In-House Inspiration

CAN Coordinator Nad visits Tibet Heritage Fund in Leh, India and  takes in the heavens in the Himalayas ..... mid July 2014


Photo from Sokley July 2014,             Cambodia "Greens Shop" 

Yutaka ... Waiting for Winter in northern India Tibetan region

Rice Children from CAk Indonesia

Poetry and Development from Arif Hasan


We play games
You and I and they
Play at reconciling what is irreconcilable
Agreeing on irrelevant details and grand concepts
But glossing over love and understanding
That the concepts embody

We play games
You and I and they
To preserve our little domains
And prevent them from blossoming
Into flowers that will free the world
Of you and I and they

We play games
You to survive and I to negotiate your survival
And they to plunder us both.
Karachi, February 1989

Lyari Expressway

 Lessons from Tradition 

(October 25, 2002)

  We have lived in a state of perpetual autumn 
 Working for the coming of spring 
 Once again we realize the truth of what the sages have said 
“Do not expect spring to come before the winter winds have laid waste the garden”

Negotiate they said 
And so there were negotiations
All games designed to gain time and distort the truth
We forgot what Hafiz has told us
“Fields sowed with the seeds of opportunism yield no harvest”

 We will retire once again to nurse our badly mauled egos 
 And our devastated partners to re-build their badly shattered lives
 Both are reparable if we follow what an old saying says
 “This life is a voyage across the desert so build as many oasis possible
on this road to eternity”

The evening sun is dying in the arms of the Western sky 
staining the Arabian Sea crimson with its blood
Its reverse will be enacted next morning when the night will die
Riaz says “Nothing ever changes except the material, for man remains a barbarian”

These words of wisdom are disjointed and helpless in our situation 
And poetry, this play of rhyme, meter and images 
A tool to gloss over anguish 
Traditionally pessimistic, sad and nostalgic 
Honest to the core
Cannot be a cure for more than an individual turmoil

  Tradition commands “You must leave the world a better place than you found it” 
Philosophy, poetry and polemics apart 
This is all we can try for. 
But then, how do you sustain and transfer to generations the madness 
Coupled with a longing for knowledge 
That this effort requires?



Lament of a Relocated Person

They came with bulldozers 
And a gun carrying police force
They gave no notice
They held no dialogue
They turned the house I built Brick by brick
Over thirty years
Into unusable rubble.

The utility connections
Legally acquired
Paid for by my wife’s savings
Through years of bisi committees
Are now just dangling wires and pipes
Disconnected from the life of the city
Soon to be buried under new construction.

They have dumped us in the wilderness
Where my child has no school
And my wife no job
And I spend hours in expensive commuting
With no time for them.

They have dumped us in the wilderness
Far from the joys, sorrows and friends
Of our childhood and adolescence
And from the spaces whose evolution
Gave us a new vision
And transformed us
From members of different clans
Into equal citizens of an expanding city.

They have robbed us of our identity
Made us poor again
Told us by their actions
That we are the residue of the city
Who can own no land
For it only belongs to the rich.


The gardener cannot know the secrets of the garden
Until he has been bruised by the thorns that protect the flowers.

Because of the drought the peasant knows it has not rained on the mountains 
Although he has never seen them nor ever will.  

We meet, you and I, like a pair of lips and a wine glass 
Let us think of the day when the wine bottle will be empty.

You hesitate to walk with me for I cannot identify a destination 
I am in search of answers and you of results.  

Wisdom, the sages say, makes complexity simple
Yet simplicity is not accepted by the merchants of knowledge for it has no market.

Because of this perpetual conflict with myself
I seek relief in writing poetry

And poetry is more honest if not more meaningful than my work. 
What a painful contradiction!

Arif Hasan
Karachi, July 1992



It has been a long journey,
From the winding brick paved lanes of Panipat, (1) 
Where Boo Ali Qalandar (2) 
Preached the unification of God and Man, 
To the wide avenues and squares of Paris, 
Where Voltaire ridiculed all mysticism.

It has been a long journey, 
From demonstrating passionately against injustice 
In the streets of Karachi, 
To discussing intellectually the concept of universal brotherhood 
At meetings in the heart of London 
The former devoid of reason, and the latter of sincerity.

It has been a long journey; 
From waiting at the crossroads with a garland of jasmine flowers 
For a hypocritically shy and coquettish beloved 
To embracing chance acquaintances in public places.

It has been a long journey; 
From struggling to create self-sufficiency and empowerment 
In the cities and rural areas of an impoverished Asia, 
To negotiating dependence in Washington and 
The capitals of Europe.

  It has been a long journey! 
So many contradictions that I am tired. 
Maybe our future generations will reconcile them.

1.  A small town near Delhi where my family originally came from.
2.  An eleventh century mystic

Karachi, 1993


Once again 
A man of the world, 
Angry, anguished and frustrated 
Has come to love’s destination.

There is ugliness around me here – 
So much discord 
In colour, architecture and environment. 
Superstition, hypocracy and commerce 
Are with it hand in hand.

Yet this dust is sacred 
As I too wish to loose myself in the pain of men 
For I cannot fight its causes. 
But unlike him 
I have no faith 
In the will of God 
Or in the goodness of fellow beings.

Arif Hasan
Bhit Shah, March 1981

And the earth gives up its heat

Stirred up by the animals returning home 
Pain – so much pain 
The pain of injustice 
The pain of being 
The pain of Shah Latif.

Reflections in the dirty pool 
The colour of the sky 
And the form of trees 
The glow of glow worms 
And the croaking of frogs 
What emptiness 
What loneliness of spirit 
What anguish 
And what turmoil in my heart.

And then the sound of music 
The heart rendering wail 
At last this desolation has been expressed 
And my tears released

Weep now, for tomorrow in Sukkur 
There is business to transact

Shah Abdul Latif, a 17th century mystic, is considered as one of the greatest poets and musicians of South Asia.
In his own province, Sindh, and in other parts of Pakistan, he is considered a saint. It is because of him that Sindhi folk stories were rendered into poetry and put to music.

Arif Hasan 
Bhit Shah, July 1973


Arif Hasan
Arif is one of the ACHR network's most prolific thinkers, writers and practitioners . His articles, books, research studies, lectures and travel notes reflect his deep understanding and affection for and curiosity about all things Asian.  Arif's new website contains his articles, reports, research monographs, seminar papers and powerpoint presentations, as well as descriptions of his many books and photos and drawings of his various architectural and planning projects. It also has an image gallery with downloadable photos of Karachi over time and photos of places where Arif has worked in Pakistan. There is a section of the website on maps, which includes historic maps of Karachi, maps related to the evolution of the city and its infrastructure and urban development and maps of Pakistan relating to ecology and environment. The subjects covered by material on the website include: Human Settlements, Karachi, Culture and Heritage, Architecture and Planning, Environment and Ecology, Development and Poverty, OPP and URC, Disaster Management and Political Writings. 
The website project has been supported by IIED in London.