It seems like I had been on a blogging sabbatical since forever since I couldn't manage time between work and painting and what not. I've been listening to Bee Gees again lately contrary to the preferred noise called music these days. A song by them that has been on my playlist repeat mode is 'You win again' that I have been enjoying with Coco (my feathered lady). And I wonder how apt the lyrics are if you picture a drowning situation and personify the waves:

I'm gonna break down your defenses
One by one
I'm gonna hit you from all sides
Lay your fortress open wide
Nobody stops this body from taking you

A few days ago, we were invited by Pakistan Life Saving Foundation (PALS Rescue) to their Command & Control Center to have us acquainted with their noble cause of providing life saving services along the beaches of Karachi. If you see a lifeguard, that person belongs to this organisation, not to mention that you have to obey him as well. It's quite unfortunate that such a respectable profession is often neglected and not given much heed to.

I am myself not proud of the fact that a few years ago when once or twice I went to the beach amidst the high tides (I remember it was September), I was one of those people who waited for the lifeguard to disappear so that I could go neck deep in the water despite not knowing how to swim ... well, guilty as not charged! "Know your limits and do not cross them. If you do not know how to swim, do not be delusional about it or assume that you can swim," says, Syed Muhammad Ahsan, the jovial Chief Administrator at PALS Rescue who has been associated with this NGO ever since its inception back in 2004 when it was formed out of dire necessity. He had stories to tell, most of them sad because we people don't generally take lifeguards seriously and often end up risking or in extreme cases losing their lives in the monsoon season when they get carried away assuming that they can go far off and not digested by the rough sea. However, fortunately for us, PALS Rescue has been able to bring the drowning rate to near ZERO and till date has saved almost 5,000 lives and conducted over 7,000,000 (7 million) preventive actions.

PALS Rescue is closely associated with Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) that at their inception provided training to 175 lifeguards and continues doing so from time to time. Unlike us, belong to urban chaos or call it urban Heaven, these lifeguards are highly trained and have been friends with the sea since perhaps their infancy, they know how to tame the tides just like a zoo keeper may know how to tame the tiger. However, in both cases you have to know how to read the temperament and body language or the beasts otherwise even the most skilled people may succumb to Darwinism while having their judgement questioned.

The scenic ultramarine blue beach in a picturesque view as seen through the windows of PALS Rescue's Control & Command Center

Chief Administrator, Syed Muhammad Ahsan (Right) along with Patrol Captain, Muhammad Anwar (L)
One of the best things about PALS Rescue is that they employ lifeguards from the local fishermen community that is the best fit for this job and at the same time are provided an alternate means of livelihood when the fishing season is off. More than 250 of them are employed as lifeguards and the number even increases when the demand is high, for instance during the monsoon season when the excitement and beach footfall is uncontrollably high. 

Ahsan told us about the rip current which most were oblivious of. Do you recall the wave that is seemingly calm amidst the furious waves, comes around and then goes all the way back dragging you? That's the murderous rip current. AVOID it at all cost!
We are such a close knit culture, that we even try our best to die together. For example, as also highlighted by the PALS team, entire families or a groups of friends end up drowning together. That's because when one is in trouble and is drowning, the rest of the family members dive in trying to save that one person, thus leading to a chain reaction with all losing their lives one by one. So what do you do when you see someone in trouble at the beach especially if it's the monsoon season?

1. Call the lifeguard nearest you and ask for help knowing that he is an expert.
2. Do not waste time thinking for alternate options and because the response time is 3 minutes.
3. Do not think you are a mermaid and who will save that person and avoid diving in yourself if you are not a swimmer.
4. Pray to God for the life of that person who is being rescued and that of the lifeguard's who is risking his own life to safe him/her.
5. Once the drowning victim is out, let the lifeguard perform CPR so as to stabilise that person and then take that him/her to the nearest hospital.

It is of utmost importance that you do not opt for a beach spot that is completely deserted just for the sake of privacy because in case you need help, there will be no one to hear you. 

PALS store room fully equipped with life saving equipment
After a thorough briefing by Ahsan and the Patrol Captain, Muhammad Anwar, a life saving scene was re-enacted by the PALS boys that has been shot and shared by Brandsynario

Now there are quite a number of challenges that this organisation faces, first of all, corporate sponsorships are slowing moving and the government is looked forward to for grants but there's no genie in a bottle floating above the sea that would help manage finances in a nick of time! It really is a hassle and rather a full time job collecting donations because an NGO like this has to pay its lifeguards in a timely manner. Secondly, these lifeguards who are earning by the sweat of their brow are often given a cold shoulder when they try to tell people about about which beach spot is safe or not, some are known to have been physically assaulted by both men and women.

Consider the situation below that is based on actual events: 

Pardon my ignorance, I can only write in Urdu and can't type it.

