Shahid Jalal's Flower Carpets of Lahore

Artist, Shahid Jalal with his favourite painting!
A highly educated person, an immensely creative soul, and a down-to-earth personality! You will find all these qualities and perhaps even more in the Lahore based artist, Shahid Jalal. He is a treat to meet and learn from the moment you start talking to him. 

I happened to have visited Shahid Jalal's solo art exhibition at Artscene Art Galleries and was able to witness some of his finest work displaying the vivid colours of nature, immaculately preserved through his brush strokes. 

After retiring from Tetra at the age of 50, he had happily dedicated his life to art, 17 years back. Although, creating such master pieces wasn't new to him as he had been pursuing this mind relaxant called Art over weekends along with his regular job, post retirement painting has its own exuberant characteristic altogether. 

Jalal completed his CA from ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Whales) from the UK and returned to Pakistan in the 70s after which he served at Attock Oil for a considerable time period. By the time he left the company, he was working as Chief Accountant. He then completed a 1 year course from the National College of Arts (NCA) in the late 70s knowing that the artistic spark in him needed exploration. Jalal concluded this side of his career with a memorable chunk of his life at Tetra Pak then full time Art happened, and the rest is history. His present is as vibrant as his paintings. 

Music for him plays an important role in his energising activity as he likes to be all ears to Begum Akhtar while fully engrossed in his work.
Contrary to what people believe about those associated with the the field of Finance thus likening them to a dry demenour, Shahid Jalal has a very lively and colourful personality that makes him utterly creative. See it for yourself!

Artists gather for networking

The Thought Leaders Symposium by The City School makes Waves in the Education Sector

Panel Discussion (From L to R): Abbas Husain, Syed Irfan Hyder, Rumana Hussain, Khalid Anum, Saadiya Durrani, Salman Asif Siddiqui, ZAinab Mahmood Ahmad, Saboohi Irtiza)
The City School recently organised the nation's first ever Early Years Education symposium, titled, 'Thought Leaders' that got all stakeholders under one roof to discuss emerging trends and developments vital for early childhood stages. The event flow comprised of panel discussions, speaker sessions, workshops, role play area, and mesmerising performances by children. It is an established fact based on research that the first three years are important for the brain's architecture while the first five for building emotional, social, and intellectual capabilities. 

The speaker session by the Guest of Honour of the event, Amin Hashwani really got my attention. All that he spoke about made great sense, especially considering children as unique individuals rather than sending him/her on a competition spree or ridiculing the child while comparing the poor soul to siblings, peers, or other relatives. We must realise that each person is a unique individual who is gifted by nature and we ought to discover that gift and facilitate it. Amin's words had their spell on me and made me nostalgic regarding my childhood days. Some children might not be good at a particular subject, that doesn't mean they are dumb and by comparing them with some 'brilliant other' you're killing their capability of being exceptionally good at something else. As Einstein once said, 'Everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.' 

Amin stressed upon the need to make house wives quality conscious for a better society and this is what had been religiously followed in Japan which reaped benefits in the form of prominent nation. He further highlighted the fact that Pakistan was the first Asian tiger and today despite having a lot, we lag behind the world in several aspects. "If we are looking for Naya Pakistan, we should look at what we had in Purana Pakistan of 1947. Let's try and begin back and therein will lie answers to a lot of questions that we are facing," said he. 

Amin Hashwani is the Founder of Charter of Compassion, and Executive Director, Hashwani Group. He is also the Vice President of I AM KARACHI.
Listen to his words and you'll know for yourself:

Saboohi Irtiza, GM Early Years Academics, the brains behind this programme expressed that The City School has created a curriculum where each child is focused upon based on his/her personalised level of needs. This is something one can readily relate to what Philip Hallworth, Director Academics mentioned, 'actively learning and not passively doing.' 

Saboohi Irtiza, GM EYE Education with Philip Hallworth, Director Academics at TCS
Soon, the classroom setup at schools will evolve and hopefully there shall come a day when our literacy rate would surge and not account for more than those people who can only sign their names. There is no way, Pakistan's literacy rate is 60% as a lot needs to be done to educate our nation to become intellectual elites starting from the grassroots level.
Disclaimer: Amin Hashwani's video has been extracted from the main video shared on The City School's official Youtube channel.


The Annual Flower Show and its Treasures

I know, I know ... it's been a while since the 66th Annual Flower Show took place; three weeks ago (February 23 - 26, 2017) to be precise. However, since I have a 9 to 6 job, sometimes the mind exhausts and the blog post gets delayed, not to mention the occasional writer's block as well.

A beautiful Dahlia at the flower show
Anyway, whoever visited the flower show that took place at Sea View, Karachi would agree that these are the treasures of nature that make you wonder what Heaven would actually be like if this is not perhaps even a glimpse of it. Organised by the Horticultural Society of Pakistan (HSP), it presented a collage of resplendence this time as well. However, this time, the unfortunate gap left behind due to the demise of Abdul Karim Khan aka Baba-e-Baghbani, the founder of this society was deeply felt.

