Monday, July 13, 2015

Crescent Observation Predictions For Shawwal 1436 AH (2015 A.D)

I hope all of you reading this are enjoying the holy month of fasting (Ramadan). While you cleanse your body of toxins, do not ignore getting rid of things that harm your soul.

Confusion reigns supreme

Another Eid al-Fitr is around the corner and so is lunar confusion. The accurate data and visibility curves given below will help you avoid confusion created by crescent-sighting 'experts'. This article will help you cross-check official claims and appreciate the wonders of scientific reality. However, no amount of science can cover the flaws of human observation or cloud cover. Those who live in extreme geographical locations must face even more twists.

Through those who had the knowledge of such calculations, the last messenger of Allah and his companions could have simply announced the start or beginning of Islamic months but instead they preferred VISUAL sighting of the crescent (hilal) so that there remained no doubt in any observer's mind.

Data and visibility curves

First, let us focus on Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and Peshawar (Pakistan). Each year, the latter city falsely reports seeing the crescent by ignoring its own horizon and blindly following the distant Saudi one. Then we have data and curves for Karachi, Lahore (L'ore L'ore ae) and finally London.

From the coloured legend (bottom right hand side) you will be able to easily see if your locations falls within one of the visibility curves on a given date. Click on any image to see an enlarged version.

Finally, I have provided realistic representations of where the sun and the moon will be on 17 July 2015 at Lahore (best time of observation is 19:27 LT). The '0' degrees indicates the horizon and the compass degrees too are marked to ascertain the directions of both the sun and the moon.

Lunar calendar

The lunar calendar will always remain a necessity for determining occasions such as Ramadan, Hajj (pilgrimage at Makkah) and the two Eid festivals. At this time, we need not dive into an oily kingdom’s preference for unbelieveable crescent observation criteria.

The onus of responsibility clearly falls on those who falsely report crescent sightings or support aged observers or outright liars. This institutional wrong means that Muslims end up performing the Hajj, starting the holy month of Ramadan (fasting) and celebrating Eid on the wrong dates.

The idea behind writing about lunar astronomy is to help one look with precision at the sky. Astronomy must be studied by each Muslim, as was done during the zenith of Muslim rule, to appreciate the inner workings of God's System.

Observation matters need not be left to the experts; even novices can enjoy watching the sky in order to fulfill God’s Will and the sunnah (practices of Prophet Muhammad, peace on him).

Muslim unity with just the moon?

A simultaneous global sighting of the crescent is an astronomical impossibility due to the moon’s eccentric rotation and orbital behaviour. Hence, celebrating Eid on a single day across a huge land mass (USA, China, India) is not a religious requirement but rather a new age idea propounded by the religious globalists.

It has now become a fitna (trial, tribulation), frequently leading to disagreements and discord; please ignore this effort designed to divide Muslims further on non-issues. We need to first agree on how many degrees below the horizon must the sun be for calculating various twilight timings. Why is each Muslim country going its own way?

A few important points need to be borne in mind this time:

  1. The birth of the new moon (conjunction) will take place on 16 July 2015 at 01:24 UTC (06:24 Pakistan Standard Time).
  2. Sunset at Lahore will take place at 1908 LT and the moon will set at 19:10 LT (or 00:02 minutes after sunset).
  3. The Shawwal crescent will be only 12 hours and 00:44 minutes old at Lahore's sunset. Hence, it will be invisible even if viewed with a telescope.
  4. A 'fat' crescent (36 hours and 00:44 monutes old) will be clearly seen on the evening of 17 July at Lahore, with or without binoculars. Therefore, in Pakistan, Eid al-Fitr will fall on 18 July 2015—unless the Pakistani moon-sighting committee errs or the Riyals blind us.
  5. I thank Allah and remain indebted to my astronomer friends whose accurate predictive software programmes and research have lit up my path of lunar astronomy.

I welcome your questions and comments on this important subject, and hope that you will attempt to not only understand what I have provided here but also help others understand matters for their own good.

Once you wish to be guided by taking a few essential steps in the direction, Allah's Promise will come true: you will be protected and guided.

They will ask thee about the new moons. Say: "They indicate the periods for [various doings of] mankind, including the pilgrimage." (Qur’an 2:189)

Have a lovely Eid al-Fitr!

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Jeddah, 16 July 2015

Jeddah, SAUDI ARABIA (Thursday 16 July, 2015)

Sunset:  19:10 LT
Moonset: 19:21 LT
Moon Age:   +14H 45M
Moon Lag Time: +00H 12M
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): +02°:30':44"
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +285°:44':53"
Distance: 394,875.99 Km
Crescent Visibility: The crescent is NOT VISIBLE even with binoculars.

But on Friday 17 July 2015, the moon (at sunset) will be +38H 45M old and the time lag between sunset and moon-set will be a comfortable 00:55 minutes. The crescent will easily be visible with naked eyes, hence Eid will be on Saturday 18 July. And the best time to observe the crescent on 17 July is: 19:34 LT

Peshawar, PAKISTAN (Thursday 16 July, 2015)
Peshawar, 16 July 2015

Sunset: 19:25 LT
Moonset: 19:26 LT
Moon Age: +13H 01M
Moon Lag Time: +00H 00M
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): 00°:12':21"
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +288°:55':32"
Distance: 394,630.52 Km
Crescent Visibility: The crescent is NOT VISIBLE even with binoculars (but then who knows!)
Best time to observe the crescent on 17 July: 19:43 LT

Karachi, Pakistan (Thursday 16 July, 2015)

Best time to observe the crescent: 19:45 LT
Sunset: 19:23 LT
Moonset: 19:30 LT
Moon Age: +12H 59M
Moon Lag Time: +00H 07M
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): +01°:31':08"
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +286°:38':58"
Distance: 394,625.09 Km
Crescent Visibility: The crescent is NOT VISIBLE even with binoculars.

