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FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

The Real Mahira

Humsafar’s Khirad talks about life, her work and how she deals with superstardom

FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

Cover Story 18 The Real Mahira She tugs at the heartstrings of Pakistanis in the blockbuster serial Humsafar...but who is the real Mahira Khan?

Comment 26 The Basant That Was The soul of basant died long before the festival was officially banned



32 House of the Spirits Travel to the mysterious Cave City of Balochistan and discover its chilling legends

Positive Pakistani 34 Oasis for the Underprivileged By opening the doors to her garage, Shabina Mustafa opened the doors to a better future for countless underprivileged children


Tribute 36 Genius, Interrupted Arfa aspired to help Pakistan but sadly her dreams failed to see the light of day

Poppy’s Kitchen 38 Snap to it! Serving up delicious winter warmers with celebrity chef Poppy Agha

Regulars 6 People & Parties: Out and about with Pakistan’s beautiful people 40 Reviews: What’s new in films 42 Ten Things I Hate About: Skinny jeans

CLARIFICATION: Last week’s People and Parties event “Bata hosts a dinner at the Country Club in Karachi” was actually held in Lahore. The error is regretted.



Magazine Editor: Zarrar Khuhro, Senior Sub-Editor: Batool Zehra, Sub-Editors: Ameer Hamza and Dilaira Mondegarian. Creative Team: Amna Iqbal, Jamal Khurshid, Essa Malik, Anam Haleem, Sanober Ahmed and S Asif Ali. Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi. For feedback and submissions:


Aaminah and Hamza Tarar Anoushay and Asad

Maheen Kardar and Saad


6 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

Nickie and Nina

Hasnat and Shazia Deen

Shahid and Sara

Asifa and Nabeel


Ammar Belal Design Emporium relaunches in Lahore

FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


Annie, Mariam and Bilal Mukhtar

Kiran and Juggan

Shammal and Redah

Sophia Khan

Hassan Sheikh

8 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

Marium and Zohair

HSY and Ammar Belal

Fahad Sheikh

FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


er Ayesha Om

nches u a l a p S / n able Salo chi T g n i s s e r D in Kara ng Quershi

Anam and Pe

Aale Mowjee

Zanya, Anan Khan and Zardana Khan

Momal Sheikh

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Alizeh, Anoushey

Areeba Habib


Shirin Amin and Ali Hameed

FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


Ayesha Shaik, Hira Jawaid and Kinza Aziz Shaik Frieha and Uzma Jamil Baig

Zanib Pasha and Ujala Zia


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Noor Tarin and Mehreen Bashir Nawaz

Aashi Siddiqi

FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


Hamna Amir and Syma Raza launch Sonar Jewellers at The Designers in Karachi

Farheen and Erum

Mathira Sheema and Faisal

Laiqa, Angie and Mehjabeen

Sonia and Mul

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Madiha Noman

Naeem Haq with a friend


Hamna Amir

FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


Neshmia, Sara, Maria, Neelo and Yasmin

Aamir and Zainab Sajid

Ayesha Nasir with a guest

Aliya Tipu

Zahira and Syma Raza

Fauzia, Afshan, Irfan and Saneeya

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Amna Babar and Alyzeh

Sara, Beenish and Rubya Chaudhry

FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


the real



18 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

Actress Mahira Khan writes obsessively. Everyday she fills page after page of her journal, writing letters to her two and a half-year-old son Azlan…just in case she dies, you know. “You never know what can happen” she says. In her journal she chronicles the thoughts that spill out of her head at an excessive, incontrol-

lable rate. It is in these pages this former bubbly VJ, and now breakthrough star of the most popular drama serial in Pakistan, is struggling to figure out what on earth is going on.

“These days the pages have so many emotions crammed in them,” says the actress, sitting in a

cosy café in Zamzama on a chilly Karachi evening. “But I think one that really stands out, is that I’m desperate… willing to do almost anything to find an answer to the questions that I have.”

Mahira is seated in a corner booth, her clear hazel eyes scanning the menu. Despite her raw beau-

ty, she is just not the kind of celebrity who demands to be noticed, someone who sits with the air of

entitlement one would assume an immensely popular actor would have. In fact, she almost seems to shrink into her clothes, a seven-year-old peach-pink georgette kurta. She is smiling, but there is

something startlingly vulnerable about her. She is not one of those women who look as if they’ve just stepped out of a salon: her long hair is uncombed, she doesn’t have a speck of makeup on her porcelain skin, and her eyebrows are still trade markedly un-plucked. She still looks stunning.

She says she’s starving, and orders the first sandwich the waiter recommends — all she wants to

know is whether there will be ample fries with her meal. He assures her there will, and scurries off with a goofy smile on his face.

For the first few minutes of our conversation, it is obvious that Khan goes through a silent strug-

gle with herself, of whether she should talk about what she “should”, the way Pakistani girls do to convince boys they are good girls, parents that they are innocent, and journalists that they are cool and confident. Or to just shed the facade and tell it how it really is — which is, in all honesty, not that great. Luckily, today the truth wins.

19 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


she just couldn’t wrap her head around why Khirad embodied a tattered punching bag in the first half of the serial. “I would wonder: ‘Who is she yaar?’” she says with an annoyed and quizzical look. “When will she stand up for herself?”

