Archive for the ‘Amritsar-Lahore’ Category

Magnificent 180-year old Panj Mandir screams for help/ Rashmi Talwar / The Tribune SPECTRUM


Magnificent 180-year-old Panj Mandir screams for help
Rashmi Talwar

Panj Mandir in Fatehgarh Churian, Gurdaspur, is a jewel of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign. It is the maternal hometown of Rani Chand Kaur, wife of Kharak Singh, son of the Maharaja

Straddling streets of New York, seeing the ancient melt so smoothly; antiquated churches virtually like “flowers” amidst sky-scrapers, I was gripped by shame. The scene reminded me of our callousness towards our rich heritage in India. Where graffiti defaces marvellous frescoes, a crude nail has gouged out an eye; a paan-spit splashed red blob is the depths of apathy towards our glorious past.

Glorious Panj Mandir

Glorious Panj Mandir

If the enthralling grandeur of Amritsar’s GoldenTemple is credited to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Panj Mandir is another marvellous jewel, ingloriously unrecognised of the Maharaja’s reign. It is some 30 km from the GoldenTemple, in Fatehgarh Churian Gurdaspur, the maternal hometown of Rani Chand Kaur, wife of Kharak Singh, son of the Maharaja.

Attributed to Rani Chand Kaur, the Panj Mandir’s structure below the dome is a unique zigzag, created by precision laying of specially made bricks, inspired by Solanki architecture and Baoli art of step-creation. Indo-Mughal, Sikh architectural confluences have amalgamated in this marvellous structure with four mandirs marking four directions and a sanctum sanctorum.

The inner and outer fort-like walls and the temple entrances are studded with jharokhas in bas relief, reminiscent of Rajasthani architecture. Remarkable, rare frescoes tell stories of yore in exquisitely carved niches, so resilient as to stand bright till today. “I am too scared to step on the brick flooring as I feel my shoes may erase some traces of rich heritage”, an American’s remark disgraced me once.

Our magnificent heritage could not only be made self-sustaining but its optimum utiliSation could accrue prosperity and income. “Tourism is created with ideas and here we sit on a virtual mountain of treasure and let it be robbed or crumble,” laments an expert.

Beautiful artwork

Heritage experts believe the temple may have been built around 1830 and is thus nearly 180 years old. Much of the lower portions of frescoes is white-washed, and the present caretaker Pt. Mohinder Kumar, who religiously cleans and secures it from encroachment, may beautify it with bathroom tiles and multicolours, out of sheer ignorance. The temple’s foundations are already being dug for new housing, emerging adjacent to it.

The wealth of resplendent frescoes comprises episodes of Krishan stealing bathing gopis clothes, Yashoda Maiyya churning butter with a madhani. Frescoes also show Guru Nanak with disciples Bhai Mardana and Bala, Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh, Saraswati-Lakshmi, Radha-Krishan, Shiv-Parvati-Ganesh, Kartikeya-on-Peacock, Ganga emerging from Shiva’s locks. Vishnu reclining, with Nag-chatri in ocean, Durga Mata aloft a lion, valiant horse-rider, episodes of Narsingh, Prahlad, Baba Balaknath, Hiranyakashyap. These splendid frescoes-artifacts are facing erosion, their ruination imminent, if timely protection evades them.

Tertiary temples are devoted to Surya, Durga, Shiva and Kartikeya. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Ram with Sita, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan share space with Krishna-Radha.

This combination of gods goddesses on one pedestal is rare. Dr Subhash Parihar, an expert on historical structures, comments, “People were secular, many ancient gurdwaras-temples have frescoes displaying episodes of Hindu gods-goddesses.”

The frescoes resemble Chamba’s famed Rang Mahal paintings in Pahari style, ones in Sheesh Mahal near Ramnagar, Jammu, also seen in Dera Sahib Gurdwara, Lahore and temples around Katasraj in Pakistan.

The Baradari entrance with symmetrical twin Jharokas on both sides of angular walls open to the road, are in ruins. The rampart walls are embellished with exquisite Jharokas, geometrical patterns, flowers waves, carved canopies in bas relief complete with exquisite corbels. But the outer wall is wearing, as entire area is speedily coming up with housing.

Dr Balvinder Singh HoD Guru Ram Das School of Planning in GNDUniversity, comments: “The mandir resembles Konarkin Orissa and South Indian temples. The use of Nanakshahi bricks makes it unique.”

Mandirs are conjoined by a fort-wall with steps and walk-ways throughout the terrace, are peeling. One is covered with green climber and a syntax-watertank supplying water to a tiled bathroom constructed inside the ancient complex. Locals wait for a collapse, to grab the land. There were seven mandirs, two of which were outside the main complex, of which one exists in a dilapidated condition, locked and other, erased.

Panch-mukhi lingam

A rare five-headed or Panch-mukhi lingam in the temple represents five elements, five senses, five organs, five powers and the five temples of Panj Mandir. The five heads also signify the five aspects of Shiva corresponding to five holy places in Hinduism.

