Archive for the ‘LAHORE’ Category

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stilled these stirrings….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Op Bluestar: Dome of many-coloured glasses ……. BY Vikram Jit Singh



Before noon on a hot June day in 1984, I was aboard a rickety Haryana Roadways bus to my beloved Naani’s house in Chandigarh to enjoy a spell of golf and pampering following a strenuous assault on the Class X Board examinations. A military history buff and a passionate reader of Commando comics, my youthful imagination was stirred when our bus snaked through innumerable convoys of troops draped in camouflage nets on the GT Road from Delhi. I wondered if our nation was preparing for war. Luckily, I just about sneaked into my grandmother’s house in Sector 11 when curfew was imposed.

I was imprisoned. I stood for hours at the gate watching Army trucks patrol the streets of this genteel neighbourhood. I darted out one afternoon to collect labernum flowers — strewn, unadmired and untrampled on the pavements — for my grandmother only to be rudely shooed back by soldiers in a jeep. The mystery of the Army tailing me from Delhi was soon resolved. Then PM Indira Gandhi addressed the nation on AIR and spoke of the need to storm the Golden Temple, the revered shrine of my community. My paternal Aunt, a God-fearing lady entirely free of malice, rang up, quoting her relatives from Amritsar. She spoke of Army truckloads spilling over with bodies of Sikh pilgrims, dumped in mass pyres and plumes of smoke rising from the Holy City as the bones and flesh of the innocent crackled and hissed. The truth, however, is certainly far less dramatic. The fact was that the Sikh psyche had been irreparably scarred.

As passion inflamed my heart, my late father, a senior civil servant then serving with the Government of India, counselled me. Mrs Gandhi had criminally blundered by delaying the flushing out operation and had let Bhindranwale and co. arm themselves to the teeth. Yet, at the same time, we as a community had failed because we had not objected strongly enough to armed desperadoes desecrating the temple’s sanctity. Four of my father’s colleagues, including a dear Uncle, went on protest leave against Operation Blue Star.

My father summoned me back to Delhi as soon as curfew lifted. He had a terrible premonition of darkness looming. On October 31, as I loitered about in school for a meal break, we were informed that Mrs Gandhi had been assassinated. We were granted a holiday right then. Sikhs spoke of divine retribution and fondly quoted the statement published in a Southall publication soon after Blue Star: that the bullet designed for Mrs Gandhi had departed the barrel.

In the evening of November 1, a mob of 700 stood outside our bunglow behind Parliament House baying for our blood. As fortune would have it, KK Paul, who later rose to become Delhi Police Commissioner, lived down our road and spotted the smoke coming out of a Sikh MP’s house right next to his, which had just been torched by the mob. He sent in a burly Sikh officer with a posse of cops to our house. The mob was turned back. Later that night, as we dowsed our lights and told our domestic helps to put out word that we were out-of-station, a lone Sikh was caught by a mob of 100, bashed on his head with a boulder, and dowsed with petrol siphoned from a motorbike tank just 20 yards from our bunglow. Our domestic helps, who were guarding our gate, recounted that horrific slaying to us later. They could never extinguish that memory. On the day of Mrs Gandhi’s cremation, we fled our bunglow at 3 am and took shelter with Paul, whose wife, Omita, proved a very reassuring host.

Strangely, none of the `brave gun-toting followers’ of Bhindranwale rushed to Delhi to take on the murderous mobs. Perhaps, the communalists hoped it would trigger migrations and help create Khalisthan. Perhaps the socio-economic mix of Delhi’s victims did not sync with the concerns of a section of the Punjab peasantry that spearheaded militancy. The 1984 Sikh pogrom has never really inflicted that deep a wound on the Punjab Sikhs arraigned against the Indian State though it has served as a handy political tool to whip the Congress with. With time, the pogrom’s scars may heal but the Sikhs will never forgive or forget Blue Star. No `invader’ who has dared enter the Golden Temple through history has gone unpunished; neither has any Sikh `luminary’ with an over-weaning ego, aka Bhindranwale. Interestingly, Lt Gen KS Brar `Bulbul’ starts off his rather racy account of the battle in his book (Operation Blue Star: The True Story) by remarking that both Bhindranwale and himself belonged to the Brar-Sidhu gotra of the Jat Sikhs.

As the memorial for Blue Star gathers steam, a deep schism surfaces. Many articulate people from Punjab’s minority community voice apprehensions in newspaper letter columns. Memories of passengers pulled out from buses, segregated and shot, migrant labourers mowed down sleeping at tubewells, shopkeepers butchered on their stools and RSS workers slayed while exercising. These are not just memories but genies of a collective consciousness that can come loose again. The years of armed militancy have left another odious legacy: a police and bureaucratic regime spoilt rotten by the heady years of President’s Rule. But armed militants have dared not rise from their cold pyres. Perhaps, the Gurus sitting in the Heavens above had not sanctioned all that Bhindranwale and his men committed in their august names, and had dealt militancy an early and deathly blow.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN TIMES OF INDIA ON JUNE 6, 2012 ON ANNIVERSARY OF OP BLUESTAR OF 1984 IN AMRITSAR

Jammu & Kashmir Interlocator’s Report in the Open ! By Saanjh


J&K-InterlocatorsRpt-0512

THE ABOVE IS THE ENTIRE INTERLOCUTOR’S REPORT IN PDF FORMAT

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/interlocutors-suggest-review-of-statute-provisions-in-jammu-and-kashmir/1/197336.html

Interlocutor’s report on Jammu and Kashmir !!

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!

Performing Seva Winning Hearts:Pakistan’s Depty AG cleans shoes & utensils at Golden Temple


Pakistan's Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Khurshid Khan


Nothing wins hearts more than True Humility….. Saanjh.wordpress.com
Performing Seva Winning Hearts:Pakistan’s Depty AG cleans shoes & utensils at Golden Temple
By Neeraj Bagga

Pakistan’s Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Khurshid Khan polishes shoes during a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Tuesday. photo: vishal kumar

Amritsar, March 27
He polished shoes for peace. Pakistan’s Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Khurshid Khan believed that selfless service can work wonders. Even that can melt the differences across borders.

Paying obeisance at the Golden Temple and wishing for harmony and peace between India and Pakistan, Khan denounced violent activities in the world.

True to his popularity in doing sewa at Sikh shrines in Pakistan, Khan dusted and polished shoes of devotees at the Joda Ghar at the Golden Temple.

A part of a Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association delegation, which arrived in India on March 21, Khan today arrived here from New Delhi. “During me stay in the holy city, I will do sewa at Joda Ghar (volunteer service of cleaning shoes) at the Golden Temple daily. Besides, I will visit Durgiana Temple tomorrow, a church on Sunday and Mosque on Friday,” he said.

Khan has been involved in volunteer service in various gurdwaras in Pakistan and India to oppose the kidnapping of three Sikh men by Taliban militants in Peshawar in 2010.

Of these abducted Sikhs, one Jaspal Singh was murdered. “It is not limited to atonement and purging for sins of my community members, but it’s the way to spread communal harmony,” he added.

“Being a Pakistani, a Mohammedan and a Pathan, I feel it is my duty to remove the misconception of terrorism tag attached to these names,” he said.

He added that inhuman actions of some frenzied people in the name of Taliban had damaged and tarnished Pakistan’s “pluralistic” heritage where Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities live together with the Muslim community. He said it was unfair to tarnish a whole community for the sins of a few.

Reluctant to form any kind of organisation to spread the message of peace, he believed that anybody from India and Pakistan could join him. He said his objective was to continue the tradition of paying obeisance at Sikh shrines which started from Peshawar’s Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh two years back.