Posts Tagged ‘saanjh’

India has no constant policy on Kashmir: Gen (retd) VK Singh… By Rashmi Talwar /Sify


Retd COAS Gen VK Singh

Retd COAS Gen VK Singh



EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Gen VK Singh

India has no constant policy on Kashmir: Gen (retd) VK Singh
By Rashmi Talwar

Gen (retd) VK Singh former COAS (Chief of the Army Staff), post his retirement has chosen to come into public life . The Army Chief, had once waded through thick layers of controversies. He first came into the limelight with the confusion of his date-of-birth, then bugging allegations of defense ministry’s office, pushing the panic button on inadequate ammunition in Indian army’s arsenal and others. Now out of power, out of office, secrets are slipping from him, baggages of silence have been shed and many a behind- the- scene, brasstacks are being readily exposed.

The former army chief is trying to wean the public towards the newly formed-Jantantar Morcha (JM) of which Anna Hazare is the patron, and the former COAS Gen Singh, the chairperson. How much militaristic experience in planning, precision, implementation he brings into this civil movement through the fledgling organization that he calls apolitical, is yet to be seen.

His take on National and International issues are thus gathered by RASHMI TALWAR in an exclusive interview with the former COAS, during his Amritsar visit, to announce the flagging-off of the JM from Amritsar’s historic Jallianwala bagh on March 31.

Q. Why have you joined hands with Anna Hazare?

Ans: Because I am equally perturbed about where our country is heading. I too can contribute much to arrest the nation’s current downslide, due to corruption.

Q. Having remained a COAS what is your take on India and Pakistan?

Ans: I am for peace between India and Pakistan. I favor good neighborly relations with trade, business, commerce and other soft channels, but in no way am I in favor of Kashmir being a condition for any forward movement towards peace. Next to its obsession with Kashmir since 1947, Siachen has been the biggest bone that is stuck in Pakistan’s throat since it lost the glacier to the Indian Army in 1984.

Q. Recently former Pakistan President Gen Parvez Musharaff talked about solving the Kashmir issue by revival of the 4-point programme, what do you make of that ?

Ans: In recent times, demilitarization of Siachen is being touted as ‘the’ ultimate solution to the Kashmir problem. Do you know who all were in the 11-member Indian committee formed for Track-II diplomacy? Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi , ‘Fauji’ Journalist Col Ajai Shukla. They were calling for demilitarization of Siachen Glacier in the Saltoro range. (Agitatedly), these are those people who have not visited nor have any notion of the reality of Siachen and the Indian position there. Pakistanis are on the west side of the Saltoro Range. Pakistan has a zero presence in Siachen and is fooling its people. All upper regions are under India’s control and Indian troops are well-entrenched. I wonder, if demilitarization has any scope of spreading this troop withdrawal by Pakistan, from Baltistan as also areas further in the west? Till now, there has been no move to arrive at an agreement by Pakistan to draw a ground demarcation i.e. AGPL (Actual Ground Position Line) to identify which side is where and here we are talking of demilitarization and troop withdrawal. I see no logic, it is ridiculous. In Siachen, Indian army is at an advantageous position sitting on strategic heights, why should we vacate it, for Pakistan to engineer another Kargil?

Q. It is being speculated that USA is bringing India and Pakistan closer to counter the growing power of China?

Ans: If USA is thinking that by bringing India-Pakistan together it can counter China’s growing power then US is ‘naive’. However this idea is too far-fetched. Does America not know that a country like Pakistan can do to it. How it is a complete supply chain for terrorism.


Q. And the Kashmir issue?

Ans: So far, Kashmir has served as a domestic gain for Pakistan. Kashmir is a like pinprick, albeit a large pinprick, that Pakistan uses on India when it wants or unwants something. Kashmir is merely being used by Pakistan. See how Pakistan has spent billions on its anti-India stance and jeopardized its economy. Club that with Pak’s multiple problems of Baluchistan, Quetta, Karachi, Lahore, judiciary, civil society; each of them is flaring. Pakistan army has a vested interest in keeping the turmoil along the border with India alive.

Q. What about India’s handling of Kashmir?
Ans: India’s drawback is that it has never had a constant policy on Kashmir. Its policies go up and down, governed more by political motives than by national interests.

Bad governance is the single major reason for the state of affairs in Kashmir today. Congress in coalition with present NC in J&K was PDP’s partner earlier. Look at the level of opportunism. The kind of money pumped into Kashmir, is unimaginable. As per the present regime’s record, see how the Shopian Rape case was handled, how stone pelters were handled? They had a successful Panchayat election, but do not want to empower them. How was the Amarnath issue handled? Corruption is so rampant and money hardly reaches the needy. I have been a commander, led a Battalion, a Brigade and a Division in Kashmir and I know the ground realities there.

Q. What about AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) that gives unlimited powers to army in Kashmir without answerability or trial?

Ans: AFSPA has been deliberately ‘demonized’ to deflect attention from main issue of misgovernance by vested interests. Kashmir is a highly emotional place. In one instance a rumor in Pattan had all Shias, chest-beating without a single one of them knowing the reason for it. There are hundreds of such instances that could be cited similarly in Kashmir. It is easy to manipulate a highly biased public. More hurt is caused by distrust and suspicion. Once such rumors spread, no one is willing to listen and no one can set the record right. It’s about hyperbole and all hell breaks loose, much like a chinese whisper or a spreading wild fire. In J&K, Pakistan has unleashed a proxy war and the situation has to be tackled by the army to safeguard interests of the nation.

Q What about Afzal Guru’s hanging?

Ans: I do not wish to go into legalities of Guru’s case. But concerning the political manipulation, there is no end to it. There can’t be appeasement of any sect or have double standards.

Q As former army chief do you think Op Bluestar was the right decision?

Ans: Operation Blue Star, in 1984 to flush out militants from the Golden Temple, was a ‘hastily taken political decision. The then COAS Gen AS Vaidya was unwilling to carry it out.

It is the manner in which it was presented that made all the difference. Gen Vaidya was not in favour of it .Gen Vaidya was against the whole plan of action including the timing of it (Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev). I was a major at the time and I know Gen Vaidya had said, “No” to army action against people belonging to the nation, but he had to follow orders.

Q Did Gen Vaidya follow orders reluctantly?

Ans: (Shrugs his shoulders!) Orders are orders! (Operation Blue Star was carried out at Golden Temple to flush out militants led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, holed up there, who had fortified the holy precincts. Bhindranwale was also killed during the operation by the army.)

Q. What is the plan of Anna Hazare’s Jantantar Morcha for the public?

Ans : Jantantar Morcha is an apolitical organization aimed to reach the grass roots level in villages and cities on a 25-point charter prepared by Anna Hazare .

Q. How can you clean up the filth in the well of politics if by not jumping into it? Will you support any party or individual in the political fray? What are the chances of Arvind Kejriwala’s ‘Aam Adami’(AA) party? Any hierarchy created for your JM?

Ans: We shall inform, create awareness and motivate the masses to rise in a peaceful manner to change the system. We need not be in politics to clean it up, because it is difficult to change the set of rules laid in politics for the past six decades. But yes, we will support clean individual candidates in the forthcoming elections. As far as Kejriwala’s political party is concerned, it would have a very limited success. Some of the party workers of AA met us here and are willing to support our organization to make village ‘leaders’. As of now there is no hierarchy or line of command created in the organization. We plan to take our yatra in the form of a public rally from the strongest symbol of Freedom Movement- the Jallianwala Bagh, covering most of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi . The last leg of this All India rally would be from the Punjab areas to Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pardesh besides others.

Q3. Do you think you can replicate or expect a mass movement yet again, as was seen in Jantar Mantar supporting Anna Hazare ?

Ans: People are fed up, now is the chance for the people to make their voices heard, presence felt and act as a pressure group to change the rules that have brought ruination. This mass presence, this frustration and anger with the system was recently seen in the ‘Damani Gang rape case’.

Q4. Damini’s case aroused the public anger as they identified strongly with the security of their children? How does JM plan to trigger such a movement? Is there a plan to charge the masses? It could cause a law and order problem, what then?

Ans: The boiling process has already started and we are targeting the first time voter numbering 9 crore and the 2nd time voter numbering 19 crore. Youth is where JM draws its strength. Yes, we do have a plan but I am not about to share it. It will be visible at the right hour. Our aim is to carry forward this agenda peacefully with a mass movement and we have full faith in Anna ji who will flag the Morcha from Jallianwala bagh on March 31. JM wants the 25- point charter, to be progressed in this one year. Its moot points are ‘Right to Reject’, formation of ‘Gram sabhas’ as watchdog units at village level since panchayats too have become political, Criminals be disallowed to contest any election, besides others.

Post Script: Army Chief Gen Singh who at one time was refuting allegations of phone tapping of defense ministry during his ongoing ‘date-of-birth’ related controversy alleged that his phone was tapped .

FIRST PUBLISHED IN SIFY.COM at : http://www.sify.com/news/interview-vk-singh-on-anna-movement-kashmir-s-problems-and-afspa-news-national-ndfnvcajdei.html

How the Rajoana hanging was torpedoed ?—— By Rashmi Talwar RK


Secret Hangings

Original Heading – ‘Secret Hanging’- a new political tool?
By Rashmi Talwar

How the Rajoana hanging was torpedoed ?—— By Rashmi Talwar RK

Has the ruling government at the center found a new tool in ‘secret hanging’ to wrench the power of political manipulations for its exclusive use? This question has been uppermost in the minds of political parties, especially regional ones whose role has suddenly been eroded in the power-plays.

In the past, these very parties had employed sharp tactics of ‘arouse-n-appease’ their publics for vote bank politics, whenever dates of hanging of convicts were announced. Similar political tactics have been seen to be used blatantly by successive union governments by manipulating CBI case hearings, case announcements, judgments or even new cases openings, to puncture the opponent’s rising influence, especially as a diversionary tactics or in some cases ‘just to put the opponent in their place’.

Take the case of, Balwant Singh Rajoana, the assassin of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, who was to be hanged on May 31, 2012. Three days prior to carrying out the death sentence, a clemency plea in favour of the convict, no-less, than by the present Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was admitted by President Pratibha Patil, who returned it to Ministry of Home Affairs to further review the case and saved him. The Rajoana case was ‘stayed’. In other words it was the victory of a regional political party, Shiromani Akali Dal led by Badal, who emerged as a saviour for an assassin, convicted of killing Beant Singh- a ‘Congress’ Chief Minister.

In August 2011, when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha moved the resolution in the state assembly to commute the death sentence of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins- she used the arouse-n-appease tactic to save Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan the killers, citing the sentiments of Tamils.

No sooner had Jayalalitha’s plea for mercy been broadcast, a simmering Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah angrily tweeted that ‘if Jammu & Kashmir made such a mercy plea for Afzal Guru- a convict in the Parliament Attack (a Kashmiri), then the public reaction would have not been so subdued’. He even went ahead and queried that if other states were throwing their weight behind Rajiv’s assassins, Beant’s assassins and mass murderers, why was it wrong to ask for clemency for a Kashmiri Afzal Guru.

The clemency pleas of Rajiv’s assassins, Rajoana and Davinder Pal Bhullar, spiralled into issues of sharply divided opinions, arousing passions and subsequently opportunism in political parties. The field was open for all political parties, especially regional parties, to politically manipulate the situation by arousing local passions and finally stepping in to save the state subject. Thus, gaining popular support for this supposed ‘gallantry’.

