Our Gatherings

Pakistan Students Group Election at METU (ODTÜ), November 1968

Report by Mohammed Ali Khan

Pakistan Students’ Group at METU was an informal body with the objective to organize events of interest for the Pakistani students, coordination with the Pakistan embassy in Ankara, to facilitate scholarships and other help for Pakistani students, coordination with the Pak-Turk Friendship Association and to help new Pakistani students to settle down in Turkey.

The 1968 PSG election was a difficult one. On one side was the older group of PSG members with a sitting president, who was not doing much. The younger group of PSG wanted him unseated and replaced by a new active president. With that background, there was a lot of consternation. They were anticipating and expecting some big explosion, such as big fight or at least Pakistanli style ugly swearing match. The new entry of 1968 was the largest and along with some of the older students, they backed the candidacy of Mohammed Ali Khan.

Mohammed Ali Khan speaks

As the lobbying continued, things were really cooking. The photos of this event are in the Photo Gallery section. You can see Quddoos is holding his head, Anwarul Islam was keeping close eye on the events, while the outspoken elders were sparring it out.

Mohammed Ali Khan made passionate arguments why he should be elected as President of the PSG, which seemed to garner substantial support, leading to his victory. The matter ended amicably as can be seen from faces in the photos that everybody was very happy from the election results

They even went out for a victory walk out in the cold.

As president of PSG, Mohammed Ali Khan had three main goals: Every year Pakistan Day function was organized by PSG with great amount of work and was always great success. But, every year, PSG president gave speech in English and in those days almost nobody in Ankara knew much of English if any at all. For the first time, the PSG president gave speech in Turkish on March 23, 1969.

The second goal was to publish a portrait compendium of achievements of Pakistani scholars at METU, with the idea of keeping sweet memories of association alive and help keeping the contacts in future alive. The book "Pakistanis at METU" was published in 1969. Please see a copy in the Archives Section of this website.

The third goal was about the substantial funds given by Foreign Ministry of the Türkiye Cumhuriyeti to Pakistan Embassy for cultural and other events to increase the friendship between two countries. Pakistan Embassy took the fund but did nothing about it. PSG put the Pakistan embassy on notice to do something positive with the funds. As a result, the 1969 Pakistan Day function was celebrated with full fanfare and shows. The highlight was Abid Latif’s (Chem Eng) performance of his trademark fast paced dance at that event.

Staj (Internship) at Niğde Çimento Fabrıkası, June-July 1971

Reported by: Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui

1971 had proven to be a very difficult year due to the disturbances at METU since 1969. It culminated with the army takeover of the campus on March 5, 1971 and imprisonment of over 400 students. We had not even completed our Fall 1970 semester which had been delayed due to boycotts and strikes and had been scheduled to end on March 6, 1971. The March 5th operations and closure of the university delayed that even further and the final semester exam was held at the end of August 1971. The Spring semester had been canceled.

The Fall 1970 semester was my third semester. Normally, the university arranges for staj (internship) in the summer following the fourth semester. So my staj was supposed to have been in the summer of 1971. However, since the fourth semester had been canceled, I was left in a state of quandary. I would have had to delay my staj until the summer of 1972.

The army had pulled out most of its men from the campus by the middle of April and there was restricted entry allowed for students. We visited our dorms and saw the level of destruction caused when the jandarma and police had broken our cupboards to rummage through our belongings. I lost some of my precious things.

Around the end of April or beginning of May, I visited the Chemical Engineering department and met the department chairman. I requested that I be allowed to do the staj that same summer although we would miss the fourth semester. He asked me to come back after a week.

Ali Aumir (a year senior to me) had been scheduled for his staj in the summer of 1970, but he had missed it. So he also approached the chairman to allow him.

The following week, the chairman told us that our request had been approved and Ali Aumir and I were scheduled to go for staj at Niğde Çimento Fabrıkası on 8th of June for six weeks.

Ali Aumir and I traveled by bus to Niğde on the 7th of June. We were accompanied by 11 other Turkish students of Chemical Engineering Department for the same purpose. Our group of 13 was as follows:

  • 1. Müjgan Köymen
  • 2. Ferda Mavituna
  • 3. Mirat Denizel
  • 4. Tansu Sumer
  • 5. Osman Salim Gebizli
  • 6. Engin Kiliç
  • 7. Yusuf Mehmet
  • 8. Ali İz
  • 9. Nuri
  • 10. Basri Kol
  • 11. Abbas Musa
  • 12. Ali Aumir
  • 13. Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui

Our group of internees with the General Manager, other managers, and senior staff of the factory

Our internship (staj) was from June 8 to July 21, 1971. Upon arrival, we were ushered into the General Manager’s office. He welcomed us wholeheartedly and told us that we would be given a stipend of 1200 TL per month in addition to free accommodation and free meals at the cafeteria in the plant. I was feeling rich by that time. CENTO was also giving us additional 600 TL per month for having been displaced from the dorms. My regular scholarship monthly stipend was 700 TL in 1970-71. So during the staj period, I was getting a total of 2500 TL per month. All the boys were housed in a dorm that was meant for supervisors which was located right next to the factory premises. The 4 girls were given better treatment and stayed at the factory guest house which also had a swimming pool. It was located next to the General Manager’s office inside the factory. Thus, they had better security arrangements and no possibility of harassment from any male employees. Since the boys were in the dorms, we had to enter the factory each morning through the main gate and stamp our timecards too.

