Archive for the ‘1 AMRITSAR -LAHORE’ Category

Sarabjit’s lawyer, Awais Sheikh in Dock! ….By Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir


sarabjit lawyer

(Right) Awais Sheikh Sarabjit's Lawyer releasing book- 'Sarabjit Singh- A case of mistaken Identity

(Right) Awais Sheikh Sarabjit’s Lawyer releasing book- ‘Sarabjit Singh- A case of mistaken Identity


Sarabjit’s lawyer -Awais Sheikh, in dock !

Letter to caretaker Punjab CM for security to Pak lawyer

By Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR May 3, 2013——————

Awais Sheikh, the Pakistani counsel for deceased Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in Pak jail, is a scared man. Although having a slight physical stature, he has guts of steel and has never felt frightened while supporting Sarabjit’s case. He took over as lawyer of Sarabjit after 26/11 Mumbai attacks from Mr Rana another counsel of the Indian prisoner, during the time when hatred between the two countries was at its peak and the Pak SC had announced an ex-parte decision due to the absence of Sarabjit’s counsel in court.

Even when Awais was thrown out of his rented place by his landlord, labeled an Indian agent and during the time when protests were held against him outside Lahore Press on the announcement that Sarabjit was to be released but was retracted within six hours and another prisoner Surjeet singh was released in his place; Awais did not cow down and never backtracked, he held on to his courage. He came to India more than 25 times without fear of persecution from intelligence agencies of Pakistan.

In a letter today to the caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab- Najam Sethi (in view of forthcoming elections in Pakistan) the Human Rights Watch has written that Awais was subjected to an attempt at kidnapping at Wagah border besides receiving threatening letters and phone calls from organizations that claim to have strong links with Taliban. They have urged the government to provide him clandestine (invisible) security so that he does not become a visible target of those who want to eliminate him.

Awais has addressed umpteenth press conferences since 2008, in both India and Pakistan, even garnering support of celebrities to urge both countries to repatriate their prisoners after their prison terms were over and has mounted an attack on both countries for their callousness, time and again especially in the case of Sarabjit.

But after Sarabjit’s death in Lahore, it was the first time that fear was in Awais’s voice. After the attack on Sarabjit he said, he was fearful that he too may be eliminated. He related to me over phone from Lahore – “I came to see off Dalbir Kaur and Sarabjit’s family at Wagha Indo Pak border after they met Sarabjit in hospital, and this time the intelligence sleuths laid a trap me, of which I was pre-warned, so I managed to sneak out in a private vehicle.” And further, expressed his fear that after Sarabjit’s slaughter –“This time, they will come after me and kill me too!”

Awais has written a book titled “Sarabjit Singh- A case of mistaken identity” published by Indian Publishers Rajkamal Prakashan, that was released in Delhi and Amritsar in January 2013. The book has complete details on Sarabjit’s case as well as many other prisoners in jails of India and Pakistan belonging to either country.

Besides this he has copies of documentations to prove Sarabjit’s real name was Sarabjit and not ‘Manjit Singh’ as filed in the FIR. He had earlier penned another book –Samjohta express”- The train between India and Pakistan. Awais was last here in India, to release the book on Sarabjit Singh, in Delhi and Amritsar in January 2013.
Justice Markandey Katju Chairman of the Press Council of India, former Supreme court Judge and chairman of the ‘Free Sarabjit Committee had commented on the book –“The prosecution evidence in the case of Sarabjit Singh is very weak . His name was not even in the First Information Report”.

The winner of USA’s ‘Global Media Award for Excellence’ Zubeida Mustafa had stated on the book –“Sarabjit has not received a fair trial. That is the irony. The quirks of international relations and a flawed legal system have combined to determine the unhappy fate of this man.”

