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Kashmir’s colors at Jaipur Literature Festival …By Rashmi Talwar

Jaipur Literature Festival 

Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

Kashmir colors Jaipur’s Literature Festival

Rashmi Talwar

If Pink was the color you remembered Jaipur by, January splashed a multi hued rainbow at Diggi Palace, hosting the biggest ever outpouring of youngistan for the Jaipur Literature Festival-2015. Bridal decked in Kaliras (wedding ornament) and birdy-tohrans, ‘Dal-batti-churmas’ were shunned for literary flavors, wafting through

Diggi’s royal halls as also its outdoors. Not a pinch, push or pick-pocket was reported. Not a mike screeched as the schedule went by clockwork precision. Subtle lighting threw flashes of color highlighting every nook, corner
and shadow. At least eighty percent were those who dug in their heels, sat or leaned or stood in silence listening to literary greats in authors, critics, poets, artists, filmmakers and even chefs in rapt attention.

Surely, they could be credited with literary leanings unlike other festivals where ‘mela’ fun rules the roost. Fashionistas too sashayed in catwalks. However, the chill in Jaipur brought out Kashmiri Pashmina shawls in all their glamour.

If ‘Lulu’s’ trumpeted their pizzas and fast food, the official fare was lavish with free flowing wines, liquors and live preparations besides a touch of Rajasthan with lentils and Bajra soups served in earthenware kujjas.

Kashmir hogged the limelight on more than one occasion. It came bright, sprightly and serene with Brigid Keenan’s ‘Travels in Kashmir’ and Sangeeta Gupta’s ‘Ladakh–Knowing the Unknown’.
However, ‘Haider – the Shakespearean Hamlet’ threw it into conflict the umpteenth time much like the stark gashes of rough mountains of the restive state.

The five-day scents of the written word brought yesteryears face of cinema Waheeda Rehman, poised and graceful in her graying years, telling her story. Naseeruddin Shah was candid about his account in his book ‘And Then One Day..’ Salima Hashmi, a noted artist and daughter of famed Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed ‘Faiz’, spoke passionately on ‘Contemporary Pakistani Art’. She was equally at ease as they discussed their father’s huge repertoire of poetry with Salima and Shabana Azmi on ‘Faiz and Kaifi-A poetic legacy’.

Famed Hindi poet Vinod Kumar Shukla opined about ‘Humare samay ke Shabd’ with Pushpesh Pant and Lata Sharma pitching in. Ahmed Rashid of Pakistan opened the carcasses on Taliban and their indoctrination on ‘Terror and Faith’ in his book ‘Pakistan on the Brink’. Paul Theroux shared his ‘Wanderlust and the Art of
Travel Writing’ and Sonia Gandhi received her share of fame in absentia with Javier Moro’s book “Red Saree” on her. Food and Palette being intrinsic to life and living,

Amritsar’s Vikas Khanna opened his masala box of recipes in ‘Masterchef India’. “The spirit of Indian Painting” by B N Goswamy, an eminent art critic, lovingly explained the color strokes, their forms to a mix of discerning and art loving audience.

Some Excerpts-


  Basharat Peer, Jerry Brotton,Suhel Seth,Vishal Bhardwaj, Tim Supple at Jaipur Literature Festival

Basharat Peer, Jerry Brotton,Suhel Seth,Vishal Bhardwaj, Tim Supple at Jaipur Literature Festival

Haider and Hamlet

Haider – A film based on the Shakespearean Hamlet, set in Kashmir in the turbulent Nineties, loved and loathed, touched most of the bane of Kashmir, from half-widows to mass graves, AFSPA to UN resolutions, elections to collaborators. It came across as a stark, cold and an acid expose on Kashmir, and found echo in outpourings directed at Basharat Peer, the co-script writer and Vishal Bhardwaj, the director, in the session “Hamlet’s Dilemma’ chaired by Suhel Seth a noted columnist and actor at the Festival.

The film makers faced a volley of questions from the audience. Vishal was queried “Tragedy in Kashmir was two fold – one affecting the Kashmiri Muslims and the other the Kashmiri Pandits. Why was only one side of the tragedy shown in the film?” Expecting the question, he ducked under the garb of cinematic timing and his
personal choice as per his story narration, although he admitted that the Pandit tragedy was no lesser a tragedy!

