Posts Tagged ‘RASHMI TALWAR’

The pain will be ours alone, Kashmir ! /Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images


snapshot the pain kashmir imagesThe pain will be ours alone, Kashmir !

Rashmi Talwar

O the pretense of strength, of willpower, fervor, sacrifice
Peep in my empty womb
Am I hoping for sunshine?
Will rainbows hug me?
~unknown

“Mama I have a head-ache, a tummy-ache, a tooth-ache, ear-ache!” Mama would pop a tablet, kiss me, say –“All will be well” while stroking my forehead. The fake-ache was for a pesky teacher, a test, punishment, home-work or just about anything to skip school.

Soon she’s busy in daily chores and peeps. “Are you better?” –“No!” I lie gleefully and let out a suitable groan, till well past school time. I lie in bed. TVs are nonexistent, radio is a spoiler, comics and novels are under censorship. To speak, to move out, even to look out the window, all my fundamental rights are curtailed. One little lie, and a vast abyss of nothingness- agony, insanity, unbearable.

Another time, an accident: Bystanders gather on the spot, exclaim their –‘Hawwws..! And Haiiis..!’ Call up my husband’s pager. At the doctor -“We’ll have to plaster the ankle, it’s a hairline fracture, but the wrist can be just bandaged,” I insert -“No, Doc plaster my wrist too!” –He winks at his assistant – “Two plasters!” I am excited–“Now, I really look like an accident victim!”
Relatives visit, inquire, listen to my story, and exclaim -“Oh how terrible!” I continue – How a woman trying to pick her child in the front seat drove right across and bolted my rickshaw- “I felt as if I was flying, and landed with a thud, you know!” And adding a little spice – “You know, I checked my neck, I also checked my diamond ring, only after checking, I, started howling loudly, Hee Hee!” “You are brave!” one says. I have turned my adversity into an opportunity, I pat myself. I glow in the make-belief glory of compliments. They write something cute on my plaster with pierced hearts, smilies and leave. Fourth day, there are no doorbells. I look at my plaster, read the messages all in a minute. Only one minute passes in my long road to recovery. My pains, my helplessness all get magnified in my solitude.

Another accident: I slip from the stairs; the shattered glass embeds in my hand and punctures a blood vessel. Blood spouts like a tap, running down the stairs.
Sitting on the stairs, my head swims due to blood loss, I calmly hold my bleeding hand and ask my house help,–“Go, get all the ice in the refrigerator and a towel!”
He stands staring. I urge –“Hurry, don’t look at me!”
Rushed to a hospital with blood all over, a nurse presses the bleeding punctured vessel, the bleeding stops as the glass shard blocks the blood flow. The cutting foreign body drives excruciating pain the whole night. Next day I am operated, but the wrongly pressed shard has cut my nerves too. The same evening driving a car managed with a plastered hand, I reach The Tribune office for work. I brush it aside as a cut, when colleagues inquire. I am able to function better without self-pity and borrowed strengths now. I work from that day onwards with one hand, my focus only on work and on recovery. It takes six months and physiotherapy to get the hand to function.

Another time, I am advised for urgent surgery. “Report back in a week and we shall operate!” the doctor says emotionlessly. “It can be delayed a little, plus we don’t have patient space” the doctor at Ganga Ram Hospital Delhi, adds.
I return to Amritsar that evening. In a week I arrange all my daily wear, toiletries, towels, others, keep a neat guest room downstairs to take me. I even place a walking stick.
My house help assists me for two days. Third day she’s in a hurry, fourth, she skips. By the fifth day I have learned to manage everything- the pain, the chores, indigenously working out solutions. People visit. My Mum admires-“You are brave”, I take it casually. Now, only focused on recovery. I am back in good health in no time.

These may be minor incidents but what stayed with me –“You have to bear your own pain, all alone!”

