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SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

Cover Story 20 Cutting the Line Once only seen in movies and TV shows, Cocaine is now very part of the Pakistani drug scene

Context 30 Nothing to Sniff At From medicinal plant to a multi-billion dollar illegal industry, the humble coca leaf has come a long way

Features 26 The Sting in the Tale The weird and dangerous exploits of drug-addled minds 36 Rohtas Fort — The Treasure of Potohar A pictorial journey though the history of the majestic Rohtas fort


Green Thumb 40 Rethink Mint Cool down and freshen up!



46 Orange you Glad I Wrote this Recipe? Indulge in the seasons’ finest fruit with style

Up North and Personal 48 Winds of Change A firsthand look into the seasonal migration of nomadic tribes

Regulars 6 People & Parties: Out and about with Pakistan’s beautiful people 50 Reviews: Conan is just a bloody mess 54 Ten Things I Hate About: KESC


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, Tariq W Alvi, S Asif Ali, Samad Siddiqui, Mohsin Alam, Sukayna Sadik. Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi. For feedback and submissions: 4


Zahabiya launches her clothing line at Vogue Towers, in Lahore

Anum Zahid, Ayesha and Anum Akram

Nadia Ramzan

Sana Ajmal


Madnia Zahi



Minahil and Ihtisham Ansari SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011


Rida Qazi

SEPTEMBER 11-17 2011


Ayesha Adnan

Ayesha Nasir

Shazia Aleem

a Qaiser and

r, Mah Madiha Qaise Shuja


Zahabiya Jam

Neelum Irshad

8 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

Rozina Zahid

Nadia Chottani

SEPTEMBER 11-17 2011


SadiyaNadiya clothing line exhibited in Lahore

Ayesha with a friend

Saeera Hassan

Sabene Jehanzeb Anum Akram and Anum Zahid


Laiba and Rudaba SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011


Ayesha Nas ir


Naveen and Zainab

SEPTEMBER 11-17 2011


Pakistani designers showcase their collections this Eid in Dubai

Saadia and Hina Butt

nd Thalia

, Mona a


Zainab Mushtaq

Sobia Nazir and Sarah Tariq


Aamir and Ta


Gulzaib, Nafees Asif and Momina SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

ud Khan

Zarmina Mas


Sonya, Annie Mansoor, Faria and Iffat Umar

SEPTEMBER 11-17 2011


SABAH, The SAARC Association of Home Based Women Workers, hold an Eid Exhibition in Islamabad


Sehr Durrani

Saad Khan with Inam-ul-Haq Khan Momina Sibtain and Abdullah Omar


14 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

Taghreed an Seema Majid Khan

d Wasimulla

h Khan with

their son


Sadia Khawaja

SEPTEMBER 11-17 2011


A guest from Norwegian Embassy

Mohammad Bin Naveed

Faryal Khan




Nauman Durrani SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

Aneela Arooj, Nuzhat Tabassum, Asma Ravji and Kamran Sadiq

Yasmeen Om


SEPTEMBER 11-17 2011


Heroin and hashish are yesterday’s news, the ecstacy epidemic has come and gone. So what is the new drug that is sweeping through Pakistan’s elite classes like wildfire? BY ASIM KHAN

20 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

It’s 2:30 am and the party is still going strong. Several young, well dressed couples sit around one of the many tables that surround the dance floor. On the surface of the table, amid an array of glasses are three bottles of Black Label, of which only one is now half-full. A girl in a short red dress leans towards her boyfriend who is wearing an Armani suit and slurs: “Honey, I think I’m a little too drunk…” Equally inebriated, he smiles back at her, having understood the underlying message. He fumbles through his pockets, fishes out

his Blackberry and in a drunken haze, scrolls down to a particular message.

It reads: “Hey guys, pure Bolivian stuff available now. No yellow crap but pure white rock. Only Rs10,000 per gram. If you buy 10 grams, it’s for Rs8,000 – call quickly.”

He makes the call and half an hour later a black Honda Civic pulls up to the gate. A middle-aged man in a white shalwar kameez

walks in. Money is exchanged and the man hands over a tiny plastic bag filled with white powder.

Soon, the couple are in the bathroom at the party. She waits ea-

gerly as he crushes the powder with his credit card, chopping it into lines and then licking the edges of the card clean. She rolls

a crisp thousand rupee note into a tube, bends over the line and inhales deeply. Then he takes his turn and soon, they are back at

the party revitalised and full of energy. At least until the cocaine wears off.

This is a small picture of Pakistan’s booming cocaine scene, and it’s something that was unthinkable just over a decade ago.

Up until the early 1990s the drugs available to Pakistan’s elite

were the same that everyone else used: hash, opium and heroin. Cocaine was something most people had only seen in movies

like Al Pacino’s Scarface. But something started to change around 1995, when a whole generation of those who had gone to college

in the West started to return. Many had become accustomed to a new lifestyle revolving around bar-hopping, clubbing and raving

and they brought with them tales of a whole new range of recreational drugs. And some of them brought back the drugs as well.

Thirty-two-year-old Omer, who has been using cocaine for 15

years now, was a witness to those times. Wearing a red Chicago Bulls shirt and cap, he speaks with a slight American accent, “I remember in the late 1990s, I used to buy an ecstasy tab

for Rs4,500 and cocaine was available in Karachi for around Rs18,000 per gram. I come from a family of industrialists so money was never a problem.”

Omer now runs a leather factory in SITE and says it has never been as easy and cheap to get cocaine as it is today. “Although,” he adds, “the quality was much better in those days.”

It’s easy to understand why prices and quality were higher in the

21 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

COVER STORY past. Cocaine was not commercially available in Pakistan, and

are being chopped and snorted right out in the open without any

dents coming back from the holidays, who would slip past a lax

speed dial. If anyone still chooses to do his coke in quiet corners,

be it Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad, the only suppliers were stu-

customs desk with ease. One of those students was 28-year-old Taimur, who flew back and forth from Nottingham University in the UK at least once a year.

“In 1995 the average price for seven grams of cocaine in London

was approximately 500 pounds or Rs40,000. At the same time, a

gram sold in Karachi was never its full weight – at most it would

be sold as 0.7 of a gram. This way I was able to make 10 grams out of the seven I brought back, and without the need of stepping on it, I was able to sell it for Rs180,000 – making a profit of Rs140,000, for doing almost nothing.”

But what about the danger of smuggling a class A drug over in-

ternational borders? “I never felt any danger,” says Omer with a smile. “In 1995 Heathrow never checked anyone and as seven

grams is not a huge amount, I could easily hide it in my socks

or underwear. This was before 9/11 and it’s not like you had to take your shoes off at the security check. I used to calmly walk

through the metal detectors smiling at the customs officials. Even though I come from a wealthy background, I did not want

to spend my parents’ money on drugs, and this seemed the most

logical way to earn my drug money. Once I was back in Karachi, all I had to do was make 10 grams out of seven; I could keep some

for myself and make money on top of that. All of my customers were friends.”