Ancient sarovar

About 120 yards from Panj Mandir stands a massive sarovar alongside Talab Wala mandir, believed to be built by Rani Chand Kaur to mark the birth or dastargiri of her son Kunwar Naunihal Singh. Some say, Nanakshahi bricks used for the mandir and sarovar were brought from Lahore via a human-chain. Almost 15 feet in depth, with 10 running steps throughout, the sarovar, 225 feet by 230 feet, has arched exit-entry water-points, and lies neglected.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE TRIBUNE ON AUGUST 25TH 2013 

URL:http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20130825/spectrum/society.htm

Manto’s Daughters explore their roots… By Rashmi Talwar


Manto’s Daughters warmly welcomed in India

Manto’s Daughters explore their roots

BY Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR SEPTEMBER 8, 2012–They were garlanded and warmly welcomed as they crossed the Wagah –Attari Indo Pak border. Even the BSF laid out a welcome fare for them. Village Paproundi was dancing, and gaily bedecked for the ‘pag feras’- the first visit of daughter to her father’s home, after the village’s son left it long ago.

Saadat Hassan Manto–One of the greatest short story writers during Partition of 1047

They arrived in an open jeep waving to the crowds and motorbike and scooter borne public in a grand procession, from Samrala in Ludhiana district, to the ancestral village of their father. As their cavalcade progressed Nighat Patel Manto, Nusrat Jalal Manto and Nuzhat Arshad Manto, daughters of acclaimed son of the soil Saadat Hasan Manto, belonging to this quiet little hamlet of Paproundi, felt the tangent ‘power of pen’ of their writer father, whose poignant stories on partition brought him accolades as well as brickbats during his lifetime. It was the 100th birthday celebrations of this Kashmiri, born in village Paproundi .

Ladoos and sherbet were pressed onto the eager entourage, a village Gurdwara priest decked the daughters with siropas while ‘bhangra’ was in full bloom to the beat of dhols and the village belles laid out a tangy flavour of ‘gidda’

Saadat Hasan Manto, a Kashmiri and a prolific writer had chronicled the freedom struggle and the aftermath of partition and churned such blatant writings as ‘Bu’ (odour), ‘Khol do’ (open it ) ‘Thanda Gosht’ (cold flesh) and ‘Toba Tek Singh’ -a story of mental asylum, a telling insight into the conditions prevailing during the tragic days of partition,. Unfairly berated, loved and loathed in equal measure during his lifetime, today Manto’s spirit loomed large in his gaily festooned village.

Castigated and tried for ‘obscenity’ for his writings that had unravelled the lives of prostitutes , besides which came tales of shocking inhumanity behind a curtain of religious fervour and multitude social issues, more tumbled out of dark closets in the form of ironies with surprise endings, in his stories.

Even after a hundred years of his birth, he is seen more as courageous man who told all, took all and remains untamed, without any apologies and thereby caught the imagination of the readers and fans like no other.

Manto was born in 1912 and celebrating the centennial of Manto’s birthday this year, his village sees a joyous procession welcoming his three daughters. Moving at a snail’s pace, a target of a young girl hit bulls-eye and the rolled petals she threw at the open jeep, opened mid-air in a petal shower over the heads of the daughters.

Here was born a man who had soothed his wife Safiya’s worried brow during his last alcoholic poverty ridden days with –“Safu jee, tuhanu kadi wi koi masla neyi huey ga” (you will never suffer any financial crisis) perhaps Manto knew that the world ahead would appreciate his lifetime’s toil in writing.

He was also the man who wrote his own epitaph-“Here lies buried Saadat Hasan Manto in whose bosom are enshrined all the secrets and art of short story writing. Buried under mounds of earth, even now he is contemplating whether he is a greater short story writer or God.”

But all the words are not seen on it anymore, said Nighat to Rising Kashmir –“My phuphoo (paternal aunt) replaced it, thinking that it could have serious consequences if left un-tampered”. So the epitaph today reads: “Here lies buried Manto who still believes that he was not the final word on the face of the earth.”

Manto, a writer ahead of his times, came to the state of Jammu &Kashmir only to recuperate and visited Doda, Kishtwar and Batote but could never visit the Kashmir valley as he later wrote in an open letter to Pt Jawaharlal Nehru.
His writings about injustices, social issues and harsh realities became a stark mirror to society about tabooed topics and these were challenged in courts in India and Pakistan, but he escaped conviction. Once he shot back to the judge, “A writer picks up his pen only when his sensibility is hurt.” His fears about America’s domination of Pakistan in his Uncle Sam series of letters proved, prophetic.

Born to a Kashmiri Muslim family, Manto had his early childhood in Amritsar. His father being a disciplinarian, Manto dreaded him and fared badly in studies. “Formal study was not his temperament” says his daughter Nusrat, who was barely 7-years when her father died but gathered the tit bits on her father from his friends. Nusrat is also working with Manto’s niece and noted historian Ayesha Jalal, who is writing a biography of Manto.

Ismat Chugtai, Manto’s contemporary writer and friend who too faced flak for her stories once quoted Manto as saying – “The future looks beautiful in Pakistan. As now Muslim migrants would get the houses of those who fled from here.” She adds “He was inconsolable and could not disassociate India from Pakistan or Bombay from his heart till his end.”

During the almost royalist procession the sisters looked up and in thanksgiving raised their hands in dua for peace, Nighat (67) who was born in India said ‘Indeed it feels like a true homecoming’ as if the heavens too were showering their blessings. By all means I would love to come to India and in the same breath, urged for easing of visas’.

Abdul Rehman, Trustee of the Aalmi Urdu Trust, Delhi aired his views that India and Pakistan‘s exchange in fields of literature, art and culture are the true bonding avenues that would erase the trust deficit between the two countries to a large extent.