“O Mother, O Kashmir, my pain was just a scratch, yours- Mammoth!
Listen to my little prayers.
They shall come, pay sympathies, some justifying, some calling exalted divinity, some soothing, some listening, some talking memorials, some anger- revenge, some lullabys.
The broken promises, history, anger, restrictions, all, meaningless.
In the dark cold screaming silences- Mother, you’ll wonder –“Which piece of mother-land demands a price of your children.”
No fruit, sweet; no sound, soothing; no rainbows, – Only raw, clutching, solitary, tearing, pain.
The pain will always be our own. To Bear, All Alone!”

chinar leaf

Photo by Rashmi Talwar

The writer can be emailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN DAILY KASHMIR IMAGES ON AUGUST 10, 2016
http://dailykashmirimages.com/Details/117243/the-pain-will-be-ours-alone-kashmir

Afghan Girl Exposes the US/ Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


ScreenShot Heela Faryal Afghanistan

Brave Afghan girl exposes the US

Afghan girl exposes the US 

Rashmi Talwar

No veil, no dupatta, not even a scarf, Heela Faryal (not her real name), in her early twenties, came wearing a buttoned Purple long sleeved Kurta and straight black pants with silver slippers. Curious Karachi college girls went up to Heela- Afghanistan’s lone woman participant in a conference on women, but the latter swiftly turned, avoiding any selfies with the excited girls. It was not for her to exchange phone numbers or emails. She remained quiet even as her glowing face with a halo of dark curly hair on her shoulders failed to hide her youthful enthusiasm.

Heela, appeared stoic, as the only international speaker other than me from India, but her eyes were soft and smiling, choosing to get photographed only with speakers who had been informed to avoid any publication of her photograph owing to threat to her life.

Real time yardstick of a progressive nation comes from how their women are treated. The land of Heela’s forefathers in Afghanistan had been so unforgiving; it made her highly strung and secretive. Losing trust in human beings and simple humanity can be very, very shattering. This was Heela Faryal member of secret action group for women RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan).

“No, I can’t tell you my real name,” she pleaded even though I was an international speaker like her. “No, I cannot even give you my phone number, please”, she supplicated, when I asked her.

She traveled to Karachi from Kabul, Afghanistan for the “‘Hum Aurtaen’ – No more Violence” programme by Tehrik-E- Niswan, a woman’s cultural action group based in Pakistan, headed by its stunning danseuse, actor and director Sheema Kermani.

Heela, a Muslim, yet didn’t feel one with those in Pakistan- who had freely come to attend the conference. In her country Afghanistan women were ensconced in the home space, treated brutally and worse than any other nation.

On stage, UK-read Heela, delivered her written content in English, without flinching she stirred the youthful women audience, with the unfolding of instances of Afghan women laid silent by horrendous torture and heinous killings over minor aberrations.

She introduced herself as a member of RAWA- oldest organization in Afghanistan that fights for rights of women, social rights and freedom while taking a stand against the Afghan fundamentalists and their international backers.

Naturally she was on their hit-list!

Heela related to the audience about Afghanistan’s most horrific crime ever committed against a 26-year woman in 2015. – “It was not inside the darkness and closed doors of her husband or father’s home. It was in broad daylight, in central Kabul, under the nose of local policemen and government, when Farkhunda, a young Islamic studies student, was encircled and lynched by a mob who accused her of burning the Quran. Brutally kicked, her hair yanked, spitted upon, punched and stomped, veil ripped off her face, bludgeoned with stones outside the mosque, the mob then dragged her motionless body some 300 meters into a street and her corpse was run over with a car and set afire. Her bloodied clothes couldn’t catch fire and the men threw their own clothing topis and scarves to burn her. The hideous remains were thrown in the dry Kabul River. Farkhunda’s crime: She had argued with a mullah, who then falsely accused her of burning the Quran.”

The audience was deathly silent and attentive. It was a chilling account.

It was on record, that a number of prominent public officials turned to social networking site Facebook immediately after Farkhunda’s gruesome killing, to endorse the act. The Deputy Minister for Culture & Information Afghanistan -Simin Ghazal Hasanzada approved the execution, wrote- “Working for the infidels.” The official spokesman of Kabul police Hashmat Stanekzai wrote “Farkhunda- thought, like several other unbelievers, that this kind of action and insult will get them U.S. or European citizenship. But before reaching their target, they lost their life.” Zalmai Zabuli, chief of the complaints commission of upper house of parliament, posted a picture of Farkhunda with this message: “This is the horrible and hated person who was punished by our Muslim compatriots for her action. Thus, they proved to her masters that Afghans want only Islam and cannot tolerate imperialism, apostasy, and spies.”

