dreams were given a life
Around the world on cycle
British cyclist Emily Chappell, who is on a world tour, was in the city recently
By Qudsia Sajjad
The News Sunday: What
made you decide to go around the world on a cycle?
Emily Chappell: Well, I
read this book by Alastair Humphreys and I was so inspired that I wrote to
him that I meant to follow his example. He was even kind enough to ask me
over and he mentioned me in his blog as well.
My original plan was to
write a book because the book would pretty much write itself. It seemed
like the obvious thing because I write a lot any way but have noticed that
plans have a tendency to fall apart. And the longer that I’ve been on
the road, the more I have been thinking that maybe I wouldn’t write a
book. And it is difficult because everybody I meet tells me that I should
write a book. I do blog about the bike trip and a lot of people say that
of course it’s going to grow into a book. Part of me thinks it would be
nice to write a book, I would like to say that I am an author. But I have
already written most of it into the blog and a book would require just
going over that again. Actually I am not that unique; there are loads of
book on this topic, and lots of people are writing across the continents.
TNS: But are there any
women among them?
EC: There are a few
women but none of them are writing any books as far as I know… but,
there are a lot of men who have almost all written books on this sort of
travelling and it might become a little repetitive. I mean there are only
so many stories that one can tell. Comic encounters with foreigners and
funny situations and …(mutual laughter)
I have been reading Paul
Theroux and there is quite a lot of humour at the expense of the peculiar
people he meets.
TNS: So at the end of
the day what’s it in this experience for you?
EC: Its hard to say,
maybe I will write a book and if it turns out different from the blog that
would be great. It might not. But I have noticed that a lot of times I am
resisting to put my cycling experience into words which is unusual for me
because I even think in sentences…I will be riding along experiencing
something and wondering how to put this experience into words. I think I
am experimenting and experiencing by not writing or thinking but just
TNS: So you feel that
there is an essential dichotomy between doing and thinking?
EC: Maybe there is. If
you think too much about doing something then sometimes we create
obstacles for ourselves. For getting things done, there seems to be
another intelligence at work, or maybe I ought to call it good reflexes.
The body sometimes knows what it is supposed to do without well worded
commands. One just becomes aware of one’s body to that extent that you
just know what sort of movement is required. Maybe it’s what we call
kinesthetic intelligence. It is not something that you can describe in
words because in its very nature it eludes words.
TNS: Give it a try?
EC: Back in London, I
would ride very fast through very busy traffic, very heavy congested
traffic and you have to ride in a very acrobatic kind of way, and you
can’t really intellectualise that a car is there; it is a narrow gap and
I would be calculating how to get through that narrow gap and which angle
I am going to take. It takes you a while to learn for the first two
weeks…and then thinking I would not quite be able to go through those
cars and slow down. But eventually you learn to read the traffic. You
learn to read the flow of it and interpret it. Sometimes I really surprise
myself and I would be thinking, “Oh! How am I going to get through this
narrow gap?” and then I am through it. I would not even know how my body
had done that because it would not involve my brain or any conscious
decision making. I think I am in a fairly unique position because I come
from a totally academic background and I started doing this totally
physical job of being a cycle courier.
So I think about how I
get my body to get things done. And getting things done is not always a
question of reflexes; it is a question of willpower too. There is a
thoughtful dimension of getting things done, in other words, how not to be
a procrastinator. Perfectly healthy people with good reflexes will say how
lazy they are; absolving themselves from doing anything worthwhile. To a
certain extent I can understand what is happening in my mind when I am
getting things done and I can put this physical experience into words
although I am always struggling with it. So the answer is may be maybe I
should write a book about it. I am frustrated because a lot of the stuff
that I want to write about just doesn’t suit words. Still, I can try to
explain what it means to be a cycle courier who takes on the world.
At the end, maybe you
can prove the world is — after all is said and done — a friendly
place. Though this conclusion ought to come with a
do-not-try-this-stuff-at-home sort of warning.
TNS: Tell me how are you
devising your route, your travelling plans?
EC: I don’t really
know. So far I am thinking of roughly next four years and I am planning as
I go along. I’m planning to go the long route through all the
continents. I mean to go to China. I will be missing India for two reasons
mainly. For one thing, I have lived there and logistically, once I get
into India its impossible to get out again through a land route, there’s
no border with China that you can cross, you can cross into Tibet through
Nepal but then you are not allowed to travel on your own. From China I
don’t know if I am going to see a bit of Russia or Japan or Mongolia
because I haven’t decided yet, I’m just riding east but my aim is to
get to somewhere on the east coast of Asia from where I can then get
across to North America. So possibly I might end up at Vladivostok or
Japan or maybe mainland China.