On the one side it was seen as a virtual ‘defeat’ for the ruling party at the centre in such scenarios. In a quick swoop, the supporting (regional) parties showed the central government as a cruel ‘imposing authority’. On another side, these very parties were successful in making the convict appear as a forthcoming martyr or hero for its community as the state chief ministers came out openly in their support.

Defeating such ploys of state governments, the first secret hanging in recent times came of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving assassin of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Although, in Kasab’s case the state governments had limited role to play in view of the fact that he was a Pakistani national, this was probably an experiment by the central government in deriving political mileage out of such ‘secret hangings’. This hanging was seen by all, as resurrecting the sagging image of Congress that was viewed as ‘weak’ owing to slow or delayed reaction on vital issues of major public sentiment and interest. Enthused by the positive feedback generated Kasab’s ‘secret hanging’, the central government was now ready for the second such experiment, this time around with an additional advantage of taking the wind out of sails of the regional satraps.

This time it seems to be Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde’s loose statement had antagonized the majority community. A senior political analyst sees it as -“It may appear to be farcical but the statement made by our Home Minister wherein he said that ‘training camps of both BJP and RSS are promoting Hindu terrorism’ may have proved to be the proverbial last nail in Afzal Guru’s coffin”.

While Kashmir flared up post Afzal Guru’s hanging, the senior political analyst, equally upset with the manipulations of the union government, made the picture clearer, he said – “Shinde’s remark, coupled with the fact that the Congress party is popularly perceived to be minority appeaser, had obvious negative fallout. The Congress poll pundits viewed Shinde’s outspokenness as a ‘verbal bomb’ that had antagonized the majority community and results of this blunder would surely emerge in the forthcoming elections in 2014.”

He further analyzed– “Whatever the ruling Congress party may do to woo the minorities, no political party in India can afford to win the parliamentary elections without a strong support base in the majority community. Hence, as a damage control exercise, as also to dodge a belligerent Narendra Modi- a projected candidate for PM and a three time CM of Gujarat- who is breathing down their necks, Afzal Guru had to go”.

Otherwise why is it that convicts before Afzal Guru like Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted for killing Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995, Devinder Pal Bhullar, another sikh extremist on death row for killing nine persons in a 1993 car blast case, Murugan, Perarivalan and Santhan – convicted in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi-are still alive and Afzal Guru is hanged?

In the case of Afzal Guru, senior political analysts have castigated Omar Abdullah for speaking about the negative fallout of the hanging. Prabhu Chawla, the editorial director of The New Indian Express and The Sunday Standard asked –‘Why is young and bright Omar Abdullah taking up the issue of Afzal Guru. Didn’t Guru attack India of which J&K is an integral part?’ Akhilesh Mishra, a right wing activist contends about Omar’s stand that – “By publicly saying that a new generation of Kashmiris might be driven towards separatism, Omar Abdullah is actually seeding the idea himself.” What they probably have missed out though is that Omar Abdullah’s ire may actually be expression of the frustration of a regional political party (NC) against the central government (UPA) for maneuvering such cases to their own political advantage.

In this entire scenario, it is sad to see this disgraceful trend, in which the ruling party at the centre on one side and state governments on the other have jumped on to a populist bandwagon of either hanging or defending hardcore convicts on partisan lines of community or caste or region, only for vote bank politics! Whichever side gains advantage in this sad game of one-upmanship, it is the nation that loses in all circumstances.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR –

Jammu’s ‘Youngistan’ Enthralls Amritsar….. By Rashmi Talwar


Play: Do Kodi Ka Khel

Play: Do Kodi Ka Khel


THEATER REVIEW

THEATER REVIEW

Jammu’s ‘Youngistan’ Enthralls Amritsar

By Rashmi Talwar
Jammu & Kashmir’s young and only woman director-actor Ifra Kak’s maiden production ‘Do Kodi Ka Khel’ lays bare the convoluted world of corruption. An adaptation by Jammu’s Amateur Theatre Group, the production is based upon Bertolt Brecht’s famous play “Three Penny Opera” with its Hindustani adaptation by Parimal Dutta.
At the “10th National Theatre Festival” at Punjab Naatshala, in Amritsar, commemorating “100 Birth Anniversary of Saadat Hassan Manto” this year, this ‘youngistan’ production played by 15 young boys and girls from militancy infested and remote areas of Jammu and Kashmir, synergize the play, whose plot revolves around a beggar bunch and a dacoit’s gang both of which flourish ‘unabashedly’ under the protective patronage of the local police.
The actors are playing archetypes from popular culture. The leader of the beggars- Narhari Poddar, is a jumpy character, full of ideas to change the failing beggar business and convert his gang into a fake freedom fighters bunch, only to find that his vivacious wife, high on drugs, is unconcerned about their only daughter Phoolan Rani, who goes on to marry a promiscuous dacoit Bhayanak Singh.
What follows is rigmarole of changing colors of the police in a series of comic situations made brighter by the character of Police Inspector -Patti Pandey, played by Pankaj Sharma. Overall, Pandey is symbolically and reality-wise, the best framed character of the production. Wearing a cervical neck collar, his lopsided gait and mannerisms are interesting to watch.
The play was brilliantly executed, using the ‘epic’ style of theatre wherein an actor comes out of its character and jumps back into it. “At specific moments the acting crosses over into a parody of melodrama”, contends its director. The high energy levels, clarity of thought, simple narrative, using rhyming dialogues adds to the thrill of unfolding events and puts them in definite focus, leaving an impactful, thought-provoking message in its conclusion.
Bits of humour add spice to the goings-on in the play. The character of Narhari Poddar, played by a reed-thin actor Sourav Sharma, adds much fun to the streaks of comic relief with his break-dance routine and pelvic thrusts on music and songs of Bollywood.
His drugged wife Manmohini played by Delight William is sheer delight to watch as her mood swings of highs and lows catches one off-guard with her edgy slip of tongue . Ayaan Ali, as Bhayanak Singh dacoit, with his gang is impressive, not in the conventional vision of a ‘daaku’ but as flippy character who often speaks to the audience about their silence, their mute acceptance of corruption just as a daily domestic chore and arouses them not to remain mere spectators. Ifra, the director of the performance also an actor playing the character of Phoolan as a precocious child, is a bundle of laughter, lively with her childish antics and logic. The acting was deliberately loud and exaggerated, giving glimpses of ‘Bhand Pather’- the traditional folk theatre of Jammu & Kashmir.

The costumes and hairstyle of characters appeared to have got much attention from costume designer Delight, Shaheen and makeup artist Manoj Dhamir.

While the set was simple with merely two-three props of a table-chair and a death noose, the lighting was used brilliantly. Other than some gaps, when the stage was left empty, the production was endearing and smooth. Overall, it was an endearing performance of a timeless play that will be remembered by the audiences of Amritsar for a long time.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON DEC-19,2012
URL:http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/jammus-youngistan-enthrals-amritsar-38474.aspx

My experience about Newtown, Connecticut …. By RASHMI TALWAR


US KILLING: NEWTON CONNECTICUT DEC 15,2012

US KILLING: NEWTON CONNECTICUT DEC 15,2012

US SCHOOL SHOOTING

My experience about Newtown, Connecticut ……….

By RASHMI TALWAR

In my first look at this quaint town of Newtown, Connecticut, USA, I was swept away by its charm. It was the month of May in 2007 and Maple trees were beginning to sprout their greens after their snowy caps had melted, much like the Chinars (same family) that I love of Kashmir. On the first landing, we had a learning session with my aunt, wherein she gave us vital clues of the town to ward off any ‘gregarious Indian-Ishytle traits’ of lunging-to-help-out or ‘chalta hai’ attitude in India, once things go wrong.

This is the same town that has seen the most dastardly killing of 20 children and six adults in a School by a 20- year old, on December 15, 2012.

During our visit, the instructions were –‘Don’t look too long into the neighbor’s house; don’t stand or stare at a school building; don’t click photos without permission; don’t sit anywhere near a building, only near ponds or parks; don’t use a vehicle, not even a bicycle since it is right hand driving here and the Police will nab you the moment it notices your confusion at road crossings and there would be a hefty fine and explanations, besides an admonition to the host family. These all were precautionary, helpful and kept us in check. They were also not misplaced or deliberately fear-inducing because barely a month before our visit, in mid April of 2007, 32 people at Virginia Tech USA, had been killed by a gunman.

The unobtrusive view of this cute township of Newtown, without front or side dividing walls, tree-lined with the best kept gardens, was a feast for the eyes. The dogs or pets were electronically leashed; sensor spot lights at night, timed lighting in houses were some of its security measures. I noticed the way people strictly obeyed instructions, when a hurricane befell during our stay. The town spread out in about 160 sq. kms. had a robust infrastructure, far more than its meagre population of about 27,000.

When news of killing of 26, including 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown broke on December 15, I was completely shocked and deeply saddened, having spent two months in that quiet peaceful place, considered one of the safest in America. To visualize the splattered ‘color of blood’ in Newtown, where people came from world-over in autumns, to watch the trees turn auburn, gold and reddish radiant, was particularly ironic.

Everyone in Newtown had a car and public transport was nonexistent, it being a non-tourist place. Thumbing a lift was strange and if someone stopped, they would consider you a local who had a problem and then move over all the buying paraphernalia from their loaded car, which they perhaps didn’t have time to download, to make space for you to sit in the passenger seat. Indeed things were beautiful, but not so simple, yet there was an air of being organized, being cautious, being thoughtful and being obedient. It was different and I loved it all.

However, despite the well organized township, there were things that didn’t quite feel normal, for instance there were huge spread out properties with signs of ‘No trespass allowed’ where a ‘single’ person was known to occupy the house. Police kept a vigil on them, but it was wholly abnormal to stay cut-off from the rest of humanity. “If one has no fear of being seen, one can act in unimaginable ways” say psychologists.

In another instance during a flight to Florida, a fellow co-passenger’s statement had got me thinking. “Why doesn’t America do more for people who are going insane, instead of having a liberal gun license policy? Could you imagine the havoc an insane person can unleash with an easy access to guns?” he contended. Perhaps the Virginia Tech 2007 killing was still fresh in his mind.

Another jolting experience was when I happened to ask an American of Indian origin about education in USA, she answered – “Education is very good but it is scary that children bring guns to school.” I was shocked.

Learning of the recent killing in Sandy Hook and its details, it shook me more that Nancy Lanza mother of 20-year old gunman Adam Lanza, possessed ‘three’ licensed weapons, including an automatic gun. I cannot quite understand this ‘gun freedom’ or liberalization.

I only laud the spirit of the people of this place who, after the massive tragedy, came together in support of the grieving families, taking to prayer.

There was no screaming, no irresponsible reporting in media, no chest beating, no arson, no strikes, no blaming the government, no wild-run destroying public property, stone-pelting or any violent means. They just stood locked in a human chain lighting candles in grief, giving solace and support to those who lost their little ‘tulips’ (5 to10 year olds) and steady trees (six adults).