Lahore, PAKISTAN (Thursday 16 July, 2015)
Lahore, 16 July 2015

Sunset: 19:08 LT
Moonset: 19:10 LT
Moon Age: +12H 44M
Moon Lag Time: +00H 02M
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): +00°:28':14"
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +288°:15':36"
Distance: 394,590.31 Km
Lahore, 16 July 2015
Crescent Visibility: The crescent is NOT VISIBLE even with binoculars because the moon sets while it the sky is still quite bright.

Lahore, PAKISTAN (Friday 17 July, 2015)

Best time to observe the crescent: 19:27 LT
Sunset: 19:08 LT            
Lahore, 17 July 2015
Moonset: 19:51 LT
Moon Age: +36H 44M
Moon Lag Time: +00H 43M
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): +08°:52':19"
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +280°:13':39"
Distance: 397,857.57 Km
Crescent Visibility: Easily visible with binoculars or naked eyes.
Lahore, 17 July 2015

London, United kingdom (Friday 17 July, 2015)

Sunset: 20:11 LT
Moonset: 20:33 LT
Moon Age:  +42H 47M
Moon Lag Time: +00H 22M
Moon Altitude (height above horizon): +03°:00':21"
London, 17 July 2015
Moon Azimuth (compass direction): +286°:33':14"
Distance: 398,628.38 Km
Crescent Visibility: Visible only with binoculors (hence, Eid on 18 July).

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mangoes For Django

Non-Asians usually have a hard time deciding how to consume delicious mangoes the desi (local) way. In polite western society it will be most inappropriate to suck mangoes meant to be cut; in informal eastern company it will be unwise to use a knife for mangoes that need to be squeezed and sucked.

So what if the commoners adore sucking mangoes and the lords prefer cutting them up for consumption? Let this be a lesson for the uninitiated, a sucker needs to be pressed from all angles to soften the thick pulp inside. Once its little black head is chewed off, the sweet mash is ready to be sucked out of a hole in the skin. The rest is easy: press, suck, press, suck, till you cannot take it anymore.

Suckers and cutters

Non-Asians usually have a hard time deciding how to consume delicious mangoes the desi (local) way. In polite western society it would be considered inappropriate to suck mangoes that must be cut; in informal eastern company it would be unwise to use a knife for mangoes that need to be squeezed and sucked. Commoners adore sucking mangoes; the lords prefer cutting them up for consumption. A sucker needs to be pressed from all sides to soften the thick pulp inside. Once its little black head is chewed off, the sweet mash is ready to be sucked out of a hole in the skin. The rest is easy: press, suck, press, suck, till you cannot take it anymore.

Mad science be damned, an agro-scientist here once told me that plans were afoot to introduce sugar-free mangoes to the global market. God loaded mangoes with sugar to boost lost energy during the intense summer and monsoon seasons of the Indian sub-continent but now the devil is eager to make this fruit sugar-free. Since the road to Hell is paved with Canderel, sugar-free mangoes might appear on the market sooner rather than later.

Babur in the Baburnama, 1589-90
Kings and poets

Hieun Tsang, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim who visited India during Harshavardhan's reign in the 6th century B.C., mentioned how mangoes were meticulously cultivated in India. Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babur was a Mughul (Mongol) invader whose luck did not favour him in native Central Asia. He simply followed the ancient tradition of conquering India to establish a dynasty that ruled for centuries. His autobiography, Tuzk-e-Babri, clearly shows how fondly he remembered the grapes and melons of his native land and thought India was a “country of few charms”:

“There are no good-looking people, there is no social intercourse, no receiving or paying of visits, no genius or manners. In its handicrafts there is no form or symmetry, method or quality. There are no good horses, no good dogs, no grapes, musk-melons or first-rate fruits, no ice or cold water, no good bread or food cooked in the bazaars, no hot baths, no colleges, no candles, torches or candlesticks.”

Babur’s twenty-four pet hates might be the reason why to this day every self-deprecating desi (local) still takes foreign opinions most seriously. Our raider from the north must be forgiven for airing first impressions that did not prevent his progeny from multiplying through intermarriage with charming and noble Hindu women. During this Indian picnic, Babur exposed himself completely by admitting he adored three things: “abundance of gold and silver, and the weather after the monsoon”. Our mind-numbing history books strongly drive home the point that the ‘liberator came to spread his religion in India’, but conveniently omit his penchant for wine, opium and pretty boys.

Alexander (floor mosaic from Pompeii, circa 100 B.C)
A few Mughul emperors, most notably Akbar, showed genuine interest in mango cultivation. Just as Babur is a popular name in our region, so is Sikander which is derived from Alexander. Ours is a land where people name their sons after Alexander of Macedon but never honour a true defender, Porus, who confronted the Greek raider in 326 BC in the Battle of Hydaspes (river Jehlum). Regardless, from Alexander to the British colonists, every regime has been and will remain in love with mangoes. Even our own Pakistani MIL-DIC (military dictator), that dull pioneer of the Afghan ‘powder and AK-47 culture’, lost his tailor-made life when a crate of mangoes dutifully placed by the sponsors aboard his C-130 airplane exploded.

