Author Archives: ashfaq shah

The Lords Experience


I was probably the first spectator in the stand along with my brother Ishtiaq. Play was supposed to start at 11:00. It was barely 9:30. That’s how early I have always been for cricket matches. Be it my first ever experience at Niaz Stadium in Hyderabad for a Pakistan – Srilanka match before 1992 World Cup or numerous other experiences at National Stadium in Karachi. I love to get in there early, get a feel of the ground, soak the atmosphere (or lack of it), and then watch players warm up and practise. But this was different. As we sat on our seats I said something to Ishtiaq and he replied, ‘let me absorb this for a while, I am at Lords to watch a test match. This is my dream come true.’ I could totally understand. He was a being a fan just like me. We were afterall at Lords cricket ground.

This day has more signifance due to the fact that Pakistan was playing. Last time I went to see a cricket match was for a Asia Cup game between Pakistan and Srilanka at National Stadium in Karachi in July 2008. Soon after, the attack on Srilankan team happened and international cricket stopped in Pakistan. So I was watching my team play after eight years. Now to he honest, I was vary of my record (or jinx) of Pakistan losing matches whenever I go to see them in stadium. Their win ratio is about 20% when I am in the crowd. And Pakistan hadn’t won at Lords since 1996. I don’t need to go into more details about what I was fearing despite the decent position we were in.

Another reason for coming in early was that from my experiences in Pakistan, I assumed it would take quite a bit of time to find the right gate and then enclosure to enter. When we reached the ground we saw a long que of MCC members formally dressed in the striped or baige blazers and ties. We were swiftly guided to right entrance by stewards and as soon as gates opened it was a smooth sailing. Unlike Pakistan, spectators were allowed to bring in their food and liquor (in limited quantity). However flags or banners were not allowed. Crowd in other stands was a good mix of people casually dressed in chappals and shorts to people in suits as well as uber cool fashionistas in smart casuals. As we entered we saw Nursery ground which is a small ground used for nets. It is situated behind the spaceship looking media centre and that is where the name Nursery End comes from. We stopped by there to see Sohail Khan and other coaching staff giving net practise to Muhammad Amir and Yasir Shah. Though none of it came to any help as Pakistan innings folded before we could open our packs of crisps. Before entering the stand, we decided to get some coffee and this is where we had our first encounter with Lords’s knowledable crowd. An old gentlemen wearing MCC jacket was sipping his tea and as I was mixing sugar to my latte, he asked us politely ‘do you lads think your team can finish the game today?’. I honestly didn’t think so. So I said that it will go to 5th day and I think England has a good chance considering lot of their first innings dismissals were poor shots to Yasir Shah and I expect them to play better. He said, ‘He is a good leggie this chap. And perhaps you are disregarding a weary fourth day pitch.’ As it turned out, I was. He left saying may the best team wins.

Our stand was right below media centre, opposite pavilion. We had a good view (mid/Long off position from Nursery End) and were under the shade on a sunny but breezy day. In terms of support, England had an edge but there was a vociferous Pakistani contigent scattered which made it’s presence felt throughout the day. English support was typical Lords. Neutral, sporting and sophisticated in it’s behaviour. There were usually some turned heads and raised eyebrows at Pakistani slogans and chants but plenty of smiles as well. On my left were two English gentlemen with whom I had numerous interesting conversations throughout the day. They would burst out laughing during Wahab Riaz’s great spell everytime he would beat a batsmen. He once commented that if there was rule that batsmen would have to walk back if they were beaten 5 times, both Woak and Baistrow would be out by now. His departing remark was that in the end, atleast England had more reviews left in DRS so they won on that account. On my right were couple of Desi young men, one of who didnt know Muhammad Aamir.

What I like about watching matches in grounds is you get to see some stuff which somehow is not evident on television coverage. I saw suited Wasim Akram talking to Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz before start of play for good 15 minutes. He was holding a ball up in the air so it must have been either about release of the ball or arm positioning. Regardless, both Rahat and Wahab bowled well on the day. There were lot of memes on social media about Muhammad Hafeez and his utility to the team. Before Pakistan’s turn to bowl, Micky Arthur spent time with Hafeez on catching drills. Also, watching Wahab Riaz trying to make crowd clap for Muhammad Aamir when nothing seemed to be working for him was great to see.

I must admit during England’s main partnership, I did contemplate leaving early to avoid the rush. But my brother insisted to stay and thank goodness we did. As we were about to walk out after end of play, I saw Pakistani team line up on the ground and I thought I have never seen a match presentation ceremony on Lords ground so what are they upto? What happened afterwards will remain in our minds forever. And the fact that I saw it live, I can only express by saying that I was there when it happened. As we were walking out, Lords and its surrounding streets were resonating with Pakistan Zindabad slogans and for fans who had not seen their team in action for so long, you could feel nothing but pride.

P.S: I have tried resisting the urge to write a match report for two reasons: 1 – They are already out there and written by people who can do more justice than I can and 2 – You watch very little of the actual game itself when you are on the ground.


