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Can Pakistan be Polio free?


 Published: July 31, 2019 here: Express Tribune Blogs

A Pakistani health worker administers polio vaccine drops to school children. PHOTO: GETTY

People who know me well know that I often compulsively compare and contrast India and Pakistan by virtue of not just their close proximity, but because I consider both countries as my home.

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India polio free on March 27, 2014, after it had not had a single case since 2009, I was filled with great pride. Knowing that Indiais densely populated, afflicted with poverty and has poor access to healthcare for millions, polio eradication was indeed something to celebrate. But as in every such situation, I naturally wanted to know how long it would take Pakistan to reach this milestone.

As India has put an end to the polio epidemic, its neighbour Pakistan remains one of the three countries in the world that are still trying to eradicate the disease. I thought to myself, four times larger in size than Pakistan and more populated, so if India could do it, why can’t Pakistan?

With fingers crossed, I have kept my eyes on the numbers ever since. Polio cases dropped in Pakistan from over 300 in 2014 to 54 in 2015. This gave me hope. In 2016, polio cases further went down to 20 and then to eight in 2017.

It must be said here that it is remarkable how the entire world of healthcare had come together, spending $16 billion in the global polio drive over the last 31 years, to eradicate a disease that has in the past left many children disabled for life.

So I was certain in my heart of my hearts that Pakistan would get there.

Pak Fights Polio@PakFightsPolio

Hats off to the polio workers who carried on with their duties in the scorching heat of Baluchistan and successfully vaccinated about 33,000 children in District Jhal Magsi to in Pakistan.

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PTI

@PTIofficial

Meet the 25 year old girl, who sets the perfect example of strong will and commitment. Role model for every woman, nothing can stop Shizza Illyas as she goes from door to door on her motorbike to help @Pakfightspolio end polio in Pakistan. 1/2

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But it was not meant to be and there are a confluence of factors that have prevented polio eradication from becoming a reality in Pakistan.

Amidst the politicisation of polio vaccines, not just polio workers, but the police officials accompanying them continued to be gunned down. Yet this still has not deterred the brave health workers from taking risks, high up in the mountains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) or in the ghettos in Karachi, from ensuring that children are given proper and timely access to vaccines.

Early this year, rumours made rounds on social media that children were dying as a result of polio vaccines, thus creating a panic among the thousands of households whose children had been administered these vaccines. In retaliation, health centres were set on fire. It was also reported that a man had divorced his wife after he found out that she ensured their family was administered polio vaccines.

A video also surfaced on social media recently, where children were made to pretend to be dead by a man who wished to prove how dangerous polio vaccines are. Given the spread of such misinformation in the digital age, the proliferation and rise of such videos is deeply concerning and could prove to be a serious roadblock.

omar r quraishi

@omar_quraishi

The news that some children fell ill after being administered the polio vaccine in KP yesterday was fake – see it for yourself here – including the man who instructs the boys to feign illness and lie on the hospital bed

This man should be arrested immediately & prosecuted

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If all this wasn’t bad enough, just a couple of weeks ago we heard news of fake polio markersbeing sold in Pakistan, which parents were using to mark their children’s finger to make it seem like they have already been given those ‘dangerous’ two drops. This only further compounds the already arduous job of Pakistan’s polio workers.

What also damages the effectiveness of Pakistan’s polio drive is when polio workers are unable to reach certain localities. It has been reported that 37,678 children missed a recent special immunisation drive which was conducted in Bannu, Lakki Marwat and North Waziristan. While many children could not be given polio drops because their parents refused, 11,853 children could not be reached altogether. An inability to get access to these children will only further complicate an already difficult task.

I have never, and will probably never be able to understand the reasons as to why parents choose to ensure that their children are not given polio drops. Why can’t these people understand how detrimental this kind of rumour mongering can be?

Pak Fights Polio@PakFightsPolio

Parental mistrust & refusal to vaccinate drags 8 months old Imtiaz into lifelong pain & paralysis in District Jaffarabad of Baluchistan. His sorrowful father, holding himself responsible, appeals to parents to learn from his example and say yes to vaccination against polio.

