Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Teri Mefil Mein Leikin …….


Gulon mein rang bhare, baad-e-nau bahaar chale/ Chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka karobaar chale. Legendary classical singer Mehdi Hassan (July 18, 1927 – June 13, 2012), who captivated the hearts of millions of music fans across South Asia, died on Wednesday (June 13, 2012) after a decade-long illness. He was 84.

Mehdi Hassan, known as Shahenshah-e-Ghazal, or the king of classical singing among Urdu speakers across the world, died at Agha Khan Hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

His son Asif told reporters outside the hospital that his father had been suffering from multiple lung, chest and urinary tract infections. Hundreds of fans gathered at the hospital on learning of his death, while condolences poured in from across the world, including India, where the ghazal maestro had a huge fan following.

Mehdi Hassan was bestowed with several awards, including Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Presidential Pride of Performance, Hilal-e-Imtiaz and the Nigar Film and Graduate Awards from Pakistan, while India and Nepal awarded him with the Saigol Award and Gorkha Dakshina Bahu Award, respectively, in recognition of his services to music. He has left behind nine sons and five daughters. He married twice, outliving both his wives. He will be buried in Karachi on Friday.

He was born in Rajhistan, India and migrated to Pakistan during the partition. Hassan struggled for a long time to establish himself as a singer, which included a one-off performance on Radio Pakistan in 1957. The year 1959 was his breakthrough year when he was introduced to a group of people at the Art Council in Lahore by legendary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. And then, no musical score was complete without Mehdi Hassan’s enchanting vibratos.

“His voice added so many colors to ghazal that at one of the concerts, Faiz [Ahmed Faiz] sahab stood up and raised his hands in the air and said that this ghazal belonged to Mehdi Hassan, that he had nothing to do with it. Such was the impact of the man’s singing,” said Sufi singer Abida Parveen. Poet Nida Fazli, a close friend of Hassan who penned most of late Jagjit Singh’s ghazals, said Mehdi Hassan had been an institution for those in India and Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he had “brought the sub-continental Sufi sensibilities to life through his songs”.

Iconic Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar also tweeted about King of Ghazal Mehdi Hasan’s passing away. She said she had been “deeply grieved because today, Mehdi Hassan, a very big Ghazal Singer, is no longer with us. He brought a major transformation in Ghazal singing” and it was highly unlikely that such a singer would be born again.

“He was a great classical singer as well and his singing had a fragrance of Rajasthan’s music. I pray to Ishwar to rest Mehdi Hassan’s soul in peace,” she added.

Famous ghazal singer Ghulam Ali said: “I m completely shocked to hear about his demise.”
He said it was as if he had lost his elder brother.

Indian singer Hariharan tweeted: “Nobody can replace Mehdi Saab. He was a genius. He was a great thinker”.

Condolences also poured in from former president Pervez Musharraf PTI chief Imran Khan and Indian singer Pankaj Udhas among several others.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012



The earth is round, that’s why perhaps when two persons met and left for good, on a particular day come across each other again and that is for eternal relationship.

First time I met him at National Press Club (NPC) office in Federal Capital, couple of years ago at a time when I was working as a reporter for English newspaper ‘Daily Times’ to cover an art exhibition.

This healthy man greeted me with open arms and huge smile to follow. With exchange of quick words and an informal attitude wrapped with spontaneous humour, he won my heart in no time.

Before I planned to leave NPC for my office, he with his trademark Punjabi accent said, “O janab, pehli mulakaat ay, koi roti shoti te khaa k jao’. (It’s our first meeting and you should have a meal with me). I was in hurry and with an excuse I replied, “Butt sab- mein kuj jaldi which aan- Insha Allah, fair bohat jald mulakaat hoi gi.” (I’m in hurry and will see you pretty soon)”.

For mid and begin level Journalists in Pakistan, life is tough as he has to do all the hard work compiling stories braving scorching heat or chilly winter, to compose, and file it in a day’s stipulated time and often he has to skip his daily meals.

Days went by and it became my routine after finishing off my official work, I along with my young fellow Ali Hassan started our search for good restaurants in twin cities to have dinner together. We tasted almost every restaurants of sister cities but failed to find out a particular restaurant with a combination of taste and low price.

Ali at that time was residing Shamsabad (Murree Road) and I have to drop him there at night before moving to my own place at I-10. Mid way through, at double Road (Stadium Road), we tried all the restaurants and got fed up soon.

On a night, Ali desired to look around a restaurant he was told by his friend that restaurant offers a taste to devour. We didn’t know the exact location but all we knew it was situated in a small street over the road. And finally we got it. “Lahore Khaba” was the name of that small restaurant with a big portrait of comedian Sohail Ahmed eating a chicken piece erected in and outside the eatery.