“The past year has been nuts,” she explains with a sigh. “I’ve

lost two very special people in my life and I’ve seen two friends go through the worst times of their lives because of it. I’ve been

struggling to give time to my family, and I’ve seen this sudden fame which I just can’t really sort of enjoy,” she says.

A pretty heavy statement coming from someone who has re-

cently hit a career jackpot most actors can only dream about.

Mahira has struck it big with her latest drama serial “Hum-

safar”, based on a novel written by Farhat Ishtiaq and directed by Sarmad Khoosat, creator of sitcom “Shashlick”. And we’re

not talking about just any big, but instant-recognition-by-Pakistanis-world-over, Bollywood-offers-on-the-table, moral-policing-aunties-scrutinising-her-every-move big. For most people,

Mahira is simply Khirad, the small town girl with stellar principles that she portrays in “Humsafar”.

20 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

“The past year has been nuts,” she explains with a sigh. “I’ve lost two very special people in my life and I’ve seen two friends go through the worst times of their lives because of it. I’ve been struggling to give time to my family, and I’ve seen this sudden fame which I just can’t really sort of enjoy,” she says. It was the kind of success she hadn’t anticipated, especially

because she had already worked in much larger productions like

Shoaib Mansoor’s blockbuster Bol, and with award winning di-

rectors like Mehreen Jabbar, on drama serial “Neeyat”. While

making “Humsafar”, Mahira and the director never spoke about the people who would watch it, and whether they would like it or not. When the show swept the ratings, Khan was in shock. “I

still call up Sarmad or Fawad or my producer and we laugh,” she says with a smile, “and we’re like ‘Dude! Can you imagine? Can you actually imagine?’”

Before “Humsafar”, Mahira was lost as an actor. On the sets of

Bol, Shoaib Mansoor didn’t give her much direction, preferring to let her be. Mehreen Jabbar taught her how to discipline herself as

an actor, but it was Khoosat who gave her the faith. “He would sit with me during the times I would doubt myself, and tell me, ‘You have no idea what you can do’.”

Despite all this support and encouragement, the months spent

shooting the serial were some of the most trying for Khan per-

sonally. If it’s true that Pakistani drama ratings are derived from how hard someone can cry, Mahira was the best choice for the role of Khirad. Besides losing loved ones, the burden of constant shoots and media attention took a toll on her family life as well.

“When all my time is being spent out shooting or on the phone,

that’s when the problem comes in and yes, that has had an effect on my closest relationships.”

For the irrepressible former VJ, trying to get into the character

of the reticent, almost stilted, Khirad was a constant personal

battle. At a time when Khan could only think about defending her right to spend so much time at work because it was something she really wanted to do, she just couldn’t wrap her head

around why Khirad embodied a tattered punching bag in the first half of the serial. “I would wonder: ‘Who is she yaar?’” she says (Continued on page 24) FEBRUARY 19-25 2012




“If I find a piece where there are 10 good things about me and one bad, I obsess about the bad,” she explains. Mahira, more than anybody else, is aware that she has a long way to go. “When they introduce me on talk shows, they always say something to the effect: ‘Now please welcome the very pretty Mahira Khan,’” she shouts, her voice booming in a parody of the announcer’s stage voice. “I won’t be happy until they say ‘Now please welcome the brilliant actor Mahira Khan.’”

24 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

with an annoyed and quizzical look. “When will she stand up for herself?”

The cosmopolitan actress is a far cry from the poor country cousin she portrays in the drama se-

rial. Possibly the worst financial crisis that Mahira has dealt with in her real life was during her

time at college in the US when she worked two jobs to meet ends meet, but as the shooting pro-

gressed, Khan took Khirad’s character and made it her own. “I kept her herself, very desi and chup

chaap, but then Khirad became me. And I’m going to take a little credit for that,” she adds smiling. According to a regular drama critic, ‘Drama Buff’ who writes for, Khan’s

performance in “Humsafar” was far superior to her acting in any of her previous roles, where it was at times labeled “wooden” and her presence disparaged simply as the “eye-candy” of the produc-

tion. Drama Buff says, “In “Humsafar” Mahira was great for the role because she looks innocent and is a strong, independent woman at the same time, this way she played the “victim” well and could also stand up for her character.” He adds, “Still some scenes were difficult for her to pull off,

but if she continues working with good directors and tries to emote more she is on her way to becoming a really talented actress.”

And Khan is willing to do all it takes to get there. She reads every single review that is published

or posted online, and is extremely self critical, “If I find a piece where there are 10 good things about

me and one bad, I obsess about the bad,” she explains. Mahira, more than anybody else, is aware

that she has a long way to go. “When they introduce me on talk shows, they always say something

to the effect: ‘Now please welcome the very pretty Mahira Khan,’” she shouts, her voice booming in

a parody of the announcer’s stage voice. “I won’t be happy until they say ‘Now please welcome the brilliant actor Mahira Khan.’”

The curse of beauty is something Khan has been compensating for her entire life. Ever since she was

in school, and had blossomed into a beauty — one that boys, girls and teachers alike were smitten by

— Khan tried to downplay her flawless magnetism. “Even when I was young I was always conscious about it,” she explains, “I always felt that if I downplay my looks I can prove myself in other ways.”

