Sunday, 9 July 2017

Stone The Crows

'As The Crow Flies' introduced you to Mr Nasiri, my Urdu teacher in class seven. This article will shed more light on him.

UrdAabi or PunjDu?

From the beginning my genes were tight at the waste. A few weeks after my loud Punjabi birth at Lahore, mother realised that Urdu would come more naturally to the new-born than Punjabi language. She would allow this young rooster to consume everything organic and roam free-range.

Very early at school, I discovered that Urdu was a potpourri of several languages; the lingo was not magical but my mind somehow was. While my parents conversed with one another in Punjabi, the cat got my little mother-tongue.

Whenever mother asked me a question in Punjabi I promptly responded in Urdu and without batting eyelids. This prompted her to seek professional help on the matter because not batting eyelids was more serious than changing my mother-tongue without her express permission. While my lawyer father found nothing illegal about these Urdu tendencies, the good doctor whom mother visited joked, "Don't worry, he'll grow up into a fine Punjabi lad".
My true mother-tongue

Mother's love did not require the crutches of a national or official language imposed on 96.7% of Pakistan's population by the 3.3% who spoke it. Even in old age mother still talks to me in Punjabi, I still reply in Urdu, and frequently think in Punjabi.

It was the openness of a Punjabi mind that allowed me to speak decent Urdu and write English well. An Urdu-speaking family that lived in the neighbourhood warned its children: "Don't speak Punjabi. Servants speak this language!"

This warning, long before genetic engineering came along, further split my Punjabi genes. 
No enlightened soul even today can satisfactorily explain why Urdu-daans cringe at Urdu being spoken with a Punjabi accent and why Punjabis tolerate the funny way Urdu-speakers―God forbidspeak Punjabi?

Are you from Dilli or Lucknow?
Probing my true identity

ریختہ کے تمہی استاد نہیں ہو غاؔلب
کہتے ہیں اگلے زمانہ میں کوئی مؔیر بھی تھا

I turned all the negative ambience into positivity and concentrated on pleasing Mr Nasiri, my Urdu teacher.

Whenever the teacher demanded, I stood up to read entire pages from the text and with proper Urdu accent. Because he disliked hearing the rough mixture (rek̤h̤tah ریختہ) Urdu with a thick Punjabi accent, sometimes he stared at me with admirationMy formal register Urdu (zabān-i Urdū-yi muʿallá زبانِ اُردُوئے معلّٰى) made him suspect that I was only pretending to be in love with the 'language of the exalted camp' of the British Imperial army.

One day, Mr Nasiri decided to remove all doubts about my true identity.

Bringing my ear close to his lips he enquired, "Larkey, kia teray walidain Dilli ya Lucknow say hein?" (Boy, are your parents from Delhi or Lucknow?).

When I insisted my parents were Punjabi from head to toe, he seemed to disbelieve me but with an approving smile.

Much later when I was thirty something, I discovered that hordes of Punjabi writers and poets had become Urdu literary giants by ignoring their mother-tongue.
Did highly educated ants live inside our pants?
Free 'medical aid'

Although Mr Nasiri was not a cane-wielding terror, on occasions when someone needed to be disciplined, he struck boyish cheeks much like an abstract painter with a brush gone mad. The boys were a canvas available free of charge to the teachers.

Those who tasted Mr Nasiri's hand confessed, "When it hits, it feels as if a thousand ants are crawling upon the cheeks."

Ants were part of school-life. The tiny creatures were held responsible whenever we 'fidgeted about', and every teacher accused us of having them in our pants. As victims, we were unable to prove the ants did not exist, and National Geographic magazine took no notice of the situation.

Fair and lovely

There were some fair-skinned naughty boys amongst us. The common complaint was that when they returned home, their mothers thought rosy cheeks showed improvement in health. Little did the darlings know that on a daily basis the apples of their eyes received on their cheeks English-medium mistreatment at school.

