Archive for the ‘india’ Category

Culture caught in the Indo-Pak crossfire …By Rashmi Talwar www.sify.com


Madeeha Gauhar

Madeeha Gauhar


Culture caught in the Indo-Pak crossfire

By Rashmi Talwar

Culture, sports and soft exchanges become the first casualty, of any aberration between touchy neighbours- India and Pakistan. Peace is so fragile, like a delicate porcelain cup and a mere fingerprint on its exterior results in smudges of rancor, heated exchanges and petulant stands.

Recent dastardly incident of beheading of an Indian soldier and mutilation of another, counter killing of Pakistani soldier, in early January this year, became the proverbial fingerprint and did exactly that.

Following the recent Indo-Pak standoff, many initiatives and itineraries went haywire.

Permissions were roller-coastered and blood pressure on both sides shot up. Few hapless ones were caught in the crossfire and could hardly be consoled.

One such was Madeeha Gauhar Director of Ajoka Theatre, Pakistan.

Madeeha, along with her team of 20 theater artists and another Karachi based group -National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) invited by National School of Drama (NSD) was scheduled to present plays commemorating the 100th birth anniversary of noted Indo Pak writer Saadat Hassan Manto, in Delhi. But the shows of both plays were abruptly cancelled by NSD . This was attributed to instructions by government during the ongoing acrimony between the two countries, following the recent LoC incident.

A perturbed Madeeha revealed to Sify.Com, on her way back to Pakistan – “On the scheduled date of January 16, merely two hours before our performance, we were told that we would not be permitted to perform our play ‘Kon hai ye Gustakh’ based on Manto’s life. Another Pakistani Play ‘Mantorama’ by NAPA led by Zia Mohuddin, was similarly cancelled.”

As Madeeha complained of an “indecent exit” wherein their theater troupe was bundled into a bus and were not given any lunch, she also confided that she subsequently met Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid, who himself is a playwright of ‘-Sons of Babar’.

She stated, that when she queried the minister- “How could India treat its guests in this manner by canceling performances , the house was fully sold out and booked for both Pakistani plays and artists were left high and dry.”

To which, she claimed, Khurshid answered that “Union Government issued no instructions to suspend the Pak performances.”

Madeeha said she confronted the NSD Director Anuradha Kapoor on this, who said there were specific government instructions behind this cancellation.

Anuradha, when contacted by Sify.com retorted back that the chairperson of NSD got written instructions from the Delhi government to cancel the Pak performances on safety and public peace issues.

She further added that NSD being a government run organization has to conform to government instructions and guidelines.

Moreover, she said, cancellation of the two plays was a bigger loss to NSD, who had financed the entire tour of the two plays from Pakistan and gave full payment and continued hospitality to those from Pakistan, till they stayed in Delhi. Alternately, NSD, had to face the proverbial music from the audience, who were angry and had to be refunded for their tickets. She admitted that the Jaipur leg of the theater performance was also similarly cancelled.

Anuradha further defended, “Madeeha has been invited by NSD for last so many years, how could she not understand that any untoward happening could have serious consequences. Would Pakistan dump Indian artists to face a hostile audience if the plan was vice-versa?” she asked

Later, however a theater group led by Arvind Gaur `arranged two performances of Madeeha’s play on a single day at Akshara Theater, Delhi and another at Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi, that ended late at 1.00am on January 18th.

Even though Madeeha and Anuradha – both noted theater personalities are at logger heads over the cancellation of the Pak plays, they admit they see a big leap ahead in soft overtures of diplomacy on cultural and sports front, that could wipe away the short-lived distrust amongst the two nations

Theater was not the only casualty of the Indo Pak hostility, suspension of cross LoC trade and LoC bus between both sides of Kashmir too brought anxious moments to traders and visitors on both sides of Jammu& Kashmir. India too fell in the game of ‘tit-for-tat’ and unceremoniously turned back Pakistani hockey players from crossing over to India.

To top it all, a unique initiative involving spot visa on arrival for 65-year olds to visit each other’s country with as many as five destinations, too took a beating.

The initiative was scheduled to come into force on January 14. Ironically, the same morning saw its inauguration and suspension in quick succession.

However, veteran Indian journalist Chanchal Manohar Singh inadvertently created history on this morning to become the first to cross the Indo- Pak border under the senior citizen’s spot visa scheme.

Chanchal, speaking from Lahore to Sify.com said things were very normal in Pakistan and he has faced no harassment. He pointed out that had some similar performances been scheduled in Pakistan by Indians then the situation could have been different.
Despite these hot and cold moods, customary sweets were exchanged between BSF and Pak Rangers marking the celebration of India’s 64th Republic day, this 26th January which has become sort of a litmus test to gauge the temperatures on both sides. Also the arrival of 15 Pak women entrepreneurs under WCCI (Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry) in India yesterday and resumption of trade and bus service on LoC seems like a move forward.

Peace is fragile and can be fractured by the slightest of incidents goaded by media hype; such is the heightened sentiment between both distrusting neighbors- India and Pakistan.

Meanwhile senior citizens who were elated over the spot-visa scheme once again wait, somewhat more anxiously, this time, holding the fragile porcelain cup and hoping that it would not get smudged this time around.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN http://WWW.SIFY.COM
http://www.sify.com/news/culture-caught-in-the-indo-pak-crossfire-news-columns-nccefzefbhd.html

Two Mothers Reunite Lost Son to a Pakistani Mother …By Rashmi Talwar


District & Sessions Judge, Faridkot Archana Puri (India) Human Rights activist and Director of Ajoka Theatre, Madeeha Gohar (Pakistan).

