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 longed 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.

When Faith, Unity, and Discipline go Intrumental!

This picture was snapped during the Air Show on August 14, 2017 using my Nikon D3100

Childhood was fun, there used to be limited options for entertainment on TV but the content quality was undoubtedly there to make its mark. It was the time when Aiknak Wala Jinn was a never ending case and those Thursday night movies on PTV had us all watching with fun loving discipline, it was the time of Gai Soap and Metromilan Agarbatti Eid commercials and selected TV shows being aired. And that English feature film time slot used to give a wonderful start to our weekend. Simple and loving times ...

That time was fun and life was carefree, now is the time that reminds me of Charles Dickens' lines that he wrote in The Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only" 

Since August 14 has passed by, I got reminded of the wonderful songs of the past and musical renditions that make Pakistan proud. 

Starting with the vintage version of the National Anthem itself that used to be aired on PTV with the commencement and end of each transmission, I'm deeply struck with an aura of nostalgia.

Classic version of Pakistan's National Anthem

Morven Gold's Rhythm of Unity (I know Cigarette brand right? I wouldn't have mentioned it but can't deny the fact that they produced a memory altering piece), from the early 90's stands out and there is quite a list of such melodious instrumental tracks that have become an intrinsic part of our nation.

Morven Gold's Rhythm of Unity

Motorola recently announced its return in the Pakistani market and launched a series of smart phones. They produced an instrumental version of Pakistan's National Anthem using the newly launched Moto Z and it turned out to be SUPERB! It starts off with the words appearing on screen based on their motto 'different is better': 'Experience different is better with the exciting new sights and sounds of the national anthem.' In just 1 minute and 21 seconds, the brand has brilliantly showcased the main subject, Pakistan, from having captured snippets of the different parts of Pakistan that depict the real beauty of the country. 

You hear a beautiful compilation of sounds from those of the keypad to sitar, flute, tabla, and possibly even a rabab, the guitar like musical instrument used up North. The kabaddi pehelwans, dancing horse, and dhaba tea add to the national flavour and are sure to give you goosebumps. These add up to the rare occasions when something this great is made for the country otherwise we haven't had decent milli naghmay after Sohail Rana left. However, one can't compare apples with oranges if I talk about songs in which singers have contributed using their voice versus an instrumental version of the National Anthem. 

This particular musical awesomeness has really persuaded me to go up North and visit the gorgeous parts of the country that very few have ventured to.

Pakistan's National Anthem arranged the Moto Z way

Last year, Sooper produced a TVC for August 14 along similar lines, thus creating an instrumental version of 'Mein bhi Pakistan hoon, too bhi Pakistan hai' sung by Mohammad Ali Sheikhi in the 80's. I absolutely love it! It's called 'Rhythms of Azadi', from hard working chundri clad women to rural areas and picturesque landscapes, it adds a refreshing touch to it all.

Sooper Rhythm of Azadi

Here's the original song that was sung by the then skinny and enthusiastic Sheikhi, this singers seemed to have poured their souls into their songs:

And talking about such tributes reminds me of what PIA recently did on its August 14 domestic flight. It invited musicians, the Leo Twins (Haroon Leo and Sharoon Leo) to play the national song by Mehdi Hasan, 'Yeh watan tumhara hai' and it's lovely!

I would like to conclude this discussion with the National Anthem sung by our Indian friends with much love and warmth:


The Evergreen Milli Naghmay!

Picture Credits: Obaid Chawla (I REALLY like this picture!)
So here I am, humming the evergreen milli naghmay (national songs) in my horrendous voice, amidst the Dolby Surround Cough System (yes, my religiously regular cough is back, apparently the flu and cough virus is in the air ... reminds of yet another song: 'Love is in the air!'). 

I remember the time when we used to gather for the August 14 function at school with a patriotic feel as if ready to conquer the world with our free souls. And who doesn't like the lovely and catchy milli naghmay aired till the decade of the 80's or those composed and sung up till the early 90's? Well, because after that no musician in my opinion has been able to create worthwhile national songs. No composition or poetic justice has been done to the term 'milli naghma' itself. Gone are the days of sagacious composers like Sohail Rana and poets like Jameeluddin Aali or Masroor Anwar whose team work used to produce national songs that are still top of the list. Perhaps the dedication towards patriotism was valued over mere commercialism. 

