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What does it take to have a happy relationship?
Here are tips from some
of Pakistan’s most famous couples

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Juggan Kazim, actor/model

Some people think that the most important thing in making a relationship work is love or mutual understanding. I would say the most important thing is respect. If you don’t respect each other, it’s not possible to have a long-term relationship. If there is one thing I could keep in my relationship with my husband, or son, or mother, it would be respect. If I had all the money in the world and didn’t have respect, I’d rather have none of it.

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Shaniera Akram

“To all GT readers, we wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day in 2014.”

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Aamina Sheikh, actor

Let’s dance some more, shall we? Love. Communication. Trust. Understanding. Compatibility: words beaten to death when asked about a relationship. These are generic terms more easily used than applied; whoever states them is probably just trying to get done with the interview. We’re not ‘perfect.’ What is this term anyway? If anything, we’re beyond perfection. One can’t have a word that limits the potential of a human being. In fact isn’t it the imperfections and uncertainties in our world that are most promising? This companionship has the most dynamic range. It’s like chewing gum. We stretch it. Chew it. Savor it. Get irritated by it. Blow bubbles with it. Pop it. Crave for it. Squirm at its redundancy. Wonder at its longevity. Giggle at its idiocy. It’s all of this and more. There are moments together when you feel there can be no one closer, then there are events that make you feel no one can be furthest. Dance the dance of silence, of resistance, of distance; dance the dance of acceptance, of letting go, of forgiveness, the dance of melancholy, the dance of unlearning, the dance of re-learning, the dance of harmony, of ecstasy, of hope, of love. This is who and what we are – two souls partnered for the dance of life – while we watch each other we step in sync when the rhythm of life commands. May this dance continue till the eternal show and beyond. Amen.

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Khadijah Shah, designer

A healthy relationship is one in which you can be who you are, follow your dreams and do the things you love!

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Wasim and Naila Akhtar, politician and homemaker

Don’t ever stop dating your husband and don’t ever stop flirting with your wife. Also understand clearly that you are both on the same side. Everyday then will be Valentine’s Day.

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Shahroz Sabzwari, actor

My advice would be to give the right amount of space to each other. Loyalty and everything else is secondary. The first thing is to respect each others space and that means you respect everything about your other half.

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Tehmina Durrani, writer and wife of Chief Minister of Punjab

You must love a person in the way they need to be loved, instead of loving the way you want to love. Only then will you touch his heart and soul. Soon he will reciprocate. The key is patience and generosity.

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Anwar Maqsood, writer

The most important thing for a healthy relationship is trust. If one speaks the truth, one is not afraid of anyone. You have to be honest in every relationship, whether it is between a mother and a son, a brother and a sister, or a boyfriend and a girlfriend. Valentine’s Day is a recent phenomenon in our culture, but not the tradition of giving a rose to someone. There is a verse by Ghazala Aleem about being given a rose that leaves one pricked with thorns. Roses always have thorns, except the ones we exchange on Valentine’s Day. They are without thorns and wrapped in plastic. Plastic is the worst thing for a flower. Moreover, all of Faiz’s poetry, all of Faraz’s poetry and all of Iqbal’s poetry tells us that every day is Valentine’s Day. All 365 days of the year should be spent loving each other. And then there would be no terrorists and no children without education. Love these children, so that they can become educated. Love them by giving them a bag of books. Love them by lightening their burden so that they may continue to educate themselves. That is to me what Valentine’s Day stands for.

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Sharmila Farooqi, politician

Respect and space are the most important. In other words, stay away when in a bad mood!

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Meesha Shafi, actor/singer

For any healthy relationship, respect and space are pivotal. But to maintain loving, dynamic, communication and appreciation are key. Being compassionate and trying to understand each other’s point of view, making time for one another and adapting as life takes its own course, these are the things that help couples grow together.

Kiran Chaudhry Amlani on the first glittering nights of 2014
Kiran & Riyaaz Amlani
Kiran & Riyaaz Amlani

Living in Lahore taught me how much fun ‘fancy dress’ parties can be. Lahoris need any excuse to don something extravagant and step out for a special occasion. So, the Lahori in me simply couldn’t resist bringing some of that outlandishness to laid-back Bombay. I decided to organize a surprise birthday party for my husband, Riyaaz.

The theme ‘Rockstars and Groupies’ struck a chord with me, not least because I had plenty of appropriate clothing options in my wardrobe to choose from — bright neon wigs, black fishnet gloves, red feather boas and corsets, among other items. I even managed to put together a crazy outfit for Riyaaz, by digging out one of his old biker jackets, workout gloves and a getting him a fake red mohawk wig from the party shop!

Suraiya Vaghani, Arshiya, Kiran & Mahves

New Year’s Eve in Sydney
New Year’s Eve in Sydney

Rahul surprised us all by booking a stretch Hummer Limo for the night, which to me looked like something Snoop Dogg would ride around in!

