Sunday, 20 August 2017

How To Plan For An Umrah

Umrah is a 'minor pilgrimage' or 'lesser pilgrimage', while the Hajj (a resolve to some magnificent duty) is the 'major pilgrimage’.

While Umrah is highly recommended, Hajj is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can economically and physically afford it. The Arabs address even the Umrah pilgrims as Haji (one who performs Umrah).


The Umrah (عمرة‎‎) is a pilgrimage to Makkah (Arabia) that can be performed by Muslims during any time of the year except the five days of 9-13 Dhul Hajj (during which it is considered makrooh tahreemi or prohibited). However, the Hajj is offered only during the eleventh Islamic month of Dhul Hajj based on the lunar calendar.

Why do you need to go?

Pilgrimage means more than just offering prayers at the Haram, consuming Ajwa dates and drinking Zamzam water.


Ask yourself a few honest questions before embarking on this holy journey:
  1. Am I going for Umrah for Allah’s pleasure or because it is a popular religious activity these days?
  2. Will I be able to wash off all my sins in Makkah?
  3. Will I be able to refrain from indulging in sinful behaviour after returning home?
  4. Why am I going to Makkah if I am unwilling to change?
  5. If I do not improve as a human being after performing Umrah, it means my pilgrimage was rejected by Allah. What shall I do to reverse this condition?
What is Umrah?

The word Umrah literally means ‘to visit a populated place’.

In the Shariah (laws derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah practises of the last Messenger of Allah) Umrah means ‘to perform Tawaaf (counter clockwise circumambulation) around the Ka’aba.

Running seven times between the hills Al-Safa and Al-Marwah is called Sa'i and which commemorates Hazrat Hajira’s search for water and God's mercy 
in answering prayers. This is done after assuming Ihram (a sacred state), from one of the sixMiqaat points (geographically ‘stated places’). Each run is 350m or a total of 3.15 Km for seven runs.

After the Tawaaf and the Sa'i, Muslims complete the rituals associated with Umrah with halq or taqseer (shaving of the head). Pilgrims then drink water from the well of Zamzam just as the Last Messenger of Allah did over 1,400 years ago.

There are two types of Umrah:
  • Al-Umrat al mufradah refers to Umrah that is performed independently of Hajj.
  • Umrat al-tammatu refers to Umrah that is performed in conjunction with Hajj; the rituals of the Umrah are performed first and then those associated with the Hajj.

Umrah is obligatory

According to the Hadith (Bukhari 1654, Muslim 1253, Tirmidhi 821), the Last Messenger of Allah performed four Umrahs and one Hajj but some scholars insist he performed three Hajjs (two before migration to Medina and the last Farewell Hajj).
Many Muslims end up performing Umrahs for deceased relatives while forgetting that every nafs (ego) is individually responsible for deeds done during a limited earthly life and which effect the ruh (soul).

Contrary to the Christian belief, Islam does not require a believer to carry another person’s cross over the shoulders.


If your deceased spouse, parent(s), children or sibling(s) were unable to perform Umrah, it is better to pray for their forgiveness instead of burdening yourself with their sins or attempting to wash them in Makkah.

Holy business?

Even if it were to be believed that performing four Umrahs was the Sunnah (action) of the Messenger of Allah, under what compulsion do Muslims perform more than that number?


Why are the religious scholars silent on key issue and why has piety become an open display of money and fake religiosity?


Arabia has already declared that their future revenues—upwards of $16 billion each year—will mostly come from Hajj because oil has lost its artificially inflated value. The troika of Arab hotel owners, tour-operators and the mullahs are indulging in getting everyone hooked to performing repeated Umrahs.

As for the Hajj, the Qur’an imposes a simple to understand condition:
(3:97) Hence, pilgrimage unto the Temple is a duty owed to God by all people who are able to undertake it (or able to afford it, or who can find a way to it).
What the verse means is this: suppose a poor Muslim man has daughters or sisters that he must marry off, or care for an ailing family member, or get his sons educated enough to earn a decent living. If he is unable to attend to important matters at home, he is not obliged to spend a small fortune on performing Umrah or Hajj.

Or suppose that he must pass through a war-zone (and risk getting killed) to get to Makkah. What answer will he give to Allah on Judgement Day for endangering his own life and ruining his family's? Islam, therefore, is a practical religion which does not commands believers to burden themselves unnecessarily.
The Prophet's house (birth place) in Makkah
If one is physically straightened or economically unstable, presenting himself at Allah’s House is bound to displease Him. It is best to go for Umrah in good health—physically, emotionally and economically.