Ghulam Mustafa a.k.a GM lifeguard trainer & instructor briefing the audience about life saving and emphasising upon avoiding plastic waste

Lifeguards during their demonstration
I'm sorry there were some distractions too:

I only had a few minutes with this puppy before the mommy would return
PALS Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB)
It wasn't all serious talk only, PALS Rescue also manages adventure trips through its sister concern called PALS Outdoors because this helps them cross subsidize revenue to milk their NGO despite which the cost constraint is usually there to run the entire system. PALS very generously took us for some water sports including snorkelling, wake tubing, and swimming and were there all the way with us soaking in our limitless excitement. This trip really squeezed out the fear of swimming from most of us because we knew now matter what, PALS trained lifeguards are here to take care of us. 

Usually people drown when they start panicking and make their bodies stiff; even while you are wearing a life jacket, you have to let yourself go and give in to the sea simply by relaxing and enjoying the solitude (well you are not alone actually but you can swim away until a lifeguards comes to pull you back). 

The pictures below are by PALS Outdoors unless otherwise stated: 

Zainab under water and she knows how to swim!!!
Fursid acting cool under water while saluting his own fear :P

 For such activities you should consider the following:

1. Do not wear jeans!
I am talking from experience, modesty can be addresses in other ways and other materials, when I came out of the water and tried climbing the boat staircase, I felt the ghost of Long John Silver (remember Treasure Island?) pulling me down but I had to fight him off.

2. Wear a sun block if you are beauty conscious ...
Honestly, I don't care, the tan is worth all the enjoyment. Besides, sun screens are known to cause damage to marine life.

3. Make sure your life jacket is worn and fastened properly.
It shouldn't be lose, else you will feel it's grabbing your throat and suffocating you.

4. Be the last one to come out of the water and enjoy! WOOHOO!

Our lively group of bloggers

We found TWINS!!! (Selfie Credit: Aly Balagamwala a.k.a Disco Maulvi)

A Few Delightful Moments in the City of Saints, Multan!

The Mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e-Alam in Multan
I happened to have travelled to Multan for work this past weekend and it turned out to be a very interesting trip, starting from the plane to my way back. Or let's say the trip had started before it started; in simple words, it started with people warning me that Multan will be very hot and I will get boiled. At least that would be better than the boiling frog theory. Well the boiling had already begun in Karachi with the temperature reaching 44°C a day before I left for the 'city of saints' but thank God for Karachi's evening breeze which is a BLESSING! 

It's always interesting to travel for work, you get to grasp something from the place you are going to while leaving behind a bit of yourself there.

Multan was still bearable or perhaps it's easy for me to say considering I spent most of the day in air conditioned spaces, although the next day we went for some sight seeing when it was 39°C. Trust me, it was worth it to explore the city I had been to for the first time. I wish we had more time at hand but I'm also glad that we made the most of the limited hours that we had. Time was not ending.

Our office driver was kind enough to drop me off at the airport and asked me if I had kept all the necessary things ... how considerate. When we finally boarded the plane I realised that someone else had taken my seat (which by the way was a window seat but it's okay) so I asked the steward where I should go, in response he asked the gentleman on my seat to vacate it. Instead I thought if in the next aisle where I was at was his seat then I should stay there ...  exchange programme you see. It's ok to let go of your seat if you are on your own (without your herd) for a short flight unless you are a politician. Later, I realised it was the right decision to let go, considering how that person spoke to the air hostess when he wanted water, 'HELLO! Suno! HELLO! Zaraa pani daina ... HELLO!' (he was asking for water), he said it while knocking the glass on the seat in front. Is that how you talk to a woman? Really? Hello back.

Well the new seat I was indirectly awarded was the middle seat. A male human being (I use this term to describe people when I have spent a great deal of time with my parrots) came who had to fit in while the two of us stood up. I offered moving to the corner ... oh the window seat ... do I need to repeat that I was okay to let go off one? But that person, that adult person insisted on having that only seat. "No, my seat is the window seat", he bellowed, well not exactly bellowed but he didn't care that a fat woman (just kidding, I didn't feel fat until I weighed myself on the hotel room's weighing machine ... I mean how could they???!?!?) had to squeeze out to make his existence fit in. Life went on with the window seat ordeal. The other gentleman next to me later switched to a vacant seat in the next isle and offered me to switch to his seat. Later I met him again at the client event because he was one of them. Maybe he thought I was uncomfortable, maybe he felt I should be given more space or maybe nothing. Although I was fine either way, still it was very thoughtful of him to let me ... EXPAND and take his seat.

Now why am I stuck in the plane, in a flight which was worth 1 hour 5 minutes only? I don't know. When we landed, I felt like a bread that had been transferred from one oven to the next, although the next oven was still not that extreme but thank God for deodorants and colognes in this weather ... perfumes could be rendered useless you see.

There at the airport was the hotel driver who had come to pick me and two other people. So off we went. I finally met my colleagues who had come from Lahore and started coordinating for work.

