culture
Festival time
They come from all over the country t o Maryamabad near Sheikhupura every October to pray for salvation and celebrate Mother Mary
By Haroon Khalid
After walking, barefoot, for several kilometers blisters develop under their feet. Even though they put on socks to avoid the condition; that still doesn't protect them. Others, who decide to make their way on cycles, are seen resting on the road, under the trees, throughout the road - to Marya Yatra.

MOOD STREET
Over and done with Eid
By Anum Javed
I can almost see the split second shock on your face. It is followed by relief and then surprise.

Town Talk
*Children's Literature Festival at Children's Library Complex on Friday-Saturday, Nov 25-26 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
*Lahore Photo Walk 11 today at 1:00pm. The photographers will go to Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque & Hazoori Bagh. Open to all photographers. 
*Fashion Show today at The Knowledge Factory (TKF) at 4:00 pm.

art
Poetics of space
Photographs that speak of human predicament
By Quddus Mirza
Regardless of the concerns whether he has money, a house or a safe bank deposit, man by nature is a collector. We like to possess physical objects as well as non tangible entities - reason why our residences and work places are filled with items acquired over years in the way our minds are cluttered with memories of the past. Both kinds of collections accumulate in such large amounts that often we are not aware of what we have stored. Then there are gifts received from others in terms of tangible things and collective knowledge, including language in the non-physical form.

 


 

culture
Festival time
They come from all over the country t o Maryamabad near Sheikhupura every October to pray for salvation and celebrate Mother Mary
By Haroon Khalid

After walking, barefoot, for several kilometers blisters develop under their feet. Even though they put on socks to avoid the condition; that still doesn’t protect them. Others, who decide to make their way on cycles, are seen resting on the road, under the trees, throughout the road — to Marya Yatra.

The annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Mary, called the Marya Yatra, at a small village a few kilometers away from the city of Sheikhupura has now become the largest Catholic pilgrimage in the country. Several thousands of devotees continue pouring in for this three-day event. Whereas families, women and children usually get here by public transport, the younger men make a much more difficult journey. According to the Catholic belief if they take up this journey in a difficult condition, e.g. by walking barefoot or on a cycle then Mother Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ, would forgive them their sins. This act is called Penance in the Catholic theology.

Throughout our journey from Lahore to Maryamabad, we ran into several groups of people, wearing colourful shirts, travelling in small and large groups towards their destination. Some people were trying to get there on bicycles.

These groups come from all over the country, sometimes travelling for more than a couple of days to get to their shrine. Shahbaz Masih, an 18-years-old student from Okara tells me that he cycled up till Maryamabad with a group of 24 people. “I have come here before, but by bus. This is the first time I’ve come here by bicycle. I am praying to get good marks in Matric exams. My mother also remains sick, so I am praying for her health too,” he says.

Like hundreds of other devotees, who undertake this difficult journey, Masih feels that doing this would help his wishes come true. The 15-years-old Akash from Lahore agrees. It took him three days to get here.

As one approaches the village, two tall minarets greet the pilgrims from far away. According to the belief, wishes come true if one climbs to the top and ties a cloth around a wooden structure that is erected on the top. Several young men stood at the bottom to go on this vertical journey. A few boys stood at the top to assist the devotees.

Both the minarets stand in an open field facing the shrine. This entire ground had been taken up by stalls, selling Christian paraphernalia, like the cross, pictures of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary, audio CDs, and DVDs. There were various stalls of eatables.

One of the differences between Catholics and Protestants is that the Catholics adorn their houses and Churches with statues and pictures of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary whereas the Protestants don’t, usually just limiting themselves to the cross. The Catholics also can be identified by the cross necklace they wear, which the Protestants hardly do. Catholics consider Mother Mary as the Mother of the entire humanity whereas the Protestants revere her but don’t give her such a special status.