Dr Mallik Raj Kumar a kathakaar and story writer, editor of Abhinav Imroz, a Hindi magazine who co-hosted the trio along with three other Urdu story writers including two women amongst them, queried if they would like to come every Sunday to India? To which they laughed ‘We can’t be so greedy, if we are allowed to come once a year, which would be sufficient’, they said as they laid the foundation of Manto Memorial Gate in the village. A primary school to be upgraded to Middle and named Manto Memorial School and a library in his name was broadcast to people of the village from the stage. To my query, if any of the sisters possessed Manto’s famed Schaeffer pens or the ‘khussa’ juttis he so loved or any such nishanian – Nuzhat retorted amusingly – “We are his three nishanian”

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BOX –A

Manto’s daughters from Pakistan

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote to his wife Alys upon Manto’s death “I was very sad to hear of Manto’s death. Inspite of all his shortcomings, he was very dear to me and I am proud that he was my student in Amritsar…”
He defended Manto against the charges levelled against him by the Progressives, not necessarily because he admired Manto’s art and his convictions (which he did, to some extent) but because he believed that freedom of speech and expression was a basic human right and should be defended at all costs. Faiz, one of the greatest poets of the sub continent, taught English in the Muslim Anglo Oriental (MAO) College at Amritsar before partition.
Manto for Punjabis is the common treasure of both India and Pakistan just as Amrita Pritam, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and others. While Pakistan government issued a commemorative stamp on Manto on his 50th Death anniversary, Indian officialdom did not bother for the celebrated writer, born as he was in India.
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BOX- B

Manto’s hometown Amritsar

Kucha Vakilan in Amritsar where Manto stayed

The daughters would visit the house occupied by Manto and their grandparents in Gali Kucha Vakilaan where shops have been constructed in place of Manto’s house, as also the ‘Hindu Sabha College’ at Dhab Khatikaan, in Amritsar before leaving for Lahore.
This college and the city of Amritsar holds a unique distinction as Manto- a Muslim, the present Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh- a Sikh and also the Hero of 1971 Indo Pak War that freed Bangladesh-First Field Marshal of India Sam Manekshaw –a Parsi had made Amritsar their home and studied in this college . Vijay Kapur (65) who had bought Manto’s place here and converted into a shop while talking to Rising Kashmir, said that his parents did talk about a writer staying here and loads of books were found in the house.
Manto was seven years old when in 1919 the Jallianwala Massacre took place that intensified the ouster of British and spelled freedom for India. Amritsar was the hub of revolutionary activities and as a young he is known to have gone on a spree of pasting anti British posters by night, which many revolutionary boys at the time freely indulged in.

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BOX-C
Point of view

Hindu Sabha College in Amritsar where Manto and many greats studied including Sam Manekshaw, PM Dr Manmohan Singh

Kuhu Tanvir on his impressions about Manto in Pakistan said, till five years ago it did not seem that Manto was actually celebrated in Pakistan. His books were impossible to find in shops in Lahore and his daughter confirmed for us that there was indeed some amount of suspicion around him as a figure and his works were definitely treated like ‘ticking bombs’ (which they are!).
Secondly, I went to Manto’s grave in Lahore (his daughter took us) and it was as plain and unadorned. Forget the epitaph, even his name was not on it. Like most Islamic graves, it was difficult to identify. They have redone it only in the last few years.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

Equal – Inequal ? By Rashmi Talwar


Rising Kashmir

Rising Kashmir



Equal – Inequal ?

By Rashmi Talwar

Apropos the article “Mr President: All is not well in Kashmir” written by Mr Shujaat Bukhari dated – 2nd Oct 2012, is timely and well thought. The writer has talked about ‘inequality’ in terms of the address made by President Pranab Mukerjee during his recent visit to Kashmir presiding over the convocation of Kashmir University espousing ‘equal rights and opportunities for Kashmir’. The writer’s demand for equality comes as a welcome shift in the focus of Kashmiris, from separatism to demanding rights as citizens of this country without indulging in stone pelting or other violent means, that has been the norm in Kashmir, not so long ago.
As Mr Shujaat points out about the ‘ the trust deficit between the people and the state’, which exists. But this cannot be wished away in a day or even months. Significant time is required besides the willingness of both parties to erase this deficit, which still lingers on and as stated in the article “embers of ‘Azadi’ have still not died” .

This sudden bursts of rebellion, became starkly clear during the Indo-Pak cricket match recently in which Pakistan lost to India. It was so strange to see that those few Kashmiris I knew, who had voiced their anger towards Pakistan and were openly castigating the fruitless support by Pakistan, calling it a failed country on crutches of US, were cheering for Pakistan! When asked about it, one of them replied –“We know all that, put that aside for the time being, but the general ‘Jazbaa’ is for Pakistan to win.” In other words ‘it has become more like a tradition’!

