Afia Salam's Blog

Life is a journey

Posts Tagged ‘T2F

His Sabeen, and Ours’

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A few days after my article appeared in TNS on Sabeen’s first death anniversary, I received an sms from her mother saying I had made her cry… again, just like I had when she read my previous articles/blogs on her after she was so cruelly taken away from us. Without saying sorry in my sms reply to her, I told her that not just because I was a mother, but there was always a strange connection I felt with Sabeen and her loss had affected me at a deeper level than I could neither understand nor explain.

I meaSabeen with Mahenazn I could understand Mahenaz, her mom, Aunty Jo, when shecould remember Sabeen through her failing memory, or Zaheer and
Nuzhat Kidvai, or Ragni, Jehan Ara, Hareem, her team at T2F and her childhood friends, or all those she worked on so many of her fantastic initiatives in close collaboration.


Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 12.18.13 am Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 12.25.46 am.png

But yesterday, I received a clarity to this perplexing question from a completely unexpected quarter, and realized that one does not have to have a specific reason to feel her loss. Sabeen had touched different people in so many different ways that each person felt a personal, exclusive bond with her.

While giving training to some community and rights activists in a small town in Sindh, I mentioned the need to choose words carefully and be conscious of personal safety because of the mad, bad, sad world we are living in. Told them intolerance was rife and so many people either standing up for their own or other people’s rights had paid a price with their lives. So many journalists, in the line of their duty, so many activists. So many people who dared to challenge the ‘norms.

While naming names, of course there was mention of Qandeel Baloch, but while on the topic, and especially while mentioning names, one couldn’t not mention Sabeen, Khurram Zaki, Rashid Rehman.

In a room full of trainees, one does have to focus eyes at a particular spot and I caught a participant’s expression totally change on the mention of Sabeen’s name. I thought he was about to say something but he just gestured to me and whispered, Sabeen; my friend! I nodded my head and continued the session.FB_IMG_1469012779679

Once I had completed the session, he came to me and held his cell phone out to me with the picture of a young smartly dressed school girl. He said this is my daughter. Doesn’t she look like Sabeen? ‘She is like Sabeen’ he repeated.

While I could only look at the picture of that smart girl in sports kit with a medal around her neck, and smile at him weakly thinking he expected me to agree there was a resemblance, he changed the picture on the cell phone to show me another.


FB_IMG_1468981839422He said this was a tribute he had written when she was killed. He had chosen the words and made this poster.

FB_IMG_1468981849853Then he showed me another. This included a small blurb from her janazah. This was his facebook picture. He said I have not changed the picture from the day she died. I used to meet her every few weeks when she was alive. Now I just keep this on my facebook. I was too stumped at that time to ask him to let me have those images. But this was my ‘aha’ moment. Why was I even looking for an answer to the question of why Sabeen was someone special to me. She was that to so many people.

So here I was, sitting in this room, far away from home, almost in the boonies, furiously typing this away, and despite the perfect whether, with no clue as to why I was snivelling!

As for ‘his’ Sabeen, whose actual name is Tulsi Meghwar. She is a grade 7 student at a government school in Kotri, she proudly wears that medal as she participated in National Games and represented Sindh team that returned as Runners’ Up in the softball championship.

Like ‘our’ Sabeen, Tulsi loves sports, and wants to excel at them. Her father, Harji Lal,  is determined to be the wind beneath her wings. She is the first ever from the Meghwar community who has excelled and earned recognition for her talents. Maybe for him, therein lies the resemblance. Not physical, but in the spirit to move ahead, despite odds. Those who know the social structure of Sindh, especially among the Hindus, know that the Meghwars have not had it easy. Girls’ education has traditionally been a no no for them.

Just like the going wasn’t easy for Sabeen, though in a different manner. Maybe he knows that story too and draws a parallel. Whatever the reason, he is adamant that Tulsi will get all the chances in life that he can afford for her. She will not be held back by the disapproving societal glances…All I can say is: More power to his Sabeen… I mean Tulsi Meghwar!

Sabeen on scooterScreen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.45.38 pm



Written by afiasalam

July 20, 2016 at 7:23 pm

Sabeen: The birthday girl is not here anymore

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Sabeen painting

Today is Sabeen’s birthday. She would have been 41. When I think back to the first time I saw her, when she was all of 15 years, and I saw her pottering with computers at Zaheer Kidvai’s office it is amazing to realize how much of life she was able to pack in just these four decades.