The school-teachers had a free hand and were not governed by laws such as the ones we have now. If today Muslim students were thrashed by Christian teachers, herds of bearded men would surround the clean-shaven ones and dish out instant mob-justice, if not instant coffee, for daring to touch the mini-momins of a strange ‘Islamic Republic’.
Sir, slap me please!

The broad foot-rulers and canes that disciplined our naughty bottoms are nowhere to be seen today. Much like the 'banned' kite-flying festival of basant, the cottage industry of corporeal punishment too has vanished. The government has banned this form of ‘humiliation’ and there are laws in place to punish teachers who exceed their authority over other people’s children.

Regretfully, free healthcare in Pakistan does not exist but the citizens slapping one another to produce healthy rosy cheeks is an idea whose time has come.

The future 'shaheens' of P.A.F

Mr Nasiri had this habit of napping during the Urdu period, and on such happy occasions we resorted to abusing science by launching paper-planes. Those who were experts at this craft would later join the Pakistan Air Force to experience ejections and crashes necessary for extinguished careers.
Pakistan Air Force's all-American F-86F Sabre
The 1965 Indo-Pak war was still fresh in our mini-minds and having witnessed aerial dog-fights, every boy knew what an F-86 Sabre looked like.

One day, one of our paper Sabres, after making an abnormally short orbit in the classroom’s sky, crashed into Nasiri’s head. Lacking the time to conduct a detailed investigation, the boys instantly blamed the crash on pilot-error but not on poor aerodynamic design.

Mr Nasiri's angry fist fell like a bomb over his desk and that screechy "who eeeezz?" hurt our eardrums. Within seconds he turned the classroom into a courtroom of the Nuremberg Trials but despite a stern interrogation nobody confessed to the war-crime. Collective Court Marshal followed and everyone received on his palms two strikes of the dreaded broad foot-ruler.

A word unknown to the nation
Some things never change. As I write this, collective punishment is still the lot of this nation because the culture of admitting mistakes has never been sincerely promoted. Notice how infrequently the word sorry is used in public.

Cute acts of (t)errorism

There was great childish pleasure in using rubber-bands to shoot paper projectiles at unsuspecting classmates to 'teach lessons' not printed in the textbooks. Every boy owned a rubber-band which he wore over the wrist.

In between period-changes, and with no teacher present, mini world-wars sometimes broke out between rival factions. The most dreaded piece of ammunition designed for maximum hurt-factor was the common-pin which could be transformed into a v-shaped projectile and launched via the rubber-band slingshot.

Bandits with rubber-bands 
It did not stop at this; the same humble common-pin was ingeniously bent in such a way that its pointed end stared skywards when discreetly placed over a chair. When an 'enemy agent' sat down over it, the result was excruciating pain followed by a loud scream that reached up to sweet heaven. For disturbing the peace, the poor victim always received additional punishment from the teacher.

We could complain to the teacher about headaches, toothaches, backaches or stomach-cramps but never about buttock-pain. Hence, every boy learnt to carefully scan his seat prior to mistakenly sitting down over an erect common-pin.
Common pins as weapons of m(ass) destruction

From the administration’s perspective, everything except studying was prohibited activity, and anyone found using rubber-bands and common-pins was meted out punishment disproportionate to the crime. The emphasis placed by the system was on corporeal punishment and not on scattering pearls of wisdom which we were expected to collect in our spare time and at our own expense.

A flying visit to the school-office

Being in class-seven meant we still had a year or two left in achieving the coveted status of 'senior boys'. Our seniors had named Mr Nasiri ‘kawwa’ (crow) and when we asked them why, they hinted, “Juniors, you’ll soon find out”.

Devilish naughty boys 
When Mr Nasiri passed through the school’s wide corridors, sometimes someone would shout ‘kawwa’, vanish behind one of the pillars and leave him shouting angrily, “Who eeeezz? I say, who eeeezz?”

