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Archive for October, 2011

Ba Raftam ~Allama Iqbal sung by Nashenas


Nashenas is an  Afghani singer of yesteryears’ , with an enchanting voice. He   generally sang in Pashto, Dari and Urdu.
Born and lived in Kandahar till Taleban took over, which made a leftist Nashenas to leave Afghanistan.

Here he sings a Farsi piece of poetry by Allama Mohammmed Iqbal:

Hard to write Farsi…I just paste the translation:

I went up to the ocean and, addressing a wave, said:
‘You’re always restless; tell me what is it that troubles you.
You have a million pearls enfolded in your garment’s skirt,
But do you, like me, have a heart – the only pearl that’s true ?
It squirmed, retreated from the shore, and uttered not a word.

I went up to the mountain and said, “O huge heap of stone!
Can you not hear the wailing of a heart in agony?
If in your stones there is a gem which is a drop of blood,
Then speak, O speak, to a sad soul that pines for company.
If it had breathed, it breathed no more, and uttered not a word.

I travelled long in upper space, approached the moon, and said:
“O ceaseless wanderer, is there any rest ordained for you?
Your radiance makes the whole world gleam white like a jasmine field.
But is your breast aglow with a live heart whose light shines through?”
She looked round at the starry crops, and uttered not a word.

Transcending sun and moon, I went up to the Throne of God.
“There’s not a thing,” I said, “I can be friends with, not a thing.
Your world is heartless, while my dust is all of heart’s stuff made.
A pretty garden, but not the kind of place to make one sing.”
He answered with the smile He wore, and uttered not a word.

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Son comes before the mother~Kabir


Pahilaa poot pishairee maaee.
Gur laago chele kee paaee.

Ek achanbhou sunahu tumh bhaaee.
Dekhat singh charaavat gaaee

Jal kee mashulee taravar biaaee.
Dekhath kutaraa lai gee bilaaee
Talai re baisaa oopar soolaa.
Tis kai ped lage fal foolaa
Ghorai chari bhais charaavan jaaee.
Baahar bail gon ghar aaee

Kahaat Kabeer ju is pad boojhai.
Raam ramat tis sabh kish soojhai

Translation:

First, the son was born, and then, his mother.
The guru falls at the feet of the disciple

Listen to this strange thing,
O Siblings of Destiny!

I saw the lion herding the cows.
The fish of the water gives birth upon a tree.
I saw a cat carrying away a dog
The branches are below, and the roots are above.
The trunk of that tree bears fruits and flowers
Riding a horse, the buffalo takes him out to graze.
The bull is away, while his load (cart) has come home

Says Kabeer, one who understands this hymn,
and comprehends the Divine words comes to understand everything.

This is a beautiful satirical poem by Bhagat Kabir, taken from Guru Granth Saheb ( the Holy Book of Sikhs), that takes me back instantly to the Hindi class of grade 10, when we read this. I recall with nostalgia of all the discussion that was triggered by the poetry. While the boys at the back benches were busy cracking various mostly crude and a few decent jokes about it, the girls in the front benches, ( that’s where they usually sit) were amused yet trying to squeeze their giggles desperately.

While the very serious Hindi teacher with a twinkle in her eyes, and mind fully immersed in Kabir was engrossed in explaining the spirit of the verses, compleltely oblivious to what was happening in front of her.

Unlike many other Hindi lessons, this poem unknowingly left ‘an impact’ strong enough to keep reading Kabir once the compulsory Hindi subject was over.

I would suggest the readers to first read the verses, it’s translation and then again the verses to get some sense of it’s meaning, and to check whether their brain thinks the way Kabir’s brain did.

The Interpretation:
The whole poem through various interesting examples, cites an open secret of our lives, so aptly described in a quote by Rousseau : “Man is born free but found in chains everywhere.”

What chains him, according to Kabir are not only the society( like Rousseau claims), but ones own hoggish desires and the pursuit of which makes him timid and fearful. And hence instead being fearless, strong yet empathetic, that man by virtue of his higher intellect is destined to be, turns into a timid, selfish and apathetic being .

