Sydney, my love
After Pakistan cricket team's dismal performance in the second test match early this year, it was time to indulge in the best of the city down under
By Khalid Hussain
For me it was love at first sight. The moment I gazed at the stunningly beautiful city of Sydney from my airplane window as we descended for an early morning landing, I knew that I was in for a great time.
That was 10 years ago when I went there for the 2000 Olympic Games. Three years later, I grabbed another opportunity to be back to my favourite city for a hockey quadrangular.
After a seven-year wait, this year I was back in Sydney to cover the second Test between the cricket teams of Pakistan and Australia in January and once again it was a mesmerising experience.
Sydney never ceases to amuse me. I've frequented the city's top attractions like the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, Bondi on each of my visit but somehow I've never managed to get enough of them. In addition, at times some of the off-the-beaten track trips I've taken in and around Sydney are even more exciting.
My last visit began just a couple of days before New Year and some of my friends, who either live in Sydney or have visited the city during that time of the year, insisted I shouldn't miss the iconic fireworks that kick-start global festivities to mark the New Year.
I was lucky to get a room with a view, pretty close to the city centre and could have seen the fireworks from there. But the adventurer in me wanted to get out there and join the party that had attracted almost a million people from all over Australia and around the world.
I was joined by my close friend, Farooq Khan, who is now settled in a Sydney suburb. Farooq is a former colleague who moved to Australia a few years back and had experienced the fireworks before.
He came well-prepared -- a backpack loaded with water, sandwiches, crisps, chocolates etc. He was casually dressed, and in the most comfortable of sneakers. In stark contrast, I was dressed for a New Year's party with boots and works. I should have known better. It was a long and slow walk towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge as a sea of humanity gravitated towards the prized spot situated between the Bridge and the Opera House. "That's where you get the best view of the fireworks," Farooq told me as he fixed his camera and started clicking.
We left the hotel just before 9.00 pm, and it took us almost two hours to find a place with a perfect view. But it came at a price. We were completely squashed by thousands of revellers. It was difficult to breathe. But it was worth it.
I've seldom seen something manmade that's more breathtaking than the fireworks. The show dazzled us for more than 20 minutes.
The next week or so was devoted mostly to cricket. Pakistan made a stunning start to the match after losing in Melbourne and by the end of Day One it seemed they were in a great position to end their losing streak against the Aussies. Pacers Mohammad Sami and Mohammad Asif annihilated the home team's batting line-up and for the next several sessions the tourists dominated the proceedings. But in the end, they failed to finish the job. Kamran Akmal dropped Michael Hussey thrice, allowing the veteran batsman to score a match-winning century.
Pakistan's performance during the rest of the Australian tour was regrettable. So, one would rather talk about the better memories of the trip.
My favourite hangout in Sydney has always been the Darling Harbour. It's a dazzling place surrounded by some of the best landmarks of the city. From there you can walk to the Sydney Opera House that is a magnet for tourists because of its wonderful architecture. It's easily one of the most beautiful manmade structures in the world.
The Sydney Harbour is the heart of the city. Here, it seems, everyone living nearby is outside -- the streets and beaches alike are full of fun lovers at any time of the day.
It was pretty hot during the best part of my stay in Sydney and a visit to the beach was a must almost every other day. Bondi was close by and was a perfect place to beat the heat. I went to the Coogee Cliff one day but the highpoint of the visit was a day-long excursion to the Blue Mountains.
They aren't like the mighty Himalayas but Blue Mountains, about a 75-minute drive from the City Centre, are certainly spectacular. Its terrain is rugged and tourists can go on a real nature tours and bushwalks, hikes and camp in rainforests, wetlands and eucalypt woodlands. The afternoon heat was stifling but things got really pleasant in the evening.
Another reason why I always want to go back to Sydney is the food. I love Turkish and Lebanese cuisine which one can easily find in various parts of Sydney. The kebab platter one can find in Sydney's Auburn locality is just divine. I also happened to dine at a couple of Pakistani restaurants including Bundu Khan in the upscale North Sydney locality of Crow's Nest. Kamil Khan, Bundu Khan's owner, told me that some of the world's top cricketers like Wasim Akram, Aamir Sohail, Waqar Younis, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi have been to his restaurant. "Most of them came for our goat karahi. It's really good, you should try it," he insisted. It was actually great.
Then I went to Fahim's, which they say is the oldest Pakistani restaurant in Sydney. Their chicken tandoori was definitely worth trying.
A low point of the trip, however, was an unsuccessful attempt to see the sci-fi blockbuster -- Avatar -- at Imax, Darling Harbour. It was weekend and all the shows were sold-out. "Come tomorrow", they told me. I just smiled and left the building because the next day, I was travelling back home.
The writer is the Editor Sports, The News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's a special event, where partridges are brought together to make the highest number of calls in a single day
By Muhammad Niaz
Sport hunting of partridges or small game hunting has been a hobby of many hunters to test their shooting skills. The roasted bird may be one treat for the hunters but the actual challenging hunt is a prime pursuit that many hunters look for. Small game shooting (in this case partridges and ducks only) is allowed under a valid license and a special permit by the government, only in shooting season -- usually non-breeding period of wild birds (November to February) -- as notified officially.