As expected, nobody ever came out claiming, “Sir, it is me eeeezz who called you kawwa. I beg you, please punish me!”

Although the boys had punishment written in their fates yet nobody ever volunteered his proud buttocks to receive unwanted 'benders'.

One day, Mr Nasiri decided to send one of the boys on an errand. He warned in strange English: “You listen, don’t loiter about, go to the school-office straight—–”

The boy failed to check his enthusiasm and instead of adding “as an arrow” to the sentence, ended up putting very undesirable words into the teacher’s mouth: “as the crow flies”.

Mr Nasiri's little secret was revealed there and then. Fuming he got up and swiftly delivered a loud slap across the boy’s cheek. There are so many wonderful words for 'slap' in Urdu and Punjabi languages: rapda, lappar, chandd. jhaanpar, chapair.

The shocked classmate rubbed his cheek as he were applying Pond's Vanishing Cream over it. He later admitted to us: "For a few moments it all seemed very dark. I thought I'd gone blind. But then I saw tiny stars twinkling in the air, just as they do in TV cartoons".

Mr Nasiri insisting there are no crows in the world
A lovely poem

After the winter vacations, we could not wait for Mr Nasiri to cover a poem in the syllabus titled: Kawway (crows). This was his litmus-test.

We imagined having loads of fun but when the teacher cleverly skipped the poem, we knew what the old boys already did about Mr Nasiri’s nickname. He would not have himself insulted before the class by eulogising crows.

That did not stop us from loudly reading the poem in private and whose opening lines are still etched in memory:
Kawway hein sab dekhey bhaley (Crows are a familiar sight)
Chonch bhi kali, par bhi kalay (With black beaks and black feathers)
We were too young to know that the raven was considered a bird of ill omen by that observant playwright, William Shakespeare, who wrote in Macbeth: ‘The raven himself is hoarse’.

What Sheikh Peer meant was this: because the crow is associated with death, it would be heard croaking over the corpses of soldiers on the battlefields, and will soon have reason to croak above Macbeth's castle.

Azhar Abbas in his element

Azhar Abbas was a poor neighbour who lived at the end of my lane. His untidy and dazed countenance can be seen in my class-one photo. He remained a class-fellow until the senior years. Because of his family’s low status in society and the resultant low grades in every class, all the teachers treated him rather harshly.

Almost all of us were skinny back then but Azhar was the skinniest cat. While receiving the teachers’ benders on the buttocks, he habitually shook his tail to dodge them. When this happened, the cane hit his legs instead and the trousers produced a hollow sound that indicated that not much flesh decorated his underprivileged bones.

Although he yelled "Aaee...ooee...Ammi jee" while receiving punishment, he had become desensitised. After every 'therapy session' he smilingly announced, "Just had my trousers dusted off for free!"
One day, a little past noon, we found Mr Nasiri daydreaming. While we busied ourselves doing traditional mischief, Azhar Abbas did something for which no precedence had been set in class. He began to play with something on the back benches, foaming way at the mouth like a horse stricken with stomatitis, eyes half-closed, not caring who noticed him and who did not.

Fate, dressed as Mr Nasiri, finally caught up with Azhar.

“You, larkay! What you are doing at the back?” he yelled.

Azhar Abbas’s auditory system had temporarily been rendered unserviceable by God Almighty. When a neighbour alerted Azhar to the approaching danger, he went on doing what he did.

By then a furious Mr Nasiri, the Urdu ‘master sahib’, was right over Azhar Abbas’ head. The lad still showed no signs of abating.

Just to be doubly sure of sinister undercover activity, the teacher shouted, “Larkey, yeh kia kar raha hey?” (Boy, what are you doing?).

Azhar could not and did not answer.

When Mr Nasiri discovered what was going on, he issued a dire warning: “Larkay, issey andar kar warna danday maar maar kar bithaoon ga isay!” (Boy, get it back inside or I will make it sit through my stick).

