New Year Resolutions
1. Quit smoking/drinking
2. Perform Haj/Umra
3. Lose weight
Conservationists question the landscaping plans being executed on The Mall
By Waqar Gillani
The Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) is in the process of erecting two fountains, in front of Gymkhana and the erstwhile Hotel International, on the greenbelt along with some landscaping.
PHA has dug the greenbelt for making the Mall Road more attractive. This, the PHA officials claim, is to fulfil the desire of Chief Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif to turn the city boulevards into visual gardens. Conservationists are not too happy with the developments though.
The PHA discloses that the plan includes developing as many as 32 main roads of the city into "visual gardens" at the cost of not less than Rs250 million.
According to some senior PHA officials, the authority has laid out the details of its future course of action under Chief Minister’s "Green and Clean Programme." This they want to do not just by enhancing horticulture but also by paying attention to details.
PHA had listed the 32 roads to be lined with greenbelts and decorated with fountains and monuments at intersections. The estimated cost of the project is Rs250 million including Rs150 million from the private sector.
Interestingly, this is being done when PHA is facing serious capacity issue to realise this vision. According to a report recently submitted to the CM, "Presently, there is no qualified architect, landscapist and there is insufficient strength of engineering, horticulture, and support staff in PHA to plan and design such development works."
Conservationists do not particularly agree with this kind of development work. Ajaz Anwar, while talking to TNS said, "The greenbelts must be left empty and should have minimum obstructions like fountains and landscaping or other visuals like hoardings, billboards, LCDs and animated things. These can be a hindrance in smooth flow of traffick." Suppose, he said, if wind blows speedily in rain, such fountains can easily cause the roads to become slippery with clear chances of accidents. "Besides, it is important that the other side of the road is visible."
"I am not against the politicians who want to make their mark in history through such projects. But they must have a full view of such projects before launching them."
Anwar’s view was that the greenbelts should be left empty along with some soaking pits for rainwater. Recalling the clocks placed at The Mall near Gymkhana Club which were demolished to erect a new traffic intersection, he said the government was pursuing two policies. "On one hand, the government is creating crossings for smooth flow of traffic while on the other it is putting obstacles like fountains in greenbelts and centre medians."
Anwar strongly recommended the government to have a well designed master plan for Lahore roads with crystal clear thoughts. They also must engage experts to make this plan. "What I want is greenbelts with grassy space for water soaking instead of flowery plants and also to provide some benches to provide some relaxing time to people on such historic roads."
Inayatullah, former chairman Punjab government’s Lahore Improvement Trust, the official body that later evolved as Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in late 1960s, told TNS that greenery was very important for the city. He said the walled city area also needs greenbelts. "The true beauty of The Mall has already vanished. Instead of over-developing the greenbelts, this amount should be better utilised."
Nadeem Aslam Chaudhry, Director General PHA, said that the basic concept was to improve the "grandeur" of the city roads, especially, The Mall. He said PHA has its own approach to develop the city roads. "We want to develop some convertible greenbelts into visual gardens." He said their focus was landscaping of the greenbelts where it is necessary and looks beautiful. "Actually, this is second phase of the developments of the city roads and greenbelts. In future PHA will also add murals, arts, paintings, monuments." He said the CM has given a go ahead for these projects, announcing a Rs100 million revolving fund for it in the current fiscal year.
"Conservationists have their own point of view, which we respect. We want to keep the things as close to nature as possible and not to make them artificial. We are not destroying history and nature but adding to its value," he maintained. He viewed that there would be no tree cutting and only required space would be used for beautification. He said PHA is also seeking help of designers and consultants to make this project successful.
All in an apple
By Ammara Ahmad
Apple is more then a fruit. It is, in fact, a symbol with a long heritage. One of the most familiar apple symbols is found in our holy books – most prominently in the Bible. Apple is the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and resulted in a shocking landing of man from Heavens on Earth. Had this apple not been consumed, there is a possibility that our joy-ride on planet Earth would not have materialised.
Many men still carry a symbolic reminisces of this incidence in their neck called the Adam’s apple. The thyroid cartilage surrounds the voice box, in this case forming a lump- resembling a wedged apple – an innocent reminder of the forbidden fruit.
An uncanny falling apple guided Sir Newton into discovering the laws of motion. The question arises: had the apple not fallen, would we have been deprived of the laws of motion? And where would NASA and its space missions go in that case? Neil Armstrong would have no means to land on the moon and all we would remember from the 1960s is Marylyn Monroe. And what would happen to the television channels running through space satellites that utilise Newton’s laws of motion?
Mythology has a special place for apples too. Norse mythology considers it a sign of fertility. Greek hero Heracles ventures into the Garden of the Hesperides to pick golden apples of life.
Apple has played a pivotal role in the fairytales too. Snow White was deceived and fed a poisonous apple by her jealous step mother. It was a conventional tussle between the ugly evil and the beautiful good but the question is, why an apple? Why not a burger or a doughnut to simply guide Snow White into obesity?
Apples are taken for granted as a fruit, since they are usually available all year round. This is not because they grow all year, but because they have many breeds cultivated in different countries with a different harvest period ensuring their presence all year round. And the global commerce guarantees that the apple-deprived states also get their share.