Vishal went on to ask why this question was not raised for ‘Mission Kashmir’ and ended with a concession that mainstream Hindi cinema has been so unfair to Kashmir in the wake of the monumental tragedy that has affected the region. “Hollywood would have churned out 200 stories underlining the state of affairs had such a tragedy
taken place in their region.”

Basharat Peer the co-script writer of Haider too added an answer to the single sided portrayal –“No film can haveeverything for everyone. This is not a history of Kashmir or a political manifesto. It is just a film that tries to tell some stories. I did not bring the story of Kashmir Pandits’ exodus as was not intrinsic to the storyline and I did not want to do tokenism to this aspect by allotting it 10 minutes in the story.”

Another query came from Moneeza Hashmi who asked Vishal –“Why? Why Faiz?” referring to two songs in the film based on the poetry of Faiz . She then surprised everyone by saying she was the daughter of Faiz -the famed Pakistani poet. Vishal in turn recited a few lines of Faiz’s poetry and replied –“Who else but Faiz could have written like this?” that filled the daughter’s eyes in tears as Vishal added –“If Faiz had been alive, he would have written the entire script.”

Yesteryears actress Waheeda Rehman at Jaipur Literature Festival

Yesteryears actress Waheeda Rehman at Jaipur Literature Festival

Waheeda Rehman ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’

In the backdrop of peppy liberating number “Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai…Aaj Phir Marne Ka Irada Hai ..” Waheeda Rehman (76), a gifted actress, strikingly beautiful, graceful in a grey hair plumped coiffeur, royal postured neck, the signature wave on her hair line, took the stage in a green Saree and a Kashmiri Pashmina Jaal shawl. Nasreen Munni Kabir (writer of her book) and Arshia Sattar led the discussion on her
book “Conversations with Waheeda Rehman” and urged her to revisit her life on stage. Going down memory lane, Waheeda began the story when she was 16-years and landed her first movie, invited by Guru Dutt, who discovered her in Hyderabad, to sign a film contract-“I refused to change my name even as I was urged that my contemporaries Meena Kumari, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala had changed theirs. Despite director Raj Khosla,
snorting, that my name held no glamour, sex appeal and was longish. I stuck on; I was stubborn and didn’t mind being dropped from the movie. I spent three-days nervously in a hotel room to get the final call and finally they relented and I was to keep my name given lovingly by my parents for the rest of my life and successes followed.”

In other words “Stubbornness guided my career”, said Waheeda.

Although Waheeda did several movies with top actors of the time Guru Dutt, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Dilip Kumar-“My chemistry with Dev Anand was special. He used to correct me to call him just ‘Dev’ with no jis or sahibs.” Many other anecdotes poured from her time of hit films- Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Guide, Kagaz ke Phool, Mujhe Jeene Do, Teesri Kasam, Pyaasa, Reshma aur Shera . “In ‘Sahib, Bibi…’ Guru Dutt refused to give the lead role to me, although I had by then given major hits as a lead actress. I settled for the second lead because I loved the role, looked the part of the young girl and I was an artist first. The lead role was essayed by Meena Kumari”, Waheeda told a jam-packed eager audience. And added “ Guru Dutt being my mentor and a perfectionist, once took 76 retakes to finally can the scene ” Comparing Guru Dutt and Satyajit Ray the actress said –“Guru Dutt did not get satisfied easily while Satyajit was clear-cut about the scene, timing, with no wastage of stock or budget.”

Alberto Manguel and Chandrahas Choudhury at Jaipur Literature Festival

Alberto Manguel and Chandrahas Choudhury at Jaipur Literature Festival

When popular author Paulo Coelho was ticked off

Alberto Manguel, author of “A History of Reading”, ticked off popular writer Paulo Coelho not once but twice during his stage discussion titled ‘Library at Night’. A personal library offers a portrait of a person, he joked.

