Postcards from Pakistan: Karakoram and beyond

Syafiqah Omar in DAWN:

Far from the busy bazaars of Rawalpindi, the grand mosques of Lahore and the hustle and bustle of southern port city Karachi which altogether, under the sweltering summer heat results in a maelstrom of life and buzz that characterize Pakistan, lies

a different world.

Here, a 45-min flight away or some 18 hours by road from administrative capital Islamabad, up in the Northern Areas, another kind of cacophony exists.

More here.


So Village

Yesterday morning we had a meeting with the Shigar Town Management Society. But at 9am when someone knocked on our door to tell us it was postponed, we buried ourselves deeper into our laptops in an attempt to get this and that done. Just as we were getting comfortable in the cyber world, thanks to a handy iphone with personal hotspot capabilities, hordes of blue uniformed schoolgirls descended upon our lush green resthouse grounds. Continue reading

Gardens don’t come and go….

While staring at orange tikkas, oil-wet and filled with spiced yogurt (those delicious things shimmered under the hot sun) – my eyes shifted from the grill to a shade just a few feet away – Zorro was obviously basking in all the cool-ness that surrounded him. Little patterns of disturbed light danced as maple leaves above swayed with the slight wind.

I asked (the obvious, considering my recent obsession with everything green) “So how long have these two trees been here?”, referring to the two grown-up maple trees that dotted the two corners of the Khan garden.

Arif bhai answered with a smile on his face “Longer than we’ve been here – you know this is why we bought this house”. You could tell that one was talking to a man who loved and appreciated trees for all their goodness. In his quintessential Arif bhai way, he paused (perhaps thinking of some far away story from a less hurried time, or a poem drenched in longing for the beloved, a ghazal to sing or some wise advice) and narrated the following:

“You know, this is some old story, I don’t remember which Mughal emperor, I seem to have forgotten his name, his servants came running to him, informing him that some palace had been burnt down. The emper

or was worried and inquired “Jungle bhi jal gaya kiya?” (Did the jungle get burnt aswell?). The servants answered ‘Nahin, sirf makan jal gaya’ (No, only the house burnt down). The emperor sighed – “Phir kiya, makan to atay jatay hain, jungle/bagh thori aisay bun jatay hain – un ko zamana lagta hai” (So what. Houses come and go, jungles and gardens don’t get built like that. It takes them ages).

The above story is an Arif Khan abridged version and might contain some severe distortions. But one important message looms throughout – That gardens must be taken seriously. That

“A garden in which one may enter in …and forget the whole world, cannot be made in one week, nor a month, nor a year. It must be planned for, waited for and loved into being” – Chinese proverb.

That gardens are special places for our mind and bodies. A garden is where nature serves as the backdrop to our actions. It becomes a place for our stories, our dreams and hopes – and hopefully in the case of the Abruzzi school garden it will become a special place for the young of Shigar where song, learning and conversations will echo through the leaves and remain forever and ever.


Discussions and meetings

Alot of little details about our journey to Shigar have been posted so far – all so everyone gets a sense of where we are and how it all works around us.

The real work for which we are here and keep meeting, conversing and discussing a school garden, and Mahera films films films, is also very much alive and well.

It is a new concept – that of a teaching garden. It makes perfect sense to some. Particularly science teachers, and seems like a frivolous idea to others like the principal to whom a library, a scie

nce laboratory, a secure boundary wall, a school bus, are a whole lot more important use of resources. To the interns – i cannot say with certainly because Ive only met one so far, I know that the work of landscape design or even supervision and maintainance is a temporary career. It is project based. They look for careers that will give them continuous work and a secure income. Don't we all!

So the challenge in creating a teaching garden, is not only to address the concerns of a school that is lacking in many of the most essential requirements for education, but also to continue the education of the older interns who helped design a garden for this school. The judicious use of donations viz a viz needs. A balancing act that will find its own level as I continue to work in Shigar.


Out and about in Shigs

Filmed quite a bit today. First stop, the Abruzzi school. Our nice neighbours at the resthouse dropped us off at the school, which is otherwise a 55 dusty minute walk away. Aunty T had a long conversation with the school principal about the garden. The school has been functioning since a year and a half, and still doesn't have a science laboratory or a library.

Continue reading

skardu morning walk

Skardu morning walk

Managed to get up 5am one fine

morning after two days in Skardu. Still not up with the birds, though. They get up a quarter past 4 and start chirping at the top of their lungs right outside our window. No worms then, no wonder. Hiked up to a water channel high up on a mountain to film some spectacular views of the first sun rays falling on the valley.