During the 6 weeks, we had a proper schedule. We were broken up into 6 groups, each having 2 interms. One group had 3. My partner was Müjgan Köymen. By rotation, we had to spend few days at each department or section – raw material feed area, grinding and slurry mixing, rotary kiln for production of clinker, cement mixing section, packing and transport section, mechanical department, testing lab, accounts and HR and administration.

Ahmet Aydın was the Manager of the Process Department. He was a Chemical Engineer. Kaya Yeğin was Mechanical Dept Head. I do not remember the names of the General Manager and other key staff.

The cement plant was small and based on a wet process having a 130-foot long rotary kiln. It had an annual capacity of 20,000 tons of cement per year. While they normally produced Portland cement most of the time, they would also have some runs for small quantities of white cement and slag cement.

Niğde was a very small town, having a population of around 10,000 people at most. We used to get our breakfast and lunch at the cafeteria inside the plant. For dinner, all 13 of us would prefer to take a break and would go into town to eat at some of the lokantalar. There was not much of variety, but it gave us a different feeling and a change of taste. On weekends, we would arrange to go on picnics to nearby places.

Probably the most memorable of those was the trip to the fairy chimneys of Göreme and Ürgüp, the ancient underground city at Derinkuyu, and the beautiful lazy Ihlara valley with its amazing stream flowing through the middle. These places were not far from Niğde within the Cappadocian region.

Those 6 weeks were superbly memorable. We enjoyed every moment of it, and I learnt so much about the cement making process. The staff were extremely helpful.

We returned to Ankara on July 21st.

For photos, please see the Photo Gallery.

Brunch at Karachi Marriott Hotel on 9 April 1999

The date was 9 April 1999.

Left to right: Fazlullah Shariff, Mohammed Ali, M. Aslam, Muslim Khan, Donald Dean, Nadeem Saeed, Kazi Zulkader, Ahsan Siddiqui

Venue was the Nadia Coffee Shop at Marriott Hotel, Karachi, located near the entrance of the hotel.

Mohammed Ali was visiting Karachi from California. He had made it a tradition in the past to gather as many METU friends in Karachi as possible during his visits and suggested that we all get together for brunch at Nadia Coffee Shop of Marriott Hotel. I used to spend my weekdays in Karachi due to work constraints, and weekends in Islamabad. My office (Cupola Information Services) was on I.I.Chundrigar Rd, Karachi, while the family was in Islamabad. So, we agreed to meet on that Friday morning.

Muslim Khan was visiting from Riyadh. Mohammed Ali and I had been meeting him over the past several years as we had both been in Riyadh until 1995. But others had not met him in a while.

It was not easy getting people out of bed (for those who were retired), and to pull others from their workplaces on a working day. But they did come for old times’ sake.

It was lot of fun to be together after a long time and to meet people we had not met in some time.

A total of 9 persons showed up that morning as follows: 1. Ahsan Siddiqui (1968-1975) 2. Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui (1969-1971) – visiting from Islamabad 3. M. Aslam (1969-1975) 4. Muslim Khan (1969-1973) – visiting from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 5. Mohammed Ali (1970-1975) – visiting from California, USA 6. Donald Dean (1970-1978) 7. Fazlullah Shariff (1971-1978) 8. Azim Shibli (1972-1978) 9. Nadeem Saeed (1974-1981)

We all have changed quite a bit in the past several years since this event occurred. Please take a close at these very smart bunch of people back then.

Golden Jubilee Celebrations at METU – June 2006

7 June 2006 Istanbul - In front of Güllüoğlu in Sirkeci for sumptuous breakfast. Ahsan Siddiqui, Fazlullah Shariff, Kazi Zulkader & Mrs., Mrs. & Hai Khan, Mrs. Fazlullah, M. Aslam

ODTÜ / METU was established on November 15, 1956. Thus, the year 2006 marked the 50th anniversary of founding of this great university. During the summer of that year, the university celebrated its golden jubilee with great fanfare.

