Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stalking Sadequain

Covered in dust and sweating in my all-black, full-sleeved shalwar kameez, having already spent a busy morning in the wholesale market that no Karachiite in her right mind visits at mid-day, Cuz and I approached the State Bank of Pakistan-it was on the way home, it'd only take a minute- to see Sadequain's (famous Pakistani artist, remember?) really big mural, Treasures of Time, that I'd read about.

Stop 1: Back gate
Cuz: Bhai, can we see the mural in the bank museum?
Security Guard: Not possible.
Cuz: Bhai, this is my sister from America, she's writing a book and wants to see the Sadequain mural inside. [Phi smiles winningly from passenger seat].
Guard: Go to the next gate.

Stop 2: Second back gate
Cuz, wiping guard's spit from his eye (he was a sprayer, not just sayer), approaches next gate.
Cuz: sister, book, America.
Guard: Not possible.
Phi [smile] and in bad Urdu: please
Guard: fine, but you can't park in here.

Stop 3: Elbow Room Restaurant
We ended up parking at a restaurant across the street where, when the doorman opened the door, Cuz, without hesitation, marched right in.
Smoth as butter, he said, "Sir, this is my sister from America and she's writing a book. Can she see your fine establishment?"
Eyes lit up and we were given free rein, I made some token notes on God knows what, and we shared a Sprite for good measure. Four waiters bid us goodbye as we left.

Stop 4: Security checkpoint inside main campus
Cuz: This is my sister, etc.
Guard: Not possible.
Cuz: She's writing a book, etc.
Phi: Please sir, book, came from far...
Guard: Go to the next gate.

Stop 5: Security checkpoint between bank and museum
Cuz: This is my sister, etc.
Guard: Not possible.
Cuz: She's writing a book, etc.
Phi: Please,
Guard: Follow me.

Stop 6: Official looking man's desk.
Cousin: This is my sister...
Desk Man: Not possible.
Cousin: Book...
Phi: Sir, please, America, book...
Desk Man: Take her in.

Guard from Stop 4 marched us over to the beautiful sandstone building in a Roman Pantheon-esque style. Cuz and I flashed each other secret smiles. I recalled all I'd read about over the years and my heart raced in anticipation.

Stop 7:
Guard: It's the guard's lunch time. No one's there.
Phi and Cuz: speechless.

Standing in the hot hot sun, drenched with sweat, tummies growling, we stared at the large lock on the double doors. Not wanting to wait for 1.5 hours, we left, still in shock to have been so close yet...

This morning at 9, we were back. Authorotatively giving Guard 4's name, we breezed through the previous day's stops and marched up the [open] museum steps. We were duly rewarded, though Cuz may consider it punishment, with not one but four murals. The official guard showed me the info panels, the paintings, the plans for the future. And then the very enthusiastic helper man, a calligrapher himself, opened up another room with more facts about the artist and more prints and paintings by him.

Cuz was made to take pics of the info pannels while I looked and asked questions.

Now I've been to the Loeuvre, the Met, the Gugenheim, the VAG, Sistine Chapel, Uffizi, Academia... But standing before the 60 foot mural of a fellow Pakistani, I was never more moved by a work of art. All the murals were larger than life, painted in a style so unique, with subject matters so purely Pakistani, that if I hadn't been surrounded by Cuz, Helpful Calligraphy Man, Guard 4 and Official Guide Man, I would have totally shed a tear.


  1. Cuz - dont you forget to thank Rafiq Soomro in your novel. He may be discretely following your blogs.

  2. The murals are amazing...I wonder whether my mum is in fact part Pakistani? Her paintings remind me of these murals...
    Tell me more!! But keep the tears at bay...

  3. You should consider writing some non-fiction, girl!