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The push-back against polio vaccines stems largely from a whole host of myths which have been floating around for years. From people claiming that the drops are being used to sterilise Muslims, to the campaign being part of a ‘western agenda’, to stories that children have died because of polio drops. The only valid criticism I have come across is the one pertaining to the Shakil Afridi case because it did indeed damage the trust of the communities to a great extent. However, very few know that he was part of the hepatitis vaccine campaign, not the polio vaccine. 

The New York Times

@nytimes

Polio vaccination teams are frequently targeted in Pakistan. Islamist militants and hard-line clerics say the vaccination drive is a foreign plot to sterilize Muslim children and a cover for western spies. https://nyti.ms/2XDqREm 

Security officials investigating an attack by gunmen on a polio vaccination team on Thursday that left one woman dead in the town of Chaman, in Pakistan.

Polio Vaccinator Is Shot and Killed in Pakistan

The woman was part of a vaccination campaign. Another worker in her team was injured. A total of three polio workers have been killed this week as unfounded rumors against vaccines spread.

nytimes.com

In contrast to 12 cases in 2018, there have been 47 reported cases of polio in 2019 so far. It is likely that this number will have gone up by the end of the year.

With every case of polio paralysis, the virus spreads to 200 more children in the neighbourhood. As a result, the virus has been found in multiple sewage samples in Karachi, Sindh, Balochistan, K-P and Punjab. Not just limited to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the same strain of polio virus has even been detected in sewage samples in Iran and in the Xinjiang province in China.

It seems that the polio virus is here to stay in Pakistan for much longer than we would want it to.

All the kids afflicted with polio paralysis, if they survive, will grow up to be adults on crutches and in wheelchairs. Many of them may not even be able to afford crutches and will be dragging their stick-thin, polio-afflicted limbs along the ground. Will they be living in abject poverty, dependent on their family, or will they resort to begging on the streets?

What about those hundreds of children who will be affected in the years to come?

As a Pakistani, as a doctor and as a mother, I am pleading with all the parents: please let those two drops help save your children’s future.

ilmana.fasih

Dr Ilmana Fasih

An Indian gynaecologist, married to a Pakistani, Ilmana is a health activist, and m-Health entrepreneur, who writes on social and health issues as a passion. She dreams of a world without borders and wars.

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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.

indopakcake

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.

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

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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.

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. 🙂

 

Samra’s story: When marital abuse did not break her


First published in Express Tribune, Pakistan on June 10, 2013 : http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/17620/samras-story-when-marital-abuse-did-not-break-her/

 

Attending the graduation ceremony of students at the prestigious University of Toronto, my daughter pointed out Samra Zafar, saying

“She topped in Economics and she is a Pakistani!”

Samra was flanked not by parents, but two daughters, aged 12 and seven. I wanted to know more about her, and hence invited her over to our house next evening.

At home, while sipping tea, Samra shared her 14 year journey with me and I was absolutely floored by her story.

In 1999, in Abu Dhabi, Samra was a brilliant 16-years-old student of grade 11, dreaming to go to a foreign university to pursue higher studies. Her only fault was that she was tall and extremely good looking – she was a dream bride. Hence when the proposal from a ‘well settled boy in Canada’ arrived, it was difficult for her working class parents to refuse. Eldest of four daughters, the parents thought this would give her a great opportunity to go aboard and pursue her dream, under the safety of her husband and in-laws.

The in-laws reassured their support too.

However, once married and in Canada, things changed. She was told,

“The atmosphere in high schools is not good, and hence it is better to not be thankless and stay happy at home.”

Samra refused to give up though and completed her high school courses through distance learning.

Despite being a mom at the age of 18, she excelled in her high school exams and got accepted to the University of Toronto. Her husband, however, refused to support her and his good financial status left her ineligible for university loans. She tried to convince her in laws for three years but to no avail.

It was not just her education; she was under strict vigil all the time. She was not allowed to leave the house, had no cell phone and was not allowed to learn how to drive. She never had a penny on herself and was constantly abused and neglected.

Samra had not visited her parents for five years. The first time she went back was when her father sent tickets for Samra and her daughter. When she was leaving, she asked her husband fora meagre $10 so that she could have some coffee and buy some chocolate for her daughter during their transit stop at Heathrow Airport. He just snarled at here and said,

“Ask your father for that too.”