It felt like a healing touch that television channels there aired programmes on how to detect trauma or deal with a traumatized child who had seen or heard the shootout. I hope US introspects its liberalized policy on guns, before it is too late.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON DECEMBER 20, 2012
URL: http://epaper.risingkashmir.com/20122012/default.asp

Ifra Kak :Theater can be Therapeutic …By Rashmi Talwar


ifra article RK

Ifra Kak :Theater can be Therapeutic …By Rashmi Talwar

Ifra Kak, naturally took to the ‘waters’ of the theatre-world with an ease, that is inborn. A Masters degree holder in Performing Arts (Theatre), from Hyderabad Central University, she has acted in a number of plays and has now emerged as the first woman director, in the vast repertoire of Jammu and Kashmir’s vibrant theatre scene. It is perhaps no mean achievement for a young woman, that too in a male dominated society of her home turf and irrespective of the spate of turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, that took most of her teenage and formative years, this 26-year old theatre professional, continued to traverse her chosen paths to follow her inherent passion for theatre productions.
In her candid talk with RASHMI TALWAR, Irfa talks about her achievements, her challenges ahead and how she is ready to go the extra mile, to become a name in the International theatre scene.

Q1: Ifra, you have been awarded by JKFMAC (Jammu &Kashmir Film Makers &Artists Cooperative) as the first woman director theatre director of the State of Jammu &Kashmir, what next?

Ans 1: Awards are an acknowledgement of one’s work. But they give one more responsibility to prove again and again that one had deserved it. By no means have I felt that an award is going to make me slack and rest on my laurels, instead, I would like to work doubly hard. I have made my way to the prestigious ‘International Performance Research Programme’ at University of Warwick, UK and I am the first ever woman from Jammu &Kashmir to be selected for such a programme. My dream is to bring my work to the level of International Theatre and to be reckoned in my field. My father Mushtaq Kak is already a noted name in theatre circles worldwide. Considering that aspect, I feel fortunate. But I want to travel my paths on my own merit.

Q2: What are your current projects, do they involve the Kashmir situation?

Ans 2: Presently, I am working on two theatre projects Ariel Dorfman’s “Widows” and a concept performance of “Sordid Tales of Suffering” based on Euripides’ “Trojan Women”. I consistently try to motivate Kashmiri women to participate in theatre and focusing on this aspect, I also conduct theatre workshops for them in Jammu & Kashmir. I am particularly perturbed over the plight of ‘Half Widows in Kashmir’. “Sordid Tales..” – is a concept performance on the atrocities on women in Kashmir. Apart from that, I have done the dramatization of Lydia Avilov’s autobiography “Chekhov in my life” which ‘ was awarded ‘Mahindra Excellence Award’ and was recognized as Best of the Year, production by Sahitya Kala Parishad, New Delhi.

Q3: Do you think theatre can be therapeutic, have you given this aspect a try? How was your experience?

Ans 3: Yes, theatre as an art form can be therapeutic. For this, I had done a fortnight long, spot devised project of a theatre workshop with the inmates of ‘Kot Bhalwal Central jail’ Jammu & Kashmir, which is one of the most sensitive jails of the country. I was the first person of J&K to take that step. It was an experience of a lifetime. I saw inmates from many countries there including from Pakistan and Afghanistan. An unnatural environment of confinement naturally evolves unnatural behavioural patterns of being disturbed, in depression, low self esteem, aggression, silent or rigid.
Someone told me at the outset of the workshop, that Azhar Masud – hardcore terrorist, exchanged for release of passengers of flight IC-814 in 1999 had been housed here. It gave me goose-pimples but after that I concentrated on my task of relieving some of the pent up emotions of many of these hapless prisoners who were remorseful and longed for freedom. The medium of theatre helped them. I particularly remember a young boy who had accidentally committed a murder and for days he did not speak while we conducted the workshop. Then about a week later, his eyes shone, his silence broke and he voluntarily came forward to participate and derive joy from acting. This gave me a big sense of achievement.
Besides this I have also worked with the orphans of Rainbow Home, Hyderabad and Deaf and Dumb children of Ahuti Centre, Hyderabad with good results.

Q4: Have you also been able to widen your creative dimensions through world theatre?

Ans 4: I was fortunate to participate in twelve (12) major workshops in the field of theatre, both before and during my university education. These include -Children’s Theatre Workshop- Dr Sudhir Mahajan, Forum Theatre Workshop-Sruthi Bala (London) -, Scenography Workshop- Deepan Sivaraman (London & India)-, Theatre Management Workshop- Kunt (Norway), Theatre Design Workshop-David Whittan ( Secretary General, IFTR, England)- 2010, Invisible theatre Workshop- Devendra Nath Sankaranarayan; Scenography Workshop- Robin Das (NSD); Acting Workshop- Douglas-Complicite (London)-2010, Community Theatre- Ola Johanson-Switzerland-2010, Advanced Scenography Workshop- Deepan Sivaraman (London& India), Forum Theatre Workshop- Mark- USA-2010, Acting Workshop- Rajesh Tailang- besides various workshops of National School of Drama . I participated in the Bharat Rang Mahotsav which is the biggest International Theatre Festival, conducted by the NSD and also got the opportunity to act in the plays directed by many eminent directors, not only on my home turf , but also outside. Apart from this photography is my other companion.

Q5: Can you name some of the plays that you acted in?

Ans 5: As a child artist I worked in various serials of Doordarshan such as “Habba Khatoon”, “Shikast”, “amma”, “Aastha”, “Rasoolmeer” and others. I have also acted in nearly 14 plays some of which are Mother’s Courage – Sreejith Ramanan; Satya Harischandra – Supriya Shukla; Iphigenia – Satya Brat Rout; Dooth Ghadotkach – Bhoomikeswar Singh; Reflection – Noushad Mohd; Alberts’s Bridge – Mohan Maharshi; “Jameela” – Gargi (NSD); “Accidental Death of an Anarchist- Vijay Kapoor ;’Kanjoos’-play-Neeraj Kant-; and two solo performances in ‘Mantri ji ki Moochh’ and ‘Ram Khilawan’

Q6: How does it feel to work in a man’s world especially in Jammu and Kashmir where ideas of women working in theatre are still very orthodox?

Ans 6: Frankly, it is very difficult. It is very difficult to get a female cast for my plays. I try to motivate women in theatre, not only as a means to creativity but also as an alternate way of livelihood, but the conservative string plays a spoilsport. However, I am not about to give up and shall keep trying to inspire and motivate them.


FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON December 15, 2012
http://epaper.risingkashmir.com/15122012/default.asp

Wagah wonder: Border melts on a platter here…………..By Neha Saini


Amritsar, September 10
Days before External Affairs Minister SM Krishna reached Lahore to shake hands with chief minister Shahbad Sharif on Sunday, the warmth in this part of Punjab was being gently stirred up, gastronomically. Near the Attari-Wagah border, the best of cuisines from both sides of Punjab waited to tickle the taste buds. Diplomacy could wait, after all, with Punjabi ‘tadka’ ready to serve up a preamble.

The idea is simple: move on with peace with food as an essential ambassador. So, here it is: ‘Lahori Dum Biryani’, ‘Chapali Kebab’, ‘Miyan-ji-ki-daal’, ‘Lahori bhindi’, ‘Amritsari daal’ ‘Amritsari fish’, ‘bhuna gosht, lassi, kheer, rasmalai, jalebi, firni and what have you.

You are right; a distance of 30km (how far is Lahore, youngsters on this side often ask) isn’t much to proffer a flavour switch. Conceptually, it does. Here’s how.

Walk inside ‘Sarhad’, a stone’s throw from the border. “Our chefs have carefully put together ‘Lahori Thaal’ using spices and flavours from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” says Aman Jaspal, the owner. Since fish and mutton are a favourite on both sides, these form the basis of many recipes at ‘Sarhad’.

Aman knows Lahore and its by-lanes. “Amritsar and Lahore share a rich culinary tradition. We want engrossing conversations on cross-border cultural exchanges over a sumptuous meal,” he says.

He has already hosted special guests such as Pakistani filmmaker Ayesha Akram at ‘Sarhad’. Aman quotes her: “It is a simple and an impressive way to bond. Most conversations happen at the dining table.”

The marquee on Sarhad also flaunts a ‘Museum of Peace’. “There are many multimedia displays from the Partition and Pre-Partition days besides pictures, maps, renditions and writings by famous people who witnessed the Partition. Our collection has been sourced from scholars in London researching Indo-Pak relations,” says Aman.

From Lahore
* Mian-ji-ki daal (a medley of five lentils), tawa gurda kapoora, dil, maghaz, chaamp and ‘khusrey de kebab’

From Amritsar

* Kulchas and puris, Amritsari fish, parantha, tandoori chicken, bhuna gosht, lassi, kheer, ras malai, jalebi, firni

THE WRITER IS A CORRESPONDENT WITH THE TRIBUNE

Lahore’s Rashid Rana Puts Us In Our Place….. BY NAYANTARA KILACHAND


Graphics by Rashid Rana


Viewers find a certain delight in the works of Rashid Rana. The Pakistani artist is primarily known for his style of stitching together thousands of digital images of deliberate provocation to form a single image of seeming innocuousness. Take for instance, his “Veil Series”, where pixellated images of porn were placed mosaic-style to form images of women in burkhas. The delight, of course, is partly in discovering the deception afoot, which saddled with all the socio-political implications of porn and Islam and feminism, make for a titillating message.

It’s something that the viewer is likely to “get” whether or not he’s versed in current Pakistani politics, and such is their intrinsic appeal that the Lahore-based Rana has managed to remain both immensely popular and critically loved. Here, in Mumbai for his two-gallery show “Apposite/Opposite”, the 44-year-old Rana lures the viewer in with the same sense of familiarity—we see his mosaic images, recognise the larger form (it’s a horse!) or the smaller stich (it’s a Caravaggio!)—but then having earned our trust, he proceeds to screw with us entirely.

We’re subject to this, for instance, in “Anatomy Lessons Series 3”, which is on display at Chemould Prescott Road gallery (the Chatterjee & Lal leg of the show will open later this week): art history students might recognise it as a detail from Michiel Jansz Van Miereveld’s “Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Willem van der Meer” (everyone else, take a gander at the original here), which shows a naked male body, dissected by a doctor and his students. The work flickers gently on a flatscreen TV, its canvas made up of hundreds of moving images culled from CCTV footage, films and documentaries.

You can just about make out grainy scenes of violence, some of people in an arid landscape of no discernible geographic location, some Big Brother-ly shots of people on streets, doing apparently nothing more than walking. It’s a weird mix of a kind of academic butchery and violence of a more insiduous kind, which through the placement of surveillance presupposes our nature to be bad.

Whatever you do, don’t leave without spending some time with “Desperately Seeking Paradise II”, a mirrored grid installation that from a certain viewpoint reveals itself to be a skyline. Rana says the buildings are an amalgam of various American and European city skylines that are in turn composed of thousands of images of houses in Lahore. It’s the recognition of one kind of trope—the physical might of Western architecture and in turn its economy—layered on a trope of another kind—of something distinctly homegrown, situated in a distinctly Islamic context—that tugs at the conceit that it’s the subcontinent that’s always at the mercy of a Western lens.

In fact, it suggests quite the reverse, that we can’t always be sure who falls under whom in the hierarchy of world order. It also confronts us with the possibility that even though Pakistan, and indeed India, might peg their future prospects on turning into the swanky first-world countries they aspire to become, they’re still just specks, part of the same global mass of humanity

The Partition of Territory, Not Hearts —by Vaneet Kundra


by Vaneet Kundra
THE Partition of India ranks, beyond a doubt, as one of the 10 greatest tragedies in human history. It was not inevitable. India’s independence was inevitable; but preservation of its unity was a prize that, in our plural society, required high statesmanship. That was in short supply. A mix of other reasons deprived us of that prize – personal hubris, miscalculation, and narrowness of outlook.
The bare details of 1947 and its legacy are stark. The territorial partition that created modern India and Pakistan involved the internal division of Punjab and Bengal provinces, which – in unimaginable conditions of collapse of authority, flight, and massacre – resulted in the forced movement of 20 million people (Hindus and Sikhs to India and Muslims to Pakistan) and approximately 1.5 million deaths.
My grandfather used to tell me stories of partition and the emotions attached to it. I was quite interested to know, why the same sons of soil were detached by our founding fathers. He read a small article, which he had preserved.

