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Eid e Nowruz : The Persian New Year


The word Nowruz meaning New Day, is the most anticipated and favorite celebration for Persians. It occurs exactly on the Spring Equinox. This occasion has been renowned in one form or another by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. Sumerians, 3000 BC, Babylonians, the ancient kingdom of Elam in Southern Persia and Akaddians in the second millennium BC, all celebrated this festival. What we celebrate today as Norooz (Also spelled Now Ruz, Norooz or Norouz) has been around for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrians of the Sassanian period.

It’s no secret that Persians love any excuse to celebrate. But of all the many reasons to celebrate, Norouz, The Persian New Year, is by far the most important and dear in the hearts of Iranians around the globe. Literally translating to “A New Day,” Norouz marks the first day of Spring (March 21st) and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar.

Originally a Zoroastrian holiday, Norouz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years. The most significant aspect of Norouz is the fact that it is a non-religious and non-ethnic celebration. Norouz brings together several hundred million diverse peoples spanning from Iran to northwest China, India and Central Asian republics,Turkey and Eastern Europe, Iraq and westward to Egypt; all celebrating this joyous holiday which represents new Beginnings, and the start of Spring.

Sofreh Haft Seen

In harmony with the rebirth of nature, the Persian new year celebration starts on the first day of Spring, illustrated by a beautiful spread Haft Seen:

haft seen1

 

A symbolic illustration of Norouz is the “Haft Seen” (Persian translation of “Seven S”), a ceremonial table spread, including at least seven items whose names start with the letter “S” in the Persian alphabet; hence the name “Haft Seen” or “Seven S”. The spread itself is usually a beautifully crafted and decorated fabric such as “Termeh.”

At the specific time of Vernal Equinox (when the sun is observed to be directly over the equator) which varies every year, the family gathers around Haft Seen holding hands. At the moment of transition into the New Year or “Sal Tahvil,” family members embrace each other and eat a sweet…for a sweet year! This is followed by exchanges of “Aydi” (cash gifts exchanged) and having the traditional new year dish “Sabzi-polo and Mahi” (herbed rice and white fish).

The Most Common Haft Seen Items: 

Sib (Apple): Red apples representing health and natural beauty.

Sabzeh (Sprouts): Wheat, barley or lentils sprouts growing in a dish,
symbolizing the fertility of the land in the Spring and the rebirth of nature.

Samanu: Common wheat sprouts are transformed and given new life as
this sweet and creamy pudding, representing the reward of patience.

Sir (Garlic): Displayed in beautifully decorated dishes, garlic represents
good health, and is believed to chase away evil spirits.

Sumac: A popular Persian spice used as a symbol to wish for some zest
in life in the new year.

Senjed (Oleaster): The Senjed or wild olives represent love and compassion.

Sombol (Hyacinth): Hyacinth is placed in the Haft Seen to signify the beauty
and fragrance of Spring, and the rebirth of nature.

Sekkeh (coin): Coins representing wealth and hopes for prosperity.

Serkeh (vinegar): The vinegar also placed in a beautiful bowl or decorative
container is a symbol for maturity, and the wisdom and patience that comes
with age.SONY DSC

Other items not starting with letter “S”, but included because of their symbolic
meaning and cultural significance include:

Mirror: The mirror is usually set at the top center of the Haft Seen,
representing self-reflection.

Candles: Lit candles are more commonly set on each side of the mirror
and represent enlightenment and happiness.

Gold Fish: One of the most fun traditions of Norouz is buying the gold
fish for Haft Seen. The gold fish are used to represent joy and movement.

Holy or Poetry Book: Religious families will often place their holy book
in the center of the Haft Seen. Others opt for famous poetry books such
as Divan of Hafiz or Shahnameh.

Eggs: Usually, one for each member of the family, artfully decorated eggs
are used to represent the human race, as well as, fertility.

Sweets: Traditional Persian sweets are another popular item for the Haft Seen.
The pastries are a symbol for a sweet life and are meant to be eaten
during the celebration.

Seville orange: Floating in a bowl of water, it represents the earth
floating in space.

