Pakistan Blog Awards 2010
Monday, 31 May 2010
CIO and Google organised the First Annual Pakistan Blog Awards and New Media UnConference 2010 on May 28, 2010 in Karachi. The event was presented by Nokia and sponsored by DEL. Over 300 top Pakistani bloggers and corporates attended. See the winner’s list here and names of the panelists here.
Congratulation to all the winners and the organizers. Keep up the good job you are doing.
Every Rose Has Its Thorns
Friday, 28 May 2010
While most of my friends were having a great weekend, I was taking a trip to explore the lush green plains of Punjab, riding my trusted old motorbike on Band Patri (track along the bank) of Lower Bari Doab Canal (LBDC). Many new and interesting things came in the way, which normally remain hidden from commuters on the National Highway or travellers in the area. The countryside embraces you with lovely colours, atmosphere, people and bits and pieces of history. And, there is no hassle anywhere in the way.
As spring approaches, the traveller, especially in the irrigated tracts, ride through endless expanses of waving crops of different shades of colour, out of which the villages seem to rise like islets in an ocean of green.
I took the side route and got onto the LBDC from Sahiwal -- the city famous for greenery and best breed of mammals. The first thing along the LBDC that attracted my attention was Mandi Maweshian (animal market) near Okara -- one of the largest in the country. It is a complete bazaar where a large number of fine quality animals changes hand every month. You can find makeshift hotels (with arrangements for night stay), veterinary doctors, milk and fodder shops and even provision stores. "It is a complete market that keeps moving from one place to another as per its permanent schedule," told me an astute manager, who establishes a hotel wherever the market goes. "We have buparis (businessmen) from Karachi to Peshawar, local farmers as well as people working in the market as our customers," he added. Another shopkeeper informed, "Farmers sell their live stock here and buy provisions for their homes." The market has its own unique culture.
Near Renala, you see one of the first Hydroelectric Power Stations constructed in the Subcontinent. Sir Ganga Ram, an Engineer and famous Philanthropist had built this Power Station in 1925 in order to irrigate about 70,000 acres of agricultural land that is higher than the normal level in the area and could not be irrigated through the LBDC. Ganga Ram forked the canal, built the Power Station and installed five motors to generate electricity. The then Governor Punjab, Sir William Malcolm Hailey laid down its foundation stone of the station on March 22, 1925. Engineer in charge of the station explained the working of the station and its excellent performance despite the old vintage. The Power Station is not linked with National Electric Grid and only provides electricity for the five pumping stations for lifting the water from the LBDC. The Power Station remained with Power and Works Department till 1958 when it was taken over by WAPDA. Why not more similar hydroelectric stations in the country? The question keeps coming back to my mind.
First sight of the Power Station reminded me of Venice City. The powerhouse building seems to be floating on water. Photographs are not allowed. Security! The canal is covered with trees up and down stream. There is a small white mosque inside the canal in front of the station building. Green areas adjoining the station are very restful.
Just about three Kilometres from Renala, you see a huge colonial ere mansion standing tall in the fields. This used to be headquarters of the Renala Estate -- the land leased by Major D. H. Venrenen in 1913 on the condition of horse breeding (ghori pall). The company had been producing very fine breed of horses in the past. Villa -- a symbol of the past era -- is still owned by the family of landlady T. F. L. Taylor.
That is the place from where my real 'hardship by choice' started. I was travelling on a rural route, seeing the path but not knowing what was coming next. Not knowing what one is going to see ahead is sometime inspiring. But, about 11 Kilometres from Power Station, rear tyre of my bike went flat. There was no place in sight from where I could get it fixed. Advised by Chragh Din, a local, I waited for the ‘help’ to come and we talked.
Chragh Din, relaxed and amiable old man who was fishing asked about my destination, purpose of journey and why I was travelling on a bike. He did not seem convinced with my answers once I told him that I am travelling just to see the area. He was surprised instead. I enjoyed talking to him though. He was so candid and frank about every thing he said.
It pays to get out into the countryside and talk to ordinary people. They are eager to help -- on their own expense -- when you ask any body. I found volunteer ‘guides’ who were forth coming with wealth of information from history to myths prevalent in the area. But ‘chaudhry map’ is as vague in Punjab about the distances as is anywhere else in Pakistan. I learnt not to rely on chaudhry map during my days in the army but still cannot resist asking. Where is village Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka? Ask any body when you are riding a motorbike with haversack and water bottle on your sides. The replies will always be same: nearby.
The ionic counter point is the lack of attention in maintaining the bits and pieces of unique heritage - the resource base of tourism industry. The neglect may be attributed to lack of awareness, education, coordination between authorities, economic constrains and or simply the natural hazards. The magnificent vistas of a land of plans, fields and orchards have to be opened to the rest of the world. There is a need for information in the form of travel guide writing, pure travel journalism, travel book writing and geographical description in form of maps. No ordinary coldness of phrasing can express the surprise and delight, with which one makes acquaintance with the rural sites. Their perspective gives you a wonderful sense of being there. In fact, that is my recommendation: be there.
Near Balloki Headworks on River Ravi, one passes through a wide water reservoir that looks like a lake. In winters, this lack is full of native waterfowls. Flocks of Wild Ducks, Cranes, Strokes and black winged Stilts are the commonest sights in the area. The fish kababs at Balloki Headworks are a specialty and culinary delight. I had a dinner break at Balloki, treated myself with fish kababs -- fresh from the river -- and proceeded to National Highway for onwards journey to Lahore via more familiar route.
Related: Gogera Insight
Related: Gogera Insight
The 55 PMA Long Course Website
Sunday, 23 May 2010
The main page of the 55 PMA Long Course Website has a new face. Remember the course site by Jalal Hameed Bhatti is dedicated to those comrades from 55 PMA (May Allah bless their souls in eternal peace) who left this world too early. Thanks to JalalHB who is running it and keeping us all informed about what is happening and how to all of us and also to the next generation.
Related: All about 55 PMA Long Course Men at Their Best
Related: All about 55 PMA Long Course Men at Their Best
Congratulations to JalalHB
Thursday, 20 May 2010
Congratulations to Jalal Hameed Bhatti (of JahoJalal fame) and his family for completing ‘that’ gigantic task. My best wishes for bright and peaceful future for all of you there.
Taste of Rural Punjab
Monday, 3 May 2010
Anjuman-eFalah-e-Aama is offering a three day special program for tourists interested in rural areas, traditional culture and how it is being preserved at Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka famous as Toys Village on the bank of River Ravi some 80 Kilometers from Lahore. Visitors must an interest in the rural life of the Punjab and must also respect the local culture and traditions (no alcohol, appropriate clothing).
The unique offer includes the transfer from Allama Iqbal Airport Lahore to the village in personal transport driven by guide, boarding and lodging in the village as well as local food, an excursion to the excavation site of Harappa, another overnight stay in the village and return travel to Lahore on the third day, Sightseeing in Rickshaw or car and back to the Airport.
The offer is for groups of maximum three persons and can be booked through Zeb Travels Karachi.