Two Mothers Reunite Lost Son to a Pakistani Mother …By Rashmi Talwar

(WAGAH-ATTARI)October 11,2012——– It is perhaps for the first time that two women of India and Pakistan have stepped in conscientiously and brought speedy justice to a juvenile Pak prisoner. These were no ordinary women. From the Indian side was the District and Sessions Judge, Faridkot and Chairperson of the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA)Archana Puri and from the Pak side was a Human Rights activist and Director of Ajoka Theatre, Madeeha Gohar.
It is also the first, perhaps when a Judge accompanied a Pak prisoner all the way from Faridkot and handed him over to his country right uptil the zero line.

Two Mothers reunite a son to a Pakistani Mother


On a celebratory note and day of Holy Gurpurab of Guru Ram Dass, the founder of the city of Amritsar, a beaming Kasif Ali’s (12 1/2 years) parting words to Ms Puri, before leaving for his home country Pakistan, were – “I will tell my Ammi, I have another Ammi like you, in India,” as tears rolled down his cheeks in happiness and he hugged her.
Kasif was wearing a new white T-shirt and jeans and holding tight the gifts of books, including a book on Baba Farid (Who is worshipped on both sides of the border) color books, sketch pens and crayons gifted to him by the Indian Judiciary.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, Ms Puri related the entire sequence of events about Kasif’s release, when she joined as District &Sessions judge in Faridkot on 16th July this year. “On a routine inspection of the Juvenile Observation Home in Faridkot along with Administrative Judge (AJ) Justice Rameshwar S Malik, we saw a lonesome pre-teen boy and took up his case on priority. My maternal instincts were so strong about this lonely boy, but as a judge, protocol deterred me to pursue his case. However as a Chairperson of the DSLA and with significant support of
A J Justice Malik and Executive Chairperson of State legal Services Authority Justice Jasbir Singh, we were able to extend help to this boy.” And added ‘When things have to happen, they will and all the world works towards its completion’ said she as she thanked the Almighty, to have brought this three weeks long and 500 telephone calls, endeavor, to fruitation .
Kasif’s eyes lit up when Madeeha Gohar declared that she would be writing a play on his story and invited him to act in it, as its leading character.
Relating his story Kasif standing at the zero line on the Indo-Pak border between the two women Ms Puri and Ms Gauhar, said he had lost his father and was admitted in a Madrassa as the youngest son of five other siblings. “I did not like it there and one fine day I ran away. Loitering in border villages, one day I boarded a boat in the Satluj river and when I reached the other bank, I was caught days later by the BSF”.
Kasif was remanded to custody on 19 September 2011. He was absolved of all charges on April 6th the same year, with an appeal period of 3-months, following which; he was to be released in early August.

Puri who had worked relentlessly on this case on humanitarian grounds as a mother, says “When I met Kasif, his case was decided but was still detained and no repatriation proceedings were initiated”. It was there that Administrative judge Mr Mallik and I, decided to take this case as a primary project by the judiciary, which otherwise are handled by the executive.”
“As luck would have it, at the time, Baba Farid Mela –the soul of Faridkot, was in full swing and I had gone to attend it watching the theatre performance of ‘Bulla’ a play by Ajoka Theatre of Pakistan. Thereafter I contacted Madeeha Gauhar the theatre’s director accompanying her troupe and arranged a live telephonic interview with her and Kasif besides providing her photos, video clips and other details. Subsequently, consular access was provided and Madeeha then broadcast this to the media in Pakistan and got a response from the Kulsum Bibi, the widowed mother of Kasif. “Following which a talk was arranged between the mother from Pakistan with her son in India, whom she had presumed dead,” said Gohar

Kasif son of Mohammed Zafar is a resident of Peera Hayaat Village PS Mandi district Okara in Pakistan according to judicial records, but it turned out that he belonged to Dipalpur village of the same district which is about a 3-hours drive from Lahore. When asked if he was fan of Ajay Devgan and was that the reason he crossed over to India, he denied it. Media in Pakistan had presented his case as an ardent admirer of the Bollywood actor as presumed by his family and elder brother, as the reason for his crossover.

Puri’s daughter Mehak commented that following Kasif’s reunion with his mother; “I too have found my mother, who was continuously engrossed in his case”.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

Walled cities of Amritsar and Lahore —-By Rashmi Talwar


Walled Citiies Amritsar & Lahore —by Rashmi Talwar

-Amritsar-Lahore

By Rashmi Talwar ———–

‘Saare jahaan se achha Hindustan hamara…Hum bulbulain hain iski, ye gulistan hamara ….!’ The lines penned and immortalized by famous poet Allama Iqbal, are a potent reminder of the acclaimed fabric of matchless, rich, composite cultural-heritage of people of two Punjabs before the separating linear of the Cyril Radcliff line, ripped apart destinies of millions in the Indo-Pak partition of 1947, forever.

Not only did commoners, but poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Allama Iqbal, writers like Saadat Hassan Manto, Amrita Pritam felt completely torn with the choices to stay in India or Pakistan.

The fate of lifeless works of art was even worse. They came under the tearing wrath of the mob frenzy, who vandalized priceless heritage of sculptures, mostly of the British – and of art and artefacts belonging to minorities. ‘They spat and destroyed them as of the British oppressor or the Kafir’. Such was the hatred that tore through the cities of Lahore and Amritsar, that at present only a lone statue stands in the heart of Lahore i.e. of Alfred Woolmer and a gun, while Amritsar hardly boasts of any public statues, from that period.