(Credits: The above text and pictures are crossposted  from here: http://www.partybravo.com/Norooz-Persian-New-Year-Haft-Seen).

Other traditions of Nowruz:

Hajji Firouz:

Haji Firouz (Persian: حاجی فیروز / هاجی فیروز – Hāji Firuz‎‎) or Khwaja Piruz (Persian: خواجه پیروز – Xwāje Piruz‎‎),[1] also spelled Hajji Firouz, is a fictional character in Iranian folklore who appears in the streets by the beginning of Nowruz. His face is covered in soot, and he is clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine, and is the companion of Amu Nowruz(“Uncle Nowruz”).
(Source & further details: here >> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajji_Firuz).

Lyrics:
Beškan Beškan
Beškan beškan e, beškan! (It’s a snap-snap, snap!)
Man nemi-škanam, beškan! (I won’t snap, snap!)
Injā beškanam, yār gele dāre (If I snap here, this one will complain)
Unjā beškanam, yār gele dāre (If I snap there, that one will complain)
In siāh e bičāre če qad howsele dāre! (How patient this poor man is!)

Bonfire:

People traditionally jump over bonfires, shouting “Zardie man az to, sorkhie to as man,” which means “May my pallor be yours and your red glow be mine.”
The flames symbolically take away the unpleasant things from the last year.

Nowruz fire.jpg

Following is my favorite song  Nasim-e-Farvardin( The breeze of Spring) by Marzieh , an ode to arrival of  Spring:

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The Flawless Purse: Dilemma of Consumerism


In style she clutched a glossy purse,
Tight between her hand and her chest,
Protecting it from falling or
From being scratched,
From the pointed necklace
Around her own neck.
She had saved for years,
And dreamed of even longer
To own this branded gem.
She holds on to it firm,
Yet all tender, all protective,
Like a beautiful relationship,
Between two souls,
Knowing how hurt,
The purse can get,
When there are bruises
And that the purse
shall never be the same,
if held back after it falls.
So precious, and so priceless,
She finally owns a flawless dream.
But oh for the flawed souls,
They come and go in our lives.

ClutchBag

Ashure’ : Noah’s Pudding


Ammi called me early in the morning on Friday, the day of Ashura( 10th Moharram). Ashura commemorates the day of the battle of Karbala for Muslims.
I knew why did she call that early, as it has been a regular practice since years, I have lost count of
“One request beta.”
“Yes Ammi.”

I knew it but still wanted her to say it.
“Please don’t play music today on Ashura.”

This is all she expects from me. But she does a bit more than just not listen to music. One of her routines is to cook a pot of Khichra( Haleem) and not let anyone touch it, or munch any of the ingredients till the Niyaz is done.

South Asians make Haleem on Ashura, a complete food with multiple ingredients in one: whole wheat, lentils, rice, barley, and meat with a host of rich spices in a lengthy procedure.

Along the same lines, the Turks make a sweet Haleem, called Ashure or Noah’s Pudding. The ingredients vary from 7 to 10 to 12 varying from whole wheat, beans ( red and white), chick pea, to dry fruits including figs, peaches and nuts like almonds and raisins.

There are multiple legends associated with it.

It is cooked on the day of Ashura ( 10th Moharram) by all communities in Turkey across different sects: Sunnnis (Balkan Sufis), Shias, Alevis and Kurds.

Ashure is then distributed to all in the neighborhood in small bowls, after performing prayers for health and harmony.

Alevites fast for 12 days, and break it on Ashura with this special dish Ashure. Alevis prepare it with 12 ingredients in their version of the dish. They refrain from killing animals or eating meat in these days of fasting.

There is also a different but popular legend of why it came to be known as Noah’s pudding. According to the legend, it was the day when Noah’s Ark came to the banks of Ararat and Noah’s family cooked a dish from all ingredient leftovers in the Ark.

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As I asked a Turk friend to confirm my list of ingredients, she added:
“The most important ingredient is the ‘Intention’ and the ‘Will’ to make this dish. In Turkish we say ‘Niyet Etmek.’