On one side people in Kashmir want to share the opportunities and rights extended to them by the Indian government but on the other hand, the ‘Jazbaa’ factor for Pakistan remains intact. This paradox of emotions smacks of double-play. “Demand rights but continue indulging in anti-state activities”. In other words “Keep crying”!
Arun a Kashmiri now in St Jose USA questions Kashmiris : “Is Islam so weak a religion, that is can be defiled by some fool who makes a worthless film, worthy of ridicule? Or is Islam a religion whose message is so loud and clear, whose truth is so self evident that a million such movies can do nothing?” and answers “I am sure it is the latter. Then why not ignore the film and let it sink into hell? Why have a bandh, which hurts the common man? I can see why Geelani wants a bandh. He wants to re-assert himself as a leader. Without these bandh’s many like him could sink into oblivion, especially when Kashmir is getting peaceful. So he demeans Islam by giving importance to this film. Just what I would expect, from politicians who uses Islam to increase their own importance.”
Another Kashmiri believes “Give Kashmiris freedom of speech but not taxpayer’s money for waging a war against the Indian state.”
Given this scenario of a state- that is just a juvenile step into normalcy and continues to be potentially eruptive, some harsh measures need to be taken to douse the adrenaline of mischief mongers to stoke the embers of distrust once again and bring in chaos , anarchy and grave loss of life.

In normal circumstances and conditions, people behave in a ‘normal’ fashion wherein dissent co-exists with assent “correction- through evaluation, criticism, protests or demonstrations.” But these choices are not adequate for those sitting on the sidelines of Power in Kashmir. “They would wind up the toy uptil its last string and let it loose in a distorted but new pattern and then watch the drama play, clapping their hands in glee”.

Ban on social networking sites should be time bound, but the apprehensions of the ruling government are genuine, in my opinion. The dreadful video could be downloaded and uploaded on multiple sites to incite violence. ‘What has till now not been seen (even by those who screamed their lungs out, killed and ransacked public property even in Pakistan) maybe broadly broadcast on massive screens, their ill-gotten intent succeeding with emotional appeals on sites like Facebook or Youtube .
Would those who are suffering the ban on such sites merely miss their daily dose of interactions and would they be able to justify the havoc created by the misuse of these very sites?

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING kASHMIR

Peace Pangs and Pain of Partition, Candle Lit Freedom at Midnight ———– By Rashmi Talwar


Candle Lit Vigil on Indo Pak /Wagah Attari /Border in Amritsar -2012


RISING KASHMIR FRONT PAGE – 17 AUG 2012 Indo Pak Candle Lit Vigil /Wagah Attari /Amritsar -


Peace Pangs and Pain of Partition, Candle Lit Freedom at Midnight ———– By Rashmi Talwar
On the Midnight of August 14-15, a candle in hand, I walk with peaceniks, to Wagah-Attari Indo-Pak Joint check post in Amritsar. The tearing border of yore, on this particular day, is beauteously bridal showered.

Dark trees, shrubs draped in twinkling drops of fairy lights and strings of glitzy flags, transform the stringent security postures and the night’s gloom into a bejeweled bride, festooned for the Independence Day Celebrations of India and Pakistan- the two countries who had chosen to separate but cannot wish away their umbical cord or get over their shared history.

Like a wedding shagun, a basket of fruits and sweets arrive from Pakistan to India and the gesture is reciprocated the next morning by India to Pak.

It is the 17th year by Peace activists as well as organizations ‘Folklore Research Academy’ (FRA), ‘Hind Pak Dosti Manch’ , ‘Punjab Jagriti Manch’, that conceived the idea of Candle lit Vigil annually on this momentous occasion of Freedom, at a time when one country’s dusk coincided with dawn of the other.

Lighting candles had come as a symbolic gesture of peace between two clanking forbidding Gates – an unspoken barrier of no trespass! That open every morning and close by sunset.

The idea of candle lit vigil was infact a simplistic emotional call for friendship, sharing pains of separation, longing hearts and prayer for harmony on the midnight of Freedom. It started as a friendship mela at Wagah, in memory of Raja Porus a common hero for denizens of both countries.

I reached a little early, giving me the luxury of retrospect. Gaping at the peeking moon, beaming in its full circular glory, through diaphanous clouds, it made me wonder if there shone a moon on those sultry, bloody August nights of 1947. The nights of stealth, loot, rape, fear, blood screams and surrenders to the greatest inhumanity to shake the Earth, leaving millions homeless, naked and paupered.

I wondered was this, one of the routes traversed by those loaded bullock carts, donkeys, sheep and goats and teeming millions, household buckets brimful with oddities, weary animals, to have written their footsteps in blood, crossing the Cyril Radcliff line.

“Did they fold their hands in prayer looking at the sky for a savior or in thanksgiving, for being alive?” Starving, in tatters, lost and bewildered as to what this meant for their future.

The cities, towns and villages quivering at their changed destinies, shuffled like a pack of cards, by a single stroke of a pen, of the reigning regime of the English; fearful of the bottomless pits of depravity by human-turned animals.

I looked askance at the trees, “Why did you stand as mute spectators to the bloodshed of innocents waylaid by mobs, blood curdling screams of many a fair maiden carried away in a frenzy of lust and fury?”

I had heard of many a head of the family’s frozen turbulence, in putting their girls and woman on the sacrificial altar, cutting their heads with a swift stroke of a sword and the bloodied heads, rolling onto male feet. Brave some women stood with chilled faces witnessing the, ‘nanga nachch of vaishiyaat’ (naked dance of death)…

I stilled these stirrings….