Fellow students remember her in her Foundation Public School uniform, her thin sash of a du-

patta trailing on the floor behind her, hair strands straying out of her pony tail in disarray, and her

pillowy lips chapped in the dry winter air. Even then, she stood out amidst rows of other girls in the monotony of beige, white and pony tails.

As she grows older though, she has begun to question this resentment. “How can I be embar-

rassed by myself, and something that I have? I should be embarrassed about other things that I lack. I’m not proud of my Urdu, so I should work on that, but I shouldn’t consciously remove the

makeup from my face so I can look real in front of the camera. I am coming to terms with the fact that I have to stop being apologetic.”

And maybe she has. The pink kameez she’s wearing is shorter than the cut off length fashion

trends today would dictate. Mahira, who is usually on trend, explains that it holds sentimental

value: it was something she wore when she had a fight with her now husband, Ali Askari, 7 years ago, when both of them were in college.

She may be one of the most adored actresses in the country right now , whose childlike inno-

cence, girly sophistication and flawless looks many look forward to watching in the evenings in

order to forget the tribulations of their day. More so than before, many are also supporting her struggle, as she evolves serial-by-serial, film by film, into a mature actress, and a strong human be-

ing. Mahira is grateful for this, but has decided not to pretend that she knows what she is doing. “I had it all figured out a while ago,” she says. “Now I’m trying to find it again. I am at a point where I am reassessing everything in my life. I’m full on with my hands in the keechur, trying to figure out things, you know?”





the basant that was A wistful look back at the wonder that was basant BY ADIL MULKI

Having suffered a personal loss a few months earlier, I was still a depressed young man when an audit assignment sent me to Lahore many years ago. There I was, hundreds of miles away from home, mildly cherishing the independence but not really having much time to enjoy it. Our days were spent sifting though files, and our nights were spent crunching numbers. As

late winters in Lahore are, the foggy dawns and dusks were all grey and left little to be cheerful

26 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

about. It was a chilly Sunday afternoon in early February when we were at the hotel sifting

through yet more files and crunching yet more numbers that I called up a client officer to ask for some information. The friendly fellow thought I was joking with him! How could anyone in Lahore be working on a Sunday? And not just any Sunday, but a Sunday during Basant!

Despite my repeated assurances he refused to believe that we were working and actually

wanted the data, and refused to provide any. On the contrary, he told me to dress up as he

was coming to pick me up. I didn’t really take him seriously and dove back into work, all of

which was due to be delivered to my senior that very night. Half an hour later, I got a call from reception that a friend was there to see me. Surprised, I left for the lobby and found

my Lahori colleague waiting for me. Dressed in a shalwar kameez, and sporting a smile as wide as the Shalimar gardens, he gave me a bear hug and ordered me to get dressed. Then

he changed his mind, saying, “Nah, the jeans and T-shirt are fine, just throw on a jacket…

we’re already late.” With no idea what we were getting late for, I meekly obeyed and followed him out.

During the past few days I had seen tiny paper kites embellish shop windows and regu-

lar-sized kites pasted to car wind screens. “Patangbaz Sajna” by Fareiha Pervez had become

the anthem for Lahore and glimpses of all this during our short trips to various offices had intrigued me.

As a first time visitor to Lahore, I didn’t have an inkling what all the fuss was about,

and was more worried about missing my deadline. “Mitti Pao, ji,” he said with disdain as he assured me he’d help me tomorrow. Hesitantly I shrugged off any fears about meeting deadlines and, like Neo in the Matrix, decided to take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole went.

We made off in his car to his home located near old Lahore. The scenes on the street were

unbelievable. I had never seen half as many kites in my entire life as were on display in the sky. Everybody seemed to be carrying them, and everyone appeared to be genuinely happy.

People were dressed in bright colors and I suddenly realized that my everyday attire was a

rather drab spot in this sea of colors. He parked his car in a narrow bricked lane and pushed open the unlocked wooden door of his house.

I stood outside waiting for my cue when he, annoyed at my formalities, pulled me inside

without further ado. It was as if I had been suddenly dragged onto the stage of a musical

play about someone’s mehndi which was probably being held on an Eid day in the middle of a street parade!

There was a open-air verandah in the middle of the house, bordered by corridors and

rooms. Children were running around shouting, kites in hand. Laughing young girls and

middle-aged ladies bustled in and out of the corner kitchen from which the most wonder-

ful aromas were wafting out. A few old “babajees” were enjoying a game of chess and the joyous mood was omnipresent and infectious.

Everyone seemed to be in a hurry to finish off the tasks at hand and go up the steep flight

of stairs in a corner. Not wanting to appear nosy, I hesitantly looked upwards. There was

clearly some serious commotion going on, and in between the tangle of limbs and faces, I caught a glimpse of a sky filled with innumerable kites of various colors and shapes dancing in the blue, which was streaked with the gossamer white of passing clouds. The kites looked like fishes swimming in the sea and every once in a while a kite with a “tail” would

cascade by like a multi-colored eel. Perfectly framed by the corridors, the scene appeared like a mesmerizing painting — one full of life. Gone was my shyness and I was staring at the sky with a broad smile across my face.

