festival
March with a tint of spring
Celebrate. Spring is in the air
By Haneya H. Zuberi
During this time of the year, the sun promises to show up with a greater intensity and the cities bloom -- hence incurring the onset of spring. You start seeing colours everywhere and even start taking 'green' for granted. In other words, the cities prepare themselves and invite spring over. But as they always say, an exception is always there. When it comes to Lahore, spring invites itself over and before we even know it puts the city under its fluorescent charm.

Dream like flowers
Flower artists tell stories through flowers, leaves and vegetables at the National Flower Show organised by the Floral Art Society of Pakistan last week in Lahore
By Naila Inayat
The National Flower Show held last week in Lahore is perhaps just another attempt at celebrating the festive season of spring. Organised by the Floral Art Society of Pakistan (FASP), the two-day event received flower artists from across the country.

MOOD STREET
Back to the village
By Mazhar Khan Jadoon
I was finding it difficult to convince my friend to resume his urban life. "Your city has nothing to offer. It does not help me become a man who is happy with his life. Depression, frustration, never-ending daily chores… This is all your city offers."

Town Talk
*Non Commissioned Historical Drawings by Ahmed Ali Manganhar at National College of
Arts till Sat, Mar 27.
*Solo Show by Hussain Tariq at
The Drawing Room Art Gallery till Mar 30.
Gallery Timings: 5-8 pm.

issue
Ground reality
Just a playground or a playground along with a digital library and gymnasium… A follow-up on the Doongi Ground as the hearing on the case enters its fourth year
By Waqar Gillani
While hearing the case for converting Doongi Ground at MM Alam Road, Gulberg, into a public park rather than the government's proposed idea to build an IMAX theatre, commercial plaza and libraries etc., the Lahore High Court has directed the Punjab government to review whether a public utility place could be used for any other purpose and what could be the better use of it.

The 'extra' terrestrial
She danced, in rows of unidentifiable faces, to save her life
By Usman Ghafoor
A couple of variously chipped lipsticks that look more like melted ice cones, a near-empty face pack and a small hand mirror -- this is 47-year-old Musarrat's well kept makeup kit she carries in her large handbag wherever she goes, in and out of Lahore's rusty and beetle-stained film studios on Multan Road.

Zeus and Venus on your dinner table
Trevi is a unique introduction to concept dining
By Sarah Sikandar
M M Alam is arguably Lahore's goldmine especially when it comes to restaurant business. You open up anything here and you already know it's a hit because one, we need an excuse to eat and two, there aren't many good continental places here.

 

 

festival

March with a tint of spring

Celebrate. Spring is in the air

By Haneya H. Zuberi

During this time of the year, the sun promises to show up with a greater intensity and the cities bloom -- hence incurring the onset of spring. You start seeing colours everywhere and even start taking 'green' for granted. In other words, the cities prepare themselves and invite spring over. But as they always say, an exception is always there. When it comes to Lahore, spring invites itself over and before we even know it puts the city under its fluorescent charm.

Kite flying, flower festivals and float show in the canal, luminous lights gazing the city bringing glory to the folks and celebrating a gift that the nature has given us -- spring. PHA channelled all these celebrations into one stream and gave it the title 'Jashan-e-Baharan' almost a decade ago.

"Driving along the canal is such a pleasure watching the floats and the lightening. It brought back memories of the better times but I don't know whether they will proceed with the spring festival now after the terrorist activities," says Sara, a 45-year old teacher.

Farzana, thirty-nine, a housewife and a mother of two young girls, was marvelling how she used to take her girls to the Race Course park and Bagh-e-Jinnah in spring to show them the wonderful flower shows and was reckoning if she could do the same now.

From the look of it, Parks and Horticulture Authority has high spirits -- as Abdul Jabbar Shaheen, the Director General of PHA told TNS that they are still carrying on with all the activities they had planned for this season; despite the terror attacks in the city. He said that the rich architecture of old Lahore, historical monuments on the Mall Road deserve to be brought to light, both literally and metaphorically, as they stand reminding us of our history and culture.

This year PHA has a Cultural Heritage theme under which the city canal has been decorated with floats which highlight the culture of this region. Floats of the models of the Badshahi mosque, Jehangir's mausoleum, the Lahore fort and the whirling dervishes and many others of the like are seen.