Lord Hanuman idol in lahore museum

However the matchless contrasts and comparisons that conjoin the erstwhile twin cities of Lahore and Amritsar in an everlasting bond, truly delights with a visually tangible heritage as also in the common thread that runs through the people’s lifestyle, housing, the tastes and flavours of incomparable cuisine, the common denomination in music, arts, dance and most of all in the unrivalled naughty humour through the lens of intangible heritage.

That “No one goes hungry” is the exalted indisputable status of both cities with Golden Temple’s tradition of ‘Langar’ (free community kitchen) in Amritsar and a similar sentiment pervading in the revered ‘Data Darbar’ of Lahore that ensures food. No surprise then that one is know as ‘Guru ki Nagri’ -Amritsar and other as ‘Data ki Nagri’ -Lahore.

Field on Indo Pak border Amritsar

The fate of the statue of Queen Victoria at Fuhare wala chowk near Golden Temple, Amritsar is unknown, while a similar statue in Black metal at ‘Chairing Cross’ has only the canopy with no statue at one of the main crossings in Lahore, the statue of the queen has however been preserved at the Lahore museum, much to the delight of art and heritage lovers. Many such invaluable heritage artefacts including the ‘Trimurti’ of Ashok pillar and starving Buddha of Buddhist, the Sikh, Christian, Muslim and Hindu art and sculptors including of Hindu gods and goddesses’ idols have found some semblance of respect in the Lahore museum.
Thus, even today, similarities and comparisons of both cities continue despite the oppressive borders.
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Tangible and Intangible heritage:

The exhaustive matter of ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible’ heritage of both cities was recently highlighted in Lahore by Amritsar based Dr Balvinder Singh, HoD Guru Ramdass School of Planning of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar before an enthusiastic and expert audience at THAAP, (Trust for History, Art and Architecture of Pakistan) Lahore, Pakistan, as also to audience at the University of Engineering and Technology, in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design, Pakistan.

Dr Balwinder, touched the chord in the audience, while talking about the inclusiveness in the architectural pattern of both the ancient walled cities of Amritsar–Lahore and pressed on the urgent need for Integrated Conservational Approach, for the tangible and intangible Heritage of both, as part of his extensive research paper .

His claim has been a product of not only a thorough ground study, but of a painstaking work of passion in collecting historical and documentary proofs on the many tangible similarities. “We urgently need to take stock of situation to save this treasure lest they be lost in the growing consumerist society, gobbling up land, irrespective of either preservation or conservation, of their historicity or essence for posterity”, is his contention, that caught the rapt attention of audiences in a similar dilemma, in Lahore.

Experts in Lahore are aware that their city is replete with structures besides oral and performing heritage owing to reigns of various rulers. Amritsar too is a proud possessor of such heritage being the spiritual capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who at one time, also ruled Kashmir and parts of Afghanistan.

Heritage lovers and experts therefore are visibly angered by the apathy of successive governments towards heritage preservation especially the structural variety on priority, as in comparison, the intangible heritage is less financially draining.

Some diehards feel that “In just a few years, the structural heritage would become ghosts or mere stories or seen only in stage plays or purely as artificial structural decors for restaurants, hotels, resorts and people would gape at these fossilised museum decors in surprise”.

Amritsar, founded by the 4th Sikh Guru in 1577 was turned into a walled city during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in early 19th century due to urgency of erecting solid defence structures from the encroaching British.

Similarly, Lahore also an ancient walled-city has its umbilical cord attached to the Maharaja, although the legendary origins of Lahore can be traced to Lav or Loh, one of the twin son of Lord Rama, the king of Ayodhya, as the founder of the city-Lahore, acknowledged in the official website of Pakistan and by UNESCO on its information board at Shahi Killa Lahore where the Loh shrine exists. Interestingly, Kasur in Pakistan was founded by Kush, the twin of Lav.
Lahore as a famous trade-route bears the cultural influence of at least three empires including, Mughal, British and present Pakistan. Lahore became the cultural capital of the Maharaja, while Amritsar was his spiritual capital.

Amritsar’s Golden Temple- nucleus

The Golden Temple is the key building around which the city arranged itself. Its foundation can be credited to the approach adopted by Sikh Gurus as progressive. Inviting people of varied professions led to setting up of 52 Kittae (trades) and 32 Hattian (shops) still known as ‘batti-hattan’ first developed, followed by Katras.
Similarly, in Lahore the concept of Katra, Mohalla and Kucha exists, named after professions and many areas have similar names.
Besides this, are the fortified gates named after directions to city Like Lohgarh Gate, Lahori Gate facing road to Lahore (Amritsar). Likewise, is the Delhi Darwaza, Multani Darwaza, Kashmiri Gate in Lahore.

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Walled cities

Balwinder points to ‘Shehr’ of Amritsar and the ‘Androon Shehr’ of Lahore as the walled cities are referred to respectively, having varied pattern with Lahore’s lanes in a zigzag pattern and dead ends while Amritsar’s in a ring or grid form with rayed pattern and connectivity.
The values, life styles and way of life are depicted from its land use, street pattern and ‘Mohallas’. Interestingly, both cities had a wonderful ‘mixed’ land use making it socio-economically viable with high degree of community spirit.

Many interventions by the British were made to forward their interests in inculcating English education and introducing greater communication in the form of railways and post office services in both cities. Hence both cities have post office buildings dating to the British era.