“This is Bayjee”, my friend said, breaking me out of my reverie. I looked down at an grace-

ful old lady sitting on a takht. I crouched on one knee, as she extended her hand and placed it on my head, giving her my blessings. I may have been wearing jeans and a T-shirt, but


COMMENT suddenly I felt like a Knighthood had been bestowed on

me. Her time-worn eyes and the warmth of her wrinkled smile reminded me of my “Nani” back home. She invited me to go upstairs to the “kotha” and come back after dinner for a chit chat.

As we ascended the stairs, the beats of bhangra music

became clearer, competing against amid shouts of “bo Kata” and “Hurrrr!!” and the joyous din of horns blowing

and whistles piercing and drums booming . The rooftop was a frenzy of colors, deafening sounds, and the entic-

ing aromas of barbequed food being prepared, Lahoristyle. The evening was a blur of laughter and pats on the

back and hugs that accompanied every successful “paicha.”

This was life and Lahore at its best, this is the basant

that was — before the ‘chemical’ strings arrived, before the deadly metal wires began to slit throats and land on power lines.

This was a time when Basant was an affair where family

and friends used to gather not only from Lahore but nearby towns as well, and depressed guests such as myself were invited, welcomed and included in the festivities.

So much time has passed since. Since that magical day,

I have been told that my attending the event puts my religion into question, or that it announces my political leanings. It pains me how the drums and whistles, fuelled

by corporate marketing budgets and ill-gotten wealth morphed into displays of elaborate fireworks and aerial

firings, and how family get-to-gathers turned into commercial concerts and exclusive parties that in turn mutated into mujras and alcohol-fueled parties.

Then the radical brigade stepped up, calling basant a

heretical affair. The liberal elite went overboard in their counter-reaction, and turned their patronisation of Basant into a show of defiance. Then, of course, came se-

curity threats and the looming spectre of militancy. And then basant died.

But the soul of basant had already been lost. It was

never something that needed the patronage of powerful

lobbies or corporate sponsors and certainly never deserved

the condemnation of the religious right. It was a festival of the people, by the people and for the people. Celebrat-

ing basant, even in the re-packaged form of “Jashan-e-

Baharan”, now stands officially banned in Lahore for the past few years. Yet I still carry in my heart a deep love and

gratitude, and will always remember Bayjee’s wizened eyes, and the touch of the hand which breathed a fresh

warmth into my soul on that long-gone Basant day so many decades ago.

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house of the


Armed only with a few old photographs and vague directions, Danial Shah sets off in search of the Cave City of Balochistan PHOTOS AND TEXT BY DANIAL SHAH

About all I knew when I set out to visit the Cave City was that there is a place in Balochistan with cave houses — a mountain, isolated from civilisation, with lots and lots of caves. Returning by road from Quetta to Karachi, I was struck with the realisation that the Cave City was likely to be somewhere along the route my companion and I were

taking. Despite the fact that I had no concrete information about the site, the curiosity of exploring the caves got the better of me. I called my father who had spent more than a decade in Balochistan

for infrastructure work. He gave us rough directions, telling us that it was located close to the city

of Bela and was called Gondrani. Armed with only that tidbit of information — and a few snapshots from a travelogue Salman Rashid had written on the Cave City years back — we set off.

Our plan, when we left Khuzdar, was to stop over at the Cave City — if, indeed, we found it — and

take photos.

We travelled on the RCD Highway and, with the judicious use of Google maps, were able to pick

our way to Bela. But since there were no road directions to Gondrani, we stopped locals and quizzed

them about the way to the “puraney ghaar” (old caves). At first we got only blank looks or incomprehensible directions. Then we found Asif, a middle-aged man who told us that he was a police

inspector. Not only did he claim to know the place, he also offered to take us there. With Asif as our guide, we drove north, then turned west and started following a narrow but carpeted road. After many miles, the road turned into a dirt road and finally, there was no road at all. We hit a riverbank

and after a distance of almost three miles, Asif made us park the vehicle. I poked my head out the window, straining to see in the direction Asif was pointing. A distant mountain with black holes was my first sight of the Cave City of Balochistan.

It was a 10-minute walk to the caves — an arduous one, at that, over a dry riverbed strewn with

rocks. But my curiosity was growing as were the black holes which had seemed tiny from a dis-



FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

These mountains used to be the home of demons and evil spirits who would satiate their appetite with the flesh of the locals of Gondrani The place was pretty much deserted and, in the absence of lo-

cals, Asif was our only source of information. His version of the

history of this place was fanciful, to say the least. According to him, these mountains used to be the home of demons and evil

spirits who would satiate their appetite with the flesh of the locals of Gondrani. That is until Mai Gondrani, a holy lady, sacrificed her life to kill these demons and save the rest from their

scourge. Now she rests in her shrine in the nearby village in

Sher-e-Roghan. We listened, intrigued and mystified. This version of the story gave rise to more questions than answers: Who would have really lived here? Why did they leave? Would it before or after the Indus civilisation?

As we approached the mountains, more caves came into sight.

