History lives on through TDF Ghar and its Vintage Treasures

A couple of weeks ago my colleague and his daughters invited me to join them for a visit to the TDF Ghar which almost made us time travel to an era bygone. Everything on display; from the gramophone to the vintage bookshelf, the vanity table, and chess boards seemed to have a soul within them and were eager to be observed. Everything on display had its origins and information quoted. The kids were quite surprised to see the analogue phone with the rotary dial and the giant radio. Given the spacious old houses, these huge things still appeared small especially considering the high ceilings of the house as opposed to small boxes of apartments constructed these days. 

The Gramophone

TDF Ghar aka The Dawood Foundation Ghar, located in Jamshed Quarters was constructed in the 1930s and now owned by this particular entity that has presented it as a new public place for the citizens of an agitated city. Special emphasis has been laid on restoring the house and presenting it in its original form so that people get acquainted by history in its true essence. This particular society was built by Karachi's first mayor, Jamshed Nusserwanjee into the very heart of diversity where Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, and Jews lived in harmony while the city's middle class soared. 

The purpose is also to utilise the space for trainings, seminars, workshops, and exhibitions; something like what is offered by T2F and PCCC (Pakistan Chowk Community Centre) however, in a larger space.

"Informal learning spaces play an important role in helping society in using the right to speak in a constructive manner. People can share their ideas and materialise them for larger benefit of the public. Incubation centres and other similar projects are gaining popularity because of their inclusive nature. TDF Ghar, will connect the visitors with the rich and vibrant history of Karachi while giving them a place to talk and discuss ideas," Hiba Zubairi Communication Team Leader, The Dawood Foundation.

Present in the living room are antique artifacts and vintage collectables that one would only see in museums now. The tiles are also handmade and belong to the same era, the decade of the 1930s. Meanwhile, the first floor had almost got its renovation completed till the time we visited, it awaited antique furniture display, some of which was already stacked for its turn.

The Revolving Bookshelf

The Sehan Cafe arranged along the likes of Iranian cafes that existed till the last decade or so (even though some can be found inn Saddar) welcomes the early bird with Hulwa Puri.

As you go upstairs you see a pictorial display of Karachi's history, the time when intellect was widespread and people used to mind their own business, a time of prosperity somehow planned on a different tangent.

The rooftop offers a spectacular view of the quaid's mausoleum.

What we are not taught in history books is something that we found here; the concept and inspiration that led to the creation of this mausoleum. The design was influenced by the Samanid Mausoleum in Uzbekistan. You will find more details when you visit TDF Ghar.

The flora and fauna is quite meticulously arranged on the rooftop.

My colleague, Khurram Zia Khan with his daughters, Nabeeha and Zainab

The 145 year old Masjid Rajgan of Khanpur

Masjid Rajgan from a distance

Our office takes us to an off-site location for the annual retreat, this year we went to the Khanpur Valley where the 19th century history had left its mark while some scars remain from the 1970s. The bird species and the sunset were a treat to observe although it was pretty warm just when we went two weeks ago. 

We were staying at a resort along the outskirts of the Khanpur Dam. In the distant hills stood a vintage architectural structure engulfed in sheer melancholy or so it appeared, yet its beauty attracted the curious and restless soul. Later, some locals told us that it's a mosque which is about 200 years old, upon return I did a little research and got to know that it's actually 145 years old and is called Masjid Rajgan (aka Rajon ki Masjid). It's ironic how our government hasn't put in any efforts to preserve old buildings so that people could know history along with its proof, this one in particular like other magnificent structures of the past has been looted of it's precious belongings and left at the mercy of architectural extinction.

The state of affairs of our historic treasures and their significance reminds me of a saying by Marcus Garvey: "People without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots." Is this what we are turning out to be?

So after getting to know that it's and old mosque, my colleague, Pooja and I planned to visit it the next morning before breakfast. As we walked, there was a great deal of beauty along the way, it was just a matter of being able to observe it because it was pretty hot and when you feel hot you don't feel like observing much and try finding a shady spot instead. But we came to explore and hence observe ...

So this is what we first saw:

And then there was this gate that welcomed us to the abandoned mosque.

As we stepped inside the mosque we were amazed by the cool temperature within and its high ceilings that gave it a very spacious effect despite the hot weather outside. We lack construction like this in our present day and have resorted to living in cramped up spaces.  

Masjid Rajgan was was built in 1872 by Raja Sultan Jehandad Khan who also happened to be the founder of the old Khanpur Town which was later swamped by Khanpur Lake and the dam which displaced people from this area. It is said that the Raja invited architects renowned for their Islamic art from Dehli to design and construct a mosque in the valley. The carved wood used for the doors and windows was brought in from Leepa Valley, however, unfortunately the mosque has fallen prey to theft and neglect. The mosque's arched entrances and the main gate were said to be replicas of the Jamia Masjid in New Dehli which was built by Shah Jehan in the mid 17th century.

Given its large courtyard, it could easily house a 1000 people at a time. Though completely deserted, it is still preferred for Eid prayers due to the availability of a bigger area.
There are graves outside the mosque but are quite battered. Some of us visited the spot once again the following day and got to visit a shrine nearby which adorns the late date of cleaning to be June 30, 1969 now quite generously infested by hornets. 

There was also a family palace that was equipped with precious glass, wood, and ornaments acquired from Belgium, Italy, and France and this too succumbed to greed as it is said to have been destroyed by WAPDA and looted off its treasures in 2000. 