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR RK

URL:http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/sarabjits-lawyer-awais-sheikh-in-dock-46560.aspx

Remembering Lahori YASH CHOPRA By Rashmi Talwar : RISING KASHMIR


Yash Chopra’s SILSILA — A casting Coup

Lahori-Yash Chopra

By Rashmi Talwar

The swish of chiffon Sarees had already mesmerised our generation of teenagers or those in their early 20s. Yash Raj films had introduced us to ‘Tulips’ and ‘Windmills’ of Amsterdam for the first time in Silsila – a film that took much from the real-time high profile romance of Rekha with the most handsome baritone voiced Amitabh Bachchan.
The fragrance of mountains from Kashmir to the Swiss Alps, the lakes and flora had seemed like the stars in his films were floating on whispering clouds, endless rainbows, the bluest waters.

RISING KASHMIR: Remembering Lahori YASH CHOPRA

Kabhi Kabhi, Chandni, Lamhe, Darr had the leading lady so dreamlike, that one wondered if such creatures actually existed. We, as young girls then, all wanted to emulate them. So, school and college farewells, saw girls in sheer chiffons with a swaying paalu following them. Never mind if some of starry-eyed ones tripped on the edges, but they had to be one amongst the exalted queens of Yash Raj films, to be able to garner a tall-dark-handsome, Mills and Boons, type of guy.

During my journalistic years much later, as women journalists were often saddled with soft beats- like it or not, I too was put to task on film personalities. I do not feel any guilt in saying, I enjoyed it thoroughly, much to the smirks of fellow women journalists, who felt it was a page3 type story. Hardly journalism! as they called it. In, came a chance to interview Yash Chopra, the King maker of Romance.

He was here in Amritsar with his wife Pamela Chopra and was conferred the degree of Doctorate of Philosophy (honors causa) for his contributions to art and culture by Guru Nanak Dev University, in 2004.
The then Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr SP Singh was more like a father figure to me. He invited me, individually to have special lunch with the awardees at the 30th Convocation of the Univ.
As I saw Yash ji and his wife holding a plate, Dr Singh, a bright glint in his eye, egged me on to interview him there and then. “A journalist must never lose a chance. I know this, because I too was journalist at one time,” he urged.
But I couldn’t bring myself to barge in upon a couple, cosily eating lunch together. I told Dr Singh, that I shall do the interview only after, he is over with his lunch. Later the honoured VC even related this incident to my Bureau Chief, as all laughed at me, in our office.
Perhaps Yash ji had heard our conversation and quickly finished his lunch and joined us. “Tell me what do you want to ask?” ‘Sirrr! I wanted to talk to your wife’, I blurted out in confusion. ‘About what?’ he asked. Sirrr ji! I want to know how she views your films, your profession and your success.’ I said.
He gave a coy smile and said, ‘ No, Pamela doesn’t like to talk to the media’, as I stole a glance at his wife enjoying the lip smacking Amritsari cuisine, in a world of her own. I remembered that they had a love marriage. Soon, we reached an unoccupied cane sofa and Yash ji, made me sit beside him. The rest of the media persons too had been let in as the lunch was almost over.
We all sat with him, some at his feet glancing at him, some standing over his head and others surrounding the little sofa. Once on the route to queries, I asked him if he would ever make an Indo-Pak film as he was connected to Lahore as his birthplace. Yash Chopra said his forthcoming film would be exactly that but categorically ruled out taking his film troupe and artistes to Pakistan. He expressed his apprehensions over security issues. However he said he did not like to project any Anti-Pak sentiment in his films. He had not named his film at the time but ‘Veer Zara’ was already in the pipeline. On being asked if he would ever make a Punjabi movie, He smilingly retorted ‘but I always bring Punjab in my films’. Well, DDLJ, Silsila, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Veer Zara had plentiful of Punjabi flavor in them. About getting the Rekha, Amitabh and Jaya in love triangle in Silsila which was a seen as scoop of sorts, Yash ji said, I signed them and the next day flew off to Switzerland. Those were the times of only landline phones’ he laughed. We all understood and looked gigglingly at each other.
Yash Chopra, who was then on the advisory board of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, showed no qualms about taking on the government on censorship issue for their leniency in passing vulgarity in films and TV programmes. He said remixed songs were jarring to him as they mutilated a beautiful composition and made it like a ‘Hijra’neither man nor woman. ‘No one can see these vulgar videos with their family’. Over reports of a nexus between films and International Mafia raging at the time in 2004, he said he was unaware of it, if it did exist.
Interestingly, I was one of the first ones to cover the story of Indian Prisoner Sarbjit Singh still imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Pakistan which is known to be a case of mistaken identity and by some strange coincidence another case of mistaken identity was also underway at that time in the sessions court in Amritsar and I had minutely studied it and verily reported it even as it was a sub-judice case , but had led to release of the accused, a 70 year old .
It was, but a wild thought then, that Yash ji too would be including a twist of ‘mistaken identity’ in his forthcoming Indo Pak movie. Lo and Behold! This hunch came true in Veer Zara. Later, I covered the entire shooting of the film in Amritsar at Khalsa College, Attari International Railway station, Samjhauta Express, Harike, Wagah Land route and various other sequences shot in Amritsar and around.