“My own library of 35,000 to 40,000 books in rural France is a type of an autobiography. If I go into someone’s house and I see more Plato than Aristotle I see a friend. If I see the works of Paulo Coelho, I have great trouble regarding him as a friend.” Paulo Coelho is a popular author of ‘Alchemist’, ‘Brida’, ‘The winner stands alone’. Shoving the Kindle reading generation aside, Alberto said – “Just in the way I don’t believe in virtual sex, I don’t believe in virtual reading.” Closing the discussion with a profound thought he stated –“A writer writes what he can, but a reader reads what he wants. Therefore, the history of literature is not a history of writers but a history of readers.”

Sir VS Naipaul, lady Nadira holding mike  and Farrukh Dhondy at Jaipur Literature Festival

Sir VS Naipaul, lady Nadira holding mike and Farrukh Dhondy at Jaipur Literature Festival

Nobel Laureate Naipaul

Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul spoke about his life and writings to Farrukh Dhondy, his long-time friend, eminent British novelist and scriptwriter. Naipaul’s wife, Lady Nadira (Pakistani), sat in a chair behind him, taking notes, holding the microphone when he could not hold it, and prompting the words when he forgot mid-sentence and
generally eyeing him lovingly.
Old or ill, Naipaul hadn’t lost his sense of wit. “I don’t like to talk about sunsets,” he told Dhondy who suggested, by way of opening line, that they pretend they were sitting in their homes in England, sipping wine and looking at the birds at sunset. “It can be used against me to infer that I am in the sunset of my life. Unhappy metaphor,” Naipaul replied, much to the amusement of a packed house at the Front Lawns of Diggi Palace.

India, a subject on which Naipaul has written three books – An Area of Darkness (1964), India: A Wounded Civilization (1977) and India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990) also figured prominently in the discussion. The entire Trilogy was controversial. Writing, he claimed, was as “hard for me as it is for most people in the audience”. His writing and success was a “great bit of luck”, he said. For the first book he wrote, he was told by a critic-“to give it up and do something else. The only reason I stuck to writing was my inordinate confidence and faith in my talent. I felt that if I didn’t stay true to my talent that would be the end of me”.

Sain Zahoor thrills audiences at world music stage Zee Jaipur Literature Festival Day 3

• Festival had only two drawbacks — Free spot registration, led to crowd management issues. The second was the venue had one of the worst telecom networks. However most Media persons who availed their personal wifi passwords at the press terrace, posted dozens of selfies on social networking sites promptly.

• Amazon the online giant shopping portal never had it so good. Books ran off the shelves. Javier Moro’s ‘The Red Saree’ (on Sonia Gandhi), ‘Conversations with Waheeda Rehman’, Chetan
Bhagat’s ‘Half Girlfriend’, Sachin Tendulkar’s Autobiography –“Playing it my way”, Naseeruddin Shah’s –“And Then One Day” received a big thumbs up by the book lovers.

• Jaipur Literature Festival was a treat for music lovers with chilly evenings packed with music from different genres and cultures. Rajasthan’s own Chugge Khan and Alum Qasimov (Azerbaijan) fusion metamorphed music, into a feeling of drifting over tumbling water. While Pakistan’s folk singer Sain Zahoor converted soft sways into rigor of Bhangra




Kashmir’s rays shone at International Sufi Festival .. Rashmi Talwar

Kashmir’s rays shone at International Sufi Festival
Rashmi Talwar

Art Pixs Intl Sufi Fest_RK_2

Jaipur, the land of ‘forts-palaces-‘daal-bhaati-churmas’ pugris and upturned royal mustaches, in its cherry elegance shone brighter with the crimson blush of Sufism. The shimmering rays of a culture, preaching seamless, formless, undiluted purest love, during the “46th International Sufi Festival” added more color to the erstwhile ‘shaan’ of Diggi Palace of this pink city. As morning grew and fell into glowing evening lights, Sufism dominated three days of revelations and thoughts for a saner world. Governor of Rajasthan Margaret Alva as chief guest and Dr Bina Kak Minister for Art, Culture and Tourism, performed the inaugural honors.
Performances of Sufi world opened in the twilight to showcase the richer and truer path to the Almighty and the inner core of a being. In all this, as Kashmir picked its precious saffron strands, the brilliant legendary Kashmiri poetess Lal Ded stood as a tall example of Sufism and the poetry of contemporary Kashmiri poetess Tarannum Riyaz added the radiant color of kesar to the conference attended by sufi scholars, poets, academicians from more than eight countries of the sub continent including Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar and others.



