Musharraf to quit between
paved literary paradise
Man on Bath Island
to the jungle
The Meena Bazaar building may have grown old from the outside and crammed from the inside, but the women working and running their businesses at the bazaar for decades now, their hair greyed and foreheads creased, still have the memories of its inception afresh in their minds. Made by a businessman, Piarai Mian, with an aim to help make destitute women self-reliant, Meena Bazaar is equally popular among married, divorced and widowed women as well as unmarried young girls who want to earn an income without inviting the protest of their relatives.
Despite varying experiences while working at Meena Bazaar, the bazaar girls share a mutual respect for the place that earns them a respectable living and helps them realise their dreams.
The Meena Bazaar building may have grown old from the outside and crammed from the inside, but the some women working and running their businesses at the bazaar for decades now, their hair greyed and foreheads creased, still have memories of its inception afresh in their minds. Made in early 1970s, Meena Bazaar was the first of its kind in Pakistan as it was specifically made for women entrepreneurs. This exclusive bazaar has gifted its dwellers with a lot of good and bad memories over the years.
“I had started off with a sum of just 80 rupees and 12 kilograms of milk,” recalls Munnawer, a middle-aged women entrepreneur who has earned her living by selling tea at Meena Bazaar for the last 15 years. Having started selling tea at a small stall, Munnawer has earned enough over the years to buy herself a shop at the bazaar worth 1.2 million rupees as well as a small flat for her children. “What I have earned through selling tea at this bazaar would never have been possible in any other job,” continues Munnawer who holds a masters degree in economics from a university in Bhopal, India, and had lucrative jobs awaiting her when she started her business.
“Those jobs would have earned me well,” she says, “but then I would have to leave my kids with maids then.” She is a mother of two teenaged children. Munnawer says that she was quite satisfied with her life in the early years of her marriage but with a growing family it became difficult for the couple to make ends meet respectably. Given the meagre income of her husband, Munnawer decided to work to help her husband meet their expenses. “Since he was very religious,” says Munnawer while talking to Kolachi, “he didn't give me permission to work in an office where I may have had to deal with males,” she adds. Munnawer couldn't even continue as a teacher at some institute, “for they wouldn't have allowed me to bring my children along who were very young at the time,” she says adding that, therefore, she was left with no choice but to try her luck by running a business in the only women-only bazaar in the city.
When one sees the one-roomed tuck shop of Munnawer thronged with women asking “Munnawer baji” for a cup of “karak doodh patti chai” (strong tea) or snacks, it is not difficult to conclude that Munnawer's luck came through for her.
Munnawer is not the only tea seller in the bazaar, but, with her commitment towards work and good manners, Munnawer has made a niche for herself. “It was not easy though,” she admits, saying that, for the past 15 years, her day has started at the crack of dawn. After getting done with chores at home, she rushes towards the bazaar at around 1.00 p.m. Then, till 9.00 p.m., which is when the bazaar closes, she continues boiling milk and straining tea for her customers and then gets back home using public transport. Till a few years back, her routine also involved taking frequent breaks during work to change the diapers of her boys or to prepare milk for them.
“My business left me with no time for my own self,” she admits pointing towards her creased, stained clothes and shapeless eyebrows “yet it made me confident of myself,” she continues.
Though Munnawer doesn't get enough time to socialise or enjoy watching soap operas, like other women of her age do, she is satisfied that she is leading a different life. “I don't have to worry about my children's fees and other expenses now. There can be nothing more delightful in my life than this social security,” she says. Munnawer believes that working at the bazaar actually enabled her to fight the inflation making it possible for her to survive, respectably. “I love my life and I would never quit this place,” she says.
Unlike Munnawer, Amma Surrayya would have been more than glad to leave the bazaar if her fate had allowed her. Having entered the bazaar in her 20s after her husband's death to bring up her daughter, Amma Surryya has been selling children's clothes at the bazaar for the last three decades now.
