Imran Khan will never make a comback: Pak Author /Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images


Imran Khan will never make a comback: Pak Author

Rashmi Talwar

TEXT BELOW…..

The Begum Tahmina Ayub Aziz

Rashmi Talwar

Pakistani author Tahmina Aziz Ayub was ‘surprisingly’ in Amritsar. I met her, at Majha House- a cultural Hub of the city for the curtain raising event of her co-authored book titled ‘The Begum’ along with co-author Deepa Agarwal.  The book is a collaborative account of the life of Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first lady, wife of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan.   The 216-page Book ‘The Begum’ is a product of an India-Pak joint venture, authored by Indian Author Deepa Agarwal and Pakistani Author Tahmina, moderated by Namita Gokhale. Tahmina also happens to be the intrepid daughter of Pakistani Politician Sartaj Aziz who served in many exalted positions as Finance Minister, Foreign Minister, NSA (National Security Advisor) during former Pak PM Nawaz Sharif’s tenure. Guests from Pakistan to India and vice versa are rarities, in these times. Some top level personalities in Pakistan were declined Indian visa in recent years, some even for the Jaipur Literature Festival, where their events were charted and printed in the festival inventory. Tahmina’s visit therefore is pleasantly surprising as she unexpectedly travels to India on a SAARC visa, a facility between the two countries that remains active and honoured, despite rancour and fissures between both neighbours. RASHMI TALWAR caught up with the forthright Pak author Tahmina Aziz Ayub, about the book and her take on varied layers of Pakistan, including political.

 

What really got you to this write the book-“The Begum”? How did Namita and Deepa Agarwal, the co-author of the book, figure in?

The inspiration was just Namita Gokhale and her desire to write this book; she had no time, and couldn’t get down to it, although it had been on the back of her mind for years. So when she approached me, she said-“I have been talking to many people in Pakistan regarding the life of their first lady Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan. But they raised many questions and objections, that irritated me so much, that I told myself- ‘just forget it’, but you (Tahmina) are a person who would not bother, I know you will just do it, just write this book.”

Namita Gokhale- A name in World Literary circles as publisher, author of 16-books and co-director Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) was the vital suture between the two authors, who insured the penned piece on ‘The Begum’ saw the daylight of the two nations at loggerheads. Namita’s interest emanated from the fact that she shared a common Brahmin lineage; some of her aunts and her sister even resembled Ra’ana in appearance and a shared maiden surname ‘Pant’ with the first lady of Pakistan- Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan. Namita was born Namita Pant while Ra’ana was born Irene Ruth Margaret Pant.

Deepa Agarwal, the co-author of the book is an award winning author-poet of India with almost 50 books to her credit and was deeply interested in this subject since she shared a common ancestral town of Almora with Pakistan’s first lady. Over her growing years she learnt a lot about the Begum’s grit and gift, from stories that wafted around her hometown.

Were you connected with first family in any way?

No, not at all. There are many people however who are very friendly with them. Her son born in India- Akber Liaquat Ali Khan is known to be very social, but because I live in Islamabad and he in Karachi, I don’t know him. Out of Ra’ana’s granddaughters one of them lives in Lahore, whom I never met, her name is also Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, after her grandmother.  The other one lives in Islamabad, who came from London, is working for an NGO, I never met her till I met her for this book. So I was not connected to the Liaquat Ali Khan family in any way.

Were there problems, connecting, researching for this book, since you didn’t have the initial connections with the first family?

Yes there were, because the family was hesitant to open up. They were unwilling to share any information. There was her (Ra’ana’s) daughter-in-law who is British and lives in Karachi and who has all her diaries in her house but did not share it with us. Once we had written the first draft of the book, the son who was married was very concerned and wanted to see our draft and so we shared it with him. His was a major concern as he wanted nothing to be printed that was derogatory or negative.

Yes it was Akber!

Why they felt that, I don’t know, because this book was to be purely a tribute and homage from Namita via us as writers. It was quite upsetting for us, but …

I believe Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan and Namita, shared the same surname? Did Pakistan’s first lady have a Hindu ancestry?

Yes Namita and Ra’ana both shared a surname ‘Pant’. Yes, Pakistan’s first lady, Ra’ana came from a Brahmin lineage. She was born as Irene Ruth Margaret Pant. A generation earlier, Ra’ana’s Hindu grandfather Taradutt Pant and his family had converted to Christianity and Ra’ana as Irene grew up in the shadow of the Brahmin community’s still active outrage over the conversion.

Taradutt Pant faced drastic ostracism in the form of Ghatashraddha –Trees were burnt to symbolize a living person as dead, as a ritual, in grave protest to his (Brahmin’s) conversion to another religion, by the ancestral community. Tree burning – symbolizing burning of ‘living wood’, on a cremation pyre, a social death. Later, Ra’ana too converted to Islam following her marriage to Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, who became the first Prime Minister of Pakistan.

How did this coordination between an Indian and a Pakistan woman or rather writers carry forward?

Through Watsapp, the social networking site (laughs).

Were there any issues between the two of you while writing this book, was it cordial, and were there any differences?

Not—at–alll ! (Exclaims) It was very cordial and an extremely cooperative partnership. Deepa is an amazingly gentle person and I understood that immediately and dealt with her accordingly. Also, I am a very pro-Indian person so I had no preconceived negative feelings towards this country. India is as beloved to me as my own. If Deepa found anything of my interest, she would immediately share it with me. Similarly, if I found something relevant to Deepa’s portion, I would share with her. Like for instance, Rati Soni, Ra’ana’s sister’s daughter-in-law lived in Delhi, I came across someone who knew her so I gave Deepa her address, phone numbers, contacts.

So you had divided the portions?

Yes, Deepa worked upon the pre-Pakistan life and I worked upon post-Pakistan life of Ra’ana. But of course they were continuations, interconnections and overlaps pouring from first half to the second half of her life.

Did you encounter any hurdles with Ra’ana’s family members?

Yes, a few. While Akber, Ra’ana’s son was keen to see the manuscript before its publication, there were also a lot of letters, there were diaries, Ra’ana had written, and the family didn’t share any of that with us. Those would have shed light on her, more as a person.

Namita Gokhale writes that Ra’ana was a keen Bridge player, liked a good life. Is it true?

Yes, there is a portion in the book that mentions that Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan regularly played bridge at the house located at 8, Tilak Marg in Delhi, which now houses the Pakistan Embassy and belonged to Liaquat Ali Khan and Ra’ana. This was also the house where both of their sons Akber and Ashraf were born before partition.

Don’t you find it strange that founder of Pakistan Muhammed Ali Jinnah ‘sold’ his house and the Prime Minister designate of Pakistan Nawab Liaquat Ali Khan ‘donated’ his house to the newly formed Pakistan  as its embassy?

(Laughs!) That is the difference between a Nawab who has inherited his wealth and a self-made lawyer who has made his fortunes with great difficulty. Mr Jinnah valued his earnings, so he sold his house close-by at 10, Aurangzeb Road, Delhi to Ramakrishan  Dalmia, for Rs 3 Lakh, who in turn gave it to some embassy on rent; while Mr Liaquat Ali out rightly donated his house for the embassy of Pakistan as the future residence of new nation’s High Commissioner.

In Delhi when you had the book release, it was met with a lot of opposition. Why?

Actually it was Deepa who faced opposition at the India International Center, Delhi regarding this book, I was not present. And the tirade was mainly by Mani Shankar Aiyer. I think, Mani’s opposition stemmed from his old age and feeling useless in life because he has been side-lined by the Congress party. I think Mani has become very cynical and this cynicism was pouring out. And he made a few useless remarks –‘O that playboy son of hers!’ referring to Akber Liaquat; ‘O madam was very arrogant and very difficult to approach!’ They were very flippant and cynical remarks, typically a-la-Mani-Shankar hallmark and style. I don’t think they can be taken seriously.

It’s also a coincidence that Liaquat Ali who became the first Prime Minister of Pakistan married a girl quite younger than himself (i.e. Ra’ana) and the Founder of Pakistan Muhammed Ali Jinnah too married a Parsi girl named Ruttie (Ratanbai) Petit, so much younger than him. Both of these men, lofty personalities, close friends, married girls from another community, so much younger than themselves. Do you read something into that?

They were both highly intelligent men and were obviously looking for companions; it wasn’t so much the age. It’s a fact that Ruttie Petit – Jinnah’s wife, at a very young age was a very bright girl, inquisitive and always trying to seek knowledge. And Jinnah noticed that about her.

Your book is being widely criticised for eulogizing a historical figure like Ra’ana with not a single dark remark or a single indication towards a character flaw?

We have been accused of that by many people. The main grouse of a Pak journalist -Sarwat Ali who writes about culture and classical music, was- “Why didn’t this book touch more on the on-going politics of that region, of her role, her place, except that one interview that is published at the fag end of the book”. Of course she (Ra’ana) had very strong views, she was not completely goody-goody and that everything was going fine with Pakistan and everything is going great with Zia-ul-Haq kind of Islam and Pakistan. Infact she was very critical towards her end about –“What we-(as protagonists who fought for a separate homeland of Pakistan) had envisaged, a secular Pakistan, not this completely Zia-ul-Haq fundamentalist type of Islam”. Hence on her views, we could have got a bit more critical in the book, but we didn’t want to get personal.

But her contemporaries, her friends, people around her could have had something more to say about her?

We got such adulatory reports about her (Ra’ana), our input was that she was inspirational and led by example, not wasting any time, except when she played bridge (laughs).

Was she also a drinker, like Jinnah was?

Yes, an occasional, social-drinker.

What is this Ghaghra -Dupatta story about Ra’ana and her attire?

It can be conjectured that she was brought up in Lucknow, where she went to school and college that the lucknavi culture must have rubbed off on her. She may have admired Ghaghra at some level, so when she got a chance to use the attire she adopt it and preferred it to the Salwar Kameez, which was the common attire then. Also, I feel, she was short (5 feet tall) and the attire of Ghaghra, Kurti and pretty diaphanous Dupatta, gave her a stature. She always carried a matching pouch on her arm to match the Ghaghra, which became her hallmark.

Did she want to portray royalty with this attire, as she was put on a pedestal of a commanding stature of first lady as the wife of the first Prime Minister of Pakistan?

She adopted the attire when she was in India in early 40s, I don’t know if it had anything to do with any notions of being a princess. Because she couldn’t then have known that her husband would become the first PM of Pakistan. What I learnt was that she was a very practical woman who solely wanted to enrich and empower the lives of women and worked tirelessly at pushing women to work.

What is her story with Walt Disney?

Haaa… that we never delved into! There was a picture of hers with Walt Disney and I know she loved children’s movies and she loved movies like Mary Poppins, and she used to watch them and make her grandchildren watch them too, but I am not sure about the Walt Disney connection. She met him in America. She had visited America four times. The last, in year 1977, when she was presented the Human Rights Award.

Do you think she died a very unhappy woman, seeing what she had thought, dreamt and envisioned about Pakistan. After all she fervently fought for this homeland, dreamt about the country, it’s women, the poorer lot, and where actually Pakistan stood, till the time she passed away. I am sure she would have cried a million tears seeing the state of affairs of Pakistan.

Oh yes!

You are absolutely right. I have written in the end of the book that she died a very sad, and a very broken woman. That she definitely felt that she didn’t see what she would have liked to have seen Pakistan become. Pakistan had very slow growth, a lot of problems, a lot of poverty, a lot of backwardness as far as women were concerned, and lack of education, majorly—Yes

Coming back to the book “The Begum”, did Sartaj Aziz , your father also assist you to get information on this book since he is a very important political  figure having held many ministerial positions and not long back was the de facto foreign minister in the Nawaz Sharif government?

 

Oh, not at all, he does not believe in interfering in our lives, he likes to keep the private and the public lives separate. His public life is his life and his private life is us and we can do what we like, he encourages us, he supports us, but he will never assist us.

I think he was a good minister and a sensible one at that in Nawaz Sharif’s Government.

And Imran Khan as Pakistan’s PM, do you think his second tenure could be better than his first, because it seems he is quite a novice at diplomacy and …?

 Do you really think he will get a second tenure?

I don’t know, sometimes the public forgives and brings back the underdog…

 No!  He will not make a comeback. The public has been disappointed too soon, too far. And they will forget him and will elect him down.

But the way he stated, in his first speech to the nation after winning elections –‘If India takes one step towards us, we shall take two steps forward’.

 He meant that.

But somehow he was not able to go forward on it.

I think Indian PM Narendra Modi stepped five steps backwards.

Narendra Modi did make a surprise stopover in Lahore to extend birthday wishes to then PM Nawaz Sharif and also bless his granddaughter on her wedding. This visit is viewed as the best friendly gesture and was a good chance for Pakistan and India to have been better positioned  in terms of brokering peace in the region.

But do you realize that Nawaz Sharif was removed soon after that event.

Yes, and Nawaz Sharif was also invited for the oath taking ceremony of Modi..

Which he happily came to …

Yes after many hurdles from the establishment or the Pakistan army. Sharif did come that was a good chance to make peace with India, but it just did not happen.

And then we had Imran Khan as PM, backed by the army and he doesn’t know how to handle Modi at all..

You see because Nawaz Sharif was trying in his own way, in his own style, independent of the army, to make gestures to India, which the army could not stomach. So the army had to have someone like Imran, who they brought, so that they could Yoo Yoo him, the way they want.

Is he Yoo-ing Yoo-ing to them now?

 Yes he is, a total Yoo-Yoo, a complete Yoo-Yoo.

And now that FAFT (Financial Action Task Force) is hanging on Pakistan’s neck?

Pakistan is in a list that is beyond grey but not yet black.  Imran has formed a committee, to see what measures can be taken immediately to move from that dark grey list back to the normal list.

If that be so, I wish it happens soon because Imran has very little time.

 You are right.

There are people sitting on his (Imran’s) head, who would not want him to work on that level ..

You see that list is unfortunately something which involves the Pak army to a large extent.  The Pak army is the one to decide to clamp down completely on every kind of activity even labelled slightly terrorist or any organisation that can be potentially -terrorist, they need to clamp down.

But don’t they think that if they do not clamp down this would be suicidal for the Pakistan army as well? Because where is the fund going to come for them?

You see right now the army’s back is against the wall because of what has happened in Kashmir (August-5, 2019 /Abrogation of article 370 of Indian Constitution, scrapping of section 35-A, bifurcation of state of Jammu & Kashmir into Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, delimitation of population count in the area).   And they really would not like to appear more cowed down before the Pak public, so they have to be very careful, how they handle this whole terror situation in Pakistan.

So what is Pakistan’s issue when it is attempting to change the status of Gilgit Baltistan?  Abrogation of articles of Indian constitution is the internal matter of India wherein an article and section enmeshed in our own constitution has been abrogated and an internal decision has been taken, it has no bearing on Pakistan at all, so why does Pakistan react so strongly?

Because in 1947, 1948, 1949 there was an indication by Mr Jawaharlal Lal Nehru, by Mr Abdullah, that yes there would be a referendum in Kashmir to ask the Muslims of Kashmir to ask what they want. So that is hanging.   Secondly, Gilgit-Baltistan has not become a province of Pakistan. I know because my father headed a commission directed at ‘How to bring Gilgit Baltistan closer to Pakistan’ and at present GB has an ambiguous status viz-a-viz Pakistan.

But the UN had clearly mentioned that there were three stipulations and they would be sequential, wherein Pakistan pulls out its forces, India pulls out its forces and there on the plebiscite could happen?

Can you imagine that happening?

It cannot. Then why do they hang on to it. Why doesn’t Pakistan move forward?

 That’s what they aren’t ready to do, mentally.

We had an international media session with Nawaz Sharif in Lahore in 2013, during that session it was mentioned that Kashmir should be kept on the back burner and India-Pakistan should move forward on other issues.

That a lot of leaders said- Vajpayee jee said that too…

In the long run, during elections, Kashmir again turns into a jingoistic issue…

 I must tell you this that in Pakistan Kashmir has not been an issue for elections, Kashmir issue is something which is just there. It is taken for granted. They don’t have to remind the public.

Rashmi Talwar is an Independent Journalist, can be contacted at email: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

Kashmir Images/Published on: 29 September2019

URL:http://epaper.thekashmirimages.com/epaper/edition/630/kashmir-images/page/6

Captured returned, Faiz’s daughter backs Indian pilot’s return By Rashmi Talwar /Kashmir Images


Post Pulwama : INDIA-PAKISTAN

Captured IAF Wing commander returned

Faiz’s daughter backs Indian pilot’s return to home country  

Rashmi Talwar

Wagah-Attari (Amritsar) March 1, 2019-



Rashmi Talwar can be reached at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

 

 

Candanian Premier shows why he’s ‘Justin Singh’ by Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images


Kashmir Images

Candanian Premier shows why he’s ‘Justin Singh’

by Rashmi Talwar 

 

Justin Trudeau 1 Canadian PM 21Feb18

Justin Trudeau 2 Canadian PM 21Feb18

Rashmi Talwar can be reached at email rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

Prasoon’s Joshi’s Timeless Red Diary / Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images


Screenshot Parsoon Joshi Timeless.jpgPoetic Session

Prasoon Joshi’s Timeless Red Diary

Rashmi Talwar

A sunny afternoon, on a Saturday, mercury touching 45-degree Celsius, the heritage street leading to the Golden Temple is swarming with a sea of faithfuls alongside inquisitors, shoppers and revellers. Weekends are particularly loaded in the border, heritage and holy city of Amritsar, for a Darshan of the glorious Golden Temple and Wagah Indo-Pak beating retreat ceremony, the latter, in an attempt to glimpse the chequered history of this neck of the forest.

The heritage street is dotted with the Spirit of Punjab- of bravery, sacrifice, and gaiety. On the same street, sun rays melt, dripping over the World’s First Partition Museum that sits gracefully yet humbly, in an otherwise majestic British Raj’s colonial building of erstwhile Town Hall; humming mournfully the stories of the city’s painful past.

Step in for a peep into the past and the Partition Museum grips the beholder in a recurring echo of a feeble whistle of a chuffing train leaving its platform. The haunting sound draws goosebumps on any sensitive soul. Resonating whistle, a poignant reminder, of the last forlorn call of escape, to tens of thousands of refugees, on both sides of the divide. Many of whom reached their destinations- slashed, cut-up, lifeless, hanging atop bloody exchange trains, in partition years. I am gripped with a memory of the Holocaust museum in Washington DC USA, with its similar unnerving sounds, stories, and heart-wrenching memorabilia.

Today, here, in this historic setting of the border city, we assemble, sit and talk to an extraordinaire creative guest wearing myriad hats and feathers- a class lyricist, songwriter, and ad-man -Prasoon Joshi. His widely acclaimed screenplay of the film- “Bhag Milkha Bhag”- particularly sits in tandem with the spirit of the museum. The heart twisting partition scenes in the film relived in cine-dom, displayed raw, blood-thirsty killings prior to the nation-split of August 1947. Parsoon, is the second guest poet to the museum, with earlier famous poet Gulzar- a refugee from Pakistan- who too stepped gingerly into the precincts of this terra firma ensconced with countless memories and stories of loss and deep pain.

Amritsar’s Partition Museum is the brainchild of London based Kishwar Desai, Chairperson of The Arts And Cultural Heritage Trust (TAACHT) that established the Museum at this border city; reminiscent of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919’s Baisakhi, freedom struggle and eventually felt every bit the pre and post partition gory, inhuman episodes following drawing of borders.

In a crisp black and white salwar kurta, holding a red diary Prasoon, copiously sets the mood for the darkness of those reddened blood nights and days of the great (awful) divide. The backdrop in the hall is a huge fabric fantoosh lighted under, that reads- “9423 Abducted women recovered from India sent to Pakistan …5510 Abducted women recovered from Pakistan sent to India. On 6th Dec 1947 and 31st July 1948”. Amidst the audience juts out a giant FretSaw wedged and cutting a brick wall, a shouting symbol of raw cuts, wounds, of nations divided with the nib of an unmerciful pen. The pen of Sir Cyril Radcliff – now referred to as the Radcliff Line between India and Pakistan.

On Prasoon’s young 40-plus shoulders, rests the mantle of Chairman of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), a Padam Shree and several national and international feathers and recognitions. However, he carries his enormous successes with grace and honest humility. The lyricist has an enviable inventory. Plug into songs- Tarey Zameen Par, Khalbali, Roobaroo, Behkaa, Zinda, Saanson ki Saanson, Maula, Rehna Tu, Acha lagta hai, Hum Tum, Rang de Basanti and one is amazed at the remarkable diversity of his poetry. Hummable dewy softness of some of his creative work, curls, and spirals alternating with a forceful flush of words. Prasoon, took on the honored guest chair and remained unstoppable. His pearls of poetry gushed, soared and filled up the hall, dripping in a steady stream. Fans and guests invited by Phulkari, an NGO presided by Praneet Chopra along with Desai from London, paid heed and took back with them a huge treasure of word gems.