So year after year, college kids came back with their stashes, and cocaine became more and more popular. But it was only available in limited quantities and was very expensive.

Today, it’s a completely different story. Walk into just about any

high-class party and you’ll see queues of men and women with

their rolled up noted and little plastic baggies waiting for the toilets to open up so they can have their sniff. Many times, lines

shame or fear. Supply is plentiful and everyone has a dealer on it is more from fear of having to share rather than from fear of be-

ing caught. This new drug culture has spawned its own language: while cocaine is called ‘Charlie’, ‘yayo’ or ‘blow’ in the West, here it

is called ‘safaid’, ‘chitta’ or simply ‘samaan’. The paraphernalia is also distinct – to cope with humidity that makes the powder damp, the coke is placed on heated plates to dry it out.

But it wasn’t until 2002 that the first official coke dealer finally

came into existence. His name here onwards will be referred to as

Mr X and I have been in touch with him for a couple of years. This wasn’t a part-time dealer with a few dozen grams, but someone

who could supply as much as you wanted, whenever you wanted it. Compared to today’s coke dealers, Mr X still functioned on a

small scale and only a few foreign returns had access to him and

they decided once again to profit by buying from him, mixing it and selling it forward.

One of those grads was Malick, an anorexic looking young man

with several tattoos on his arms. He twitches as he speaks and it is clear that Malick has perhaps used a bit too much of the drug

himself. Pulling out a little digital scale, he shows me how to ‘step’ on the coke. He puts one gram of cocaine powder on the

scales and adds 0.6 grams of baking soda to it. He then splits the pile into two weighing about 0.8 grams and puts them into little

packets each. The little that remains gets snorted up with relish.

Wiping the sweat off his forehead he says, “So a full gram of co-

caine would be bought for Rs10,000 and, after buying it, I would add 0.6 grams of baking soda or glucose to it. This way, I could sell it as two grams, with a 100% profit.”

Simple mathematics. Of course, while Malick used baking soda, other dealers use a variety of mixers, ranging from the harmless to the dangerous. Crushed Ritalin and caffeine pills, glucose

Coketionary: Freebase


The process of making freebase cocaine, the

purest form of cocaine, is by heating cocaine to produce vapors for inha-

lation. When you create freebase you neutralize the hydrochloride (HCI), leaving you with pure cocaine.

The practice of smoking cocaine is colloquially referred to as “freebasing.” Crack


Crack Cocaine, the street name given to a freebase form

of cocaine, has been processed from the powdered cocaine hydrochloride form to a smokable substance. Crack is typically 2 parts cocaine, 1 part baking soda and a little water heated gently to form crystals.

The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is




[step-ping]: Using a wide variety of ingredients to dilute or

cut the cocaine is known as ‘stepping’ on the cocaine.

SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

Wired [wiird]: State of being high on large amounts of cocaine

Speedball [speed-bawl]: Injection of a heroin and cocaine mixture

Cokeology 1 Nasal insufflations force cocaine to shoot up into the sinus cavity at 100 MPH, causing the mucus membrane to tear. Upon absorbing the cocaine the membrane passes it on to the small capillaries which constrict, depriving the tissue of blood and oxygen.

2 Cocaine reaches the heart when the capillaries enter bigger veins and arteries.

3 Cocaine is then distributed throughout the body and the brain via the heart.

4 A euphoric effect is then produced by the brain by activating the nerve cells that release dopamine.

powder, baby laxative and a variety of numbing agents including

novocaine and a powdered horse tranquiliser called Ketamine or ‘Special K’ are often used to increase the quantity and even simu-

late the effects of ‘pure’ cocaine in order to fool the unwary buyer. With the dawn of the new millennium, cocaine was truly king.

“In 2002, in areas such as KDA and DHA,” says Malick wistfully,

“I was selling 50-60 grams in a month, my cell phone was ringing all the time and I was making a lot of money while my own cocaine was free. I wish things were the same now.”

note of the rising popularity of coke and ecstasy and decided they

from Mr X and cut it before selling it, making a tidy profit. But

began to introduce coke and ecstasy on a larger scale by directly

Up until then, Malick and many others like him bought cocaine

the good days were about to come to an end.

Cocaine prices in the UK, which had, until then, been one of the main sources of supply, dropped but the rupee to pound conversion in 2005 was approximately double of what it had been in 1995. A gram of cocaine now cost Rs10,000 in Karachi, almost

as much as the purchase price in the UK. This meant that there

was no real profit to be had in bringing it to Pakistan in small quantities.

Now a slightly overweight man of 46, with a small white beard, Mr X is heavily in debt thanks to his own uncontrollable drug

habit. He says the ‘higher authorities’ in the drug business took

wanted a slice of this new and lucrative pie. Pakistan’s drug lords importing them from the West. Its supply was increased drastically and by 2006, small dealers like Mr X gave way to a nexus

of dealers all over the city. No longer was cocaine exclusive to a few people who would step on it and sell it, instead the dealers in their Honda Civics and freshly pressed clothes, were in touch

with everyone. Their phone numbers spread like wildfire and cocaine could now be delivered anywhere, at any time. And there was literally no limit to the quantity they could supply.

“People started getting larger shipments directly from South America and organised a nexus of dealers according to the areas

in Karachi. The same was done in Lahore,” says Muhammad, SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011


COVER STORY who has been dealing coke for the last four years and is one of the

making freebase cocaine, erroneously called crack in Pakistan, a

each selling more than 50 grams over the weekend . . . and still

“This is the trap we fall into, we keep the good stuff for ourselves

few dealers who don’t get high on their own supply. “We were are.”

“The main source of cocaine in Pakistan today is South America,”

confirms Shoaib Siddiqui, Director General Excise and Taxation. “Initially shipments were being sent by air but as you know from

recent news items, the largest cocaine bust in Asia was from a ship coming in from South America. The customs and the Coast

Guards are fully aware of this growing business and teams are conducting operations to curtail it.”

Collector of customs, Fatah Mohammad Sheikh, corroborates

that the supply route is now directly from South America, pointing to the seizure of 225 kilos of cocaine at Karachi port in October

last year. So why is it that apart from a scantily reported seizure,

cocaine hardly makes it into the news? Siddiqui has an explanation: “Yes, I do feel the use of cocaine is growing but it is diffi-

cult to crack down on once it arrives on land. Once the cocaine is

here, it is usually distributed amongst the affluent classes; it is

in homes, and not on the streets. We do not have any recent cases in the cities where we have busted cocaine. Our teams are aware that the problem is increasing but compared to other drugs, it’s use is extremely limited, hence it is much more difficult to crack down on. Apart from that, the techniques used for smuggling are also sophisticated.”

