Posts Tagged ‘AMRITSAR’

Canadian Premier shows why he’s ‘Justin Singh’/ By Rashmi Talwar / Kashmir Images


Canadian Premier shows why he’s ‘Justin Singh’

Rashmi Talwar

Seemingly unmindful of Modi-led government’s half-hearted response to his visit, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today visited Amritsar, enthralling the locals in a big way.

It may be recalled that Justin Trudeau’s visit was in a way, downplayed by the Union Government but his Punjab connection undoubtedly made it a memorable one.

If Justin Trudeau is sometimes also referred to as ‘Justin Singh’- it is not without a reason.

The Canadian Prime Minister, who has more Sikhs in his cabinet than his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, today showed how close he is with the Sikh community when upon arrival in the holy city he straight away drove to the Golden Temple.

Attired in an embroidered Kurta-Pajama with a saffron ‘Patka’ on his head and accompanied by his wirfe Sophie Gregoire Trudeau in lime green Kameez Palazzo, and two of his three children Ella Grace and Xavier in Punjabi ethnic wear, the Premier was received by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, and Navjot Singh Sidhu, State Minister for Tourism, at the Amritsar airport. Trudeau was received at the Golden Temple by former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab and Akali Dal President Sukhbir Badal and taken around the ‘parikarma’ or circumbulation of the holy shrine by the office bearers of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) including its president Gobind Singh Longowal.

The visiting Premier prayed at the Sanctum Santorum of the temple during an almost hour long visit to the shrine. Trudeau and his family also tried rolling out ‘rotis’ at the Guru Ram Dass Langar Hall, where pilgrims undertake voluntary kitchen chores for feeding other pilgrims. They greeted devotees with folded hands while scores of visitors could be seen holding their mobile phones to take pictures and videos with the Trudeaus.

A thick security blanket was in place in and around the Golden Temple with SGPC task force making a human chain to keep pilgrims at bay at the Temple premises. Trudeau was presented a specially crafted 24-Carat Gold plated portrait of the shrine and a gold plated Siri –Sahib (a small six inch sword) along with a ‘Siropa’- a robe of honour by the SGPC.

In the visitors book Justin Trudeau wrote-“What an honour to be so well received at such a beautiful, meaningful place. We are filled with grace & humility”.

 

 

“Super”- Dr Daljit Singh of Amritsar / By Rashmi Talwar


“Super”- Dr Daljit Singh of Amritsar

Rashmi Talwar

Other than the Magnificent Golden Temple and stimulus to the Freedom Struggle of India- the Jallianwala Bagh, much of world knew Amritsar as the place of renowned ophthalmologist Dr Daljit Singh, the inimitable surgeon and researcher who revolutionized eye care for the world.

“Being true to your Profession is the Biggest Patriotism!” Dr Daljit Singh believed, and followed this focus throughout his glorious innings.

True to his words his children Dr Ravijit Singh Dr Kiranjit Singh completed their surgeries while Dr Indu and Dr Seema prepared Dr Daljit Singh’s body for his last Journey, to join in, when he quietly passed away, after being in coma for a week.

This amply exhibits the dedication of this family towards a lofty mission of attending to the suffering, keeping all else on hold, before proceeding to their various tasks and toils.

Dr Ravijit Singh took the mike on the last condolence meet of the Bhog Ceremony of his beloved father Dr Daljit Singh- “Every father is a Superman for his children”, he started.
“My father too was a superman for us!”

As a boy nick named Ghuggu since he spoke nearly a year after his birth on 11 October 1934, Ghuggu became Daljit Singh, born to Sahib Singh, a Sikh academic of Sikh literature.

In the eyes of his children, he was a ‘Super Son’ who served his parents through their long illnesses.
Ravijit extolled, peeling away bit by bit to share hidden glimpses of the life and memories of his father, before a crowd of nearly 5000 people gathered, to pay respects to Amritsar’s Lofty son Dr Daljit Singh.

Our father was a – ‘Super Student’ making sketches of his teachers who often shunted him out of their class and like Aamir Khan of Three Idiots – a born learner, who would sit in the library and score more marks than the best of them!

A ‘super husband’ who had a love marriage in such times as in 1957. Dr Daljit wrote in his fiancée Sawarn’s gifted diary– ‘Professional competence is the best Patriotism’ and stood by it throughout.

A ‘super sportsman’ wherein his sons couldn’t beat him in carom, chess, table tennis or Billiards. A city club etched Dr Daljit Singh’s name twice as a Billiards Champion.

A ‘Super worker’ who worked 16-18 hours a day and rose at the crack of dawn.

A ‘Super Innovator’ who picked up a liquid from a dentist’s table and used it to create his revolutionary first intraocular lens.

A ‘Super Ophthalmologist’ who needs no introduction suffice to say, he won the Padam Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, in 1987. A Dr BC Roy Award credited with isolating three new genes causing congenital cataract and invented “plasma scalpel” for glaucoma and cataract surgery and pioneered a number of innovative and revolutionary surgical instruments.

At the same time a ‘Super instrumentalist’, who played the harmonium, the Tablaa, the flute and eventually left the world trying to master the elusive saxophone.

A ‘Super Techno’ who mastered every new technological innovation that emerged– “He would tell me my laptop or mobile needs upgradation, which meant that he was going to pass on his old laptop or phone to me to buy a new one for himself,” Dr Ravijit inserted with a smile.

A “Super Wi-Fi” with a super antenna to connect to people, track a needy, and help him without boasting. Keeping a Thursday free OPD for poor patients, since years. Also, helping hundreds of Kashmiri boys with pellet injuries who came in droves from trouble torn Kashmir valley. Many a times the family encouraged victims towards the path of education instead of a pointless future in stone pelleting. No wonder, on the sound of my hometown being ‘Amritsar’, many Kashmiris pounced on – ‘Do you know Dr Daljit Singh?’, during my many trips to Jammu and Kashmir. Dr Daljit Singh’s crowning glory was however restoring vision of 11 children, who had lost their eyesight in LPG cylinder blast at Independence Day celebrations in Orissa in 1986.

A “Super photographer” who bought new Cameras with each of his monthly salaries and took perfect shots- “We found his cameras in drawers, cupboards, every nook and corner of the house.”

A “Super Painter” who even intended to take a hobby course in painting towards the fag end of his life at the local Thukur Singh Art Gallery and painted 30 water colour landscapes in a go, along with a repertoire of hundreds of sketches, he left behind.

A ‘Super Author’ who penned over a dozen books on ophthalmology, Dr Singh wrote two poetry and three anthologies of essays: “Sach di Bhal Vich” (In search of truth), “Dooja Passa”(The other side) and “Badi di Jarh” (The root of evil) to educate rural masses about national and international issues. Noted Punjabi author and close friend Kulbir Singh Suri, son of late legendary Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh, said- Dr Singh wrote a book titled ‘Naroi Akh’ (Healthy Eye) in Punjabi decades ago. His three poetry books —‘Dharti Tirhai’, ‘Sidhre Bol’ and ‘Babre Bol’ have been translated into Urdu, English and Hindi.

‘Super Simple’ with no clue of his shirt matching his trousers or turban; often a red socks synchronised his step with a blue one.

And towards the conclusion when I and many amongst us assumed that the last Super-lative by Ravijit would be “Dr Daljit Singh was a ‘Super-Human!”, Dr Ravijit surprised us by adding –Our father was a “Super Teacher” – One who loved teaching, spreading, sharing his vast knowledge in the most simplistic way with everyone including on topics as diverse as economics, politics, finance, anything.

It is not every day a true human is born, with all his fullness, feelings, faults and fallacies.

In 2007-08, Dr Daljit Singh made noble efforts to set up a speciality charitable eye hospital in Nankana Sahib Pakistan along with a university to be named Guru Nanak Dev University in Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the founder Sikh Guru Nanak Dev along with his Pak friend Prof TH Kirmani. Even offering to send Indian doctors to tutor Pak doctors and bring excellent eye care to the sacred land of Sikhs. Lamentingly, the agreement fell through. The demarcated land donated by a local resident Fazal Rabbani was occupied by Pak army and relations soured, over the years between the two nations.

At another juncture, Dr Daljit Singh, the surgeon, with as sharp a wit and forthrightness as his invented scalpel, remained unmindful of anyone’s stature or status and therefore couldn’t successfully win the diplomatic and flattery-ridden field of politics as an AAP candidate.

Alternately, he snatched 80,000 votes, a clean sweep by many standards as a greenhorn in politics, during MP elections 2014, from political heavyweights Arun Jaitley- and Capt Amarinder Singh- who went on to become Union Finance Minister and Chief Minister of Punjab, respectively. Dr Singh intended to bring clean governance from a political platform but couldn’t be manipulated to tell lies, half-truths or stoop to briberies.

Even though holding abhorrence for the political climate of our country, I became Dr Daljit Singh’s Media Manager, solely because he was a father figure to me. And I landed an opportunity to relive some times of our childhood days with him. In the late 60s and early 70s, Dr Daljit occasionally bicycled to our home from the Government Eye hospital opposite our house.

As children then, we lined up to see his bicycle with gears, a rare contraption those times, that held contiguous fascination for me for a long time. Sometimes he even took a shot at our Table Tennis table and once took multiple close-shot pictures of my sister’s hazel eyes, ever since, he focused they possessed rare blue specs in them.
“Fer Chaa piyao!” he would say on a rare chilly evening, while visiting home. And merrily slurp his tea, savouring every masala and mazaa of it.

On a closer note Dr Daljit told me – ‘Tu acha likhdi hain’ that sounded in present times like the Dangal ‘Shabaash’ of Mahavir Singh Phogat to his daughter Geeta winning the gold. And in return – ‘le meri kitab par’ and handed me a number of his books written by him originally in Punjabi.

Dr Daljit Singh’s family -Dr Ravjit Singh and Dr Kiranjit Singh – and daughters-in-law, Dr Indu R Singh and Dr Seema Singh, form a formidable team of eye surgeons.

On my visit to Dr Daljit Singh’s home after his passing away, I could sense that the home still held his warmth of touches, thoughts, his genius, and ensconced his family most lovingly.

I wish, I could bring that warmth in my home with one of his paintings, to get inspired by the Master by his Master strokes, never saying adieu to him.

Don’t trigger a war: Voices from India and Pakistan /Rashmi Talwar @rushrk1 /DailyO


 

 

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Don’t trigger a war : Voices from India and Pakistan

Villagers asked to evacuate are enraged at the media hype; their homes are almost empty and crop is being wasted

Rashmi Talwar 

“Hun jang na lava deo!” (Now, don’t trigger a war!) – shouts an enraged villager, Kulwant Singh, at us. He is the caretaker of the local gurdwara of village Daoke on the India-Pakistan border.

We smile awkwardly; the villagers are visibly angry, especially the elderly. “Media nu TRP di payi rendi hai, aasan da koi nai sochda,” (media is concerned about TRPs, nobody thinks of us border villagers!) they say.

Some join the chorus as they see our cameras and notebooks. Villagers are keenly watching the high decibel rhetoric belted out by TV channels, where 80 per cent of news is on the India-Pakistan trajectory, in the heightened tension of the last two weeks.

Villagers in the border belt with Pakistan were ordered to evacuate after Indian armed forces carried out “surgical strikes” on September 29, in retaliation for the September 18 attack in Uri, Jammu & Kashmir, attributed to Pakistan’s terrorist network.

Daoke is situated bang on the border where the international boundary’s barbed wire fence is a mere crow’s flight away. So close to the border that one milkman Bitu’s mobile number shows the country code of +92 (Pakistan).

Even as hectic activity was noticed, as ripe paddy crop is being harvested speedily in villages, due to panic, their anger is not amiss.

Many villagers owning fields beyond the barbed wire fencing on the Indian side of the border are barred from tending to their fields by the Border Security Force. They rue the accrued losses and moan that their loans will remain unpaid, as no one can tend to their standing, ripened crops.

With many of the village’s women and children having left for safer places, much of the responsibility and burden of household chores, livestock and fields has fallen upon the frail shoulders of the elderly, while fields within the barbed area with newly ripened paddy are being managed by sons whose wives and children are staying with relatives in the cities.

Daoke’s Satwant Kaur cries: “In this old age, when I needed rest and comfort, I have been pushed to tend to cooking, cleaning and all house chores alone, as both my daughter-in-laws and their children were sent to their maternal homes. An old woman is expected to deal with everything!”

The reluctance of the villagers to evacuate has reasons. Whenever tensions build up between India and Pakistan, they fall in the first line of evacuation. At places, a mere road separates the defence drain and the fields of villages.

“Besides the cumbersome drill of packing and transporting belongings and requesting city counterparts to help, crops too suffer,” says one Gurmeet. The biggest reason, however, as Gurmeet puts it: “This time it is unlike earlier evacuations, which were serious. This one is merely precautionary and anticipatory.”

They are also loath to evacuate because they know they will get the whiff of any serious preparations for an attack through tip-offs from across the border, where they have contacts.

The contacts are through the ignominious drug trade. Villages Hawellian, Narli, Bharopal and Daoke are well known for their drug links. Incidentally, the controversial film Udta Punjab on the drug menace in Punjab, is peppered with mentions of these villages in conversations.

After evacuation orders by local deputy commissioners (DC), the villagers of Bharopal, similarly poised on the India-Pakistan border, are also restless. Many villagers owning fields beyond the barbed wire fencing on the Indian side of the border are barred from tending to their fields by the Border Security Force. They rue the accrued losses and moan that their loans will remain unpaid, as no one can tend to their standing, ripened crops. The

situation is alike in Kakkar, Rajatal, Neshta, Pandhori, Manj, Kawe, Bachiwind, and Ranian along the border, where very few have left homes.

Punjab’s chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had deputed DCs to supervise evacuation, on the possibility of retaliation by Pakistan, and declared: “These are precautionary steps to prevent civilian loss in case of any misadventure from across the border.”

Badal claimed to have released Rs 1 crore for each border district. When asked about the compensation, the villagers of Bharopal exclaimed: “Not a drop of compensation arrived on our doorstep!”

Amritsar’s DC said 15 camps and a score of buses were spared to ferry people. The villagers of Daoke are ignorant of any such travel arrangements.

Following recent incidents, 11 government school buildings were notified for residents of the border belt. Arrangement at Khasa school for about 500 people has no takers. In Chhabal village of Tarn Taran, about 30 rooms are in readiness to accommodate 250 people. Very few have arrived in relief camps falling in the adjoining district of Tarn Taran along the border.

They preferred to take refuge in gurdwaras nearby where food is assured via langars. All private and government educational institutions within 10km radius of the international border remain shut. Those living near the border have been asked to switch off lights at night.

Many of the villagers have witnessed three wars, including 1965, 1971, Kargil in 1999 and the army stand-off in the aftermath of the Parliament attack in 2001-02.

Jasbir Singh (82), a village elder of Bharopal, had even witnessed the Partition of 1947. Village Neshtha’s Balwant Singh articulates: “We will not move out till the time shots are fired, the artillery is moved in and the defence canal is filled with water. How much baggage can we take? Our livestock, grain and household items were looted when we left the last time following the Parliament attack.”

