Saturday, 27 December 2014

An Off-road adventure to Jhal Magsi

  Few days back Red Bull Pakistan invited me to cover Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge Race 2014 It's a yearly race event between 4x4's like the Dakkar rally and the Baja it is on a very smaller scale compared to those events but is the most challenging of all 4x4 rally in Pakistan. I was so excited to witness this rally race on the track. The adventure starts on the morning of 20th Dec. We left Karachi at 7pm and reached Hyderabad after 2 hours then we stopped at Al-Zaib Resturant at 10am for breakfast.

omelette and paratha 
 Here I met the famous Sabir Shah aka @AsliBinLaden 

  Then we left for longest road trip of my life till now. We stopped at some restaurant outside Larkana for dinner at 6.30pm.

Tikkain and Maash Daal
  For first time I've tried Tikkain and Rosh. Tikkain was served with minced meat and fry kaleeji while Rosh is like Paya but they served piece of Rosh with minced meat, usually Rosh was served with the soup in which they cooked it for 4 hrs. Rosh was delicious and not so spicy while tikkain is dry and maash daal was okay. We left Shahdadkot at 7.30pm and then we reached Jhal Magsi after 16 hrs. At 2.30am they turned off all the lights were switched off. I thought this was the best moment to capture some night sky shots at Jhal Magsi. Orion constellation and Sirius (the brightest star system in the earth's night sky) which was above our heads while Jupiter was rising from the East.

 night sky at Jhal Magsi

  We slept at 4am and woke up at 7.30am. After freshen up we went back side of our tents where drivers were staying in their camps to photograph their vehicles. I was amazed to see those vehicles and how they modified them for the track.

Toyota Tundra

  One of the driver told us that there is a delay in race and now it will start at 10.30am due to fog. So we went to the starting point. 

Initial Starting Point
   And here we are at the Red Bull starting point where Ronnie Patel was waiting in his 4x4. It was one massive crowd waiting for race to start while media personals were setting their equipment. That was the initial starting point for the race but due to fog they shifted it to the other point which was 10km away from this point and the track was shortened to 100kms.

Ronnie Patel - runner up of 2013 race
   So we headed out with our driver Mustafa to the new starting point in his Land Cruiser. It was one bumpy ride as he was driving off-road with the speed upto 120kms. At times it feels like we are part of this race.

Our driver Mustafa and his Land Cruiser
   So the race starts at 11.45am. Every driver was leaving with some difference of time. This year 48 drivers were participating in different categories. I was so excited to see this action live on track.

and this was the second starting  point
  Red Bull gives us the opportunity to explored different parts of this track including some jumps and the Muller River crossing so we can experience this race more closely. 

after the jump
  This was the first shot I've captured while standing near the jump. It's bit hard to see them coming, all you can see is the dust cloud coming towards you. Here I've seen one of the best lift kits. After that we went to Muller River crossing. Where one massive crowd waiting for cars to passing by the river crossing. 

making splashes through the Muller River
  Then we headed towards the desert side of the track which was the tricky one due to the slippery sand and many drivers were stuck at this point.

Making his way through the slippery sand.  
   The race ends at 5pm. Then there was a prize distribution ceremony at 8pm. Nawab Zulfikar Ali Magsi and Marvi Memon were the chief guest. For the first they've introduced Ladies category in this race and this year only two ladies drivers were participating.

From left: Tushna Patel, Marvi Memon and Maliha Elahi
  Tushna Patel was the winner of Ladies category with time 2.03.34. She is the wife of Ronnie Patel and she was the first female ever to participate in the 9th Cholistan Jeep Rally 2014. She received her prize from Marvi Memon.

From left: Mian Farooq (co-driver), Tushna Patel and Marvi Memon
   Speedtrap was won by Zafar Magsi and Luqman from team Red Bull is giving him his prize money.