Prasoon, was instantly likable, at ease in his Indian wear, skimming through his red diary to choose and recite an apt one, another, then, another. He reflected on the setting of this unusual venue for poetry – “The partition Museum here is ‘a beating heart of collective consciousness of the past’, albeit a painful one. I am happy there is a ‘gallery of hope’ he added. “My songs too have a strong connect to the past, yet it is consciously continuous, reaching the present and envisioning the future. For the museum, my idea is to further build it, as a bridge between the past, the present, and future generations,” he noted. Throughout the interaction and recitation, Prasoon’s red diary conspicuously stood out as a character of an endearing past, in the modern tech-world of -Echo & Alexa – a far-field voice control audio device, where a command could play out any poetry recitation, written content or song or dialogue.

It came in a rush, with a familiar lyrics of song -Taare Zameen Par-

Dekho Inhein, Yeh Hain Oss Ki Bundein, Patto Ki Godd Mein, Aasmann Se Kudey, Angraayi Le Phir Karwat Badal Kar, Nazauk Se Moti Hasde Phishal Kar…. Khoo Na Jaaye Yeh, Taare Zameen Par.  (Look at them, they are the dewdrops, in the lap of leaves, they slide from the skies, drowsily stretching, then tossing and turning, these delicate pearls slip and glow in laughter…May they never be lost, these little stars on earth…)

  The writer’s flourish with words is widely perceived as his creative currency to transcend the usual with an unusual kink, especially in the ad-world. Remember – “Coca-cola, Britannia Biscuits, chloromint”. But this afternoon was different; it was a solemn setting apt to his poem “Dard ke Parinde”. Now actively involved with the upcoming film “Manikarnika- Queen of Jhansi” for an August release, Prasoon-the ad-man for “Swachh Bharat” campaign, on his political affinity, clears the air –“I am with anyone who thinks good for my country.” On another query to the CBFC’s chairman regarding controversy over a period film ‘Padmavat’, and closer home of film ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, Prasoon took up for the filmmaker -“A filmmaker never deliberately makes an effort to disturb sensibilities, yet should never need to compromise with his /her creative instincts.”

The poet whose stirrings take on strongly for the girl child, with-“Iss Barr Nahi” (Not this time) has found favour with the likes of legendary Amitabh Bachchan, who recited this poem forcefully, to drill the message of empowerment of the girl child. The lyricist, who contributed tremendously to female gender upliftment through poetry, pegged in also as an enraged poet in –“Sharam Ati Hai?” (Do you feel shamed ?), yet another in the same genre – is an endearing one in folk style –“Babul”- Babul jeeya mora ghabarae, Babul mori itni araj sun li jo. Mohe Lohhar ke ghar deejo, jo mohri jangeerein piglaae. (Father, my heart is fearful, listen, to my only appeal, give me (in marriage) to a blacksmith, cause he alone shall melt my chains&shackles).

“There is an earthy granularity, texture, a tactile-tangibility in our language. I purely see it from a vantage point of detail and pour it into words,” Prasoon responds, on a query on creativity. “Plus the fact, of a childhood spent in scenic hills of Almora, my birthplace in the lap of Himalayas amidst hills of Kumaon, instead of a cityscape, truly gifted me a remarkable opportunity and ability to gain insight into the pulse of the real India”. Prasoon is undoubtedly a child of the earth, of idyllic spaces. Within him resides the soil’s unmistakeable innate fragrance, mirrored in his poetry. His years of quest with nature in quiet hills and love for books seem to have packed this delightful symphony of music and words within him. And he celebrates it at the slightest nudge; say those who have closely interacted with him.

“Recalling another song “Maa..” from ‘Tarrey..’And its whereabouts  – Prasoon says –“It was a memory when my mother left me for the first time at home to fulfill an errand. And I carved – “Main Kabhi Batlaata Nahi, Par Andhere Se Darta Hoon Main, Maa..” (I never tell you, but I fear the dark, Mama)”. For the audience, it became a poignant moment, when many a mother wiped a tear.

The largely female audience at once felt a connect, with a piece on the quintessential sister- “Bhen Aksar Tumse Bari Hoti Hai, Bhele Hi Tumse Choti Ho” (Often, a sister is elder to you, even if she is younger). The poet-songwriter did not shirk from generously sprinkling the evening with poetry of other greats – Har aadmī meñ hote haiñ das biis aadmī, jis ko bhī dekhnā ho, kai baar dekhnā  (Every man has 10-20 men within his embodiment, whosoever you look at, look at him multiple times) of  Nida Fazili.

It seemed like an afternoon, on a soft breeze, that attempted to become the wind, climbed up mountains, lunged into the skies, carrying moist teardrops, erupting into sunshine and rain, and bursting into hues and shades of rainbows.  Synchronically, sunrays quietly and quite unknowingly dipped into the horizon, slipped into an unacknowledged evening, and then a starry night, as poetry after poetry and encores on the way, loaded on emotions taking them into streets of relationships and labyrinth lanes of life.

In all this, my personal favourite was one relating to the feelings of teenage boys for their fathers –

Maa ki tareef karte karte, pata nahi kab mein Pita ke virodh hogayKia pita ka dosh, pita hona, ya samarth hona, ya purush hona? Mein pita ke samne dheeth hu, maa ke samne shaitaan, Mein pita ke samne chattan hu, maa ke samne nadii …Mein maa ke liye chup jata hu ,aur pita sa chupta hu, Mein maa ke samne prashan ki golai hu and pita ke samne uttar kin nok …Maa ke achar ke bayam agar dhoop se juda hote, toh mein unhe dhoop mein sarka deta hu, par pita ki fileon ke girte kazoon par mujhe kabhi taras nahi aya …

(While praising my mother, I recall not, exactly when, I grew against father. Was father’s fault in his being a father, or his capabilities, or plainly being male? Before father I am stubborn, before mother –naughty; Before father I am rock-strong, before mother- a river; I hide ‘for’ my mother and hide ‘from’ my father; I am a rounded globe of a question for mother, for father – a sharp point of a reply; if mother’s jar of pickle separates from the sunrays, I quietly push it in the fermenting sun again, For father’s dropping sheets from files, I show no such mercy…)

 

“Song is not an aim in itself’, but a milestone in movies, where silences and unsaid emotions get frolicked or manifested in the words of a song”, the artist with words who beautifully penned – “Chaloo hasi ko riwaz kar le …”( Let’s make laughter a culture, a tradition), inserts charmingly.

The rhythm of the evening carried through -“Sunshine Lanes” a repertoire of hardbound, of pure, quintessential poetry. A book on a ‘Journey of songs’ added with the ‘howaboutry’ of when, where, how the particular poetry was born, penned by Prasoon Joshi. “Dipping into visceral emotions – I write in images… poetry is a distilled piece of random jottings,” Prasoon concludes with a poetic flourish.

The red diary closes, resting, finally asleep, in the underarm, lulled by the heart nearby of its creator.

The haunting sound of a long whistle blows and blows, beckoning the traveler, the escapee, for one last call to freedom …

Rashmi Talwar, an Independent writer, can be emailed at: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

PUBLISHED IN KASHMIR IMAGES ON JUNE 2, 2018

URL:http://epaper.thekashmirimages.com/epaper/edition/147/kashmir-images/page/9

Canadian Premier shows why he’s ‘Justin Singh’/ By Rashmi Talwar / Kashmir Images


Canadian Premier shows why he’s ‘Justin Singh’

Rashmi Talwar

Seemingly unmindful of Modi-led government’s half-hearted response to his visit, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today visited Amritsar, enthralling the locals in a big way.

It may be recalled that Justin Trudeau’s visit was in a way, downplayed by the Union Government but his Punjab connection undoubtedly made it a memorable one.

If Justin Trudeau is sometimes also referred to as ‘Justin Singh’- it is not without a reason.

The Canadian Prime Minister, who has more Sikhs in his cabinet than his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, today showed how close he is with the Sikh community when upon arrival in the holy city he straight away drove to the Golden Temple.

Attired in an embroidered Kurta-Pajama with a saffron ‘Patka’ on his head and accompanied by his wirfe Sophie Gregoire Trudeau in lime green Kameez Palazzo, and two of his three children Ella Grace and Xavier in Punjabi ethnic wear, the Premier was received by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, and Navjot Singh Sidhu, State Minister for Tourism, at the Amritsar airport. Trudeau was received at the Golden Temple by former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab and Akali Dal President Sukhbir Badal and taken around the ‘parikarma’ or circumbulation of the holy shrine by the office bearers of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) including its president Gobind Singh Longowal.

The visiting Premier prayed at the Sanctum Santorum of the temple during an almost hour long visit to the shrine. Trudeau and his family also tried rolling out ‘rotis’ at the Guru Ram Dass Langar Hall, where pilgrims undertake voluntary kitchen chores for feeding other pilgrims. They greeted devotees with folded hands while scores of visitors could be seen holding their mobile phones to take pictures and videos with the Trudeaus.

A thick security blanket was in place in and around the Golden Temple with SGPC task force making a human chain to keep pilgrims at bay at the Temple premises. Trudeau was presented a specially crafted 24-Carat Gold plated portrait of the shrine and a gold plated Siri –Sahib (a small six inch sword) along with a ‘Siropa’- a robe of honour by the SGPC.

In the visitors book Justin Trudeau wrote-“What an honour to be so well received at such a beautiful, meaningful place. We are filled with grace & humility”.

 

 

“Super”- Dr Daljit Singh of Amritsar / By Rashmi Talwar


“Super”- Dr Daljit Singh of Amritsar

Rashmi Talwar

Other than the Magnificent Golden Temple and stimulus to the Freedom Struggle of India- the Jallianwala Bagh, much of world knew Amritsar as the place of renowned ophthalmologist Dr Daljit Singh, the inimitable surgeon and researcher who revolutionized eye care for the world.

“Being true to your Profession is the Biggest Patriotism!” Dr Daljit Singh believed, and followed this focus throughout his glorious innings.

True to his words his children Dr Ravijit Singh Dr Kiranjit Singh completed their surgeries while Dr Indu and Dr Seema prepared Dr Daljit Singh’s body for his last Journey, to join in, when he quietly passed away, after being in coma for a week.

This amply exhibits the dedication of this family towards a lofty mission of attending to the suffering, keeping all else on hold, before proceeding to their various tasks and toils.

Dr Ravijit Singh took the mike on the last condolence meet of the Bhog Ceremony of his beloved father Dr Daljit Singh- “Every father is a Superman for his children”, he started.
“My father too was a superman for us!”

As a boy nick named Ghuggu since he spoke nearly a year after his birth on 11 October 1934, Ghuggu became Daljit Singh, born to Sahib Singh, a Sikh academic of Sikh literature.

In the eyes of his children, he was a ‘Super Son’ who served his parents through their long illnesses.
Ravijit extolled, peeling away bit by bit to share hidden glimpses of the life and memories of his father, before a crowd of nearly 5000 people gathered, to pay respects to Amritsar’s Lofty son Dr Daljit Singh.

Our father was a – ‘Super Student’ making sketches of his teachers who often shunted him out of their class and like Aamir Khan of Three Idiots – a born learner, who would sit in the library and score more marks than the best of them!

A ‘super husband’ who had a love marriage in such times as in 1957. Dr Daljit wrote in his fiancée Sawarn’s gifted diary– ‘Professional competence is the best Patriotism’ and stood by it throughout.

A ‘super sportsman’ wherein his sons couldn’t beat him in carom, chess, table tennis or Billiards. A city club etched Dr Daljit Singh’s name twice as a Billiards Champion.

A ‘Super worker’ who worked 16-18 hours a day and rose at the crack of dawn.

A ‘Super Innovator’ who picked up a liquid from a dentist’s table and used it to create his revolutionary first intraocular lens.

A ‘Super Ophthalmologist’ who needs no introduction suffice to say, he won the Padam Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, in 1987. A Dr BC Roy Award credited with isolating three new genes causing congenital cataract and invented “plasma scalpel” for glaucoma and cataract surgery and pioneered a number of innovative and revolutionary surgical instruments.

At the same time a ‘Super instrumentalist’, who played the harmonium, the Tablaa, the flute and eventually left the world trying to master the elusive saxophone.

A ‘Super Techno’ who mastered every new technological innovation that emerged– “He would tell me my laptop or mobile needs upgradation, which meant that he was going to pass on his old laptop or phone to me to buy a new one for himself,” Dr Ravijit inserted with a smile.

A “Super Wi-Fi” with a super antenna to connect to people, track a needy, and help him without boasting. Keeping a Thursday free OPD for poor patients, since years. Also, helping hundreds of Kashmiri boys with pellet injuries who came in droves from trouble torn Kashmir valley. Many a times the family encouraged victims towards the path of education instead of a pointless future in stone pelleting. No wonder, on the sound of my hometown being ‘Amritsar’, many Kashmiris pounced on – ‘Do you know Dr Daljit Singh?’, during my many trips to Jammu and Kashmir. Dr Daljit Singh’s crowning glory was however restoring vision of 11 children, who had lost their eyesight in LPG cylinder blast at Independence Day celebrations in Orissa in 1986.

A “Super photographer” who bought new Cameras with each of his monthly salaries and took perfect shots- “We found his cameras in drawers, cupboards, every nook and corner of the house.”

A “Super Painter” who even intended to take a hobby course in painting towards the fag end of his life at the local Thukur Singh Art Gallery and painted 30 water colour landscapes in a go, along with a repertoire of hundreds of sketches, he left behind.

A ‘Super Author’ who penned over a dozen books on ophthalmology, Dr Singh wrote two poetry and three anthologies of essays: “Sach di Bhal Vich” (In search of truth), “Dooja Passa”(The other side) and “Badi di Jarh” (The root of evil) to educate rural masses about national and international issues. Noted Punjabi author and close friend Kulbir Singh Suri, son of late legendary Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh, said- Dr Singh wrote a book titled ‘Naroi Akh’ (Healthy Eye) in Punjabi decades ago. His three poetry books —‘Dharti Tirhai’, ‘Sidhre Bol’ and ‘Babre Bol’ have been translated into Urdu, English and Hindi.

‘Super Simple’ with no clue of his shirt matching his trousers or turban; often a red socks synchronised his step with a blue one.

And towards the conclusion when I and many amongst us assumed that the last Super-lative by Ravijit would be “Dr Daljit Singh was a ‘Super-Human!”, Dr Ravijit surprised us by adding –Our father was a “Super Teacher” – One who loved teaching, spreading, sharing his vast knowledge in the most simplistic way with everyone including on topics as diverse as economics, politics, finance, anything.

It is not every day a true human is born, with all his fullness, feelings, faults and fallacies.

In 2007-08, Dr Daljit Singh made noble efforts to set up a speciality charitable eye hospital in Nankana Sahib Pakistan along with a university to be named Guru Nanak Dev University in Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the founder Sikh Guru Nanak Dev along with his Pak friend Prof TH Kirmani. Even offering to send Indian doctors to tutor Pak doctors and bring excellent eye care to the sacred land of Sikhs. Lamentingly, the agreement fell through. The demarcated land donated by a local resident Fazal Rabbani was occupied by Pak army and relations soured, over the years between the two nations.

At another juncture, Dr Daljit Singh, the surgeon, with as sharp a wit and forthrightness as his invented scalpel, remained unmindful of anyone’s stature or status and therefore couldn’t successfully win the diplomatic and flattery-ridden field of politics as an AAP candidate.

Alternately, he snatched 80,000 votes, a clean sweep by many standards as a greenhorn in politics, during MP elections 2014, from political heavyweights Arun Jaitley- and Capt Amarinder Singh- who went on to become Union Finance Minister and Chief Minister of Punjab, respectively. Dr Singh intended to bring clean governance from a political platform but couldn’t be manipulated to tell lies, half-truths or stoop to briberies.

Even though holding abhorrence for the political climate of our country, I became Dr Daljit Singh’s Media Manager, solely because he was a father figure to me. And I landed an opportunity to relive some times of our childhood days with him. In the late 60s and early 70s, Dr Daljit occasionally bicycled to our home from the Government Eye hospital opposite our house.

As children then, we lined up to see his bicycle with gears, a rare contraption those times, that held contiguous fascination for me for a long time. Sometimes he even took a shot at our Table Tennis table and once took multiple close-shot pictures of my sister’s hazel eyes, ever since, he focused they possessed rare blue specs in them.
“Fer Chaa piyao!” he would say on a rare chilly evening, while visiting home. And merrily slurp his tea, savouring every masala and mazaa of it.

On a closer note Dr Daljit told me – ‘Tu acha likhdi hain’ that sounded in present times like the Dangal ‘Shabaash’ of Mahavir Singh Phogat to his daughter Geeta winning the gold. And in return – ‘le meri kitab par’ and handed me a number of his books written by him originally in Punjabi.

Dr Daljit Singh’s family -Dr Ravjit Singh and Dr Kiranjit Singh – and daughters-in-law, Dr Indu R Singh and Dr Seema Singh, form a formidable team of eye surgeons.

On my visit to Dr Daljit Singh’s home after his passing away, I could sense that the home still held his warmth of touches, thoughts, his genius, and ensconced his family most lovingly.

I wish, I could bring that warmth in my home with one of his paintings, to get inspired by the Master by his Master strokes, never saying adieu to him.

Hamid Ansari: Indian Prisoner in Pakistan/ Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images


Screenshot Hamid hearing Nov1,2017.jpg
 

Hamid Ansari: Indian Prisoner in Pakistan/ Kashmir Images 
“My son committed a mistake, not a crime”: Fauzia
Hearing on November 1, Parents pray for mercy 
Rashmi Talwar 

Close on the heels of the forthcoming hearing in Indian Hamid Ansari’s case in Pakistan on November 1st, Fauzia Ansari, devastated mother of incarcerated Indian prisoner Hamid Ansari, pleads fervently to warring countries -India and Pakistan, to have mercy and release her innocent son.

“He committed a mistake not a crime”, Fauzia says in a broken voice to this correspondent soon after Ravneesh Kumar MEA spokesperson answered a query regarding the Indian Government’s efforts on consular access and the release of Hamid, in a press conference.
 
Hamid, lodged in Mardan Central Jail in Pakistan, had spent nearly five years in a Pak prison on framed charges of espionage. MEA in response at press conference stated “India had taken up the matter of Hamid with Pak government and expected an update on it soon”. The hearing is on Wednesday, and I pray for my son’s release to each set of governments. “He is innocent, repeats the distraught mother, a Hindi lecturer in a college in Mumbai.
 
The recent recovery of abducted Pakistani journalist Zeenat Shehzaadi (24) on October 19 has enflamed fresh hope for the release of Hamid. The Pak journalist was instrumental in tracing Fauzia and Nihal Ansari’s son Hamid in Pakistan. Zeenat’s investigative journalism led to admittance by police in Pakistan of being in custody of Hamid. In January 2016, Pakistan Police told Peshawar High Court that they had detained Hamid Nihal Ansari in 2012, and handed him over to intelligence officials. Four years later in February 2016, Hamid was deemed guilty of espionage and awarded a sentence of three years by a Pakistani military court.
 
Fauzia recalls – “I was in Mecca, holding the Kaaba for hours, seeking Blessings to find my son’s release, when I was persistently called on the phone. On calling back, I learnt it was Zeenat Shehzaadi who wanted to help me to locate my son and I promptly felt she was an angel who came as an answer to my prayers.”
 
Zeenat’s activism ruffled a few feathers. She was detained by ununiformed men and grilled for hours after she spoke to Indian High Commissioner at a public event. A week later, on August 19, 2015, she was waylaid by armed men and disappeared in mysterious circumstances during a rickshaw ride to work. Her disappearance had a shattering effect on her family, with her younger brother committing suicide in 2016, pining for her. She was released two years later recently on October 19, 2017. Her abduction had devastatingly shaken up Hamid’s family too.
 
Meantime, in Pakistan most journalists I talked to, felt that Hamid was innocent and only the two countries bitterness have mashed him between the wheels. Beena Sarwar a prominent Pak Journalist and researcher fervently pursued his and the abducted journalist Zeenat’s case. Taha Siddiqui Bureau Head of Wion News in Islamabad calls Hamid’s case – “A love affair turned into an espionage story.”
 
In Peshawar district, Rakshanda Naz an advocate and human rights activist, dealing with Hamid’s case is anxious on the approaching date of hearing. Talking over phone from Peshawar -“Mein Dua Karti Hu Ki Iss Barr Mein India Jaon Toh Hamid Ko Uski Ammi Ke Hawaley Karne.” (I wish I go to India this time, to hand over Hamid to his Mother). Fauzia tells me that Hamid’s lawyer Qazi Muhammad Anwar, from Peshawar, a Nishane-Imtiaz (highest civilian Award) Award winner and Naz didn’t charge them a single paisa for fighting the case of Hamid. A scared Fauzia after Zeenat’s abduction is terrified for their safety too.
 
