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Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category

Sadeqain, the legend~ a special feature in Rung Festival at ROM


Sadeqain needs no introduction to South Asians and to art connoisseurs the world over.

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Born as Syed Sadeqain Ahmed Naqvi  in Amroha, India in 1930, Sadeqain rose to became the most accomplished painter and calligrapher Pakistan has ever seen.

A self taught painter,  who still beholds the world with an awe by his quality and volumes of his artwork. It is estimated that Sadequain painted more than 15,000 pieces of artwork consisting of murals, paintings, drawings and calligraphies.

A man who possessed incredible passion and energy for art, donated most of his works to many friends and places. Though priceless as art treasures, his paintings stand a worth of over $1 billion now.

He is credited to have brought a renaissance, ( the reawakening) in the art of Calligraphy. Calling himself a faqir, and belonging to a family of calligraphers he considered calligraphy as a divine gift to him.

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Asked many times about when did he begin painting, he often said he did not remember how early he started painting. In one of his interviews he remarked, “Perhaps I must be moving my fingers to paint in my mothers womb too.”

His murals cover an area larger than the murals created by Michelangelo and Diego Riviera combined.

The mural titled “Saga of Labor” located at Mangla Dam is credited to be his largest work (approximately 180 x 35 feet). Saga of Labour is Sadeqain’s tribute to the working men and women since early life on Earth. The mural illustrates mankind’s journey from food gatherer to the development of agriculture, handicrafts and machinery. Beginning with Iqbal’s verse on Farhad, this majestic mural ends with Iqbal’s reference to other worlds beyond the stars. It is known to be one of the largest murals in the world.

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Sadeqain painted on the poetry of Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz.

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He was also a poet, who composed Rubaiyat (quartains),  then inscribed, and illustrated them. There are over 200 such illustrations collected in Rubaiyat-e-Sadeqain.

A recipient of numerous national and international awards like  Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance, Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Australian Cultural Award, and Gold Mercury Award, he  won the first prize at the prestigeous Laureate Biennale de Paris.

Sadeqain was described by Le Monde, Paris in 1964 as,  “The multiplicity of Sadequain’s gifts is reminiscent of Picasso.”

He painted till the last days of his life. When he passed away in 1986, he was worjking on the “Arz-o-Samawat” (Earth and the Heavens)  for the ceiling of the Frere Hall, Karachi. With 100 panels spanning an area of 3,200 square feet, Sadeqain could only complete 87 of them.

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Sadeqain was immensely popular in India and his work is currently graces many locations in India including Delhi, Aligarh, Benaras and Hyderabad.

His painting are the prized possession of New York Metropolitan Museum, Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and many other locales.

Dr Salman Ahmed, Sadeqain’s nephew has formed Sadeqain Foundation in 2007  with the mission to Discover, Preserve and Promote Sadeqain’s immense works.

I ask him what does he mean by discover Sadeqain’s work?

He responds that the painter was extremely generous and gifted away thousands of works to friends and places where he painted. Hence alot of his art sits with individuals, and many of their heirs do not understand the value of it, or are unable to maintain it. Moreover in the words of Anwar Maqsood, “Sadeqain is one painter who has painted even after his death.” implying that a lot of fake  artwork has been created attributed to him. He envisions to create a Museum of Sadeqain’s art.

We at Rung Festival at ROM were fortunate to have two panels of the original mural by Sadeqain on May 31, and June 1, 2014. The mural called Pakistan was painted by Sadeqain in 2 weeks at a Pakistani Expo in Lusanne, Switzerland in 1966. The mural depicted the cultures of various provinces of Pakistan. In 1975 they were brought to Canada for a Pakistani Expo, and since then 7 of the 9 pieces of the mural reside in the Pakistan Embassy in Ottawa.

The exhibit became the focal point of all visitors to Rung Festival.

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Information & pictures: Courtesy Dr. Salman Ahmed. Sadequain Foundation USA.

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Kesariya Baalam by Reshma


Reshma who originally hailed from Bikaner Rajasthan here sings a ‘maand’ or a welcome song in Rajasthani language for the arrival of the beloved.
(Have attempted to translate the verses from my basic knowledge of the language).

Kesariya baalam o’saa,
padhaaro mhaare des rey
Oh my saffron beloved,
Come to my abode.