She had left and did not intend to come back, but her husband begged her to return with a promise that he would change and that she will be allowed to study this time; he said that he realized he could not live without her. Reassured, Samra returned, only to know that once she got pregnant the second time, the physical abuse was to became worse.

Samra stated that,

“A bruise on my upper arm was a permanent fixture, as in every bout of anger, he would grab my arm really hard and squeeze. Often he pushed me, pulled my hair and spit in my face, even in front of my daughters.”

Again disheartened, she went back to her father’s home, pregnant with her second daughter. Within a couple of months her father suddenly fell ill and passed away. Samra recalls the day before his death and the advice her father gave her when he said,

“My life is uncertain, I may not live to look after you. You have to be strong and pull yourself out of this. I have always envisioned seeing you at the top of a world ranking University.”

Things had changed. Her mother was alone now and had two other unmarried daughters to support.

Samra, accepting it as fate, returned to her husband. To earn her own money, she began baby sitting in her house. As consolation to continue her work, she would give her husband some pocket money from which he would buy his cigarettes and a share to her mother in law, too, to earn their approval.

In 2008, she applied again and got accepted to the University of Toronto. This time she did not have to look to her husband for financial assistance, as her child care business could enable her to pay her own fees. However, this led to escalation of physical abuse. She was instructed by her husband on a daily basis,

“Don’t talk to your male professors, don’t talk to anyone on campus and don’t go to the library.”

The abuse was so severe, that she had to take a break after the first year. Several times she had suicidal thoughts and her self-confidence had completely shattered. That led her to a meeting with the Psychological Counselor at the university campus. She attended the sessions in secrecy and there she was informed that what she was going through was a typical cycle of domestic abuse. And that it was not her fault, or her destiny to bear it.

She reveals;

“It was my daily routine to beg my husband and ask him, ‘Why do you do this? Why don’t you love me?’”

And all he replied with each time was,

“Because you deserve this.”

The psychological counselling at the university, gave her the strength to get back to university. By the second year, the abuse had become worse but she had been told that she could call 911 if need be.

“I will call the cops, if you hit me again.” She uttered once, while her husband raised his hand. That is what triggered him to say,

“Talaq, talaq, talaq.”

(I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you.)

Samra says,

“I was shattered, and I did not know what to do next. If I left the house, I would not have childcare income. How would I continue to study? I had two young girls to support.”

Samra’s husband and in-laws ran from pillar to post to get Fatwas to invalidate the divorce. Samra laughs,

“Once my mother-in-law even brought a person for the necessary Halala to rectify the Talaq.”

However, by now Samra had, despite many weak moments, gathered enough strength to move out of this cyclical abuse and face what came her way.

She shifted to a residence at the university campus. Her husband and in-laws then tried threatening her; they said either return or they would malign her in the local Pakistani community of her ‘living’ with men at the university. Her husband often told their daughter,

Do you think your mother goes to university to study only?”

Samra revealed that,

“After a decade of physical, financial, psychological and emotional, abuse it was only in the summer of 2011, that I finally had the courage to go to the cops and give a detailed, date by date account of the abuse I faced, along with the evidence.”

As a result, her husband was arrested on four counts of assault. Despite two court cases, three jobs and two children, she continued to excel in her studies and became head teaching assistant.

Today, Monday June 10, 2013, at the official convocation of the prestigious University of Toronto, Samra will not only be awarded a Bachelors degree in Economics, but she will also be awarded the prestigious Top Student Award in Economics. She also has to her credit a dozen more awards given to her for her academic excellence in the past four years, including the prestigious John H Moss Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a single student in the entire university (all three campuses). She has also been admitted to the PhD program in Economics at the University of Toronto, with a full scholarship.

When not studying or working, Samra loves cooking for her girls and gives them all the free time she gets.

“We are now the happiest we have ever been.”

I asked her how she would advise other girls who are trapped in the same scenario and to that she said,

“Do not let anyone disrespect you. Believe in yourself. You are the only one who can change your situation. It is not easy, but it isn’t impossible either. I had all the disadvantages any girl could have.”

She refers to the myth of needing a man as a support,

I have no father, brother, son, or husband to support me. But I have done it, all by myself. If I can do it, anyone can.”

Read more by Ilmana here or follow her on Twitter @Zeemana

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