TNS: With an itinerary
like this I shouldn’t ask much about your plans, its more like you are
taking each day as it comes.
EC: Yes, I think plans
have a tendency to sort themselves out, plans are improvisations.
TNS: One more thing, how
do you feel about taking four years out of your life to do this?
EC: I really don’t see
these four years as a vertical slash upon the horizontal graph called
life. It’s not an aberration, these four years — these are my life —
my normal life.
Note: I would like to
mention here that Emily did her thesis dissertation upon “A Suitable
Boy” and Vikram Seth is one of her favourite authors.
There can be a few more
edifying sights than coming across an article or a feature in the
international media which for a change brings out the positive side of our
otherwise dysfunctional country.
Recently, Peter Oborne,
Daily Telegraph’s chief political commentator, in an article “Are we
wrong about Pakistan?” written for the Sunday Telegraph was all praise
for the hospitality and high spirits of the Pakistani nation which he
gauged on his visit to the country last year.
The piece of writing
came to me as breath of fresh air keeping in view the negativity which is
usually associated with the country on the international front.
For years the media has
savaged the people of Pakistan with generalisations and unflattering
Similarly, the article
sent me down the memory lane of the days when my friends and I had the
opportunity to play host to Peter and Lord Richard Risby last year. Both
of them upon their arrival to Lahore were itching to discover and
experience the city of Lahore and the country first hand. On their first
evening in Pakistan, as Peter mentions in his article, two close friends
of mine Saad Bari and Ramma took them to Cuckoo’s Den situated in the
Old city. He shares the experience as “My food was delicious, the
conversation sparky – and from our vantage point we enjoyed a perfect
view of the Badshahi Mosque.”
These were the days when
our country was going through a bad patch due to the OBL incident and once
again we were a laughing stock the world over. Once again the
international media pounced on an opportunity provided by none other than
ourselves to ridicule us and play hard on the long prevailing prejudice
against us. When things are dry the slimmest opportunity is worth a try.
With the two gentlemen as our guests we sensed an opportunity, if there
ever was one, of showing them the country from the perspective of the
people rather than that of the politicians, landlords and religious
Our little effort paid
off big time when Lord Richard Risby upon his return to the United Kingdom
wrote an article on the Conservative Party Blog and shared what he
experienced at a local university in Lahore as “Firstly, there is huge
pride in the increasing success of British individuals of Pakistani
origin.The name of SayeedaWarsi brought rapturous applause at the
university. Family links between the two countries are strong,” he
further added that “It is easy to sharply and reflexively see Pakistan
in black and white terms, understandably so, but we would be wise to look
beyond this. Two words come to mind – tough love.”
Ten months later Peter
Oborne writes “Yet the reality is far more complex. Indeed, the Pakistan
that is barely documented in the West – and that I have come to know and
love – is a wonderful, warm and fabulously hospitable country. And every
writer who (unlike Hitchens), has ventured out of the prism of received
opinion and the suffocating five-star hotels, has ended up celebrating
rather than denigrating Pakistan.” He caught the true Pakistani identity
in a day labourer named Kalifa and goes on to say, “To prejudiced
Western commentators, he may have appeared a symbol of poverty, bigotry
and oppression. In reality, he represents the indomitable spirit of the
Pakistani people, even when confronted with a scale of adversity that
would overpower most people in the West.”
We could very well blame
our government in failing to portray the softer side of the country on the
international level but this does not mean that
we the citizens should wait for a messiah and do it for us. It is
always a good sight when I see young Pakistani students showing the
country around to their foreign friends and showing the other side of the
coin to them. Thus, they are provided with an alternative narrative to
that parlayed in the international media.
Peter while concluding
his article recalls an incident of English cricketer Ian Botham’s
notorious comment that “Pakistan is the sort of place every man should
send his mother-in-law to, for a month, all expenses paid”. A couple of
years down the lane and a British Publication came up with a novel idea of
sending Ian Botham’s mother-in-law to Pakistan (all expenses paid) so to
find out what she makes out of the country. Peter recalls that “Unlike
her son-in-law, Mrs Waller had the evidence of her eyes before her: “The
country and its people have absolutely blown me away. All I would say is:
‘Mothers-in-law of the world unite and go to Pakistan. Because you’ll
love it’. Honestly!”
article is truly heart warming which kept on honouring all the good things
that Pakistan has till the end. It should be read by all in its entirety.
