↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

is it ok to beat your wife--hamidm asked

Velayat Faqih hamidm

you'd love this:

lu'cu'bra'tion n.
1: Laborious study or meditation.
2: Writing produced by laborious effort or study, especially pedantic or pretentious writing. Often used in the plural.

Illustration follows your quotes:)

[...forget this business about going to the cemetery..... answer a simple question : is it okay to beat your wife(s)?..... simple yes or no answer please ]

...hmmmmm...after agitative cogitation, consideration, meditation, and not forgetting empirical and non empirical hermenuitic contemplation offer this lucubration on your prestigiatory, sophistical, jesuitical desideratum: it is not duteous to verbally or non-verbally fustigate your wife, except with assimilative acquiscence in the heat of amorous gyneolatry (am cardless member of the pro hickey lobby group based here;)...and it is okay to flagellate another's wife or husband...if there are iron-clad guarantees that one can escape retribution...(and no am not hinting at what happened in that 'state')...should the urge or need arise...hope this is satisfactory riposte...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

drop the e: drop the e

when the hymen
of trust is betrayed
and splashed as a rant an ameliorant*
it is not easy to drop the e
and sing for legends
in their minds


*(ameliorant = ameliorate = rant )

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

is nothing for ever

if......nothing is forever

what about love with an l or L
and its perennial nemesis hate
and that smile
furtively as it plays on over innocent faces
yet to be affected by Love or Hate

hum jo youN behtay haiN nafratouN ki mauj maiN
hum jo larzaaN haiN mohabbatouN kay darya maiN
hum jo kisi joostoojoo e azli maiN haiN griftaar sadaa
hum jo mohooum ummeedouN kay khushgawar khaabaouN
ki taabir o taamir maiN haiN koshaaN sadaa

what of the utterances
of sages and simpletons snaking down
...down to the reservoir of Wisdom
or the lies that mushroom with each repetition
into Lies and Falsehood

khooshi -- ik muskurahat
ghum -- hazaar taa'nay
zindagi -- bhaNwar beech darya
such -- fik'r o ehsaas ka azaab
aur rooh -- ijtamiyyat ki maut,
infradiyat ki fat'eh aur
harf -- pehla aur aakhri -- la-faani harf,
libadah rooh ka

what of deception
raised to an art form
and of real Art
Mona's smile, Tut's frown, Rasputin's gaze,
Bard's plays, Mirza's kalaam, the written Word

and the prisoner of past, present and future, Time
and the kernel of time, Truth
and the tides of truth, Reflections
and the blend of time, truth and reflections, Life
and the core of life, Beauty
and the conscience of beauty, Soul wandering soul

nothing forever?

[...and sadly Kasim
no nihilist am I
wandering eternally
in search of elusive
smiles, I remain
temporal ]


my response to Nothing's Forever - Kasim master

midnight madnes sale

rushing through the aisles
filled the cart
with two for ones

(was i programmed
or impulsive?)

used some
gave some away

am still left with
one extra god


morn after

for a & a

things we hate
come to haunt
us always
at times we
expect least.

how can we
simple dear
learn to love
them to death
and if you
can't do that
ignore them
for ever.

cold hands

for JB, AB and shubbs

'where is the chart?'
the nurse shuffles from her station
handing the chart to the doctor
'sorry, I was writing notations'

the close and distant relatives
hangers-on and passers-by even
stare and wait for
wisdom flowing their way

'the heart beat has stabilized
fluids are passing through
the blood is still there
we will change medication
and see if that helps
the breathing


'shukria doctor saheb,
thank you doctor,
may god bless you'

(doctor talking to himself)

the patient is slipping,
will not feel the dawn
do i tell them now
or let the peace reign

if i speak up now
they will start wailing
if i hold my peace
the night will pass in peace

i don't save
we do not save
we fight and fight some more

like in real life
we live, nor let live
we fight and fight some more

emotions and feelings -- a mask
fights lurk
we live, nor let live
we fight and fight some more

floor, the ward is full of those
lingering between here and nether

ah, well! i will go
have that tea and samosa
may be my splitting headache
will go away

and then some wonder
why my hands are cold

pizza isn't worth a poet's touch.

for rejeshwari

Pizza isn't worth a poet's touch.

is there a subject off limits i ask
as i struggle with the top of flask
and spill coffee all over the mask
and Beej who is delayed with Babson task
will shortly be here to take to task
while I indulge in gleeful bergamask

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

farmatay haiN

farmatay hain InsaaN ji
eh'l e sukhan ki baataiN
zindagi maut aur ranjish
souz, saaz paich o taab rumi
aalimouN falsafiouN
kay shikway shikayataiN
kya laina daina humaiN?

humaiN to sunao kuch
ghubaar e dil ki baataiN
woh bay a'waaz aah, woh dar'd
woh baar baar dar ko tak'na
woh intizar, woh bay chaini
her guzarnay walay ko
oon ka qaasid samajhna
aap is dayar e ghair maiN
woh pardes maiN meh'v e tann
dono tuk'tuki baNdhay
phone ko, screen ko, dur ko
aisay hee bay chaini say
ghoortay daikhtay hoNgay?
kuch to bataiN humaiN
kuch to sunaiN humaiN

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

apathy / bay gaangi

roar of silence
din of shivers
shrouded .........rags

leaves whisper
cut off from
mother branch

waves from
oceans afar
plead with sand
removed from
father mountain

rhythmic arrhythmic
whirl of bodies
in shabistaan*

karbala* cries
of the

smile that flees
before flickering
on infant's lips

hearts that echo
don't hear muteness
..................shrouded in
fresh white coffin

who has the will
to hear these tales

emptying our
hearts and wallets
will not affect
zombie fortunes
like us they will
they will .....

*shabistan - coined by noon meen rashid: a place to spend a night
*karbala: the town where Imam Hussain, was accosted by the forces of Muawaiya. In Muslim history seen in context of a battle between the forces of 'right' and the 'usurpers'

bay gaangi
parday kaan kay sun'n kardainay wala shor e khamoshi
aflas maiN thar'tharratay kapkiyuN ki shOr o fughaaN
shaakhON say juda sajda kartay pattON ki shikayat
aahON ka pahaRON ko ooRa dainay wali siski
chatanON say jan'm der jan'm do'or rait kay zarrat ka shikwa
saat samandar taire ker mauj ki zar'raat e saahil say gila
shabistaanON maiN jismON ki bay hunghum o bay hangham raq's
teesri duniya kay labON ka, zeh'nON ka raag e karbala
azizOn kay bichaRnay per numm aankhON ki bay-busi
muskurahat jo bikharnay say pehlay jo hojati hay go'om

kis dil per hoga a'sar in bay-awaaz naghmON ka
nahiN sunay ga ab in geetON ka ehtijaaj koi
yeh sisakti, khaki faryaadaiN dhulay kaf'n maiN saji
hum aa'ghOsh dharti kay seenay say hoNgi chupkay chupkay
khaak khaak aaloodah hogi, khaak khaak say aashnaa hogi
in bay-aawaaz dastanON kay sunnay ki sak't naa'paid hay
nahiN sunay ga, nahiN sunay ga, ab koi nahiN....

kya jaib ko youN khali ker dainay say paraishaaN haalON
kay mitt jaiNgay ghumm, lOt jaiNgi muskurahataiN
hum aur woh bud-haal donON isi beh'r e talatum maiN
mauj e hawadis ka saamna kartay kartay mitt jaiNgay

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Zahoor ul Akhlaque: Bushra Chaudry

Zahoor ul Akhlaque:


By Bushra Chaudry

Zahoor has a rich and immensely varied reservoir of new ideas, which move from objective naturalism to a subjective art of self-expression.

With the preview of an exhibition of his work done over the last two years at the Shakir Ali Museum, Zahoor ul Akhlaque took Lahore's art lovers to witness this luminous evidence! There was a collection of some eleven paintings on display, which offered the contemporary art some useful material for study and reflection.

Zahoor was originally trained in National College of Arts, Lahore. He also studied at Royal College of Arts, London and finally worked in America and Pakistan. So he has been exposed to the various trends in art developing around the international galleries.

The work can be divided roughly into two categories - the figurative work which includes the groups and the single and then the more abstract work, which contains elements of the first group and also does not break the forms.

Zahoor is a convinced, determined individual with a keen intellect, a traditionalist too! His unusual perceptive qualities are evident in his paintings, which excel in sensitivity, and subtlety of draughtsmanship. He is gifted in the interpretation of character and fidelity to the truth of the object.

His paintings instantly excite the higher aesthetic sense because of their brilliant colour and their unorthodox arrangement of figures. There were unusual relationships of form supplemented with colours and dripping of paint. His paintings reflect a keen observation endowed with brilliant pictorial vision. Free from academic idealism, he has translated traditional subject matter and composed it into a modern formula, which will significantly influence the generation of younger artists. He has a rich and immensely varied reservoir of new ideas, which move from objective naturalism to a subjective art of self-expression. Colour and light are made descriptive and deepened by an interest in new spatial conception, solid form, abstract design and more careful organisation of the picture.

While talking to him I found, that it is important to remember that this innovator, considered a revolutionary in seventies did not rebel against the fundamental tradition of sub-continent painting. He has rather followed practices that had their roots in miniature painting. He is what Cezanne had said of an artist, "one does not substitute oneself for the past, one merely adds new links to its chain. Reverent in his attitude towards the art of the past and yet open-minded to new ideas."

Zahoor has given to his work a heightened sense of clarity and order. Reuses small emphatic brush strokes in place of the short, shimmering technique of the impressionists! This is but one of the many steps that he has taken in his long and determined search for a more personal formula.

He so arranged his brush strokes that they followed the dominant lines of the design. Zahoor used a black crayon method that approximated in black and white the pointillist techniques of his oil painting, done with the thought of simplicity and an elimination of unnecessary detail in order to achieve unity through verity of form.

The compositions are vertical with too many intersecting planes at varied points, which results in a sort of visual harmony. The compositions work from the centre outwards. The images are controlled, atmospheric and strangely effective.

He also established in his paintings a close harmony between colour applied rhythmically, and modelling thus achieving a more solid illusion of dimension and depth.

basheer mirza - hasan abdi

Artists mourn BM's death

By Hasan Abidi

KARACHI: Noted painter Bashir Mirza's death is being widely mourned by artists and his vast circle of fans and admirers.