Azhar was only half a step short of reaching heaven but hurriedly, like a quick snake-charmer, he got his unwilling 'cobra' back into the basket where, from a state of being full attention, it returned to the stand-at-ease position.

How much free entertainment the entire class got is impossible to describe even today but suffice to say, Mr Nasiri had Azhar Abbas relocated from the back benches to the front row in order to prevent this Socrates from corrupting the 
youth of St. Anthony's.
It was hard being perfectly noble

Good-bye, cruel world

“History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; art has remembered the people, because they created.” ― William Morris

Reminiscing about school days naturally makes one divide the teachers into two distinct groups: destructive warriors and encouraging gurus.

Considering the wide variety of our corporeal punishments, most of the teachers can now be placed in the first confederation. The second group, always in minority throughout human history, will be remembered with undiluted reverence. Much water has flowed under the bridge since I left school. It is life's seriousness that prompts me to narrate these tales of eccentric behaviour that never fail to produce roaring laughter. 

Azhar Abbas, who dreamed of becoming rich, died young in some corner of the world many years later. I pray for his easy reckoning before God Almighty. The poor lad did not get what he hoped for in this world but I believe he will be generously compensated in the hereafter.

Every time I notice a man with a wig or someone with hairs implanted into his skull, I wonder where Yawar Shah might be, for none of us have ever spotted him after leaving school. Perhaps he still looks youthful, cannot help but top in all areas of life just as he did in class, and continues to crow to his children about his 'noble' status in class seven-B.

Our knowledge of astrology in school was only limited to knowing which planet ruled over each one of us. As for Mr Nasiri, nobody knew the name of his star. The way he affected our daily horoscopes, I suspected he was ruled by the combined force of all the planets and asteroids in a strange alignment.

I have not laid eyes on Mr Nasiri in over forty years. There are probably thousands of Anthonians spread all over the world who still remember the ants produced by his firm slaps and the broad foot-ruler, and who miss that screechy “who eeeezz?”

I humbly bow my beak to thank this scavenger bird of a teacher for imparting knowledge in Urdu and which made some of us soar like eagles to great linguistic heights.

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2017

Part-I of this article: 
As The Crow Flies

Read more memoirs at: Memoirs

Saturday, 20 May 2017

As The Crow Flies

The story of Adam's creation is the greatest story ever told; Eve remains the moral of that story. For as long as we are on earth, there will always be time for one more story to be told.

Mrs Davey and Madam Shama Utarid, my lady schoolteachers whom I highlighted in previous stories, were not Polish but only poles apart from one another nature-wise. From Mr Fardy's class 'eight-B' and all that rocket-science, let us step down to class 'seven-B' to meet Mr Nasiri. He was an educator who walked upright into my school-life and whose tale cannot be told by any old boy's wife.
Some brains need more tuning
Heads or tales?

Reminiscing might make one appear nostalgic or old-fashioned but never old. If one's brain is naturally wired well, the activities of dreaming and day-dreaming will produce enough high-definition audio-video to put the best television programmes to shame. Without relying on Pakistani electricity that experience can truly be liberating and electrifying.

Our minds are reservoirs of memories that live inside billions of inter-connected neurons. As one begins to age, thoughts of childhood and old friends frequently sway like flowers in a gentle breeze. Since life comes to an end by the time one has understood it, it is best to leave behind happy memories for others to cherish; bequeathing mountains of money only tends to produce discord and unhappiness within the family.

The 'real thing'
A goal-post without goals

The warm memories associated with class seven-B bring to mind thoughts of cold beverages. We had discriminating tastes. Boys being boys had rejected the neutrality of 7-Up and chosen instead the fizzier and darker Coca Cola. The less privileged amongst us who received regular punishment (phainti, phainta) at school, drank orange-flavoured Fanta which was Adolf Hitler's favourite soft-drink. Even the Führer's Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, did not know that the drink contained only 5-percent orange concentrate. This caused great vitamin-C deficiency within the Nazi Party which triggered gaseous phainta for the 'chosen race', and led to the temporary downfall of Germany.