Asure – Noah’s Pudding
Ingredients
(can be found at any Whole Food Markets or Middle Eastern Store) –
• 1 cup of barley whole wheat
• 1 can of chick peas,soaked & boiled
• 1 can of white kidney beans
• 3/4 cup of black dried currants & raisins
• 3/4 cup of almonds/pistachios
• 6 dried Turkish Figs – cut into small quarter
• 6 dried Turkish Apricots – cut into small quarter
• 2 cups of brown sugar ( or plain white sugar)
• 1 lemon zest or orange
9– 12 cups of cold water/4 tsp rosewater(optional)
Condiments: salt/cloves/cinnamon sticks
Garnishing: Fresh pomegranate

Preparation:
One day Before: Soak 1 cup of barley whole wheat in 3 cups of water the night before. This will allow the barley to soften.
Day of:
1. Drain the soaked barley, pour into a deep cooking pot fill with 8-10 cups of cold water leaving about 2-3 inches of the top. At this time add in, sprinkle some salt, add in the cloves and cinnamon sticks.
2. Over a medium to high bring the pot to broil fior 30-40 minutes. The barley will have cracked open and have become white and soft to touch and taste.
3. In the mean time into a small sauce pan, boil the black currants and in a cup of cold water. Once the color of the water turns dark, drain the currants through a sieve.
4. Once the barley has softened, add in the washed chick peas and kidney beans and stir.
5. Add in the rest of the ingredients – the drained currants, raisins, apricots, figs, and almonds, stirring each time you add in an ingredient. Let this mixture boil for 8-10 minutes.
6. To thicken fast, in a cup of cold water mix the 4 tablespoons of corn starch, leaving no lumps. Add the corn starch into the boiling barley mixture and give it a thoroughly stir. *the corn starch will act as a thickening agent.
7. Add brown sugar to your liking, and again stir thoroughly, continue cooking over medium heat and allow the sugar to dissolve.
8. Finally add in the zest of the lemon or orange and the rose water and let cook for a 5-7 minutes.
9. Let cool for about 15 minutes, ladle into serving bowls. Top with cinnamon, nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Ashure can be served warm, at room temperature or cold.

Ashure is a vegan dessert too.

NoahPudding1Noah's Pudding2

Ashure served with a traditional touch:

NoahPudding0

A peep into Truck Art- a chat with ‘truck artist’ Haider Ali


While strolling in a Pakistani Mela,  Khyber to Mehran, in Mississauga I was attracted to a giant canvas partly filled with vibrant colors. As we got closer, we saw a man with was effortlessly making strokes with a brush creating flawless images. Without the initial sketch, even the symmetry was perfect.

That’s truck art.” Screamed my daughter. I stood watching him in awe…not just the perfection, but the speed and the choice of colors. He turned back and in response to our questioning smile, introduced himself as ‘truck artist Haider Ali’ from Karachi. ( The stress was on the first two words).

Haider Ali is visiting Canada on the special sponsorship of the Pakistani Consulate and represented Pakistani Truck Art  in the South Asian Heritage Celebrations called RUNG, at Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, and Carrasauga Festival in Mississauga in May. Last week he also painted a panel at the Canadian Parliament at Ottawa.

I had a million questions to ask about the Truck Art, so I followed him at the exhibition Moving Art  arranged by a  friend Asma Mahmood at her Promenade Gallery

First of all I wanted to know the history of the origin of truck art:

“It all developed very gradually. In 1950s after partition, the Karachi Port ( Keamari Port) became the main source of trade. It was mainly the camel carts and the donkey carts that carried the goods. The camel carts being bigger, brought goods from the port upto wide roads and then transferred the good were carried on smaller donkey carts, to navigate through the narrow lanes leading to the City Station from where trains carried them to the rest of Pakistan. The painters painted camel, donkey and horse carts , while their animals were adorned with intricate accessories and ornaments made out of beads and wool.
In 1960s, Bedford trucks started to arrive from Luton, England. So the trucks gradually replaced the camel carts. Three  painters which included his father, started to comply to the demands by the truck drivers’ demands to paint the names of their cities, and sometimes for their kids mention on the truck.