Tonight was different, guards had been raised, and BSF personnel guarded at every 50 steps.
A threatening barbed wire fence loomed in the darkness but faces glowed in shimmering fairy lights.
I saw, people had changed !
Perhaps, the wounds healed and generations that faced it all, turned greyer and wiser. “Hatred divides and Peace Unites; There was no third path !”
The call from Indians this time too was answered with solidarity and support from Pakistan’s peaceniks of SAFMA (South Asian Free Media Association). A call for harmony, peace, mutual coexistence, for progress and prosperity through enhanced trade, visitations, easings, release of prisoners on either sides.
Now an annual feature, the candle-lit vigil first started as a trickle say FRA’s leading names Ramesh Yadav and Talwinder Singh; with the first breakthrough of poetical symposium at Wagah Indo-Pak border by Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha in 1993.
Down the years the innocent blaze of candle lights contributed to awaken the political authorities from their self-imposed slumber.
The flag of peace taken forward this time did not include celebrities. Mahesh Bhatt, Tara Gandhi- Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter and journalist Kuldip Nayyar were conspicuous by their absence while the cultural programme on the stage too was taken over not by the likes of established singers Harbhajan Mann or Hans Raj Hans, but by blooming youthful singers -Jyoti and Sultana the teenage Noora Sisters of Coke studio fame who unleashed sufi Punjabi music,, bonding the gathering of multitudes that trickled in from border villagers. The crowds swung into a frenzy of music, Bhangra and Buraaah !

Singers Nachattar Gill , Firoz Khan—who sang –‘Sadi Zindagi ch khaas teri thaa, Sochi na tenu dilon kadd ta ..(You have a special place in my heart, think not that my heart has abandoned you ) or “Ravi puchey Chenaab toh , Ki haal hai Satluj da ..” (River Ravi asks river Chenab in Jammu &Kashmir, how is river Satluj -Punjab being the land of five rivers –Panj-five, aab-water ) addressing the Indo Pak separation.

Pak women journalists, an MNA –Member of the National assembly –Tahmina Daultana, Faiza Ahmed Malik –Member state assembly, Awais Sheikh- counsel for Indian prisoners in Pakistan, besides mediapersons made up a medley crowd of representations from Pakistan who stood on the Indian side of the border hand in hand with Indians.

On the stage Raga Boyz –a three member band of brothers and sons of Ustad Hamid Ali Khan –Pak’s Gazal Maestro, drummed out the famed trespasses of naughty ‘Jugni’- the cult female folklore figure , brave and rebellious, bellowing out her antics, to the huge crowd who joined in from adjoining border villages.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s congratulatory note was read. “But what good is word oral or written if changes do not take place on the ground” contended Satnam Manak spearheading the Peace march.

Kargil war in 1999, viewed as a back stabbing operation by Pak , served as a bolt from the blue, for the efforts of peace, close on the heels of the CBM euphoria over improving Indo Pak relations, but peaceniks never gave up .
In its 66th year of Independence, and 17 years of ‘candle lit vigil’ this is only the 5th time that peaceniks from Pakistan were allowed to come near the gate to give momentum to the movement of peace.

And the jubilation turned infections when India’s candles glowed and were waved while Pakistanis took more liberties and stuck the candles in the niches that make up Pakistan’s side of the metal border gate. They even mounted upon the gates, peeking through and singing songs while the Pak Rangers and Border Security Force personnel in India smiled and laughed at their antics indulgently.

Songs of ‘Tere Mere geetan pyaar da Pul bandhna, Iss kaandiyali Tarr ne ek din Phul banna …’ (Our songs shall one day become a bridge, ..this barbed wire shall one day turn into a flower..). singing ‘Heer’- another common legend of love, turned crowds to thump a -bhangra in euphoria.
A 40 member Peacenik delegation from Pakistan and the Indian Peace organizations jointly highlighted the commonalities of Punjabis beyond the dividing line. Making fervent appeals to both nations to shed differences and grant visa-less travel to senior citizens, for a year, especially those who had suffered the pain of the partition.
The call did not end here. It called for visa less travel for under 12 year olds. The idea was brilliant. In other words it called for a grandparent to take their grandchildren to the land of their forefathers and forge a feeling of love amongst those who have no clue about the reasons of enmity, stoked by vested interests whose lifeline lay in continued hostilities.
They called for cutting of expense on weapons and alleviating causes to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, creating better civic infrastructure.
For “setting up visa counters at JCP on both sides to facilitate more travel.” This meant more people to people contact and a chance to remove long festered misgivings and doubts. And to resolve the Kashmir issue amicably.

Unlike Kashmir that still has its Bloodlines intact post partition, Punjab was brutally amputated and separated from the other Punjab.

Just after the candles were lit and had played their part, a rain shower washed the entire dirt floating in the air to bring winds of change for this land of hope. I again stole a glance at the moon that emerged through the spent clouds, its baby face shone more glorious and I prayed it would banish this darkness of hatred forever.
URL of story :http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/peace-pangs-and-pain-of-partition-31716.aspx
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON FRONT PAGE DATED 17 AUGUST 2012

Lahore’s Rashid Rana Puts Us In Our Place….. BY NAYANTARA KILACHAND


Graphics by Rashid Rana


Viewers find a certain delight in the works of Rashid Rana. The Pakistani artist is primarily known for his style of stitching together thousands of digital images of deliberate provocation to form a single image of seeming innocuousness. Take for instance, his “Veil Series”, where pixellated images of porn were placed mosaic-style to form images of women in burkhas. The delight, of course, is partly in discovering the deception afoot, which saddled with all the socio-political implications of porn and Islam and feminism, make for a titillating message.