Pahilaa poot pishairee maaee.
To begin with, the man was as pure as a newborn (poot), devoid of any ego. But with time, by the lure of his senses, he became ‘mother’ of (“Maaee”) ‘worldy desires’ ( the superfluous values existent in the world). Here Maee is being used with a dual meaning, both as the worldly attractions i.e. maya, and as mother.

Gur laago chele kee paaee.
Man who has the capability to be the master (Guru) of infinite knowledge, strength and empathy ( by the virtue if his intellect) becomes the disciple (chela) and bows at petty values like greed, selfishness and apathy.

Ek achanbhou sunahu tumh bhaaee.
This is an amusing contradiction, have you even seen? ( A satire on human aspirations to seek and pursue superficial values).

Dekhat singh charaavat gaaee
A man who should be fearless and strong ( as a lion) , becomes a timid grazing animal (cow), owing to protect his self interests.

Jal kee mashulee taravar biaaee.
Water is the life support of the fish, and it cannot survive without it. What if it starts to dream of living ‘high up’ on the trees. Will it be able to survive ?
So is the humanity who’s life supports are compassion, contentment, empathy and knowledge. What if they too start to fantasize for what they consider as higher pleasures ( a kin to trees) like greed, wealth or other egocentric dreams, will they be able to sustain the purpose of their existence ?

Dekhath kutaraa lai gee bilaaee
The cunning human heart ( the cat– in ‘some’ societies is considered as a cunning animal) , in lure of superficial values, has captured and held hostage the contentment, faith and bravado ( the dog) within him. ( Incidentally, in the times of Egyptian Pharoahs, dog was considered as a symbol of contentment, reliability and bravery.

Talai re baisaa oopar soolaa.
Tis kai ped lage fal foolaa
When we see the image of the tree in a lake, it appears beautiful but upside down. So is the truth of our worldly gratifications, they may appear wonderful, but they are exactly opposite of what the purpose of our existence in the world is.

Ghorai chari bhais charaavan jaaee.
Man’s desires ( as bulky as a buffalo) ride and gallop rapidly on greed ( the horse) to make the mind wander and graze the grass of one’s ego.

Baahar bail gon ghar aaee
Owing to man’s enslavement to lust and instant gratification, his patience and perseverance (bull, which is an embodiment of perseverance) has left him, instead, a cart load full of material cravings have found home in him (“gon ghar aaee”).

Kahaat Kabeer ju is pad boojhai.
Raam ramat tis sabh kish soojhai
Kabir says that whosoever comprehends the verses of this hymn, and remembers the Divine purpose of his existence frees himself from bondage.

William Wordsworth’s famous verse: “Child is the father of man.” may hold the same literal meaning, but here Wordsworth tries to explain how the childhood experiences shape the person he is when he becomes a man. In yet another interpretation,,,some say that here child is referred to as Jesus since both Child and Father are capitalised.

Perhaps in the same way, there may be more than one interpretations of the above poem. I have narrated, what my small mind, which isn’t very spiritually bent, interpreted it as.

I leave it to the readers to let their imaginations soar, and generate their own wonderful interpretations of the Kabir’s verses above.

The above salok (verses) of Sant Kabir are taken from Guru Granth Saheb ( the Holy Book of Sikhs.


Picture of Golden Temple, Amritsar  by night From the album Gateway to Heaven, by Randeep Singh.

Thanks to Naren  @froZENwell for reminding this poem and inciting me to write this blog.

A just Mullah


A Mullah ji  is fed up of his wife who either forgets or puts more namak(salt) in the khaana( food).

One day in a rage he spells: “Talaaq talaaq talaaq.”

So that he doesn’t change his mind, he immediately goes to the Qazi to announce and make it final.

Qazi: “Okay, are you sure?”

Mullah: “Yes, very much. Enough is enough, I hate the food she cooks and the little attention she pays to me.”

Qazi: “Fine. How many children do u have ?”