There is a proverb, which makes a lucid reference to Apple’s nutritious qualities. "An Apple a Day keeps the doctor away". It is said that apple the fruit contains the exact amount of trace elements the human body needs. This theory is now suspected to be a publicity stunt by farmers to increase apple sales. Yet there is little doubt on apples’ anti-cancer and anti-aging qualities. Iron deficiency is the common cause of many medical complications (especially during pregnancy) and the iron-rich apples can definitely counter it. Apples also come in many shades depending on the genotype, from deep red, pink, green to yellow. There is an apple colour for every occasion and they can be a delicious substitute for rose flowers.
US can boast of a few cultural signatures. One of them is apple pie. The British transported apples and the pie recipes across Atlantic. Since the 18th century, apple pies have been so popular that now they say "as American as an apple pie." In fact a town in the state of New Mexico is now called Pie Town because of its apple pie heritage.
There is a new-age desire for an Apple, manufactured by the Apple Inc, just as alluring and pricey as the forbidden fruit. The company is a multi-national manufacturer of many modern day electronic devices, and one of the favourites in America.
Apple has been used in idioms and proverbs as well. In fact, the connotation of the word varies drastically. Take the examples of "an apple of discord" which means the root-cause of a conflict. The world’s most coveted, populace and happening metropolis – New York is called the Big Apple. Incidentally in 2001 it became the site for terror attacks that led to a War on Terror (the Big Apple of discord?). Apparently it is a calamity similar to falling down of man from Heavens, only that it became more gory and politicised this time.
The proverb: "an apple of my eyes" is used when referred to a beloved. Perhaps this is why actress Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple. My generous librarian friend in Hong Kong gifted me many candies on my departure, along with the honour of finding her an English name. After much reflection and gratitude for her warmth, I named her Apple.
• The Drawing Room art gallery opens on December 29, 2008. Featured works by Amjad Talpur, Amna Hashmi, Anwar Maqsud, Asif Hassan, R M Naeem and others.
• Final of the Polo Tournament at Lahore Polo Club at 10am.
• Magadascar: Escape 2 Africa is showing at DHA.
Daily two shows.
• Quantam of Solace showing at DHA. Daily at 8pm.
• ‘Wordplay’ by Usman Saeed is exhibiting at Ejaz Gallery. Opens at 10am everyday.
Painting exhibiton at Alhamra Arts Gallery featuring works by Mehr Afroz, Noor Jehan Bilgrami, Ali Kazim, Shireen Kamran and Ubaid Syed.
• Quranic Calligraphy group exhibition at Croweaters Gallery.
Jewellery exhibition at Hamail Art Galleries.
• Puppet Show at Alhamra, The Mall every
Sunday at 11am.
• Talent Hunt Show (singing) every Saturday
• Panjabi Sangat is a weekly gathering every
Friday and Sunday
at Najam Hussain Sayed’s house at 7pm
where Punjabi classical poetry is readand sung.
Lady of the mosque
The half-encroached Begum Shahi mosque exists as only a figment of Mughal grandeur
By Naila Inayat and Sarah Sikandar
It was a bright winter morning when we undertook to locate the "oldest Mughal mosque in Lahore", on our own. Not quite familiar with the walled city, we were lost as soon as we entered through the Sheranwala Gate. We kept asking around for Maryam I’Zimani or Maryam Al Zamani mosque also known as the Begum Shahi mosque and were only greeted by don’t-know-what-you-are-saying expressions. Someone in the area told us to take the Moti Bazaar route. We fell for it to find that it was only a good exercise all the way through uncovered drains. The easiest way to locate this mosque is to follow the street opposite Masti Darwaza, right in front of the Akbari gate of the Lahore Fort.
Before going into the predicament of the mosque – hidden behind the encroached houses and markets – let us locate this mosque in the pages of history. According to The Empire of the Great Mughals by Anne Marie Schimmel "One of the most influential women [in the Mughal court] was the Rajput Manmati, who as Jehangir’s mother was honoured with the title Maryam-i-Zimani. She founded the Begum Shahi Mosque in Lahore (1611-14) and constructed the cascading fountain near the idgah in Bayana(1612). When she died in 1623, she was buried in Sikandra, the final resting place of her husband."
The records are slightly different in The New Cambridge History Of India according to which Begum Shahi mosque is "the city’s oldest surviving Mughal mosque. Located near the fort’s Akbar-period Masti gate, this mosque was probably built as the Jami mosque for those attending court. It was not provided by the emperor, but its construction doubtless met Jehangir’s approval and commenced a Mughal tradition whereby important court ladies provided the major mosques in imperial cities. Known as the Begum Shahi mosque and the mosque of Maryam al-Zamani, it was built in 1611-12."
Kazim Nadeem, professor of archeology, while talking to TNS said, "the Begum Shahi mosque was popularly known as Barudkhana Wali Masjid. This was because of the usage of the mosque as gunpowder factory by Ranjit Singh."
