‘KarmaaN Maari – The Ill Fated’ a poem by Shehnaz Parveen Sahar

An Urdu poem in English and Punjabi.
Punjabi shahmukhi
Punjabi roman
Urdu
English

photofromshenaz

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Punjabi Shahmukhi >

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کرماں ماری

ہنے ہنے
میں فیر
اوس محفل
توں
نس آئی آں
جتھے رفو،زاہدہ ،عرشی، ٹیبی
میرے
آل دوالے
بیٹھیاں میرے لہنگےاتّے
چمپا گوٹا لا رہئیاں نے
میرے ہتھیں
شگن دی مہندی
متھےاتے
جھومر ٹکہ
لا رہئیاں نے
بابل والے گیت وداعی
گا رہئیاں نے
ویکھو سب دیاں ونگاں ویکھو
چھنک کھنک کے
ایہہ وی سنگت پا رہئیاں نے

ایہہ سب کُج پر کاہدے لئی اے

جھلییو
تسی تے کج وی جاندیاں نئیں
اگے اگ دا
کرماں ساڑدا
لال سمندر
ٹھاٹھاں ماردا آ ڈُھکیا اے
انج کرنا تسی
مینوں اپنے نال ای لے کے ٹرجانا

ایس توں پہل۔۔۔
گیت تہاڈےاگ وچ سڑ کے
پُھٹ پُھٹ روون
چیکاں مارن

اڑیو
میری گل تاں سن لئو
کتھے چلیاں
مڑ کےویکھو
واپس آئو
سکھیونی
مینوں گل نال لائو
سن لئو اڑیو
خورے میریاں آوازاں
نوں کیوں نئیں سُن دیاں
اپنےسارے گیت نمانے لیندیاں جائو
ویکھوکسراں
میرے گل وچ بانہواں پا کے
چیکاں مار کے
رو پئے سارے

خورے مینوں کلیاں چھڈ کے
کیوں تسی ساریاں
ٹر گیئاں جے
پچھے اپنیاں آوازاں وی چھڈ گئیاں جے
اے آوازاں
میری جان دے پچھے پے گیئاں نے

گوٹے کرناں بھریاں چُنیاں دے نال
اتھرواں والیاں۔۔۔ اکھیاں نوں
کج ہوروی کنڈے مل جاندے نے
ہونٹ سدا لئی سل جاندے نے

اُتّوں تہا ڈ یاں کن من کن من آوازاں نے
ساہ لینا وی اوکھا کیتا

سنونی اڑیو
اک گل دسّو
آخر تسی اے ساریاں رل کے
اچی اچی
ہسدیاں کیوں جے؟؟؟

شہناز پروین سحر
..

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< Punjabi, roman

KarmaaN Maari
By
Shehnaz Parveen Sahar

Hunnay hunnay
maiN fer
oss mehfil
tooN
nuss aye aaN
jithay raffo, zahida, arshi, tabby
mere
aalay dwaalay
baithiyaan mere lehngay uttay
champa gotta la rahyaaN naiN
mere hatheeN
shagn dee mehndi
mathay uttay
jhoomar tikka
la rahyaaN naiN
babul walay geet vidaee
ga rahyaN naiN
vekho sab diyaN wangaN vekho
chhanak khhanak ke
eh ve sangat pa rahyaaN naiN

eh sab kujh per kahday laye ae
jhalliyo
tusseiN te kujh ve jandiyaN nahin
aggay agg da
karmaN saarrda
laal smundar
tthatthaN marda aa Dhukeya ae
inj karna tusseiN
mainuN apnay naal ee lae ke tur jana

ais toon pehlaN
geet tuhaday agg vich surr ke
phutt phutt rowan
cheekaN maran

Arreyo
meri gal te sunn lao
kithay chaliyaN
murr ke vekho
wapas aao
sakhiyo nee
mainun gal nal lao
sunn lao arreyo
khawray meriyan awazaN
nooN kiyuN nahin sunndiyaN
apnay saaray geet nomaanay laindiyaN jao
vekho kissraN
mere gal vich baNhwaN paa ke
cheekaN maar ke
ro pai saaray

Khawray mainuN kaleyaN chudd ke
kiyuN tueeiN saariyaN
Tur gayaN je
pichhay apniyaN awazaN ve chudd gayaN je
eh awazaN
meri jan de pichay paindiaN naiN

gottay kirnaN bhariyaN chuniyaN naal
athro valiyaN…. akhiyaN nooN
kujh hor ve kanday mil janday naiN
honT sada laye sil janday naiN

Sunno nee Arriyo
ek gul dusso
akhar tusseiN eh sariyaN rul ke
uchi uchi
hudiyaN kiyuN je????
..


