Archive for the ‘RASHMI TALWAR’ Category

April Fool Cheers ! / By Rashmi Talwar


Caution: Those who do not possess the kidney for Macabre Humor may please turn to the next page on this blog or visit a Toilet ! 

April Fool Cheers ! 

aprilRashmi Talwar

Honestly April 1st has something queer about it or can it be called gay! Provided, we stick to the lingo of just-a-decade  past. Coz, in the present age, gay and queer would both be construed as straight or with same-sex twisted leanings, unlike the gay’s dictionary meaning simply -cherry and queer meaning odd.

Please don’t drag my father’s birthday in this. He was a disciplinarian as also an open minded, adventurer. Much as I would  find it crass to crack an April fool prank by the dawn of the first day of April owing to it being the sacred day of my Papa’s Birthday, but by late afternoon, my resolve would inevitable be crushed as my hibernating talents of a prankster, would emerge out of their forced burial.

This time, though, people on my FaceBook list who profess to be my friends and relatives were tested to attend my mourning ceremony. No I had  not ‘expired’ (like a bank cheque) completely,  just yet, but have supposedly become a  wannabe ‘passed away’.

So here I started to count how many would sincerely appear for myshokh ceremony or bereaving hour or the ‘chautha’ ‘as Hindus call the ‘prayers-for-the-dead’ after immersion of ashes in Haridwar or  Bal-Ganga.

I knew some people would be shocked and reprimand me, but, sincerely, my joke was very serious, so the search could not be abandoned by mere anticipated scowls or scoldings .

 

The post on Facebook  went like —–“Beauties and Handsomes of FB … Kal (tomorrow) I am leaving hopefully for Heaven ( or Hell !) I don’t know … There’s no Facebooking or Twitter or email or WATS- UPP there..(.wink emoticon). Might be away for the time I enter a new Soul… till then…. Remember me with smiles, giggles, laughter and Happiness And —-Be good !…. I shall be watching you from Above !! … And all those Fakes will be rewarded who think life is a cake walk and there’s nothing wrong with me !! ( smile emoticon)”  .

 

Believe me there were 68 likes on the subject of my anticipated death. Some of them admonished me on this silliest, stupid, prank and there were others who ventured a reply – ‘April Fool, Hai Na’ . Still others thought I was in a suicidal mood and rang up my daughter – “Is your mom ok? Jao dekho kia hua hai unhe.” My daughter was flabbergasted and asked me rather politely what did I ‘now’ post on my facebook status that four friends of hers had already called and one had inboxed her a message to be with me in this hour of supposed  melancholy.

Now this had turned into a serious research project.

Babita Narang Kochar wrote in my inbox “I hope it was joke or r u in some trouble? Please feel free to share with me . I may help,” and promptly vanished from FB. Ghost ! Ghost ! I practiced soundlessly after her vanishing act. After all there would be much more ghastly mists up there. I presumed she was a fellow friendly ghost, only trying to familiarize and play buddy buddy with  me.

Akhilesh Misra an opinion writer was aghast and indignantly wrote “What is this?” Sharad Tripathi pleaded from Lucknow to call it an April Fool joke and admonished never to play such a joke. Abrar Hussain, a senior officer in the  J&K state Electricity department, asked,  what was wrong with me.(He expected the usual Power failure, that leads to Marr-gaye! Mitt-Gaye! protests in fragile Kashmir!).

MP Singh,  connected with organ donation organization ,  thought he might get a new brain, for my transplant   and wrote –“ It ( post ) cannot be liked! This type of joke is never expected from such a mature person.” and to tone down, added-“Please don’t mind madam.” .

Shamsher B Singh, a former journalistic colleague and friend, softly reprimanded as if to a child “mana aaj April fool day hai par mazak kuchh aur bhi ho sakta tha. Please reconsider ur decision.”  (Admitted that today is April fool’s Day but jokes could be something else too) And added soon after -‘Hume malum hai apke post ki haqueekat lekin, dil ko behlane ke liye khyal achha hai ! ‘ (We know the reality of your post, but to amuse oneself, the idea is good )

By the fourth comment, an hour or two later the post was exposed completely  as an  April Fool joke .

