‘Tis the Season to … have FUSION

November 26, 2019

Karachiites witnessed three great socials over the last few weekends-

The Royal Embassy of #Denmark in Islamabad brought in the “Rocqawali

The Goethe Institute of Karachi brought in “Cyminology”.

The Italian Consul in Karachi brought in Chef Vittorio Castellani (aka Chef Kumalé)

Rocqawali blends “traditional Sufi music in a 21st Century version of guitars & drums”.

In 2004, Jonas (Rocqawali’s guitarist) traveled to Pakistan to seek out his roots.  Here he met lead singer, Ejaz, who hails from Mehr Ali & Sher Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Qawal family.  Drummer Stephan joined the band in 2012, followed with Tin (their guitarist), himself from a Persian-Sufi background.  The best part- all are Danish citizens!

Cyminology, a “Berlin based quartet, combines Persian poetry” with, essentially, Jazz. 

“This subtle yet dynamic, softly-pulsating music takes its cue from the sound of the Persian-language poets- Rumi, Hafiz & Khayyam”.  As an extra, they performed a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and that too in Urdu!  Cymin Samawatie is the lead vocalist, Benedikt Jahnel on the piano, Ralf Schwarz played a beautiful Double Bass and Ketan Bhatti topped off the performance on the drums.  The best part- all are German citizens!

As an added extra to this music-cultural fusion, is Chef Kumalé, a “Gastro-Nomad”. 

A career spanning over 27 years has differentiated Chef Kumalé from many other “chefs” in the world- he’s a traveling-journalist-food blogger extraordinaire!  His visit to Karachi was primarily to learn Pakistani food – while he gave a few Italian training sessions, Chef Kumalé immersed himself into Pakistani culture and food to add to his vast gastronomic & traveling repertoire and blog.

Chef Kumale trying out the Sev Puri, Dahi Puri & other delights at #Gazebo, Karachi

The ICING –

All three events have fused MULTIPLE cultures into a common platform people enjoy … MUSIC & FOOD, regardless of language, race, ethnicity, religion or nationality; and they have done it with respect and dignity to the original chefs/authors/performers/ music.

Our Country, along with India & Iran, has one of the oldest & richest cultures in the world – with poets, mysticism, love, myriad romantic languages & food havens – a cultural dream for any artist; and for that matter, for any nation.  What better for peace & cohesion than a fusion of these CULTURES with each other and with contemporary western thinking – just what we, and the world, needs, eh!

Farm … to Market

November  6, 2019

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elXGOeS8EUQ)

One of the best investments this Country ever made in the ‘90’s was development of the new Motorways in the Punjab.  Let’s analyze what it has produced-

  • Poverty- Whether it’s the “CPEC” development of roads network, rail links or other transport modes or it’s internally developed, tying city to city and province to province will uplift rural areas and give them access to commerce, trade, emergencies, etc.;
  • Commerce – you’ve shrunk the time, eased the availability and given smooth access to farmers and trade from their villages to large towns and cities;
  • Mobility- Punjab has become MOBILE.  With a maximum travel time of six hours, people can work in one city while their home is in another- very much like cities in USA;
  • Transport- network and infrastructure has increased and become better;
  • Employment- you’ve created new means of income & employment- whether new buses ply the motorways, staffing these buses or opportunities for shops, outlets, offices, etc. (more on this below*)
  • Tourism- you give immediate access to develop internal tourism opportunities (more on this below*).  This summer, my brother, sis-in-law and our families drove from Karachi to Nathiagali, in one of the best overland adventures they have had!

*Tourism & self-employment- Local towns, villages and populace on the road network should be helped & encouraged to put up small, clean, 2-3 star lodgings & cottages– the economy of that area is being developed indigenously.  Pakistani hospitality is one of the best the world has ever seen (but few can experience it in the face of negative publicity ☹).  You don’t need the “Avaris” and the “PCs” & “Serenas” – let it be the “Khan Motel” instead.  One, 10 room lodging will give DIRECT income & employment to a family of 5-7 people minimum; they in turn will employ others to help run the show; producers will sell food stuff, cleaning, linen and other items to these lodgings; the benefits go on down-stream and are never ending; and on & on.  The ancillary developments that take place are another story all together – shops , retails, malls, organized tours, etc.

(http://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/416339-Motorway-opened-for-all-kinds-of-traffic)

There may be no international empirical evidence suggesting an increase in road networks necessarily helps an economy but I see actual, on-the-ground benefits we have gained in Pakistan.  If travel time between Karachi and Lahore can be reduced from almost 24 hours to 12 hours, what’s not to like?  If a series of motorways links the length and breadth of Pakistan, what’s wrong with that?

