issue
Highway to hell
Rehabilitation of Multan Road appears a distant dream despite a lapse of months since the project launch
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The residents of areas along Multan Road from Scheme More to Thokar Niaz Beg, businesses in the area and commuters plying on the road are suffering tremendously due to the never-ending construction work going on there since last year. Despite tall claims made by the sitting and the outgoing governments, construction work on Multan Road is going on in patches and is often halted due to the shortage of funds required for its completion.

MOOD STREET
Rain dance
By Aziz Omar
The 'rain dance' has been a central fixture for a number of agrarian tribal societies across the world. From the ancient Egyptians to the native Americans, the ardent followers danced and called upon their gods to open the heavens and shower their blessings upon them. However, it seems as if the Pakistani nation had been dancing to the wrong tune of late, or did not know when to stop. Not only have the heavens unloaded their full bounty upon the unsuspecting lowly denizens of the 'land of the pure', they are being made to partake of their hard earned income and pour it in the government's coffers in the form of a "Flood Tax".

Town Talk
*Exhibition of Pakistan's natural stone and handicraft at Nairang Gallery titled 'Set in Stone'. Today is the last day. Gallery timings: 11 am to 11pm.
*DramaFest'10 at LUMS. Today is the last day. Timings: 7-11 pm.

history
Baba's footsteps
A place where Baba Bulleh Shah would stay on his way to Lahore to see his murshed, has still the same look but now there is a mosque, a saeen, a peer and few graves here
By Haroon Khalid
My friend Iqbal Qaiser, a couple of days ago, made an interesting comment. He says that the names of some people are recorded in history because of the monuments that they have built. Now to categorise a few Mughal Emperors in this lot might hurt a few sentiments, and maybe justifiable also, but there is no denying the fact that Shah Jahan is remembered because of Taj Mahal and not vice versa.

No place for dirty linen
Century-old dhobi ghats are less used now with washermen adopting new technology
By Arshad Shafiq Nizami
Though the Indian dhobis (washermen) moved court against the title of Aamir Khan's film 'Dhobi Ghat'; contending the use of the word dhobi in the movie as offensive, the film reminds viewers of the fast-disappearing dhobi ghats (places where clothes are washed) in Lahore.

Dhaba down the road
Khusray ke kabab is unique for the service it offers
By Salman Ali
A waiter, wearing a white dupatta, walking in a typical transsexual-style welcomes all the guests gracefully to this dhaba formally called the Baba Jamal Tikka Shop. But it's more popularly known as the Khusray ke Kabab dhaba. I find this rather intriguing. I wonder if the management of this dhaba named it so. But I discover it's the doing of the people eating here. And the owner is quite comfortable with the name the guests have given to his business.

 

 

issue

Highway to hell

Rehabilitation of Multan Road appears a distant dream despite a lapse of months since the project launch

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

The residents of areas along Multan Road from Scheme More to Thokar Niaz Beg, businesses in the area and commuters plying on the road are suffering tremendously due to the never-ending construction work going on there since last year. Despite tall claims made by the sitting and the outgoing governments, construction work on Multan Road is going on in patches and is often halted due to the shortage of funds required for its completion.

As per details of the project, the sitting Punjab government had estimated that the widening and remodelling of Multan Road from Chauburji to Thokar Niaz Beg and laying of sewerage there would cost Rs13 billion. Therefore, it earmarked Rs500 million in the last year's budget for the project and Rs500 million for the current year as well.

The situation right now is that the said stretch of Multan Road is giving the look of a war-torn area with dust flying everywhere and gaping holes appearing at close distances. The situation worsens beyond imagination when it rains and the road turns into marshland.

While the general public goes through mental anguish and inconvenience every day, the government appears to be tied down as well. Punjab Finance Ministry sources say the estimated cost of the project has increased manifold over the years due to shortage of funds and non-cooperation among different departments. The cost of the original project, minus sewerage-laying, as envisaged by the government was Rs7.5 billion last year and the total length of the road to be rehabilitated was 11.2 kilometres.

The project was awarded to the National Logistics Cell (NLC) and comprised three phases i.e from Thokar Niaz Beg to Multan Chungi, from Multan Chungi to Scheme More and from Scheme More to Chauburji. The original project also comprised one overhead bridge and an underpass. However, the phase from Scheme More to Chauburji has been done away with mainly due to financial constraints.

