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Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category

Ayy Ishq Humein Barbaad Na Ker…


Several decades down the road, this nazm and this rendition remain my lifetime favourite by Akhter Shirani
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Ay Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, 
O’ Love, smash us not, destroy us not
Barbaad na kar, Nashaad na ker
Smash us not , depress us not
اے عشق نہ چھیڑ آ آ کے ہمیں
Ay Ishq na cheRh aa aa key humaiN
O’ Love disturb us not, again and again
ہم بھولے ہووں کو یاد نہ کر
Hum bhooley huoN ko yaad na kar
Recall us not, the forgotten ones
پہلے ہی بہت ناشاد ہیں ہم
Pehley hi bohut nashaad haiN hum
So disheartened we already are
تو اور ہمیں ناشاد نہ کر
Tuu aur humaiN nashaad na kar
Make us not more disheartened
قسمت کا ستم ہی کم نہیں کچھ
Qismet ka sitam hii kum nahiN kuch
As if the injustice of fate was enough
یہ تازہ ستم ایجاد نہ کر
Yeh tazaa sitam eejaad na kar!
Reinvent not,  this fresh injustice
یوں ظلم نہ کر بیداد نہ کر
Yun zlm na kar beydaad na kar
Inflict not such cruelty and tyranny
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not, destroy us not

 

جس دن سے بندھا ہے دھیان تیرا
Jis din se bundhaa hai dhyaan tera
Since the day our thoughts possessed you,
گھبراےؑ ہوےؑ سے رہتے ہیں
Ghabraaye huwe sey rehtey haiN
Anxious we remain
ہر وقت تصور کر کر کے
Har waqt tasawwur kar kar ke
Lost in your imagination 
شرماےؑ ہوے سے رہتے ہیں
Sharmaaye huwe se rehtey haiN
Feeling embarrassed (all the time)
کملاےؑ ہوے پھولوں کی طرح
Kumhlaaye huwe phoolon ki tarha
Like the wilted flowers
کملاےؑ ہوے سے رہتے ہیں
Kumhlaaye huwe se rehetey haiN
Shrivelled up we remain
پامال نہ کر بیداد نہ کر
Paamaal na kar, beydaad na kar
Trample us not, torment us not
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not , destroy us not
راتوں کو اٹھ اٹھ کر روتے ہیں
Raaton ko uth uth kar roTey haiN
Weeping we wake up at nights
رو رو کے دعایؑں کرتے ہیں
Ro’ ro’ kay duwayin kertey haiN
And plead as we snivel
آنکھوں میں تصور، دل مین خلش
Ankhon main tusawwar, dil mayn khalish
With fantasy in the eyes, regret in the heart
سر دھنتے ہیں، آہنیں بھرتے ہیں
Sar dhundtey haiN anhein burtey haiN
Our head throbs( in pain) and heart sighs  
اے عشق یہ کیسا روگ لگا
Ae Ishq ye kaisa rog Laga
O’ Love, what kind of ailment is this
جیتے ہیں نا ظالم مرتے ہیں
Jeetey hain naa zaalim martey haiN
Neither do we live nor we die
Ye zulm tou ayy jallad na ker
Inflict not this torture, O’ Tyrant
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not , destroy us not
ان خوابوں سے یوں آزاد نہ کر
In khwabon se yuun azad na kar
Release us not from these delusions
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not, destroy us not 

English translation attempted most humbly by yours truly. Translation of full nazm will follow.

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Indo-Pak Cross Border Weddings- an Advice to the Bride


 

Many girls from all over India and Pakistan write to me about their love stories across the border and their wish to marry & live happily ever after. Just two days ago we celebrated our 29th Wedding Anniversary. So I think it makes me quite qualified to give some pearls of wisdom to the new daredevils. 🙂

Since in a vast majority of cases it is the girls who move to the other side, here is an open advice to these girls :

My first pearl of wisdom to you:
“If you think there is a genuine love between you two, go ahead and take the plunge and embrace the pain that comes as a baggage. But  before you decide, first meet him in person and ensure he is the same person who you have known on social media.”

Secondly, I want you to know there are realities beyond honeymoon:
“If you will live in India or Pakistan, you live in an alien land where you will always be under moral pressure, simply by default of being a woman, because our societies, on both sides, are swamped with misogyny, just as our cultures and faiths are deeply immersed in patriarchy. In our cultures, we marry in a family, one husband cannot be the only one you will deal with, even if you are his Laila and he is your all too supportive Majnu.”

