KARACHI: The likes of Perween Rahman do not die. They become legend — gone but not forgotten by the thousands whose lives they have touched through their work. Rahman may have been forced to leave the world through a cruel twist of fate but her cause lives on.
“The legacy of Perween Rahman started the day she joined the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP),” said Tasneem Siddiqui, a social scientist. She was a teacher, a researcher, an architect and a fighter. It was the combination of all these qualities that ultimately claimed her life.
Siddiqui was sharing her views with teachers and students of architecture from Dawood University of Engineering and Technology, NED University of Engineering and Technology and the University of Karachi. Teachers Against War and Oppression of the Karachi University and Friends of Perween Rehman organised a three-day series of events at the KU arts auditorium to pay tribute to Rehman’s legacy.
The three-day event included a day-long painting exercise on August 3 on the topics of development and violence and a day trip to Bahria town and Gadap Town on August 5 to look into the mapping of the city and understand how the new development projects are set to destroy the system.
The event concluded on August 6 with a seminar on the topic of ‘The legacy of Perween Rahman-development for poor’ to recognise her work and to enable students to understand her vision. The paintings on development and violence made as a tribute to Perween were also exhibited in the Arts lobby on Thursday.
“I still remember those days when I used to study in Dawood College of Engineering and Technology and Perween Rahman was a teacher there,” recalled Rabia Siddiqui, one of her colleagues. Though Rahman never taught her, she still admired her as an institution.
With a heavy heart, she recalled how Rahman had helped her in bringing out her hidden talent when she decided to leave the project after a month. “Perween took me to the site and told me to meet the people and discuss their problems,” she said. “It was Perween’s rule to recognise the feel of the problem first before coming up with a solution and I want to forward this rule to my students and young colleagues.”
Terming Perween Rahman an ‘institution’ in her own right, one of her friends, Sadia Fazli, said that she had known Rahman since 1972 as a classmate, a colleague and even sitting on the opposite side of the table while presenting project proposals to the World Bank. “There were times when people didn’t listen to her and ignored her talent but she was the one who developed the greatest master plan for the city,” she informed the students gathered in the hall.
A project can never be successful without two things: technology and administration. Perween had learnt the art of both, said architect and urban planner, Arif Hasan. “She proved herself within a period of five years and became the director of OPP in 1987,” he said, praising the woman’s talent and vigour and encouraging students to take forward her vision.
In his hour-long presentation, Hasan discussed how NGOs have worked with communities and encouraged them to develop their slums areas. He also criticised how new developments in the city such as the Bahria projects will affect the water supply in the city for the worse. “We are not against development, but against the development that damages the land.” Karachi Indigenous Rights Alliance (KIRA) historian, Gul Hassan Kalmatti, seconded Hasan’s view.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2015.