Autar Mota, a fabulous writer on Kashmir’s tangible and intangible heritage who never misses a chance to tag me in each of his brilliant posts, simply wrote – “April Fool”  I am anticipating he must have written this with his fingers crossed .

Suneet Madaan, a class website designer, worryingly posted“ Rashmi, do you need company?”

Bansilal Kuchroo, a longing, veteran soul who feels that after losing ones lands in  Kashmir,  nothing more drastic could befall him,  wrote in sadness “I am a real FOOL so I believe all.” He really jerked the tear glands and succeeded to shame me. To sadden a person, who is already dealing with the separation from his lands for decades and longing to touch ground zero, indeed mortified me. However comments continued to pour in.

Islamabad based Indo Pak fellow peace votary, Zahoor Ahmed announced –‘Aje tohanu jan nain dena’(We won’t let you go, just yet !) Made me wonder whether he will create chicken tikkas or gurdey- Katurey –  a speciality of Lahore – Before he lets a portion of me go to the skies.

Few dainty ones followed the comment strip with Amnah Khalid, of ‘Save daughter, Save nation’ campaign fame . Who used her light flouncy tone to write –“ Are u going to a Spa or China or North Korea?? !!” She must have surely dealt with looneys who raised false alarms and had a wit or two ready  with retorts to gun me.

Sheikh farooq Ahmed – a hotelier whose intention apparently seemed to be  to follow me to the travel journey into space probably looking for tourists clientage, gurglingly wrote  — “Enjoy there,… we will be reaching soon!!” as if I was going to a casino in Los Angeles!

Saeed Ahmed a self- professed lover of ‘mad’ who  enjoys ‘schools of fools and illiterates’, in his cherry tone   cheered me off with –“See you there!”. I could imagine him waving his hand and blowing good wishes for a safe journey.

While Arun Gaur,  a fellow Amritsari, brushed aside my speculations of Heaven and Hell and firmly stated – ‘Wat nonsense ! U will always go 2 heavens’ and added ‘ just try once”.

A fellow journalist Bindu Singh, was effusive –“ Love u n hugs…Rashmi,…. Pl…. Dear….. Do not break my heart  (pierced arrow heart emoticon),  its as delicate as u r…. Sweetie…. Stay blessed…..( a wide smile, a smile, a heart with stars and a whistling heart emoticons ).  I raised my hands in prayer, atleast someone displayed some good etiquettes!

Social worker and activist Shabnam Hashmi rung the alarm with –“ Rashmi Talwar please call if there is a crises and this is not an April 1 prank. Requesting Rashmi’s personal friends who have her number to call her to ensure things are fine.” She must have surely seen a number of such realtime  looney cases.

Neeta Tripathi, an office bearer of  congress party’s grievances cell in Mumbai  could not stand the jest , lest, she said –“Rashmi,  tum bhi na. aisa mazak acha nahi haii”(this is not a good joke ).

A Manager at  ITC Welcome Group of hotels and businessman in Tourism sector of J&K calling himself IIqaa Tours  called out  loud –“There may not be twitter, Whatsapp or other services, but perhaps telepathy…” and made me feel like a crystal ball running after me for the vital tele link.

Yoginder Nath Tikoo, a Peru,  based Kashmiri who once worked in a Spanish company had this advice –“Visit my Tea Shop for a quick, crispy samosa plz.” as if his stall was located at the entry of gates of hell or heaven  and I would need some refreshment,  post the exhausting journey from Earth.

Veenu Kadd, restaurateur and  my good friend in Amritsar … hit it with a simple –“April fool banaya”

Krishna Kumar D Paval – guessed ‘So, Are u going to Srinagar ?’This was promptly picked up by Dr Naresh Chawla , who lost no time in doing a quick post-mortem and concluding  within a span of an hour –“ I think she is visiting Srinagar.. So read her status again… its Heaven..she said, hell- bcoz floods are dere.. its at a height so watching from above!!” I concluded he surely was a good doctor cum  lawyer rolled into one.

My good friend and RTI activist from Delhi Daljeet Singh who has often peered at  my ‘queer’ posts, blurted out -“ Afeem acchhi thi.  Thodhi jyada lai layi lagdee.” (Drug overdose !)

Anoop Lather a lawyer and a political activist from Kurukshetra the land of the great war, seemed to have  put up a board – “Please no such Pranks.” It sounded like Bugle announcing –“No Toilets in sky!”