This journalist saw patrolling by horse-mounted Army personnel, besides police and armoured vehicles of the BSF in border villages. In the stand-off in 2001-02, when villages were evacuated, India and Pakistan’s soldiers stood eye-to-eye.

Fields along the barbed wire fencing and beyond were heavily mined and many casualties of defence personnel and villagers were reported due to accidents during movement of artillery, besides incidents of fire in mined fields.

BSF deputy commandant HS Sidhu confirms: “The evacuation exercise is a precautionary measure. BSF has enhanced vigil and augmented forces along the India-Pakistan border. Media hype and the acrimony between the two nations cannot be ignored.”

Other precautionary measures include sounding hospitals and keeping medicine supply in readiness. Unconfirmed reports are also trickling in of fortifying of ICP (integrated checkpost, Attari-Wagah) and cleaning of bunkers on the border.

Even as anxiety prevails in villages, India-Pakistan trade seemed untouched by any tension. Balwinder Singh, in-charge of the port at Attari-Wagah, revealed that as many as 190 trucks carrying cement, gypsum, rock salt, dry fruit and dry dates arrived from Pakistan and 55 trucks with tomatoes from Maharashtra, cotton and buffalo meat drove to Pakistan.

Passenger count on the international route seemed affected. Four times-weekly Punj-Aab Express, the Amritsar-Lahore bus, didn’t ply as no passenger was booked on it. Passenger flow via the bi-weekly Samjhauta Express train between the two countries remained at about 150 persons on both sides on Thursday. Besides this, only five passengers each crossed from either side via Sada-E-Sarhad Delhi-Lahore bus on Saturday.

Twitter :rushrk1

FIRST PUBLISHED IN DAILYO

URL :http://www.dailyo.in/politics/surgical-strikes-uri-attack-pakistan-daoke-loc-bharopal-evacuation-parkash/story/1/13216.html

 

 

“Udtaa Punjab” Punjab’s Shame forgotten ? / Rashmi Talwar


 

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“UDTAA PUNJAB”

rush sopore

Author :Rashmi Talwar

Punjab’s Shame forgotten

Rashmi Talwar

In October 2012, when Rahul Gandhi, then Congress general secretary pointed out that 70% of Punjab’s Youth was into drugs, it was probably one of the few sane statements by the Congress-heir in-waiting that were insanely true. Akali-Dal and BJP tried a cover-up with a vicious Pappu campaign to shield the deadly dark secret of Punjab.

But like Ishq aur Musq chupai nahi chupte (Love and fragrance cannot be hidden), the ill kept secret that leaked in small doses earlier with regular hauls of drugs from Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Indo-Pak border, broke out in the open with – “Udtaa Punjab”- a cine portrayal of the real drug scene of the once robust state.

CBFC’s nonsensical objections besides reports of ruling combine of Akali-BJP trying to stall the release of the movie, turned around to give Udtaa its extra innings!

The political opportunity was grabbed by Amritsar’s MP and Congress head – Capt Amarinder Singh, who had given a sound beating at the hustings to Arun Jaitely (Union Finance Minister). Capt threatened to release uncut CDs of ‘Udtaa’ at Majitha in defiance of CBFC ruling on June 17th. The High Court of course made only a single cut and a few disclaimers to give a green signal to the movie, now embellished with extra hype.

But the fact that the CD were to be released at Majitha – a stronghold of Akali MLA Bikram Singh Majithia, brother of Akali MP Harsimrat Badal and brother in law of deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, an accused in the multi-crore Bhola Drug scam, was a huge pointer in the direction of the ruling party’s leaders alleged involvement in Punjab’s notorious drug trade.

Drugs became an integral part of the Punjab election scenario in late 80’s when Pakistan replaced guns and ammunition with Narco-terrorism post Punjab’s terrorism era. With the attraction of ‘minor-risk-for- big-money’ the political stalwarts of Punjab gave it their tacit support, turning drugs into big business. If the recent arrest of Ramzaan(32) a drug smuggler from Pakistan arrested from Sowana border outpost in Fazilka district on June 13, who confessed waging a ‘drug Jihad’ to ruin young generation of ‘Kafirs’ in border regions of India. Ramzaan is a prized catch as a first Pakistani drug-smuggler to be caught. How is it that BSF has never caught any smuggler before and only muffled them into silence with death?
Any Punjabi will tell you –“Drugs are freely distributed amongst electorate in every nook and corner of Punjab. The election commission having never taken the issue seriously, the trend is fast and furious”.

Hence watching ‘Udtaa Punjab’ felt like a no –holds barred peep, into the drug dens of Punjab that emerge from scene to scene and surprises no one in this stupor state. A timed release with forthcoming elections in Punjab is the film’s bane and benefit. Abhishek Chaubey’s Udtaa gained more curiosity by CBFC hyperbole and reports of film’s piracy than merely by its subject and story.

The movie served to wipe out the carefully crafted media-campaign by ruling combine on All FMs with ‘paid farmers’ of various villages swearing that there was no drug wave as is being made out by opposition parties. One advertisement went –“Our village has 1400 population and none, I swear, is into drugs, be cautious about rumor mongers!” in an old villager’s voice. Punjab is laughing at the advertisements making spoofs of the tailored propaganda that openly smacks of cover- up of Punjab’s lethal cocktails and killing ‘Chitta’ or drug powder. Kashmir too is falling to the taste of drugs percolating from Punjab and across the border into this enchantingly beautiful but vulnerable state with its share of deep troubles.
However with the wave of Terrorism lashing the world, the scourge of drugs is put on the back burner. The FM channels also have riveted to old advertisement lines. Someone told the ruling party –“ The issue of drugs is almost dead, so lets pull down the ad-campaign and latch on to the value status of developments in the state”.

It comes as no surprise that the role of Punjab Police in drug dealing is glaring from a sizable number of Police personnel under treatment for drugs in parts of Tarn Taran and Amritsar including their children in rehabilitation centers here .
The role of BSF is also not a clean slate for the massive quantity of drugs being seized on the border. “The amount of drug seizures shown on media are just half or less than the actual haul”, an officer once revealed jokingly. The movie too includes this episode.
Drugs became an integral part of the Punjab election scenario in late 80’s when Pakistan replaced guns and ammunition with Narco-terrorism post Punjab’s terrorism era. With the attraction of ‘minor-risk-for- big-money’ the political stalwarts of Punjab gave it their tacit support, turning drugs into big business. The recent arrest of Ramzaan(32) a drug smuggler from Pakistan arrested from Sowana border outpost in Fazilka district on June 13, is who confessed waging a ‘drug Jihad’ to ruin young generation of ‘Kafirs’ in border regions of India, clearly points a finger at Pakistan’s covert tactics. Ramzaan is a prized catch as a first Pakistani drug-smuggler to be caught. If it is true that Ramzaan is the first Pakistani smuggler to be caught alive, how is it that BSF has never nabbed any smuggler before despite huge drug hauls, and only muffled them into silence with death?

The matinee show of the film in Amritsar, saw colored characters follow in to the movie hall to watch Punjab’s shame. Along with many police personnel, one loudmouthed one in plainclothes was accompanied by a Police officer. A stout bicep-tricep supporting guy in black clothes with gel-standing hair had menacing tattoos hanging on his arms. Many boys in the audience were with a studded ear. Women were few and had to endure the hootings at the drop of cusswords that fell in a steady drizzle throughout the film. The movie hall was strategically surrounded by Punjab Police personnel, on the opening day.
If truth be told, then ‘Udtaa Punjab’ is a searing flash across Punjab’s blue-smoke horizon of snorts, dragon-trials, capsules and needles. Names of infamous areas along Punjab’s border of village Hawellian, Tarn Taran, Narli, Amritsar are actual hotbed smuggling dens that were skillfully woven in conversations laced with authentic countryside abuses.
The film starts with ‘triply’ on a jittery scooter coping with a ride into lush fields near the unfettered international border, a packet is skillfully flung across the barbed wire fencing by a Shot-Put thrower, his jacket emblazoned with word ‘Pakistan’. Perhaps that is the only hint on the rampant cross-border smuggling. Drug smuggling in border villages is a whole-hearted business that undauntedly runs through a cross country network including smuggling aboard the Samjhauta Express- peddled as ‘a train of emotions’ between India & Pakistan, PVC pipe conduits, lady couriers, messenger pigeons, kites and balloons with Urdu couplets and numbers, courier- buffaloes in swamp areas. Add to it, is the emerging dragon power of Gurudoms and quack racketeers in Punjab.

The film is just the tip of an iceberg with flagrantly flourishing drug mafia in Punjab’s hinterland, supported by local politicians in cahoots with the police. Udtaa’s story runs around operations of the drug cartel, a once bribe-happy-turned-good cop played by Daljit Dosanjh- a versatile actor excelling in slapstick comedy, aptly named ‘Sartaj Singh’ in the film, a name synonymous with benign music of singer Sartaj’s signature ‘Sai’ brand played at Amrit vela or pre-dawn, in Punjabi homes, more like a prayer. Dosanjh as Sartaj plays a corrupt police officer to the hilt till drugs lay their deadly eggs in his own home. Shahid Kapoor playing Tommy Singh the Rockstar singer, is named closely with a namesake popular Punjabi Rockstar who is known to have cut several albums on nasha (intoxicate).
The simple murmurings of Punjab’s stalwart poet Shiv Batalvi -‘Ikk Kudi si’ takes the cake for music, otherwise sounding banal and nonsensical, used for furthering the narration.

Using drugs as talent enhancers by singers is a tragic reality of Punjab. Drug mafias swoop on upcoming singers promising enhanced talents with stimulating drug cocktails simultaneously prompting them to sing popular songs on drugs, nasha, botal (alcohol) and power.
In the thick of drugs sits Kareena Kapoor Khan alias Preet Sahni, a rehab clinic doctor, pout-less and natural, accusing the officer in denial mode with the choicest expletives, to drill the reality of police’s underhand dealings in drug consignments that turnaround to snare and gulp their own homesteads.
Punjabis identify with the colorful language, people, lifestyle and profanities that are common, as the four main characters build up the story. Especially impressive is Aalia Bhatt with her class performance as hockey player turned Bihari migrant. She comes across realistically with her half nail henna smear, a ubiquitous nose-stud and freckled skin with her Bihari abuses. Aalia is fast emerging as one of the finest actress as well as a budding singer. It is seen that migrant laborers in Punjab are emerging as one of the fastest growing drug consumer with drugs like Phukki, Doda, Charas, Ganja growing freely in the countryside.

The narrative of the film felt a little ruffled at times but situations leap outs, run around and close clutches the throat in a gripping portal of Punjab’s robust Punjabis turning into shitpots!

Yesterday, an old woman working in a spinning in a factory in Shaheedaan area of Amritsar related about her 16- year son’s death in a drug overdose, completely tearless, in a monotone sounding more relieved than pained at the loss of her child.
Likewise, Maqboolpura of Amritsar is infamously referred to as the ‘locality of widows’ as most male members became sacrificial offerings to drugs. Once a robust industrial area Chehharta has been ruined with the ‘chitta’, some allege the local MLA‘s drug dealing behind the ruin. The same MLA was booed out from a gathering by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker of ‘Art of living’ for coming drunk on the stage, a few months back.
Harinder Brar, portrayed as a Politician in the film is thus believable. One who is equally at ease, being the largest drug cocktail manufacturer, as he is, with coining a slogan and stretching his vocals cords to a blast, denouncing drugs in public-appearances. That the film director catches the absolute rustic flavor of Punjab and realtime settings have painfully ruffled political feathers.
One character in the film calls the drug trade ‘the Green Revolution –Part II’ of Punjab, the following rough estimate shows the repulsive scenario as Crores go down the drain- “Average spending per day of a heroin user (Rs 1500) opium user (Rs 350) Pharma drugs (Rs 250) , majority of users are heroin addicts. Incidentally, 90% of users are literate while half of them are from rural areas mostly in the age group of 15 to 45 years”.

While Shekhar Gupta founder Editor, The Quint- online news magazine, lashes–“Pahlaj ji deserve the sack for gifting Udtaa Punjab undeserved fame. Compared to Haider, Madras Cafe, Wasseypur, this is clichéd & juvenile.”
I answer -“Agreed, Shekhar! Udtaa is an average cinematic excellence, but it is the reality that hits in its most naked and goriest forms!”
Pappu was right.

Writer can be emailed at –rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

Peak of militancy didn’t mar Jyoti Arora’s love for Kashmiri Cuisine / ..By Rashmi Talwar


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AMRITSAR'S CHEF JYOTI ARORA 'S COOKERY BOOK

AMRITSAR’S CHEF JYOTI ARORA ‘S COOKERY BOOK

Cookery Book

Peak of militancy didn’t mar Jyoti’s love for Kashmiri Cuisine

Forthcoming book “Traditional recipes of Undivided Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir”

Rashmi Talwar

A pinch of February’s last chill or ending of the ‘Chilla Bacha’ of Kashmir, and in trots a glass of ‘Kanji’ in neighboring Punjabi homes. However, the tradition of creating the ruby drink in homes, is slowly dying in nuclear families.

Alternately, traditional drinks that got beaten, by fizz cult of Cokes, like Chhaach or buttermilk, kanji and Raww or sugarcane juice have surprisingly somersaulted to turn winners, from their humble beginnings. Successfully sidelining fizz colas, the delicious nutritious desi concoctions now find a pride of place in the best stemmed globular glasses to circulate amongst the who’s who, of classy weddings and celebrations. Kanji, made with black carrots, of the richest cherry tint, is not only tangy, a fabulous antioxidant, a digestive, but also spells tinkling bells for pseudo-drinkers who pass it for the rich French red wine (Merely hold a glass ). Some say in effect it easily beats firangi red wines and stands tall in bejeweled or even macho hands, crackling crimson, as it comfortably occupies flute glasses.

Likewise cashing in on the ‘down memory lane’ formula, a company- “Paperboatdrinks” scooped up traditional drinks recipes and packaged them into ready to serve tetra packs. Now, UAE, Nepal, Australia and others have already become hooked to age-old liquid concoctions of India like Jamun kala khatta, Aamras, Jaljeera, golgappe ki kanji etc.However, the traditional tipple can be found only in select cities of India.

Of course, nothing could be better in Kashmir to beat the biting icicles hanging from roofs and windows in December snows than the ‘Noon or Sheer Chai’.
A well-known Kashmiri poet Hakeem Manzoor, in his memorable musings wrote —

“Kangri bister mein le kar, khidkiyon ko waa karain
Barf girne ka nazaara, iss tarah dekha karain.”

The Kashmiri poet surely forgot the magic-combination of ‘Kehwa-Kangri’, promising to double the delight, during a spectacle of snowfall. Similarly, summer in plains can be extremely hot and baby mango made aam pana, thandai, sandal/ Khas sherbets and ice Popsicles or golas are fun.

Putting together traditional recipes of undivided Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir, complete with Lahori cuisine, is Jyoti Arora, a popular cookery expert from Amritsar. While assisting renowned Masterchef Vikas Khanna, her mentor, also from Amritsar, Jyoti, a finalist in the Masterchef TV programme, was inspired to pen her own cook book, on traditional lines.