There is a huge line to get into the main Church. Inside, there is a small Church in the centre. Next to it is a stage where singers and performers are coming and performing, singing Christian songs, in local folk tunes. These songs are quite popular. At one time Madam Noor Jahan and Arif Lohar also recorded them. Next to it is a small artificial mound. On its summit there is a life-size statue of Mother Mary, holding baby Christ in her arms. Devotees stand in long queues to pay their tribute to the Mary. In the 1980s, when this was a small shrine, a few young children from the neighbouring village claimed to see the figure of Mother Mary on this mound. The story gained popularity and within years the shrine became famous all over the country. On its base, devotees lit candles. Father Mushtaq, representative of the Diocese of Lahore which is responsible for the management of the shrine and the pilgrimage says, “Candles signify the presence of Jesus Christ. Wherever there is light, he exists.”

“This is the 62nd   festival of Mary at the shrine,” says Father Mushtaq. “The priests at that time felt a need to make a mound and a shrine of Mary for the Christian parish (community) living here. It is important for all parishes to have a mound, which signifies proximity to God,” he adds. He tells us that there is a spring next to the mound, water from which is consumed and used for salvation. On the 2nd day of the festival the Bishop comes and blesses the water, after which people drink it, whereas some choose to take some water home. Little children are given a bath in the spring for salvation. “This started off as a small festival, at the level of the parish in the early days, but over the years, especially after the testimonies of people seeing Mother Mary here, its popularity soared and now this is the largest Catholic festival of the country,” says Father Mushtaq. A lot of people give testimonies of witnessing Saints, Mother Mary and experiencing miracles here, which they then share with the rest of the community on stage here, according to the father.

October and May are reserved for the worship of Mary. The month of October became associated with the worship of Mary after the victory of the Papal States over the Ottoman forces in 1571, in the battle of Lepanto. Had the Ottomans won, they would have gained access to the Western Europe. A rosary procession was offered on the day of the battle at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome for the success of the Christian forces, in the name of Virgin Mary. The rosary worship offered all over the Catholic communities, including at this festival, is in the memory of that victory.

There is no place to sleep for the devotees here, who also come for overnight stays. They usually find a place underneath a tree. Several lay inside the Church and around it. Behind the Church there is an open ground, where tents are set up to accommodate the devotees. Here I meet Sabar Elahi, who has come from Shahdara. He serves the devotees free nihari, bong and halwa puri. “Every year, we give about 30-40 cauldrons of food for free,” he adds. He has been coming here for 10 years, every year. He gives free food to the pilgrims as part of his service to the religion.

Within the same tent, we also meet Nasreen from Shahdara. She isn’t planning to come this year. Her children left the house with a caravan to take the journey on foot. One of her sons got lost. When Nasreen was told about it, she immediately left for Maryamabad. “Throughout the journey, I recited the rosary of Mary,” she says. “As soon as we got here, we found him. Thanks to God and Mother Mary,” she adds

 

  MOOD STREET
Over and done with Eid
By Anum Javed

I can almost see the split second shock on your face. It is followed by relief and then surprise.

For the women out there, the shock at the thought of all those guests to be served and, for the kids, the thought of the boredom in meeting the countless near-strangers from your extended families. The indescribable relief when you remind yourself that Eid just went by – it is over and done with, for the next few months at least. And then there is the surprise: seeing an article about Eid in the newspaper, days after the festival itself, is rather strange…

What compelled me to type it out was an SMS I just received. The official Eid holidays were a measly three, but most people did convert it into a full week, if the empty streets were anything to go by. That explains the timing of this message.

The SMS caught me by as much surprise as the theme of this article might have surprised you. At first glance, it seemed that my friend had woken from hibernation, for the screen displayed ‘Eid Mu’. I scrolled down, and read ‘Eid Muk Gai.’

Those three words suddenly changed the direction of my thoughts. While the sender’s intention was probably a light hearted reminder to everyone of the offices and schools they had to start going to again, I could not help feeling that most people I know would be relieved about Eid being over (albeit quite upset about the end of the holidays).