Urdu, original >

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کرماں ماری

ابھی ابھی
میں پھر
اُس محفل سے اٹھ
بھاگی ہوں
جس میں
رفو، زاہدہ ،عرشی، ٹیبی
میرے
لہنگے پر چمپا گوٹا لگا رہی ہیں
میرے ہاتھوں پر مہندی
اور
میرے ماتھے
مانگ کا ٹیکہ سجا رہی ہیں
بابل کی دعائیں لیتی جا
گاتی جاتی ہیں
دیکھو
میری چوڑیاں دیکھو
ساتھ تمھارے
وہ بھی کچھ
گنگنا رہی ہیں

لیکن یہ سب
کیا ہے آخر
کیا تم کو کچھ خبر نہیں ہے
اس سے آگے
آگ کا دریا
کیسےٹھاٹھیں ماررہا ہے
مجھےیہاں سے لے جائواب
قبل اس کے
یہ گیت تمھارے
چیخیں ماریں
پھوٹ پھوٹ کر رونے لگیں سب
اور
ذرا تم رکو
بتائو
کہاں چلی ہو
کیا تم تک آوازیں میری پوہنچ رہی ہیں
سنو
میری آوازتو سن لو
مجھےبھی ساتھ میں لے کر جائو
مجھے اکیلا چھوڑ کے
ایسے
کیسے تم سب جا سکتی ہو
واپس آئو
آجائو ناں

کم از کم یہ گیت تمھارے
اپنے ساتھ ہی لیتی جائو
دیکھو یہ آوازیں میری
جاں لے لے لیں گی

تم اپنی
آوازیں چھوڑ کے چلی گئی ہو
یہ آوازیں تو
بلکل پاگل کردیتی ہیں
اور
گوٹا کرن بھرے دوپٹے سے
آنسو صاف کرو تو آنکھیں
اورسپنے
سب چھل جاتے ہیں
ہونٹ سدا کو سل جاتے ہیں
اوپر سے
تمھاری
آوازیں ہیں

سنو۔۔۔
یہ تم سب
آخراتنا
ہنستی کیوں ہو؟؟؟

شہناز پروین سحر
..

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< English

The Ill-Fated
By
Shehnaz Parveen Sahar

Just now
again i
ran away
from the gathering
where
ruffo, zahida, arshi, tabby
are tucking silver gold decorations on
my wedding gown
hena in my hands
and
on my forehead
a tikka in the parting of my hair
‘take the prayers of your parents with you’
they are singing
look
look my bracelets
are also
humming along
with you

But what is
all this
do you not know
how a river of fire
rages on and on
in front of me
take me with you
before the time when
your songs
become screams
burst into tears
and you
just stop for a moment
say
where are you going
can you hear me
listen
hear my voice
take me with you
leaving me alone
like this
how can you go
come back here
come back

Your songs at least
take them with you
i tell you their echoes will claim
my life from me

You left
leaving behind your voices
these voices can
make anyone insane
and
with a cloth of silver gold decorations
when the tears are wiped then eyes
and dreams both
get scratched
lips get sealed forever
and on top of it
your
voices

Listen…
you all!
Why is it that you
laugh so much?

From Urdu by Fauzia Rafique
..

photo-shenaz

Shehnaz Parveen Sahar: An acclaimed poet from Pakistan.

 Photos from Sahar’s Facebook Page

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Buddhist Social Philosophy

 

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Written by Randeep Singh

What does Buddhism[1] say about social matters?

In Buddhism, all things are governed by the universal law known as Dharma. In the physical world, Dharma regulates the expansion of galaxies, the flow of the seasons and of the rise and setting of the sun. In the social world, Dharma is found in the obligations and responsibilities we owe to one another as humans.

To live in accordance with Dharma socially is to live a moral life (sila) in harmony with the well-being of others. Buddhism in particular looks at the Dharma in relation to suffering and the end of suffering.

