The Karachi Walla met Rumana Husain at her residence on a bright winter day. She was dressed in her signature attire and was gracious as ever. She had a guest already, one of her former students visiting from abroad. She was deep into the conversation and inquired from her about many of her fellow students, cheering their eccentricities one by one. She has a sharp memory and recollection which only comes with genuine concern about the welfare of one’s students.
Rumana Husain is a graphic designer by training but in a long productive career has excelled as a Painter, Illustrator, Art Critic, Editor, Teacher, Trainer and a Writer. She has written more than sixty books for children and has also published ‘Karachi Wala – a subcontinent within a city’ and ‘Street smart – professionals on the street’, two comprehensive books which capture the diversity of Karachi.
The conversation changed from one topic to another. She had a lot to add to most of the topics. Mukhtar Husain, Rumana’s husband and eminent architect joined us a little later. My eyes kept wandering from one wall to another. The red bricks which was a prominent feature of the front facade was present inside on at least one wall of each space, gradually dissolving boundaries between exterior and interior, rather subtly. Rumana told us that they have been collecting masks and other collectibles from different parts of the world which were installed on the walls of the living space along with a lot of art, some of Rumana’s and some of prominent Pakistani artists.
After getting married, Rumana did not practice and focused solely on her family. When her first child was born, instead of buying toys off the shop, she made him stuffed toys herself. This was a sign of things to come, and she had her first exhibition of stuffed toys soon. The exhibition led to Murals and Art work for children using fabric. Her work was appreciated so much that the entire Children’s Ward at AKUH had it on display for twenty-five years, and even IUCN’s headquarters in Switzerland and its Karachi office has her murals installed for many decades now. And it was just the start of a promising career.
Mukhtar sb told me that their house is built on five levels with the elevation rising as you go inside the house. It makes the house look much smaller from outside. The living spaces as well as the bedrooms are rather small in order to keep energy costs low. Every space has adequate windows to make them airy and well lit, all using natural light. The wind circulation is an important and thought-out feature with equal sizes of inlet and outlets on both ends of the house ensuring a wind channel through the house.
The house has both husband and wife’s mark on it, with Rumana’s art sense and Mukhtar’s architectural genius making it one of the loveliest personal spaces Karachi walla has ever been to.