Monday, July 30, 2012

For the love of woodlands

Trees are nature's gift to us

“Never betray the forest son or you will perish. Mark my words,” the old man after uttering the ominous words, disappeared in thin air. “Baba…Baba, where are you going? Don’t leave me here please,”hoarsely whispered the man sprawled on the ground. Blood dribbled all over the smudged mud as the leafy tentacles wrapped around his legs and began pulling him down into the blood-splattered ground.

“Nooooo!!” I woke up screaming. My heart was pounding and my baggy eyes were burning with sweat dripping from my brows. “Are you alright Bashir?” My wife asked worried. “Just another nightmare,” I replied whilst knowing that this nightmare might soon become a reality.
For generations, my family of woodcutters had been performing our jobs in the most arduous conditions. Cut-off from the city life, our families were largely dependent on these indigenous forests as they were the main source of our livelihood. It was among the most fatiguing occupations, as we had to travel to the most inaccessible places, along the slopes of steep mountains in damp cold forests just to earn enough money for spending a day or two. A wooden shack, consisting of two rooms with a clay floor and a kitchen was what I called home where monsters of insufficient resources, starvation and lack of hygiene were always residing to swallow us.
Lately, illegal timber logging had become a profitable business in our region. The timber mafia used corrupt means to gain access to forests, did extraction without permission, and illegally exported it to other countries without a fine. All this had encouraged them to cut down more trees knowing that they will get away with it at the end. Witnessing my tattered lifestyle, a friend suggested to join hands with the mafia.
A major part of my childhood memories belonged to the forest whose muddy gravels to traverse, stumps to jump and trails to cruise were my daily routine. While Baba was engaged in cutting trees, I used to explore innumerable tracks and steep landscapes, admiring the majestic scenery. “Never betray the forest,” is what my father had always taught me but hunger knows no boundaries.
The timber mafia leader was a stout middle-aged man with an outlandishly mischievous grin on his face. Legs crossed and arm resting on the table, he questioned me as if I was some fresh prey caught in his trap.
“You ready to do it?” he asked. Clenching my fists, I stared helplessly at his uncaring self. He walked up to me and placed a money stuffed envelope in my hand. “Report till 15th, as you aren’t the only one left,” he affirmed in his stale tone and walked out of the door leaving me confused. Days passed with horrible nightmares but there was no end to my trauma.
“Aba do you know that deforestation was the cause of recent floods?” my heart skipped a beat on the query posed by my son one day. On inquiring further, he narrated his teacher’s lesson about the current condition of forest exploitation that had induced loss of precious timber by 25%. Shrunk to nearly three square miles, another flood could prove disastrous causing serious damage to the environment and hurting the livelihoods of local inhabitants.This revelation shriveled me from the inside and I was compelled to play my part. A local social organization working against deforestation endorsed my message and organized a cogent campaign. A crowd of more than a thousand locals participated and set a world record by simultaneously giving their beloved trees a loving squeeze. This symbolic gesture signified their respect and affection towards our forests and raised awareness regarding ecological problems often overshadowed by the local communities.
Forests are a dense backbone for our native wildlife to thrive in while absorbing the ferocity of the floodwater as well. If authorities continued to allow the denuding of country’s woodlands, our generations may face a catastrophic future.
Courtesy: Revolution Flame

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Preserving Memories

The aromatic fragrance of resplendent flowers is carried through the cool breeze, passing by the open fields adorned in green. Night sky seems dark and calm. No clouds are swirling nor are any stars ablaze as if night’s silky tendrils had caught the ones that sparkled dimly and lullabied them to sleep. The soft hooting of the owls and the crickets’ chirping is all that can be heard in the unsettling silence. The shadows made by the floodlights’ luminescence feel as if an artist has thrown spots of acrylic paint on his grey canvas.

I introduce myself as the Chowkandi monument, standing within the bewitching atmosphere of Fatima Jinnah Park, one of the largest public recreational parks situated within the F-9 sector of Islamabad. A beautifully maintained, ideally-located, secluded haven for those wanting to relax, enjoy nature and explore the beauty of the local area.