Another senior customs official said, on the condition of ano-

nymity, that officials know exactly who the dealers are, but that it is the police that needs to catch them.

Police officials, on the other hand, seem blissfully unaware of the scope of the problem, and even those who know about it dis-

miss it as a minor issue, saying that they have graver problems to deal with. Certainly, not a single cocaine-related arrest has been made in the city of Karachi, or any other city to the best of my knowledge.

These are some of the reasons cocaine use in Pakistan stays under the radar: it is exclusively the domain of the rich and powerful

and it is not (as yet) a visible social problem like heroin. But there may well be another reason. Take the October seizure of 225 kilos; if that cocaine had been directly sold onto the streets, its value

would be a staggering Rs2.25 bn. And this was only one shipment; it’s anyone’s guess as to how many have slipped through. That much money buys a great deal of silence.

The big fish and the users remain unknown and untouchable, but the ranks of the dealers see a great deal of attrition. Mr X, whose glory days are now far behind him, explains why: “While

we are dealing and making money, we think it will last forever. Inevitably, we start using our own product and given how addic-

tive it is, we get hooked. And it’s downhill from there.” As he


speaks, Mr X puts a gram of coke into a spoon and mixes it with

ammonia nitrate, and heats it over an open flame. He is now SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

more concentrated form of the drug.

and since it just doesn’t get us as high as before, we make crack

out of it, which is a very expensive habit.” By now the mixture in the spoon has evaporated, leaving behind concentrated powder.

“We start using more and more,” he says, “we start mixing the drug with various additives to make money and save the best for ourselves. This is why you usually get substandard coke in the city, and there are many others like me.”

He puts the remaining powder in a pipe, inhales and lets out a cloud of smoke, his eyes glazing over. He’s no longer a dealer, but

he’s certainly an addict – and has borrowed heavily to support his habit.

His story is an increasingly common one, and mirrors the effects of the drug itself. A fantastic initial high and euphoria, followed

by a crash, desperation and anxiety: this is the price the cocaine habit exacts from those who are habitual users of this drug.

“I regret it every time I do it,” says Murtaza who has been doing coke for over seven years. “The first 15 minutes are great but

then it’s just a nightmare. I feel irritated, struggle to talk, lose my confidence and feel it’s been a waste of money. I still do it because all my friends do it.”

Doctors agree that cocaine, when abused, will eventually lead to

irritation and aggression while the initial euphoria fades with

every use. The body begins to develop immunity, and users start to increase their dosage to chase an increasingly elusive high.

Given the amount of adulteration that takes place, some run the risk of serious neural damage: hands shake, jaws clench and teeth grind uncontrollably.

Even quitting has its own risks: Dr Saleem Azam, founder and

president of the Pakistan society has been treating addicts of all stripes for years. He says, “The negative consequences of withdrawal from cocaine use involve anxiety, sleeplessness, loss of concentration, and

many other psychological issues. Treatment can be given through anti-anxiety pills and tranquilisers.”

That said, he claims that only one patient has ever contacted him for treatment for cocaine addiction, but with increased use, that number is bound to increase, as will the number of people who suffer in silence.

As for the couple at the party, they are talkative, sociable, stimulated and on top of their game at the party ... for about 15 min-

utes. Then the euphoria ends. As the effects of the drug start to

wear off, He grinds and gnashes his teeth, moving his jaw from left to right. The girl takes another trip to the bathroom – this

time to splash cold water on her nose, to prevent a bleed from the snorting. Already, both are craving another couple of lines. Like

it or not, believe it or not, cocaine has captured the imagination

and the market, and it’s only going to get bigger. But where will we be when the high wears off? a

How it hooks you:

Cocaine addiction is a mainly psychological dependency on the regular use of cocaine. This may result in physiological damage, lethargy, psychosis, depression and fatal overdose.

Too much of a ‘good’ thing: Upon overdose victims suffer convulsions, heart failure, or the depression of vital brain centers controlling respiration, usually with fatal results. Warning signs a person is using cocaine:

bloodshot eyes nose bleeds anxiety attacks rapid or irregular heartbeat frequent mood swings dilated pupils increased weight loss because of suppressed appetite

Top Cocaine producers in the world: How it’s taken: The by

principal snorting,

methods smoking,

of doing injecting


cocaine are swallowing

Cocaine is primarily produced in Columbia, Peru and Boli South America. The above figures are from 2008.

Oral: Many users rub the powder along the gum line, or onto a cigarette filter which is then smoked. This numbs the gums and teeth. Coca leaves are typically mixed with lime and chewed into a wad that is retained in the mouth between gum and cheek.

Insufflations: Nasal insufflations, colloquially known as “snorting,” “sniffing,” or “blowing,” is the most common method of ingestion. Inhalation: Smoking is one of the several means cocaine is administered. It is smoked by inhaling the vapor by sublimating solid cocaine by heating.

This is your brain on coke:

Cocaine is chemically extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, which is indigenous to South America

Cocaine produces its euphoric effect by activating the nerve cells in the brain that release dopamine, a chemical associated with

pleasure and mental alertness. The drug then inhibits neural transporters from mopping up the dopamine and storing it for a

NOTE: Names have been changed to protect identities.

later time. The longer the dopamine stays active, the longer the


sense of euphoria lasts.

Source :

SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011


the sting

In their search for the ultimate high, addicts may have stumbled upon the strangest drug you have ever heard of. BY SOHAIL KHATTAK

Umer Gul could very easily pass for just another addict on the unforgiving streets of Karak in Khyber-Paktunkhwa. Dressed in a filthy shalwar kameez and scratching his nose, he wanders aimlessly. Suddenly, he stops short, stares at nothing in particular then starts mumbling to himself. Eight years ago he was quite different – a well-dressed, cheerful

young man with a bright future ahead of him. But even that sad story is one that a great deal of addicts and their families could identify with.

“Umer used to be a clerk in the army,” says his brother Muham-

mad Younas. “He would smoke a little hashish now and then

“He is harmless. He spends most of his time aimlessly walking around,” they are quick to point out.

26 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

with his friends, but I never thought that it was a big deal.”

What’s different about this story is Umer’s choice of drug. Ac-

cording to his family, Umer lost his mental health the day he

and his friends smoked a scorpion. Yes, you heard that right – a scorpion. The evil-looking arachnid with pincers and a poisonous sting at the end of its tail.

Umer was never the same again. “He left his job and started in-

dulging in bizarre and unusual habits,” says Younas.

Since the family could not afford to treat him, they let Umer

wander around the city. “He is harmless. He spends most of his time aimlessly walking around,” they are quick to point out.

