The team presented a 15-minute audio and visual journey of the true account of Anne's diaries in Pakistan when she went to meet her father for the Edinburgh Royal Lyceum's Wonder Festival 2022.
Anne Wood: Soundtrack creation, composer, musician and voice artist (except Strauss Waltzes)
Rakae Jamil: Sitar
Anthony O’Flaherty: Pakistan photography
Eleanor Mumford: Designer of images and installation (website)
Niloo-Far Khan: Co- Director
Kath Burlinson: Co- Director
Kate Taylor: Producer
With special thanks to The Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, Jackie Crichton, Alexandra Lort Phillips, Craig Fleming Jack Summers-McKay and Allander.
The making of the installation with Eleanor Mumford and Niloo-Far Khan
When Mountains Meet
It all started right here at the Lyceum 35 years ago…well sort of…I was raised by my mother in 60s and 70s Edinburgh. Before knowing I existed, my Dad had returned to his country of Pakistan to be a doctor, so growing up, there was a huge part of me, curious to find him…At the age of 28 that curiosity got the better of me, so I tracked him down and wrote him a letter.
Dear Dr Agha Shirazi,
Please sit down. I was born in June 1963 and my mother is Janet Macrae from Edinburgh, I believe you are my father.
I would be grateful if you could let me know what you think about this.
After my classical musician training in London, I returned to Edinburgh to perform at the Lyceum as Fiddler in Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off by Liz Lochead with Communicado Theatre Company.
And there I was, backstage in the Lyceum just before the show, peeking through the set – clocking the 2 empty seats I had booked in the Grand Circle, B 7 -8 …then my mum walked in with a tall man...my Dad, who was just as curious to know me...
My dad was the star of the after-show, befriending everybody, while demanding the best of everything from the waiters at the Lyceum Restaurant. He had the kindest eyes. I instantly felt such warmth and love from him.
He invited me to Pakistan. How could I say no?
So off I went to meet him in his city, Karachi.
I walked right into the arms of my Dad. ‘Things are different here’, he said and whisked me off in his scarlet Mercedes on a white knuckle ride through Karachi’s heat, colours, traffic, animals and people. Still jet-lagged, I was informed I would play at a concert that night where I would be guest of honour. One of the things about being a female visitor here is that it is assumed that you need looking after and you’re never left to fend for yourself.
After the performance, a young man approached me and said his father was very proud of his special guest. I suddenly realised I was looking at my half-brother. I’d been stared at constantly since I arrived in Karachi, but now I was the one staring back.
Then he said ‘I’m Farouq, eldest son. How do you know my father?’
He said it so lightly.
I said, ‘Maybe you can ask him?.’
At that moment my Dad whisked me away, ‘Come, let’s eat’, he said. Looking at the huge banquet of colourfully filled karahi dishes. I said ‘I’m vegetarian’. He said, ‘that’s OK, we have chicken.’
[on the train]
My Dad offered to take me on a train trip through Pakistan to get to know the country that he was so very patriotic about.
He promised to take me to see the mountains and then his birthplace in India. I longed to see the mountains, having loved my Scottish Highland summers with my grandparents.
Meeting Farouq prompted me to try to find out when my dad was planning to introduce me properly to his family, and stop pretending I was a charity worker from the UK. He said, ‘Be patient.’ But did I have any right or claim to my half-family? Or was I just a misfit, a taboo?
It turned out my Dad had business to do every place we went, meeting important medical people. Our first stop was the farthest and most westerly city - Peshawar, close to the Afghan border and the Khyber Pass. Famous for chapli kebabs - kebabs the size of a man’s sandal, or chapple, as they say, and sold at the Smuggler’s Bazaar. I was advised to keep my head covered the whole time but my dupatta kept slipping off. I loved the feel and comfort of wearing shalwar kameez but the funny thing was, I was in traditional dress while my Dad wore bright lurid Pringle sweaters!
Next stop was Islamabad with my Dad’s sister and brother-in-law - my blood, my kin - and no-one knew who I was. I was so sick of pretending to be someone I wasn’t The more time I spent on the trip pretending I wasn't my father’s daughter, the further away I felt from myself. Drums
Then I had a huge fight with Dad and spent the day thinking about leaving and heading back to the UK.
