Yes I know, I am very lazy. And that is why it took me two days to write this part. But well here I am . So people stop complaining!
After having a very good sleep – despite my parents astonishment that how I can get so comfortable at some one else’s house so soon – I woke up at 9 am and joined by host to watch the rerun of the American Music Award (hate you Justin Bieber.. the rest of these 40 years old musicians should just go kill themselves, I mean it doesn’t get worst than this right), and to a hot cup of tea. I really wanted to go shop, so Saba at 11 took me out to Liberty and I bought some of the most beautiful Khosa’s from Khosa Mahal. I am an upcoming shoeaholic! After that, we debated for what seemed like forever about where should we go get out lunch. We went to Gloria Jeans’ but after rejecting it, so reasons that I still don’t understand, we settled on Coffee, Tea, Company or CTC, as the Lahoris call it. I have to admit the sandwich was huge and really good. Recommended for everyone!
We came home, and then after stuffing ourselves with that piece of heaven sandwich – we couldn’t eat more than half of it – we got ready for the conference. The butterflies that I have already mentioned started to take their toll on me again, and I tried to push them to the back of my mind….it was quite a fight alright!
The conference started on time, and with a wonderful introduction from Dr. Pervaiz Vandal, explaining the birth and the purpose of this conference. I especially liked the part where he defined himself and his wife as being proud to be teacher, then being an architect. He explained the conference as to be “for the teachers, by the teachers, from the teachers” .. I felt pretty left out!
While introducing Dr. Mubarak Ali – the keynote speaker – he told this story about how in each and every village of Pakistan, you can go to a shop and right next to the tea, cleaners, soap, etc, you would also find a section on his book. I thought that was such a wonderful thing to say! Dr. Mubarak Ali in his keynote speech discussed the evolution of the study of history. Some of what I remembered emphasized on the different ways that history is looked upon. One of them is that when you consider the past as the Golden age, in this context the future becomes dark. The other way is that we think of history in a constant progress, then this way the past becomes an era of darkness, and the future more promising than ever! He also discussed how when the true history was written about many of the Muslim rulers it was condemned by Muslims themselves for being anti-Muslim, because they had become used to the royal court’s version of the history. This session was chaired by Prof. Nimal P. De Silva, a wonderfully sweet man from SriLanka.The next presentation was by Dr. Ghafer Shahzad, who talked on his Phd. thesis (butterfly getting the best of me now) under the topic “Extents and Restraints of Conjecture in Historiography of Architecture”, and what I understood if it was that Conjecture is a statement that appears correct because it can’t be proved otherwise. He also discussed the difference between the history that has been written by historians and by non-historians. For him, while architects or non-historians can take advantage of Conjecture that is not the case for the historian.
After that spoke Linus Strothmann about the “Eastern shrines and western values: a subjective (self)reflection on why western and western educated scholars have neglected state run Pakistani shrines” . He feels that there is always an issue when westerns write the history of the east, for the same old arguments “Orientalism” and all, and also mentioned that how hard it is at times to get references when you are working in the east because of the tradition of the Oral history (I can so relate to him). A comment that was raised by a well-reputed scholar/professor left me baffled and amazed at how we people think. His problem with this paper was that a westerner can never understand the importance of a shrine for the easterner and how his feelings are related to it. He made sure his point came through with the strong use of tone and words. Linus was remarkable in his reply to that – why shouldn’t’ he be? He had already confessed to how it is wrong to study the eastern history through a western point of view! He simply replied that no he might not understand that, but his paper has been a tremendous attempt to understand them, and how he had lived amongst them, dined with them , fasted and then broke that fast with these people, and how he sat and talked all day long to them. Anyone who is interested can get more info on his work here.
After this, Dr. Nadhra Shahbaz present her work under the title of “Samadhi Bhai Vasti Ram: A study of Sikh Architectural ornamentation” and it was truly a new study – for me at least (let me take pride in this fact that I was the youngest one there :D) and I simply fell in love with her paper.
Then was the tea break, and this is where the fun started. During this break I got a chance to meet a lot of people, and talk to them, including Amal – who was nice enough to extend a friendly hand towards me and even invite me to a fashion expo taking place; I met Mohammad Taimur Sarwar, a wonderful architect based in Lahore, who has already achieved a lot for his age; Maliha S. Vahla, features editor in ArchiTimes; and tons of other people to whom I am extremely grateful for making me feel at home !
The second half of the conference started and I was the first speaker in that! I thought that I had defeated the butterflies, but as soon as my name was called out, it was more than clear that they have won the battle! I sat in front of the hall and I could feel my legs shaking like hell (the only good thing was that under the table no one could see my legs shaking). I spoke on the topic “Architecture is the study of a people in brick and stone: Cultural factors in the study of architecture”. It’s not easy talking to a room full of people when you can see that half of them are yawning, some are not interested, and some are just there to judge you. But during my entire reading, every single time I looked up, from the back of the hall, Mr. Vandal used to be giving me the thumbs up and encouraging me on – he is a true teacher! When I came back to my seat, Dr. Prof Anila Naeem – a lecturer in N.E.D University’s Department of Architecture, commented on my case study as “very interesting.” (Details of my paper in another post) After me spoke Ms. Melanie Dissanayake about “The Kandyan Mural Painting: The expression of aesthetic components on the painted surface” and Ms. Ayesha Siddiqui spoke on “Swastika: A geometric motif with symbolic connotations”.
A lot of questions were raised on my presentation, a lot of them gave their suggestions and comments (I noted down every one of them, and yes I will be sharing every one of them here.)
Some of them All of them were
- To explain my hypotheses again regarding the diverse living style of the provinces, and how isn’t religion a component of culture?
- A professor commented that I should have proposed the solutions and policies for my study, and how do I plan to implement it in my courses – he thought I was a Professor or a teacher! I replied to him, ” Well Sir, I am still a student. But the minute I become a teacher, I would make sure that I make this a part of our faculty policies”
- Another person commented that cultural method of studying history is relatively new and therefore more works need to be done on this.
- Dr. Priyaleen Singh from india contributed to my research by telling me about the recent by laws that have been passed in Jaisalmer that says that everyone has to build in Stone, which has resulted in a huge debate on the ecological front.
- Ar. Saba asked me – although I would have preferred that she would have asked me this question at home – that who are the stakeholders in this community and their restoration work.
Other comments included suggestions such as
- Need to take into account the incentives that can be provided.
- That we can’t go on living in the past.
- Revival and sustaining it in terms of not preservation, but conservation.
- We can’t judge the value of anyone or any community.
The night ended with dinner, and a few nice talks with some wonderful people. It wasn’t as cold as I expected it to be in Lahore. The dinner was prepared by this wonderful lady popularly known as Baji by everyone! She is one hell of a cook! Details of day 3 on next post .. and hopefully by tomorrow!