Peter arrived yesterday for another visit to discover the wealth of
anecdote this country has to offer. All we can say is “Welcome back
*Exhibition A.Q Arif and
Farrukh Shahab at Ocean Art Galleries, 170-F Raja Centre, Main Market,
Gulberg till March 8.
*Celebrating Spring 2012 at Alhamra, Gaddafi Stadium on Mar 11. Registration for Child Art Competition till Mar 10.
*Open Mic at Institute for Peace peace and Secular Studies (IPPS) on Wednesday at 6:00 pm. People not just share intellectual works like essays, papers, articles, poetry but also other talents like songs, music compositions, monologues etc.
*Stamp Collectors moot at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall today at 11:30 am.
*The first MUN in FC College. 16th Feb is the last date for online registrations.
*CGRL, is organising a
one-day event titled “Education, Empowerment and Leadership” on March
8th to commemorate the International Women’s Day at UMT
Last year’s deadly virus attack of dengue took 349 lives in the whole Punjab and 297 only in Lahore, according to official records. This year with the advent of summer the virus is active again. So far 82 new cases have been reported.
To prevent casualties, the Punjab Government has started larvacidal spray, new recruitments, establishment of new dengue wards, campaigns for public awareness and much more.
Despite these steps there still remain some fatal loopholes like during a visit to Mental Hospital stagnant water was seen in parks and animal cage, which can be a source of mosquito breeding.
One of the major moves is that five posts of additional director generals will be filled only for dengue which will be director environment, director training, director operations, director for information technology and director partnership. Two directors have been posted and others will be transferred from different places and no new recruitment will be made.
Dengue Surveillance Incharge Dr. Tayyab says, “261 spray men, 130 communal disease control officers and 292 lady health workers (LHV) will be recruited. For LHVs, interviews have been conducted and for the rest recruitment orders have been issued. Soon the government will place ads.” He says further posts of 86 environment officers will be issued through Punjab Public Service Commission.
He says 120 officers of Health department have visited Thailand for training and have been posted in various localities for training further officials. From among these trained hands Director Training Dr Zia will deliver lecture on UC level. He says a female has been given training in Thailand to supervise school health and nutrition and has started delivering awareness lectures in schools and colleges particularly in girls’ institutions.
Dr. Tayyab says, “We have arranged ten dengue brigade vans on which wireless system will be installed. These vans will report directly to DCO. He says further posts of 86 environment inspectors will be issued through Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). He says that these inspectors would be awarded special powers like arresting culprits and charging the guilty with heavy challans on the spot.
He says, “Presently, we have medicine in abundance in which major medicines are Delta metherine 55000kg and Teleforce 75000kg. New equipment have been imported from various countries and larvicidal activity is carried out at different locations in collaboration with the district government, while for all this government has passed a budget of Rs 60 crore for six months.
The government may shut down all the service stations in epidemic season if need be, like previous year. This year the chief minister has planned spray through a special aircraft while targeted spray has been started.
Naveed Chaudhry, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) representative and Punjab coordinator for President terms this sheer eyewash and says, “Last year substandard spray was used which instead of killing mosquitoes spread pollution and respiratory diseases.” He says Punjab government is just struggling for political mileage, garbage heaps are seen everywhere which are main source of mosquitoes’ habitat.
A secretary union council, Shakeel Ahmad tells TNS that we have assigned spraying to four men who are doing their job at all such places where larvae is suspected.
Punjab Government with the collaboration of World Health Organisation (WHO) also held an International Conference on Dengue and its Control from 27 to 29 February in Lahore where experts discussed last year’s loopholes and presented recommendations to Chief Minister.
Raheela Khadim Hussain, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPA says for public awareness we are selecting volunteers from all muhallas they might be teachers, students or anyone else. They would guide the spray men in conducting spray and distribute pamphlets but we will avoid fogging as much as possible for it is injurious to health.
