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.
****

Pakistani lady Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy gets Pakistan its first Oscar !


Pakistani filmmaker and first-time Oscar nominee Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won an Academy Award on Monday for her documentary about acid attack victims, a first for a Pakistani director, firstpost.com reports.
Her victory shines a spotlight on a subject, which affects thousands of women in Pakistan and elsewhere, but is seldom discussed at home. Chinoy dedicated the award to the women of Pakistan.
“The women’s bravery and resilience in the face of adversity inspires me every single day,” she said. “They are the true heroes of Pakistan.”
‘Saving Face’ chronicles the work of British Pakistani plastic surgeon Muhammad Jawad, who performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan. Co-director Daniel Junge said he had the idea for the film after hearing about Jawad, and asked Chinoy to work with him. He has been previously nominated for both an Oscar and an Emmy.
“To win and with such a subject — it’s such an honour,” he said.
More than 100 people, mainly women and girls, are disfigured in acid attacks every year in Pakistan, although groups helping survivors say many more cases go unreported.
Pakistan is the world’s third-most dangerous country for women, after Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of Congo, based on a survey conducted last year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, with acid attacks a common means of punishing alleged transgressions.
Victims are often permanently blinded, and their scar tissue can become infected with septicemia or gangrene.
“The women who decided to be a part of the documentary did so because they wanted to make their voices heard and wanted to bring attention to this form of assault,” Chinoy also said, speaking before she won the Oscar.
“The main reason that they are in ‘Saving Face’ is to make their stories heard and have an impact.”

CULTURE SHOCK By ……Vandana (Minni ) Mahendru


CULTURE SHOCK

By ……Vandana (Minni) Mahendru

Prof Sham Lal Banti, broke into a sweat in the middle of the night. “Oh Parmatma! What am I going to face this year?” he shuddered. Agonizing efforts, hundreds of toss and turns with incantation of ‘Ram! Ram!’ brought him some shut-eye.

The next morning dread set again, looking at the overcast sky, the clouds ready to burst into a thunder. He thought what an ominous start to the ‘new session’. Nevertheless, polished shoes et al, he bravely stepped into the college premises albeit haltingly.

He looked around, saw boys and girls thronged the corridors and cringed at the sight of -‘Tattered bits hung here and there on their ‘frail’ bodies,’ ‘They could be blown away by whiff of the wind’…he thought. He had heard it being called –“Zero figure Syndrome! .

Girls with weird painted fingertips, earrings pierced through their eyebrows and belly buttons! “Heavens!”- He yelped inwardly, Even their ‘tongues’! …. “Save mankind, Lord Ram!”-he prayed silently.

What was on their feet—‘Shapeless contraption like shoes creeping up their thighs, sandals with straps so long around the legs, that they looked like creeping reptiles !’

Humor caught up with him and a chuckle escaped his lips-“A gregarious crowd no doubt”. Teen of today throttled the beauty parlours to get their way!, came another rhyme to his mind.

He smiled, accepted it as signs of equality — no more gender bias as even boys had their arms cleaned of hair and eyebrows shaped.

No sooner another sight and “Hey Ram! Hamari Bhartiya Sanskriti ka kya hoga”, slipped out loud. A passing boy heard his remark and told him “Dude! Take a chill pill.” Now what is a chill pill one would ask? But not him –After all he was Mr. Know all -the Professor.

As he walked down the corridor he saw more- boys with the weirdest of hairstyles.

Some with ponytails, few with colored strands, a group with literally ‘hair on edge’ like the head suffered an attack of ‘goose pimples’. However his eyes blinked at the sight of the” Katori cut” . He had the imagination to understand how a small inverted katori was kept on the head and the rest of the head was shaven off.

Next came the “ Mushroom cut”-A lot of hair was left on the crown and the rest shaved off –the end result was like that of a ‘toadstool’.

Professor Saab’s thoughts raced back to yesteryears when he was dragged to the barber U.M.T (Under the Mango Tree) and instructions were loud, clear and specific-“Chote, chote kar dena, ‘choti’ ko haath na lagana”. “Hai pitaji, acha hai apne yeh sab nahi dekha” he mused.

Shuddering, he opened the classroom door and was hit by a bolt of lightening; his eyes almost popped out to see his younger son dancing on a desk supporting a ‘bald pate’…..He was the fashion icon of the day ! Meekly gulping, Professor Saab decided it was time to actually take “The Chill Pill”… eom
Vandana (Minni) Mahendru is a popular content writer

Shaheed Bhagat Singh at Lahore Railway Police Station


The lost son of Lahore—–Shaheed Bhagat Singh By Shreya Ray

Shaheed Bhagat Singh's Death Certificate

It is an uncanny coincidence that Nawab Muhammad Ahmad Khan Kasuri, the magistrate who signed the death warrant of Bhagat Singh, was killed, more than 40 years later, at the same spot as the 23-year-old freedom fighter. The roundabout in Shadman Colony, Lahore—where the execution chambers of the Lahore Central jail used to be—is where the magistrate was shot in 1974. Not that many Pakistani youngsters know these details about Singh’s death, or even that he was from Lahore; to them he’s the guy Ajay Devgn played in a Bollywood movie.

Resurrecting Singh—and reclaiming him—as a son of Lahore is Pakistan’s Ajoka theatre group, in the first-ever Pakistani production on the freedom fighter, Mera Rang De Basanti Chola. The play, also staged at the National School of Drama’s (NSD’s) Bharat Rang Mahotsav, is third in a series of Ajoka’s plays that question the Arabised Pakistani identity, and emphasize its roots with the Indian subcontinent. Drawing constant parallels with contemporary society, peppered with traditional folk song and dance it inlcudes a Tangewala ki ghodi, a type of Punjabi folk song on the verge of extinction.

Forgotten hero: Nirvaan Nadeem plays Bhagat Singh.
Born in 1978, after the overthrow of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government by the military regime of Zia-ul-Haq, Ajoka was formed by a group of writers, intellectuals and artists perturbed at the erosion of democratic values in their country. They wrote about religious extremism, repressive government machinery, and other things that made the Pakistani establishment sit up and squirm. Within a year, they had been banned from performing at public venues, and their members, personally attacked. Playwright-director Shahid Nadeem, who has written 40 plays and adaptations, including Mera Rang De… and is, along with his wife Madeeha Gauhar, one of Ajoka’s key founder members, lost his job with PTV twice. The first was in 1979, during Zia-ul-Haq’s regime, when he was forced into exile in London for eight years but kept writing for Ajoka; the second in 1999, during the reign of Nawaz Sharif.
Only after the death of Zia-ul-Haq in 1988 did the group gradually get access to venues like the Goethe-Institut, which gave them space to rehearse and perform.