(As I post this, the new M7 – Multan to Sukkar- just opened!)

…and the Naatak entertained us this weekend!

October 15, 2019

(In Gujrati, “Naatak” = “play”)

Mix Breed”, based on a Parsi family who have to face “intermarriage” issues, is a light portrayal of the real-world issues our Community is facing.   With double meanings and inflections, the cast (90% of whom learnt Gujrati “on the job”!) entertained the Gujrati speaking communities of Karachi.

The Script was written by Mrs Huzan Wadia, who has successfully acted & directed it in Mumbai; and selflessly extended the script on a gratis basis to Natalia Karanjia in Karachi, this play being the latter’s directorial debut.  Yay to Natalia!

This is what Karachi, and Pakistan, lacks- ENTERTAINMENT.  We have food & drink and ………… hmmmmm.  Play and theatre is picking up in Pakistan but to a very restricted market.  The mainstream citizens do not get to enjoy theatre on a regular basis- whether drama, comedy, musical.  Our cast explained to me the ‘power’ of theatre – they get their rush when the crowd reacts with them- it’s a powerful, intoxicating feeling; there are no second chances for a mistake; and when you make a mistake, you have to think on your feet and keep going.

In the 2000 decade our media was opened – creating a new source of employment – for budding theatre artists, actors, directors, writers, film makers, etc.  It’s a growth market but we have to create more facilities for this talent to be nurtured, taught, portrayed – AND WITH IT allowing us citizens to enjoy these productions and enriching our lives.  Kudos to the NAPAs, Arts Councils and other such facilities – but we need more!

(The naatak was sponsored by the 109 year-old Young Mazdyasnian Zoroastrian Association (YMZA) and the Karachi Parsi Anjuman- however it is not meant to be any endorsement or official or unofficial stance of the Anjuman, the YMZA or any individual thereof)

BEING BORN IN THE ‘60s!

Rotary Telephone

September 27, 2019

… does that make me old? I think not.

I can unequivocally state that my parents’ generation enjoyed the BEST times of Pakistan – no two ways about it.  However, my generation of the 1960s have evolved through one of the most INTERESTING and EXCITING periods of history – the TECHNOLOGY explosion.  I mean, we have first-hand witnessed –

  1. The change from rotary to touch button telephones;
  2. Analog to Digital services telephone services;
  3. The advent of the PERSONAL computer (my first computer was an IBM machine) in the early 1980s;
  4. Mobile phones – GSM, 3G, 4G, 5G … and all the future “G’s” that are to come;
  5. Laptops, sat phones, VOIP tech, skype, whats app, wechat, tablets;
  6. Newspapers to online news and RSS feeds;
  7. Print media to Social media;
  8. Reel cameras to Digital cameras- in fact, I found one such camera and asked my studio for a 36mm reel only to be told they’ve been discontinued 😊!  So, I’ve started scanning my old reels into digital photos for posterity;
  9. Vinyl records, cassette tapes, VHS & Beta to cloud based music & videos;
  10. Pen cameras, car cameras, CCTV – you name it … it’s out of the old “BOND” movies we used to see!
  11. We used pens & pencils but the latest tablet & phone technology uses a stylus and speech-to-written technology. 
  12. Amazon, Careem, Uber … the list goes on an on.

The generation of the ‘90s has grown up on digital … they never experienced non-digital communication!  It’s online movies, Netflix, cloud-based streaming movies, etc.  Yes, my kids come to the theatre but they don’t need a cable TV set up in their dorms anymore- they are quite content with seeing their content on their laptops.

However, I feel, what technology explosion we saw in the ‘90s was one of the most interesting a generation can witness – notwithstanding what is yet to come! –  and things are still evolving.

It’s only a matter of time when our thoughts will be transcribed to the written-word … I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s already here !

Vinyl Records- https://images.app.goo.gl/SkieMPX4KHK46qpC9

Oh…The Clean Clean (not) Streets of Karachi

Birth_Centenary_1986_of_Jamshed_Nusserwanjee_Mehta-Pakistan

August 30, 2019

I’m visiting “The Big Apple” … and it’s clean!

Jamshed Nusserwanji Mehta was the 1st Mayor of Karachi in 1933.  “…Karachi became the cleanest city in the East. Its broad streets, lights, sanitation and water system, … [ ] … spoke of the city’s progress” (https://www.dawn.com/news/649943/in-memoriam-jamshed-nusserwanji-the-builder-of-modern-karachi).  My grandfather told us how the Mayor ensured the streets were washed twice a day, which he personally supervised periodically.