As soon as I reached near, I saw Amanullah Butt (a senior journalist and owner of that restaurant) for the second time- sitting on a reception chair of ‘Lahori Khaba’. Drawing a long puff of ‘Gold Leaf’, he instantly recognized me and started uttering ‘Bismillah’, ‘Bismillah’ for a fair distance. Later I found, ‘Bismillah’, ‘Welcome’ and ‘Thank you’ as his pet (repeated) words.

On my first day, inside the ‘Lahori Khaba’, I noticed a number of photographs of Butt sab with prominent political, social and cultural personalities hanging over the walls. Afzal Butt’s solo photograph was also seen on the wall of restaurant. Upon asking why Butt sahib’s photo is here? Is it because he is the president of National Press Club? Butt sab first smiled and than replied, “o janab (Afzal Butt sab) … meray wadday pai jan nay ay. And I said masha allah. Later, Butt sab told me he writes column/ article in Urdu and Punjabi newspapers and I said pointing towards a wall--- yes, it is quite visible butt sab as one of your article is also pasted on the wall. He smiled again.

I distinctly remember, on that day I enjoyed Egg dipped in ‘Channay’ in dinner and it was the first time I tasted Chanay the way it is cooked. Before leaving the restaurant, I spoke highly about the taste of Chanay and told Butt sab we were in search of delicious food and your restaurant is the one we are looking for. Butt sab smiled again and shared a joke in response.

‘Lahori Khabay’ offered traditional foods including Chanay, Sri Paay, Khadd, etc I’m oblivion with.

Now, visiting that restaurant became my staple diet. Everyday I went there along Ali at ‘Lahori Khabay’. Later, we started debating on political issues rather just having a dinner. I’ve also visited his restaurant at Sehri time during last Ramadan.   

Every night, Butt sab delivered an insight out analysis of an issue- and that too prolonging with few jokes. From allotment of plots to journalists, to Supreme Court of Pakistan, from Zardari to Gilani, every issue came under our discourse during the dinner.

One night, when I reached ‘Lahori Khabay’, Butt sab asked me, haan g- ki khabraan nay. I said Butt sab- I went to attend a memorial reference in memory of Mastana, and Babbu Baral and just came here after filing this story. Butt sab went in a trance of nostalgia and kept of sharing the history of both the late great comedians. “Main ainda dowan naal bohat time guzaraya ay- balkay bohat acha time guzarya ay. Bohat achay insaan san tay bethay bethay koi jughat te gal bana lainde san. Or banda hans hans k pagal ho janda si,” he shared changing his facial expression from smile to sadness.

“Par Babbu wi ajeeb banda si. PM ne 5 lakh ilaaj aaste ditta, te 2.5 lakh de LCD lay aya,” Butt said. Now I was confused whether I should laugh here or to show seriousness. Butt sab also shared about the expansion of his business saying he will maintain balance between his hotel business and journalism.

It is quite hard to round off my feelings about this great workaholic man who always said goodbye to me with his trade mark humour. I remember often while leaving ‘Lahori Khabay’, I requested Butt sab to share that incident about brother of Humaira Arshad. And Butt sab said… “haan… o ainj hoya, aik din aisi aik party arrange keeti, ohday te Humaira Arshad nu bula lia. 2 ghante ho gay, o na aai. Ohda bhai (ohda secretary wi si). Mein ohday kolo jado wi Humaira Arshad da puchaha, o kainda ay… ye jo ap meray galay mein Locket dekh rahay hain na, ye may Humaira k sath UK, gia tha, wahan se laya tha. Ye jo ap bracelet dekh rahay hain, ye mein HUmaira k sath UAE ki visit pet ha, jahan se lay k aya tha. Or ….. ye jeans maine USA se purchase kit hi. Butt sab said, he got furious upon this answer as everyone getting late. And…. Finally I said to him… “Aor tum apni behan ki kon kon si naimato ko jhutlao ge,” and everyone around us found laughing.

On June 2 (Saturday), I got an sms from Bilal Dar about Amanullah Butt suffering with brain hemorrhage and admitted to PIMS hospital. I started praying for his early recovery knowing well those who make other happy wont vanish too early. But later, I got the news of sad and untimely death of Butt sahib.

May Allah Almighty bless Butt sab’s soul in eternal peace and grant his family and relatives the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.

RIP Butt sab, I know, now the air of Heaven is filled with your jokes and you are making your presence felt there as well.