The Fifth PANA Reunion, Niagara Falls, ON, USA – 30 June 2007
First of all I do apologize for the belated email regarding the reunion day, the reason being that for me and for most of us like me, the 01 day reunion party turned into a non-stop fun fair for the entire long weekend as friends kept on coming and the ‘kachree meetings’ never seem to be ending. Thus, had to catch up on the lost sleep and take care of some important post-reunion items which required immediate attention to ensure more successful future reunions. Moreover, list of participants who attended required to be updated at the PANATalk Yahoogroup. Friends are welcome to visit the group’s website to get the list or lists of all past reunions.
Writing to describe the entire day is not an easy task as I fear of missing any important and worth-to-mention detail and thus not doing justice to the great day that all those who were present had. Thus, if you think I have missed any important detail kindly add it on or please write your own version of events since the fact remains that the organizing team for any event is almost always under an unseen stress to make the event a success and thus sometimes don’t enjoy the event as much as others do until it ends successfully and everyone leaves happily and reaches home safely. Thus, a participant’s view might be more interesting to read.
First of all I propose that we call these reunions as rather ‘PANA Eid 2007’ rather than ‘PANA Reunion 2007’. And here is the reason why I propose so: What do we do on eid day? Wear new clothes, eat good food, mix and mingle with friends, offer prayers and say thanks to our Creator. This is all what happened on June 30, 2007 in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada. Thus it was not in fact a mere reunion but rather an eid whereby each of was happy, wore new shirts, mixed and mingled with old buddies, had some good food and offered prayers to Thank to the Creator for this wonderful day and a perfect weather
Let me say that Petarians of Toronto area prepare for the reunion day almost 01 year ahead with some real action taking place almost 04 months prior to the day by having regular monthly meetings and number of coordination phone calls. Dedicated volunteers try to cover each and every aspects of the day in order to make it the best reunion ever. All of such detailed preparations are essential since things have changed since the first reunion 05 years ago which was coordinated solely over emails and had a crowd of around 75 people. With each coming year the number of participants is growing and so is becoming more challenging. Also, the previous experience has also made Toronto Petarians ready to face the challenges as we try to learn from any past mistakes.
For some of us June 30, 2007 started at 6:00 AM by wearing their new T-shirts and taking a shower (for some of us after almost 01 month 🙂 and made sure they look as good as possible :). Around 10 volunteers arrived at the already reserved venue by around 9:00 AM to find out that there is no other party planned for the same pavilion and thus PETARIANS would be the only ones who would be occupy the entire pavilion area good for 200 people for the entire day.
Volunteers came into action and a registration booth was immediately set up at one corner manned by Yakoob Raja and Aftab Baloch. Name Tags were placed in order and T-shirts were made ready for distribution. The first comers got the shirt sizes of their choice while the others had to live with whatever was remaining. PA system was brought and set up by Shabieh Bhai – many thanks to him for that.
The other corner of the pavilion was set-up by the food committee coordinator Sohail Gul (shagird-khass of Nasir Awan Bhai) who along with his team of Babar Baloch and Zulfiqar Mahar started serving hot tea and cakes for the early birds as promised in the emails. The hot party tea pot donated by Rifaquat Bhai to PANA was of a big help and never sat idle.
The rest of the crew were busy setting up banners, balloons and table tops. The Petaro flag once donated by Nargis Bhabi (w/o of Naeem Saroya Bhai) was hung along with the Pakistani flag donated by Khalid Hashmi bhai 05 years ago in the first reunion (just to let folks now, this Pakistani flag was the official flag once sitting in the office of the Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Edmonton, Alberta). To add color to the event and celebrating July 1 as the ‘Canada Day’ a Canadian Flag was also bought and hung over at one side of the main entrance.
Petarians started arriving with one of the first ones being Farid Zaidi and his wife. Farid was able to join us after a break of 05 years but as per him we were never out of his mind during all this time and his personal engagements kept him away for all this time. Petarians who left Toronto for the venue later than 11 AM got stuck in the heavy long weekend traffic on QEW and thus arrived late. We are thinking that for future we give wake-up-calls at the reunion day to friends so that they could arrive on time.