Bachay

So Alamdar (my 3 years old son) saw a kitten in our car porch and started feeding him stuff. Kitten started playing with him. One day I came from home and saw them playing, I asked him do you have a pet now? Yes, he said. So I asked what is its name? He took a pause to think and came back with an answer – “Billi Ka Bachay.” I tried explaining him it would be bacha and not bachay, but he insisted on bachay. So it was named Billi ka bachay.

 

Few days later he went to a school fair and won a gold fish in some competition. Came back with his trophy and put in a bowl. When I asked him about the name, reply was – “Machli ka bachay”.

Whilst putting him to bed at night, I usually tell him a bed time story. He wanted to hear a story with a horse. So I came up with a story in which a prince named Alamdar was riding a horse. He immediately stopped me to ask me what horse’s name is. I said I don’t know, you tell me. Reply didn’t surprise me at all. It was – “Ghoray ka bachay”

As it turned out, kitten was run over by a car outside our home few days later. Last evening fish died as well. When he looked at the empty bowl, he asked me baba where is machli ka bachay. I said I was hungry so I ate it. I could sense his disappointment. He asked why didn’t I eat Nutella, so I replied I don’t like Nutella, and I was really hungry so I fried the fish and ate it. Ok, he said and went out to play with kitten.

Someone told him that the cat is killed. So he came back running and asked.

Baba, did you eat the billi kay bachay too?


Manto

Manto 1

I was telling a friend last night that dare I say, Manto (the movie) is better than Moor. Now Moor, comes from Jami, and he is someone I have tremendous respect for his ideas and work. And don’t get me wrong, I loved watching Moor. Manto comes from someone whose earlier work I have barely seen. The only time I remember seeing sultan Sarmad Khosat as an actor was in a sitcom. I have definitely not seen any of his work as a director. Before today, I had no clue he was director of the famous Hum TV play ‘Humsafar’. The point is, I had to think a few times before making that statement because it says a lot. What I actually wanted to say was, it is the best movie to have come out of Pakistan. I cannot say that because I simply don’t think I am qualified to say it. But I can definitely claim that Manto has raised the bar for local cinema. My initial hope is, that somehow it ends up making commercial sense so that movies like Manto, Moor and 021 keeping coming. If we as a country are still not ready for movies like these in 2015, then it is plain sadness.

Back to Manto, where to start. I am sitting here writing this review feeling like a fan so it is difficult to keep partiality out. The idea of watching a movie on a subject like Saadat Hassan Manto, a proclaimed anti-establishment rebellious figure known for his provocative work was always appealing to me. But to see the result in the form of this powerful, intense and dark movie is really an effort that deserves an standing ovation. This is a director’s movie. Sultan Sarmad as a director has got most things right. Art direction and production design is excellent. Film maintains a stunning look throughout in line with the period depicted. Use of various interesting camera angles and psychedelic treatment gives narration an edgy feel. Sultan Sarmad has made effective use of creative liberty to incorporate Manto’s short stories in the narrative in what is otherwise a biopic. They don’t seem forced or out of place.

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He has also managed to extract great performances from his star cast which appear mostly in cameos. Nimra Bucha as Manto’s alter ego stands out. Her scenes with Khosat will haunt you even after the movie has finished. Nadia Afghan and Savera Nadeem as characters of Manto’s short stories also put in great efforts. Saba Qamar as Madam Noor Jehan gets mannerism right but is passable. Faisal Qureshi sparkles in a role which lasts hardly a minute. The chemistry between Sania Saeed (as Manto’s wife) and Sultan Sarmad is good but her character as Safia is one dimensional. Sultan Sarmad has excelled as an actor. He has managed portrayal of a complex character with aplomb and displays Manto’s anguish, desperation and mental failings in a restrained and controlled performance.

Manto, the movie has excellent sound track. The songs featuring Meesha Shafi ‘Meham Dilan de Mahi’ and Ali Sethi’s ‘Aah Ko Chahiye’ stand out. Music does not have period feel to it except where required but still gels well with the movie.

You can’t help but think about life of Manto when the movie is finished, and if that happens you know justice has been served. Must watch. 5 Stars.


2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Khaana Peena

So we are sitting at Karachi Darbar restaurant in Dubai with some colleagues from India, and some more NRI colleagues who are based in Dubai. It is a casual evening when both Pakistani and Indian sides are rather complementary to each other. It starts with an Indian guy starts humming ‘Purani jeans aur guitar’. They start praising Pakistani alternative music scene (which is almost non existent now) and we praised bollywood. It eventually turns to cricket and they cant help but laud Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar and of-course Imran Khan. We return the favor by acknowledging Sachin Tendulkar and admitting Saurav Ganguly did turn Indian cricket’s mentality around. Their were some worth remembering anecdotes of various cricket matches from both sides with language which cannot be reproduced here.

When it came to ordering, we Pakistani’s were given the honor of ordering the food since restaurant was ‘Karachi Darbar’, assuming we would know Pakistani food best. So we thought ‘Haleem’ and asked for their opinion, ‘what is haleem’ they responded. It surprised us as we thought it was an indian dish and India was being represented by North, South and Mumbai and none of them had a clue. Infact one of them thought its a Pakistani dish. Khair, it started an interesting exchange which went something like this.

