Naureen Aqueel

Archive for May 2011

Published in The Express Tribune – city, May 29, 2011.

The whiff of putrid sea air that hits you as you near the entrance of the highly anticipated Port Grand Food and Entertainment Complex is forgotten once you step inside the metal gate. The newest addition to Karachi’s nightlife promises to offer visitors a world of its own in an enclosed area cut off from the craziness of city life.

 

“A lot of people thought this was going to be another Burns Road, but this is a different cup of tea all together,” said Managing Director Shahid Firoz of Grand Leisure Corporation. “We hope this project will lend a bit of positivism to this city and country.”

 

Port Grand formally opened on Saturday in a festive mood with Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad as the chief guest.

 

Port Grand expects to attract 4,000 to 5,000 people daily. Currently, 40 outlets are up and running and more are expected to open soon. The first thing you notice once inside is the shopping mall that houses a number of brands, including shops for gifts, clothes and accessories and books.

 

Towards the left of the mall was the much-talked about Napier’s Tavern. With its historic architecture and fine dining, the lodge is expected to serve as a setting for the city’s corporate crowd. The lodge was built right under a one-hundred-year-old banyan tree where Charles Napier is believed to have built a tavern. The builders used the same stones and wood extracted from the demolished bridge to salvage the heritage.

 

Further left, stretches the food enclave for a kilometre. Men, women and children were strolling about the concrete path along the 19th century Native Jetty bridge that connects the Karachi Port Trust to Keamari. Live cartoon characters were waiting to start their act to entertain the young visitors and loud music blared across the food street as organisers, waiters and construction workers added some of the finishing touches to the outlets and stalls — that offered a wide array from fast food and desi food to Thai cusine. Unfortunately, many of them were still being set up. The organisers announced that the complex would open for the public from Sunday evening.

 

The food enclave runs along the port where you can view the sea while sitting on green benches lined across the fresh green turf. The three spaced-apart metal barriers from the water could, however, be tempting for adventurous children. You can even see the cargo being loaded and unloaded from the ships that arrive from all over the world. The food street ends close to a point where you can see ships harboured at the KPT Boat Wharf.  The land for the project was leased by the KPT for 30 years on a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement. Work on the billion-rupee project started in 2005 and it was expected that it would be completed by 2009. However, Grand Leisure Corporation claimed that the delay was caused by the need to completely revamp the Native Jetty bridge which was in bad shape. This caused expenses to shoot up. “Better late than never,” said Firoz. “If we wish to do things the right way there might be a delay but the end product will be something positive.”

 

KPT has provided double fencing around the complex for security and privacy and KPT guards also patrol the bridge. Entry has been made secure and security personnel have been put in place from the PNC building. KPT Acting Chairman Iqbal Umer said that the corporation was providing for most of the security itself.

 

“We have provided state of the art security,” said Nazneed Shahid, Firoz’s daughter, who has been involved in the project. “The area is no more unsafe than any other place like Boat Basin, for instance.”

 

Phase two includes a food court with more traditional foods like paani puri, bhel puri, shawarma, etc. “We hope to make this place a cultural hub,” said Nazneen.

 

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Published in The Express Tribune – blog, May 20, 2011.

I remember the general reaction in the newsroom the day the news of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden broke. There was relief, felicitations of ‘Mubarak ho!’ and the excitement of covering what was perhaps one of the biggest stories of the year.

Throughout the day, and the days following the incident, I noted people’s reactions. While some openly celebrated the news, others quietly welcomed the news with relief, adding however that it was against their principles to celebrate death.

Sure, there was shock and anger against the political and military leadership and condemnation about the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, but I did not come across a single person who hailed Bin Laden as a ‘hero.’

Sure, there were some who questioned the media’s account and said that if the media’s portrayal and reporting about this terrorist figure were true, then it was indeed good news, but no one I met or spoke to supported the al Qaeda kingpin’s ideology or praised his actions which led to the killing of thousands of innocent people.

Sure, there were conspiracy theories questioning whether Bin Laden was really dead, but there was no one who vowed to become another Bin Laden and avenge his death.

Interestingly however, when the international media tried to find out how Pakistanis were reacting to the news, the world saw an entirely different picture from what was just related above.

There were reports of “scores of people” taking to the streets to pay homage to the al Qaeda chief and calling for war against America.

There were pictures of enraged people shouting anti-American slogans and burning down US flags.