Umer’s family blames the scorpion for robbing their son of

his mental health. “Scorpions are highly toxic,” Younas claims. “That is why my brother is like this.”

g in the tale Umer is not alone. There are numerous others who are in-

matter.” Across the border, India has been experiencing a similar

timate high. But even for the self-styled Nashayee Ustad (Drug

known as the chipkali. “These lizards are roasted over a flame and

volved in this practice, claiming to be on the quest for the ulMaster), Mohammad Tofail, scorpion smoking is something to be wary of. “When I first smoked scorpion mixed with charas (hashish) I had a huge out-of-body experience,” recalls the

47-year-old Tofail. “I couldn’t understand what was happening.” The experience made him swear off scorpion smoking for good,

trend. Their choice of poison is the common house gecko, better

then ground into a fine powder. The lizard powder is mixed with opium and used as a drug,” explains Marwat. Many claim that

the dried lizard augments the sedating effect of the opium, thus leading to a superior high.

Marwat says that scorpions do not have any of the intoxicating

“My body and mind were over-stimulated. My friends later told

or sedative chemicals that are present in cannabis or hashish.

would never touch the stuff again.”

tion when the scorpion bites somebody,” Marwat explained. “If

me that I spent 60 minutes shouting and crying. I decided that I But exactly how do you smoke scorpions in the first place?

“The process for preparing a scorpion for smoking is quite time-con-

suming,” Tofail explains. “The dead scorpion must first be put out in the sun to dry for a few days. It is vital that you keep it away from ants

and other insects. When the scorpion is dry, it is crushed with tobacco and mixed with hashish; only then can it be smoked.”

“Scorpion venom contains an acidic fluid which causes irritait contained sedatives or anaesthetics, it would sedate the place

where it bit rather than causing pain.” The doctor speculated that the scorpion could have some substance in its limbs or abdomen

which may have sedative effects but as there was no research or written material on this topic, he could not claim anything. The

lack of research also made it impossible to determine if it was in-

By and large, health experts are unaware of this alarming

deed smoking dried scorpion that had altered the mental balance

tion is Dr Mohammad Shoaib Marwat, Chief Medical Officer at

ly ill after smoking scorpions. But perhaps scorpion smoking was

trend, and unsure of its effects on the human body. The excep-

the Karachi Dock Labour Board. Marwat has witnessed scorpion smoking first-hand and believes it is a common practice in many

areas of the country. “I have seen numerous people smoking dried scorpions in chillums [a straight conical clay pipe used to smoke tobacco or drugs],” says Marwat. “But I am unsure of its effects on

the human body since there has been no relevant research in this

of individuals. “We can’t say for sure that a man becomes mentala trigger for his mental illness. He could have become mentally unstable from excessive smoking of hashish or using other drugs and injections”.

Drug addicts are on a constant quest for the ultimate high.

Those who can afford to, consume designer drugs and those who can’t make do with hashish, scorpions and geckos. a

FACT: Though the scorpion has a fearsome reputation for be-

ing venomous, only about 25 species have venom capable of killing a human being.

27 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011


nothing to sniff at

Revered by the Incas, promoted by 19th century intelligentsia and reviled by modern authorities, the coca leaf and the cocaine that is produced from it have had a long and tumultuous history

QUITE A MOUTHFUL South American Indians have grown various varieties of the

Erythroxylum coca or coca plant for thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands of years. While coca was officially reserved for Incan royalty, evidence shows that it was widely chewed by the common people as well. It was used for religious, medicinal social

and military purposes, and was renowned for its ability to ward off fatigue, suppress appetite and provide the energy needed to

cope with living in the high altitudes of the Andean mountains.

The vitamins and minerals present in the coca leaves also made it a useful dietary supplement. The practice of chewing coca leaves

continues to this day, with Bolivian President Evo Morales being a leading proponent.

FROM ‘GIFT OF THE GODS’ TO ‘AGENT OF THE DEVIL’ When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in South America, they

initially banned coca as ‘an evil agent of the devil.’ Once they

realised that their Indian subjects would not work in the mines

without their dose of coca, moral concerns gave way to monetary imperatives and the Spanish conquerors decided to allow coca chewing, even going so far as to tax the crop.

EAT, DRINK AND GET WIRED It wasn’t until 1863, that coca reached Europe in a big way. A

Corsican chemist Angelo Mariani heard of the properties of this plant and thought it would help make his fortune – but figured

he wouldn’t be able to get Europeans to chew it. Instead, he de-

cided to mix it with wine, which was already socially acceptable and could disguise the taste of coca. He came up with Vin Mariani – a coca wine which instantly became a huge hit. Inventor Thomas Edison and playwright Henrik Ibsen praised it and Pope

Leo XIII awarded Mariani a papal gold medal. Soon there were a


host of coca products, from lozenges to tea. SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

THE FREUDIAN SNIFF Research on the effects of coca continued, with its military ap-

plication being of special interest to high authorities. Finally, cocaine hydrochloride, the active ingredient, was isolated and made available at pharmacies for ‘medical’ purposes. But cocaine

as we know it was introduced to society at large by a 29 year old medical student named…Sigmund Freud. Apart from being the ‘father of psychoanalysis’, Freud is also probably the first well-

known cocaine addict in history. Trying it on himself, he soon

began to send it to his family and friends and started to prescribe it to his patients for everything from flatulence to depression. He even sent some to his fiancé, writing: ‘Woe to you, my Princess, when I come... you shall see who is the stronger, a gentle girl who doesn’t eat enough or a big wild man who has cocaine

in his body.’ Cocaine also became the drug of choice for a great

many writers and artists and began to feature in literature. Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes used cocaine extensively, and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde while on a six day cocaine binge.

COCAINE AS A CURE-ALL…AND A CURSE The pharmaceutical industry loved it. Cocaine was the ‘miracle cure’ they had been waiting for, and suddenly the market was

filled with tonics, syrups and sprays that contained cocaine. Prominent among these were Rayno’s Hay Fever remedy, a pure

cocaine solution, and Lloyd’s cocaine toothache drops for children. By 1900, cocaine was in the top five pharmaceutical products in the US and was selling for around $2.50 per gram. But this

is also around the same time that the first real wave of cocaine

addiction hit, exacerbated by the practice of prescribing cocaine as a cure for morphine addiction. With deaths due to recreational cocaine abuse overtaking those due to medical misadventure, the

world began to realise that there was a problem here. Unsurprisingly, many cocaine addicts were in the medical profession, with

as many as 30% of cocaine addicts in the US circa 1901 being dentists.

BANNING COCAINE Over the next few years, the American public started to get con-

cerned about cocaine’s addictive nature, and public pressure eventually led to legislation. Cocaine was added to the list of nar-

cotics to be outlawed by the passing of The Dangerous Drug Act

of 1920, though it remained available at some pharmacies and in

many products. The British, on the other hand, were not so keen to ban cocaine, as they were afraid such a ban on one addictive

drug may lead to action against opium, from which they earned huge profits by selling it to the Chinese. The case in America was

different, with public pressure having forced Coca-Cola to re-

31 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

CONTEXT move cocaine from its product as early as 1903.