Poets such as Amir Khusro, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, Rabindranath Tagore, Allama Iqbal and Nazir Akbarabadi have narrated anecdotes and written poems about mangoes. Ghalib, a great mango connoisseur, literally begged friends to send him loads of mangoes during the mango season. While modern city-dwellers tend to give up after consuming perhaps two mangoes, Ghalib complained about his inability to have more than ten or twelve in a single sitting despite the old age.
It was Altaf Hussein Hali, a noted poet, who proved that Ghalib had tasted 4,000 varieties of Indian mangoes. And Yusuf Mirza traced the history of mango back to the Vedic times. Then we have the oft-quoted dialogue between Hakim Riazuudin and Ghalib, with the Hakim pointing out that ‘even donkeys did not eat mangoes’. Witty Ghalib replied, “Of course, donkeys surely do not eat mangoes”.

With kings and poets out of my way, I need to tell my own mango-tale.

For Django

A few summers ago when I headed for England, it was already decided that I would spend less time with relatives and more with friends such as K.D. So I first called him long-distance. We exchanged pleasantries in chaste Punjabi and analyzed sad tales of down-sized businesses, austerity cuts, inflation and whatever else England could offer. Out of courtesy I asked K.D. what he wanted from Punjab. Overcome with temporary formality he initially declined with, “Oye, nothing at all”, but then dictated, “Bring me a crate of mangoes!”

Mango facts
I already knew that British Customs officials laughed at Pakistanis who brought crates of mangoes into England. “They do sell mangoes here in England, you know”, he occasionally commented. Thanks to Khan I was to become one such laughable carrier because I was in no mood to spend many Pounds on buying in London highly over-priced mangoes. I was also not inclined to pay our national flag carrier Rs 1,000 per kilogram as accompanied-baggage charges when a kilogram of the fruit cost a paltry Rs 50 in Pakistan.

At the airlines’ check-in counter I was not the only fruitful passenger, for when I looked around most travellers carried nothing but mangoes for their British relatives. Even young children carried rucksacks stuffed with the fruit. The entire departure hall, the aero-bridge and the passengers smelled of mangoes. If the Indians could quietly conquer England with spicy curries, why could the Pakistanis not orchestrate a takeover using sweet mangoes?

The Jumbo jet had a somewhat turbulent take-off; for a moment I thought it flapped its giant wings. Right afterwards, a strange mix of lavatory stench and something odd entered my nostrils; that something odd happened to be the smell of mangos. At lunch time, wisely many passengers boycotted the terrible airlines’ food and settled on consuming the ration of mangoes they carried. As a direct consequence of hasty consumption, they required repeated visits to the lavatories and which produced stench that no French perfume ever made could possibly overpower.

The in-flight entertainment system did not work but then who in his right mind needed that aboard PIA airplanes? Children ran around playing loud hide-and-seek, older folks took their morning walks in the aisles, and the young demanded Coka da bantin (an unopened can of Coca Cola). With such excitement around only a fool would wish to watch a Hollywood thriller. The senseless comedy soon wore me out and I fell asleep appreciating my mind’s very own in-flight entertainment system.

After eight hours the airplane smoothly touched down at Heathrow airport where a tragedy awaited me. In the baggage claim area I saw fellow passengers merrily pushing away their trolleys loaded with fat suitcases and large wooden mango-crates but my cherished cargo was nowhere in sight.

After biting a few fingernails for lunch I contacted the airlines’ representative. Through the extra sensory misconception of having ‘seen it happen a million times each summer’ the lady knew what was wrong before I uttered a word. She seemed genuinely uninterested in my graphic description of how I handpicked ten kilograms of Chaunsa Awwal (prime Chaunsa variety) mangoes and then had them decorated with edible warq (edible beaten-silver foil).

The pretty young thing looked at the conveyer-belt that had by then ceased to go round and round. There remained two lonely crates on it, both unclaimed and with tags whose numbers did not match the one in my possession. With the ballpoint’s top in her mouth the young lady thought hard; she too had not had lunch. We were both hungry but I was the desperate one, and for a moment I saw not my future children in her eyes but lost mangoes. There comes a time in a man’s life when he must say I love mangoes instead of I love you, and I did just that. Finally she spoke and her plan was simple: I would get one crate as unofficial compensation.

A close shave

Despite having a British blonde bombshell alongside my side my baggage-trolley failed to glide smoothly past the Customs’ counter established by Her Majesty the Queen of England. An officer showed remarkable interest in my baggage, stopped me and commented on the ‘lovely weather’ which I had not yet experienced.

Looking me straight in the eyes, he asked three well-rehearsed questions: “Are you aware of the contents of your luggage? Are you carrying any gifts for friends or relatives in England, and did you pack everything in your luggage personally?”

Ensign of HM Customs
Thinking of the mango-crate which was not in reality my own, beads of sweat appeared over my forehead in that cold arrival hall at London Heathrow.

“Anything the matter, sir?” the officer probed further.

“No, I’m simply happy to see you; I perspire when I’m happy”, I replied feigning a smile.

In order to garland me for attempting to be funnier than the best British comedian, he asked me to ‘step aside’. For a customary search he produced a small saw from under the counter and began to slice up the unfortunate wooden mango-crate.

“What are you doing, kind sir?” I asked, holding on to firm support in order to avoid a fall greater than that of Humpty Dumpty’s.