Shaheen elaborated that due to security reasons, most of the outdoor activities have been moved indoors but have not been cancelled. He said there is going to be a mushaira, a sufism celebration, various skits which will be performed by the students of government and private schools of Lahore. This time there will be shows for special children as well and at these shows the chief guests will be the students who topped the board exams. "In this way, the hard working students will gain encouragement as well", he said.

For the first time, this year an Iranian delegation will visit Pakistan for the flower exhibition in Bagh-e-Jinnah under an exchange programme which was initiated by the chief minister of Punjab when he visited Iran. Pakistan will send its delegation to Iran in May this year for their spring festival.

As for the terrorist activities, Shaheen said that the authorities put off the lights for three days in mourning of the lives lost in the attacks and their sincere condolences are with the families who lost their loved ones in the attacks.

No matter how much we deny the Chinese curse really seems to apply here, "May you live in interesting times." An honest observer of the evolution of conditions would discover that terrorism is an alien phenomenon, strange to our heritage and culture. We should not allow terrorism to take over heritage and culture. After all, spring is in the air!

 

Dream like flowers

Flower artists tell stories through flowers, leaves and vegetables at the National Flower Show organised by the Floral Art Society of Pakistan last week in Lahore

By Naila Inayat

The National Flower Show held last week in Lahore is perhaps just another attempt at celebrating the festive season of spring. Organised by the Floral Art Society of Pakistan (FASP), the two-day event received flower artists from across the country.

These artists showed that flowers are the most powerful expressions of beauty -- and life. There were four demonstrations by internationally-acclaimed presenters -- Anjum Rehman (Lahore Chapter), Farhana Azeem (Islamabad Chapter), Farida Kalim and Zarina Asghar Khan (Karachi Chapter).

The artists told stories with flowers, leaves and vegetables and to watch them do so was quite enthralling. It kept the viewers wondering what could be the complete picture once the artists add the final touches. These artists performed before a select audience in Lahore who greatly appreciated their work.

Zarina, an expert in ikebana, moved the audiences with her theme. "When we were young we were told that there is always hope in life -- that every cloud has a silver lining," she expressed. Despite all the problems faced by our country, she said, "we, the people, have faith in future. And we are beginning to get to that..."

Made with naturally-woven baskets, filled in with woven leaves, vegetables picked from her own garden and anthuriums, Zarina's flower work epitomised hope. Her rainbow baskets in a way encouraged Lahoris to come out of their homes and live a life.

Anjum Rehman's concept was based on nature and life. "We start dreaming our concepts -- it is like we eat, sleep and drink our concepts -- and eventually the design we come up with, we need to develop it," she explained. She highlighted how life sometimes becomes unexciting and we tend to forget all the happiness it has ever given us -- "Whenever I find something unusual in the market I bring it home, and then with these things I design my concepts," she said.

Anjum drew parallels between the human and the butterfly's life cycle. She said, "A butterfly goes through four stages of development: egg, caterpillar, pupa and adult. The process is called metamorphosis. Similarly, in human life sometimes one goes through drastic changes or events that change her perspective on everything in life." It is this side of life that Anjum brings out in the open. She uses dry leaves to demonstrate how a young butterfly with soft wings ends its journey.

The other two artists, Farhana Azeem and Farida Kalim use local plant material to create their flower work. Farhana Azeem celebrates nature and Farida Kalim demonstrates a recent trend in Europe of weaving the whole mat by using the shredding method -- her work is a combination of contrast, texture and colour.

Floral Art Society is a non-profitable organisation and has membership from 35 countries. The members of the society have participated in several international exhibitions and have won prizes in international competitions held in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Holland, England, France, Thailand and South Africa. FASP's Lahore chapter is headed by Ghazala Rafique.

 

MOOD STREET

Back to the village

By Mazhar Khan Jadoon

I was finding it difficult to convince my friend to resume his urban life. "Your city has nothing to offer. It does not help me become a man who is happy with his life. Depression, frustration, never-ending daily chores… This is all your city offers."

"Hold on," I tried to stop him raising both my hands, but could not. He went on "Can you see this smoke of the cigarette reaching out to the sky," he pointed out to a blue streak of smoke ascending from the burning end of the cigarette I was holding. It was a wonderful view from where we were sitting on a hilltop in his village. "Yes, I can see. What's the point?" I asked.