THE REAL THING? That’s right, Coca Cola once contained actual cocaine. In the

1880s, an Atlanta-based chemist named John Pemberton came up with a liquid tonic containing caffeine, and alcohol, which

he names Coca-Cola (Coca for the Cocaine and Cola for the Kola nuts from which caffeine was obtained. However, he soon fell ill due to his morphine addiction and sold the formula to Asa Can-

dler, owner of an Atlanta drug store chain for $2,300. When he dies 30 years later, Candler was worth $50 million. The original formula is estimated to have contained almost 9 milligrams of cocaine per glass. Three Cokes would provide roughly 30 milligrams of cocaine, which compares with the 20 to 30 milligrams

normally “snorted” in a day by a contemporary cocaine user. However, when the US Congress passed the Pure Food and Drugs Law in 1906, the highly religious Candler removed the cocaine from the product, sending the coca leaves to another company

for chemically extracting the cocaine and sending the ‘safe’ pulp to his factories.

WAR WITHOUT END Today, the illegal cocaine trade is estimated to be a multi-trillion

dollar industry, fed by seemingly inexhaustible global demand. The economies of several South American countries have been

seriously subverted by the rise of the parallel narco-economy and its global trade has led to the rise of narco-barons like the infa-

mous (and deceased) Pablo Escobar of Colombia. Today, Mexican gangs are thought to be at the forefront of the cocaine trade, act-

ing as the main buyers and shippers of South American cocaine, and are considered a serious security threat for the Mexican gov-

ernment. The United States currently tops the world in cocaine

use, with consumption estimated at 457 metric tons a year in 2007. The extent of the demand can be gauged by the fact that

in 2009, a survey by a University of Massachusetts professor estimated that up to 90% of currency notes in major American cities have traces of cocaine.a

NOTE: The information in this article has been culled from various sources. 32 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011


rohtas fort — the t

“There it stands, sprawling across low rocky hills a few miles north of Jhelum, its great ramparts growing from the cliff like a Wall of China, looking across a sandy stream-bed to the low hills of the Salt Range and, beyond them, to the snows of the Pir Panjal. “As you approach the fort, the crenellations look like ominous rows of helmeted warriors watching you with disapproval — it is an awe-inspiring sight.” — Sir Olaf Caroe, The Pathans, 1958. TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY UMAIR JAFFAR

Rohtas Fort is one of the finest specimens of pre-Mughal military architecture. It is probably one of the only surviving early Muslim structure in Pakistan. Built on top of a steep cliff on the right bank of the River Kahan, Rohtas once commanded the medieval trade route of the Shahi road or Shah Rah-e-Azam (now known as Grand Trunk Road or, simply as, the GT Road). The foundation of the fort was laid in 1541 by Sher Shah Suri,

who is labelled as “the most illustrious Afghan in history” by Sir Olaf Caroe. Sher Shah named Rohtas after the older hill

fortress of Rohtasgarh in Bihar (now in India) that had been captured by him three years earlier.

Ironically, Rohtas was never used for the purpose for which

it was built. Sher Shah died in 1545, his reign lasting barely six

years. His death quickly led to the fall of his empire and only ten years later a triumphant Humayun returned to his throne. Tatar Khan Khasi, the then governor of Rohtas, fled without

a battle. In the years to come, Rohtas lost its importance as the frontier garrison especially when Humayun’s son Akbar built his great fort in Attock in the 1580s.

36 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

treasure of potohar

“I have been the abode of Muslim kings. Sher Shah Suri made me immortal by constructing a magnificent and inconceivable fortress around me. I was the center of his military might. My eternal fame is a proud part of History. In those days I had abundance or wealth and riches. Those were the days of my prosperity.�


The towering remains of Haveli Man Singh SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

The outer wall and bastions of the fort with the merlon-shaped battlements which are equipped with loopholes to pour molten lead or oil onto besieging forces.

A small shrine at the Khwas Khani Gate on the eastern wall of the fort.

Sohail gate is one of the finest examples of masonry work from the time of Sher Shah Suri.


Inside the mighty walls of the fort are signs of centuries of neglect.

SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

The elaborate façade of the Sohail gate, flanked by a large U-shaped bastion. The gate was probably used for triumphal entries. Under the Mughals, Rohtas was left largely to itself. The

A fading Urdu sign board titled “The story of Rohtas in its own words”

have briefly stayed at Rohtas en route to Kashmir. The Persian

“I have been the abode of Muslim kings. Sher Shah Suri made

Mughal emperors Akbar and his son Jehangir are known to

invader Nadir Shah and the Afghan ruler Ahmed Shah Abdali

also camped here during their campaigns in the Punjab. Rohtas was also occasionally used for administrative purposes by the

Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh and during the British period but little attention was paid to its historical value and its preservation.

The fort is now a national protected monument and a Unesco

world heritage site. Few of the original buildings erected in the

inner citadel survive today. Amongst these perhaps the most

enigmatic building is Haveli Man Singh. This domed tower is named after one of Akbar’s greatest generals and is the only surviving example of Hindu architecture within the fort.

welcomes and bids farewell to the visitors of Rohtas. It reads:

me immortal by constructing a magnificent and inconceivable

fortress around me. I was the center of his military might. My eternal fame is a proud part of History. In those days I had

abundance or wealth and riches. Those were the days of my prosperity.

“Centuries have since passed. The era of atomic power then

came. Science has given man the power to eradicate entire humanity from the face of this earth in a single instance. Now my

once indubitable significance and grandeur means nothing. And the magnificence of this fort collapsed and crushed in pieces.” a

39 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011


rethink mint!

Mint is one of the most versatile herbs you can have in your kitchen garden.


There is arguably no other herb as versatile as mint: whether it is a savoury dish or a dessert, this aromatic herb adds taste with its amazing range of flavours from soothingly mild to pleasantly sharp. It is the perfect finishing touch to put on just about anything that needs a bit of green garnish and sometimes shines through as a star on its own. Its distinct flavour has made it popular in every culture. Mint

adds mellowness to raitas, enhances curries, lends flavour to barbeques and salads alike, refreshes drinks and creates a mouth-

watering fusion of sharp and gentle flavours when added to chocolate desserts. A glass of mint lassi on a hot day will leave you

refreshed and mint tea on a cold winter evening is something I always look forward to.

This herb is not only popular in the cooking world but is also a

well-known digestive aid. It improves circulation, helps in chills,

colds, fevers and congestion. Mint tea is used to ease heartburn and nausea.