Roopa Ghosh a quick witted senior school mate snapped –“Talk to us about the weather from there !  ” I guess she knew her school mates well enough.

RK Arora seems to have a fool –proof source there and informed me –“For the first time being there is no vacancy ..in Heaven or Hell .” Guess I should be prepared to languish in the long  ration queue.

Vijendra Rawat showed me  a wine glass seeming to call  a toast  for the onwards journey. Avi whom I know as a fabulous mimic of a Kashmiri wazu and a great cook, all other talents aside, decided to suggest to take my surname ‘Talwar’ everywhere when I go on ‘the’ journey. Yes Avi just like the tools of Mimicry you carry everywhere, I shall take the tool of war with me. Salutes !

Gurmeet Anand, a witty whack himself is strangely annoyed for ‘selecting  ‘them’ to make  fools,’ made me think,  I wish I had a choice to search for the right kind of candidates for my irrational pranks. Canada based Manju Sharma, who is into diamonds business warmly cooed so lovingly “God-Luck !”.

How can PM Modi be missed in any conversation at present, that takes place on the Indian Terra ferma . Jeevan Preet Singh or Jack Kairon promptly asks — “Leaving on Modi’s Bullet train?” after all Kairon  is a lawyer who always is  on a lookout for issues involving litigations –For supposing I fell off the train! .

Mahender Singh cautions me against going to Earth’s paradise Kashmir and says the Heaven there has turned to Hell. ‘Hell or Heaven, Kashmir is Kashmir’! I retort.
Meantime Journalist Narinderpal butts in “We have people in Heaven and Hell with fake IDs”. As if I am gonna expose a trillion dollar scam in a multi sting operation wearing spy cameras in the pockets of my soul. “I don’t want any tehalkas with me for company Mr Narinder Pal Phaajee,” I tell him.

 

Awww my friends know me too well so Neeta asked –“Haw ! (mouth-open)  Kahan chali ..Srinagar ?” I can imagine her eyes wide and her lower lip pulled-in locked with teeth in a tight grasp, as she tried to wish this deathtrap away. Another good friend Indu Aurora assuming that I was going to Kashmir advised – Rashmi, Heaven has become Hell once again after September. God bless ones who were struck by this calamity . Take care and God be with you all.”

A Pakistan based motor company’s manager Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui  commented –“Excuse Me…would You… Hang On Please?” As If I was holding a noose around my neck .. and wanted to snap -‘Oh No,  Puleez!  Let me quietly & painlessly  attain die-hood’.

Balvinder Singh, a Heritage conservator and friend couldn’t hold any longer and blurted “Ki ho gaya?” wondering which ancient wall has fallen upon me. While a HC lawyer prayed –“Be with us always” . Am I omniscient, I thought for a minute.

A former bureaucrat with Jammu & Kashmir government Ramesh Mehta checkmated  with a smiley–“ Waiting for your soul to return on April 1st Next”

Amrit Mannan from Amritsar didn’t believe it was the first of April joke or joker.

Kirit Desai a former bureaucrat put is succinctly – “ A day is never enough for such an auspicious journey where the Moon , stars and the mighty Sun aligns for a day to fool everyone. Have a good one ” And Vee Kay Sharma a senior journalist wrote –“ Don’t worry, on earth we have Facebook and Twitter, But up there , there is Fake book and Bleeder and the  Third eye to peep and see what is happening on the Ground floor.”  And DK Sharma just laughed Ha Ha April fool .

What absolutely zapped me was who would share such a innocuous post but someone indeed did. It was Atul Mehra a known artist of the city who  strangely commented –“So True” . Atul is surely gonna be the next one to be crucified like me . Today I went to an exhibition and several of my friends made a face and reminded me of the April fool post and said they hated it. Well, So be it .

00–00

 

Sorry, But I couldn’t resist writing this. Please read it very objectively 

Why Pak expelled Indian Journalists?..Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir


Indian Journalists ousted from Pakistan May 2014

Indian Journalists ousted from Pakistan May 2014


Indo-Pak Relations

Why Pak expelled Indian Journalists?