  • Mera Sona sheher Chakwal
  • Aao sanam Kashmir chalein
  • Sonu tey Billo di gaddi.

Like the animal cart owners, they considered their trucks as their companions. Perhaps ( speculates Haider Ali), the more imaginative ones wanted their trucks also to be more ornately adorned like these animals. Hence the idea of more detailed motifs developed. The idea got better, and better. The painters started to add more colors, and designs like flowers, birds, scenes, and human figures on the truck. This inspired a competitive spirit, not just between the truck owners but also between the painters, who boasted of their  newer and more creative designs. Thus the art kept evolving, and it still is.”

“In the 60s and 70s the Garden area, which is the hub of truck art in Karachi, used to look like an artists street from Italy or Spain”. says Haider Ali.  Many foreigners used to come and appreciate the art. Many wrote articles on it, as they went back.

Haider ali began learning from his father at the age of 7. After school he used to play around the place where his father painted, and sometime out of curiosity for colors, his father let him put dots or lines on the truck. He learnt mixing of colors, contrasts, and how to make strokes. Seeing his interest and flair in strokes, his father sent him to a friend who used to paint posters for films.

At the age of 22 he decorated a truck for the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. one of the most detailed piece he has painted, The truck still stands there at the institute.

HyderAliSmithsonian

He has exhibited his art on a truck &  vans in London and Luton too:

hyderAliUK

HyderAlivansUK

A bus and a friend ship car in Turkey. The doors of the car below show King Faisal Mosque(Pakistan) on the left  and Blue Dome mosque(Turkey) on the right.

HyderAliTurkey

HyderAliTurkeyBus

There are so many  colors and details to be added. Isn’t it very complicated?

“Each truck is worked by 6-7 group of artists specializing in different areas.When it is our turn to paint,  start from a white painted background, the add details over details. Once painted, a sticker paper is added in lines to reflect the light, called the chamak patti. Then the electrician adds the electric fitting like colorful bulbs , metal workers add the colored chains, and metallic frames to make it more intricate. Even the interiors are explicitly detailed, including the faux leather seats, which  match the motif designs.”

The play of color begins:

HyderAliColors

HyderAliWhiteTruck

HyderAliPredetailsHyderAliDetails

The explicitly detailed interiors:

Elaborate Truck Art Of Pakistan
Asking him about the details of the kind of motifs the truck drivers demand, he says.

The image that stands most popular since time immemorial is Ataullah EsaKhel.  They love his songs, and he has been painted thousands time over.
Ayub Khan was also one of the popular figure among the drivers from KPK na they often comes with: Teri yaad aayi tere jaane ke baad.”
Are there any demands for politicians? Yes few have aslked for Baloch sardars, but mostly it is Ayub Khan. Some have now started to paint

Imran Khan, but I guess now this demand will increase. He has painted the famous Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s  photo for a few:

HyderAliBB

Film stars?

“Yes Mustafa Qureshi was very much in demand some time ago. Amongst the Bollywood, Mamta Kulkarni with a unique picture of a chain in her mouth( I have asked Haider to look for the picture) is much in demand. He has also made a few of Rani Mukherjee, and one of Aishwarya Rai”.

Any male stars? Shahrukh or Amitabh Bachan?

And he smiles, “No. Not yet.”

Among the monuments, Minar-e-Pakistan, Faisal Mosque and Khyber Gate are the most popular. Taj Mahal is also demanded by many.( That was a surprise, indeed.)

HyderAliMinarePakistan

HyderAliTaj

“One driver demanded Bruce Lee on his truck.” smiles Haider Ali.
HyderAliBruceLee

Many want birds, or even sher ( for which he paints a tiger).

HyderAliSher

Haider Ali loves drawing all kinds of birds and their details including falcon, peacocks, partridges, eagles etc.

HyderAliMacawsHyderAliDove

HyderAliPeacocks

Are there any unusual themes that you worked for?

The demand for themes and designs vary with changing times.
For example, in the times of war, in 60s and 70s, there were patriotic slogans with missiles and jet planes.”

