to do anything
of the classical tradition
Condemned to mourn
Karachi mourned the death of around 228 people when torrential rains accompanied by strong winds lashed out at the city on June 23 destroying the very fabric of civic life
By Shahid Husain
There was almost complete power breakdown and one could find monstrous bill boards, an eyesore to the aesthetics, lying on the streets in the length and breadth of the city besides fallen trees. One could even witness brand new cars on Sharae Faisal badly damaged because traffic signals had fallen on them.
What was worse, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)-led City District Government Karachi (CDGK) tried to suppress the figures of casualties and activists of the ethnic organisation even stormed the morgue of Edhi Foundation situated at Sohrab Goth and tried to hinder its work. The activists even had the gall to put a pistol at the head of Rizwan Edhi, son of elderly Abdus Sattar Edhi.
The death toll could increase because as many as 226 fishermen aboard 18 boats are missing in the coastal areas of Karachi. According to Khuda Gang Shah, general secretary, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Karachi chapter they might be relatively safe because they were in creeks and not in open sea. But a fishing boat on Tuesday with 13 fisherfolk onboard sunk at Kalser Creek, some 100 kilometres from Karachi. Mercifully, the Maritime Security Agency (MSA) managed to rescue 12 fishermen. However, one is still 'missing'.
The torrential rains and gushing winds also destroyed the huts of poor fisherfolk at Hawkesbay, Sandspit, Mubarak Village, Ibrahim Hyderi and Rehri in the coastal areas of Karachi. According to PFF, as many as 350 boats were damaged at Sunehri Point, 100 at Ibrahim Hyderi and 40 at Rehri, all coastal areas of the city, inhabited by poor fisherfolk.
While the city administrators made tall claims that camps have been established to accommodate displaced people, Khuda Gang Shah portrayed an entirely different picture. He told TNS that police was asking people to evacuate their damaged abodes at Hawkesbay but no makeshift camps were set up where they could be shifted and there was no transport at all for them to move.
"Deh (hamlet) Nandiari, deh Allah Banno and deh Mand in Union Council-8 (Keamari Town) have 46 villages and a population of about 55,000 people but they were not aware about the looming danger of cyclone," he said.
In deh Allah Banno, many people have lost their abodes, taken shelter in a bus, said Shah.
"Mubarak Village has a population of 7,500 people but not more than 150 loaves were provided to the poor, impoverished and famished people by the Town Nazims," he said and claimed that when thousands of people were rendered homeless by the torrential rains, Town Nazims and police officials sat idle at Al-Nasir Hotel in Hawkesbay, some 26 kilometers away from the Village.
The total breakdown of civic amenities could be gauged from the fact that people in several areas have been condemned to live without electricity for more than five days. For instance, Gadap Town in the outskirts of Karachi where 24 people lost their lives due to torrential rains has no electricity for more than five days.
The people in Gadap Town are also suffering because they rely on tubewells for drinking water and agriculture and in all likelihood they would remain without power for a long time.
While the CDGK bosses boasts of making multi-million dollar elevated expressway to minimise traffic load, most of the roads in Karachi have been broken by the recent rains and are flooded by rain water.
Then there are disputes between the city government and the cantonment boards and the ultimate sufferers are the common man. In Gulistan-i-Jauhar, a lower middle class locality, the main road is in such a depleted condition as if it has been bombed but since both the city government and the cantonment board deny that it is under their jurisdiction, it is never carpeted. Since Karachi comes in the jurisdiction of as many as 13 agencies, they find it convenient to blame each other in case of any eventuality or disaster.
Sadly enough, the officials have also failed to pay heed to warnings from scientists and experts about the changes occurring in the weather pattern of Karachi and other areas of Pakistan due to global warming.
"Extreme weather events in Pakistan as well as in other countries are on the rise. For example, last year we had freezing temperatures in Sindh. Similarly, this year too, we had an extended cold wave affecting most parts of the country, including Karachi. During the last monsoon, Sindh witnessed urban flooding in Hyderabad and adjoining areas and about two years back Balochistan received 70 years record winter rainfall that caused extensive flooding. Many other such examples can be quoted to highlight that climate change due to global warming is already affecting our country as well," according to Dr. Qamaruzzaman Chaudhry, director general, Meteorological Department of Pakistan.
Dr. Shahid Amjad, professor and dean, faculty of marine sciences, Lasbella University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Science agrees.
"The highest high tide of south of Karachi and Indus deltaic region is very close to the astronomical high tide. Any increase in sea level as a result of climate change will inundate large areas of coastal locations," Dr. Amjad who is a former director general of the National Institute of Oceanography maintains.