Seven-B was strategically located behind a football goal-post in the large rear playground at St. Anthony’s High School situated on Lawrence Road of historic Lahore. The other goal-post stood at the canteen-end adjacent to the gymnastics room. An unpainted wall in between the goal-post and the classroom prevented the football from landing on our heads as we pretended to study.
Daily flavoured-phainta

During midday 'half-breaks' that lasted only fifteen minutes, we mercilessly thrashed the solitary football. Because the thing never was properly inflated, it did not fly to distant tropical holiday destinations. I never became part of any school sports-team that took pleasure in striking helpless balls. This meant that cricket, baseball, football and baseball were out; I chose badminton but the school did not have space for courtsLater in life, I would laugh at grown men shooting puny white balls into grassy holes at sprawling golf-courses designed to ‘enhance networking’ with shouts of ‘Sir, what a shot!’
What is better than football and golf?

Initially for the sake of being part of the brotherhood I took up football but whenever I kicked, five others committed the same folly in unison. This created two after-effects: a very loud bang that reverberated throughout the known universe, and a shock that travelled up my right foot and hurt in a most cruel manner the thinking area of the brain.

Determined to protect all innocent and pure thoughts inside my head, I ended up sacrificing football at the altar of good grades which were of sole importance to my parents as well as the teachers. They never tired of repeating: "A brain is an important thing to have in life." I heard this repeated so much that it echoed at night in the ‘half-empty upper chamber’ where I desperately needed more room for thoughts appropriate for my age.

The upper chamber
Enter Mr Nasiri

Mr Nasiri was an Anglo-Indian teacher who taught us Urdu in class seven-B. There were other actors who taught us but Mr Nasiri was a true character-actor who, if attired in a nightgown, could outdo actor Agha Talish in issuing stern fatherly threats. In hindsight, all teachers were characters rolled out by God’s entertainment factory hidden in the clouds somewhere. All the teachers imagined themselves as perfected winged beings; we thought they had serious manufacturing and quality-control defects.

Like his other colleagues, Mr Nasiri too belonged to the bicycle club whose merry members pedalled to the school. The majority of us homo sapiens walked upright to the school, some mentally crawled on all fours, and quite a few rode Eagle or Sohrab bicycles which they parked at the stand located behind the school's canteen. Deans Bakery of Temple Road managed our fine eatery and whose exterior wall displayed a dire warning: OUT OF BOUNDS FOR STUDENTS. During school hours, one was not allowed to loiter beyond this landmark.

This warning refused to go away even when the boys attained adulthood. Those who became responsible fathers reconciled with the fact that everything they considered good in life was forever out of bounds.

What does your father do?

Mr Nasiri’s complexion was like dark chocolate sans the good taste. The old boys swore that the teacher was born during one of the shadowy nights of World War One. Of medium stature, aged fifty-seven, and with crow’s feet at the corners of his beady eyes, these distinguishing features gave him the countenance of a refined Urdu-speaking scarecrow.

On the very first day in class, Mr Nasiri demanded formal introductions from each student. After a brief survey of the faces he commanded, “Larkey, idhar ao” (Boy, come over here).

No sooner did the interviewee stand next to Mr Nasiri he was politely signalled to come closer. When the boy dutifully did so, he heard a question that firmly sealed his fate for the remainder of the academic year, “What does your father do?”

Did you say 'poor grades'?
A few of us gladly answered that question but after witnessing a few sad cases the rest became afraid of being truthful to the teacher.

At age thirteen while making frequent demands of monetary aid, we remained happily oblivious of our fathers’ professions. Earlier we imagined that fathers brought home pocketfuls of money from their offices but upon comparing notes we realised most of them had one common trait: they 'really gave it' to us upon hearing about poor grades at school.