But even during the years of the ban, Ajoka performed at factory premises, community halls, street corners, even private residences. There have been suicide bombers and bomb attacks outside venues during their performances. Members have received threat calls, emails and texts, the most virulent after the production of Mujahid, a telefilm produced by Ajoka about the “jihadi mindset and how it is destroying society”, aired in 2005. “The film was a warning against jihadi violence—which until then hadn’t assumed the scale it has today—and said that if the issue wasn’t addressed it would spiral out of control,” says Nadeem. “The government’s response to that was to say that people like me need to be thrown outside Pakistan; in the parliament they talked about having our group banned, they had conferences accusing us of being enemies of Pakistan.”

The high drama off-stage is wonderfully offset by the entertaining and often uproariously funny plays. Their take on family planning, specifically the issue of vasectomy, Jum Jum Jeeway Jaman Pura (Long Live the Delivery Town) in 1995, addressed the politically explosive subject through song and dance. Burqavaganza, which travelled to India for the NSD festival in 2008, was a laugh-out-loud satire on hypocritical Islamic clerics—and their attitudes to women, sex and sexuality.

The connection with India is not quite incidental; their relationship with India is “a political statement”, says Nadeem. The latest series of plays, which keeps rejecting its Arabised identity, keeps making constant connections with India. “Mera Rang De…,” says Gauhar, who has also directed the play, “is not just about Bhagat Singh, it’s about identity. After the creation of Pakistan, there was an effort to reinvent ourselves as Pakistanis, and identify ourselves with our Muslim identity and with the Middle East (West Asia). This was a way to justify the creation of a nation based on religious identity. But in that myopic view, thousands of years of history was wiped out,” she says.

Dara, their previous play, celebrated Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, and held up the peace-loving and Sufi-poet prince as the true face of Islam. “Nobody in Pakistan knows about Dara’s ideology because there has been an effort to erase him from our history books, as happens with anyone who doesn’t fit into the ideology of Pakistan and the two-nation theory. It is these distortions in history that we’re trying to correct,” she says.

Similarly, Singh, despite being a hero of the independence movement and a son of Lahore, has been ignored because he was a non-Muslim and a socialist, says Nadeem. “He is an important role model in present times, when the current generation doesn’t know of the dream of socialism that inspired people in the previous century,” he says. “They need to know that there are other things more inspiring than the insanity of suicide bombers,” he says.

Laughter challenges tears of Kashmir……………………. By Rashmi Talwar


“Kashmir Comedy Theatre Festival -2011”

Laughter challenges tears of Kashmir
By Rashmi Talwar

Bumbroo ! Bumbroo ! at 'Kashmir Comedy Theater Festival -2011

FIRST PUBLISHED IN KASHMIR TIMES MAGAZINE FRONT COVER ON JULY 10, 2011


‘Myon Shoosh’–My Love- Whisper the majestic Kashmir Mountains to me, opening their tessellated imposing arms, in a bear hug. I immerse into their beauty. The prickly needles of emerald hued conifers outlining their conical bodies, hurt me no more, they bring tickles at first, a smile and then a rolling laugh. It has been a quarter of a century since I last set foot in this wondrous land. ‘Maayi Barut Istaqbaal’
– Warm Welcome, ‘Khush Aamdeed’ – Happy Tidings, they murmur softly in my ear.

I raise my hand in a silent salute to the Jammu Kashmir Film Makers and Artists Co-operative Ltd (JKFMAC), the organizers who have brought the 10-day ‘Kashmir Comedy Theatre Festival -2011’ to this paradisiacal valley in the throes of tumult, as Shabbir Haider the Secretary General and CEO of JKFMAC puts it, “Where smiles come at a premium and laughter is in danger of growing extinct”.

A whole generation of Kashmiris turning old at 23 years, growing up in lurking fear and a daily call of attending dirges along with their elders, are completely cut off from what ‘normal’ childhood, adolescence and teenage years meant for others in India. For this generation it is so special to feel the emotion of hilarity, few have encountered or tasted in their lifetimes.

I feel there could be no better time. The ‘Amarnath Yatra’ is in full bloom albeit ‘under the shadow of the gun’, that provides pre-set security cover for the ‘laughter challenge’.

Serene, languid, doppling and dancing Dal Lake in Srinagar shows no sign of any fracas, smoothly letting the ‘shikaras’ or oblong romantic boats, slide on its beautiful belly, poked off and on by the paddle and rippling in mirth…

At Jammu and Srinagar airports, the almost embarrassing body search, the feel of metal detectors and human hands (even though female) feel like an amorous encroachment of privacy, not once, as at most airports, but three tier and times. Add to that, is the quick pick of a lady’s ‘tampon’ by a security guard and askance expression of suspicion followed by giggles when explained.

Strange, but some emotions of glee are traceable everywhere. I brush aside realms of media reports on turmoil and blood-baths to a ‘fake sting operation’ feeling some conspiracies lurking beneath the surface to bring disrepute to this virtual heaven on earth.

***
The grandeur of the inaugural ceremony on June 25th can hardly be gauged from the periphery of the venue of Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Complex (SKICC) with gun-toting, quick response teams and armoured vehicles lined up, outlined with camouflaged-capped sharp shooters.

Inside, however, the cyan hued ‘pedicured’ lawns and lofty elusive Chinar trees are busy spreading their enchanted halcyon beauty to the surroundings, where guzzling laughter and fragrances of colors will rule for more than a week.

Ravinder Kaul, globally renowned theatre critic, has a wonderful take on comedy and satire in theatre. He puts it thus, “The man who slug out the first ‘abuse’ has done a great service to humanity. He has inadvertently given an alternative to human kind to vent out anger other than to invite the rival for a ‘bloody-duel’ to end the argument. His displeasure therefore has shed no blood or caused no bodily harm to anyone”.

And continues, “In theatre, especially in ‘satire’, an alternate way lends itself to vent out pent-up anger against the government policies, inadequacies of administration, all pervasive corruption, excesses of armed forces and of dogged militants with their quirky logic; creating havoc, deeply affecting and attacking the lives and vital ethos of Kashmiris”.

“Kashmiri-a peace loving community, is facing a whole gamut of daily life–threatening situations, robbing them of their privacy, peace and progress. The massive extent of corruption deprives and saps their ‘celebrated strengths’ and relegates their development in multiple spheres, to a mere trickle. For them, comedy and satire has come as a whiff of fresh mountain wind to air their grievances.”

***
The ceremony of the book release “Theatre Akh Tarruf”, authored by veteran theatre personality and Additional Director General, Doordarshan, Ashok Jailkhani is equally ‘theatrical’, albeit in the positive sense. Seeds of ‘Issbad’ are touched upon the heads and shoulders of the author, the chief guest and others at this auspicious occasion, as a tradition practiced by both Hindu and Muslim Kashmiris, and then thrown over the simmering coals in a ‘Kangri’ or a traditional vessel kept burning for warmth in the winter chill. A ‘pious’ fragrance emanates from the burning seeds and envelopes the surroundings, warding off evil spirits.