Naz had met Hamid the first time he was produced before the court and many times thereafter with permission from authorities. “When Naz first met Hamid three and half years after his clandestine arrest, I asked her if he was wearing spectacles, she said ‘No’ and then I told her that he has a 6 and 6.5 number in both eyes and cannot see things even at a three meters distance. Naz and Anwar sahib got spectacles made for Hamid on their own, after I sent the doctor’s report to them,” Fauzia inserts and further says –“ Each minute of Hamid’s two and half days in Pakistan as an illegal entry, is accounted for and on record, how can he be charged with an espionage case? Even the fake identity card was given to him by his Pak Facebook friends prepared in ‘Pakistan’ who had lured and promised facilitation to Hamid to cross over from Afghanistan to Pakistan without any travel documents, as the border is porous. Soon after his two day stay with one of the FB friends, he was uncaringly deposited in a hotel in Kohat, Peshawar and tipped to the police by the same friends about his illegal entry. The police arrested him an hour after his check in at the hotel. Then, when did Hamid indulge in espionage activities? My son is not in government security services and has a clean background, well accounted for, then why aren’t Pakistan’s own citizens (friends) being probed, investigated to reach the truth?
 
Naz had filed an affidavit to shift Hamid to a more safer jail after the Indian was attacked in Peshawar jail- “The deteriorating relations between India – Pak proved heavy for Hamid when a Jail Havaldar of Kashmiri origin from Pak Administered Kashmir attacked Hamid in fury over situation in Indian side of Kashmir-“The Havaldar has been suspended and shifted from the jail. While Hamid was also shifted to Mardan Central Jail”, Naz filled in.
 
Naz says “I feel as a mother for Hamid who is innocent of the charges. Mein pur-umeed Hu Ki Hamid Ko Rehaa Kar Diya Jayga’ (I am fully hopeful that Hamid would be released).” And further adds- “Hamid’s name is recorded in the list of prisoners. I have access to talk to him every Monday on the phone. Whenever I meet him, I carry some eatables for him with permission from jail authorities and in return Hamid had created two beautiful beaded Karas (bangles) and a handbag for me. He intends to make more for his Ammi and Naani Ammi.
 
This February when I travelled to India, I carried a prayer cloth (Roomali) that Hamid gave me for his mother and handed it over to her.” Fauzia on her part has carefully put the unwashed-cloth wrapped in polythene and secretly sits with it to smell the fragrance of her son, denied as she is any visa for a visit to Pakistan. “No one knows about this little piece of my son’s body fragrance that I keep with me to feel him from afar”, Fauzia cries painfully on the phone. I just pray for his return every waking and sleeping moment of time”, she talks in a broken voice.
 
“Sushma Swaraj the External affairs minister has assured me in my six meetings with her mostly in Delhi and one when she came to Mumbai. I firmly believe her. She dealt with me like one mother to another. She takes up visa cases for terminally ill patients from Pakistan and I have full hope she will do her best for her Indian son.”
 
Naz on her part is scheduled to reach Mardan central on October 31st, a day before the hearing, and would pass on a letter to Hamid written by his mother Fauzia. I ask her what she plans to carry for Hamid – “It maybe – Shunwari Kabali Palao, Dor Pranthas, Anar or Milak powder milk. Let’s see what I can do, plus an English dictionary, newspapers and magazines, with permission from jail authorities”, she says.
 
On an earlier occasion, when asked about who would she want to be released first -Hamid her son or Zeenat Shehzaadi the Pak journalist? Fauzia had unflinchingly said – “Zeenat”, as I feel morally responsible for her abduction”.
 
Honey Trapped: Hamid Ansari’s surreal story
 
Hamid’s story involves the core country triangle of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Fauzia, describes her young handsome son as Mumbai-based MBA and an I T Engineer, a Rotary Club president 2012, before he proceeded to Kabul on November 4, 2012 for a job in Afghanistan’s Aviation sector on a tourist visa.
 
“Till November 10, he was in touch with the family via Tele no. +93707295124 and expected back on Nov15th”, she adds. Alarmed by the lost connection thereafter and Hamid’s non-arrival on the appointed date, the family went through his Facebook account. “Hamid had not logged out from Facebook on our home computer and therefore we became privy to his entire conversational details”, says Fauzia.
 
“His Facebook account revealed- Hamid was in regular contact with Pakistani friends Atta-Ur-Rehman, Saba Khan, Abdulla Zaid Khatak, Humaira Hanif, Dr. Shazia Khan and a tribal girl of Kohat, named Nadia.” Based on conversations, Fauzia believes Nadia was more close to him, and revealed to him that she was a victim of “VANI”- a prevalent social evil by a Jirga (council of village elders ) who had ordered her into a forcibly marriage as punishment for crime committed by her male relatives. Hamid, determined to save Nadia was egged on and coaxed by other Pakistani friends to cross over from the porous Torkham border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Did he possess a visa for Pakistan?” “No”! The mother replies- “Hamid had no legal documents for travelling to Pakistan.”
 
“Among Hamid’s Pakistani friends Atta-Ur- Rehman, kept Hamid in his house for two days and on the third day Abdullah Khatak deposited him in Palwasha Hotel in Kohat from where he was whisked away in an hour by the Pakistan police. This account was according to a young Pakistani journalist Zeenat Shehzaadi, who investigated Hamid’s case. She came in touch with his case, through Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, an independent non-profit organization, which was seized about the matter of Hamid’s case. “It was clearly a case of honey-trap,” Fauzia says, on learning about sequence of events, mostly from Zeenat.
 
Zeenat who regularly updated her status on social media Facebook, last updated her post on August 18, 2015 and has vanished ever since, claims Fauzia.
 
“Zeenat came in our contact in May 2013. She filed habeas corpus petition on my behalf (as mother) in Peshawar high court (w.p.#1082/2014) and also registered an appeal in Supreme Court of Pakistan, Human Rights Cell which promptly formed JIT to investigate the case. The petition was last heard in Peshawar High Court on 13th January 2016. The Court ruled with ref to wp/1082/2014 based on the report by DAG that Hamid my son is under military custody and being tried. Hamid was tried in military court and got sentenced for 3 years imprisonment for the alleged charges of espionage.”
 
Holding back tears, Fauzia says –“My son has been incarcerated for a period of more than four years (Nov-2012 to Nov 2016) in Peshawar Jail. In March 2016, I filed a mercy petition for clemency for the period spent in custody to be considered, but my plea was dismissed.
 
Our visa applications to visit Pakistan to see my son were rejected, I appeal to Pak government to release my son Hamid on compassionate grounds as he has suffered enough for his innocent fault”.
 
A flicker of hope in humanity came from people like Qazi Muhammad Anwar and Rakshanda Naz, who didn’t charge me a single rupee for handling Hamid’s case and I am eternally grateful to them.” And adds –“Till my son returns home, my cup of woes will be full.”
 
Hamid has already filed a petition seeking commissioning of his sentence to include the period he was held under custody, that completes his jail term of three years which would move the wheels of legal process more swiftly, for his release orders. It has yet to be seen how Hamid’s case shapes up during the forthcoming hearing on November-1st.
 
Amritsar based writer is an Independent Journalist and can be emailed at: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

Tral bursts in Bhangraa in Kashmir’s militancy hotbed / Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images 


Screenshot JP Wedding Tral Kashmir 30Oct17.jpg

Follow Up

Tral bursts in Bhangraa in Kashmir’s militancy hotbed /

Rashmi Talwar

Wedding venue at village Dharam Gund of Tral district sounded terrifying. Tral, in Pulwama District of South Kashmir, a hotbed of militancy, raised not just worried eyebrows, but a verbal outrage in my family. Tral was home to militant commander Burhan Wani, whose house was merely 8-Kms from the wedding venue, and who’s killing by army triggered mass protests and brought several more to their graves, in a bloody aftermath since July 2016. Tourism to Kashmir remained at a standstill, ever since. The region was reporting armed militant-army encounters almost daily in the media.

However, the ‘Open Invitation’ by Jatinder Pal Singh (JP) a Facebook friend, had stirred senses. The Invite, encompassed entire FB world seemed- daring, lofty, imaginative and unimaginable.

Bashir Damna, an adventurer of Jammu-Kashmir expressed on JP’s FB wall “Open Invite has gone viral and become the talk of the town. So many guests will create law and order problem and authorities were thinking of imposing restrictions.” To Which Drcm Seth, a friend, jestingly wrote “JP has invited everybody including militants. For three days militants can enjoy marriage party and then can start their routine activities.” The last comment was not so funny anymore.

But the thought of a -‘village wedding’, virgin landscapes, living a part of village life, to participate in quaint rituals and the ‘Bhangraa in the Mountains’ was extremely enticing. JP had loftily assured all security, but it had to be experienced yet. Call it divine-infused guts with an open mind.

Throughout the flight, apprehension gripped, till final touchdown at Srinagar airport. The weather was lulling and the last of autumn flowers bloomed all over in the city of the Dal Lake and Shikaras. “Though the weather seemed to calm my frayed nerves, but the flowers – got me thinking – ‘Maybe I too shall become the last of the autumn blooms!’.

Srinagar to Tral

Bundling into a waiting vehicle, we zoomed alongside rock quarries of Pantha Chowk onto Awatipora.

On the way, enormous ruins of Awantiswami and Avantishwar Temples, a kilometre apart built by King Awanti Varman (AD 855-883) glorious specimen of rich Kashmiri Architecture, described as in colonnaded peristyle, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu respectively, fascinated me. In a gesture of folded hands I prayed for safety and peace in Kashmir as well as in my home, even as antics of dolloping Jhelum River in serpentine cuddles, flushed with Chinars and pines on its edges, tried to charm me.

My mind remained occupied with thoughts of shootings and bombs as we neared the venue village Dharam Gund, 50 Kms from the airport. Passing through Tral Township, someone pointed out – “That’s Burhan Wani’s house!” and I turned my face away, not to look at the home of the poster boy of militancy in Kashmir, and instead thought about this beauteous region that had seen immense suffering.

Countryside

Glowing sunlight turned soft as we arrived in the countryside. ‘Aa gaye Gaon’! The driver exclaimed and I noted- Kashmiri Sikhs call it Gaon not Pind as Punjabi Sikhs refer to villages. Dharam Gund spreads across 60 hectares of rich walnut belt and tilling fields. “Trees here touch skies at above 70 feet, and produce choicest walnuts”, I am told. Cutting through fields flush with ripened Dhaan or shelly or rice crop, I was to see – tiny charming traditional haystack-barns called Goyen (Kashmiri) Thipree (Punjabi Kashmiri) or Musal in Punjab field-scapes, dotting the charming Tral countryside.

The harvested fields, sentried by Wasturvan Mountain range of Himalayas, through which silently flowed the Lam Nallah, a vast spread of river fed by snowmelt and rainfall, bringing in the charming scenic romance. It seemed the busiest month at harvesting, threshing, drying, stacking, rolling to make Giddis and Thiprees to stock grain and fodder simultaneously. Families pitch in, tiffins seen arriving from home, feeding sinuous homeworkers and women bulwarking the threshing. The Gaon is charming, a hamlet of about 500 souls sheltered in 94 homes.

Traditional Welcome

We reached JP’s home through an incredibly beautiful tree covered village and the scene changes – the groom’s grandmother rushes to the door, grabs a fistful, circles it around my head and let the sweet sugar-coated gram fall in a shower over me, hugs and announces – “Jee aya nu” – “Welcome In!” Seeing my surprised look, someone comments- “This is sweet stone-pelleting Kashmiri-Sikh Ishtyle.” And a round of laughter makes me a warm part of Jatinder Pal Singh’s wedding. The welcome ritual – is a sadka of keeping evil spirit at bay. It was one of the most beautiful welcomes, warming the cockles of my heart and served to successfully banish the hesitation and family teasers back home.

My family fatigued over not making me see sense in travelling to Tral had alternately tried a different tactic – “Begani Shaadi Mein Abdullah Diwana” and another –“Praii Janjh Ehmak Nachey” a refrain oft used in North India, meaning: Getting upbeat or crazily cherry in the wedding celebration of an unknown person! Indeed, I had ventured for the Wedding celebration- at an unknown place, of an unknown person, among unknown people and add to it -an unknown fate.

Traditions and Rituals

During my stay, I learned that many traditions among Kashmiri Sikh community are a mixture of Kashmiri and Punjabi culture. However I gauged, that village rituals and customs had a unique depth. Anticipating new life from conjoining a new couple the wedding rituals seek to blend the Human with the Glorious Creator through the medium of Mother Earth, praying for newlyweds to lead a life intertwined with environs and its values.

At dusk, the dhol beats resound through the mountains ushering a call. A signal and everyone hurries. Ceremony of Mitti Khodna is about to begin. At the wedding home, the groom JP- a software engineer, is himself creating the traditional basket with tinsel and LED light strips around it and a matching tinselled tiny spade. Someone comments –“Get LED lights for Shivala di pagri!” (Groom’s turban) everyone breaks into giggling merriment. Incidentally, Punjabi Sikhs refer to the groom and bride as Laraa and Voti, among Kashmiri Sikhs the couple is referred as Shivala and Boti, while the sarbala– young boy accompanying the groom in Punjabi weddings, is the ‘dost’ in Kashmiri weddings.

Dharam Bhen, walnuts & rituals

Dharam Bhen’ or sister by faith- Komal GB Singh with another friend Inderjit, lifts the LED embellished twinkling basket filled with walnuts, on her shoulder leading a procession near village Gurdwara. Soil is dug and put into a container with crimson Gulal water. Alternately, five walnuts are placed into the dug soil and covered. “It is an offering of walnuts to Mother Earth to succour them to sprout. Somebody shouts to the walnuts- “Tuhade vicho ek zaroor phutna chaida hai, Changa!” (One of you walnuts should sprout, Ok!) Hinting at fertility of the newlyweds, drawing chuckles around.

Boisterous Bhangraa follows and I am surprised to see Muslim families too join the dance. The procession then proceeds to the Gurdwara and Sikh symbol is written on a foundation wall using the Gulal soil with a twig, seeking blessings for the wedding. Basket is carried to a lower room where again the Sikh symbol is written on a placard with dates and names of the couple as a keepsake called Chappa –hand impression.

Rajbeer Singh, pursuing his PhD in Folk culture, explains to a curious me, the significance of some rituals- “In case of a mishap for groom or the bride, the Dharam Bhen or Dost are bound to take on the mantle of spouse of the survivor.” He also explained another mysterious ritual –“When a Bhabhi or brother’s wife applies Surma to the groom’s eyes, she indicates to draw a line of black, henceforth breaking all jesty relationships with her brother-in-law to emerge as an equal owner in the household”,

Teaser beats

As the deep tangerine sun vanishes behind the bluish mountain line, it leaves streaks of orange hues blazing on the greying skies. JP’s house twinkles with strings of fairy lights, and the Shamiana or Kashmiri tent, shimmers. The two Jammu Dholis start teasing with niki niki (soft, soft) beats, the boys step in, beats take on vigour, and the Bhangraa starts. Women rush to the in-lines of the Shamiana, to reserve the place with the best- view on the carpeted floors. The Bhangraa now is in full steam, rips and rattles, moves and shakes and women are pulled in, with whacky Punjabi bolis and tappas, to become one joyous night.

High sex ratio

In Sikh faith, women are known to participate in work and pleasure equally alongside men. So is the scene here in Tral, where 88 residing families out of 94 are Sikhs. Even the six Muslim families assimilate and happily join in the Punjabi dance with equal heartiness. Religious taboos are less visible. It is not surprising that Population Census 2011 boasts of high gender ratio with 930 females to 1000 males, in Sikh dominated village Dharam Gund. Boys in the village are increasingly shunning Dowry offers, thus creating an equal playground for the female gender. The work coordination amongst genders is equally distributed.

PS: Its night and we need to return in groups- reason: “If not the militants, you can surely be mauled by a Bear attack, if you venture alone in the dark,” a stark second biggest threat in this tree laden valley.

Sunrise and plentiful

I open my eyes the next morning, in the beautiful house of Ishpal Singh, an orchard landlord, agriculturist and a teacher, his lively wife Dali Kour, endearing daughter Kiranpal and son Rajbeer are my lovely hosts. Theirs is one of the most enviable homes in the village. A home with a fabulous garden outlined by a rivulet of pure spring water encircling, a quaint little cow-shed and home entirely self-sustaining with umpteenth vegetables, apples, pears, vegetable oil, milk, ghee, butter and even home produced honey with indigenous earthen honey-hives on its terrace and of course loads of walnuts.

The host allows me to pluck the day’s apples, and choicest vegetables- Collard Greens, Brinjals, green chillies. The house is already stocked with pickles, onions, potatoes, garlic, and a host of unkeep-able list of stocks including dried vegetables from last season. In less than half an hour delicious dishes of Haakh, Bringals and Achari Allu with special Kashmiri walnut and radish chutney are ready. Noon Chai or salty tea is a preferred concoction to ordinary tea.

Paani and Kangan

Today is ‘Pani Bharna’ ceremony and water is filled in a Ghaggar– earthen vessel, also titled as Garooli rituals in homes of Punjabi Sikhs. The groom bathed with this water drawn from the Gurdwara considered nectar, is applied turmeric paste for an extra glow. Kangan ritual performed with the groom worn a Gold Karra gifted by bride’s family.

The bride in her home, simultaneously is undergoing the same rituals with her multiple braided hair being un-braided with a lilting song – Mera Siraa na kholyoo mindri, mera ehi kunwariyaa da bhes” (Do not untie my braids, this is my unmarried appearance) apprehensive to enter into the married life of responsibilities and duties. She too is worn the Kangan or bangles, Jhumkas and Chunari – earrings and veil, gifted by the groom’s family.

A Chawal-Giri Prasad (soaked uncooked rice and nuts food offering) is distributed to all guests, while in Punjab Karra Prasad is the norm made from semolina-wheat ghee and sugar.

Public Reception

Earlier, a huge reception lunch is hosted for the entire village and outstation invitees. With music of hit Punjabi numbers belted out by a DJ arranged from Jammu, synchronized with Dhol beats, Bhangraa troops in full blast. Close family menfolk lovingly serve a sit-in Wazwan or the Wedding treat, in individual thalis or plates to baraatis, contrary to Kashmiri Muslims weddings – where Tramis – a large plate shared by four, is used to serve Wazwan on carpeted floors. Special guests are given the sadka welcome with modern candies or fistful of dry-fruit as in Kashmiri Muslim weddings.

Missing Wanwun

However Wanwun or Kashmiri songs for auspicious occasions are missing. These songs to the accompaniment of folk instrument Tumbaknaer or the goblet drum of Kashmir are sung at auspicious occasions in Kashmiri Muslim and Pandit households including in weddings. Somebody tells me-“In recent times the Wanwun seems to be sullied, sung as it was for funerals of killed militants”.

Militancy & Education

The thought of Wanwun, brings back the topic of militants. Shobha Singh, a village elder, also the village’s pride as first matriculate in 1960 and first engineer of the village in 1964 from Kota, Rajasthan, on a query, as to what do villagers do if militants forcefully seek shelter in their homes, tells me- “Militants enter homes of sympathizers or someone they know and feel secure in, they never enter Sikh homes or villages with Sikh population. Also, at every 6-8 Kms is an army camp which is also a source of strength for us. Basically Sikhs are peace loving and self-sustaining and hardly pose any threat to militants even though Sikhs are traditionally a martial race.

Sikh population abounds in Chattogam, Saimoh, Ladybal, Basantpora, Gulshanpora, Gaddpora and of course Dharam Gund among the 24 villages of District Tral,” he adds. On the side, Shobha Singh tells me, there was never an incident of civilian killing by a militant in the village. This bit of information, gives me a huge reprieve from the fear psychosis.

However, I notice, migration is evident. Many Sikh families have built homes in Srinagar for job convenience and easy access to educational institutes. Many young ones have taken flight due to education in other states and subsequent jobs in big cities. – Surprised over many village children pursuing higher studies, Shobha Singh who started the trend, nods – “Literacy rate of the village is an impressive high at 71.2 %.”

This is true, although the figure dates back to Government Census 2011; a high literacy factor is soundly legitimatized, as any girl-boy from the village, I meet, is pursuing Masters, MBA or PhD. It a comforting feeling of villages getting educated, yet migration arouses deep concern.

Mehandiratt – Night of the Henna

Turning back to celebrations, the same night ushers in the celebration of Mehandiratt or Maanziaraath or Night of the Henna, a tradition, amazingly followed by all hues of Kashmiris- Muslim, Hindu, Pandit or Sikh although with slight difference. Among the Sikhs here, the groom is applied Mehandi or Henna on hands and the impression is left on the keepsake. Then he is publically applied Mehandi on hands and feet with a large currency garland around his neck. The shagun or gift of rupees is stuck on his pagri with pins, by relatives and friends. This ritual is hardly seen amongst Punjabi Sikhs and moreover considered feminine.
Boisterous Bhangraa again follows and this is the third night of Bhangraa that shows no sign of declining, rather being the last night, dancing carries through midnight. Interestingly, as we walk to the wedding venue in the dark with our mobile torchlights, the group knocks on all enroute doors not only to go together as a bigger group but also due to the larger fear of bear attacks and not militants.

Wedding

On the fourth day the wedding procession or Baraat heads for Srinagar in a cavalcade of cars, with select people. The groom’s car is decorated and reaches the Alluchabagh Gurdwara. Except for dhol no music band plays, no mounting the horseback. With milni or hugging introduction, of close relatives from both sides, the wedding ceremony of Anand Karaj begins and is a solemn affair. The couple circumbulates the holy Sikh book Guru Granth Sahib four times and after offerings, the couple is announced man and wife.