Rashmi Talwar

May 19th saw two Indian journalists working in Pakistan cross over to their home country from Pakistan. Snehesh Alex Philips of Press Trust of India came through Wagah-Attari Indo- Pak Joint Check Post land route in Amritsar, and Meena Menon from ‘The Hindu’ via Karachi to Mumbai flight. The two, Snehesh and Meena are completely baffled by their unceremonious and sudden ouster from Pakistan, refusing extension of visa, barely nine months after their tenure in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The move to oust Indians by Pak’s foreign office despite Islamabad government’s perceived desire for healthier relations with India is indeed ironic. Infact, newly re-elected Pak PM Nawaz Sharief’s friendly overtures towards India, especially the desire to re-build relations came soon after Sharief’s utterance in Muzaffrabad (Pak Occupied Kashmir) calling ‘Kashmir a flashpoint that could trigger a 4th war between the two nuclear powers at anytime, on Dec 3rd last year’ that peeved India and had to be glossed over. Mending fences after the loud rhetoric, Nawaz tried to smoothen frayed nerves in India. However his desires on cordial relations seem to have ‘irked’ the ‘establishment’ aka ‘Military /Security’, says Mehmal Sarfraz, Deputy Secretary General of the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA).

Hence merely days after the ouster of two journalists, the Pak PM is again at pains to push the perceived enmity under the carpet, by being the first to congratulate and extend an invitation to the Indian PM designate Narinder Modi after the stupendous win of Bharatiya Janta Party headed by Modi.

Pak ‘establishments’ have always played spoilsports whenever popular home governments have shown a leaning towards bettering Indo-Pak ties. Hence, the assassination attempt of Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir, who was badly injured on April 19th this year in an armed attack, near Karachi airport, was hardly surprising. ISI agency was fuming about Mir’s coverage of the issue of Baluchistan and his criticism of the spy agency. Hamid was termed a pro-India agent in Pakistan by many, as Baluchistan is an issue that India takes up in retort to Pakistan. The subsequent move by Pak Defense Ministry’s cancellation of the broadcasting license of three – Geo News, Geo Entertainment and Geo Tez TV out of five TV channels owned and operated by Geo/Jang group, through ‘Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’ (PEMRA), have clearly spelled out the persons behind the murderous attack.

While Indian Journalist Snehesh Alex Philips snapped “Its a million dollar question!” when I asked him ‘why’ he was shown the door by Pakistan, along with Meena, the answer, it seems is not so mysterious. SAFMA Gen Sect Mehmal adds – “This happened last year too with Rezaul and Anita Joshua. The ‘establishment’ wants to throw around its weight by not letting Nawaz’s government to get its own way vis-à-vis peace with India. The timing seems too suspicious, when India is looking forward to NDA led by BJP- seen as a Hindu nationalist party.”

Pakistan’s army chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s terming Kashmir as the “jugular vein” of Pakistan, on May 1st at GHQ Rawalpindi, also comes in the same sequence, as peace with India is seen as a weakening of the military establishment in Pakistan. Interestingly, Gen Sharief is mentored by ex- Pak President Parvez Musharaff –the architect of Kargil war when Nawaz was the PM of Pakistan. While two statements regarding Kashmir have been made by Pakistan consecutively, to rabble rouse Kashmiris in India, it had little effect in Jammu & Kashmir where most separatists sloganeer for ‘Independence’ rather than melting in Pakistan.

India has termed the ouster of two journalists as a retrograde step. Snehesh Philip’s father, AJ Philips- a noted columnist and senior Journalist-writer stated that the signs were obvious when his son’s wife was not given a visa after she visited India in January this year. Although there is a written agreement between Pakistan-India governments for a reciprocal arrangement allowing two correspondents from each country to be stationed in the other’s capital, the timing of the ouster is being speculated viz-a-viz a new government under Narinder Modi. Modi’s potential foreign policy has caused both anxiety and hope among regional observers. Many fear he might react badly to any incident of terrorism within India, routinely blamed on Pakistan, or a flare-up over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Like it or not, if Sharif is to deliver on his promises and ensure Pakistan’s progress, he will have to deal with NDA (National Democratic Alliance (NDA). By the journalists’ ouster, Pakistan’s ‘establishments’ have provided more fodder to anti-Pak rhetoric by the newly formed BJP-led Indian government which would further demoralize the elected government of Sharief.