With scenes from Hollywood movies about lost treasures flash-

ing in my mind, I scrambled to explore every single cave. Only I

wasn’t in search of the Ark of the Covenant or Montezuma’s gold. Here, the treasure was simply having discovered such a unique

place in Pakistan. Inside the caves I saw that a typical ‘cave house’ had one veranda and two separate rooms. I even saw what I gathered was a kitchen of sorts, having separate compartments for

storage. Another seemed like a living room or a bedroom. In the aforementioned article, Salman Rashid says that the Cave City

would have been a class conscious society and I could easily figure that out, seeing the contrast between the ill-constructed houses and the well-formed ones.

Unlike cave cities elsewhere — Kandovan in Iran and Cappa-

docia in Turkey come to mind — the Cave City of Balochistan is

The caves of Gondrani Gondrani

(Above) and the path we

uninhabited, though the caves do provide a home for bats. These

took (Left).

caves are the worse for erosion and, as far as I could see, no effort has been made to preserve them. Barely accessible, since there

is no path that leads to them, they are also difficult to explore higher than the two lowest levels for those without any climbing expertise. Had this site been anywhere else in the world, it

would have been preserved as a world heritage site, but sadly it is crumbling in neglect here.

Our little expedition ended with a stopover in Hub for tea and

then we headed to Karachi, leaving behind a silent city, a myste-


rious mountain.

33 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


oasis for the

underprivileged Shabina Mustafa set out to teach her maid’s daughter in her garage — today she runs a school with over 400 students BY GREEN FLAG WAVER

“My husband and I used to wonder how the country’s economic and social conditions would change if the majority of Pakistan’s children were deprived of quality education,” says Shabina Mustafa, founder of The Garage School. “But it was only after his death that I got around to dedicating myself to teaching children who would otherwise not get an opportunity to go to school.” The foundation of The Garage School (TGS) was laid in 1999 when Shabina’s maid convinced her

to teach her daughter, cleaning out the garage for the purpose, as it was the only place in her

house which could be dedicated to giving lessons to the little girl. But Somia wasn’t Shabina’s only

student — news that she would be giving lessons for free had spread quickly in the neighbourhood and on the first day of ‘school’ 14 bright faces eagerly turned towards Shabina as she stepped into


that single-room school, ready to teach. FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

“It makes me feel really proud that 22 of my students were accepted at Nasra School and 16 by St Patrick’s Technical College” Those were the humble beginnings of The Garage School, as it

came to be called, and from that point on there was no looking back. Children who could not gain admission in a regular school

and students from the nearby slums of Neelum Colony and Shah

Secondary School and plans to join the Pakistan Air Force as an

aeronautical engineer. “TGS is the reason that I am studying in a good college today,” he says proudly.

With the children coming from slums, health care often

Rasool Colony flocked in droves to Shabina’s home, keen to learn.

emerges as a serious concern. In 2002, Dr Khalid Bhamba

outside Shabina’s door simply kept increasing by the day.

he is medically examined. Most students are found to be

In fact, the number of enthusiastic learners who would turn up While multiplication tables and match-the-word exercises

were very much a part of daily school lessons, it was more than just book knowledge that TGS aimed to impart. It had a more

holistic view to education: making these children competitive,

responsible, healthy, well behaved and successful. Shabina often

reminds her students of the 4 T’s on which her system is based:

offered his services. Now, whenever a new student is admitted, malnourished. “We cannot expect unhealthy bodies to have healthy minds. So with the help of pharmaceutical companies, we give them multivitamins and vaccines of hepatitis, typhoid and flu annually. Also, the school provides food, such as milk, eggs, fruits and juices, for all the children on a regular basis.”

Brimming with new ideas and eager to expand her philanthropic

Taleem (education), Tarbiat (upbringing), Taur (manners),

activities, Shabina started the adult literacy programme in 2008,

that is Taraqqi (success).

literacy course. The Garage School is also offering sewing classes

Tariqay (behaviour) — which, she believes, lead to the fifth T, “This is our motto. I always tell my students that I can only

help them in obtaining the first four tools, but achieving success depends upon their hard work and determination,” says Shabina. At the same time, Shabina also feels she has the responsibility

of grooming and coaching these children so that they can be accommodated in mainstream institutions. In 2002, she

approached Nasra School and prepared the students for its

entrance exam. “I want them to progress to a respectable career.

with 25 women. So far 42 students have completed the adult

and Shabina envisions that these will one day become the basis for the Garage School Cottage Industry where women can earn money by stitching and selling clothes. TGS also underscores the

habit of saving money so that these children learn to plan for the future from an early age. Initially, they were provided piggy

banks, but now the piggy banks have been transformed into 32 separate bank accounts at Bank Al-Habib.

With enrolment increasing by the day, Shabina has had to

It makes me feel really proud that 22 of my students were accepted

expand her premises. “I need more space to accommodate all

She loves talking about all the success that her students have

are in dire need of monetary help and are looking for teachers to

at Nasra School and 16 by St Patrick’s Technical College,” she says. achieved since the school first started. “There was Anil who

passed out of Nasra, then went to Bahria College and is now a manager at a multinational company. Another boy stood first

in the Aga Khan Board exam while his brother is a straight ‘A’ student who wants to be a doctor. And from our first batch of

English conversation and grooming classes, eight girls are

the projects but people are reluctant to help,” she laments. “We volunteer their time too.”