“Despite horrendous turmoil in Kashmir in 90s and early 2000, I learnt Kashmiri cooking. Those times weddings were low-key in Srinagar and around. I sat with wazas to learn Kashmiri Wazwan- Goshtaba, Rista, Haakh, Gogji Meat, Matsz, Rogan Josh, Tabakmaaz”, says Jyoti. “Since I loved to have people over for no specific reason other than the warmth of friendship in those trying times in Kashmir, I introduced and invited them for delectable Punjabi home-made – Samosas, Jalebi, Mathis, Mutton Champ, Tandoori Tikkas, Kabab and Brain Curry. In sweets the Ladoos, Besan Ki Barfi, Chandrakala, Rasgullas, Jalebi, Gulab Jamun, Ras Malai became instant hit with my Kashmiri friends. Those times, Chinese and Italian cuisines had just entered the Indian stratosphere. So, side by side I cooked these novelty items that intervened from foreign shores like noodles, spring-rolls, pizzas. The foreign introductions vanished off from plates in seconds,” she laughs.

Alternately, local Kashmiris too invited us and I learned realtime home food and traditional recipes. Knol-khol Lamb, Baingan (Auburgine) Lamb, Haakh Meat, Potato Lamb, Lauki Meat (bottle gourd), Gogji Meat, Harissa, Mujj Gaad, Nadru Yakhini and others, although in Kashmir, the culinary art is learnt through heredity and is rarely passed outside the blood relations.

“I remember, in 1994, my brother got packets of pasta, Italian spices and instructions to make them from America, which perhaps became the first time Italian food was cooked and served to a select gathering in Kashmir, that too quietly. My mother especially sent me semi cooked mincemeat from Amritsar to Srinagar, from which I cooked Keema Naan, Keema Mutter, Keema Koftas along with loads of authentic Punjabi foodstuff besides tandoori rotis, kathi- kabab, that people relished in Srinagar despite being rice eaters.”
There is popular belief in Kashmir- “If you eat roti, then you must be poor, as rice is un-affordable for you.”

“I am still completing chapters on traditional Lahori cuisine including Nihari, Paayye, Kaleji, Kunna, Korma, Gurdey-Kapurey and Raan” Jyoti inserts.

Jyoti, who organizes high end Food Festivals with hotel-chains like Holiday Inn, Marriott, Sofitel, Swissotel, Novotel in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Delhi contends –“I train staff of the hotels for 15 days and the Festival runs under my signature ‘ Jyoti Arora Food Fest’.

Talking about her tribulations in collecting recipes, the masterchef says- “I had to travel extensively in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir to find roots of some lost flavors. I talked to the elderly in these locations, but they were extremely guarded about the family’s culinary secrets. It was very tough to get them to share their recipes and sometimes it was all a big rough estimate from a pinch to a fistful. Apart from this, I tried some recipes three times and some with frail outlines, perfecting, cutting out edges and fine-tuning existing ones before including them in the book. Some required pictures from the pre-partition era, and were tough to source.” And adds “Surprisingly, food and delicious flavors strikingly emerge from differences in traditional fire sources like sigdis, tandoors, angithis etc. They are simplified in the book with possible alternatives,” she clarifies.

Talking about her forthcoming book she said, a Mumbai based photographer from New Zealand- Michael Swami, has done the food photography and book is slated for release in December 2015.

Jyoti, is also looking forward to the launch of ‘World’s Biggest Book on Food’ by Masterchef Vikas Khanna, being released by the Indian government at ‘Cannes Film Festival’. “The book is being launched by the Government of India and I too have contributed to it,” she smiles and answers -“I have already carved an outline of my next book which would be a sequel to this with innovations of traditional cuisines”.

Jyoti has been popular on Television too with 26 episodes already completed in the ‘Rasoi Show’ on Fastway TV channel which promotes new culinary talent. Apart from this, she has churned out more than 100 episodes in DD’s ‘Zaika’ show besides becoming a finalist in Masterchef show on Star Plus.

Do you have a best moment? I ask – “The best, was when I made a unique dish called ‘Chicken Halwa’ for a series -‘Dish with a sweet twist’ on ‘Fox Traveller’ an international TV channel”. What would be your comfort zone? I barge in another question. Pat comes the reply- “Cooking after dusk with Jagjit Singh Ghazals playing in the background and using my own herbs- mint, coriander, karri patta, basil, thyme, chives from my little kitchen garden”. “A last tip”, I insist- “Presentation is King!” she smiles, lovingly stroking one of the huge collection of traditional utensils, she has sourced and treasured, Jyoti wraps up her food Zone.

Little known facts ———-

Cake: There was a kind of cake prepared in the earlier times without electric or clay ovens and not given a name. Eggs, sugar and maida and desi ghee were mixed with hand and put in a greased thali covered by another thali and left in the angithi’s warm ambers of wood. In the morning it would be similar to today’s cake. The cake had a matchless smoky woody flavor.

No fire, lamb: Lamb is cooked with no fire, kept buried in a matka with other herbs and a tenderizing herb called chibber sold by select old shops in walled city of Amritsar only. Chibber is also used as a tenderizer in pickles of lamb, fish chicken and even teetar or partridge. The food would be ready in about a week during summers and a little longer in winters.

Lost spices: Spices like Pipli with a peppery tinge, Tukmalanga, Beydaana used in chutney is a thickening agent have been used in recipes in the book. Interesting that Star aniseed or chakri phul has become so popular after its entry in an advertisement cooking palao.

Fire types: Sigdis, Angithis, Tandoor, clay oven, Chula using wood, charcoal or, cow dung cake are being revived to conform to original fire flavors

Chat masala: Pipli, lemon juice, black salt and ajwain not only make a most digestive chat masala but is an energy booster.

Romali roti: When there was a death in the family the Tawa was inverted on the fire as a sign of mourning, an inverted tawa or kadai is used to make Romali Roti.

Cashew Paste and Cream: Are alien ingredients, sourced from Hyderabad cuisine, that were hardly used in cooking in this region.

Butter chicken: Which has come to be associated with Punjabis food is actually an innovation and not originally Punjabi. Butter chicken is an invention of Moti Mahal, Delhi.

Tomatoes and chilies: Tomatoes came into Indian lives much later. The Red chili is a Kashmiri influence and only green chili was the regions hot-maid.

Kaali gajar ka Halwa: Was once as popular as routine Gajarela – sweet dish made with carrots.

Lost sherbets: Jamun sherbet, Falsaa Sherbet (still popular in Lahore) Ginger sherbets,Plum sherbet ( very good for jaundice patients) woodapple -Bel Sherbet (a fruit offered to Lord Shiva)

Dry fruits: Dried apricots, plums, raisins and almonds added to dishes are an Afghaniimpact on our cuisine popularly using ‘Shahi’ before the dish, like – shahi paneer, shahikorma, shahi Kofta etc.

Around: Himachali cuisine includes Kulth ki Dal, Chha meat, Meat chawal with anAvadhi impact and Haryana with bajra as ingredient is influenced by Rajasthani pakwan.

Homemade vinegars: Vinegars of Jamun, sugarcane, apples, and grapes are rarely seen now. It is a lengthy process but amazingly these organic vinegars do not pinch the throat unlike synthetic vinegar.

Banana: Banana was considered a south Indian fruit, but in reality banana was very popular in its raw form in the North. Hence we had raw banana kebabs, Kofta and chips.

Throwaways: Concentrated flavors are in the stems and some roots that most people throw away, use them in cooking and garnish with leaves like mint, coriander, palak etc.

No tamarind: No imli or tamarind was used to make sour chutney; it was originally made with dried plums, sugar, black salt, zeera and water.

Turbulent days in Kashmir

Jyoti was married in Srinagar in a Sikh family in 1993. “It was the most turbulent period in Kashmir. I came from Amritsar, where I had witnessed the complete militancy period of the Khalistani movement in Punjab, aided by Pakistan. Thereafter, I landed in Kashmir as a newly wedded bride and saw a similar or even worse scenario. I felt that I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire,” says Jyoti, recalling those stormy times.

“I was petrified seeing torch bearing youth in the dark, shouting anti India slogans, and much more, firing gunshots, throwing stones at our houses, breaking windows and ordering everyone to arrive in masjids. Alternately they used masjid loudspeaker to threaten non-Muslims. It was scary; I saw them burn some houses while the police and firemen stood mute spectators to wait for the signal from militants to start dousing the fire in abandoned houses left by Kashmiri Pandits.

Militants demanded haftas the weekly contributions from all. The fire scarred buildings looked like ghost houses. Thus, patches of such areas looked like war ravaged zones. We were spared some of the ignominies by militants, mobs and army, since we were of the Sikh community.
Our daughter was studying in Presentation convent when a bomb blast took place, close to our shop ‘Jandiala Hosiery’ near Aftab Newspaper Printing Press, in Lal Chowk. One of our employees was hit by bomb shrapnel and remained critical. There was another blast which I saw at Dalgate. I recall a case of young student firing upon his school mate after having stolen a pistol from his elder brother’s bag, killing the boy on the spot.

Times were terrifying. House gates were locked at 6.30 in the evening. For years we didn’t know if our car headlights worked or not, as vehicles never plied during dark.

Only recreation in those times was to pack a picnic basket and go to Gulmarg. Studies were hardly regular and during winter vacations when the family used to go to Amritsar, no one wanted to come back. Militancy was completely wiped out in Punjab and happy times, late-nights and partying scenes with lavish weddings had restarted.

The comparison between Kashmir of then and Punjab was so odious and stark that children were adamant to stay back in Punjab. Even after nearly eight years of a good marriage with Harpreet Singh my husband a hosiery owner, things failed to soften in Kashmir, and the family decided to migrate to Amritsar where I had a marital home as well.

In 2001 we migrated and my mother-in-law and father-in-law, who had lived their entire lives in Kashmir, followed us with a heavy heart after news of daily killings and destruction nearly drove them insane. My in-laws never went back to Kashmir. They say-“Kashmir means only tears, for them and us too, there is nothing more for us than nostalgia of our happy times. But the shadow of militancy has smothered all feelings for the vale for us.”

The author is a freelance journalist and can be mailed at –rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

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‘Rockstar’ Kalam / ……….By Rashmi Talwar


President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

rush sopore‘Rockstar’ Kalam
Rashmi Talwar

Did they know he wasn’t going to be back? —Yes/No! Nevertheless, that was hardly a reason for former President APJ Abdul Kalam being nearly mobbed at Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), in January this year, just seven months before his divine call.

At Diggi Palace, Jaipur, JLF Organizers were ecstatic over the response for the former president. “The numbers outmatched Oprah Winfrey, USA’s top Talk Show Host in session 2012”, said an organizer.

JLF is one time in India, where no one gets pushed, pinched, pounced or poached despite a turnout of nearly 2 lakh people over five days. The Intelligentsia behaves, is refined, courteous and firm too.

As if sensing the euphoria and cheering before Kalam climbed the front stage of JLF, Bibek Debroy- a policy research scientist himself, promptly christened Kalam – a ‘Rockstar!’

The crowd went into raptures cheering him. Kalam’s refusal to take a seat after the host invited him, was lauded; his gesture of a little word exchange with front audiences before sitting was lauded; eventually his seat-taking at his own pace was lauded. The public visibly appeared hungry. Yes, hungry or utterly famished. His every word was cheered. The audience, not only gave ovations but parroted lines whenever Kalam ordered -‘repeat after me!’ like nursery tots. Completely bowled over, Bibek gave the credit of Kalam’s Rockstar credentials not just to Kalam’s crowd pull but to the former Prez’s charged book –‘Ignited Minds’.

This, and stories by Kalam, of how his application for pilot’s license was rejected, early in life. He was ranked 10th and nine above him were selected for pilot training. Thereafter, his meteorical rise to become President of India, thus assuming charge as ‘the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces’, applying for learning and eventually piloting an aircraft. The story grabbed imaginations in multiple hues of the dreamy audience. “You have to dream before your dream can come true,” he repeated.

What really attracted youth and aged alike to this unassuming man, virtually a cartoonist’s delight, with his signature in-turned doggy tail front-locks peppered hair, loose short-sleeved bush-shirt and hanger hung pajamas, resembling pants?
The attire metamorphosis as President was easy. What was not easy; was to ignore Kalam’s purity, his humbleness, his comfortable non-conformist oratory, uncomplicated clean and resounding thoughts, a recounter of religious gems of all faiths and his simple conclusions and formulas of life. He was a lovable teacher who did not hesitate to ask his audience to repeat after him and conclude on an elevating note. These seem to be some classic reasons for Kalam’s universal adulation.
The power of collective sound, like the chirping of a school of sparrows at the prick of dawn; the unified vibrations resonating in the universe’s atmosphere, conspiring to make ‘the impossible’ happen. Kalam, stood as a tallest example of this ‘happening’ in realtime.

Kalam’s missile powered mind also hit on soft targets like me, I promptly became his follower when he took up for underdoggies likes me, -“ The best brains of the nation may be found on the last benches of the classroom”, fitted me just fine. I had continued to sit out of sight, even in press conferences.

Kalam, was the first celebrity I sat next to during a press conference, reining my mind to relax, without shivers, group fright et al, I squeaked – “Should India take the nuclear option in case there is a war with Pakistan?” The missile man spurned the query and instead talked about vision 2020 for India, a book he had penned. Being the first time, I flushed with embarrassment. This was in early 2003, when India –Pakistan soldiers stood eye ball to eye ball after the Indian Parliament attack. Undeterred, I wrote the story about evasion of the query on the nuclear option by Kalam. It hit the limelight. Lameness took time to abandon me but I tried to build on my strengths.

At the first opportunity, Kalam- ‘The missile man of Peace’s’ photo got perched on my cabin wall in The Tribune. A year later, in early September of 2004, Kalam visited Amritsar again during ‘400th year of Installation of the Guru Granth Sahib’ celebrations at Golden Temple at Amritsar.

I was deputed to cover the president at historic Jalliawalla Bagh, the symbol of blood for freedom. I reached rather early for the President’s midafternoon visit hoping to catch some side stories. Never thought, the President’s visit would actually turn bloody for me.

It was one of those days that come every month for a woman. While I patiently waited, the impatience of flow continued. With my garments stained, I sat on an edge and tried to cover my embarrassment, rolling a duppatta. Frospoke and honored the last known survivor of Jalliawalla Bagh Massacre Bapu Shinghara Singh. He urged his aides to help pen down the story of Shinghara, who showed a gunshot wound on his hand from that 1919’s bloody Baisakhi episode.