"It is the clean environment and fresh air that you don't find in big cities," he boasted. "Breathe deeply and you will feel the difference," he advised, and I did exactly that. I could feel the cool and fresh air running through every cell of my body. "You will have to go to some big hospital in the city to get such pure oxygen," he taunted.

"Is it not escapism? Are you not trying to run away from your responsibilities," I tried to confront him philosophically. "Yes, I have escaped from the prevalent corruption in urban society, unending loadshedding, crushing pricehike, rude behaviours, injustice, rising crime and deadly blasts. I am tired of living in fear," he retorted angrily.

"Now just hold your breath and stay silent for a while, and try to listen to the sounds around you," he said. I thought he was up to another trick. I could listen to the breeze, chirping birds and some chuckling kids playing at an open place down the hill.

"In the night, all you can hear is silence – pindrop silence – that you need for a sound sleep. You wake up fresh in the morning, with no migraine or stress hangovers. Spend a few nights in this serene village, and your nightmares will turn into pleasant dreams," he advised me.

He went on to talk about the precious moments and relations lost while pursuing vague temptations. "People like you and me keep running all the time trying to maintain the pace for staying in the race. We are like racing horses; looked after and fed till we agree to participate and shot down once we are unable to run."

My friend also had this dream of building a two-kanal house in Defence marking a space for a green lawn, erecting fountains and decorating it with pebbles brought from villages. "After calculating the cost, I realised I won't be able to even purchase land for the house of dream. Then it dawned on me that I could enjoy all these facilities in this village. I have a simple but big house here, surrounded by natural fountains with green fields all around. I need no cages to keep birds as the trees in my lawn house thousands of birds of different hues. My life is in harmony with these birds. They let me know when it is dusk, the time to come home and rest, and they announce the dawn with their own sound that is so soothing. We used to pay our bills for electricity, but now we pay for unending loadshedding. Now I don't have to pay these bills as I get up with birds and go to sleep with birds. Can you keep so many birds in your city house?

My friend still had a lot to say, about organic food and stuff but I got up fearing I might be the next one to sail against the tide – leave a noisy city and settle in a calm village.

 

*Non Commissioned Historical Drawings by Ahmed Ali Manganhar at National College of

Arts till Sat, Mar 27.

*Solo Show by Hussain Tariq at

The Drawing Room Art Gallery till Mar 30.

Gallery Timings: 5-8 pm.

*Exhibition of Works by Rehana Mangi

and Iqra Tanveer at Rohtas till Mar 24.

*Solo Show 'Sound of Colours'

by Mohammad Ali Bhatti at Revivers Galleria till Apr 3.

Gallery Timing: 11 am to 9 pm.

*Exhibition of Works by Mansoora Hasan

at Rohtas Gallery opening on Fri, Mar 26.

The exhibition will continue till Apr 3.

*CCS UK Education Fair 2010 on Tue, Mar 23

at Pearl Continental Hotel, Lahore.

 

 

issue

Ground reality

Just a playground or a playground along with a digital library and gymnasium… A follow-up on the Doongi Ground as the hearing on the case enters its fourth year

By Waqar Gillani

While hearing the case for converting Doongi Ground at MM Alam Road, Gulberg, into a public park rather than the government's proposed idea to build an IMAX theatre, commercial plaza and libraries etc., the Lahore High Court has directed the Punjab government to review whether a public utility place could be used for any other purpose and what could be the better use of it.

The Punjab government's counsel has already informed the court that only 18 percent of the total ground area would be used for construction purposes, while the rest of the site would remain an "uncovered" playground area. The court has adjourned the hearing till March 25.

The Punjab government had sought permission from a full bench of the LHC to set up a public library, gymnasium and bowling alley on the site. In the first week of March, the government's counsel Salman Akram Raja moved a written reply to seek the permission, while the petitioners' counsel, Muhammad Azhar Siddique, opposed it, saying that the Doongi Ground had been earmarked as a public park in the original scheme designed for Gulberg and can not be used for commercial purposes.

The case of Doongi Ground, a public place in Gulberg and used as a park since the late 1970s, triggered debate when the previous provincial government set up the Punjab Entertainment Company (PEC) and decided to convert the ground into an IMAX theatre in 2005.

