Monday, June 29, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A First Glimpse of CAP's School Outreach Tour

When I was told I would be going along to photograph government schools for the School Outreach Program, I was very excited - when it comes to photography, children are the most powerful portrait subjects. They turn to the lens and meet its glassy eye with unapologetic expressions, resulting in pictures that are almost perfect representations of who they are. Unlike adults they don’t hastily search for the appropriate smile, or think about how they want to be remembered - they hide nothing because they have nothing to hide. So when we finally set out, I knew I would find a treasure of photo opportunities in these children’s classrooms and playgrounds.


But of course, like any treasure, the schools were well-guarded – wherever we went, the administration was wary of the camera, afraid that we would snap pictures of their dilapidated buildings and report that to the media. It took some convincing and Mariam’s (Project manager) contagious enthusiasm to finally win the trust of these principals and teachers. Mariam spoke to the administration and appeased them. Our aim, she said, was not to highlight the inadequacies of government schools but rather to bring a little bit of color into the dusty classrooms of the children who studied there. Soon the schools were all opening their doors to us, and once we looked past all the cracked walls and broken desks, we found something quite unexpected: bright-eyed children and teachers all working towards better education; an effort that was so genuine that Mariam and I often found ourselves reminiscing about our own schools and classes.


We noticed that in spite of their poor conditions, these teachers and children shared the same respect for their studies that we had learned in our schools. They eagerly looked in their dictionaries, recited their mathematics tables, and read out loud to their fellow students. We went to a small girls and boys primary school whose principal had made such noble efforts at progressive teaching that Mariam and I started calling it the Cool School. Here the children were taught not only basic subjects, but also other lessons of everyday life, like how to deal with domestic issues, tolerance among each other, and even the importance of planting trees and being responsible citizens.


Every school we went to, children seemed happy and eager to learn, but also full of mischief and energy. As I took their pictures they giggled and laughed, sometimes shying away from the lens, and sometimes clambering around to take a closer look at my camera, then looking altogether delighted when I showed them their own pictures in the camera’s display window. On the way back, Mariam and I were brimming with excitement about the Outreach Tour, and we couldn’t wait to return to the schools and show them what we have in store.


The Citizens Archive of Pakistan’s School Outreach Tour kicks off on the 25th of July, 2009.

Nadir Siddiqui

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cappies' day out : The Great Burns Road Expedition

When we were told that some interns would be going to Burns Road to nominate people for the Oral History Project, we volunteered immediately. We were excited at the prospect of being out of the office for a couple of hours; Little did we know that the trip would come to mean so much more than that.

Our first 'sight' and 'sound' of Burns Road was of a collision between a colourful jangling mini-bus and a shiny Alto. The colors of the bus, the cacophony of what seemed like a million car horns and the delicious smell of desi food defined Burns road for us in that very instant.

We met many people as we made our way along the narrow pathways of Burns Road, receiving a myriad of looks: some leering, disapproving, some excited and others just plain curious. Raana covered her head in a cautionary measure against some of the glares.  

We looked out for any one over the age of 65 years. A flash of white beard would send us darting in the owners direction, trying to locate him in the swarms of people. 

We met a Bengali man with his arm in a sling and his shirt-sleeves tied across his waist. When asked for his address, he proudly pointed to a truck stationed at a garbage dumping-site. We came across a 'chakki wala' who runs a welfare clinic and a cleric who lectured us, before abruptly asking us to leave his house. We needed to be prepared for all reactions - a gentleman in a nihari restaurant chatted away to us before noticing Nadir clicking away with his camera. He vehemently objected to being photographed. Two young waiters from the same restaurant, however, seized this opportunity to divert Nadir, posing together for a quick photograph. We stumbled upon a bewitching little shop, Tahir Masala, filled to the brim with every sort of masala imaginable - Murgh Masala, Paya Masala, Machli Masala... The owner, Tahir Junior, runs a welfare clinic in the area. While some may brand him a 'quack', he is a godsend in the area, slaving away in the heat and taking patients temperature, applying bandages and plasters. Tahir offered us a seat at the clinic and patiently heard us out while we talked about The Citizens Archive of Pakistan. He put up a CAP poster on his clinic walls, offered us lassi and gave us his blessings for the work we are doing. 

We returned to the CAP office feeling hot and tired - but with huge grins, a dozens nominations for interviews, almost a hundred photographs and a box of delicious Fresco gulabjamun. 


Raana Kazmi and Tabinda Siddiqi

Photographs by Nadir Siddiqui

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

'Jamshed Marker's Cricket Googlie' and 'Memories of Lahore' : Come watch!

'Jamshed Marker's Cricket Googlie'
Jamshed Marker
Duration: 6:47

'He (Rasheedudin Ahmed) said, "Just imagine that you are sitting next to a very dear friend who is blind but who loves cricket. Forget about audience, forget about mike, forget about radio. Just imagine you are sitting next to him and explain it to him. Take him to the match."'

View the clip here

Memories of Lahore'
Akbar Ali Chughtai
Duration: 6:13

'I was quite young, but I remember that Lahore was a very beautiful city. I am talking about the walled city encircling Lahore. The city was inside the walls. And outside, there were gardens from one end to another. We used to go to those gardens every morning with my father and play there. The path to the gardens was strewn with motia flowers. In Spring, the gardens were filled with the fragrance of flowers.'

View the clip here