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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 

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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/

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.
****

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

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.

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


Play: ‘Ghair Zaroori Log’

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

By Rashmi Talwar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saadat Hassan Manto –

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

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

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

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

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

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AMATEUR THEATRE GROUP, Jammu

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

Major productions of group include
•Sach-ki-hai
•Bhukh-hi-bhukh
•Toba Tek Singh,
•Garakh Ho Riha Manukh
•Sawaa Ser Kanak,
•Devyaani,
•Marakhey (based On Suraj Ka Saatvan Ghoda),
•Daak Ghar,
•Macbeth,
•Ashad Ka Ek Din,
•Ala Afsar,
•Jasma Odhan,
•Aadhi Raat Ke Baad,
•Lotan,
•Evam Inderjeet
•Andhaa Yug.
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“Jashan-e-Faiz” Indo-Pak poetry flows under Faiz’s benevolent umbrella/ By Rashmi Talwar


Kashmir Times Front Page Magazine – ‘Jashan-E- Faiz’/ By Rashmi Talwar on Jan-1-st 2012

Indo-Pak poetry flows under Faiz’s benevolent umbrella / By Rashmi Talwar

Published on Front page Magazine in Kashmir Times on January 1st 2012

“Jashan-e-Faiz” Centenary Celebration of Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Day –I
Indo-Pak poetry flows under Faiz’s benevolent umbrella

By Rashmi Talwar

Were I to compare, the Urdu-Punjabi poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of the greatest poets of the subcontinent –it would be to a ‘Blue-Blooded Horse’. The poetry of Faiz possesses the free spirit, the depth –a hallmark of the Graceful Stallion, thus …:
Its star speckled forehead –-satire,
Its pointed-ears– perfectly attuned to the murmurs of meadows,
Its gait –- majestic, regal, undeterred,
Its upright flashy tail– of words whipped and blazing their own path,
Its spirit– mystifying and unshackled,
Its power- -untamed, gazelle-like,
Its energy– boundless, astir with rebellion,
Its fodder-graze– an outpouring emerging from hunger of untold human sufferings,
Its water–nectar- the unmatched adulation of those he took up for…
Its hoof-marks –inscribed in Mighty Earth for ever….

Then when they tried to tame, bound or incarcerate this spirited soul, he galloped free, emerging more powerful, fearless and unbridled, his poetic insignia shaping popular public imagination and infusing fear in Aakas of ill-gotten empires, self-declared Lords, assuming the role of God Almighty.

To the oppressor, Faiz addressed thus: ‘Qafas hai bas mein tumhaare, tumhaare bas mein nahin/ Chaman mein aatish-e-gul ke nikhaar ka mausam’ (‘To his captors, a garden-bird booms: A cage is all that you have in your power. But, nothing and no one possesses the power to keep the garden from blooming when the time comes for lush flowerings.’)

In the backdrop of the cascading umbrella of this mellifluous, lilting poetic rhythm of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, poets, artists transcended boundaries of oppressive borders of India and Pakistan to confluence at Zorawar Singh Auditorium of Jammu University, for the two-day Festival organized by Jammu Civil Society for Art and Literature (JCSAL) in collaboration with Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), for the ‘Jashan-e-Faiz’ –the 100th birth anniversary of one of the greatest poets of the sub-continent. This, in celebration of his free-soul, his haunting words, weaving the stark reality of upheavals, of pain, of human values combined with nature and its connotations, in its truest form.

The grand Fest opened by comperers of the evening essayed many couplets of Faiz, while the chief guest of the evening, Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, sat enraptured after lighting the traditional lamp inaugurating the extravaganza.

As Faiz’s enormous and potent emotions of poetry combined and mingled with contemporary, original artistic structures of ghazal, dance, drama, the poetic symposium rekindled the bonds of a cohabitation torn apart, as Salima Hashmi, Faiz’s daughter, the guest of honor, sat moist-eyed watching the galaxy of Indian and Pakistani artists , poets who stood tall in their respective countries, churn out the best of original poetry covering aspects as banal as corruption and as soft as hands folded in prayer.