Murtaza Solangi, a former head of state-run Radio Pakistan, pitches that he fears the decision to oust Indian journalists was a sign that the country’s powerful military establishment was reasserting over key areas of foreign policy, in particular the relationship with India. “It seems like foreign policy and national security is going out of the domain of Mr Sharif,” he said. In other words – “The government has been told ‘these things are not your job’.” A case in point is about another journalist. Despite repeated public promises by PM Sharief to look into the case of Declan Walsh, a New York Times journalist, expelled shortly before Sharif’s election, the Pak PM has not been able to arrange his return.

Hence it seems that power may actually be slipping out from the hands of Sharief and it was up to Pak PM to handle this mess or fall into ignominy, with fears of another bloodless military coup hanging over his head, yet again.

BOX
Indian journalists complained of heavy surveillance and being confined to Islamabad
Tweets —–

Achutha Menon: Good beginning, Mr Sheriff, with BP Govt.!
Snehesh Alex Philip: Had a lovely run since August in this case, not even a year ;). Came with an open mind without bias.
Snehesh Alex Philip: I take back home some great moments besides a bit of disappointment. Glad that I saw different sides of Pak and not the usual.
A.J. Philip (Philip’s father): Snehesh says the Pakistanis feared his Facebook-addict father’s posts led to his “expulsion”. I wish it was not a humorous comment and, for once, he was serious!
Snehesh Alex Philip: It is a joke I cracked with my dad.
Snehesh had retweeted some posts lauding Modi’s victory as anticipated by exit polls.
Meena Menon had retweeted: PM’s special envoy stirs hornet’s nest with Kashmir remarks days before Manmohan Singh demits office
Meena had even kept her tweet name ‏@mee’namo’

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON MAY 24, 2014
URL: http://www.risingkashmir.com/indo-pak-relations/

Hilarious kick-start to the first Football in Kashmir….. By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


While buying roadside knick-knacks, if an old man is seen looking closely at a tall gate of Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson School in Sheikh Bagh locality of Srinagar, surely, that night’s bedtime story would be an inspiring and hilarious tale of the first football of Kashmir.

The first football- a mini humpty-dumpty- traveled with a newly-wedded English couple of Rev Cecil Tyndale Biscoe, his new bride Blanche Violet Burges in 1891 from London, England. It sailed the seven-seas and reached Karachi, bumped on to Rawalpindi and bounced over to a horse–carriage to Baramulla to finally set sail in a ‘doonga’ – an indigenous Kashmiri boat- and reached Srinagar in 1891.

FIRST FOOTBALL IN KASHMIR

FIRST FOOTBALL IN KASHMIR

Tyndale Biscoe and the first football in Kashmir

Tyndale Biscoe (TB) recalled with glee his tryst when he brought the first football to Kashmir in the autumn of 1891 – “When I brought my bride to Kashmir in November 1891, I brought, also a leather football. When I held it up before the assembled school they asked, what is that?
TB- It is a football.
Boys- What is the use of it?
TB- For playing a game.
Boys- Shall we receive any money if we play that game?
TB- No!
Boys- Then we will not play that game. What is it made of?
TB- Leather.
Boys-Take it away! Take it away!
TB-Why should I take it away?
Boys- Because it is jutha (unholy) we may not touch it, it is leather.
TB- I do not wish you to handle it. I want you to kick it and to-day you are going to learn how to kick it, boys.
Boys- We will not play that jutha game.

So instead of the usual English lesson with the senior class, where many boys had whiskers and beards and some were married and had children, Biscoe described the game and, drew a map of a football ground on a blackboard, showing the position of the players, etc.
Anticipating trouble, he called the teachers, who were all Brahmins, and ordered them to picket certain streets to prevent the boys from running away. When all was ready he gave the orders to proceed to the ground and-“shooed them on like sheep or cattle to the market” when the boys entered the gate. It was a great sight never to be forgotten- All boys shuffling along the street wearing wooden clogs-kharav, carrying their firepots-kangris under flowing phirans or cloaks, on their way to play football. Some were wearing huge gold earrings, some had nose rings and all of them wore their caste marks.