Thereafter, the Governor of this beauteous state Mr. NN Vohra unties the ribbon on the book, declares the Festival open with lighting of the ceremonial lamp to the flash of festoons and a swirl of colors of rainbow ‘phirans’- a typical Kashmiri garment, and matching swinging jewellery, classically Kashmiri.

It is Bumbro, Bumbro’ time, a melody, as ten lovely lasses of Kashmir roll their ‘mehandied’-henna patterned hands-and lift themselves to melt into a frenzy of dance, bringing the audiences in close clasp of what one could say ‘befikri’-unmindful of worries.

Jammu girls match their Kashmiri counterparts in obvious competition with gusto on a Dogri dance and song and steep the audience into an untamed, full-blooded frolic.

***
‘Local Taxes Extra’- the opening play releases the first choking veil of curtains restricting the overenthusiastic actors waiting to showcase their talent for the Comedy Festival.

Written by Dr Sohan Lal Koul and directed by Ayash Arif of the Kalidas Theater Group, the play revolves on social issues facing a Kashmiri Pandit couple Bhushan Lal and Usha Rani who fall on the mercy of a quirky landlord out to take advantage of their plight in a series of hilarious situations wherein the servant Gash Ram too develops a taste for intrigues to create misunderstandings between the couple.

That the play in Kashmiri language sustains the attention of the State Governor, one known to have just a formal flavor of the Kashmiri language and constrained for time as dignitaries are wont to say for effect, speaks volumes about the histrionic prowess of the actors on stage. Of more significance, however, is a largely Kashmiri ‘Muslim’ audience glued to their seats watching the play with all Kashmiri Pandit characters. It seems to me, to be the true bearing or ‘icing’ of the lurking agony of separation of these two ethnic communities both of whom claim Kashmir as their rightful home and hearth.

It is this spirit of communal harmony and a composite culture that truly spells the values of the lush valley wherefrom many a Bollywood movie scripts have taken their first cues of unbridled love.

Kashmiri Pandits have been pushed, evacuated and left to fend for themselves due to hatred of alien mercenaries in cahoots with some local hawks and hardliners. Their Muslim brethren still hold them dear in unconditional love, that is what the attendance and attention at this Festival reinforces.
***

The Festival continues for the next ten days, bringing in fun and tears of joyous laughter. The themes revolve around overall corruption in high places and at the grassroots level. Even state run ‘Doordarshan’ is not spared to bring in guffaws while a play by tiny-tots takes the audiences to matchless taste of twists and turns in the ‘kiddy’ world.

Artistes include Bhands from Akingaam and Wathoora, the Akingaam Bhands’ group being in existence for many centuries, having been elaborately mentioned in Sir Walter Lawrence’s seminal book ‘The Valley of Kashmir’ (1895). As it began, the Festival ends with another hilarious tale revolving around a Kashmiri Pandit family. ‘Dastaar’, the play, has already become a part of the popular folklore of Kashmir with legendary actor Hriday Nath Gurtoo’s inimitable dialogue ‘Dastaaras karizam raachh’ –‘Protect My Turban’-albeit ‘Honour’; on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

That Gurtoo died in a miserable condition in a migrant camp in Udhampur soon after being forced to migrate from his happy dwellings in Kashmir, in the early 1990s, has in no way dimmed his creation but rather highlighted the plight of some of the ‘Jewels of Kashmir’ being ostracized from their beloved land and perishing in misery.

The Festival comes to an end, the armored vehicles and sharp shooters leave the venue, but it has successfully scattered the seeds of tangible merriment in the entire valley.

My eyes scan the picturesque landscape and rivulets flow down my cheeks, I feel a tug, as if a dear one says ‘Maty’e Rozu Dama Roz Dariyam Chany’e Lol Re’! ‘My love, stay a while longer’. However agony of separation from Kashmir is lesser than the wish that Almighty may shower His choicest blessings and cheer to this Land of the Gods.

In their forlorn imploration, asking me to return to the valley blooming with spring flowers ‘Rosh wala myani dilbaro, poshan bahaar aav, yoori walo’– I peer to look for smiles down from the window of the plane. The arc that begins at one mountain top and, after covering the flat valley, ends at another mountain top, seems like a broad smiley like smile. Today, even the sun has been veiled by clouds on the top to spread the huge glowing smiley that I look for in the crinkly as well as reddish lips of Kashmiris blessed with unsurpassed beauty and as I place my hand on my heart it leaps and cheers ‘Aall izzz well’!

*****
FIRST PUBLISHED IN KASHMIR TIMES MAGAZINE FRONT COVER ON JULY 10, 2011

“Bumbi Days”!…… by VIVEK MEHRA


Thank God this post did not reach the winters ..otherwise it would have been ‘Shivering Bumbissss”
Heritage conservator Balwinder Singh once quizzed me –‘What is Chaali Khoo?’-‘Forty wells!’ I answered. ‘What is Chaati khoo?’ I twinkled, smiled, knowing it had a catch, ‘You Say?’ –‘It is ‘a’ well with a ‘chaat’(roof)!’ , he laughed. ‘What is Bambe Walla Khoo?’ –‘This has to do with robust Male gender of ‘Bumbi’-I replied. As the day’s banter on Heritage buildings and stories of yore connected to Amritsar saw a free flow,
I was reminded of a beautiful post ‘Bumbi Days! , written by Vivek Mehra. …………….

“BUMBI” DAYS !……………..By VIVEK MEHRA

When ever I meet my cousins, these days, whether electronically or physically, the conversation invariably veers to our ‘Bumbi’ days, sooner or later, and more so if they are a few drinks down. The truth however is, that be it guys or dolls, all of them are hopelessly nostalgic about those days.

They post sepia tinged ‘Bumbi’ pictures on face book and get a lot of ‘wows’ from our kin, now spread all over the world. They love to take, an almost vicarious pleasure, as they recount, with a child like delight, countless stories about those days; much to the utter mystification of their kids and spouses. These relations came much after the ‘Bumbi’ days were over, so they wonder, with justification, “What the hell is this Bumbi?”

Any body who knows Punjabi language would tell you that a ‘Bumbi’ is a Punjabi name for a tube well. You would find one in every farm in rural Punjab, gushing out a thick stream of pristine, crystal clear, silvery water from its gaping mouth.

Our Bumbi was different!

Yes, it too was a tube well and yes, it too was located in a huge agricultural farm, but that is where the similarity ends.

Back in the 1970’s it was a heaven, a paradise on earth.