Thirdly but most importantly be well informed of what you are stepping into: 
“Read and inquire as much as you can about the other side- both pros and cons. Know that the practical challenges that you will have with the bureaucratic red-tape are inevitable even if everything else in your personal life is going like the Bollywood style Veer-Zara. Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik star couple are a wonderful example, but they are not to take inspiration from. Ask ordinary couples in such marriages of how things are like. But none of their story will be exactly like yours, post marriage. Like any ordinary couple, it will be a constant struggle. Be open to unexpected pleasant and not so pleasant situations.”

However, once you have decided to go ahead, here are a  few tips for your safety: 

1. Try to see his country as your home too. Love and befriend its inhabitants too. Do not live like an alien. Belong there.
2. At the same time do not lose any love and respect for your country of birth. Many will say, “You are still so “Indian/Pakistani”. Tell them “So what? I belong to both the places.”
3. Try not to be cynical about his country. Learn to be objective and honest about flaws and positives of both sides. Trust me, both places are no better or worse than the other. Blind patriotism will not bring peace within your four walls or lay breakfast on your table.
4. Best bet is to make it a taboo in your household to discuss Indian Pakistani political rhetoric in a partisan manner. Don’t expect a man who so loves you today, will not taunt your nationality sometime years down the road and will still not understand why are you so ‘touchy’ about it. So better shut these doors before they even open.
5. Keep yourself financially independent. Do not submit every penny in the name of love and family. Because that will disempower you. Try to keep some money/assets aside( openly or quietly) in your own name.
6. Do not stop visiting your family back home. Visas will be difficult, but you have to be very very persistent and persevering to not give in. Try your best. Ask for help from anyone who can help.
7. When you have kids preach them to be objective and not be partisan with either parents or their families.
8. Keeping a passport of your country is very challenging in India-Pakistan relationships, but in current times, its easier than 30 years ago.
9. Create your own circle of like minded friends in your adopted homeland. Don’t just depend on your husbands friends wives as friends. At some point of time you may feel that your personality, intellect and values are not similar to  your spouse’s, and hence making your own group of like-minded friends will give you a space of your own.
10. Pursue your profession or work and hobbies in your adopted country as you would in your own country. There is no reason to give up work. It will help you build confidence and be financially independent.
11. Keep in touch with groups like Aman ki Asha  on social media and fellow Indian-Pakistanis locally, who will understand your situation far more than the local locals. These friends work as a peer-support group and as a deterrent for abuse and exploitation at home.
12. If possible, and if going gets tough, try to move as a family to a third country, or at least have an additional passport of the third country. It is not the easiest thing to do, I realize, but will give your kids a choice.

Wish you all the best,

Dr. Ilmana Fasih,
A proud Indian-Pakistani.

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Old Fashioned Sweet and Sour Pickle


Eons ago as a teenager I had a delicious pickle at an aunts place.
For almost 4 decades I hunted for it in the aisles for pickles in desi grocery stores, searched for it on family or friends tables. I even asked if anyone knew or made it.
Some friends knew about the pickle but I never had the luck to find it ready anywhere.

So one day I hunted for its recipe on the net. And there it was,  at several places.

To my utter surprise the method of preparation was very simple. So there was no excuse left to not make it myself.  So here it is:

Sweet and Sour Pickle of Carrots, Turnips and Cauliflower with Jaggery.

Ingredients:
Carrots: half pound
Turnip: half pound
Cauliflower: 1 pound
Anise seeds(saunf): 1tsp
Black seed(Kalonji): 1tsp
Fenugreek seeds(methi): 1tsp
Mustard seeds(Rye ): 1tsp
Jaggery (Gurr): 1 pound
Mustard Oil: 2 tbsp
Salt, chillipowder, garam masala powder:  to taste

Cooking method is described with the pictures:

Step 1: Chop washed carrots, turnips into medium thickness sticks and break cauliflower into medium sized florets.pic1

Step 2: Mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar and half pound of jaggery in a pan and leave on slow flame till all the jaggery melts.
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Step 3: Boil water in a large deep pan till it bubbles. Once boiling, add the chopped vegetables and cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are blanched. Drain off water and spread the vegetables on a kitchen towel till dry. (I did for about an hour).
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Step 4: Heat 2 tbsp mustard oil in a wok. Add mustard seeds, anise, fenugreek and black seeds and let them splatter for half a minute. Then add salt, ground garam masala and red chilli powder. Finally added the vegetables. Stir fry them.
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Step 5: Stir fry the vegetables with seeds and spices.