“This feeling of disbelief is best summarised in the words of an officer in charge of refugee rehabilitation in Punjab, who said: “we in India were only vaguely familiar with the word ‘refugee’ and used to wonder why people should be compelled to leave homes. Even our refugees expressed surprise at the strange phenomenon of exchange of population and were heard saying, we used to hear about the change of rulers but for the first time the ruled are also changing places”.
The partition of 1947 was far more than an abstract line across administrative maps; it sought to create separate enclaves for different religious communities. In August 1947, when the “Radcliffe award ” partitioning Punjab and Bengal was announced, millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs now found that they no longer “belonged” to the place they were born in and had lived in forever.
But some questions remain unanswered, even if dwell deep into history to know the real reasons. It was a master stroke developed by British rulers on the policy of ‘ Divide and rule ‘. But the fact remains, that we are two different countries in territory, but not different in our culture, history, values, emotions, ancestors, language, food and jokes, specially the people of undivided pre-partition Punjab.
The imperialists never forgot to play their game of ‘ Divide and rule’, inspite leaving our land in 1947. They kept on pumping arms and ammunition to both us with a double benefit. Their economy thrives on this particular industry. We both pay them for arms to fight one another. They have a win-win situation all the time. Then we give them all the importance to mediate between us all the time. They have become our Super- Rulers again without any cost.
There was a photo published in several Delhi newspapers during the nuclear stand-off of 1998, when popular media discourse was spiced with comment about how the Indian nuclear-tipped warheads could reach all the way to Lahore and Islamabad.
The photo showed a crowd of Hindus and Sikhs dancing in patriotic celebration of India’s momentary advantage over Pakistan in the race for regional military supremacy. What intrigued me was that the revellers were the descendants of Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan; in hard logic, they were cheering the capacity to annihilate the land of their parents and grandparents. Such nationalist intoxication too is the fruit of partition.
After doing my B.A. ( Hons. ) from St. Stephens College, Delhi University, I came down to Amritsar to assist my brother in business as we had a business in Delhi and Amritsar both. For many years, I did not get the chance to visit Wagah border. Our business friends from Rajasthan had come to Amritsar with their family. They were quite eager to go there and see the retreat, as they had heard a lot about it in Rajasthan So me and my wife drove them upto Wagah, one fine Sunday in winters. This was during the time when Gen. Mushraff’ was the President of Pakistan.
While driving past Amritsar upto Wagah, we had thought, specially our Rajasthani friends, we would experience all that should be different. People, food, dwellings, crops, etc. Also, we’d thought everything should look, as between worst enemies, torn and divided: Culture, Community, Ancestry, History and Religion. But that was not to be. It was as if it were an extension of India into Pakistan, with nothing noticeable that tells one from the other.
We had heard about the Drill at Wagah and the sentiments attached to the event. A colleague in my office had once told me, “One is very enthused and enough prepared to die for the country at that moment, Sir”. The Indian side shouts “Vande-Matram, Bharat Mata ki Jai and Hindustan Zindabad”. The other side says, “Pakistan Zindabad, Paaindabad.” Lowering of the flags on both sides is followed by a common drill in which the Border Security Force Men and Pakistani Rangers ‘out step’ each other with overt and aggressive, macho display of strength.
Well we reached the Wagah Border with barbed fencing leading from both sides. The strong iron-gates were painted in tricolor scheme on ‘our’ side and green & white on ‘theirs’. Crowds of people having patriotic blood flowing through their veins had gathered on both sides. Each half was charitable but only to itself in shouting slogans. It was here that I felt there existed two countries, two people, two communities, two entities.
But still carried away by my fondness and respect for our mutual bonhomie with Pakistan, the tales of which I had heard from my father and grandfather, I began cheering even the ‘other side’ when they sought response to their sloganory exhortations. Suddenly then, I felt a tapping on my shoulder by ‘someone’. I turned back and looked someone with whom an argument ensued reflexively.
“Why are you cheering them?”
“There is nothing wrong in that”
“Are you one of those?”
“And are you someone different?”
“Don’t know they’re separate now?”
“Do Rivers stop entering this side?”
“Political rhetoric is long dead”
“So will be peace-willing generations!”
“Khushwants, Nayyars, Asma Jahangirs?”
“Yes. Precisely. So let’s cheer each other.”
“Don’t hear they swear by Allah?”
“Large number among us also does that.”
“They’re under seize and are tensed.”
“That’s why they deserve our cheers!”
“Emotional fool! Go your way”
Having been thus ticked off, I realized that ‘Someone’ was none else than my own flawed self. But what I had been looking in that crowd, even after the event of retreat drill, was the face of a child called Noor. Remember she had a successful heart surgery in Hindustan some years back. I am sure the likes of her would be the new generation of peace-willers in Pakistan. The retreat left me more hopeful. Emotional fool. Did you say that? No. Now it is ‘someone’ again at it. Damn him and hail peace!

German Mx Doner Cuisine comes to Amritsar


By Saanjh

Madame M Anske.jpg

The city of Amritsar, also known throughout the world as the taste capital of India, has attracted a Germany-based restaurateur Madam M Anske make space for a German restaurant here. During the opening of the joint ‘Mx Doner’, located at district shopping centre in Ranjit Avenue- Anske said under this name she would launch a chain of restaurants in India.

The German Lady is already running a food chain ‘Taj of India’ and a fast food joint ‘Italian Restaurant and Gevaman Bakery’ in Germany.

“I visited Amritsar a number of times and had the opportunity to relish different tastes.What really shocked me was that international and continental dishes were minus the original tastes! That propped me to launch my food chain in the delightful “Foodie’s Paradise”. Apart from International cuisine in international flavors , I understand that an Amritsari would still prefer a hint of its own home taste and I am working on it. Initially, the entire managing team would be flown in from Germany.

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


Pakistan's Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Khurshid Khan


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BETWEEN AMRITSAR & LAHORE by Dr. Manohar Singh Gill MP Rajya Sabha


When I was a little boy in Tarn Taran, a doggerel known to every Punjabi was oft quoted: “The man who has not been to Lahore, is not born”. A second lesser known, but often said in verbal jousts ran: The Donkey has been to Lahore, and now puts on airs.

I hadn’t been to Lahore for many years, and thought mid-February the perfect time to visit friends. A night stay at the Guru Nanak University was a pleasure. A better kept campus with rich plantation, can hardly be seen anywhere else. A visit to the Golden Temple, in the mid-day warming sun, was as always exciting: plenty of people from every corner of India, and queues, to get in over the narrow causeway. I talked to many in the Parikarma. Even I was astonished, at the presence of all of India. I met Tamils, Andhrites, families from Odisha, others from Bihar and Bengal. This was just a sample. Everything sparkled in the bright sun and clear air, and the mood was one of joy.

Manohar Singh Gill, Member Parliament

The drive to Attari-Wagha was interesting. The many laned road is perfect. Just out of Amritsar, was the bronze statue of Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala. Thirty years ago as a young Commissioner, I dreamt of putting up such monuments, but the time was not ripe. On both sides of the road, I saw excellent wheat, and the yellow mustard of Mulk Raj Anands’ short stories.

—————————————————————————————————–
At the Attari Border, I saw hundreds and hundreds of laden trucks, waiting to cross over. I questioned people. They were carrying many kinds of vegetables. I asked of the waiting time, and was horrified to know, that it is generally a week, sometimes even more! This is hardly smooth commerce, and I could imagine the suffering of the drivers in the cold, and the loss to the transport companies, in efficient utilization of the trucks. I enquired, if it was as bad on the Pakistani side. I learnt that they were better! Why was this so on our side? It appears that the perpetual Indian curse of distrust, and lack of common sense, leading to the filling of multiple forms, and many many useless enquiries. I am clear from my long experience, that most good policies and reforms, are reduced and sometimes nullified by bureaucrats, who see a devil under every bed, and think that form filling is the solution to it all. The robust Punjabis on the Lahore side, are inclined to use their common sense more, than big rule books. To cap it all, trucks pass from 9A.M. to 2P.M. after that the police on both sides, practice their evening aggressive parade. It is strange that vital commerce is allowed only for a few hours, the rest of the day being given over, to the promotion of aggressive parades and negative attitudes. The fact is both the police and the people are relaxed, and not with this goose stepping.
——————————————————————————————————-

I will give a parallel example. The Amritsar-Lahore bus, was started with great fanfare, many years ago. The day I crossed, the bus too had gone to Lahore, entirely empty except for the driver and the cleaner. It seems this happens all the time, and everybody is pretending, that a great confidence building action has been taken. I am from a Tarn Taran village. I had said publically many years ago that the bus will fail, unless there is a Pakistan Visa office in Amritsar, and an Indian one in Lahore. I think they existed, but were shut down after the 1965 war. The bus needs a man from my village, to come to Amritsar in the morning, get a 24 hrs visa stamped, go to Nankana Sahib, and cross back in the evening, dining with his family. Punjab people have to fill half a dozen forms, which are sent to half a dozen Ministries, mainly home and police agencies, and they are lucky if they get a visa in six months! All this to take a day trip to Lahore, 30 miles across the border. The system being followed is meant to nullify the initiative, no less. Strangely more then a thousand rupees are charged for this 30 mile trip.
I will also say, that the Lahore people suffer equally. I could quote numerous examples, of high dignitaries, and professionals begging around our embassy in Islamabad. Their request sometimes, for my help embarrasses me. Pakistanis get a visa to go direct to Delhi, and are not allowed to get down at Amritsar, to visit the Golden Temple, or for cheaper medical treatment, in a familiar Punjabi environment. The Delhi-Lahore bus too, zips through the Punjab, escorted at our cost, but no Punjabi can get on it! I wish somebody would explain the rationale to me.

On the Pakistan side, many people welcomed us, and we stayed with Cambridge friends. In 1974 Dr. Rashid Amjad, newly married, was doing a Ph.D. in Cambridge, when I was writing a book, on the Punjab Green Revolution Success. He is the only case that I know, who got married to a pretty girl, took her to Cambridge, and still managed to study other irrelevant matters, and somehow get a Ph.D.! Manzoor had worked with me in Nigeria for four long years, but never given up the Rishta. The Mall Road and the wide thorough fares were a delight. The Silk cottons, were already bursting into potential blooms, ancient plane trees touching the sky were everywhere. For centuries Punjabis have lived with invaders, and the doggerel is known to all of us : Khada Peeta Lahe Da, Baaki Ahmad Shahe Da. Eat and drink what you can, the rest belongs to Ahmad Shah Durrani. So every evening there had to be a massive meal hosted by a gracious lady. One evening we were taken to Andaaz Restaurant in Old Lahore, overlooking the beautifully lighted Badshahi Mosque, Ranjit Singh’s Tomb, and the Akbar built Fort.

