Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Whale of a Time in Maritime Adventures

By Sabin Mustafa

There’s something special about being told a story without being read to from a book. Maybe it’s the accompanying actions and expressions. Perhaps it just takes us back to a time, when there weren’t books and pictures to nudge us on, but just our imagination to take us for an incredible journey. The Maritime Museum in Karachi was a marvellous setting for the story of Hazrat Younus (AS). The Quran also refers to him as Zunnoon, and his plight has been narrated in Allah’s (swt) words. Our families all excitedly gathered at the venue, full of anticipation in this variation of our weekly session of Bookworm’s book club. Though the club meetings are usually held at Laila Khala’s cosy and welcoming home, we occasionally allow her a break, take our little troupe to other locations, and carry on the entertainment.

As she told the thrilling story of Hazrat Younus (AS), Atefa Khala’s billowing Abaya was ideal in enhancing the demonstration of thunderstorm, strong gales, and darkness. Many kids knew the story and were quick to chip in with their contributions. Atefa Khala explained how Hazrat Younus (AS) had run from his Master, the terrors he went through, and what the experience inside the whale’s stomach might have been like. She went on with how prophet Younus (AS) prayed to Allah (swt), how Allah helped him out of his predicament and bestowed His favours upon him, when he reached the shores.

Our mental image of the whale’s dimensions, the fascinating creature that played an important role in the story, was elucidated when the group marched to the indoors section of the museum. We saw the real skeleton of a baby whale, which had been beached on the shores of Karachi many years ago. The suspended skeleton was huge! It was fascinating to inspect the bones and compare them with dinosaurs’ skeletons, which appear similar in size.

After story time, we spread out all the scrumptious snacks we had for our picnic: biscuits, pasta, noodles, sandwiches, Samosas, salad, and drinks. We enjoyed the feast on three mats: one for girls, one for boys and one for ladies. We chattered and babbled, and gobbled the food in the shade of a large tree. The moist grass didn’t dampen our spirits, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed running around in the vast lawn, with the elder ones fetching the little ones back every now and then! The kids messed their clothes climbing on the small freshly painted vessel. We observed squirrels scurrying about and a beehive, which was built on a small tree about six feet high, was very close and extremely tempting to poke and prod, though, Alhamdulillah, none of the children did!

The Maritime museum is spread over 28 acres comprising picturesque landscape and a magnificent building with a grand flight of steps. Spring flowers welcomed us everywhere. The museum building consists of six galleries: Maritime History Gallery, Pakistan Navy Gallery, Ports and Harbours Gallery, Marine Life Gallery, Photographic Gallery, and the Chief’s Gallery.
Various naval artefacts have been preserved or replicas recreated. The displays include an enlightening map showing the history of the conquest of the subcontinent by the Muslim teenage leader Muhammad bin Qasim. The children were given a synopsis of his great character and feats. There are depictions of different battles, and the defence and warfare schemes employed. Equipment used is displayed and technological development through the years is explained. Children loved the large marine gallery, where they saw, how life exists underwater: different types of corals, sea creatures, such as starfish, barnacles, crabs, shells, sharks and other fish swimming in the sea (well more like hovering in the air...) are inside the ocean minus the water! In another section, there are large aquariums full of large and small fish, real fish, which are always so relaxing to watch. There are paintings of many of the masters, but a large painting illustrating the transformation of the Pakistan coastline over the years was a homeschooling mother’s favourite.

Outdoors, the prominent landmarks include a lighthouse (close to which we had our picnic), a minesweeper, a submarine, a naval ship and a marine fighter plane. Our naval heritage has been beautifully preserved and our families split up to view and enjoy the museum. There is a vast artificial lake with goldfish and carp, ducks and geese. Some of us took a guided tour of the submarine anchored in the lake, where we could look through the periscope, examine living quarters, the radio and sonar equipment, and also watch a video about the Daphne submarine and how it was used to destroy an Indian ship during war. It was a captivating narrative, made more interesting, as we tried to decipher the intermingling naval jargon and that too in Urdu!

Some of us visited the naval plane, where a guide presented another video, let the children inspect the cockpit, and pointed out interesting items like the rigid little seat in the nose of the plane, which was used for a 360 degree view during flight, and levers used to fire missiles! The kind gentleman showed us how the original entrance was really at the back where the equipment and naval soldiers climbed aboard. The door we used had been cut out for the museum visitors. We also viewed other weaponry, vessels, monuments and equipment on display scattered all over the grounds.

The spring cheeriness was manifest in the wonderful blossoms and plants flourishing throughout the gardens - quite a flower show! The families examined them, took pictures and discussed their common names and genus. Alhamdulillah, we didn’t pick the flowers or spoil the foliage in any way. The wonderful manners, sharing, caring, kindness and cooperation that blossoms in our group made the field trip even more enjoyable. May Allah (swt) strengthen our bonds and put Barakah in our group, our Jama’ah.

Perhaps only in homeschooling can we have a book club session without a book in sight! It is the essence of knowledge imparted beautifully in a variety of approaches that makes each step in our learning adventure so memorable. The Maritime Museum is a wonderful place to visit; even better, when you are there with fantastic friends on an exploring expedition!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book club at the Piranis' home

By Atefa Jamal

This week the Bookworm Club gathered at the Piranis’ home, Alhumudlillah. The club members all sat in a circle in the balcony so they could enjoy the wind and sunlight outdoors. Isa read the book “Pizza In His Pocket" to his friends, which was a story about a little boy who loved to eat food from different places around the world, but never thanked Allah (SWT) for the food. Then, one day he met a girl, who hadn’t eaten anything in a long time and was holding her tummy in pain. The boy felt ashamed about his own greediness and bought some food for the girl and her family and they all thanked Allah (SWT) for it. The book advises us to eat all the food our parents give us, including vegetables, without a fuss and share our food too and reminds us that “being thankful is what’s really great, eat the veggies on your plate and don’t be like the boy, who ate and ate and ATE!”

After the story, the club members had a short discussion on eating etiquettes in Islam: to start with Bismillah, use your right hand when eating and which Dua to say once done.

Then we moved on to the activity. The members divided themselves into three groups, each group was given an Atlas and a mother sat with them to help them use it. A large Globe Trotter Twister mat was laid out. Ummibaps called out the name of the countries and cities the boy in the book visited, and the groups raced each other to locate it in their atlas. The group who found the country/city would then send one of their members to stick the place’s name card in the correct place on the Globe Trotters mat.

Once all the places were located, the second part of the activity began. The Ummibaps and Qasim then called out the names of the different dishes the boy in the book had enjoyed. The members had to remember which country/city the boy had received the meal from and then take turns to stick the picture of the meal onto the correct place’s namecard.

Alhumdulillah, it was fun, and we discovered places we had never heard of on the map and we also realized that not all atlas have the same cities marked on their “political world map” pages Subhan’Allah!