There were quotations from children calling Osama their hero and wishing to grow up to be like him.

Many of us were baffled by the coverage of reactions to the killing – they were completely misrepresenting the general viewpoint of Pakistanis. Pakistani newspapers welcomed the death in Op-eds and editorials, but news reports showed that the general population was idolising Bin Laden and were angered by his death. The same reports barely mentioned the other side of the story. There were no quotes from people who had welcomed the news or more so, were indifferent to it. The media seemed to be giving the impression as if all of Pakistan was supporting Bin Laden barring a few “intellectual elite” who were celebrating his death.

The incident taught us something about balanced reporting and media agenda setting that often tends to ignore this. Most media organisations (and wires services specifically) often have conventional patterns of reporting that they operate under, consciously or subconsciously. The dominant narrative and the underlying motive to have a “juicy” story that “sells” lead them to focus on a small pocket of people who support that narrative.

Why did no reporter speak to people who cared less whether Bin Laden was dead or alive because it made no difference to their daily lives?

Why did no reporter speak to the victims of terrorism whose lives have been ruined by terrorists supporting al Qaeda’s ideology?

Why did no reporter speak to investors and businessmen whose interests are hurt every time there is a terrorist attack in the country?

One wonders if there really is any such thing as objective journalism.

Published in The Express Tribune – Life & Style, May 16, 2011.

If you are the type that prefers personalised gift items over those that though heavy on the wallet say very little, chances are you have come smack in the face of a dead end in the local market. There are very few options for the Pakistani gift shopper.

Varah Musavvir, an enterprising young textile design student at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture (IVSAA), realised this gap in the market and set out to launch Firefly — a home-based business that one of her customers described as the “Hallmark” of Pakistan.

One year since its launch, Firefly has grown to heights Musavvir says she had never imagined before. The project started randomly in March 2010 when she was doodling habitually and came up with a design and idea for a wallet card. A few sifts through the pages of her prized journal after which her brand is named and a few doodles later, Musavvir had come up with the character Sue that adorns some of her designs and cards along with taglines and quotes she had written in her journal herself. The next step was to post pictures on Facebook and tag her friends and voila — orders started coming in.

Firefly offers a variety of products ranging from wallet cards on PVC (a concept unique to Pakistan), key chains on PVC, notebooks, bookmarks, digital CD printing, laptop skins, scrap books and other papercraft.

“I like coming up with my own messages and taglines on my products,” says Musavvir. “I have seen what is already available and I didn’t want to just take that. I wanted Firefly to be my own. It’s funny that people can automatically relate to a lot of what I write and make. They see that it is heartfelt because they see that it is coming from someone who has probably gone through or seen it all. They can click with it, so they usually don’t ask me to change it.”

But when people do want customisations, Musavvir is ready to make them at an added price. Sometimes people ask for personalised messages and text or a personalised look to the characters or a different colour. And part of the reason behind her success is that Musavvir can cater to all of these requests.

Musavvir does not have a creative department or an operations director. She runs the business alone with a little help from her younger brother and manages to balance it along with her studies. Orders are received via email, sent out and picked up in batches from her trusted printer twice a week and subsequently picked up from her college where the gatekeeper helps handout the orders.

“When I started, it was just friends, then it was friends of friends and then friends of friends of friends and then I just lost track,” she says. Firefly’s Facebook page now  has over 1,500 fans. “Till now, it has been solely marketed through Facebook. I did have invitations to school melas etc, so that was a bit of added publicity but most of it has been marketed online. I have also had bulk orders when friends ordered stuff for their organisations or for fundraising. Firefly goes like hotcakes for fundraising because people can put their logos on them or their personalised messages on them.”

Customers often come up with their own innovative ideas for customisations or ways of presenting the gifts. Firefly has also seen orders from abroad — from the United States and United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

In the future, when she has more time, Musavvir plans on expanding Firefly into textiles. She envisions Firefly to become a complete collection of gift items.

“Firefly is not just a business, it’s not just a brand,” she says. “It’s something that is spontaneous and part of my journal. It’s just what I like doing. Like a firefly, it glows wherever it goes. It is about spreading smiles.”

Like its slogan (The forecast is whimsical, with a chance of rainbows), Firefly is an attempt to add the essential dose of optimism we often find missing in our lives.

ACCESSORIES

Items available at Firefly

Wallet cards

Key chains

Magnets

Book marks

Notebooks

CD prints

Laptop skins

Papercrafts



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