Babar Baloch thought of kicking off the day by a football match. Many of us, including the ‘char yaars – Adil bhai, Ulfat bhai, Khursheed bhai and Wasif bhai’ who thought that they are still teenaged cadets jumped into the field to play the match only to find out that things are not the same any more. Even big guys like Nasir Uqaili tried to make some very quick moves in the field which made me very nervous. I immediately warned friends to take it easy since first of all the lunch is supposed to be served late as the Biryani car driven by Javed Khan Bhai is also stuck in QEW traffic and secondly, at least to the knowledge of the organizers, there is no immediate heart attack drug available with any volunteer; and furthermore Dr. Ikram Ghani has also not arrived yet.
Formal proceedings started with Tilawat and Dua for the deceased Petarians read by Shabieh Zaidi Bhai, followed by formal introduction by each and every Petarian. Ishrat Bhai’s idea of asking everyone to say one truth and one lie about Petaro clicked and a straight forward introduction became a fun event within itself as some interesting stories were heard, such as people always wanted Petaro to be co-education or they never got extra-drill while in Petaro. The organizers also thanked the major donors of the event including Adil Baloch Bhai for T-shirts and Syed Javed Hashmi bhai (69 Entry) for free pizza for kids and major contribution by Naeem Saroya Bhai for the catered Biryani. All the guests coming from a distance were also thanked including the following who flew from overseas:
1. Babar Baloch Bhai from Bahrain
2. Sikandar Memon Bhai from Egypt
3. Ikram Ghani Bhai from Saudi Arabia and
4. Shahbaz Ali Malik Bhai from Pakistan
This event was followed by a motivational speech by Shabeih Zaidi Bhai and Rifaquat Cheema Bhai who acted as the Chief Coordinator of PANA in the absence of Naeem Saroya Bhai who couldn’t attend the reunion despite his best efforts as he got stuck at JFK for a day although he cut short his Pakistan visit only to attend this reunion. Soon afterwards Khursheed Khan bhai asked everyone to fall in and get ready for a group photo. Thanks again to Khursheed Bhai for taking over this important task for us, most of us were also impressed to see his huge ‘next-American-model’ type cameras. Some of the late-comers were requested to wear T-shirts however, it was soon found out that Medium sized shirts are really not for everyone and Petarians are still growing to fit either Large or XL size. However, on the request of the organizers they somehow fitted themselves into those medium sized shirts with the result that had no other choice but to bump out.
After a hard work of yelling ‘Chugut Phugut … ‘ and running in the field folks got really hungry and started staring towards the food table; to the good luck of the organizers the biryani also had just arrived and it was ‘Gentlemen Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem’ . Zuhur paryers were also arranged and lead by Zaidi bhai. In the mean time the kids remained busy with the clown’s entertainment specially hired for this event and enjoyed the show thoroughly.
The lunch was served with variety of dishes ranging from Shami Kababs to Korma, Mithai to Samosas. There were also plenty of cold drinks and water bottles for everyone in the pavilion which looked almost full by lunch time, occupied by people of all ages. Young kids set up their own corner while older kids had their own party Pizza was delivered on time and was also enjoyed by all kids. The food committee comprising of Sohail Gul, Javed Khan Bhai, Zulfiqar Mahar and Babar Baloch did a great job.
The second session started by giving away certificates of appreciation to Sikandar Memon bhai, Mrs. Late Syed Baqar and Izmir Ali Bhai being seniors attending this reunion. P.T. instructor from 1960-60 Sultan Mahmood from Pakistan Army, who was visiting his daughter in Toronto, also joined the reunion and Shamim Akhter Bhai was kind enough to give him a ride back and forth from Toronto.
