Archive for the ‘Amritsar-Lahore’ Category

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


Play: ‘Ghair Zaroori Log’

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

By Rashmi Talwar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

Saadat Hassan Manto –

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

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

****

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

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

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

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AMATEUR THEATRE GROUP, Jammu

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

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


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

CULTURE SHOCK By ……Vandana (Minni ) Mahendru


CULTURE SHOCK

By ……Vandana (Minni) Mahendru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaheed Bhagat Singh at Lahore Railway Police Station


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

Shaheed Bhagat Singh's Death Certificate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“Kashmir Comedy Theatre Festival -2011”

Laughter challenges tears of Kashmir

By Rashmi Talwar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is ‘Bumbroo, Bumbroo’ time, a melody, as ten lovely lasses of Kashmir roll their ‘mehandied’-henna patterned hands-and lift themselves to melt into a frenzy of dance, bringing the audiences in close clasp of what one could say ‘befikri’-unmindful of worries.
Jammu girls match their Kashmiri counterparts in obvious competition with gusto on a Dogri dance and song and steep the audience into an untamed, full-blooded frolic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bumbi Days”!…… by VIVEK MEHRA


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

“BUMBI” DAYS !……………..By VIVEK MEHRA

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

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

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

Our Bumbi was different!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bumbi ! Bumbi ! Bumbi ! All the way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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