Born in Amritsar, BM, as the artist was lovingly known, migrated to Pakistan in August 1947 and settled in Lahore.

He was introduced to the famous modernist painter and trend-setter, Shakir Ali, who enrolled the young boy at the Mayo School of Art (former National College of Arts) from where Bashir Mirza graduated in 1952. Later he came over to Karachi and held his first exhibition at the Algerian Embassy in 1953.

In 1962 Bashir Mirza founded his Art Gallery inKarachi. In 1971 he left Karachi for Germany. During his stay abroad, he participated in several art exhibitions held in Munich, London and Paris. Back from Europe, he stayed for some time in Islamabad and did some marvellous paintings with Potohar in the background.

Again in 1975, he rejuvenated his Art Gallery and added to it an advertisement firm. The next year, Bashir Mirza launched the Shakir Ali award in the name of his teacher and mentor to encourage the young talents in the field.

During Benazir Bhutto's second stint in office, Bashir Mirza was appointed cultural attache in the Pakistan embassy in Australia. But he could not stay there for long due to poor health and came back.

Bashir Mirza was married but he was not a family man. The nectarous in him could not carry on with a battered marriage for much long. However, his series of paintings, the Lonely Girl, became very popular with the connoisseurs of arts.

Bashir Mirza was highly sensitive, imaginative and owned a sound intellectual background. His big painting on a clipboard of 27x4 feet done for a hotel in Islamabad illustrated symbolically four major problems confronting the people in the 21st century - human rights, the status of women, migration and environment.

CONDOLENCES: Noted artist and an old friend of Bashir Mirza said that BM was obsessed with creative work which had passed through many phases. He said BM's early period drawings were his most powerful work. Later on he painted expressionist paintings, followed by geographic abstracts. His next series was songs and colours.

After returning from Germany, BM painted his famous Lonely Girl series and later on the Flower Girl series. Eventually BM painted human figures which were very spontaneous in a powerful expressionist manner, he said.

Finally when BM was a cultural attache in Australia he painted a series of anti-nuclear paintings which were not allowed to be displayed due to his diplomatic status. Later the paintings were exhibited in Karachi.

Ali Imam said the paintings were BM's major passion in life and it was a pity that this odyssey in art had to come to an abrupt end. During his 35-year span as a painter BM set up the first art gallery in Karachi, later he also published an art monthly "Artistic Pakistan".

Leading artist Mansoor Aye said Bashir was among the leading few artists who had used the medium of acrylic in such a way. He was among the leading painters who had introduced modern trends in their paintings.

He said though Bashir Mirza had studied graphic arts in Lahore and after moving to Karachi over 35 years back also worked full time as graphic artist in a commercial firm, BM and he both used to do painting at Bashir Mirza's place till late in the evenings.

Talking about BM's health, he said he had some liver ailment and had also suffered from appendicitis a few months back.

Rabia Zuberi, who had known Bashir Mirza for over 35 years, taking about the artist said BM had force in his lines, used basic colours and was aware of the environmental problems which he highlighted through his paintings. "Bashir Mirza had depth in his work and he also did series of paintings on music and portraits."

She said BM was neither a coward nor a hypocrite. "Whether good or bad, people knew all about him as he had never hidden anything from the public and had always remained an open person." She said he used to visit her Karachi School of Arts frequently and always encouraged and guided the young artists.

knee jerkers


Interesting musings:

"... yet, sometimes in our zeal and passion for liberation, we become just as closed minded as the people we are fighting against. If we are truly "open-minded" that means we should be able to take people for what and who they are." And

"I then looked around and realized that these group of women talked to one another and understood one another, and were not getting as annoyed as I was by the entire event."

After your musings, the lines I selected in an earlier interact here appear more potent:

We speak similar languages,
but do not communicate.
Is it because we do not talk -
or because we do not understand?

Reflectively, I would say these lines also sum up beautifully the KJs here on the Chowk, too. These Knee Jerkers who oft times monolpolise and wear one down by shouting and proclaiming the superiority of their religion, culture or country.

dr mubarak ali - ameera javeria

by Ameera Javeria

Dr Mubarik Ali greeted me warmly in the modest drawing room of his second floor apartment in Lahore's Cantonment. He is one of the very few historians born in this land to have attained international recognition, as well as domestic notoriety, for his original and unflattering views about Muslim rule in the Subcontinent. The doctor has the eminence and grace of a man that comes from plumbing the depth of knowledge. There was much to be said and so without further ado he fired away.

"Krushchev said that historians are dangerous people, so you have got to be wary of them", said Dr Ali with a wicked gleam in his eye. An apt remark for Dr Mubarik Ali has indeed stirred a hornets' nest in Pakistan, especially among the ideologues, because of his secular views about history, especially the Partition. His thesis is that the two-nation theory is the basis of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. He believes that by deviating from secular thought, the Muslims of this country have alienated the minorities. "On an international level, we are branded chauvinists and fanatics because of our education". Dr Mubarik Ali's thesis is appreciated among the cognoscenti; but since we have many a religious zealot in the society, particularly in what passes for academia, there are occasional howls of protests.

Dr Ali's is a spartan lifestyle, with a distinct anti-elitist attitude. He takes pride in the fact that he has been working from the age of fifteen after completing his matriculation. Born in 1941 in Tonk, in Rajasthan (India), he traces his ancestry to the Pathans who left their rugged homeland in the north to settle in the more fertile plains of India. "My mother was from a religious family in Kasur while my father was from Sambhal, in Utter Pardesh". In 1952 the family had moved to Hyderabad, Sindh, where Dr Mubarik Ali received his early schooling. The move, however, proved to be unpropitious for his father who lost all his earnings in a risky business venture. Being the eldest sibling, Dr Ali had no choice but to work. Despite the hardships, he continued with his education earning his bachelor's degree from a night college after which he joined a secondary school as a teacher.

After securing first position in his Master's in History, Sindh University offered him a job as lecturer, a post that he held from 1963 to 1989. When he chose to leave the institution it was as the head of the history department. In 1970, he went to England in search of a scholarship in order to finance his doctoral studies. "At that time, £260 per annum was a huge sum for me and I had to work at all sorts of jobs to come up with that kind of money. I even sold diaries at Selfridges to support myself". This was when he found out that if he enrolled at a German university his tuition fee would be virtually non-existent and so it was to the Ruhe University, Bochum, that he proceeded from where he earned a Ph.D for his thesis titled "Mughal court life".

On returning home in 1972, Dr Ali found that he had been unceremoniously suspended from Sindh University. The university's chancellor when reaching this decision did not stop to consider that the reason for Dr Ali's one-year long leave of absence was caused by his pursuit of his doctoral studies abroad. Disheartened and disgusted, he resigned from Sindh University in 1989 and was thereafter employed at the Punjab University's South Asian Institute.

Dr Mubarik Ali is not, naturally, an antagonistic person nor does he nurse un-Islamic views as his detractors claim. He believes that Pakistan could prosper more as a nation if it shows a balanced patriotism, which means de-ideologising of the mind. He dismisses the notion that Pakistan's existence is underpinned by the two-nation theory and that it will collapse if this is undermined. This year, at a seminar in New Delhi, he read a paper that dealt with Pakistan's search for identity. The paper evaluates the construction and process of a national ideology that, after five decades of independence, has brought more harm than good.

When I asked him to comment on why we never had an objective study on the Partition when India has produced so much on this subject, he responded with a smile, "the Indians have researched this issue since they nurse a great sense of loss. We, on the other hand, are not expected to reveal any feeling of shame or loss as this might be perceived as dimming the glory of achieving independence. If we allow ourselves to do so we will negate the very two-nation theory this country is based on". Dr Ali went on to explain how successive governments have made desperate efforts to preserve the Pakistan ideology by distorting history in school textbooks and enforcing a penal code that awards 10-years rigorous imprisonment to anyone speaking against it.

The doctor also expressed his reservations about the educational system prevalent in Pakistan today. "Education is a positive thing but an ideological education can have disastrous effects. This is why I believe that an uneducated person is more broadminded, for he is tolerant". He expressed his disgust at the efforts aimed at twisting and distorting history which he said "is the victim of ideological states. Independent research and publication of textbooks have been compromised because of the state's intervention".

He lamented the fact that this opportunistic change in school curricula has not only altered the way we think as a nation but has ultimately cheated us of our true heritage. It is for this reason that he was critical of Ayub Khan's education policy. "At one time, ancient history i.e. the Ramayana, Mahabharat and the study of Buddhist culture and relics was part of curricula but it was done away with in 1962", explained Dr Mubarik Ali. After 1965 additional chapters on patriotism were added to school textbooks in an attempt to glorify military heroes.

Dr Ali wrote a research paper entitled "Akbar in Pakistan's textbooks" in 1992 in which he commented on emperor Akbar's conspicuous absence from Pakistani textbooks when dealing with the Mughal dynasty. "In l933, Muslim scholars in India started blaming Akbar for the downfall of the Mughal dynasty and declared him a taboo subject". For his part, Dr Mubarik Ali is of the opinion that it was due to Akbar's radical policies in India vis a vis the treatment of minorities, also known as "Sulh-e-qul", that truly "Indianised" Hindu-Muslim society.

Dr Mubarik Ali is a firm believer in history's binding force; according to him, distancing ourselves from our past can cause irreparable loss. "We suffer from serious misconceptions about Muslim rule in India: the Mughals did rule India for centuries but it would be wrong to call this Islamic rule; it was the rule of Muslim dynasties."

It is with a sense of deep distress that Dr Mubarik Ali looks on as history and research is increasingly confined to a handful of universities and government institutes that allow no freedom of thought and where researchers are forced to stick to parameters ordained by governments. "There is little room for a researcher to expand. Pursuing independent research could endanger your or your boss's career", he says. And certainly, a life of teaching is not as gratifying as it used to be. Dr Ali finds the attitude of today's students appalling which in turn has made him lose faith in teaching. He resents the fact that teachers in this country are being made to work for peanuts and links the intellectual decline in the country to the impoverishment of teachers.

Despite the grim scenario, Dr Ali has tremendous intellectual commitment to his work. His forty or so publications are a measure of his resolution. Even though it is rarely that he writes in English, his books have received critical acclaim abroad. "Back home, most of my readers are from Sindh, Balochistan and even from the Siraiki speaking belt". Dr Ali believes that if the government cannot perform its duties, then it is up to intellectuals to unite at a private platform for the promotion of research and independent inquiry. "Our society does not deserve to have a culture of its own if it fails to build its cultural institutions", he says.