   Next morning we left Jhal Magsi at 9am and after 14 hrs of road trip we were back in Karachi at 11pm. The event was very well organized by Red Bull and their team. Thank you Red Bull for inviting me to this event. It was once in a life time experience for me and for the first time I've traveled with tweeps @aadii_ @ashar_ali and @aslibinladen . More pictures of this trip are uploaded here and more will be uploaded soon. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Launch of HBL Always On

HBL, Pakistan’s largest bank, recently launched its new internet banking service for its customers on the 30th of November, 2014. HBL highly values its relationship with its customers. With revamped internet banking service, it aims to provide them with an enhanced experience. In addition to offering a comprehensive range of features, the new internet banking empowers the customers with greater control of their finances.

The launch event was held at Dolmen Mall, Clifton, Karachi which comprised of day long festivities. The audience was briefed with the services and convenience that HBL Internet Banking provides them and the crowd especially enjoyed getting their pictures taken with fun props at the HBL Always On photo booth. Vj Anoushey and Ali Safina hosted the launch event.

Noori performed live for the entertainment of the crowd and managed to keep spirits high throughout the day.

Noori performing live in front of huge crowd
In attendance as the chief guest was Mr. Nauman K. Dar - President & CEO – HBL along with other senior executives of the bank. Mr Faiq Sadiq- Head Payment Services speaking at the occasion, expressed his views and said, “HBL as Pakistan’s largest bank with over 7 million customers has always been at the forefront in delivering innovative banking products and services to its customers. The launch of this platform will allow customers to conveniently and efficiently carry out their banking transactions on the go. They can now experience utmost convenience in transferring funds, topping up their mobiles or for that matter paying their utility bills at the click of a button” He added that this launch will be a major boost for the growth of electronic payments in Pakistan.

President HBL Mr. Nauman K. Dar launching HBLAlwaysOn
As HBL looks to the future, it continues to innovate with the view of improving transacting convenience for its customers through HBL’s 1500 plus branches, 1600 ATMs and diverse banking facilities. Our endeavor is to continue improving our services and the launch of internet banking is another step in that direction.

You can join the conversation and give your suggestions or feedback by tweeting with the #HBLAlwaysOn hashtag. If you want to know more about HBL’s Internet Banking Services or the launch event, check out: Facebook: /HBLBank
Twitter: @HBLPak
Instagram: @HBLPak

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A little journey to the Heavens above

To explore the Heavens above recently I've done two stargazing sessions in one week thanks to my astro friends. Here are the details Why, Where, How we do these sessions.


People frequently asked me 'Why am I doing these stargazing sessions ?' , 'Why are you interested in Astronomy ?' , 'What can you see above, it's just same old sky ?'. Okay first let me clear what Astronomy is coz most of the people mistaken it with Astrology. Astronomy is the study of celestial objects like stars, moon, planets and the galaxies and the physics and the chemistry of these objects while Astrology is the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world. So both are quite different. Fours years back when I was new on twitter I met first person via twitter and he was @ramizq1 . He was the one who introduced me to this hobby as he is the member of Karachi Amateur Astronomers Society and also the first person to receive a tweet from ISS in Pakistan. With him I've attended many public astronomy sessions and done 2 stargazing sessions when he newly bought SkyWatcher 6" Dobsonian Telescope. On our first session I've seen Sunspots, Orion nebula, Polaris and planet Mars, rest of the details of that session are here. For me these stargazing sessions give me an opportunity to explore the sky above and wondering how nature keeps everything in balance including all the stars and planets.

Where ? 

I've done my first stargazing session with Ramiz at his roof back in October 2013 while these sessions we have done at Zain Bhai's building roof which give us best view of east and west horizon.

our view from the roof

How ?

Okay so let's discuss how we are doing these sessions. We have following things to see the celestial objects in the sky.

1. SkyWatcher 6" Dobsonian Telescope
2. Few eyepieces for the Telescope including 2x Barlow lens for magnification
3. Nikon 8 x 40 Binocular 
4. Nikon Action 12x50 Binocular   
5. Pocket Sky Atlas 
6. Google Sky Map Android App 
7. ISS Detector Android App

With SkyWatcher 6" Dobsonian Telescope we can easily see Jupiter and it's 4 moons and different galaxies while these binoculars can be used to see the Moon and some Messier objects. Pocket Sky Atlas is an ideal guide to explore the night sky it provides very detailed data about stars and galaxies with charts while Google Sky Map can give you name and location of the stars, planets and the galaxies visible from your location and with ISS Detector app you will know when and where to watch for the International Space Station (ISS) and Iridium Flares.