First, it gave its huge stream of fresh water not to the fields but into a good sized swimming pool, that was our very own! But it was even more than that. Much more.

Back then, it meant a place where more than a score cousins, uncles and aunts spent their summer holidays, together without any of the petty, selfish, jealousies that plague us today. They traveled from all over India to be there. Every year, they preferred Amritsar to any hill station or any other holiday destination.

From Nagpur , Delhi, Bombay (yes not Mumbai) Moradabad, Kanpur . As each group unboarded from their train, the buzz was always, “Man! I am going to the Bumbi tomorrow morning. And every day after, for the next month and a half!”

‘Bumbi’ was Joy with a capital J. Pure and unadulterated. It was unlimited fun without the aid of a single gizmo of today, be it a television or a mobile or an iPad or what ever. It was youth as youth should be, without a care in the world.

The school bags along with their burdens were thrust aside, forever, after the usual inquires “How did you fare?” “Well I flunked Marathi even after the exam paper was leaked to me!” “Shucks! Same here yaar, with me, for Math!” and that was the end of such boring conversations for the next six weeks or so at least.

During the early day time, Bumbi was the ultimate all males only club. Outsiders were also welcome to come and enjoy their mornings there. The family’s ladies were allowed only in the afternoons after the outsiders had left the place and the gates were closed.

Bumbi ! Bumbi ! Bumbi ! All the way

For the boys, Bumbi meant getting up early in the morning and drinking piping, hot milk, from the udders of our own cows, duly supervised by a strict aunt who ensured that every one finished his tall, steel glass. A future doctor to bew, would however, usually hoodwink her, and surreptitiously pour his share into the glass of any cousin who was not looking.

The dirty dozen or so would then stuff themselves into an Ambassador and off they
would go, yelling and jostling and happy, all of them in one car , piled on top of each other. Talk about public transport!

Bumbi meant an effeminate ‘Gawala’ (Cowhand) and his grossly overweight wife who were care takers of the place. The kids would love to tease him and whoop in delight as he chased them.

Bumbi meant applying a lot of mustard oil to your bodies and wrestling in the mud ‘Akhara.’ It also meant Channi, a rather dimwitted sardar, who worked on his immensely muscular body all day, but never a minute on his brains. The rowdy crowd loved to rag him as he showed them his ‘body.’

Bumbi meant a “Dilruba Dilli Wali’ a male cousin, so fair of skin, that a mere touch would leave angry red marks on it. It also meant being treated to a cabaret dance by another cousin, full adorned in flowing skirts. I dare say he got more cat calls and wolf whistles then any ‘Munni’ or ‘Sheela.’

Bumbi meant bathing all day in that lovely pool of cool water, shaded by huge trees. It meant planning to dunk the girls in it when they were allowed to join us and hear them shriek in fear. It meant laughter unlimited. It also meant an infinite number of mangoes and pakoras and rich Amritsari food in pure desi ghee, when the aunts too joined us. I am sure no one had heard of diabetes, BP and obesity back then.

It meant raiding the cupboard of our grand dad and finishing off all his eatables in one go, only to find it fully replenished the next days and never ever being ticked off for it. It meant being given hundred rupee notes to spend at the local cinemas and eateries almost everyday. It meant being told at a cinema booking window, that they could not sell two dozen tickets to a single buyer as he would ‘black’ them. It meant that the ticket vendor was shown all the two dozen lined up in their best finery, eagerly awaiting the show to start.

It meant crying at the railway platforms as each group went back, promising to come back next year. It meant awaiting all year for the summer holidays to bring them back. Do you still wonder, what the hell is “Bumbi ?”

‘RAUNAK’ of our The Tribune office in Amritsar cuts his first Punjabi Number ..Chak De Fatte !!! Buraaaaaaaaa for u !!


By Saanjh ———-
Rajiv Sharma @ Raj Asr is v dear to me …’Raunak and Shaan of our Tribune office in Amritsar . The one who made our days in the office most Glorious with his antics, jokes, his mimicry and songs …Anytime the Senior was away, it became the most enjoyable laughter sessions–BIG SHOWTIME by this talented Youngster working as photographer.
I also remember the time wen i was scolded and he would stand near me as if in moral support ….I treated him as a son and often told him, he needs to fulfill his full potential ….N Now HE IS STAFFER FOR STAR TV …But he has fulfilled My dream for him ..His first attempt is wonderful and I Heartily Congratulate u RAJIV …..MY V BEST FOR U TO GO FURTHER ON THIS IN LIFE …Love ur Number !!! Chak De Fatte !!! Buraaaaaaaaa for u !!

Who is JUGNI ? By Indu Vashist Amritsar connection


Who is JUGNI ? By Indu Vashist
No Punjabi wedding is complete without the mandatory ”JUGNI”—What are the origins of Jugni -Folklore-Does it have an Amritsar connection …YES !

MARCH 2011

The character of ‘’JUGNI’’ has been featuring in Punjabi popular and folk music for well over a century. The most recent references of this rebellious, fiery female character have appeared in diverse productions like Pakistan’s Coke Studio , Punjab’s sensicore rocker Rabbi Shergill, and of course Bollywood in films like Tanu Weds Manu and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!

In the various versions of this song, JUGNI is a spunky, rebellious character, who does not fit into the traditional feminine norms:
She wears western clothes,
Flirts with men in the streets,
Wants to drive (either a Bullet motorcycle or a Fiat car, depending on the era),
Is poor but aims for upward class mobility,
Speaks English,
Wants to travel all over (depending on the era she travels all over Punjab, Britain or Canada).

The singer, usually a man, sings of loving JUGNI, but feeling insecure by JUGNI’s defiant character (above): Mainu Kale chad Ke Jandi, Fir Vaajan Mar Bulandi (First she leaves me then calls after me).
The singer often laments that the pain of loving this rebellious character will kill him (below): Eh ladh di ae na darrdi phad ke daang mure khad di aa.
(She fights, doesn’t have fear, she always carries a stick as a weapon with her).