Pausing and taking a deep breath, Heela took up for another 19-year- old Rukhshana, stoned to death in a mud pit by a Taliban kangaroo court in a Mullah-dominated western province of Afghanistan, for eloping last year. “Her screams echoed as an angry crowd of Taliban threw rocks at her, ending her in a stoned silence”.

“Treatment of women in Afghanistan would put even cannibals to shame”, some whispered in the audience.

She spoke out about women in Afghanistan crushed by several demonic forces including – the US and its allies, Jehadists, Taliban, and now the ISIS.” Coming down heavily on America she contended- “The US used women’s rights as an excuse to invade my country Afghanistan and continues to kill innocent women and children and conduct their terrifying drone attacks and chilling night raids in all parts of Afghanistan. The biggest crime the US has committed is the installation of fundamentalists in a puppet government.”

Without a blink, she pointed to the alleged black sheep in the government made with US support- “Afghanistan’s National Unity Government is headed by long-time CIA mercenaries-Ashraf Ghani (current President of Afghanistan) and Abdullah Abdullah (CE of Afghanistan), after US Secretary of state-John Kerry brokered a deal.” And added-“Abdullah Abdullah is one of the leaders of the most infamous fundamentalist parties of Afghanistan, Shoraye Nizar.”

She further accused–“Afghanistan’s current government, Parliament, and judiciary are all occupied at highest positions by criminals, heinous fundamentalists and warlords implicated in grave war crimes, and enjoy unconditional backing of western powers”. Adding more names to the alleged black list she pointed out – Mohammad Noor (Governor of Balkh Province ), Karim Khalil Dostum (former Vice President of  Afghanistan), Mohammed Mohaqiq (a politician), Sarwar Danish (former Vice President of Afghanistan), Ustad Murad, Ahmad Khan, Alimi Balkhi (Minister of Refugees& Repatriation ), Taj M. Mujahid.”

The names except for Afghanistan’s present president Ashraf Ghani didn’t register with the Pakistani audience much, but most understood they were one of the top crème of the government in Afghanistan.

Taking a piercing dig at the Afghanistan Parliament, Heela lamented-“In 2009 Afghanistan Parliament attempted to legalize marital rape!”

The question in many minds arose –“How could they even ‘attempt’ such a law with the US looking over their shoulder?”

The audience was clearly reminded of a recent protest against the new Pakistani law called the ‘Punjab Protection of women against violence, Act’ that saw a coalition of 30 religious and political parties declaring the law un-Islamic and an attempt to secularize Pakistan- a country evolved on theological lines.

Heela meantime, quoting a UN report said -“According to United Nations, the Taliban’s reach is widest today since 2001. The suicide attacks by Taliban, and constant war with Afghan government has made life hell and civilian deaths in 2015 were highest, majority being women.

While public executions, stoning and amputation are widespread, the Taliban are welcomed with open arms to join the government instead of putting them on trial,” she trailed off in a stoic voice.

I am sure it was not hard in Pakistan to understand how their political dispensations segregation of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban to further their agendas in many countries, had aggravated the situation beyond control in their own backyards. The Easter attack in Lahore killing 72 and injuring hundreds was recent incident hard to ignore.

Heela took on the ISIS with the same venom, and said –“If this was not enough, the branch of ISIS in Afghanistan has begun taking root and already started committing atrocities.” And asked  “What was the conclusive result of US and its allies, long presence in Afghanistan?”

She only saw blank faces as no one knew the answer.

And continued –“Afghanistan is under the thumb of four brutal forces-The USA and allies; Jihadists; Taliban and now the ISIS. The prime victims are always women.” Castigating foreign funds for inhuman use, she vented –“Islamic fundamentalism comes in many brands and forms and killers are created by misogynists or women-haters, and almost always funded by foreign sponsors to further their interests in other countries.” Afghanistan’s with its $60 billion dollars in foreign aid, is 3rd most corrupt country and has devoured all its Aid and funds.

This was not far from the truth, as a well-documented fact had surfaced that US Pentagon auditors were perplexed over the missing US military equipment worth $420 million in year 2013. The report also stated that between 2006- 2010, equipment valued at nearly $240 million could not be accounted for.