Though she rarely sees any customers these days and is now not 'strong enough' to entertain them in any case, she did get her due share of earning from the bazaar. By selling Ghagras and Kurtanis (Hyderabadi dress), she was not only able to get her daughter married but was also able to marry three of her grand daughters when she became their guardian after their father's death. “I have now,” she conveys in a feeble voice, “two more grand children to take care of.” She adds that she works at the shop just to raise them and will leave as soon as they are settled.
However, with the rising inflation, leaving this bazaar has fast become a distant dream for her. “It has been five days since I earned something,” she says while trying to attract the passing by customers in vain. “The bazaar is not the same as it used to be,” she shares, sadly staring at the backs of the customers that leave her shop empty handed after much arguing over prices.
Amma Surrayya tells Kolachi that she first buys material for children's clothing from Bolton market, cuts it herself, and then gets it stitched. All this earns her not more than a profit of Rs50 per piece and, given this, she says, “If I give a discount of even over this, how would I raise my grandchildren?”
Amma feels discontent that, unlike in the 1970s, when the bazaar was full of opportunities to mint money, now, “the bazaar earns profits merely for the parlours and the mehndi girls (henna artists) only.”
Made by a businessman, Piarai Mian, with an aim to help make destitute women self-reliant, Meena Bazaar is equally popular among married, divorced and widowed women as well as un-married young girls who want to earn an income without inviting the protest of their relatives.
The single-floored bazaar comprises almost 300 shops where beauty parlours, henna artists, shops selling children's clothing and women's accessories are of great attraction for shoppers who throng the bazaar primarily to avoid the stares of male shopkeepers in other markets of the city.
Over time, with the increasing shoppers, the bazaar has expanded with more shops and women entrepreneurs coming in. Beauticians and henna artists are more in demand now. This change in trend, while benefiting many, has also resulted in the discontent of shopkeepers like Amma Surrayya who are running major losses these days. It has also resulted in a cut-throat competition among beauticians and henna artists themselves who try their best to make maximum profit.
As one henna artist Khanum shares that there is so much competition among the girls that they start fighting over a customer right from the entrance stairs of the bazaar. “As soon as one climbs the stairs of the bazaar,” Khanum says, “an agent from every Mehndi Wali strives hard to get a hold of her.” Khanum adds that, sometimes, this also results in the use of force against the winning party by the aggrieved. Khanum believes that this sort of behaviour is indicative of the hidden drive deep inside these women who fight the odds to earn to a livelihood for their families.
“We all come here with a dream in our eyes, and we work hard to realise it,” she states, adding that some of them, such as Munnawer, are destined to make ends meet while a lot are not. “Therefore,” she says, “we try our best to get the desired success often resulting in fights among ourselves.” Besides that, the competition among the girls makes them shout at the top of their voices to attract customers. “Girls might get as irritating as the Pathan shopkeepers at Rabi Centre in the attempt to make us shop from them,” remarks a customer.
However, among all these fights and irritating tactics to attract customers, the Meena Bazaar girls never forget the basic aim that brought them there and the bazaar's contribution in helping it materialise: “To never give up on fate,” says Munnawer, “and keep struggling till you achieve fruitful results.”
– The News photos by Naqeeb-ur-Rehman
Oct 31 and Dec 18, predicts astrologer
President Pervez Musharraf will quit the presidency between October 31 and December 18 and the judiciary issue will be resolved by September 16 this year, predicts local astrologer Ali Mohammad Khan.
In an interview with Kolachi, the Vedic astrologer shared President Musharraf’s birth horoscope explaining that, when he seized power in October 1999, there were many Rajayogas (meaning royal union) in his horoscope then. These Rajayogas are the ones which give power, position, wealth and fame.
Musharraf, he explains, came to power on October 1999 when he was passing through the “Moon Mahadasha” (great period) and “Venus Antradasha” (sub-period), which was beneficial for him. Currently, however, he is passing through “Mars Mahadasha” and “Moon Antradasha”, which will end on October 31, 2008.
From then on, there will be “Rahudasha” and as Rahu creates the “Raja yoga Bhanga,” his present position will change and he is expected to leave the country between October 31, 2008, and December 18, 2008, with ‘prestige and honour.’ The “Rajayoga Bhanga” is created when certain negative factors cancel the Rajayoga, such as like debilitated or defeated planets or when planets retrograde, among other factors.