Mothers were different, apart from acting like cooking and talking machines they were designed by the Almighty to protect us from fatherly hellish slaps that tended to fall more abundantly than the monsoon rains. Luckily we had the blissful Lawrence Gardens nearby to which we sometimes escaped to dodge school, the missionary Brothers and our zealous fathers.

Slapstick tragedy

Each class at St. Anthony's had two sections: A and B; only the senior classes had three. Every section was over-populated with about fifty boys. Although the concept of family planning had been introduced in Pakistan, married couples were never arrested for exercising the right to procreation and then blaming God for the 'gift'. Most weddings took place in December; hence, almost every other child was born in September under the critical zodiac sign of Virgo.

On day one, Mr Nasiri interviewed over fifty boys within forty-five minutes. His inquisitiveness about our fathers seemed obsessive and he seemed in no mood to impart Urdu lessons.
Diagnosis and 'special' treatment

One of us revealed: “Sir, my father is a Commissioner”.

Mr Nasiri’s eyes glowed like 60-watts incandescent bulb, a condescending smile graced his face, and he politely asked the interviewee to ‘be seated’.

“Very good; a Commissioner, eh?” he smilingly echoed the designation and then proceed to summon the next student whose father was a simple shop-owner. Mr Nasiri showered lesser affection and sternly commanded without a smile, “Now go back to your seat!”

The lowest of the lows amongst us was the son of a poor clerk. We timed his interview like one would for the 0-100 kmph acceleration of a Formula One racing car; it was over in
three seconds when Mr Nasiri abruptly slapped him on both the cheeks and yelled, “Jao, dafo ho jao” (Go, get lost).

Rubbing his rosy cheeks the way female film-stars did when using LUX beauty soap in television commercials, the boy returned to his desk wondering why mentioning his father’s profession won him no affection. On that solemn occasion we all covered our wide grins with the palms lest Mr Nasiri noticed our teeth.

To sum it up: in Mr Nasiri’s book, not knowing one's father's occupation was not a major crime but revealing a less than ideal one certainly was.

A 'Spring Court' big-wig judge

Real fathers, fake credentials

What was nice about the era was that a great variety of students studied together without ever feeling like homogenised and pasteurised spoiled rich sons at an elitist school. St. Anthony’s was one of the top English-medium missionary schools yet the rich and the poor, Christians, Muslims, Parsees, even a few Chinese studied together without showing themselves off.

Having scions of connected families in class definitely meant more to Mr Nasiri. He provided free slapstick tragedy when it came to boys from less privileged homes. It was impossible not to laugh at others when they were punished and very impractical to laugh at ourselves while being on the receiving end. Within minutes we discovered that the only trick that would work on Mr Nasiri was to falsify details about our fathers' occupations.

Hence, a shop-owner’s son turned his father into an owner of a shopping complex, a small businessman’s son made his papa a managing director of a group of industries, and I transformed my five foot seven inch lawyer daddy into a judge towering over six feet.

Mr Nasiri’s curiosity was boundless, he asked, “Does he practise at the High Court or the——?”

“Sir, spring court”, guessing what he wanted to know I completed the sentence.

First love: Diana-F

Mr Nasiri asked me again and I gave the same answer and which made him chuckle affectionately. Up until that time, I had always heard my mother laughingly call Supreme Court ‘spring court’. My father felt it was perfectly legal to cringe upon hearing that distorted label.

Meet the nobility

I did reasonably well in class and won a certificate for English essay writing. In the same year I began toying with toy cameras to photograph odd objects and odder friends. Quite a few photographic films got ruined as a result of impatiently opening up my Diana’s plastic back in partial darkness to see if the images had developed. How could they without having been inside a photo studio’s darkroom for black-and-white processing?

Mr Nasiri had a few one-trick ponies in this educational circus; I was not one of them. The chief of the ponies was a fair and studious boy called Yawar Shah. His interview was a truly jaw-dropping event. When Yawar revealed his father was a very high-ranking bureaucrat, Mr Nasiri almost fell off his desk, lit up like a Christmas tree, nearly kissed the boy, and paid a most memorable compliment: “Yawar Shah is a noble boy!”

