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Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

In a gentle way, you can shake the world ~ Gandhi


Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”

The story is authored by Loren Corey Eiseley a highly respected anthropologist, science writer, ecologist, and poet.

Moral of the story in Gandhi’s words: In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

Saying it poetically:

If you deny
the power of
one tiny effort,
Light a candle
in the dark,
And watch
the small flame
defy & define
the darkness.

(Inspired from a quote by Anne Franke).
flame

The secret wish of every status quo is, it impatiently awaits to be broken. Don’t believe ! Give it a try.

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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.

Silk1 001

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.)
KabirBullehShahSilk 003

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}

KabirBullehShahSilk1 001

The peace symbols in the middle of the silk scarf are crisscrossed by chaos and confusion prevalent in our times.
KabirBullehShahSilk 013

KabirBullehShahSilk 014

The edges below the verses represent the hearts interlinked through love and peace, if only we heeded the verses in spirit.

KabirBullehShahSilk 009

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. 🙂

 

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:

Hear the snowflakes speak…


Snow storm

Next time,
you are stranded in your car,
in a snow storm,
snail pacing thro the traffic,
Turn on a soft music and,
watch each snowflake closely,
so beautifully crafted,
yet none two identical,
in shape, size or character,
sailing down, leisurely,
in a silent chaos,
trying to speak to you.
And hitting the windscreen,
trying to reach you,
To whisper to you,
“How pure, soft, different are we.
But so short lived as individuals,
While so lasting when together.”

snowflakes2

“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

A Forbidden Dream?


This is a story from my life and dreams,  in three short episodes.

Episode ONE: 

Location: Amritsar

Time: 8AM on a lazy Sunday.

Suddenly my husband declares, “I won’t eat boiled egg today for breakfast. Enough of calorie count.”

 “I can’t make Nihari in a few minutes. You should have told me yesterday, you want to eat something else.”


“Idea, lets go to Lahore for a Paaye-Nihari naashta at Gawaal Mandi. It’ll take us less than an hour by  car. Keep my passport also in your purse.”

Within 10 minutes we were on the PEACE ROAD  to Lahore, and just an hour later sitting in Gawal Mandi under the open skies in a mild cold breeze, as my husband was ordering two plates of Paaye Naan with doodh-patti chai.


gawal mandi

Episode TWO:

Location : Karachi
Time: 1:00 PM Lunch time in the office with friends.

“What are you wearing on the Annual Celebration for our Office.”

“Oh, I don’t have any decent dress to wear, I wish I could wear an Indian saree for a change.” (Yes every woman, almost never has a decent dress to wear.)

“Heyy, you know I saw on TV there is a bumper sale in Rana Sarees in Jodhpur, on bandhnis, leheriyas etc. Even I want to buy one.”

“Idea! Why don’t we plan, take train on Friday,  to Jodhpur and come back on Sunday.”

“Yes, brilliant idea. Rana Sarees is closed on Mondays only.”

Thursday evening, we pack our small trolley bags, and off we are, on Friday morning in the PEACE TRAIN from Karachi to Jodhpur on Khokrapaar-Munabao Railway track.

As the train winds through the golden sands of Thar Desert, we see Thari men and women in their colorful clothes busy with their daily work.  A group of women stop by, turn at us and wave back at our train.

I  look at the woman in a white and red saree,  and scream excitedly, “I will buy a saree of this design.”

In 5 hours we are in Jodhpur. With a shopping spree all Saturday, on Sunday morning, we set off with loaded bags, on the train back home.

Thar women

Episode THREE:

Location: Mississauga, ON , Canada.
Time: Early morning on a cold Saturday on a long weekend.


“Winters are depressing, Are we going to spend all three days sitting in the home in front of a fire place?”, my husband.

“No, we can go to America, to have an ice cream in -20 degrees C.”  I remark sarcastically.

“Hey, why ice cream, lets go to Buffalo,  for cheese cake?”

The idea hits home.  And in 5 minutes, we were on QEW Highway heading down South and East to Buffalo. In an hour we were at the border, and 8 minutes later, which included clearance from the US Homeland Security of our Pakistani Passports, we were on the PEACE BRIDGE, built over Niagara River, between Fort Erie ( Canada) and Buffalo ( USA).

In two hours after a lunch and an order of cheese cake, we ere driving back home to Canada.

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Do the stories sound wierd?

Or perhaps for some, “So what’s there to blog about them? Isn’t that normal. ”

Indeed, for many across the world, such adventures are normal. They travel cross countries   which even speak different languages( as in Europe), without much fuss,  just for a cup of coffee or even go to work across border.

As you may have guessed, only Episode THREE was a real one, while the Episodes ONE & TWO are  still   far fetched dreams.

The fact that Peace Bridge is a reality, it hurts even more to know that Peace Road or Peace Train have to still remain a dream, a far fetched one.

They do occasionally become  a reality, but  for the VVIPs  (only).  For instance, when  one fine weekend the Head of the State on one side  decides to go to the other side for a visit to a shrine, or for a cricket match. But it still remains a dream, and a forbidden one,  for the ordinary.

Even when the ordinary have relations, loved ones or friends on the other side,  all they are entitled to is to dream like the way I dreamt in episodes ONE and TWO.

I know of a true story of a friend, who planned a year in advance to be with her parents, on their Golden Jubilee Wedding Anniversary.  But the visa did not arrive on time.  And when it did arrive, 15 months later, her father was in the hospital, struggling for life.  She fortunately made it,  to see him, and then he passed away two days later in her arms. She felt fortunate to have met her father, and held him in his last minutes of his life.

This wasn’t  her dream, but a true story.

I cant even call myself that lucky. I reached two days after my father was buried. Now I dread for my ageing mother. May she live long, and every time I part with her, I wonder in what circumstances would the next meet be.  Would it be possible at all or not?

With months of excitement about the much publicized NEW VISA REGIME, I had anxiously awaited ( and tweeted) for the arrival  May 25, 2012,  when the document was expected to be signed.  But it was postponed  in the last minute, by a Minister from Pakistan for ‘some’ reason  I didn’t care to explore. For me it was a delay in realization of part of my dreams, for whatever reason-valid or lame.

{However, the divided families did not have much to rejoice from the new agreement, but I still thought this a great step in the right direction.}

Finally in December, when the Ministers met in New Delhi,  the agreement was sealed and signed.
Alas, with  no jinx, we apprehensively took a sigh of relief.

But then, as feared, the tensions at LOC and the beheading incident put the implementation on hold. Again, the ‘not so big’ dream which had come so close to realization had again receded afar.

The dream to cross the Indo Pak Border  is not for Nihari or for  a Saree.  We can get it on the  same side of the border too. They are simply the symbolic magnets of common love and heritage, that the ordinary people on both sides have not been able to ignore, despite years of deliberately created rifts and barriers between them.

Some have outrightly called my Nihari-Saree dream as cynical one, but when few millions ordinary citizens between the US-Canada or within the EU can see this as a reality, why cant the 1.4 billion( a seventh of humanity) across India and Pakistan?

When 3 wars, and countless hostilities have not resolved the differences  why can’t peace and  cooperation be given a real chance?

Like every sovereign nation, India and Pakistan too have the right to ensure, that no miscreants are let to cross the border, but why should the whole population of wellmeaning people be held hostage to the whims and fancies of  few vested interests?

Let the people  interact through easy Visa for the ordinary.  

Let prejudices whither and sanity & reasoning  prevail.

Please, let the people meet.

Please #MilneDo