At this elitist display of flowers I couldn't help but fantasise about a garden that I might one day possess so that whichever flower I fell in love with at the flower show would become part of that very garden ... a purple flower garden perhaps. This reminds me of the book, 'Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett I once read. 

The collection of flowers and plants was simply adorable, I took my camera along and eventually ended up snapping almost 600 pictures and spent 4 hours there. Considering I went with friends, I really salute them for the display of patience for my photography, especially that of one of the friend's mother who had come along to accompany us.

Such gems who love nature are rare in our part of the world unfortunately and when it's said that charity begins at home, it should begin at the government level which seems to be doing nothing to preserve the environment. You would be surprised to read The News article which mentioned that 47,000 trees have been cut down in Karachi in the past 5 years all on account of development projects, yet there seems to be no development whatsoever. You see a road being made and the next day when it's open for the public, it's not even smooth and caves in before the next onset of rain. Talking about trees and greenery, our city should declare a state of emergency thus persuading people to plant more trees that are environmentally friendly and chop down all Conocarpus and Eucalyptus trees as they are poison for our environment. 

Anyway, for nature lovers out there, there was a dire need to attend this exhibition with a sack of money given the massive variety of plants. I got two orchid plants as they are my newfound love and since I am a proud cacti hoarder now, I got this lovely bowl of beautifully arranged by cacti plants from American Cacti. And their variety is Heavenly, not that there would supposedly be plants with thorns in Heaven but these species of plants are extremely beautiful ... yes these very thorny ones. This particular arrangement of cacti was for Rs. 1,500 which was very reasonable considering other cacti stalls and the price point these plants are usually sold at in the city. The interesting part is that their price was negotiable. You can check American Cacti's Facebook page for more plants and drop in to buy some.

Cacti bowl that I bought from American Cacti (picture snapped using my Samsung Galaxy Note 5)
My nephew fell in love the moment he saw the orchid plants that I got home. He knew it's something that I would have got so he came looking for me and happily gestured towards where the plants were. He's 16 months old and doesn't say much other than 'cat', 'orchid', or 'amma', interestingly, he addresses everyone as 'amma'.

And then I went all crazy taking pictures with my Nikon. Below are some pictures of the day:

This man was very happy about the Orchids he was selling

A gardener places a plant pot with great care while showing the rest to his customer

Have never seen a cactus like this before

This was the biggest cactus plant of the show and was being sold by Mirza Horticulture Point. The price was as big as the size of the plant.


Hanif Shahzad's Rhythm of Kolachi

A walk through Karachi's history through Hanif Shahzad's perspective

A mural of Mohatta Palace painted by Hanif Shahzad
If you observe Karachi through the artist, Hanif Shahzad's perspective you will notice treasures in the form of pre-partition architecture prevalent in the British colonial era. Though in ruins now and often seen in dilapidated condition, quite some architectural wonders still exist today, such as the Frere Hall, the Edward House, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Merewether Clock Tower, and the mighty Mohatta Palace to name a few.

This is what fascinates this brilliant artist in particular, considering he is a civil engineer as well. No wonder, engineering and art have fused together to make architecture his area of interest when it comes to painting that blank canvas into perfection! 

His recent exhibition housed several of his cityscapes where Shahzad captured and painted Karachi into a vibrant place where one would aspire to live. His Mohatta Palace mural is a piece of art that even the original owner, Shivratan Chandraratan Mohatta would have been proud of, had he existed at this point in time. Not many people know whom this palace originally belonged to and this is what artists like Hanif Shahzad teach generations through their work; the history and culture of a certain place they are part of. Aga Hussain Ahmed designed this palace and now Shahzad brought it back to life through his painting.

Similarly, his depiction of Frere Hall through a marvellous oil painting makes you revisit the era of 1865 when it was finally completed, only an artist and engineer like him can decipher the amount of hard work required from designing it to erecting this structure. Frere Hall was built in honour of Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere (born March 29, 1815, Brecknockshire, Wales—died May 29, 1884, Wimbledon, Surrey, Eng.) who was the Chief Commissioner of Sindh from 1850 to 1859. An interesting fact about Frere Hall reveals that the architect, Lieutenant Colonel Clair Wilson was chosen to design it after considering the work of at least 12 other architects. This used to the level of perfection required in designing a structure that was to become part of the city. And now Shahzad's paintings seem to have done justice.