These days, I'm loving the recent rendition titled, 'Tribute to Pakistan from Christian Singers'! Where on Earth have they got such brilliant vocal cords from?! Without a doubt they belong to a Church choir. This could also be a new chapter after the Benjamin Sisters with singers such as these and others like the Viccaji Sisters and Alycia Dias. This particular national song rendition seems to be sung by nightingales and I've been playing it on repeat:

These are some of my all time favourite milli naghmay:

Hum laaey haen toofan sey kashti nikal key:
This is said to be Pakistan's first ever national song that was sung by Saleem Raza in 1956.

Sohni Dharti, Allah Rakhay!:
Poet: Masroor Anwar
Composer: Sohail Rana
Singer: Shahnaz Begum 
Year: 1965

Coke Studio had made a lovely remake two years back for their eighth season.

Jeevay Pakistan:
Poet: Jameeluddin Aali
Composer: Sohail Rana
Singer: Shahnaz Begum 
Year: 1972

Yeh watan tumhara hai:
Poet: Kaleem Usmani
Singer: Mehdi Hasan 
Year: 1962

Ay watan pak watan:
Singer: Ustad Amanat Ali Khan 
Poet: Karam Haidery
Year: 1965

Chand meri zameen phool maira watan:
Singer: Ustad Amanat Ali Khan
Poet: Saqi Javed
Year: 1970

Roshan o rakshan:
Composer: Sohail Rana
Singer: Habib Wali Mohammad and various other singers  
Producer: Mohsin Ali 

Watan ki mitti gawah rehna:
Poetess: Sheba Akhtar
Composer: Can't seem to find the name of the composer but I think it was Arshad Mehmood. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Singer: Nayyara Noor
Year: 1981

I simply adore this lady for her voice and simplicity! I wish to see her in Coke Studio some day, creating magic through her voice ... 

Zameen ki gowd:

Poet: Asad Muhammad
Composer: Sohail Rana
Singer: Muhammad Ifrahim
Year: 1980

Hum Mustafavi haen:

Poet: Jameeluddin Aali
Composer: Sohail Rana
Singer: Mehdi Zahoor and various other singers
Year: 1954

Khayal Rakhna:
Poet: Tahir Parwaz
Composer:Nisar Bazmi
Singer: Alamgir & the Benjamin Sisters
Year: 1982

And tell you what ... when I played this song, my parrot, Coco loved it so much that she started dancing which I documented in this video. I know the quality of the video is poor but I couldn't immediately work on the lighting part, she's very moody and could have decided to take a break.

Hum zinda qoum haen:
Composer:Nisar Bazmi
Singers: Tehseen Javed, Amjad Hussain, Fatima Jaffery, and the Benjamin Sisters
Year: 1982

Millat ka pasbaan:
Composer:Nisar Bazmi
Poet: Mian Bashir Ahmed (1945) as per
Singer: Masood Rana

Tera Pakistan hai yeh mera Pakistan hai:
Poet: Bashir Farooq
Composer: Sohail Rana
Singer: Amjad Hussain

Mein bhi Pakistan hoon, too bhi Pakistan hai!:
Poet: Jameeluddin Aali
Composer: Sohail Rana
Singer: Muhammad Ali Sheikhi

Deen Zameen Samandar Darya Sehra Kohistan:
Poet: Jameeluddin Aali
Composer: Khalid Asghar
Singer: Iqbal Qasim and Mona Mukhtar

Ay Rah-e-Haq kay Shaheedoun:
Poet: Mushir Kazmi
Composer: Mian Shehryar
Singer: Naseem Begum

Gathering the names of composers and poets for some songs has been very difficult because of very limited or insufficient information. It seems that the 80's was abuzz with a lot of national songs being composed after which the trend of quality music concerning national songs started declining. You may correct any information that you feel could be incorrect and I'll be grateful for that.

With the advent of social media, we have been able to keep track of our treasures. Likewise, such platforms have also made promotional campaigns and direct marketing easier. For instance, I've got the same promotional message from a pizza outlet at least thrice which seems quite tempting despite 'thrice' being somewhat invasive.

Our service industry seems to be gaining momentum as consumers have started following the ZMOT pattern with growing e-commerce, although there seems to be a long way to go. for instance, is celebrating independence through it's Azadi Sale and is offering a 14% discount so if you plan to opt for domestic travel, this maybe a good chance to save money.