Heela struck the USA’s warped policies, due to which an alarming rise was seen in narcoticproduction in Afghanistan –“Thanks to US invasion; Afghanistan has risen to become a narco-producing state of more than 90% of world’s opium. Women have not escaped the effects of this drug production and about 890,000 out of an unofficial figure of 3.5 million addicts are women including children, in Afghanistan.”

She also criticized the US for falsely and consistently trumpeting gains made by women of Afghanistan buttressing them with instances of presence of females in the Parliament and the relative freedom of women in a few urban cities. “What remains unsaid is that most of these female officials are tied to fundamentalist parties and share their misogynist mindset. These are mere cosmetic changes, only used for propaganda purposes to justify the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan to the people of the world. It is merely to peddle the fact that supposed gains will be lost if foreign troops withdraw,” she boomed.

Her revelation about Afghanistan realpolitik was indeed stark and shocking. In India and many other countries, the US viewpoint was believed, however we were shaken out of our opinions with the facts put across by this young citizen of the beleaguered nation.

And Heela continued –“Despite US and allies presence, which accounts for medical help too, Afghanistan still has the highest maternal mortality rate with one out of nine deaths during childbirth. 57% afghan brides are under 16, about 87% women are illiterate and merely 5%girls attend secondary schools,” she held these counts as offhand and said the ground reality was much worse. ‘Afghanistan is rightfully called the ‘worst place to be a woman’.

Heela concluded with a call for an organized progressive grassroots movement for greater freedom to women in Afghanistan.

She got a resounding applause at the end of it. It was not about delivery of a written piece it was a solidarity gesture with the female sex that few men along with women in Pakistan had also watched and an acknowledgment of Heela’s bravery in exposing the wrongs in her society without fear.

The youngest member of RAWA was not only daring but possessed the wherewithal for survival and anonymity. She couldn’t have stopped many giggly young Pakistani girls from taking her picture during her stage address but with a single stroke she swiped all her pictures from my iPhone with function of ‘airdrop’ leaving me with no pictures of her and smoothly evaded to give me her contact number.

Her act did not fray me; rather it brought a smile and reminded me of a phrase- “Desperate times need desperate means”! And conversely compelled me to salute this heroic young woman of Afghanistan! Just a few days after this address, Heela’s friend request entered my Facebook inbox, naturally picture-less.

The Author can be emailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON 17TH APRIL 2016

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


rush sopore

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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“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” ….By Rashmi Talwar / Trip Advisor


On the flower laced path to St Mary's Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

On the flower laced path to St Mary’s Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

Gulmarg waters do not speak. They take side lanes, quietly dolloping down from crevices and flow silently downstream, moistening lush green undulating daisy slopes, embellished with hues and shades of wild swinging flowers in the softest breeze. The wavy hilltops are a fairyland where children would love to roll downhill and play antique games of L-O-N-D-O-N —London.

Gulmarg- ‘The meadow of flowers’, appears to open as a large cine screen after a Deodar tree-lined ribboned road enters a passage cut through the hills. I  expect a thunder of drumming music to follow the opening scene. Instead, much cackle follows, unmindful of the cacophony, I feel immersed in the spectacular beauty of the vista of Gulmarg. At first it appears like Switzerland, where no condescending boundary walls rupture the beatific scenery perched at an approximate altitude of 2650 m and located merely 56 km north of Srinagar- the Capital of Jammu& Kashmir, a simple 90 minute drive.

Someone calls it ‘Heaven on Earth’ and I believe it. Just then, I step out onto the path and my foot squashes on warm horse goo! I look around for help, skidding on one leg, kicking the other to let go of the poo and looking around to wipe my shoe with an old newspaper or grass. Conversely, I see most side paths lumpy with animal excreta. I wonder if ‘poo bags’ were still to be invented or has the discovery yet to catch the political eye of the area to impose sanitized laws? I am at a loss. When I do happen to broach the subject of ‘poo-bags’ with a local horse-walla later, his kohled eyes look menacingly at me as his henna reddened beard shakes, with a whip in one hand, he threatens –“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” I smilingly point towards a known India-Pakistan border close by called –Line of Control’ in the region, saying –‘Of course you can go anytime to Pakistan!’ Later, I was to thank my parents to have been born a girl, and their production being a little pretty, lest, as I was told –“If you had been a man, your comment could have led to blood-fights and you surely would have been lynched”.