JUGNI Tap Tap Tap Tap Khoon Bahaundi (JUGNI, drip, drip, drip, drip, spills blood)
The first version of this song can be traced back to 1906, written and performed by Bishna and Manda.
Manda, as he was commonly known was born as Mohammad in Hasanpur, Thana Vairowal in AMRITSAR District, Punjab. Bishna was a Jatt from a village in Majha area, close to AMRITSAR Both men were illiterate poets who would roam from village to village composing songs and free-styling when given money. In 1906, they are said to have been around the age of 50.
In 1906, the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign, a Jubilee flame was taken across the British Empire to celebrate her rule. The flame, carried in a large gold container, was taken to the every district headquarters. As the flame arrived, the district government was supposed to greet it with pomp and ceremony.
When the flame reached Punjab, there was nascent freedom struggle anger against the Empire brewing. Bishna and Manda followed the flame from district to district, performing their own poetry and folk music parallel to the pomp of the colonial government.
Their versions contained references to JUGNI, the rebellious woman. Bishna and Manda had misheard the word ‘Jubilee’ for JUGNI and started writing verses that channeled the anger of the region against the British as symbolized by the Jubilee flame.
As they traveled behind the flame, their popularity grew; people from all around came to attend their performances. JUGNI became a metaphor for the growing unrest against the British.
Many other poets took on the ‘JUGNI’ metaphor and started composing their own songs with similar grammatical structures.
Following other Punjabi folk songs’ customs of mentioning specific villages, the specific village of JUGNI was meant to highlight either a specific site of struggle or just to contextualize the song. The basic structure of the song can be heard here in a pre-independence recording:
The early JUGNI songs had lyrics like:
JUGNI jaa varhi Majithe (JUGNI is from Majitha, i.e., the district of Bishna and Manda)
koi Rann na Chakki peethe (No pimp should have to go to the grinder – common hard labor in colonial prisons)
Putt Gabhru mulak vich mare (Our country’s young men are dying)
rovan Akhiyan, par Bulh si seete (Our eyes are crying, trying to forget)
Piir mereya oye, JUGNI ayi aa (Oh god, JUGNI is coming)
ehnan kehrhi jot jagaee aa (What kind of light is this?)
According to oral histories, as word of Bishna and Manda’s performances got around, large crowds gathered to see the performances, the police started to break up the shows.
The British started to get worried about the revolutionary undertones of JUGNI songs and the way that people began to talk of the British. The police finally arrested Bishna and Manda in Gujaranwala.
They are said to have been tortured and murdered by the police for inciting people against the Empire.
JUGNI as a concept still exists within popular Punjabi music today.
Rabbi Shergill’s recent version of the song follows the traditional grammar of the song. The character of JUGNI is rooted in defiance and rebellion, today that takes on not only Rabbi Shergill’s literal interpretation of the legacy of this folk form, but brings back a fiery woman character back into the popular lexicon.
tags: Bollywood, folk songs, Indian freedom struggle, JUGNI, Punjab

Queen’s Baton: Will Bonhomie at Indo-Pak border be replicated in participation by Pakistan at Commonwealth Games?


Queen's Baton Published in Pb Kesari on July 14, 2010

BY RASHMI TALWAR

Wagah-Attari Indo-Pak border never looked so bridal…..
The marigold rivulet like strings on the border gates–a witness to millions of passersby over the past 63 years to either side of the Radcliff line- today looked in ‘merry’ celebration, as if on the entry of the girl back to her ‘sasural’ (marital home).

Yes, the girl was the “Queen’s Baton” –shining in her elegant glory, handed over from the Pakistani side by Punjab (Pak) Governor Sulman Taseer to Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi at dot 9.30 am of a particularly pleasant morning of June 25 2010, amidst a colorful frenzy of emotions as the Indian side’s –’Sare Jahan se Acha …’ matched the Pakistani side with ‘Jea, jea Pakistan..’.

Taseer, Kalmadi walked alongside, crossing over the zero line into India with a team of 20 Pak members, to an equally euphoric welcome to the undisputed symbol of sports amongst onlookers and participants on the Indian side.
This was after all, the first time a South Asian country was hosting the Commonwealth Games and India was a front-runner!

Indian stands responded eagerly to the waves from Pak enclosures particularly to Beena Sarwar- Pakistan peace activists’ of ‘Aman Ki Asha’ –an Indo-Pak joint venture through the powerful medium of ‘words’– Now converted into an open display of bonhomie between the people of both countries.

A beaming Suresh Kalmadi petted his team for the excellent welcome, particularly Jagmohan Bhanot OSD Commonwealth Games, who conceptualized the idea of joining hands with “Aman ki Asha”, to march forward on this historic turf, in an effort aimed to clearing the detritus of past bitterness, of blood, wars and revenge, of shattered families and loot–Into emotions of undiluted joy and celebration!
All of the past, was forgotten momentarily, as rivals set aside differences in a collective effort to usher in the Baton – that perhaps would help ‘warring countries’, direct their energy flow in the playfields towards human endurance and team competitiveness, rather than policy-stands by Heads of countries with their formal nods & nays, swayed by pressures within or without.

A chain of gaily colored handkerchiefs with peace messages that flowed into India, made by Pakistani children, alongside the Baton Relay, was given a virtual ‘nuptial’ knot with similar kerchief chain by Indian children, bonding the two countries on a note of Peace in the region.

As the ‘new generations’ stood face to face smiling and in awe of this historic moment, the hope of having ‘different’ playmates from across the border, writ large on their glowing faces.

From either side of the gates they looked at each other- surprised, but found ‘no horns’ that have been fed about each other’s features since their senses took charge. The little ones took no time to gulp their initial inhibitions and animatedly responded to each other in all their pure innocence! -As children are wont to do.

Celebration started on the Indian side and Political compulsions did rear their head, but remained mostly unnoticeable. First, Punjab’s ruling BJP-Akali and congress MLAs sat in stoic silence next to each other feigning concentration on the jubilation of color, music and rhythm of Punjabi Bhangra, Rajasthani and of Jammu and Kashmir –all border states with Pakistan, sharing a common and composite cultural heritage.

CM Parkash Singh Badal from the dias, shared about his formative years in Lahore and claimed to know every nook, corner and ‘gali’ ‘especially the famous ‘lassi’ of Lahore. He cited some personal instances of his college as an under grad in arts at Foreman Christian College, Lahore and talked about removing the Indo-Pak Gates and walls between the two countries through sports.
In the last leg of the baton passing ceremony, Punjab CM passed the baton to Minister of External affairs Parneet Kaur wife of former CM Capt Amarinder Singh, ‘as if he was passing the reins of his government to her’… Badal addressed Delhi CM Sheila Dixit as his sister but reserved the ‘familial endearment’ only for her avoiding any reference to the other female lead- Parneet. Parneet on her part sat dignified in the VIP stands and avoided any glance towards the border gates ..that had caused much consternation in her personal life from a particular female enchantress.