“The government is planning a cleaning campaign with the collaboration of a Turkish company. Tyre shops have been already warned and proper drainage system has been arranged for homes. “In case of Dengue Fever, proper clothing, mosquito repellent, and netting can help reduce exposure to mosquitoes. Travelling during periods of minimal mosquito activity can also be helpful. Mosquito abetment programs may reduce the risk of infection,” she suggested.
“On tehsil levels committees have been formed in all 36 towns. Every week their meeting is held and strategy for future is planned. Dengue kits have been supplied in all the government hospitals,” she added.
In the same conference a WHO scientist from India, Dr. Raman Velayudhan, says here government has good strategy for dengue control, everything is almost complete and political will and support are there — just strong public participation is required.
Saba Qureshi, the media person for WHO, says media should not report without proof because it does nothing except for terrifying the public. She says labs must not be overcrowded because an already infected dengue patient can be cause of dengue for others, so the issue of overcrowded labs must be addressed. The elimination of dengue is the responsibility of each and every citizen — in villages and towns. The Department of Health, its regional centers and allied agencies are impotent without people’s help. To rely on these agencies alone, without doing our share, will be a costly mistake.
Though it was hard to get any response from the telephonic registration centers of Lahore’s latest marathon under Punjab Sports Board scheduled this Sunday (today), scores of people seemed interested in getting listed to participate in the Lahore’s marathon titled “Punjab Marathon Race” but sans women.
The race, followed by a family fun race, covering around 3.5 kilometer distance, is part of the more than a weeklong festivity of the Punjab Sports Board in the wake of coming spring to wake up the youth of the province and have fun through sports and athletics.
Thousands have registered for this man-exclusive marathon which will be held on the canal road today while scores are joining the family fun race event at Main Boulevard Gulberg at noon.
Around 7,500 boys and girls from all nine divisions of the Punjab province participated in the parade at National Hockey Stadium while the stadium witnessed around 35,000 applauding spectators. The city is full of colours for the past few days, especially the Gaddafi stadium surroundings where these competitions have been held.
The scheduled marathon is not international. It has given a community activity to the people of Lahore as a moment of relief and relaxation and enjoyment where they can cheer up for a while, says Inaam Ahmed, 28, a young Lahori who has registered himself for the marathon race.
Chairman of the organising committee of the marathon Rana Mashood says the 17-kilometre event is only for male sportsmen. “It will not be a mixed race. We will be accommodating women in the family fun race which will be exclusively a family event.” He says so far thousands of participants have registered for both the events and they were expecting mass participation in main and family fun race.
Marathon race started in Lahore in 2004 with the idea of staging an international marathon in Lahore. However, the religious fundamentalists opposed mixed run. They chose the city of Lahore in the backdrop of its historical monuments, rich culture and heritage as an obvious choice for the country’s first ever International Marathon Race in the provincial metropolis.
Later in 2005, when the mixed international run in Lahore was threatened by the religious extremists and the local government, which followed by a defensive campaign by civil society groups and activists who held a mixed run against the will of the government, they were arrested, baton charged and harassed.
The then government of the Punjab agreed to have an international marathon which lasted till 2007 and became an identity of the city of Lahore with huge participation from the professional athletes across the globe.
In 2008, the race was again scheduled but positioned because of security after the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Masood Hasan, one of the event mangers of that race tells The News on Sunday.
The then marathon has a full back of the Punjab government to conduct it at international level but now security has marred all such healthy activities engaging lot of people and brining them on the roads and fields zealously.
He says as an activity it was great and this Sunday’s smaller and local marathon may be a new beginning if it goes well. He is surprised that why women are excluded from this race.
He says the safety of the people has become an issue. “Having a marathon is always also meant to expose the city. If there is marathon in Chicago it also shows architecture of Chicago. Similarly, if there is marathon in Lahore, ideally, it should also expose Lahore’s architect and landscape, which we cannot show because of the security concerns.
Sadly, we may have such marathons, which are good, but we cannot have exposure of culture this way. He says that the international membership of Pakistan has also expired as it could not held that event latter after 2007.
Rafey Alam, activist and columnist, terms such activities really healthy and good for the citizens and the city. “Public activity is amazingly healthy where this is a marathon, car race, bicycle race or any other event,” he says, adding, “Such features should be make a regular component of city activities engaging community in positive and healthy things. It develops inter action and it takes out people from driving the cars and remained stuck in traffic but have a relaxing times for some moments.” It also gives equal opportunities to all.