There was no answer. He sawed and I just saw. Then it dawned upon me that because I was not carrying my own crate, there was no way of knowing what was inside the unclaimed piece. The officer was bent upon finding out whether the wooden crate contained white powder of the intoxicating kind. A most vivid black and white picture of Her Majesty’s Prison appeared on my mind’s screen with yours truly wearing a goal-bird’s striped suit and a cap.

Then suddenly a light appeared at the end of this tunnel. The blonde representative who had earlier helped me secure the mango-crate intervened to narrate to the officer my story. It was nothing short of a royal miracle that I was let off with a polite wish: “Enjoy your mangoes, and have a pleasant stay in London!”

The welcome

K.D. Khan stood anxiously waiting in the arrival hall. I shook his hand rather vigorously to indicate to the hidden surveillance cameras that I was very well-connected and more than welcome in England. K.D. in turn lovingly looked at the solitary mango-crate and steered the limping baggage trolley towards the parking area that seemed so distant I thought we were headed home on foot.

“Only ten kilos?” questioned Khan while surveying the crate.

Living in London had done wonders to his power of observation for he was as correct as a Scotland Yard detective in gauging the weight of the crate. I smiled sheepishly and changed the subject. As we walked, he kept picking up the mangos that occasionally attempted to escape from the devastated crate.

1993 model Porsche 911 Carrera
“So, how was your journey?” he enquired.

In chaste Punjabi and with a sprinkling of un-parliamentary language I narrated the whole story. All smiles, he pointed with his raised eyebrows at a young blonde, “Forget the gory details; look at that gori (a fair woman) over there!”

K.D. came from a less privileged family but through sheer hard work had risen to become comfortably rich in London. He proudly opened for me the door of a white Porsche 911 Carrera. Everything about the German ‘humble means of transportation’ was nice, and I especially liked the model number which reminded me of that infamous political stunt performed on September 11. Respectfully K.D. laid to rest the mango crate under the 911’s hood. Quietly I marvelled at how he was able to drive the great German sports car when someone had stolen its engine from under the hood and left instead a spare tyre as a souvenir.

Dinner was served sooner than anticipated; the main dish being chicken curry with Lebanese bread and Pathak’s pickled mangoes. After a round of ras-malai and mixed-chai, we indulged in a marathon chat session which ended when one of us fell asleep.

Mango days and nights

From the next morning on it was mango-time thrice a day. I woke up to find my friend in the balcony having a go at the mangoes and simultaneously conversing intimately over the telephonic with a woman of unadulterated British ancestry. What made the scene objectionable to my eastern sensibilities was that K.D., with eyes half-closed, sucked out mango-pulp with loud ecstatic slurps and which triggered roaring laughter at the other end of the telephone.

K.D.’s pre-breakfast routine for the next few days was to consume mangoes in purely rural fashion until the crate refused to oblige. Although he, like a model citizen, neatly buried the leftovers in the garbage bin located at the end of the lane, such was the aroma of Pakistani mangoes that the entire neighbourhood came to know about this ‘mango guest’ from K.D.’s native land. As an eastern saying goes, one can hide neither love nor a scent.

Mango happiness
While I remained content with a cup of Earl’s Grey tea and biscuits every evening, K.D. prepared a large glass of mango-shake and spoke with great eloquence about the sizzling summers we spent together as naughty little boys knocking mangoes off Pakistani trees. Every now and then he would punctuate his thoughts with loud slurping sounds by sucking the mango shake through a plastic straw.

So completely obsessed with mangoes had my friend become while living in England that I soon began to wonder if the grey matter inside that old friend’s head had metamorphosed into yellowish mango pulp. For purely old time’s sake, I sometimes sat and did nothing but watch him consume mangoes. Once when I ventured into the pantry to assess the quantity of mangos left over, I found a few small ones rotting away ready to spread disease and discomfort in the neighbourhood. Even the common horseflies found them unattractive and when I shouted at K.D., “Dump them!” he out-rightly vetoed my ‘mad proposal’.

“The only place the mangos will go is in here”, he remarked slapping his bulging stomach to pay a glowing tribute to what resembled a full-term pregnancy. That was weight gained through reckless consumption of mangoes but, in true expat spirit, K.D. laughingly blamed Pakistan for all his ills.

Royal Observatory, Greewich - 1902 post card
When the week-long stay with K.D. finally came to an end, I realized at least half of it was spent at home watching him devour mangoes at the oddest hours. Only during the last two nights did we step out to enjoy ourselves. A camera dangling from my neck, we visited the Greenwich Observatory where I saw how they manufactured Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) for the entire world to synchronise their watches to. Nobody knew why Greenwich Time was called Mean by the public or Zulu by aviators, none could explain why a Great Kingdom ruled over by a queen was not called Small Queendom, and why she had no time at all to have the constitution written down for the benefit of all the converts to English language.

The Big Ben being cleaned
As for the rest of the tourist attractions, the Big Ben had not grown any bigger since my last visit, and the London Bridge had not yet fallen into River Thames. Everything was the same, quite the same, and the very same—which was quite an elementary change if one learnt to notice things with Sherlock Holmes’ magnifying glass.

I did not shop much in London because the financially impotent Rupee had shrivelled in value to a disappointing size against the mighty Pound Sterling. Besides, most items, from undergarments to baseball-caps, had the ubiquitous Union Jack emblazoned across them. It felt quite unsafe having my family jewels wrapped in the British flag instead of the one belonging to my own country, and 17.5% was too much tax to pay in London considering that very few Pakistanis happily paid taxes back home. The silver lining of the British cloud was that with higher taxes ‘tube’ trains and double-decker buses ran on-time, no gas and electricity load-shedding ever took place and not a single policeman—leave alone an army man—was ever visible in public.