The petition was filed by a Karachi-based non-government organisation (NGO) Shehri-CBE (Citizens for Better Environment), journalist Ardeshir Cowasjee and 11 residents of the affected area (Gulberg II) in 2006. The petitioners submitted that the IMAX Theatre project was "illegal" as a no objection certificate was not obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for carrying out the construction work. The petition also challenged Doongi Ground's transfer of ownership from the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) to the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA), and finally to the Punjab Entertainment Company (PEC).

In August 2006, a single bench of the LHC had stopped the provincial government and the PEC from continuing the construction of the theatre. The stay order was vacated on March 9 by the LHC division bench and construction work resumed. However, the petitioners moved another petition in the Supreme Court, which again stopped the construction work and referred the matter to the LHC for its disposal in accordance with the law.

Importantly, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, since swearing in as CM in 2008, has many times asked the department concerned to make Lahore a city of parks and grounds. Lahore has a population of over 90 million and has only limited entertainment facilities. There are a few parks, theatres, cinemas, exhibition halls, sports complexes and playgrounds in the city.

Majority of the residents of Gulberg II want Doongi Ground reconverted into a public space as a park. Salas Hameed, 20, a resident of the same area still remembers his childhood, when he used to come to the ground to play with his friends. "We wish the government restores that ground," he says. He adds that recreational places were already very few and such open places in the areas like Gulberg were becoming quite a dream because of rapid commercialisation of the open spaces.

Muhammad Amir, a manager in a nearby restaurant, also wants the place to be converted into a park. "This will be the best utilisation of the place and we need it."

Amna Akhtar, a woman who lives in a nearby house along with her other neighbours, says that the park is an essential need for this area. She hopes the government will be consider their request seriously.

Dr Owais Farooqui, Chairman of the chief minister's Task Force for Environment, says that the taskforce had suggested to the chief minister to convert only a small portion of the ground into a public library and making the rest of the place an open area for children.

Doongi Ground, an open space in Gulberg -- measuring approximately 44 Kanals 7 Marlas and 77 square feet -- was one of the properties which came to the Lahore Development Authority in 1970s. It was a public property and had to remain as an article of public interest. According to the petition filed, this purpose shortly called public interest has several shades, some of which are provisions of healthy climate for the inhabitants of the area particularly the poorer section; provision of open playgrounds for their children; provision of an open land for their social and religious gatherings; provision of a ground for various kind of sports; provision of much needed rest and recreation ground for unhealthy individuals; and to save the congested inhabitants from atmospheric pollution, etc.

The civil society has prayed to the court to direct the concerned authorities to demolish the constructions raised on the open space in violation of the Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975, the Punjab Development of Cities Act, 1976, the Disposal of Land by Development Authorities (Regulation) Act, 1998 (Act XII of 1998) read with the Development Authorities (Regulation) Rules, 2002 and above all against public interest and welfare and restore it to its original position as open space for public use.

It is also mentionable here that in late 2008, the Punjab government planned to convert the shelved projects of the Punjab Entertainment Company (PEC) into an educational entertainment project, but no solid action has been taken as yet.

The government planned to have a digital public library having internet access to international research journals and publications in the world's different libraries, on the one floor of the proposed IMAX Theatre in Doongi Ground, for research and study purposes. "The government took this decision in a meeting of the Board of Directors (BoD) of the PEC, mostly comprising ex-officio members, in November 2008," the then Punjab Information, Culture and Youth Affairs Secretary Orya Maqbool Jan Abbasi tells TNS.

The PEC purchased IMAX Theatre equipment at $2.523 million (Rs 483.271 million) through a single tender enquiry. Keeping into account the commercial viability, the project was shifted from the Infotainment Park at the Sheikh Zayed Complex (Ferozepur Road) to its present location Doongi Ground, MM Alam Road. The provincial Finance Department released Rs482.721 million for the theatre, Rs520.371 million for the shopping mall (total cost Rs820 million), and Rs50 million for the PEC expenditures. This money has gone waste.

The sitting Punjab government decided to dissolve the PEC after finding irregularities and waste of funds including unjustified hefty salaries of its officials worth Rs 1.4 billion, in 2008.

Email: [email protected]

 

The 'extra' terrestrial

She danced, in rows of unidentifiable faces, to save her life

By Usman Ghafoor

A couple of variously chipped lipsticks that look more like melted ice cones, a near-empty face pack and a small hand mirror -- this is 47-year-old Musarrat's well kept makeup kit she carries in her large handbag wherever she goes, in and out of Lahore's rusty and beetle-stained film studios on Multan Road.