I have to admit I was a little unsure of whether our guests would make the effort to dress up. Bombay is notoriously laid back in this regard, and I remembered how some people had turned up to my wedding reception in Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts. So, I really didn’t know what to expect. But when everyone turned up looking like they just walked out of a drag club in New York over Pride weekend, I was very impressed. Bombay has a wonderful spirit and it’s liberating to live in a place where people don’t take themselves too seriously. They do, however, take their partying very seriously: We ended up bringing most of the party home with us and staying up till the wee hours.

The best part of the evening was how many real rockstars turned up. There was Sona Mohapatra, the singing sensation, with her husband the music producer Ram Sampath; Vishal Dadlani, the man who wrote ‘Sheila ki Jawaani’; Ankit ‘Ankytrixx’, one of India’s top dance music DJs; sultry actress Shriya Saran and TV superstar Narayani Shastri; Shiraz Bhattacharya, drummer for band Pentagram and one of the most amazing musicians I have ever known, and his ‘former Miss India’ actress wife, Shonali Nagrani; the list was endless.

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At 'The Ivy' Rooftop Club on New Year’s Eve
At ‘The Ivy’ Rooftop Club on New Year’s Eve

Sometimes, as a female singer in Pakistan, I had felt like I was going against the grain of what society expected of me

Looking around that night, I remember thinking to myself that most people could have just turned up as themselves without violating the theme of the party — they really were rockstars. It also made me see how Bombay is full of creative people. It is such a blessing, as an artist, to be surrounded by other artists; by one’s own kind, in other words. Sometimes, as a female singer in Pakistan, I had felt like I was going against the grain of what society expected of me. While there were fans, there were also those who would discourage you. It can be exhausting to constantly swim against the stream. In India, and especially in Bombay, it’s a compliment to be considered slightly strange: an ambitious, creative person with big dreams. That’s probably why, when I first came to visit Bombay several years ago, I said to a friend, “I could live here in a heartbeat.” I had no idea that several years later it would actually happen.

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The morning after Riyaaz’s birthday party, with what seemed like a moment’s shut-eye, I dragged myself to the airport to catch a flight to Lahore. It was my friend Sameer Ahmed’s wedding. Naturally I had to be there. Sameer has broken many girls’ hearts in his time, being the mysterious, green-eyed bass player for several major bands, like Coven, Mauj, and the Mekaal Hassan Band. You can imagine my delight when I saw that he had finally met ‘the one’ in the lovely Kanwal Eshai. Seeing them together I realized that there really is someone out there for everyone; one ought to wait for the right person. The highlight of the wedding was a wild party thrown by all of Sameer’s musician buddies, with special performances by Club Caramel, Symt and EP among others.

Returning to Bombay, I had just enough time to change and get into party mode again for the launch of my husband’s latest restaurant in Bombay. The Smoke House Deli, Bandra launch party was a good excuse to reconnect with everyone. But, dear reader, before we could really catch our breath, we had to pack our bags again – this time for a much-needed two-week vacation in Australia.

Launch of Smoke House Deli — Bandra Kurla, Mumbai
Launch of Smoke House Deli — Bandra Kurla, Mumbai

The journey became magical with the car-roofs down and the summer breeze blowing through our hair along the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen

Riyaaz and I had decided that this time for the New Year, we would not go to Goa (like everyone else in India), but try to explore a country we had not experienced before, hence the unusual destination of the ‘land down under.’ The fact that it was peak summer there was a big deciding factor. We managed to persuade a few of Riyaaz’s close friends to join us and before we knew it, we were a party of seven including Mikhil and Gauri Narang, Jay and Padma Galla and my husband’s bestie Rahul Aggarwal.

We flew into Brisbane and drove to Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast to soak up some sparkling summer sun. The evenings were spent strolling on the sea-front promenade that stretched for miles along pristine beaches. The nights were mostly spent in very loud Irish pubs. On the weekend we managed to get a VIP table at the popular ‘Club Liv,’ which turned into an unexpectedly fun night (mostly due to Rahul’s ordering of two bottles of a certain sherbet).

9 course degustacion dinner at the Tetsuya, in Sydney
9 course degustacion dinner at the Tetsuya, in Sydney

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Road trip to Sydney along the Gold Coast
Road trip to Sydney along the Gold Coast

Then, feeling very adventurous, we decided to hire some wheels to take a road trip down to Sydney. The boys got carried away with the hire cars and somehow we decided against the more practical SUVs we had originally planned for and ended up instead in Ferrari, Porsche and BMW convertibles! We obviously had no room in the boots of these cars for luggage, so the ingenious plan of sending our suitcases by air-freight was hatched. Boys really will be boys. Looking back, though, the journey became magical with the car-roofs down and the summer breeze blowing through our hair along the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen. We stopped at small towns along the way, like the very Bohemian Byron Bay and Coffs Harbour, and ended up in Sydney late into the night, exhausted and exhilarated from our drive.