But the crowd hardly noticed this ‘fee-fa’, lulled as they were by the unique audio-visual treat and the grandeur setting of this event.
If anyone could be singled out for thoroughly enjoying this moment it was the IOA Prez — ‘Tu Maane ya na Maane … Dildara …Asan tenu Rab Maneya by Puran and Pyare Lal Wadali (Wadali Brothers ) brought emotional bonding.
The Commonwealth Queen’s Baton carrying the message of “Peace through Sports” had landed a day earlier in Lahore at the ‘Allama Iqbal International Airport’ carried by A crew of QBR, including Ajay Chautala, Member of Indian Olympic Association (IOA), Raj Qadian, Avny Lavasa, Louis Rosa and Asokan.
Sheila dixit said she felt honored to be the chief minister of Delhi at the time when India would host its first Commonwealth Games.
Pure bonhomie between neighbors India and Pakistan gripped the occasion, that drew not only the youngsters to dance impromptu but also the IOA Chief Kalmadi was seen swinging merrily in the mood, created by Pak artists at the Wagah-Attari Indo Pak Border on “Ab jaan lutt jaye…. Yeh jahan chutt jave …saang pyar rahe, ……Mein rahun na rahun… Sajda ! Sajda ! tera Sajda !……” a peppy emotional number from ‘My Name is Khan’ sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan- Live On stage!
It was joined in equally chorus by a Fusion, by music troupes of ‘Wadali brothers’ (India) and ‘Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’ (Pakistan) and the climax through ‘Duma Dum Mast Kalandar…”–a popular folk song of both Punjabs. There was then no stopping the elation.

The baton has specially been designed on an 18 karat gold leaf and the relay was the largest of all the previous editions, covering a distance of 1,90,000 km during its visit to 71 participating nations across the world. It had started from Delhi to Buckingham Palace (England) and was formally launched by Queen Elizabeth-II to travel to all 71 Commonwealth Nations.
And the countdown of 100 days began…for the baton to reach back to Delhi–the venue of the XIX Commonwealth Games from October 3-14, after setting foot in 28 states and seven union territories of India.
It was passed on to the Indian sports greats Vijender Singh Olympics Bronze medalist Boxer and four-time world champion woman boxer M C Mary Kom at Indo- Pak Border and thereon to many a great Indian sportsperson.
However, it remains to be seen if only 70 countries or will the 71st country would also participate as enthusiastically as seen near the Wagah-Attari dividing line, …or was the ‘undivided’ feeling just a fleeting gesture…..

“Mom” and “dad” to each other


by Rashmi Talwar

NOTHING transcends geographical borders like the mom, dad, beta, baby syndrome that catches on with a long innings of a couple. I wondered who an elderly woman was addressing as “Abba” a man her own age, in Lahore till he answered “Ammi jaan…waqt par hun”.

It felt just like home merely 60 km away in Amritsar, where dad used to address mom as “Mummy” and mom vice-versa to dad as “Papa”. Now we too were doing that even before our silver wedding anniversary. It is not Lahore and Amritsar’s shared culture to be blamed for turning couples into each other’s mom-dad but a worldwide trend in marriages nearing a sterling silver.

I remember my most beautiful paternal aunt got married to a Merchant Navy guy. Exposed to countries other than “Mera Bharat Mahan” she addressed her husband “darling” and “sweetheart” as grandmother glared and we teenagers giggled. Tickled endlessly by the endearment, from Mills and Boons reading spree, we could not see the “darling” as the TDH (Tall-Dark-Handsome) but the not so familiar “sweet nothing” in Indian domestic circles surely stirred youthful longings.

A number of gifts from foreign lands kept granny mum but when a new daughter-in-law started the “darling” routine, granny mumbled her choicest expletives: “Hindustan vich reh ke, pati nu ‘darling darling’ kardi hai”. Our giggles were never ending . That was in 70s when we heard mothers call their husbands “Oh ji, Ay ji or Suno ji” and approving nods by grandmothers, till it became a hearty joke in films. Actually, schooling had changed all.

Often peer or parental nicknames either spread warmth of familiarity or turn one glacial in later life. My sister when addressed as Nane Shah felt prickly. ‘Petha’, ‘kaddu’, ‘nali cho-cho’, ‘tiddi’, ‘chiku’ ,’drum’, ‘elachi’ and ‘ghori’ were names of our tennis buddies. I felt that more often childhood names re-bonded the shared pranks but most don’t share my enthusiasm. Some even take offence over shortened names as familiarity no more fits them. So when I called my classmate, now a principal, by her short name, she boomed: “Call me Mrs Sandhu”.

However, my ‘darling’ aunt had a unique penchant for name-calling and so musical that none felt berated. A stay at her place was indeed enlightening. Early in the morning she exclaimed “Dhoop aa gayi” for the morning maid and “Raat aa gaya” for the evening servant. A vegetable and fruit vendor outside her house in the morning smiled widely when she asked him “Chor, itne din kio nahi aya?” while her grandchildren danced a merry-go-round with “chor aa gaya..chor aa gaya”. Why she called him “chor” is a long story.

However, some instances can hardly be forgiven. My husband called me by my pet Pomerian’s name: “My Guccu”. “Am I your dog now”, I retorted. “Oh my ‘Beta’, he said teasingly. Another time when I called my friend on mobile and called out “Dain” and somebody asked Seema who is “dain’, she replied: “Rashmi Honi hai…

FIRST PUBLISHED IN “THE TRIBUNE” PAGE 8 ISSUE DATED APRIL 28, 2010

Kidnapped Giandeep @Richie Punjab Kesari –carries a feature story about Giandeep’s fan page


Kidnapped Giandeep @Richie

FIRST PUBLISHED——Punjab Kesari –one of the most circulated National Hindi Daily carried a feature story about Giandeep’s fan page on April 24th 2010 dateline Amritsar

The story on Giandeep was published in blog “SAANJH–AMRITSAR- LAHORE ” while Giandeep@Richie’s fan page is on the link

Story of India Pakistan bonding


By RASHMI TALWAR

I thank all who have taken the trouble to comment or like this post.IN fACEBOOK.. believe me it is close to my heart …..

