KARACHI: The long vertically hung red and white Austrian flag swayed in the gentle evening breeze with European Union’s purple banner with golden stars. Somewhere up in the heavens Mozart would be smiling as Austrian symphonies played in the background with marigolds and rose petals scattered along the pathways.
Mogli, Raja Babar Tajammul’s pet monkey, climbed up and down a tree’s branches to greet all the guests at inauguration of the Honorary Consulate General of the Republic of Austria here on Sunday.
Mr Tajammul is the new Honorary Consul General of Austria in Karachi. “We had a consulate here in the city until a few years ago when it had to be closed down after the return of the previous honorary consul’s return to Austria,” Mr Tajammul explained, adding that he had maintained very good relations with Austria over the years.
“I have been to Austria many times on business and I am in love with the country and its music,” he added.
Asked why it took so long to find a new honorary consul, Mr Tajammul explained that it was a lengthy procedure, which can only be finalised with the approval of the Austrian president and the heads of other Schengen countries.
Ambassador of Austria to Pakistan Dr Brigitta Blaha, who had specially flown down from Islamabad for the occasion, said that she took over her duties as ambassador in December and had been staying in Islamabad mostly since then.
“I had heard scary things about Karachi earlier and many of my friends and family back home were concerned about my coming here but I find it a very welcoming and pleasant city. This time I also got to meet so many consuls general from other consulates in Karachi so am enjoying my stay here very much,” she shared.
The evening also included a musical programme with performers from Sindh and Austria.
“We are looking forward to cultural exchanges between our and your musicians and artistes,” said Ambassador Blaha. “We also hope for better business and economic relations between both countries.”
Meanwhile, Renald Deppe, an Austrian musician who plays the clarinet and saxophone and was there to perform, was reminiscing about his first visit to Karachi. “It was back in 1973 when I was travelling to Athens in Greece after performing in Tokyo that we landed in Karachi for a short stopover,” he said.
“No big airports in the Middle East, etc., Karachi served as the only comfortable stopover destination for big airlines such as Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines. So I came here, played in a little concert, before getting on my way again,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the big airlines no longer come here. I travelled with Turkish Airlines this time around,” he smiled.
“Still, I find Pakistan, especially Karachi, absolutely beautiful. Karachi is multicultural with so many languages being spoken here and people belonging to so many religions here. I love to see so much diversity here,” he observed.
The evening was studded with many showbiz and sports personalities along with several politicians.
Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2015