The future for secular individuals in Pakistan perturbs him a great deal. "I fear a time when intellectuals will be completely isolated from mainstream society. There is no protection for free thinking individuals in Pakistan. And how can there be when these so-called lashkars go around branding us as enemies of Islam or foreign agents", he protests.

Waging a war against the government has never been an option for Dr Mubarik Ali even though he is constantly pitted against the establishment. He is a man, a rare breed in these violent times, who believes in bringing about change through debate and dissent. Unfortunately, our society is increasingly intolerant of all forms of dissent. "In Hitler's reign it was the society that turned fascist. It is easy to fight against the government but very difficult to fight against society", Dr Mubarik Ali concludes on a chilling note.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

chowk aniversary 1999

3548 chowk@two on August 16, 1999

Cupfuls of thanks brimming with appreciation and gratitude for your efforts and perseverance over the last year. Ofcourse, you could not deliver without help from FOZIA QAZI, AATISH, REHAN ANSARI, RAS SIDDIQUI, ARIF ABRAR, UZMA, KAMRAN AKHTAR, ZEENAT JEHAN, FUTEMA, SAIMA SHAH, CONTENT, KAFIR, ROHAN OBEROI, CHEENO, JAWAHARA SAIDULLAH, ANNE SHAMIM, SOHAIL RABBANI, WASIQ BUKHARI, FEROZ KHAN, F. ZEHRA RIZVI, & BEENA SARWAR.


Over the last year, the best piece of writing I read was SHAHERYAR HASNAIN'S intro to his pictorial essay Karachi Part I. (And, this, despite KANEEZ REHMAN, and PERVEZ HOODBHOY'S tribute to EKBAL AHMED coming a close second).

I will light a candle for each one of these individuals and whirl in ecstasy (haal), for you have enlightened, amused, entertained and otherwise made this past year at Chowk memorable and colourful.

My thanks, in addition will also go out to the interactors, the chowkies, without whom these writers could not deliever what they did. (Note to Zehra: Were'nt you going to pick out the best interactions/comments and whip them into an article?)

Don't sellout Chowk, or you will lose your soul.

regards and best wishes

Jafar Zatalli- Intizar Hussain

A serious absurdist

By Intizar Hussain

Jafar, the absurdist, I mean Jafar Zatalli, was an interesting character. The elite of his time had dismissed him outright, saying that he talked nonsense and was obscene and vulgar. Jafar did not deny the charge of absurdity. Rather, he insisted upon it and had compiled his writings, prose as well as poetry, under the title Zatal Nama. And so he did not mind being called Jafar Zatalli.

The absurd, as understood by people in general, was with him a serious way of seeing and understanding things in human life. The men of opinion in his time and in later periods could hardly reconcile with this peculiar angle of vision. So his poetry was never considered worth serious treatment. Literary historians dismissed it as something non-serious.

We took nearly 200 years to realize that Jafar's Zatal was not devoid of meaning, that it carried with it a comment on the social situation of the time and human behaviour in general. So now literary historians such as Jameel Jalibi appear to recognize the significance of Jafar's Zatal. The latest work in this regard is that of Rashid Hasan Khan, the renowned research scholar from India who, after much research, has compiled the collected works of Jafar Zatalli and has brought them out under the title Zatal Nama.

The book has come to me as a precious gift from a friend in New York. He is Abdulwahab Khan Salim. He has a large circle of friends in the world of letters. He is fond of sending gifts to friends and it is always some precious book. In fact, he keeps an account of the intellectual needs of his friends. He has correctly assessed my intellectual needs and has sent me Zatal Nama.

Rashid Hasan Khan feels obliged to Ali Sardar Jafri, who felt unhappy the way Jafar Zatalli was ignored, and exhorted him to work on the poet. The scholar who was the first to point out the significance of Jafar Zatalli's verse was Mahmood Sheerani.

Mir Jafar Ali, more known as Jafar Zatalli, grew up during the reign of Aurangzeb and was murdered in King Farrukh Syer's time at the latter's orders. Rashid Hasan Khan calls him a bitter poet, a poet determined to speak what he sees and feels plainly and bitterly. This cost him his life. He, according to Rashid Hasan Khan, fares better than the so-called revolutionary poets of our time.

Rashid Hasan Khan has, on the basis of Jafar's verse, debunked some of the assumptions which have come to stay as admitted facts in respect of Urdu poetry and the Urdu language. One assumption is that the ghazal is the starting point of Urdu verse in Delhi and that it took a start the day when Wali Deccani's collection of ghazals reached the city. The other assumption is that the Urdu poetic tradition is essentially the tradition of the ghazal. One more assumption is that Urdu poetry is mainly Gul-o-Bulbul poetry revolving around the emotion of love, and is devoid of any kind of social criticism.

Rashid Hasan insists that Urdu verse in Delhi had already taken a start with Jafar Zatalli in the forefront, and that Jafar was not a ghazal writer. Wali Deccani's collection of ghazals reached Delhi well after Urdu verse had made a non-ghazal start.

As suggested by Rashid Hasan one can, keeping in view Jafar's verse, say that Urdu verse in Northern India took a start not as the poetry of love, but of social criticism. Jafar's verse was poetry of social criticism par excellence.

Zatalli was essentially a satirist. We find in his satire an admixture of the ridiculous and the sublime. He was acutely aware of the deteriorating social conditions around him. What is more, he had the honesty and the courage to say what he saw. He did not spare even the kings and princes when commenting on the corruption rampant in society. He was in the service of Prince Kam Bakhsh, the son of Aurangzeb, when he wrote a satire on him. In consequence, he was dismissed from his service. But when he wrote a satire commenting bluntly on the ruling ways of King Farrukh Syer, it cost him his life.

Zatalli's satirical verse gave birth to a new mode of expression, which soon evolved into a new genre known as Shehr Ashob.

Rashid Hasan has also tried in his introduction to determine the role of Zatalli in the evolution of Urdu as a language. Those were the times when Urdu was still in a formative stage. The odd linguistic innovations of Zatalli helped accelerate this process. The way he injected Persian words and expressions into Urdu couplets and newly-coined Urdu words and phrases in Persian couplets, and the way he coined new words, phrases and idioms appears odd.

But this kind of linguistic expression on his part went a long way in the linguistic evolution of Urdu. In his verse, Urdu appears to be speedily advancing towards becoming a developed language.


Mohtarmi Janaab GlennFerozovichKhanov:

Baad aadaab, arz hay kay aap ka is waqt Pakistan jana bohat naa-munasib hoga. Aap Fateh Fauj aur bahadur Afwaaj kay baray maiN jo likh rahaiN haiN oos say donouN campoN maiN aap kay dushmanouN ki taadaad barh rahi hay. Humaray ISI kay mole nay ek bulletin ki kapy humaiN bhayjee hay. Aap ki khidmat maiN hazir hay.


Ref # PK786/990810/Chowk/Badmash/Feroz

To: All staff and officers at the border check posts.

Please look out for a 5-8, darkskinned, bespectacled, Pakistani male, possible carrying a Canadian or American Passport, short hair with shades of gray, with a permanent smirk, hanging out of left lips. When apprehended, please ensure no bones are broken. If force is used leave no marks on hands or face. Or you may be transferred to Thar. The said indiividual speaks broken Gujrati, Urdu and Punjabi. His English accent is a mix of Grammarian pseudo English half baked with Canadian and Mid western English. Further details are posted on the Entry Control List, rev 08/10. When apprehended seize his luggage. Do not touch any papers or computer disks. Dispatch them with haste to the same room we readied for Najam Sethi.

kaisa pyar

for shandy

Jeena kaisa azaab hay? Teri baataiN yaad aati haiN. One soul, divided again and again, incontrovertible, undiminsihed, unyielding yet seen. Seen in you and me. And all those other teeming millions, 12,130, 900, 6000.

We must have shared the same streets, lanes, boulevards, parks, buildings, planes, routes, seats at one time or another. And not exclusively at that. Why stop at thumbing the nose/s? Don't you envy the velcro fly?

As usual, words are far behind the thoughts. These fingers can't keep pace. Now, that thought, that beauty you talk about is everywhere. And nowhere. Not when the tactile urge overwhelms. Forget Tennyson, Asadullah, forget everyone that inherited the fragmented soul. Do we slow down as calendars fade and are filed away in memory's huge warehouse? Perhaps not, regardless of the physcian's assertions.

The magic is in love. The magic is in hate. One cannot go from an existential foray into the ethereal ocean of life with only one of them.

Tum aur hum, zindagi ki gaRRhi kay dou phaiyay. As is love and hate. Folks go overboard when seeking gratification with one balm only. I find you constantly inch forward to touch the truth. Is hate a harsh reality, unblinking, unyielding. Or is it controlable?

These days, I'm more inclined to treat them as horses pulling our chariots. One has to accomodate the grays. From wheels to force.

Channelised, purposeful. Seldom.

Na Hath hay baag pay naa paa hay rekaab maiN
Daikhiye rakhsh-e-umar kahaN thamay

I hope this is a correct quote. Hence we whirl. In another time, another place, we would have been whirling dervishes.

(Disclaimer: Am neither high, nor driven. Just drained.)

One of the better one from you in a long time. Ecstatic.

Pakistani women writers-By Deepti Priya Mehrotra

The avenue of expression

By Deepti Priya Mehrotra

The work of Pakistani women writers is now being acknowledged all across the globe

“Words for me are just balm — they soothe me when the anguish is too deep,” mused the Lahore-based writer Feryal Ali Gauhar. “In an increasingly insecure world, a woman speaks of conflicts generated, engendered and perpetrated by men.” Gauhar studied political economy at McGill University, trained in documentary film production in Europe and teaches film at Lahore’s National College of Art. Her first novel The Scent of Wet Earth in August was published by Penguin-India in 2002 and she has recently completed a second novel No Place for Further Burials, which focuses on the American presence in Afghanistan.

Gauhar was one of four women writers speaking in the basement lecture room of New Delhi’s India International Centre on September 22. The occasion was the release of And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women, a collection of short stories by 24 Pakistani women writers, published by Women Unlimited. The other three writers present were Muneeza Shamsie (the editor of the volume), Humera Afridi and Sabyn Javeri-Jilani.