Arshad Jamil was the first Pakistani to enter METU in 1957. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, a sizeable contingent of Pakistani students studied at this university. On occasion of the golden jubilee celebration, a contingent of 42 persons including 25 Pakistani alumni with some spouses and children decided to participate and traveled to Ankara. 1. Dr. Tanvir Wasti (1958) (from Turkey) 2. Mrs. Yildiz Wasti (from Turkey) 3. Soofia Tahira Elias-Özkan (1974) (from Turkey) 4. Cheedem Özkan (2004) (from Turkey) 5. Ahsan Qasim Siddiqui (1968) (from Karachi) 6. Abdul Hai Khan (1969) (from Karachi) 7. Mrs. Noor Islam Hai Khan (from Karachi) 8. Mohammed Aslam (1969) (from Karachi) 9. Fazlullah Shariff (1971) (from Karachi) 10. Mrs. Ambreen Fazlullah Shariff (from Karachi) 11. Ejaz Ahmed (1968) (from Islamabad) 12. Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui (1969) (from Islamabad) 13. Mrs. Ayesha Siddiqui (from Islamabad) 14. M. Anwar Janjua (1970) (from Islamabad) 15. Dr. Syeda Janjua (from Islamabad) 16. Malik Aslam Khan (1970) (from Islamabad) 17. Mrs. Zarina Aslam Khan (from Islamabad) 18. Hasan Javed (1972) (from Lahore) 19. Abrar Mustafa (1963) (from Saudi Arabia) 20. Asma, Abrar Mustafa’s daughter (from Saudi Arabia) 21. Ayesha, Abrar Mustafa’s daughter (from Saudi Arabia) 22. Khawar Sajjad Khawaja (1986) (from UAE) 23. Mrs. Samina Khawaja (from UAE) 24. Arshad Jamil (1957) (from USA) 25. Arif Zahiruddin Khan (1969) (from USA) 26. Mrs. Shireen Arif Khan (from USA) 27. Asad, Arif’s son (from USA) 28. Sarah, Arif’s daughter (from USA) 29. Samah, Arif’s daughter (from USA) 30. Suha, Arif’s daughter (from USA) 31. Intesar Ahmed (1970) (from USA) 32. Mrs. Salma Intesar (from USA) 33. Asma, Intesar’s daughter (from USA) 34. Rafique Islam (1969) (from USA) 35. Nasheed Rehman (1971) (from USA) 36. Tahir Akram (1968) (from Canada) 37. Mazhar Hussain (1968) (from Canada) 38. Mir Arshad Ali Khan (1968) (from Canada) 39. Syed Afaq Hussain Rizvi (1975) (from Canada) 40. Zeaul Hassan (1968) (from UK) 41. Mrs. Syeda Kishwer Hassan (from UK) 42. Shahid Yamin (1968) (from Australia)

June 10, 2006 was the day of celebration and convocation. We arrived a day or two early and stayed on for another couple of days. Most of us stayed on campus at the Ögrenci Konukevi dormitory, while some stayed in hotels in the city.

The Karachi contingent:

Mustafa from the Karachi Pak-Turk School helped us greatly in organizing the trip to Ankara. Kazi Zulkader joined the Karachi group and flew in from Islamabad with his wife.

The following 11 of us arrived at Karachi airport on the night of June 7, and the Turkish Airlines flight took off for Istanbul in the early morning hours of June 8.

1. Ahsan Qasim Siddiqui 2. Abdul Hai Khan 3. Mrs. Noor Islam Hai Khan 4. Mohammed Aslam 5. Fazlullah Shariff 6. Mrs. Ambreen Fazlullah Shariff 7. Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui 8. Mrs. Ayesha Siddiqui 9. Mustafa (Representative from Pak-Turk School who helped in organizing the trip) 10. Mrs. Mustafa 11. Mustafa’s son

We arrived at Istanbul around sunrise on the morning of 8th. Our hosts from the Pak-Turk School received us at the airport. They had arranged a coach to take us around town. Our first stop was Gulluoglu at Sirkeci where we had a fabulous breakfast of böreks, ekmek, a variety of bakery stuff, peynir, olives, çay, and baklava.

During the day, many others arrived from different parts of the world. After breakfast, we proceeded to the hotel where Ejaz Ahmed was staying. He had flown in from Islamabad a day earlier and had arranged to to book us all on that overnight train from Haydarpaşa (Istanbul) to Ankara. This was the new fast train with sleeper cabins.

8 June 2006 Istanbul - Sultan Ahmed Cami (Blue Mosque) Istanbul. Kazi Zulkader, Mrs. and Mr. Fazlullah Shariff, M. Aslam, Ahsan Siddiqui, Mr. and Mrs. Hai Khan

We had the whole day available to us. We used the day for revisiting the famous places at Sultan Ahmet area including Sultan Ahmet Cami (Blue Mosque), Aya Sofia, and Topkapi Sarayi. For lunch, our hosts took us to a nearby lokanta where we enjoyed different types of kebaps.

Around sundown, we took a ferry boat from Sirkeci to Haydarpaşa. It was chilly and windy, and we had to remain inside the enclosed area. The North American group had arrived, and so had Hasan Javed from Lahore. We met at the Haydarpaşa railway station. It was quite a reunion.

We had sleeper rooms allotted in the train with proper beds, blankets, pillows, etc. And it was 2 persons to a cabin. The train was very nice.

After boarding, we spent some time in the dining car. Some of us slept while others kept awake the whole night for old times sake. We arrived at Ankara Railway Station soon after sunrise on 9th after a good night’s sleep on the train.

9th June, 2006 – At ODTÜ – settling in

We had arrived at Ankara early morning of 9th June. The Pak-Turk School friends had arranged transport to take us to the ODTU dorms. Arshad Jamil bhai had arrived a day earlier and had booked rooms for us at the Ögrenci Konukevi. The rooms were very nice.