He stretched the 'o' in the word noble and taught us the meaning of crowing which means: to express pleasure verbally, an instance of boastful talk, dwell on with satisfaction.

A model of English nobility

During that year, our favourite phrase with which to taunt this class-fellow was: “Yawar Shah is a nooooooble boy!” He did not mind that at all, in fact he adored being recognised as noble. Although the boy showed no signs of losing sleep over taunts, he was losing hairs very fast due to a diseased scalp that caused premature balding—something that was unheard of at age thirteen.

We waited until the end of the academic year but to our utter disappointment, the ‘noble boy’ never attained noble baldness. To silence us forever, he topped in the class and thus became in Mr Nasiri’s eyes a saintly cat whose halo was not visible to the rest of us spiritually blind mice.

Who is?

Long before computers for the masses came long and internet took over our lives, Mr Nasiri invented an amazing word: WHOIS. Although he used it in a different context, today it means: a query and response protocol that is widely used for querying databases that store the registered users or assignees of an Internet resource (such as a domain name, an IP address block, an autonomous system, and a wide range of other information).

Mr Nasiri delighted in reading important parts of Urdu poems and essays but when he felt exhausted he commanded, “Boy, read now, YOU!”

Allama Iqbal, resting

That command always disturbed my sense of good English during his Urdu period of forty-five minutes duration. The sound of Urdu text being read by a student acted like a sweet lullaby and made the teacher fall asleep with his temple supported by a clenched fist. The real difference between him and Allama Iqbal was that while Mr Nasiri snored in Urdu, the Indian poet-philosopher dreamed Arabic thoughts in Persian language.

Mr Nasiri's snoring would grow progressively louder and hypnotise some of us into falling asleep. He would be aware of our loud chatter but remain unable to discern exactly ‘what nonsense’ was being discussed. Sometimes the snoring would stop and prompt Mr Nasiri to demand 'pin-drop silence' from the entire congregation by yelling only two shrill words: "Who is?"

The way he stretched the word ‘is’ to ‘eeeezz’ lent great seriousness to the question. Even at that young age I was aware that ‘who is’ was an incomplete sentence in incorrect English. That ‘who is’ was always accompanied by a loud thump of Mr Nasiri’s left palm over the desk. He probably dreamed the impossible, that someone someday might confess: “Sir, it is I making all that noise. Please, I beg you, punish me!”. That dream never came true.

Mr Nasiri's cat-naps sometimes progressively became longer until the Urdu period came to an end. Calmly he would rise, button up the jacket and walk like a mildly drunk person to the staff-room where we suspected he again played the role of the sleeping beauty.

What if, who is?

Mahomedali Jinnahbhai Poonja made a famous English Speech at Islamia College for women on 25 March 1940. If Mr Nasiri were to repeat it, this is how he would:
“There are two powers in the world; one eeeezz the sword and the other eeeezz the pen. There eeeezz a great competition and rivalry between the two. There eeeezz a third power stronger than both, that of the women”.
Sister Fatima, brother Jinnah, daughter Dina
Jinnah being Pakistan's founding 'father’ knew everything there was to know about this ‘third power’ through the courtesy of the ladies in his life. His young Parsi second wife, Rattanbai Petit, never became the mother of the nation. His spinster sister Miss Fatima Jinnah, was declared the official 'mother of the nation’ but was defeated in the elections by military dictator Ayub Khan. Jinnah's estranged daughter, Dina Wadia, was never acknowledged as the daughter of the nation because she married, Neville Wadia, an Indian Parsi-Christian.

Now if successive governments can do this to the top family's relationships and history, imagine what else they will stoop to distorting.

Mr Nasiri will entertain you some more in Part-2 of this article: Stone The Crows

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2017

Similar stories may be read HERE