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Sulh e kul
There is something very restful about the term Sulh e kul. Translated as complete reconciliation, or universal peace, it is a term associated with Emperor Akbar who aimed to unite all the religions or schools of thought in India. While his Din e Elahi was controversial, its genesis lay in sulh e kul, promoted by the 12 C Sufi saint Hazrat Moinuddin Chisti. The Sulh e kul of Chishti “peace for all” has outlived the Sulh e kul of Akbar, with thousands of devotees subscribing to the message of “Love Toward All, Malice Toward None”
“World Peace” has become a cliché not least because of its association with Miss World contests. In the film Miss Congeniality, Sandra Bullock as Gracie Hart, an undercover police officer who is initially cynical about the phrase, says, as she unexpectedly receives the crown: 'I really do just want world peace!’ underlining what the naturalist, Rashmi Chandran says, “ Everyone’s natural state is one of peace” if it is not disrupted by external circ…
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A Tale of Three Cities
Karachi is in a state of shocked silence as bulldozers roam its streets pulling down shops and buildings and nurseries considered illegal, reducing them to rubble in a matter of hours. While few dispute their legality, and for years, a number of watchdog organizations have been highlighting encroachments on amenity plots, pavements and illegal buildings, it’s the suddenness of it that has caught everyone on the back foot.
It draws attention to the experience of other cities across the world, today admired for their modernity, smooth management and livability. Looking at three cities – London, New York and Paris, gives important context to the current efforts in Karachi. All three cities were amassing wealth and power through colonization and trade in the 19C, yet all three were dark, dingy, filthy and filled with crime and poverty. In many ways they present a much grimmer picture than present day Karachi.
The French Revolution of 1789 had overthrown the Fren…
Street Music
Akram Dost recently sent me a video of a Baloch musician jamming on a Tanbourag(a delicate long-necked Balochi string instrument),with a very young tabla nawaz in a village carpenter’s tiny workshop.The musicians sat on a dusty floor, light streaming in through the door, as the magic of music entered my space from theirs.
Aamir Mughal suggests Baloch musicians are descendants of the Osta , a community that offered their services to tribes to sing of their history and achievements.The Manganhars of Thar, who gifted us Mai Bhagi and Allan Fakir, and the Banjaras of Rajasthan, the community of the famous folk singer Reshma, played a similar role. Pathanay Khan, the Seraiki folk singer, collected firewood for a living, Alam Lohar of Punjab, a blacksmith, Faiz MuhammadBaluch, a labourer by day, kept sufi literature andfolk lore alive.
Every region of Pakistan has its folk music, song and dance, performed at occasions of celebration or loss, or at social gatherings. Fear of r…
Frere Hall Gardens
Frere Hall and its gardens is one of the gentlest places in Karachi. I like to think it always was. It was designedas a gesture of appreciation not as a symbol of colonialpower. It was funded mainly by citizens, both British and local. It was not a church or a government office, but a place for relaxation and leisure, and it’s one of the very few heritage buildings that maintains its original function.
Karachi has a number of parks, the sea side, eating places that spill over on to streets , newly adapted cultural spaces such as Mohatta Palace and Pakistan Chowk artists corner. Frere Hall has the distinction of being conceived as a public access cultural space and for the last 154 years continues that legacy.
Commissioned to honour Sir Bartle Frere’snine years of service as Commissioner during which time Karachi emerged as a planned city, the building was designed by Lt Col H St Clair Williamsand completed in 1865.Its main halls were used for concerts and theatri…
Undefining Art
The Pakistani artist, Mehr Afroze, said in an interview, art is not what you do but an artist is what you become.A journalist, a doctor, an inventor, a philosopher, a sufi, a poet or an artist, once they have adopted a certain path, will forever see the world and its events through that prism. At the site of a road accident, the doctor will immediately see to the injured, a policeman will collect evidence, the journalist will investigate the story, a poet will find words to express his emotions, and an artist will make a visual impression.
Is art a way of being, of thinking or a profession?The word, professional, started as a vow from the Latin “professus” – to profess one’s skill to others.From the early 20th C, the word, professional, came to be linked with an economically rewarded occupation.
Should a poet who composes for his diary or a few friends, not be recognized a s a poet until he has published or presented his kalaam in a mushaira?Is my mother, who has been p…
Radio Waves
We spent many a late night turning the dial on the radio to catch beautiful sad music from radio Moscow, afternoons after college, curtains drawn and radio tuned to the soft dulcet tones of Radio Pakistan or being terrified listening to the Sunday Studio 9 radio play "Sorry Wrong Number".
From Radio Pakistan’s first transmission at midnight between 13th and 14th August to the many FM radio channels today, radio has transformed from the transmitter of culture - classical music by Baray Ghulam Ali, launching great names such as Mehdi Hasan,radio plays that formed our best loved television stars,talent shows, heads of state announcing the onset of war or the imposition of Martial Law - to the light hearted entertainment of today’s chatty FM transmissions.
While WWI introduced the destructive face of technology, long range guns, aerial bombardment and mustard gas, it also developed entertainment radio from advances in wireless transmissions.Commercial radio took the wo…
The Beautiful Man
The narrative of beauty is predominantly female. Occasionally we get a glimpse into the parallel narrative of male beauty when Yusuf, Adonis, Romeo or the Chaiwala become adjectives to describe attractive or romantic men.
Male self-adornment has a long history: the Egyptians kings painted their nails red , used lip colour, and elaborate eye makeup; Roman Centurionsbleached their hair, used facial paint,Roman and Greek Military leaders usednail varnish and lip colours to match.
The exquisite bejeweledclothing of Mughal kings and nobility is legendary and even today men wear finely embroidered Lucknawi angarkhas. Japanese aristocrats of the past shaved their eyebrows, repainting them into elegant arches. The Samurai dress was a part of their code. European men of the 1700s used beauty patches, wigs and face paint, reaching excess in the next century with the Dandies and Macaronis.
Body paint in the tribal Americas, Africa andAustralia enhance spiritual or military strengt…