Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Socially Responsible Architect Parveen Rehman

Her last class Tuesday March 12,
2013, at Karachi University,
Visual Studies Department.
(photo by a student)
I live in Karachi, not a city of lights any more, but violence. Where crime stories are referred to as routine and the number of dead-bodies becomes important, when the count is more than a dozen. The city of Karachi lost yet another soul, who was a mentor, teacher, educator for hundreds of students at Visual Studies Department, University of Karachi; NED University; Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture; and Dawood College of Engineering and Technology. She left in her legacy students who know the difference between a slum area and a squatter settlement.

Today we mourn the loss of Parveen Rehman, one of the best teachers I had a chance to interact with. She taught me how ‘not to hate the poor’; not to refer to ‘katchi-abadis’ as slums and instead ‘squatter settlements’, for she said in her sweet melodious voice, “Slums mean poverty, crime, hopelessness, while ‘squatter settlements’ are a hub of hope, cultural diversity, will to make things better. Don’t you think so too? I feel we should not say ‘slums’. It sounds so wrong.” She asked if I knew that people in squatter settlements take care of each other more. ‘They stand up to support their neighbor if there is a problem’.

If I am aware of these nuances today, it is because of Parveen. If I disagree with the popular discourse that this country has gone to the dogs, it is because of teachers like her. People like her, who chose not to runaway in the face of threats, fears of losing loved ones and being left alone to deal with problems.... Problems of sectarian violence, of Tehreek-e-Taliban, of land grabbers, tanker mafia and in all this, the political 'gamers'. The ones who love playing the blame game as they please, who say its a foreign Jewish, Indian conspiracy when Shia are killed, but are jumping the gun this time by saying the Taliban killed her.

To the politically linked land-mafia.... we haven't forgotten Nisar Baloch, who worked for saving the Gutter Baghicha. And we won't forget Parveen Rehman. We lost an educator, who shaped a generation of socially responsible architects, planners, teachers and activists. She left a legacy and you cannot take that away!

PS: Also found out today about how they killed Abdul Ghani for Kakapir Mangrove Project. And still morons want to claim it was the Taliban.


  1. Another Unbelievable, shocking news out of Karachi, I just got from BBC. This time, one of my own, my teacher at Architecture program at DCET, got killed on the streets of Karachi. I am just without words!!!
    Such a nice lady! Ms. Rehman devoted all her life for improving the lives of poor people. She opted to work for slums and katchi Abadis leaving the glamour of architecture practice.
    May God bless this soul!

    Arif M. Ahmed Atlanta USA

  2. If the small thoughts of one new reader in the U.S. can keep you safe to continue to bravely speak out, here I am.

    Like you, I have trouble defining myself. Like you, I have great teachers who made me more courageous.

    I am so sorry for your teacher's loss. But she surely would be amazed, astonished, and grateful for your efforts to awaken the world to her wonderful work.

    Attention must be paid! And I am paying attention. Peace.