That same morning, we all gathered in the Çalişma Salonu of Konukevi and exchanged thoughts. I had prepared the Directory of Metuites, and I had brought around 60 copies with me to Ankara. I gave copies of this book to all those present during that meeting.

9th June 2006 – Reception arranged by the Rektor

Arshad Jamil presenting plaque to the Rektor Dr. Akbulut on behalf of METU Pakistanis
At Zak’s for dinner: Zafar, Mohammed Ali, Tariq, Jahangir, Arif, Anwar, hidden guys, Kazi Zulkader, Fazlullah Sharif

After lunch, we had a meeting with the Rektor who had hosted a reception for us at the Rektorluk Building. They had arranged blue buses to take us there. Almost all of us were present. The Rektor and the Vice President shook hands with each one of us individually to welcome us.

We had brought some token gifts and shields from Karachi for METU and its management. Arshad Jamil presented the shield on behalf of METU Pakistanis to the Rektor Dr. Akbulut. Aslam presented some of the other gifts to the Rektor and to the Vice President. We also presented copies of the “Directory of METU Pakistanis 2006 – Golden Jubilee Edition” to the Rektor and other management staff. The book was written by Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui.

Right after the reception and exchange of gifts, the Rektor walked down with us, and we took some group photos outside the Rektorluk building. After the Rektor and his staff left, we requested. Dr. Tanvir Wasti to give away commemorative shields individually to each one of the METU Pakistanis who were in attendance. These shields were also made in Karachi.

Later that evening, two more of our elder Pakistani METU alumni had arrived– Abrar Mustafa bhai with his 2 daughters from Saudi Arabia, and Zeaul Hassan bhai with his wife from the UK.

10th June, 2006 – the main Golden Jubilee celebration

10th June was the key day for the 50th anniversary celebrations. In the morning, the university had sent blue buses to Konukevi to transport us to the auditorium / convention center where the celebration started. The air was charged with festivity when we arrived there. Thousands of alumni had converged on to the campus that day. It was a sea of people.

The university had prepared specially designed colorful robes for the alumni. We rented these robes for the occasion. It was an open-air celebration. A group of young METU students sang songs. Another group of METU alumni performed traditional Turkish folklore dances. This was followed by a very emotional speech by the Rektor Dr. Akbulut.

Hundreds of blue buses lined up and we were transported to Anitkabir. Upon arrival, we marched up to the entrance of Anitkabir and assembled outside at the foot of the stairs of the mausoleum. The proceedings started with the Turkish national anthem as we all stood silently. Led by the Rektor, the entire crowd walked up the stairs. The Rektor placed wreaths at the grave of Ataturk, and then we all filed past his grave to pay homage to him. It was a festive atmosphere. The buses were waiting to take us back to the campus.

In the afternoon, they had a medal distribution for the very senior alumni and some others. We then proceeded to our departments to meet old colleagues and professors.

11th June – Our gathering and dinner at Vişnelik Club We had the whole day of 11th free to go out into the city individually and revisit some of our old haunts. We went around town to visit Kizilay, Ulus, Cankaya and other places for old times sake. In the evening, we had organized a dinner at Vişnelik Club on campus. The food was excellent.

The next day, we departed. Some of us stayed back in Turkey to tour other towns, while others returned home.

For photographs of these 4 days, please visit the Photo Gallery.

Houston Reunion – 23-26 January 2015

Report by Mohammed Ali Khan

In attendance:

  • 1. Ahsan Qasim Siddiqi
  • 2. Anjum Shahin/Zahid Shaikh
  • 3. Anjum Bilgrami /Nelofer
  • 4. Ejaz Ahmed (1974-76)
  • 5. Fazlullah Shariff
  • 6. Humayon Z. Zafar /Kauser
  • 7. Jahangir Khan
  • 8. Mazhar Husain
  • 9. Mir Arshad Ali Khan
  • 10. Mohammed Ali
  • 11. Mohammed Ali Khan
  • 12. Muzaffar Ahmed Ansari /Huma
  • 13. Nadeem Saeed
  • 14. Shahid Sarwar
  • 15. Tariq Alauddin /Seema
  • 16. Zafar Mahmood Khan

There was a spontaneous feeling of happiness being together. Some of these nirvana moments were captured on camera: where you can see people holding hands, in deep intellectual discussions, or in a state of mind beaming with utter elation.

Highlights:

  • Tariq and Seema Alauddin's home: Breakfasts, Brunch, lunches, and dinners. Plenty of delicious home-made food and easy comfortable ambiance was impetus for the party to continue into late afternoons, nights. We also stayed the nights at his place. Muzaffar Ansari also sang ghazals on harmonium one night at their place
  • Nights at Humayon and Kauser Zafar’s Home : Plenty of food, including home-made Baklava and drinks were at hand for two nights in a row. Everybody had great time.
  • Dinner at Nazif's Turkish Grill, Jan 23: Great food, nice service, had fantastic time!
  • Visit to San Jacinto Historic Site
  • Please visit Photo Gallery for photographs of this event.