Mullah : “Alhamdulillah seven.  Four are big enough to look after themselves, three are too young to stay without their mother.”

Qazi: “So how will you divide them. Will Allah not be angry that you will take 4 and give only 3 to your wife. Allah wants you to be an ‘aadil’ (just).”

Mullah( thinks a minute) : “Okay, InshaAllah then I’ll come back to you next year.”

 

A complaining Mullah

When a Mullah died and went to Heaven he saw that a Karachi bus driver was given a higher place than him.

He complained to the angel on duty: “I gave long khutbas in the mosque on every Friday, all my life till the last day.” 

The Angel asked: “While you gave long sermons, did people all pay attention to you? Speak the truth today!”

Mullah: “Well to be honest, many played with their cellphones, some yawned, and few even dozed off.”

Angel: “See when this man drove the bus on Karachi streets, not only did his passengers all stayed alert, they even prayed to God  for Mercy. Even the other drivers of cars and rickshaws prayed and remembered me, when he was plying the bus on road.”


The Real Ambassadors: Making of an ‘Indian Pakistani’


Published in AmanKiAsha The News, October, 19, 2011
http://www.amankiasha.com/news_cat.asp?id=547&catId=2

“Relationships change minds and not knowledge”. Aun, an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, began his story with this quote from the well-known writer Reza Aslan.
Aun had come over to my place to share his experiences as a Pakistani living in India. He’s among the miniscule percent of Pakistani elite fortunate enough to have received the best education and grown up with adequate exposure and a wide horizon. Until age 16 he lived all over Pakistan as his civil servant father was transferred from on place to another.

Despite his elite education and exposure, he said that he always thought of India as an “enemy” country. The mention of India brought to his mind war, the conflicts between India and Pakistan over the past six decades. For this, he largely blamed his schooling as well as the media that always portrayed India as Pakistan’s adversary.

His views drastically changed when he had the opportunity to actually live in India for some years, after his father was posted to the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi as Minister (Trade). But Aun’s initial response to India was not very positive. He remembers the shabby New Delhi airport and “lots of slums and poverty” on the way to his hotel. He also initially hesitated to interact with locals during his first few days.

At the admission test at the British school in New Delhi, Aun met another prospective student, an Indian boy named Saurabh. In the few moments they interacted before the test, they discovered they had the same mother tongue (Punjabi), loved cricket, and craved biryani. From that day onwards, Aun embarked on a wonderful and fascinating journey of harmony and everlasting friendship with people from his neighbouring country. His best friend at school was Saurabh.
Sitting at my place, Aun recalled his economics teacher telling him of her own change of heart when she visited Lahore for the first time. The fear she felt, as an Indian and a woman, while boarding a taxi driven by a bearded driver melted as the driver, gauging her apprehension, reassured her and took her around the city. And at the end of it all, he refused to charge any money from his Indian ‘guest’. No longer could she stereotype every bearded Pakistani as an extremist.

There are countless such stories of such small but enriching experiences of love and hospitality that counter the hatred and bigotry. I know many instances of shopkeepers at Lahore’s Gawal Mandi, and New Delhi’s Pallika Bazar refusing to take any money from the ‘mehmaan’ (guest) from the neighbouring country.

Aun told me that, despite his apprehensions, he quickly and easily made a fleet of friends among his Indian schoolmates, none of whom had any qualms in accepting him as one of them. His eyes twinkled as he recalled his friends in New Delhi coming over to his home to eat Pakistani biryani.
Two touching incidents he narrated demonstrate the compassion that exists among the people from both sides.

The first case involved an uncle of his, who came to Delhi for a liver transplant, needed about 25 units of blood. A shiver ran though me when I heard that it took barely a few hours for Aun and his Indian friends to collect the required amount of blood: the donors willingly gave their blood despite knowing that the recipient was Pakistani.