  • Apparently there is a famous Karachi Halwa available in Mumbai, we the Karachites do not know of any famous halwa from Karachi.
  • We told them about various branches of Merath Kebab houses in Karachi. They said Merath is not popular for kebabs, in-fact one would struggle to find kebabs there. It is a city famous for manufacturing goods, kind of Sialkot in Pakistan.
  • There is a Karachi bakery in Indian Hyderabad, famous for biscuits, and a Bombay Bakery in Pakistani Hyderabad. The mumbai guy had no clue about Bombay Bakery’s specialties.
  • Apparently, Lahori murg is quite popular in Delhi, however, the Lahori chap on our side doesn’t actually knows if there is a particular dish called Lahori murg.
  •  A Karachite mentioned that Chef Zakir prepares excellent Delhi briyani, to which the Delhi guy responded that there is actually no such thing as Delhi briyani, however, Hyderabadi briyani is famous.
  • In the end, the funniest part was, that Karachi Darbar restaurant is actually owned by an Indian Malabari.

Bottom line is, they loved Haleem and Pakola, and we still don’t know where it came from originally.


My Friend by Khalil Gibran

My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear–a
care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee
from my negligence.

The “I” in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and
therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.

I would not have thee believe in what I say nor trust in what I
do–for my words are naught but thy own thoughts in sound and my
deeds thy own hopes in action.

When thou sayest, “The wind bloweth eastward,” I say, “Aye it doth
blow eastward”; for I would not have thee know that my mind doth
not dwell upon the wind but upon the sea.

Thou canst not understand my seafaring thoughts, nor would I have
thee understand. I would be at sea alone.

When it is day with thee, my friend, it is night with me; yet even
then I speak of the noontide that dances upon the hills and of
the purple shadow that steals its way across the valley; for thou
canst not hear the songs of my darkness nor see my wings beating
against the stars–and I fain would not have thee hear or see. I
would be with night alone.

When thou ascendest to thy Heaven I descend to my Hell–even then
thou callest to me across the unbridgeable gulf, “My companion, my
comrade,” and I call back to thee, “My comrade, my companion”–for
I would not have thee see my Hell. The flame would burn thy eyesight
and the smoke would crowd thy nostrils. And I love my Hell too
well to have thee visit it. I would be in Hell alone.

Thou lovest Truth and Beauty and Righteousness; and I for thy sake
say it is well and seemly to love these things. But in my heart
I laught at thy love. Yet I would not have thee see my laughter.
I would laugh alone.

My friend, thou art good and cautious and wise; nay, thou art
perfect–and I, too, speak with thee wisely and cautiously. And
yet I am mad. But I mask my madness. I would be mad alone.

My friend, thou art not my friend, but how shall I make thee
understand? My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand
in hand.


One year.

It is around this time last year I received a call from ICU of hospital, asking me to reach there immediately. I had come back home barely an hour earlier having spent all day in the waiting area outside the ward. Basically going through motions, answering queries of relatives, friends and well-wishers. Holding on to the slimmest of hopes we could find from doctor’s updates. Six months and this was the first time I got a call from hospital, deep down I knew this is not good. I was worried I could not figure out who the caller was as he was not willing to divulge much, when you have a patient in hospital for 6 months; you manage to get to know most staff working there.

As luck would have it, I did not have a car at home. I called my sister who had just left my home little while ago to turn back and take me to hospital. She promptly did and within 15 minutes I was there. When I entered the ward, it surely was a new doctor as I was not familiar with him. He confirmed my name and as he just started talking I naturally turned to look at Baba’s bed and my heart sank looking at monitor. It showed straight lines instead of the ones I was used to seeing. This was just like movies. I noticed a nurse unplugging the equipment and then it occurred to me that it has happened, minutes before we reached there. My sister was talking to the nurse, reconfirming it while sobbing; I couldn’t hear what they were saying as all the sounds seem to come from far away. All I could hear was silence and all I could see was that visual from the monitor. I couldn’t gather myself to look at him, and I left the ward.

I felt numb. I tried to gather myself and thought of the stuff I had to do. I had to make a call to my cousin who about to board a plane, he had to be informed. I called him and he picked up and all I could manage to say was ‘ada’. I felt lost for words, how could I find adequate words for what just happened. I gathered all the strength to say it but could go past the word ‘ada’ again and broke down. Eventually he understood my speechlessness and said he is coming back. I then called up my elder brother to inform him and finally said it, “ada, baba has left us”. Whatever happened afterwards is of little consequence.  I had to make many more similar calls, with every call it started becoming more believable, words became easier to come.

It has been a year. I have learned to move on in life. I have learned to leave the regrets behind. But one regret which I am carrying, and will stay with me forever, is that I was not there in his last minutes. I don’t know, but what if he had opened his eyes to look out for someone of his own or to look out for me? I was not there when it mattered despite being there for last 6 months of his life. I was not there when it mattered most.