My life spared, I learn to live for the rest of the days with the horse poo, pooled around and the goat or sheep dark granules naturally manuring the grassland. The slight stink mixing with crush of grass blades and the hilly flower scented air and I begin to enjoy Gulmarg. I do have to keep my vision field synchronized to admire the flowers on the slopes, a wide view of the ravishing spread of quaint huts on green ranges and avoid a stare at the dirt on the circumnutating road.

On my trekking ways, as special treat for my lungs, heart and pores, I happen to encounter many tourists in altercation with locals. The reason, I learn, the horse-wallas and taxi operators threaten outstation taxis to enter the main roads. They fight so brusquely with tourists that I join my hands in prayer that I was spared the ignominy as I was ‘staying’ and not just ‘visiting’ Gulmarg.

Asia’s highest gondola or cable car is close to the tourist huts that I have booked. The place also gives me an opportunity to peak at Khyber Resorts, the only five star hotel property, close by and a muzzly waterfall in the corner. It costs me Rs 1400 both ways to ride two phases (13, 780 ft.) of Gondola or cable car. I click, click pictures, of down below from the cable car glass, as it mounts and watch smart trekkers along the Kongdoori Mountains, dotted with Gujjar Huts, to reach the first phase of the ride.

Apharwat glacial peaks are higher, beyond Kongdoori. I hear they take skiers to the top phase considered the highest ski slopes. Gulmarg’s other asset is the highest golf course in the world. Some locals at the glacier, point out a shape that automatically takes on a look of ‘an army picket’ when it’s described so, on another peak—“That’s the LoC –the infamous Line of Control between India Pakistan border that divides Jammu and Kashmir, for which three India-Pakistan wars took place, one as recent as 1999 Kargil War,” he booms. I feet historically enriched, on seeing a prominent landmark, denoting past events.

My dependable guide gives me advice on the Apharwat glacier-“The sledge-wallas will demand Rs 1500 but you settle at Rs 800 and so also with the skier”. I make it to the glacier with a continuous barrage of bargaining that goes on for snow boots, snow jackets, sledging, skiing on rent. The bargain ends at Rs 900 for sledging and another 900 for skiing, with extra costs for boots, ski sticks, jackets. Emptied of all money, carried that day over a wonderful meal of biryani, coke, curd and parantha on Kongdoori Mountains we also see the ‘Satt dhara’ where seven streams meet with a distinct shade of water. I would have loved to go to Alpather –The frozen lake, a little trek from Apharwat glacier ,but the weather was changing swiftly in the snowy peaks and gondola timings have to be adhered.

I head to the hut and give the guide a generous tip along with the caretaker of the hut who recommended the guide. Later, my taxi driver tells me I was looted all the way. The payment for sledging, skiing, boots, and jackets was three times more than the actual. “They work well together- ‘Aak ashh ishara!’ they work with Eye signals!”

My daughter insists we go to the best place for dinner. So we head for Khyber Himalayan Resort. The Taxi guy asks for an exorbitant Rs 300 for a 150 mts ride to Khyber nearby, earlier too a taxi walla had shouted out an overpriced sum for rescuing us in the incessant rain. The fact that someone is visiting five star property automatically targets them as a sitting duck for fleecing. Instead, we settle for three horses at Rs 300 inclusive of waiting and return, and feel like royalty, riding up to the high stone-walled property, till a Posh Pajero sports SUV, honks and the Resort’s Durban brusquely asks the horse-walla to vacate the entry. Poof goes our royal ride, but unending tickles and giggles make up for it. I wonder if smart floral buggy rides to the hotel would add to the charm of Gulmarg.

Nearly 10,000 ponies strut along the roundabout road. Ponies that have been part of Gulmarg since its inception are in for heavy competition with nearly 150 PVC – the all-weather open vehicles, allowed by the government to swoosh on roads charging a princely Rs 2000 for a round. However an environmentally sound setup is of solar panels, seen all over. Sitting quaintly are also two baby penguins model Swiss huts, facing a ‘Rani temple’ complete with temple bells, perched atop a hill. The British built, St Mary’s church parked amidst a pathway of Lupins, Daisies, touch-me-nots, an exquisite white bench, amongst the picturesque surroundings, guarded by heavy fronds of oaks and Chinars, is exquisitely charming.