"The impact of global warming will occur on the fringes of ecosystem. Pakistan is on the fringe of tropical ecosystem. The prominent effect will occur on the coastal ecosystem. In particular, it will impact the mean sea level. The pronounced impact will be on the rise in sea level that will be more towards the landward boundaries. We will see greater erosion of the coastal agricultural land. The movement of seawater in land to the river will cause rise in soil salinity," he said.
But sadly enough officials are totally oblivious of such warnings and instead are closing the mouths of creeks to build mega projects on the islands for the super rich. Experts believe the phenomenon could result in flooding of the 15-million city of Karachi.
The rains and stagnant water are also likely to pave the way for water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and other diseases, especially in coastal areas.
Dr. M. Shafi Patoli, posted at Sindh Government Hospital, Ibrahim Hyderi confirmed that the incidence of diarrhea, nausea and fever at the fishing village has doubled after the rains.
He also confirmed that water has become contaminated with sewerage water that is likely to increase the incidence of water-borne diseases. The situation is little different in other parts of Karachi and the dreaded diseases are likely to attack the people on days to come.
The monstrous billboards could not withstand the stormy winds and fell on all sides -- killing people and damaging property
The jumbo sized billboards and hoardings wreaked havoc for the citizens of Karachi on Saturday June 23. According to a close estimate around 20 of them fell on Sharae Faisal alone. Majority of the monstrous structures could not withstand the speedy winds and fell.
Two years back President General Pervez Musharraf during his visit to Karachi pointed out the oversized hoardings and on his directives CDGK started a campaign. As part of the campaign, CDGK removed around 3,500 out of size hoardings but it could not launch this campaign where other agencies like cantonment boards, Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Navy, Civil Aviation Authority etc operated.
CDGK has it own bylaws regarding the installation of hoardings alongside the thoroughfares. Since the launch of CDGK campaign, interestingly, the number of billboards increased in those areas where different agencies operate.
This mushroom growth of billboards also affected the greenery of the city as trees were chopped down for their installation.
Cantonment Executive Officer ( CEO) Faisal Cantonment Board, Zeenat Ahmad when contacted denied that cantonment boards were responsible for those billboard and hoardings that fell on different roads due to heavy rain and speedy winds. She said cantonment boards have bylaws regarding installation of hoardings, which are certainly followed. She said before the installation of any billboard in the limits of cantonment board, structural engineer certifies it. She said now those engineers would be questioned who had certified the billboard that fell on the ground due to speedy winds. She said two billboards under Faisal Cantonment Boards fell on the road, one at Karsaz and other at Sharae Faisal. Zeenat Ahmad said no causality occurred due to the falling of these billboards.
She said rests of the billboards were under the jurisdiction of different agencies like, Station Head Quarter, Pakistan Railways, and Pakistan Navy etc. She said her cantonment board has started removing hoardings that came under its jurisdiction so that any untoward accident could be avoided. She said so far 20 hoardings have been removed.
While responding to another query she said majority of hoardings that are installed at the rooftops alongside Sharae Faisal belonged to the associations that runs the affairs of those buildings and those associations were also collecting revenue from the advertisers. This correspondent tried a lot to contact the CEOs of other cantonment boards to get their version but could not succeed.
-- Qadeer Tanoli
Powerless to do anything
Gadap Town remained without electricity and water for five days running
Speaking of administratively neglected areas of Karachi, Gadap tops the list uncontested. The town has an area equal to more than a dozen towns of Karachi put together. The town has eight union councils (UCs), each with population of approximately 50,000.
The prolonged power outage in this town documents a new history of the Karachi Electric supply Corporation's (KESC) sense of responsibility and the standing of a department that continues to charge fortunes in the name of billing from the people of Karachi despite rendering such misery to them without having to offer a single word of apology.
The power breakdown that struck the residents on Saturday morning before the rain spell hit the city became a nightmare as prolonged as four straight days. When the power did not resume even by the night of the first day, many residents tried calling the telephone number of the complaint centre which reportedly went unheeded for several hours.
On Sunday morning the complaint centre was attacked and completely smashed down after a group of people found a telephone placed outside the centre on a chair ringing incessantly. The staff was nowhere to be found and it was soon discovered that the line belonged to the KESC's publicised complaint number.
The area Nazim, Ghulam Murtaza Baloch complained that the respective XEN (executive engineer) of KESC Misri Lal Khatri kept delaying his response to the complaints and ultimately said that the fault cannot be located. He held the same stance at the end of the fourth day and complained about the way people reacted towards the KESC.
He insisted that 15 vehicles were busy doing restoration work inside the town while the town Nazim said barely half a dozen vehicles were released after a delay of three days.