The other case was that of a Pakistani baby brought to India to be operated on for a congenital heart disease. Again, Aun’s Indian friends got the required units of blood reserved in no time.
“When I visited the baby and his parents back in their village in Pakistan some years later, all the neighbours and extended family came to see me,” remembers Aun. “They all were overwhelmed with immense gratitude for the Indians who donated blood and helped the baby to live.”

Sitting in that small village in Pakistan, their hearts had changed forever; they were no more gullible to the propaganda of hate spread by the vested interests on both sides.

After finishing high school, as he left for further studies in Toronto, Aun knew that he and his Indian friends were good ambassadors for their respective countries, creating a positive impression on the other side. They had no hidden agendas or points to score against each other. They had no real differences. All that separated them was a barbed wire. Aun intends on going back to Pakistan and becoming a civil servant like his father. His dream posting? New Delhi.

He wants to do whatever he can to remove misunderstandings between the two nations. “The only way I think that is possible is to allow people from both countries to interact with each other,” he says.

Aun told me that his Pakistani and Indian friends in Toronto jokingly call him a “Pakistani-Indian”. It’s an identity he feels pride in.

As Aun left for Pakistan recently, I tweeted the last two verses from a poem I had written for my blog some time ago:

“Oh! the lines between our lands sketched,
Let they not on our hearts be ever etched.”
#IndoPak

A few minutes later I received an equally emotional reply from Namita, a twitter friend in India:
“am waiting on this side of the barbed fence, looking longingly on the other side, waiting for the gates to open.. #India #Pakistan”

I did not reply to her tweet. I had no words but only tears of anguish and helplessness, in response to her affection.

Dr Ilmana Fasih is an
Indian gynaecologist and health activist married to a Pakistani. She blogs at
//thinkloud65.wordpress.com/

Aalu Anday etc.


If you churn the ingredients-adversity, endurance, sense of humour,  imagination and hope into a machine at one end, you will receive Pakistani youth at the other end. Hammered with adverse circumstances one after the other, the hardy rocks of youngsters are  carving themselves into idols of the future.

Endurance is not just the ability to bear an adversity, but to turn it into glory. And laced with sense of humour, their creativity becomes their crowning glory.

Remarks a friend Kamran, “ I’m both amazed and proud of this younger generation of Pakistanis who refused to cow down, who continue to eke out a good time against all odds and do their thing. It’s almost as if nothing’s happening around them when everything is.”

There could not be a more artsy way to show their disdain for the prevailing politicosocial circumstances than through this master piece by the Beygairat Brigade .

There a lot more to this song, than just funny lyrics or catchy music …and is pleasing to know how these ‘kids’ get them conveyed through the briefest of  audios and  visuals. In fact, the name of the band says it all.

It was extremely imaginative of them to depict aalu andey (potatoes & eggs,  the current offering ) what  these youngsters are getting from their Mom( Pakistan), while they wish  Chicken ( their desire for a better deal).

As an  FB friend Rashid aptly describes  the song ( in fewest possible words) , “Song worth thousand articles by sages.”

I salute thee, the Brigade.

 

Sometime ago, yet another hilarious piece of creation pertaining to the burning issue of load shedding brought a cool breeze to the sufferers through the composition by Load Shedding Studio. They did a superb job in sketching the biography of a load shedding victim aka Pakistan.

Bijli ji !  Great  ji .

 

“There is no defense against adverse fortune which is so effectual as an habitual sense of humor”,  quotes Thomas Higginson.

And,  when the adverse fortunes become as habitual as they have in Pakistan, then humor becomes  a compulsion. Had there not been the knack in Pakistanis, in general, to laugh at themselves,  who would have been their saviour ? I wonder.

Youngsters, keep scoffing  off  your miseries  through melodious satire, till the true happiness sprouts from the seeds of your efforts.

“Satire, indeed,  like a polished razor keen,
Wounds with a touch that’s scarcely felt or seen.
Thine is an oyster knife, that hacks and hews
With  talent and not  rage, to shun abuse.”

Bravo, keep it up !