While Shamsie and Gauhar live in Pakistan, Afridi is at present based in New York and Sabyn in London. In fact, of the 24 short story writers in the anthology, half live in Pakistan while the other half are based in the West.

Gauhar was particularly eloquent about being in India: “I traversed the narrow alleys of Chandni Chowk as a child. I remember the family packing a few belongings and travelling by train to Amritsar, from there to Bharuch, then a tonga and a bullock-cart ... I’m still travelling. Coming here is very difficult, because it is like being home and yet not being home.”

Afridi traced her urge to write to the state of virtual exile she has been in since childhood: “My family left Pakistan and I grew up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I don’t know whether I would have become a writer if I hadn’t been torn from Pakistan. I began writing poetry when I was 16 and, ever since, writing has become a sort of home. The UAE was a hostile and alien environment, where my identity was always being questioned. The desire to compensate for my dubious identity became an impetus for my writing.”

Afridi went to America to study English at Mount Holyoke and Carnegie Mellon universities, and is these days completing her Masters in creative writing from New York University. She has taught English in Jeddah, Dubai, Dallas and New York City. Having lived in six places during the past 10 years, she feels her writing “is neither here nor there. Moving so much, I have taught myself to appropriate cities. The novel I’m writing is situated in six places. Moving can, finally, be liberating ...”

Sabyn Javeri-Jillani was born and studied in Karachi. She moved to England five years ago and writes for Pakistani and British publications on culture and entertainment. “In South Asia, we come from such rich traditions of storytelling. All of us have many stories within us,” adding, “Karachi remains central to my work. I find that physical distance enables you to reach out to those nooks and corners of your mind and unravel memories. My writing explores the question of being suspended between different cultures. I write about home, but is home the place where you have your roots or the place where you take wings and fly?”

Muneeza Shamsie was born in Lahore, educated in England and lives in Karachi. She noted that the theme of ‘quest’ runs like a thread through all 24 stories in the collection. She recalled that as a student in England, “I couldn’t find a context for myself in geography, history, science or literature. South Asian writing attracted me because it challenged the empire.” Having edited two anthologies of Pakistani English writing — A Dragonfly in the Sun (OUP, 1997) and Leaving Home (OUP, 2001) — Shamsie feels that Pakistani women writers are at the “extreme edges” of both English and Pakistani literature.

While Shamsie is ‘regrettably’ monolingual, Gauhar speaks and writes in Urdu, Punjabi and English. She writes a column on political economy in the newspaper Dawn, but much of her creative writing is in indigenous tongues. “I wrote The Scent of Wet Earth in Urdu and Punjabi, and later translated it into English,” she reveals. “Instinctively, I find it contrived to write in a language so distanced and not even adequate to convey the emotional landscapes of a people. How can I write of the degrees of sadness mingled with joy in the month of saavan (monsoon) in the English language ...?”

Gauhar believes that the process, and not the product, is important for her. “The process of writing keeps me sane.” Gauhar described three years spent making a film on four colourful characters in Shahi Mohalla (literally ‘royal neighbourhood’, as Lahore’s red light area is euphemistically called). She felt privileged to have met and got to know such people. She notes that traditions like dastaangoee (literally, storytelling) are to be found in regional languages, but not in English — “globalization has destroyed a lot.” When asked whether she would like to write a novel in half-English and half-Urdu, Gauhar quipped, “Yes, par aap publish karenge?” (Yes, but will you publish it?)

All four writers reflected on their state of being ‘hybrid’, as South Asians who write in English. Afridi noted that she writes for a multi-ethnic diaspora, as much as for herself. Gauhar acknowledged there are pressures on the writer today. Her novel No Place for Further Burials features deaths of Afghans and Americans in Afghanistan and was considered too sensitive for publication in America, because the American public has been deliberately misinformed about the number of American militiamen killed in Afghanistan. It is a test of integrity whether a writer succumbs to such pressure or remains true to the essence she wants to share. Gauhar noted, “For me, any death is a death too many, whatever the colour of the corpse.” Afridi wryly noted that you don’t usually earn from writing fiction, so it can sometimes be difficult to justify such writing to one’s own self.

On a question on women’s writing specifically, Gauhar remarked, “Writing may be the only avenue of expression for many women. Men may whistle, saunter around and behave badly. In Pakistani society, we women do not whistle, wink or make salubrious noises. Women who were courtesans discussed sexuality over the centuries, and strung words together to compose songs. But those who composed at home were not recognized. It is the positioning of women — performing is out of bounds for us, as it was for middle-class Indian women a hundred years ago. You cannot sing and dance without being noticed, but you can write quietly.”

The evening succeeded in bringing about a deepened understanding and awareness of the concerns of contemporary Pakistani women writers. Indian writers share many of these concerns. Clearly, direct cultural and literary exchange across our borders is an idea whose time has come. — Dawn/WFS Service

Graveyards — a neglected social issue By Faiza Ilyas

Graveyards — a neglected social issue

By Faiza Ilyas

Among the jigsaw puzzle of graves lie pye-dogs and drug addicts, spoiling the sanctity of cemeteries. While there exists no authority to protect these places from unwanted elements, the graveyards are vulnerable to all sorts of illegal activities. People fear visiting these cemeteries as they are in the control of different mafia including land-grabbers and drug sellers, writes Faiza Ilyas

“Who cares about the dead in a society where human life itself has no value. Buried with profound grief, the deceased are forgotten in no time. Later on, only a few manage to take out time to visit the last resting place of their loved ones, which is one of the reasons that many graveyards, declared closed years ago, do not disappoint those looking for burial space. With government and society taking no responsibility of the dead, the mafia of undertakers exploit people and make money out of the misery of the common man who is duped even after death as he finds himself sharing his eternal abode with an uninvited guest.”

Beginning on a sad note, Hasan Ali, an office worker, laughed sarcastically when he said the last sentence. A regular visitor to the graveyard located in Shah Faisal Colony, Ali begins his day by offering prayers at his mother’s grave in a cemetery along Shahrah-i-Faisal, one of the oldest in the city, which he regards as his ancestral graveyard as many of his relatives are buried here.

“What is the government doing to alleviate the sufferings of the living? The poor are barely surviving hand-to-mouth with the persistent price-hike. Even a burial costs so much money now. The gravediggers are charging thousands of rupees for a grave already used for burial. And yet not a single penny is spent on the premises which is evident from the dilapidated conditions of cemeteries in the city.” His complaint can hardly be challenged.

Never on the list of government priorities, graveyards are a true reflection of the chaos existing in the society. Excluding the ones looked after by some associations, communities and institutions, such as the Gizri Graveyard in DHA under the Cantonment, almost all of them are devoid of proper planning and management. There is no system of registration of the dead either. And, if people avoid visiting the graves, they have strong reasons to support their action.

“In most graveyards there are no walkways. Those present in densely populated areas reached their maximum capacity years ago and were officially closed such as the ones in PECHS (along Tariq Road), Paposh Nagar, Sakhi Hassan (North Nazimabad) and Essa Nagri (Hasan Square). But, still, burial practices continue at these cemeteries due to shortage of space. Hardly any new cemetery has been set up with the mushrooming growth of new localities. Hence, in an overcrowded graveyard, one is compelled to desecrate other gaves by trampling over them to reach the resting place of his or her loved one, which is obviously not an appropriate thing to do. Besides, the graveyards do not have basic facilities such as water and electricity, according to Zia Jamshed, a retired banker residing in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

People are also critical of the filthy conditions existing in and around the graveyard, which are sometimes used as a garbage dumping site. A case in point is the Azeempura graveyard in Shah Faisal Colony where alongside the boundary wall lie heaps of garbage and buffalo dung.

Owners of a cattle-pen in the locality as well as government refuse vans dump the waste in the open space adjacent to the cemetery. Later, when this garbage is set on fire, the smoke not only pollutes the environment but also causes hardships for people who come to visit the graveyard.

Voicing a similar opinion, Mohammad Hasan, a resident of Lyari who works in a newspaper office, said: “In contrast to western societies where graveyards are well maintained, and one would like to visit them for peaceful contemplation, here is a different story. Among the jigsaw puzzle of graves, lie pye-dogs and drug addicts, spoiling the sanctity of cemeteries. While there exists no authority to protect these places from unwanted elements, the graveyards are vulnerable to all sorts of illegal activities. In fact, some graveyards located in the under-privileged areas have turned into criminal dens. People fear visiting these cemeteries as they are in the hold of different mafia including land-grabbers and drug sellers.

For instance, he says that as the huge Mewashah graveyard, covered with wild growth falls into darkness, dacoits take refuge and operate from its vicinity. Incidents of robberies are common and there are instances when people who had come to visit the graveyard were deprived of their valuables in broad daylight.

Drugs and alcohol are openly sold in Mian Goth graveyard in Malir, according to Zarina Bibi who works as a maid in the same area. The illegal business goes on reportedly in connivance with the police which, at times, make false raids to apprehend them. She says that this is perhaps, to pressurize the drug barons to increase their weekly bhatta.

Narrating his experience with the undertakers, Mohammad Ilyas said that he had to pay Rs6,000 for his father’s burial in Mewashah graveyard a year ago.

“Notwithstanding the official records which declare Mewashah graveyard closed decades ago, it is still the preferred burial ground for many residing in the adjoining localities such as Pak Colony, Lyari, Keamari, Mohajir Camp and Pak Colony. The credit for this goes to the many undertakers working here who know which grave is seldom visited and is now ‘ready’ to take another body. Human bones found during digging are either buried in some other place or thrown in the garbage dump.

“In an under-privileged area like Lyari,” he says, “one is surprised to see that the poor pay exorbitant charges for burial. There are not one but many groups of gravediggers working here who demand money. When my father died a year ago, I had to borrow money from friends and relatives to pay Rs6,000 to the undertakers. Since that time, I have been paying Rs100 monthly to a mali to take care of the grave because otherwise it would be re-used.”

Some years ago a shocking incident was reported in the press about a naib nazim who allegedly demanded Rs25,000 from a man who had come to bury his father in a graveyard in Gulistan-i-Jauhar. The naib nazim accompanied by some police officials, said that the money was to be split between himself and the local police station. When the mourners refused to pay the amount, they were forced to take the body to another graveyard where it was finally laid to rest.