Look at where we are now … ☹☹☹.  We can have all the latest, mechanized tools but there’s no “system” or “will”, so we might as well [continue] to live in the dark ages.

There is no reason Karachi cannot reclaim this glory.  I AM KARACHI (http://iamkarachi.org/), the social NGO, has proven that keeping city walls clean & painted with street art, ensures no vandalism or defacement of property.  In the same vein, once the city is cleaned & maintained by the Municipality, there is absolutely no reason why we will not maintain the same.  I am not justifying wrong actions but it’s only when our citizens see a clean city will we continue the practice … and there’s no rocket science involved.

Throw out all mechanical tools and go back to Jamshed Mehta’s simplicity – put idle bodies on the roads, give them a broom and bucket each and get them to deep clean the roads, the garbage bins, the nooks & crannies every night from midnight to 6am.  Put a garbage bin on EVERY alternate light pole; on every street corner; at every traffic signal – enabling people a means to throw their daily trash!  Through the day have roving street cleaners who will simply pick up large debris like cans, plastics, etc.  You will create EMPLOYMENT. 

You will give an honest day’s wage to the unemployed and a meaning to their lives.  Infant mortality will increase.  You will eradicate mosquitos, disease and other scourge of pollution.  These are not simply PR words – this can happen!

In return, we will get a clean city and healthy citizens. 

The Real Father of Karachi- https://www.dawn.com/news/1113332

Manora Lighthouse & St. Paul’s Church

August 21, 2019

We live in a City but hardly go to visit the sites therein…and Karachi has plenty to see!

So, off we went some years back to see Manora’s Lighthouse and St. Paul’s Church, both located in the Karachi Harbour and both which we pass regularly when sailing. 

This is not only the second oldest lighthouse (1889) of the British Raj but, we were told, ONLY one of two lighthouses in the WORLD which are still cranked by hand (and not battery operated).  The other lighthouse is apparently in Chennai, India.

There is still a lighthouse keeper … and every 50-odd minutes, he has to physically crank the lever that rotates the light, dusk to dawn!

Crank
Lighthouse steps

Hats off to the Karachi Port Trust in maintaining this iconic structure and the traditional art of operating the lighthouse successfully for the last 130 years.

The still-active 1865 Church, St. Paul’s, stands adjacent to the Lighthouse – and maintains a weekly Mass every Sunday for the Christian residents of Manora Island.

According to https://www.ibiblio.org/lighthouse/pak.htm, the British captured Manora in 1839 and made it their initial base of operations in what is now Pakistan.  The lighthouse & Church are located on the southeastern tip of the peninsula facing the Arabian Sea. 

Not only was this our first visit ever to both these legendary icons but a first for us on Manora Island itself.

Manora Island and Karachi Harbour

A future “Malir River-Basin Dam”?

(Photo credit- https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Malir-River-Basin-MRB_fig1_325475799)

August 12, 2019

Last week I had written about recycling & harvesting rain water (https://dinshawavari.com/2019/08/08/and-the-rains-are-upon-us/).  Then we faced rains in Karachi which I have not seen in decades.  The “natural” effect of this was the massive misinformation & incorrect (some genuinely mistaken) social media warnings & alerts on the effects of the rains in Karachi. 

One post in particular, on the flooding of Malir River, got me thinking.  At the outset, let me clarify that these are my personal views and I hope it doesn’t lead to controversy …

               Water flowing down Sindh province makes its way into Malir River, which generally lays dry through the year.  It’s only when we have sudden rains or this current set of rains when it fills up, and in the latter case, overflowed too.

               The major sources of Karachi’s water are the Hub dam, Keenjhar lake & Haleji lake.

Why don’t we “DAM” up the Malir River Basin within Karachi’s limits?  Why let the precious rain water go to waste, into the Arabian Sea?  If Karachi is seeing its own effects of climate change and our soothsayers predict more of this to come, let’s channelize that water into a massive & natural reservoir down Malir River.  A dam in the middle of the City will also become its own, inbuilt tourist attraction (just like Nasser Dam is in Egypt).  It’s just a matter of finessing this future dam as the main structural setup is already in place.

There will NOT be any negative environmental effects – in fact it will save water; be a positive social change for the people of Karachi through tourism; it will control the environmental pollutants currently flowing into the Malir River. There will be other benefits!

Do you water experts out there agree to this- or a variation of this idea?

(Photo credit- Samaa TV)