Thaare aayo dujaan
Barishme mere
Your arrival
shall bring life in me

Saajan aaye o’ sakhi,
Main kayeen manwa vikraan,
Thaari paryo gaj motiyaan,
Aur ooper nayn dharaan.
My beloved shall come my friend
How can I keep my mind sane,
I shall spread pearls on the tray,
And keep my eyes on them.

Kesariya baalam o’saa,
padhaaro mhaare des rey
Oh my saffron beloved,
Come to my abode.

Sajan sajan main karaan
Sajan jeev jari
Choorley per moondshaan
Aur vachaan ghari ghari.
I utter “Beloved, Beloved.”
“Beloved” is embedded on my tongue,
Shall weave his name on my bracelet,
And watch it over and over.

Kesariya baalam o’saa,
padhaaro mhaare des rey
Oh my saffron beloved,
Come to my abode.

Awan saavan keh gayo dhola
Ker gaya khol anek
Bin taagan taa gash gayee
Mhaari anganiya ree rey.
Shall come in the rains, he promised,
Played many cruel jokes on me,
Without the rope of his swing,
My courtyard is deserted.

Kesariya baalam o’saa,
padhaaro mhaare des rey
Oh my saffron beloved,
Come to my abode.

Kabir & Bulleh Shah- the need of our dark ages.


Depressed and dejected with the ever rising religious extremism, intolerance and hatred in the world at large, helplessness over powers oneself. The only ray of hope left are the few shining stars in this dark sky that shone on our lands several centuries ago. Their golden words still need to be heard and heeded by one and all.

Kabir from India and Bulleh Shah from what is now Pakistan are two voices that spoke of peace and love beyond beliefs and borders. They were shunned in their own times, but if they were reborn now, they would not find much has changed from those days.

Reminscing their poetry, I dare to use them on painting a silk scarf.

The scarf background is black, which represents the dark ages of extremism, intolerance and bigotry that we currently are going through.

The golden messages of the verses are scribbled in golden ink, The verses chosen  relate to the abundance of  knowlege, in this era of information revolution, but the information that still fails to convey the message of peace and tolerance that it should accompany.

The languages have been reversed,
Kabir written in Urdu and Bulleh Shah in Hindi so that both sides are able to read them.

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Bulleh Shah here says:

Parh parh aalim faazil hoya, kadi nafs apne nu parheya ai nayi,
Ja ja werda mandi maseetey, kadi man apne nu wareya ai nayi.

( You read bookes, became learned, but never read (compassion in )your own conscience,
You visited temples and mosques, but never visited (the love)in your own heart.)
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Kabir says:

Pothi parh parh jag muwa pandit bhaya na koi,
Dhaayi akher prem ka parhe to pandit hoye.

{The whole world read books after books, but no one became learned,
Read two and a half words of love ( peace and compassion), to be a learned}

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The peace symbols in the middle of the silk scarf are crisscrossed by chaos and confusion prevalent in our times.
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The edges below the verses represent the hearts interlinked through love and peace, if only we heeded the verses in spirit.

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It was heartening to see Kabir’s message of love and peace ( coincidentally the same verses that I was scribbling), being presented in another art form, called Dastangoi. I dedicate this piece and the blog to this wonderful  Kabir presentation. 🙂

 

Harmony and Peace: Exhibition by Jimmy Engineer on TD Mosaic Festival Day #2


TD Mosaic Festival 2013 day 2 began with the Exhibition of  “Harmony and Peace” series of  paintings by Jimmy Engineer, a renowned Pakistani painter, visiting Canada, especially for the event. The Exhibition shall continue till September, at Promenade Art Gallery.

The paintings  by Jimmy Engineer, being showcased in the TD Mosaic Festival 2013 are part of a series of paintings  of Pakistani and world architecture titled as “ Harmony and Peace”.
The idea behind the series is that when different architectural structures from different places in India, Pakistan, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Turkey, China etc can be brought together in one frame, and appear harmonious, why can’t human beings, who possess intelligence, be able to coexist with harmony.

Talking to Jimmy was an enriching experience, to know in depth about the humanist that he is. He prefers to be acknowledged as “a simple mortal who cares for human kingdom with passion.”
His inspiration to Art is Nature, which he considers as his Perfect Master.