According to another report, the monthly income of some gravediggers amounts to Rs80,000. The citizens pay Rs1,500 upto Rs6000 plus (the figure varies from locality to locality) instead of the nominal charges mentioned in the bylaws approved by the city council last year. The gravediggers not only sell a grave to more than one customer, but are also involved in the sale of its parts including tombstones and sand blocks. This business has considerably improved their financial status and they own big houses and shops.

Endorsing this viewpoint, Syed Kamal Shah Ghazi, who was once the caretaker and owner of Mewashah graveyard, says that the gravediggers’ mafia has thrown him out of the premises of the graveyard, considering him a threat to their illegal activities. This land belongs to my great-grandfather who donated it to be utilized as a graveyard. The gravediggers’ mafia has taken control of the entire cemetery and are involved in all sorts of criminal activities.

However, he couldn’t verify the reports on grave robbers involved in the trade of human parts and said that he had read such stories in newspapers but he himself had never witnessed such an incident.

Besides the issue of a proper demarcation of graveyards, one practice which is prevalent in almost all graveyards is the construction of illegal structures which include mazars as well as mosques. Visit a graveyard and you can see a mazar named after a ‘spiritual’ personality, son or grandson of so and so. A glaring example in this respect is of New Karachi graveyard, where according to a report, 16 mazars have so far been established. These mazars which remain crowded throughout the day are actually dens of anti-social elements who have taken over the graveyard land in the name of mazars. Similar is the case with Mewashah graveyard.

Talking of land grabbers; there is another classic example. A major portion of the old Morraro graveyard near the Site area is now possessed by factory owners.

“Morraro graveyard is located on the other side of Sher Shah bridge. It’s more than 100 years old and the eldest daughter of Mewashah Baba was buried here. Actually, the land of Mewashah and Morraro graveyards has shrunk due to the increasing residential and commercial activities. If the premises of the houses located in the adjoining areas were dug, you would probably find human bones in them. Few people go to Morraro for burial now as it has almost been destroyed after the establishment of many factories there,” Syed says.

Though the situation is far better off in Christian cemeteries, they are still facing a host of problems. Father Joe D’Mello at St.Patrick’s Cathedral says: “Graveyards are one of the most neglected areas in our community, too. Some are not even fully protected by a boundary wall which makes them easy prey for encroachment. At times tombstones are broken or stolen, and then, there is the problem of water-logging and salinity, especially in a section of Gora Qabristan. We are running short of space. Sometimes old graves have to be dug, but for that permission is taken first. Nearly Rs800 to 1,000 are charged for a burial at Gora Qabristan which is reduced if the deceased is a member of the Christian cemetery board.”

According to supervisor Donald Pereira who has been serving there for 25 years, Gora Qabristan along Shahrah-i-Faisal, dates back to 1802. But despite being one of the oldest, it is still in a better shape as compared to other cemeteries. There are many ancient graves here and some are of the soldiers who died in World War I.

A portion at the back of the cemetery had been taken away by the army decades ago, which was also used as a graveyard. Now, it is closed for further burial. The cemetery’s land has been a target of commercial greed and attempts have been made in the past to install billboards and hoardings within the land that belongs to the graveyard.

At present, all Christian cemeteries in the city handle their affairs on their own with the help of area residents and there exists no central authority which can coordinate and oversee their work. This is a major problem which weakens their strength as a community to resolve their problems. However, work is in progress at different levels to sort out this issue.

Miani Sahib graveyard

Growing encroachments in the city’s largest historical graveyard — the Miani Sahib — may soon force Lahorites to find some other place outside the metropolis to lay the departed souls to rest. Buildings, houses, shops and even a marriage hall have been built on the land of the Mughal era Miani Sahib where scores of historical and religious personalities are buried.

The graveyard has a special significance for the citizens of Lahore as their ancestors are buried there. Spread over an area of 1200 kanals, it touches Lyton Road, Jain Mandar and Chauburgi. Several kanals from all the three areas have been encroached upon with the connivance of the government officials.

The encroachment reportedly started in the 1950s’ and the government filed a case against the occupants after it formed the Miani Sahib Graveyard Committee in 1962. “They have obtained a stay order from the court, therefore, the government cannot evict them from the land,” says a committee member. “We have recently demolished a marriage hall, illegally constructed on the premises,” he said.

Bibi Pak Damin Graveyard, the second largest in the city, has also been encroached upon. Other smaller graveyards in different localities like Badami Bagh, Township, Green Town, Gulberg, Begumpura, Shahdara, Shadbagh, Shalamarare also filled. The Christian graveyards in the city are, however, well maintained.

District Coordinator Officer (DCO), Khalid Sultan, says the government has selected land on Ferozpur and Baidian roads for the development of Miani Sahib II. “The Miani Sahib Graveyard Committee has been reorganized recently which is taking steps to retrieve the land from encroachers,” he explained. –– Zulqernain Tahir

Present status

There are 182 graveyards in Karachi. Of them, 163 are for Muslims and 19 for non-Muslims. Seventy fall under the control of City District Government Karachi, while 112 are looked after by associations. Seventeen including Mewashah, PECHS (Tariq Road), Paposh Nagar, Sakhi Hassan (North Nazimabad), Essa Nagri (Hasan Square), Shah Faisal Colony Gate (Colony Gate), Saudabad (Malir) graveyards have been officially declared.

Despite acquiring 579.89 acres of land and allocating funds in every budget, the last city government failed to establish any new graveyard. The encroachers’ mafia is also active on the land earmarked for this purpose in Malir and Gadap towns and once there was a report of city government officials being beaten up when they came here for demarcation. — F.I

An online graveyard
It is a fact that Information Technology and the Internet have changed the way we live our lives and carry on our day to day activities. However, this transformation is not limited to the living. Wadi-e-Hussain, a Shia graveyard, currently allows mourners to visit the graves and view the last rites of their loved ones online at

Founded in 1999, Wadi-e-Hussain graveyard is located off the Super Highway at a distance of 18 km from Sohrab Goth. The burial ground has a capacity of more than 50,000 graves and to date is the last resting place of almost 2,000 people. The graveyard is meticulously organized and reasonably priced. The graveyard charges 5,000 rupees per burial and when a new grave is added, as part of the graveyard services, it is photographed and the picture is uploaded along with brief personal details of the deceased. One can trace a grave online by either searching the website by entering the grave's ID number or the name of the deceased, or one can conduct a search by the month and the year of burial.

In addition to this, for an extra Rs1,500, an online video clip of the funeral is also uploaded on the website so that friends and relatives of the deceased, who were unable to attend the funeral in person, can virtually participate in the last rites. All the graves are identical and extra construction is strictly prohibited. Although the management takes orders from overseas Pakistanis, it prohibits advance bookings or attempts to secure land for an entire family or clan. –– Reba Shahid

A practical solution
True, more land should be allocated to cemeteries, but isn’t it time that we, as a society, debate this serious issue. The problem of over-crowded graveyards can be solved if some guidance is taken from religion. Islam has forbidden erecting solid graves and the wisdom behind this order is to avoid congestion in graveyards as well as turning them into monuments, displays of wealth or places of worship. This principle is followed in many Muslim countries.

Scholars agree that a grave of a Muslim should not be disturbed if flesh, bones, or other parts of the body remain there. But if the entire corpse has disintegrated into dust, then a new grave may be dug there. — F.I

Bylaws of graveyards
The only step taken so far to improve the condition of graveyards is the approval of Bylaws of Graveyards and Cremation Grounds 2004, which clearly mention the charges for gravediggers, their registration and responsibilities of different committees for the cemeteries. Unfortunately, the bylaws approved by the city council last year still remain to be implemented. This situation forces people to pay a lot to the gravediggers on the one hand and deprive the city government of its due share on the other.

The bylaws emphasized upon a proper layout plan for new graveyards, design and size of graves, provision of essential infrastructure and arrangements for proper upkeep and maintenance.

They also state that those associations, which have been allotted graveyards by the CDGK are answerable for maintaining cleanliness in the graveyard, proper arrangement of water and ensuring that the gravedigger is not overcharging.

In such graveyards, the allottee is bound to appoint a watchman, a gardener to remove garbage, animal faeces, trimming of wild bushes and watering of plants and maintenance of trees in the premises.

The bylaws also bind the graveyard workers to inform the relatives about any decay and damage taking place at any grave and to ask the relatives to get the grave repaired within the allotted time. It also directs closure of graveyards that have become crowded. — F.I

Mewashah graveyard
Mewashah graveyard is perhaps the only graveyard in the country which has graves of Muslims belonging to all the sects, members of minority communities such as Christians and even Jews. A place is also reserved for Hindus to perform their last rituals.

Named after Mewashah Baba (real name Syed Kabir Pasha who hailed from Afghanistan), the graveyard is located between Lyari and Pak Colony and is spread over 10km. Legend has it that while Syed Kabir Pasha was being taken on a ship to an island to be punished, he was saved by a big fish which helped him reach this place. The fish died just after reaching the shore whose bones are still preserved in a glass box in the graveyard premises.

According to Syed Kamal Shah Ghazi in those days the entire land up to Mithadar, Kharadar and Lea Market was under the sea. Impressed by the spiritual powers of Syed Kabir Pasha, the British gifted him this land which Mewashah Baba decided to use as a graveyard.

There are 130 small graveyards, many properly demarcated, within the graveyard itself, which are well taken care of by different communities. Despite its closure during the 60s’, everyday 15 to 20 burials take place here. Normally a grave costs between Rs2,500 to Rs4,000. With headstones and the use of marble, the cost can go up to Rs5,000 to one hundred thousand. However, charges for a katchi grave are comparatively less. — A.H

k k aziz By Altaf Hussain Asad

Hot Seat

By Altaf Hussain Asad

It is sometimes difficult to sum up the accomplishments of a man whose contributions in any field are mammoth. One falls short of suitable words to do justice to his or her achievements. Professor K.K. Aziz is also one such person who, as an outstanding historian, is not only held in the highest esteem in Pakistan but also across the globe for his in-depth erudition.

Author of almost 75 books, his area of interest is history, political science, Muslim art, and even poetry as he has complied a collection of the best of Persian poetry too. He has taught at renowned institutions as in Cambridge, Heidelberg, Manchester, Toronto, Khartoum and Oxford. Besides Urdu, Punjabi and English, he is well familiar with Persian, French, German and a smattering of Spanish and Italian.