Shobha Singh tells me of the times of his grandfather –“In Kashmir during my grandfather’s times, the Hindu Pandit used to perform Sikh weddings with circumbulation around the holy fire to the chanting of Sanskrit Shaloks, decades later, Sikh tradition of Anand Karaj was brought into practice”.

JP’s take on the open invitation

JP’s idea for an Open Invitation was -“To bring people who want to visit or love Kashmir, on an all paid visit. I offered to host as many as those who can traverse and dare to come for this ‘cultural -adventure’.

Call it a service for my Kashmir which has hardly seen any robust tourism, as it used to be. Lately, tourists of most hues are mortally fearful of visiting Kashmir, affected by adverse reports in popular media. However I am happy 13 friends and 70 more outstation baraatis came from different areas including from parts of Jammu, Kashmir, Delhi and Punjab”.

Last Take

JP’s grace didn’t let him single me out but among all invitees, I was the lone unknown face. Days in the lovely valley had banished fears of militant attacks.

The scenic charm of the countryside was something to die for. Lofty mountains like guards over rippling riverside, running hens and roosters, grazing horses, climbing high on the trees and shaking them for a walnut shower, lolling on the boulders near the waters, trekking along the waterways. Each one those times became so special.

On the way back, holding tight memories and bags of walnut gifts, one by a poor domestic help of Ishpal’s home lovingly called Begum Fikri (One who is gripped by worries) whose dimpled smile and ever ready dancing, showed no signs of any worry, I felt, a part of the Gaon clung on to me, complete with its warmth, its love shower and its sweet stone pelleting.

Rashmi Talwar is an Amritsar based Independent Writer, can be emailed at: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com 
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Kargil-V Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum, A Walk Into The Past/By Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images


Screenshot Munshi Aziz Museum Part VDATELINE KARGIL PART V

Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum, A Walk Into The Past 
Rashmi Talwar

The sun became milder taking on a tangerine halo. As we returned to Kargil, I was to learn a Hill-folk jugaad- Reversing the vehicle deep into a waterfall on the road, gave a fabulous car-wash! The trade through silk route was etched along waterways and rivers; Munshi Aziz Bhat was one such towering Silk Route trader, a pioneer, visionary, social entrepreneur and above all a collector.

Sarai- a treasure trove

Along the gushing Suru River, Munshi Aziz Bhat built a Caravan Sarai in 1920 and a wooden bridge over the raging river. The three storied Sarai besides serving as an Inn for travellers and traders from Kashmir, Tibet, China, India and Central Asia, had seven shops set up by Bhat. The ground floor used as stable for rest and feed to transport animals and a comfort zone for exchange of goods, cultures and news. Rich and precious wares along with commodities were bartered or bargained. A treasure trove of these collections was accidently discovered by Bhat’s grandson Ajaz Hussain Munshi. “We were about to raze the old Sarai building but ended up curating its treasures into –‘Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum of Central Asian and Kargil Trade Artefacts’.

The story went like this – “A mason chanced upon a sizeable turquoise in the Sarai building and informed us. My father, who was ill at the time, told us about many such possessions and goods lying in the basement of the Sarai. Around this time a researcher Jacqueline Fewkes came looking for us, she had letters in her possession from my grandfather. That was a turning and starting point of the museum set up in 2004,” Ajaz, its curator tells us, and adds “ In 2005 the museum that was then supported by India Foundation for the Arts and Roots Collective, attracted researcher Latika Gupta to Kargil as its curator. The result was a building designed to look like a thriving old market, above our home!”

Walk into History

I walk the trail to the museum, which is just a few steep steps ascending, shadowed by leaves of fruiting ripe apricots and still-green baby grapes. The view from here is spectacular of mountains overlooking the Suru River.

The museum proved an exceptional glimpse into the Indian and Central Asian trader-culture of 19th and early 20th centuries. Collection of artefacts and mercantile, exhibit the enormous range, apart from services, jingling their merry ways, on many maritime and overland trajectories of Silk Route, by traders. Adding on to the story –“The traders were as varied as their buttons ! – Punjabis and Kashmiris, Afghanis and Persians, Chinese and Tibetans, Spaniards and Somalians, Egyptians and Italians rubbed shoulders, broke bread and bartered and bargained for goods with Dardis, Argons, Baltis, Bohto, Purkis, Tajiks and Uzbeks. One can imagine the loads and varieties of goods that arrived here.

Many such items were stored in the Sarai. We found some 4,000 pieces dating back to 1800s, and set up the exhibits along with my brother, Gulzar Hussain Munshi as Director and Muzammil Hussain Munshi as its outreach programmer,” the Curator of the museum fills in.
Interestingly, “Munshi Aziz Bhat, was once the official petition drafter for Maharaja of Kashmir, before he ventured into trade which was mostly then controlled by Punjabi Sikhs and Hoshiarpuri Hindu Lalas. Kargil Khazana, Resham Raasta and the Sarai, encased the narrative of life in Kargil- a melting pot of trades.” Ajaz explained –“Kargil is a nodal point, equidistance from both Leh and Srinagar, in addition to links with Tibet, China, through Gilgit-Baltistan to Afghanistan, gave it an enviable position in Karakoram ranges lower than Himalayas comparatively being an easier passage for traders,” Ajaz pools in, while showing us horse saddles from British times, bridals, drapings, camel trappings, horse foot nails from ‘Mustang & Sons’ and equine accessories of yore. Besides polo sticks and balls, helmets and gloves.

Plant that preserves

I lift up a dry twig, placed in every glass enclosure of artefacts, clothing, paper testaments -everywhere– “what is this?” “It’s dried Khampa twig to prevent critters, moths, beetles, termite, silver fish and every other bug”, and I learn another hill folk nuskha – prescription.

Memorabilia

The mercantile turned memorabilia is an enduring peek into lives of merchants, horsemen, herders, pilgrims, artisans, nomads, travellers and farmers that despatched and received essentials and the luxurious. Besides this, the path saw many a wayfarer, besides potters, weavers, jewellers, blacksmiths, cooks, porters, even pimps, prostitutes and Princes. “The overland and sea silk routes were famous during the reign of Alexander the Great and Han Dynasty in China and became a transcontinental thoroughfare for goods transported using horses, mules and donkeys, to camels and yaks, besides on foot”, feeds in the curator.

I am completely astonished by packets of chemical dyes of Batakh brand from my hometown Amritsar, from late 19th century, the brand carried through 60s and 70s too.
Munshi holds one of the three jade pieces –“This is a ‘Zehr Mohra’ cup that detects any poison by changing colour of the brew.” Then removing his ring, he pulled a whole yarn of Dhaka Malmal’- one of the most prized fabrics produced in Bangladesh, and made it pass smoothly through the ring.

A gramophone of 1905 by Columbia, a lantern dating to year of Indo-China war of 1962, German petromax lantern, huge stone cauldrons and giant ladles used during festivities, samovars and bukharis from Bukhara, a pair of colourful socks from Yarkand, opium snuff-boxes from all over and their dainty cases are all here.

“We even have documentary proof that the King of Hapur in Skardu owes 6,000 in silver currency to my grandfather,” Ajaz laughs showing us a rare Russian 100 rouble that made its way to Kargil measuring 48 sq inch rectangle.

The artefacts range is extensive, Nanakshahi coins and currencies of the world, jewellery, carpets, hosiery, utensils, clothing, armoury to paintings and manuscripts. Assorted caps – Kashmiri, Karakul, Tajik, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Mangolian, Turkish, Balti and Glass Shades from Yugoslavia, Germany and England too are displayed in the Museum.

Trends and Happiness quotient

Many types of merchandise set up trends for the elite. If one was to serve Hookah, Yarkand ones were considered the best. If rugs were to be bought they had to be the Kashgar ones, thus silks from Khotan, buttons and combs from Italy, “every item hides a story of its travels” the museum director Gulzar Hussain Munshi believes. Similar were the inclinations for food- as in salt from Akshai Chin, spices from Hind, Rice from Kashmir. It was thus fashionable to serve Tea from Tibet and Apricots from Skardu.

Kargil’s large heartedness is evident in their hospitality, in not over-charging tourists and visitors, their Happiness quotient thus, is high, which manifests itself in the fact that many additions to the museum were free contributions from the local populace, for instance, a recent gift of hand-written Koran along with precious Tibetan manuscripts claimed by owner to be about 600 years old. Ravinder Nath and his wife Madhubala the lone Hindu family of Kargil gifted the family’s prized possession – a “Passport” issued to Ravinder’s grandfather Amar Chand – which reads – Lala Amarchand resident of Jahan Kalan, Hoshiarpur, issued by the order of ‘Her Majesty Counsel General at Kashgar’- British Subject by Law”. It may be one of the rarest of passports. Once the museum attracted attention, the tourism department too promoted it and along with that came the trust. Thus, locals who were suspicious of antique proxies started contributing voluntarily. “No one has ever asked me for money,” Ajaz beams with pride.

Photographic memory

The photographic display of Italian geographer and explorer Giotto Dainelli taken in 1904, of rows of caravans of camels, mules and horses – carrying traders along this historic route, did set the stage for documenting the precious history of the bubbling cauldron of trade. This is amply supplemented by Rupert Wilmot’s collection -‘The lost world of Ladakh Early Photographic journey 1931-34,’ as a feast, to draw and delight generations.

On Heritage track

The incredible wheel of trade may have been clogged by war-boundaries, but the trodden paths have left in their tracks, a treasure chest of exquisite heritage that Kargil sits on, waiting to be explored and showcased for the world.
The scorching heat melts, dipping into light cirrus clouds, the smouldering light of the morn, curls and spirals into a dramatic sky theatre before curtains call. Unquestionably, tomorrow is just a wink away when silk rays will again draft a new Horizon; every snowflake will reveal its story. To inquisitive tourists, descending upon this region to peek into Kargil’s glorious past of Emperors, Kings and Queens, of palaces and forts, sculptors and faiths, savouring its surreal tales and exquisite beauty.

Rashmi Talwar, is an Amritsar based Independent Writer, can be emailed at: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

URL:http://dailykashmirimages.com/Details/149180/munshi-aziz-bhat-museum-a-walk-into-the-past?

Photos : KT Hosain Ibn Khalo

Kargil–IV: Preserving History above 8000 feet- ‘Unlock Hunderman’ /By Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images


Screenshot Hunderman Museum corr Part IV.jpgDateline Kargil –IV

Preserving History above 8000 feet- ‘Unlock Hunderman’

Rashmi Talwar

If history be the subject, Museums blaze a trail of past.

August-September are scorching months in #Kargil. Yet people wear full sleeves, even winter attire, unresponsive, unmindful of weather changes or probably wanting to lock the heat and save it for seven months of icy winters. They draw apart curtains and soak in the sun, its warmth succours weary bones from the onslaught of frosty temperatures dipping to -40° C.

Leaving the sizzling sun of the valley, ascending along the hopping Suru River- a tributary of the Mighty Indus, we head to India Pakistan’s LoC (Line of Control), to the first museum in a ‘ghost’ village of ‘#Hunderman Brok’. The ribboned road along menacing cliffs, which once heard and heeded to war clarions, ominous evacuations, sirens, bombs and displacement; manoeuvres a taxing steep gradient to the village.

“Drive along the mountain or we’ll get blown away”, I shout remembering the Sydney skywalk with a handcuffed hand and the chain moving along a railing keeping one safe from being blown off. The hill-folk guffaw at my fears. Suddenly, signboards appear-“Mine Area – Don’t move away from road edges”. It is explained as –‘When India captured these heights occupied by Pakistan in 1971 war, the departing army laid mines’. Deep below, along the river, snakes a thin track of the ‘old silk route’- that connects Gilgit-Baltistan, Yarkand, Tibet and China. It was once a bustling trade route traversed by Kafilas – caravans of horses and mules, Bactrian camels (double- humped) and donkeys that fetched treasures, bartered or bought.

Nearly at the top, we come across MTS (Maggi & Tea Shack), a sure-shot sight in any mountainous remote area of interest. This MTS is different; it has four pairs of binoculars and acts as a guide to peek at LoC peaks and a Pakistani village. No one can stamp the validity about the topography, however, excited tourists spend more than an hour discussing ‘which one’, ‘this one’, ‘that one’ till the fragrance of freshly brewed tea and Maggi instant Noodles wafts from the shack and suddenly everyone is famished. The shack owner knows it.

Just a few yards ahead, village Hunderman Brok, the last forward post on the LoC, appears like pigeon-holes beaded into the mountainside. From 1947 Partition to 1971, the tiny hamlet was under the control of Pakistan, and wrested by India during 1971 war. Many villagers fled to Pakistan, while few who were visiting other parts of Pakistan could never return. Having never seen a moment of tranquillity, a sizeable population from what was left, shifted to upper Hunderman.

According to Muzammil Hussain, co-founder and president of Roots Collective (Non-Profit based in Kargil) who collated oral histories to bring the war-locked territory into the limelight with -‘Unlock Hunderman—Museum of Memories’, people here call themselves ‘Samgrongva – belonging to three places – as they came from Poyen and Karkechu in Kargil town and habituated to Hunderman. Estimates put Hunderman, to be 500-year-old Purgi settlement; however its inhabitants believe it to be older than British and Mughal empires. The village in ruins lays out the perfect foreground to the museum, of life of villagers on the LoC before 1971.

Manipulating a steep trek descending and then ascending, I wish there was a rope bridge slung across to connect the two mountainsides to give tourists an added feeling of ingenuity of mountainous regions. A café added with village preparations and a shop-let to sell indigenous produce, something to bring back home, could be an additional attraction. Setting aside my thoughts we make our way balancing on thin mud tracks built over skeleton of tree trunks beneath, and hunch to enter the dwarf-doorway of the private museum. It looks like a museum within a museum, curated by Muzammil Hussain and co-curated by Ilyas Ansari in Ansari’s ancestral home. “The initiative and support for museum comes from Roots, and CEPT SWS University of Ahmedabad’, Ansari answers our query.

But before the entry, framed prints of a letter in two languages-English and Urdu, penned by Ghulam Hussein, Ilyas’s uncle, to his family, slung with jute strings, catches ones eye. It’s homage to a lost one. Hussein was not in Hunderman when it was conquered by Indian forces. Stuck in Skardu, capital of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, when all roads to his village were locked, one night, he died a lonely death in 2005 pining for his home and family. His only letter to his sister Hamshira, written in April 1985, from Brolmo village – a mere four kilometres apart, from Hunderman arrived years later. The letter is a pointer of poignant stories of pain of many families of this village, torn apart by war.

The museum itself is a rediscovered story woven with artefacts and memorabilia of a life of two big families before many fled during war in 1971. Ansari takes us outside and points – “You look at that poplar tree; it became our demarcation line for adjoining homes of two brothers who first set foot here and their families spread out in parts of Hunderman and Brolmo, now divided by the LoC. There were then about 200 people within 10 homes. The village has witnessed four wars in 70-years with hundreds of skirmishes and inconceivable moments of horror.

The exhibits are incredible with time wrapped around them, with the background equally fascinating. It opens with a ‘shangkulik’ a unique locking system to ‘unlock the Hunderman’. In the 1960s, Ansari’s grandfather worked as a porter with the Pakistani army. Displayed are-an army helmet for porters, blue-lined white metal cups in varied sizes, a diesel metal canister, an army belt and an all-purpose belt for long hauls with pouches to hold water, dry-fruit and tobacco, along with a kerosene lantern.

Recreation through Stuakpachi – played with twigs and pebbles, Michou-played with cattle bones, along with a hookah, were their indigenously crafted games and pass times. Routine things like painkillers, eye drops, matches, soaps made in Pakistan, and an expensive bottle of perfume evokes wonder. “A Polson’s tin of French coffee was such a prized gift that it remained sealed for years. A coral necklace, unfinished embroideries, exhibited the hurry in which the flight of inhabitants took place,” Ansari describes.

Pakistan manufactured Cobra and cherry blossom boot polish, shared space with army trunk, battle shells, shrapnel, and a tiny box that reads- ‘100 detonators for high explosive’ of Thistle brand, made in Great Britain. Indigenous stone slab and pestle to ground oil of apricot nuts, agricultural tools and clippers, kitchen utensils, spinning wheel shuttles, knitted caps and garments, wicker baskets, wool balls, horns, a large and medium churner and vessel for preparing lassi- sweet buttermilk and butter, large stone cauldron, are aesthetically displayed in nooks, walls and corners of the tiny rooms. An Avlet safety razor made in England, malachite crystals made in Germany, a foot-powder from Karachi, a bow, quiver and indigenous arrows are notable. A tight mashaq – water pouch and a wooden cask stand near the hearth. “It looks Roman in design”, Ansari shakes his head in a ‘I-don’t-really-know’.

I noticed the strategically carved out skylight in each room. “These provide natural light in summers and are used as spouting holes for bukharis – indigenous heaters, in winters”. Pointing to an hidden elf-door within the room, Ansari shows –“This was used to house tiny and new-born kids or billies and lambs to save them from winter’s snows and dropping mercury. These babies were also used to hug for warmth and served as natural Hot-water-bottles,” he laughs.

A number of identity cards of people who once lived there are displayed including Ansari’s grandfather’s first identity card issued by the Jammu and Kashmir government that reads “Permanent Resident of Protected Area”. “Even today, for the small number of villagers left, agriculture, animal rearing is domestically sustaining however portering remains most popular and well-paying. Loyalty to the Indian armed forces is strong. While in 1971 they fled, few who decided to stay, found caves that proved to be bomb shelters. “During later exchanges and especially during Kargil war in 1999 we set up homes in the caves, while our boys rendered portering services to the Indian army”, Ansari explains pointing to caves far away in the mountainside.

Wars and a Major

During the 1965 war, for a period of four months Hunderman was virtually cut off, and assumed the status of ‘No Man’s Land’ owing to a standoff between the Indian and Pakistani armies. The Pakistan army returned to the region after the Tashkent Agreement- when both countries agreed to pull back forces to their pre-conflict positions.

The scarred and scared villagers, who had heard stories of Indian forces impaling children with rocks; when they actually encountered one Major Mansingh of Gorkha Regiment of Indian army, were comforted by his kindness. He is believed to have said –“We are no devils, we are also humans like you.” On the following day, free rations of rice and kerosene were distributed. “Villagers who were agro-pastoralists and provided portering services to the Pakistan army till then, saw and tasted rice for the first time”, Ansari tells us excitedly. “In honour, the village suffixed Mansingh’s name to the village, changing it from ‘Hundarmo Brok’ to ‘Hunder-Man’ Brok. A road in 2005 and electricity in 2006 with medical clinic, school, and aanganwadi centre, sealed a lifelong bond with Indian armed forces for this village, neglected under Pakistan,” the former resident adds.

Dry pit and stadium

Few Hunderman women gathered near the small rivulet between the crags were too shy to talk. However when I pointed to a place, they said it was a dry pit. The toilet is spread with a sandy soil mixture and has a hole below which is a three-walled enclosure. On the excreta, a soil spread ensures faster decomposition and six months later before sowing, the decayed excreta matter is spread in fields and around trees for a lush harvest.
Interestingly, The ascending houses become a virtual stadium as cricket shots resound during winters when the lower field is filled with snow and is flattened, hardened by trampling, turning it into a cricket pitch complete with jeering clapping and applause.

Rupee note

A “one rupee” currency note, in the museum is astonishing for a layperson. “Most such notes are called “Over-Prints” because Pakistan did not have its own Mint in 1947,” a top RBI officer told me once.

The note holds three countries together, it has –“Government of India’, ‘Government of Pakistan’,-‘Hukumat-e-Pakistan’ in Urdu and a stamp of ‘George VI King Emperor’. Interestingly, the year mentioned is 1940 on it, when Pakistan didn’t exist. The explanation goes –“The note was probably minted in year 1940 and superimposed in 1947/48 in Pakistan. These notes consist of Indian note plates engraved (overprinted being a misnomer) with the words ‘Government of Pakistan’ in English and “Hukumat-e-Pakistan” in Urdu added at the top and bottom, respectively, of the watermark area on the front only; the signatures on these notes remain those of Indian banking and finance officials.

#IndiaPak Watsapp group

Families in Skardu (Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan) and Hunderman and other border villages in India and Pakistan have kept in touch through a Watsapp group “Hum sb kb milenge (When will we all meet), that serves as a lifeline through an erratic internet. Founded in 2014 by Skardu-based journalist Musa Chulunkha, members converse mostly in Balti language”, Hussain Ibn Khalo Editor of local cable channel ‘Kargil Today’ a Balti himself adds with a smile. “I too am a member of the 110-strong group”.

PHOTOS: Hosain Khalo KT Hosain Ibn Khalo

URL: http://dailykashmirimages.com/…/preserving-history-above-80…

Kargil-III Glimpse into the life of Pure Aryans/By Rashmi Talwar/Kashmir Images


Screenshot Aryans Part III.jpgDateline Kargil III
Glimpse into the life of Pure Aryans

Rashmi Talwar

(CONTINUED)

Road to Double way traffic

• The traditional pastoralists have given up on rearing goats and sheep, and now seek employment in military services; thirty percent of them are still into farming, which spells huge economic dividends for the population, owing to the road network. Since 1947 Indo-Pak Partition, army gradually developed an outpost which provides income opportunities to villagers. Many villagers are increasingly opting for education and have taken up jobs in Kargil, preferring to remain within the state or in neighbouring Punjab. Tsering Dolker has applied for a police officer’s job. Another girl, by the same name Tsering Dolker, has done her Masters in a Miranda House College of Delhi University and is a headmistress at ‘Rigjung Public School, Kargil’. Tsering Sonam Garkon is a teacher in Kargil.