Of course, I played a round of Golf. I could not compete with the idle of Lahore, distinguished high public servants they might have been, but I did not disgrace myself. In the pavilion Verandah, I found four old bodies, tucking into plates of fried eggs, tomatoes, toasts, cheese and mushrooms. I went across in a wicked mood to greet them. They tried hard to ruin my cholesterol levels, and were anxious to take me to dinner. Another golfer passing by, was introduced to me as a past Federal Secretary. He gave me a knee touching greeting, in honour of the Indian Election Commission’s past work. I had been there once.
In that society of the well to do, I suddenly spied, an Aam Aadmi, a peasant, sixtyish, white Punjabi Chaddar, and white Punjabi Turban in a jaunty village style, that I know. He had a broom and was sweeping tree leaves. He was looking longingly, at the only Sikh on the horizon. I walked across and greeted him. We soon learnt that we were brother Gills. All Punjabi peasants, are Gills, Chatthas, Waraich etc. We are a tribal people from the North, religious variations came to us later, and our past over rides all these. We hugged each other, and numerous photographs were taken. He said I had made his day. I knew that he had made mine.

The next day I went to Kartarpur, some distance from Narowal, two hours from Lahore. People think only of Nankana Sahib, where Guru Nanak was born. My take is different. The miracle child lived his first 15 years at Nankana, the next 15 at Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala, working in the Lodhi Governors office. At age 30, he gave it all up, and became a Sufi Fakir in search of the ultimate. He travelled to Baghdad, Mecca Madina, Assam, Tibet, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. After 20 years of having sat with the Sants, Sadhus, and Sufis of the world, he came back at the age of about 50, set up a Farm on the banks of the Raavi, and spent the next 20 years preaching what he knew. Guru Nanak’s teachings are all from Kartarpur. He passed away there. Muslims and Hindus argued over burial and cremation. As the legend goes, they found only flowers under the Chaddar, and half were buried, half cremated. To me Kartarpur, from where a mature Guru Nanak preached Sikhism, comes first and his place of birth second.
Sadly, in 1947 Independence came to both countries, but marooned the Mecca-Madina of the Sikh people. For the last 64 years, we are allowed limited permission for a few thousand each year, by the Home/Police Ministries of the two countries for pilgrimage only to go to Nankana Sahib, Lahore, and Panja Sahib near Islamabad. Guru Nanak’s Kartarpur was locked away, and it fell into disrepair. Now, the Pakistan Wakf has repaired it, and opened it for limited privileged visitors. In 2004, I had gone to Dera Baba Nanak, a small township, where Baba used to come across the Raavi, from his right bank Ashram, to preach to the people: hence the name Dera Baba Nanak. I stood on the Dhussiband on the Raavi, and saw Kartarpur 2 kms across. I found that Sikh men and women came everyday, in their hundreds, to bow in the mud, cry a little, and go back home. They could only glance at Kartarpur with longing eyes. It is strange that the Sikhs are the only people in the world, who are denied free and liberal access to their Mecca-Madina. I believe that the indifference on both sides, has given this punishment to the Sikhs since independence.

In the early winter morning, we drove across wheat and yellow mustard fields, through the pleasant countryside, passing villages and small settlements. The agriculture is good but frankly could be better. I did not see too many boys, and particularly girls, on the road going to school. In our Punjab thousands of girls on cycles, rushing to lots of schools is a happy sight. I missed that. At Kartarpur we suddenly turned a bend in the road, and there was the Gurdwara, elegant and standing alone, in a vast green rural landscape. A large number of people were waiting to greet me. I paid my obeisance and climbed to the top to look across at the eucalyptus trees on the Dhussiband across the Raavi. So close and yet so far.

I had wanted to meet people, real people, peasants, the salt of the land. I had met enough of the upper crust in Lahore. A large number had come. We sat on Charpais. Deghs of Biryani had been brought. Everyone ate. Three leading singers from the area, were there. Each sang to his heart’s content, and my delight. They sang of Guru Nanak; Bulle Shah, Heer Ranjha and Farid. I then spoke to them, and made it clear, that Guru Nanak was for the people. Therefore for me to come, and do isolated prayers, and not meet the people, amongst whom he is still revered as a great Sufi, was not possible. The experience will live with me, as it will with them.

At Nankana Sahib, the next day, I found that the Gurudwara is much improved. The mud inner compound is elegantly marbled. There are many double storeyed rest houses for pilgrims and a Sarovar. There is also an excellent Guru Nanak School nearby, where a thousand students study. My wife and I had lunch, with the family of Haroon Bhatti. He is the 16th descendent of Rai Bolar, the Zamindar of the area in 1469, when Guru Nanak was born. Rai Bolar took to this miracle child, and Sikhs have plenty of stories of Rai Bolar’s great love for Guru Nanak. So do the Bhatti family. The family were gracious and kind, the final proof, Saag and Makki Roti in a big spread.

I went to Aitcheson College and spoke to the boys. I visited the Lahore School of Economics, set up by my friends, the two Chaudhary brothers, both Cambridge alumni. This outstanding school, is putting a thousand boys and girls into Pakistan society every year. Girls and boys were in equal numbers, the girls better dressed than our Delhi ones. There were many Libraries and cafeterias. They had tried to give a Cambridge atmosphere. I believe this school will impact, Pakistan’s future in a positive way. Someone on my side should have a look, and start something similar in the Punjab.

Since 2004, I have been campaigning at every level, for direct and free access to Kartarpur, from Dera Baba Nanak, without visas etc. The idea is simple. We can walk barefoot, two kilometers across a boat bridge over the Raavi, built post monsoon, do our prayers and come back. The path could be cordoned on both sides, with barbed wire, with police in attendance. Security will be satisfied, and the Sikh people of India, will have full access to their Mecca as all other faiths, have to theirs. In the 21st Century, it is time good and caring people in both countries, looked at this, to give comfort to the Sikhs.

Dr. Manohar Singh Gill
Member of Parliament
Contact No- 011-23792953
/ I thank Dr MS Gill for sending this write-up for Saanjh.wordpress.com… Regards Rashmi Talwar for Saanjh-Amritsar Lahore Blog

Bol- ‘Bold’ By Rashmi Talwar /Film Review/ Pak film Tops in India


Bol-'Bold' By Rashmi Talwar /Film Review /

Bol- ‘Bold’

By Rashmi Talwar

Bol is bold, brash and banshee … Every time one tries predicting; a new twist fevicols (glues) one to the seat. At the outset it seems just another stereotype sob-story but its inner mazes – wraps and unwraps- you in a blind-hole, wherein you search the light out of the mysterious tunnel.

Writer-Director Shoaib Mansoor’s second inning’s outstanding production after the much acclaimed Khuda Kay Liye, Bol rains questions on Pakistan’s society on retro practices, hollow honor, patriarchal modes and the sufferance of innocent humankind as puppeteer controlled dolls.
In flashback mode, Shoaib takes a dig at society’s claim on male heir, while queuing a dozen daughters to attain the elusive son. Told through a compelling narrative as Zainab (Humaima Malick) narrates her life history, to the watchful media, minutes before being noosed to death- the eldest of the many daughters of conservative Muslim family of Hakim saab (Manzar Zehbai) reveals all in her journey to death’s rope.
The elusive son-chase ends with birth of Saifee (Amr Kashmiri).

A storyline so amazing, no mumbo-jumbo to those of the Indian sub-continent but shocking for western farers, the film explores the depths of deep-rooted bias and exploitation born out of systemized centuries-old drilling, about the role and place of a woman in society. The scene of ‘currency–note washing and ironing’ to purify is an unmistakable gesture, worming from debased superstition.

Saifee’s artistic development, his closeness to his sisters is the mystery in the movie owing to its ‘queer’ storyline . However, Saifee being admonished by his protagonist sister for donning lipstick and wearing duppata et al, sees him raising a vital question ‘ Is being a man –Means to be stiff-lipped, beat women and treat family like scum?
Saifee’s eventual destiny is that which connects you the angst over something that human being is hopeless to rectify .

A murder twists the plot into a complete shredding of ideals and age-old pretext values and as they say –‘Allah’s rage looms large’- of father taking a complete dirt-road, out of his predicament.

Hakim saab’s trot to the house of Saqa Kanjar (Shafqat Cheema), a tout of Lahore’s infamous Heera Mandi –And then the ‘strangest agreement’ – –seen as money-spinner for Kanjar and Hakim’s sole face saver. Hakim hits rock bottom with his association with Heera mandi’s tawaif Safina (Iman Ali), who calls herself Meena after the legendary leading lady of Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah.

Safina’s or Meena’s role is a gem. Posturing, a simple conversation in Royal dialect, the next moment elapsing into true crass form of brothel dialect, throws one. Her eventual melting point is a peep into motherly emotions winning over in contrast to her environmental pressures.
Sets and acting of each character including Kanjar’s slurping – dipping finger licks, Punjabi abuses of Meena or that of Kanjar’s wife, the wandering chicken in courtyard, Lahore’s signature trucks makeover into bridal-like contraptions, narrow watchful streets, old family haveli, four-poster antique beds, true-blue lahori dialect and occupations to match, dialogue delivery and gestures, all point towards a piercing eye to detail and authenticity.
I could compare the details of Bol to ‘Tere Bin Laden’ another movie set in Pakistan, though shot on sets in India, which too entrenched the same quality unlike top of the charts film ‘Veer-Zara’ of Yash Chopra which lost out on vitals of lifestyle, language , décor and many other aspects.

The plot, spins, twists and turns lend a very authentic storyline to Bol. The Film’s narration, cinematography is brilliant.
A whiff of soft music that doesn’t necessarily gel in the story, by Atif Aslam otherwise adds lightness in his signature style ‘Hona tha pyaar..’ and proves a breather in the haystack.
The question at the end by the protagonist daughter is at seen as throw on burgeoning population in a mad race in her country “If it is a crime/sin to kill, then why is it not a crime/sin to give birth?” leaving one with a lingering feeling of children as a head-count or herd gathering mechanism .
Overall the film leaves one thoughtful, enthralled and in complete wonderment.

The Hindu : Cities / Delhi : A tale of two cities


The Hindu : Cities / Delhi : A tale of two cities.

Rashmi Talwar -Saanjh- Amritsar -Lahore , Bonding the two cities @saanjh.wordpress.com

A tale of two cities

PARUL SHARMA SINGH
SHARE · COMMENT (1) · PRINT · T+

A NOBEL DESIRE: Rashmi Talwar wishes to give a fillip to one-on-one interaction between India and Pakistan.
Rashmi Talwar’s blog ‘Saanjh’ on Amritsar and Lahore highlights the heritage and culture the cities share

Much before Doordarshan entered their homes, Rashmi Talwar and her friends were already hooked to shows on the Pakistan Television (PTV) network. Growing up in Amritsar and brought up on stories about Lahore — the erstwhile cultural and political capital of undivided Punjab — over 40 kilometres from here, she naturally followed everything happening in the neighbouring country with utmost zest.

While travelling to Pakistan in 2005, this journalist-turned-blogger felt a “personal initiative” was needed at a local level to highlight the centuries-old shared heritage and culture of Amritsar and Lahore. This maiden trip gave birth to her blog ‘Saanjh- Amritsar Lahore: Bonding the Twin Cities’, where she posts about people, things and events that would fascinate the denizens of both the border cities.

“Saanjh means togetherness. I want to create awareness between the peoples of these two cities and bring them together. I wish to give a fillip to one-on-one interaction between the citizens of India and Pakistan so that all misconceptions and mistrust is washed away,” says Talwar. “There is so much in common in both the cities, which we need to understand and cherish. People in Lahore are always so keen to know what is happening in Amritsar,” she adds happily.