As for Pakistan’s future, the Vedic astrology chart shows that, since planet Jupiter is passing through Sagittarius, the country is passing through a difficult phase; but as the planet retrogrades by September 16 and passes through ‘House of luck’, it will benefit Pakistan. “A complete solution to the judiciary issue will be presented by September 16, along with some improvement in the country’s economy that will provide relief to the masses,” said Khan.
Khan added that some major changes in the coalition government will be witnessed after September 19, 2009, as planet Saturn changes its position and transits in the tenth house, which, according to Vedic Astrology, is the most important house because it indicates activities of power, authority, government favour and moral responsibilities.
– By Aroosa Masroor
Vedic Astrology chart predicting Musharraf's future
Vedic Astrology chart predicting Pakistan's future
to put up jewellers’ shops
Elphistine Street was once a book-shop rich area. There was Writers' Guild Bookshop, Liberty Books, Tit Bit Books, Pak-American Bookshop, Hameed Kashmiri's bookshop, Famous Bookshop and Sassi Bookshop. All have gone one by one and replaced by garment and jeweller shops, banks and plazas. Some of them such as Liberty Books have progressed and moved elsewhere
By Shahid Husain
Elphistine Street (now Zaib-un-Nisa Street) in Saddar evokes memories of a peaceful city where people from all walks of life would stroll, purchase books, indulge in window-shopping and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee at the local restaurants.
Here we had "Kitab Mahal" famous for its literary books. Its proprietor Agha Sarkhosh would help out the inquisitive buyer find new arrivals.
In the late 1960s one could buy books by luminaries such as Prem Chand, Krishan Chandr, Rajindar Singh Bedi, Ismat Chugtai, Saadat Hasan Manto, Qurat-ul-Aain Haider, Ali Abbas Hussaini, Josh, Faiz, N. M. Rashid, Meeraji, and the like for price ranging between Rs 3-5.
Then there was Writers' Guild Bookshop, Liberty Books, Tit Bit Books, Pak-American Bookshop, Hameed Kashmiri's bookshop, Famous Bookshop and Sassi Bookshop. All have gone one by one and replaced by garment and jeweller shops, banks and plazas. Some of them such as Liberty Books have progressed and moved elsewhere.
One found Standard Publishers and Mehran Book Depot in the compound of Marina Bar as one moved towards the traffic signal. While Standard Publishers was famous for Russian books on political economy, Marxism-Leninism, art and literature, space science and engineering one could find Cuban, Vietnamese and East German books at Mehran Book Depot.
One could buy Tolstoy, Pushkin, Lermontov and Gorky for three to five rupees at Standard Publishers and writings of great Vietnamese freedom fighters such as General Giap and Le Duan at Mehran Book Depot for a couple of rupees. Now Panorama Centre stands at the location and the Bengali proprietor of Standard Publishers has perhaps migrated to Bangladesh.
"It's not so that people in Karachi have given up reading. Several authors such as Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, Syed Sibte Hasan, Iftikhar Arif, Hameeda Akhtar Hussain Raipuri, Qurat-ul-Aain Haider, Zahida Hina, Ahmed Faraz and Fahmida Riaz and relatively younger writers such as Haris Khalique still sell like hotcakes," says Hoori Noorani, proprietor of Maktaba-e-Danyal, which is famous for publishing quality literary books.
She attributes the vanishing of bookstores from Saddar to hike in the value of property, especially in the heart of the city, Saddar.
"People do visit the book fair which is held at Expo Centre in December and buy books. But it should be organised at least three or four times a year," she says.
She points out that publishing has not been granted the status of an industry in Pakistan and therefore, publishers can't avail bank loans. The price of paper and ink has also shot up and made it difficult for the publisher to publish new books.
"Several bookshops have appeared in other areas such as Clifton, Tariq Road, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gulistan-e-Jauhar and North Nazimabad," she says.
Prominent poet and critic Sahar Ansari says prices have shot up and sadly enough the State Bank of Pakistan charge more on imported books as compared to other goods.