Is there any reason not to grow this miracle herb in your gar-

den? Absolutely not! So here is how to get started. Growing mint in your garden

Mint, most commonly known as pudina in the subcontinent,

belongs to the family Lamiaceae. The most popular types of mint

40 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

The word mint comes from the nymph Minthe of Greek myth, who was transformed into a mint plant.

species are peppermint and spearmint. Mint is a fast spreading perennial that grows best in moist and nutrient rich soil. It thrives in partial shade and a cool place. Summers bring delicate white flowers to these lush, green plants.

Grow mint in your kitchen garden to make use of its anti-para-

sitic qualities. Mint helps repel aphids, ants, fleas, rats, mosquitoes and while attracting bees that pollinate your garden. Still,

the plant is prone to certain diseases, one of which is mint rust, a fungal attack that makes dusty orange or pale yellow spots ap-

pear on its stems. It is best to replace the plants with new ones if you see such symptoms.

Mint has invasive roots, so confine the plant into containers

where its roots will not spread horizontally and bother other plants.

Although mint plants produce seeds and can be grown using

those seeds, it’s an unreliable practice. There is a much faster way to grow your plants by taking root or stem cuttings.

For stem cuttings, simply select a healthy stem and make a

cutting of about 8cm. Pinch off the new growth and plant this new stem into the soil. Water and cover with a plastic bag to retain moisture, so that the new seedlings will not dry out. For root

cuttings, water your plant a day ahead. Carefully take out the plant and use a sharp gardener’s knife or a cutter to divide the

Pick your favourite mint tea Nane-limon Nane-limon (mint-lemon) is a famous Turkish mint tea that is made by squeezing a lemon wedge and infusing a sprig of mint into boiling water. It is usually served as an after dinner beverage. Saunf-pudina To make this refreshing drink, boil a tablespoon of fennel seeds with a bunch of mint leaves. Refrigerate and take a few sips several times a day. Make your own blend Mint goes well with most herbs, especially lavender. You can make ginger-mint tincture or add mint to punjabi masala chai. There are endless combinations to try.

roots and re-pot each new plant into large containers.

In a few weeks you will have your own new dense mint plants.

Simply pick some sprigs to add a little minty surprise to your favourite appetiser, meal, beverage, or dessert.

Go plant some mint and enjoy every bit of this remarkable



41 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011



you glad I wrote this recipe? BY POPPY AGHA

Sail away on a citrus adventure.

September usually marks the shift of weather from summer towards the auburn hues of autumn. That is unless you live in Karachi, where it’s summer all year round. Fortunately or unfortunately, availability of fruit is not dictated by the two Karachi seasons: hot and hotter. You find that at the beginning

of this month, hints of orange enter the vendor’s stall with that familiar tantalising citrus aroma. Warmth and vitality married perfectly with freshness and zest is to me the perfect description

of the orange. While full of nourishment, the gravity of its goodness doesn’t bring you down, as the mischief of its tanginess is the perfect uplifting counterbalance.

What are the first desserts that come to mind when consider-

ing the orange? There’s the good ole Crepe Suzette for the elegant

connoisseur, something more obscure like Orange Granita for the hipster chick, or the wholesome citrus toffee pudding for the nostalgic. I thought, why not a mixture this time?

So with a little low-fat desi paneer, brown bread, sugar and

butter, we have a fused version of these three things, and I have


named it, most unimaginatively, Orange Boats. Enjoy! a SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

You will find that at the beginning of this month, hints of orange enter the vendor’s stall with that familiar tantalising citrus aroma. Warmth and vitality married perfectly with freshness and zest is to me the perfect description of the orange


Sugar - 2 ½ tsp

Salted Butter - 1 ½ tsp Brown Bread - 1 Slice

Soft Low Fat Paneer - 2 tsp Method: Cut the orange in half and scoop out the centre. Do not throw the scooped out orange away as you will use it later.

Heat the butter in a pan and add in the sugar. As soon as the butter starts sizzling and half the sugar has melted, add the slice of bread. Allow the bread to soak in the sugary butter and keep cooking it on a medium flame.

Add the reserved orange to the pan while continuously cooking for another 4 mins and then add in the paneer. Once the paneer is properly mixed in turn the flame off.

Let the mixture cool and scoop it into the orange boats and serve!

47 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011


The sound of ponies softly snorting and blowing comes through swirls of early morning mist. The silver greyness is pierced by the branches of sombre green pines whose moisture-laden needles glitter while a chill breeze blows. Summer — a long, miserably damp one this year — is drawing to a close and, up in the high mountains, autumn is already sneaking in and pushing nomadic herders down towards lower, softer climes. The sharp smell and waking sounds of ponies is the first in-

dication of a Gujjar nomad camp at their traditional, biannual, camping ground on the other side of my home mountain. Their usual trekking route from summer grazing grounds in Azad

Kashmir down to wintering places in the plains of Punjab is through the main Kashmir Highway, which is not far from here. They are making their downward trek early this year, which makes me wonder what they have deduced about the

winter to come. It is usually the beginning of October before they pass through here.

Gujjar nomads on the move

A welcoming voice calls out “Assalam alaikum, Zahrah. Come

to the fire. Drink tea, eat. Come…come.”

With winter around the corner, nomads and refugee tribes are on the move


It is my old friend Rabia striding proudly towards me in a

were growing rapidly, goats and sheep were nicely fattened

I later learn, she has spent much of the summer stitching by

stocks of ghee and cheese carefully stored in old oil tins and the

heavily embroidered, luminous, pink and green outfit which, hand. Of medium height, slim and wildly elegant, Rabia spar-

kles with inborn pride, her very walk declaring independence and a freedom increasingly rare in the mad world of today. We generally meet, for no more than a few hours, each spring and

autumn when her small tribe passes by here and have been do-

like, her children were doing well and her husband — a silent figure wrapped in chador lounging by their makeshift tent —

was watchful of his family as always. Once satisfied that I too had brought her up to date about garden and orchard produce,

my dogs, work, the wonderful man in my life and an upcom-

ing so for the last 12 years. Rabia usually sends one of her five

ing venture in Afghanistan, we switched over to business.

the off chance that I will be home. Each time she has specific

I would trade vegetables and herbs for wild mountain honey;

children down to invite me to join her or simply drops by on

bartering plans in mind, along with a proffered gift — the same

one twice a year — that she is eager to bestow but which I have yet to accept. This morning was no different.