Nadeem Aslam, a resident of Nishtar Block, Allama Iqbal Town tells TNS it seems they are living in an island and cut off from major adjoining localities. He says even the pedestrians cannot think about crossing the road due to the presence of large craters on the road. Sewerage water accumulated everywhere adds to the miseries and makes it impossible for light traffic to ply on it, he adds. Nadeem says the construction workers have laid crushed stones on the road which are very harmful for the tyres of cars, rickshaws etc.

He says when the crushed stone was thrown here the locals thought the carpeting of the road would start soon. But the road remained in this state for many months which resulted in losses to businesses situated along the road and diversion of traffic to residential areas. The heavy traffic that takes de tour and passes through residential areas wears away the roads which are not meant to take heavy loads.

Muhammad Amjad, a cloth seller in Awan Town Bedsheet and Curtain Cloth Market, tells TNS his business has come to the brink of closure. He says he opens his shop late in the morning and closes it early in the evening. The whole place is so deserted that anyone can come on foot and deprive them of their cash and valuables and run away easily, says Amjad on behalf of his fellow shopkeepers. He tells TNS this has happened with some shopkeepers who kept their shops open late in the night. When they tried to chase the looters or call the police, the vehicles could not move as fast as these snatchers could, Amjad adds. He, however, says he is better than many others like motor mechanics and electricians who had to close their shops altogether. How can they run their businesses if no vehicle or person can reach their outlets? he questions.

Another reason for the delay in completion of the project was the resistance from Multan Road traders who feared their shops and properties would be wiped away in the name of removing encroachments, says Kashif Husain, a social worker and political activist in Saidpur area. He says local businessmen protested against the road widening project and started taking out rallies on a regular basis. The plan to widen the road and make it three-lane was shelved by the government due to this ever-growing resistance.

Kashif, who was privy to some meetings between the government representatives and traders, says the government finally dropped the idea of acquiring land on the sides of the road for widening purposes shifted its focus on rehabilitation and improvement only.

When asked why the project is facing inordinate delays and being mishandled, a construction work supervisor present at Thokar Niaz Beg section says the situation is improving fast and the road has been opened for traffic of all types. He tells TNS on condition of not being named that the crushed stones had remained on the road for some time due to non-release of funds from the government but now it has been levelled by putting sludge on it. Hopefully, carpeting of the said stretch of the road would begin in a month or so provided the funds keep coming in, he adds.

He goes on to say that the badly laid sewerage in the area had also caused a lot of problems. "Wherever we start digging, rusty pipes burst and sewage water starts flowing," he says adding "may be for this reason a locality along the road has been named Dubban Pura."

 

 

  MOOD STREET

Rain dance

By Aziz Omar

The 'rain dance' has been a central fixture for a number of agrarian tribal societies across the world. From the ancient Egyptians to the native Americans, the ardent followers danced and called upon their gods to open the heavens and shower their blessings upon them. However, it seems as if the Pakistani nation had been dancing to the wrong tune of late, or did not know when to stop. Not only have the heavens unloaded their full bounty upon the unsuspecting lowly denizens of the 'land of the pure', they are being made to partake of their hard earned income and pour it in the government's coffers in the form of a "Flood Tax".

But this is only the latest entrant to the club. Now we have all been playing dumb charades with the taxes that we have been paying for years. Central Excise Duty or CED comes off as a sinister and calculating bureaucrat who is always laying out nets to ensnare the hapless taxpayers. However, a couple of years back, it was renamed as the Federal Excise Duty or FED (umm…which is also what the Federal Reserve Bank of the US is called for short and which also holds its respective public in a debt/death grip…coincidence or what?). The Carbon Tax imposed last year sounds like a menacing axe wielding masked blackguard which goes about slashing the tail pipes of all commuters.

And of course who can forget the General Sales Tax or GST which sounds like a nasty b*tch, exploiting people's needs and wants. Be it a housewife trying to balance her monthly budget and squeezing in as many groceries as she

 

can in the process, or the average salaried class person struggling to keep the show going for the entire family circus or the pensioned citizen who is persistently trying to keep on, keeping on; they all curse and scream away at the cold-hearted witch that is GST. Yet the powers that be (of which, unlike electrical ones, there never seems to be a shortage of), are trying to present us with a "reformed GST". Now this is one facelift/ makeover that will be hard to stomach.