HyderAli6

While in the last elections, he painted a truck on demand for Pak Election 2013, by SAMAA TV channel.

hyderAli5

Talking of the slogans, he said calligraphy on trucks is another field and many artists do it as a separate. He loves to do the calligraphy too.

What are your favorite slogans:

Anything that a truck driver demands. Almost all trucks adorn a Masha Allah on the head. If they leave on us, we choose for them.

  • Dekho fasla rakho, warna pya ho jaaega.( Keep distance, otherwise we’ll fall in love)
  • Hum chalein, dushman jalein( As we roll, our rivals envy)
  • Na ghabra ai zaalim paas aney sey, Khuda bhi rooth jata hai kisi ka dil dukhane sey.
    (Don’t be afrais of coming close, even God is displease by those who hurt others.).

Most who get their trick repainted the favorite is:

  • “Waqt ne pher sey dulhan bana diya.” (Time has turned us into a bride again).

Haider Ali’s favorite shair being:

  • Tum ney aisa rabta rakha, na paas aye na door rakha. ( You kept such a relationship, neither came close, nor went too far apart).
  • Zid na ker, assi aap barey ziddi aan. ( Don’t be stubborn, I am the same too).

HyderAli8

Among the famous in Pakistan Tapu Javeri the photographer, had commissioned him to make a panel for his house. Ever since they became friends. Haider Ali pays tribute to his friend by at times changing the famous slogan to:

  • “Tapu yaar tang na ker.”

HyderAliTapu

Can truck art be used to promote Peace for India Pakistan Peace friendship?

Haider says he went to Museum of Peace in India  just 1.5 km from Atari and painted an India Pakistan friendship van. He again has been called to Calcutta this September for a yet undisclosed Project.

HyderAliIndoPakdostiVan

My daughter was curious: “Does NCA or Indus Valley have Truck Art’ in their course? Have yuo ever been to those places?”
He smiles: They don’t consider truck art as an art. However, thanks to Sabeen Mahmood, I have my works on display all the time at T2F. And Lok Virsa.  In Pakistan we are a moving exhibition, 24X7, spreading the message of peace and harmony through colors and slogans. You will not find any hateful message on any truck or bus. Like our designs, our location of exhibit have no bounds.( “Hamre art ko koi qaid nahin hai.” ( Our art knows no bounds neither of ideas, nor of locations).

People copy your ideas?

“Yes, though our art is not considered an art, many designers have copied them on dresses, furniture, crockery etc. They can copy our designs, but can’t copy our ideas and skill. I don’t feel offended. Infinite is the limit of ideas for a ‘truck artist’. No two motifs are identical, no two trucks are same. And they are what they call in art world, ‘custom designed.’. .”

If not painting on truck, Haider Ali loves to make painting depicting stories( owing to his interest and training in painting the film posters when young.

I particularly liked the one of Omar Khayyam:

HyderAliOmarKhayyam

And the Sohni Mahiwal

HyderAliSohniMahiwal

He has a two year old son, who he aspires to be a ‘truck artist’ too, but also wants him to first complete his education, which Haider Ali missed out on. If educated person will come in the truck art, we will get more recognition.

My daughter pointed out how in film BOL the place where trucks are painted was shown as the place where the transgender boy was raped. Haider Ali retorted, “There are good and bad everywhere.” Though there is no dearth of respect and recognition we get world over, wish our Pakistani films and dramas showed the positive side of lives too.

Some more of Haider Ali’s works:

hyderali1

hyderAli0

He invited me to his work shop in Karachi to learn the swift and  steady brush strokes that fascinates me so much. But before I seriously go and master them, I practiced them out on the ‘truck art’ inspired  silk scarves the same evening.
(One in Hindi & the other in Urdu)

TruckArtScarves

TruckArtScarves1

Kheloongi Holi ( I shall play Holi)


Published in Express Tribune Blogs here > http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/33221/you-can-play-holi-too-even-if-you-are-muslim/

 

Phagwa, more commonly known as Holi, celebrated on the full moon day of Phalgun, is a festival that heralds the arrival of spring. Played with dry and wet color, it is a symbolic expression for the changing temperatures and the blossoming fields.