Alf Leila O’Leila ~Um Kulthoom


The opening lines of this 45 minute song are:

Ya Habeebi,
My sweetheart.
Illeil wi samah, wi ingomo iw amaro, amaro wi saharo.
The night and its sky, its stars, its moon, moon and keeping awake all night.
Winta wana, ya habeebi ana, ya hayati ana.
You and me my sweetheart, my life.

-And the closing lines:

Ya habeebi yalla in3eish fi 3yoon illeil, . Winool lilshams ta3ali, ta3ali ba3di sana, mosh abli sana.
My sweetheart let us live in the eyes of the night and tell the sun come over, come after one year not before.
Fi leilate hob hilwa, bi alfi leila iw Leila, 
In a sweet night of love, in one thousand and one nights.
Bikolli il3omr, howa il3omri eih ghair Leila zayyi illeila.
They say it is the life. What is life, but a night like tonight, like tonight.

Fortunatley I grew up listening to Umm Kulthoom  and the tales of her live performances from my Professor father. I saw my father 90% times surrounded by books, but whenever he played Umm Kulsoom’s audios on the deck, in his leisure time, it was hard to envision he was the same man. I feel the poverty of expression to describe my feelings…

He would often exclaim that he got three things from his stay in Cairo in the early sixties—his PhD, a knowledge of Arabic, in the flawless Egyptian accent and love for Umm Kulsoom.

In the  1950s and 60s her concerts were broadcast once a week  on Radio.

“On Thursday nights, the streets of Cairo would empty as people gathered around radio sets to hear the great singer.”  I heard my father repeat this a countless times said with a twinkle in his eyes.

And infact, in honour of those broadcasts, Radio Egypt still broadcasts her songs every first Thursday at 10 pm.

It is hard in words to describe her charisma.  But listening to her enchanting Enta Omri,  Alf Leila o Leila and other songs over and over,  it wasn’t hard to imagine the euphoria that was created in her concerts.

Umm Kulthum was, indeed, a master at casting a spell over her audiences.

Maker of a documentary on her, ‘A Voice Like Egypt ’ Virginia Danielson says “Umm Kulthum’s concerts were famous for the spontaneous cheers that would break out whenever her performance seemed to close the gap between poetry and emotion. Poetry is a deeply revered art form in the Middle East.”

She gives an example. “When you hear Umm Kulthum sing, “I’m afraid your heart belongs to somebody else,” in the song “Ana Fe Entezarak,” she nails that anguish.  And the way she treats the word ‘somebody else,’ which is ‘inse’en,’ is just heartrending. You can hear the feeling of the poem come through in the way that she sings it.”

Her music had a unique quality called ‘tarab’ ( best translated as enchantment).

“Tarab is a concept of enchantment,” Danielson says. “It’s usually associated with vocal music, although instrumental music can produce the same effect, in which the listener is completely enveloped in the sound and the meaning in a broad experiential sense, and is just completely carried away by the performance.”

Part of tarab is the idea that listeners are as important as singers; that there’s a powerful, spiritual exchange between them that is crucial to the performance.

“But what it refers to is the experience of really being carried away by the music. People would tell preposterous stories about getting up and leaving the house and not knowing where they were going, and just all kinds of experiences of completely forgetting your troubles, completely being outside yourself, having been transported by the experience.”

Bob Dylan remarked; “She’s great. She really is. Really great.”

She was referred to as the Lady by  Charles de Gaulle and  Salvadore Dali, Jean Paul Satre, Bono were among  her fans.

Lastly, do envy me for having been nourished on this music since very young :).

Let the baby survive and grow


Published in AmanKiAsha The News on Oct 5, 2011.

Nirupama Rao, now Indian ambassador to Washington, reportedly said of the Agra Summit at which Vajpayee and Musharraf met: “Though there were midwives, a still-born child was born in Agra”. A healthy baby was born that night, but was replaced by a “still-born”, reportedly retorted a Pakistani delegate.

Whatever the rhetoric or interpretation, the fact remains that the baby could not breathe in the air it needed – of peace and confidence from the two sides. Hence it died. How many such babies have died over so many years after such meetings?