Later on Wasif Bhai took the stands and started the first event of the day which included telling jokes and stories about Petaro. Having asked earlier for volunteers to do this job Wasif Bhai found none. So, he had no choice but to pick some volunteers from the crowd to do this job 🙂 The best joke story was the ‘Keema’ story won by Javed Khan Bhai. Abrar Bhai’s story regarding his trip to ‘Hajj and the Washroom Danda’ was also great and was very much enjoyed by everyone. I don’t exactly recall other stories but I heard that there was a big laughter when Ulfat Bhai ended his joke. In general this event was a hit. We can leave it up to Wasif Bhai to tell more about this event.
The next event was an outdoor one held by Ishrat Bhai. This was an event which was liked by everyone when it was first introduced in the 2nd reunion and so was reintroduced this time. The object was to throw small balloons filled with water back and forth between two people (typically a Petarian and his spouse/daughter). With each throw the couple moved a step backwards and the game went on until the balloon burst on any one of the players. I think it was evident that some ladies were throwing the balloons with a greater force than what would have been generally required. Friends thought that this might be a mean to release some past frustrations :). The bursting of balloon resulted in a splash of water !! I only remember the splashing of Shahbaz Bhai’s wife and Javed Bhai’s wife (winners of the previous event 4 years ago). If I am not wrong, the winner of this event was the ever sporty Jami Bhai and his daughter.
The final event was also another outdoor game brought by Rifaquat Bhai. It was through strings on a three staged-rack. His daughters specially arranged for this event. The one who threw the most strings on the racks got a prize. It was very well received by everyone and kids and adults joined the fun. Don’t exactly know who won this game.
Lucky draws arranged by Abrar Bhai were held every so often and surprisingly only members of the organizing committee were the winners. This raised some eyebrows though.
After all the halla-gulla there was a plan of gathering to discuss future plans for PANA. Friends gathered around and the following was decided:
1. PANA would remain a social organization working under the umbrella of CCP.
2. There would be no monthly or yearly membership fees. However, PANA members would be asked to donate money once a specific project is brought forward such as the Teachers Fund being presently run by Rifaquat Bhai.
3. Shahbaz Malik Bhai who was the first sitting President of TPA to attend PANA reunion, stressed the need for PANA to be more organized and meet more frequently.
4. Ikram Ghani Bhai also actively participated in the discussions and asked PANA to do more for CCP and Petarians who are in need in Pakistan.
For most the day ended at around 6:00 PM and for the rest it seemed like it would never end. The leftovers stayed over and sat together while missing Naeem Saroya Bhai who amused them last year with his funny stories and sardar jokes. Missing his presence everyone looked to each other and at that moment Ulfat Bhai took the stands and told sardar jokes and tales one after the other resulting in a thunder of laughter by around 15-20 leftovers. Some others like me, Kamal Qadri the Expert, Babar Baloch and Adil Bhai also participated once in a while. Tea was again served along with leftover samosas.
Soon after Adil Bhai and Co. retired to their hotels while the rest (around 10 people) still refused to leave until the parks security got suspicious. Finally they proposed to visit the Falls with a central idea that no parking fees has to be paid at the Falls. Being an ex-resident of Niagara I drove them to quiet spot at Dufferin Island and luckily we found 3 spots vacant (This is a clue for all those who want to save the parking fee next time they visit the Falls). The party took a walk to the falls and Babar was amazed to see this beautiful wonder created by the Creator. Jokes and funny tales never stopped. Finally everyone said good bye and we reached home safely by around 1 AM with long-last memories and promises to meet again.
Once again, on behalf of the organizers we remain grateful to all of those who took an effort to attend this reunion. In short, it was a wonderful show of brotherhood and friendship.
Trip To Nowhere
By Wasif Malik (7402/LQ)
This is my feeble attempt to try to write the story of a memorable trip from Dallas, Texas to Niagara Falls, Canada for the 2007 Annual Petarians Re-Union. I acknowledge upfront that this attempt will be a severe injustice as I try to dress in words, feelings and emotions that cannot be expressed in kaghzi pairhan. If anyone wishes to share my experience then he must join us in the upcoming years. However, write I must, because of obligatory reasons and fulfil my promise to my partners in crime.
