And this is how it goes

The birthday party that was postponed last week due to chances of rain was rescheduled to yesterday, after the monsoons blew over. It was the first birthday of the second child of my eldest niece.

To get to the venue (a club by an inlet very close to a shipping harbour) we took the scenic route….a road named after Mai Kolachi, an old fisherwoman who settled near the Indus River delta and built the foundation of what is now known as Karachi.

Once upon a time, the US Consulate in Karachi used to be located on a beautiful, tree-lined road that connects Clifton with the rest of the city, right next to the Marriot hotel, bang opposite Frere Hall and the Sind Club, both old and well-preserved remnants of colonial times.

Frere Hall housed a library and gardens, both of which were closed to the public for a long time due to security concerns for the US Consulate.

Once upon a time when the word ‘terrorist’ was not a part of our dictionary, the US Consulate was an interesting place where cultural events happened, and their library was open to the students of Karachi.

After a series of threats and attacks, when the walls of the consulate were fortified and made ugly with barbed wire and concrete blocks, it finally became evident that they would have to shift their premises to a less busy, less central road.

So the city government in its infinite wisdom, gave the Americans a spot at the juncture of Mai Kolachi and Queens Road, a main thoroughfare connecting the city to the harbour, which is where the consulate is now located.

On Friday, the entire road had been blocked on both ends with huge shipping containers, to try and prevent protesters from marching towards the ‘red zone’.

Mai Kolachi is a wide, relatively new double road, and has been a welcome addition to this traffic-riddled port city, solving a big problem for commuters and heavy goods-laden vehicles alike.

But as we drove by yesterday, the side of the road adjacent to the consulate had been cordoned off the whole length of the huge space it occupies, and traffic had been diverted to the other side, meaning the side we were on, going towards Queens Road.

Poor US. They just can’t seem to find a place where they can’t inconvenience the citizens of Karachi. Massive traffic jams seem to have become a norm since last week, as the police cordon off roads and place obstructions in a bid to protect the Consulate and of course, the people inside….understandably so.

I tried taking a pic as we drove by, but I was too slow, and Huz was too fast.

Anyways, we were amongst the first few people to reach the birthday party, but that was okay. It was a lovely, breezy evening by the inlet and we took loads of pictures, had a great time with the whole family (once they arrived) ate some delicious party food and birthday cake, and drove back home the way we came.

Being the owl that I am, I stayed up till 5 am, responding to comments on the previous blog post and reading articles and blogs, natural consequence being yours truly finally got out of bed around 11.

(Nope, six hours are definitely not enough. Must sleep earlier tonight)

Huz reminded me that we had to attend a PTM at the school at 4:30 in the afternoon, and we debated whether we should both go or just one of us. Meaning me, of course. 😛

At around one pm, I reluctantly changed out of my pj’s to go pick up Amu from school, which is just a two-minute drive away from where we live. As I was changing, I got a phone call from her (she keeps her cell phone in a pocket in her uniform, so we can communicate easily at home time) asking me to come quick as the school was urging all the kids to hurry up and leave.

Panicked, I grabbed my bag, ran downstairs, jumped in the car and hurtled towards school. What could possibly be happening now?

Amu’s school is situated at the mouth of Mai Kolachi, the other end of which is now home to the US Consulate.

When I neared the school, I saw an unusual amount of uniformed policemen and gun-carrying anti-terrorist personnel urging the cars along. I called Amu as I inched towards the gate and soon she emerged from the heavily guarded gates and walked towards me.

‘What’s going on?’ I asked as soon as she got in and I moved off.

‘We had a drill in school today, in case we had to evacuate unexpectedly. It just so happens that there actually IS an emergency all of a sudden…..apparently there’s going to be a rally soon close by….and the PTM is postponed.’

(all pics taken with my phone camera)

As I drove home, I couldn’t decide whether I was worried about the proximity of the school campus to the US presence in the city, or glad that I didn’t have to attend the PTM after all.

 

One of the proposed locations for the new US consulate was next to the Karachi Grammar School, but this plan was met with protests by concerned parents and was subsequently scrapped.

(From an Express Tribune blog by Saba Imtiaz)

Later, I received an official message from the school, informing me:

We have reports of uncertain conditions in the area, therefore Class X PTM (today – 25/9/12) has been postponed. New date to be announced later.

20 years ago, to the month.

Speaking of serendipity…..

A couple of months ago, the chowkidar of our building rang the bell to inform us worriedly that we should take a look into our servant quarters to see if everything was okay. We’d been using the space to store our extra stuff downstairs, and he thought there was a strong possibility of some kittens or mice having died in there.

Huz immediately went to check. Everything appeared to be fine, albeit very dusty and cobwebby, thankfully nothing had crawled in and died, so the building jamadaar was paid something extra to clean up and dust everything and Huz was instructed to instruct the jamadaar to carry up some cartons that had been languishing forever.