There’s this monotony associated with Eid now; it has unfortunately become more of a hassle than a festival. In my case, the blame certainly lies on emigration. Most of my extended family is settled abroad and the rest are in other cities. I have a feeling that my cousins in the US have a more Eidish Eid than I here in Lahore do, for Eid is a family occasion.

The day I heard that the moon had been sighted, I’m sure I drove my friends crazy by my incessant grumblings about the boredom I would experience in those 24 hours. After all, the chotti Eid was fresh in my mind. My friends were very sympathising, but I wasn’t fooled: they all very conveniently don’t reply to my messages on the day in question. In their defense, mobile phones shouldn’t take preference over family on this traditional festival, but still…

Anyways, imagine my relief when I found out that my uncle, due to some change in travel plans, would be coming over. Finally, my friends’ messages or their lack would not matter, for I would be busy myself.

That high lasted six hours, for that afternoon, my mother came home from her job and announced that she had no day off. She would have to go to work on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday………

‘But that’s impossible. It’s Eid.’

Apparently, the whole health department was open, due to the dengue epidemic. Government’s orders. The whole health department, owing to dengue! The notice said that it would be a ‘routine work day.’

It was hard to believe though. Somehow, I never expected her to go on Eid, till it actually happened. So now it was not the extended family missing from action, it was my mother.

No matter how bored I am, Eid isn’t and shouldn’t be a routine day. Hourly duties divided amongst the doctor would have kept the system running effectively for patients which is what happens in hospitals on every Eid.

Somehow, I can’t help drawing parallels between the previous 10 days school closure due to dengue, and the whole health department being open on this religious festival. Both were drastic measures, and I’m not really sure whether they were really needed, or were just to create the impression that something is being done.

But anyways, Eid to muk gai hai.



  Town Talk

*Children’s Literature Festival at Children’s Library Complex on Friday-Saturday, Nov 25-26 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

*Lahore Photo Walk 11 today at 1:00pm. The
photographers will go to Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque & Hazoori Bagh. Open to all photographers.

*Fashion Show today at The Knowledge Factory (TKF) at 4:00 pm.

*Reading of works by Heinrich von Kleist on Monday, Nov 21 at 6:00pm at Annemarie-Schimmel-Haus. He was a crisis expert at the turn of the 19th century who regarded Germany to be a waiting room lacking movement. He attempted to shake his contemporaries back to life with futuristic experiments, not only in literature, but in all areas of society. He was a character, playwright and storyteller with extreme positions.

*Tafakkur Literary Forums Mushaira Tinush Firdaus at Faiz Ghar today at 5:00 pm.

*Falsafa-e-Hussainiyat: Talk at Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture on Monday, Nov 21at 5:30 pm.

*Lecture on Food, nutrition and diet at Faiz Ghar on Monday, Nov 21 at 6:00 pm.

*Exhibition: Impalpable Ballads by Faiza Khan at
Collectors Galleria on Tuesday, Nov 22 at 4:30 pm.

 

 

art
Poetics of space
Photographs that speak of human predicament
By Quddus Mirza

Regardless of the concerns whether he has money, a house or a safe bank deposit, man by nature is a collector. We like to possess physical objects as well as non tangible entities — reason why our residences and work places are filled with items acquired over years in the way our minds are cluttered with memories of the past. Both kinds of collections accumulate in such large amounts that often we are not aware of what we have stored. Then there are gifts received from others in terms of tangible things and collective knowledge, including language in the non-physical form.

Probably gathering that vast amount of real and idea-based entities is not as much a problem, as the question of preserving them, since both the memories and precious things erode with the passage of time. Man has devised a way to prolong the memory and ideas by putting these into poetry and stories. A means that has managed to conserve concepts (expressed through words) so today we can enjoy poetry of Homer, Virgil, Dante and Shakespeare and texts written centuries ago.