It’s something that the viewer is likely to “get” whether or not he’s versed in current Pakistani politics, and such is their intrinsic appeal that the Lahore-based Rana has managed to remain both immensely popular and critically loved. Here, in Mumbai for his two-gallery show “Apposite/Opposite”, the 44-year-old Rana lures the viewer in with the same sense of familiarity—we see his mosaic images, recognise the larger form (it’s a horse!) or the smaller stich (it’s a Caravaggio!)—but then having earned our trust, he proceeds to screw with us entirely.

We’re subject to this, for instance, in “Anatomy Lessons Series 3”, which is on display at Chemould Prescott Road gallery (the Chatterjee & Lal leg of the show will open later this week): art history students might recognise it as a detail from Michiel Jansz Van Miereveld’s “Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Willem van der Meer” (everyone else, take a gander at the original here), which shows a naked male body, dissected by a doctor and his students. The work flickers gently on a flatscreen TV, its canvas made up of hundreds of moving images culled from CCTV footage, films and documentaries.

You can just about make out grainy scenes of violence, some of people in an arid landscape of no discernible geographic location, some Big Brother-ly shots of people on streets, doing apparently nothing more than walking. It’s a weird mix of a kind of academic butchery and violence of a more insiduous kind, which through the placement of surveillance presupposes our nature to be bad.

Whatever you do, don’t leave without spending some time with “Desperately Seeking Paradise II”, a mirrored grid installation that from a certain viewpoint reveals itself to be a skyline. Rana says the buildings are an amalgam of various American and European city skylines that are in turn composed of thousands of images of houses in Lahore. It’s the recognition of one kind of trope—the physical might of Western architecture and in turn its economy—layered on a trope of another kind—of something distinctly homegrown, situated in a distinctly Islamic context—that tugs at the conceit that it’s the subcontinent that’s always at the mercy of a Western lens.

In fact, it suggests quite the reverse, that we can’t always be sure who falls under whom in the hierarchy of world order. It also confronts us with the possibility that even though Pakistan, and indeed India, might peg their future prospects on turning into the swanky first-world countries they aspire to become, they’re still just specks, part of the same global mass of humanity

The Partition of Territory, Not Hearts —by Vaneet Kundra


by Vaneet Kundra
THE Partition of India ranks, beyond a doubt, as one of the 10 greatest tragedies in human history. It was not inevitable. India’s independence was inevitable; but preservation of its unity was a prize that, in our plural society, required high statesmanship. That was in short supply. A mix of other reasons deprived us of that prize – personal hubris, miscalculation, and narrowness of outlook.
The bare details of 1947 and its legacy are stark. The territorial partition that created modern India and Pakistan involved the internal division of Punjab and Bengal provinces, which – in unimaginable conditions of collapse of authority, flight, and massacre – resulted in the forced movement of 20 million people (Hindus and Sikhs to India and Muslims to Pakistan) and approximately 1.5 million deaths.
My grandfather used to tell me stories of partition and the emotions attached to it. I was quite interested to know, why the same sons of soil were detached by our founding fathers. He read a small article, which he had preserved.