He says the book bazaar held near Baitul Mukaram mosque in Gulshan-e-Iqbal attracted large number of book lovers and book stores have been established in 5-star hotels, Quaid-e-Azam International Airport, Aga Khan University Hospital, Clifton and the Sunset Boulevard in Defence Housing Authority.
Unfortunately, the government and the political leadership in Pakistan have never encouraged book reading. As a result, if one finds myopia and lack of vision in political leadership, it should not be astonishing.
Then the advent of Internet has also affected publishing because a large number of people, especially the youth read books on the Internet, free of cost.
However, eminent short story writer and columnist Zahida Hina does not buy the idea that book reading has declined due to Internet and points out that millions of books are sold in countries where computer and the Internet originated.
"I use to visit Kitab Mahal at least twice a week and its proprietor Agha Sarkhosh would tell me about the new arrivals. It was a small bookshop but a meeting place for writers," she recalls.
"Similarly, Pak-American had quality English books. Then there was Hameed Kashmiri's bookshop on Elphistine Street and small bookshops on Regal Chowk where one could find pocket series from India. I still have 20-25 pocket series at my home that were purchased for prices ranging from one to three rupees," she says.
"There was a time when one felt proud if he or she had read more books. The reading habit, in fact, was inculcated in schools and at home. There were libraries in schools from where children would borrow books and their teachers would ask them what they have read," she says.
"But I will not say that people have stopped reading. How can big bookstores in the city survive if books are not sold regularly," she asks.
However, she agrees that a certain section of book lovers have migrated to greener pastures after violence erupted in Karachi in the 1980s.
"In certain homes in London I have seen more Urdu books than I see them in homes in Karachi. These migrants, when they visit the city, throng to bookshops and buy hundreds of books," she says.
In a world where mass murders and suicide bombings have become the norm, exists an 84-year-old man who has dedicated his life to taking care of cats
In a world where mass murder and suicide bombing have become the norm exists an 84-year-old man who has dedicated his life to taking care of cats.
His name is Altaf Hussain and for the past two months, he has been living in a tent on the footpath of Bath Island, Clifton. He takes care of all the cats in the neighbourhood, and believes he is fulfilling his promise to God by doing so.
In tattered clothing, messy hair and light orange beard, Hussain is always seen resting on a charpai. There is trash everywhere except for an uncluttered space reserved for the cats and their food. He does not have enough to eat, but makes sure that all his cats are well-fed. People in the market know him well. They make sure to separate leftovers.
Hussain did not always live in a tent. Armed with food for his cats from the butcher's, he was recently involved in an accident. A motorcycle hit him, breaking his left leg and right arm. When Hussain regained consciousness, he found he was admitted in a hospital in Delhi Colony. A few days later, he was left on the footpath without having received proper treatment. He turned his new living space into a tent. His arm is getting worse. Hussain can barely walk, stand, or clean himself. All his attempts to bathe are futile. He is in awful pain.
Before living in a tent on Bath Island, Hussain lived in nearby parks, until a group of drug addicts also discovered the place. One afternoon, Hussain returned to find that they had stole money his money and taken away his radio and the mobile phone his brother had bought him. Some destroyed his charpai and poisoned four of his kittens, which was when Hussain left.
For the first few days after his arrival in Bath Island, he used to lie on ragged sheets until a resident he calls memon mai helped him set up a small tent. With dozens of cats always around him, people have labelled him 'The Cat Man'. The cats have lovingly been named Arbi, Chithri, Ullu and Maira. He says Arbi is a foreign cat who listens to him. She will not eat unless told to and she can always be found sitting right beside him.
Hussain prays all the time. According to him, the people who notice him are the ones who are good to themselves and others. Otherwise, he laments, this world is very selfish, and warns, "The Day of Judgment is not too far."
A young girl from a nearby apartment building brings Hussain food. Some officers from the neighborhood have assured him they will provide him with everything he needs. Despite this, he still lives in filth.