Scene from Veer Zara

When I went to Lahore the very next year in 2005, for the first time . People there were thrilled over this very Indo-Pak romance. However, some said the language used was not authentic lahori and petulantly pointed out that the sets too could have been improved had Yash ji come to Pakistan and noted the minute details as he is wont to do in all his movies. One elderly lady in Pakistan had a question to ask –‘Why is the boy from India and the girl from Pakistan in the movie?’ She asked sweetly, ‘Why not vice-versa?’ I gave her beaming smile, How could I have an answer about the storyline of one of the topmost Directors of Bollywood in whose honor the government of Switzerland named a lake as ‘Chopra Lake’ in a place called Alpenrausch.

A Clip from Film SILSILA

True to the title of his last film-‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ Yash ji passionately took on his work.
In Yash ji’s sad demise, I feel as if the Heavens had their quota house-full for this ominous year 2012, wherein many greats in performing and other arts, musical legends and now even the most loved comic- Jaspal Bhatti of ‘Ulta Pulta’ fame has his Powerlines cut, true to his forthcoming release ‘Power Cut’. Along with Amritsaris heavy weight Dara Singh – the benign grandfather figure, Rajesh Khanna the ultimate in romantic hero, Jaspal too has journeyed to the Gods to provide the endearing comic touch, to the Grand Play being mastered in the World Beyond.
First Published in RISING KASHMIR after Yash Chopra passed away ….

Wagah wonder: Border melts on a platter here…………..By Neha Saini


Amritsar, September 10
Days before External Affairs Minister SM Krishna reached Lahore to shake hands with chief minister Shahbad Sharif on Sunday, the warmth in this part of Punjab was being gently stirred up, gastronomically. Near the Attari-Wagah border, the best of cuisines from both sides of Punjab waited to tickle the taste buds. Diplomacy could wait, after all, with Punjabi ‘tadka’ ready to serve up a preamble.

The idea is simple: move on with peace with food as an essential ambassador. So, here it is: ‘Lahori Dum Biryani’, ‘Chapali Kebab’, ‘Miyan-ji-ki-daal’, ‘Lahori bhindi’, ‘Amritsari daal’ ‘Amritsari fish’, ‘bhuna gosht, lassi, kheer, rasmalai, jalebi, firni and what have you.

You are right; a distance of 30km (how far is Lahore, youngsters on this side often ask) isn’t much to proffer a flavour switch. Conceptually, it does. Here’s how.

Walk inside ‘Sarhad’, a stone’s throw from the border. “Our chefs have carefully put together ‘Lahori Thaal’ using spices and flavours from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” says Aman Jaspal, the owner. Since fish and mutton are a favourite on both sides, these form the basis of many recipes at ‘Sarhad’.

Aman knows Lahore and its by-lanes. “Amritsar and Lahore share a rich culinary tradition. We want engrossing conversations on cross-border cultural exchanges over a sumptuous meal,” he says.