The Sydney Harbour with its landmark Opera House makes for a spectacular evening stroll with its waterfront bars. The restaurants are also top-notch; in particular, the Opera House and ‘Tetsuya,’ an award-winning Japanese restaurant which served us a beastly nine-course menu over a five-hour meal. The Sydney fireworks on New Years Eve are a spectacle, so we wanted to make sure we had a good vantage point to observe those. Rahul surprised us all by booking a stretch Hummer Limo for the night, which to me looked more like something Snoop Dogg would ride around in. It certainly got a lot of attention from the ladies (which in all honesty had probably been Rahul’s intention!)

Dinner at the Opera House
Dinner at the Opera House

From Sydney, we made our way to Melbourne, which by far was my favorite part of Australia. The city has tons of character with lots of edgy, interesting watering holes, like the Carlton Club and rooftop bar amusingly-titled ‘Naked for Satan’! I also got to catch up with two friends, Sherry and Afra, whom I hadn’t seen in ages. Melbourne felt like a slice of home, not to mention the fact that almost every cab driver was from Lahore!

But the best part of the whole vacation, and the biggest insight gained from it all was in returning home to Bombay. Before this journey, I would often feel deflated at the end of a vacation; coming home felt like a downer after a good holiday. This time I realized, perhaps for the first time in my life, how good it was to come home to a place you love, especially a place that you share with someone you love.  

Saba Ahmed on the searing political comment in Julius John’s artwork

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Lending a much-needed hand to the growth of contemporary art in Pakistan, Seher Tareen recently showcased the work of artist Julius John at Rohtas Gallery in Lahore. Having broadcast the work of minority artists, in particular the Hazaras, for her Master’s thesis while at St. Martin’s in London, Tareen continues to hold a candle to the flame of Pakistani art. “It’s important to elucidate what artists have to say about the social and political situation in a country,” she says.

But what does Julius John, the artist whose work Tareen has curated, want to show? We find a deeply personal response to the physical and emotional encroachments of the State. John was born and raised in Kot Lakhpat. He has spoken about the “ganda naala” that divides the posh areas of the city from the relatively impoverished quarters of the Christian community. Three years ago, the government razed the settlements to make a road. The decision naturally altered the landscape, but it also left a deep imprint on John.

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John decided to create something directly on the walls of the gallery. His work consists of three parts: two-dimensional wall paintings, an installation, and the play of light and shadow. Upon entering, the gallery is shrouded in darkness. Linear shadows merge and flicker on the walls. A dim glow outside the window illuminates the shadows cast by the trees; it is the only trace of light inside. Ambiguous spaces, seemingly ruinous and barren, are rendered on the walls in strong strokes of black pastel. There is a single Christmas tree bathed in red. Next to it, a bathtub oozes black tar.

John has developed his own system of cartography: successive photography, counting his steps as well as counting landmarks, like trees and bridges

Painting directly on the walls is one of the most powerful things about John’s work. Once the show comes down, the walls will be painted over. In the moment of viewing, however, the observer can’t help but be immersed in the piece. People who came to the gallery in a cheery mood left melancholic and perhaps even a little depressed: John holds a stark mirror to the society we live in. It made me think that there is no such thing as “apolitical art” in Pakistan. In a country ravaged by violence, the political seeps into every aspect of the personal. John’s Christmas tree is not brimming with shiny baubles; it is blood-soaked.

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About the show, Tareen said, “I wanted to create an experience for viewers unlike most commercial art exhibitions where you have sculptures on pedestals and paintings on the walls. P.S. {ART} has been able to break free of the shackles of run-of-the-mill gallery shows where art work waits obediently to be purchased by trend-chasing enthusiasts.”

John told me he was inspired by the Situationist movement of the ‘70’s, in which a group of artists and architects believed that the city should be a constant source of wonderment for its inhabitants. Their process involved moving through the city, documenting it and making alternate maps that they referred to as psycho-geographical maps. Similarly, John has developed his own system of cartography: successive photography, counting his steps as well as counting landmarks, like trees and bridges. John shared an example to illustrate his process: “There is a piece I have done titled 3000 steps of solitude: I walked along an open sewer and photographed the houses situated on the other side of the sewer. I would take a photograph every 30 steps and in total, ended up taking about 3000 steps. Conclusively, I drew all the steps using a solder rod on thermal paper and joined the photographs together.”

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The Christmas tree is not brimming with shiny baubles; it is blood-soaked

Before the show went up, Tareen was away in London while John was at the gallery for a span of two weeks; the space was his and he could do as he pleased. Tareen returned to find everything covered in black pastel. “For him, it was a very creative, immersive process. There is tremendous immensity in his strokes.”

Creative it certainly is, but I left the gallery feeling both awe-struck and sad. John’s art is an unmistakable response to the violence of the State.

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