Sadly, many performers of multiple Umrahs are unable to wash off their sins in Makkah because upon returning home, their conduct is not purged of lying, cheating and sinning. This clearly indicates that their visits have not be blessed and the Umrahs (or Hajj) rejected.

Basic preparation

A few weeks prior to your departure, start building up your stamina for long brisk walks. If you wish to offer five congregational prayers in the rows nearest to the Prophet’s mausoleum in Medina. This translates into walking for ten 
Kilometres daily.

Our lifestyles at home are such that usually the ladies and the children rely more on chauffeur-driven luxury cars than their feet. Physical stamina is in short supply.

While wheel-chairs and attendants are available for hire at Makkah. Carrying along your own wheel-chair for a disabled person does come handy while moving about for food and shopping.

A spiritual package

Let the travel agent make a small profit for making your life easy. Resist the temptation to arrange for accommodation on your own as that may not be a cheaper proposition. Travel agents can rent hotel rooms in bulk and get better discounts.


The star-ratings of hotels are important if you prefer 5-star luxury or insist on acting like a VIP in Allah’s House. That said, it is not a sin to ask for some comfort especially in hot weather.

Go for a travel 'package' as it normally includes everything: 
 visa processing fees, return tickets by air, hotel accommodation (with a sumptuous breakfast), and travel between the airports and the hotels (but not ziarah of historical sites).

Group-travel with your extended family or strangers is cheaper and provides greater support.


Taking women, children and aged folks along will drain you of energy. 
The truth is: family matters distract from praying properly, lessen focus, and waste precious time and energy. If you insist on taking along difficult-to-handle family members along, nobody can stop you from earning extra sawaab (Allah’s reward points).

Although hotel rooms can accommodate anywhere from two to six people in each, it is best to keep the maximum number of persons per room down. Sleeping with crying infants or snoring aged folks will cause sleep deprivation which must be avoided to gain maximum benefit from the pilgrimage.

Trips range from 4 nights to as many as 30.  Avoid religious overkill. Staying longer means unnecessary expenses, crowding inside hotels, pushing and shoving at the Holy sites, and feelings of claustrophobia. 
A longer stay may not make you more pious. Do not be a selfish hoarder of sawaab by assuming that the longer you stay in Arabia, the more spiritually dry-cleaned you will emerge.

What to look for in a travel agent

Get an authorised travel agent with links to a reputable Arabian agent. His good reputation will result in fewer headaches in a foreign land. Prior to Ramadan, the visa fees start shooting up from Rs 14,000 to 25,000 and reach up to Rs 35,000.


These days, many rich Muslims feel the urge to spend the entire month of Ramadan in the cities of Medina and Makkah. May Allah have mercy on the poor who imitate the rich and the starved who go hungry because the rich waste food.

Charity and prayers go hand in hand but it seems that many Muslims these days are fixating only on prayers.
Transportation

Any decent package will take care of travel between the airports and the hotels.


A good travel agent will provide a luxurious American GMC vehicle able to comfortably transport 6-8 passengers. Anything less will mean reduced comfort level during the 5-hours long journey between Medina and Makkah.


If the GMC’s driver can speak your language—or at least English—it will reduce stress. An alternative is to enquire from your hotel’s concierge; he will present a much cheaper solution as taxis of all sizes are readily available at the doorstep.


If you wish to go for ziarah (visits) of important historical sites in Medina and Makkah, the travel agent will invariably quote you a higher price.

Be mindful of the fact that many sites of historical importance have been demolished by House of Saud to make room for commerciality and ugly sky-scrappers.

The documents you require

The documents required for travel may vary but the following are essential:
  1. Two coloured passport-sized photographs with light blue background. Women’s heads must be covered in the photographs
  2. Valid passport (with not less than six months remaining to expiry)
  3. Leave certificate from your employer
  4. Air travel tickets with confirmed two-way booking
  5. Original CNIC (computerised national identity card)
After the travel agent has confirmed your hotel booking, filled out relevant forms and obtained visas, he will issue his agency’s ID card which is required for identifying yourself at various points during the trip.

The agent should provide you with a detailed printed plan with names and cell-phone numbers or relevant persons. Once you pay the full charges of the tour; do obtain a receipt for your record.

The passport

This document must not have less than six months remaining for expiry.