The stage came alive with Ustad Hamid Ali Khan, Pakistan’s finest exponents of classical singing and ghazal.
His vibrating, variegated pitch adding magic to the famous couplet ‘Laagi re, Tau Say Laagi…, najar sayyian laagi ..’ . Jammu’s jam-packed audience too matched the tempo of the song, that they may have loved on television, internet or savored on radio channels, giving a resounding ovation to the maestro, unseen in these parts.

Their response turned feverish with ‘Mainu Tera Jiya Sohna Hor Labda Nahi….’ and ‘Honthon Pay Kabhi Unke Mera Naam Bhi Aaye’ as Hamid‘s son Nayab Ali Khan joined in a raga jugalbandi, courting a frenzy of incessant applause.

Earlier, Ch. Masood Ahmad, former Vice Chancellor of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University delivered welcome address while JCSAL President, Aslam Qureshi presented memento to the Chief Minister who stated that ‘building bridges between two warring nations, India and Pakistan, could fructify not with mere government efforts but with civil societies of both pitching in their might for forging friendship’,
Richa Jain of India took the stage, presenting one of the most graceful performances of Kathak on Faiz’s poetry “Aaye kuchh abr kuchh sharab aye/ Isske baad aaye jo azaab aaye…”(let the clouds come, let the wine flow, If then trouble comes, so be it ..) And followed closely with rendition of Faiz’s poetry, Jagir Singh Punjabi sang “Rabba Sachiya, tu tay Akhiya si, Jaa Oye Bandiya Jag Da Shah hain Tu, Sadian Naimtan terian Doltan Nain, Sada Naib tay Alijah hain Tu…” raising the hackles of the common man who implores the Almighty about His promise of bounties, but left him at the mercy of a corrupt and cruel setup with .. ‘Kithay Dhons Police Sarkar di, Kithay Dhandli Patwar Di …. Changa Shah Banaya ei Rab Sayiaan…’ or the soulful …Jadoon diyaan, tere nal lar gayiaan ankhiaan , Allah di saun odo-diyaan, Rab di saun odo-diyaan , sau vi na sakiyaan ..”

Thus, galloped the horse in wild abandon, unto the vast horizons….of poetry, melody, dance….to the resounding applause of kadardaans of his poetry.
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BOX- A


Anwar Masood’s spice :

No one could have brought the curtains down on the grand mushiara as aptly as the best Urdu- Punjabi poet of Pakistan Anwar Masood, a humble soul with a maverick touch of comic poetry that could stir and lend guffaws to the most cynical of critics as also bring tears in turn with his sweeping emotive genre of poems, with equal aplomb. When asked about his matchless command in wit and sad poetry, he replied, “I have seen the worst spells of poverty and suffering from which emerged the sad poetry, but that I did not give up and held my faith with a smile is what produced the mirth in comic situations that I observed.”

Anwar who is not only a accomplished poet but also a star performer, brought the house down of the Jammu audience in the jam –packed Zorawar Singh auditorium of Jammu University with his well known witty poetry such as ‘Bunyan’(vest seller ) – Bunyan len jande ho/ Bunyan le ke aande ho /Paande ho toh pendi nahi /Pey jaye te lendi nahi /Le jaye te dooji vari paan jogi rehndi nahi / Bunyan mein diyanga !/ Pao gaye te peh jaye /Lao ge te leh jaye / Le jaye te dooji vari paan jogi reh jaye/ Bunyan meri vadiya bunyan meri top di !/ Vadeyaan nu pori ave niikyaan de naap di /Cheez hove asli te muhon pai boldi / Dhup nal gori lage, rassi ute doldi / Jine vare chaho tusi ais nu handa lao/ Pher bhavein bachcheyaan da jangia bana lao .

His other poems include Aj Ki Pakayiey, Anarkali diyan shaanan, Jehlum de pul te, Pit Sayaapa,
Hun Ke Keray, His most famous comic was a comparison –‘Lassi Te Chaa’
And those that highlighted the social, parochial scourges and brought teardrops ‘Meli Meli Dhoup’ and ‘Ambri’(about a mother beaten by her son).