Although, every year, I share photos of a tenderly, tended garden in Amritsar in March when in full bloom ….there is also a little story I would like to share with the heterogeneous mix of my friends …..
In one of the pixs, next to the green lamppost is a ‘innocent’ looking palm spreading more horizontally than vertically. When I requested my friends in Lahore, Pakistan, about carrying a little sapling to my Desh, a night before leaving, they promptly uprooted the palm breaking the pot, soldiered some soil of Pakistan, wetted it with water and wrapped in a polythene bag. On our arrival in India on the Samjhauta Express, my husband got talking to some who were similarly waiting. As the luggage started arriving, one of them pointed it out to my husband …”Dekho loki bootey vi Lahore to le ke aa rahe ne.” My husband knew it could only be me. Sheepishly, the man skipped away; when he saw it was the wife of the man he was talking to, who was carrying the ‘Green’ bounty.
Over there in Lahore, people asked me “India mein aisa Palm nahi milta kia ?” and back home I was queried on the same “India mein aisa palm nahi milta kia, jo app Lahore se utha layi ho?”. They did not know, that it was not the palm but the living, growing memento that I had got to bond me forever with the overwhelming “Realization of Peace between people of India and Pakistan” catering to my love for the Living, Growth, Nature, Progress and Smiles.
This was not the first time, and hopefully wouldn’t be the last .
On a visit to Nepal a quarter of a century back, I had similarly brought a Bamboo bush which turns Greenest of Greens, in the hottest of summers when all others look scorched from the burning sun.
Also, from countries having strict quarantine rules, come rocks, stones and pebbles, often to the chagrin of our friends, who laugh and point out “..Sare pathar bhar ke le ayin hain , weight tey zaida hone hi si..” I found a new way to lessen the weight, and carried them in my travelling belt. When I explained to officials of Custom and Immi that I was a “stupid” stone collector and it was not a ‘hijacking tool’ . I was just lucky, they believed me and let me off, often smilingly, while my dear and near ones continued to laugh incessantly, even to this day.
This ‘queer buzz’ in me again manifested itself on a different occasion . I got a call from Pakistan …Apka article Tribune mein parke , humey Indian high commission ne visa de diya hai …abb humey humare dost se milva do”..The call was from Raja Mohammed Ali, a childhood friend of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, from village Gah (birthplace of PM), Pakistan……”Yeh sunn na tha, aur hum chal pare, unko milvane ke liye. Aisa kaho bachpan ke dost ki kahani ” Krishan- Sudama ” vali thi, lekin humko kia, humko bas karma tha …yeh .
…waise hi jese Dr Hardeep Singh aur Mrs Hapreet Kaur ke khoye hue bête Giandeep @Richie ke peche hum chal diye….

Raja ji aur Mohna ji (PM was called Mohna by his classmates) ki unnkahi kismet thi . “Ji” “mulakat hui Raja ji aur Mohna ki, aur sare Jahan ne dekha …Aur India se …..Jate, Jate Raja ji ko 2 Cassia (golden Shower) ke bootey diye ..aur woh idhar ke logon ke kahil ho gaye.
These two cassia saplings were out of three, one of which is planted behind the statue in the pix and will hopefully flower this year. However, the two are already flowering in the Pakistani village Gah bringing pleasure and smiles, since last year. ..my only wish is as my father in law (GRHS) said to me ….”Dont look back , move forward, there is no time better than now …”

U r free to share this post if u like ….Be with me on finding Giandeep….I know we will find him …..Godbless Amritsar

KIDNAPPED GIANDEEP @RICHIE IS STILL ALIVE : PARENTS


Kidnapped Giandeep@Richie 's parents


BY Rashmi Talwar

Four Sikh boys came in a white ‘Maruti’ van with tinted glasses, one stepped out, picked lil Giandeep@Richie from a cycle Rikshaw in the cantonment area of Amritsar, that fateful morning of August 19, 1996 and the “world came crashing down” for Dr Hardeep Singh and his wife Mrs Harpreet Kaur.

“Our Lives Changed Forever,” says Harpreet whose younger son Gaindeep only 5- years, was kidnapped that morning. “For past 14 years there has not been a moment’s peace, not a happy time that we really enjoyed. By taking our son the four, have permanently wiped the smiles off our faces.

I knew that, asking them to relive the incident was going to hurt, but I moved forward, as I left myself no choices.. “THIS had to be done and SHARED !”

IT HAPPENED ……

Dr Hardeep opened layers of his child’s memorabilia, showed us his ‘last’ school bag that was left behind in the rikshaw when 4-kidnappers– all young, came with muffled faces. The poor rikshaw walla showed courage, scuffled and caught the main kidnapper’s leg, who kicked him with the second leg and made off with the child. The only witness to this, is the rickshaw wala, a woman selling corn on the roadside and an employee of a school.
Giandeep, being the youngest was sitting in the middle of five older children. The petrified children ran off following this..” , wiping his tears, he continued — ” I was at the time writing thesis at the Library of Government Medical college, Amritsar when some known people came and whisked me off home without telling me anything on the way.
When they said “Richie is Kidnapped’ I felt the earth had given way under me. Ever since sleep has evaded us, we have shattering dreams and in some we see Richie smiling and we long to hold him in our arms, hug and kiss him everywhere…..

ONLY 5 DAYS BEFORE HIS B’DAY ……

As the father showed us Giandeep’s school notebooks and report card, he pointed to the rank ..” See Giandeep was brilliant, stood first in his class in nursery and only joined the Junior Study School, Amritsar in the April of that fateful year 1996.
Just as, we were preparing to celebrate his 5th B’day that falls on 24th August, with this two favourite songs “Akhiyan milaon, kabhi akhiyan jhukaon , kia tu ne kia jaddoooooooo……” and “Mai hi Mai, munder pe Bol raha hai Kaga….”, which he sang with a multicolored umbrella on his head …, he was abducted.
Remembering every small detail about him, the father says.. “He Called me ‘Dey Da’, said he resembled me and not his mom, otherwise a quiet boy, very obedient, organized in everything , would polish his shoes everyday, refuse to wear an unwashed garment, loved combining red with his blue jeans. And oh! he was left- handed , Very fair complexioned ,had a black spot in his left eye and a prominent 1 ½ inch birthmark on his upper left thigh .” Surprisingly, No Ransom call was ever received.

HE IS ALIVE

Holding a lil school craft, the mother showed “Giandeep had made this in school”. Opening a pencil box, she peeped, “See how neatly he kept his pencils, sharpner, eraser and color box..”. He loved coloring and could solve addition and subtraction sums, even before he joined school, by watching his elder brother Chandandeep Singh @Honey.
“If we ever scolded Honey, he would take up for his brother….”That’s the kind of boy we lost ..How can we be at peace, knowing that he is still ‘alive’ somewhere?
How do you know that ? …The mother answered quietly ,” Every astrologer we approached, said he is alive and well’ .

Joining in with his wife, the father said, “So much so, that I studied astrology as a 2-year degree course started in a local college and topped the exam. Other than indicating that he is alive and well I could read nothing more in Giandeep’s birth charts, it did not give me any other clue’, he lamented. The kidnappers could have left him in a train bogey, or a street in any city …we don’t know. But we know he is alive.

MUKH VAK
Dr Hardeep suddenly rushed in and came up with an old diary. He pointed out how he had documented every ‘First’ visit of his son to a gurdwara , a dear friend’s Suman Sharma’s place who stood with him through the thick and thin of looking for Giandeep . Not only this, he had carefully noted down the ‘MUKH VAK’ (First Verse from Guru Granth Sahib) of the day, of his every first visit in gurdwaras in Tarn Taran, Mohali (Nanke ), Goindwal (where he was born), Chandigarh, .
When he was born and the first time we went to a Gurdwara with him, the VAK was —
“Tum daate Thakur pritpalak nayak khasm hamare
Nimak nimak tum hi pritpalo hum baarik tumre Dhare “.