Interventions in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s summer palace of Ram Bagh turned it into a hotch-potch of informal- formal styles, at Gobindgarh Fort, housing residence of Gen O Dyer (murderer of Jallianwala Bagh) and Phansi Ghar (Hanging Room). Similarly at Shahi Killa (Lahore Fort) many incongruous additions were made like the ‘Teh Khana’ (it was also used to house Pak PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for a short while before he was hanged by Pak military ruler Gen Zia-ul-Haq).
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Wagah — Amritsar Lahore Border


Globalization & Consumerism

But nothing has caused more harm, than globalisation which has proved to be a virtual ‘cultural bulldozer’ for tangible heritage. The lackadaisical approach of successive governments, their unimaginative and lacklustre vision, on preservation of ancient cities while making them congruous with modern development and poor enforcement of building laws have ruined the make up of these ancient cities exhibiting the best in styles of British, Sikh and Mughal architecture.

Tahir Yazdani Malik a passionate heritage lover and President of The Lahore Heritage Club , Pakistan and also working at Institute of Peace and Development (INSPAD) says , we are getting global and robotic and need to redefine our goals in which our heritage should be a vital part of our lives. I know “we will never give up Coke and go for Lassi alone” he laughs, but ‘our monuments are our treasures’ he adds.

At present , Yazdani is working towards restoration of the Ghulam Rasool Building, creating photographic , and GIS images, as also of ‘Andaaz Restaurant’ with Ahmed Cheema which is considered as Pakistan’ first step towards Cultural Heritage conservation of a Restaurant.

Heritage expert Balwinder feels that today’s need is for battery operated non-smoke vehicles to arrest road widening plans and underground streets and to keep the city-scape clear of modern structures.
But with an elevated road and more coming up and the ‘overhead Pod-travel, envisaged for Amritsar in the near future the entire historicity and character of this city is threatened. Old timers feel that in times to come even traditional fruit along with rehris (hand carts) selling Mauve-Jamuns, green-Kaulchapnis from Kashmir, Purple Phalsas or black singarey (water chestnut) all may vanish.

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Of Past with Present: Lahore-Amritsar -Idhar Bhi, Udhar Bhi! :

Nazim, Mian Amer Mahmood’s announcement to retain original Hindu –Sikh names of 58 streets and buildings in Lahore and not let his “government” make Lahore “Islamic”, made heritage lovers of both Lahore and Amritsar euphoric over this decision.

Hence names like Laxmi chowk, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Raja Dina Nath Garden, Dyal Singh College and Library has given Lahore a liberal feel, less visible in other parts of Pakistan.
Humour has a permanent home in Amritsar as much as in Lahore. Where comic greats like Umer Sharif, Moin Akhter, Shakeel Siddiqui, Parvez Siddiqui, Rauf Lala, Irfan Malik and Ali Hassan have brought unparalleled guffaws, Azizi alias Sohail Ahmed’s Hasb-e-Haal programme on Dunya TV with his inimitable political and social satire is most watched in neighbouring Lahore. Of the laughter challenge variety, Amritsar’s funny bone too is a top scorer with Kapil Sharma, Sudesh Lehri, Bharti Singh Lalli, Chandan Prabhakar leading the laugh pack and Ghulle Shah alias Surinder Faristha, a famous Punjabi comedian imparting formal training to comedians. Kewal Dhaliwal, Amritsar’s famed theatre director, presents plays in Amritsar as well as Lahore

langoor mela amritsar


• “Hindu custom of wearing bangles and applying Mehandi has become more popular in Muslim marriages across the border”. -Fauzia Yazdani, Lahore, a senior resource person
• “Pigeon-flying, is still a craze in Lahore, once common in Amritsar, where Indian pigeons breeds like Jalandhari, Ferozpuri and Rampuri, fetch a good price. Besides other sports like “lattu-bazzi”, cock-fights, Dancing horses and ram-fights were common in both cities”. – Faisal Satti, Lahore-Senior TV journalist with a foreign channel.

• “Kasuri Methi and Pakistani rock salt are widely used in Amritsari cuisines and “Kasuri Jutti” is still popular in Punjab”-Anuja Mallik, Amritsar-(just returned from Lahore)
• Pigeons-as traditional folklore messengers- stamped with Urdu couplets thrilled Indian villages like Dauke (Amritsar), surrounded on three sides by Pakistan. ~Dr Inderbir Nijjar, Amritsar- Radiologist Amritsar, and ardent fan of famed poet Faiz Ahmd Faiz.

• Just so, kites with prints of Indian film stars still bring cheer to neighbouring countryside of Lahore. Interestingly, a village, surrounded on three sides by India in Jammu sector, bears two names. ‘Khanjar’ in Pakistan and ‘Chicken Neck’ in India. For Pakistan the village’s shape forks-forward like a knife or ‘Khanjar’ surrounded by India on three sides while for India it is as if the village is ‘chicken neck’ captive in the hands of India. ~ Dr Joginder Kairon, Amritsar- Expert in Folklore.

• “In Lahore, it was common to see Hindus showering rose-petals on the Muharram procession, while Muslims were seen to flock to Ram Leela festivities on the back side of Badshahi Mosque, at Minto Park as also take part in the Diwali and Dussera festivities,” in the days before partition, -Chaudhary Tabassum – Member Lahore Heritage club.

• There are many areas in Lahore that may surprise a visitor from Amritsar. For instance, a Landa Bazaar with the same name exists in Lahore and in Amritsar, selling goods from each other’s country. Both bazaars are interestingly, located near the respective railway stations of the two cities! The Hall Road in Lahore sells electrical appliances, while it namesake “Hall Bazaar” in Amritsar, too sells the same. Incidentally, most “C” grade hotels in Lahore are found near its railway station and bus stand, and the same is somewhat true for Amritsar. Lahore’s ‘Paan Mandi’ displays Indian paraphernalia like ‘chavanparash’ ‘paan leaf’, hajmola, Banarsi sarees, paan masala etc. – Sajjad Anwar Lahore – director at TV News channel .