Hussain has left behind two daughters and sons in Majaidabad Jhelum, Punjab. His family is not happy with the way he lives. His daughter often asks him, "Abba aisa kyun ker rahe ho?" ("Why are you doing this?"), to which he replies "Allah ke saath wadah kiya hai, toor nahi sakta." ("I cannot break my promise to God"). Hussain's two sons own a rickshaw and bring him medicines. His brother works in a factory at Shara-e-Faisal.
He has left behind many relatives, but is happy nonetheless. "This is life," says Hussain.
As a younger man, Hussain worked as a fabricator in the Pakistan Air Force for nearly 45 years. His initial workplace was in Sargoda after which he was transferred to Mianwali and finally to Manipur, Karachi. After his retirement, he worked as a plumber, but was not content. Today, he is happy he is not a burden on anyone at an age people end up in old age homes or are simply homeless.
It is rare to hear of or meet people like Altaf Hussain, a man who would rather feed his cats and starve than beg on the streets. He has no desire for material things. All he wants is divine contentment and his furry friends around him.
Altaf Hussain seen here with the stray cats in his tent. It’s not much...but he is content
While the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champion's Trophy has, after a brief period of uncertainty, been awarded to Pakistan, albeit with a slight change in schedule, some lingering questions remain. Instead of the September 11, the tournament will commence a day later with no match scheduled for the Rawalpindi Cricket stadium after security concerns expressed by the teams of Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand. Karachi will, however, host matches.
One important question pertains to the local crowd, especially in Karachi, which is a pressing question judging by the lukewarm reaction by the Pakistani public otherwise famous for being fanatical about cricket.
"It is less than a month away and I don't see any excitement building up for the tournament," Sohail, a 22-year-old student expressed his views on the champions trophy. A self confessed cricket devotee, he went on to say that he hopes Pakistan performs well which will help lure the crowd to the stadiums.
Haseeb, a banker by profession, on the other hand, did not have such a pessimistic view. Citing a news report that the ticket prices will be slashed, he said he is now looking forward to the tournament but with obvious reservations. “I would love to watch all the teams in all their glory as such a celebrated tournament is coming to Pakistan after a long time, however, it will be quite disheartening if any of the teams send their B sides.”
While conducting a research on the champion's trophy, Kolachi found that there was a lot of indecision and uncertainty among the people of the metropolis. Various reasons were stated which basically combined to show that people want to go out and enjoy themselves, but external factors were impeding this desire.
Inflation and Ramazan were the most commonly mentioned reasons for the general lack of interest shown by the public. This is despite the recent announcement by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) that the ticket prices will be cut.
However, cricket officials have countered these concerns. "We want to ensure that all Champions Trophy matches attract sizeable crowds and would take all possible measures for it. We will consult with the ICC and try lowering the ticket prices," Shafqat Naghmi, PCB's Chief Operating Officer said.
"I fast during Ramadan myself and know that special measures need to be taken for the spectators for matches being played during that month," said Haroon Lorgat, a South African who took over from Australia's Malcolm Speed as Chief Executive Officer of the ICC earlier this year. However, this does not necessarily mean that the general public will also follow this as the basic ground realities in the country need to be understood by the organisers.
There is also the central question surrounding the tournament, which is of security concerns for international teams in the prevailing political scenario.
Historically, there have been security scares throughout the country, but the stringent security measures put in place by the authorities as well as the ongoing trip by the ICC Security task team has shown that security problems are not as bad as exaggerated by the international media.
"There are 160 million people living in this country. Aren't they humans? What is so special about these teams that they have to raise such a hue and cry over security?" grumbled Shehzad, a businessman.
Karachiites have complained about the reluctance and hypocrisy shown by the international teams, which have put people off.
With merely a few days to go, there has hardly been any major promotion going on for the second biggest ICC tournament - at least in Karachi. Nobody is sure when the teams will start arriving, nor is anybody sure if super stars such as Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee, Graeme Smith, Daniel Vettori will show up or not.
For its part, Pakistan, and Karachi in particular, seemingly a jungle for the western world, needs to rise from the gloom that it finds itself in. One way would be for Pakistanis come out in large numbers to support the nation in this pessimistic time.