But wait, there is another vile and despicable tax rearing its ugly head horns and all. The Value Added Tax or VAT seems to portray a repulsive and bulbous creature, akin to the Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars movies that feeds upon the blood and toil of its subjects, or those unfortunate enough to fall prey to its nefarious schemes. The VAT (ughhhh..just gives one the shivers just saying it, like a big VAT of FAT.. hmm maybe this could be used as the Flood Added Tax) is all geared to throw its weight around and demand its bhatta at every stage of the production and processing of goods and services. It is the perfect ill-begotten offspring of the IMF (International Mafia Fund) that is going to be unleashed upon the Paki-land just like a cat playing with the mouse it has just caught, before it gobbles it up.

So let's all make a new dance. A dance to a beat that will try to invoke the mercy of the gods of financial trickery to not rain down upon us a deluge of taxes, surcharges and duties and instead crack open the reservoirs holding the ill-gotten wealth of the nation and let that trickle down to Pakistan's citizens.

 

Town Talk

*Exhibition of Pakistan's natural stone and handicraft at Nairang Gallery titled 'Set in Stone'. Today is the last day. Gallery timings: 11 am to 11pm.

*DramaFest'10 at LUMS. Today is the last day. Timings: 7-11 pm.

*Urdu Baithak/Sing Along Session every Sunday at Faiz Ghar

from 3:45-5 pm.

*Understanding Poetry - Shaer ki Baat by Dr Arfa Syeda

on Wed, Oct 6 from 5-6 pm.

*Screening of documentary film from India, 'The House on

Gulmohar Avenue, Okhla' - an entry in Asia Media Summit,

Beijing 2010. Anchor Mira Hashmi. Timing: 5-6 pm.

*Asad Anees, a 21-year old Pianist from Karachi, will be playing

Mozart, Bach and various other western classical composers at the Annemarie-Schimmel Haus today - the Day of German Unity.

*Zombies on the run: USB present Halloween night party next

Sunday. The person with the best costume wins Rs.10,000.

Exclusive dance performances, different DJs with the latest mixes,exquisite cocktails, fashion show and a lot more. Venue: World Fashion Cafe. Time 8:30pm

 

 

Baba's footsteps

A place where Baba Bulleh Shah would stay on his way to Lahore to see his murshed, has still the same look but now there is a mosque, a saeen, a peer and few graves here

By Haroon Khalid

My friend Iqbal Qaiser, a couple of days ago, made an interesting comment. He says that the names of some people are recorded in history because of the monuments that they have built. Now to categorise a few Mughal Emperors in this lot might hurt a few sentiments, and maybe justifiable also, but there is no denying the fact that Shah Jahan is remembered because of Taj Mahal and not vice versa.

To some people, including me, his greatest achievement is the creation of his subjects. But then there are others, who are not known for what they have made but what they have said or done. Baba Bulleh Shah, whose urs celebration concluded on the 26th of September, is one such character who has left an indelible mark on history, and some marks, spots, not grand in any sense of the word, have become special and revered by many because of this personality.

Bulleh Shah's Murshed or his spiritual leader Shah Inayat, was from Lahore, whereas he used to live in Kasur. To meet his master, Bulleh Shah would frequently travel between the two cities. The route taken is more or less the same Ferozepur road that drives through Chungi Amar Sadhu, Ichhra, Mozang and then Lahore. On a car today the journey is likely to take no more than one and a half hour, however in his days, when people commuted from one place to another via a cart or on foot, it would have been a much more difficult task. In a Punjabi book called 'Dhondla Chanan' written by Iqbal Qaiser in 1992, he mentions that on his way to Lahore Bulleh Shah used to spend some time at a village called Amar Sadhu. The location was rather obscure; therefore it didn't become as famous as it deserves to be, with its popularity confined to the people of that region. I decided to visit that place and pay a tribute to this poet on his urs.