During her past four trips to Pakistan, Talwar observed while people in Lahore are culturally pro-active with a keenness for heritage, art, culture, theatre and environment, their counterparts in Amritsar lacked the passion for “such finer nuances of life”. Through her blog, she is trying to eliminate this “apathy” on our side of the border.

“When I visited Pakistan for the first time, I was surprised to see how many men and women were so culturally aware, while in Amritsar women were whiling away time at parties,” rues Talwar, who later organised a Lahore trip for an all-women delegation comprising her school alumnae in May last year.

“The day I was to collect the visas for the ladies from Delhi, Osama bin Laden was shot dead by the US forces in Abbottabad and I thought our trip would be scuttled as no one would issue us visas at such a juncture. But we were lucky!” she reminisces.

While Amritsar is her old turf enabling her to write extensively about the city, along with her own journalistic pieces, her Pakistani friends also provide her inputs for stories emanating from Lahore for the blog. Some of her blog posts are quite interesting too! For instance, the educationist father of the Pakistan governor Salman Taseer, who was assassinated last year, was from Amritsar and met his English wife in the holy city. In fact, the nikah was solemnised by none other than Sir Muhammad Iqbal, who had famously penned “Saare jahan se achha…”

Incidentally, the younger sister of this English lady later married great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, after meeting him in Amritsar, before they left for Pakistan post-Partition.

Talwar who is now planning another Pakistan-trip next month, hopes the visit would result in more friendship, more camaraderie between the two nations, and, of course, more enlightening posts for her blog.

Keywords: Saanjh, Rashmi Talwar, Pakistani culture

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


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

By Rashmi Talwar

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

It was the 16th year of Peace overtures by organizations ‘Folklore Research Academy’ (FRA), ‘Hind Pak Dosti Manch’ , ‘Punjab Jagriti Manch’, that conceived the idea of Candle lit Vigil annually on this momentous occasion of a time when one country’s dusk coincided with dawn for the other. A moment relived at the time of Freedom but also of deep cuts of separation from ones own.

Lighting candles came as a symbolic gesture of peace with the borders, near the no-man’s land between forbidding Gates – an unspoken barrier of no trespass. This simple gesture was to vent the pains of separation, longing hearts and a call for harmony on the midnight of Freedom. It started as a friendship mela at Wagah, in memory of Raja Porus a common hero for denizens of both countries.

I reached a little early, giving me the luxury of retrospect. Gaping at the peeking moon beaming now, in full circular glory a moment back, through diaphanous clouds, I wondered if there shone a moon on those sultry, bloody August nights of 1947, 65 years back. The nights of stealth, loot, rape, fear, blood and gore, of screams and surrender to the greatest inhumanity to shake earth leaving millions homeless, naked and bewildered.
“Did they too fold their hands in prayer looking at the sky for a savior or in thanksgiving? A thanksgiving for a wandering displaced existence, with only their lives, just out of the womb.

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

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

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

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

Tonight was different, Guards had been raised, and BSF personnel guarded at every 50 steps.
A threatening barbed wire fence, darkness but glowing faces in shimmering fairy lights I saw , people had changed !
Perhaps, the wounds healed and generations that faced it all, turned greyer and wiser. Hatred divided and Peace Unites; There was no third path !

The call from Indians this time too was answered with solidarity and support from Pakistan’s peaceniks of SAFMA (South Asian Free Media Association). A call, for harmony, peace and mutual coexistence, for progress and prosperity.

Now an annual feature, the candle-lit vigil first started as a trickle say FRA’s leading names Ramesh Yadav and Talwinder Singh; with the first breakthrough of poetical symposium at Wagah Indo-Pak border by Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha in 1993.

Down the years the innocent blaze of candle lights contributed to awaken the political authorities from their forced or self-imposed slumber.

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

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

Alas, Kargil war, viewed as a back stabbing operation by Pak , served as a bolt from the blue, for the efforts of peace, close on the heels of the CBM euphoria over improving Indo Pak relations .

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

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

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

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

Hans along with Mohsin Shaukat Ali sang extempore ‘Tere Mere geetan pyaar da Pul bandhna, Iss kaandiyali Tarr ne ek din Phul banna …’ (Our songs shall one day become a bridge, ..this barbed wire shall one day turn into a flower..). ‘Heer’- another common legend of love invoking sufi Waris Shah to smoothen the paths of love and friendship And the crowds on both sides were in raptures. Hans and Mohsin churned soul stirring melodies, drawing encores, wah-wahs and irshads .

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

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

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

A 40 member peace delegation From Pakistan of Gen Sect SAFMA Ijaz Ali, former minister Chaudhary Manzoor Ahmed, Sobia Cheema, Ayesha Sohail made fervent appeal to both nations to grant a visa-less travel to senior citizens, for a year, especially those who had suffered the pain of the partition.

The call did not end here. It called for visa less travel for under 12 year olds. The idea was brilliant. In other words it called for grandparents to take their grandchildren to the land of their forefathers and forge a feeling of love amongst those who have no idea of the lingering enmity between the two nations goaded by vested interests amongst politicians and others whose lifeline lay in continued hostilities.

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

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

…………….eom

Amritsar Hospital comes to the aid of Photojournalist –Bijendra Ahlawat in The Tribune


Amritsar hospital comes to aid of photojournalist
Bijendra Ahlawat/TNS

Rohtak, September 5
Raj Kishan Nain, an eminent photojournalist who faces the risk of losing his eyesight due to severe damage to his eyes, has found a ray of hope with the offer of help extended by an Amritsar-based eye institute after the publication of a news report in these columns on Sunday.

Dr Rohit Om Prakash, Director of the Dr Om Prakash Eye Institute, Amritsar, has contacted Raj Kishan and has offered to help him.

In an e-mail to Raj Kishan, the doctor has stated that the institute was ready to provide surgical and other treatment free of cost to him.

“Dr Rohit Om Prakash was touched by the story published about the ace photojournalist and decided to help him by taking up his case on priority,” said Rashmi Talwar, media manager of the institute. “Raj Kishan should contact the hospital at his convenience, but at the earliest,” she said.

It may be recalled that the Tribune had carried a story titled “Ace journalist faces loss of vision” on September 4 in which it had been revealed how Raj Kishan, based in a village in the district here, had been fighting a long battle to get back his vision fully but was unable to do so as he was suffering from a rare kind of problem. Though he had been told by doctors to get his eyes operated for cataract if he wanted to avoid total blindness, but with a burnt retina, the hope of getting his sight back seemed bleak. Confirming the offer made to him, Raj Kishan said would contact Dr Rohit Om Prakash soon.

Though Raj Kishan is the only photo-artiste from the northern region whose work has been featured in three permanent art galleries set up in his name, the government is yet to make any offer of help or assistance to ensure the recovery of his sight.

Man who bared truth of Jallianwala massacre In Amritsar, Govt to honour….BY Aditi Tandon


Govt to honour man who bared truth of Jallianwala massacre in Amritsar

The Department of Posts will release a commemorative stamp in Pt Santanam’s memory.


Aditi Tandon

New Delhi, August 23
Little is known of Pandit K. Santanam, the man who first bared the horrors of Jallianwala Bagh massacre to the world and who, despite being a conservative Iyengar from Tamil Nadu, left his native place and made Lahore his permanent home. This August 25, the Department of Posts will release a commemorative stamp in Santanam’s memory, 62 years after he passed away.

Much of the man’s contribution was made to Punjab, which he toured in the aftermath of the Jallianwala tragedy in Amritsar to reveal the truth. The government-appointed Hunter’s Committee had buried the facts which resulted in the Indian National Congress appointing its own committee to probe the tragedy.

Santanam, as secretary of this committee which comprised Mahatma Gandhi among others, helped compile a two-volume report on the massacre in the holy city of Amritsar, after recording the evidence of 1,700 survivors in times when the British had clamped martial law in the region, and blacked it out from the world.

“The volume came in 1920 and remains, to date, the most authentic record of the massacre. My father had a special love for Punjab, especially Lahore, where he lived until the Partition. Unfortunately, we were unable to carry back documents that contained references to him. All we had for record were the references to him contained in the works of Gandhiji and Nehruji. I am glad his work is being finally recognised,” Madhuri Sondhi, the lone surviving daughter out of the four that Santanam had, told The Tribune today.

She recalled the association her father had with The Tribune and how his house briefly hosted the newspaper during its clandestine publication from Lahore. The Tribune for its part elaborately covered the unusual inter-caste marriage Santanam, a Brahmin from Kumbakonam, had with Krishna, daughter of Arya Samaj leader Pandit Atma Ram Vedi, in 1916. “It was an unusual wedding for those days,” recalls Madhuri, widow of eminent parliamentarian and IFS topper, the late M L Sondhi.

She added that the Jallianwala tragedy was not just about April 13, 1919; it was equally about the brutal reign of terror the British unleashed after the massacre in their attempt to thwart legitimate protests.

“It was then that the British embroiled top leaders for waging a war against the government. My father represented them, being a barrister with the Lahore High Court,” she says.

Santanam was defence counsel in what came to be called as the Lahore Leaders Case. To seek its transfer out of Lahore and ensure an impartial probe, he undertook a dramatic journey to summer capital Simla, just to inform the Indian member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council of the goings-on in Punjab and the horrors of Martial Law.

“He hid under a bunk in a railway carriage where an Englishman had seated himself. He could not get the case transferred but he did bring the facts before the rest of India which didn’t have a clue to what was happening in Punjab post Jallianwala,” Madhuri says.

Also treasurer of the association set up for the defence of Bhagat Singh, Santanam, in 1924, became Managing Director of Lakshmi Insurance Company, which was later called the LIC of India. “That was at the behest of Lala Lajpat Rai, his close friend,” his daughter recalls. The man’s last assignment was as member of the advisory committee to the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation which rehabilitated the Partition victims.

Laughter challenges tears of Kashmir……………………. By Rashmi Talwar


“Kashmir Comedy Theatre Festival -2011”

Laughter challenges tears of Kashmir

By Rashmi Talwar

Bumbroo ! Bumbroo ! at 'Kashmir Comedy Theater Festival -2011

FIRST PUBLISHED IN KASHMIR TIMES MAGAZINE FRONT COVER ON JULY 10, 2011

‘Myon Shoosh’–My Love- Whisper the majestic Kashmir Mountains to me, opening their tessellated imposing arms, in a bear hug. I immerse into their beauty. The prickly needles of emerald hued conifers outlining their conical bodies, hurt me no more, they bring tickles at first, a smile and then a rolling laugh. It has been a quarter of a century since I last set foot in this wondrous land. ‘Maayi Barut Istaqbaal’ – Warm Welcome, ‘Khush Aamdeed’ – Happy Tidings, they murmur softly in my ear.

I raise my hand in a silent salute to the Jammu Kashmir Film Makers and Artists Co-operative Ltd (JKFMAC), the organizers who have brought the 10-day ‘Kashmir Comedy Theatre Festival -2011’ to this paradisiacal valley in the throes of tumult, as Shabbir Haider the Secretary General and CEO of JKFMAC puts it, “Where smiles come at a premium and laughter is in danger of growing extinct”.