Not that she is required to have an elaborate vanity box. Musarrat's role in the kitschy film industry is that of "a mere extra dancer" (to quote her own words). She appears in chorus songs. So, perhaps, she can do with some lessons in dance.

"I don't have two left feet," she tells TNS, jokingly. "So, I managed well, even though I had no training in dance."

Having spent a lifetime on the sets -- "it's been over two decades now," she says -- dance is only a matter of following the choreographer's instructions.

Her own story is quite the stuff of films. In her younger days, Musarrat never had the proverbial 'stars in her eyes'. Born and raised in Multan, she says she "never thought I'd end up here". But she was forced by the financial circumstances at home. "My step brothers usurped whatever property our father had left us in his will. And I was left to fend for myself."

Eventually, an acquaintance offered help and brought her over to Lahore where she has since been working -- in the big, bad world of Lollywood.

Musarrat says she met with "all sorts of people" in the studio corridors. But she now knew how to handle an unwanted situation. "I would flash my wedding ring every time someone made a pass at me," she says, adding that she got married to "the person who helped me in the most difficult phase of my life".

For "Matric pass" Musarrat, roles of 'extra' were a mercy as she "was told I didn't have it to become a heroine. I wasn't pretty like Babra Sharif or Mumtaz (the first few actresses she met)". So, she had to be content with dancing in rows of unidentifiable faces, behind the leading lady.

"Initially, it hurt because nobody would notice me. Besides, we'd be paid peanuts -- Rs 100 for a shift!"

Ironically, today, an extra dancer gets a better fare but there aren't many takers around. "Chorus songs are a thing of the past," she says, lamentingly. "Not many films have them. These days, the producers want just 'hot' item numbers which are not my scene."

Savvily enough, Musarrat has now found work on TV also, in smaller parts -- "in order to keep me going".

It's been a career based on roles of an 'extra'. But Musarrat has no regrets. It's a way of life for her.

 

Zeus and Venus on your dinner table

Trevi is a unique introduction to concept dining

By Sarah Sikandar

M M Alam is arguably Lahore's goldmine especially when it comes to restaurant business. You open up anything here and you already know it's a hit because one, we need an excuse to eat and two, there aren't many good continental places here.

Trevi, "the home of the wishing fountain" claims to be an introduction to concept dining in the metropolis. If you have been abroad, you should not be alien to the idea. Concept restaurants encompass both the cuisine and ambience.

Something like 'Medieval Times' in US and our very own 'Village' in Lahore. Trevi was inaugurated last month and the pre-opening hype had done half the marketing for the place.

The name comes from the famous Trevi fountain in Rome. The tradition goes that whoever throws a coin in the water here is ensured another trip to Rome. Although Trevi restaurant cannot promise you a trip to Rome, it promises you will want to come back even after the first visit.

The menu is a familiar mix with continental, European and Asian delicacies. An interesting change, however, was the 'backward' menu starting with beverages to the main course. The menu will reinforce the promise: "Here is where you will rediscover enchantment where wishes will be granted. Where gods walk the world among men." You will but read these lines. With a "taste of food from around the world", the place promises that you will "leave your world behind and become a part of the concept."

The promise, to put it mildly, neither falls flat nor is better than the promise itself. The unsurprising favourite is Thai chicken with cashew nuts (sounds familiar right?). We were told this is an instant hit. Chicken with cashews is a favourite at Lahore's continental places. But the one here can easily be called 'best done.' If you don't like spicy food, it might just be a little too much for you but might also encourage you to get 'fiery' with your food.

The lemon sauce served with Pan Fried Celtic Sole was divine. But the stuffed chicken looked, and tasted, like pizza's long lost cousin.

As far as the menu is concerned, the food has little experimentation as you might expect from a place like this. But the 'concept' also comes back with the names of the dishes -- you have everyone from the god Zeus to Juno, Cratos, Venus, Dante burger, Buffalo burger.

Very few places here know how to do something as simple as steam veggies -- they are either overdone to being mushy or almost raw which also leaves a smell on them. But the desi is not their best deal.

Think again if desi is on your mind. But if you need a change from the menus of the famous places at M M Alam and other hot spots, head to Trevi and see what Roman gods and goddesses have to offer. Beware though, you don't want to go overboard with your experimentation. Consult your waiter before ordering.

 

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