Since very young, on the morning of Holi, I saw my Muslim parents being called at the gates of our house in Delhi, by a group of faces immersed in colors, who all looked almost identical. As my parents walked out, they were enthusiastically smeared with color by the crowd, and they too lost their identity with crowd.  It left no clue as to who was who, when they roared together with laughter and excitement.  As we siblings grew up, we joined in too, with our set of friends.

Holi, as I envision it,  is a perfect way to depict a spirit of universal brotherhood beyond color, creed, caste or social status.

If  taken in it’s true spirits, Holi never was and never is meant to be a religious festival to be celebrated by a select faith.

Though, like other religious festivals, it too claims a legend with a victory of the good over the evil ( The Story of Holika). However, from the context of its current celebration, it is said to have begun by the love duo Krishna and Radha.
Krishna as a young boy, being extremely dark complexioned, complained to his mother Yashoda, why was he dark, while his beloved Radha fair?

The conversation between a complaining son, and  his doting mother,  is  narrated beautifully, in a famous folk song:

Yashomati mayya sey bole Nand Lala,
Radha kyun gori, main kyun kala?
Boli muskaati Mayya, Sun merey pyaare,
Gori gori Radhika ke, nain kajrare,
Kaale nainon waali ney, aisa jadu dala,
Tuu isee liye  kaala.

(Krishna asks mother Yashoda: “Why am I dark, while Radha is so fair?”
Mother  smiles and replies: “Listen my dear, the fair Radha’s kohl eyes have swept you with their magic, and hence are you so dark.)

And one day teasingly to console Krishna she is said to have told him: “What’s in a color? Go and smear Radha’s face with any color you like.”
And Krishna out of love for Radha, smeared her with red color( gulaal).

Legend claims that  thus began  the playing of colors ( Holi khelna), between Krishna and Radha along with her friends referred to as Gopis.

Their romance with playing Holi has been immortalized in many miniature painting s:
HoliRadhaKrishna1

Another one, with in Mughal art:
HoliRadhaKrishna2

Mughal Emperors  too fancied Holi, for its association with color and romance. They brought the practice of playing Holi to their courts and palaces.

Akber is no surprise, knowing his secular conviction and a Hindu Queen, Joda Bai.

Jehangir, the romantic art connoisseur, is documented to have played Holi with his Queen Noor Jehan in his palace and called it Eid-e-Gulabi. It isnt hard to imagine the ecstatic aroma and aura that must have been created in the palace by red gulaal,  rose petals ( gulab paashi) and   rose water (aab paashi) being sprinkled during the royal play.

Auranzeb’s fancy for the colors of Holi came as a surprise to me. Writes Lane Poole in biography Auranzeb: “During his time there used to be several groups of Holi singers who besides reciting libertine lyrics also indulged in salaciousness, accompanied by various musical instruments.”

Bahadur Shah Zafar’s verses on Holi now are sung as part of the phaag ( folk songs of Holi). One of the most sung verses being:

Kyo Mo Pe Rang Ki Maari Pichkaari
Dekho Kunwar Ji Doongi Mein Gaari
(Why drench me with color spray,
now my prince, I will swear at you)

Bahut Dinan Mein Haath Lage Ho Kaise Jane Doon
Aaj Phagwa To Son Ka Tha Peeth Pakad Kar Loon.
(
After long have you come in my hands, how will I let you go?
Today is Holi, and perfect time to catch hold of you)

This is Mughal Emperor Jehangir playing Holi in his palace:
HoliJehangir

Sufi poets too eulogized the Radha Krishna romance and Holi, when expressing their love for their revered Sufi Saints or even God.

To begin with  Sufi poets, it is Shah Niaz’s ‘s Hori Ho Rahi hai, (immortalized by Abida Parveen):

Holi hoye rahi hai Ahmad Jiya ke dwaar
Hazrat Ali ka rang bano hai Hassan Hussain khilaar
Aiso holi ki dhoom machi hai chahoon or pari hai pukaar
Aiso anokho chatur khiladi rang deeyon sansaar
“Niaz” pyaara bhar bhar chidke ek hi raang sahas pichkaar.