Estimated expenses person (does not include the cost of air travel)
  1. Tickets: 79,000 (self-financed economy class tickets Rs 55,000-110,000 each)
  2. Package (3 nights in Medina, 3 nights in Makkah): 456,000 (hotels, transportation, visas)
  3. Expenses: Rs 35,000 (food for six persons twice a day), Rs 45,000 (shopping etc.)
  4. Total: 620,000 (103,000/person with my free tickets)
  5. It is best to carry a reasonable amount of foreign currency, say SR 600-1200 per person. The legal limit for Riyals allowed into Arabia is 60,000.
  6. While leaving Pakistan the limit is Rs 3,000 of Pakistani currency or $10,000. It is best to avoid using credit cards abroad unless you wish to make the banks rich through charging of double conversion rates (Rupees to Dollars to Riyals).
Health

To avoid fatigue, it might be best to land at Jeddah, perform the Umrah and then proceed to Medina.


I followed the travel agent’s advice, landed in Medina and then proceed for Umrah to Makkah because the Messenger of Allah went from Medina to Makkah as well.

As you leave Pakistan, the health department’s officials will make you drink anti-Polio drops and issue certificates that have no value in Arabia.


Upon arrival at Medina, the officials will again make you drink more of that anti-Polio concoction. Only pregnant ladies are exempt from drinking these drops.

I strongly advise you to take written prescriptions from your doctors and carry sufficient medicines for the entire trip. Carry along a small medical kit will take care of aches, cough and fever because medicines are expensive in Arabia.


I was advised by a friend; "In case something goes wrong abroad, visit a government hospital instead of a private clinic."

As for poor health, I recall seeing a man with his aged father offering prayers inside Masjid-e-Nabwi. The poor son had to repeatedly gather in a plastic bag the saliva of a father who coughed frequently. This not only disturbed others, it felt repulsive in that Holy environment.

My own mother fell sick during the last days of the Umrah. This kept her away from congregational prayers, hence less sawaab for her. Perhaps I got extra sawaab for caring for her, but then if Islam is turned into a sawaab-machine for scoring spiritual reward points, selfishness and self-centeredness tend to creep in.


Rituals and prayers

VERILY, God does not forgive the ascribing of divinity to aught beside Him, although He forgives any lesser sin unto whomever He wills: for he who ascribes divinity to aught beside God has indeed contrived an awesome sin. Qur'an 4:48

Outlining the finer points of rituals and Umrah prayers is beyond the scope of this article. It is best to conduct research on the internet or ask a Haji friend. Be mindful of one thing: unintentional slips will occur during the journey no matter how well-prepared you go.

The rituals and supplications will vary somewhat for Muslims belonging to:
  1. Sunni madhhab (Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi’i or Hanaffi school of thought)
  2. Sub-sect (Barelvi, Deobandi etc.)
  3. Shi’a fiqh (jurisprudence) schools of Ismaili, Bohra, or Khoja varieties
  4. You are strongly advised to rid yourself of the poisonous ideology of takfir (labelling others as unbelievers worth killing). Imagine other fellow beings as travellers on different roads headed for the same destination.
  5. Ensure that the rituals and prayers do not make you commit shirk (associating partners with Allah) as this is the only sin that is unpardonable according to the Qur’an:
Be careful about what you ask for in your prayers. Cherish the simplicity and purity of Islam as it was practised long ago.

Be humble and sincere in your intentions. Seek much forgiveness and Divine guidance, and happily tolerate whatever hardships come your way during the Umrah.

Conclusion

Pilgrimage has become quite dangerous because of official corruption and deaths that occur yearly due to stampedes and accidents at Makkah. It is not guaranteed that the government of Arabia will send back the bodies of publicly-executed convicts or of those who die in stampedes at Makkah.

Unfortunately, performing Umrah has become a religious VIP tour that brings varying levels of happiness and peace to the pilgrims. Long trips are not only expensive but unjustifiable considering the depressed economies and political turmoils plaguing most Muslim states.

Minor irritants might overwhelm you on this sacred journey if you habitually leave everything to Allah. As they say in Arabia: first tie your camel and then place your trust in God. 

If you find that this article has helped you in some way, please pray for me. If you feel it can be improved, kindly post suggestions. May Allah accept your repentance and Umrah.

Acknowledgement
Some pictures courtesy of Native Pakistan
Bahraini man who performed tawaaf around the Kaaba during 1941 floods is dead
Destruction of early Islamic heritage sites in Saudi Arabia
Video of door opening of Kaaba
Tawaaf on a hoverboard
Women with periods
Grand view of Kaaba from high point

Disclaimer
I have used the word Arabia instead of KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) throughout this article as this was the original name of the land whose king the Messenger of Allah never claimed to be. Had he wished, he could have renamed it after his own tribe's name. With this in mind, I sincerely hope that KSA’a authorities will not mind my pious choice.

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