Stories about city

Basant is banned for the right reasons

I have vivid memories of Basant.  Everyone would be caught up in the spirit and festivities of the season. Maybe it’s because all one really needed to celebrate was a long string and a kite. And if you still couldn’t afford that, you could snatch one that’s drifting awayin the sky. But alas, the festival which once attracted tourists from far and wide to Lahore is now a thing of the past. Anger at the government’s ban The Punjab government’s decision to ban Basant sparked a hot debate on Twitter. Pro-Basant activists believe the onus is on the government to provide ...

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Surviving flight 304 with cake-boy

Karachi-wallay like to stereotype. We spin whole life stories around accessories and behaviour. Pants above ankle length? Member of an Islamist party. Pink iPhone case with matching nails? Definitely out of town, maybe a Lahori. So it was only fitting that when I boarded the PK304 to Lahore I was assigned the seat right out of a bad airplane movie: the one directly behind the bathroom, next to the mother with the howling baby. By that I don’t mean I’m going to start bashing PIA. Personally I like PIA, I like the spicy food and I think the schedule runs ...

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Row, row, row your boat, [not so] gently down to ‘Netty’ Jetty

This is a shout out to Sophia A. Sophia rows a boat. So do 15 other schools from all over Karachi who competed at the regatta at the Karachi Boat Club. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is that she rows a boat. And before she gets to that, she does this: “Oh my God. They train you like a dog. You have these squats, these endless jogs, and if you’re late you have pushups and then something called fishies. Imagine lying down and then trying to lift both your legs and your torso at the same time.” Fishies for ...

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Dhobi Ghat: Better than Bollywood, a film about truth

Kiran Rao’s debut venture, Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries), is well written and artistically executed. For fans of regular Bollywood masala movies the movie has little to offer. The movie has no songs at all, and does not have a very captivating background score. But if you are interested in alternative cinema you will find the film spellbinding. A few years ago, when Slumdog Millionaire, became a runaway hit, a lot of people around the world got a glimpse of the harsh, dog-eat-dog world Mumbai that is. Dhobi Ghat also provides a glimpse in to the underbelly of the city, but instead of dwelling ...

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Dots & Dashes: All hands on deck

This winter too shall pass and spring come, manifest in its verdure and blossom, but without the cheer for the human heart. Poverty’s ugly grin spreads wider every day on the nation’s face and does not sit well with the warm smile the season of renewal brings. In another month and a half when the yellow jasmine start blooming in Islamabad and herald the onset of spring, prices of essentials would have gone up another 10 to 15 per cent and gas and electricity supplies further depleted forcing the closures of small industrial units, expanding the area of national enclosure ...

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How bad was your first day after winter break?

There’s pandemonium in the car as you put on your socks in last-minute uniform rituals that should have been performed at home. You try not to strangle yourself with your ID card as you are spat out from the car and propelled across the courtyard and through the chilly corridors. Your sweater was made for mild Karachi winters, not this 6 am Murree-like cold. “I made it,” you gasp as you hit the homeroom threshold. The class collapses in laughter. The teacher is comforting: “Beta, aur late aao, koi baat nahin.” It’s the first day after winter break. There are ...

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10 reasons Islamabad isn’t lame

Islamabad, although valued highly by its long-term residents, is often criticized by people who have moved here for personal or professional reasons. “It’s like a ghost town,” a recent arrival commented. While a long-time resident remarked, “Islamabad is a place for retirees. Anyone younger would go crazy there.” I have heard mixed reactions from tourists. I often hear acidic remarks like “Islamabad has a lame and depressing social scene and I prefer not to socialize here,” and “the nightlife is sleazy and full of shady old uncles.” But there is much to love in this sleepy, young town. One visitor remarked: “I was ...

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Karachi in a body bag…

Way back in the early 90s, the operation against MQM had just started and life was almost at a standstill. I was a wee little lass of nine and in answer to all my questions, I was told that some bad people were out there killing others. I did not understand the dynamics of politics; “army operation”, “PPP” and “MQM” were familiar but meaningless words that were somehow involved in the havoc that was being raised. I felt afraid of Benazir Bhutto, who seemed to be somewhat responsible for calling the shots during a scary, unstable situation. There were endless strikes and ...

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The old architecture of Gojal valley

Gojal valley is host to many historical buildings. Gulmit, Ghulkin, Morkhoon, Gircha, Sost, Misgar, Shimshal and Chipursan have a number of such structures. Among these, the Bai Nazar Maktab, an old house in Gulmit, Qarghiz Bai House in Ghulkin, an old house in Gircha and Qalandarchi Fort in Misgar are prominent. Two buildings in Gulmit, the main town and headquarter of the calamity-hit Gojal Tehsil, are noted for their beautiful wood carvings. The old house which is located near the polo ground is well known for its ornately carved door and windows. The old house has now been turned into a ...

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I know a secret: The ways of the VVIPs

Residents of Streets 15 and 16 of DHA Lahore’s Y Block have had a rough ride ever since a string of houses, belonging to a VVIP family, started springing up with the return of democratic rule in Pakistan. It gets worse every Saturday and Sunday, when the boss arrives from Isloo. The residents of DHA Phase1-3 are not the only ones who have to put up to road closures and police pickets, the police also are heard complaining. Protocol requirements have become an addiction even for family members, who may not even be recognised, if they were seen driving around. Policemen say ...

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