The Seventh PANA Reunion, Gaithersburg, MD, USA – 27 June 2009

About Event

PANA 2009 – Meeting for a Purpose

by Shabieh H. Zaidi, 7102/Liaquat

In Persian there is a saying: aamadam, nashistam, khordam, barkhastam! (They came, they sat, they ate, they dispersed). And so, under the garb of reunions, we continued meeting and greeting for years; sometimes in small groups and at others times under a  banner of loosely tied organizations that mimicked an alumni organization. Those of us who have chosen to make this side of Atlantic our home, each year getting together has become a ritual akin to a pilgrimage. Those who travel, undertake air and road journeys that take them across many states, while the ones who play host plan the event for months and invest substantial times, talent and treasure to make these reunions a reality.

After years of letting the Canadians play host, this year Petarians from the Capital area and Northeast organized the 7th Annual PANA Reunion in Maryland on Saturday, June 27th, 2009. The day included two separate events; one was the traditional Picnic at the Seneca State Park and the second was a Dinner and Musical evening at the Damascus Community Center.

The day started a day earlier with out of state Petarians flying in on Friday. This meant a great deal of coordination and hospitality by the host families. Early morning on Saturday, an advance team arrived a the site to set up a sound system, display flags and banners, lay out the table covers and prepare for the event. I arrived ahead of most others but shortly after all the work had already been completed, however making certain that tea was still hot and bagels were still in the bags…Nadeem Sahibzada’s (7851/LF) son recited a selection from Sura-e Zaariaat which was followed by yourstruly welcoming everyone to their own event. We were fortunate to have Petarians from many states, including overseas participants. Some of the senior most Petarians included brothers Hameed Anwar Arain 12/L, Anwar Memon 48/LF and Capt. Bashir Vistro 50/A. Abdul Aziz Bhai 6922/LF represented PASA, while the contingent from Canada was led by Ishrat Hasan 7110/LF.

The group was addressed by Naeem Saroya Bhai 504/L who emphasized the need to define our mission and purpose. He built upon the ground prepared by me, for us to think global and act local and for us to seek out a better articulated role for our organization. This was followed by distribution of certificates among senior Petarians (given away by Affan Syed 95142/LF, being the youngest Petarian present). Bashir Vistro Bhai 50/A took this opportunity to tell us about the history of Petaro briefly and reminding everyone of the contribution of Nizamani Saheb who was then the Director of Education for Sindh in his role as the catalyst behind the formation of CCP. Ishrat Hassan 7110/LF then accepted the Chief Coordinator-ship of PANA of behalf of Lt.Cdr.(R) Abrar ul Hassan Mani (7181/Ayub), who could not be present. It was announced that the 8th Union will be held in Canada next June.

After that we paused for a group photo before being treated to a wonderful lunch. Later in the afternoon Falak Sher 7393/I and Samir Shah 79140/Q organized games and activities for children which were a great success.

The evening venue was wonderful but we started fairly late since guests had to go home and change before showing up in suits and evening dresses. Almost everyone donned the neck ties that were brought back from Petaro by Ishrat Azizur Rehman (7144/L). Recitation of the Sura-e Aala was performed by Ali Abdullah (son of Naeem Saroya Bhai 504/L) and numerous awards were given out to recognize members of the organizing committee for their efforts. This was followed by a presentation given by Rifaquat Cheema Bhai 722/L who advanced some concrete recommendations for PANA to consider as it moves ahead. Some of the ones I remember very clearly were to keep it free of petty politics, make sure it remains a fun group, and build it so as to become an extension of TPA. He wanted us to prevent PANA becoming the flagship for every good cause under the sun. He suggested that PANA create a small sub group to consider these recommendations and follow up on the implementation.

This was followed by a video compilation created by Affan Syed 95142/LF. It helped create a visual image for the many non Petarians (like our families) for the place we love and brought tears to our eyes as it carried photos of some friends who are no longer with us. Shaharyar Jami Ansari (7111/IQ) attended the function in the uniform of Canadian Navy where he now works. He took this opportunity of acknowledge his mother’s contribution toward his success and stressed on the next generation to honor parents for their role in our life. Hameed Anwar Bhai 12/L introduced two charitable causes and invited everyone to participate in this good cause. During the entire evening, we paused and recognized various individuals, including members of the organizing committee. Rifaquat Cheema Bhai 722/L informed us that Commodore Aslam Rana(7179/J) had sent his best wishes and apologized that he could not come owing to visa formalities taking more time than anticipated. However, he sent a plaque that was presented of the organizers on his behalf. A tradition of Sindh was revived with the presentation of an ajrak and topi to Bashir Vistro Bhai 50/A as well.

Besides presentation of awards to the winners among Petarian children, we also got an opportunity to hear the perspective of a Petarian spouse when Naeem Saroya Bhai’s 504/L wife took  moment to praise her husband.