• Kite flying denounced by Mullahs as Hindu-Sikh festival is still a rage in Lahore despite bans with competitions carrying on from night uptil dawn in the week of Punjabi festival of ‘Basant’ -Nabila Iqbal, Lahore -Senior IT Officer
• Amritsar’s gotta, dabka parsi, machine embroidery in suits are a rage in Lahore while Pak’s lace and lace embroidery its fine chicken embroidery and lawn – a fine cotton of Pakistan from Faislabad remains a hot favourite in Amritsar. – Monica Mehra, a boutique owner, Amritsar

• Lahore glitters with its gold market called “Suha Bazaar”, the “Guru Bazaar” in Amritsar is a nice shopping stop for wedding jewellery. However lately many elite ladies from Lahore are known to buy diamond jewellery from Amritsar. Club culture is prevalent since the times of British, and now the Mall culture has entered our lifestyles in both cities- Zareena Saeed, Lahore- Lecturer in Punjab University.

• Interestingly, ‘Kuch toh log Kahenge’ popular serial on Sony TV in India gives its credit on storyline to popular Pakistani serial of 70s ‘Dhoop Kinare’ which we have already seen on PTV – Anupama Arora, Amritsar-from Kashmir.

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Traditional Amritsari and Lahori food is – “Laajawab” and “Buraaaa”..!!
No Amritsar Lahore

1 Aamritsari Famous Veg & Non-Veg : Champ, Tava Tikka, Brain Curry, Tandoori Chicken, Seekh Kabab, Fish Haryali Kabab, Amritsari Fish Fry, Machi Kabab, Raita, Sarson Ka Saag, Shammi Kabab Lahori Famous Veg & Non-Veg : Nihari Paye, Sree Paye, Shorba Kabab, Kathi Kabab, Gurde-Kapoore, Amritsari Fish Fry, Rann, Mutton Karahi, Sarson Ka Saag, Murg Takka Tak, Raita, Reshmi Kabab

2 Indian Rotis: Allo Ke Kulche, Bread Kulche, Butter Naan, Missi Roti, Onion-Garlic Naan, Poori, Makki Ki Roti, Bhega Kulcha, Rumali Roti Pak Rotis: Tillian Wale Kulche, Rogni Naan, Kasuri Methi Kulche, Manji Dee Dewan Waly, Lahore Special Kulche, Poori, Mhandrra Kulcha, Makki Di Roti

3 Amritsari Desi Snacks: Samose, Sat-Poore, Kachori, Mutter, Paneer Pakore, Onion And Veg Pakore, Dhokla, Papri Chat, Golgappe, Tikki, Bun-Chaney, Pao Bhaji, Khandavi Lahori Desi Snacks: Golgappe, Fruit Chat, Dahi Bhaley, Pakore, samosa

4 Amritsari Drinks : Masala Chai, Coffee, Juices, Cane Juice, Buttermilk, Lassi, Mango Shake, Shikwanjvi, Bantey Wali Lemonade, Mausmi Juice, Nimbu Chai, Noon Chai/ Lahori Drinks : Kashmiri Chai, Kava, Phalsa Juice, Sugar-Cane Juice, Lassi, Shikwanjvi

5 Amritsari Sweets: Boondi-Besan Ke Laddo, Kalkand, Chena Murgi, Kaju, Badam, Pista Burfi, Pinni, Jalebi , Gulab Jamun, Rasgulla, Kheer , Phirni, Gur Ka Halwa, Mung Dal Ka Halwa, Karah Prasad, Kulfi-Falooda, Gajrrela, Lahori Sweets: Seeweiyaan, Jalebi, Mutanjaan (7 Colored Sweet Rice), Kheer, Phirni, Sheer Khrmma, Badam Khateein , Karachi Halwa, Loki Ka Halwa, Kasoori Katlmey, Lal Khoo Barfi, Kulfa-Falooda, Zarda, Pethhey


Royal Treat of Haryanvi ‘paanwala’ in Lahore

Shahi-paanwala-Lahore


Among Lahore’s most unforgettable visitations is, if one can catch the stall of Rana Bhai Paan Wala, ‘Shahi-Paandaan wala’ in any of the grand exhibitions in Lahore. Once the ‘shaan’ of Anarkali’s Food Street in Lahore, Rana originally from Ambala in Haryana India now sets up stall at national or international exhibitions in Lahore. But his style remains the same. He is still perched atop a royal throne-like chair, covered with satin covers.
What immediately strikes you, is his glamorous attire of satins, which some say, ‘looks straight from a drama company!’ However creating drama is his USP which he does with aplomb by dressing up as famous urdu poets. It is not surprising thus that many a times he is mistaken for a ‘Mirza Ghalib look-alike with ‘Turki topi’ and ‘khussa’ jutti, strings of ‘taveez’ and rose garlands on his wrists.
“What sets him apart is his style” points out Ms Neelima Naheed Durrani, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Lahore recently on vacation in hometown from a UN mission in Sudan. The stock of photographs that Rana grandly displays in his stall with Pakistan’s Cricketing greats and many from the bureaucratic and political spectrum of the country immediately catches the eye.
The Royal Treat: ‘A customer is first sprinkled with rose water and then showered with rose petals. In a leaf bowl “Paan” garnished with “vark” is served to the customer, who can see his own self being pampered in mirrors as well as the close circuit cameras strategically placed in the stall. After a few bites into the melting ‘galoori paan’ added with local made ‘gullukand’ prepared by special briar-rose petals prevalent in upper reaches of Chakwal District, Rana Bhai once again showers rose petals on the customer, to complete the ritual’. Eventhough, one is standing in a street full of people, being pampered thus, with onlookers staring, makes one feel no less than a King or Queen!
It is a different matter however that a hired sweeper, collects the rose petals again and puts them in a big sieve to separate it from the dust to be re-used again!
Talking from Lahore, Rana says he gets regular orders from Dubai and Middle East countries for festive occasions and sets up his stall during festivals and grand Exhibitions. Of course his paan leaf is the very famous Indian ‘Banarsi patta’. Interestingly, Rana has recreated the ‘Lucknavi Bazaar’ innovation with Barbie dolls dressed up in “Lucknavi” Salwar suits and others in burqa placed as decoration that surely becomes a cynosure for foreigners and locals alike.