The mosque was "originally entered by three handsome gates" which has come down to one now. The second entrance opens to the staircase which leads to the rooftop. The door seems to have been used ages ago. Even the small main door of the mosque is anything but handsome. On the left of the main entrance is a warehouse. The right side has small tiny shops of shoes and crockery. These shops have practically been built within the area of the mosque. Professor Kazim says the mosque covered an area of 135ft by 127ft, some of it encroached by the shops. These shops "block one’s view back up the hill toward the haveli gardens, and iron wheel shops block one’s view on the east side of Lahore Fort. A few trees remain in haveli and mosque courtyards, but the principal garden remnants now lie either outside the walled city or within Lahore Fort."
Noor Muhammad has been serving as the muezzin of the mosque for the past twenty years. He had another story to tell. He told us that the mosque was especially built for the ladies of the court who came here to say their prayers. A long tunnel connects the mosque directly with the harem – the passage used by the ladies to enter the mosque. The tunnel, he said, was blocked when the fort was used as a prison for political prisoners. When asked who Begum Shahi was Muhammad said, "all I know is the mosque was built by some woman in the Mughal family."
From the roof top of the mosque, one can see the huge gate of the fort and the story of the tunnel sounds believable. From here, one can also see the mosque is surrounded by houses and shops all over. The house built next to the mosque has even destroyed a part of the mosque wall. Of the two staircases to reach the roof top, one has probably not been used for long.
A major part of the mosque is surrounded by the rim market. The shopkeepers told TNS that their shops were originally at the Mela Ram Road. Almost 25 years ago, they were displaced and the whole market was shifted here. During Nawaz Sharif’s government in 1999, it was decided that the market is encroached and will be demolished but soon his government was toppled. It is not difficult to discern that it is not easy to remove these markets from here. Even if someone decides to do something right now, it is a little too late because the most part of the mosque has already been damaged. Even inside the mosques one can see the mazars (shrines) of some Maulvi Ghulam Qadir and another Guddi Sayein Baba.
A former Punjab University student shares his
experiences on the campus
By Rab Nawaz
I belong to the rural upper-class of central Punjab. Despite my mediocre schooling, I developed a profound interest in learning. By the time I knew what academic life could be, I started dreaming of university education. After graduation, the prospect of studying law in Pakistan’s largest university, Punjab University, was nothing short of a dream. At the end of my programme, I cannot help sharing with you my experience.
To start with, a bundle of procedural troubles haunted me to get admission into the Law College and the university’s hostel. The social environment around the campus was the first blow to my self-esteem. I was desperate to find the whole university, and the administration, enslaved by a handful of students who claimed their right to rule on the basis of a student union’s election held two decades ago. A number of administrative issues like hostel allotments, hostel governance and maintenance, extra curricular activities, rules and regulations of classes and all the social spaces were forcefully captured by them. Their social and political manoeuvring was a source of great discomfort.
The threatening environment at the campus forced me to limit myself to the class room. I dared to question the teachers. As a consequence my grades started falling. Had I not begged for forgiveness, I would have been expelled. My image of university education was shaken. The questions I asked, let me assure, were neither offensive nor harmful. I always kept the sanctity of the teacher-student relationship in my mind.
I found a consolation in study hours at the library but was, at times, disappointed to discover that a certain book listed in the catalogue was not there at all. But I figured out that the library had compensated my other grievances from the university.
I tried to socialise during my time at the hostel and mingle with those with whom I shared some interests. To my surprise, I found social groupings based mainly on caste, sect or region. I seldom found some literary circle and academic discourses in the hostels. Absence of internet facility in the hostels and the disturbing attitude of my room-mates further discouraged me. The vast green fields and games, however, compensated somewhat.
The start of final year brought good news in the form of a fascinating promise of a cubicle for me. I thought it would end my troubles of living in the dormitory and provide space and solitude required for my studies which I was never allotted because I did not have some strange seniority rule based on early deposit of fee. I argued that the students were not warned of any such action at the time of depositing fee. None of my arguments bore fruit. I failed because, unlike my friends, I couldn’t flatter the administrative authorities. As for studies, I must admit, I gained little. I can rightly assess now that the more I studied, the lesser marks I got. Good grades were gained by rot learning a few important questions and good handwriting which, I believe, is irrelevant in practical life.
One of the most important things in this ‘seat of academic’ excellence was one’s relations with the teacher. These so-called relations, with the exceptions of a few teachers included flattery and agreeing with him at every point. Disagreement with teacher and even writing something out of his lecture and recommended textbook meant lowering your grades. Grades did not bother me only if I knew I was truly learning something. During my time at the university, I can remember only a very few instances which provoked research and critical thinking, a basic purpose of education. The out-dated syllabus I studied carries no scope in modern times. I could never satisfy my longing of in-depth comprehension of legal philosophy and constitutionalism.
Today I am left with a piece of paper called ‘degree’ and a loss of three years with little knowledge.
New Year Resolutions
1. Quit smoking/drinking
2. Perform Haj/Umra
3. Lose weight
4. Find a partner of my choice
5. Meet my deadlines
6. Finish my reading list
7. Give more/quality time to my family
8. Will throw a shoe at…
9. Find a better job
10.Too personal to
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