While sport hunting is only a leisure pursuit of some hunters in our society, possession of birds especially partridges is another prevalent tendency. Consequent of fulfillment of legal procedure, partridges can be reared and possessed to fulfill one's love for and attachment to birds for personal satisfaction. As the birds not only call at certain times of the day but also serve as an aesthetic living object, their possession prompts many lovers who are willing to put in a major portion of their care and time in fostering the bird.
In fact, wildlife rearing is a healthy activity. However, one step forward is the sport activity in which the birds are not made to fight with one another but a calling contest among the birds is held where many owners, especially those of the black partridge, bring in their birds as contesting candidates to win the tournament with the highest number of calls in the single day event.
To arrange a black partridge tournament, it requires the organiser, who has good public relations and is usually an experienced person in possession of the bird himself, to float an application to the concerned provincial wildlife department for approval. Posters are printed, distributed, and posted on vantage points to convey the message more effectively. The black partridge, often known as teetar, is the favourite bird for the call contest, on the grounds that it makes more calls and is more good looking, and easily adaptable to be reared through small call contests among a few owners as a practice before taking on the grand scale provincial level black partridge tournament where more than 300 contesting birds are brought. According to Javid Shah, a black partridge owner, "A mega event in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa usually has about 300 birds, while that in Punjab has between 500-600 birds, while in Sindh usually 300-400 birds are checked in as contestants". The names for the black partridge tournament are locality specific as in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the black partridge tournament is known as Kaara, in Punjab as Chakri, while in Sindh as Chips.
Usually mid-summer is the prime time to hold the tournament as the birds are in their peak mood, 'masti', to make repeated high-pitched calls. A male bird is used for the purpose by virtue of its ability to emanate more calls among several other calling birds in the tournament. When deciding to hold a black partridge tournament in a locality at national level, open invitations are sent to bird lovers for participation in the event via post, cellular phones, and messengers. This is done quite in advance to avoid parallel events at other places, which will reduce the number of contesting birds in which case fewer numbers of owners of the birds will show up.
According to Haji Jehangir Khan of Kohat, "Organising similar tournament within 100 sq. km is undesirable. The birds get divided between two events and the objectives are not met -- which is also marks financial losses at provincial level". The event is mostly arranged on Fridays and Sundays to attract maximum number of spectators and participants in places like Peshawar, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, D.I. Khan, Kohat, Mardan, Mianwali, Bakkar, Okara, etc. The organiser of the tournament arranges for meals out of the entry fee.
The tournament has its special proceedings, placement of birds, and a panel of judges and munsif who observe the proceedings of the tournament, usually taking 3 rounds on knocked out basis. In the rounds of 10 minutes and 5 minutes, the birds making no calls are ousted of the tournament and the winning birds enter the final round usually held after lunch. Appropriate numbers of birds are allotted to munsif who are neutral and sit on the sides to count the number of calls that each bird makes under supervision of referees.
After compilation of the calls of respective birds, final announcement of the winning bird is made on the basis of making more calls during the specific period of the tournament. About 500 spectators witness the event and the clapping at the announcement make the winner usually very proud of his bird that not only brings him reputation but also a prize in the tournament in the form of a trophy and cash. A winning bird usually puts on record about 260 to 290 calls in an event. Besides, in wake of such declaration, the price of the bird also escalates in the range of Rs 50000 to Rs 100000.
To organise the tournament, the owner puts in a lot of time, care, and resources. A bird that enters the tournament is preferably four years old and raised in domestic care. A well-grown bird has all the prominent features. The bird undergoes training sessions comprising two hours outing in the green fields and local call contests among friends and neighbours. In the summer, special feed is provided to the bird including fruits, tomatoes, vegetable matter, almond, pistachio, sweets and barley in mixed pellet form. In the winter, barley is the main diet. To protect the bird from the winter cold, tight clothing around the cage is provided. A good quality cage to house the bird usually costs about Rs 500.
A bird's good upbringing consumes a feed worth Rs 4000 to Rs 5000 per annum. The bird needs dust bathing for about 3-4 hours a day. According to Haji Jehangir Khan of Kohat, a black partridge lover, "A bird raised for this purpose attains a status of one of the family members and feeding cost of the bird is therefore, not a burden on the owner". Medical treatment is mostly reconciled to local treatment as one of the best indigenous healthcare inputs.
Partridge lovers maintain, "It is a healthy sport that distracts people from other activities in the society".
Black partridge is one of the game birds in the mountainous scrub tracks of Khyber-Pakthtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan. When the human population density was low a few decades ago, the birds flourished well in the wild due to an intact habitat. With an increase in human population, coupled with lack of awareness about its role in socio-economic and ecological development, biotic pressure contributed to habitat fragmentation and decrease in wild population. Black partridges had earlier been hunted and netted extensively, resulting in a considerable decrease in population. Now, with regularized hunting, they are making a gradual comeback.
Hunting and possession of birds is against law. Positive approach of people towards fulfillment of legal formalities for hunting and possession will contribute to conservation of the birds on a sustainable basis that will continue to render preservation of cultural values and ecological integrity in the long run.