As far as he can remember, books were a part of his surroundings. His father, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, also wrote books on Mughals and also did monumental work on Heer of Waris Shah by properly editing it. As consequence, Prof Aziz too got attracted to the printed word quite early.

“I have been reading books from an early age. It was my father who instilled in me the love of books and learning. Raising my pocket money, he wanted me to buy more books. At first, I read Phool magazine and some titles from Charana Library. On growing up, I got introduced to authors like Hardy, Dickens, Maugham and some others. I have also been studying Persian poetry from my early days as I believe that a man cannot be civilized unless he reads poetry,” says Prof Aziz.

Thus started Prof Aziz’s affair with books which remains as passionate today as it was in his childhood. Though he sat in the competitive examination as per his father’s desire, his heart was not in it. After two years of stay at F.C. College, Lahore, he joined Govt College, Lahore, where he was lucky to have tutors such as Patras Bukhari and Prof Sirajuddin. The days passed in the inimitable company of Patras Bukhari are so firmly etched on his memory that he is planning to write a book on him.

Prof Aziz feels a bit uneasy when asked to name just one book as his all-time favourite. He recalls few books that have left an indelible mark on his memory. History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell is a book that is a treat to read. He is also all praise for the book Shakespearian Tragedy by A.C. Bradley. He is infatuated by Moorish culture, thus the History of Moorish Empire in Europe, a work by S.P Scott in three volumes, is a book for which Prof Aziz has unbounded praise.

Prof. Aziz also loves to read Urdu fiction and poetry. Since his father edited Heer of Waris Shah after painstaking research, he too came under its influence. In Urdu fiction, he names Krishen Chander, Premchand, Bedi and Manto as the writers whose works he reads with interest. About Manto he says, “I have different views on Manto. He only paints just one aspect of life. My opinion might be a bit biased but I think Manto was vulgar. In my estimation, Bedi has more depth than Manto,”

He terms Patras kay Mazameen as “unparalleled” and says he read the book almost 50 times. Of the other humourists, he likes Rasheed Siddiqi, Shaukat Thanvi and Kanhayya Lal Kapoor. Praising the creativity of Qurratulain Hyder, Prof Aziz states that books like Kaar-e-Jahan Daraz Hai amply show her firm grip on history. In the field of poetry, he ranks Ghalib as the best poet of Urdu.

Yes, he likes Iqbal too, but his opinion is not stereotyped about him. He says, “The Urdu poetry of Iqbal is not that promising. Apart from few poems like Shikwas Jawab-e Shikwa, Masjid-e-Qurtaba, etc, the rest of his Urdu poetry cannot be termed great. The real poetry of Iqbal is in Persian, of which we are not aware because we no longer study the language these days.”

He considers Nasir Kazmi is a great poet as he, according to Prof Aziz, “brought something new in the Urdu poetry”.

One feels tempted to ask him why we shy away from the discipline of history. He answers, “The powers that be do not want to impart the subject of history in the right manner. It is their aim that the nation does not get to know the real history of the country. As a result, we have been studying disfigured history since 1947. What we study is not history but is sheer mythology. In my opinion, no ideological state can produce true history.”

Prof Aziz is unhappy about the decline of Persian language as he thinks that we must learn it because all the primary sources of Mughal reign are in Persian. “Even the best work of Ghalib and Iqbal is in it”, states Prof Aziz sadly.

As for music, he only likes to listen to is any beautifully sung ghazal. Singers who appeal him are Mahdi Hasan, Amanat Ali Khan, Saigol, M. Kaleem, Nayyara Noor, Iqbal Bano, and, to a certain extent, Tina Sani. About Noor Jehan, he says that though she sang nazams well, but she “should not have been allowed to touch ghazals”.

“I have with me the tapes of songs sung by Spanish gypsies in their language. Historians are of the view that these gypsies migrated from the areas of Punjab and Sindh few centuries ago. I listen to their songs though I am not able to make heads or tails of it. While listening, it appears as if you listening to Punjabi ditties as there are Punjabi words in these songs,” discloses Prof Aziz.

Prof Aziz remembers watching his first movie in Batala when he was a student of Class Eight. On growing up, he watched mostly the English movies. Although his advancing age handicaps his memory a bit, he is able to remember few movies which he watched in the years gone by. These are Ben Hur, Casablanca, The Man in the Grey Suit, Waterfront, John of Arc, Gone With the Wind and he singles out Waterloo Bridge as his all-time favourite movie.

Though not a fond Urdu film watcher, Prof Aziz alludes to films like Heer Ranjha and Anarkali with some adoration. Without a second thought, he names Madhubala as his favourite actress. Concluding the conversation Prof Aziz says the ban on screening Indian movies must be abolished.

Favourite book: Many

Favourite actress: Madhubala

Favourite film: Waterloo Bridge

achchi khabrain ..

for charlie

paani ki kami hay
bijli nahiN hay
kaam nahiN hay
kapRa nahiN hay
chutth nahiN hay

ger kuch hay ifraat maiN
tou garmi hay buhat
aur minaar haiN her soo

hay na achchi khabar?

on writing and submissions - kan and salman

...infertility? well...she could have blocked fallopian tubes, he could have low count on them sperms…and then there is the test tube option, if you want to be ingenius (or devious) the milkman...kan she needn’t have lots of possibilities with the story...


...ok...let us start with a baby steps…

first this story and then a comment or two about other issues/queries you raised

how about first writing a simple straight forward story based on your notes for his story or this draft?...don’t worry about the length yet...just narrate it in chronological order...think of a dark night...around a lit camp-fire...friends huddled a straight narration that would hold their attention and they would not leave or drift off to not curb your inner self...let everything flow unimpeded...editing and self censoring will come later...

...once this draft is ready and up to your you can play around with can change the narrator, in first or third person, the tense, the order (flashback)...and last the length…and then final editing, checking for errors of fact or language, and then break it into smaller paragraphs...

now the quereies/comments

writing for whom?...this is tricky and inconclusive...most of what i write is for myself...hehh...for my hard drive only!...but then some of it makes it to the public this stage just aim for yourself as the ultimate reader...write for may want to mould and edit it later for the target audience

target...obvious!...wherever you decide to submit the short your homework for the magazine or site you submit your story for...the readership is different for the newtorker, playboy, and chowk...their median income, age, taste varies...let us take chowk as an example...english speaking desis who would be in the top 5-10 percent of their respective countries...of mixed heritage and values...and reading sensibilities...

...and within chowk’s readership the core readers for stories and poems is far less than ulcer generating topics...and within that small crowd you will have to judge their gender and age...

turns and twists remember the folks sitting around the fire-camp? have got to hold their is getting late, and it is getting chilly, and they want to call it a night...but cannot...your story is mesemrising them...

length gear it after the target site...on a monitor 1000 – 1200 words should be max...any more and you rapidly lose your readers...

language again ...write what comes naturally to you...worry about thesaurus later...also you will have to tailor it for the audience...can be done later

* * *

in this story...go for straight narration with a surprise ending in the end...not the beginning... hint: leave the tricks of the trade after you have mastered the art...just like the show skaters doing three and a half reverse twist...they make it seem so easy and flawless...but we forget the hundreds of hours of practice that gives of that illusion of ease...



...if you don’t like my comments file them under G

first, these are not the opinion of a critic just a passionate reader...

when you write you write for yourself...but when you submit your writing for publication the emphasis changes then write for the reader...

...who is your reader?…the target audience?...

will give you some feedback on this and i will appreciate if you can read salman’s story above this thread and read my comments there also...if for nothing then to get an idea where I come from?

...with 1700 words this story is a bit on the lengthier side for the monitors is well written....and there are good descriptive passages have boldly gambled with opening the story with the ending
...the success or failure of this story now depends on sustaining the interest of the reader and carrying him/her with you till the real end…this is where I feel you came up short
...early on the suspense has disappeared and the reader knows instinctively...ah....this is akin to insulting the reader in a sense...

...infertility... can be a do or die situation for certain couples in a certain situation in a certain era...not very plausible with this upwardly mobile, educated young couple... she has options available...

perhaps if you explore and add some twists and angles?



4200 words
well written
did is move me as a reader? No


Ayeshah is the main build her character up...but the development is marred by too many ancilliary characters...i can see the need to develop ayeshah through the other characters...but they also detract...might help if the characters and story length is curtailed...and some twists introduced

by naming her as the rag doll you are doing o’henry in a reader i feel let she is a rag doll and you attempted to show how an open female person in that society is extremely liable to be misinterpreted...and you took your sweet time to deliver that the saying goes succinctly hansi tO phansi with a certain derogatory we read through the words to discover that she is a rag doll...

i felt let down...also am averse to first person narration...very few writers can successfully pull it is at once the easiest as well as the most difficult vein to maintain throughout the narration

these are my personal opinions and you know other than a passaion for words am least qualified as a critic so you should take them with a grain of salt....

howard zinn


'Progressive change is possible'

Interview with Howard Zinn, historian and political activist.

To remain united in times of war is to surrender to the strategies and policies of the state. Falling in line, not thinking for oneself and obeying the state's commands are, according to famous journalist I.F. Stone, ways to avoid conveniently coming face to face with truth.

Howard Zinn's writings make a case for "transcendence", a need "to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought, and dare to say things that no one else will say". This statement is substantiated by Zinn in book after book, from A People's History of the United States to You cannot be Neutral on a Running Train, from Terror on War to Artists in Times of War and Rule by Force. The United States' governments, according to him, have economically and politically exploited its own people and people of the world.

This is largely kept out of the histories taught to school-going students. War, which has always accompanied economic exploitation, needs to be rejected at all costs. Zinn feels that the role of artists, activists and publishers is vital to resistance movements aimed at peace and protection of human rights as well as to offering a "a significant corrective to the triumphalism" of U.S. military power.

Zinn asks: "Are you going to leave the business of the most important issues in the world to the people who run the country?" At the outset, he makes a case against the professionals who deride any one who dares to comment on an important question concerning the nation. Zinn asserts: "All of us, no matter what we do, have the right to make moral decisions about the world. We must be undeterred by the cries of the people who say, 'You don't know. You are not an expert. These people up there they know'."