London bridge falling down?
Oddly, other ex-pats whom I met referred to the British ‘Poned’ as Rupee. A few rich Pakistanis became my acquaintances but a great many Abdul bhais who almost exclusively owned London’s news-stands became good friends too. As a result, I got all the news verbally and free of charge every morning. The British penchant for tabloids was truly amazing as one could spend an entire vacation marvelling at the editorial imagination and the pen-pushers’ skills of creating something unreadable out of something truly unbearable. The magazine racks were full of hobby and adult magazines that I wondered at the smartness of Communist China for taking away manufacturing from England and leaving her instead to pursue the skin trade.

Time to leave

“But what a shame you must go”, K.D. lamented.

“Yes I know but I hope to see you soon in Pakistan. And if you need anything at all from back home——”

Suddenly someone’s luggage trolley hit K.D.’s foot. He might have sworn at the one who inadvertently hit his foot but all I heard was “Ten kilograms”.

New London Bridge in the late 19th century
The public address attempted to convince me for the ‘last time’ that it was time to ‘head for the departure lounge’. After K.D. Khan hugged me for the tenth time in full public view, I thought it was time to return to my ancient civilization.

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2015


K.D. Khan was also featured in my article The Wild Side Of The Mall
The first draft of Mangoes For Django was written on 30 July, 2002.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Strange Comings And Goings

Bird-watching might be fun but plane-watching is an equally satisfying activity. Thanks to certain websites that allow it, enthusiasts and professionals alike can now monitor flight paths of commercial and not-so-commercial flights.
On the night of 11 December 2014, two strange flights were observed on Flight Radar 24. It is futile to ask the authorities to explain the presence of these airplanes.

Shaheen Air

The first airplane was Shaheen Air International from Lahore to Karachi. It went on flying without a transponder Squawk code and relayed no altitude information. Is this even possible to do in Controlled Airspace? The Boeing 737-4QB, registration AP-BJR, flew at FL320 and supposedly had a flight number NL-143. For more 'Shaheen' fun, read Shaheen On The Rocks

The Cargo Airlines or KAM?

The second airplane was The Cargo Airlines B747-281F(SCD) aircraft. Its call-sign was IA 9002 and registration mark 4L-MRK. This flight took off from Arbil (the oldest inhabited city of Iraq since 9,000 BC) airport which is a deeply disturbed area of Iraqi Kurdistan. You will read below why Arbil is infested with thousands of Americans and their opportunistic destroy-then-rebuild businesses.

This particular aircraft flew over Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. That seems normal but what seems abnormal is that it avoided overflying Iranian airspace to land at Lahore.

When a Jumbo flies at 41,000 feet it is doing so with only fuel and an odd few crew members. Why was it flying without cargo from Arbil? Why did this 'private' aircraft take the long route?
Since the Jumbo flew back to Arbil from Lahore (Pakistan) at 34,000 feet, it must have been carrying something. But what exactly: diplomatic mail, dried fruits, Phujja's siri-paya or Sardar's deep-fried fishWere they carrying 'special' men, 'intel' minds, bags of undisclosed variety of white powdery 'stuff' that the American 'agency' excels in handling, or death-dealing implements of aggression? Who knows, the uplift might have been 'humanitarian aid' such as diapers destined for crying orphans in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In any case, night operations facilitate cargo loading of suspicious stuff because during daytime airlines' personnel tend to notice fishy business. What parking stands (hard stands) do such flights get, surely not the ones with aero-bridges connected?

Who knows, it might have been our exports to EU jumping 19pc in nine months or good old 
humanitarian aid according to some UN plan to create more refugees (IDPs: internally displaced persons).

Flights IA 9001 and IA 9002 appear to be regular flights in and out of Iraq. Of course, Pakistan has, over the Afghan War years, become the choice landing spot of 'intel' tourists from brotherly, sisterly, fatherly, motherly and God-cursed otherly countries. What is going on in this 'land of the pure'?

Corruption, opium, and Kam Air
If you research the tail number of this Jumbo, 4L-MRK, the following interesting message appears:

We do not have information on this operator. Either it is a private operator or the operator then has recently changed its name. You can use our search engine if needed.

Kam Air, an airline owned by a politically-connected Afghan businessman, was blacklisted by the US military in Afghanistan for opium smuggling. Then the Afghan government complained. Read the full article HERE.
If you search some more, KAM Air appears to be the owner of 4L-MRK, and this is based in Afghanistan, the land of the Taliban. This airplane was delivered to KAM Air in August 2012 to be operated by The Cargo Airlines based in Georgia (USA) which started operations in August 2012. Oddly, this company has only one aircraft (4L-MRK) in its fleet. 4L-MRK's previous registration was VP-BIJ which was operated by the largest cargo airlines of Russia: ABC (Air Bridge Cargo Airlines).

What kind of an airlines will own just one jet airliner? What is KAM/The Cargo Airlines if not some covert 'agency' or 'black-ops' military contractor?

Why Arbil?

Read about Oil and Erbil to see how it all makes perfect sense.

Spy 'carriers' and spooks

Read about CAT (Civil Air Transport) to find out how the black-ops aviation industry works.

And finally, entertain yourselves with Dealing in death - The CIA and the drugs trade (how the agency created America's heroin and cocaine epidemics).

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2015

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Rocket Science Of Mr Fardy – Part 2

If you have not read The Rocket Science Of Mr Fardy - Part 1, please do so before reading this article.

