Take an exclusive look inside Pakistan’s first all-girl boxing club

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Women in the World: November 24, 2015

13 girls are all longing for the perfect ring — a boxing ring, that is

They are part of the first-ever official training program in Pakistan to teach women how to box. The First Women Boxing Coaching Camp has been organized by the Sindh Boxing Association (SBA) in Lyari, Karachi, a neighborhood known for two things: gang violence and sports stars, particularly footballers and boxers, including Olympian Syed Hussain Shah.

It all started when a 16-year-old girl, Khadijah, approached the 2013 Sindh boxing champion and resident of Lyari, Nadir Kachi, and asked him to train her. She wanted to learn to box, but couldn’t find any club willing to teach her. All the girls she knew used to watch videos of matches or training sessions and practice in their homes. They had no way of competing, as no inter-club, district, provincial, or national-level boxing fights are held for women in Pakistan.

Nadir took Khadijah to his coach, Younis Qambrani. “I have been training my daughters to box since they could put on a pair of gloves,” explained Qambrani, whose family includes several gold medalists in the sport. Qambrani started including Khadijah in those training sessions. A few days later, another girl showed up asking for training, having heard of Khadijah’s sessions. Word spread and before he knew it, Qambrani had 13 girls in his home, all wanting to become boxers. At that point, the coach knew he had to find a space and an official program for them.

Full story here

More photos

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How to help:

Dear readers,

After spending time with these champs, I decided to run a fundraising campaign for them, to help them get basics like a boxing ring, proper shoes and workout gear, weights and equipment. The goal is to raise Rs300,000 (US$ 2844.55), with the chunk of money going towards the ring. They don’t need very much, and anything you can do – whether its donating some money or just sharing their story and getting the word out – helps hugely.

Here’s a link to the crowd funding campaign. Please spread the word – every little bit helps.

Many thanks,

Sanam

 

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Karachi’s Diwalis Are Getting Quieter By The Year, And Here’s Why

Buzzfeed: November 17, 2015

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It’s easy to forget that it’s Diwali here in Karachi. On Wednesday evening at the Shri Laxmi Narayan Mandir, the temple’s caretaker Kailash Wishram has just returned from work.

“It was not a holiday for us today and nor will I get the day off tomorrow,” he explains. “I work with a lawyer and I asked him if I could leave early as I had to finish shopping for my kids.”

His two daughters, aged two and four, are dressed identically in lettered baseball jackets. They’re waiting for their father to take them out for ice-cream.

On the floor near the puja ghar, plates of coloured rice have been placed next to a deg of homemade halva. Kailash’s wife fixes the goddess Laxmi’s crown and adjusts golden tinsel draped on the idol.

“Out!” she says, snapping her fingers towards the door. “We aren’t ready yet.”

Full story here

More photos on my Instagram

In all fairness, chicken would not have been much of a distraction anyway

Roads and Kingdoms: November 13, 2015

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Brains Breakfast-Style in Karachi

My father liked to tell us this story when we were children: a fellow doctor was visiting some exotic country (I forget where) and was invited to a dinner. His hosts placed a monkey’s head before him—brains, eyeballs and all—and told him, “It is our tradition to serve our guest of honor this delicacy.” The young doctor’s stomach quaked. All eyes—including the monkey’s—were on him. “Where I am from, it is a tradition to honor your hosts by asking them to eat such a delicacy first,” he replied. As the story goes, the hosts were overjoyed, everyone felt suitably honored, and the dinner was a success.

We were taught to eat—and loudly appreciate—whatever a host put on our plates. There were two rules we had to abide by. The first was simple: don’t insult someone by refusing the food or drink they offer you. The second was trickier: eat the food, yes. Finish it? Certainly not. For instance, if you were given a glass of juice at someone’s house, you were to make sure you drank all but the last few gulps, leaving an inch or so of juice in the glass. “Gobble everything down and people will think you don’t get good food in your own home,” we were warned. “You don’t want people to think you are a bhooki (perpetually hungry or just plain greedy).”

Full story here

The Badshahs of Karachi

Scroll: October 31, 2015

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I might have been in the sixth or seventh grade when my teacher asked, at the start of our mandatory Islamiat class at the convent school I attended in Karachi, if we were Shia or Sunni. “Raise your hand if you’re Sunni,” she instructed. I turned to a friend. “Am I Shia or Sunni?” I needed to know immediately; hands were going up pretty fast. “Well, I’m Sunni, so you must be too,” my friend replied. My hand went up.