Born into a Parsi family, he says he believes in universality of faith. He was inspired by the simplicity and spirituality of Sufi Barkat Ali, from Faisalabad, who he says, bestowed upon him the responsibility to make Pakistan proud, through his Art and social work.

Jimmy says, he meditates, and often gets the visions to paint in his dreams, which he then transforms into canvases.

Jimmy has to his credit 3000 pieces of Art (2000 paintings and 1000 calligraphies), and countless social services, some of which are known, and some he chose to keep unknown. He believes that the highest form of social work is that reaches the needy unseen, devoid of any pomp and show.

As an artist, he has  worked with many mediums including water, oil and pastels be it on canvas, wood or ceramics, and from realism (landscape, still life,) to abstract to calligraphy.

A humble human being that he is, he believes he is extremely blessed, despite never attempting to promote his work. He has received great recognition and respect from the world over, and his art work has made way into private collections in Italy, France, Switzerland, Russia, India, China, England, USA in fact almost in every part of the world, validating his status as an International artist.

Jimmy leads an extremely simple life, and has always directed royalties from his Art work,  including a house, into social causes dear to his heart.

He believes to Walk-a-Cause and has to his credits countless walks to raise awareness on myriad issues, mainly related to helpless and needy individuals, like the special children, widows, orphans, and various health issues.

He walked from Karachi to Khyber all by himself, in one year, which took him through various cities, villages, deserts, and wilderness. He claims that all along the way, people from all walks of lives, supported and helped him, right from Waderas, Chowdharys to dacoits,and the poor. They shared their food and shelters with him. He even encountered poisonous snakes and dangerous animals, but was never harmed by anyone.

“During the walk,” he says, “my fearlessness was challenged by many asking me to enter the cage of lions, which I did, without being harmed by them. “

He says many attributed this to be due to his possession of supernatural powers. But a humble Jimmy thinks, it is his conviction to peace and compassion that leaves him unharmed.

He is a strong believer of Indian Pakistan Peace, and says that he was neither born during the time of partition, nor had read the gory details of it, but sometime in 1973, he had the scenes appear in his dream, which he then painted into the Partition series.

In 2001, he decided to walk for Peace from Islamabad to Delhi, but then stopped at the Wagah border.

“Why did you stop?”  I asked.

“I was walking for the sake of Peace, and to not add more tensions by my act. At reaching the border, and conveying my peace intent, I had conveyed my message.” he replied.

He believes that “Peace between India and Pakistan will come one day, as 99% on both sides are desirous of peace, and it is only 1% or even less do not want it.”

“Amen” , I say aloud, with a firm conviction that the words uttered from such a humble champion of humanity and compassion, will not be left unheard by the God Almighty.

Peace and Harmony series…

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Partition series…

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Calligraphy by Jimmy:

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Jimmy Engineer, the artist and social worker par excellance:

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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.

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

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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.

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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:

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The explicitly detailed interiors:

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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:

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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.)

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“One driver demanded Bruce Lee on his truck.” smiles Haider Ali.
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Many want birds, or even sher ( for which he paints a tiger).

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

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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.”

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

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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).

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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.”

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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.

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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:

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And the Sohni Mahiwal

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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:

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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)

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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. 🙂

“Interdependence” Day and beyond


First published in Aman Ki Asha on Aug 1, 2012 : http://amankiasha.com/detail_news.asp?id=854

As the dates approach, the excitement is increasing. The event is “Celebrate India, Pakistan Independence Days for Peace, Aug 14-15, 2012” — on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/LcHOeU.

As more people join the event page, those who joined earlier are getting to know each other better. They share common interests in music, culture, poetry. Some discuss pains and pleasures common to India and Pakistan. Many who met as strangers on the event page have added each other as Facebook friends and continue their exchanges elsewhere.

The idea is based on the “Pray for Peace between India and Pakistan Day” initiated by Swati Sharan in Toronto, asking Indians and Pakistanis to “Save the Date! Pray for 30 seconds in your own style for peace between India and Pakistan”, on December 18, 2011 (randomly picked). This led to some 200,000 souls around the world praying for this cause, not only via social media but at community centres and ashrams.