A whole generation of Kashmiris turning old at 23 years, growing up in lurking fear and a daily call of attending dirges along with their elders, are completely cut off from what ‘normal’ childhood, adolescence and teenage years meant for others in India. For this generation it is so special to feel the emotion of hilarity, few have encountered or tasted in their lifetimes.

I feel there could be no better time. The ‘Amarnath Yatra’ is in full bloom albeit ‘under the shadow of the gun’, that provides pre-set security cover for the ‘laughter challenge’.

Serene, languid, doppling and dancing Dal Lake in Srinagar shows no sign of any fracas, smoothly letting the ‘shikaras’ or oblong romantic boats, slide on its beautiful belly, poked off and on by the paddle and rippling in mirth…

At Jammu and Srinagar airports, the almost embarrassing body search, the feel of metal detectors and human hands (even though female) feel like an amorous encroachment of privacy, not once, as at most airports, but three tier and times. Add to that, is the quick pick of a lady’s ‘tampon’ by a security guard and askance expression of suspicion followed by giggles when explained.

Strange, but some emotions of glee are traceable everywhere. I brush aside realms of media reports on turmoil and blood-baths to a ‘fake sting operation’ feeling some conspiracies lurking beneath the surface to bring disrepute to this virtual heaven on earth.

***
The grandeur of the inaugural ceremony on June 25th can hardly be gauged from the periphery of the venue of Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Complex (SKICC) with gun-toting, quick response teams and armoured vehicles lined up, outlined with camouflaged-capped sharp shooters.

Inside, however, the cyan hued ‘pedicured’ lawns and lofty elusive Chinar trees are busy spreading their enchanted halcyon beauty to the surroundings, where guzzling laughter and fragrances of colors will rule for more than a week.

Ravinder Kaul, globally renowned theatre critic, has a wonderful take on comedy and satire in theatre. He puts it thus, “The man who slug out the first ‘abuse’ has done a great service to humanity. He has inadvertently given an alternative to human kind to vent out anger other than to invite the rival for a ‘bloody-duel’ to end the argument. His displeasure therefore has shed no blood or caused no bodily harm to anyone”.

And continues, “In theater, especially in ‘satire’, an alternate way lends itself to vent out pent-up anger against the government policies, inadequacies of administration, all pervasive corruption, excesses of armed forces and of dogged militants with their quirky logic; creating havoc, deeply affecting and attacking the lives and vital ethos of Kashmiris”.

“Kashmiri-a peace loving community, is facing a whole gamut of daily life–threatening situations, robbing them of their privacy, peace and progress. The massive extent of corruption deprives and saps their ‘celebrated strengths’ and relegates their development in multiple spheres, to a mere trickle. For them, comedy and satire has come as a whiff of fresh mountain wind to air their grievances.”

***
The ceremony of the book release “Theatre Akh Tarruf”, authored by veteran theatre personality and Additional Director General, Doordarshan, Ashok Jailkhani is equally ‘theatrical’, albeit in the positive sense. Seeds of ‘Issbad’ are touched upon the heads and shoulders of the author, the chief guest and others at this auspicious occasion, as a tradition practiced by both Hindu and Muslim Kashmiris, and then thrown over the simmering coals in a ‘Kangri’ or a traditional vessel kept burning for warmth in the winter chill. A ‘pious’ fragrance emanates from the burning seeds and envelopes the surroundings, warding off evil spirits.

Thereafter, the Governor of this beauteous state Mr. NN Vohra unties the ribbon on the book, declares the Festival open with lighting of the ceremonial lamp to the flash of festoons and a swirl of colors of rainbow ‘phirans’- a typical Kashmiri garment, and matching swinging jewellery, classically Kashmiri.

It is ‘Bumbroo, Bumbroo’ time, a melody, as ten lovely lasses of Kashmir roll their ‘mehandied’-henna patterned hands-and lift themselves to melt into a frenzy of dance, bringing the audiences in close clasp of what one could say ‘befikri’-unmindful of worries.
Jammu girls match their Kashmiri counterparts in obvious competition with gusto on a Dogri dance and song and steep the audience into an untamed, full-blooded frolic.

***
‘Local Taxes Extra’- the opening play releases the first choking veil of curtains restricting the overenthusiastic actors waiting to showcase their talent for the Comedy Festival.

Written by Dr Sohan Lal Koul and directed by Ayash Arif of the Kalidas Theater Group, the play revolves on social issues facing a Kashmiri Pandit couple Bhushan Lal and Usha Rani who fall on the mercy of a quirky landlord out to take advantage of their plight in a series of hilarious situations wherein the servant Gash Ram too develops a taste for intrigues to create misunderstandings between the couple.

That the play in Kashmiri language sustains the attention of the State Governor, one known to have just a formal flavor of the Kashmiri language and constrained for time as dignitaries are wont to say for effect, speaks volumes about the histrionic prowess of the actors on stage. Of more significance, however, is a largely Kashmiri ‘Muslim’ audience glued to their seats watching the play with all Kashmiri Pandit characters. It seems to me, to be the true bearing or ‘icing’ of the lurking agony of separation of these two ethnic communities both of whom claim Kashmir as their rightful home and hearth.

It is this spirit of communal harmony and a composite culture that truly spells the values of the lush valley wherefrom many a Bollywood movie scripts have taken their first cues of unbridled love.

Kashmiri Pandits have been pushed, evacuated and left to fend for themselves due to hatred of alien mercenaries in cahoots with some local hawks and hardliners. Their Muslim brethren still hold them dear in unconditional love, that is what the attendance and attention at this Festival reinforces.
***

The Festival continues for the next ten days, bringing in fun and tears of joyous laughter. The themes revolve around overall corruption in high places and at the grassroots level. Even state run ‘Doordarshan’ is not spared to bring in guffaws while a play by tiny-tots takes the audiences to matchless taste of twists and turns in the ‘kiddy’ world.

Artistes include Bhands from Akingaam and Wathoora, the Akingaam Bhands’ group being in existence for many centuries, having been elaborately mentioned in Sir Walter Lawrence’s seminal book ‘The Valley of Kashmir’ (1895). As it began, the Festival ends with another hilarious tale revolving around a Kashmiri Pandit family. ‘Dastaar’, the play, has already become a part of the popular folklore of Kashmir with legendary actor Hriday Nath Gurtoo’s inimitable dialogue ‘Dastaaras karizam raachh’–‘Protect My Turban’-albeit ‘Honour’; on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

That Gurtoo died in a miserable condition in a migrant camp in Udhampur soon after being forced to migrate from his happy dwellings in Kashmir, in the early 1990s, has in no way dimmed his creation but rather highlighted the plight of some of the ‘Jewels of Kashmir’ being ostracized from their beloved land and perishing in misery.

The Festival comes to an end, the armored vehicles and sharp shooters leave the venue, but it has successfully scattered the seeds of tangible merriment in the entire valley.

My eyes scan the picturesque landscape and rivulets flow down my cheeks, I feel a tug, as if a dear one says ‘Maty’e Rozu Dama Roz Dariyam Chany’e Lol Re’! ‘My love, stay a while longer’. However agony of separation from Kashmir is lesser than the wish that Almighty may shower His choicest blessings and cheer to this Land of the Gods.

In their forlorn imploration, asking me to return to the valley blooming with spring flowers ‘Rosh wala myani dilbaro, poshan bahaar aav, yoori walo’– I peer to look for smiles down from the window of the plane. The arc that begins at one mountain top and, after covering the flat valley, ends at another mountain top, seems like a broad smiley like smile. Today, even the sun has been veiled by clouds on the top to spread the huge glowing smiley that I look for in the crinkly as well as reddish lips of Kashmiris blessed with unsurpassed beauty and as I place my hand on my heart it leaps and cheers ‘Aall izzz well’!

*****
FIRST PUBLISHED IN KASHMIR TIMES MAGAZINE FRONT COVER ON JULY 10, 2011

The day OSAMA was killed ———— By Rashmi Talwar


With Due apologies to those who lost their near dear ones in 9/11

The day OSAMA was killed ————

By Rashmi Talwar

Noora as Osama in Tere Bin Laden played by Pradhuman Singh

May 2, 5.15 am- Twitter was bursting with news ‘Osama killed!’. The magnitude of ‘Op Geronimo’ in Abbotabad, Pakistan, flushing of the elusive ‘Osama bin laden’was all over cyber space. I slumped into my Shahtabdi Express seat, Mortified! Osama’s end, left me crestfallen. Not that I had any love lost for the ‘world’s most wanted’, but in his death, he had turned the tide against me.
At 4 am before departure to Delhi, It felt like a ‘shoot and scoot’ mission to procure visas for a 9-member ‘Amritsar Sacred Heart Alumni’, headed for its first International tie –up with a sister school –Sacred Heart School (SHS), Lahore, Pakistan. Now, it had turned into ‘ironic’ confetti via CIA’s stealth choppers.

Expletives adorned my tongue in unbridled measure as I muttered -Why was Osama killed in Pakistan? Tora Bora was only a few miles? Why not in hotter months when no one ventures to SA countries? I raved and ranted against this unfairness. Sparing hardly any thought for the lives, Osama had stilled and silenced in 9/11.

Shooing away, the swift waiter’s tray of tea-biscuits, I stuffed a tetra juice, garrisoning a back-pack for a formidable “D-day” at Pak embassy.
Two months of the hardest synchronization on this ‘tie-up’ had caused cramps in my grey cells and bodily tissues seemed to be on a cracking assignment. It was just a few ticks away, I moaned; Why Osama, of the entire ‘world’s dreaded’? God, if sinful Earth was heavy, why couldn’t it be, Hafiz Sayeed or Dawood Abrahim or any other now?

Nearing the journey’s end, I looked up and light dawned. Chalo! Doesn’t it make it easier to tell the group – ‘Osama killed, Visas rejected!’ I sighed purring a ‘Roger -Over and Out’ with a smile, ready to embark on a new self–styled ‘Op Chak De Fatte ’.

Baggage et al, I trooped down to a dhaba, outside Delhi station for a quick bite. A battle of grit and wits needs all strengths covered and fulfilled, I told myself. But soon another awakening donned ‘A stitch in Time saves Nine’. I rushed, even as the waiter held up my order, gave him a beggarly smile. ‘Urgent phone call’ ‘How much, I pay? I muttered. Strangely –He broke into a smile and saluted –App kamyaab hoyenge! In the auto-rikshaw to Embassy, I relished his comment, it added to my damage control plan Op CDF.

I was banking on a rock solid recommendation of a top-notch embassy officer’s wife that can be best explained as –‘Saari Khudai Ek taraf, Aur Jorru ka ‘Bhai’ ek taraf!

Geared with paraphernalia, landed at the embassy to see TV reporters sprawled all over, cramped above single rat-hole window. Heat, luggage and water-bottle in hand, I coursed through to the magic window. ‘NINE! Passports! Madam? Very difficult, Look at these TV crews.
I named someone, and was ushered in, while jotting details on 36 forms, someone asked for an application form, I handed him an extra one and surprisingly, got ‘chicken kathi rolls’ as return gift in a near famished state.

It was nearly 5 PM. Interview called! Interviewee shook his head –Apply now and visas in a month. ‘Does anyone go to Pak in scorching heat of June?’ I asked innocently. Bravely, took his number with Shooter Olympian’s words ringing – ‘It is not Over! Till its Over’. Next morning, Phone answered ‘Madam, bas aa jao’! I rushed, to find all 9 visas ready for Lahore- Nanakana Sahib. Faxed to MEA for foot visa and called the group. Everyone was expectedly –Shocked, dismayed anticipating the worst over post-Osama situation in Pak, till I announced to venture alone. Gradually, all nine pins rolled and we made it to Lahore, surprisingly on a date that read May ‘9’, this year. Perhaps the waiter’s blessings Hit the Target Nine….. Just days later I learnt 340 visa of sikh jatha to Pakistan were rejected.