Having met the President, I still could ill afford to go home, instead went to office, used newspapers on seats everywhere, filed the story and rushed home sometime at night. However, Kalam’s, words—‘A Leader should know how to manage failure’… rang loud throughout that starlit night.
Rashmi Talwar is an Award winning writer, can be reached at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

Gun & Warlords, Biggest worry of Pakistan: Ch Ahmed Javed Hassan/ By Rashmi Talwar


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Ahmed Javed Hassan owner Servis shoes in his Palatial home in Lahore

Ahmed Javed Hassan owner Servis shoes in his Palatial home in Lahore, Pakistan

Gun & Warlords, Biggest worry of Pakistan: Ch Ahmed Javed Hassan

Army in Pakistan may have fewer weapons than civilians

RASHMI TALWAR

If any footsteps tiptoed in Pakistan with fancy footwear it was either from Bata or Pakistan’s foremost Servis shoes. While many became paupers due to Indo-Pak partition, Servis Industries never gave up and entered the newly born Pakistan’s market with its brand of shoes that competed with the only other brand existing at the time.
Today into big time, the scion of the Servis Industries has held high the flag of his company. Chaudhary Ahmed Javed Hassan owner of ‘Servis Shoes’ is a popular figure across both partitioned borders of India and Pakistan. His Dahlia flower saplings come in hundreds from India during the planting season, people bring him Amritsaris fish, ladoos and mathees from India and as a grand patriarch, he distributes the goodies among all his friends and relatives. As he talked about their multi-billion dollar company that still rules the local and international markets, he also revealed to RASHMI TALWAR in his palatial home in Lahore, Pakistan, how unlicensed guns were the biggest trauma and challenge of Pakistan.

Q: What is the success story of Servis Industries more popularly known as Service Shoes now?

Ans: The story of ‘Servis’ began with three freshers from college, who set up the Servis Industries before partition in 1941 in Lahore. They were Ch Nazar Muhammad, Chaudhary Muhammad Hussain (my father) – both from Gujarat and Chaudhary Muhammad Saeed from Gujranwala. They flourished and their products of handbags and sports goods became popular all over India.
Then partition happened and only Bata was there in the shoe industry when we entered. Initially we started with military boots for the army as well as canvas beddings and hold-alls in 1948-49, soon after partition. Then came daily shoes and later fancy shoes. The material for footwear was imported from Europe and it used to be very costly. I joined the family business in 1966 by which time Servis shoes had arrived and established.

Q: How do you describe your company’s presence in terms of global status?

Ans: From a single retail footwear outlet, our brand has more than 400 stores in Pakistan. More than 2000 dealer-base, and a growing international footprint in Europe, Middle East, and many other regions of the world. Today, the the company produces world-class shoes, tyres, tubes, and rubber in its units in Gujarat and Muridke. Servis is an exporter of footwear has also developed brand partnerships with international brands like Hush Puppies, Nike, Urban Sole, Pierre Cardin. Our proudest moment was that Servis won FPCCI Trophy for six times for ‘Best Export Performance’.

Q: Your Lahore factory faced closure in Pakistan under President Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law?

Ans: We took on governments during all martial law regimes in Pakistan. We did not abide by any instructions that went contrary to law. One particular incident is when we preferred to close our Lahore unit instead of bowing down to pressure.
This was during the reign of Lt Gen Ghulam Jilani Khan who was then the 14th governor of Punjab province during the military rule of President Gen Zia-ul- Haq, when we defied and eventually declared a shut down of our unit.
Gilani started issuing us instructions about whom to employ and whom to dismiss. When Gilani ordered us to take back 15 employees out of the 200 we had dismissed. We told him we shall re-employ 185 back but would not take back the select 15 he had specified. Eventually we sold off the Lahore unit after the closure and set up at Muridke.

Q: How do you describe the period from Gen Ayub Khan to Bhutto’s times?

Ans: Gen Ayub was the military dictator from 1958 until he was forced to resign in 1969. During Gen Ayub’s times, earlier, things were cheap and rather peaceful.

Post the 1965 war and during 1966, street protests started due to general scarcity following the war. Instead of appeasing the public by some benevolent means, Gen Ayub started making petty money and became unpopular. I too became a student leader then and led a street demonstration in Gujarat.

Then came Yahya Khan in 1969, Yahya dissolved the Ayub government and declared martial law for the second time in Pakistan’s history. Eventhough in 1970 he held the first free elections, that saw Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s political party Awami League party in East Pakistan win the majority but Yahya was pressured by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose party had won in West Pakistan but had less votes. Under this pressure, Yahya decided to delay handing over the reins of power to Mujib. Thus, civil unrest erupted all over East Pakistan, Yahya tried to smother the rebellion and also fell into disgrace over the defeat in 1971 war against India and Bhutto came to power and formed the government with his Pakistan’s People’s Party and placed Yahya under house arrest. This is of course history. but on the economic front Bhutto nationalized industries such as Ghee manufacturing, foundaries, banks; healthcare, educational and therefore new entrepreneurs were discouraged to set in new industry or other service facilities. Hence unemployment rose sharply. Bhutto’s aura fell and he was dethroned by Zia-ul –Haq in a bloodless coup by alleging rigging in elections that Bhutto won. Since it was the case of ‘my (Zia’s) neck or his (Bhutto’s) neck’. Zia got Bhutto executed.

Q: Did any emotional wave of sympathy come after Bhutto was hanged?
Ans:
Not much because then as Bhutto had become unpopular and Zia ruled with an iron hand. Later Benazir unleashed the emotional quotient by reminding people of the Bhutto legacy of sacrifices. Later she too was assassinated and that catapulted her husband Asif Ali Zardari to power, as the world knows.

Q: How did you manage during Zia-ul-Haq’s regime?
Ans: Zia was no maulvi. He was a liar and never stood by his words. It was the worst period for Pakistan. He exploited religious sentiments to fight the war against Russian occupation of Afghanistan for America. He created the Punjabi Taliban, exploited youth and made them fanatics by saying ‘Jihad karo, Jannat mein Hurrein hongi tumhare liye’ (Fight the Jihad and you will be treated to beautiful women in the Heavenly Paradise). He deliberately created illiteracy to exploit youth. America used him and then lumped him off in an air crash along with one of their own Ambassadors.
During Zia’s reign came the ‘weaponry’. As America provided arms and ammunition to Pakistan to fight the Russians, the guns found their way into homes of warlords and private armies came into power especially in the rural belts. Every house had guns including automatic or semiautomatic. Obviously these guns went into wrong hands. Even though government can try but these guns will never be surrendered now or ever. They are used freely and the assailants dare and slip away. If police or security comes after them, they give them back in a formidable fight.
Even in villages they have Uzis’, Kalashnikovs, AK series, anti-tank guns and shoulder missiles and launchers. Fighters from Chechnya also joined in the fight. That time ISI too got a free hand. It was not reporting to anyone and was getting back channel support from America.
Zia always had double standards. Today Pakistan faces the biggest challenge of domestic arms and ammunition. In Pakistan, cities have smaller sophisticated weapons and crime is abundant. The availability of arms is not an issue. They are easily available to whosoever has the price to pay for them. The general feeling is if one doesn’t keep arms and ammunition one becomes vulnerable to those who do. This is the vicious circle that Pakistan faces and no solution can be found to it. The arms are hidden, whenever government announces civilians to surrender weapons. These very guns from America were diverted to fight in Kashmir. Interestingly army in Pakistan may have fewer weapons and civilians may have more.

Q: Do you also keep guns? (I ask sheepishly)
Ans: I do not wish to comment on that.

Beyond the Pappis and Jhappis …Stepping across the Radcliff line!../Rashmi Talwar


Pak Punjab CM Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif addressing a gathering in his ancestral village Jati Umra district Tarn Taran, Punjab

Pak Punjab CM Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif addressing gathering in his ancestral village Jati Umra district Tarn Taran, Punjab

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Stepping across the Radcliff line… beyond the Pappis and Jhappis !

Rashmi Talwar

I have dragged my strolley suitcases across the Radcliff Line that divides the two Punjabs and the rest of India and Pakistan. Notwithstanding the number of times, each time emotions overtake me during the crossing, even though I am not of the era when the Indo-Pak partition took place. Surprisingly I’m not alone and neither is this feeling exclusively mine. Anyone who crosses the ‘Sarhad’ Line experiences ditto emotions, and memories thereafter become fevistick locked.

The Pappi-Jhappi Punjabi Ishtyle is a sure-shot formula that has always raised the  emotional quotient among Punjabi masses and spread its infection to the entire South Asia region.Although, younger Sharief came to watch the finals of International Kabbadi – a game that emerged from the ‘Akharas’ of both Punjabs- his visit to Jatti Umra, the ancestral village of the Shariefs as an honoured guest took center stage. The government sponsored event saw the village roll out the proverbial red carpet, the traditional flower showers and bugle welcomes, with Gidda- Bhangra for the asal flavor of Punjab. This was matched by the Pakistani CM’s emotional Punjabi speech, that reinforced the high notes felt whilst border crossings.

Of course huge benefits are in place with both countries engaging in large scale trade which by proxy is anyhow going on, through Dubai giving the third party an added benefit. However adversaries in both countries play a sinister role to thwart all attempts at peace.

While the civilian authorities in Pakistan has always played a subservient role to both its army and the ISI given the history that both these stakeholder institutions were aided by America, the government in India is seen to be too mindful of the media wave. Many
diplomatic, administrative, investigative, legislative and political decisions are seen to be taken due to popular sentiment aired by private TV channels or deliberate media hype. At times it feels as if the media is dictating the ruling powers who are kowtowing to its
lines. Media on both sides had already spoiled the broth and quashed all chances for a breakthrough during the Indo-Pak Agra Summit.

Shabaz ShariefShahbaz Sharief is being seen as an emissary of Pakistan PM and his
meeting with Indian PM Dr Manmohan Singh reinforces this, despite being on the invite of state CM Badal. His meeting is being visualized as an overture to formulate something as big as Vajpayee’s Indo-Pak first bus ‘Sada-E-Sarhad’. A formal invitation to the Indian PM to visit his birthplace in village Gah in Chakwal district that falls in the domain of Pak CM’s Punjab, is part of it.

With both Punjabi Prime Ministers heading Pakistan-India and having ancestral cords in each other’s countries, the time may be ripe to make bold decisions and historical beginning with a clean end to hostilities. For long, both countries have tip-toed to each other’s lands with apprehensions and compulsions at the hand of their respective vote banks that played a larger than life role. This time Congress is looking out for something really spectacular to give a turnaround to the anti incumbency trend on a national level, after their poll debacle recently.

The fresh advances by Pakistan are also being seen by experts as something to smoothen frayed furrows after ‘The Dawn’ newspaper’s reported the Pakistan PM Nawaz Shariefs statement in Pak Occupied Kashmir – that ‘Kashmir dispute could trigger a fourth war with
India’. The Indian PM shot back –‘Pakistan could never win a war with India in his lifetime’. The recent elections and Congress’s dismal performance has already closed doors for any third term for the present incumbent to retain the PM’s seat. Pakistan is seeing this as an opportunity, to persuade the Indian PM, who is set to vacate his
two-term seat, to set foot, at last on the Pak soil, as something of a historical gesture and of much significance in global circles for Pakistan to redeem its image.

The PM’s childhood Pak friend Raja Mohammed Ali arrived in India in 2009 and an emotional bond was struck, and an atmosphere of bonhomie and shared history was strongly felt despite year 2008’s horrendous Mumbai attacks. But many provocations thereafter lead to things coming to a naught. Most recent being violations of LoC, beheadings of soldiers, attacks on security forces in Kashmir by militants and the
reaction in India after Indian prisoner Sarabjit’s killing in Pak jail.

Eventhough Congress may have started the first Jhappi –Pappi with Pakistan during Capt Amarinder Singh’s rule, this time, the overture of friendship is being extended by Shiromani Akali Dal, the coalition partner of BJP. Even as BJP’s traditional rhetoric against Pakistan after Kargil remains and the party emerges with Narinder Modi taking
on the Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi, but strangely in Punjab the BJP’s rhetoric for strong retaliation to Pak does not work. Instead Pakistan is seen as the region’s robust partner for massive trade exchange despite Punjabs being the biggest sufferer of partition and being in
each other’s line of fire.

During my visit early this January to Lahore, Shahbaz Sharief had thrown a sumptuous and tastefully done dinner for members of SAFMA participating from 8-SAARC countries. This was in sharp contrast to one by then PM of Pakistan- Raja Parwez Ashraf in Punjab Governor’s premises where a free for all ensued over –‘dinner plates’. Shahbaz’s
standing is definitely stronger with his brother as Pak’s PM. The brothers-combo has helped bring back Nawaz back in the PM’s seat, despite popularity of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan.
However, it still remains to be seen if Pappis and Jhappis – the Punjabis hugs and kisses- turn into something concrete and consuming or may be just a hummable teasing line of a hit Punjabi number with Bhangra beats in Punjab’s cocktail circles!
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FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON DECEMBER 24, 2013

URL: http://www.risingkashmir.com/stepping-across-the-radcliffe-line/

Real story behind the burning of Tydale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir…/ By Rashmi Talwar


Tyndale Biscoe School Tangmarg, Kashmir after  fire by a Fanatic Mob

Tyndale Biscoe School Tangmarg, Kashmir after fire by a Fanatic Mob

Real story behind the burning of Tydale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir

Rashmi Talwar

Christian schools have been popular throughout Kashmir since late 1800’s when the first Church Mission Society (CMS) named as Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson Society, CMS was established first at Drugjan and later at Sheikh Bagh Srinagar. Formal modern schooling with a dynamic spirit of service was introduced for the first time by this school. Despite earlier resistance for Christian Missionary Schools and especially the strong opposition to the education of the girl child, Kashmir emerged as one of foremost regions to adopt, adjust and follow up a holistic pattern of educational ideas alien to its culture by Tyndale Biscoe and come out tops. Even today Christian-run schools are seen to have maximum aspirants seeking admissions in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as in other parts of the country.

Then what really took place that led to burning of Tyndale Biscoe’s rural school located in Tangmarg?

Shocking disclosure, of allegations against Tangmarg’s MLA Ghulam Hassan Mir alleged to be in cahoots with army and charged the winds of rebellion to oust the democratically elected government of NC- Congress headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, has been an open secret for most Kashmiris. Allegations of the MLA having accepted money, to incite innocent villagers from his constituency and intensifying violence leading to a crazed mob’s torching of rural Tyndale Biscoe school is a stark reminder that there is a surface calm in Kashmir that can be triggered by the tiniest spark. The school’s burning stands as an example of ‘emotions on an edge’ even today.

Tyndale Biscoe School, a rural branch of Srinagar’s main branch, close to Gulmarg–catered to students from nearly 150 villages imparting valued added modern education.

When Omar Abdullah, the young Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had faced a question from a perturbed Christian delegation in 2010, post the burning of this school – “Does your government want to see Christian schools in Kashmir anymore?” The troubled CM had replied, ‘More than half my secretariat has grown up and studied in the Tyndale-Biscoe and Mallinson School’. ‘Is this a question!’ he had growled.

The CM of one of the most troubled states in India had never forgotten that his father Dr Farooq Abdullah now Union minister in UPA was an alumnus of this august school as also J&K’s respected Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed besides producing some of the best and brightest students who have created a niche for themselves in the country and abroad. Of course Omar’s Grandfather Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah’s deep regret at not being a part of the school during Biscoe’s time was strongly etched in Omar’s memory. The Sheikh, upon the death of Biscoe, declared it as a personal loss besides a terrible loss for the people of Kashmir.

