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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wish you were here

It's taken Gurpreet quite a while to put together a tribute to Cherry, a perfect celebration of that amazing spirit. Understandable. If the charming smile and persona still haunts those of us who knew her far too briefly, I can imagine what the folks who were close to her still go through.

Visit the tribute at PeopleTree. Enter the site. Chose Studio. Click on Cherry.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

You'll know if this is for you ...

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Friday, June 13, 2008

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" ...

... or so goes the old saying. Many believe that it's corollary is "If it's broke, fix it!" ... But that isn't always the best path to take. And most certainly not when it comes to the unfixably broke Education system. You don't fix a race-horse's broken leg, right?

My friend, Roger Schank says he gave up being part of the Education system so he could begin to change it. His latest venture, Grandparent Games, is highly recommended to all computer-owning grandparents whose grandchildren live in another city. For many it may even be worthwhile to get a computer just for this. Before going on that site, the associated blog may provide an interesting introduction.

While this venture caters to the pre-schooler, Roger is spearheading an online international high school curriculum, too, The project is revolutionary and caters to the needs of the real 'end user' - the child - and not some megalithic system that, like a boulder rolling downhill flattens all that is attempting to grow in its path.

VISTA (Virtual International Science & Technology Academy) can be adapted to suit many countries, even by being run in collaboration with schools and tuition centers. In fact, in environments such as ours, large tuition centers could benefit greatly by becoming involved.

If you are seriously interested in Education, as an educator or a parent, pop across to the website and familiarize yourself with the concept ... and get involved! The child you save may be your own.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

An unforgettable hour

Events at The Second Floor have featured many well-known and some not-so-well-known but exciting personalities. However, some very out-of-the-ordinary people drop in for coffee and conversation on non-event days, too. Ardeshir Cowasjee, Tina Sani, Asif Farrukhi, Attiya Dawood, Sheema Kermani, along with several popular young musicians, writers and artists are frequent visitors. Seated at other tables, the many students who gather here to prepare for their exams and take advantage of the air-conditioning and free wi-fi, get a surprise opportunity to interact more closely with such luminaries than they could at large gatherings.

Yesterday, however, was a really unforgettable treat for me when Asif Farrukhi turned up with Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi Sahab and Zehra (Nigah) Apa for an hour-long chat over coffee.

My association with the latter (Zehra Apa, not Coffee!) goes way back to my childhood when she was a teenager. This young girl had just exploded into the universe of Mushaeraas, with her scintillating ghazals, coupled with a tarannüm that became the talk of the town. "She has upset many poets who, at her age, used to get their ustaads to write for them ... and especially those who still do", said my father once, naming 2 poets as examples. But I shall disappoint you and refrain from such gossip ...

Zehra Apa has promised not one, but two sessions at T2F ... so, if you have not yet subscribed to its mailing list, the time to do it is now! The first - scheduled for the 18th of June - will focus upon her own works and life. For many it may well be the first experience to enjoy her delightful retelling of anecdotes. The second - at a date to be announced later, when she returns from her trip abroad - will have her reading and reciting her favourite pieces of Urdu prose and poetry, paying homage to works of others - including her contemporaries - something she does with a style all her own. Anyone who has heard her recite Faiz Sahab's Heart Attack on my Aaj Kay Naam CD-ROM, or her stunning unforgettable rendition of Nasir Kazmi's poignant '... kidhar say aaya kidhar gayaa voh', recited to a thoughtful sitar accompaniment by Ustad Kabir Khan  - a far cry from the mauling of recitations by other similar efforts - will vouch for the fact that these examples remain unsurpassed.

Yesterday's hour was spent with Asif, Sabeen and I in guffaws as we heard stories about Saqi Farooqui, Jaun Elia and others and enjoyed the barbed wit of arguably the greatest satirist Urdu prose has ever had. Here's a page of timeless prose from Aabé Güm describing Pakistan's politics. Penned years ago (and sent to me only last week by fellow sea-farer, ANL, from the UAE), this could well have been written today.

While discussing people who 'read' well, the conversation moved to examples of great readers (Gielgud, Guinness, Burton). When I pitched in with my criticism of someone who, generally a brilliant and respected performer, often imbues pieces with unnecessary drama, Yusufi sahab agreed and added: Achchha pa∂hnay kay liyay laazmi hae keh mazmoon iss tarah pa∂ha jaae jaesay müsalmaan Qurãn pa∂htay haeñ ... yaani baghaer samjhay! ("Good reading requires one to recite texts, like Muslims recite the Qurãn: Without understanding!").

Let me end by sharing one anecdote about Jaun Elia that was new for the 3 of us in the 'audience' and embodied that unique man completely (requiring no embellishment on the part of either Zehra Apa or Yusufi Sahab). Sorry about not translating the punch-line ... it just would not work in anything but Urdu:

At the airport, Jaun sahab raised his little finger and excused himself, promising to return in 2 minutes. When he arrived, more than 15 minutes later, a worried friend asked him if all was well and what the cause of the delay was. "Bhai maeñ do minat mayñ aa jaata, laykin vahaañ Urdu Qadamchah daykha to ekhlaaqan küchh dayr aur baeth gayaa", replied the inimitable Jaun.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

In memoriam

Most predictions did not envisage it would be this bad, though at least one from a Federer fan did! But, heyyyy, Wimbledon's going to be really exciting this time around!

After watching yesterday's debacle, I recalled an old match from another sport.

Polish wrestler Stanisław Jan Cyganiewicz (aka Stanislaus Zbyszko), having had a dubious 'draw' in an earlier encounter, held a return bout in 1928 with the great Ghulam Mohammad, better remembered as Gama Pehlvaan, in Patiala. Zbyszko went down in 42 seconds (the earlier, 'drawn' bout had lasted 3 hours!) ...

I can recall hear my daada (a great fan of wrestling, too, among his other vices), telling us: The gong rang and those of us who looked at our watches to check the starting time looked up and had missed the fight! 

The defeated Stanislaus, in his later life, delivered a surprisingly impressive performance in an early 50's movie, Night and the City. But while Hollywood audiences may have gotten over his wrestling defeat, Bollywood was not so forgiving: The villain in Amar, Akbar, Anthony, who makes beautiful Parveen Babi's life miserable, was named Zbyszko.

The victorious Gama - honored as the Rustamé Zamaan since his win in Patiala - migrated to Pakistan, in 1947, training and mentoring his nephews, the famous Rustamé Pakistan Bholu, Aslam and others. 

Soon, however, Free-Style Wrestling overtook the classical tradition and the akhaa∂aas lost commercial support. The Bholu Clan tried, semi-successfully, to adopt itself to the new rules of a seemingly rule-less ring but purposely losing 'fixed' matches - a given in this 'entertainment sport' - was not something they could really take to, being true pehlvaans ... and, so, they soon faded away.

The Great Gama died in the mid- or late 50s, uncelebrated in the country he chose, with little money for treatment. During his last days a small news item, buried in the pages of Dawn, informed us that Georg Zbyzsko, nephew of Gama's rival, had sent a donation towards his medical costs, having heard his uncle always praise Gama's strength and sportsman spirit.

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