Big Bird Day 2014 – Punjab, Pakistan

Big Bird Day - Arthur Anab Shams

Big Bird Day 2014

Big Bird Day 2014 in Pakistan was a propagation of the annual event initially started by the Delhi Bird group to celebrate the joy of bird-watching, the first of which was arranged on February 22, 2004. The main objective of this activity is not just bird-watching it also provides for counting the species seen in a particular area. By doing this activity on a fixed day we have better chances of reaching to a more accurate population of at a particular time. More over with such activities we have a p

Big Bird Day 2014

ossibility of re-discovering a particular species which was not seen for a long time. Recording the confirmed sightings across the country on the same day would provide the essential and realistic data which will show the actual diversity of Bird Life in an area. A great advantage of this activity in Pakistan came out to be that it brought Pakistan on the international map of Birdwatchers.

We had an opportunity to go to a place called kala khatai in Punjab close to Pakistan India Border for bird species count. A team of six members was formed by us and we made our best efforts from dawn to dusk to count the maximum birds of the said locality. We were able to spot 52 species in total and another one as a probability.  A summary of confirmed sighting was compiled and submitted to the ebird website Species that we were able to locate were as follows. Graylag Goose Bar-headed Goose Ruddy Shelduck Gadwall Mallard Northern Pintail Green-winged Teal Common Pochard Gray Francolin Black Francolin Great Cormorant Little Cormorant Gray Heron Purple Heron Little Egret Indian Pond-Heron Black-crowned Night-Heron Eurasian Spoonbill Black-shouldered Kite Eurasian Marsh-Harrier Eurasian Moorhen Eurasian Coot Black-winged Stilt Red-wattled Lapwing Common Ringed Plover Common Sandpiper Eurasian Collared-Dove Yellow-footed Pigeon Greater Coucal White-throated Kingfisher Indian Roller Eurasian Hoopoe Long-tailed Shrike Black Drongo House Crow Crested Lark Barn Swallow Red-vented Bulbul Ashy Prinia Common Babbler Jungle Babbler Black Redstart Pied Bushchat Bank Myna Common Myna Asian Pied Starling European Starling Western Yellow Wagtail White Wagtail Red-headed Bunting House Sparrow Nutmeg Mannikin Participants of the Activity: Bilal Qazi
Abel Griffen
Ali Shah
Arthur Anab Shams
Awais Ali Sheikh
Yawar Khan Looking at the current response from our country (Pakistan) we expect a higher turn over from passionate Bird Watchers to join us in this activity. It was a wonderful experience and a great learning opportunity.

Ustad Parvez Paras

Ustad Parvez Paras

Ustad Parvez Paras

Ustad Parvez Paras is a well-known musicologist. He is knowledgeable in the unfathomable field of music and has been generously imparting the knowledge and skill of music to enthusiastic learners since 1973.

Music of the Indian sub-continent is dominated by classical music which has its roots in the Vedas (the oldest Hindu scriptures). This music is elaborate and expressive.

The concept of “gharana” گھرانہ (family) originates from the musical culture of the sub-continent. In the field of music, a gharana, apart from the biological family, can take on diverse connotations which affect the thinking, teaching, performance and appreciation of music. Almost all leading classical musicians of India and Pakistan associate themselves with one or the other gharana, taking great pride in the rich heritage of the particular style of music which they represent. This also refers to a line of musicians in among whom the knowledge of music, primarily style-specific music passes down from generation to generation.

Interestingly, there are some rare jewels of musicians in the sub-continent who have not originated from any specific gharana and yet possess an excellence of the mind-soothing art. Amongst them outshines the stellar name of composer, performer, director and music teacher Ustad Parvez Paras, a highly respected maestro. He imparts the art and skill of music to a large number of learners since over four decades.

Born to Mr P D Paras in 1944, Parvez Paras received early lessons from his father (his first guru گُرو and ustad اُستاد). Way back in 1956 the young Paras started learning from his father the dexterous art of playing the tabla, fundamental to Indian music of Northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, since the 18th century. In 1962 he formally submitted himself to shagirdi شاگردی (Discipleship) of G A Farooq (himself a shagird of the Gawalior Gharana) who taught him tabla and classical singing. In 1966-67 the shagird, Parvez Paras, started learning classical music from Chotay Ghulam Ali Khan.  He also learnt tabla from Ustad Manzoor Hussain (Kasoor) and classical singing from Ashiq Hussain Ashiq, brother of the famous Ustad Tawaqal Hussain Khan. Last but not the least, Baba Muhammad Ali gave the seasoned Paras antique bandhishes (بندھِشیں) of raags of different gharanas, raising him to the level of connoisseur and maestro.