Until the last week prior to the 2007 Petarians Re-Union at Niagara Falls, I and Ulfat Alpial (78100/A), were contemplating whether we should stay or should we go? There was some work related uncertainty and it appeared more and more that we will not make this trip this year from the Dallas, TX area. But thanks to the relentless pushing and probing from Adil Baloch (7993/A) from the Maryland area, that drove us over the edge and we booked our air reservations just a week before the program date.
The re-union program was scheduled for Saturday June 30th. Both myself and Ulfat left together to fly to Maryland on Wednesday evening June 27th to join Adil and Khursheed Khan bhai (N-26, 1970 entry, MBQ). Because of bad weather we missed our connecting flight in Atlanta and ended up sleeping in the highly uncomfortable chairs at the Atlanta airport as some body parts rested on the chair cushions while remaining body parts ached on the hard table between the chairs. The environment was full of variety of sound effects amongst the various cell phone ring tones of fellow angry passenger, vacuum cleaners, floor polishers, and annoying airport announcements. I noticed that Ulfat was fast asleep on his side totally oblivious of all these distractions and I felt envious. As they say that the human body will sleep even on the sooli and so did we. We caught the early morning flight to Maryland and finally reached there at 10:30 am. It was refreshing to see the smiling and friendly faces of Khursheed Bhai and Adil who were there to greet us. There was another pleasant surprise. Izmir Bhai (63 entry, LQ House) is currently in the Maryland area and had asked Adil to give him a ride to Niagara Falls so he could attend the Reunion as well. With Khursheed Bhai in driver seat, the caravan finally started to move towards Niagara Falls.
Out of respect of a senior Petarian we were initially a bit serious, but Izmir Bhai proved to have a wealth of information regarding Petaro. He got admission into Petaro because of personal insistence of Col. Coombes who played Scrabble with him in Karachi and liked him so much, that he took and admitted Izmir Bhai to Petaro. In Petaro Col. Coombes and Izmir Bhai became fast Scrabble buddies. He had many good things to say about Col. Coombes. Well, it did not take long for the mehfil theme to switch from Petaro stories to Petarian style lateefa mehfil. It was like a baet baazi competition between Ulfat, Adil and Izmir Bhai. The journey reminded us of the bus trip from Karachi to Jamshoro with some friends. The only thing missing was a cassette tape of the old Pakiza movie or hits of Mohd. Rafi. The loud laughter was continuous for many hours. Every hour or so we would stop at a rest area or a gas station to stretch, relieve and feed ourselves.
Adil mentioned to me that in few hours we will be passing from the town of Edinboro in Pennsylvania, where Shabieh Zaidi bhai (our JUO from 71 entry, LQ) lives. I had not met Zaidi bhai for the last 15 years. We decided that we must stop and visit with Zaidi bhai. After calling 4 Petarians and finding no one, I was able to get Zaidi Bhai’s telephone number from Mrs. Naeem Saroya. I called him, talked to him and gave him a short advanced warning of the impending raid on his house. He was thrilled to hear that. We got the directions and got to his house about 6 hours after we started from Maryland. Zaidi Bhai lives in the beautiful little university town of Edinboro nestled between forested woods and hills. Zaidi bhai is a person always full of energy and inspiration that immediately rubs off to all around him. The sumptuous early dinner/late lunch prepared by Bhabi Ji ensured that our needs were met followed by Ice Cream cake and karak chai, that our bodies craved. All of this great food while listening to Zaidi bhai who is a self admitted talking addict. Sitting in the beautiful town of Edinboro, in Zaidi bhai’s house, having great food and chai, amongst Petarian brothers, while listening to Zaidi Bhai, Wow! The trip was already worth all the effort and more. I could have just gone back to Dallas a happy camper. What a grand opening ceremony to our trip. The couple of hours passed in a moment and we were ready to leave this heavenly experience to reach Niagara at a reasonable time. We did take some solace in the fact the Zaidi bhai will be joining us in a couple of days at the Niagara Reunion and he was the in charge of bringing the sound system with microphone, how appropriate! Zaidi Bhai is also blessed with a well accomplished son who is currently studying in Harvard University and got hired by the campaign office of Barak Obama (Democratic Party Presidential Candidate) in the New Hampshire office. So we bid farewell to Zaidi bhai and his family and the caravan continued onwards.