She would trade ghee and cheese for my homemade chutneys;

she would exchange an embroidered chador for cloth to make

winter outfits for her two daughters; I could borrow a pony for half a day — longer if I liked, as they were resting up for two

As we squatted around her smoky camp fire sipping equally

nights not one, in return for a pair of old shoes for her husband.

ing gur, we firstly, as is customary, catch up on the meaning-

face and hands with tribal tattoos as a mark of friendship and

smoky green tea and eating piping hot roti sprinkled with melt-

52 48

on alpine grasses, medicinal and culinary herbs gathered in,

ful generalities of life: The ponies were doing well, the foals SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

And then the gift: she would do a beautiful job of decorating my

acceptance after which I should walk with them, even winter


with them, stay with them for as long as I liked as our ‘sister-

hood’ would be complete. All was agreed upon except, as usual, the tattoos and the walk although, I openly admit, both are extremely tempting!

The pony, a dark brown mare with multi-coloured tassels

woven into her mane and a highly ornate, embroidered saddle, was more than happy to carry me along twisting forest trails

through dripping undergrowth and magical birdsong before

enjoying a fast canter along a wide, grassed-over track to yet another camping ground. This camping ground, of a very different nature from the first, had actually been my original destination. A scattering of multi-coloured tents, this camp is the

summer home of an extended family of Afghan refugees who customarily sell machine-made chadors, children’s plastic toys

and, of late, car accessories, at spots along the side of the main road. I first met one of the men of this particular family in Af-

ghanistan back in 1983, and was astonished when he called out Afghan flower of the forest.

Afghan girl

a stunned greeting on The Mall in Murree five years ago. In this camp I am not Zahrah; here I am Banafsha, the Afghan name

given to me by the Mujahideen. Here too, I sat around a smoky

campfire, drank smoky green tea and unwillingly swallowed the greasy bowl of sheep’s head broth that I was given. At this time — it was late morning by now — the men and boys were

all off working, the men selling their wares, the boys collecting

recyclable garbage for onward sale so the women and girls were free to chat and laugh. They will not leave for Peshawar, which

is where they spend their winters, yet. They will hang on un-

til either the tourists have thinned out badly enough to reduce income to almost nil, or until the nights get too cold for camping out — or until the local people, from whom they rent their

campsite, decide that they have had enough of Afghans for now and demand a much higher rent thus forcing them to vacate

and move on. These Afghan refugees do not have the herds and traditions of the Gujjars. They will hire trucks, load them up

with whatever wares they have left, along with tents and firewood, for the drive to Peshawar. Once there, they will rent a

house for the winter and send at least the boys to school for a few months. They are seasonal, economic migrants rather than nomads, yet their way of life draws me too. In this camp we do

not barter. Small gifts are exchanged as is customary and here too tattoos are offered and refused along with ear piercings.

My visit with the Afghans over, the pony transported me,

through gentle drizzle, back to Rabia’s camp where arrangements were made for her children to come down, carrying Ra-

bia’s half of the bartering, to collect her due. As I walked down the mountain track towards my home, I reflected on just how wonderful and peaceful humanity can actually be.A

SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

53 49


film `

here comes the bride BY SAIM SADIQ

Katrina Kaif is a star. Bollywood really hasn’t played host to a bigger female celebrity since Madhuri Dixit; a stunner who can command a huge opening weekend, guarantee box-office success and effortlessly provide the viewer his money’s worth just by flashing a smile or knocking a thumka clear out of the park. Who cares if the film was trashy? Katrina wore a mini in it! While that’s the public perception of the half-Caucasian girl, it is heartening to see Madame Sheila herself not being content with only being a picture-perfect showpiece, and hence trying her level best to experiment with roles and try to become an actual actress. Clearly, her ex-boyfriend, whose Bodyguard created moneymaking history for the industry last week, needs a lesson on craft dedication from her. Katrina Kaif is learning how to act, even when she seems to be doing just fine without it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the most important thing about Yash Raj’s latest Mere Brother Ki Dulhan in which our Ali Zafar plays big brother to Kush (Imran Khan) in a film that dedicatedly sticks to its masala roots. So younger brother Kush is out to find a bride for his elder brother Luv (Why would you name your characters thus?) and finally hits upon the perfect bride in the form of Dimple (Katrina Kaif). There is not much of a story to tell after that, which is why you might end up finding yourself either fairly amused or completely bored. However the general likeability surrounding the proceedings, especially in the first half, is undeniable, thanks to director Ali Abbas Zafar. Much credit also goes to some engaging music, witty dialogues and the three main actors. Our Pakistani export, Ali Zafar, might just be the first actor from this side of the border to have actually made a mark on India’s film industry. He is, without a bias, the pick of the lot as he seems remarkably at ease in a role that requires both charisma and great timing. Zafar, surprisingly, has both, and he gets to shake a leg with 50 Katrina. Quite a lottery for our Channo-boy! SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

Watch it for Katrina and our Channoboy! Ali Zafar gets to shake a leg with Katrina – quite a lottery for our boy!

Imran Khan – always looking like he’s ready to endorse Ponds cream or a vanilla ice-cream – does well, in spite of not having the typical ‘hero’ image that the film could have benefited from. Khan seems to know that acting is not his strength just yet and that works in his favour, as he doesn’t try too hard and you end up warming up to him. And finally, back to the lady — Katrina Kaif actually does rather well in this film. Though most of her A-league contemporaries still command a better hold of the craft, Kaif might not be behind for too long now. As for the film in itself, it’s endearing and funny because of its unpretentious ‘entertainer’ roots, but Ali Abbas ends up stretching the tale and the second half is nowhere near as much fun as the first. Originality and subtlety are nowhere to be found in a theatre screening this film but if that’s what you are looking for, I suggest you don’t enter it in the first place. I am going with 3 out of 5 for Mere Brother Ki Dulhan. An unmemorable film that makes for a pleasant weekend outing, it’s a full-blown ode to the most outdated love triangle template of Bollywood.

film `

Coming back to life BY RAFAY MAHMOOD

Though I reached the theatre mere minutes before the evening show of Reema’s latest offering, Love Mein Ghum, contrary to all expectations, more than half the cinema was available for booking. Reema’s sophomore directorial venture features a star-studded cast: Muammar Rana, Javed Sheikh, Jia Ali, Nadeem Baig, Nabeel Khan, Ali Saleem, Johny Lever, Afzal Khan (Rambo), and, of course, Reema herself in the lead role. But this adaptation of Paulo Coelho’s novel Veronica Decides to Die barely passes as a decent piece of film-making. In fact, only fifteen people stayed till the end of the film, a testimony to the quality of entertainment on offer. Reema plays a library assistant at a Malaysian university, whose name is Maria Joseph but who, for some odd reason is called ‘Zindagi’. Zindagi is disappointed in love with Wilson (Nabeel Khan), a student at the university, who, despite coming from an Englishspeaking origin, speaks with a heavy Pakistani. Side by side, Ali (Muammar Rana) is a man whose father (Javed Sheikh) ignores him, choosing instead to shower attention on his wife (a smouldering Jia Ali). After a failed suicide attempt, Ali and Zindagi end up falling in love at a rehabilitation centre where Dr Kanwal (Nadeem) comes to their rescue. The story might seem predictable right now, but to find out how hilariously pointless it is, one actually has to watch the movie. Towards the end, the director raises false hopes of an unexpected twist but that attempt soon peters out. The film as a whole is under-directed and underperformed with some of the legends of Pakistani cinema being wasted in their roles. There are a couple of perfect long takes in the movie which signify the command Nadeem Baig and Javed Sheikh have over acting; one wishes there was more for them to deliver. Rana no longer has the gandasa and looks good without a huge moustache while the best that can be said about Reema’s performance is that at least she is not dancing around in the fields of Punjab. It seems that while the actors’ attires have undergone transformation, their dialogue delivery and expressions have not moved on. Johnny