While this may not be enough to solve the social and economic

conditions of the country just yet, at least now Shabina knows that she is doing her bit.

working as beauticians at leading salons.”

If you know of any people who have achieved something positive, either

Mohammed Asad, who is currently studying at Aga Khan and help us share their story with the world.

“Joining this school was a turning point in my life,” says

for themselves or for those around them, please mail us at magazine@ FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


TRIBUTE The village of Ramdewali near Faisalabad, woke up on the 15th of January to find hundreds of people at its doorstep. As they moved in unison, it appeared as if a grand procession was on its way to pay homage to a shrine of some holy saint. But this was no Urs; the hordes of people were not devotees, but mourners at Arfa Kareem’s funeral.

genius, in

Ramdewali is the birthplace of the girl who was the world’s

youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) until 2008, and whose sudden demise plunged the nation into grief. Funeral

prayers were offered in Lahore, Faisalabad and in Arfa’s hometown Ramdewali, where she was laid to rest. Such an emotional

farewell for an ordinary citizen — that too, a 16-year-old student — is an unprecedented event in Pakistan.

I had the unique opportunity to interview Arfa in 2005, after

her visit to the Microsoft headquarters in the United States. That little girl was able to hold her own and give a speech about de-

veloping applications in front of thousands of seasoned software developers. During my conversation with her, I was struck by her

exuberant personality. Arfa’s charm, confidence and optimism made me forget that she was a 10-year-old.

The child prodigy was proud of herself for being the youngest

MCP. “It means a lot to me because it helped me fulfil my family’s dreams, especially those of my late grandfather Chaudhry Abdul Karim Randhawa,” she had said. Meeting Bill Gates had been an

exhilarating event for the young achiever. Arfa’s father, a retired

colonel, Amjad Karim Randhawa, who accompanied her to the

the Punjab government decided to model all computers labs in

excited that she did not sleep throughout the trip, always writing

just the beginning of the realisation of her aspirations.

US to meet Gates, vividly described her enthusiasm. “She was so down questions she would ask him. She even wrote a poem and

But tragically for Arfa, the end came too soon. Just as she was

gave it to him,” Amjad reminisced fondly. “Bill Gates was quite

preparing to depart to India for a Nasa-sponsored international

But Arfa was hardly content with being just a one-hit wonder.

rest after an epileptic seizure. With her brain significantly dam-

taken aback by her enthusiasm and intelligence.”

Even at the tender age of 10, she had ambitious plans for the fu-

ture. She wanted to study at the prestigious Harvard University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wanted to use her

genius to help her country. “I will come back to Pakistan and make a positive contribution,” she had said.

space settlement competition, she suffered a massive cardiac araged, she was admitted to Lahore’s Combined Military Hospital.

“Visa arrangements were being made for the students, but

then she fell into a coma and ... well, everything just came to a standstill,” laments Yasin.

As young Arfra lay on a hospital bed on life support, the en-

As she grew older, Arfa’s ambition and focus remained undi-

tire nation prayed for her recovery. Three weeks after her epilep-

maturity,” remembers Salman Yasin, the principal at Lahore

condition miraculously improved. However, the budding hopes

minished. “One of the most amazing things about Arfa was her Grammar School’s Paragon Campus, the last school Arfa attend-

ed. “Not only was she aware of her exceptional capabilities, she had full confidence in them.”

tic seizure, when all hope for her survival had dissipated, Arfa’s for her recuperation were soon crushed. Arfa passed away just weeks before her 17th birthday.

Even during her short life, Arfa managed to make a long-last-

And, in fact, the young student had already started taking

ing impression on those around her. The go-getter, who in an

struction of a computer laboratory in the Government Girls High

make a positive impact on the lives of people who surrounded

practical steps to realise her big dreams. She paid for the con-


government schools after it. According to the whiz kid, this was

School in Chak No2 Ramdewali. So successful was this lab that FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

interview admitted that she hated wasting time, was eager to

her. “She would always say that one day she would help bring

terrupted Arfa Kareem aspired to change Pakistan but unfortunately she left this world before she could see her dream fulfilled BY SHAMSUL ISLAM NAZ

“High achievers are usually burdened with a sense of pride and seriousness that often isolates them from other children their age, but Arfa just wanted to act her age.” prosperity and progress in Pakistan,” Amjad recalls wistfully.

of deep shock and grief. In the wake of the intense media hype

mark. “She was not an adolescent, but a sage,” he eulogises.

help them cope with the loss of their beloved comrade.

Her uncle Muhammad Afzal Randhawa makes a similar re-

“She used to say that she would one day revolutionise the educa-

around her illness and death, students had to be counselled to

To commemorate the achievements of the brilliant student,

tional and agricultural systems of the village, both of which are

the government issued a postage stamp on February 2 — her 17th

Even though she was brilliant and motivated far beyond her

stamps herself? It would have been a great way to tell her how

extremely outdated.”

years, in many ways Arfa was just an ordinary child. As a child, Arfa loved watching cartoons, singing and cycling. As she ma-

birthday. “Wouldn’t it have been just great if Arfa had seen those important she was to us,” says Yasin.