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FIRST PUBLISHED IN “RISING KASHMIR” ON 31 JULY , 2012 AS A FULL PAGE

A tireless crusader /Courage & conviction/ by Rashmi Talwar


Courage & conviction
A tireless crusader

As a young girl of barely twenty years in 1946, Kunti Paul set out to do social service and remained committed to the AIWC as member of the standing committee for nearly 40 years. That however did not deter her from lending her expertise and enthusiasm to other prominent associations at the time, says Rashmi Talwar

KUNTI Paul begged, cajoled, persuaded and performed an almost impossible task — that of convincing women (young and old to part with their jewellery and money.

As an exemplary gesture, Kunti first donated the gold bangles which her father had lovingly given her at the time of her marriage. She helped to collect gold and money equal to the weight of Jawaharlal Nehru who made a fervent appeal after the 1962 Chinese aggression, to help tide over the financial emergency. Since the rupee did not find many takers in the international markets at that time, gold was valued in exchange in order to help buy weapons and stabilise economy of a newly independent nation. At the forefront of the freedom movement, Kunti had laboured before the country faced gruelling events of Partition.

“It wasn’t an easy task,” she recalls, But it meant “freedom” call the word a magic potion or adrenaline that sustained the very existence of Indians at the time. Nehru had selected her for the daunting task, as she had proved her dedication and worth as the national president of the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), a national body for women’s empowerment since pre-Partition years.

Thereafter, she went on to represent the country at the United Nations and spoke passionately on the plight of Indian women. Kunti has specifically focused on a woman’s predicament after her circumstantial or deliberate abandonment and her subsequent rehabilitation. She elucidated her viewpoint on the law and legal system to ensure shelter to women in cases of divorce settlements, widowhood, maltreatment and that of physical and mental abuse. Frail in health at the age of 77, as she presided over the local unit of AIWC’s annual function recently and surveyed its progress, she has lost none of her formidable spirit. She insists on walking without the support of a walking stick.

Not untouched by tragedy, Kunti had lost both her sons. While one of them had died in 1990, after fighting a prolonged battle with cancer, the other one Narbhir Paul an MLA in UP was killed by assassins in 2000. She immersed herself with the work of women’s uplift and empowerment and went on to complete her Masters in history at 60.

The AIWC has nearly 500 branches all over India, many of them were established with her help in north India. As a young girl of barely twenty years in 1946, she set out to do social service and remained committed to the AIWC as member of the standing committee for nearly 40 years. That however did not deter her from lending her expertise and enthusiasm to other prominent associations at the time.

She was a member of the habitat and environment quarter of a century since 1976. Having spoken at national and international seminars, she wrote several papers on environment and women’s problems. She remained an executive member of the Red Cross society, child welfare, blood bank society, cancer society, citizen’s peace committee. Having travelled all over major countries of the world she says: “Women’s problems remain the same throughout the world.” A member of the Punjab State Family Planning Board, the small savings scheme board, state social welfare advisory board Kunti guided the activities of grameen mahila sangh in villages. She helped to collect funds and amenities for defence forces during both the Pak aggressions and also helped in military hospital and organising women’s defence councils then the most threatening problem faced by India is “population explosion” and we should borrow the blue-print of family planning programme from China, with some valid modifications, to take a strong steps to stem the burgeoning population, she contends.

However, amazingly, her only dream which still remains to be fulfilled is to do her doctorate (Ph.D) in history.

First carried in The Tribune in 2003 http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030413/herworld.htm#2

The Partition of Territory, Not Hearts —by Vaneet Kundra


by Vaneet Kundra
THE Partition of India ranks, beyond a doubt, as one of the 10 greatest tragedies in human history. It was not inevitable. India’s independence was inevitable; but preservation of its unity was a prize that, in our plural society, required high statesmanship. That was in short supply. A mix of other reasons deprived us of that prize – personal hubris, miscalculation, and narrowness of outlook.
The bare details of 1947 and its legacy are stark. The territorial partition that created modern India and Pakistan involved the internal division of Punjab and Bengal provinces, which – in unimaginable conditions of collapse of authority, flight, and massacre – resulted in the forced movement of 20 million people (Hindus and Sikhs to India and Muslims to Pakistan) and approximately 1.5 million deaths.
My grandfather used to tell me stories of partition and the emotions attached to it. I was quite interested to know, why the same sons of soil were detached by our founding fathers. He read a small article, which he had preserved.