He has already hosted special guests such as Pakistani filmmaker Ayesha Akram at ‘Sarhad’. Aman quotes her: “It is a simple and an impressive way to bond. Most conversations happen at the dining table.”

The marquee on Sarhad also flaunts a ‘Museum of Peace’. “There are many multimedia displays from the Partition and Pre-Partition days besides pictures, maps, renditions and writings by famous people who witnessed the Partition. Our collection has been sourced from scholars in London researching Indo-Pak relations,” says Aman.

From Lahore
* Mian-ji-ki daal (a medley of five lentils), tawa gurda kapoora, dil, maghaz, chaamp and ‘khusrey de kebab’

From Amritsar

* Kulchas and puris, Amritsari fish, parantha, tandoori chicken, bhuna gosht, lassi, kheer, ras malai, jalebi, firni

THE WRITER IS A CORRESPONDENT WITH THE TRIBUNE

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stilled these stirrings….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BETWEEN AMRITSAR & LAHORE by Dr. Manohar Singh Gill MP Rajya Sabha


When I was a little boy in Tarn Taran, a doggerel known to every Punjabi was oft quoted: “The man who has not been to Lahore, is not born”. A second lesser known, but often said in verbal jousts ran: The Donkey has been to Lahore, and now puts on airs.

I hadn’t been to Lahore for many years, and thought mid-February the perfect time to visit friends. A night stay at the Guru Nanak University was a pleasure. A better kept campus with rich plantation, can hardly be seen anywhere else. A visit to the Golden Temple, in the mid-day warming sun, was as always exciting: plenty of people from every corner of India, and queues, to get in over the narrow causeway. I talked to many in the Parikarma. Even I was astonished, at the presence of all of India. I met Tamils, Andhrites, families from Odisha, others from Bihar and Bengal. This was just a sample. Everything sparkled in the bright sun and clear air, and the mood was one of joy.

Manohar Singh Gill, Member Parliament

The drive to Attari-Wagha was interesting. The many laned road is perfect. Just out of Amritsar, was the bronze statue of Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala. Thirty years ago as a young Commissioner, I dreamt of putting up such monuments, but the time was not ripe. On both sides of the road, I saw excellent wheat, and the yellow mustard of Mulk Raj Anands’ short stories.

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At the Attari Border, I saw hundreds and hundreds of laden trucks, waiting to cross over. I questioned people. They were carrying many kinds of vegetables. I asked of the waiting time, and was horrified to know, that it is generally a week, sometimes even more! This is hardly smooth commerce, and I could imagine the suffering of the drivers in the cold, and the loss to the transport companies, in efficient utilization of the trucks. I enquired, if it was as bad on the Pakistani side. I learnt that they were better! Why was this so on our side? It appears that the perpetual Indian curse of distrust, and lack of common sense, leading to the filling of multiple forms, and many many useless enquiries. I am clear from my long experience, that most good policies and reforms, are reduced and sometimes nullified by bureaucrats, who see a devil under every bed, and think that form filling is the solution to it all. The robust Punjabis on the Lahore side, are inclined to use their common sense more, than big rule books. To cap it all, trucks pass from 9A.M. to 2P.M. after that the police on both sides, practice their evening aggressive parade. It is strange that vital commerce is allowed only for a few hours, the rest of the day being given over, to the promotion of aggressive parades and negative attitudes. The fact is both the police and the people are relaxed, and not with this goose stepping.
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I will give a parallel example. The Amritsar-Lahore bus, was started with great fanfare, many years ago. The day I crossed, the bus too had gone to Lahore, entirely empty except for the driver and the cleaner. It seems this happens all the time, and everybody is pretending, that a great confidence building action has been taken. I am from a Tarn Taran village. I had said publically many years ago that the bus will fail, unless there is a Pakistan Visa office in Amritsar, and an Indian one in Lahore. I think they existed, but were shut down after the 1965 war. The bus needs a man from my village, to come to Amritsar in the morning, get a 24 hrs visa stamped, go to Nankana Sahib, and cross back in the evening, dining with his family. Punjab people have to fill half a dozen forms, which are sent to half a dozen Ministries, mainly home and police agencies, and they are lucky if they get a visa in six months! All this to take a day trip to Lahore, 30 miles across the border. The system being followed is meant to nullify the initiative, no less. Strangely more then a thousand rupees are charged for this 30 mile trip.
I will also say, that the Lahore people suffer equally. I could quote numerous examples, of high dignitaries, and professionals begging around our embassy in Islamabad. Their request sometimes, for my help embarrasses me. Pakistanis get a visa to go direct to Delhi, and are not allowed to get down at Amritsar, to visit the Golden Temple, or for cheaper medical treatment, in a familiar Punjabi environment. The Delhi-Lahore bus too, zips through the Punjab, escorted at our cost, but no Punjabi can get on it! I wish somebody would explain the rationale to me.