In summer Mr Fardy rode his bicycle wearing a unique contraption: a post-war Indian pith helmet, commonly called Sola hat. This clever ‘home service helmet’, now out of vogue, helped the colonial British beat the oppressive Indian heat. The thick hat covered in khaki cloth came with an inner shell made out of cork and featured two rubber side-holes on each side to allow entrapped hot air to escape. It is important to note here that there was hidden symbolism in a pith hat made out of cork. Let it be known that the English word pith has a Punjabi equivalent: pith, which means one’s backside.

Needless to say, Mr Fardy’s cane had an invisible scope whose crosshairs were always locked on our backsides. And since his Sola hat was made out of cork, he was silently telling us where his forefathers originally hailed from: county of Cork, Ireland. In any case, the boys at school knew from personal experience that the sun hat failed miserably in keeping Mr Fardy’s head cool because he lost it completely in the face of our naughtiness. None saw him ever laugh heartily but he did loosen up a bit while being stationed at the OUT-gate at every ‘full-break’ to ensure the boys went home peacefully.
Aerodrome in Amman, Jordan (April 1921): Col. T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia, 2nd from left) and Sir Herbert Samuel (centre) wearing a pith helmet

Each morning at the designated time Mr Fardy would walk up to our class with sheets of hand-written notes firmly tucked under the left arm. Three steps behind would walk a ‘khota-boy’ carrying a load of checked copybooks. Hearts pounded heavily when this load was unloaded at the teacher’s desk for distribution to the students. Those who had done the assignments correctly received the copybooks without pats on the backs but the miserable few who showed disdain for Mr Fardy’s scientific efforts received doses of fine ‘benders’ at the same location. 

A thick cane always remained in our teacher’s right fist, occasionally swinging at invisible buttocks that no boy was able to see. Like a consummate cricketer or golfer, he regularly practised his imaginary strokes in the air before entering our field. Brylcreem was in vogue with a promise of “a little dab of Brylcreem on your hair gives you the Brylcreem jump in the air”, yet some boys exclusively applied mustard oil to their hairs in order to keep their rural fathers happy. The same lot suspected Mr Fardy applied the same oil to the deadly cane in order to keep it pliable because upon hitting its intended target, it bounced back with unbelievable efficiency as if following Newton’s second law: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.

Instrument of (m)ass terror
Boys worse than shrews
With great bewilderment the fraternity of students noticed that whenever the end of that cruel cane split, the next morning Mr Fardy either came with it fully repaired or had a brand new piece in his right hand. Nobody knew who the corporate sponsor was or where he got the canes from—perhaps from the fabricators of cane furniture opposite Data Sahib’s darbar outside the Bhaati Gate. Whatever the source, the cane reminded us of James Bond’s regally-sponsored and licensed-to-kill handgun excluding the voluptuous bond-girls. Fully authorised was Mr Fardy’s mobile laboratory, painful were his experiments, and irrepressible were our revolutionary hindquarters. Before global war on terror became the most popular method for repressing the masses, butt-terrorism taught all twitching buttocks a thing or two about Anthonian discipline. Our Freudian slips regularly attracted the wrath of the Fardian whip, and we shall return later to describe in greater detail Mr Fardy’s method of taming us little shrews.
St. Anthony of Padua

One day in the middle of a lecture, Mr Fardy was summoned to the principal’s office. Someone quickly hid the cane but upon returning the teacher recovered it in an instant from behind the door. The Christian boys believed he prayed to Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost and stolen articles and a powerful Franciscan preacher and teacher, in whose name our very own school was established in 1892. But Mr Fardy’s science lectures were complex compared with this saint’s simple Godly messages which, according to historical records, were delivered to the fishes in the sea when humans showed signs of temporary deafness. While medieval painters have depicted St. Anthony holding a book, a lily, a torch, the infant Jesus in his arms, a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in front of a mule, preaching in the public square, and lecturing under a nut tree, Mr Fardy borrowed no compassionate ideas from the pious man.
Artisans with a scale model of St. Anthony's church

The stage, the actors

Let us now visit section-B of class eight which, if one stood facing the school’s building with Lawrence Road to the rear, was located to the left side of the principal’s office. There, yours truly occupied one of the rear-most seats, quite fed up of sitting in the front row for years inhaling the chalk dust clouds that the masterly scribbling on blackboards produced. There were two others in the class who shared my first name. One was Tahir Malik Sheikh whose disciplinarian father worked in Pakistan Railways while the mother headed the Fine Arts department at the University of the Punjab on the Lower Mall. The family lived on the Upper Mall behind the American School. The other Tahir was Tahir Shamim who resided in Samanabad. His father owned the Lyric cinema hall on Multan Road where we watched a loud Punjabi movie free on only one occasion. It was much easier for the three Tahirs to giggle incessantly at the back of the class because the teachers seldom strayed that far into the trenches to punish talkative boys, but when their shouts of “stop whispering” produced no results, they unhesitatingly home-delivered to us a large pizza of punishment.

St. Anthony's High School - front view
Such was my musical memory I firmly believed that if lessons were Urdu film songs, I would be the top student. Much to my parents’ relief, academically I mostly remained in the top ten students but it was discovered I was gifted in other fields as well. Occupying a strategic rearmost location in class naturally inspired yours truly to sing at a low level, film songs of the day. A neighbour always accompanied me by playing tabla over the desk. This soft sangat (accompaniment) was interrupted only on one occasion when the teacher converted my artistic partner’s head into a tabla and played a very long and complex taal (rhythm) over it. Ultimately, we remained undeterred and insisted on acting like human juke-boxes that played the right tunes without swallowing copper coins.