(Holi is happening at beloved, Ahmed’s (saww) doorsteps.
Color has become of Hazrat Ali (as) and Hasan (as), Hussain (as) are playing.
It has become such a bustling scene of Holi that it has become talk of the town,
people are calling others from all over,
What unique and clever players (Hasan and Hussain) that they colored the entire world.
Niaz (the poet) sprinkles bowlfuls of color all around,
the same color that comes out of thousands of pichkaaris ( spray guns).)
{Thanks to Ali Rehman @Baahirezaman for the translation}.

Bulleh Shah also played Holi with his Master:

Hori khailoongi keh kar Bismillah
Naam nabi ki rattan charhi, bond pari Illalah
Rang rangeli ohi khilawe, jo sakhi howe fana fi Allah

(I shall play Holi, beginning with the name of Allah.
The name of Prophet is enveloped with light,
He only makes us play with colors, who annihilates with Allah)

Amir Khusro  relates to  Holi through multiple fascinating ways, in various places. Khusrau refers  not just to the color, or the play but of  the birth place of Krishna Mathura in the famous Aaj Rung hai rey:

Gokal dekha, Mathra dekha,
par tosa na koi rang dekha
Ey main dhoond phiri hoon
Des bides mein dhoond phiri hoon,

Purab dekha pacham dekha
uttar dekha dakkan dekha
Re main dhoond phiri hoon
Des bides mein dhoond phiri hoon,

Tora rang man bhaayo Moinuddin
Mohe apne hi rang mein rang le Khwaja ji
Mohe rang basanti rang de Khwaja Ji
Mohe apne hi rang mein rang de

{In summary: I saw Gokul, Mathura ( bith place of Krishna) and even East to West I roamed, but I did not find anyone with a color like yours. My heart is enamored by your color, hence color me in your shade, my master.}

Another lesser know verse I came across is:

Khelooongi Holi, Khaaja ghar aaye,
Dhan dhan bhaag hamarey sajni,
Khaaja aaye aangan merey..
( I shall play Holi as Khaaja has come to my home,
Blessed is my fortune, O’ friend,
as Khaaja has come to my courtyard.)

Needless to repeat, there are ample such examples.  No matter how much one may attempt, it is impossible to separate the two inter-meshed   cultures coexistent for centuries in the subcontinent. These celebrations of culture are all about love and inclusion, and absolutely nothing about hate and discrimination.

Let’s celebrate then, with an open heart !

Holi pic

Here is the link to Amir Khusrau’s Kheloongi Holi, Khaaja ghar aaye:

The King of Kebabs- Behari Kebabs


Behari Kababs !

Which meat loving South Asian  doesn’t relish them ? In fact, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad has called them, the ‘finest’ kebabs in his food memoirs.

I grew up watching on very special occasions, my mother prepare and barbeque these Kebabs very diligently on and with much effort, on a charcoal grill. All I remember was that it was a great hard work. And hence, for many, Behari Kebabs is a delicacy to be eaten in restaurants, as cooking them at home is very cumbersome.

I too believed so, till once, I thought of experimenting them in the convenience of my kitchen, in the electric oven. I made them with wooden skewers, and the first attempt wasn’t bad at all. Second time, it was for a dinner party, and the guests could not believe they were homemade, till my husband showed them the oven, tray and the wooden skewers on which they were made.

I moved on, more confident. Got  custom made, iron skewers that fit my tray size in the oven. As I have moved cities, these iron skewers have obediently moved with me too.

Warning: Instead of red meat, I make them here with white meat, and instead of a charcoal grill, I grill them in an oven. Nevertheless, can assure you, they are a different delicacy in their own right.