The city activities are always helpful for a better life, he says, while citing one city of Japan, which had a very high crime rate. The administration of the city started encouraging gardening and plantation outside the homes and on the sides of the roads. Resultantly, people started enjoying this greenery while sitting outside their homes which kept them alive and alert and the crime rate was reduced.
Shah Noor Studio
From the tomb to the next stop, the ambience surrounding the road doesn’t change much, only to become denser, and congested. Bigger shops start emerging which means lesser room on the road to drive. Whatever space that remains for one to peacefully travel on is taken over by the random wagon-stops.
Not far from the dome, one notices a few tall minarets, exhibiting a unique blend of traditional architecture with modern motifs. These minarets herald the arrival of the studios of Lahore. The first in the line is the Shah Noor Studio. But before we talk about the Shah Noor Studio, let us talk a little about the development of the film industry in Lahore.
In 1923, a man named J.K Mehta bought the first camera in the city. He was a servant of the Railways, where he used to make the Railways news reel. He made his own film company by the name of Premier Film Company which made its first movie by the name of ‘Daughter of Today’. The actors for the movie were A.R Kardat, Walayat Begum, M Ismael, and Ghulam Qadir. The producer for the movie was Shankar Dev Arya.
Later Hamnas Roy, a European educated lad, along with his two brothers made the Great Eastern Film Corporation. They made a movie named ‘Light of Asia’ whose story was taken by a long English poem by Mathew Arnold. This movie was based on Mahatma Buddha. Around 1924, the first film studio was made in Lahore at the place where today the shopping centre of Panorama stands, by the Great Eastern Film Corporation.
The Shah Noor Studio today in its dilapidated state exhibits the poor state of the Pakistani film industry. However, it once was the Ka’aba of the Pakistani movie industry. Pakistani movies at one point in time were competing with Indian ones and this studio had a prominent role to play in that. The Shah Noor Studio was constructed in 1945 by R.L Shauri. It had two shooting floors. However, it was looted and destroyed during the riots of 1947. Just one of its buildings escaped the pillage, which stayed empty till 1948. In 1948, when Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi and Madam Noor Jahan came from Bombay, they got this studio allotted to themselves and named it the Shah Noor Studio on their initials. This was to be the first studio on Multan Road. They renovated the studio and under them the studio saw its peak.
When the children of Shah and Noor grew up property disputes began. The studio was divided into three parts. The eldest brother got the two shooting floors which he converted into a warehouse. The second brother razed the shooting floor that he had gotten and made an outdoor studio whereas the third one gave his share to the income-tax office. Now there is just one recording hall left, which is also dysfunctional. Some famous movies made at the studio are Khandan and Yakke Wali.
Next to the Shah Noor Studio is the famous Ever New Studio. Both these studios next to each other underscore the significance of the Multan Road in the development of Pakistani film industry. Besides these two studios, there are a few other studios located on the road. One reason why so many studios are located on the Multan Road is that one needs a lot of vacant land to commence the vocation of a studio, and Multan Road during the majority years of Pakistan remained as an under-developed area with only a pocket of villages here and there, the rest was covered by jungle. It is also the reason why so many villages here are Fort towns.
The Ever New Studio was the first studio amongst a myriad of them that were opened on Multan Road after the creation of Pakistan. Formally inaugurated in 1956, it was the property of Agha G. H. Gul. At that juncture the Ever New Studio was able to gather together the latest technology in the field of cinema to become the most famous studio in Lahore. Once came a time when 60 per cent of the studio work of Lahore was being done here.
Right about the time when this studio was developing, there was also another studio on the Ferozpur Road which belonged to Malka Pukhraj who had imported a top quality sound system. However, by the time the sound system reached Lahore, her studio had been auctioned. Agha G. H. Gul took benefit from the fate of the sold studio and bought the sound system for his one.
Initially, the studio was composed of two shooting floors which were later expanded to a total of six. There were two recording rooms, which included 24 track sound systems. There was one dubbing hall, two cinema halls, and a computerised lab. There were 50 office setups for different film companies. There was also space for out-door shooting.
The Ever New Studio till date has managed to retain its position as one of the most prestigious studios in the city. However, its technology has not advanced as quickly as one would like to see or even had expected in the initial years of this studio. Nonetheless, behind the sorry state of the present film industry of Pakistan, the Ever New Studio stands as a shining past of cinema in Pakistan and promises with all its potentials to revive the film industry to bring it to international standards with some investment.