“This feeling of disbelief is best summarised in the words of an officer in charge of refugee rehabilitation in Punjab, who said: “we in India were only vaguely familiar with the word ‘refugee’ and used to wonder why people should be compelled to leave homes. Even our refugees expressed surprise at the strange phenomenon of exchange of population and were heard saying, we used to hear about the change of rulers but for the first time the ruled are also changing places”.
The partition of 1947 was far more than an abstract line across administrative maps; it sought to create separate enclaves for different religious communities. In August 1947, when the “Radcliffe award ” partitioning Punjab and Bengal was announced, millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs now found that they no longer “belonged” to the place they were born in and had lived in forever.
But some questions remain unanswered, even if dwell deep into history to know the real reasons. It was a master stroke developed by British rulers on the policy of ‘ Divide and rule ‘. But the fact remains, that we are two different countries in territory, but not different in our culture, history, values, emotions, ancestors, language, food and jokes, specially the people of undivided pre-partition Punjab.
The imperialists never forgot to play their game of ‘ Divide and rule’, inspite leaving our land in 1947. They kept on pumping arms and ammunition to both us with a double benefit. Their economy thrives on this particular industry. We both pay them for arms to fight one another. They have a win-win situation all the time. Then we give them all the importance to mediate between us all the time. They have become our Super- Rulers again without any cost.
There was a photo published in several Delhi newspapers during the nuclear stand-off of 1998, when popular media discourse was spiced with comment about how the Indian nuclear-tipped warheads could reach all the way to Lahore and Islamabad.
The photo showed a crowd of Hindus and Sikhs dancing in patriotic celebration of India’s momentary advantage over Pakistan in the race for regional military supremacy. What intrigued me was that the revellers were the descendants of Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan; in hard logic, they were cheering the capacity to annihilate the land of their parents and grandparents. Such nationalist intoxication too is the fruit of partition.
After doing my B.A. ( Hons. ) from St. Stephens College, Delhi University, I came down to Amritsar to assist my brother in business as we had a business in Delhi and Amritsar both. For many years, I did not get the chance to visit Wagah border. Our business friends from Rajasthan had come to Amritsar with their family. They were quite eager to go there and see the retreat, as they had heard a lot about it in Rajasthan So me and my wife drove them upto Wagah, one fine Sunday in winters. This was during the time when Gen. Mushraff’ was the President of Pakistan.
While driving past Amritsar upto Wagah, we had thought, specially our Rajasthani friends, we would experience all that should be different. People, food, dwellings, crops, etc. Also, we’d thought everything should look, as between worst enemies, torn and divided: Culture, Community, Ancestry, History and Religion. But that was not to be. It was as if it were an extension of India into Pakistan, with nothing noticeable that tells one from the other.
We had heard about the Drill at Wagah and the sentiments attached to the event. A colleague in my office had once told me, “One is very enthused and enough prepared to die for the country at that moment, Sir”. The Indian side shouts “Vande-Matram, Bharat Mata ki Jai and Hindustan Zindabad”. The other side says, “Pakistan Zindabad, Paaindabad.” Lowering of the flags on both sides is followed by a common drill in which the Border Security Force Men and Pakistani Rangers ‘out step’ each other with overt and aggressive, macho display of strength.
Well we reached the Wagah Border with barbed fencing leading from both sides. The strong iron-gates were painted in tricolor scheme on ‘our’ side and green & white on ‘theirs’. Crowds of people having patriotic blood flowing through their veins had gathered on both sides. Each half was charitable but only to itself in shouting slogans. It was here that I felt there existed two countries, two people, two communities, two entities.
But still carried away by my fondness and respect for our mutual bonhomie with Pakistan, the tales of which I had heard from my father and grandfather, I began cheering even the ‘other side’ when they sought response to their sloganory exhortations. Suddenly then, I felt a tapping on my shoulder by ‘someone’. I turned back and looked someone with whom an argument ensued reflexively.
“Why are you cheering them?”
“There is nothing wrong in that”
“Are you one of those?”
“And are you someone different?”
“Don’t know they’re separate now?”
“Do Rivers stop entering this side?”
“Political rhetoric is long dead”
“So will be peace-willing generations!”
“Khushwants, Nayyars, Asma Jahangirs?”
“Yes. Precisely. So let’s cheer each other.”
“Don’t hear they swear by Allah?”
“Large number among us also does that.”
“They’re under seize and are tensed.”
“That’s why they deserve our cheers!”
“Emotional fool! Go your way”
Having been thus ticked off, I realized that ‘Someone’ was none else than my own flawed self. But what I had been looking in that crowd, even after the event of retreat drill, was the face of a child called Noor. Remember she had a successful heart surgery in Hindustan some years back. I am sure the likes of her would be the new generation of peace-willers in Pakistan. The retreat left me more hopeful. Emotional fool. Did you say that? No. Now it is ‘someone’ again at it. Damn him and hail peace!

AMRITSAR – Anna Hazare’s turning point/ By Lt Gen Baljit Singh (Retd)


Seem Eons past, a seasoned journalist of AMRITSAR told me that Amritsar has an uncanny distinction!—‘You will notice that Any significant event in the world somewhere has an incredulous connection with Amritsar”. Strange as it may sound his words are evolving to be prophetic and I am slowly starting to believe this gentleman.
I came across this write up –“Soldiering for village uplift”, a first hand account of Naik Anna Hazare by Lieut-Gen Baljit Singh (retd) published as ‘middle’ in The Tribune, recently.

Soldiering for village uplift
by Lieut-Gen Baljit Singh (retd)

HIS demeanor and emphatic, measured speech have not changed a whit since I first and last met him in 1989. The men I once commanded were from the Pune-Sattara-Ratnagiri region and in moments of informal interaction they would often talk of Anna “Sahib” who had led his village from dire poverty to assured prosperity.

Traditionally, soldiers reserve the “Sahib” appellation for their officers and JCOs only; so who was Anna? Well, he was one of the several thousand vehicle drivers of the Indian army. During the 1965 Indo-Pak war he had a close call with death. His was one of the 15-odd lorries ferrying ammunition in the Amritsar sector when this convoy was strafed by PAF Saber-jets.