Soon goal posts were put up and teams lined up. A crowd of townsfolk grew every minute, all eager to see the new mischief this foolish young sahib (Tyndale Biscoe) was up to now. When everyone was set, Biscoe put the football in the centre and ordered to kick.

The black-bearded Brahmin looked at him, then at the crowd of fellow co-religionists around, and hung his head. Biscoe again ordered, “Kick!” – Nothing happened. He boomed: “I will give you five-minutes to think, and then something will happen, which you will not like.” What was going to happen, he had not the slightest idea, but fortunately he had armed his teachers with single sticks, in order to drive the boys to the common ground. He lined up the teachers at the goals and told them that when they heard him shout “kick”, should the order not be obeyed immediately, they were at once to rush from the goals at the teams waving their single sticks, and shouting blue murder.

The countdown began: “10 seconds left, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Kick !!!” and down came the teachers shouting and waving their single sticks. Off went that ball and in five seconds all was confusion, for the boys forgot their places on the field, or that they were holy Brahmins, and a rough and tumble began. As they tried to kick the ball, generally missed it, their clogs flew into the air and their pugaris (turbans) were knocked off while their gowns or cloaks (phirans) flapped in one another’s faces; a real grand mix-up of clothes and humanity, it was.

Then all of a sudden there were sounds of agony and horror. A boy was brought sobbing, this Brahmin boy had the unholy leather kicked bang into his face. A terrible predicament, what could the gods be thinking about it? Biscoe told them to take him to the canal and wash him. Away went the crowd with the defiled boy. Back came the washed boy and the rest of the players, all of whom to his surprise at once resumed the game and continued until Biscoe called time. Sightseers were wildly excited and went off to give accounts of this “first game of football played by Brahmins in Kashmir”.

When the so ‘defiled’ black-bearded boy reached his home, his wickedness had reached before his arrival. He was not allowed to enter his home for three months and stayed with a kind relative. Brahmin priests were sure that it was a naughty game. For twelve months, no football could be played unless Biscoe was present to play or referee. Many pricked and deflated the ball but were caught.

After ten years, football was taught to students of ‘State School’ as a game of higher caste gentlemen, later other schools followed. The Hindu or Mohammedan schools too bought footballs and before long inter-school matches were played.

At first, during matches witchcraft was used. Opponents would bring a Brahmin priest to exorcise the goal to prevent the ball to goal. After years, Kashmir succeeded in exorcising the demon from football and despite the valley’s unabated turmoil football’s fascination, is visible in phiran-clad youth holding kangris with one hand, being playful with a football in grounds all over villages of Kashmir, although, few may have had a chance to hear a bedtime story of the furore this little brat caused when it first stepped into Kashmir.

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com
http://www.risingkashmir.com/hilarious-kick-start-to-the-first-football-in-kashmir/

Death of Amritsar’s short story writer ………..by N. S. Tasneem


shravan kumar urdu

ON November 28, Shravan Kumar Varma breathed his last in Amritsar. His passing away at the age of 85 has suddenly brought to the mind that Amritsar can no more boast of having nurtured Urdu short story writers. During the early 1930s, Saadat Hasan Manto made his mark in Urdu fiction with his debut short story, ‘Tamasha’, that centred around a victim of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. On the footsteps of Manto, some writers contributed fictional works and poetic creations to Urdu literature in the decades to come.

It so happened that in the mid-1940s, some students wedded to Urdu literature got admission in Hindu College, Amritsar. Shravan Kumar Varma was among those. His first Urdu short story titled ‘Pardesi’ was published in the college magazine, ‘Shivala’. Incidentally, I was the student editor of the Urdu section of that magazine. Both of us, along with some other like-minded lovers of Urdu, such as Mohinder Bawa, Inder Kumar Sagar, Gopal Krishan and K.K. Razdan, were under the influence of Prof M.M. Mathur, who had also taught Urdu and Persian to Saadat Hasan Manto years ago.

In the days to come most of us left Amritsar, in search of new pastures, but Varma stuck to his guns. He settled permanently in Amritsar as a lawyer. During the course of six decades, he published some collections of short stories and a few novels. He was popular in the entire subcontinent, as his fiction had attracted readers both in India and Pakistan. Some of his works had been translated into Hindi and Punjabi, besides English. One of his short stories found place in ‘Select Urdu Best Stories’, published by Penguin.