Ustad Paras holds the Presidential National Cultural Award which was conferred upon him in 1990. Along with this unbounded musical talent, the ustad also possesses a flair of writing and has authored three books: –

  1. Bolte Sur (on raagas) بولتے سُر
  2. Taal Ahang (on tabla) تال رنگ and
  3. Sham Ke Panchi (poetry) شام کے پنچھی

Since 1973 Ustad Parvez Paras is committed to imparting the great art of singing and tabla playing to scores of shagirds, thus also teaching good character through rhythm and song. He gives lectures at National College of Arts (NCA) to Fine Arts students of Post Graduate Classes. Ustad Paras also gives classes to young scholars of  Lahore Grammar School (LGS)/ Amongst his disciples / chailas he has some notable names including Faheem Mazhar, Muhammad Javed, Haroon Samuel, Beenish Parvaiz, Riaz Ali Khan (of Sham Churasi Gharana), Shehzad Ali Khan (of Sham Churasi Gharana), Javed Bashir and Anil Waqas. He also has among his shagirds two very young kids (Horeb Shams & Tirzah Shams) who are learning Classical Music from him.

Ustad Paras is currently the President of Lahore Music Forum (LMF) , Adviser & Coordinator All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC) since several years and Urdu Teacher at Full Gospel Assembly (FGA) Bible College. He has also been the Editor of Magazine “Satoon-e-Haque” ستونِ حق.

The Golden Grain

Boy carrying the yield

Helping hand in the family

Harvesting season of wheat comes with many challenges, specially in the regions where harvesting is done by hand. Wheat is most common food crop, harvested in the late spring. Golden fields, dust of threshing and the sound of air moving through the crops makes a majestic entourage. The cycle of seeding through harvesting is a six months duration requiring constant care and upkeep.

Soil is prepared by plowing, then trenched and then natural manure is thrown for fertilization. Seeds are thrown across the furrows using semi-circular movement of wrist. In hot weather watering is done quite frequently. Insecticides and pesticides are sprayed to protect the crop from insects. Once the kernels turn golden, scythes are used to cut them and threshed. The grain attained is later processed to make Wheat flour, White Flour, Semolina, Angoori انگوری (for sohan halwa) and other material. Interestingly the waste of the threshing is also useful for making Paper, Card Boards and Animal Feed.

We must appreciate the efforts of the farmers who put in their toil and sweat to produce the food for all of us.

I can still feel the smell of coal

Hannah Lake - Quetta 1982

Hannah Lake – Quetta 1982

Mild smell of burning coal coming out of chimneys, cool breeze, dry air. We had just come out of train to join our father in Quetta, who was already there a month ahead of us to do his staff college. My first step out of the train, with a haversack on my back, which contained toys more than my clothing. Moving out of the railway station and going towards the cantonment was an entirely different feeling for us.

“Papa!, why do they have that cloth wrapped on water pipes of all the buildings”, was my first question to my dad. Papa was excited to hear the question from his 4 years old boy. He told it was very cold there and the water would freeze in the pipes which could block the flow of water and damage the pipes too.

I can still recall the very pleasant morning when I came outside to witness my first ever snow fall. Small flakes of snow falling on the ground just like if someone was spinning a quilt made of cotton. The feeling to walk on snow in the lawn was just like walking on a carpet placed in the garden. Making snow man was a common thing, but I had to do something unusual. I started rolling a small piece of snow. Towards the end of ground the snow carpet rolled into a round bundle. A few more bundles and I had made a lion with the snow. The cones from the pine tree and pieces of broken wood provided the finishing touches. I wish digital photography was available in those days too. I had the pleasure of riding a snow-lion for almost a month till the snow melted.

Getting lost and on the verge of being kidnapped is another (now interesting) memory from my early childhood. Urak – a nearby picnic spot; some 20kms from where we lived, was commonly visited by our families. A time when we used to pick up apples directly from the trees in the farms and owners used to say – “eat all you can, all free”. On a certain occasion our family shifted from one picnic spot to another within Urak. I somehow lost my way and when the family realized that I was missing. They started to look for me. I was found in the surroundings of the place being taken away by some men, who claimed they were planning to hand me over to the local management.

Last year in 2011, I had a chance of visiting Quetta again on a cousin’s wedding. More than 3 decades had passed and I was anxious to locate something I was familiar with. Every thing was different now. Couldn’t find the same smell of coal. Quetta was not as barren as I saw this time. The fear of violence was in the air and the fragrance from my childhood was no more there.