It also dawned on me that working as a musician, particularly if you are a woman, is not seen as very respectable. My dad’s colleagues were a bit embarrassed when I told them this was my profession. One doctor said he was sure he could arrange me some gigs in a casino! Sounded dodgy.
I decided to travel without dad to the place where the Himalaya, Hindu Khush and Karakorum mountain ranges meet. Gilgit Going cross fade Alap MAp
This colossal landscape, created by such dramatic forces: a collision of bedrock from different places, thrusting, folding together, forced upwards to become the highest mountains in the world…
being here gave me a moment of clarity: my sense of belonging is grappling with diverse elements that have melded together, like this meeting of mountains has created this beautiful, ambiguous place. Where things begin or end, who knows.
But it undeniably exists.
I decided to keep going on this journey with my father.
Dad had to head on to Lucknow for business but I wanted to visit Lahore and it’s old city.
On the train I was fed omelette and roti and Pink Panther movies played on the screens. A strange contrast to the amazing landscape we were travelling through: desert, villages, camels, horses and carts, leather backed buffalo. The cow pats get stuck to the outside of the houses to dry, then used as fuel.
Oh it’s so great to finally be allowed to be a tourist and see the sights - and what sights! I visited the Shalimar Gardens and Jahanghir’s tomb, beautiful, crumbling and glorious, evidence of Mughal former glory. The drive through the old city was amazing – great to see the place alive at night. Lots of the tea and food stalls were brightly lit in full flow. I just loved this old walled city – it reminded me of how Edinburgh Old town might have been, except it was still like this there, operating as it had for centuries.
Along the tiny streets behind curtained doorways are the dancing women, looking very beautiful. Clusters of tiny bells on their ankles, drums lying around. I saw the link clearly between music and prostitution. Courtesans have employed musicians for centuries and music traditions are very much alive here in the Lahore red light district. So this is why respectable people in society slightly wince when I say I’m a professional musician. I get it now.
When I got to Old Delhi railway station I was glad to find my Dad waiting for me to catch the train to Lucknow. The space had done us some good.
From the train I took in early sights of India…. palms, people, cattle, greenery, buffalo, outdoor schools. I overheard Dad telling the latest man he had befriended that he was born in Lucknow, significantly omitting the fact that he was from Pakistan now. The family roots were there for 400 years. For the first time I was connecting to this history.
[horse drawn carriages? Street noise]
This was my Dad’s birthplace, like me arriving in Edinburgh or Scourie, but I had never imagined there could be a place like this. It’s stepping back at least to the 1940s - apart from the cars, it could be any century. The crumbled grandeur of the buildings – utterly dreamlike and beautiful. Cows, goats, people in a confusion of cycles and pedi-rickshaws.
Suddenly Dad shouted to a young man who was on the other side of the station. With a shock I realised it was Farouq, my half-brother, whom I’d met at the concert in Karachi. ‘Farouq!’ shouted Dad, ‘Come and meet your sister!’
I had always considered myself a strong person, but I was totally overcome. I had been climbing a mountain on this trip. Every rock seemed to hold a secret. Every step revealed more of the history, character and perspective of the land and its people. And now, near the summit, a whole vista seemed to be opening up.
Farouq was instantly warm and friendly and seemed less shocked than me. Just like that he accepted me. It was his first time in Lucknow too and in no time Dad whisked us off to the old family house.
The house was lovely, white arches and a beautiful garden. Dad suddenly seemed sad. He said ‘This was our family land, when Partition happened we couldn’t take anything with us. All the family treasures were buried – but it’s all gone.’ I tried to imagine my family having to leave Scourie overnight and returning decades later as foreigners.
Farouq put an arm on Dad’s shoulder and said, ‘Home is wherever you are’.. It was so touching to see. Farouq asked me if I’d be willing to play. I was so moved that he genuinely seemed to want it to happen. Dad requested his usual: Strauss Waltzes, and sang along at the top of his voice.
We must have made a funny trio – Farouq clapping and laughing, me playing the Blue Danube and Dad warbling along, out of tune and much louder than me. I was laughing so much I could hardly play, but there we were, I was playing fiddle with my dad in the middle and brother at his side. In my grandparents home.
We were the mountains finally meeting in the middle right at the end of one extraordinary journey, and perhaps at the start of another.