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.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Looking back …

Iqbal Ismail
On the 19th December my dear old friend,
 Iqbal Ismail, left this world.

I found out when I saw the announcement his son, Solu (Sulaiman), sent me and phoned to ask me why I was not at the funeral. I said I hadn't known - I don't read the newspapers anymore - and had just heard it from him.

Nuzhat and I rushed over to his place to meet his wife and the children and grandchildren. We talked of old things, our lives together, our school-boy links, and more. I'll write a blogpost about him soon.

We got to talking about my being at the National Medical Centre for the time that I had my rather severe heart-attack and was treated to a quadruple bypass. Iqbal had walked in with the owner, a friend of his son Solu, and I was introduced to the hospital team as the owner's friend. I was given a luxurious treatment after that.

(Ardeshir Cowasjee died there; Sabeen Mahmud was dead when she arrived there after being assassinated; my dear friend Dr Shamim Ahmad died there while I stood next to him; and Iqbal died there, too.)

Sabeen & I at NMC

On my way back home I looked at my medical records out of sheer curiosity and found this piece of paper inside, written by Sabeen who handled the medical accounts while I was at the hospital. She was methodical in most ways that I am not (although my wife is good at these things, she wasn't in the right frame of mind at that point). Here is the sheet:

Miss you like crazy, Sab!
(… and all the others, mentioned, too!)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Our Favourite Films at T2F


کیا عجب وقت ہے، روتا ہوں کبھی ہنستا ہوں
دن   گزرتا   ہے   مرا   یاد   کیے ٴ  تم   ہی   کو

 Kyā ajab vaqt haé rota hōn kabhi hañstā hōñ
Din güzartā haé  merā  yād kiyay  tüm hē ko

So this time we are going to have Public Film Screenings, the way you wanted. We started with Disney (1) and have one this Saturday with our favourite: Cinema Paradiso - a film that we both loved so much.

There will be the full list of films we had chosen in our correspondence and discussions. All of them! Some of the new ones that were not on those lists that we exchanged, but we watched them together and were thrilled by them, will also be added.

And there'll be Popcorn, too, for the Audience to buy.

[A few days after Sabeen's assassination, while I was at her house, I decided to look through her VideoDiscs and put them in order alphabetically. When I got to her Cinema Paradiso that she had bought in the USA, I opened it … and found that the disc was not there. So I opened all the boxes to see if someone had left it in another box, Nopes. It still wasn't there. I then went to her video player and opened it to see if she had been watching it at some point and had not taken it out again (though that would have been unlike Sab). Nopes. All I can say is that someone obviously stole this disc (since the cover and the booklets were still in the shelf) and so her set now lies incomplete.] 

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