Ingredients:
Chicken breasts 1 kg
( each sliced into 4 thin fillet)
Onions: 4 medium sized
Ginger : 100gms
Garlic: One whole,
(peeled into cloves)
Green Papaya: 100gms.
Spices: Cumin, coriander, and red chilli powders, and salt to taste.
Mustard Oil- 1 Cup
Fried Browned onions: 2tbsp
(P.S. Some add yogurt, but I don’t.)

Method: 
All the ingredients except the chicken breasts are made into a paste in the grinder. Pour the paste into a wide bowl, and mix in Mustard oil.

Add the chicken fillet in the paste and marinate them for preferably overnight to 24 hours.
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As they are ready to be cooked, spread out each marinated fillet inside a plastic bag, one by one.
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Once arranged 4-5 fillets, fold to close the open end of the plastic bag, And pound them with a wooden pound to make them softer, and such that the spice paste seeps into the fillet..

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Take them out of the plastic bag, one by one, to mount on the iron skewers. My skewers seen here are about a feet long, specially made to fit my baking tray.

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Mount the fillets on the skewers, piercing the iron rod, through the flesh of the fillets at 2-3 inches apart, then gathering them closer.

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Arrange the skewers on the baking tray adjacent to each other.

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When completed, place them in a preheated oven, at 225 degrees C for 30 minutes.
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Once ready, place a burning coal on the side of the tray, and douse it with oil to bellow smoke. Cover the tray, and close the oven, immediately, for the smoky aroma to be absorbed in the Kebabs.
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When ready, serve them hot, with pickled onions, yogurt sauce and chutneys. Naans and parathas go equally well with these Kebabs.

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The children are fond of taking the left overs to school, rolled in a naan as Kebab rolls.

P.S. The blog has been diligently made for a Kebab loving and Kebab cooking fellow Delhiite Parshu Narayanan. 🙂

Do we really love Prophet Mohammed ( pbuh).


Dear Pakistanis,

Please know that Pope visited Lebanon at the height of the tension, last week, and Hezbollah leaders attended his sermon, refrained from protesting the AntiIslam film until he left, and called for religious tolerance.

Biggest-ever rally over the anti-Islamic film brought scores to Beirut, Lebanon, with 100,000 men, women and families taking part in a peaceful rally on September 18, 2012.

This was followed by big rallies by Muslims in Lebanon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
On Friday, tens of thousands of supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah movement held a raucous protest in the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. Soon after, a few thousand supporters of a hardline Sunni cleric held gathered in the capital, Beirut.
Shias, Sunnis, came together, in harmony, with genuine remorse against the mockery of Prophet Muhammed ( pbuh).
But note no one was injured, no one was killed and no property harmed in any of these protests.

If it is unbelievable, see this >>

watch?v=ab6M3QSjc54&feature=related

And then there were peaceful rallies in Sao Paolo, Sydney, Paris, London, Allepo, Tunisia, Jakarta( in the  most populous Muslim country), Colombo with no one  harmed.

While protesting in Pakistan, on Friday, our Christians brothers came out with us, in solidarity to support us, and empathize with us, and we burnt a church down to ashes–the Anglican Church in Mardan and a School adjacent to it. We set on fire Church and School looting everything like computers and chairs whatever were in School. We the Muslims, the lovers of Prophet( pbuh), desecrated Holy Bibles and articles used in Holy ceremony and brought them in compound of Church and set them on fire.

And when we protested on Friday itself, we killed 19  innocent men and policemen who were there to protect us, injured 500, looted  several of our own businesses, torched scores of our own vehicles and  destroyed some of our own public offices.

You think I am exaggerating, see this:


BTW, this was shown on RT, Russia Today, broadcast from Moscow & Washington DC offices.

Feel the difference between the two videos, and the two behaviors.

Also may I add, some 7000 adults who burnt Holy Books lying in this church, shall go free, unaccounted for, while a minor girl, learning disabled languished in jail for weeks, for not having burnt even a corner of a page of yet another Holy Book.

Are we pained by the pinch of  this  hypocrisy? Do we even  feel it ?

MORAL OF THE STORY: Are we really the only and  true lovers of the Prophet Mohammed ( pbuh), who upheld justice and equality? Are we really Muslims? Are we even humans? 

Keep thinking….