He had been bestowed with the Shiromani Urdu Sahitkar Puraskar in 1993 by the Languages Department, Punjab. Thereafter some other awards sponsored by the literary organisations and Urdu academies followed, but he remained unmindful of all these honours. He was fully absorbed in creative literature, even while neglecting the duties of his profession. He was well versed in Urdu and Hindi, but he had a special niche in his heart for Punjabi. He had been the President of the Sahit Vichar Kendra for many years. Some of his Punjabi short stories were published in Punjabi monthly ‘Lau’ and Punjabi quarterly ‘Akhkhar’, brought out from Amritsar. The Editor, Parminderjit, a Punjabi poet in his own right, was instrumental in getting his Urdu short stories rendered into Punjabi.

Unluckily he remained confined to his bed for a long time due to one ailment or the other. He was hard up in those days but he considered it below his dignity to approach the authorities concerned for financial help. Still there is a feeling of grudge in the litterateurs that the Languages Department, Punjab did not come to his help suo moto while his plight had been mentioned in newspaper columns many times.

Some time ago I visited him at his place and found him, in the words of T.S. Eliot, ‘like a patient etherised upon a table’. Earlier I had found him composing short stories and poems while lying in his bed. He had in himself a reservoir of patience and confidence, full to the brim. Even now when the last Urdu story-teller in Amritsar has bidden us goodbye, something can be done to make life easy for his wife and two daughters. Unluckily, his young son had died a year ago, leaving the ailing father in dismay. He stifled his cry in the throat, and that prompted his death.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE TRIBUNE

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

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!

Of the Indo Pak Candle Lit Vigil ————–By Rashmi Talwar


Candle-lit Vigil 2011-Indo-Pak Border.. Mahesh Bhatt, Kuldip Nayyar, Tara Gandhi

By Rashmi Talwar

On the midnight of August 14-15, a candle in hand, I walked with peaceniks, to Wagah-Attari Indo Pak Joint check post.
The dark trees and shrubs draped in twinkling drops of fairy lights swathed and transformed the gloom into a bejeweled bride, decked for the Independence Day Celebrations of India and Pakistan.

It was the 16th year of Peace overtures by 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 a time when one country’s dusk coincided with dawn for the other. A moment relived at the time of Freedom but also of deep cuts of separation from ones own.

Lighting candles came as a symbolic gesture of peace with the borders, near the no-man’s land between forbidding Gates – an unspoken barrier of no trespass. This simple gesture was to vent the pains of separation, longing hearts and a call 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 now, in full circular glory a moment back, through diaphanous clouds, I wondered if there shone a moon on those sultry, bloody August nights of 1947, 65 years back. The nights of stealth, loot, rape, fear, blood and gore, of screams and surrender to the greatest inhumanity to shake earth leaving millions homeless, naked and bewildered.
“Did they too fold their hands in prayer looking at the sky for a savior or in thanksgiving? A thanksgiving for a wandering displaced existence, with only their lives, just out of the womb.

The cities, towns and villages shuffled like a pack of cards by a single stroke of a pen, quivering at their changed destinies, of fear of the bottomless depths of depravity by human-turned animals, blood- thirsty, drenched and bizarre in a frenzy of faith.

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.

I looked questionably at the trees, asking, if they stood mute spectators to the inhuman torch of innocents waylaid by marauding mobs. Forlorn and fearful migrants, gored by a knife or chopped or looted or arsoned or many a fair maiden and not so, made away, to quench the lust borne out of fury.
I had heard of many a family head’s frozen turbulence, in putting their girls and woman on a the sacrificial altar. A swift stroke of a sword and the bloodied heads let loose from the neck, rolling onto male feet. The silent scream of mothers, sisters and daughters or some too little to make sense of the senselessness that elders forced upon them, lest they be mauled, maimed or raped by marauding gangs or converted to other faiths. Brave these women stood with not a trace of a whimper, in their doom or of their blood and flesh.

The blood curdling screams, whimperings, implorings and chilled faces. The ‘nanga nachch of vaishiyaat’ (naked dance of death)…I stilled these stirrings of scenes wherein man had turned rogue, crushing all in his madness….