Chicago reunion – July 29-31, 2016

MHere is a brief report on our reunion at Chicago

Our great host: Arif Zahiruddin Khan who made all the local arrangements and stay at his mansion. He has has a flair for gardening and has maintained a wonderful garden with beautiful flowers blooming. Mashallah, he knows how to maintain his house.

Participants: 1. Khalid Zaki (Karachi) 2. Fazlullah Shariff (Karachi) 3. Mohammed Aslam (Halifax, Canada) 4. Mohammed Zafar Mahmood (Mississauga, Canada) 5. Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui (Islamabad, currently visiting Virginia) 6. Jahangir Khan (Virginia) 7. Shahid Sarwar (Ohio) 8. Mohammed Ali (California) 9. Tariq Alauddin (Houston, Texas) 10. Arif Zahiruddin Khan (Chicago) 11. Syed Ahmed (Tipu) (Chicago) 12. Anwar Shareef (North Carolina) 13. Qaisar Shareef (Maryland) Khalid Zaki, Fazlullah Shariff and Mohammed Ali were the early birds who arrived on Wednesday-Thursday. The rest of us arrived Chicago on Friday 29th.

At Zak’s for dinner: Zafar, Mohammed Ali, Tariq, Jahangir, Arif, Anwar, hidden guys, Kazi Zulkader, Fazlullah Sharif

After all the METU-style verbal pleasantries and embraces were exchanged, we started the evening with a dinner at Zak’s Pizza Pasta and Wing’s restaurant on Friday evening. Arif had pre-ordered their specialty, which was Zak’s Famous BBQ Beef Ribs – a Moroccan style BBQ in barbecue sauce. These were served with fries and coleslaw. The ribs were extremely tender and superbly delicious. This was a very unique experience. Enjoyed every bit of it.

The anecdotes continued throughout the evening. We retired past midnight. Arif had arranged mattresses for us in the basement of his house which is very spacious and I am sure many more people could have been accommodated there.

The next morning, we had a light breakfast of cereals, tea/coffee at Arif’s place. We were a bit late leaving the house for a tour of Chicago due to a fault in the alarm system at Arif’s house. The technician was at work. Anyway, we left finally around 11am in 2 vehicles – Arif’s SUV which accommodated 7 of us, and the remaining in Anwar’s car.

Mohammed Ali was the only one who had brought his better half Zeba along to Chicago. So he was not with us in the morning and we agreed to meet in the city in the afternoon.

As we got close to the destination – the Chicago Planetarium, Anwar couldn’t follow and he ended up parking his car a bit far away. Arif parked his vehicle near the Planetarium, which is located right on the shore front of Lake Michigan. There is a wonderful walk alongside the lake at that point with a beautiful view of the city skyline. We walked along the shore and took lots of photos there.

Anwar Shareef, Qaisar Shareef, Zafar Mahmood, Arif Zahiruddin, M. Aslam, Shahid Sarwar, Fazlullah Shatiff, Khalid Zaki, Kazi Zulkader, Jahangir Khan, Tariq Alauddin at lake shore

Our next destination was the Navy Pier, which was not too far away. Since Anwar had already parked his car, we decided to pack 11 of us in Arif’s SUV to get to the Navy Pier. The vehicle is supposed to seat only 7. So you can imagine how the people were sardined into the back of the vehicle. You will be able to see this in the photos.

What we had not anticipated were the huge crowds at the Navy Pier that day. There was a music festival in town, and the place was crawling with people and cars. We could barely get near the Navy Pier. As we got close, everyone got out of the vehicle to walk towards the pier. I remained in the SUV with Arif to find a suitable parking spot nearby. We went around the block but couldn’t find anything.

11 guys packed in Arif’s SUV

As luck would have it, Arif took a wrong turn and we found ourselves back at the Navy Pier. Stuck between hundreds of cars, Arif decided to try his luck to get into the Navy Pier parking lot. Using his Pakistan-style driving skills, he drove into the taxis and buses lane (wrong lane) which got us closer to the parking lot faster. And then when we got to the entrance of the high rise parking, the attendant at the entrance was directing all the cars away as there was no space inside. But Arif was determined to get inside. With the fantastic training he had from the Paki-METU peers and seniors, he rolled the window down and told the attendant that we have an exhibit inside and we must get into the parking lot. The attendant at first resisted but then let us in. After going around the aisles inside a couple of times, we finally found one car leaving and were able to park.

In the meantime, the walkers had reached the food court and had their lunch – pizza. We too joined them. After lunch, Qaiser suggested that we should take the River Architecture Cruise. Apparently there are 2 cruises – one on the lake and the other one on the Chicago river. Qaiser’s take was that the river one is far better and he was right.

River cruise – Kazi Zulkader, Jahangir Khan, Fazlullah Shariff, Arif Zahiruddin

It was an open barge type boat with a couple of hundred passengers on it. Jim – the guide – was superb. The ride was for maybe an hour or more and it took us right through the middle of the town showing us how Chicago developed as a city over the past couple of hundred years. The buildings and high rises have left their mark on its history. In addition, these buildings also preserved the character and culture of the city with innumerous nuances. This cruise was the highlight of our tourism. It was worth every minute of it.