A sumptuous dinner followed the program and although we started a little wait, it was all worth the wait.

The evening ended with some great music and songs by Rimi Basu but the place really rocked once Mansoor Qureshi 89132/Q, Bhibs 7837/J, Faraz 8798/L, Affan 95142/LF and many others joined her on the floor in dance and song…

But like all good things, the day came to an end, with an announcement requesting folks to take whatever food they could with them!

Photos of the event are already on the web, with more expected from Khursheed Khan Bhai N-26/Q. And I end this rather long monolog with a simple comment – It sure was a memorable day!

PS: The event could not not have been possible without some major work by a whole lot of folks who were recognized during the event…I have therefore left out that part intentionally…

PANA 2009 – Pilgrimage of Discovery

By Wasif Malik, 7402/L

When it was announced in the summer of 2008 that the 2009 Petarians re-union will be held in Washington DC, my mind immediately went to work to decide if I will be able to make it or not. USA is a large country and sometimes a long trip to Canada or Washington DC from Texas is hard to justify, especially if it is only for a day or two. Many commitments related to work, family and other stuff have to be manipulated. Already the family complains that I am on the computer a lot and my wife regards my laptop/smart phone as a sokun. She demands equal rights as required by Islam. I tell her that she should be thankful to the computer otherwise I might be out wandering as awara gard. On top of this I had depleted my quota by undertaking the Petarians golf outing in April, which I would not give up for anything. Who said, freedom is free?

But the Petarian bug (keerha) kept stinging me and I came up with a new plan. Let’s make a family vacation with the reunion as the grand finale. Let’s expose my family to the Petarian bug. Apprehensions crept in. How would they react? Would they appreciate a family vacation designed around the re-union program? The answer was unknown but worth exploring and the risk worth taking. We were originally going to fly to Buffalo and then drive to cross the border and visit my entry mate Javed Khan in Toronto. Javed was planning to have a dinner and bring other Petarians from the local area. However, just one week ago I realized that my children’s passports were expired and we would not be able to cross the border. Javed had to cancel his plans and I decided to spend one day on the Niagara Falls on the US side. You will notice throughout this write up that though it is a family vacation, every day some Petarian related activity somehow creeps into the plan.

There were some mishaps on the way. Our early morning flight to Buffalo was cancelled, which delayed our arrival at Buffalo. In the Niagara Falls area on the US side, while driving in the night looking for a place for dinner, we accidentally drove on the rainbow bridge and had no choice but to cross the bridge to the Canadian side with just my drivers’ license in my pocket and no id for my family. They have removed all U turns and once you are on the street leading to the rainbow bridge you are left with no choice but to go through. I was not alone; I noticed others making the same mistake. The Canadian immigration told me that many are making this U turn every day. They gave me some paper work and asked me to go back. When I tried entry on the US side, they asked me for some paper work and since I had none, they asked me to go and wait in the office. After a wait of about 30 minutes one immigration officer came to me and told me that everything checked out fine on the computer and we were good to go. It was a good experience for the kids, who were enjoying every moment of it and reminded me that this was the worst U turn of my life that required going to another country to make the U turn. I guess every time I see a U shaped rainbow it will remind me of this Cross Border U turn without any paper work to go on either side.

The next day was spent sightseeing around one of the mightiest natural wonders of the world, i.e. the Niagara Falls and the adjoining area with the boat ride and boardwalk close to the falls and under the water as well. Javed Khan came from Toronto to visit us with his family and treated us to a great desi style lunch. They spent few hours with us and we had good time. Our wives and kids got along real well and had fun company. I have a feeling that the Petarian virus also spreads and affects the families. Late afternoon we said goodbye to each other and left for another long drive to the New York City, the big apple. We were staying in Manhattan Island. New York City has a flavor that no other place in the world offers. The sights and sounds of New York, including the skyscrapers of the Manhattan along with the throngs of people walking on the streets is magnificent. This is a city that is full of life 24/7. Even though my kids don’t like to walk much, but they enjoyed walking in the city and visiting all of the famous places e.g. Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Natural History museum, Empire State Building, etc. In New York, another entry mate of mine Khurram Khan came over and picked us up one night. He took us to dinner in an area called Jackson Heights where we had dinner at a Pakistani restaurant Kabab King. The whole place had a Tariq Rd type fun atmosphere with nostalgic value. I had not met Khurram since Petaro days. And we had the best of times during the few hours we were together. He got along great during the dinner with my daughter as they exchanged one joke after another. Khurram’s driving in the busy streets of New York reminded me of driving in Karachi with not much regard for rules and lane changes. Khurram is a true Petarian to the core. He took care of us well and late in the night dropped us back to the hotel. He has already become my daughter’s favorite Petarian.