Step 6: Add vegetables mixed with spices  & seeds into vinegar and melted jaggery mixture. Cook till most liquid evaporates.
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Step 7: Once cooked and cooled, store it in a sterilized air tight cannister and leave in the sun for 2 days to pickle well. 

Step 8: Once ready(in my case in 2 days) enjoy it with parathas and hot steaming chai. 🙂
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This pickle is a delicacy prepared in winter in Northern India specially because that is the time carrots are available.

Its easy and very delicious. I wonder why did I just keep looking for it everywhere and did  not try it myself all these years? Do try it out in a smaller amount as a trial. You will not regret it.

Happy Pickling !

Educate a woman and you educate an entire generation…


Recently a photo of a 25 year old Afghan girl Jahan Taab from  a remote poor village Oshto in Daikundi,  went viral when she was taking the college entrance exam called Kankor Exam while breast feeding her child. Later it was confirmed that she has passed the exams and wants to go to college to study Sociology. Photo credits are given to an invigilating lecturer Yahya Erfan. He was so moved by her determination that he posted the pictures on his facebook. Link here

“She got up from her desk when her baby started to get fussy. She sat down on the floor, breastfeeding the infant, and kept filling out the answers to the test.” (Buzzfeed).

She reportedly told the lecturer Mr. Erfan that she is worried about the cost of education and that the University is 8 hours from her residence. It is the power of social media that a Go-Fund was created to support the cost of here higher education.

More about JahanTaab

 

 

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Needless to say, girls’ determination to study is never an issue. The key barrier is the systemic patriarchy in the garb of cultural mores or religious edicts.

Patriarchy is such an omnipresent barrier that hinders women in all communities and all economic strata one way or the other. And here is where the role of men becomes extremely important in bringing about women empowerment by dismantling the walls of patriarchy.

Here I must share my own story too.

(Bear in mind I am an urban educated woman with a strong will power. But even then, had it also not been the supportive men in my life, I may not have sailed through various systemic hurdles that patriarchal infrastructures create at every nook and corner of a woman’s life). 

In the early 1990s, as an Indian medical graduate I had to go through a written and a clinical exam by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council to be certified to practice in Pakistan. I opted Karachi centre. When I received notification for the exam it said the exam will not be held in Karachi as there are no other candidates. The exam will be in Peshawer.

Since I lived in the Middle East, I was supposed to travel with my kids to Karachi where my in laws lived. But before I could even know and panic about how I will travel with kids to Peshawer, my husband first took an emergency leave from his hospital, and then informed me that we are all travelling to Peshawer. 

My husband Fasih and I, with our two kids- a toddler and a 6 month old breast feeding infant landed in Peshawar. It was a 3 day long exam- with a written paper and clinical exam.  From day 1, my husband sat in the lawn of the examination centre, with two babies, as he dropped me for the exam. I would come out to feed the baby every few hours in the breaks.

Funniest incident in the whole saga was when my daughter cried, “Papa potty.”
He ran with the baby in one hand and the toddler in another to the washroom.
As he entered the male washroom the guard said, “Take the girl to female washroom with her mother.”
“BUT mother is busy in exam.”
“Then wait.”
“But this baby cannot wait. She has to go urgently.”
So the guard let him take her to the washroom. And while holding the infant in arms he helped the toddler finish the job and clean her. 
Finally they came back to play and sit in the lawn again. 
And then he smelt the baby has soiled his diaper. He ran again to the same wash room.
The chowkidar got annoyed, “Ap pher se as gaye?” (You have come again?).
Fasih: “Smell this diaper.”
The guard laughed and commented, “Aur parhao biwi ko.”(Let your wife study more).

After day1 the entire examination team knew about my family and when I went from each viva and clinical exam, from Internal Medicine to General Surgery to ENT to ObGyn to Ophthalmology, first thing the professors asked was how are the husband and babies doing? 
Second question they asked was, “Where have you graduated from?”. 
On reply “Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi” every single one of them began the viva with the comment, “So do we really need to test your knowledge?”
No bragging but I passed with the top position. 

The head examiner was Prof Zakaullah Beg who was my husband’s professor in his postgraduate life. He himself called Fasih on phone 2 weeks later in Karachi to break the news.

Moral of the story: Empower a woman and she will make her husband, family and entire community proud.

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.

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. 🙂