“Didn’t Rahi Masoom Raza, write the dialogues for TV serial ‘Ramayan; Wasn’t Sia Mian Mir asked by Guru Arjun Dev to lay the foundation stone of Golden Temple in Amritsar? Did Kabir ever claim to be Hindu or Muslim, yet both communities adopted him and the holy Guru Granth Sahib incorporated Kabir’s dohas”, were some of the striking examples quoted by Saeed Naqvi author and senior journalist, of those, who rose above petty nooses of religion to hold forth and share thoughts of a cosmos in absolute unity.

Exquisite frescoes brightly painted walls and niches, antique pieces of furniture of this Jaipur palace, became all eyes and ears to the likes of Punjab’s poetic great and Padam Shree- Dr Surjit Pattar, who laid bare the raw reality of the world -“Chann, na tarey, na suraj na chirag; Sirf Khanjarr reh gaye lishkan lai” (No Moon, no stars, no sun or lamps, only swords left to glitter). It resonated with the present day inferno of heightened emotions of anger, hate and violence. A complete antithesis to this was Manmohan Singh ‘Mitwa’, a jolly comparer who kept the audience enthralled with a mix of his wise cracks, and his poetry that was like a gust of wind -“Ye kesi kamaal hai Guftagu, yahan mein nahi bas tu hi tu, Tumhi se chal, tumhi talak; meri justajoo meri arzoo. Na koi jism hai yahan bas ruh hi ruh. (What a fabulous dialogue it is, that it is none of me and all of you; Emanates and ends with you my search and desire, here lies a body-less soul and just soul).Zebo Ismailov Uzbekistan_1

Ajeet Caur, the founder of FOSWAL –Foundation of SAARC writers and Literature since 1986, a warm host, in her take on Sufism described it as a composite culture, secularist belief, of love, of tolerance, of compassion, having continuity and relevance even hundreds of years past its history. A former diplomat and VC of Punjabi University and an avid writer and thinker Dr Jaspal Singh presented a unique paper on a hypothetical dialogue between Kabir and Guru Nanak Dev, born hundreds years apart, yet coming together in cosmos on a common platform, dipped in the same color of Sufism.

Sheika Cemalnur Sargut (Turkey), a living guru with the largest Sufi following, spoke about the art of being human beyond a degree of sainthood or a Guru; Prof Mohd Nurul Huda (Bangladesh) spoke on the ‘Sufi meet with Emre and Lalon’ along with famed Pakistani poetess Fahmida Riaz, who exalted about the exquisite poetry of Lalon; Rakshanda Jalil’s Sufi Kalandhars and Nepal’s Parkash Subedi’s ‘madness in Sufism’, young Afghani Zohra Zahir’s ‘turning the world’ wherein she recited ‘I have a crooked leg and a hand that tries to write..’, indeed turned the insides out.

Whirling, singing, Sufis

Amongst nearly 17 performances, the ancient Rabab from Afghanistan by Mojibollah and Farid Ahmad on Tabla, stood out; they were invited for double encore during the cultural extravaganza and adjudged amongst the finest performances of the Fest. A 21-member ensemble from Turkey, disciples of the Sufi Murshid Sheika Cemalnur Sargut, sang and swayed to the accompaniment of instrumentalists. Kabir and Sheikh Farid’s ‘bani’ by Jodhpuri Jee’s raagis from Amritsar resounded with kirtan from Guru Granth Sahib- an embodiment of Sufi thought.

Wahid Bukhsh, Pakistan

Wahid Bukhsh, Pakistan

Shah Hussain ‘Mazaar’ in Lahore, Pakistan’s whirling dervishes in black were seen in trance to rhythmic dhol beats. A refreshing feel came with the graceful Zebo Ismailov from Uzbekistan in three shades of dance depicting early morning, mid-day, and night. Her exquisite beauty matched her swaying delicate movements and added shimmer to the nights that really became a treat not only for local Rajasthanis and participating audience but also for a number of foreigners to this quaint state of cultural bloomings.