It is strange and an irony , that I suspect the family of my aunt, to have a hand in this kidnap. The aunt alongside whom I prayed for a child and who remained childless for a long time, until at a place of worship I was chosen as an ideal family member to tie the ‘maanat mauli’ (sacred thread). Soon after, she (my aunt) bore her first son, followed by the birth of a daughter. I suspected this very son of my aunt and his friends kidnapped my child. And what a harsh stroke of fate that this very son of my aunt died in a traumatic incident of drowning a few years back .….

WE WILL LOOK FOR HIM ..WE WILL FIND HIM ….. was all we could say…..

Elegant ‘Kasoori Jutti’ a craze in Punjab


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Kasuri Jutti


‘Juttis’, traditional footwear well known for comfort, are found in various designs and colours, ranging from Punjabi, Kolhapuri, and Jaipuri, but when it comes to ‘Kasoori Jutti’ of Pakistan, nothing can beat them in design, style and of course, comfort.

The traditional embroidery, elegant style and softness make the ‘Kasoori Jutti’ a hot item for fashion buffs in Punjab, while its ‘dabka’ work is truly a craze.

Available at Amritsar’s ‘Mauchi Bazaar’ or cobblers market, ‘Kasoori Jutti’ is available at dozen of shops and the price ranges from ten dollars to 45 dollars.

Many shopkeepers import embroidered material from across the border and assemble it in Amritsar, as to suit their customers.

“The specialty of Kasoori Juttis is its delicate embroidery, which is normally not found in other footwear,” said Satish Kumar, a shop owner.

“Comparatively, the Pakistani Juttis more durable, but the Punjabi juttis we make here (in Punjab) are better in quality. In Pakistani juttis, they don’t use cushions, which we do. Cushions bring softness in juttis,” he added.

Imported directly from Kasoor, “Kasoori Jutti” makes an annual business to the tune of 3.3 million dollars.

The trade can be enhanced if both countries agree on a free trade policy, and, this is what the majority of traders in Amritsar want.

“If border trade is opened between India and Pakistan and normal visas are issued to people, the business will get a boom. We can also export our items to Pakistan. Sometime back, a pilgrim took juttis from me, and it was very much liked by the people in Pakistan,” another shop owner said.

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Flickr Photos

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

Beyond the Pappis and Jhappis …Stepping across the Radcliff line!../Rashmi Talwar

Real story behind the burning of Tydale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir…/ By Rashmi Talwar

More Photos

http://saanjh.wordpress.com/press

http://saanjh.wordpress.com/press

RSS Blog on Amritsar and Lahore

  • Kashmir is Organic, not manicured: Imtiaz Ali…/ Rashmi Talwar June 30, 2014
    Don't go by the Bollywood director Imtiaz Ali's golly-lock looks, neither by his humble demeanor, underneath lies a sharp mind and heart that not only explodes in cinematic best in such blockbusters like ‘Jab we met’, ‘Rockstar’ and recent ‘Highway’ but has brought Kashmir once again on the tourist circuit in more ways than one. Apart from highligh […]
    Saanjh
  • Sign of blessed tidings, water is milky at Kheer Bhawani…/ Rashmi Talwar June 11, 2014
    It wasn't as if the Pandits alone felt blessed by the water’s light tinge, Kashmiris in general, especially the older generation, too seemed to have prayed for pastel colors for the spring waters. Kashmiris can hardly forget the reddish and blackish hue of the holy waters in early 90’s that left them tattered and shattered, destroying almost everything […]
    Saanjh
  • Why Pak expelled Indian Journalists?..Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir May 26, 2014
    May 19th saw two Indian journalists working in Pakistan cross over to their home country from Pakistan. Snehesh Alex Philips of Press Trust of India came through Wagah-Attari Indo- Pak Joint Check Post land route in Amritsar, and Meena Menon from ‘The Hindu’ via Karachi to Mumbai flight. The two, Snehesh and Meena are completely baffled by their unceremoniou […]
    Saanjh
  • Gun & Warlords, Biggest worry of Pakistan: Ch Ahmed Javed Hassan/ By Rashmi Talwar May 17, 2014
    If any footsteps tiptoed in Pakistan with fancy footwear it was either from Bata or Pakistan’s foremost Servis shoes. While many became paupers due to Indo-Pak partition, Servis Industries never gave up and entered the newly born Pakistan’s market with its brand of shoes that competed with the only other brand existing at the time. Today into big time, the s […]
    Saanjh
  • India & Pakistan/ Bonds of Culture / AG Noorani March 25, 2014
    FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE FRONTLINE ON APRIL 4, 2014 URL:http://www.frontline.in/world-affairs/bonds-of-culture/article5787758.ece#testFiled under: INDIA PAKISTAN Tagged: BONDS, culture, india, INDIA PAKISTAN, Pakistan
    Saanjh
  • Kashmiris cheering Pakistan Cricket Team../Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir March 15, 2014
    It is hard to dig deep into the heart of any Kashmiri by others in India every time he or they commit a faux pas. In the current scenario, do we as self-respecting individuals need to introspect that duties, responsibilities and rights go hand in hand. “Why do the students accept the largesse if they detest the benefactor of these benevolent schemes. Do they […]
    Saanjh
  • Will AAP’s Delhi effect be felt in Jammu & Kashmir? …/Rashmi Talwar January 3, 2014
    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.
    Saanjh
  • Carrying forward a musical legacy..ABHAY RUSTUM SOPORI/ Rashmi Talwar December 25, 2013
    Abhay Rustum Sopori’s fusion composition emerged as one of the finest pieces of the concert. He stood undeterred in the midst of controversies raised by separatists. "Being a local Kashmiri, I could have developed cold feet due to the raging controversies but I stood my ground and fulfilled one of my greatest dreams of bringing Kashmiri music on the wor […]
    Saanjh
  • Beyond the Pappis and Jhappis …Stepping across the Radcliff line!../Rashmi Talwar December 25, 2013
    With both Punjabi Prime Ministers heading Pakistan-India and having ancestral cords in each other’s countries, the time may be ripe to make bold decisions and historical beginning with a clean end to hostilities. For long, both countries have tip-toed to each other’s lands with apprehensions and compulsions at the hand of their respective vote banks that pla […]
    Saanjh
  • Real story behind the burning of Tydale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir…/ By Rashmi Talwar December 13, 2013
    Then what really took place that led to burning of Tyndale Biscoe's rural school located in Tangmarg? Shocking disclosure, of allegations against Tangmarg’s MLA Ghulam Hassan Mir alleged to be in cahoots with army and charged the winds of rebellion to oust the democratically elected government of NC- Congress headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, has […]
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