Inspired by the idea, a discussion began on twitter about celebrating Aug 14-15 together as “Interdependence Days”, instead of just wishing each other for Independence. “What is this celebration for if we can’t party together?” asked Shivam Vij, an IndoPak peace voice from Delhi, almost a year ago.

The Pakistan Youth Alliance, inspired by the prayers and their own Peace Parade in Lahore on August 14 last year which ended with wishing their friends in India at midnight on August 15, decided to take it further. The idea caught on and within a few days, many groups joined with more ideas and support.

Some have been going to Wagah border on Aug 14-15 for years, lighting candles to wish their neighbours for Independence Day. The Confederation of Voluntary Organisations (COVA) based in Hyderabad, Deccan has been organising events in different parts of India. This year they will celebrate Aug 14-15 with interfaith prayers and a video conference between youth across the border.

The Internet and Facebook allows those who are not physically able to join an event to participate virtually. And so, with leadership and support from Aman ki Asha, other groups and individuals have joined in this year.

Swati Sharan of Pray for Peace between India and Pakistan continues her quest through meditation and prayer. “I hope that wherever people are, they will take this power (of prayer) that they have in their hands and use it,” she says.

The Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA), with its team leader Shumail Zaidi in Karachi plans an iftar with orphans and physically challenged children, along with a fun packed evening of imaginary India and Pakistan teams playing tug of war, Antakshari, and other games, followed by a prayer.

“We at PYA want the youth bulge on both sides of the borders to understand the importance of sustainable peace based on common ground. Enough of wars and hatred; let’s move forward to make one-fifth of humanity an epitome of progress, prosperity and equality,” says Ali Abbas Zaidi who heads PYA. Believing that his generation, youth on both sides of the border, can be ‘game-changers’ towards a better South Asia, “together we can, and together we must,” he insists.

Another youth initiative, Romancing The Border, is working to build a movement to increase positive engagement between India and Pakistan. It includes innovative tools such as e-cards with positive messages. “We don’t know if RTB will make a difference, but it brought 80 of us together from around the globe. We cared. We will continue to do so. We all came for a peaceful South Asia,” says one message.

For Independence day this year, RTB is planning a “Google Hangout” between Indians and Pakistanis aiming to set a world record for the longest running virtual meet-up between conflict boundaries.
The Journal for Pakistan Medical Students plans a teleconferenced get-together for volunteer editors on both sides, to take forward for the idea of peace and cooperation in healthcare through medical research.

“There is no other option but peace between India and Pakistan, if we are to fight mutual enemies like malaria, cholera, dengue, hepatitis, maternal mortality…,” says Dr Anis Rehman, a JPMS co-founder.

The South Asian community in Canada, including eminent professors from the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) and Mc Master University are celebrating Aug 14-15 with the launch of Pledge for Peace – a website to provide an ongoing, long-term platform for Indians and Pakistanis, aiming for “lasting peace and friendship between the two peoples”. The website will invite pledges from around the world to make a chain of peace and launch an online game for youth, Cricket for Peace, to be inaugurated jointly at UTM by the Hindu Students Council and PYA.

Other joint collaborations beyond Aug 14-15 are planned. Mumbai Marathon is organising the “Every Step Counts” run between Amristar and Lahore on November 9, 2012, to commemorate the birthday of Allama Mohammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet. Runners will start from Golden Temple, Amritsar and end at Iqbal’s tomb at Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, to commemorate the man “who gave us the beautiful song Sare Jahan Sey Acha,” says team leader Swaminathan Subramanyam. “Why do we do this? Because as we look for peace between our two countries, EVERY STEP COUNTS.”

Pakistan’s Pedal for Peace group are organising their Lahore to Amritsar bicycle tour to coincide with Every Step Counts’ November 9 event. “We cycle from one city to another in order to spread the message of peace, tolerance and to urge people to solve social issues hampering our growth” says Abdul Basit Khwaja of Pedal for Peace.

pedal4peace

Those who are unable to physically join an event are invited to dedicate some time to peace on Aug 14-15 this year, wherever they may be: light a candle, meditate, pray, fly a kite, cook a meal, make a piece of artwork or write a poem dedicated to peace between the two countries.

Let’s make peace more visible than conflict, this Independence Day. Happy India Pakistan Peace celebrations!

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