There are many methods applied to preserve physical objects, right from the process of mummification to architectural conservation. Photography, when it was invented more than a hundred years ago, also served that purpose. We capture the images of our family, houses, belongings, schools, sites of our travels, through the lens of camera and turn them immortal. So once leafing through an old picture album, one can revive the experience of bygone people, places and products. But along with this function of recording the passing items, photography offers a new version and view of familiar world. Thus when we come across the photograph of a known person and place, we are normally shocked by the unusualness of the visual. The most common example of this phenomenon is receiving one’s passport size pictures at a photography shop, and as soon as you take out the photograph from the folder, you are reluctant to recognise – and admit it being your portrait.

This quality of presenting new versions of familiar visions is an aspect seen in the work of Maryam Arif, recently displayed at Nairang Galleries from Nov 12-16. A self taught artist, Maryam displayed her photographs with views of different kinds. Interior spaces and outside constructions were captured in a sensitive manner. In a number of works, the light played a major part in determining the format of picture; hence shaft of light coming through an opening became a main motif in her works. Light was dealt with another way in a few pictures, where it guided the gaze of the viewers, and conveyed an experience not dissimilar to watching a moving image.

Maryam Arif was trained as a medical doctor but discovered the passion for photography during her stay in Arizona. Photography, she says, had always held fascination for her but she realised it as her actual profession while she was doing her medical research in the USA. Since then Maryam has been experimenting with this medium and explored it to express her inner feelings. Interestingly, the true feelings of the artist, reflected in her works, were transmitted to the audience as well to some extent. More so, with the intelligent handling of light, colour and texture – tools that carry and communicate unnamable entities and ideas.

But more than just the visually engaging views, Arif’s work unfolded a range of meanings too. A difficult task for an artist who uses ‘mute’ medium of images, but Maryam managed to communicate ideas about spirituality and human conditions in her work. Continuous stairs leading to nowhere somehow reminded of Kafka’s stories, in which the man is caught in an oppressive fate. Clustered poles and empty walls of the gallery accentuated this sensation, which engaged the viewer and compelled him/her to discover beyond the mere visual material.

This aspect, of finding greater meaning from ordinary views appeared to be a constant engagement for Maryam Arif; a theme which can be explored further by employing the sensitive vocabulary that is being formed from her first exhibition in Lahore.

 

As a young person myself I can say with some surety that reading is no longer a choice activity among kids these days. We would rather spend time on the internet, play video games or watch TV. This of course is the case for privileged kids who have access to all these things. For those from less privileged classes, there is a different problem. For them books could have been a good past time, but they are not really affordable to many and there are few libraries in our country.

As a result, we have grown further and further away from books. Combined with a poor security situation and overly paranoid parents who don’t let us go out or indulge in sports, cultural activities or just any fun activity, our options for entertaining ourselves become severely limited.

In this scenario, the news of a Children’s Literary Festival in the city is like a breath of fresh air. This festival jointly organised by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi, Oxford University Press and Open Society Foundation is going to be held at the Children Library Complex coming Friday and Saturday, the 25th and 26th of this month.

This is the first literature festival for the children of Pakistan to be held at national level. It aims to create an interest in children for books, reading, writing, authors and literature by developing a taste for reading among them, and attract them to savouring the pleasures offered by books. Studies show that love for reading leads to children’s success in schools and assists in the development of the whole child.

An exciting and fun-filled programme has been designed for the CLF. It will feature talks and readings by famous children’s writers, provide children opportunities to listen to their favourite books being read and discussed, attend classes on creative writing, learn about bookmaking, write book reviews, making comics, attend puppet shows and theatre performances, walk with giant-sized characters and participate in many other reading-related activities. There will be sessions on local languages to popularise mother-tongue learning in Pakistan.

On the guest list are local and international celebrities, authors, publishers and well-known personalities who love books.

The organisers hope that CLF will be an annual happening for years to come rotating to all provinces of Pakistan as the most talked-about and well-attended national event for our children, our schools, parents, authors and educators.

The best thing about the festival is that it is free and open to all. So all children can come and enjoy the activities. We need places and events where we can break the class, religion, caste and language barriers and relate as equals and friends.

It promises to be great fun. Make sure you don’t miss it. –Aleesha Hamid

 

 

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