The question to CM was posed in relation to the torching of Tyndale Biscoe School in Tangmarg by a mob in 2010 following a clip by an Islamic TV channel showing a white man in US, burning a book attributed to be the holy Koran on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks. “In the school fire, seven copies of the Holy Koran too were burnt,” contended the Church of North India (CNI) Diocese’s Bishop Rev P K Samantaroy who controls CMS institutions in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Post this incident of arson, government promised compensation of Rs 8 crore to the Tangmarg school – named after Rev Cecil Canon Tyndale Biscoe and Miss Mallinson- but after a mere preliminary sum of Rs one crore, and some pre-fabricated modular huts to run the school, they hardly took the redressal to its promised conclusion, contended the Amritsar based Bishop and Srinagar based Parvez Samuel Kaul, Director- Principal of Tyndale Biscoe & Mallinson society, Srinagar, who were part of the Christian delegation.

In year 2010, a wave of fierce stone-pelting and retaliatory deaths had botched up the beautiful vale and then came this horrific torching of a rural school by a mob of hundreds in Tangmarg.

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Charred trees and modular huts of Tyndale Biscoe school after fire by Fanatics

Charred trees and modular huts of Tyndale Biscoe school after fire by Fanatics

Reduced to Ashes

On Saturday night, 13th of September 2010, the building of Tyndale Biscoe in Tangmarg was torched.
Hundreds descended to vent their ire on this innocent school building after watching an Iranian channel broadcasting about a white pastor, seen burning a page from a book, purportedly from the Holy Koran, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks in New York, by terrorists.

News of this spread like wildfire and the majestic school building, in the lap of wooded greenery where many a village child found his/her education, went up in angry flames. A distraught Principal Rajinder Kaul of Tyndale Biscoe School Tangmarg, who headed the school from the millennium year of 2000 while showing the remnants of destruction at Shajimarg in Tangmarg rued. “This happened two days after the commemoration of 9/11’s 10th anniversary on September 13, 2010”.

“Ferocious flames engulfed and gutted the entire structure in an area of 19 kanals in which the school stood, built with aim of elevating the standard of education amongst rural children. “Even though a CRPF picket was close by, help came too late”, cried Sabina Yasreen a school teacher, who saw the school grow, adding classes, the library, the laboratory for 13-years, and then saw its total destruction. Tears rolled down her cheeks as well as those of some senior students, as they talked to this writer in the school premises amidst ghastly trunks of 40 charred Deodar trees that helplessly watched as humans turned wild in a fury of destruction.

Bishop Samantaroy in Amritsar , said, “On hearing this devastating news, I immediately set off for Tangmarg from Amritsar, keeping no track of time and reached the next morning, despite stringent checks and halts throughout J&K. It was a volatile period of strife in the valley. The security forces had fortified the church building in Gulmarg which was also under grave threat”.

“The news of Koran burning turned the angst against the Christian institutions that had nothing at all to do with the actions of one insane man from America,” commented the Principal-Director of TBM Parwez Samuel Kaul, to this writer in Srinagar, who later sent a detailed report to the government which led to compensation promise to the tune of Rs 8 crore.
“Though the officials were informed prior to the attack of grave possibilities and requested for security they paid scant regard. The mob even stopped the fire brigade from reaching the spot,” revealed the Bishop. “I was heart-broken as I was involved with the Tangmarg School right from the time of land selection to its start in 1996, seeing it grow and flourish. With beaming Kashmiri children, the School was more like a beautiful fairy garden. To see it turn to ashes was killing.”

“The Tangmarg school’s safe status was assumed as students from 150 villages studied here, ensuring its security. That strategic neglect by government and security caused grievous damage as the school turned into a soft target and the fire reduced it to ashes”, a Kashmiri bureaucrat said on conditions of anonymity.

Trees more than 40-70 feet tall surrounding the school, stood witness to the terrible insanity that night that set a place of learning alight and also gutted nine other government buildings including tehsil headquarters.

All records everything was burnt, everywhere were ashes and soot that flew around as the wind blew. However, the arsonists were unaware that seven copies of the Quran kept in the school were also burnt, when they set it afire. Mustaq Ahmed Dar – a teacher for seven years says his copy of Koran was one of the seven that were reduced to ashes. Hardly any pictures other than those that were in the main TBM branch were left as the reminder of what the original school looked like.
Socio-Economic Development Project (SEDP) president Daniel B Das, also a member of the Amritsar Diocese, said they had earlier thought of withdrawing from Tangmarg which is a rural area. However, it would have sent a wrong signal to the forces which were inimical to the pluralistic character of Kashmir.

Children came the following morning, each of them crying and holding hands of their teachers and hugging in that terrible hour of tragedy. Senior students and teachers took turns to douse the remnant ashes that were simmering and causing more damage to ground below.
Undeterred by the tragedy, the school authorities from Srinagar and Amritsar restarted the school the very next day , shifting it to Dobivan village hospital with not even a pencil or eraser, but plain guts and resilience, in a move to save the academic year of 500 girls and boys. Principal Rajinder Kaul proudly tells us that the same year students who appeared in the matric board exams produced a cent percent result with three students making it to the merit list of J &K State Board of Secondary Examination for year 2011.
The school was shifted back to the same site and now carries on in modular or pre-fabricated huts provided by the government for which the school built base plinth foundation from the one crore with the preliminary compensation released by the government.

Tyndale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir before Fanatics set it on fire in 2010

Tyndale Biscoe School, Tangmarg, Kashmir before Fanatics set it on fire in 2010

Compensation for arson

Director and Principal of Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson society had written to the Jammu and Kashmir government a detailed note about Rs 8 crore in compensation, but nearly two and half years later only the initial compensation of Rs one crore was released.
On 4th May 2013, the local Tangmarg Tehsildar with a team of officials marched to the school to dismantle 25 pre fabricated by the Divisional commissioner’s office. The officer left after being confronted for a notice or communication by relevant authority.
The school with 500 students had started functioning in 25 modular huts that were released by CM for temporary reconstruction of the school building, till the time permanent structure of the school building was constructed, according to an official communication.

How Tyndale Biscoe changed the character of Kashmir?

In Srinagar you may pass a sign outside a tall gate in the midst of a Sheikh Bagh bazaar, that reads “In all things, be Men” with an emblem of two crossed heart shaped oars. Most would fail to get the import of this motto and emblem that stands to symbolizes ‘Face all challenges with courage and a gentle heart’.
With the first school started under Church Mission School CNI under Diocese of North India (DNI) whose foundation was laid in Lahore, Pakistan, the entire character of Kashmiris took a U-turn. Those who chose to put their wards under the wings of Cecil Canon Tyndale Biscoe felt the drastic change, some opposed it vehemently while few tolerated and fewer were visionaries to appreciate the new calling. Where Patshalas and Maktabs were run by Pandits and Maulavis respectively, the first Christian school established in Kashmir in 1880, to usher in widespread changes in channelizing attitudes, talents and spirits posing a challenge to traditional lifestyles and acceptable dogmatic rituals and superstitions.

If not for Tyndale Biscoe –

The Mighty Pir Panjal range would have stood virgin with no one to show a ‘V’ sign for Victory after the toughest climb.
The bluest waters of Kashmir would have never rejoiced with Aquarian sports and regattas (boating competitions).
No trophies would have been won in competitions of footballs, dancing, boxing, boating, mountaineering, trekking, rock climbing or swimming or possessing the rare “Pluck” to dare.
The Wular Lake would still be in wait for swimmers given the belief about its demon-like qualities and a fiery temper
If not Famine, Floods and Fires; certainly Cholera would have erased the names of many Kashmiri families, which traces its origins to the late 1800s or beyond.
Surely, Kashmir would have been turned into a dump yard with no lessons of –‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ learnt and girls would have remained illiterate and sodomy would have still ruled as a bullies would roam the streets.
Arrogance and devilish Taboos would have ruined many a woman- the embodiment of life.
Citizens would become stingy and selfish or would have run away in the face of disasters. They would have never learnt the spirit of service or performing civil duties of firefighting, street cleaning, preventing cruelty to animals, rescue operations during floods and epidemic of cholera breakouts.

Modern-day concepts of marathons, Peak treks, camping, excursions, and service above self were a part of school curriculum way back in 1890s in Kashmir. “Secularism was visible when this Christian school houses were named not after some Christian saints but after mountain peaks of Kashmir- Kolohai ,Harmukh, Tattakuti ,Mahadev”, says Mr Rajan Sandhu estate supervisor of Tyndale Biscoe

Children from villages study in modular huts after Tyndale Biscoe school was gutted in fire by Fanatics

Children from villages study in modular huts after Tyndale Biscoe school was gutted in fire by Fanatics

Artist understands no Boundaries: Pak’s Arif Lohar..By Rashmi Talwar


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

ARIF LOHAR / 'RISING KASHMIR '

ARIF LOHAR / ‘RISING KASHMIR ‘

Artist understands no Boundaries: Pak’s Arif Lohar
By Rashmi Talwar

Pakistan’s folk musical great Arif Lohar’s soft eyes and childish tongue poking is just a tip of his rustic moorings. It gives no glimpse of his immense talent that comes alive just as he takes on the stage, not only as a singer, but as a class performer. His entry in Coke Studio as a folk singer of Pakistan with his ishtyle of ‘Jugni’ catapulted him to the world stage. This one folk music score, endeared him across seven seas, yet his repertory of music has several gems that he unfolds during his performances. Casual and in jet black he arrives, opens his jacket to reveal his richly embellished black kurta, takes off his black ‘turley walli paag’-turban, to unleash his black locks, sings so full throated that his jaw quivers with the loud throw and at the end of it closes all glitter, returns to his original roots, as if the tamasha box has been closed tightly shut. With his rustic humor, innocence and wayward village pranks, and mast chimta he entices, he revolts and establishes his moment in the cosmos with an upbeat energy and holds the audience enthralled and swinging, winning hearts of the elite and the foot-soldier alike found RASHMI TALWAR about Pak’s folk marvel during a recent musical extravaganza ‘Amrit de Sur’ in Amritsar.

ARIF LOHAR'S UNIQUE STYLE OF THROW

ARIF LOHAR’S UNIQUE STYLE OF THROW

Q: Your favorite musical instrument?

Ans: I am the son of Alam Lohar a revered folk singer and I inherited the ‘Chimta’ or tongs from him. Since then the Chimta is my ‘Ishq’ –my Love, and my bread earner and my father is my ‘Zewar’ – my jewel. I have no other wealth worth anything other than my mother’s blessings, my mother-tongue my father’s musical inheritance.

Q: Were you a good student and what were some of the best moments in life?

Ans: (With a coy smile) I was a nalayak – a poor student. And as you know a good son is overlooked but a nalayak one is watched with a hawk’s eye. So I was watched closely by my mother and father besides elders in the family as to what I did. Irrespective of my zilch academic prowess, I took to music like a duck to water from my father and that became my destined path. Whether I sing for a crowd of 25,000 in New York or 100 people in a village, all these are my best moments. Other than that was being awarded the Pride of Performance award by the President of Pakistan in 2005. I grew up amongst folk instruments and flavors of folk rustic singing. Not only did my bearings give me the sound quality so typical of our tribe-kabila it also gave me a taste of earth and soil that held the fragrance of my village Achh in Pakistan.

Q: Where do you get the humor streak in your dialect, gestures and actions?

Ans: Humor is in our blood. As an entertainer, humor comes as part of the Punjabi package. If a performer is unable to involve the audience then he has failed. I love live performances just as my father did and now my son Ali Lohar whom we lovingly call ‘Laddoo Lohar’ who started performing with me from the age of 3 ½ years. “Assi lok geet tey sufi vich bhijey hoye hain. Chimtey tey hor saaz jiven algoza, ek Tara, tumba, dhol hee saadi zindagi hai” (We are soaked in folk and Sufi music. The chimta (tongs) Algoza, Ek Tara (one string) Dhol are our life).

Q: Your style of ‘throw’ is unique and unbeatable?

Ans: ‘Phenkna’- or ‘throw’ is of two types. Throw amongst musicians is the quality of voice, like how loud or far it reaches and Phenkna in the modern world also means ‘bragging’ or ‘false boastings’ (he pokes his tongue). The first one is for me as my voice has a mass throw that I needn’t use a loudspeaker during village gatherings. But what you are talking about is the action-of-throw, as if throwing a dice isn’t it? No I didn’t learn it in a bowling alley to hit nine pins (smiles sheepishly) but this is part of our folk culture and I picked it during my days in street theater and this became my signature style.

Q: Which song brought you into the limelight on the world stage?

Ans: Of course Pakistanis all over the world in more than 50 countries, enjoy folk and Sufi fare that Lohars have presented but it is the ‘Jugni’ created by me in Pakistani Ishtyle that brought me world wide recognition. ‘Jugni’ was also used in Indian film ‘Cocktail’ but was first aired by Coke studio. On the internet site ‘youtube’ the Jugni video went viral with hundreds of hits per day and then came the Bollywood film Cocktail. Following this was the hit Indian film title song of ‘Bhaag Milkha bhaag’ which had an Indo-Pak flavor as it dealt with the burnish of Partition of 1947.

Q: What is your take on hot and cold relations between India and Pakistan? Does it affect artists?

Ans: An artist’s mind is boundless. He understands no boundaries; He has no climate (smiles). His climate is created with his stage and his audience. ‘Fankar layi hawa waken ussda chimta atey tumbi hey, tey Pani Wargey uhde sunnan walley Ne. Eh Hawa-Pani da jor nal uhh rujhiya rehnda hai . Ussda ki lena-dena siyasiyat atey siyasdaan nal’ (For an artist his air is his musical instruments and water is his audience. With this combination of air and water he remains satisfied and replenished. What does an artist have to do with anything political)?

Yes, it affects artists as paths are blocked but just as you cannot block air and water so can’t you block music, more so in modern times, where music wafts through cyber space. Music is unstoppable and will play unhindered. If you have an ear for it, it will be heard in the mundane things of daily life. Music has served only to bond people and so have other arts like dance, theater, poetry. Every time something untoward happens between the two countries, I feel pained.

Q: How did the new Jugni came alive? Were you not scared that it would get a beating from the original, traditional Jugni?

I was not ready to accept that I should only follow and continue my father’s legacy in folk music. I wanted to create something of my own, my own brand -If only one can become a ‘fakir’- lost beggar, that one can become attain the stature of a real ‘fankar’- artist. If I was to follow only what has already been played then what have I added to the music world. Fired with this passion I composed the new Jugni. It became a turning point and it was like- in an ocean of music I filled my own special color. Jugni in Punjab is a mythical figure of a woman who is a rebel while I made the Pakistani Jugni as someone who is a blessing of the Almighty.

I have made my own little world, according to my likes and dislikes, I live in my world where I don’t ever give up, I keep searching. Even while sleeping I remain awake. When alone at night my mind is charged with a fire inside to do something extraordinary. And then I feel the Almighty lays his benevolent hand on such a person. Duniya ke thaperaian toh sikhyan ( I learnt from the slaps from this world) … my mother’s face is visible to me smiling and that urges me on . Her beauteous face is like a Prasad or blessed offering that I partake in blessing before I go and perform on stage.