“Bumbi Days”!…… by VIVEK MEHRA


Thank God this post did not reach the winters ..otherwise it would have been ‘Shivering Bumbissss”
Heritage conservator Balwinder Singh once quizzed me –‘What is Chaali Khoo?’-‘Forty wells!’ I answered. ‘What is Chaati khoo?’ I twinkled, smiled, knowing it had a catch, ‘You Say?’ –‘It is ‘a’ well with a ‘chaat’(roof)!’ , he laughed. ‘What is Bambe Walla Khoo?’ –‘This has to do with robust Male gender of ‘Bumbi’-I replied. As the day’s banter on Heritage buildings and stories of yore connected to Amritsar saw a free flow,
I was reminded of a beautiful post ‘Bumbi Days! , written by Vivek Mehra. …………….

“BUMBI” DAYS !……………..By VIVEK MEHRA

When ever I meet my cousins, these days, whether electronically or physically, the conversation invariably veers to our ‘Bumbi’ days, sooner or later, and more so if they are a few drinks down. The truth however is, that be it guys or dolls, all of them are hopelessly nostalgic about those days.

They post sepia tinged ‘Bumbi’ pictures on face book and get a lot of ‘wows’ from our kin, now spread all over the world. They love to take, an almost vicarious pleasure, as they recount, with a child like delight, countless stories about those days; much to the utter mystification of their kids and spouses. These relations came much after the ‘Bumbi’ days were over, so they wonder, with justification, “What the hell is this Bumbi?”

Any body who knows Punjabi language would tell you that a ‘Bumbi’ is a Punjabi name for a tube well. You would find one in every farm in rural Punjab, gushing out a thick stream of pristine, crystal clear, silvery water from its gaping mouth.

Our Bumbi was different!

Yes, it too was a tube well and yes, it too was located in a huge agricultural farm, but that is where the similarity ends.

Back in the 1970’s it was a heaven, a paradise on earth.

First, it gave its huge stream of fresh water not to the fields but into a good sized swimming pool, that was our very own! But it was even more than that. Much more.

Back then, it meant a place where more than a score cousins, uncles and aunts spent their summer holidays, together without any of the petty, selfish, jealousies that plague us today. They traveled from all over India to be there. Every year, they preferred Amritsar to any hill station or any other holiday destination.

From Nagpur , Delhi, Bombay (yes not Mumbai) Moradabad, Kanpur . As each group unboarded from their train, the buzz was always, “Man! I am going to the Bumbi tomorrow morning. And every day after, for the next month and a half!”

‘Bumbi’ was Joy with a capital J. Pure and unadulterated. It was unlimited fun without the aid of a single gizmo of today, be it a television or a mobile or an iPad or what ever. It was youth as youth should be, without a care in the world.

The school bags along with their burdens were thrust aside, forever, after the usual inquires “How did you fare?” “Well I flunked Marathi even after the exam paper was leaked to me!” “Shucks! Same here yaar, with me, for Math!” and that was the end of such boring conversations for the next six weeks or so at least.

During the early day time, Bumbi was the ultimate all males only club. Outsiders were also welcome to come and enjoy their mornings there. The family’s ladies were allowed only in the afternoons after the outsiders had left the place and the gates were closed.

Bumbi ! Bumbi ! Bumbi ! All the way

For the boys, Bumbi meant getting up early in the morning and drinking piping, hot milk, from the udders of our own cows, duly supervised by a strict aunt who ensured that every one finished his tall, steel glass. A future doctor to bew, would however, usually hoodwink her, and surreptitiously pour his share into the glass of any cousin who was not looking.

The dirty dozen or so would then stuff themselves into an Ambassador and off they
would go, yelling and jostling and happy, all of them in one car , piled on top of each other. Talk about public transport!

Bumbi meant an effeminate ‘Gawala’ (Cowhand) and his grossly overweight wife who were care takers of the place. The kids would love to tease him and whoop in delight as he chased them.

Bumbi meant applying a lot of mustard oil to your bodies and wrestling in the mud ‘Akhara.’ It also meant Channi, a rather dimwitted sardar, who worked on his immensely muscular body all day, but never a minute on his brains. The rowdy crowd loved to rag him as he showed them his ‘body.’

Bumbi meant a “Dilruba Dilli Wali’ a male cousin, so fair of skin, that a mere touch would leave angry red marks on it. It also meant being treated to a cabaret dance by another cousin, full adorned in flowing skirts. I dare say he got more cat calls and wolf whistles then any ‘Munni’ or ‘Sheela.’

Bumbi meant bathing all day in that lovely pool of cool water, shaded by huge trees. It meant planning to dunk the girls in it when they were allowed to join us and hear them shriek in fear. It meant laughter unlimited. It also meant an infinite number of mangoes and pakoras and rich Amritsari food in pure desi ghee, when the aunts too joined us. I am sure no one had heard of diabetes, BP and obesity back then.

It meant raiding the cupboard of our grand dad and finishing off all his eatables in one go, only to find it fully replenished the next days and never ever being ticked off for it. It meant being given hundred rupee notes to spend at the local cinemas and eateries almost everyday. It meant being told at a cinema booking window, that they could not sell two dozen tickets to a single buyer as he would ‘black’ them. It meant that the ticket vendor was shown all the two dozen lined up in their best finery, eagerly awaiting the show to start.

It meant crying at the railway platforms as each group went back, promising to come back next year. It meant awaiting all year for the summer holidays to bring them back. Do you still wonder, what the hell is “Bumbi ?”

History of Indian Academy of Fine Arts-Amritsar/Galleries losing interest / BY Vandana Shukla


BY Vandana Shukla /SAANJH

ESTABLISHED in 1928 by Master Gurdit Singh and his friends, Indian Academy of Fine Arts , Amritsar, acquired its present status by dedicated pursuit of S G Thakur Singh, who went all the way to Bengal to master wash technique and later became a scene painter in the nascent Bombay film industry. He retuned to Amritsar with name and fame and dedicated his life to promotion of art. It was due to the efforts of Thakur and few other like- minded artists that the government gave 4000 square feet land for the gallery in 1958, for which foundation stone was laid by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India. Kartar Singh Duggal gave Rs 17.5 lac to the gallery for the air conditioning of the gallery and the auditorium.

Since 1928, every year IAFA has been holding national art shows, barring 1947, when show could not be held due to partition. The prestigious gallery has got into an ugly controversy due to alleged unlawful constitutional amendments by a few self- proclaimed office bearers, who are neither artist not have any love for art. These office bearers, allege the artist community, are realtors and brick kiln owners, who are trying to amend the constitution to own the space which is a prime property. The artist community from the entire country is flabbergasted, as the cultural space, created with the help of the government for the purpose of art alone is being used by the office bearers of political affiliation for commercial activities. The artist community is up in arms against this blatant show of disregard by a few for artists and art in a state which is as such in dire need of more such facilities.

The missing galleries of art
Punjab has given many great artists to the world of art, but, opportunities for the growth of art remain abysmally poor in the state. Of the two existing art galleries in the state, one is mired in controversies.

BY Vandana Shukla

PUNJAB has given one of the most celebrated artists to the world of visual art- from Amrita Sher-Gil, Manjit Bawa, Arpana Caur, Paramjit Singh, to T&T ( Thukral and Tagra) and Vibha Galhotra. The artistic journey of these artists has made an impact in shaping new trends in the art world, which resulted in receiving global appreciation for their works. Unfortunately, in their own state, they hardly ever had a chance to showcase their talent, receiving laurels is a far- fetched proposition. Reason, the state does not have galleries and other infrastructure that can cater to dynamic needs of art world, which is evolving and growing beyond the bounds of available resources. As a result, artists migrate from the state to other places to grow.

“The state continues to provide great artistic talent to the country and the world but it fails to grow appreciation for art for lack of infrastructure,” says Rahi Mahinder Singh, secretary, Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi.

The continued migration of artists comes as a greater surprise, since, one of the first ever galleries that opened in the country, was, Indian Academy of Fine Arts at Amritsar. The state body of art, Punjab Arts Council, does not have a budget allocation worth mention. NZCC ( North Zone Cultural Centre) , another body that is supposed to cater to needs of art, flip flops, depending upon the efforts of the head of the organisation, especially when it comes to promotion of visual art. At Kalagram, Mani Majra, the ambitious project of NZCC, a corridor was converted into an art gallery, which was in fact, an apology of a gallery, where upcoming artists could exhibit their works. Even this facility was closed, further reducing availability of space for exhibitions. Virsa Vihars was another effort initiated by the state government for the purpose, but, there too exhibitions are held only with collaborations. At Jalandhar, Apeejay College of Art has turned Virsa Vihar, Jalandhar, into Satya Paul Virsa Vihar Art Gallery. At Bhatinda, Kapurthala, and Patiala, Virsa Vihars are still waiting to take off. After closure of NZCC gallery at Sheesh Mahal, Patiala, one more option to showcase works for budding artists is closed, in the almost non- existent private gallery scenario in Punjab. Punjabi University, Patiala, which runs a successful master’s programme in Fine Arts, had a gallery and museum attached to the department to promote talent of its students. Due to some bureaucratic decision, the gallery and museum were separated three years back. Now, the gallery in- charge has to take permission from the vice chancellor, instead of a panel of artists- as is the norm, if an artist wants to hold a show.

Artists need exhibitions, without a critique, their art cannot grow. If one excludes Chandigarh, which has a sizeable number of good galleries, barring just two galleries worth mention, there is no other place in Punjab where adequate facilities are provided at a good location to showcase works in a professional manner. Many senior artists, who hail from different towns of Punjab, and have shown works across the country, lament the lack of facilities, which, newly emerging towns like Gurgaon have aplenty in places like EPI Centre and Art Mart. The state is untouched by the way markets and styles have undergone transformation in the absence of professionally managed art activity. There is hardly any interaction with evolved viewers for the artist. It is a catch- 22 situation, artists do not grow for the same reasons that fail to provide discerning viewers of art.

Admitting apathy of the government bodies, Rahi Mohinder Singh adds that it is primarily work of the Akademis to organise seminars, shows, talks etc to support growth of art in the state. Unfortunately, Punjab Arts Council depends on office bearers to extract money from the government, which, till date has no fixed budget allocation for arts.

Another problem is attached to practising artists who have decided not to grow beyond realism and copy work in the name of art. People open galleries in Ludhiana and Jalandhar with fanfare, galleries last till the space is rented out to a more lucrative offer. The kind of commitment art requires has somehow failed to grow, as a result those who wish to pursue art, migrate to Delhi or Mumbai. In the past Ludhiana has seen opening and closing of Tag gallery, Artmosphere and few others. If you compare the scenario with Jahangeer Art Gallery, Mumbai, where waiting list runs into years, galleries don’t even hold shows on a regular basis, which explains apathy to art in the state.

Usually artists migrate from small towns in Punjab to Chandigarh, where their journey begins, then, they move on to bigger cities to grow. Art cannot grow without a journey, true, but like MNCs art must not grow in metros alone. And, this can happen with facilities made available, as has happened in smaller towns like Jaipur, Pune and Bhopal.