The White House or the Congress are not the only bodies that have to take decisions and which "know"; the involvement of citizens, as emphasised by Rousseau, is crucial to the running of the country. "When the government becomes destructive... then it is patriotic to dissent and to criticise." And, finally, Zinn sends out a clear admonishment of his country's rulers: "Men who have no respect for human life or for freedom or justice have taken over this beautiful country of ours. It will be up to the American people to take it back." He is of the view that the average citizen can shape history through social involvement.

In 1980, Zinn lay down his account of the American history in the best-selling A People's History of the United States. More than a million copies of the book have already been sold. It's a classic as well as an amazingly far-reaching and radical view of the world.

In his famous play, "Marx in Soho", Zinn resurrects Marx so that he can speak to the contemporary audience in Soho, urging them "to get off their asses" and remember that to be radical is to "simply grasp the root of the problem and the problem is us". His suggestion at the end of the play is: "Pretend you have boils (remember Marx had boils from which he suffered till the end). Pretend that sitting on your ass gives you enormous pain, so you must stand up. You must move, you must act."

Going beyond socialism or capitalism, he wants people to have food, medicine, clean air, pure water, trees and grass, pleasant homes to live in, and "some hours of work, more hours of leisure". As far as wars go, workers of all countries must unite against the criminal foreign policies, which squander people's blood and wealth and vindicate the laws of morals and justice in international affairs.

Complimenting Howard Zinn as a teacher, writer Alice Walker notes: "What can I say that will in any way convey the love, respect, and admiration I feel for this unassuming hero who was my teacher and mentor, this radical historian and people-loving trouble-maker, this man who stood with us and suffered with us? Howard Zinn was the best teacher I ever had, and the funniest." This was corroborated by Chomsky. Recently asked who he thought was one of the great dissidents of our time, he remarked "Howard Zinn" without thinking twice.

After serving in the U.S. Air Force as a bombardier during the Second World War, Howard Zinn went to Columbia University where he received his Ph.D. in history. He taught at Spelman College in Atlanta and later at Boston University. A history Fellow at Harvard University and a visiting Professor at the University of Paris and the University of Bolgnahis, his career spanning 40 years have put him at the forefront of contemporary intellectuals as a major radical historian and a progressive political theorist. His social activism has brought a new and sympathetic approach to the study and teaching of history.

Shelley Walia, Professor of English Studies at the Department of English, Panjab University, Chandigarh, interviewed Professor Howard Zinn recently. Excerpts:

Could you throw light on important influences on you in the early stages of your life?

I grew up in a working class family, reading Marx, Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, Jack London, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. And most important of all, I became class conscious.

Could you elaborate on your becoming class conscious?

I grew up in a working class family, saw how hard my father worked, how hard my mother worked, without becoming prosperous. On the other hand, I saw in newspapers and magazines the photos of the rich, and I could not tell whether they did any work or not, and when I found out what kind of work some of them did it seemed to me dangerous for society. When I went to work in the shipyard - long hours, hard work, little pay - I realised that most of the people on the planet work hard, with very little compensation.

Would you say that the American society is deeply class conscious?

Americans are class conscious, though they don't use that expression. Americans know that the country is controlled by a small number of rich people. But they feel they can't do anything about that, so there is a sense of resignation in the face of something inevitable. But the history of the United States is a history of labour struggles, always involving class consciousness. Some of the most bitter labour struggles in the world have taken place in the United States, between the 1870s and the 1930s.

Should I say that your writings have been interventionist because you believe in 'libertarian anarchism'?

I don't like to label my views that way. I'm a certain kind of socialist, a certain kind of anarchist. Maybe 'democratic socialism' comes closest. I like Dalton Trumbo's vision which advocates 'socialism without jails'.

Could you comment on your brand of 'democratic socialism'?

A socialism that uses resources for human needs of production based on need rather than on profit, a roughly equal distribution of the country's wealth; there should be no person without adequate healthcare, housing and employment. And there should be no control of thought or speech.

How far is anarchism useful for social transformation?

A useful concept with which to be suspicious of centralised authority, to insist on individual freedom, to be sceptical of all governments, and to insist on grassroots democracy.

As a teacher, do you take your classroom as a place for provocative teaching methods to move students towards activism? You say students "need the right circumstances, the right openings". How do you provide these to enable them to begin new student movements? And how do you "mobilise class anger" to bring about social transformation?

Yes, the classroom should not be removed from the real world of social conflict. That would be depriving students of the most important kind of education as well as their preparation to become active citizens. I have always liked to bring my students out into the community, have them join organisations, become active, and then come back to the classroom to report on their experiences. You "mobilise class anger" any time you organise people around the problems of workers or of poor people.

In today's world of television and fast food culture, can "art as politics" or the role of the political theatre influence public opinion? Only a miniscule of the population is aware of such art forms. How do we make theatre reach out to larger audiences?

It's true that theatre has a limited audience, especially for the young who watch movies and television. But it is still a force, and can become more of a force if plays that are both entertaining and socially conscious are written and produced.

Could you comment on the plays that you have written and their social relevance?

My play "Emma" is about the anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman, who spoke against war, capitalism, the state, and in favour of women's rights, free love. My play "Daughter of Venus" is about the arms race, reflected in a family's internal conflicts of the 1980s Cold War period. My play "Marx in Soho" is a fantasy about Karl Marx returning today and commenting not only about the distortion of his ideas by the Soviet Union, but about the relevance of his critique of capitalism in today's world.

Could you say something on your support for the activists and students in the 1960s? I believe you were actively involved then in the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations? You have opposed the very idea of war emphasising that "no war is ever justified". Tell us something about your experience of flying into Hanoi in 1968 to receive the first U.S. prisoners of war released by the North Vietnamese government?

Yes, I was active in the movement against the Vietnam war. I marched and protested with my students. I came out of the Second World War with the conviction that war solves no fundamental problems and, instead, corrupts everyone who engages in it. As far as my experience of going into Hanoi you could read about that in my memoir You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train. I can only say that it was the first time that I, a bombardier, experienced being bombed, as was true every day and night Daniel Berrigan and I were in Hanoi. It was a sobering experience. Bombing is terrorism. It terrorises people, and it kills the innocent, on an even larger scale than any brand of terrorist can achieve.

You have been a tireless political campaigner, standing up for peace, freedom from war and from political persecution and oppression. Do you think that your role as a dissident writer has in any way intensified movements that help to bring about a civil society?

We never know our effect. Of course there is a kind of feedback, in person, in letters, which makes me think my writings have had an effect on people and have moved them into political activism.

Would you not say that in the wake of the recent U.S. elections, the President's control of Congress will also allow him to put his stamp on the third arm of the federal government, the Supreme Court, the most powerful weapon in the country's continuing cultural war?

Yes, of course, all three branches of government will be controlled by the Bush administration. This puts a greater burden on social movements to act outside of the political structure by means of strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, refusals, civil disobedience, and resistance of all kinds. The opportunity to fill three or four vacancies in the court over the next four years could create a solid conservative majority, which could lead to a ban on abortion, among other potentially dramatic changes.

No violence can put an end to human passion for dignity and justice. Then how can the people of the U.S. allow the implementation of the Patriot Act?

Only by refusing to comply. Some librarians shredded their records rather than turn them over to the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation]. We must defend every person who is apprehended, publicise all acts that diminish our liberties and inform people that we are in a pre-fascist stage, which is destroying democracy.

Free market economy and the victory of capitalism has brought with it not happiness, but increase in poverty, disparities and violence. In this context how would you react to globalisation and its impact on the developing nations?

We must react to that with a globalisation of resistance, reaching out beyond national boundaries to create an international movement of solidarity.

Your comments on outsourcing. It has been a hot topic recently in the U.S. and India.


Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union during a protest action in Los Angeles in October 2002. Howard Zinn: "Americans are class conscious, though they don't use that expression. Americans know that the country is controlled by a small number of rich people."

Outsourcing results in terrible working conditions abroad, and loss of jobs in the U.S. The remedies lie in organising working people in other countries and, in the U.S., demanding that workers who lose their jobs are guaranteed new jobs or are compensated with unemployment insurance adequate to take care of their families.

Do you think it would make a difference to corporate power if the Third World boycotts the products of the multinationals?

Boycotts are a very effective way for consumers without power to create a power that frightens the multinationals.

How would you describe the corporate control of the media which has left a majority of the population in a state of ignorance of trade proposals, international arms trade and the real reasons of going to war in Iraq? Where does the socialist politics of the non-mainstream media lie in the present world of multinational conglomerate control?

We need to develop alternative media. We have begun. We have several hundred community radio stations. We have the Pacific Network. We have cable stations like Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now". And we must use the Internet, which is a powerful tool for information and organisation.

Would you say many journalists still lose their jobs in the media for reporting against the policies of the government?

Much more frequent than losing their jobs is stifling their independence and forcing them into the orthodox consensus.

Is it possible to break the nexus between the media and the elites?

The only answer to that nexus is the nurturing of an independent media, alternative radio and cable TV, alternative newspapers, and especially the Internet, which has revolutionary possibilities in defying the orthodoxy of the media.

Would you agree that there is a definite conspiracy behind the nexus between the corporate media and the political elite?

There is no need for a 'conspiracy' or for planning. They simply have the same common interest and so behave in a way that looks like a conspiracy.

Then, is democracy in crisis these days?

Democracy has always been in crisis. In the U.S. today it is more in crisis than ever before, with the centralisation of power, with an imperial foreign policy defying public opinion, with the media centralised and with corporate control of the economy tighter than ever.

Is the threat to democracy not from the intellectual scientific community and the increasing flow of corporate funds into universities, foundations, managements and major law firms that represent the interests of corporate capitalism?

Certainly. Science and knowledge are ruled by money as is everything else in the society. The real workings of power have to be revealed to the public, especially the students in the classroom. This is mostly concealed from students, but a truly democratic education would teach them the realities.

For instance, no mention was made of atrocities at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib in the recent presidential debates. International law applicable to Prisoners of War (POWs) is thrown to the wind. What are your reactions to this conscious evasion of reality?

Of course, it is shameful that the Democratic Party is not an Opposition party at all, and that its candidate John Kerry paid no attention to Abu Ghraib. It is our responsibility to publicise these atrocities as much as we can because the political leaders won't do it.

Could you comment on the position of the Left in the U.S. today? Would you not agree that both the Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed all progressive principles won over the years in a society that calls itself liberal and free? Is progressive change possible in America where the role of the Left has almost disappeared and the Democrats deep down are no different from the Republicans?