Q: It is well known that you were a street actor before taking to singing full time. Which do you like more?
I did street plays mostly comical in the entire countryside of our Punjab called nukkar nataks and nautanki. Besides that I used to be mast singing into nights. Village folk used to bring some food that they would eat through the night while listening to me and would go to feed their cattle early morning from this mehfil and I remember it was my guru Master Ismile of theater who taught me the nitty-gritty of theater and catching the audience’s attention. I use those rustic knick-knacks liberally in my performances.
The recognition, the money, the accolades were of no consequence. To please my audience was my goal. My mother told me you have to search your own path and then I shall be proud of you. So I took the fakiri path and sang in trucks and even in village trolleys. People hardly paid and then I started to include antics of theater which turned the tide and established me as a singer-performer along with my father.

Acting added to my performances and then I acted in more than 40 Pakistani films. Syed Noor’s film Jugni (film) was the highest grossing Pakistani film of 2012 with three of my songs. 150 albums and more than 3000 songs have been recorded, mostly in the Punjabi language and I still feel charged to do more.

Q: As a child which was your favorite song? Share something about your childhood

Ans: “Kookla chapaki jumey raat ayi hai, Jera agey pichey dekhe uhdi shamaat ayi hai” was my favourite which was typical Punjabi sung in Punjabs of both India and Pakistan.

Q: Your favorite numbers other than jugni?

Ans: ‘Ankhon toh bhul hoyi, pyar kar beethey hain’ and ‘Ek phul motiye da mar ke jagah soniye!’ both are my own creations.

Q: How do you describe yourself?

Ans: I am a mauji, a faqir as my mother wanted me to be. Yet I follow asool-discipline. My life is tough and rough and I can take the rough and tumble with a pinch of salt.

Q: Who is your favorite singer?

Ans: My Favorite singer is India’s nightingale Lata Mangeshkar Ji. On the Pakistani side other than my father’s melody, I love Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat Fateh, Atif Aslam, and Reshma. I identify with them.

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


Kashmir’s rays shone at International Sufi Festival
Rashmi Talwar

Art Pixs Intl Sufi Fest_RK_2

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

INTL SUFI FEST AT DIGGI PALACE, JAIPUR

INTL SUFI FEST AT DIGGI PALACE, JAIPUR


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

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

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

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

Whirling, singing, Sufis

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

Wahid Bukhsh, Pakistan

Wahid Bukhsh, Pakistan


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

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

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

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Sufism

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

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

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

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Tarannum Riyaz ’s poem on Kashmir

CHHUTTIYAAN

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

Rupehli shaffaaf teen ki chhat
Yeh qausia zeena aus shabnaum

Ghaney chinaaron k saaye gehrey
Safedon, bedon k oonchey pehrey

Safed magnolia ka boota
Ye baed ki tehnoyon ki kursi

Chamaktey chaubi makaan se uthtee
Ye varnish ki sugadh bheeni

Ye paawon ko gudgudaata qaaleeN
Dabeez sofey, maheen pardey

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

Ye sard mausam ka narm bistar
Ye janglaon men paley kabootar

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

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

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

Holidays

Hilly sunshine sieved through and
brought the touch of flowers

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

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

The white Magnolia tree
The perch made from a branched Willow

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

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

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

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

These leaves whispering secrets
Where doves have woven nests

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

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

-Tarannum Riyaz

Translated by Rashmi Talwar
The author can be reached at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON NOVEMBER 6,2013

URL:http://epaper.risingkashmir.com/EPaper.aspx?SBszeUgZBl_bsJxv2AE_ppl9Gw_ep_ep

Tourism Professional Writer’s Award Jammu and Kashmir-2013/ …Rashmi Talwar


Rashmi Talwar bagged the Tourism Professional Writer’s Award Jammu and Kashmir-2013.
Department of Tourism Kashmir honored Rising Kashmir newspaper with two awards for promoting tourism at global level.
Director Tourism Kashmir Talat Parvez gave away the Awards to Rising Kashmir. An Amritsar based journalist Rashmi Talwar who writes for Rising Kashmir on Tourism was given the first award for promoting Kashmir Tourism. She has been writing a series of pieces on tourism after she visited Kashmir this summere. Her write-ups have been published in Rising Kashmir regularly highlighting the potential of tourism in Kashmir . Rashmi Talwar also writes on Indo-Pak relations.

Rashmi Talwar, Journalist from Amritsar bags Kashmir Award -2013

Rashmi Talwar, Journalist from Amritsar bags Kashmir Tourism Award -2013


Here is letter from department of Tourism

Dear Rashmi Talwar,

Good Evening,

Congratulations! Your Series of articles in Rising Kashmir have been found to be qualifying for the number one position in the professional category of Tourism articles published in the newspaper. Consequently, you will be awarded with a cash prize as well as a memento. The ceremony is scheduled to be tomorrow at Pampore (31st October 2013) on the occasion of conclusion of Saffron Festival. The event will be covered in local press as usual. Simultaneously, we will upload the articles onto our Official Website.

Warmest.

Husain Jt Director Tourism
Srinagar
Jammu and Kashmir

http://www.risingkashmir.com/rising-kashmir-bags-2-awards/#

Magnificent 180-year old Panj Mandir screams for help/ Rashmi Talwar / The Tribune SPECTRUM


Magnificent 180-year-old Panj Mandir screams for help
Rashmi Talwar

Panj Mandir in Fatehgarh Churian, Gurdaspur, is a jewel of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign. It is the maternal hometown of Rani Chand Kaur, wife of Kharak Singh, son of the Maharaja

Straddling streets of New York, seeing the ancient melt so smoothly; antiquated churches virtually like “flowers” amidst sky-scrapers, I was gripped by shame. The scene reminded me of our callousness towards our rich heritage in India. Where graffiti defaces marvellous frescoes, a crude nail has gouged out an eye; a paan-spit splashed red blob is the depths of apathy towards our glorious past.

Glorious Panj Mandir

Glorious Panj Mandir

If the enthralling grandeur of Amritsar’s GoldenTemple is credited to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Panj Mandir is another marvellous jewel, ingloriously unrecognised of the Maharaja’s reign. It is some 30 km from the GoldenTemple, in Fatehgarh Churian Gurdaspur, the maternal hometown of Rani Chand Kaur, wife of Kharak Singh, son of the Maharaja.

Attributed to Rani Chand Kaur, the Panj Mandir’s structure below the dome is a unique zigzag, created by precision laying of specially made bricks, inspired by Solanki architecture and Baoli art of step-creation. Indo-Mughal, Sikh architectural confluences have amalgamated in this marvellous structure with four mandirs marking four directions and a sanctum sanctorum.

The inner and outer fort-like walls and the temple entrances are studded with jharokhas in bas relief, reminiscent of Rajasthani architecture. Remarkable, rare frescoes tell stories of yore in exquisitely carved niches, so resilient as to stand bright till today. “I am too scared to step on the brick flooring as I feel my shoes may erase some traces of rich heritage”, an American’s remark disgraced me once.

Our magnificent heritage could not only be made self-sustaining but its optimum utiliSation could accrue prosperity and income. “Tourism is created with ideas and here we sit on a virtual mountain of treasure and let it be robbed or crumble,” laments an expert.

Beautiful artwork

Heritage experts believe the temple may have been built around 1830 and is thus nearly 180 years old. Much of the lower portions of frescoes is white-washed, and the present caretaker Pt. Mohinder Kumar, who religiously cleans and secures it from encroachment, may beautify it with bathroom tiles and multicolours, out of sheer ignorance. The temple’s foundations are already being dug for new housing, emerging adjacent to it.

The wealth of resplendent frescoes comprises episodes of Krishan stealing bathing gopis clothes, Yashoda Maiyya churning butter with a madhani. Frescoes also show Guru Nanak with disciples Bhai Mardana and Bala, Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh, Saraswati-Lakshmi, Radha-Krishan, Shiv-Parvati-Ganesh, Kartikeya-on-Peacock, Ganga emerging from Shiva’s locks. Vishnu reclining, with Nag-chatri in ocean, Durga Mata aloft a lion, valiant horse-rider, episodes of Narsingh, Prahlad, Baba Balaknath, Hiranyakashyap. These splendid frescoes-artifacts are facing erosion, their ruination imminent, if timely protection evades them.

Tertiary temples are devoted to Surya, Durga, Shiva and Kartikeya. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Ram with Sita, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan share space with Krishna-Radha.

This combination of gods goddesses on one pedestal is rare. Dr Subhash Parihar, an expert on historical structures, comments, “People were secular, many ancient gurdwaras-temples have frescoes displaying episodes of Hindu gods-goddesses.”

The frescoes resemble Chamba’s famed Rang Mahal paintings in Pahari style, ones in Sheesh Mahal near Ramnagar, Jammu, also seen in Dera Sahib Gurdwara, Lahore and temples around Katasraj in Pakistan.

The Baradari entrance with symmetrical twin Jharokas on both sides of angular walls open to the road, are in ruins. The rampart walls are embellished with exquisite Jharokas, geometrical patterns, flowers waves, carved canopies in bas relief complete with exquisite corbels. But the outer wall is wearing, as entire area is speedily coming up with housing.

Dr Balvinder Singh HoD Guru Ram Das School of Planning in GNDUniversity, comments: “The mandir resembles Konarkin Orissa and South Indian temples. The use of Nanakshahi bricks makes it unique.”

Mandirs are conjoined by a fort-wall with steps and walk-ways throughout the terrace, are peeling. One is covered with green climber and a syntax-watertank supplying water to a tiled bathroom constructed inside the ancient complex. Locals wait for a collapse, to grab the land. There were seven mandirs, two of which were outside the main complex, of which one exists in a dilapidated condition, locked and other, erased.

Panch-mukhi lingam

A rare five-headed or Panch-mukhi lingam in the temple represents five elements, five senses, five organs, five powers and the five temples of Panj Mandir. The five heads also signify the five aspects of Shiva corresponding to five holy places in Hinduism.

Ancient sarovar

About 120 yards from Panj Mandir stands a massive sarovar alongside Talab Wala mandir, believed to be built by Rani Chand Kaur to mark the birth or dastargiri of her son Kunwar Naunihal Singh. Some say, Nanakshahi bricks used for the mandir and sarovar were brought from Lahore via a human-chain. Almost 15 feet in depth, with 10 running steps throughout, the sarovar, 225 feet by 230 feet, has arched exit-entry water-points, and lies neglected.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE TRIBUNE ON AUGUST 25TH 2013 

URL:http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20130825/spectrum/society.htm

Milkha and me ..Bhagggg ! / By Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir


Milkha and me ..Bhagggg !

By Rashmi Talwar

 

Farhan Aktar as Milkha Singh- The Flying Sikh

Farhan Aktar as Milkha Singh- The Flying Sikh

Why didn’t Punjab villages produce more athletes like Milkha- the flying one? Villagers were well-built, toughened, possessed a soaring spirit, street-smart, breathing the purest village air, fresh food, clearest water, early risers, considered OK to be ‘nalayak’, could take slaps-kicks in their stride, insults, abuses were a part of their lingo and could hardly stifle or cramp their Ishtyle. Because, winning or losing is about mental conditioning.

I cried buckets and trucks, while watching the ordeal of Milkha Singh, and his partitioned past. I laughed and cried in turns, over his antics and emotive moments in this terrific movie ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’, just as most watchers did, in the country and abroad.

Flowing with my tears were memories – “I too was gifted just like Milkha!”. But I dare not compare myself with the Flying Sikh. Milkha had the grit and grind, he had the ‘pluck’ and I proved to be only a lame-duck. The Ready! Get-Set! Go!-Clap however has never left me. Milkha’s inspiring role played by Farhan Akhtar, once again spilled out my past and unfolded it most painfully.

Rising Kashmir: Milkha and me ..Bhaggg !

Rising Kashmir: Milkha and me ..Bhaggg !

I was uniquely gifted with strong, swift legs, clocking 10-seconds or less in 100mts, great timing in 200mts and a flying jump in the long-jump rivalries. Could climb Kashmir’s mountain races and come tops and nicknamed ‘Pahari Bakri’.  I even had a Milkha-esque PT master- Mr Gill-a retired armyman who laid great store for my talent. Many a ‘daaga’ or drumstick thrashed my legs, arms and back for that perfection Mr Gill demanded. Thus, on Republic and Independence Day parades at Gandhi ground, Amritsar, I was either the Lead Salute or flag-bearer of Sacred heart School, having earned the title of Best athlete for five consecutive years. There too our parade was adjudged the best for many years due to Mr Gill’s efforts.

My first brush with success came  when I was declared as Junior Best Athlete. I am remembered till this date, more for the ‘behooshiepisode’ in the newly introduced 400mts run then, when I fatigued-out just like the cramped Milkha in his early athletic years, but short-distances, I could sprint at high speed.

As athlete, I beat all seniors, but was a back-bencher in academics, always getting day-long punishments followed by home-made reprimands. Finally, school took grave notice of my ‘winnings’ and the British Rowllat Act look-alike –supposedly against revolutionary activities – mine, being too many winnings,  was imposed. In other words- my winnings were viewed as acts to demoralize others. Hence participation for only three events and relay race was permitted, thus successfully curbing and arresting any ‘excess’ wins.

Humility was considered the greatest virtue then and instilling this was a righteous deed. Lest they turned proud, girls in sports were singled out for target practice. Hence, I got the singular honor of being caned, slapped, punished and humiliated the most in all my classes. ‘Afterall, the mind and spirit should be humbled and nothing should become a hurdle in this lesson most noble’, was the refrain of our teachers and was strictly implemented.

Just as Milkha ran for eggs and milk, I ran for a treat of tandoori chicken, whenever I was declared best.  My father clocked my timings and even ordered for me an indigenous pair of spikes from a local cobbler, as they were rarely found in our parts or too expensive. The poorly created pair jumbled my steps and so I returned to my bare-footed sprints, just like the Milkha of the early days. I ran bare-foot even in college, where I won college colors for Athletics, Tennis, Arts-Dramatics and Academics as well.

In school, after clinching the Best Athlete title for the third consecutive year, Mr Gill approached the real-life Milkha Singh, whom he knew personally. He went all the way to Chandigarh to the Great Milkha Ji, for a personalized approval for me to run in the district athletic championships, as convent schools those days were unrecognized and therefore banned from sending participants in government organized events. Mr Gill told me -‘Milkha Singh gladly signed the letter’,  thus opening this grand opportunity for me.

Devoid of any training or preparation, bare-footed, a rag-towel grandly tossed on the shoulder and a silly pajama as a track-pant, with an odd Iodex or Relaxyl ointment tube to soothe cramps, as my companions, I ran. I clocked second and won a silver medal in districts, surpassing an athlete who had won many titles at state level.

Mr Gill had counseled me ‘bhagg bas bhagg Rashmi, torr dena sab ko’ ecstatic and holding up that signed letter by Milkha Singh. The whole ground was abuzz with ‘convent di ik kuri ne heroine nu ‘cut’ kar dita. Koi coaching vi nahi lai’ (A convent girl had ‘cut’ Heroine (a nick name for the good-looking athlete), without any coaching).  All coaches had surrounded Mr Gill and his smiles and eyes had lit up like never before. Perhaps I was his little star.