Upon taking a left turn from the Chungi, facing DHA, I started inquiring about the Bulleh Shah mosque, this is where he used to stay. To commemorate the spot, the locals have built a mosque. The irony in this can be seen by Bulleh Shah's own verse:

Dharam Sal dhardwaye rehnde, Thakar daware thug,

Wich maseet kosete rehnde, ashiq rehan alag

(Traders (who cheat) live in Dharam Sal, Frauds on the doorstep of the cheiftain,

Uneducated live in the mosque, lovers stay aloof.)

Besides the induction of the mosque, plate on which read Bulleh Shah mosque, the locality has been preserved more or less in its original form, even though the world outside has transformed rapidly. A couple of banyan trees, accompanied by a few graves, add to the sanctity of the spot. I am guessing that the saint used to spend his time under this tree. For all the fans and devotees of Baba Bulleh Shah, this spot marks an important point in his life, and therefore pilgrimage to it, is highly recommended.

As has already been mentioned, this place remained obscure for a long time, till an incident occur here which made it famous throughout the country. About 20 years ago, a teenager decided to spend his chilla (a spiritual practice of penance and solitude) of 40 days inside a grave. This was to mark his rite of passage. His name was Baba Ilyas, who eventually became famous as Saeen Guttu. He was interred. A small hole was made where his face was, and a thread was passed through it. The string would be pulled from the outside and the occupant of the grave would do the same from inside, to confirm that he was alive. He was given some food and water in the grave. After 40 days the man reappeared from the grave, alive, and became a living saint. This incident was widely covered by the newspapers of that time.

Saeen Guttu is still alive, and I happened to meet him, when I visited the mosque the other day. He claims to be in his early 30s, even though he looks much older. He has a grey beard and round features. He was skeptical of us, as he claimed he was harassed by the authorities once he successfully completed the chilla, so he didn't allow us to take his pictures. He plans on repeating the same thing but wouldn't disclose the details, because of the negative reactions he is likely to encounter by the authorities. His father and grandfather are buried in the same ground, and locals pay homage to them regularly. One day he is also likely to be elevated to the same status.

I was expecting Saeen Guttu to be some sort of a local saint, but that didn't happen. In fact the new peer is a Kashmiri Butt by the name Baba Murtaza. I asked him a few questions about the incident and this is what he had to say.

He remembers the incident of Saeen Guttu, as he was present when it happened; in fact both of them are neighbours. Baba Murtaza says, "Saeen Guttu became a Peer but he could not handle it. He became lazy, always asking people to do things for him. He started thinking of himself as larger than people, so eventually he was disposed." Baba Murtaza, a medical practitioner or as some people would say, a quack, displaced him. Now finally, (as if he is doing all of us a favour) Baba Murtaza has taken up the 'business' of Peeri Mureedi. He was surrounded by his admirers, doing different chores for him, while he went on and on about his role as a Peer. Saeen Guttu also was one of his devotees according to him. When I would ask Saeen Guttu a question, Baba Murtaza would retort instead.

History is replete with examples, where a prominent character would be taken up by various, divergent school of thoughts, to bring legitimacy to their claim. The case of Muhammad Ali Jinnah would also be an interesting study in the Pakistan context, where all political parties (including those which were vehemently against him) claim to be his rightful successor. The poetry of Bulleh Shah was an attempt to break away from the institutional nature of religion, however after his death, and the ascendancy of his status, the very same people he criticised, have taken up the cause of his vision and claim.

[email protected]

 

 

 

No place for dirty linen

Century-old dhobi ghats are less used now with washermen adopting new technology

By Arshad Shafiq Nizami

Though the Indian dhobis (washermen) moved court against the title of Aamir Khan's film 'Dhobi Ghat'; contending the use of the word dhobi in the movie as offensive, the film reminds viewers of the fast-disappearing dhobi ghats (places where clothes are washed) in Lahore.

The city's dhobi ghats are vanishing with time not because people don't seek laundry service now but for the reason that the dhobis are switching over to more comfortable and modern tools of washing like washing machines, spin-dryers and washer-dryers. Secondly, majority of dhobis do not want their children to adopt this profession as they think the work is of low status and value.

Once there used to be dhobi ghats at Mian Mir, Garhi Shahu, behind Sardar High School, Engine Shed, Mughalpura, Bund Road, Sanda, Pakistan Mint, Model Town, Daroghawala and Dars Baray Mian, but now they are no more there -- except the makeshift ones along roads and streets.