After the cruise, we decided to leave Arif’s SUV in the parking lot and walk to the Millennium Park where “The Bean” is located. It was a good half an hour walk or more. The weather was very pleasant despite the heat wave the previous week.

The Bean – Tariq, Tipu, Kazi Zulkader, Aslam, Shahid, Arif

Tipu – though he lives in Chicago – could not participate with us until this point in time. His wife had a major surgery 10 days ago and he had been attending to her. By the Grace of Allah, she is much better now and he was able to come and meet us at the Bean. It was great to see him.

The Bean is a unique monument made of polished stainless steel. As you go around it, you can see all of Chicago reflected onto its shiny surface. We spent a bit more than half an hour there.

Arif and Mohammed Ali had decided that we would have dinner at a Turkish restaurant which was not far from the Bean. This is called A La Turka. At the last minute, we discovered that this restaurant was closed permanently. In the panic, Arif then started to explore which other Turkish restaurant is available. And he finally chose Zizi’s Café. He hadn’t eaten there before, but the ratings were good. So leaving most of them behind at The Bean, Arif and I took a cab to get the SUV, and Anwar with 3 others took another cab to go to where his car was parked. We got the SUV and came back to get the rest. We picked them up and we all descended upon Zizi’s Café. Mohammed Ali and his wife Zeba also arrived there directly.

Dinner at Zizi’s Café

After a round of mezze and lahmacun, the Turkish owner decided that he would serve us food of his choice. We ended up relying on him. He served Iskender Kebap and a mixed barbecue which was truly delicious. However, the quantum of the food was so much that maybe half of it had to be packed to take home.

We got back to Arif’s place around 10pm and spent the rest of the evening reminiscing on the innumerous anecdotes, jokes, US politics, etc. While most of them remained awake, I took a couple of hours nap, and then Arif, Qaiser, Zafar and Aslam dropped me off at the airport as I had a 5:30am flight to take, flying to Baltimore airport. I was the first one to leave.

Most of the others had flights during the afternoon, while a few stayed back until Monday morning. Those who stayed back had dinner at Usmania Restaurant on Sunday evening.

Thanks a million once again to Arif and to the other organizers. Enjoyed every minute of it.

Mohammed Aslam’s report: I enjoyed the trip thoroughly. My tickets were expensive (Khalid, I purchased the cheapest expensive tickets). I had to be Shahid's chauffeur twice - halfway from Cleveland to Chicago and all the way from Chicago to Detroit. Free. Not even a proper lunch. One coffee, some snacks and lots of his incoherent rants about what I don't even remember. Yes, I admit. On way to Detroit, he did disclose some of the best advice and information on a group of humans I was quite unaware of. Bravo! I am sure Sharfu and Khalid also must have re-evaluated his Standard & Poor rating their eyes. My ratings shot, in a matter of five minutes from 'zameen' to 'aasman'. That was the highest highlight of the trip.

Purpose Purpose was fun. As Abdul Hai noted, I had changed within fifteen minutes my 'purpose' on a call from Darhu. I noted, all had the same purpose. Though, there were serious discussions about the 'state of the dunya' but focus was on the 'state of the reunion'. Even Kazi Zulkader didn't admonish me on my kartoots (grey not black).

What did we do? Ate and slept, talked and walked. We lived together. We laughed and enjoyed in our original tones that we have shelved and saved deep inside, kept preciously. Anwar, his second occasion, remarked, 'sab waesay hi haen'.

Petu, clean water, goodness for Pakistan, Mussalmans and the world at large

May be there were discussions; I don't remember. I was enjoying along with Khalid and Sharfu. There were two bottles of Black Label, one normal and one Double Black which 'had' to be finished and the bottles disposed properly. Sharfu was worried but the mission was accomplished. Khalid knew all the places to keep the bottles hidden as Shireen would sometimes come down to talk to us and feed us. Fortunately, the glasses were translucent and Coke and Pepsi blends well. Besides, Arif's basement is so huge, even farts were not detectable. I know everyone was controlling the ass muscles. Eleven farting cylinders vs. two whisky bottles. There was no chance Shireen would know or even think about Arif's friends being such 'kaminas'. In my view, we are very Sharif people, and three are named as such.

Health Everyone is healthy, almost. Cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, forgetfulness, unnecessary farting, opening the mouth once in a while, large and bulky gaands, slow response, 'ghutnoN mein dard', non-erect composure, hair on ears, inside nose and ears, less hair on scalp, greying jhants, flawless and dense 'alien' hair on tind (one case noted), 'limp' tonties'- these were not our problems. Our actual problem was dental health. I became an instant expert on the right method to brush the teeth. Darhu sent an authentic link on a water floss.