Although selected for state championship at Kapurthala, the barbs and sarcasm continued ‘khelon ne tujhe kahi nahi le jana, parahi kar, agar parahi mei fail toh no khel’ samajh gayi’.(Sports are not going to take you anywhere, study, if you fail there would be no play, have you understood) was the refrain from all sides. Today I realize, it wasn’t their fault, the environment was such and my father a winner in Inter-varsity swimming and a masters in economics in those times, had given me much liberty,  rarely allowed to girls in convents from respectable families, in those times, and tradition was that academics was supreme. I was torn between these pressures.

In contrast girls from villages were more liberated to go for tournaments. They were street smart, bullies, crass, uncouth and everything that was needed and absent in our ‘O so-lady-like’ environment and unrealistic expectations of academic excellence . They bullied, threw egg and groundnut shells on my carefully laid our bedding, copulated amongst themselves in rajais (quilts) at night, by self-declared bets looted any money I had and broke my spirit in everyway. I cried and missed Mr Gill like anything. And thought ‘He would have surely hit them with his ‘daaga’, and given them punishments to turn into kokers or cocks, for bad behavior!’

Being with them in Kapurthala was a nightmare. I was forced to leave my gift of sprint behind and compromised to become a Tennis player. Although, I won the national bronze medal in Tennis but I never had the mind or sharpness or reflexes needed in Tennis, I only had miracle legs that took me to fetch each ball and thus win.

Running against a hostile environment is an achiever’s ultimate hurdle, and for me too it was the vital one, the one I failed to cross. It is all in the mind, had I stood my ground in athletics then, I could have shone like Milkha Singh one day.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR

URL: http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/milkha-and-me-bhagggg-53157.aspx

Will the peace candles reach Kashmir one day?/ By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


Will the peace candles reach Kashmir one day?

Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013 at 08:44 PM

By Rashmi Talwar

Kashmir peace candles
Keen to harvest the huge expanse of benefits of friendship, the glow of peace candles from Attari- Wagha border in Amritsar-Lahore have carried their radiance to another international venue, this time to be lit on the Rajasthan –Sindh border.The flickers of these innocent candles of peace are ready to touch Pakistan’s Khokhrapar and India’s Munabao rail linked borders in Sindh and Rajasthan respectively for joint celebrations this time, on the midnight of Independence Day between both countries. These little glow lamps are expected to be harbingers of peace and would also beckon the establishment of trade, travel, people to people exchange besides other favorable ties between the two countries after decades.

Preparations are afoot and people from both sides have realized that the route to prosperity is through the path of peace and friendship. The dry or fresh dates from either side have to go through long circuitous routes of Attari and Wagha border in divided Punjabs and perish on the way. Why can’t ‘our’ borders be opened for direct trade or for travel they call out.

Opportunities in this sector also lie in security infrastructure to the proposed pipeline installations through neighboring countries. The proposal and agreements for a joint celebration have emerged from various quarters of People’s SAARC Regional Secretariats.  Netra Prasad Timsina, Coordinator, People’s SAARC Regional Secretariat, Kathmandu is keenly promoting and broadcasting the proposal that would in some ways affect the programmes and agendas of People’s SAARC, from becoming less Indo Pak centric, given the resolving of some outstanding issues. The joint Celebration between India Pakistan is expected to usher in bonhomie and would be a step forward to tone down hostilities and pave the way for new engagements.

India Pakistan issues dominate all SAARC conferences and meetings and thus efforts to solve the affront between the two would ease the way for more meaningful and targeted approach towards other countries that make up the SAARC region and having their own pressing matters to solve. Most of these matters get dissolved in the din created by matters relating to India and Pakistan.  Various organizations from both India and Pakistan are interacting on this new initiative which would also involve cultural programmes from the dusk of Independence Day of Pakistan on Aug 14th   to culminate on the dawn of Independence of India on Aug 15th.

Beena Sarwar a writer and journalist told Rising Kashmir that in her talk with Rana Hameer Singh, head of the Hindu Sodha Thakur Rajput clan in Pakistanhe had commented We in Pakistanwere stuck and unable to move forward. My country had taken the position that Kashmirhad to come first and that no dialogue was possible until that issue was resolved. Then the idea of people to people contacts initially came from the Indian side. Besides better sense has prevailed wherein outstanding issues have not been enslaved to emerge only on the condition of resolving a single issue, which has seen no breakthrough for the past many decades . Rana lives in Umerkot, former capital of Sindh also the birthplace of Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Shaque Soomro of the Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research (Piler) contends, the initiative was aimed at encouraging people on both sides of the international border to help reduce tensions between the two nuclear rivals. Members of civil society in Rajasthan and their counterparts in Sindh would be fulfilling all the formalities of this initiative for peace and friendship.

It is Interesting to note that information technology played a major role in bringing rival states closer to each other and turning them into friends. This view was endorsed by many on either sides of this stringent borderline of Rajasthan and Sindh.

Indo Pak partition had torn apart many families on both sides, who have little chance of meeting again as tourist visas are non existent between the two countries. People have close relatives on either sides and are keen to strengthen these bonds. Opening of trade and travel in this sector would be a historical step towards bringing both major countries to make meaningful strides forward.

People’s SAARC Secretariat India’s Rakhi Sehgal expressed the view that serious efforts for peace overtures were missing since the rail link was made operational in February 2006, between Khokhrapar and Munabao after more than three decades. The rail link was snapped following the 1965 Indo Pak war.

Is it possible that one day these little glow lamps of peace may reach the Aman Setu or the ‘peace bridge’ between both sides of Kashmir?

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

URL: http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/will-the-peace-candles-reach-kashmir-one-day-52473.aspx

Amritsar’s Sniffers Dogs just enjoy hospitality or treated as extra baggage!.. By Rashmi Talwar


Sniffer DOG

Sniffer DOG

Sniffer dogs in Amritsar just enjoy hospitality or treated as extra baggage!

By Rashmi Talwar
Saanjh

Amritsar July 14, 2013———

Sniffer dogs in Amritsar entrusted with the duty to detect drugs, banned substances, explosives etc were merely having a good time in the traditionally hospitable environs of Amritsar or were they being treated as extra baggage. I cannot imagine them being ill-treated as they were prized trained dogs from a reputable dog training agency of India, perhaps one of the best agencies in the world.

But somewhere something has been amiss and a mischief surely seems to be afoot as each of these canines died within months of each other. This infact puts a question mark on the agencies handling them especially the anti-smuggling wing to whom they are entrusted, for use by customs on three International exit and entry points, two out of which are connected to our neighbor Pakistan.

Before we start howling about a Pakistani hand in the death of three dogs all of them passed to the nether world in the past year, I must tell you that none of these dogs were put on duty of smelling out narcotics, reveal my sources. They were merely straddled around the airports, Joint Check post with Pakistan and Attari border Railway route, to scare the smugglers. It seems the smugglers already knew the handlers and were hardly scared of the canines knowing fully well that they would not be apprehended. This assurance among smugglers was proved true. Had that not been the case, at least one of the three would have ‘smelled a rat’ sometime during their heydays if not later days. But strangely none of them detected even an ant leave alone explosives, RDX, drugs or others. This is revealed through the government records which were laid bare in reply to an RTI.
According to a reply by social and RTI activist PC Sharma of Amritsar, three dogs i.e. Romeo, Marshal and Monty were brought on sniffing duties to Amritsar to check on three international entry-exit points.
Romeo brought in March 2005 died within seven years on 24th January 2012. Marshal was added to the dog squad in December 2006 but on July 22, 2012 he too passed away . Monty too was brought along with Marshal in December 2006 and died two months after his friend Marshal on 3rd September 2012.

Could the deaths of three sniffers in a matter of months of each other be a coincidence?

Sharma the RTI activist observed that “Government of Indian had deployed three sniffer dogs for its internal and external security and protection. These sniffers are trained by various agencies at a heavy cost. Upon deployment there is a recurring regular expenditure on their fitness and day to day activities. The anti smuggling unit of the Customs had brought these three sniffers specially trained by the noted agency ‘National Training Center for Dogs’ in Tikanpur , Madhya Pradesh to detect drugs, psychotropic substances and other threats faced by the country from its internal as well as external enemies.”
Filling an RTI on 21June 2013 relating to the sniffers to the customs department, the details of cases and materials detected and discovered by these sniffers was asked from the customs department. The reply provided by Deputy Commissioner (Anti Smuggling Wing of Customs) dated 10th July 2013, seems to be quite amusing, smirks Sharma. The official writes that as per available records three dogs namely Romeo, Monty a d Marshal had ’t detected or discovered ‘even a single clue’ that which could lead to any kind of recovery or detection of substances.

Mr VK Khosla Deputy Commissioner anti smuggling wing said the department had brought two dogs just 15 days back. On the number of seizures by the three sniffers who died last year he kept mum.

Says Sharma –“It seems that either dog handlers have not got proper training or there is some covert reason due to which the nation is suffering huge loss in the shape of expenses incurred on this squad and the dangerous substances entering the country undetected.
As per the available information sniffer dogs have played major role in the field of security and many major causalities have been averted due to the detection made by these dogs throughout the world. Therefore Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Finance is requested to inquire this sensitive matter and take necessary actions in National interest.” Sharma while talking to Saanjh, said dog squad was requisitioned in the year 1990 -91.

Coincidentally, it was the same year that militancy gripped Jammu and Kashmir after Punjab was ravished by it earlier. And adds–“On my queries of diet of dogs, medical certificate or post-mortem certificate of the deceased dogs, the department has kept mum”.
The dogs according to sources were entrusted with a chaprasi ‘frash’ as they are called or water-servers in the department when they should have been in the care of an educated, dog loving handler having full training about care of the dogs and to get optimum value for them.
The National Training center for dogs an agency run by BSF, trains dogs for 36 countries world over. Hence its credentials seem to be sound.
If the sniffers could sniff out substances and others, during the test period after training how is it that they could not smell anything in Amritsar – a border city with an international airport, land and train communications which is virtual transit point for huge haul of drugs and is notorious for rampant smuggling? Well the Anti smuggling wing has some answering to do.

Sarabjit’s lawyer, Awais Sheikh in Dock! ….By Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir


sarabjit lawyer

(Right) Awais Sheikh Sarabjit's Lawyer releasing book- 'Sarabjit Singh- A case of mistaken Identity

(Right) Awais Sheikh Sarabjit’s Lawyer releasing book- ‘Sarabjit Singh- A case of mistaken Identity


Sarabjit’s lawyer -Awais Sheikh, in dock !

Letter to caretaker Punjab CM for security to Pak lawyer

By Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR May 3, 2013——————

Awais Sheikh, the Pakistani counsel for deceased Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in Pak jail, is a scared man. Although having a slight physical stature, he has guts of steel and has never felt frightened while supporting Sarabjit’s case. He took over as lawyer of Sarabjit after 26/11 Mumbai attacks from Mr Rana another counsel of the Indian prisoner, during the time when hatred between the two countries was at its peak and the Pak SC had announced an ex-parte decision due to the absence of Sarabjit’s counsel in court.

Even when Awais was thrown out of his rented place by his landlord, labeled an Indian agent and during the time when protests were held against him outside Lahore Press on the announcement that Sarabjit was to be released but was retracted within six hours and another prisoner Surjeet singh was released in his place; Awais did not cow down and never backtracked, he held on to his courage. He came to India more than 25 times without fear of persecution from intelligence agencies of Pakistan.

In a letter today to the caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab- Najam Sethi (in view of forthcoming elections in Pakistan) the Human Rights Watch has written that Awais was subjected to an attempt at kidnapping at Wagah border besides receiving threatening letters and phone calls from organizations that claim to have strong links with Taliban. They have urged the government to provide him clandestine (invisible) security so that he does not become a visible target of those who want to eliminate him.

Awais has addressed umpteenth press conferences since 2008, in both India and Pakistan, even garnering support of celebrities to urge both countries to repatriate their prisoners after their prison terms were over and has mounted an attack on both countries for their callousness, time and again especially in the case of Sarabjit.

But after Sarabjit’s death in Lahore, it was the first time that fear was in Awais’s voice. After the attack on Sarabjit he said, he was fearful that he too may be eliminated. He related to me over phone from Lahore – “I came to see off Dalbir Kaur and Sarabjit’s family at Wagha Indo Pak border after they met Sarabjit in hospital, and this time the intelligence sleuths laid a trap me, of which I was pre-warned, so I managed to sneak out in a private vehicle.” And further, expressed his fear that after Sarabjit’s slaughter –“This time, they will come after me and kill me too!”

Awais has written a book titled “Sarabjit Singh- A case of mistaken identity” published by Indian Publishers Rajkamal Prakashan, that was released in Delhi and Amritsar in January 2013. The book has complete details on Sarabjit’s case as well as many other prisoners in jails of India and Pakistan belonging to either country.

Besides this he has copies of documentations to prove Sarabjit’s real name was Sarabjit and not ‘Manjit Singh’ as filed in the FIR. He had earlier penned another book –Samjohta express”- The train between India and Pakistan. Awais was last here in India, to release the book on Sarabjit Singh, in Delhi and Amritsar in January 2013.
Justice Markandey Katju Chairman of the Press Council of India, former Supreme court Judge and chairman of the ‘Free Sarabjit Committee had commented on the book –“The prosecution evidence in the case of Sarabjit Singh is very weak . His name was not even in the First Information Report”.

The winner of USA’s ‘Global Media Award for Excellence’ Zubeida Mustafa had stated on the book –“Sarabjit has not received a fair trial. That is the irony. The quirks of international relations and a flawed legal system have combined to determine the unhappy fate of this man.”

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR RK

URL:http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/sarabjits-lawyer-awais-sheikh-in-dock-46560.aspx

Sarabjit’s autopsy shows clear motive of murder : Doctors / by Rashmi Talwar /Sify.com


Indian Prisoner Sarabjit Singh killed in Pak Jail

Indian Prisoner Sarabjit Singh killed in Pak Jail

Sarabjit autopsy shows clear motive of murder: Doctors

By Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR May 3, 2013———— “Sarabjit was attacked by multiple people, with the clear motive of murder” commented Dr Gurmanjit Rai, HoD Department of Forensic Medicine, Government Civil Hospital, Patti District and heading the five member team to conduct post-mortem, formed on the
instructions of the Punjab government.He commented during a press conference here today, after the team conducted the second post mortem, on Sarabjit Singh- the Indian prisoner attacked in a Lahore jail, who succumbed to his grievous injuries yesterday.

“There were six to seven injuries on Sarabjit’s head caused by heavy blunt objects, hit multiple times by more than one person in multiple attacks and it is being presumed by whatever viscera we could collect that the cause of death could be due to head injury. “Yes the object of attack could be bricks!” the doctor admitted.

“The injuries are 6-7 days old and the time of death 00.45 am May 2, 2013 is correct, but the one-page Death certificate sent by the Jinnah Hospital’s medical board in Lahore, Pakistan is quiet insufficient.” And added, “Sarabjit was a healthy, tall person and it was not possible that the attacker could have been only one!”