At the city's oldest dhobi ghat in Saddar, an old dhobi Muhammad Tufail says, "I have been laundering here since childhood. This is my ancestral business. I have three sons but they are not doing this business. I never tried to transfer it to them because I don't want them to become laundry boys and go door to door to collect peoples' dirty linen."

Giving details about the century-old dhobi ghat, 70-year-old Tufail says, "Saddar dhobi ghat got approved by a British family about 100 years ago. At that time it was the only dhobi ghat of the city. In the beginning, there was no electricity in the ghat and the British government built a well from where dhobis drew water for the washing purpose. After the partition, a tube-well was fixed which later caved-in due to three-day incessant rain 30 years ago. Then a new tube-well was installed at a nearby park which supplied water to the ghat and other cantonment areas. Where 30 to 40 dhobis used to work in the ghat, now only five to seven washermen are seen here. The area of the dhobi ghat was about 100 marla which later shrank to 40 marla after the Cantonment Board sold some of its land. The rest of the land of the ghat was put on auction but it could not be auctioned for low bid."

Situated on Saddar Road, adjacent to Madrassah Dar-ul-Manzoor-ul-Islamia and about five furlongs away from Saddar Level Crossing, the British-era Saddar dhobi ghat is losing its popularity among the dhobis in the presence of new methods of washing clothes and linens. New generation of dhobis have developed a new and modern infrastructure for laundering and is doing roaring business.

Muhammad Tufail told TNS he charges Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,200 for laundering 100 clothes of all kinds. "I have a few households since long who sometimes send me their dirty clothes or at times I collect these from their houses. When I collect a good number of clothes, I reach the dhobi ghat for washing. I regularly pay Rs 200 per month rent to the Cantonment Board for using the dhobi ghat.

"It is not necessary that those who are doing laundry are dhobis by caste. I am Bhatti by caste but washing and ironing clothes as a profession. People from different castes are adopting this profession as it is becoming a profitable and popular business in the city," he says, admitting that dhobi ghats are disappearing in the city and laundry and dry clean shops are taking over -- as people are adopting this profession irrespective of their castes.

Once dhobi ghats used to be an integral feature of the city, now these are becoming obsolete with the invention of state-of-the-art washing equipment. The old washerman, Tufail says 90 per cent of the dhobi ghats in the city have disappeared and the remaining ghats have been shifted to the outskirts of the city.

[email protected]

 


 

Dhaba down the road

Khusray ke kabab is unique for the service it offers

By Salman Ali

A waiter, wearing a white dupatta, walking in a typical transsexual-style welcomes all the guests gracefully to this dhaba formally called the Baba Jamal Tikka Shop. But it's more popularly known as the Khusray ke Kabab dhaba. I find this rather intriguing. I wonder if the management of this dhaba named it so. But I discover it's the doing of the people eating here. And the owner is quite comfortable with the name the guests have given to his business.

Interestingly, this dhaba is a movable cart usually parked in open-air parking lots around Lahore's Tufail Road. The tables are laid out on the opposite site of the road. No signboard indicates this dhaba's presence, so there are no walk-in customers.

The menu card includes the BBQ delights: chicken boti and boneless boti, and specialties such as beef kabab and chicken pieces, a quarter of a chicken barbequed on a flat skewer. Really, mouth-watering!

Raita and salad are tasty accompaniments with meat items which are provided free.

Bushra, regular at this dhaba, says: "I love this place because the waiters are hospitable. The food tables and chairs are also quite clean. At night the dhaba is in a private car parking therefore can't expect it to be spick and span. Some of my friends working with me had warned of open manhole and heaps of litter. But I saw none of that. All I saw was straw from the desert coolers and a really fat cat!"

Hamza Butt, a regular customer says, "I come here once a week with my friends to eat chicken boti. Their raita can be called lassi. I drink it directly from the bowl. The atmosphere is definitely much cleaner and quieter than other famous BBQ corners which are very much known to us."

I would not compare this dhaba with other kabab shops because other restaurants provide easy environment with air-conditioned rooms and light music. Here, it is quiet and peaceful in the open-air. This is a place where you can get the most out of your buck in a relaxed atmosphere with courteous waiters who usually bring you free starters till your order arrives.

[email protected]

 

 

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