On the Pakistan side, many people welcomed us, and we stayed with Cambridge friends. In 1974 Dr. Rashid Amjad, newly married, was doing a Ph.D. in Cambridge, when I was writing a book, on the Punjab Green Revolution Success. He is the only case that I know, who got married to a pretty girl, took her to Cambridge, and still managed to study other irrelevant matters, and somehow get a Ph.D.! Manzoor had worked with me in Nigeria for four long years, but never given up the Rishta. The Mall Road and the wide thorough fares were a delight. The Silk cottons, were already bursting into potential blooms, ancient plane trees touching the sky were everywhere. For centuries Punjabis have lived with invaders, and the doggerel is known to all of us : Khada Peeta Lahe Da, Baaki Ahmad Shahe Da. Eat and drink what you can, the rest belongs to Ahmad Shah Durrani. So every evening there had to be a massive meal hosted by a gracious lady. One evening we were taken to Andaaz Restaurant in Old Lahore, overlooking the beautifully lighted Badshahi Mosque, Ranjit Singh’s Tomb, and the Akbar built Fort.

Of course, I played a round of Golf. I could not compete with the idle of Lahore, distinguished high public servants they might have been, but I did not disgrace myself. In the pavilion Verandah, I found four old bodies, tucking into plates of fried eggs, tomatoes, toasts, cheese and mushrooms. I went across in a wicked mood to greet them. They tried hard to ruin my cholesterol levels, and were anxious to take me to dinner. Another golfer passing by, was introduced to me as a past Federal Secretary. He gave me a knee touching greeting, in honour of the Indian Election Commission’s past work. I had been there once.
In that society of the well to do, I suddenly spied, an Aam Aadmi, a peasant, sixtyish, white Punjabi Chaddar, and white Punjabi Turban in a jaunty village style, that I know. He had a broom and was sweeping tree leaves. He was looking longingly, at the only Sikh on the horizon. I walked across and greeted him. We soon learnt that we were brother Gills. All Punjabi peasants, are Gills, Chatthas, Waraich etc. We are a tribal people from the North, religious variations came to us later, and our past over rides all these. We hugged each other, and numerous photographs were taken. He said I had made his day. I knew that he had made mine.

