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

Imran Khan will never make a comback: Pak Author

Rashmi Talwar


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:

Kashmir Images/Published on: 29 September2019


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


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



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

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:



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:
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