WMD or weapon of m(ass) destruction

Anthonian heads made great tablas
Mr Fardy’s cane, a mean instrument of unbridled power, was as thick as a heavy-weight wrestler’s thumb. Before he meted out punishment, he viciously swung the cane back and forth in the air to check its flexibility—much like a hangman would check a rope. There were times when despite the boys having committed no war crimes his Nuremberg cane still cooked our rear steaks to the well-done level. Nobody needed an exorcist’s eyes to see the devil himself enter into Mr Fardy’s cane and prompt him to commit butt-atrocities that made the obstinate fall prostrate in full submission, though only for a short period. Our science teacher only occasionally dished it out to the boys on their hands; the bull’s eyes always remained our sensitive hindquarters. On happier occasions he caned the entire class—I suppose that was to bring all the students to the same level of subservience to the system that they refused to join and hoped to beat one day far into the future.
A flying 'khota' (donkey)

Whenever Mr Fardy caught red-handed a misbehaving culprit, he would shout, “Hey khota! Come, I’ll give you six.”

Nobody in his right mind could argue with Mr Fardy and if he did he heard: “Want to argue? You’ll get double!” ‘Double’ meant two rounds of six strokes of the cane, or double the victim’s pain and double the laughter for the on-lookers.

In winter we wore blue school blazers with double-slit backs and Mr Fardy was too much of a gentleman to lift those slits up on his own. Instead he always demanded, “Dumm ka parr ooper uthao (birdie, lift up the feathers of your tail)”, and proceeded to dish it out. Such oft-repeated remarks convinced us that our true collective identity was that of a strange beast which was half khota (donkey) and half chirrya (bird). Later in life, at least one of us, overcome with the desire to understand the human mind, joined the army to retire as a psychiatrist brigadier.
A grounded 'chirrya' (bird)

Mr Fardy’s method of dispensing instantaneous and inexpensive justice was so truly unique it required no bloody revolution or peaceful sit-ins outside the parliament. When a young criminal stood next to his desk to receive punishment, an eerie silence fell over the entire class of over forty-five students. Then, according to purely scientific calculations, Mr Fardy made the guilty party bend over at a precise body angle to receive not one but six strokes of the thick cane.

The Christian boys who knew the Bible swore that 666 was the ‘number of the beast’ mentioned in Book of Revelations and that the devil, out of consideration for our tender age, was kind in having Mr Fardy deliver to us only one but never all three ‘sixers’. Nevertheless, Mr Fardy always delivered his dose while observing how calm or agitated the poor student’s petrified face and his twitching rear remained. His infamous ‘sixers’ or ‘benders’ always landed directly over the oh-zone layer which was a point where the spine vanished into the buttocks. The hits sapped one’s energy in an instant and left one feeling as if the cane was powered by 220 Volts electric current of the alternating kind.
220 Volts A.C 'sixers' and 'benders'

If the victim moved his buttocks hoping to sabotage Mr Fardy’s countdown to ecstasy, the counting restarted, and instead of getting a ‘sixer’, he ended up with eight or twelve ‘likes’ on the rear page of his Facebook. There was no rest for the wicked. Mr Fardy displayed a controlled smile during the caning session and would return to being serious as if nothing significant had ever happened. Quietly he would watch the victim return to his wooden seat and unable to sit comfortably on a numb rear for the entire duration of the science period.

Everybody had his own mantra which he religiously recited just before and during caning; it never worked. One such incantation that is attributed to Hanunmanji was: Jal tu jalal tu; aee balaa ko taal tu. No matter how pious a boy sounded, Mr Fardy always suspected that something wicked was being mumbled between the lines in a strange language. In an Anglo-Urdu accent, he would challenge, “Khota, kia bola tum? (Donkey, what did you utter?), and then dish out more parting shots to the poor boy. Now decades later, this might seem like recounting horrible human rights related atrocities but when it happened, each boy in the class covered his face with the palms, turned red as a tomato and finally bent over the desk laughing. Who in his right mind would wish to cry when another fellow was ‘getting it’ in public?

1857-style mutiny against ‘Pa’

Long before we knew who Mr Fardy really was, our seniors taught us a nickname: Pa. In those days, Bonanza was a very popular American television programme and in it Ben Cartwright, the father, was addressed by his son Adam as “Pa”. The boys at the school somehow linked “Pa” with Mr Fardy but pronounced and wrote it as “paw”.
The original source of 'Pa': Bonanza

Sometimes when Mr Fardy approached the black board, much to his distress, he found the P-word chalked over it. The verbal abuse of the word went like this: as Mr Fardy walked down a corridor, some little devil after loudly shouting “paw” hid behind one of the pillars. Furious, Mr Fardy would attempt to spot the culprit by stopping dead in the tracks and turning his head like a main gun in a tank’s turret. But unable to spot anyone and as soon as he turned around, another shout of “paw” would resonate followed by muted student laughter.

Wracking our brains over Mr Fardy’s homework was difficult enough; having our rears whipped red was impossible to bear. Those who owned part-time girlfriends never told them what happened to their macho rears in the science class. And nobody had any doubt that the scientific formula of force equalling mass times acceleration (F = ma) actually stood for Fardy = My Arse.