Tonight was different, Guards had been raised, and BSF personnel guarded at every 50 steps.
A threatening barbed wire fence, darkness but glowing faces in shimmering fairy lights I saw , people had changed !
Perhaps, the wounds healed and generations that faced it all, turned greyer and wiser. Hatred divided 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 and mutual coexistence, for progress and prosperity.

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 forced or self-imposed slumber.

The flag of peace taken forward this time by famed film producer and director Mahesh Bhatt, Tara Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter and noted journalist Kuldip Nayyar joining in with his Hind Pak Dosti Manch, to further illuminate the corridors of Peace highlighting the commonalities of Punjabis beyond the dividing line .

Kuldip Nayyar had one slip to his discredit as member of the Rajya Sabha , he had failed to turn up following the aftermath of the Kargil misadventure by Pakistan in May 1999. Ironically, it was the same year that Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pak PM Nawaz Shrief flagged off the first Indo-Pak bus service-’Sada –E Sarhad’ in February, earlier that same year grandly labeled- Bus Diplomacy.

Alas, Kargil war, 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 .

Nayyar however regrets that his RS membership held him back from joining Peace activists, when he was most needed. The journalist’s recent revelations of attending conferences organized by Ghulam Nabi Fai –an American Indian Kashmiri funded by the notorious Pak agency ISI, has him apologetic for the same.

That he showed up, despite the allegations and his knobby knees without assistance is the man’s indisputable courage to take up responsibility and face consequences and questions of the alleged unholy rendezvous.

In its 65th year of Independence, and 16 years of ‘candle lit vigil’ this is only the 4th time that peaceniks from Pakistan were allowed to come near the gate to give momentum to the movement for peace and prosperity in the region.

And the jubilation turned infections when Hans Raj Hans an Indian sufi singer sang from the Pakistan side where he graced the occasion on the mutual Peace Exchange programme.
Hans has been a regular in the peace overtures held annually. While the Indians glowed and waved the candles to the other side, Pakistanis took the protocol liberty more enthusiastically and mounted upon the metal gates, peeking through and singing songs while the Pak Rangers and Border Security Force personnel smiled and laughed at their antics indulgently.

Hans along with Mohsin Shaukat Ali sang extempore ‘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..). ‘Heer’- another common legend of love invoking sufi Waris Shah to smoothen the paths of love and friendship And the crowds on both sides were in raptures. Hans and Mohsin churned soul stirring melodies, drawing encores, wah-wahs and irshads .

Tara Gandhi grand daughter of Father of the Nation, joined along with Satnam Manak, Punjabi crooner Harbhajan Mann of ‘galaan goriya , te vich toye’ (fair cheeks with dimples!) fame to make the night dance in euphoria.

Famed Pakistani Punjabi sufi singer ‘Shaukat Ali’ sang ‘Chala’ Meriya —Gal sunn chaleya, Dhola ve kannu Rola..”, along his equally gifted son Mohsin Shaukat Ali during the candle lit vigil, making the crowds clap in unison. It was an indescribable moment of intoxication.

Indians Maasha Ali, and trisome teenage Ali Brothers drummed out the famed trespasses of ‘Jugni’- the cult female , brave and rebellious stamping the huge crowd thumping on with slogans of Peace . While Jyoti and Sultana- the Noora Sisters, unleashed sufi classical bonding the gathering of multitudes that trickled in from border villagers. The crowds swung into a frenzy of music, Bhangra and Buraaah !

A 40 member peace delegation From Pakistan of Gen Sect SAFMA Ijaz Ali, former minister Chaudhary Manzoor Ahmed, Sobia Cheema, Ayesha Sohail made fervent appeal to both nations to grant a 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 grandparents to take their grandchildren to the land of their forefathers and forge a feeling of love amongst those who have no idea of the lingering enmity between the two nations goaded by vested interests amongst politicians and others whose lifeline lay in continued hostilities.

”Visa counters at JCP on both sides to facilitate travel for the common people between the two nations” was another suggestion that had made visa granting cumbersome. The vetting and grant on both borders meant more people to people contact and a chance to remove long festered misgivings and doubts.

I again stole a glance at the moon. The clouds had vanished and its baby face shone glorious in magnificent halo joined by twinkling stars, banishing darkness, its shimmering glow mesmerized humanity and drenched them into a glow of love.

…………….eom

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