I thought of that question on the day I met Dr Syed Zamir Akhtar Naqvi, a Shia scholar and public speaker. “Anything you might want to ask me, you can read about in my books,” he said after I was introduced. “And every year, the TV waalay take my interview, so you can find those online. In fact, if you just write my first name in Google, it automatically fills in the rest.”

I met Dr Naqvi a few days before the start of Muharram, the month of mourning for the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussein in the Battle of  Karbala in 680 CE, almost 50 years after the death of the Prophet. In gatherings of Shia Muslims during this month, a horse (often snow-white) called the Zuljinnah will make an appearance, walking with the mourners during the processions. It has no rider, nor will it ever have one. The Zuljinnah (meaning “the two-winged one”) is a replica of the horse Imam Hussein rode.

According to accounts of the battle of  Karbala, Imam Hussein and his 72 compatriots (including the Imam’s six-month-old baby boy) were brutally killed by a corrupt caliph’s army of up to 10,000 men and at the time of his death, the Prophet’s grandson had been alone, shot at by arrows and stabbed 33 times. His body was pummelled under the hooves of the caliph’s army’s horses before he was beheaded. Legend has it his loyal horse refused to abandon him. The Arab stallion wept, and, covered in his master’s blood, returned to the camp to inform the remaining women and children of Imam Hussein’s death. In the years since, this moment – when the cleft between Shia and Sunni Muslims deepened irreparably – has been resurrected in this witness every year during Muharram.

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Full story here

Nobody Home: The Indian government’s Karachi properties

The Caravan: June 2015

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On 13 April, I finally managed to get through to Tasnim Aslam, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs. I had called to inquire about three properties I had seen in Karachi, all surrounded by barbed wire-topped walls bearing the same warning painted in bright red: “This property is owned by Government of India. Trespassers will be prosecuted.” The moment I was done asking my question, the line was disconnected.

I called Aslam back. “There must have been some problem with the connection,” I said. No, she replied. “If you needed to ask me this, you should have SMS-ed me.” I explained that I had several questions, and asked if I could email her instead. “If you wanted to email me, you should have talked to my staff in the first place,” she said. She hung up again.

My next call was to Arif Belgaumi, an architect who works extensively on urban development in Karachi. “I’m really not old enough to remember how long these Indian properties have been around,” he told me. He pointed me to Arif Hasan, another architect and a known history buff. “Call him,” he said. “He’s older than the hills.”

I called Hasan, and asked about the properties for the third time that day. “There’s no such thing as the Indian government’s properties in Karachi,” he said. But there are—I’d seen three such places already, and the signs on their walls, I insisted. I asked Hasan if I could email him a photograph of one of the properties. “You can,” he said, “but I don’t plan to check my email today.” I sent the photograph over, but never heard back.

Subsequent searching revealed a total of six Indian government properties in Karachi: India House, at 3 Fatima Jinnah Road; India Lodge, at 63 Clifton; Hindustan Court, at 42-43 Kurrie Road; Panchsheel Court in Frere Town; Shivaji Court on McNeil Road, and Hut 61, Hawkes Bay.

These spots are, and for the foreseeable future should remain, small dominions of the Indian republic within Pakistan.

Full story here

Photo by Sitwat Rizvi

More photos on my Instagram

Madonna puts Karachi’s Mawach Goth on the map

It took a global funding campaign – and a little help from her friend pop queen Madonna – to get Humaira Bachal her dream school. “The Dream School is finally finished. 1,200 kids attending. Knowledge is Power!” singer and social activist Madonna announced on the photo-sharing website Instagram on Monday, with a photograph of the Dream Model Street School in Karachi’s Mawach Goth.

“Half the funding came through crowd sourcing,” explains 26-year-old Humaira Bachal, president of the Dream Foundation Trust. “Madonna promised that she would match the amount donated and now the school has been completed at a total cost of $57,648.”

Full story here

This story also got picked up by the Sindhi papers, so my day was made seeing my byline there (pretty much the only thing I can read on that paper)

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Flashback

I didn’t feel much like celebrating Pakistan this year, so I put out an open call for images from your parents/grandparents/family archives. Got such fantastic contributions from all over Pakistan, with great anecdotes/family histories. One photo every day, taking you back to a time when we had a lot more to celebrate. Today’s photo is one of my favourites 🙂 Most of the slots are full but if you’d like to contribute a photo, get in touch with me at sanam.maher@tribune.com.pk

Check out the e-paper if you’d like to read the note sent in with the image: http://tribune.com.pk/epaper/

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