Activity Don't compare with normal standards (10,000 steps/day), they are for our versions of 1970's. For 60-70 year olds 25% of that should be enough. Anyhow active? Look at figures:

Date, Number of steps, Activities, and Thoughts Jul 29 (Fri) - 5,907 steps. Started at 3 am from Halifax, reached Cleveland, drove with Shahid to Chicago. Met others, all in good shape. They are all in high spirits for having ditched their wives and children. It’s the same old bunch of people assembled for living again those rare days between the semesters - no studies, no exams. This time, no worries about money to eat the next lunch. I am excited about dinner at a 'Halal' barbecue ribs, my first time. They order a ton of them, one per two and we enjoy it thoroughly. I don't know if its 'haram' version is any different. Back home, discussions. Qaisar occupies 'high' masnad and briefly sleeps. Khalid, Sharfu and Anwar leave when Sharfu becomes too sleepy. I sleep right in the middle, feeling secure and serene, surrounded by familiar sounds.

Jul 30 (Sat) - 10,800 steps. The tourism day. Kazi has posted so many pictures. I need not repeat. Special events were these: - USA is very friendly and easy when it comes to 'pesh-aab', meaning the water which comes from the front. Canada is similar. Europe charges at least half-a-Euro for donating water and uric acid to their sewerage system. I know, the person sitting there is doing it for you, so pay it happily. North America incorporates it in the pricing. 'Moote jao, complain na karo'. I can notice that I am a good user, but so are other friends.

- The Bean is Chicago's new center of gravity. - Smartest of the group, Tipu appears here. Bhabhi is nearby in a hospital, and he comes with initial good news about her. So nice of him and good to see his usual relaxed demeanor and familiar smile this time with a smart and slim moustache.

<> - Parking is an issue and Arif is an old-time expert. In 1997 coming to ISNA, I saw him out-talking a guard at the hotel to allow him access. This time he hoarded all eleven of us for a juvenile ride and asked most of these budhas to disembark in the middle of a main road. So desi and so simple and immensely enjoyable.

Chicago Reunion on July 6-9, 2018

Let me summarize what happened during the reunion. The real maza was in being present. This write up will not compensate for more than 5% of what actually happened and what we did or talked about.

Following friends made it to Chicago 1. Mohammed Ali Khan (Pakistanli) from Los Angeles, CA 2. Mohammed Ali (Fraud) from Silicon Valley, CA 3. Intisar Ahmed from Houston TX, though he is temporarily based in CA 4. Tariq Alauddin from Houston TX 5. Jawaid Haider from Pennsylvania 6. Zafar Mahmood from Toronto, Canada 7. Arif Zahiruddin Khan from Chicago 8. Tipu (Syed Ahmed) from Chicago 9. Kazi Zulkader from Islamabad, presently in Virginia (DC area) The following were supposed to come but backed off at the last minute (missed by 2 inches – you have to come to the next reunion to understand this).

1. Mir Arshad Ali Khan (out of love for Mazhar) 2. Jahangir Khan (was taking care of his boss whose daughter had expired, and spending the day and night with her to console her) 3. Aslam (preparing for his trip to Pakistan and not sure about this world or the other) 4. Shahid Sarwar (had to take his wife to the airport a couple of days after the reunion, and therefore had to prepare for the trip to the airport) 5. Zaheer Warraich (was sick) 6. Qaiser Shareef (his daughter is getting married one of these days) 7. Anwar Shareef (excuse not known) 8. Nadeem Saeed (his nephew or niece got married in Houston the same weekend) 9. Did I miss anyone else?

We all agree that those who didn’t show up despite having made previous commitment would pay $200 each to cover for our expenses. Please send your checks to Arif or Mohammed Ali.

Almost all of us arrived on Friday (6th July) afternoon/evening. I arrived just after midnight and therefore I missed the dinner. So, I cannot tell you much of what transpired that night. Pakistanli bhai was also supposed to arrive just before midnight but his flight was delayed by several hours and he finally arrived around 5am in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

The best part of this reunion was that we spent most of the time together talking, reminiscing, joking, and laughing. It was real quality time spent together. All other activity was really peripheral as a filler.

In terms of where we went: On Saturday morning, we decided to go for a guided walk of Chicago historical places. By the time we got to the tour operating company, we found that it was not feasible to do it that day. We walked around for a while and then went to Devon Street / Jinnah Way and had a sumptuous buffet lunch at Usmania Restaurant with nahari, paye, biryani, barbecue, and several side dishes plus gulab jamun. They had sweet lassi and mango shake as well served. I guess we ate more than what our stomachs could take. After lunch, we walked around Devon Street for an hour or so, trying to burn some calories.

Our next stop was the lake front near the aquarium where we walked around for a while and then to the Bahai temple in Chicago – a very interesting building. The priest there made a presentation on Bahaism and what it stood for, hoping that he would get some converts. We sat in their meditation hall for a while. It was like an auditorium with chairs – rather different from the mosques we are used to.

After trip to the Bahai temple, we went to another part of the lake front where we could walk around and relax. Nearby, we went to a coffee shop and sat there around the tables for more than an hour and a half or two along the roadside.

