IT was a moving little period in Karachi’s history. This newspaper reported that on Feb 13, 1974 eyesight of two visually impaired persons would be restored through a corneal transplant surgery. The corneas were donated by Bomansha B Master, a well-known social worker belonging to the Parsi community who passed away on Feb 12. He was 88. Mr Master was one of the few individuals who had signed up [for eye donation] when Karachi Lions and university students started a campaign for it in 1960. In his sunset years, he used to take good care of his eyes to ensure that their recipients would find them in good condition. He had specifically asked the members of his family to contact Karachi Lions Eye Bank to execute his will immediately after his death. One of the corneas was to be grafted on a six-year-old boy who lost his eyes when a gas cylinder exploded in Khokhrapar a year back. The other transplant was to be carried out on a middle-aged patient.

This was the warm and benevolent social aspect of Karachi. On the cultural front, addressing the annual convocation of the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts at the Arts Council on Feb 13 (same day), Provincial Minister for Education, Culture, Planning and Development, Pyarali Allana emphasised the need for renewed efforts to revive Sindh’s cultural glory, especially in the field of ceramics. He opined, Karachi, being the hub of a number of national activities was most suited for the promotion and expansion of cultural activities.

Mr Allana was right as on Feb 16, a collection of Urdu poems by Fahmida Riaz titled Badan Dareeda was launched in the city. Speakers were of the view that her poetry which ‘honestly relayed the realities of intimate experiences of life’ was a meaningful addition to the world of literature, claiming Ms Riaz was the first poetess in Urdu who had discarded the traditional pattern of unrealistic portrayal of life. Critic Iftikhar Jalib presided over the launch. He said the poems in the book were a good example of revolt against the outdated style set by the so-called custodians of ethics in society. Discussing the theories of pleasure, he pointed out Badan Dareeda was not a collection of confessions but a healthy belief in hedonism and one’s inner self having the dominant theme of loneliness. Scholar Sibte Hassan said women had always been shown as a noble symbol of procreation but the poetess had expressed the feelings of motherhood as naked truth. Prof Sahar Ansari described the book and Ms Riaz’s previous publication Pathar Ki Zaban as collections of explosive truths. Ms Riaz in her speech said her poems were expressions of feelings and experiences not confessions.

There was nothing mysterious about the above-discussed publication but on Feb 14 the media highlighted something else by calling it ‘mysterious’. A story read: the incidence of influenza — a disease caused by an ‘unknown’ filterable virus — had assumed epidemic proportions in the city in the past six weeks. The outpatient departments of Civil and Jinnah hospitals had been receiving 40 to 50 cases on a daily basis. Experts attributed the outbreak of influenza to the invasion of a highly virulent virus assisted by conditions of swift communication in the overpopulated town with the maximum chance of direct contact. Most patients had acute back pain, headache, pyrexia, runny eyes, sneezing and a persistent sore throat with dry cough.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2024

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