"I am calling the KESC day in and out. There are despicable conditions inside the rural parts of the town, where people draw water from tube wells. They are dying of thirst. But KESC just would not heed any of the complaints," said an irate Murtaza Baloch.
A member of the local action committee informed that some 150 electric poles were uprooted on the first day of the storm while KESC when asked to look into the matter said that the team will be sent for a survey only after the storm passed, following which the restoration works will begin.
Thus despite the scenic surroundings and vivid natural colours spread around them, the larger population of Gadap Town sat, perspiring and dreading the rain and cursing the KESC under their hot breaths as they fanned themselves against the sweltering heat.
-- Asra Pasha
Dancing cows, singing cats and a germ fighting super hero seem to indicate Pakistan is waking up to the huge potential in computer graphics
It is said that the first traces of man trying animation can be found in Paleolithic (Stone Age) cave paintings, where animals are depicted with multiple legs in superimposed positions, clearly attempting to depict a sense of motion.
Today the global animation industry is worth US$ 70 million alone. The international special effects industry, in particular the studios in US and Europe such as DreamWorks and Fox Animation, are eagerly outsourcing computer graphics (CG) work from its leading film and television series to other cost effective avenues such as Korea and Philippines. In return the companies get high standard CG work done at only 10 to 40 per cent of what it would cost them to complete the project at home.
India too is cashing in, with current earnings tipped at US$150 million according to a recent CNN report. 2008 is expected to be the year when 300,000 of the enormous Indian tech force will dedicate itself exclusively to this trade.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has recently woken up to the huge potential in this area. With the media boom in the electronic media, institutes like Beaconhouse National University (BNU), National College of Arts (NCA), Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and others have now all started teaching animation courses. Zafar Iqbal who is the academic co-coordinator of NCA's multimedia department says that the purpose of the programme is to develop multimedia experts. "Keeping in view that there has been an influx in entertainment channels, we decided that these courses will help young people to become better professionals."
Faisal Anjum, who is a partner in a small animation studio called Image, begs to differ. He points out that none of the art institutes here, be it NCA Lahore, the Karachi School of Art, Indus Valley or the Visual Studies department of Karachi University (KU), is delivering 'professionals' or even 'semi-professionals' that can be labelled as digital artists. He goes on to say, "We're churning out technicians rather than artists, capable of using popular animation tools such as Maya or 3D Studio Max, but those that lack the essential story board and character building skills." He believes that things can change for the better if these institutes start offering specific degree programmes in animation like they do for communication design, graphic design and the fine arts.
Currently the revenue accumulated by all local animation studios comes mostly from television commercials. Examples include dancing cows for a washing soap, a cat who promotes bubble gums and a superhero that fights germs. The last example was created by the Post Amazers, a local animation studio in Karachi, and the only one to claim a portfolio of international projects under their belt, that include 'Exorcist: The Beginning' and 'The Son of the Mask'.
The CEO of Post Amazers, Asif Iqbal says that the local animation is worth US$1 million and has the tendency to grow. But he also says that regarding animation houses that the recent media explosion was a 'missed opportunity'. "The government could have nurtured an industry of up to five to six thousand animators just for local projects on these channels from the very start," he says. He adds, "To achieve that, the government needed to formulate futuristic policies, such as a mandatory children's hour slot with programmes containing locally developed 2D or 3D cartoons for television. But since no such policies are in place even now, the increase in TV channels won't necessarily entail a huge demand for animators, who derive their work primarily from advertising agencies."
Faiz, an art teacher at KU with experience in creating the visual effects (F/X), feels that the government is concentrating only on meeting the market for people who want to make quick bucks, and is ignoring the faculty of art schools that can truly tell them what steps are needed to nurture the human resource. Faiz believes that unless there's a huge investment in the educational sector, in particular the state run universities such as KU, in terms of equipping them with the latest camera equipment and other expensive machinery, hiring foreign faculty and arranging workshops regularly, the students won't get the proper training.
Recently animation and Special F/X have also started being used in music videos. "A lot of artists such as Ali Azmat, Abrar and Sajid and Zeeshan have started incorporating animation into their videos," says Basit Dogar who has been working as a CG Artist. "I think music video directors have found a relatively cheaper way of creating effects with the help of computer graphics. It's handy because they have full creative control over the content and can get made anything they can visualise without spending a lot of budget or getting out of their chairs."