Answering a query Dr Rai explained that in medical lingo, the organs of the deceased Sarabjit were considered ‘not present’ and were wrongly mentioned as ‘missing’. “We have found clear cut incisions and roots of the organs of the heart, the stomach, gall bladder and both
kidneys.” This is a routine exercise in the first post mortem, that organs from the body are removed for forensic and other examinations. Since the heart and other organs cannot be cut in parts the whole has to be sent for examinations, he explained.

The post mortem in India was done on other organs -spleen, brain, lungs and overall body. There is also suspicion that severe head injury may have been the cause of death and not a cardio pulmonary
arrest as mentioned in the death certificate, the doctor stated.

Other than the brutal head injury causing skull fractures Sarabjit’s body bore wounds of fractured ribs including ribs number 3,4,5 with fractures in three on the left side and two on the right side, while the central bone to which the ribs are attached was also found fractured, as also the ‘mandible’ or the jaw bone.

There were dark bruises on the back of his shoulders, lips, left ear and left side of the head. Some stitched wounds were also found. In answer to whether the treatment to the deceased was proper the doctor said -“We are awaiting treatment records and want to see what medicines and other treatment was imparted to him”.

India would await the report from Jinnah Hospital Lahore, Pakistan to conclusively arrive at the final answers for Sarabjit’s custodial killing. The reports of the second post mortem would be sent to the Ministry of External Affairs(MEA).

URL: http://www.sify.com/news/sarabjit-autopsy-shows-clear-motive-of-murder-doctors-news-national-nfdsxcdgcfc.html
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sarabjit sify_1
Pak’s Chishty versus India’s Sarabjit

By Rashmi Talwar

AMRITSAR, May 3, 2013 ———-
When Dr Mohammad Khalil Chishty, was discussed at the lunch meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari during the latter’s one-day India visit to pay obeisance at Ajmer Sharief , in early April on a Sunday, a wheelchair bound Prof Chishty’s case was not only expedited but was also released, soon after.

Zardari had urged the Indian PM to follow up the case of Dr Chishty, an 80-year-old Pakistani virologist, accused in a brawl that killed one person while Dr Chishty was on a visit to meet his ailing mother in India. The doctor had pleaded innocence. Chishty was booked in 1991, almost the same time as India’s Sarabjit in Lahore, Pakistan.

Chishty’s trial took 18 years. In year 2010, he was awarded life-imprisonment for murder. An appeal in the High Court was rejected, while he did get bail, his passport was impounded and he was forced to stay in Ajmer for nearly two decades, the 80-year-old Pakistani scientist was allowed to return to Karachi by the Supreme Court of India in May last year after a more than 20-year-long legal battle. For many years Dr Chishty lived alone in his ancestral home near Ajmer in Hatundi growing frail and suffering heart attacks and finally had to be put on a wheelchair. When Chishty was to be released, Hope elevated about Sarabjit’s release in exchange, on the forthcoming Diwali that year.

“But our PM did not do anything to affect that exchange and gave Pakistan its Chishty without any returns or even assurances of release of Sarabjit” cried Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit who had fought for years to secure her brother’s release from Pak prison and who succumbed to the murderous attack in Pak Jail.

“All hopes were dashed when Chishty’s wheelchair strolled down the Radcliff line separating the two neighbours, to his home country, Pakistan, without any one bringing back Sarabjit” and added –“ The entire Bhikhiwind village was euphoric and hopeful that an exchange would take place . But nothing happened! While Zardari managed to bring back his Pakistani citizen to his country our PM’s voice was too weak to be given any weightage by a minion country like Pakistan.”

“You (government of India) failed to protect your citizen…They (Pakistan) got (Pakistani scientists Dr Chishty freed.” Dalbir accused a mum PM.
http://www.sify.com/news/pak-s-chishty-versus-india-s-sarabjit-news-national-nfdwbHadiig.html?source=sifyhome&slot=c1s2#disqus_thread

Sarabjit was sent to Pak by RAW :Hindustan Times

Shades of KASHMIR’S Red — By Rashmi Talwar Rising Kashmir RK


Our Moon has blood clots :- Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits  By Rahul Pandita

Our Moon has blood clots :- Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits By Rahul Pandita


Book Review:

“Our Moon has blood clots”- Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits written by Rahul Pandita
Shades of KASHMIR’S Red
— By Rashmi Talwar Rising Kashmir RK

Color red surely must have emerged from Kashmir–no one has ever returned from there without being fascinated by its red apples, reddest of cherries, tulips, red flower bells or strawberries on a reddish ride. When its dusk spreads that rare crimson, soothsayers in Kashmir are known to predict of bloodshed somewhere. Is it then a natural corollary that Kashmir’s waters be ruddied with blood through generations, just as the red appled cheeks of its light skinned people?

If that be the case, how could Kashmir’s legendry tales of a robust composite culture, deny the blemish and clots of red blood, on the fair face of its moon, and call it a flaw-less beauty. The stains come in the form of its belief and make-belief, its truth and half-truths, its faith and its faithless, which comes across boldly through Rahul Pandita’s book ‘Our Moon has Blood Clots–The Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits’.
The book reminds me of a famous couplet of Allama Iqbal:

‘Jis Khaak Ke Zameer Main Ho Aatish-E-Chinar,

Mumkin Nahin Ke Sard Ho Wo Khaak-E-Arjumand’

(The Earth that enshrines in its bosom, the autumn red fire of a Chinar tree,
It is impossible for that celestial Earth to cool down).

Iqbal too has recognized the red in Kashmir. Perhaps the Almighty in painting the beautiful picture of this Glorious vale, sought the brightest contrast of red and white, like the frothy white streams, waterfalls of its rivers and the snow blankets that make it so picturesque.

Rahul Pandita releasing his book "Our moon has Blood Clots" - Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits

Rahul Pandita releasing his book “Our moon has Blood Clots” – Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits

If Basharat Peer’s ‘Curfewed Night’ could blaze and awaken the collective consciousness of all with its painful episodes, Rahul’s book sears and tears through the shroud that had till now ‘burqaad’ the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits and becomes a must read to get to the bottom of the Kashmir’s maze of problems and puzzles.

‘Our Moon….’ races through two decades of mayhem and also touches the landmark of Indo-Pak partition of 1947-the partition that tore apart Kashmir and Punjab, yanking and wrecking families, dividing hearts and territories, then ripping apart the fabric of composite culture and bracketing them into Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

Bringing to the fore the history of the evolution of this land of Rishis, Rahul has unfolded the bands of blood, in episode after episode, relating to the helplessness of Pandits who faced the recent fiery militancy in Kashmir, as also the blazing tribal attacks of 1947 engineered by Pakistan to grab Kashmir. How Pandit families had fled then, during partition from marauders who spared none, not Sikhs and not even Muslims, and in recent militancy when even friends turned foes, is heart wrenchingly narrated in the book.

But militancy of 1989 was different, it targeted a soft community and Rahul’s extensive research has bared the lies, opened the cans of truth, the same way as majority community’s story was told by Basharat in his book.

Rahul’s book could have easily got colored by lenses of ‘my side, my coin’, but many episodes mentioned in the book have already appeared in newspapers. Some merely as four liner news reports and relegated to the corners in what appeared to be a covert immunity to the plight of a minority community when roaring guns and raging gun-battles had caught the headlines.

In the entire narration there is only one instance in the entire book when I laughed unabashedly and that is Kashmiri-Hindi ‘gobar-guss’ goof-up . But then the writer too has called it laughable, despite the creepy circumstances. The writer’s brother Ravi’s killing and their ‘tippi-tippi-tap’-bosom pal brothers remind me of another set of Kashmiri brothers, when one day the elder one suddenly died in a freak accident, I know how excruciating is it to see the shouting pain in the flooded eyes over that irreparable loss, as if the forlorn eyes were speaking thus:

Badley mein koi bhi imtihaan ley le
Kahe toh meri Jaan ley le
Bas ek dafa mujhe bataa de,
Kahan tu hai, kahan hai tu.

(In exchange put me through any test.
Or even take my life
But tell me just once
Where you are, where are you?)

The author, a 37-year-old Associate Editor with Open Magazine, says –“I wanted to write this book since I entered college”. The book’s beauty is also in the inclusion of several rituals and traditions followed by Shaivites, which many of us had heard in passing as per our acquaintances, friends and relations. Specks of poetry by Agha Shahid Ali and the famous poetess Lal Ded have aptly enveloped and developed the striking situations.

Some of the most chilling and moving lines and incidents in this book are about an old Kashmiri who lies dead clutching a pack of chilled milk against his cheek- his last ice pack, to ward away the heat of the plains, unbearable for Kashmiris, who have never seen a fan in any room of their homes; the author as a 14-year old, holding a half tomato in the relief camp food distribution and recalling the times when unripe tomatoes of their vegetable garden became balls to play cricket with; the obsession with the tale of 22 room house by Rahul’s mother who is unable to come to terms with the exile.

Rahul lays bare the stark truth about vicious ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from their hearth and homes wherein not only militants from across the border but also some from the majority community in Kashmir played a cruel role out of personal grudge or by getting swayed by the hate-wave of the time. But the author has been careful in his writings not to add his own feelings to the inquiry and injury. His book is informative and thankfully devoid of chest-beating narratives.

Having met the new generation of Kashmiri Muslims, born after the exodus of Pandits, I have noticed that they have very little idea about their co-existence with Pandits or living with other communities, except in some pockets where Sikhs in a good number reside in and around the surrounding villages. This is not the only reason to have enlarged the gap between the two communities, Muslims and Pandits, but the fact that even Kashmiri Muslims hardly talk about how the Pandit exodus took place in its right perspective to their younger generation.

“In every home, someone has died; maybe he was a militant or died in an encounter, bomb blast, picked up by security forces, gone, disappeared,” says Rahul -“I remember all the names of people killed, where they were killed – it keeps playing in my head. I sleep with it at night. It’s a part of who I am now. Like the old newspaper which carries the headline of my brother Ravi’s murder.”

This book comes as a strong equalizer to the alternate tales woven around vicious militancy nurtured from across the border and atrocities attributed to security operations, the guile of some in the majority community had been carefully hidden and the real stories of exodus of Kashmiri Pandits had remained shrouded in mysteries and ever changing testimonies that bore little resemblance to reality.

Standing in the snow in Srinagar, lost in thought about those who must have played with snowballs and created snowmen, plucked the icicles hanging from their roofs through the windows, thrown them into a glass and poured sherbet on it or maybe just jutted out their tongue to lick the icicles as they remained suspended, I am about to fall. I grab to hold a nearby Deodar tree to hug it and help me break my fall in Kashmir’s snow. Rahul Pandita’s book is like an icicle that instead of giving you pleasure, pierces through your heart and leaves you bleeding forever and there are no Deodars in the story to hold on to for support.
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FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR BY RK : http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/shades-of-kashmiracutes-red-43822.aspx

Daughters ‘unsafe’ in womb and outside — By RASHMI TALWAR–Rising Kashmir RK


Gang Rape

GANG RAPE

GANG RAPE

Like a fight, lost … like a pride, lost … like shame, lost…like a life, lost ..

Thus, started my morning, splashed in dark hues, over the news of death of the 23-year old Delhi Gang Rape victim.

It made me think of hundreds and thousands of women who faced similar rapist brutes and lived or died, deeply scarred, viciously violated in both body and soul. I also think of so many who hid this heinous outrage to suffer silently and picked up the pieces of their shattered souls.

Today ‘black dots’ replaced profile pictures all over twitter as a mark of protest and mourning . Each Indian is shamed, angry and as Tavleen Singh, a noted columnist wrote, “In a real sense, India died a thousand deaths today. In her death, she lives and in her death, India lives with shame.”

Anupam Kher actor, taunted and redefined the “Incredible India” slogan with a scathing take on female foeticide and rape – “Incredible India: A Nation where Daughters are neither safe inside Womb nor Outside.” Calling upon the Nation for a Revolution, to boycott the forthcoming Republic Day Celebrations in protest. He wrote “Let the PM & the President address vacant spaces & buildings. They don’t want our presence now , let us be absent when it matters most. Let them get a taste of our disgust.”

Each took on different expression following this heinous tragedy. Vivek Mehra, a resident of Amritsar shared his feelings –“ Jitna bhi rokoon khud ko; aaj har pal bekhud;, palkein nam, nam; ankhein sharm, sharm..”(No matter, how much I try to stop myself today; each moment involuntarily; my lashes turn moist, my eyes turn shamed).

While Chief Minister of Jammu& Kashmir wrote on twitter ‘Rest in Peace brave one..’ People in Jammu& Kashmir are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the recent Jammu gang rape case.

Actor Abhishek Bachchan, a father whose daughter just celebrated her first birthday, displayed his abhorrence for the declining values of the country and wrote –“This is not the country I grew up in as a child, this is not the country, I want my daughter to know whilst she grows up! Ayesha Takia Azmi, host for TV reality show ‘Surshetr’ as a new parent endorsed “We parents have to take much more responsibility, in bringing up our children.”

Sagarika Ghose a columnist and TV anchor quoted Shakespeare –“Thou art more deep damn’d than Lucifer, there is not yet so ugly a fiend of Hell, thou that didst kill this child.”

Barkha Dutt, TV journalist reporting on situation in the capital said –“5000 security personnel deployed in & around India Gate to keep protesters away. Will GOI ever deploy as many to keep women safe?” To which, Shujaat Bukhari Editor of Rising Kashmir, a noted daily, retorted ‘Delhi becomes Kashmir’.

But there were others who rose to the situation and looked for solutions especially women. Actress Gul Panag, perturbed over mere hollow words stated “Enough said. Time, for action. We’re compiling a database of people, with their numbers/cities to help any lady in need.”

Her call aroused a lot of men, to post their numbers on social networking sites promising help to woman in distress in their areas. I call such a solution oriented action, a move forward, a gutsy route.

Following the Delhi case I had posted-“U board a PUBLIC transport! Take that Pepper Spray in one hand till you reach your destination.” Several responded – Davinder Paul Singh shot back “Time has come to take a little law ( & a pepper spray ) in hand”.

Keith Nathan Albrecht, from NY, who was a Taxi driver for 10 years shared –“ I carry a sharp tongue and an attitude, to avoid the victim syndrome.” Aditi Tandon, a senior journalist in Delhi wrote back –“Pepper spray? Are you joking or something? There are animals on the loose with iron rods in their hands. What will your spray do?” I answered, “Pepper spray is a deterrent, let us not advocate gun licensing after the Newtown massacre in US.” Keith seconded me with her take “It is hard for someone , if you immobilize them with a pepper spray in the eyes -that has a wide dispersal application.” And added –“It’s a deterrent not an execution!”

While Kunal Kapoor asked –“People across the country have risen, do our politicians have the will to rise, or are they still hoping, ‘this too shall pass..’”.
As an Indian, I demand- “If Political parties are so sincere, let them first put all those leaders on trial, who face rape charges. Let the accused re-enter the party only after being acquitted. Let us see which party takes a lead” …Calling ! –BJP, Congress, SAD, SP, BSP & others!

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR IN DECEMBER 31, 2012