• Telecommunication is the poorest here; a lone satellite connection works with assistance from the army. One Tsering Sumphal Garkone (65) and his son Sonam ferry local artists and others during cultural festivals in Kargil, Leh, Delhi and elsewhere and organise festivities in village during visits of important guests. Brokpa villages are famous for scenic splendour, ensconced greens and colours amidst menacing rocks, combined with a unique sense of dressing and quaint tradition and culture. Both Men and women wear colourful hats embellished by joyous looking flowers earning them the sobriquet of ‘Flower People of Ladakh’. It is this very unique culture that fascinates the world and their cultural exhibition has become a huge tourist attraction. They are seen to join in festivities and occasions in Kargil as well as Leh due to road networks.

• Road connectivity has given a fillip to local economy in a big way. While in ancient times Apricots were mainly bartered for salt from Changpa nomads brought from Chang-thang and Aksaichin in Tibet. Now, lucrative trade fetches around Rs 35,000 annually from each apricot tree. Besides apricot fruit, over-ripe apricots are dried and sold and those that fall to the ground are soaked, cleaned for nuts to be consumed or used for extraction of pure apricot oil. Walnuts, apples, grapes, pears besides vegetables especially tomatoes and barley are its other produce, supplied to outlets in Kargil, Leh and Srinagar, apart from fulfilling home needs.

• ‘Payu Pa’ owned by Tashi Lundup is a guest house in Garkone while in both Dah and Hanu villages, few guest houses and home stays are available as tourists are welcomed.

Purity of the Pure

Many scholars have been fascinated with the deep obsession of Aryans with purity and purifying rituals. Tsering Sonam says –“We Aryans adhere strongly to the concept of purity and feel cleansing oneself with the smoke of a smouldering juniper as the ultimate purification. When the home needs to be purified, it is smoked with juniper. Utensils too get the boiled water juniper douse especially on the occasion of ‘Gunla’ or when new agricultural cycle or livestock is sent to pastures as also on ‘Losar’ or New Year festival.” For Aryans, certain trees, flowers and animals which inhabit higher regions and some particular colours are symbols of purity.

During New Year celebrations not only individual homes but entire village is cleansed with the villagers carrying burning juniper torches to cleanse the atmosphere. So much is the obsession with the cleansing and properties of juniper that when I asked about few old ones having very dark faces, I was told it was due to the ancient practice of not washing the face with water in fear of losing barkat or original charm, but purifying it with the smoke of smouldering Junipers. This has however been forsaken and many vibrant faces of women can be seen.

Women when sexually neutral in old age are considered pure while men are deemed pure throughout life. Women are forbidden from approaching the juniper shrine at Dha Brog.The priest who takes fruit and flower offering to the deity or sacrifices and brings these offerings to the village for distribution has the power to enhance purity. The shepherd who comes down from the pastures is seen as imbued with purity. The sweet smelling flowers from higher valley are saturated with purity and deemed to purify. Whosoever goes to the pure regions of mountains and glaciers acquires purity as well. Achieving of higher purity is also through anyone completing six cycles of ‘Losar’ (each equivalent to 12 years).

Though cremation of all corpses is outside the village, at the lower end or impure part of the valley, worship of ancestors takes place within the village. A crevice in the rock is made called ‘Munal’ where the bone of the ancestor is placed to which offerings are made in the ‘Mamani’ festival devoted to ancestral worship and food and juniper rituals are performed. I saw many Munals with blacked rocks and was told that juniper is burned beneath the crevice to purify and every household possesses its own Munal.

Purity factor is dominant in households and social customs carry it forth, hence, it was a custom of holding a smouldering juniper over the head of an outsider, before entering the village and no outsider was allowed to approach the hearth, no one was allowed to cross over the chimney in fear of causing impurity to food. So much so, no one could carry back rations from a journey back into the village; food meant to feed other communities was brought from the kitchen and served in the receiver’s own utensils. If one were to meet someone in the village, he would call out his name and meet him outside the village. This was considered the wish of the protecting deity of the village.

Locals tell us- “In 1955, The German Hindukush expedition was reluctantly allowed into the village with all purification rituals’. A daughter too has to follow norms – A married daughter cannot sit on the left side of the hearth in her natal home where the women sit. She must sit near the central pillar where grandparents who are sexually neutral or children with un-reached puberty sit, and must thus maintain lineage and ethnic purity. To maintain purity about 80% of the marriages are conducted in their own village and 20 % from other Buddhist Dard villages.

However many of the customs are forsaken now and many are relegated to be observed during festivals only.

Environment, Culture and Traditions

• Aryans worshipped Lhamo goddess before converting to Buddhism and partly to Islam, now Buddhism is dominant among them, seen from Buddhist prayer wheels and temples while still retaining their ancient culture, rituals and traditions.

• Married women support braided hair. Few old ones have dark faces; it was due to the ancient tradition of not washing the face with water but purifying it with the smoke of smouldering Junipers.
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• Sattu (barley), yak butter, yak cheese, apricot oil are extensively used in traditional food like Kholak, Papa, Marzan, Popot, Thukpa. Now most homes make vegetables in light curry and Rice. Momos are new additions, along with packed commercial packets of chips, Maggi, etc.

• The villagers make a variety of wines – ‘Chhangg’-Barley wine, ‘Gunn Changg’-Grape-wine and ‘Bras Changg’– Rice wine.

• Generally abstaining from eating chicken and eggs, Aryans eat meat mostly of goat during important festivals. They do not drink cow’s milk and milk products though they do own cows, bullocks and yaks for agricultural operations. Goat’s milk is used in tea preparations. Buddhist Dards observe the custom of not consuming cow meat. It’s a taboo; hence neither the flesh of cow nor its products are consumed. Traditionally, goat milk is used to make salty pink tea. However, at present cow’s milk too is being used in villages along with butter, ghee and curd.

• I saw no monkeys or dogs in the village; neither did we notice flies and mosquitoes.

• Terraces are used to dry apricots and rocks used to dry grass for fodder.

• Aryans use a dry pit for a bathroom spread with sandy soil with a hole, called ‘Chakraa’. Faecal matter collects in a three-walled enclosure below the hole. Soil is continuously added for faster decomposition. After about six months, before the sowing season, the matter is lifted and mixed with animal manure and spread in the fields. Each household uses its own ‘chakraa’ for its own fields.

• The custom of marriage is also unique, where the groom pays the bride price and women have rights of divorce. “We are free to seek divorce, but must return the husband’s property which includes silver jewellery. There is no taboo on changing partners”, says Dolker.

• Every year Losar, which is a New Year festival, is celebrated on the first day of the luni-solar Tibetan calendar, which corresponds to a date in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. On its seventh day the children prepare a feast for elderly of the village. The elderly in return sing hymns to the children about evolution of the world.

• Aryans’ flamboyant head dress, “Kho” embodies their spirit, studded abundantly with flowers and exotic rows of coins, some even antique, with bright ribbons or wool strings. Married women wear the Monthu Tho in their head dress and support multiple braided hair, signifying marital status. They also adorn themselves with silver ornaments. Traditional Goncha– attire of Brokpas is made of sheep’s wool. The signature flower hat of Brokpas is considered a prized possession and is not for sale.

• Brokpa villages were divided when Kargil became a district in 1979, Garkone and Darchik thus fall under Kargil, Dah and Hanu come under Leh district.

• The world’s obsession with Race as a marker of identity and nobility, and an additional promise of an Aryan experience, sees tourists from all over the world flocking to these villages. Tashi Lundup, owner of ‘Payu Pa’ guesthouse says tourists from France, Iceland, Austria, Japan, Korea, Poland, Israel and of course Germany visit these villages.

• Located deep in the valley along the Indus, the Aryan villages remained safe during the Kargil war 1999.

Last Word

Seeing, optic cables being laid on the way from Kargil to Aryan villages, I pondered, about the double onslaught of road construction and high end communication of mobile connectivity and internet, of the modern world on their lives, how long would Aryans remain an elusive people?

Much as their quaint existence and practices fascinate, it is not long before inter-marriages would take a leap in numbers, with children seeking education in mainland towns and cities and intermingling with the outer world. Soon the Pure-Aryan gene pool, if ever there was one, is bound to pass into eternity. The little village children are already adopting western wear of Jeans and T-shirts and reciting ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ and ‘Humpty Dumpty’. Time is not far before they fly into the world and make their own decisions about careers, marriage and lifestyle. Customs of poly and group-marriages, free sex may also become things of the past owing to Education.

However, I am comforted by their ancient ways for sustainable living, agricultural practices and their lands possessing divinity for fertility. Human Faecal matter is one of the best soil nutrients, I had long ago learnt in my Bonsai class. The value Aryans attach to their vibrant cultural heritage including their signature glorious flower-nest hats, resplendent attires, musical hymns and splendid festivities has already become their ‘Unique Selling Point’ for world tourists. From average, it will soon assume a greater earning avenue. Being bang on the LoC, military services come to them as a geographical choice.

A recent article in India Today –‘Aryan wars: Controversy over new study claiming they came from the west 4,000 years ago’ by Razib Khan -a blogger geneticist at UC Davis, quoted recent research, wherein the ANI (Ancestral North Indian) DNA is quoted to be different from earlier studies. However it’s the treasure trove of a unique culture of Brokpas which would ultimately define their inimitable identity and live on for eons on the wings of time beholding an astonished world, as long as they hold on to the many colourful threads that make them matchless.

—————————-BOX——————————-
Tashi, Hero of Aryans and unkempt promises 
If Tashi Namgyal had not blown the whistle on intruders in the mountainous heights, the Kargil war of 1999 would have had different connotations for both warring neighbours India and Pakistan. On May 2 1999, Tashi Namgyal went up the mountains to Banju Top to search for his yak. He owned two, out of which one was lost. Using binoculars he combed the mountainside and saw about six people moving rocks and making bunkers. “I kept scrutinizing for nearly 10 minutes and then rushed down to my village Garkone to inform people, including a teacher Tsering Sonam Garkon. We went together to inform the army post in Batalik. The officer there was astounded and retorted –“Tashi if your information is incorrect- you and your family will suffer” he said menacingly. “But if it is correct, action will be taken and you shall be rewarded.” But Tashi stuck to his stand, three soldiers accompanied him to the heights and were stunned to see the activity as Tashi vividly described it.
The army men suggested calling for reinforcements to neutralise the intruders. Tashi and Sonam declined being part of active offense, but assured provisions of food and water to troops as well as logistic support.
Sonam believes the intruders hunted at least 10-12 of their yaks for food. During the Indian strike on the intruders, Tashi mobilised villagers to help in carrying ammunition as well as food and water to soldiers. “They carried everything in hind-baskets. The village also helped to bring back injured and dead bodies of Indian soldiers. “At least 4-5 bodies and about 20 injured were brought by us.” Tashi remembers vividly about helping to retrieve the body of Major M Sarvanan, of 1-Bihar Regiment, and was hailed by top officers.
“In 2002, I found the body of a soldier of 1-Gorkha Rifles on Kukarthang ridge, which paved the way for compensation to the martyr’s family”. Displaying pictures of his parents with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and his own pictures with Minister of Defence George Fernandez, Tashi remembers “I was overjoyed to receive Rs 50,000 by the Div Commander of 8-Mountain Regiment soon after the war. The Div Com in Batalik told me that my name has been sent for a National award and my children would be provided government employment. But 17-years later all promises lie broken. I have educated my children and pray for help in getting government or army jobs for them to improve their lives. This is all I ask for rendering service to my nation.
————————————–BOX-END————————————–
PHOTOS : Hosain Ibn Khalo and Tsering Sonam Garkone 
KT Hosain Ibn Khalo 
Rashmi Talwar is an Amritsar based Journalist, can be emailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

URL : http://epaper.dailykashmirimages.com/10920…/newsdetails.asp…

Kargil-II Glimpse into the life of Pure Aryans / By Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images


Screenshot Aryans Part IIDateline Kargil –Part II
Glimpse into the life of Pure Aryans 
Rashmi Talwar

Looking at the stars I wonder how many souls would have passed this way, a hot-bed, a melting pot, of central Asian trade, the mysterious silk route that carried communities, seeds, men and material; animals and stuff and forked them to mainland. A land where finest of caboodle, made their journeys, yet some remained unalloyed, basking in the glory of their embryonic purity for thousands of years. Indeed the prospect of meeting ‘Pure’ Aryans remained overwhelming.

Snuggled in our tiny car we set on a 70 Km tour, zooming past village Apachi to Hamboting-La pass perched at 13,202 feet, falling in Kargil’s North-East. Dearth of oxygen cohabiting wind chill, nearly gives me a head-swim. Through astonishing rugged stonescape, protruding rock-hills seemingly scratched by giant paws, along lilting streams, deep gorges, leads us to Batalik sector, bang on LoC ‘Line of Control’ between India and Pakistan.

Amidst serene mossy banks, River Indus (Sindhu River) careens along in hopping waves, like an excited child jumping along an elder. Pockets of greenery lie hidden with contrasting greens hallowed by light coffee coloured rockeries as valley touches fresh glacial melt of freezing sapphire waters of Indus below, lending a romantic aura.

Seeing us, Tsering Gamphil, a ‘Brokpa’ – Brok- mountains; pa- inhabitant; meaning a highlander-approaches, his triangular turquoise earrings bobbing on loose lobes, blue eyes glinting in scorching sun, his heavy moustache lifts to flash a toothy smile. He juts out a rough hand in recognition to my friend Hussain-ibn-Khalo, Editor, Owner of Kargil Today, a local TV Channel, accompanying me. I smile, at the 65-year old Gamphil’s black cap embroidered with “BOY”, and notice a single safety pin holding a bunch of dried flower buds. “Yes I am in Garkone- the professed Pure-Aryan village!”

A cluster of four villages claims to hold a bastion of pure bred Aryans—presumably pure, the last, un-muddied, un-adulterated by outside gene pool. Gamphil, a Surna artist, Surna-musical instrument likened to-Shehnai, is invited to every festival to play to melodious hymns and rhythmic dances of Aryan Brokpas. “I even played Surna on J&K Tableaux on 26th January Republic Day, parade in Delhi,” he tells us. There are seven other artists in this tiny village inhabited by more than 1200 people.

Darchik and, Garkone are lesser known, falling in Kargil sector while Hanu and Dha Aryan villages nestle in Leh- are more frequented due to air connectivity and a greater tourist inflow.
At the confluence of rivers Shyok and Indus in District Kargil, village Darchick claims- “Welcome to the Abode of Red Aryans” emblazoned on a semi-circular gate flanking the entry. I wonder if ‘red’ was a sign of caution! Gamphil tells us –“Some outsiders were refused passage in Darchik recently. They followed their ancient tradition”.

However Garkone village ventures us a welcome with a large swirling Buddhist prayer wheel in midst of the entrance whirled by two young giggly girls. Foreigners are presumably disallowed or allowed only by special Inner Line Permit (ILP) from District Commissioner, in this highly militarised zone. On the way, we see, the battlefront, a portion of Batalik post was wholly destroyed in Kargil war of 1999, there now stands a Mata Rani Mandir and an Evil Subjugation Stupa, built by army on local beliefs of divine call for warding off aggressors. Inhabitants of these Aryan villages are known as ‘Dards’, local parlance – ‘Brokpas’.

Garden of Eden

Garkone, with its splatter of grey rocks flecked with black spots, along pathways and gnome doorways, is a welcoming hamlet, visible as a virtual oasis amongst dull rugged cliffs. An artistic rockscape slanting across as the river meanders between and beneath, enhancing its beauty as swathes of fertile lands break the severity of rock to croon a melody for colours, music and dance, like a mysterious merry ring.

Like Garden of Eden, a stream of crystal clear water swaggers through the village, overhanging grape bunch’s criss-cross branches, constructing natural green tunnelled pathways that run along a stone trail, flanked by rockeries on one side, that hold elf-doorways to elusive homes and habitats of Aryans. Alongside, running rivulet swings lush fields of barley and assortment of luxuriant vegetables. “Our Tomatoes are the reddest”, says Londhup Nawang Dolker owner of ‘Payu Pa’ guest house. “It seems to be a garden of bounty”, the gardener in me responds admiringly.

On the sides of the fields, trees stand laden with ripe orange apricots, green apples and unhardened soft green walnuts. It’s a riot of colours, predominantly orange hues – symbolic of colours of dawn-dusk, the carrot shade of perennial Monthu Tho adorning doors, finds pride of place in Brokpa hat-nests of flowers and the tangerine light of apricots. Garkone is a fertile, warmer, water surplus area, ensconced in lower rock crevices, in an otherwise rainless Ladakh. Primarily being agro-pastoralists they own yaks, goats and sheep, harvest world’s most luscious apricots, varied vegetables, extract oils and seemingly remain uncluttered.

Brokpas

The Brokpas, believed of Indo-Aryan stock, descendants of Dards, settled along Indus River, centuries past and are an enigma for the world’s imagination. Their claims of pure Aryan descent are of deep interest to anthropological research, ethnologists, scholars and backpackers. A popular belief carries of Brokpas as progeny of remnants of the army of Alexander the Great that came to the region over two thousand years ago.

Another strong belief traces their descent from Gilgit (Pakistan).
University of Heidelberg, Germany’s seminal research by Rohit Vohra on Aryans in his book ‘The Religion of the Dards in Ladakh’ and ‘An Ethnography – The Buddhist Dards of Ladakh’ quotes Roman Historians Curtius and Justin who claim invasions of Alexander the Great, along Kunar river in Chitral (Pakistan).

Interestingly, he notes –“The Kalash of Chitral have Caucasian features-sometimes with blonde hair and blue eyes-which gives some credence to their claim, that they descended from five warriors in Alexander the Great’s army. There are only about 4,000 of them and they have remained pagans- religion based on reverence of nature, including origins, history, rituals, and devotions- despite being surrounded by Muslims in Pakistan. The Kalash, relate a story of Alexander’s bacchanal with mountain dwellers claiming descent from Dionysus. They worship a pantheon of gods, make wine, and practice animal sacrifice.”

Aryans, settled along Indus meandering through bedrock, claim to be inhabitants of Gilgit, a region close to Chitral, sharing much of its history and culture with Gilgit- Baltistan in Pakistan. There are numerous similarities between the Kalash and Aryans, including the latter’s facial features, pagan traditions, despite having majorly converted to Buddhism, they have retained their ancient roots. Both communities have prominent blue eyes, colourful attires; once pagans making wines, the concept of animal sacrifice is common to both. The Chaumas festival of Kalash is learnt to be very similar to the Bonanah festival of Aryans, including the finale of spiral dance bidding farewell to the Deity.

Vohra writes- “One of the early migrations, about which there are oral traditions, relates to the arrival of brothers Dulo, Melo and Galo in Aryan-land”. During weddings, the door of the bride’s home is knocked and the wedding party announces “We are from the family of Dulo, Melo and Galo”, who locals believe were from the army of Alexander.

That they are settlers in regions of one of the oldest civilization along the elusive froth of River Indus connected with Indus Valley Civilization, adds sheen to their claims of being ancient Aryans. Incidentally, Dards or Aryans, their pedigree known from the ancient Sanskrit and classical Greek literature, draws besotted German Women- to seek Brokpas for racially pure progeny. Germany has a chequered history of Hitler’s obsession with racial superiority and the master race of Aryans.

Tsering Sumphal Garkon (65), an elder in the village with two sisters as his wives admits-“I know of seven German women, and out of them at least five were thus impregnated by Brokpas to carry the presumable elusive Aryan gene pool to their country.” Munching on a biscuit with his tea, he adds, “The government has banned the practice but still smitten German women pilfer in present times, seeking an elusive pure Aryan seed,”

Film: The Achtung Baby

Indian filmmaker Sanjeev Sivan made a documentary in 2007- “The Achtung Baby – In Search of Purity”. In it, he investigates stories of German women seeking to impregnate themselves with what they consider pure-Aryan sperm in Aryan villages of Ladakh.
Andrea, a German girl in the film, feels she is doing it as a gift for her grandfather who studied Aryans and hinted at an organized system behind the transaction. “I’m paying for what I want.” A village Darchik Aryan- Tsewang Dorji, her paramour, an apparent simpleton claims to have impregnated three German women thus, and is hoping his children would seek him and take him to Germany someday.

Sex is Pure

According to marriage statistics for three subsequent generations, average of 80% marriages were from within Aryan villages. Only in exceptional cases, inter-village marriage in Garkone, Darchik, Hanu and Dha were seen as recent as about 10 years back. “The types of marriages amongst Aryans are numerous, -Monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, endogamy but also group marriages of varying form”, reveals Vohra. “The most common group marriage was of two brothers marrying two sisters where all partners had access to each other”.