The next destination was Washington DC and it took us about 6 hours to get there from NY after a brief stopover at the Baltimore Inner Harbor. I wanted to see the famous aquarium in Baltimore, but to our dismay it was closed when we got there. Adil had been calling and insisted that we come directly to his house so we could all go out for dinner. We got to his house and met his wonderful family. The kids mingled right away and started playing outside. In a few minutes his famous brother in law Khursheed Khan (aka the great khan, aka KK Narain, aka official photographer, aka official golf rules enforcer etc) showed up with his family. It was just so wonderful to meet all of them, share their company in the warm and comfortable atmosphere of Adil’s house. That night we had dinner at a local desi joint. After the dinner Adil insisted that we stay at his house, but we had reservations at a hotel nearby. I was dead tired and wanted to catch some sleep. So we bid everyone goodbye and went to the hotel to freshen up.

The Petarian Reunion Saturday:

Finally the big day arrived, that was to be the exciting zenith of this vacation trip. The program was to start at 11 am. Adil 7993/Ayub had promised breakfast for anyone showing up earlier. I got to the Seneca state park around 8:30 am, while my family was still fast asleep. As promised, Adil and more importantly the breakfast were present with hot coffee. Slowly the great volunteers of the managing committee started to show up. The natural setting was lovely with the pavilion surrounded by huge trees all around and not permitting any of the hot sunlight. I grabbed a cup of coffee and walked amongst the thick forest for few minutes, while trying to muster my energy and senses. Some of the sun rays were filtering down through the leaves and kept the place well lit. The dew drops on the leaves shone like little crystals. We all went to work. Banners were nailed to the walls. Tables were re-aligned. Podium was set. The rental vendors started arriving and setting up their facilities. There was a cotton candy machine, kids moon bounce and a fresh pop corn machine for the kids. Many single Petarians were arriving to do the work. Wasim Khan 84147/Latif from Dallas showed up soon. By the way, congratulations to Wasim who flew to London to watch the T20 final live at the Lords.

The highlight of the morning was to meet Syed Aziz bhai 6922/Latif for the first time. For years and years we have been communicating on the forum, but this was the first live meeting. Syed Bhai’s magic continued literally in the afternoon, as he captured the undivided attention of all children by presenting a magic show. It was a real pleasure to meet this gentleman. The Petarian youngsters including Affan 95142/Latif, Faraz 8798/Liaquat, Kamal 88125/Ayub were having fun while working hard. Soon it was 11 am and people started to show up. I had to get back to the hotel to bring my family to the venue. When I got back, Shabieh Zaidi bhai 7102/Liaquat was performing his favorite act. You guessed it right, he was hogging the microphone but that is alright with me. As always it is a pleasure to listen to him speak. I will spare all the details of the program as you have already seen it in the write-up by Zaidi bhai. The senior most Petarian, Hameed Anwar bhai 12/Liaquat took the mike and switched to Urdu to everyone’s delight. When he joined Petaro in the first batch in 1957, his monthly fee was Rs. 150 and his father earned Rs. 450 and was unable to pay his fee while supporting a family of 11. Nizamani Saheb realized the potential of Hameed Bhai and offered him scholarship after hearing about his financial difficulties. Hameed Bhai’s speech was funny and witty with some serious moments. He was from a remote village (Tando Bago) of Sindh who had never dressed Teddy (western pants/shirts) in his life, neither he possessed any before he got to Petaro. He had to borrow his elder bother’s pants and used the college tie to hold it in place. This highlighted Petaro’s significant contribution to polish the hidden and raw talent of Sindh and produce leaders in every echelon of life. People who had never dressed teddy or watched a movie in a theater, were prepared to graduate the college and become world leaders. The speeches and presentations were followed up by lunch with dessert and hot chai. The atmosphere was totally festive. So many Petarians were present meeting each other either the first time or after 10, 20, 30 years etc. But neither the time span nor the unfamiliarity mattered in establishing the instantaneous Petarian connection. So many friends and brothers were present that it was hard to find time to talk to everyone. The sound of laughter, slogans, and warm emotions filled up the air of the Seneca State park. Falak Sher bhai 7393/Iqbal gathered all the children and organized games among them. The names of all winners and runners up were noted for a prize distribution during the dinner banquet. Soon it was time to leave because everyone had to get back for the dinner banquet around 6 pm.

It got quite hectic as everyone had to rush back to their residence or hotel, freshen up, get dressed and be back to the venue for the dinner banquet. This time we had to drive to the city of Damascus (sounds quite exotic), Maryland. The stage was set for another memorable evening. All of the Petarians were smartly dressed with the Petarian ties which gave a formal color to the setting. Shaharyar Jami bhai 7111/Iqbal was the surprise package of the evening when he showed up in his Canadian Navy uniform. He is a serving lieutenant in the Canadian Navy after having retired from the Pakistan Navy. He looked very sharp besides being funny and witty as always. A true Officer and a Gentleman. Cheema bhai 722/Liaquat presented a slide show with his vision for the Petarian Alumni association. I whole heartedly agree that it must be a fun organization, and then build up once the fun starts.