His couplets too were poignant –‘Mera Lakhaan da vickda Takiyaa, Je Hanjooan da mul penda!’(My pillow would have sold for millions, if Tears had a price!) Or one –‘Tujhay Nahi Hay Abhi Fursat-E-Karam, Na Sahi…Thakay Nahi Hain Mere Hath Abhi Dua Kartey…!’
(If, You O Lord, have no time for blessings, never mind/ My hands are still not tired of offering prayers!).

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DAY- II
New Beginning: Jammu’s Indo –Pak Mushiara undivides the line of divide
Poets turn ecstatic on response by Urdu connoisseurs
By Rashmi Talwar

Jashan-e-Faiz carry-fwd from front page of Kashmir Times /By Rashmi Talwar

Aaiye haath uthaayein hum bhi
Hum jinhen rasm-e-dua yaad nahin
Hum jinhen soz-e-mohabbat ke siwaa
Koyi but, koyi khudaa yaad nahin

Aaiye arz guzaren ki nigaar-e-hasti
Zaher-e-imroz mein shirini-e-fardaa bhar de
Wo jinhein tabe garaanbaarii-e-ayyaam nahin
Un-ki palakon pe shab-o-roz ko halkaa kar de

(Come, let us raise our hands, /We, who have forgotten the ritual of prayer/ We, who do not remember anything other than the searing of love/ Do not remember any idol, nor any God/Come, let us beseech that the Creator of existence may fill sweetness in the morrow, from the poison of today/Those who cannot bear the burden of the passing day/May their eyelids be unburdened of the night and day.)
Faiz’s poem ‘Dua’ recited by Ayub Khawar a prominent Pakistani poet, writer and director of Geo TV, was a befitting tribute to the inaugural Indo-Pak Mushiara on the second day of ‘Jashn-e-Faiz’.

Poets from India and Pakistan escorted their poetry onto the vibrant stage, rekindling the bonds of brotherhood in an amalgam of varied genres of original thought, facing the current situation in both countries, of love, hate, suffering and laughter. The programme coursed through compere Anwar Jalalpuri adding spice with a spoof on poets and their poetry in a light banter, making it more enjoyable.

The extraordinary event as an apt tribute to Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of the greatest poets the South Asia has produced, brought Indo-Pak artistes and poets together in the winter capital of J&K. It was sheer delight to hear the first Indian poet an IPS officer from Ludhiana, Fayyaz Farooqi who made simple ideas so profound in his poetry – “Itna aasaan nahi hota kissi ka hona/Seekhna padta hai bande ko bhi banda hona/ Yoon bura hona to duniya mein bura hai, lekin/Itna achha bhi nahi hota hai, achha hona”.

Poets from both sides commanded rapt attention from the discerning Jammu audience on issues of corruption, gender bias and poverty that plague both countries. Ayub Khawar recited his own creation –Saat suron ka behta dariya, tere naam/ har sur mein hai rang dhanak (rainbow) ka , tere naam/ Tere bina jo umr bitai, beet gayi/ ab iss umr ka baaki hissa, tere naam’ that endeared him to the audience who took it as a bonding , Khawar added – “Instead of suspending the dialogue process or the confidence-building measures because the bigger issues are not being sorted out, both countries should start resolving smaller issues to develop mutual faith.”

Another couplet reinforced the brotherhood, post partition as Aizaz Azar a Pakistani poet recited -“Bichhadne waale ne waqt-e-rukhsat kuchh iss tarah se palat ke dekha/ Ki jaise woh bhi ye keh raha ho, tum apne ghar ka khayal rakhna” (At the time of separation, the parting one, turned to look back as if to say, you too, keep your home safe).

Noted Indian poet, Nida Fazli of–‘Kabhi kisi ko mukammal jahaan nahi milta, kaheen zameen to kaheen aasmaan nahi milta’ fame- regaled with his couplets (Doha) that hit the target of corruption through the eyes of a child –“ Naqsha le kar haath mein bachcha hai hairaan, Kaisay deemak kha gayi uss ka Hindustan.”
Or one upon disparities between the rich and poor as well as paucity of accommodation in Mumbai like city “Bachcha bola dekh kar, masjid aalishan/ Allah tere ek ko, itna bada makaan”. Taking a dig at politicians Nida recited, “Issa, Allah, Ishwar, Sare Mantar Seekh, Jane Kab Kis Naam Par, Miley Ziyada Bheekh..”