An article published in The Express Tribune emphasizes that Masjid Rajgan falls under the Antiquities Act of 1975 and therefore it qualifies being declared a preserved antique by the archeology department but who really cares as was obvious from its dilapidated condition. It should definitely be on the list of protected sites.

Some of the pictures are of the birds and shepherds encountered on the way. 

Pooja, the wanderer ...

The scary, barren tree ...


Pot Painting - DIY Weekend Project

Well folks, we had a long Eid weekend some time ago so I had been at the verge of painting everything coming my way. I painted my old bid cage, balcony railings, earthen pots that I am going to show you now, and could have ended up painting a human being, had the voices inside my head not forced me to stop. Yes, they go berserk sometimes and douse a strong spell of creativity (I'm not quite insane though eh ...).

I thought of sharing the pot painting story as a DIY project through step wise instructions. Here's how to go about it!

1. Take an earthen pot(s), wash thoroughly, dry out, and paint using an enamel paint. I used white. Let it dry for a day or two. In my case, one day sufficed.

 This is what the painted pots will look like.

2. You can be as creative as you can get. You can paste small round mirrors that are used for mirror embroidery or use a glass lead to draw a design (which I did with the other pot). I painted a bird and used this bird painting here as a reference that I shamelessly copied. Remember, one should always be original but this was my practice attempt and I love this bird painting and well ... I used Marie's oil paints for the bird themed painting and let it dry for another two days.
You can paint directly without applying a coat of enamel paint.

Here's a closeup of the bird I painted on the pot
 3. Once the paint has dried out completely, apply a coat of varnish. Mix gold dust (or any other colour of your choice) and apply generously making sure you're not dabbing layer after layer without the previous one getting dry as it would leave an untidy look. One is enough.

You can even use coloured enamel paint and apply varnish with gold/copper dust and that would be quite enough as well. So either way, go for whatever suits your preference.

These are the gold and copper dusts I used

Mix it with varnish and apply on the pot

Either use a brush or a tissue/old cloth for the application of varnish. Remember to use a disposable brush and not an expensive one if you opt for the brush.
Tadah! This is what my bird painted pot nest looked like!

4. Add a plant or decorate however you want to. I housed a plant in the bigger one and put marble eggs (which I bough from Haripur during our office annual retreat) in the small one. I guess I'll later use it for another plant.

I also drew a paisley design on the small pot which you can see in the video towards the end.

Here's an instruction/tutorial video for you. Enjoy with Yanni's music (A love for life)! 


In Conversation with Artist Abdul Hayee

Last weekend was a very happening one with so much to look forward to in the city. I went to the Bonsai Exhibition at Zamzama Park after work on Friday where bonsai enthusiasts had displayed their most cherished bonsai plants and shared their knowledge about the art that most are not aware about, it was arranged by the Pakistan Bonsai Society. There is so much that Karachi has to offer for art lovers, in this blog post you'll know how to avail all. Those who are interested in bonsai in particular can attend this society's free of cost sessions every first Saturday of every month, for further information, you can visit their Facebook page: Pakistan Bonsai Society.

And the next day was the best day of the week when I paint, following that was our photography exhibition organised by the Facebook photography group called, Aaj ka Random, I must say that the admins had done a commendable job! The best 3 pictures of each member were displayed among other marvellous ones at Alliance Francaise and all sales proceeds are to go to Edhi Centre. Such exhibitions are proof that there is no dearth of talent in Pakistan.

The next day I went to the, museum, TDF Ghar with my colleagues and his lovely girls. It's an amazing place and I'll write about it as well so that you know just how valuable vintage stuff is, with this house being among them.

Sunday was the day I got enlightened with a place that promotes Art & Culture and is located in one of the oldest places of Karachi, Pakistan Chowk, where you see pre-partition architecture that makes you feel part of the time that was perhaps more organised with the city being undoubtedly well structured. This cottage is called the Pakistan Chowk Community Centre and is inspired by the likes of T2F that was founded by the late Sabeen Mahmud. My art friends' persuasion to visit this wonderful art adobe was worth it.

There was a session by the senior most watercolourist of Karachi, Ustad Abdul Hayee who has been associated with watercolour since the past 60 years and teaches as well. If you see an astute watercolourist, chances are that that person has been his student at some point in time. "We are available for eager students and are here to teach you without charging anything, you just have to be willing to learn," said he, "Anyone who works and spends a day with us, learning and practicing, we'll offer him the anday wala burger (egg burger being the specialty of this area)," he chuckled. As Mr. Abdul Hayee shared his stories and experiences he added a touch of humour to everything, including his perseverance for Art and struggles he faced along the way.

Mr. Abdul Hayee has been associated with various art shows at a global level and is a member of the Sadquain Awards Jurists. Here he tells all:

His apprentice and student, Farrukh Nasim Sethi later showed us his spectacular watercolour paintings and the best part was his own earnestness to teach it to others. When we requested him for a watercolour demonstration, he happily agreed to enlighten us with his skills and talent. Here's a video compilation of his watercolour demonstration:

Here's the final painting:

Following are his paintings that he displayed and mesmerised us with. You end up looking and hoping to paint like these immensely talented fellows.

Keep a track of Pakistan Chowk Community Centre to be updated with related events. The roundabout outside this building is also the spot where they gather and paint every weekend. 

Masking Fluid ... no you don't need it as suggested by him. That's when you have command over your talent.