The next day I went to Kartarpur, some distance from Narowal, two hours from Lahore. People think only of Nankana Sahib, where Guru Nanak was born. My take is different. The miracle child lived his first 15 years at Nankana, the next 15 at Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala, working in the Lodhi Governors office. At age 30, he gave it all up, and became a Sufi Fakir in search of the ultimate. He travelled to Baghdad, Mecca Madina, Assam, Tibet, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. After 20 years of having sat with the Sants, Sadhus, and Sufis of the world, he came back at the age of about 50, set up a Farm on the banks of the Raavi, and spent the next 20 years preaching what he knew. Guru Nanak’s teachings are all from Kartarpur. He passed away there. Muslims and Hindus argued over burial and cremation. As the legend goes, they found only flowers under the Chaddar, and half were buried, half cremated. To me Kartarpur, from where a mature Guru Nanak preached Sikhism, comes first and his place of birth second.
Sadly, in 1947 Independence came to both countries, but marooned the Mecca-Madina of the Sikh people. For the last 64 years, we are allowed limited permission for a few thousand each year, by the Home/Police Ministries of the two countries for pilgrimage only to go to Nankana Sahib, Lahore, and Panja Sahib near Islamabad. Guru Nanak’s Kartarpur was locked away, and it fell into disrepair. Now, the Pakistan Wakf has repaired it, and opened it for limited privileged visitors. In 2004, I had gone to Dera Baba Nanak, a small township, where Baba used to come across the Raavi, from his right bank Ashram, to preach to the people: hence the name Dera Baba Nanak. I stood on the Dhussiband on the Raavi, and saw Kartarpur 2 kms across. I found that Sikh men and women came everyday, in their hundreds, to bow in the mud, cry a little, and go back home. They could only glance at Kartarpur with longing eyes. It is strange that the Sikhs are the only people in the world, who are denied free and liberal access to their Mecca-Madina. I believe that the indifference on both sides, has given this punishment to the Sikhs since independence.

In the early winter morning, we drove across wheat and yellow mustard fields, through the pleasant countryside, passing villages and small settlements. The agriculture is good but frankly could be better. I did not see too many boys, and particularly girls, on the road going to school. In our Punjab thousands of girls on cycles, rushing to lots of schools is a happy sight. I missed that. At Kartarpur we suddenly turned a bend in the road, and there was the Gurdwara, elegant and standing alone, in a vast green rural landscape. A large number of people were waiting to greet me. I paid my obeisance and climbed to the top to look across at the eucalyptus trees on the Dhussiband across the Raavi. So close and yet so far.

I had wanted to meet people, real people, peasants, the salt of the land. I had met enough of the upper crust in Lahore. A large number had come. We sat on Charpais. Deghs of Biryani had been brought. Everyone ate. Three leading singers from the area, were there. Each sang to his heart’s content, and my delight. They sang of Guru Nanak; Bulle Shah, Heer Ranjha and Farid. I then spoke to them, and made it clear, that Guru Nanak was for the people. Therefore for me to come, and do isolated prayers, and not meet the people, amongst whom he is still revered as a great Sufi, was not possible. The experience will live with me, as it will with them.

At Nankana Sahib, the next day, I found that the Gurudwara is much improved. The mud inner compound is elegantly marbled. There are many double storeyed rest houses for pilgrims and a Sarovar. There is also an excellent Guru Nanak School nearby, where a thousand students study. My wife and I had lunch, with the family of Haroon Bhatti. He is the 16th descendent of Rai Bolar, the Zamindar of the area in 1469, when Guru Nanak was born. Rai Bolar took to this miracle child, and Sikhs have plenty of stories of Rai Bolar’s great love for Guru Nanak. So do the Bhatti family. The family were gracious and kind, the final proof, Saag and Makki Roti in a big spread.

I went to Aitcheson College and spoke to the boys. I visited the Lahore School of Economics, set up by my friends, the two Chaudhary brothers, both Cambridge alumni. This outstanding school, is putting a thousand boys and girls into Pakistan society every year. Girls and boys were in equal numbers, the girls better dressed than our Delhi ones. There were many Libraries and cafeterias. They had tried to give a Cambridge atmosphere. I believe this school will impact, Pakistan’s future in a positive way. Someone on my side should have a look, and start something similar in the Punjab.

Since 2004, I have been campaigning at every level, for direct and free access to Kartarpur, from Dera Baba Nanak, without visas etc. The idea is simple. We can walk barefoot, two kilometers across a boat bridge over the Raavi, built post monsoon, do our prayers and come back. The path could be cordoned on both sides, with barbed wire, with police in attendance. Security will be satisfied, and the Sikh people of India, will have full access to their Mecca as all other faiths, have to theirs. In the 21st Century, it is time good and caring people in both countries, looked at this, to give comfort to the Sikhs.