Amrita Kak Jhunjhunawala’s melodies of Nusrat and Farida Khannum’s – ‘Aaj janey ki zidd na karo..’ and a female ‘malangini’ ‘Meena Sadaf’ from Pakistan was a treat to watch. Two groups of Rajasthani -‘Manganiyars’ or folk performers, one by Sawan Kumar Manganiyar another by Shakoor and Idrim Khan Manganiyar, graced the stage and presented climactic strains of folk instruments with the 17-string Kamaycha, the Dholak and the naughty Khartaal.

As sun set the yellow colored palace stood drenched in orange hues of spirituality, the bird songs and chirps grew silent and thence emerged a new fragrance in the madhumalti’s abundant flowers, a scent that soaked the universe in the divine colors of Sufism.



The beauty of Sufism, for us in Asia, lies in the centuries-old philosophy of Advaita, and the two thousand five hundred years of philosophy of Buddhism, and the beautiful merging of Bhakti Movement and Sufism.

Sufism is a great philosophy, a thought of deep, infinite feelings, but it is not a religion. One can be a Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jew, yet be a Sufi too, because Sufism is an exalted state of mind where love and peace resound like a soft melody, echoing and re-echoing in the depth of one’s soul, creating a fresh state of mind overflowing with love !

Sufism and Bhakti were two parallel movements which grew and flourished in the sub-continent almost simultaneously, grew out of the native soil, spoke in the mysticism-tinted language of the masses, and gave a healing touch to a turbulent and violence-ridden society. Guru Nanak, Mavlana Jalal-Ud-Din Mohammad Rumi, Sant Kabir and Dadu Dayal, Hazrat Usman Ali Hajvery, popularly known as Data Sahib (its most revered shrine present in Lahore), and Sian Mian Mir, Sheikh Nooruddin and Lal Ded, Shah Hussain and Sultan Bahu, Bulley Shah and Sheikh Farid, Lalon Faqeer and Amir Khusro, all of them had more or less the same vision.
Sufism is love, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, the voice of sanity, of secularism, of connectivity, of compositeness and tolerance is its shining armour.
To love the Almighty is to love His creations in all its myriads forms and essences.
Anyone who walks the path of Sufism is a lover, a beloved, a seeker, a fulfilled yet a thirsty being. Sufi is a melody revealed not to everyone, but a chosen few and not all can dance to the rhythm of silence.


Tarannum Riyaz ’s poem on Kashmir


Pahaadon ki dhoop chhann ke aayi
Gulon ka paton se lams laayi

Rupehli shaffaaf teen ki chhat
Yeh qausia zeena aus shabnaum

Ghaney chinaaron k saaye gehrey
Safedon, bedon k oonchey pehrey

Safed magnolia ka boota
Ye baed ki tehnoyon ki kursi

Chamaktey chaubi makaan se uthtee
Ye varnish ki sugadh bheeni

Ye paawon ko gudgudaata qaaleeN
Dabeez sofey, maheen pardey

Ye bann k phoolon ki mast khushbu
Sehar pukaaren ise, kih jaadu

Ye sard mausam ka narm bistar
Ye janglaon men paley kabootar

Ye narm ru baad e rooh parwarr
Ye patton ki raazdaan si sarr sarr
Jahaan bunaa qumriyon ne hai ghar

Ye dil kusha dil nasheen manzar
Nazar se oojhal karen to kyunkar

Abb aur chuttee manaye kese
Ye chhorh kar Dilli jaayen kesey
Ye chhorh kar Dilli jaayen kesey.


Hilly sunshine sieved through and
brought the touch of flowers

The silvery clean tin-roofs
The arched stairway, the morning dew

The deep dense shades of mighty Chinars
The tall guards of Populars and Willows

The white Magnolia tree
The perch made from a branched Willow

From a glistening polished wooded hut
arises the light scent of fresh varnish

The soft, sole-tickingling carpets.
The deep sofas and sheer curtains

This chilled weather’s cozy bed
The jungle bred wild pigeons

The forest bloom’s mesmerizing fragrance
Should it be called magic or miracle?
This gentle soul refreshing breeze

These leaves whispering secrets
Where doves have woven nests

This heart warming fascinating scene
How to let it fade away from my vision

How to extend my holidays
How to leave and ply to Delhi
How to leave and ply to Delhi

-Tarannum Riyaz

Translated by Rashmi Talwar
The author can be reached at



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