Fish out the ‘Gora Kabristan’ where many English nobles and sundry rest in graves marked by gravestones in an innocuous enclosure or look for a Maharaja palace that I couldn’t locate. Mughal Emperor Jahangir lover of Kashmir was known to be mystified by the charms of Gulmarg, which also gets the credit of being the place to get the first Ski Club of India in 1927 by the British.
Gulmarg where prime property of Sheikh Abdullah –‘Lion of Kashmir’ is located, especially the ‘Hotel Highland park’ with walls lined with collectibles and memorabilia, as in times past gets the lion’s share of day-time tourists to Kashmir.
I only pray, the Meadow of flowers blooms may not become prey to poo or pelf.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN TRIP ADVISOR ON OCTOBER 2, 2015
URL: http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r315333253-Discover_Gulmarg_Adventures-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r3153332
53-Discover_Gulmarg_Adventures-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html#

“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” ….By Rashmi Talwar / Trip Advisor


On the flower laced path to St Mary's Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

On the flower laced path to St Mary’s Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

Gulmarg waters do not speak. They take side lanes, quietly dolloping down from crevices and flow silently downstream, moistening lush green undulating daisy slopes, embellished with hues and shades of wild swinging flowers in the softest breeze. Undulating hilltops are a fairyland where children would love to roll downhill and play antique games of L-O-N-D-O-N —London.

Gulmarg- ‘The meadow of flowers’, appears to open as a large cine screen after a Deodar tree-lined ribboned road enters a passage cut through the hills. I only expect a thunder of drumming music to follow the opening scene. Conversely, much cackle follows, unmindful of the cacophony, I feel immersed into the spectacular beauty of the vista of Gulmarg. At first it appears like Switzerland, where no condescending boundary walls rupture the beatific scenery perched at an approximate altitude of 2650 m and located merely 56 km north of Srinagar- the Capital of Jammu& Kashmir, a simple 90 minute drive.

Someone calls it ‘Heaven on Earth’ and I believe it. Just then, I step out onto the path and my foot squashes on warm horse goo! I look around for help, skidding on one leg, kicking the other to let go of the poo and looking around to wipe my shoe with an old newspaper or grass. Conversely, I see most side paths lumpy with animal excreta. I wonder if ‘poo bags’ were still to be invented or has the discovery yet to catch the political eye of the area to impose sanitized laws? I am at a loss. When I do happen to broach the subject of ‘poo-bags’ with a local horse-walla later, his kohled eyes look menacingly at me as his henna reddened beard shakes, with a whip in one hand, he threatens –“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” I smilingly point towards a known India-Pakistan border close by called –Line of Control’ in the region, saying –‘Of course you can go anytime to Pakistan!’ Later, I was to thank my parents to have been born a girl, and their production being a little pretty, lest, as I was told –“If you had been a man, your comment could have led to blood-fights and you surely would have been lynched”.

My life spared, I learn to live for the rest of the days with the horse poo, pooled around and the goat or sheep dark granules naturally manuring the grassland. The slight stink mixing with crush of grass blades and the hilly flower scented air and I begin to enjoy Gulmarg. I do have to keep my vision field synchronized to admire the flowers on the slopes, a wide view of the ravishing spread of quaint huts on green ranges and avoid a stare at the dirt on the circumnutating road.

On my trekking ways, as special treat for my lungs, heart and pores, I happen to encounter many tourists in altercation with locals. The reason, I learn, the horse-wallas and taxi operators threaten outstation taxis to enter the main roads. They fight so brusquely with tourists that I join my hands in prayer that I was spared the ignominy as I was ‘staying’ and not just ‘visiting’ Gulmarg.

Asia’s highest gondola or cable car is close to the tourist huts that I have booked. The place also gives me an opportunity to peak at Khyber Resorts, the only five star hotel property, close by and a muzzly waterfall in the corner. It costs me Rs 1400 both ways to ride two phases (13, 780 ft.) of Gondola or cable car. I click, click pictures, of down below from the cable car glass, as it mounts and watch smart trekkers along the Kongdoori Mountains, dotted with Gujjar Huts, to reach the first phase of the ride.