Quoting Goldstein: 1971, Vohra writes “An exceptional group marriage was of a father and son sharing a wife. Such were in Katangpa and Auduz households; or an uncle and nephew sharing a wife. Also, if a mother died prior to the children’s marriage and father took a wife then father and son shared the wife and this was a bi-generational marriage.”

Opening up to the world however has brought new connections and about ten Aryans of this exclusive pure population have ventured to marry beyond the Aryan boundary. “Where even Leh Buddhists are least preferred as spouses, Garkone’s Paskit married a Muslim from Nubra Valley; Yangay married a Hindu Nepali driver who converted to Buddhism”, revealed Tsering Dolker, a Garkone girl of marriageable age.

Ajaz Hussain Munshi, curator of ‘Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum of Central Asian and Kargil Trade Artefacts’, a virtual encyclopaedia on Aryan’s ways says –“Since many of the Aryans converted to Buddhism, they were able to retain their culture, practices, rituals etc. While, those who converted to Islam, lost their heritage as Islam is a forbidding faith for music, singing, dancing, idol making. Hence, ancient pagan rituals of Buddhist Aryans are still intact and are followed.

Among Buddhist Aryans sexual rituals are freely exhibited at Bononah festival (Big Harvest Festival), celebrated annually, each time in a different village. The celebration in Dha is followed by Garkone and then in Ganoks (Pakistan) but after the conversion of inhabitants of Ganoks to Islam, the celebrations there were discontinued, thus the year of Ganoks’s turn falls vacant. During festival, a barley (sattu) wine brew (Changg) from still green grains holds a vital place.

Strong Sweet- smelling, flowers Thizim Kaliman being the most essential, are brought from pastures to decorate hats of men-women and hymns of the origin of the world are sung to melodious music, following the second crop’s harvest and threshing. Additionally, it heralds the return of shepherds from glacial heights.” Huru, a dish made with roasted barley or Sattu cooked in hot water or namkeen (salty) chai to form dough with yak’s butter, has an intoxicating effect when fermented for a day.

During Bononah, dances in memory of ancestors are performed and along with hymns of happiness, prosperity, bounty, are sung hymns with sexual connotations and accompanying amorous dances. Singing competitions are held between group of women and men and obscene questions-answers are exchanged.

Men kiss women they like and the husband or father is not to take offence. The festival is closely guarded; permitting no outsider into the village during the celebration, as the village is purified. Free sex is practised. Sexual hymns in riddle form are sung between groups of men and women. These are supposed to release forces and heighten the atmosphere of the festival. Dances with sexual movement heighten the same effect. Hymns of sexual connotations are sung addressed to Aryan deity Yanding along with dough figures, decked walls, balcony & pillar drawings as a part of fertility cult. Corresponding Hymns and songs are a secret not to be revealed to an outsider…… ( TO BE CONCLUDED )

PHOTOS: Hosain Ibn Khalo & Tsering Sonam Garkone 
Amritsar based writer can be emailed at : rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

http://dailykashmirimages.com/…/glimpse-into-the-life-of-pu…

Amritsar Based writer can be contacted at email: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

I- Kargil: War-town, at Peace / By Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images


Screenshot Kargil 1 Communal harmony 9sept17.jpg
Dateline Kargil Part I
Kargil: War-town, at Peace
Rashmi Talwar

As I awkwardly pose for a selfie, in old Kargil bazaar, I notice, shopkeepers peeping, smiling, looking at each other and smiling some more. I pick up a little Kargil girl, swirl, put her down, and whisper, rather loudly -“Mujhe yahaan achha lagta hai” (I like it here!). Someone pops a question -“Aap idhar kitne din bethoge” (How many days will you stay?) and lets out an -“Ohhh! Kuch din betho na yahaan bhi” (Stay here too, for some more days,). I merrily wave and wonder about this apricot country and its infectious sweetness.

Of mixed racial stock of Aryans, Dards, Tibetans, Mongoloids; of Brokpas, Baltis, Purik, Shinas and Ladakhis; of its colours and multi-cultures and faiths – Buddhism, Islamic, besides Bonism, Dardism, Hinduism, Sikhism, perched at a threshold of alpine mountains of Himalayas, Tibetan Steppe and cold deserts of Central Asia.

Predominantly Muslim, 65% Shia compared to Sunni, this war-linked population communicates in almost seven languages Purgi, Balti, Dardic, Ladakhi, Zanskari, Sheena, Urdu/ Hindi. A silky white taffeta stole is placed around my neck in homes, a traditional welcome for guests, and a timeless charm seals the warmth of old stone houses groaning under ancient wattle and daub. Homes, now wilting, giving space to newer homes, hotels, resorts for eager tourists, mountaineers and scholars; apart from, droves of political, bureaucratic paraphernalia, popping-in from Srinagar and Leh.

The town, a view of charming markets, inviting, attractive, vivid – a salivating sight of virtual food-floods, laden with every kith and kin of summer veggies and fruit.

The town once battered by bombs, explosions is on a merry track, of being a coveted tourist destination. Syed Tawha Aga, Additional Director Tourism, in his infectious enthusiasm, lists out almost 22 heritage sites for my three-day itinerary. Spots of magnificent sculptures, people, forts, palaces, built in Central Asian architectural stream, gleaned from Turkish, Arabic and Iranian styles. He can add more and must be deeply pained to omit trekking, mountaineering trails, adventure and bouldering sites, aside from hundreds of lesser known hideouts with virgin views.

Kargil, in popular consciousness concomitant with war, has within its multiple-community cross-links, a strong socio-ethnic amalgam, where minds and hearts lie at peace. The habitation has experienced horror, dreaded war clarions, but down the years the momentum of harmony envelops every layer of its social makeup. Easy banter, frolic-teasing, between communities over issues with potential to become flare-up points, are taken in a jolly stride.

Enmity, animosity, faith-linked or otherwise has not crossed this trek. “No communal outburst was ever heard or seen among the 1.40 lakh populace sprinkled around 127 villages with a solitary Kargil town as Axis”, smiles the 72-year Karan Singh, a former Principal of Suru Higher Secondary School, his family, a witness of every milestone of the town’s chequered history.

Harbour of Communal Harmony – The Balti-Street

Down ancient Balti Street, rows of homes clutch each other, as the lone binding lane lends simply a cart-road space reminiscent of a trade melting pot of yore, to passers-by. A few steps ahead, the spire of Hanfiya Mosque, shoots tall, standing parallel to a Nishan Sahib-symbol of Sikhs, of more than a century-old Civil Gurdwara, and share more than a wall.

Balti Street retains and exhibits its strong flavours of friendliness that once claimed a niche expanse of Hindu-Sikh migrants from Baltistan (Pakistan). Interestingly, according to 1981 Census, 69.38% of them conversed in Balti language. Kargil, carved its district identity in 1979, subsequently, Census 1981, placed 77.90% of Kargil’s inhabitants as Muslims; Buddhists constituting 19.49 % and Hindus at 2.26% – as 3rd major religion in the district.
Census 2011, held Hindus totalling 10,341, with an urban populace of 3139; Sikhs numbered 1101 with 321 in Kargil town.

A sizeable population then, nearing extinction now, the two minority communities have moved, presumably to mainland, for no specific reason than economical more than fear of wars or otherwise.

However, Balti Street still stands home to 40 Sikhs, compared to a Hindu family of four- the lone remnants of the once sizable faith, with Muslim neighbours around. But then Kargil – a melting pot, trade point of ancient Silk Route has always been on the flow. “Remnants of several faiths, communities, stamp their cultural and artistic footprints and move.” Tsering Sonam, a Buddhist from Garkone hamlet – famed for retaining the Pure Aryan race, inserts.

“Where we see the world brokered over faiths and regions, mines and mights, ours is special,” Karan Singh, elected Chairman of State Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, from civil Gurdwara Kargil, and resident of Balti Street, contends. “Special?”- I query. “Our Sikh families settled more than century ago; continue to be part of this remote chunk. Soon after India gained Independence and was partitioned simultaneously, Kabalis backed by Pakistan fired and looted our shops in 1947; a decade later in 1965 war, infiltrators sat on high peaks overlooking Kargil, that eventually were wrested from them. After 1999, many assumed Kargil was War or a Military Operation not a Town, less, a district.”
Folding his hands and looking up, in Shukar– (Thanksgiving)–Karan Singh utters- “Despite being in abject minority, we are special, caring for us has become a virtual culture here. In my lifetime there isn’t a rude word from any community exchanged in Kargil! During a ‘Swatch Bharat’ Abhiyaan, Muslim brethren swept our Gurdwara, while Sikhs and lone Hindu family cleaned the mosque and the Imambara. On Baisakhi and during our founder Guru Nanak Dev ji Gurpurab, the Nishan Sahib- is changed and entire Kargil remains in participation.

The warmth of these gestures has assumed the status of tradition, encouraged by society, as if, a sacred duty. Even political, bureaucrat, attendance comes naturally.” Smiling as he stretches out on cool sheets laid over carpets.
‘Once having a sizeable Hindu population are there any temples?’ I ask. ‘There was one Mandir, but since community migration, it remained in shambles and was eventually razed.”

Vividly recalling a recent incident, Karan says- “When our Mother-Balbir Kaur, passed away in February this year, it was the peak of winter, much of our family had gone neeche to Jammu. Only we two brothers were here with her. Kargil, that lovingly addressed mother as – Amaa Bir, organised the cremation at Shamshan- near army headquarters. Kargil women undertook the Gusal- last ritual bath, as no family women were present due closure of roads, and the entire town observed a shutdown in mourning and respect, thereafter”.

“Just a Few days back, a Kashmiri entered the Gurdwara and offered Namaz. When I pointed out the masjid next door, he responded –‘I didn’t realize when I came here- Khuda ka ghar ek hi hai’(Almighty’s house is one only), I was moved by the comment. This is my Kargil. Common walls make for cohabitation but loving hearts make for lifelong bonds”. Hussain Ibn Khalo, Editor of a local cable channel, a majority community Shia Muslim, sitting nearby, with arms around a bolster in Karan Singh’s home, nods in agreement.

Lone Hindu family

Going down Balti Street, almost at crossroads stands a shop “Amar Chand Dev Raj’. The lone Hindu family resides just over the shop. Ravinder Nath (55) and his wife Madhubala have a cosy little dwelling. Ravinder is a rich merchant, having wholesale and distribution rights of Britannia, Dairy Milk, green tea, CGI corrugated Sheets for roofs.

Offering the choicest salty tea, he says -“I have been living here with our family all my life and we have always been traders.” Learning about my Amritsar roots, he butts in –“We get our green tea from Amritsar and I often visit your Golden Temple.” Pouring me another cup, Madhubala, is a beauty, like her namesake cinestar Madhubala of yesteryears, enhanced by red kumkum bindi. –Do you always wear a bindi? I ask Madhubala. ‘Always!’ she smiles. Looking at me, peering at the tea cup in my hand Ravinder comments – “It’s from Yarkand,
My grandfather Amar Chand, was one of the foremost in trading circles in Yarkand and China during the times of British and the trade through the old silk route. Much as I have inherited from my family my prized possession is a “Passport” issued to my grandfather Amar Chand- it reads – Lala Amarchand resident of Jahan Kalan Hoshiarpur, Issued by the order of ‘Her Majesty Counsel General at Kashgar’- British Subject by Law”. It maybe the rarest of rare cases of a passport, I revel.
“My grandfather brought gold and finest silks in the central Asian trade. In fact, the route taken by my grandfather was marked to lay the Manali-Leh road,” claims Ravinder. “My life, my being is Kargil, people are most loving. During my childhood about 25-Hindu families lived here. Like Karan Singh’s family, I have attended almost every occasion of happiness and pain in this place. I wish to die here and know that after me, no one would carry forth the mantle of our faith anymore. But Kargilis are more mine than my own relatives. Yahan ka Pyar-Mohabat duniya mein kahin nahi- (the loving-love here has no second in the world) I can call upon them 24×7, what more can I say?.”

Together in wartimes

Humans are prone to be more united during distress, calamity or war. Sitting with nephew Karamjit Singh, a co-owner of a local TV Channel and his bhabhi Charanjit Kaur, Karan Singh, recalls -“During Kargil war 1999 shelling, Karamjit was a baby, I was the principal of Suru Higher Secondary School.

While targeting Iqbal bridge to cut off the lone National Highway to Leh, our school was battered by bombs. Close-by army’s ammunition dump too triggered-‘We heard ammunition blasts for nearly 32 hours! My coat buttons flew off with the impact, just as windows burst, children defecated and urinated in their pants and were laden with sticky mud. It was macabre spectacle. People, pooled in, to rush injured, to help hide children in safe spots, one teacher was killed, one had her jaw blown off, and one was hit by a sniper shot but survived. When Gen Arjun GoC visited the school – he was stunned to know there was only one casualty. With people’s participation tents were pitched, in Karnoor and Minji on Kargil-Zanskar highway about 6 Kms from Kargil town and school restarted. Only the following year, the school was rebuilt. Many of the teachers were army personnel wives.”

Woman who broke glass ceiling for girls’ education

We traverse our way to meet another icon of the town Fatima Nissa Begum (75) a close friend of Amaa Bir, who opened the doors for education for girls. She is the only surviving educated woman of the 1950s, who studied in Kargil against all set norms of girls’ education. Her home has the bestest Geranium flowers, cheerful in old tins and assorted containers gleaned from the kitchen granary, – a cheerful Fatima, serves a feast of chicken, salads, buns and namkeens with rounds of typical pink salty tea, that I am getting used to – and says- “Two others, who were educated at my time, were from other places, -One, from Skardu in PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and another Simla educated, both passed away.

And added- “Education for girls was forbidden, in our Islamic culture, but I studied till class 5th in Government, Girls High school. My father, despite being a much respected religious scholar supported me. In lower classes, I alone possessed a bag, pencil box and books in a class of 5-7 girls. Girls came, listened and left. This was the education we received. I often shared my books with my classmates, but soon they were forced to drop school.
However, with much diligence, I finished 5th standard in 1955, competing with boys, as girls hardly appeared for exams.

I was nearly ostracized-‘Don’t play with her, don’t look at her! Etc etc.. Fatima trails off. “Those were hard times, but my father’s support minimized all hurdles. After primary my father was at a loss, as high schools were only for boys. Seeing my enthusiasm, an old teacher offered, and taught me at home. No sooner had I completed class 8th, a teacher’s job fell vacant in Baru village about two Kms away. On my father’s insistence, at the age of 14, I took up the job, crestfallen over my loss of education. The first princely amount of 100 rupees for my services thrilled me endlessly.

My spirit however didn’t die; I finished matric, and slowly started into the forbidden domain of girls’ education from home to home, along with the job. “How?” I butt in. “I started by teaching Koran to select girls then urged parents to send them for Koran lessons in school and imparted education in all primary subjects.” I notice the glowing face of Fatima and sit in wonderment at her ingenuity and pluck in those times and at that tender age. Today on retirement Fatima receives a pension of Rs 20,000. With her own savings has performed pilgrimages- Haj to Mecca Medina, and is widely travelled in Iran, Iraq, Dubai, Syria, UAE, and plans to go to many other places in the world, that feat, no woman in these parts can yet compete.

Footnote

Returning to my hotel Jan Palace, I learn about the Kargil’s Mamani festival rooted in pre-Buddhist religion of Bon, in peak winter of January snows, that pens togetherness in the endearing town, when traditional meals are shared amongst all. It reminded me of calling upon each other during times of distress. It reminded me, that the world needs more people to build up other people, instead of tearing them down. It also reminded of mobile phone and internet being dead slow here; pushing forth the fragrance and flavour of inter-personal communication in varied tongues and dialects, that clasps the absolute key to kindness. Holding umpteenth packets of dried apricots from warmth of town homesteads, I knew I was taking back seeds of sweetness, the treasures of peace of the apricot country.

Photos : Hosan-Ibn- Khalo

Rashmi Talwar is an Amritsar based Journalist, can be emailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com
URL:http://dailykashmirimages.com/…/14…/kargil-war-town-at-peace
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Sikh promises ‘Bhangra’ cheer to Turmoiled Kashmir / By Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images


Screenshot wedding open invite

Sikh promises ‘Bhangra’ cheer to Turmoiled Kashmir

Rashmi Talwar

When I think of October in Kashmir, I visualize the skyline awash with Harud or Autumn hues of reds, oranges and golds. In those Almighty’s favourite tints, Chinars dazzles over most other greens, in majesty and sheer beauty of its wavering shades from ochre to buttery yellows fingers, turning gold and finally crimson. To the famed – Aatish- a-Chinar or a Chinar on fire, as Emperor Jahangir famously exclaimed, describing Chinars incredible beauty in Autumn. Few saw the resplendent blooming tulips, the spring’s exotic European flowers, Badamwari’s almond blossoms, this year, while Mughal gardens of Shalimar, Nishat, Harwan, mesmerized just a few locals with its exquisite blooms.

It was deeply saddening for Kashmir especially this year during peak summer season to host just a trickle of tourists. Merely 5% occupancy in hotels, huts, guest houses, homestays and houseboat were reported from Srinagar from last July to this year too. But, come September end and early October, the horizon may cheer for a change, albeit, for just a few days. The menu is Punjabi Bhangraa and not Wazwan – the Kashmiri favourite platter that shall take centre-stage in a Kashmiri wedding.

It was delightful to read Jatinder Pal Singh’s wedding invitation on social networking site Facebook, on an otherwise languid Sunday, that managed to refresh the brightness of the holiday –It stated –“An OPEN INVITATION for my wedding scheduled for on October 1, 2017 for all known or unknown Facebook friends.”
JP- A Kashmiri Sikh, software engineer, from Tral Kashmir, settled in Gurgaon, has 3932 strong friend-list with 581 followers and the invite went not only to them but as a public profile open to any and every one. JP is a promoter with a start-up- easywaylabs.com- a website ‘making things convenient’ for laboratory tests as also a coordinator for United Sikhs- a Charitable International NGO, that’s on the forefront during disasters. JP did commendable work during Kashmir floods in 2014, collecting a sum of more than Rs 4 lakhs singlehandedly, before the NGO collaborated to push nearly half a Crore, in aid to flood-hit. Hence his popularity is high in the region.

Incidentally, militancy in Kashmir and JP Singh were born the same year. Moreover, the venue of the wedding is Tral- a place ignominiously highlighted as the region of Burhan Wani,- Hizbul Mujjahidin commander, killed on 8th July 2016. Killing of Wani spiralled militancy to an all-time high, last seen in 1990, reminiscent of the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. JP’s house is merely 8 Kms from Burhan Wani’s house in the next village.

Moreover, JP’s dad Kanwal Nain Singh and Wani’s father Muzaffar Ahmed Wani were colleagues till last year when JP’s father was Vice Principal in the village’s Higher Secondary School and senior Wani was the Principal.

In trouble torn Kashmir, Sikhs – a minuscule minority, (less than one percent) amongst the dominant Muslim populace of the state, has a high concentration of the community, in Tral region. On JP’s friend list is a medley of faiths- Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims (Sunnis and Shias), Kashmiri (Muslim and Pandits) and Buddhists. The invitation has drawn 540 likes and 323 comments.

JP who defines himself as – ‘I am Not a player, I’m the Game’ surely knows how to play one- “The idea is to bring people who want to visit or love Kashmir, on an all paid stay, much like a destination wedding . But contrary to downsizing of guest lists, JP is ready to host as many as those who can traverse and dare to come for this ‘cultural -adventure’. Lately, tourists of most hues are mortally fearful of visiting Kashmir, affected by adverse reports in popular media. Given the time of the invitation, in coming days his friend list invitees could swell in numbers.

He has referred to Dharam-Gund in Tral as his ‘beautiful picturesque village’, and announced the happy occasion to be a “Kashmiri Sikh and Punjabi” wedding- a four-day event, of ‘Band Baja Barat’ starting on September 28th.
Allaying fears, he wrote on his Timeline- “If you know-me/have-met-me or NOT, it hardly matters. Please confirm your availability; I and my whole family would be more than happy to host you. Lodging, Boarding and your safety will be our responsibility” Ready to put on display the famed Punjabi-Kashmiri Hospitality, he sweetly urges –“I am telling you, do not miss this. It would be worth it!”

And underlines the convenience for his Baraatis,- wedding guests, outlining the location of the venue and nearest exit and entry points by air, road and travel modes – “ Our Village Dharam-Gund is 46Km’s from Srinagar International Airport and 20Kms from Awantipora (National highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar). If you want, we can pick you from Srinagar Airport or from Awantipora -If you are coming by road”.

With a tongue in cheek emoticon he adds as a Post script.–“PS: This LADIES SANGEET function is 10% of Ladies Sangeet and 90% of BHANGRAA!

The Kashmiri –Sikh wedding rituals are quaint and different from Punjabi Sikh weddings, JP says. The celebration will commence with Gandiaan – a Kashmir Sikh ritual where celebrations formally begins with groom’s family going to the bride’s house to present her precious jewellery , in return the bride’s family presents a Gold Karra – Sikh faith symbol of Bracelet, to the groom, followed by merriment with wedding songs. Sangeet amongst Punjabis isn’t as innocent as it sounds and actually means boisterous Bhangra and dances by both genders.