We were in two vehicles, one driven by Tipu and the other by Arif. And we got a good tour of the city. I was in Tipu’s car, and he gave us a good, guided tour of the historical buildings.

The lunch was so heavy that we all skipped dinner. it was impossible to eat. Arif had brought a quarter of a katthal / phannas / jack fruit. Not everyone has a taste for it, but I enjoyed it very much. We sat late that night in the basement, and we also saw many of the old photographs of METUites on my laptop. That brought back a lot of memories.

Shireen bhabi was kind enough to make us an excellent breakfast of parathas, qeema, omelet, and other lawazimat. After breakfast, we went back downtown, and I got dropped off at the Megabus. I proceeded on to Cincinnati to meet my sister.

The rest of the gang had booked the guided walking tour which was from 2pm onwards for an hour and a half. I cannot give you any details as I was not there. I believe they went to Zizi’s Café (Turkish) for dinner.

Some of them departed that night while the rest stayed on until Monday morning.

As usual, Arif’s hospitality was unmatched. Thank you Arif for making all the arrangements in your basement and for everything. And I must also thank Tipu for being the co-host by taking us around.

My Houston visit: I had been in Houston for a few days just before the reunion to meet my mother-in-law. Tariq invited me for dinner on the 3rd of July. I would like to thank him for the wonderful food and company along with Anjum Bilgrami bhai at an Irani restaurant. I hadn’t met Anjum bhai in a long time. It was good to see him walking around (though with a walking stick), and with full presence of mind despite his medical condition. We had a great time together. That was the last time I met him. Tariq dropped Anjum Bhai home and then we drove to my brother-in-law’s place.

Chicago Reunion on Aug 30 to Sept 1, 2019

This was the last gathering before COVID-19 struck the world, bringing our annual gatherings to a complete halt. As we parted on September 1st, we agreed to meet in Toronto during the summer of 2020. It seems that someone’s niyyat was not up to the mark, and we have been left to the mercy of Zoom and WhatsApp only eversince.

Following friends made it to Chicago for this last reunion: 1. Ahsan Qasim Siddiqui from Missouri 2. Mazhar Hussain from Mississauga, Canada 3. Mir Arshad Ali Khan from Mississauga, Canada 4. Zafar Mahmood from Mississauga, Canada 5. Mohammed Aslam from Halifax, Canada 6. Shahid Sarwar from Detroit 7. Tipu (Syed Ahmed) from Chicago 8. Arif Zahiruddin Khan from Chicago 9. Kazi Zulkader from Virginia (DC area) 10. Jahangir Khan from Virginia 11. Qaiser Shareef from Maryland 12. Mohammed Ali (Fraud) from Silicon Valley, CA 13. Tariq Alauddin from Houston TX 14. Intesar Ahmed from Houston TX 15. Mrs. Zeba Mohammed Ali from Silicon Valley, CA 16. Mrs. Salma Intesar from Houston TX 17. Mrs. Samina Ahmed (Tipu’s wife) from Chicago Like the previous Chicago get-together’s Arif was again the host. We all stayed the nights in his huge basement where he had arranged mattresses and bed linen for us.

Most of us arrived on Friday (August 30th) evening. I arrived on Saturday early morning.

This year, Arif had a different plan for us. We traveled around 75 miles west by road to the Starved Rock State Park and had a picnic lunch on the benches in the grassy area. Arif and Tipu had procured cooked food from Chicago that we took along with us.

After lunch, we walked on the trails and went up to the wooden platform observation points by climbing the hillsides and the wooden staircases. It was quite an amazing sight of the lakes and mountains and forests from there. We also went down to the caves walking down katcha trails. On the way, we could see the interesting formation of the rocks, with streams flowing downhill. It was a very relaxing and enjoyable day, away from the rush in the city.

As per tradition, we had Turkish food that evening at Zizi’s Café in the city. As usual, the meal was excellent with a variety of kebaps and Turkish cuisine.

The night gupshup was adorned in the middle with a very noble deed. We all prayed isha in jamaat in Arif’s basement with Kazi Zulkader as the imam. You must see the photographs to testify to the nobility and spirituality of all the participants.

The next morning, Arif had prepared a wonderful breakfast for us. This was followed by a celebration of Sarwar’s 70th birthday, with the cake cutting and candle blowing.

That afternoon, we had lunch at another restaurant. I don’t remember the name of that place.

Most of the participants went home after lunch on Sunday. The Toronto party (Mazhar, Mir and Zafar) stayed back another night and left early in the morning by road in Zafar’s car. They had come to Chicago by car. I joined them and traveled to Toronto with them. We traveled vias Sarnia and reached Toronto later that afternoon. Mohammed Ali and Zeba also traveled to Toronto but they took a flight. So we were able to meet again in Toronto over another dinner hosted by the Toronto METUites. It was great to meet Tahir Akram, Mustafa Ali, and Nadeem Saeed over the meal. They had not been able to come to Chicago. I stayed on Toronto a few days and then drove back to Virginia.

As usual, Arif’s hospitality was unmatched. Thank you Arif for making all the arrangements in your basement and for everything. And I must also thank Tipu for being the co-host.