For me the highlight presentation was done by the youngest Petarian present, i.e., Affan Syed 95142/Latif. I have become his fan now. In a short span of time, he had to develop a presentation on Petaro. He had collected memorable pictures of teachers, sites, occasions, landmarks and the martyrs of Petaro. The presentation was professional with great music selection and editing. The starting sequence with the pipe playing in the background, was mesmerizing and any Bollywood producer would be proud to produce this presentation. If someone has not seen it yet, please check it out at the Youtube. When I watched, I had a lump in my throat by the time it was done. Many others felt the same too. Affan, I recommend to quit your job, go to Bollywood, and become a movie director. There is much nicer material to work with, if you know what I mean. Adil and Raheel can only fantasize about Katrina, but you might end up some day as her director. Remember that when you become the director, please hire me as your agent.

For both lunch and dinner we had delicious food, dessert, cake and hot chai etc. The menus were carefully selected. There was food for everyone’s taste, even Bhibs7837/Jinnah. Adil had arranged for a small musical program with a singer/DJ. I have a feeling that Adil did not select the singer because of her singing prowess. Still she was not bad after receiving some moral support from fellow Petarians like Bhibs 7837/Jinnah and Mansoor Qureshi 89132/Qasim. The best was yet to come. This was the first time in a long time that we saw Petarians dishing out their dancing moves. Everyone got to the floor as ordered by Naeem Saroya bhai 504/Liaquat. These people have some serious moves be it disco style or bhangra. Most of us let our guards down and let it all hang out on the floor. We made trains, we made circles with someone performing in the center, and we pulled out all the tricks in the books. This was a first in any of the reunions I have witnessed in North America. I have a warning for everyone. I have access to secret video taping of this event which will soon be posted to Youtube. If you wish to be excluded, send me a message with a small contribution in US currency.

Too bad, the evening came to a screeching halt at 11 pm, since we had to cleanup the hall and vacate it by 12 pm to comply with the contract/city requirements. In Damascus they don’t like to party late night. The party had to be stopped pre-maturely just when the real fun had begun and the cleanup operation started that included folding all tables, pickup/dispose all trash, rack up the chair, sweep and mop up the floor. Everyone pitched in and the hall was ready within the hour, spotless and shining. The Petarian teamwork was demonstrated. Gradually everyone started to leave with goodbyes, hugs, and promises to meet next year. There just was not enough time to talk to everyone, spend time with everyone, as I would have liked. It was over very quickly. Of course time flies when you have fun. As the poet said, Maheenay wasl kay ghariyoun ki soorat urhtay jaatey hai.n. Inevitably, we all had to grudgingly leave with a little emptiness but a lot of fulfillment.

As an after thought, all of my initial apprehensions about involving my family proved to be baseless. I believe they had almost as much fun and fulfillment as I did. They got to experience first hand what petarianism and Petarian brotherhood is all about. They noticed that wherever we went, everyday a Petarian came to take care of us in any city. They realized that we could drop at any Petarians house on a moment’s notice and expect to be well received. They saw Petarians who never met each other in their life talk to each other as best friends on their first meeting with perfect chemistry. That the Petarian bond is independent of the age difference, time of separation and geographical spans. They understand now that Petaro is the only high school in Pakistan, whose former students have an annual get together in 3-4 foreign countries and people travel long distance to participate in those programs. In spite of all this I would still not take undue liberty with my laptop. I must maintain the right balance for my own well being.

To keep things interesting, there was another rendezvous of about 10 Petarians in a hotel lobby where we were entertained by Atif Tanvir 78121/Liaquat. That was a hard core petarvi mehfil with loud laughter causing many heads to be raised in the hotel lobby. Finally I went to bed late at 4 am. The room was dark reminding me of the underground caverns with the absolute darkness. There was no sound neither an interruption like a cell phone, TV or ipod. There was just the sound of my introspection. Sometimes you need the darkness to see the light and the silence to hear the truth. I remembered the time tested saying, ‘the birds of same feather flock together’. After we leave Petaro, we are mostly separated from the other Petarians and get busy trying to establish our careers and future lives. Many of us move out to other countries in search of a better life. But deep inside there is always this yearning to flock again with our kind of birds. Just like the salmon who always returns to its birth place, our soul keeps looking for the lost home. Every once a while, when such opportunity presents itself, we achieve true satisfaction out of it.

Before I finally went to sleep I started humming the theme song of the TV soap Cheers. Some times you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they are all glad that you came. Some times you wanna go where everyone ……….(loud snore).

Good Night. Turn off the lights and listen to the silence.