Saint Joseph's Cathedral is another outcome of sheer splendor that our Christian community has preserved over the years. Saddar happens to be one of Shahzad's favourite spots that he does justice to through his colourful palette and artistic demeanour unlike the municipality. The mid nineteeth century wonder is simply mesmerising to be part of and so is this painting:

Saint Joseph's Cathedral in Karachi
I really like the way he paints the Empress Market, thereby adding colourful hues to its surroundings. Constructed between 1884 and 1889, it was named in honour of Queen Victoria and designed by James Strachan. It belonged to a time when it was one of the seven markets of the city
Empress Market
A huge number of art enthusiasts had come to Artciti to be a part of the launch day which somehow restored faith in the fact that there still are art lovers among us who haven't excluded art from culture. Any society that starts ignoring Art and Literature embraces itself for a downfall something which we have to rescue ourselves from.

Below are some of the pictures of a few more paintings and that of the wonderful gathering of the day:

The artist discussing his work with a visitor
And I did some photography experimentation as well with one of my favourite paintings!

His paintings showcasing night and lights is something not everyone can master and is indeed a difficult outcome to achieve, yet he paints it all to perfection. Here's proof!

  To my delight, the artist gave me a signed copy of his invite! This made my day!

 Let's hope there is more to come from Hanif Shahzad's brilliant mind and magic fingers!

Weekend Read - The Spy

Picture snapped using Samsung Note 5
Weekends are always fun when you have a good book to read complimented by your much need fuel, COFFEE! And if you have a stock of bakery biscuits too then all you need to do is read and devour biscuits along with that frothy cup of coffee.

So today I'm going to discuss what I recently read, The Spy by Paulo Coelho that I bought from Liberty Books' Black Friday sale. Yes, I do not jump on the bandwagon of ridiculously buying clothes but instead hoarding on books was a good option. Well I hope I read them all soon, I'm a hoarder after all if not of clothes but books, yes. How can anyone forget the crazy traffic Karachi witnessed on the Black Friday and the chaos on roads, we as a nation need to equip ourselves more in terms of intellect and what we sound like once we start speaking rather than what we should look like. Looking presentable is everybody's right but you sounding intellectual is your country's right over you. 

So enough of the lecture, let's discuss what this book is about; be warned as it will make you feel sad but nonetheless it's a good read. 

Coelho, through his characters and their dialogues has a unique way of explaining the same thing from different perspectives as can be experienced via this book. It is based on a Dutch exotic dancer named Margaretha Geertruida Zelle who later adapted to a shorter name, Mata Hari; as Coelho expressed, 'Her only crime was to be an independent woman,' which she no doubt was and it's something that led to her execution eventually. Hers is a tale of melancholy and rapid paced stardom that had an even quicker downfall before she could even think beyond what struck her. She was used by someone to pull his hatred against
an entity and Mata Hari got accused for working as a German spy, whereas she was deceived into assuming that she was working for France.
This book has a good lesson regarding staying true to your roots and embracing who you actually are rather than what you want to become, as Margareth's mother expressed herself while handing her the Tulip seeds that she kept for years after that moment, "They're Tulip seeds, the symbol of our country. But, more than that, they represent a truth you must learn. These seeds will always be Tulips, even if at the moment you cannot tell them apart from other flowers. They will never turn into roses or sunflowers, no matter how much they might desire to. And if they try to deny their own existence, they will live life bitter and die."

And The Spy had varying opinions of characters about love, some I agreed with while some I disagreed with but here's the thing about the difference of opinions; you've got to listen to all and respect them for why and where they are coming from.

The Spy about 'Love':

1. "Never fall in love. Love is a poison. Once you fall in love, you lose control over your life - your heart and mind belong to someone else. Your existence is threatened. You start to do everything to hold on to your loved on and lose all sense of danger. Love, that inexplicable and dangerous thing, sweeps everything you are from the face of the Earth and, in its place, leaves only what your beloved wants you to be." - Madame Kireyevsky's advice to Mata Hari.

2. "Love is an act of faith and it's face should always be covered in mystery. Every moment should be lived with feeling and emotion because if we try to decipher it and understand it, the magic disappears." - Mata Hari's lawyer's letter to her before her execution (I think this also speaks volumes for people who like to post about their love life and their significant other very frequently on social media :) )    

3. "Love does not obey anyone and will betray those who try to decipher its mystery ... The body tires easily, but the spirit is always free and will help us get out, one day, from this infernal cycle of repeating the same mistake every generation. Although thoughts always remain the same, there is something stronger, and this is called love." - Mata Hari's lawyer's letter.

4.  Ecclesiastes saying:

I really liked Mata Hari's view as at one point in the book she is found saying, "Sin was not created by God; it was created by us when we tried to transform what was inevitable into something subjective. We ceased to see the whole and came to see just one part; and that part is loaded with guilt, rules, good versus evil, and each side thinking it's right." The sentence being so profound seems to relate with us as well as a nation, we are often seen busy accusing each other of being sinful and perceiving our own selves to be one of the most pious beings to have ever existed on the face of the Earth. And of course, accusing anyone of blasphemy is just a piece of cake isn't it. Therefore, if you actually ponder over some of the dialogues of this book, there is a lot to learn and ponder over a own thought processes.

Happy reading! :)