Talking about why local animation studios are not venturing into the virtually unexplored children entertainment market, Faisal Anjum says, "In my view there are two main reasons for this. One is that Pakistan never fully developed a market for children entertainment. It is notoriously difficult to write for children and even now there are no specialised screenwriters who can write engaging stories. The other one is that today children are extremely media savvy. From the internet to two major children channels on television, children are much conscious about quality. To be honest, it's going to take some years to achieve that kind of quality."
Amjad Durrani who has recently come back from the Vancouver Animation School in Canada says, "What most local CG artists don't realise is that it's not their technical skills that the audience will be observing but the characters in the story and how they evolve and interact with each other. At the end you want to tell a story and not how you can pull off different effects." He adds, "Are we lagging far behind? Technologically yes, but we haven't missed the boat yet. Pose this question to anyone involved in the animation business and they'll tell you very optimistically that with the right kind of investments and well thought out plans based on long-term strategies, we can catch up with global animation hot spots in just two to three years."
Questions of identity and imagination and how the influence of nationalism worked into the creation of an auditory habit
From the Tanjore Court to the Madras Music Academy
By Lakshmi Subramanium.
Oxford University Press,
New Delhi, 2006.
Price: Rs 545, Pages: 196
As the Indian national sentiment took some definite form the need to place it on solid cultural and historical foundation was met with by many in the late 19th and early 20th century. Since India was an old civilisation music, being one of its distinguishing characteristic, too needed to be placed in a context that was relevant to the growing number and size of the Indian educated sections of the population.Though the growing size of the educated classes was the product of the system of education that was introduced by the British colonialists it had reached a critical stage where a big push was required to transform national sentiment into full blown nationalism.
Bhathkhande was one of the main architects of this drive in the segment that we call North India in terms of its musical demarcation. But now in the book 'From the Tanjore Court to the Madras Music Academy', Lakshami Subramanium had chartered and analysed similar happenings in South India or in the area that is called Carnatic in terms of musical demarcation.
According to her in Carnatic Music, too, the making of a classical tradition was a response to the predicament of modernity. In this making of the classical tradition were two coordinates -- the Tanjore Court and the Madras Music Academy. The Tanjore Court under Serfoji (1798-1832) displayed a markedly new temperament in relation to cultural practices and consumption. The same court even indirectly spawned the individual artist composer whose engagement with the art form expanded the scope of musical activity.
It has been generally assumed that Carnatic system of music has an unbroken link with the system of music prevalent in ancient India though there have been few evidences to prove that. The more recent history of the arts can be tracked down to the Vijayanagar Empire in the 15th, 16th century. It was followed by the rule of the Nayaks where Venkatamakhin, a minister in the Nayak's court defined the reference scale of 72 as a canonical fixing of emerging tradition. In South India it is evident that by the 15th century the interweaving of ritual singing, dramatic practices and devotional music had produced a complex musical conception with myriad expressions and distinct communities of practitioners.
An extensive system of melodic entities (raags) and a repertoire of musical compositions (kritdi, varnam, javali and padam) in several languages fitted the needs of the temple rituals as well as court performances. The multiple dimension of the tradition found expression in its structural organisation, there were ritual temple specialists devadasis and oduvars, professional singers attached to courts with a grounding in musical grammar and belonging to the upper caste mostly Brahmins combining the knowledge of the scriptures and Sanskrit conventional musical texts and the peripatetic singer composer who was engrossed with the poetics of devotion.
As the inheritor of the institution the reorganisation of the Tanjore principality in the early days reflected the dynamism of the 17th century Maratha warlords , but the consolidation of the state and the development of the cultural profile expressed in vernacular cosmopolitanism by virtue of its location on the crossroads of culture and religious influences, the Tanjore court was able to respond to the new inclusive and diverse musical conception that accommodated diverse genres, styles and compositions in various languages. At the same time the curt established it's and safeguard its status as the premier cultural arbiter, encouraged its musicians to adopt standardising techniques in the form of song exercises, to facilitate transmission and create a standard for music and performance.
In 1803 Maharaja Safroji 11, the Maratha king of Tanjore composed a number of marching tunes in slow and quick movement for the Tanjore military band. The composition was notated. The king also developed a new etiquette for musical performance.
Between the decline of the Tanjore court and the rise of Madras the trend to assemble and establish a classical music idiom gathered momentum. While commanding the accessories of an older or earlier repertoire registered a new emphasis in terms of presentation and musical values making it especially attractive and accessible for later communities of patrons and performers. Behind the process of redefining the tradition was the formation of a new social identity round the educated middle class of colonial South India as an integral part of its self image, the class attempted to straddle the world of tradition it had lost and hoped to retrieve, and the world of modernity that colonial education and administration promised. In the late 19th and early 20th century the whole question of modernity and tradition became implicated -- the self fashioning of the consuming communities, the changing imperatives of the performer's patronage and public policy shaped performances, its reception and transmission and in the process the performing arts become central to the cultural project of nation building.