Ashok Sahil also took up the baton on corruption with “Chaman ke vaaste kuchh bhi nahi kiya jisne/Ussi ko sab se ziyada hawas bahaar ki hai”. Another stalwart, Nawaz Deobandi, who has written some unforgettable ghazals sung by Jagjit Singh mesmerized the audience.
Two feminist Pakistani lady poets Kishwar Naheed and Ishrat Afreen shook the edifice of society of its gender bias, with the poignant rendition of poetry. Ishrat recited – ‘Kheton Men Kaam Karati Hui Ladakiyan/ jeth ki champai dhup ne/jin ka sona badan surmai kar diya/jin ko raton men oas aur paale ka bistar miley/ din ko suraj sarron par jale/’

A wave of myriad emotions swept over the connoisseurs of poetry where 20 noted poets recited their poems amid shouts of ‘encore’ and ‘wah wah’.

Another poet from Punjab, Panchhi, regaled with his romantic poetry, with beautifully used allegories like wine, women and youthfulness. He recited, “Ghul rahi hai sharaab, pani mein, jal raha hai shabaab, paani mein. Khat ka meray to yoon jawaab aaya, Uss nay fainka gulaab, pani mein.”

But it was Anwar Masood, who brought the curtains down at the mushaira, and stole the show in his inimitable style and his satirical brilliant poetry, making people both laugh and cry. His witty classic: “Yehi To Dosto Le De Ke Mera Business Hai/ Tumhi Kaho Ki Main Kyon Iss Se Tod Loon Naata/ Agar ‘Corruption’ bhi Chhod Di Main Ne/ Mujhe To Aur Koi Kaam Bhi Nahi Aata.”

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BOX-B————
HIGHLIGHTS :

• The J&K CM Omar Abdullah tweeted a day before the start of the Fest : “Jashan-e-Faiz in Jammu to celebrate the centenary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. 2 days of some of the best Urdu poets and performers from India & Pakistan”.

• Sound system fumbled during the Kathak recital of Richa Jain

• When Ustad Hamid Ali Khan announced the entry of his son Nayab Ali Khan, lady compere who otherwise was flawless, apologized for want of time to the ghazal maestro, not once but twice. The situation was saved both times by Ravinder Kaul a global critic of music and co-compere in the programme wherein the crowd that was intoxicated with the ghazals demanding encores, were on the verge of venting their ire, in ways unknown, on the lady compere.

• During a formal dinner by J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for participants and organizers, Anwar Masood , one of the best known contemporary poets in Pakistan for his comic poetic style, left the CM in a state of ‘rip roaring laughter’ drawing a comment from a guest, that ‘never have we seen the CM laugh so in a long-long time’.

• Many felt the dress of Kathak dancer could have been more up-market and dainty in sync with her graceful rendition.

• During a private dinner hosted by Aslam Goni, former advocate general of the State, wherein ‘wazwan’ was served in traditional Kashmiri style, shared by four in one large container. The joke went that if Pakistanis were able to finish the last morsel served they could take Kashmir, but the Pakistanis raised the hands in surrender and said India can have Kashmir, as well as the rest of the Kashmiri delicacies inviting applause from the host side.

• Many who were laughing and clapping during the grand finale comic poetry of the matchless Pakistani poet Anwar Masood were reduced to tears with his recitation of poem “Ambari’ (mother!) and his couplet –‘Tujhe Nahi Hai Abhi Fursatey Karam, Na Sahi/ Thake Nahi Hain Mere Haath Abhi Dua Karte ..’

• The president of the ICCR, Dr Karan Singh, could not attend the function and his message was read out by his son and former minister Ajatshatru Singh.

• The poets enthralled the audience with their couplets on love-hate relationship between the two neighbours, prevailing political scene and romantic verses.They teased, laughed and recited their couplets amidst loud cheers and echoes of mukarrar, bahut khoob, irshad and wah-wahs.

• Cultural Attache from the Iranian Embassy specially came from New Delhi to attend the Indo-Pak mushaira.
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