“This feeling of disbelief is best summarised in the words of an officer in charge of refugee rehabilitation in Punjab, who said: “we in India were only vaguely familiar with the word ‘refugee’ and used to wonder why people should be compelled to leave homes. Even our refugees expressed surprise at the strange phenomenon of exchange of population and were heard saying, we used to hear about the change of rulers but for the first time the ruled are also changing places”.
The partition of 1947 was far more than an abstract line across administrative maps; it sought to create separate enclaves for different religious communities. In August 1947, when the “Radcliffe award ” partitioning Punjab and Bengal was announced, millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs now found that they no longer “belonged” to the place they were born in and had lived in forever.
But some questions remain unanswered, even if dwell deep into history to know the real reasons. It was a master stroke developed by British rulers on the policy of ‘ Divide and rule ‘. But the fact remains, that we are two different countries in territory, but not different in our culture, history, values, emotions, ancestors, language, food and jokes, specially the people of undivided pre-partition Punjab.
The imperialists never forgot to play their game of ‘ Divide and rule’, inspite leaving our land in 1947. They kept on pumping arms and ammunition to both us with a double benefit. Their economy thrives on this particular industry. We both pay them for arms to fight one another. They have a win-win situation all the time. Then we give them all the importance to mediate between us all the time. They have become our Super- Rulers again without any cost.
There was a photo published in several Delhi newspapers during the nuclear stand-off of 1998, when popular media discourse was spiced with comment about how the Indian nuclear-tipped warheads could reach all the way to Lahore and Islamabad.
The photo showed a crowd of Hindus and Sikhs dancing in patriotic celebration of India’s momentary advantage over Pakistan in the race for regional military supremacy. What intrigued me was that the revellers were the descendants of Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan; in hard logic, they were cheering the capacity to annihilate the land of their parents and grandparents. Such nationalist intoxication too is the fruit of partition.
After doing my B.A. ( Hons. ) from St. Stephens College, Delhi University, I came down to Amritsar to assist my brother in business as we had a business in Delhi and Amritsar both. For many years, I did not get the chance to visit Wagah border. Our business friends from Rajasthan had come to Amritsar with their family. They were quite eager to go there and see the retreat, as they had heard a lot about it in Rajasthan So me and my wife drove them upto Wagah, one fine Sunday in winters. This was during the time when Gen. Mushraff’ was the President of Pakistan.
While driving past Amritsar upto Wagah, we had thought, specially our Rajasthani friends, we would experience all that should be different. People, food, dwellings, crops, etc. Also, we’d thought everything should look, as between worst enemies, torn and divided: Culture, Community, Ancestry, History and Religion. But that was not to be. It was as if it were an extension of India into Pakistan, with nothing noticeable that tells one from the other.
We had heard about the Drill at Wagah and the sentiments attached to the event. A colleague in my office had once told me, “One is very enthused and enough prepared to die for the country at that moment, Sir”. The Indian side shouts “Vande-Matram, Bharat Mata ki Jai and Hindustan Zindabad”. The other side says, “Pakistan Zindabad, Paaindabad.” Lowering of the flags on both sides is followed by a common drill in which the Border Security Force Men and Pakistani Rangers ‘out step’ each other with overt and aggressive, macho display of strength.
Well we reached the Wagah Border with barbed fencing leading from both sides. The strong iron-gates were painted in tricolor scheme on ‘our’ side and green & white on ‘theirs’. Crowds of people having patriotic blood flowing through their veins had gathered on both sides. Each half was charitable but only to itself in shouting slogans. It was here that I felt there existed two countries, two people, two communities, two entities.
But still carried away by my fondness and respect for our mutual bonhomie with Pakistan, the tales of which I had heard from my father and grandfather, I began cheering even the ‘other side’ when they sought response to their sloganory exhortations. Suddenly then, I felt a tapping on my shoulder by ‘someone’. I turned back and looked someone with whom an argument ensued reflexively.
“Why are you cheering them?”
“There is nothing wrong in that”
“Are you one of those?”
“And are you someone different?”
“Don’t know they’re separate now?”
“Do Rivers stop entering this side?”
“Political rhetoric is long dead”
“So will be peace-willing generations!”
“Khushwants, Nayyars, Asma Jahangirs?”
“Yes. Precisely. So let’s cheer each other.”
“Don’t hear they swear by Allah?”
“Large number among us also does that.”
“They’re under seize and are tensed.”
“That’s why they deserve our cheers!”
“Emotional fool! Go your way”
Having been thus ticked off, I realized that ‘Someone’ was none else than my own flawed self. But what I had been looking in that crowd, even after the event of retreat drill, was the face of a child called Noor. Remember she had a successful heart surgery in Hindustan some years back. I am sure the likes of her would be the new generation of peace-willers in Pakistan. The retreat left me more hopeful. Emotional fool. Did you say that? No. Now it is ‘someone’ again at it. Damn him and hail peace!

Play:‘Ghair Zaroori Log’Jammu Theatrics enthrall ‘8th National Theatre Fest’By Rashmi Talwar in Amritsar


Play: ‘Ghair Zaroori Log’

Jammu Theatrics enthrall ‘8th National Theatre Fest -2011’ in Amritsar

By Rashmi Talwar

‘Ghair Zaroori Log’– …A play based on the lives of commoners that have little or no bearing on society, yet left a huge impact when woven into stories, was the theme on which the collective memory of characters of ‘Saadat Hassan Manto’s’ urdu stories was mentored to form this abstract presentation.

An apt choice for the last fall of curtains on the ‘8th National Theatre Festival’ held in Amritsar in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, GOI; North Zone Cultural Center, Patiala and Punjab Naatshala, the play, written by Shahid Anwar and directed by Mushtaq Kak drew pivotal characters from popular urdu stories of Manto, was staged by the ‘Amateur Theatre Group, Jammu’.

That most of the characters were from the basest profession of prostitution prevalent much before partition, made them as much human, as the one on the street earning his living as the so-called ‘honorable’ daily wager.

Slick, quick-paced and gripping, the entire spectrum of stories weaved by the director and writer, cast a spell on the audience making the characters creep out of the stage unannounced yet evolving right there with retorts naturally spewed forth, owing to changed circumstances, in the back-drop of the ongoing tearing partition between the two countries.

Be it the most popular character the ‘heavy-legged’ (from 15 years of standing upright), mentally challenged Bishan Singh in Manto’s story of ‘Toba Tek Singh’ or ’Saugandi’-a prostitute, turning venomous on her benefactor or the Sardari Begum of ‘Mummy’ an old “harlot” compassionate and motherly, whose inner purity remained intact despite touting girls into the flesh trade; Each of the characters stood tall in the narrative through ‘Hamid Jalal’s character as Manto’s nephew played by Rahul Kumar in the presentation.

Of gripping interest were the characters of army men a Sikh and a Muslim who once worked together and now train their guns on each other as enemies after partition of 1947 in “Akhri Salute”; Irrespective of their newly-turned enemy positions, their friendly banter even about such sensitivities like Kashmir, could not be stolen by the separating lines of nations, not even by death.

The ‘Babu Gopi Nath’ episode of a lover turned father, who does not allow anyone to insult or hurt Zeenat, a young girl under his wing, arouses compassion for the oppressed.