To my satisfaction I realised that Multan is an extremely clean city, with roads without a single bump or crevice and an uncanny level of security, there were houses with small boundary walls and no barbed wires or no broken glass covering those. OKAY STOP! I hadn't gone from a war zone, we are still breads (isn't this what you feel like in soaring temperature) of the same country. 

Multan is a closely knit, small city and with a number of sites in close proximity so it's easy to go from one place to the next.

We were fortunate enough to be part of Khaadi's flagship store opening in Multan which was quite an experience itself. The exuberant sales staff had gathered for what we can call a warm-up exercise, they proudly chanted away, 'Khaadi loves Pakistan' which without a doubt is embedded in the brand image as well. It's a proud Pakistani brand.

Flagship in retail business refers to the retailer's primary location or the chain's largest store like in this case with Khaadi, such a store often sells or holds the highest volume of merchandise.

The sales staff as they chanted and had their picture taken by a photographer upstairs which is why they are all looking up

It turned out to be a busy Friday for Khaadi's Multan store, we were told that markets are usually closed on Fridays in Multan and the city seemed at rest, however, the store footfall seemed very generous. 

What I like about Khaadi stores is that the shelves and merchandise are not crammed up, everything is so well spaced and your have ample area to walk around freely without bumping into another person. This store in particular is covered over an area of 20,000 square feet and has elevators and escalators, it houses various product lines under one roof, namely; Khaadi Pret, Khaadi Home, and Khaadi Kids. The brand has also launched its luxury lawn collection which can be found in this store in Multan. Below is a picture.

Luxury Lawn Collection
These pictures below serve as some of the store's highlights:

Wall designed by the artist, Sohail Abdullah. The pink structures look like origami birds from afar.

These baskets are handwoven by the hardworking women in Khairpur. Khaadi has helped create avenues of better earning for them.

The next day, after work, we checked out and headed off to visit the mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e-Alam. The surroundings were very dusty and hazy, and the sun was shining very brightly right on top of our heads, hence, making it difficult to snap good pictures but I had to use the camera that I had so enthusiastically taken along and of course I ended up using it. So here are the pictures of the ancient sites of Multan.

A close-up of the tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam

I took this picture using a 35 mm lens

A beautifully carved door of the tomb

The mausoleum belongs to the Sufi saint named, Sheikh Rukn uddin Abul Fateh, it was built in 1320 and 1324 CE by Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq in the pre-Mughal architectural style and is considered to be one of the earliest examples of Tughluq architecture. 

It's interesting to know what people think when they see you walking with a camera, a lady approached me and asked if I belonged to the media, she later suggested other places to visit.

Our next stop was the clock tower, known as Ghanta Ghar in Urdu. It was built during the British reign and it's construction which began in 1884 took 4 year to be completed after which offices became fully functional here. The hall and building carried the name 'Ripon Hall and Ripon Building' after the name of Ripon, the then viceroy of India, and the clock tower was named the Northbrook Clock Tower after the former viceroy of India. 

Following the independence of Pakistan, the hall was renamed as Jinnah Hall. The clock that stopped working in 1985 was restored as a result of the efforts of Rado in 2011 (quite a PR move). It's interesting to know that the dial works through solar energy.

This girl in the picture below approached me and requested me to click her picture and she was very happy about it as is obvious. Too bad she got out of focus. :(

Then this gentlemen who was also right there asked for the same. Ah! He's properly focused. Thank you, camera. :)

Multan is famous for its Saleem Shahees (a.k.a khussas in layman terms), my colleagues were kind enough to take me to the market. I got this pair for Rs. 600 only! *drum roll*

I liked this old piece of architecture that was in one of the market streets.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to the wonderful city of saints. My colleague, Ali who was driving non-stop had to drive non-stop again all the way back to Lahore, whereas I on the other hand, had a convenient journey schedule with a plane to catch which I didn't have to fly myself ... although it would be the most fascinating thing to do.

Eventually I ended up arriving at the airport way too early at 5 pm, this time convinced that I would get the window seat because I was the first one there *evil laughter*. My arrival was beyond early for a flight scheduled at 7:40 pm and the counter had not started operating yet which is why I had to wait for 40 minutes to be able to go inside.

I was amazed to see the display of art at the Multan International Airport and the architecture is just very appealing. It had a series of paintings displayed depicting history, however, for some odd reason the artist(s) had not signed his/her name on those paintings. Here are a few pictures of the artwork:

Your airports have a short story to tell ... we've been CPECed as you can observe in flights, at airports, and malls. We are very hopeful ... very, very hopeful that it will have a great impact on our economy and that our province, Balochistan will reap great benefits for a chaneg. 
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it, if you didn't then too bad you ended up reaching this sentence or maybe you also read the last page of every book first like me. Click on share to do the same with other people.
Now I am so sleepy that  .... ZzzZzzzzzzzZzZZzz ...