While we were watching the Jupiter

What We Have Seen ? 

On our first session which was on 4th Nov. we have seen the Moon, Jupiter and it's four moons, NGC 2244 which is an open cluster in the Rosette Nebula,Winter Albireo aka 145 Canis Majoris which is most colorful double star in the winter sky and different Messier objects like M35, M36, M37, M38, M41, M46, M47 and M93. Messier objects are set of astronomical objects which include galaxies, nebula, planetary nebula, open cluster etc. List of Messier objects can be found here. On our next session which was on 8th Nov. we have seen the Moon, Jupiter and it's three moons, Beehive (M44), Double star in Polaris or Pole star, M42 (Orion Nebula) which is a diffuse nebula situated in the Milky Way south of Orion's Belt in the constellation of Orion and Iridium flare. We are also taking notes about the objects we have seen so we can discuss them.

Captured with SkyWatcher 6" Dobsonian Telescope and my mobile

Both sessions were planned by Ramiz and Zain Bhai was too kind to provide us the telescope and the sleeping bags. He is a member of Karachi Amateur Astronomers Society and owner at Sahal Telescopes and Binoculars and he has the best telescopes in Pakistan including 6", 8", 10" and 12" telescope and he also deliver telescopes throughout the Pakistan. 12x50 Binocular belongs to Shaheryar and 8x40 Binocular belongs to Ramiz.

All The FUN! 

On our both sessions we had so much fun discussing about the stars and the planets. We invited some of the people to our session from the roof who were there and told them what we are seeing through the telescope.

From Left: Ramiz, a boy and Khalid Bhai who lives there
 A curious boy come to us and asked 'What we are doing here for hours ?' We replied 'See it for yourself' and he was like 'Moon looks so beautiful from the telescope' and he was surprised when we told them that Jupiter has 67 Moons. Khaild Bhai has become our friend now and he always asked what are you seeing right now ? On our 2nd session there was a Barbecue going on on the other side of the roof and Khalid Bhai invites us to taste it. 

From Left: Shaheryar and Ramiz enjoying the beef boti

As I tweeted earlier with twitter I've found so many great friends including Ramiz, Alhamdulillah! With these sessions my love for the astronomy has increased as it can help you in many ways like stars can tell you the direction and the season and I think the nebula and the open star clusters are the most beautiful things you can see through a telescope.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What is #KhiBookSwap

   For last 2 years I've been trying to do a bookworms meetup where I can invite all the tweeps I know on twitter. I have done three small meetups at Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) at Karachi Expo Center. I've met few bookworms in person via twitter. This year I want to do this at some restaurant. While I was discussing with some tweeps that how and where we can do this Ifrah Waqar come with the idea that we should do a Book Swap so I decided let it be KhiBookSwap, where we not just discussing books but swap them too If everyone agreed.

   So far we have done 2 meetups of KhiBookSwap and both were very successful. We really had a great time discussing books and swap them. On our 2nd meetup there was BookwormPakistan too who shared their ideas with us and they will be joining us on our next meetup too. You can join us too at KhiBookSwap.

free bookmark by @Bookwormpak

   So far I swapped two books, one was 'Why Haven't You Written?' by Nadine Gordimer swapped with Ifrah Waqar and second one was 'Speed Post: Letters to My Children' by Shobha De which I swapped with Rejah Khawar, both were very different and very beautifully written.

Why Haven't You Written? 

Speed post: Letters to My Children

   This book has short stories from 1950 to 1972 when South Africa was under apartheid rule. The scenery and situations were unique for me and Nadine Gordimer did her best to capture the nuances and complex emotions. Some stories are short and some are long and most of them are entertaining and simple.

Speed post: Letters to My Children

    It is a collection of letters from a mother to her children. These letters told you how much she is concerned about her children. You can learn lot about parenting from these letters, some letters can make you laugh and some are very thoughtful. This was my first book that was written by an Indian author and I like the way she writes. It's a must read for every mother.