I would say that progressive change is possible. The Left exists in America. You can't find it in the Democratic Party, but you can find it all over the country, in thousands of local organisations that struggle against the war, against militarism, and for the rights of women and the poor and the working people.

Do you think enough pressure can be brought to bear upon the U.S. government to stop its obsession with waging wars against countries and disguising them as 'pre-emptive acts'? Is the popular vote that went to Bush not an endorsement of his very muscular militaristic approach to international politics?

The pressure on the government already exists, but it needs to grow. Remember Bush only got 51 per cent of the popular vote. Forty nine per cent opposed him. And 40 per cent of the eligible voters did not vote at all. This is hardly an endorsement! More than half the country opposed the war, as shown in public opinion poll after poll.

Do you agree that as long as the Zionist lobby remains strong in the U.S., a solution to the West Asian problem is not possible?

Well the lobby may remain strong but the realities of the Middle East [West Asia] may dictate a solution, in spite of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation].

Could you comment on the post-Arafat political situation in West Asia?

Arafat's demise is certainly a watershed in the history of West Asia. A blood-spattered retribution or a peaceful solution still remain the alternatives before Israel and the leadership that will now take over the PLO.

Where does the solution lie?

At a certain time in the future, we can't say when, the Jews in Israel will get tired of the unending violence and will demand that their government get out of the Occupied Territories.

Protest is vital to the notion of social transformation. But war-mongering, religious opposition to homosexuality, elitism and racism all have increased. To counter these anti-social or conservative trends, a new international Left is urgently needed. But how would you suggest we should go about it?

There is no magic formula. We must keep connecting across oceans and continents. Arundhati Roy is an example of someone who crosses all these lines and makes connections between the movements in India and in the U.S. We must do more of that.

Which other writers would you say are making all the difference through their writings that have the potential to intensify resistance movements around the world?

Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Frances Fox Piven, Eduardo Galeano, Arundhati Roy and Tariq Ali.

What according to you is the role of the intellectual?

The proper role of the intellectual is to tell the truth that is not given in the media, in the textbooks, in the educational system; to be gadflies, whistleblowers, independent investigators, to give people a historical perspective, a philosophical basis, an understanding of the economic underpinnings of politics, and to inspire people with stories of those who have resisted oppression and injustice throughout history.

Have you ever felt over the years and especially in the post-9/11 period of being restricted by state pressure on airing your views on social and economic justice?

The only state pressure I have felt is knowing that the FBI was keeping a record on my activities. That never succeeded in restricting my activities.

amrita pritam by Nirupama Dutt

The girl from Gujranwala

PROFILE by Nirupama Dutt

BI will meet you yet again y Amrita Pritam

I will meet you yet again –
How and where?
I know not.
Perhaps I will become a
figment of your imagination
and maybe, spreading myself
in a mysterious line
on your canvas,
I will keep gazing at you.

Perhaps I will become a ray
of sunshine, to be
embraced by your colours.
I will paint myself on your canvas
I know not how and where –
but I will meet you for sure.

Maybe I will turn into a spring,
and rub the foaming
drops of water on your body,
and rest my coolness on
your burning chest.
I know nothing else
but that this life
will walk along with me.

When the body perishes,
all perishes;
but the threads of memory
are woven with enduring specks.
I will pick these particles,
weave the threads,
and I will meet you yet again.

This poem was written from the
sickbed to her partner Imroz

Translated from the Punjabi by Nirupama Dutt

* * * *

It is a pleasant December morning. The day is Thursday. The bus I take from Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi, drops me at the Phool Mandi in Mehrauli. Before starting on a day’s work in town, I venture into the flower market. Gardeners from farmhouses and nurseries gather there to sell flowers to the kiosks, florists and others who wish to buy the blooms on a bargain. There are roses aplenty in myriad hues, tall stalks of tuberoses and gladioli, small bunches of carnations and narcissuses. Of course, chrysanthemums in varying sizes and colours seem to have taken over the market. There are the snow-white big blooms with curling petals and smaller ones in pink, yellow and red. A gardener offers me a big bunch of blood-red blooms, flecked with orange for a few rupees. I just cannot resist the temptation and I find myself with the big bunch in my arms along with the bag and books that I am carrying. What will I do with them? It occurs to me that they must go to the girl from Gujranwala, which was famous for its blood-red malta oranges.

And who is this girl from Gujranwala? She is none other than Amrita Pritam, the celebrated Punjabi poet. Her poem, ‘Aj akhaan Waris Shah noon, kiton qabran wichon bol’ (‘I call out to Waris Shah today to speak from his grave’), written after the Partition, is loved across India and Pakistan:

I call out to Waris Shah today
to rise from his grave and
open a new page of the book of love.
Once a single daughter of the Punjab cried out,
and you wrote many dirges.
Today a million daughters weep
and look to you for solace...

Amrita wrote these lines to the poet to immortalised the folk heroine Heer a few months after Partition and the poem became a symbol of the catastrophe on both sides of the border. The story behind the writing is even more heartrending. Looking back, Amrita once told me: “Uprooted from Lahore, I had rehabilitated myself at Dehradun for some time. I went to Delhi looking for work and a place to live. On my return journey in the train, I felt the wind was piercing the dark night and wailing at the sorrows the Partition had brought. I had come away from Lahore with just one red shawl and I had torn it into two to cover both my babies. Everything had been torn apart. The words of Waris Shah, about how the dead and parted would meet again, echoed in my mind. And my poem took shape.”

Amrita is a poet of many seasons. She was born in 1919 in Gujranwala, now in Pakistan, in a Sikh household. I remember her partner, the artist Imroz, once jesting as she spoke of her birthplace, “You know Gujranwala is famous for just two things, blood-red maltas and Amrita Pritam.” Amrita’s father was a man of letters and encouraged Amrita to read and write. She published her first book of poems when she was just fourteen. However, it was in 1935 in Lahore that she got serious critical notice for her poems with the publication of the anthology Thandian kirnan . Then there was no looking back.

After the Partition in 1947, Delhi became her home. Her talent blossomed in the capital of independent India, and writing in Punjabi, her mother tongue, she was to take the language places. Among the honours she received for her writings are the Sahitya Akademi award, the Padma Shri, Jnanpith Award (the first Punjabi writer to be thus honoured), Cyril and Methodius Award (Bulgaria), and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France). Besides poetry, she’s written essays, short stories and novels in Punjabi and Hindi, and her work has been translated into thirty Indian and foreign languages. She is also a former member of the Rajya Sabha, upper house of Parliament.

The story of Amrita’s life is one of amazing courage, resilience and achievement. What set her apart was her search for freedom and desire to live life on her own terms. She was reared in an orthodox environment yet dared to write of love. Walking out of a loveless marriage, she made her home with Imroz and their relationship has lasted over forty years. Although she is vocal about the rights of women and has portrayed the sorrows they face in a male-dominated world, Amrita always felt that men and women complete themselves in a meeting of the body and soul.

Defying the established norms of the society and carving out a special place for herself was not easy but she persevered and helping her along was her special talent for words. For three decades Amrita and Imroz brought out a literary monthly in Punjabi called Nagmani that had nothing short of a cult following. I have a special relationship with Amrita and Imroz dating back a quarter of a century. However, I am but one of a large and charmed circle because their magazine nurtured two generations of Punjabi writers. She brought onto stage the Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi, fiction writer Dalip Karu Tiwana, Mohanjit, Manjit Kaur Tiwana, Gagan Gill and many others. Her address in New Delhi, K-25, Hauz Khas has become a site of literary pilgrimage. She also recorded in the magazine the changes happening in society. Amrita was forced to close the magazine three years ago as her health deteriorated. Recently, Amrita’s poetry reached an even wider audience, through the offices of India’s massive film industry. Pinjar , a film based on a novel she wrote nearly half a century ago, featured her famous poem to Waris Shah.

During her life Amrita has defied conservative society and many times earned the wrath of the Sikh clergy. She rewrote legendary tales of doomed love, and survived some of the most horrifying moments in subcontinental history. It’s no surprise she’s an inspiration to many. Her poem to Waris Shah is engraved on a memorial to 1947 at the Indo-Pakistan border at Wagah, along with a poem by the Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Yet she is humble: she says she has merely returned what she learnt from the poetry of Sufi sages, and quotes a line from her own poetry: “I make no claims to talent, but I am proud of my love and dedication…”

And so I find myself outside that hallowed address, K-25, Hauz Khas, New Delhi, clutching the bunch of blood-red chrysanthemums. For the past three years, Amrita has been on a sickbed. Six months ago when I visited her with a small nosegay of orange poppies, she could still talk and once helped to sit up, she smoked a cigarette and inquired if I was in love these days or not. Laughing, Imroz said, “She would be, for the colour of the flowers is one of youth in bloom.” When he left her room to get some tea, she grew grumpy. When he returned she flirtatiously spoke out to him the line of a Punjabi song: Maradi nu chhad ke na jaayin mittara (‘Don’t leave a dying woman, my friend’). Imroz jokingly replied, “You keep saying you will die but you don’t!” Two months ago when I came to see her again, she could not sit up. Lying there she wept and said that it was time her body set her soul free. Then last month, she was deep in slumber, and I did not go to her room.

This time she is sleeping again. I sit down with Imroz to share a morning cup of tea. We’re seated at that familiar black dining table on which Imroz has splashed some colour: bougainvillea vines trail onto it from the windows. All around are sketches and photographs of the girl who won his love. And Imroz talks of his favourite subject – Amrita, of course. They have lived together for nearly half a century. A very open man, he has often talked to me about the love Amrita had for Sahir Ludhianvi, Urdu poet and film lyricist. Amrita, of course, has put it all in black and white. Today he talks about the first holiday the two had in Andretta, as guests of painter Sobha Singh in the summer of 1958. Then he asks me if I have seen the new book of poems and adds, with a murmur, “Her last book.” Everyone knows that the end is painfully near. There is a murmur from her room. He goes there and I follow him with the bunch of flowers in my hand. Amrita is writhing in pain and he caresses her face. I bend down to touch her and for a moment she stops sighing and flashes me that naughty girlish smile. It is Thursday, the holy day of the pir faqir . I put the flowers on the bedside table and the smile of the pir called Amrita falls into my lap as a blessing. The pilgrimage is complete.