All the lorries exploded, except Naik Anna Hazare’s. When he regained composure, he had a divine vision; “Bhagwan boley too ja, apney gaon ki seva kar”. And over the next two decades, village Raleagan Siddhi became the beneficiary of “faith moving mountains”.

Short of outright deifying him, his ideas and guidance were accepted by Raleagan citizens as “Dharma”. The women of the village emerged unconditionally empowered and enjoyed vis-à-vis their menfolk the Orwellian status: “All animals are equal but some are more equal than the others!” No more pregnancies after the second child and freedom to acquire skills both in aid of the community and their households.

Land holdings were miniscule but the collective agricultural output increased phenomenally because rain-fed cultivation was replaced by assured, well-water irrigation. Consumption of alcohol was ruthlessly rooted out and with the combined, energized labour force, open wells were dug and a water-usage roster was drawn for each family based on their acreage under tillage.

Every house became a brick and concrete structure with piped drinking water and cooking gas from two community sized, bio-gas plants, at fixed times. Community toilets were clustered around the bio-gas plants, the human faces supplementing its “gobar” feed-stock. Kitchen waste was dumped into community compost-pits.

Anna Sahib was able to convince the Houses of Tata and Kirloskar of the viability of his mission and obtain interest-free loans as also irrigation lift-pumps and diesel generators at concessional rates. Loan instalments were honoured post the Kharif and Rabbi harvests; the last being in 1986 !

Onions and pulses were the main cash crops. In 1986, the produce earned close to a whopping 2.5 lakh rupees. A Cooperative Gramin Bank was created and staffed exclusively by the Raleagan women. Each family had fixed deposits of five to thirty thousand rupees by 1989.

I cannot recall how the school was funded but free and compulsory education was provided to each child up to matriculation. At least two able-bodied youth enrolled in the Army each year.

I shared this experience with the late General B C Joshi and suggested that the Army ran an orientation course, for soldiers about to retire under Anna Hazare’s aegis. The General visited Raleagan and launched the initiative with the hope that many more soldiers would replicate the Raleagan template in their villages.

Who needs ‘GPS Tags’!—- By Rashmi Talwar


Who needs ‘GPS Tags’!—-

By Rashmi Talwar

An enthusiastic new teacher came to a rowdy class. From the gist of the animated discussion she gathered the students’ fraternity taking umbrage to the recent ‘Radio (GPS) tagging’ of Indian students in USA. This ignited the idea of evoking ‘creative thinking’ in students.

Teacher remarked that being thus ‘collared’ was humiliating and worse were the remarks by Juliet Wur, at US Consulate, Hyderabad, who called tagging ‘Hip and Happening’ . Quickly side-Stepping the ignominy of the tags, she shot a question to the class, ‘How can we have other uses of ‘Radio Tags’?
The class pounced on the keywords and Pat came a reply by Mini,-‘Convicts’! ‘
We all know that’. The students booed !
Another said, ‘dogs and cats!’
‘Good!’ Commented, the teacher, lifting the spirit quotient.
‘Come on Smarties! Use your grey cells!’, she prodded.
‘Mountaineers !’ One shouted. ‘Hey! That’s a good one!’
‘Miners’!
‘Great Anuj ’
‘Deep sea Explorers and ones who go for Antarctic Exploration ’
‘Yea’! ‘Alright’ …’Give me more’
Mini got up, scratching her head and blurted out ‘Accused!’.
The class broke into guffaws.
Her bench-mate pulled her down. ‘Sit, you already said that and we all know it’.
But Mini stood her ground. ‘There is a difference between a ‘convict’ and an ‘accused’, she stated.
And continued …’the tags could come handy for ‘accused’ ‘A Raja- the (2G Scamster)’.
The class turned ‘super-attentive’ and seemed to be rubbing their hands in glee and thinking, ‘Abb Maza Ayega !’ .
Though wanting to keep politics and dirty issues out of classrooms, the teacher was in sync with the student’s interest. ‘Ok!’…Her next ‘More’ – did the trick.
‘Kalmadi- The CWG’s shame!’
‘Quattrochi’! – Bofor’s kickback!’
‘R Raju ! – dirt guy of Satyam Computers’
‘Laloo – the chara ghotala king !’
‘Telgi-duplicate stamp papers badshah !’
‘Lalit Modi , Shashi Tharoor- IPL fiasco’
‘Madhu Gupta-Spy Thriller !’
‘Ashok Chavan- martyr housing ‘Adarsh’ Scam’
‘Mayavati –Statuesque queen !’
‘Sharad Pawar—Onion hoarder !’
‘Nira Radia- The fixer lobby’
‘Badal and Son Pvt Ltd!’
‘Hasan Ali Khan -salting away $8.5bn in Swiss Banks !
There was no stopping them now – ‘radio tag’ for Rahul Gandhi –don’t know where he sleeps most nights , kalavati’s Hut or 10, Janpath ? ND Tiwari turning 90, but still can’t be found at home.
With these bombastic names came a squeak-‘Maids and servants’ !. They laughed. The topic took a new turn ..What if the tags were more aesthetic? The teacher asked.
Students jumped –‘They should be like little colored buttons!’. They could be fitted in bracelets with a crust of sarvoskis crystals that a BF can gift to his GF to keep track of her. Pendants, hair clips, rings and encrusted in boyish symbols of skull for wrist bands. New models of I-pods, mobiles, tablets..the list went on and on .
Till one boy pointed out …Government should issue a new Rs 10 lakh note with a GPS chip to track where the money went …Afterall it is the money we need to track to make the ‘accused’ into a ‘convict’.

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