One giant leap for Reema One small step forward for Pakistani cinema

Lever fails to fake a Sindhi accent, Rambo does a good job of being Rambo and Ali Saleem gives ‘Begum Nawazish’ a film appearance, nothing more than that. The attempted comedy of errors by the three of them doesn’t make sense. A decent script can be the saving grace of any film; but Love Mein Ghum is replete with bad one-liners accompanied by excessive dialogue where visuals could have easily done the job. The repeated use of the word ‘Zindagi’ with the character’s name does not have the effect intended. The film hits a real low when Zindagi, waking up after her attempted suicide, asks the doctor: “Kia yeh jannat hai?” The music here is as good as bad 80s Bollywood music, although Reema got all the renowned playback singers from Bollywood to sing for this film. Reema does take Pakistani cinema forward by a baby step with Luv Mein Gum. The film is well-shot and edited, the supporting dancers are beautiful and Reema looks stunning most of the time. But that’s as far as it goes. One wishes that more of an effort had been made with the scriptwriting and directing – then perhaps we would have a truly groundbreaking Pakistani film. 51 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011


film `

Swords and Sorcery BY NOMAN ANSARI

When it comes to films with gore-infested action and gratuitous nudity, there definitely are cinema-goers eager to form a queue. And of both, Conan the Barbarian (2011) has plenty: You will witness limbs being chopped off; men gutted alive; women clawed in the face by large metallic finger nails; scantily clad vixens gracing scenes at random; running horses smashed on the nostrils with heavy chains; villains getting their noses sliced off and then tortured by having fingers thrust inside. But while many do enjoy a good bloody boisterous frolic, this 3D swords and sorcery movie, based on the character created by Robert E Howard in 1932, is simply not it. The biggest issue is how the film is directed. Marcus Nispel, a man with over a thousand commercials, music videos and remakes of slasher films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and Friday the 13th (2009) to his credit, seems completely inept at characterisation or choreographing swordplay. While his repertoire does suggest that he is better at special effects and violence — aside from an interesting scene involving magical sand monsters — Conan the Barbarian, fails at both miserably. The worst of it are the 3D effects, which feel completely artificial, with some scenes looking like pages from popup books. The narrative isn’t particularly strong either. Set in the Hyborian Age, the film begins with the birth of Conan on the battlefield, after his mortally wounded mother asks his father Corin (Ron Perlman), the leader of the Cimmerian barbarians, to perform what I can only imagine to be a C-section, so that she can see her son before taking her final breath. Later, when Conan has grown up to be a powerful and brave warrior, his tribe is attacked by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), a warlord looking to reunite pieces of a powerful magical mask, a piece of which Corin possesses. Khalar Zym, who plans to use this mask to raise his dead sorceress wife, leaves everyone in the tribe for 52 dead, except for – you guessed it, Conan. SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

bloody hell Just another mystical wallet draining mumbo jumbo gore-fest

The rest of the tale takes place twenty years later, when grown up Conan (Jason Momoa), seeks revenge for the annihilation of his village, while Khalar Zym, with the aid of his creepy sorceress daughter Marique (Rose McGowan), seeks out a pureblood monk, Tamara (Rachel Nichols), to complete his evil ritual. While most of the actors were adequately chosen, the casting of Jason Momoa as Conan feels like a giant misstep. With his pretty face, smooth, gleaming chest, tanned skin, shampooed hair, and silky smooth voice, Momoa seems more like a surfer from Hawaii, than a vicious barbarian. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played the role in the 1982 movie, wasn’t some award-winning version of Conan either. But, with his barely decipherable accent, hard features, and unkempt look, at the very least, he looked the part. Compared to Arnie, Jason Momoa makes for a very metrosexual Conan. And compared to cinematic iterations of Conan from the past, this 2011 film is a real bloody waste. A


10 things I hate about ... KESC

1 2 3 4 5


Load-shedding and its carefully handpicked hours. If

you’re thinking of oversleeping on a weekend, KESC will jerk you up sweaty and disoriented at 10am. If you

dare to crawl into bed for a leisurely siesta at 3pm on your only day off, KESC will surely ruin your plans and

if you’re planning on watching your favourite show at 9pm, don’t even bother!

The tall claims. Each year I hear there will be no loadshedding the next year. I think KESC optimistically as-

sumes that by next year the majority of us will be dead

by the heat thanks to the lethal combination of loadshedding and global warming. Hence, no load. Therefore, no shedding!

Its effect on my nephew. The fact that his first words

were, “Light gayee” instead of “Mama” is plain sad.

Even sadder is the fact that his second words turned out to be “Light aa gaye” and still not “Mama”. His mama is very upset and we’re all hoping his third word isn’t the expletive his grandfather uses each time the light goes. Fingers crossed!

KESC’s never-ending dramas. If KESC starred on Star Plus, she would be the sad Bahu. Her husband, the government, would have a severely dysfunctional relationship with her. Her saas Wapda would demand huge sums

of money all the time. The playful dewarani SSGC would keep her on her toes.

No real resolutions to the drama. Even when all of the issues in KESC’s life are resolved, there is always another rift, another fight, another breakdown waiting to happen.

54 SEPTEMBER 18-24 2011

6 7 8 9 10

KESC’s resilience and bravado. Despite the death

threats, my daily curses, and the range of expletives it receives from the entire city, KESC does what it must without fail.

Our own resilience and bravado. Fully knowing that our calls to their customer support, our violent protests on the streets and our daily curses are in vain and do not

change a single thing about KESC, why do we bother with them in the first place?

The price hikes. The fact that we have to pay more and more for less and less is plain retarded!

How people who live close to certain other people in important positions in certain secure areas get 24/7 bijli. Enough said.

The fact that I have to write this while the bijli is gone and I am drenched in my own sweat hoping, just

hoping, that maybe KESC will have mercy on us tonight and I will eat my dinner in peace with the lights on,

watch the latest episode of The Office and hear my nephew finally say “Mama”! a

The Express Tribune Magazine - September 18  

The Express Tribune Magazine for September 18th 2011