Another ceremony is of hand impressions on the wall of the house, after dipping them in coloured water- Chapaa. Followed by Mitti Khodna – digging soil near a village Gurdwara, putting walnuts in it and inserting a pinch of the ‘divine’ soil in Mehandi – Henna to be sent to the bride The muh-boli- bhen or the groom’s adopted sister, commences the ceremonies, along with ritual of – Pani Bharna– when water is brought in a Gaagar- earthen pot, from a village Nag or spring and mixed in haldi ubtan – the turmeric mixture with curds, applied to the groom in a pre-wedding ceremony, believed to render a glow to the skin.

The grand finale on October 1, would be the wedding day for morning Baraat – groom party’s arrival at the bride’s house and Anand Karaj pheras – Sikh wedding circumambulation with recitation of holy scriptures and hymns, around the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib, at Aluchabagh Gurdwara of Srinagar, near the bride’s house. “Other than the jewellery that both sides gift to the bride, we don’t accept or give dowry,” JP adds with pride.

“Along with me, as one unknown-never-met baraati, how many had confirmed their attendance”, I ask. “At least 20 unknown people have messaged me, wishing to come for the wedding. They are confirmations from Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu and Delhi and now I have four from Amritsar including you,” he laughs
“Accommodation and security?” “People in our village hold us in respect. My uncle Rajinder Singh Rajan, is an award winning Punjabi writer of book ‘Taja Bawri’ -about a Kashmiri girl gone insane due to turmoil. He won the national award for his book in 2015 and was felicitated in June last year by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Since few in our family were intellectually gifted, Kavishris- poetry symposiums, were often held in our home, which villagers attended. Today every villager has opened his home to host guests for my wedding.” And added –“A nearby police station has assured us all security for guests.”

Did both sets of parents agree? Both me and my fiancée Vipeen Kaur, a dentist in Noida are from Tral, her family is now based in Srinagar. We could have had the safest wedding in Delhi, but I insisted that I want to marry the girl I love, in the place we both love. The families are more than happy with this decision.

I tried to contact Vipeen Kaur, JP’s fiancee and sent her a message but did not receive a reply.

Since liquor is a typical of Punjabi weddings, would you serve?”- “Mum is the word!” he responds.

The responses to his timeline post have been welcoming, appreciative, longing, assessing and touching. Nidhi calls the invitation a cool idea. JP’s adopted sister Komal Jb Singh is gleefully petulant as her name has not been added in the invite. Shabangi Mushtaq, a Kashmiri based in Zimbabwe, calls him open hearted and broadminded for writing this beautiful post cutting across the barriers of religion, class and caste and promises to try to attend. Akhilesh Khurana comments,- ‘The invite made us part of the celebrations virtually’. Rauf Tramboo, a Kashmiri, adventure travel consultant, called it a chivalrous invitation and confirmed his presence to perform the bhangra after a long time. However a distraught Adventure tour operator Bashir Damna pointed out ‘Till date no visitor or tourist was harmed in valley and locals are good hosts and helpful. Some Indian media men are spreading false rumours about Kashmiris and that is why our brother (JP) has said ‘prime responsibility’ (read security).

Arjimand Hussain Talib termed it the most beautiful invitation that he had ever come across. Raja Farooq teased –“Good to know Rangeela JP is going to marry. Free invitation another of his innovative styles.”

What warmed the cockles of the heart was a desire expressed from across the border by Umar Javid, a resident of Mirpur in Pak Occupied Kashmir –‘Congratulations, I wish I could participate’, to which JP answered ‘Please try to come, it would not be that tough and let me know if you need any documented invitation from India that can help you with the visa. We would love to host you’ To his friend Sudhir S Parihar who Congratulated him, JP Singh responded- “Agar tu na aaya teray chittar peen ge…” that sums up the quintessential Punjabi Ishtyle of
friendship, I have no translations to offer.

Rashmi Talwar is an Amritsar based Independent Writer, can be emailed at: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com
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AN OPEN INVITATION!

I am getting MARRIED on 1st, October, 2017. 🙂
Wedding is planned at a beautiful picturesque village in Kashmir and will be a mixture of kashmiri-Sikh and Punjabi rituals/traditions.
It would be a 4 day event {28-Sep(GANDIAAN-A kashmiri Sikh marriage Ritual and ladies Sangeet), 29-Sep(CHAPPA-A kashmiri Sikh marriage Ritual and ladies Sangeet), 30-Sep(Lunch + Mahendi) and 1st-october (Baraat to Srinagar City)}.
It is an open invitation to everyone. Please ping me if you want to attend. If you know-me/have-met-me or NOT, it hardly matters. Please confirm your availability; I and my whole family would be more than happy to host you.
Lodging, Boarding and your safety will be our responsibility. 🙂
PS: I am telling you, do not miss this. It would be worth it. Our Village Dharam-Gund is 46km’s away from Srinagar International Airport and 20kms from Awantipora(National highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar). If you want we can pick you from Srinagar Airport or from Awantipora(If you are coming by road).
PSS: This LADIES SANGEET function is 10% of Ladies Sangeet and 90% of BHANGRAA! 😜 🍻

6th Ministerial Heart of Asia Conf/ Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images


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Don’t trigger a war: Voices from India and Pakistan /Rashmi Talwar @rushrk1 /DailyO


 

 

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Don’t trigger a war : Voices from India and Pakistan

Villagers asked to evacuate are enraged at the media hype; their homes are almost empty and crop is being wasted

Rashmi Talwar 

“Hun jang na lava deo!” (Now, don’t trigger a war!) – shouts an enraged villager, Kulwant Singh, at us. He is the caretaker of the local gurdwara of village Daoke on the India-Pakistan border.

We smile awkwardly; the villagers are visibly angry, especially the elderly. “Media nu TRP di payi rendi hai, aasan da koi nai sochda,” (media is concerned about TRPs, nobody thinks of us border villagers!) they say.

Some join the chorus as they see our cameras and notebooks. Villagers are keenly watching the high decibel rhetoric belted out by TV channels, where 80 per cent of news is on the India-Pakistan trajectory, in the heightened tension of the last two weeks.

Villagers in the border belt with Pakistan were ordered to evacuate after Indian armed forces carried out “surgical strikes” on September 29, in retaliation for the September 18 attack in Uri, Jammu & Kashmir, attributed to Pakistan’s terrorist network.

Daoke is situated bang on the border where the international boundary’s barbed wire fence is a mere crow’s flight away. So close to the border that one milkman Bitu’s mobile number shows the country code of +92 (Pakistan).

Even as hectic activity was noticed, as ripe paddy crop is being harvested speedily in villages, due to panic, their anger is not amiss.

Many villagers owning fields beyond the barbed wire fencing on the Indian side of the border are barred from tending to their fields by the Border Security Force. They rue the accrued losses and moan that their loans will remain unpaid, as no one can tend to their standing, ripened crops.

With many of the village’s women and children having left for safer places, much of the responsibility and burden of household chores, livestock and fields has fallen upon the frail shoulders of the elderly, while fields within the barbed area with newly ripened paddy are being managed by sons whose wives and children are staying with relatives in the cities.

Daoke’s Satwant Kaur cries: “In this old age, when I needed rest and comfort, I have been pushed to tend to cooking, cleaning and all house chores alone, as both my daughter-in-laws and their children were sent to their maternal homes. An old woman is expected to deal with everything!”

The reluctance of the villagers to evacuate has reasons. Whenever tensions build up between India and Pakistan, they fall in the first line of evacuation. At places, a mere road separates the defence drain and the fields of villages.

“Besides the cumbersome drill of packing and transporting belongings and requesting city counterparts to help, crops too suffer,” says one Gurmeet. The biggest reason, however, as Gurmeet puts it: “This time it is unlike earlier evacuations, which were serious. This one is merely precautionary and anticipatory.”

They are also loath to evacuate because they know they will get the whiff of any serious preparations for an attack through tip-offs from across the border, where they have contacts.

The contacts are through the ignominious drug trade. Villages Hawellian, Narli, Bharopal and Daoke are well known for their drug links. Incidentally, the controversial film Udta Punjab on the drug menace in Punjab, is peppered with mentions of these villages in conversations.

After evacuation orders by local deputy commissioners (DC), the villagers of Bharopal, similarly poised on the India-Pakistan border, are also restless. Many villagers owning fields beyond the barbed wire fencing on the Indian side of the border are barred from tending to their fields by the Border Security Force. They rue the accrued losses and moan that their loans will remain unpaid, as no one can tend to their standing, ripened crops. The

situation is alike in Kakkar, Rajatal, Neshta, Pandhori, Manj, Kawe, Bachiwind, and Ranian along the border, where very few have left homes.

Punjab’s chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had deputed DCs to supervise evacuation, on the possibility of retaliation by Pakistan, and declared: “These are precautionary steps to prevent civilian loss in case of any misadventure from across the border.”

Badal claimed to have released Rs 1 crore for each border district. When asked about the compensation, the villagers of Bharopal exclaimed: “Not a drop of compensation arrived on our doorstep!”

Amritsar’s DC said 15 camps and a score of buses were spared to ferry people. The villagers of Daoke are ignorant of any such travel arrangements.

Following recent incidents, 11 government school buildings were notified for residents of the border belt. Arrangement at Khasa school for about 500 people has no takers. In Chhabal village of Tarn Taran, about 30 rooms are in readiness to accommodate 250 people. Very few have arrived in relief camps falling in the adjoining district of Tarn Taran along the border.

They preferred to take refuge in gurdwaras nearby where food is assured via langars. All private and government educational institutions within 10km radius of the international border remain shut. Those living near the border have been asked to switch off lights at night.

Many of the villagers have witnessed three wars, including 1965, 1971, Kargil in 1999 and the army stand-off in the aftermath of the Parliament attack in 2001-02.

Jasbir Singh (82), a village elder of Bharopal, had even witnessed the Partition of 1947. Village Neshtha’s Balwant Singh articulates: “We will not move out till the time shots are fired, the artillery is moved in and the defence canal is filled with water. How much baggage can we take? Our livestock, grain and household items were looted when we left the last time following the Parliament attack.”

This journalist saw patrolling by horse-mounted Army personnel, besides police and armoured vehicles of the BSF in border villages. In the stand-off in 2001-02, when villages were evacuated, India and Pakistan’s soldiers stood eye-to-eye.

Fields along the barbed wire fencing and beyond were heavily mined and many casualties of defence personnel and villagers were reported due to accidents during movement of artillery, besides incidents of fire in mined fields.

BSF deputy commandant HS Sidhu confirms: “The evacuation exercise is a precautionary measure. BSF has enhanced vigil and augmented forces along the India-Pakistan border. Media hype and the acrimony between the two nations cannot be ignored.”

Other precautionary measures include sounding hospitals and keeping medicine supply in readiness. Unconfirmed reports are also trickling in of fortifying of ICP (integrated checkpost, Attari-Wagah) and cleaning of bunkers on the border.

Even as anxiety prevails in villages, India-Pakistan trade seemed untouched by any tension. Balwinder Singh, in-charge of the port at Attari-Wagah, revealed that as many as 190 trucks carrying cement, gypsum, rock salt, dry fruit and dry dates arrived from Pakistan and 55 trucks with tomatoes from Maharashtra, cotton and buffalo meat drove to Pakistan.

Passenger count on the international route seemed affected. Four times-weekly Punj-Aab Express, the Amritsar-Lahore bus, didn’t ply as no passenger was booked on it. Passenger flow via the bi-weekly Samjhauta Express train between the two countries remained at about 150 persons on both sides on Thursday. Besides this, only five passengers each crossed from either side via Sada-E-Sarhad Delhi-Lahore bus on Saturday.

Twitter :rushrk1

FIRST PUBLISHED IN DAILYO

URL :http://www.dailyo.in/politics/surgical-strikes-uri-attack-pakistan-daoke-loc-bharopal-evacuation-parkash/story/1/13216.html

 

 

Indus Water Treaty: Is India warming for the “One Cut” /Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images


snapshot-indus-water-treaty-kiIndus Water Treaty

Is India warming for the “One Cut”

Rashmi Talwar

Pak President Gen Zia-Ul-Haq’s declaration ‘to bleed India through a thousand cuts’ was the guideline Pakistan diligently followed. India, as a nation recipient of maximum impact of terror from the neighbour, latest being the Uri Attack, seems planning to inflict ‘one cut’ via the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). The lower riparian state of Pakistan is solely dependent on one –Indus Water Basin, whose key player is India.

The ‘cut’ may not come as impatiently as public tempers following the Uri attack, but by systematic evolution of river projects over the years that India could formulate within the parameters and stipulations of the IWT.

There could soon be a beginning, as Dr Medha Bisht, of South Asian University, informed during her address at the International River Symposium by International Water Management Institute, (IWMI) in Delhi recently,-“As many as 20 mini dams are in the pipeline for river Chenab, one of the three western river waters vested with Pakistan under IWT.” There are also proposals for harnessing water through mini dams on Jhelum.

Taking serious note of the possibilities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefed about IWT’s Indian centric options. Following it, it was declared that India will be dramatically reconfiguring the usage of its share of the waters.

An inter-ministerial expert group has already been put on the job to figure out India’s non-consumptive use, apart from plans to commission flood reservoirs, dams and exploit the entitled water share.

Economically and domestically Pakistan is widely dependent on the Indus basin. If indeed India could unilaterally scrap the treaty and divert the waters flow to Pakistan it would mean an immediate tactical retaliation. Alas, by doing so, India may only succeed in large submersion of its own lands.

As Amitabh Sinha in his write up in Indian Express aptly pointed out “Turning off Indus tap, easier said than done”

Indus Waters Treaty and beyond 

After a decade of World Bank-brokered negotiations, six rivers of the Indus basin were notified as ‘eastern’ and ‘western’.  Sutlej, Beas and Ravi as eastern; Jhelum, Chenab and Indus designated western. Under the IWT signed on 19th September, 1960 in Karachi with signatories- Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru and Pak President Ayub Khan, the control of the eastern rivers were vested with India and three western ones with Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s apprehensions, since ‘source rivers’ flowed through India, and the potential to create droughts and famines in Pakistan at times of war,both countries managed their shared river waters amicably, irrespective of wars and chilly relations, to be hailed as global model of water sharing and cooperation.

So much so, “Two anti-aircraft guns stationed and in readiness at all times, at Bhakra Dam, have never had a chance to boom against air-space violation in the restricted area during any of the wars”, articulated Tarlochan Singh Chief Engineer, Bhakra Dam, during a field trip to the high security dam organized by IWMI.

Under IWT India is entitled for non-consumptive right to use 20% of the waters of western rivers. Which spells out – domestic purposes, irrigation and hydropower production, as specified in the Treaty.

Merely by making optimum use of the stipulated usage of 20% under IWT of western rivers, India could utilize its non-consumptive option for domestic use, irrigation, hydro-electricity, that could cause a dent in quantity of water flow to the partner country. Presently India has merely utilized 3% or 4% of its sanctioned entitlement.

It is indeed a testament to India’s diplomatic patience that Pakistan’s repeated attempts to internationalize the IWT by taking the matter to the International Court of Arbitration, Hague; has been met with stoic resilience on the Indian side.

Jammu & Kashmir and IWT

The “generosity” of the Indus Waters Treaty has been a source of grievance for state of Jammu and Kashmir, a power-starved state. In 2003, late Mufti Mohammad Syeed had passed a resolution in the J&K Assembly seeking a review of the treaty, but the resolution fell through.

However, another resolution in late June this year, with PDP-BJP coalition in the saddle, is of significance. The state assembly united on revision of the IWT, citing that the source state has been treated shabbily as a non-entity in the Treaty whereas its water resources meant rich dividends to bolster its ailing economy. It has demanded compensation in lieu of usage of its waters. This makes Jammu & Kashmir stand strongly behind a proposal for a revisit of the IWT.

Pakistan is ill at ease with such a revisit, as it least expects 1960s generosity to continue, due to changed conditions and multiple reasons viz-a-viz climate change, ecological, geographical, economical and most of all  political  and diplomatic chill due to years of mistrust.

Prof Shakil A Romshoo HoD Earth Sciences, Kashmir University, contends – “Jammu &Kashmir is naturally endowed as water surplus state. Add to that, the state’s vision to encourage horticulture, weaning it from agriculture has paid huge dividends as the government sanctions 6% to7% higher support price. This, as horticulture is less water guzzling, than agricultural crops, has further made the state, water economical.” However, J&K’s demand for larger stake in share of power is considered a genuine demand.

India has yet to avail of its entitlement to build storage for up to 3.6 million acre feet on western rivers. India has built no storage facilities so far, apart from a small attempt in north Kashmir, the government has done precious little to store the permitted water under the treaty.

Out of the crop area of 13,43,477 acres that India is entitled to irrigate using water of western rivers, only 7,92,426 acres was being irrigated. Government needs to scale up the irrigation by another 5 lakh acres. At least 36 major tributaries flow into Jhelum River, which originates in south Kashmir.

India can up-the-ante, but cannot tame river courses at a press of a button or by turning off the tap. It has to systematically and thoughtfully traverse the course, keeping climate change and larger ecological parameters and perspectives in mind.  In the long term India can utilize the allotted use under the Treaty itself, without causing itself any blemish of unilaterally abrogating the Treaty and simultaneously can inflict the ‘one cut’ for the recalcitrant neighbour.

Water, after all, is haughty mistress; it follows its own ways and whims 

Loathe be one, who can rein its lithe flow!

A journalist based in Punjab, the author can be reached at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN DAILY KASHMIR IMAGES ON 30TH SEPTEMBER 2016 

URL: http://dailykashmirimages.com/Details/120958/is-india-warming-for-the-%E2%80%9Cone-cut%E2%80%9D

The pain will be ours alone, Kashmir ! /Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images


snapshot the pain kashmir imagesThe pain will be ours alone, Kashmir !

Rashmi Talwar

O the pretense of strength, of willpower, fervor, sacrifice
Peep in my empty womb
Am I hoping for sunshine?
Will rainbows hug me?
~unknown

“Mama I have a head-ache, a tummy-ache, a tooth-ache, ear-ache!” Mama would pop a tablet, kiss me, say –“All will be well” while stroking my forehead. The fake-ache was for a pesky teacher, a test, punishment, home-work or just about anything to skip school.

Soon she’s busy in daily chores and peeps. “Are you better?” –“No!” I lie gleefully and let out a suitable groan, till well past school time. I lie in bed. TVs are nonexistent, radio is a spoiler, comics and novels are under censorship. To speak, to move out, even to look out the window, all my fundamental rights are curtailed. One little lie, and a vast abyss of nothingness- agony, insanity, unbearable.

Another time, an accident: Bystanders gather on the spot, exclaim their –‘Hawwws..! And Haiiis..!’ Call up my husband’s pager. At the doctor -“We’ll have to plaster the ankle, it’s a hairline fracture, but the wrist can be just bandaged,” I insert -“No, Doc plaster my wrist too!” –He winks at his assistant – “Two plasters!” I am excited–“Now, I really look like an accident victim!”
Relatives visit, inquire, listen to my story, and exclaim -“Oh how terrible!” I continue – How a woman trying to pick her child in the front seat drove right across and bolted my rickshaw- “I felt as if I was flying, and landed with a thud, you know!” And adding a little spice – “You know, I checked my neck, I also checked my diamond ring, only after checking, I, started howling loudly, Hee Hee!” “You are brave!” one says. I have turned my adversity into an opportunity, I pat myself. I glow in the make-belief glory of compliments. They write something cute on my plaster with pierced hearts, smilies and leave. Fourth day, there are no doorbells. I look at my plaster, read the messages all in a minute. Only one minute passes in my long road to recovery. My pains, my helplessness all get magnified in my solitude.

Another accident: I slip from the stairs; the shattered glass embeds in my hand and punctures a blood vessel. Blood spouts like a tap, running down the stairs.
Sitting on the stairs, my head swims due to blood loss, I calmly hold my bleeding hand and ask my house help,–“Go, get all the ice in the refrigerator and a towel!”
He stands staring. I urge –“Hurry, don’t look at me!”
Rushed to a hospital with blood all over, a nurse presses the bleeding punctured vessel, the bleeding stops as the glass shard blocks the blood flow. The cutting foreign body drives excruciating pain the whole night. Next day I am operated, but the wrongly pressed shard has cut my nerves too. The same evening driving a car managed with a plastered hand, I reach The Tribune office for work. I brush it aside as a cut, when colleagues inquire. I am able to function better without self-pity and borrowed strengths now. I work from that day onwards with one hand, my focus only on work and on recovery. It takes six months and physiotherapy to get the hand to function.

Another time, I am advised for urgent surgery. “Report back in a week and we shall operate!” the doctor says emotionlessly. “It can be delayed a little, plus we don’t have patient space” the doctor at Ganga Ram Hospital Delhi, adds.
I return to Amritsar that evening. In a week I arrange all my daily wear, toiletries, towels, others, keep a neat guest room downstairs to take me. I even place a walking stick.
My house help assists me for two days. Third day she’s in a hurry, fourth, she skips. By the fifth day I have learned to manage everything- the pain, the chores, indigenously working out solutions. People visit. My Mum admires-“You are brave”, I take it casually. Now, only focused on recovery. I am back in good health in no time.