My fate was decided the moment when the park builder, Michael Japero planned on building me into a masterpiece replica of the Chowkandi art. His inspiration came from the various Chowkandi graveyard sites spread in the outskirts of Sindh and Baluchistan. Luckily, the sculptures around me have been exported well. The ones hailing from Sindh have enlightened me a great deal about the magnificence of Chowkandi. It is a treasure trove for archeologists and historians, who are mesmerized by the lengths to which our ancestors have decorated their graveyards. Literally meaning ‘four corners’, they were built for the Muslim Jokhio and Baloch tribes between the 15th and the 18th A.D to bury their dead. Each tomb was designed in a way as to signify the gender of its occupant i.e. tombs of men can be identified with tiny turbans, horses, swords and women tombs had designs of jewelry carved on them. The higher the rank was, the more elaborated stones and intricate carvings were formed.

Flying in the air was what I felt like on hearing this news. Not many get a chance to be envisioned into a historical replica of such stature. Everyday, the sight of me was to be like a perfect pearl on an azure background. My unbridled beauty was to be immaculate, swaying people in its magic and enthralling them with the feeling of wanting to gaze at me continuously.

All along these years, the experiences I have had are manifold of happiness and a mixture of thoughts. People do come in and go out daily but there are some worthy of remembering. One summer morning, I saw an alien being walking towards me. As the distance lessened, I observed that he had contrasting features and peculiar characteristics that stood out from everybody I had come across. His hazel eyes were attentively inspecting my every niche and corner. But there was an ecstatic smile around the corner of his lips as if he had achieved his epitome of success. Like a feathered bird, he was revolving around me, feeling my pillars, and walking on my floor barefoot. I kept standing there as if on watch on all his activities. The very next day, surveying equipment and a digital camera revealed that he was a foreign architect. After done with his inspection, he sat on my stairs and wrote about his findings. It amazed me that his love for Chowkandi architecture had compelled him to travel all the way to Pakistan. Since, this particular style of architecture is typical only to the region of Sindh and found nowhere else in the Islamic world, his country was using exquisite stone carving of the tombs to flourish their field of textile.

Pakistan, an Islamic nation has a deep-rooted architectural heritage that can be traced back to ancient civilizations and hence, need to be maintained, valued and preserved. But with time and exposure, they are slowly getting ruined.

Even I, an inanimate object feels sad that we don’t appreciate what we have while the world is singing ballads of its splendor. And so I stand here and pray that we sensitize our future generations and inculcate in them a healthy value system towards their own heritage

Courtesy: Revolution Flame

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Donation Drive - Kumak, Books Shack and Splash!

First guest post on my blog by Umer Hafeez, a great blogger and a philanthropist by heart who along with his friends has recently organized a donation drive. Read on and do check his blog out.

I and Hassan Motiwala running a social enterprise Books Shack through which we teach poor kids. A glimpses of the event carried in collaboration with Kumak and Splash!

A recent donation drive was conduct by Kumak Pakistan, Books Shack and Splash for the unprivileged kids of the society. The collection point was Safari Park, which is accessible in Karachi and a well known place. The donation drive went a great success for all three organizations. We have collected a good amount of books, clothes, toys and money. These donations are allocated and distributed among the desire people. By small deeds we can spread happiness among the unprivileged part of the society and this was the main concept to conduct this donation drive.

The part of the event was the youth, which has the zeal and passion to serve the nation and carry their efforts for the betterment of the society. Khushboo Rafiq, Umer Hafeez, Saadi Makhdoom, Hassan Motivala and Sabina Altaf were they key people participated in the donation drive.

The idea was generated by khushboo Rafiq from Kumak and collaboration ends on a very positive note. Roshni trust was our supporter in the event and donated a good amount of books, toys and money. The enthusiasm for volunteering the event was among the small kids and teenagers, which is a very positive point. Last, but not the least Circles Magazine and Roshni Trust all three organizations are thankful to you people.