The Play interspersed with familiar music by Ifra Kak enveloped the audience in the situational tales drawing out the essence in both pain and pleasure. “Innhi logon ne le li na dupatta mera..’ from film Pakeeza added to the plight of the innocent Zeenat in Babu Gopi Nath’s tale. Similarly ‘Aye Watan , Aye Watan …”; …”…. “Ramiya vasta vaiya….” served to link the familiar with the unfamiliar, making the complete amalgam a pleasure to watch.

****

Saadat Hassan Manto –

Hugely popular writer even-with post partition population in both the countries, boundlessly loved, irrespective of boundaries; who struck hard on social prejudices and elevated the stigmatized, through his vast repertoire of urdu short stories.
Based on characters and topics drawn from the socio-economic backgrounds, prevailing in pre- and post- colonial subcontinent, to the more controversial topics of love, sex and dhokha and the ‘traditional’ hypocrisy of a sub-continental male.

In dealing with these topics, Manto is known to conceal nothing. Raw and banal it comes across as the true state of the affairs, imbued in reality.
The stories even though intricately structured, with vivid satire, holds surprise elements of backslap humor that crackles incessantly, drawing nods or nays.
In his own words Manto had retorted to his detractors, “If you find my stories dirty, the society is dirty! With my stories, I only expose the truth”.

****

Mushtaq Kak
‘Mushtaq Kak is one of the major theatre directors, to have emerged from the arc lights of Jammu stage to establish as a creative director-actor respected by the connoisseurs of theatre across the country’.
Actively associated with the theatre in Jammu, and later in Delhi , Kak worked hard as the Artistic Director of Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts for 10 years, he is credited with his contributions as a faculty member of – Young Theatre Workers and Artists’ Workshops- in varied regions nation-wide; by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi,

Having directed more than 100 plays, few are:
•‘Dilli-6’(named after a pin code of old Delhi )
•‘Manto Baqalam Khud’ based on urdu short stories by Saadat Hassan Manto,
•Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’,
•Jean Paul Satre’s ‘Men without Shadows’,
•Pirandello’s ‘Six characters in search of an author”,
•Checkhov’s ‘Seagull’,
•Krishan Chander’s ‘Ek gadhe ki atmakatha”
•And its sequel ‘Gadhe ki waapsi’
•Mahesh Elkunchwar’s ‘Holi’
•Vasant Kanetkar’s ‘Kasturi Mrig’,
•Moti Lal Kemmu’s ‘Nagar Udaas’,
•Federico Gracia Lorca’s ‘The Blood Wedding’
•Meera Kant’s ‘Ihamrig’ ‘Kaali Barf’ and ‘Ant Hazir Ho’
•Premanand Gajvi’s ‘Mahabrahmann’ and ‘Gandhi Ambedkar’,

Kak is a recipient of the best director awards for his plays ‘Andha Yug’, Mallika and Pratibimb conferred by the Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages Jammu, and awarded ‘Pt Kseminder Raina Memorial Award-2009’ for his outstanding contribution to the field of Theatre. He was recently seen in the film –‘Mausam’ as a father of the Kashmiri girl played by Sonam Kapoor.

****

AMATEUR THEATRE GROUP, Jammu

A Jammu based Theatre Artists Group by Kak, formed in 1980 by the enthusiasts who had joined hands under the stewardship of Ratan Kalsi, an experienced artist. Kak describes the group as a laboratory of theatre activists from various professional and artistic backgrounds of painters, musicians, actors, film makers and writers. It emerged as one of the few groups from this region to reach the stature of International, National, and Zonal Festivals by Sangeet Natak Akademi , Sahitya Kala Parishad ( New Delhi ), West Zone Culture Centre, Punjabi Academy, Delhi , with its most recent production being Shahid Anwar’s urdu play “Ghair Zaroori Log”

Major productions of group include
•Sach-ki-hai
•Bhukh-hi-bhukh
•Toba Tek Singh,
•Garakh Ho Riha Manukh
•Sawaa Ser Kanak,
•Devyaani,
•Marakhey (based On Suraj Ka Saatvan Ghoda),
•Daak Ghar,
•Macbeth,
•Ashad Ka Ek Din,
•Ala Afsar,
•Jasma Odhan,
•Aadhi Raat Ke Baad,
•Lotan,
•Evam Inderjeet
•Andhaa Yug.
****

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Flickr Photos

Movie Halls should be opened in Kashmir / By Rashmi Talwar

When cars opened gates, shoes stepped out and television sets followed..  /By Rashmi Talwar/ RISING KASHMIR

Kashmir is Organic, not manicured: Imtiaz Ali…/ Rashmi Talwar

Sign of blessed tidings, water is milky at Kheer Bhawani…/ Rashmi Talwar

Why Pak expelled Indian Journalists?..Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir

Gun & Warlords, Biggest worry of Pakistan: Ch Ahmed Javed Hassan/ By Rashmi Talwar

India & Pakistan/  Bonds of Culture / AG Noorani

Kashmiris cheering Pakistan Cricket Team../Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir

Will AAP’s Delhi effect be felt in Jammu & Kashmir? …/Rashmi Talwar

Carrying forward a musical legacy..ABHAY RUSTUM SOPORI/ Rashmi Talwar

More Photos

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    There has never been a better time for general acceptance of a good candidate compared to a more popular name or party, than now. This time the traditional political players may have to either drastically change or make place for new entrants, emboldened by the victory of AAP in Delhi.
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