My Friend, Architect Parween Rehman, killed on 12th March 2013, in Karachi, Sindh
By Humaira Rahman
I met Parween in January 1981. I was 25 years old, and Parween a few years younger. I had just returned to Karachi armed with my degree in Architecture from University of California, Berkeley.Parween was a 4th year student of Architecture at Dawood College of Engineering and Technology, Karachi, Sindh.
Within a fortnight of returning home to Karachi, I was recruited by (late) Professor Kausar Bashir Ahmed, Dean of Architecture, to join D.C.E.T as visiting lecturer, to teach 2 courses a week for Rs 1500 per month.
I was thrilled and eager to introduce two new courses to the curriculum, from my experiences and time at Berkeley. I had saved all the course material and more.
The first was a 2nd year course tit;ed “Environmental Psychology” and the other was a 4th year course titled “Environmental Impact Assessment”.
In this latter course 4th year architecture students were asked to select a recently built building in the city and research its impact on its surroundings, and submit a report to fulfill the course requirement: They were asked to address the following questions: did the building add value to the surrounding environment or did it detract? How was the flaura and fauna affected? what happened to the extra needs generated by the building? what happened to the parking, sewerage, water supply, pedestrian rights , garbage collection etc etc ? what class of people did the building benefit , only the rich or some of the poor to?
My goal was to sensitise students to the environment , to look beyond their indvidual building projects to the overall fabric of the city. To look beyond the needs of the elite patrons who fund buildings and see the city as a place that belongs to all its residents.
Parween Rehman signed up for the EIA course. She was my most brilliant student. Her leading questions and critical approach made me feel I had a natural co teacher, in her.
Together we energised the class of 37 or so , many of who were young men from rural towns in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.
As Course Director, I decreed that reports could be submitted in any language not just English. Parween was very pleased and helped me with the translations of papers submitted in Urdu by the Baloch and Pushtun students. I handled the Sindhi and English ones myself and we had the most fascinating class discussions.
Later, soon after she graduated I learnt that she joined the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) instead of a “successful” practice. I respected Parween’s decision to join OPP as I have respected few peoples decisions in their choices of career path.
Over the years , I watched her from a distance and never lost that sense of deep admiration and respect. Recenetly , I met post Urban Planning graduate students at University of Toronto, Canada who had visited the OPP in Karcahi, Sindh and came away mesmerized by what Parween had achieved.
In Parween Rehman, Sindh has lost a rare individual.
May her murderers rot in hell in their afterlife, and in the meanwhile live to suffer in ways they never dreamed would come their way.
Rest in peace always , Parween. Your memory shines a path. Sha’ aal khush hujeen sadaiiN
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/e-groups, March 13, 2013.