The love-hate relationship between India and Pakistan does not allow the two neighbours to be indifferent to each other. They keep the relationship going by conceiving ideas and dialogues, but the babies somehow never survive. They can’t. The trust deficit kills them.

The parents need two things to nourish the baby and ensure its survival. The first is ‘love’ and the second, ‘trust’.

I know first-hand, that there is no dearth of love amongst the masses on both sides. It is so evident from their interest towards each others arts and cultural affairs. If Pakistanis’ love for Bollywood films and Indian soaps is immense, then Indian craving for Pakistani singers and music groups is no less intense.

Then there’s the curiosity with which we follow each others sport teams. If there are girls in Pakistan swooning over Dhoni, there are lasses in India putting up posters of Afridi in their rooms.
The pairing of Aisam ul Haq and Rohan Bhopana in professional tennis, or Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza tying the knot, are also living examples of that love. Despite the practical difficulties, non-celebrity cross-border marriages continue to take place. They don’t hit the limelight, but it is the love and bonds between us that makes them possible even after 64 years of separation.

Even when mishaps occur across the border and when some people do indulge in mudslinging, I bear witness to the fact that on both sides, there is a sizable majority who feel a heartache for the sufferings of their brothers and sisters across the border.

Just take the bonds that exist between the media personnel of both sides. If Beena Sarwar from Pakistan speaks through her soul to break the touching story of a Pakistani pilot’s letter to the daughter of an Indian pilot, Barkha Dutt on the other side follows up with a live TV programme that echoes these emotions from the bottom of her heart.

Another pair of journalist friends post the following facebook comments around August 14th and 15th, the Independence Days of the two countries: Shivam Vjj, Delhi: “All the world’s countries are mine. – borders. And Jeevay Pakistan!

Shiraz Hasan, Lahore: “There is a little bit of Indian in every Pakistani and a little bit of Pakistani in every Indian.” – Benazir Bhutto | Happy Independence Day to all Indian friends!

Many of us can cite numerous other such examples of friendship amongst the common folk. With this magnitude of love, there is no reason that the baby should not only survive, but be healthy and develop into the pride of its parents – the entire region of our Subcontinent.

But what do we do about the ‘trust deficit’ at the top, which smothers the baby? What more testimony of reconciliation do the powerful on both sides want, after the heart piercing letter of the Pakistani pilot to the daughter of the Indian pilot he shot down? What could be a greater example of forgiveness than the equally touching reply of the daughter, with the reassurance that she forgave and moved on long ago?

Together we make up 1.4 billion, about a fifth of humanity who aspire to live in peace and harmony in the region. Why does the trust deficit of just a handful keep jeopardising peace and harmony here?

The spirit at the Pakistan-India Parliamentarians Dialogue between the lawmakers of both sides in August was indeed yet another ray of hope. There was much needed discussion on political bones of contentions like Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek and the challenge of terrorism, all in a cordial environment.

It was even more encouraging that the issues which really matter to the people on both sides were given the due emphasis – economic ties (related to trade and investment), energy (via Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline), agreements to open new transit routes (across the Line of Control in Kashmir and at Khokhrapar-Monabao) or easing travel restrictions.

The idea of the “trusted visitors programme” was indeed a significant step forward for the hundreds of families divided across the border.

The categories laid down for such trusted individuals included senior citizens, businessmen, elected representatives etc. However, an important category was missing which by no means may be considered less trusted – that of couples who are married across the border.

I understand there will be more such meetings of the group. I beg the authorities on both sides to please look into these families, of cross-border couples, as also trustworthy. I belong to one such family, and I promise we will never let you down for having done so.

As for the elected representatives on either side, I beg them to please push in the high corridors of power to reduce the trust deficit, so that next time when an Indo-Pak Treaty starts to be born, it does not die a premature death.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Dr Ilmana Fasih is a gynaecologist and health activist of Indian origin,  married to a Pakistani citizen. She blogs at https://thinkloud65.wordpress.com/