Enough was enough. One day the boys decided to have an emergency meeting at ‘full-break’, meaning, right after school. By then, all the good boys had gone home to their worrying mothers and what remained in a secluded corner was a trace of the ‘bad elements’. The veterans who had patiently withstood Mr Fardy’s “sixers” and “benders” up until then decided to prepare an anarchist in the art of sabotaging the unkind act of caning. Through a secret ballot, Ali ‘baby-face’ Ahmed was chosen as the messiah. He was my neighbour on Temple Road, his sister Shamim Hilali was a television actress and elder brother, Hasnat Ahmed, appeared in Shoab Hashmi’s Taal-Matole and Suchh Gup TV comedy shows with the adorable ‘gentleman-lady-Billu-paiyan’ comedy routines. Ali’s family having excess talent meant he had a considerable amount of it within and which required early promotion at the school-level.
Mutiny, Anthonian style

And so it came to pass one fine day that Ali Ahmed ‘fidgeted about’ in his seat and caused Mr Fardy to summon him with a customary “You khota, come I’ll give you six”. Ali quickly donned his secret armour like a brave knight and faced the punishment without an iota of pain on his face. Since Mr Fardy’s trained ears had heard bullets, cannon fire and everything in between, after delivering a few strokes of the cane his ears told him something was not quite right. Why was Ali’s spine sounding like cardboard?

He looked Ali straight in the eye and asked, “Hey khota-man, masti karta?” (Hey donkey, are you up to some mischief?).

He then went on to uncover Ali’s deception by pulling out a copybook from inside the trousers which was placed to shield the buttocks. Worse, Ali had not done his homework. The judge raised both his eyebrows and decided that since the cane had hit an artificial surface, Ali deserved another ‘sixer’ with his protection gear removed.

We had deception in mind, never defence. The childish rebellion failed miserably and Ali was left quite alone with not a soul rising to defend him. Feeling utterly outfoxed by Mr Fardy, the class had no choice but to roll on the floor laughing at poor Ali who received an unheard of ‘twelver’ that fateful day. The sight of watching our valiant soldier face court martial dissuaded the brotherhood from ever attempting to cross Mr Fardy’s path again. Even the standby idea of wearing quadruple underwear was never put into practise. The truth dawned upon us: one could cheat death but not Mr Fardy.
IED (improvised explosive device)

We considered ourselves sufficiently naughty but our seniors were a notch above. Just two years earlier there lived a boy who made explosive fireworks for fun. Fed up with the fuse of his rear always being lit up by Mr Fardy’s caning, he decided to bring his explosive talent inside the classroom. The opportunity presented itself one quiet morning right after the science period and prior to the ‘half break’, meaning, recess.

Mr Fardy forgot something in the classroom and returned to pick it up with nobody present inside. The firecracker expert saw him coming, lit up a fuse and made good his escape. Mr Fardy immediately smelled a rat and went around opening each desk’s lid like a one-man bomb disposal squad. In one such desk he found the fire-cracker but before he could run to safety, the thing went off with such a loud bang that he fainted and fell like a wooden log. The entire hardened class was caned en masse and the guerrilla fighter was never found out.

Ancestral links

A few days ago, through a class-fellow, I was fortunate enough to trace Mr Fardy’s older son. While the younger Adrian now resides in Texas (USA), it was Sean Fardy who provided me with important family details which I am happy to share.
Cork, Ireland

Sean’s great-great-grandfather, a genuine Fardy himself, came from the county of Cork in south western Ireland and worked as a gunner in the British East India Company. Cork was known as ‘The Rebel County’ since the fifteenth century. It was the scene of considerable fighting during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) and which helped her retain the rebellious title.

Both Mrs Davey, who was our teacher in class four, and Mr Fardy passed away in 1977. His wife Molly joined him in heaven in 1986. Mr and Mrs Fardy—products of Rawalpindi and Multan—now lie buried in the soil of Lahore.

Moving on

Having become accustomed to Mr Fardy’s ‘sixers’ and ‘benders’, life suddenly became less fun and more scientific as Mr Zahid Butt and Mr Khalid took over as our science teachers in classes nine and Matric. Whenever we ran into Mr Fardy we greeted him with the customary “good morning sir” while he reciprocated with the expected, “Hey khota, kidhar jana magta (hey donkey, where are you headed)?” He somehow ignored Darwin’s theory of evolution and never called us ghora (horse). To show that he had lost no love for old students, he swung his cane at us, never meaning to hurt but rather to make us laugh.
St. Anthony's Staff (1958 or before we were born)

I am made out of Lahore’s dust and cannot seem to get the city out of me although I have been out of this city on several occasions. It has been more years than I would care to count since I left St. Anthony’s High School located on Lawrence Road but I still greet many school-friends not with a polite hello but with Mr Fardy’s favourite salutation: “Hey khota!

Although some of us attempt to deceive father Time by dying greying hairs but aged we all have. We might have become immensely wise in our own imaginations, scored ‘sixers’ in business, and tolerated unmentionable ‘benders’ in life, but one thing has not changed: before each one of us evolved into a better human, he learnt the fine art of behaving like a featherless chirya (bird) and a stubborn khota (donkey).

If there ever was a central idea of Mr Fardy’s gruelling epic poem, it was this: learn to face a great variety of public humiliation before serving her in any capacity. Mr Fardy taught science well but to this day I wonder if my best teachers were the mistakes I made in his class. It is quite possible that on Judgement Day, God Almighty’s punishing angels might take possession of Mr Fardy’s fat cane to dish it out to every sinful ‘khota-man’ until the cows of hell come home.

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2014

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Shrew picture:
St. Anthony's - front view (kasim 39)
Picture of a bay in Cork by Rory Deegan