Those were the days when computers were serious, expensive things; not something one allowed children to fiddle around with. Hence my surprised query to ZAK at what a ‘bachee’ was doing with them. I was taken aback when he said she was his friend’s daughter who was interested’ in computers. It is only now, in a conversation with ZAK after she has gone that I learnt that I was not the only curious one. He says she too asked who I was after I left, and when told my name, said she already knew me through my cricket writings, as that was another thing she was interested in….passionately! This actually became our first point of connect.

Sabeen ET

Over the years I got to know her, and whenever our paths crossed, which was quite often because of school friend Jehan Ara becoming a part of the trio making multi media solutions.

Unlike me, she wasn’t just into the game of cricket from a distance. She played it, and played it hard.

Sabeen with poster

Hard enough to damage her knees, and had to keep away due to doctors’ orders, which she rarely followed, for she believed in living life on her own terms and dealing with the consequences. She loved cricket, and cricketers. She always wanted to listen to off-the-record stories about them, and envied the opportunity I had to meet her heroes.Sabeen quoteWhile living her life passionately, she touched so many people along the way, becoming the supporter of the odd ones, the marginalized, the weak and threatened, the ones without means to gain attention. And there was nothing luke-warm about anything she did, or believed in.

Passion conjures up vision of frenetic activity, raised decibels, and things going haywire. But while enough of what was going on around her merited these states, the Sabeen I remember was always a picture of calm. Even in anger, and there were such moments a plenty, her ‘aap janaab’ never slid into ‘tum or tu’ though she reserved the right to let off expletives in English.. always ‘appropriately’ placed and targeted.

Passions that made her master the finest nuances of the Urdu language, of Jazz, of Classical music and Qawwali, which she just dived deep into. Yes ZAK’s influence was there, but that his introduction would ignite such passion probably he could not have imagined.Sabeen on scooter

And she was brave. Oh so brave, maybe to the extent of being reckless. She was brave not just because she chose to ride a scooter on Karachi roads, but because she wanted to have her say, come what may. This is what led her to swim upstream, and sometimes plunge in without testing the waters. Like she did when she went all out with her ‘fasla na rakhein, piyaar honey dein’ and earned the wrath, and faced threats from the lobby that wanted to heap all responsibility of immorality on the observance of Valentine’s Day.

Was that foolhardy? Maybe Was she worried? yes, Did it put a dent in her resolve to take a bold stance? No. They say this is why she was killed. That her killer cited her Valentines’ Day campaign as the reason he put 5 bullets in her, 3 years after the event. Really? Takes a bit of getting used to this notion. I still haven’t so won’t dwell on it.

I would rather talk about T2F, which is actually proof of what passion about an interest can create. The concept, the space, the programmes held there, all showed how fully she had thrown herself into this space that she wanted everyone to share… a space created for ‘intellectual poverty alleviation,’ her only demand to people coming there being, ‘bring your brain.’

If the space fell short to accommodate her ideas and plans and events, she went elsewhere, but she had to be a part of, if not at the center of events making waves in the city of Karachi… another one of her passions which always resonated with me. And all the time, while wracking her brains to keep her T2F financially afloat, whenever someone approached her to use the space for an event without the required amount in had, her answer used to be ‘daikh lein gey.. kuch kur lein gey’ (Will see what we can do about it).

And it Sabeen at Farieha'swas this spirit of kuch kur lein gey which made so many good things happen, through Sabeen, who would float new ideas and initiatives, introduce amazing guests, or kickstart an event, and sit at the back with that smile on her face which we all remember her for.

The only time she would intervene was if she saw the discussion getting out of hand or some people not being able to have their say, and she would take the mike to them.

Sabeen with Mahenaz

There was a quiet strength about her, which we now know she inherited from her mother Mahenaz Mahmud, whose calm and courage in the face of the unspeakable tragedy that had befallen her showed what she was made of, and the kind of genes she had passed on to Sabeen that enabled her to achieve so much in so little time.

So today when friends and admirers gather at T2F to listen to qawwali on Sabeen’s  birthday, they are not just there for the genre Sabeen had come to love and loved to promote; they are there to remember her, and the many ways in which she enriched lives.

Like them, I too would like that acknowledge that Sabeen, for all you did, and all you stood for, ‘tu maira hero.”sabeen-hero-karachi-mohsin-sayeed

Written by afiasalam

June 20, 2015 at 8:49 pm