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MetuPaki Chicago Get Togather, July 29 - 31, 2016

A brief report on MetuPaki reunion at Chicago, by Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui and a write-up by Mohammed Aslam

Our great host, Arif Zahiruddin Khan who made all the local arrangements and stay at his home.

Participants (Click on Names for details):
1. Khalid Zaki, Karachi 8. Tariq Alauddin, Texas
2. M. Fazlullah Shariff, Karachi 9. Jahangir Khan, VA
3. Mohammed Aslam, Halifax, Canada 10. Arif Zahiruddin Khan, Chicago
4. Mohammed Zafar Mahmood, Toronto, Canada 11. Syed Ahmed (Tipu), Chicago
5. Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui, Islamabad, visiting DC 12. Anwar Shareef, NC
6. Shahid Sarwar, Ohio 13. Qaisar Shareef, MD
7. Mohammed Ali Jr., California

The early arrivals were on Wed-Thursday, when Khalid Zaki, Sharfu and Mohammed Ali jr arrived. The rest of us arrived on Friday afternoon to evening.

After all the METU style pleasantries exchanged, and all the embraces, we started the evening with a dinner at Zak’s Pizza Pasta and Wing’s restaurant. 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 for the night past midnight. Arif had arranged mattresses for us in the basement of his house. The basement is very spacious and I am sure many more 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 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 along the shore at that point with a beautiful view of the city skyline. We walked along the shore and took lots of photos there.

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 had not been anticipated was 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 close to the Navy Pier. As we got close, everyone got out from the vehicle to walk towards the Navy 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. As luck would have it, we got back to the Navy Pier by mistake, and then Arif decided to try his luck in the Navy Pier parking lot. With his skills in driving, we went 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 METU training he had, 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 go 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, three walkers had reached the food court and had their lunch – pizza. We too joined them.

And after the pizza 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. It was an open barge type of a boat and there must have been 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 city showing us how Chicago developed as a city over the past couple of hundred years. The buildings and high rises have left their mark of history. But other than history, 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.

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 God, she is much better now. And Tipu was able to come and meet us at the Bean. Finally it was very good to see him too.

The Bean is a very unique monument made of polished stainless steel. And as you go around it, you can see all of Chicago reflected into 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. But 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.

Finally we all converged again at Zizi’s Café. Mohammed Ali and his wife Zeba also arrived there. 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. I was the first one to leave. Most of the others had flights during the afternoon, while a few will be staying back until tomorrow morning.

I arrived in Baltimore at 10am. I will try to post some photographs separately. And I hope the others will fill us in with the rest of the details and what transpired today. Thanks a million to Arif once again and to the other organizers. Enjoyed every minute of it.

Write-up by Mohammed Aslam

Table Contents
  1. Good eye witness news
  2. Some good punch lines
  3. Few codes that I could not decipher
  4. Needed some more spice for next
I will do the writing first. Pictures and videos clips will follow. I am still not able to get hold of the phone pictures because of the lack of expertise. But I promise, some of the visual material I have is good.

I enjoyed thoroughly. My tickets were expensive (Khalid, I purchased the cheapest expensive tickets). I had to be Shahid's chauffeur twice; half-way 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 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 waese 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 so 'kaminas'. In my view, we are very Sharif people, and three are named as such.

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.

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         # of steps  Activities and thoughts
Jul 29 Fri 5,907 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. Its 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 sleep. I sleep right in the middle, feeling secure and serene, surrounded by familiar sounds.
Jul 30 sat 10,800 The tourism day. Kazi has posted so many pictures. I need not repeat. Special events are 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, 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
. . . . Now on to Photos >>