Apharwat glacial peaks are higher, beyond Kongdoori. I hear they take skiers to the top phase considered the highest ski slopes. Gulmarg’s other asset is the highest golf course in the world. Some locals at the glacier, point out a shape that automatically takes on a look of ‘an army picket’ when it’s described so, on another peak—“That’s the LoC –the infamous Line of Control between India Pakistan border that divides Jammu and Kashmir, for which three India-Pakistan wars took place, one as recent as 1999 Kargil War,” he booms. I feet historically enriched, on seeing a prominent landmark, denoting past events.

My dependable guide gives me advice on the Apharwat glacier-“The sledge-wallas will demand Rs 1500 but you settle at Rs 800 and so also with the skier”. I make it to the glacier with a continuous barrage of bargaining that goes on for snow boots, snow jackets, sledging, skiing on rent. The bargain ends at Rs 900 for sledging and another 900 for skiing, with extra costs for boots, ski sticks, jackets. Emptied of all money, carried that day over a wonderful meal of biryani, coke, curd and parantha on Kongdoori Mountains we also see the ‘Satt dhara’ where seven streams meet with a distinct shade of water. I would have loved to go to Alpather –The frozen lake, a little trek from Apharwat glacier ,but the weather was changing swiftly in the snowy peaks and gondola timings have to be adhered.

I head to the hut and give the guide a generous tip along with the caretaker of the hut who recommended the guide. Later, my taxi driver tells me I was looted all the way. The payment for sledging, skiing, boots, and jackets was three times more than the actual. “They work well together- ‘Aak ashh ishara!’ they work with Eye signals!”

My daughter insists we go to the best place for dinner. So we head for Khyber Himalayan Resort. The Taxi guy asks for an exorbitant Rs 300 for a 150 mts ride to Khyber nearby, earlier too a taxi walla had shouted out an overpriced sum for rescuing us in the incessant rain. The fact that someone is visiting five star property automatically targets them a sitting duck for fleecing. Instead, we settle for three horses at Rs 300 inclusive of waiting and return, and feel like royalty, riding up to the high stone-walled property, till a Posh Pajero sports SUV, honks and the Resort’s Durban brusquely asks the horse-walla to vacate the entry. Poof goes our royal ride, but unending tickles and giggles make up for it. I wonder if smart floral buggy rides to the hotel would add to the charm of Gulmarg.

Nearly 10,000 ponies strut along the roundabout road. Ponies that have been part of Gulmarg since its inception are in for heavy competition with nearly 150 PVC – the all-weather open vehicles, allowed by the government to swoosh on roads charging a princely Rs 2000 for a round. However an environmentally sound setup is of solar panels, seen all over. Sitting quaintly are also two baby penguins model Swiss huts, facing a ‘Rani temple’ complete with temple bells, perched atop a hill. The British built, St Mary’s church parked amidst a pathway of Lupins, Daisies, touch-me-nots, an exquisite white bench, amongst the picturesque surroundings, guarded by heavy fronds of oaks and Chinars, is exquisitely charming.

Fish out the ‘Gora Kabristan’ where many English nobles and sundry rest in graves marked by gravestones in an innocuous enclosure or look for a Maharaja palace that I couldn’t locate. Mughal Emperor Jahangir lover of Kashmir was known to be mystified by the charms of Gulmarg, which also gets the credit of being the place to get the first Ski Club of India in 1927 by the British.
Gulmarg where prime property of Sheikh Abdullah –‘Lion of Kashmir’ is located, especially the ‘Hotel Highland park’ with walls lined with collectibles and memorabilia, as in times past gets the lion’s share of day-time tourists to Kashmir.
I only pray, the Meadow of flowers blooms may not become prey to poo or pelf.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN TRIP ADVISOR ON OCTOBER 2, 2015
URL: http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r315333253-Discover_Gulmarg_Adventures-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r3153332
53-Discover_Gulmarg_Adventures-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html#

April Fool Cheers ! / By Rashmi Talwar


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

April Fool Cheers ! 

aprilRashmi Talwar

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Now this had turned into a serious research project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

00–00

 

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

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

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