Dr. Manohar Singh Gill
Member of Parliament
Contact No- 011-23792953
/ I thank Dr MS Gill for sending this write-up for Saanjh.wordpress.com… Regards Rashmi Talwar for Saanjh-Amritsar Lahore Blog

CULTURE SHOCK By ……Vandana (Minni ) Mahendru


CULTURE SHOCK

By ……Vandana (Minni) Mahendru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will call the PM ‘Mohna’ again?….. By Rashmi Talwar


PM Dr Manmohan Singh Classmate from Gah Village Pakistan at Khalsa College Amritsar

PM Dr Manmohan Singh Classmate from Gah Village Pakistan at Khalsa College Amritsar


http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20100930/edit.htm#5

Who will call the PM ‘Mohna’ again?
by Rashmi Talwar

I look at the golden shower cassia tree in my garden and I am reminded of two such cassias growing in far-off Gah village in Pakistan, that I had presented to the late Raja Mohammed Ali, a childhood classmate of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“Meinu mere Mohne nal milva do! Meinu Hindustan da visa mil gaya hai!” was one call I received in May of 2008 from Rajaji alias Babaji. I was aghast! ‘Mohna’ was the nickname he used for the Prime Minister. In March that year I had met Babaji the second time in Katasraj (Pakistan) and carried copies of an article by me in The Tribune about him and his friend ‘Mohna’. I gave a copy to a senior officer of the Indian High Commission at the Katasraj shrine, urging him to issue Babaji a visa.
After four rejections, three months later, Babaji was ready to come to India and elated in anticipation of a meeting with his illustrious classmate – albeit without any appointment!
I looked for ways to fix that seemingly ‘elusive’ appointment, on the Net. I wrote on the PM’s website, even found an IAS officer, seemingly by divine intervention, who helped script a letter and fax to the Prime Minister, but to no avail.
Meantime, a thrilled Babaji, unaware of the ‘trials and tribulations’, called everyday and we agreed on ‘priceless gifts’ for the Prime Minister comprising ‘soil and water’ of the PM’s school and ancestral home in Gah besides ‘tilley wali chakwali juttis’ and a 150-year old ‘resham ka lachcha’ made by Babaji’s grandparents.
A week left, and still no reply! Finally, media had to become my ‘sole-mate’. There were renewed media contacts in Lahore, Amritsar and Delhi. A foreign news agency in Lahore filmed the story about preparations to meet the Prime Minister, and ended it with a question –‘Whether the Pak friend would meet the Indian PM?’ It was featured on BBC just prior to Babaji’s arrival in India. Still no reply!
On Babaji’s arrival a local school gave him a thumping welcome with bhangra by kids at the Wagah Indo-Pak border. The press grabbed bytes of the dancing children, gifts of soil, water and juttis!
The same night an official of the PMO called! More relieved than elated, I requested for accommodation and conveyance in Delhi for them, besides security during travel to Delhi, the following day.
Babaji reached Delhi and was whisked off to a five-star guest house and given a chauffeur-driven car. Two days before the meeting, Babaji urged me to accompany him but my refrain was “this is the time for only friends, not me”.
It turned out to be a most poignant moment between India and Pakistan. Later, a tearful Babaji left India carrying the cassia saplings, a booklet with publications of his visit, a large photo with the Prime Minister and him wearing the chakwali juttis, gifts by the PM of a pair of watches, suits, shawl, dry fruit and Assam tea and even a doctor’s prescription, as live proofs for his village-mates.
Even though Babaji is no more, the entire village safeguards these prized possessions and has even framed the Indian doctor’s prescription — as a historical memory of Gah’s priceless connection with India.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN “THE TRIBUNE” ON SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

Publications in India of PM Friend in Pak

Times of India & Indian Express Publications in India of PM Friend in Pak

FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE TRIBUNE