The cartons are full of old letters, files, memorabilia and stuff I’ve kept for years because I don’t have the heart to throw anything away. The files contain almost every drawing Amu ever made since she was very little. There are reams of notebooks scribbled with Huz’s prolific poetry from way back when he dreamt of being a poet. There are letters in there written to me by friends when I was away in college, or by Huz before we got married.

Treasure, basically.

A couple of weeks ago, while Amu was taking a break from studying hard for her exams, we were sitting by the window and talking about boys. Something reminded me of my younger school-going self, and I recalled an ‘autograph’ book I had kept from my last week of A level days….

Amu goes to the same school where I did my A’s, so she can relate to some of my memories from there, though admittedly, my memories of KGS aren’t quite as happy as hers.

I didn’t have a very good time there. I felt mostly lonely and depressed because I had a hard time fitting into ‘groups’. A few of my closest friends from my old school adjusted to the new environment way better than I did, and happily went about making new friends and finding their niche. I felt a bit abandoned, and completely lost….I struggled with my studies feeling rather friendless for at least a year. My self esteem was at an all-time low because I thought I must be very uncool…..It was 1992 then.

It is 2012 now, exactly 20 years since those miserable days. It is pure coincidence that I chose this time of all times to share with Amu a particular autograph written for me by a boy who was actually a year senior to me. I remember he had written something almost as a confession of a crush he might have had….I remember how my stomach had kind of plummeted when I read what he had written.

So I went over to fish out the old autograph book from the dusty old carton.

As Amu and I sat by the window and flipped through the pages of that book, reading the things people had written for me, I felt surprised all over again.

It seemed as if people had liked me….

Mysteriously, the particular autograph I wanted to show Amu wasn’t there. It seemed as if it had been removed….making me wonder if it had ever existed…? I knew it had, because I vaguely remember what had been written. I could even almost see it in my mind’s eye. Where on earth did it go..?

Moving on, here are a few samples of some of the thoughts penned by people about me. Don’t judge. Please?

someone i reconnected with after 18 years…
page two of her text! 😀
umm….I have no clue what Hammad’s talking about….:P
another of the very few I got back in touch with 🙂
Sohail even left a phone number!
🙂
this has got to be my favourite 🙂
no, i guess i didn’t fit into the nerd category either
Babar was speechless I suppose…
seems Ayesha had a peeve 😛

Looking back at these autographs made me think about the strange dichotomy between the pathetic image I had of myself during those two years as an unsought-after, unpopular, freakish girl (that nobody wanted to invite at parties…then I remembered….I was never allowed to go to any by my strict mother) and what people may perhaps actually have perceived me as.

Amu laughed her head off at some of the autographs, as did I, and we had a rollicking time. Then she looked  speculative, and remarked….’I wish  I knew this 19 year old you.’

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p.s. Here’s what the school yearbook said about me……(I still wonder who wrote this)

Munira joined KGS in 1990 and quickly became known for her cheerful nature. A lively and talkative person, Munira got along well with everyone. She was recognized for her immense artistic talent and worked for the art section of the Pulse. A free spirit, Munira was always willing to plunge into funfilled adventure. She is planning to continue her studies at either NCA or the Indus Valley school of art.

that’s me…standing third from left 🙂

It doesn’t seem like I was such a loser after all.

Pakistan Goes to the Oscars

Since I haven’t watched ‘Saving Face’ myself, I cannot possibly write about the short film, but I came across this post on Twitter and felt I should re-blog it, just to do my bit in supporting Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, the first Pakistani to ever be nominated for an Academy award!

Sharmeen was a year or two junior to me during my A level stint at the Karachi Grammar School, so I feel connected in a way.

In December, she was invited as the guest of honour on Sports Day, where she turned up wearing a white kurta and chooridar pajama and a beautiful green dupatta, not just symbolizing the colours of the Pakistani flag, but also to show her support for Streeton House, of which she was an erstwhile House Captain 🙂

Amu won a bunch of medals that day (she happens to be a fine athlete!) so she got to shake the Oscar nominee’s hand 🙂

Here’s to her winning!! Just like Amu won the 200 metre race, breaking the school record!!

Do visit Kalsoom’s blog ‘Chup’ and read all about ‘Saving Face’ and what it documents.

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Update! : Saving Face won!! What a proud moment for Sharmeen, Daniel Junge and ALL the people behind the making of the film! Bravo!! 😀

CHUP! - Changing Up Pakistan

Tomorrow is Oscar day. If you are anything like me, you watch as many Oscar-nominated films as humanly possible (while still, of course, maintaining some semblance of a life) and hope your favorite movies walk away with the coveted trophy.

The Oscars are it, the last pit stop in the awards season, the culmination of all that was brilliant in film that year. This year, filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy became the first Pakistani to ever garner an Academy Award nomination. Her documentary, Saving Face, co-directed with Daniel Junge, is up for the Oscar in the short documentary category. The film delves into the issue of acid attacks through the lens of the women affected by tragedy and the doctor trying to help them. In Pakistan, there are 100 acid attacks reported each year, but many cases go unreported, the victims instead relegated to the shadows…

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