The Madras Music Academy founded in 1928 in pursuance of the recommendation of the All India Music Conference held in Madras in 1927 during the Congress week presided over what was quintessentially the world of modern classical music -- a form it reinvented as a self conscious cultural practice and woven into the larger and compelling narrative of nation building.
The book has raised larger questions of identity and imagination and how the influence of nationalism and the nation form worked into the creation of an auditory habit and of the significance attached to it. It anticipates the dilemma of the modern Indian middle class in negotiating a retrieved past for the present. How the musicians and their patrons constructed a canon for classical music, the enthusiasm with which amateurs and professional overarching the worlds of myth, practice, the modern disciplines of history and musicology to provide a stable basis for their cultural claims and self description.
From the July 1, England will go smoke free. Which means, we are told that: "virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces in England will become smokefree. A smokefree England will ensure a healthier environment, so everyone can socialise, relax, travel, shop and work free from secondhand smoke."
This means that we will now not be subjected to all the mess and smell and general discomfort caused by smokers, in say, trains, airports, offices or restaurants. You have probably figured out from my unsympathetic language that I am not a smoker myself, and hence have little compassion for the smokers who view themselves as 'victims' of this bold legislation.
I, personally, am sick of pedestrians who walk around holding burning cigarettes in crowds of commuters (very dangerous and extremely irresponsible behaviour) and I also have no tolerance of motorists who drive while holding a cigarette in one hand and taking puffs of it as if they were invalids getting whiffs of oxygen. I have also had enough of having to sit in public places, my eyes hurt by the smoke and my breath choked, and I have had enough of coming home from these places my hair and clothes absolutely reeking with the smell of cigarettes.
My views may sound slightly fascistic to some people, but I do believe that smoking is unlike most other excesses or pleasures as it is really not an extension of something we do normally. Drinking alcohol or tea (both somewhat addictive), are at least an extension of drinking liquids -- a natural human activity. But what is smoking an extension of? Nothing at all. To me it is as unnecessary as the injection of drugs, something you are pushed into so that some people, somewhere, can profit enormously from your addiction.
I think it has now started to become quite clear to us that governments in the 20th century have been happy to let tobacco companies advertise and market freely, because of the huge short term gains they get. And the tobacco companies have been happy to funnel that money into various governments because those millions have been paltry sums compared to the enormous profits they can make by increasing the numbers of smokers (i.e. addicts), and getting into a market where their product is not regulated in the same way as alcohol or soft drugs.
A lot of western governments are now beginning to understand the consequences of their 'tolerance' (i.e. complicity). They now see that in situations where the state provides health care to its citizens, the state has effectively created more expenses for itself. In other words, it is now having to pay for its complicity by caring for all the people with health problems linked to smoking. In the coming years I think we will have a lot more disclosure on how the tobacco lobby gained power and prominence through completely questionable means.
Another argument against banning smoking is that such legislation is elitist because it 'discriminates against the poor.' This school of thought depicts smoking as perhaps the only pleasure or escape the poor can afford. This is rubbish. Smoking is a habit which can cost a lot of money and it has no benefit to anybody (except the tobacco companies). Would we be as tolerant of such an addiction if it were to drugs? Surely not. Moreover how is it good to get people with less expendable income to spend regularly on a habit such as smoking?
A lot of creative people will oppose such smoking bans as well, as smoking and alcohol and coffee drinking have long been associated with the Bohemian world of the creative artist. It is also, of course associated with the twentieth century picture of the news journalist. In our BBC offices 30 years ago, it was a free for all: the norm was an enclosed smoke filled room, ashtrays and cigarette butts everywhere. Now the office is entirely smoke free and any colleagues who smoke have to go and stand in the car park to do so. (The sociology of how this will affect office politics is yet to be documented).
Some people will cite statistics of smokers who lived a healthy life till a ripe old age without stopping to think that there may have been other factors in these people's lives that influenced their health considerably. An inbuilt determination to enjoy life and be happy perhaps? Or some other characteristic which allowed them to minimise stress and hence be generally healthier?
Anyhow, I am one of the people who is quite pleased by the fact that the country I live in is going smoke free. And since my dear spouse ( a 42-year old non smoker) has just developed an interest in smoking cigars, I am happy that this legislation will help keep this (costly and indulgent) hobby in check, and help to quash what can only seem like a mid life crisis of sorts! But really, I am pleased that my children will grow up in an environment where such a weird habit as smoking is not considered the norm.