors).

Do come and see both of these.

Laugh your head off at the first one; Think hard after watching the second one.

And eat Popcorn to support T2F bringing you these wonderful films. There's a lot more to go.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

They took you away from us …

… and it has been an awful 1096 days for those who love you.

But, still, we carry your dreams and do what we can to make sure that the youngsters get to know you well and follow your footsteps. The young (and many old people) must learn to speak and honour the truth, regardless of the consequences (just like you did). They must always stand for the rights of all who are pushed down for their class, creed, beliefs — religious or otherwise — and ideologies that may be different from theirs (like you always did).

Most important: They must have and show tolerance and understanding, even if the views are totally different from the other people. They must argue with facts … but never pull guns, never kill, never maim. They must not forget that the others are as human as the rest and may have gotten those beliefs and ideas from people who profess things in ways that could be inhuman (or insane). But they must be ready if argued by facts that even their views can often be wrong and accept the others views and change their stance.

We had a Baluchistan event earlier a couple of years ago — and it went very well. On the 24th April 2015, when you had opened the second Baluchistan event at T2F, you had said again what you believed in …

But they took you away …


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In 3 months it'll be 3 years since you left us

In 5 months it will be what would have been your 44th Birthday

We all miss your smile.

T2F lives and will continue to live
and do all the things you wanted it to do
and many things you were hoping it would do.