We got to the US/Canada border around 8:30 pm. At the border check post, we were asked to go to the Immigration office and talk to the officers in the main office. Well can you blame them, 5 Petarians in a van, coming from different cities, crossing the border for a reunion of a Pakistani high school, in the popular tourist spot of Niagara Falls? All of the flags must have gone off and we were lucky for not to be picked for detailed cavity search, although Adil relished that prospect (Just kidding). We got to our hotel in the Canadian town of Niagara Falls. Khalidullah bhai was there to take Izmir bhai with him to Toronto. They were classmates and met after a long time. I am sure they had a great time reminiscing the good old times over a smoke.
The hotel beds were inviting us to crash and we responded immediately. Next morning Adil had scheduled a golf outing for the four of us in the beautiful Legends Golf course on the banks of the river upstream of the Niagara Falls. They had hosted an LPGA event in the past. We had heavy breakfast at a local Denny’s restaurant on Adil’s favorite Lundy’s Lane with eggs, toast, coffee, tea and juice etc. I noticed a tendency with Khursheed Bhai that he is a very friendly and outgoing person, especially if he is talking to a good looking waitress. He does not believe in wasting any chances and it was entertaining for all of us as we all learned from his expertise. We drove straight to the golf course and got ready with our equipment and carts. The weather was perfect, bright and sunny, blue skies and temperature in the mid seventies Fahrenheit. This was the first golfing experience for Ulfat and he soon proved why he was selected to the CCP hockey team in Class 8th. His shots were natural and he frequently made good connection with the ball. The golf course was in a fantastic setting on the river with a lot of ponds, bunkers and surrounded by thousands of trees. Everything was green and air was fresh smelling of pine. It took us about 4-5 hours to finish the 18 holes. It was full of entertainment, trash talk, inter house competition, jokes, episodes and losing our balls.
From the golf course, we headed to the Niagara Falls which must be in the top echelon of the natural wonders of the world. Millions of gallons of water, falling hundreds of feet and the resulting mist rising hundreds of feet above the ground. The sheer magnitude is truly awe inspiring and makes one wonder about the genius of Allah. We explored the area a little bit and went down to the river to take the famous boat ride on the Maid of the Mist. The boat goes upstream and gets real close to the Canadian horse shoe falls. All around you could see the huge wall of water falling down from the sky. Everyone wears a wet suit and the cool mist is refreshing. There may not be any boat ride in the world with such an experience. One forgets about everything else in the world and gets totally immersed physically and spiritually in this unbelievable experience. Four hours on the golf course was a little tiring but the mist shower had a therapeutic effect and the body was fresh again.
Well now it was time to raise the fun meter to the next level as if there was any room left in the fun meter. We drove to the Mississauga area (south of Toronto) where all of the desi population is found in heavy concentration. Adnan Qureshi had arranged a dinner for few Petarians from out of town. It is always nice to see Adnan’s smiling face and gentle demeanour. The guy was instrumental in making arrangements for the reunion next morning and he still had time to arrange a dinner at his house the night before. He is a full blooded Petarian and a man of action as demonstrated at every year’s reunion program. We met other Petarians at his house including Babar Baloch, Aftab Baloch (looked like someone from the WWE), Cheema Bhai, Javed Khan (my classmate) and other young Petarians. As always everything was great including food, hospitality, friendly atmosphere, fun and respect from many young Petarians which is a hallmark of the Petarian tradition. It was getting late and we left back for the Niagara so get some rest for the big event next day.
Details of Day 3 for the main re-union event will be soon posted in Part 2 of this message. Please stay put.
Those who attended this gathering
Juzer Ali Basrai
Khalid Ullah Khan
Mahmood A. Khan
Mohammad Ilyas Tehsin
Mohammad Javed Iqbal
Mohammad Khurseed Khan
Shahbaz Ali Malik
Shahryar Jami Ansari
Syed Ishart Hasan
Syed Jami Ansari
w/o Sayed Baqar, Late