These may be minor incidents but what stayed with me –“You have to bear your own pain, all alone!”

“O Mother, O Kashmir, my pain was just a scratch, yours- Mammoth!
Listen to my little prayers.
They shall come, pay sympathies, some justifying, some calling exalted divinity, some soothing, some listening, some talking memorials, some anger- revenge, some lullabys.
The broken promises, history, anger, restrictions, all, meaningless.
In the dark cold screaming silences- Mother, you’ll wonder –“Which piece of mother-land demands a price of your children.”
No fruit, sweet; no sound, soothing; no rainbows, – Only raw, clutching, solitary, tearing, pain.
The pain will always be our own. To Bear, All Alone!”

chinar leaf

Photo by Rashmi Talwar

The writer can be emailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN DAILY KASHMIR IMAGES ON AUGUST 10, 2016
http://dailykashmirimages.com/Details/117243/the-pain-will-be-ours-alone-kashmir

“Udtaa Punjab” Punjab’s Shame forgotten ? / Rashmi Talwar


 

Udta Punjab .jpg

“UDTAA PUNJAB”

rush sopore

Author :Rashmi Talwar

Punjab’s Shame forgotten

Rashmi Talwar

In October 2012, when Rahul Gandhi, then Congress general secretary pointed out that 70% of Punjab’s Youth was into drugs, it was probably one of the few sane statements by the Congress-heir in-waiting that were insanely true. Akali-Dal and BJP tried a cover-up with a vicious Pappu campaign to shield the deadly dark secret of Punjab.

But like Ishq aur Musq chupai nahi chupte (Love and fragrance cannot be hidden), the ill kept secret that leaked in small doses earlier with regular hauls of drugs from Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Indo-Pak border, broke out in the open with – “Udtaa Punjab”- a cine portrayal of the real drug scene of the once robust state.

CBFC’s nonsensical objections besides reports of ruling combine of Akali-BJP trying to stall the release of the movie, turned around to give Udtaa its extra innings!

The political opportunity was grabbed by Amritsar’s MP and Congress head – Capt Amarinder Singh, who had given a sound beating at the hustings to Arun Jaitely (Union Finance Minister). Capt threatened to release uncut CDs of ‘Udtaa’ at Majitha in defiance of CBFC ruling on June 17th. The High Court of course made only a single cut and a few disclaimers to give a green signal to the movie, now embellished with extra hype.

But the fact that the CD were to be released at Majitha – a stronghold of Akali MLA Bikram Singh Majithia, brother of Akali MP Harsimrat Badal and brother in law of deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, an accused in the multi-crore Bhola Drug scam, was a huge pointer in the direction of the ruling party’s leaders alleged involvement in Punjab’s notorious drug trade.

Drugs became an integral part of the Punjab election scenario in late 80’s when Pakistan replaced guns and ammunition with Narco-terrorism post Punjab’s terrorism era. With the attraction of ‘minor-risk-for- big-money’ the political stalwarts of Punjab gave it their tacit support, turning drugs into big business. If the recent arrest of Ramzaan(32) a drug smuggler from Pakistan arrested from Sowana border outpost in Fazilka district on June 13, who confessed waging a ‘drug Jihad’ to ruin young generation of ‘Kafirs’ in border regions of India. Ramzaan is a prized catch as a first Pakistani drug-smuggler to be caught. How is it that BSF has never caught any smuggler before and only muffled them into silence with death?
Any Punjabi will tell you –“Drugs are freely distributed amongst electorate in every nook and corner of Punjab. The election commission having never taken the issue seriously, the trend is fast and furious”.

Hence watching ‘Udtaa Punjab’ felt like a no –holds barred peep, into the drug dens of Punjab that emerge from scene to scene and surprises no one in this stupor state. A timed release with forthcoming elections in Punjab is the film’s bane and benefit. Abhishek Chaubey’s Udtaa gained more curiosity by CBFC hyperbole and reports of film’s piracy than merely by its subject and story.

The movie served to wipe out the carefully crafted media-campaign by ruling combine on All FMs with ‘paid farmers’ of various villages swearing that there was no drug wave as is being made out by opposition parties. One advertisement went –“Our village has 1400 population and none, I swear, is into drugs, be cautious about rumor mongers!” in an old villager’s voice. Punjab is laughing at the advertisements making spoofs of the tailored propaganda that openly smacks of cover- up of Punjab’s lethal cocktails and killing ‘Chitta’ or drug powder. Kashmir too is falling to the taste of drugs percolating from Punjab and across the border into this enchantingly beautiful but vulnerable state with its share of deep troubles.
However with the wave of Terrorism lashing the world, the scourge of drugs is put on the back burner. The FM channels also have riveted to old advertisement lines. Someone told the ruling party –“ The issue of drugs is almost dead, so lets pull down the ad-campaign and latch on to the value status of developments in the state”.

It comes as no surprise that the role of Punjab Police in drug dealing is glaring from a sizable number of Police personnel under treatment for drugs in parts of Tarn Taran and Amritsar including their children in rehabilitation centers here .
The role of BSF is also not a clean slate for the massive quantity of drugs being seized on the border. “The amount of drug seizures shown on media are just half or less than the actual haul”, an officer once revealed jokingly. The movie too includes this episode.
Drugs became an integral part of the Punjab election scenario in late 80’s when Pakistan replaced guns and ammunition with Narco-terrorism post Punjab’s terrorism era. With the attraction of ‘minor-risk-for- big-money’ the political stalwarts of Punjab gave it their tacit support, turning drugs into big business. The recent arrest of Ramzaan(32) a drug smuggler from Pakistan arrested from Sowana border outpost in Fazilka district on June 13, is who confessed waging a ‘drug Jihad’ to ruin young generation of ‘Kafirs’ in border regions of India, clearly points a finger at Pakistan’s covert tactics. Ramzaan is a prized catch as a first Pakistani drug-smuggler to be caught. If it is true that Ramzaan is the first Pakistani smuggler to be caught alive, how is it that BSF has never nabbed any smuggler before despite huge drug hauls, and only muffled them into silence with death?

The matinee show of the film in Amritsar, saw colored characters follow in to the movie hall to watch Punjab’s shame. Along with many police personnel, one loudmouthed one in plainclothes was accompanied by a Police officer. A stout bicep-tricep supporting guy in black clothes with gel-standing hair had menacing tattoos hanging on his arms. Many boys in the audience were with a studded ear. Women were few and had to endure the hootings at the drop of cusswords that fell in a steady drizzle throughout the film. The movie hall was strategically surrounded by Punjab Police personnel, on the opening day.
If truth be told, then ‘Udtaa Punjab’ is a searing flash across Punjab’s blue-smoke horizon of snorts, dragon-trials, capsules and needles. Names of infamous areas along Punjab’s border of village Hawellian, Tarn Taran, Narli, Amritsar are actual hotbed smuggling dens that were skillfully woven in conversations laced with authentic countryside abuses.
The film starts with ‘triply’ on a jittery scooter coping with a ride into lush fields near the unfettered international border, a packet is skillfully flung across the barbed wire fencing by a Shot-Put thrower, his jacket emblazoned with word ‘Pakistan’. Perhaps that is the only hint on the rampant cross-border smuggling. Drug smuggling in border villages is a whole-hearted business that undauntedly runs through a cross country network including smuggling aboard the Samjhauta Express- peddled as ‘a train of emotions’ between India & Pakistan, PVC pipe conduits, lady couriers, messenger pigeons, kites and balloons with Urdu couplets and numbers, courier- buffaloes in swamp areas. Add to it, is the emerging dragon power of Gurudoms and quack racketeers in Punjab.

The film is just the tip of an iceberg with flagrantly flourishing drug mafia in Punjab’s hinterland, supported by local politicians in cahoots with the police. Udtaa’s story runs around operations of the drug cartel, a once bribe-happy-turned-good cop played by Daljit Dosanjh- a versatile actor excelling in slapstick comedy, aptly named ‘Sartaj Singh’ in the film, a name synonymous with benign music of singer Sartaj’s signature ‘Sai’ brand played at Amrit vela or pre-dawn, in Punjabi homes, more like a prayer. Dosanjh as Sartaj plays a corrupt police officer to the hilt till drugs lay their deadly eggs in his own home. Shahid Kapoor playing Tommy Singh the Rockstar singer, is named closely with a namesake popular Punjabi Rockstar who is known to have cut several albums on nasha (intoxicate).
The simple murmurings of Punjab’s stalwart poet Shiv Batalvi -‘Ikk Kudi si’ takes the cake for music, otherwise sounding banal and nonsensical, used for furthering the narration.

Using drugs as talent enhancers by singers is a tragic reality of Punjab. Drug mafias swoop on upcoming singers promising enhanced talents with stimulating drug cocktails simultaneously prompting them to sing popular songs on drugs, nasha, botal (alcohol) and power.
In the thick of drugs sits Kareena Kapoor Khan alias Preet Sahni, a rehab clinic doctor, pout-less and natural, accusing the officer in denial mode with the choicest expletives, to drill the reality of police’s underhand dealings in drug consignments that turnaround to snare and gulp their own homesteads.
Punjabis identify with the colorful language, people, lifestyle and profanities that are common, as the four main characters build up the story. Especially impressive is Aalia Bhatt with her class performance as hockey player turned Bihari migrant. She comes across realistically with her half nail henna smear, a ubiquitous nose-stud and freckled skin with her Bihari abuses. Aalia is fast emerging as one of the finest actress as well as a budding singer. It is seen that migrant laborers in Punjab are emerging as one of the fastest growing drug consumer with drugs like Phukki, Doda, Charas, Ganja growing freely in the countryside.

The narrative of the film felt a little ruffled at times but situations leap outs, run around and close clutches the throat in a gripping portal of Punjab’s robust Punjabis turning into shitpots!

Yesterday, an old woman working in a spinning in a factory in Shaheedaan area of Amritsar related about her 16- year son’s death in a drug overdose, completely tearless, in a monotone sounding more relieved than pained at the loss of her child.
Likewise, Maqboolpura of Amritsar is infamously referred to as the ‘locality of widows’ as most male members became sacrificial offerings to drugs. Once a robust industrial area Chehharta has been ruined with the ‘chitta’, some allege the local MLA‘s drug dealing behind the ruin. The same MLA was booed out from a gathering by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker of ‘Art of living’ for coming drunk on the stage, a few months back.
Harinder Brar, portrayed as a Politician in the film is thus believable. One who is equally at ease, being the largest drug cocktail manufacturer, as he is, with coining a slogan and stretching his vocals cords to a blast, denouncing drugs in public-appearances. That the film director catches the absolute rustic flavor of Punjab and realtime settings have painfully ruffled political feathers.
One character in the film calls the drug trade ‘the Green Revolution –Part II’ of Punjab, the following rough estimate shows the repulsive scenario as Crores go down the drain- “Average spending per day of a heroin user (Rs 1500) opium user (Rs 350) Pharma drugs (Rs 250) , majority of users are heroin addicts. Incidentally, 90% of users are literate while half of them are from rural areas mostly in the age group of 15 to 45 years”.

While Shekhar Gupta founder Editor, The Quint- online news magazine, lashes–“Pahlaj ji deserve the sack for gifting Udtaa Punjab undeserved fame. Compared to Haider, Madras Cafe, Wasseypur, this is clichéd & juvenile.”
I answer -“Agreed, Shekhar! Udtaa is an average cinematic excellence, but it is the reality that hits in its most naked and goriest forms!”
Pappu was right.

Writer can be emailed at –rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

‘Gulab Gang’ to change destinies !/ Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


Central Government Schemes

‘Gulab Gang’ to change destinies !

Rashmi Talwar

250 Indian Journalists at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi with Maneka Gandhi

250 Indian Journalists at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi with Maneka Gandhi

 ‘Gulab Gang’ to change destinies !

Rashmi Talwar

New Delhi —Handing over my room key at the reception counter of Ashok Hotel, Delhi, I counted the backpacks lying next to the baggage of each woman at the check-out counter, help desk or the hotel’s impressive lobby. The Ashok is a historic hotel, the first-five star in Delhi built at an approximate cost of Rs.1.5 crore in the year 1955. The backpacks were all the same size, in two different colors, blue and red. Color didn’t matter, what mattered was that 250 women journalists were carrying with them a power-pack to change the destinies of millions of people in nook and corners of the country.

Women journalists had descended in the capital of India from 30 states/ UTs representing 120 media organizations, proficient in 11 languages for a historic moment – ‘First All India Women Journalists Workshop’ on a collaborative invite from Ministry of Women & Child Development(WCD) and Press Information Bureau (PIB). The central government embarked on this novel idea to tap the massive human resource of women journalists for their power and reach via their respective medias to plug loopholes found due to lack of information and proper implementation of schemes, alongside realtime sensitive monitoring.

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, the minister for Women and Child Development (WCD), addressed women journalists as the Ministry’s ‘secret agents army’, the ‘Gulab Gang’, ‘agents of change’  and ‘information multipliers’ and rolled out various schemes, merely heard on radio or TV with less than satisfactory implementation in the crannies of the nation.

 With recent instances and incidents, the interactive session took on a lively note and in return created a brigade of monitoring agents for various schemes that were otherwise being availed mostly in metro cities.

 “What Ministry wants to focus is on bringing a paradigm shift from welfare schemes to disseminating rights of vital sections —education, health, employment opportunities, safety, protection from violence, trafficking,” Maneka, together with Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, told women journalists at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan. Fortunately, Jammu and Kashmir, with its own constitution , having adopted the central government schemes, too was a partner and a beneficiary.

‘Khoya Paya’

Few in India may have any clue about placing a missing child’s report in the ‘Khoya Paya’ Scheme of the government at  <khoyapaya.gov.in>where the website columns segregate as -‘My child is missing’ or ‘I have sighted a child’ and even ‘Search for a missing child’.

In the past two decades, Kashmir has reported a sizeable number of missing children, runaways, many in illegal detentions, many crossed over the LoC, and others just vanished.

I would hope the government could extend this facility for ‘missing persons’ too.

About 500 families of ‘missing persons’ including ‘Kashmir’s Half–Widows’ have failed to locate their missing husbands, dead or alive.  In two districts of Bandipora and Baramulla in Kashmir more than 100 have gone missing. Alternately, families of missing have demanded DNA tests on unmarked graves to establish identities as a fair process of Justice. Cases of illegal detention too can be curtailed thus in the country as a whole, if the center takes the lead.

‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP)—

The center’s ‘BBBP’ scheme comes to the aid of unborn girl child, to eradicate the skewed gender ratio in favor of male child. “Jammu and Kashmir has one of the worst track records of female gender ratio. It could be, as they consider themselves in a war-zone and wouldn’t want girls to be taken hostages,” Maneka stated. However number of families of women having two or three children, were seen seeking ‘sterilization’ in a Kashmir government hospital. The reason was ‘fear that these women may be impregnated by militants or army personnel’. Both have a free run in Kashmir with militants running amok and army protected by AFSPA.

Government is already coming upon heavily against offenders of sex selective abortions under PCPNDT Act, 1994 regulating ultrasound scan centers and doctors, identifying gender critical regions and focusing on 100-districts with abysmal records, besides placing DMs to network with Ultrasound centers to monitor. “Interestingly the new lingo in such centers has become ‘ladoo’ for boy and ‘barfi’ for a girl”, Maneka said. From 1000:976 in 1961, the National gender ratio average has fallen to 1000:918 in 2011.

Panic Button

A new application hardwired into mobile phones to send alerts to 10 people around the affected area in distress situation for women on a press of a button. Digit’5’ and ‘9’ are being contemplated as SOS buttons.

E-Haat

The government has woken up to the fact that the power and talent of nearly half the population of the nation remains untapped and underutilized. Breaking shackles of slavery and becoming self-reliant is one of the biggest dreams of a woman. To market her products that she prepares in the home space like sehras or garlands, buttons, various masalas, warian (salty cookies), Papar (poppadums), chutneys, jams, baskets, sherbets and pickles, growing organic vegetables besides services like mehandi designing, fruit pickers, tiffin box services, flower bouquet, cake or candle business or as in Kashmir, dried vegetables like Tomatoes, Turnips, Brinjal, even fish,  … could unfailingly reach people around or countrywide through a free service of E-Haat with complete marketing facilities as an e-commerce platform. “We are shortly going to connect with online business portals such as Amazon and Flipkart,” revealed Maneka.

One-stop centers -‘Sakhi’

To support women affected by any kind of violence through a range of services-police assistance, medical aid, legal, psycho-social counseling and a short stay shelter home — under one roof.

Tech Anganwadis

Anganwadis, fulfill nutrition, pre-school and other needs of children uptil 5-years of age, are aimed to fight malnutrition, lack of education. With total lack of monitoring the Anganwadi  as providers  have turned into corruption dens. However to garner results for its core activities and to stem corruption government has come up with an idea to make these Tech savvy with tablet recordings, finger print attendance and standardized nutritious food for children. “However CCTV were not cost effective for the huge number and widespread centers”, said Maneka, in answer to a query.

Sukanya Samridhi Yojana

Opening an account in any of the 28 banks or post offices for a girl child upto 10 years of age and maturity at 21 years of her age with a maximum deposit of Rs 1.5 lakh per year in a girl’s account would give benefit of interests rates of 9.2 % plus 100% tax exemption yearly as well as on the amount at maturity to parents. The money could be used for higher education or during the time of marriage.

Juvenile Justice

Kashmir raised a query on Juvenile justice “In the Harwan Juvenile Home in Srinagar, a number of kids are kept without trials for months, why?” Maneka answered –“The children’s plight in Juvenile home, should be immediately brought to notice of Justice Madan B. Lokur, who would be shortly inspecting juvenile homes for justice trespassed.” Special provisions in law have been made in Juvenile Justice law to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences after the infamous Nirbhaya Case of Delhi gang rape in a moving bus.

Jan Dhaan Yojana

Open bank accounts with any bank with zero deposit; get life cover of Rs 30,000 and accidental cover of Rs one lakh besides debit card.

Other Highlights

  • Childline to help children in distress/ track/restore/rehabilitate missing children
  • Posters in Rail bogies to report abandoned child or child in suspicious circumstances
  • Railways alerted on 20 railway stations infamous for child trafficking including – Howrah, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkatta, Varanasi. Recently 56 missing children were recovered thus from Itarasi.
  • 33% reservation of women in police – To make police services more gender sensitive.
  • Adoption & fostering- Easy legal adoption. If you foster a child, government bears expenses.
  • Rastriya Mahila Kosh grants loan at 6 % for women NGOs
  • More ‘Balika Vadhus’ (child marriages) due to rampant eve teasing, stalking, harassment, molestation of adolescent girls.
  • Government contemplating free bus passes for women over 60 years.
  • Maternity leave for women in all work places for six and a half months.
  • For ending discrimination against women during recruitment due to mandatory maternity leave ensured by government, it was suggested to give ‘paternity’ leave to the father, to bring both partners at par in the home and work space.
  • Contemplating declaration of sex of unborn girl child to village would ensure safety and security of female fetuses.
  • A 1000 bedded ‘Swadhar Greh’ at Vrindavan for abandoned widows. Puri and Varanasi recorded largest number in this inhuman practice of abandonment. Vegetable garden, cowshed, skill development centers would be included in it for making abandoned women self-sustaining.
  • As many as 1363 missing children were found through Khoya Paya web portal and mobile app.
  • Crèches in Haryana under Anganwadi programs were adjudged the best.
  • Child rights email cp.ncpcr@nic.in.
  • All deliveries mandatory in hospitals to keep track of childbirth and gender count.
  • In collaboration with Facebook, Ministry of Women and Child Development is running a contest for the first time to select 100 women achievers
  • Skewed sex ratios are leading to social upheavals including increasing crime against women, besides kidnapping and smuggling of ‘prospective wives’ from places like Uttrakhand for Haryana, Rajasthan grooms.
  • Panipat in Haryana has lowest female sex ratio.
  • Through public nominations and voting on Facebook, women improving their community and making an impact on people shall be felicitated by government.
  • ‘Sabla scheme’ for providing life skills, supplementary nutrition and basic health check-up facilities for adolescent girls, aims at all round development of 11-18 year girls.
  • Contemplating ‘Adopt a Home’ scheme by big companies under corporate social responsibility to avail tax benefits.
  • National Children’s fund for Brilliant children in orphanages scoring above 70% marks to get scholarships till college
  • Sweeping Adoption reforms to make the process easy, transparent and quick.
  • Matrimonial websites regulated to thwart complaints of stalking and harassment of women registered on sites.
  • Mandatory mention of widow’s name in death certificates.
  • Jeevan Jyoti Bima (Insurance scheme – for (18 to 50 years) enrolled in this scheme a holder would pay Rs 330 as premium annually (about a rupee daily) would be covered for life insurance at Rs 2 lakhs.
  • ‘Ujjwala Yojana’ scheme – For smoke free homes in rural India, to provide 5 crore LPG connections to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the next three years.

Author can be emailed at – rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

Published in Rising Kashmir on June 27, 2016 

URL:http://risingkashmir.in/news/gulab-gang-to-change-destinies

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