Lahore Ka Hast-o-Neest

Aadarsh was here yesterday. For the second weekend in a row, I should add. He came last weekend for Lahore Literary Festival, we made a few walks in old Lahore after the LLF sessions, and I think he liked what he saw. Why else would one travel two weekends in a row to a city hundreds of miles away? Not just for lassi, of course.

We went to Hast O Neest an old house in a calm neighbourhood of Lahore providing space to the seekers—of art, literature, music, and wisdom—with open arms. Literally. It’s a modest one-story structure surrounded by a small garden in the middle of the plot. All its doors—along the sides and inside—are kept open at all times. That gives it plenty of natural light and air. But I think there’s more to it. To say that this is an open space. You enter, you learn, you leave. The doors are many. And they are not shut. That was a significant first impression when I went there a few months ago for the first time. The duo that runs the show, Taimoor Khan Mumtaz and Uzma Mirza, are two of the most humble and soft-spoken people I have ever met. Friendly, inviting, and open.

When we got there, they were holding a session on classical music. Practice and theory. Bajana aur batana. Music. Sun’nay ko bhala tau lagta hai. Par kya hai jo bhala lagta hai?

“Hamaray yahan gaa aur baja tau bohat log rahay hein,” Taimoor told me, “Lakin is par baat kam ho rahi hai. Baat bhi zaroori hai. Tau bus hum wohi kar rahay hein.”

They started with a clip of Ustad Fariduddin Dagar, the master musician of the Dhrupad, the oldest still-in-use tradition of Hindustani classical music. I told them the story of how once, zindagi se tang aanay ke baad, I got myself a hut in a remote Thai hill town and heard a man, Matias Carballido, play tabla in the hut next to mine. We became friends and he introduced me to one of the most majestic bhajans I have ever heard. It was by Fariduddin Dagar. It was beautiful that Fariduddin Dagar was the first person they chose to play at Hast o Neest. I promised them that I’d bring along that particular performance of his that Matias and I used to listen to in our small huts in that remote Thai town.

The event went technical from then onwards. It was for musicians after all. We were, to quote the popular slang, n00bs. At one point, Taimoor even smilingly said, “aapko tau neend aa gayi!”

We met a friend of Chintan‘s there, Fahad, a very jolly guy but also a die-hard fan of Iqbal. Some comments on Iqbal were exchanged, which I am not sure he liked. But worry not, Fahad, this disagreement leaves us room for detailed future conversations. The world wouldn’t be so beautiful if everyone liked the same things.

At one point, during the post-session gup-shup, Aadarsh was telling a few participants about Shah Latif’s poetry and how it refrains from giving moral lessons. “So you mean, Shah Jo Risalo doesn’t give direct moral advice? Yeh karo, woh na karo nahi hai us mein?” I asked. “It wouldn’t be great poetry if that were so,” a girl responded. “Allama sahab bhi tau yehi kartay rahay hein,” I said with a grin. She laughed. It turned out she works with some International Iqbal Society.

Thinking of Sindh

Travel map for a possible road trip across Sindh. I am not setting time limits. If it extends to months, so be it. If I don’t feel like leaving Bhit Shah, I won’t. Full-time hippie mahol!

This, frankly, looks overwhelming. Wish me luck.

1. Kashmore
2. Sukkur
3. Larkana
4. Mohenjo-daro
5. Sehwan Sharif
6. Nawabshah
7. Sanghar
8. Bhit Shah
9. Mirpur Khas
10. Umarkot
11. Kunri
12. Nagarparkar (Bhodesar Temples)
13. Badin
14. Thatta (Haleji Lake, Hadero Lake, Makli)
15. Bhambhore
16. Karachi

Izzat wala kaam

“Where do you study?”

The guy sitting next to me in the bus asked when we got back to our seats after the loo and tea break. I was coming back to Lahore after spending a week at home in Islamabad where I disturbed everyone by launching a renovation project in one of the rooms because that’s what I do—clean, rearrange, renovate—whenever I am there.

Anyway, coming back to the guy in the bus, don’t you like when people assume that you must still be a student? I do. So, after congratulating myself for aging well, I smilingly told him that I was not a student anymore.

“So what do you do?” he asked the next question.

“Well, I write.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“Oh,” he paused for a while and then said in a sympathetic tone, “waise is kaam mein izzat koi nahi hai aaj kal…”

“Izzat ke liye thori likhte hein. Mann ko acha lagta hai.”

He gave an umm-okay nod.

“What do you do?” it was my turn to ask.

“I am an engineer with GHQ but soon moving to Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. I was in Islamabad for the job interview.”

“Now that’s what do you do for izzat.” I said with a laugh.

I know you are sad and depressed today but take consolation in the fact that we are also (part) Indian :P

Aww, we love you too ♡

If everyone is covering the amazing, who will share the ordinary?

This book needs to be found


The dream-catcher

I got myself three souvenirs from Philippines: a model Jeepney, a traditional earthen jar, and a dream-catcher.

The dream-catcher is a ring made of dry branches—decorated with colorful threads and five suspended strings, each carrying a few feathers. Once hung outside a door or a window, it stops bad dreams from entering the house.

It has stopped working.

The town cursed by Ranjha still burns

Some 40km south-west of Pakpattan, along the bank of River Satluj, lies an ancient old town called Qaboola. So ancient and important that it housed not one but many forts. Ruins of one still survive.

Adli was the Raja who used to rule over Qaboola, people say. The same one Waris Shah mentions at the end of his Heer, they add. At the end of the story, after Ranjha arrived in the town Heer was married off to in the disguise of a jogi, they managed to elope together. It was going to be a happy ending. But they were caught. They were caught and brought to the court of Raja Adli. The one who used to rule over Qaboola, as people say.

The Raja held a court and decided to hand over Heer to her relatives. Upon this injustice, Ranjha cursed that the town may burn down. And it happened. Raja had to ask for his forgiveness to save the town. Heer was allowed to go with Ranjha and the town was saved. (It’s another story how she was later going to be murdered.)

But the town of Qaboola still burns, the stones and pebbles in the streets still smolder, the fumes can be seem even in the rains, people of Qaboola say. The curse stays.

PK, a few observations

After reading all the dazzling public reviews and recommendations on Facebook and Twitter, I finally watched PK the other day. I think it’s alright. On the milder side really. Doesn’t directly confront the institution of religion itself.

Which brings me to another observation: Is PK partly getting the love from the educated Pakistani Muslim middle-class because it supports the increasingly popular wish among this demographic to return to the core of Islam — shunning all that they deem ‘later innovations’ (or Biddat)?

P.S. The love between a Pakistani boy and an Indian girl was cute, though with a bit of unrealistic drama at the end. Before you ask, yes, I would have equally liked it even if the boy were an Indian. Staunch supporter of cross-border love affairs here.