Yasin advocates a more meaningful way to truly immortalise

tured, she developed a penchant for reading Shakespeare and

Arfa’s legacy. He calls for a yearly scholarship in Arfa’s name,

verse or quote for any occasion,” Amjad recalls.

the country. “Naming IT cities and issuing stamps is all great,

took keen interest in Iqbal’s poetry. “She always had the perfect

Nevertheless, like any other sociable teenager she was keen on

spending time with her friends and enjoying school concerts.

funded by the government to facilitate talented children across but Arfa was not just that — her legacy is far more,” he says.

Azra Parveen, Arfa’s classmate and currently a 7th grade student

“High achievers are usually burdened with a sense of pride and

at Government Girls High School, also believes that a scholarship

age, but this was not the case with Arfa. She just wanted to act

sands of Arfas out there who possess the same mettle and calibre,

seriousness that often isolates them from other children their her age,” explains Yasin. “She loved music, movies — all the things young girls at her age are fascinated with.”

He adds affectionately, “She was very compassionate — and

had such a lovely smile.”

Arfa’s sudden death left many of her dear friends in a state

will be the best way to honour Arfa. “There are hundreds of thou-

but because they belong to the poor class, they have not been able to

demonstrate it,” she says. “If equal opportunities are provided to the deprived classes of society, hundreds of Arfas are likely to spring up.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AROOSA SHAUKAT

37 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012



to it!

Pakistan’s very own celebrity chef, Poppy Agha, is currently battling it out for culinary supremacy against no fewer than eight indian chefs on the internationally televised reality show, “Foodistan”. This week she shows us how to do a superlative pan seared snapper with sautéed mushrooms and a duxelles cream BY POPPY AGHA

There’s nothing like a perfectly cooked piece of snapper! I agree that there are a multitude of fish that beat the snapper in flavour: tuna, monkfish and swordfish but you get the snapper easily from any fishmonger — who probably calls it ‘hira’ — in Pakistan and it is just delicious! Cooking fish, however, can be a tad bit difficult. Most of us

tend to overcook it — the trick is to use a halfway mark technique when searing fish in a pan.

Keep checking the progress of the fish as it cooks. When the

colour changes half way up the side of the meat, flip it over and repeat the process on the other side. Once this is done, cook the

fish for another minute and then turn the heat off. Put a lid on the pan and let the fish sit in the steam for a couple of minutes. It’s as easy as that.

Another common mistake people make is that they tend to

overuse spices, in general. It can’t be helped because of our years of cooking with heavy masalas but, when cooking fish, try not

to smother the meat’s own flavour. What would a fabulous black pepper seared tuna steak taste like if it were doused with chilli and overcooked? Terrible!

Concentrate on sauces that accompany the fish fillet rather

than rubbing too much spice on the fish itself. If you want to

hide the flavour, use something citrus based, or a tangy tomato

sauce. Alternatively, if you want to enhance the flavour, make a


simple beurre blanc. FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

Another common mistake people make is that they tend to overuse spices, in general. It can’t be helped because of our years of cooking with heavy masalas but, when cooking fish, try not to smother the meat’s own flavour.

and black pepper, about a pinch. Flip the snapper back and sprinkle salt and pepper on the other side. Cook till the fish is done and turn the heat off.

In a smaller pan, heat one tsp of butter and then add the

sliced mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms till they are dark-

ened on each side, but do not overcook them so that they shrivel. They must retain their shape. Sprinkle a large pinch

of salt. After the mushrooms are done, wait 2-3 minutes and remove them from the pan. Do not discard the juices in the pan.

In the same pan, heat another tsp of olive oil and add the

minced garlic and minced mushrooms. Sauté on a high flame

For the fish: Snapper — 1 fillet, halved Rock Salt — 1 tsp

Freshly crushed Black pepper — 1 tsp Olive oil — 1 tbsp

For the mushrooms: sliced — 1/2 punnett mushrooms rock salt — 1/2 tsp butter — 1 tsp

and as soon as the garlic starts turning light golden, add in 1

tsp cream and 2 tbsps of stock (you can add water instead of

stock). Reduce the heat and cook till the sauce thickens, add in the remaining stock and cook for about thirty seconds.

For best results sieve the sauce. (You can skip this step if you

want, but it makes for better results). Check the salt and add more in case it is lacking, as well as a pinch of freshly ground pepper.

Layer with fish and mushrooms and serve with a salad,

warmed baguette or even a smooth basil potato mash. Enjoy!

For the sauce: minced — 1 pod garlic

chopped finely — 2 mushrooms olive oil — 1 tsp cream — 1 tsp

light chicken stock/water — 4 tbsps A pinch of salt

A pinch of black pepper

Method: Heat olive oil in a pan and place the snapper fillet in it. Let the

snapper cook on one side and flip. Then sprinkle on some salt

39 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012


spirit of christmas indeed BY T PASHA

Arthur Christmas is one of those treasures that make you feel like a child all over again, taking you back to when winter would mean watching classics like How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Home Alone on a wonderfully snuggly afternoon. The film stars James McAvoy as the voice of Arthur, the black sheep of the Claus family, who is shelved in a small room to read and answer letters by little children to Santa. Hugh Laurie voices Steve, Santa’s older son, who is in charge of the whole operation. Steve believes he deserves to be the next Santa and even has a Versace Santa suit prepared to prove it. Jim Broadbent voices Santa, the jovial but incompetent guy in charge at the North Pole. The whole process of delivering gifts to all the children in the world goes smoothly, until one elf discovers that a child was left out by mistake. Steve quickly dismisses it as an error but Arthur makes it his mission to deliver the present to the child, one way

imperfect paradise BY T PASHA

Trouble will follow you even if you live in paradise. Such is the central idea behind George Clooney’s Oscar-nominated movie, The Descendants. Shot in the beautiful islands of Hawaii, the film is about Matthew King (George Clooney), a hard-working lawyer, husband and father. Matthew’s life is turned upside down by a speed-boat accident which leaves his wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) in a coma. Being a typical workaholic father, he has no idea what to do with his loudmouthed 10-year-old daughter Scotty (Amara Miller) and equally annoying 17-year-old daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley). In the beginning of the movie, we find that Elizabeth was having an affair while Matthew was hard at work at the office. It is also revealed that Matthew is the sole beneficiary of a family trust that controls 25,000 acres of pristine land on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaii. The trust will expire in seven years because of the rule against perpetuities, so the King family has to decide to sell the land to Kaua’i native Don Holitzer for development. If that wasn’t enough, the doctor arrives with terrible news. Elizabeth’s coma is permanent, and she’ll die when they take her off life support. The Descendants is an intimate film about the challenges of family life. These are characters that are both suffering from and trying

40 FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

or the other. Assisted by the somewhat cranky Grand Santa (voiced by Bill Nighy) he embarks on a journey which takes him to almost every corner of the globe without actually getting to his destination. Wonderfully animated, the film really draws you in and has you cheering for Arthur as he races to get the present to the little girl who wants nothing more than a little pink bicycle for Christmas. Each actor is perfect for the part, and voices their role brilliantly, giving the characters a realistic personality to match. Like all holiday films, Arthur Christmas celebrates old-fashioned values and it really made me wish we had more movies like this. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but the results are surprisingly touching and funny.

to overcome a painful loss. Weaving together drama and comedy, the film is laced with poignant moments that earn every laugh and every tear, but the most striking and satisfying aspects of The Descendants is its unhurried pace and loose, wandering structure. The soundtrack is haunting, exclusively featuring Hawaiian music. The music does a great job capturing the mood and feel of Hawaii, and even though you wouldn’t know exactly what the words mean, somehow you feel like they are just perfect for each of the scenes. What was surprising about this movie was that the dialogues were very simple, peppered here and there with a few expletives, which seemed appropriate under the circumstances. The Descendants is a beautiful character study of common people dealing with common and uncommon family dilemmas and shows how even the most dysfunctional of families can sometimes come together and help one another in their time of need.


10 things I hate about

1 2 3 4 5 42

…skinny jeans

Getting them on. Groan, grunt, tug, suck in and

ahhhhh! They are finally over your calves. Repeat to get them over your thighs, and then, the worst… the

hips. You might wobble a little bit and, in extreme cases, hop vigorously too.

Getting them off. Peel them over your waist and then get an unwilling accomplice to pull them off while you

sit on a chair, legs stuck out straight in front of you.

One huge tug and the deed is done. If you are lucky, your accomplice will not be sprawled on the ground with the jeans in her hands.

If you have gained some weight, be prepared for the

‘thunder-thigh’, ‘bubble butt’, and ‘round rump’ syndrome. Once they are on, there is no hiding the flab.


6 7 8 9 10

They look so damn good on skinny girls. Isn’t the whole

point of jeggings to make you look skinnier than you actually are? Nope — there will be no kapra relief to hide your flab once the jeans are on.

You bought a pair of jeggings, wore them once, and

threw them in the laundry hamper. Next thing you know, your jeans have shrunk, and now you are

wearing a very tight pair of capris that are cutting off circulation on your lower calf.

Bending is a little difficult in skinny jeans. So is twisting,






movement. Dare to do any of the above, and you might

have to tie a sweater around your waist to hide the rip near your backside.

They just don’t seem to fit after meals. If you have

starved all day to fit into them, don’t fool yourself in to thinking that you can afford to eat dinner. Make that mistake and you might just split a seam.

The smallest rip is actually a gaping hole in the stretchy material of these skinnys. You discover a pea-sized hole in them — no problem, who is going to notice

that? You manage to get into the jeggings, and after the effort of pulling them on, you forget to check if the

hole is actually visible. Next thing you know, you have walked around your entire office building with a huge hole on your behind!

FEBRUARY 19-25 2012

If you have a small bladder, jeggings aren’t for you. The

elastic waist will squeeze your lower abdomen, and you will be rushing to the bathroom every half hour.

Wearing these tight, skin-fitted denims during the summer is a terrible idea. Do so, and suffer sweaty legs

with no respite as there is absolutely no place for the air to seep through.

The Express Tribune Magazine - February 19  

The Express Tribune Magazine for February 19th 2012

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