Suffering arises socially when we think we exist separately from one another. In Buddhism, nothing exists separately from anything else and there is no “self” or “essence” which divides one thing from another. The end of suffering begins when we realize that we do not exist seperately from anything or anyone but in a dynamic interdependence with everything and everyone around us. There is no “self” dividing me from my neighbour.

In so realizing, I regard my neighbour as myself. Dharma is realized by “doing good to others, avoiding harm to others.” Buddhist ethics consider how one’s words, actions and livelihood affects other people and the quality of one’s relationships with those people. Kind words, a smile, a handshake, all make a difference. Dharma is apparent through the effects of our moral actions on our lives (‘karma’) and how the cumulative effects of our action produce social relationships, networks and society.

Above all, human relationships provide support and solace in a world of suffering. The loneliness of human existence, the pain of separation, the sorrow of losing someone close to us, all are lessened through the bonds of love, friendship and brotherhood. The ideal society in Buddhist philosophy is one where each person lives in respect and with affection toward others, creating relationships in the spirit of love, compassion and joy in the happiness of others.

Footnote:

[1] I define Buddhism as the teachings of the Buddha and take them as a philosophy like the the teachings of Aristotle, Confucius or Plato, not as a religion per se.

Further Reading:

Ainslee T. Embree ed., Sources of Indian Tradition, Vol. 1: From the Beginning to 1800, Columbia University Press, New York: 1988.

Damien Keown, Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, Oxford: 2006).

 

‘Dislocutions: art and translation – Skeena’ by Fauzia Rafique

At the Surrey Art Gallery in 2011, i was happy to discuss aspects of my back and forth journey between two languages while writing Skeena. Here is an updated version of it.

frafique-jkvammen2011

Surrey Art Gallery
Dislocutions: a panel discussion on art and translation
October 15, 2011

It is a wonderful location for me to share my experience of writing a novel in two languages where striking and insightful expressions of art by Brendan Fernandes, Digital Natives, Soheila K. Esfahani, Mark Neufeld, Emilio Rojas, Tony Romano, Ming Wong and Dipna Horra are happening, and, here for this discussion we have artists Lorna Brown, Emilio Rojas and Jordan Strom. Thank you for having me.

I will read to you the very first thing that Skeena, the narrator, says to us to begin her story:
My name means different things in different languages. In Arabic, it is the ‘Spirit of Tranquility’ (Sakina), in Hebrew; the ‘Indwelling Feminine Face of Divinity’ (Shekhinah); and in the languages of Native Peoples, the ‘River of Mists’ (Skeena). At this time, I don’t favor one meaning over the other. They make a lot of sense together but if I met a people who associated this sound to a meaning that does not fit my scheme, I will have to pick and choose.

In my mind, with the delivery of its main themes, one of the ‘purposes’ of my novel Skeena was to communicate across cultures and languages. In 1991, when I began writing it in Toronto, I had been in Canada for five years and already I could feel the loss of language at different levels. I cannot say that I experienced loss of culture but I did experience the presence of barriers in seeing across cultures. Barriers were of assumptions and preconceived notions, some mine and some those of others, all coming out of the prejudiced systemic structures that rule both my worlds.

For me, there is no conflict in the fact that I simultaneously own as my homelands both Pakistan and Canada. Within it, I am a Punjabi woman of Muslim family origin from Pakistani side of South Asia who has by now lived in the East and the West Coast of Canada for twenty five years, and who considers Vancouver Lower Mainland her hometown alongwith Lahore. For me, my art must reflect and reveal my evolved identity, my physical locations, my combined cultures, and my deepest thoughts. The stories I am inspired to tell come from, and satisfy, my organic communities in both Canada and Pakistan.

The draft manuscript of Skeena, begun in Toronto in 1991 and completed here in Surrey in 2004, brought together my two languages for me when all its dialogue, about 80% of the whole, was expressed in both English and (roman) Punjabi. A realistic critical literary work of fiction, it required communicating across many cultures, the thoughts and lived realities of a young Muslim Punjabi Canadian woman. In evolving this format, there was my need to reflect/reproduce in English the feel/nuance of conversations taking place in Punjabi. It was most important to do that because dialogue is one of the major ways for the reader to get into a different culture, its stories and people; and, to form our own opinions as readers while we visit and become part of various situations in a novel.

Skeena provides a vibrant context to the lives of people living in different social and cultural environments where they may know some facts about each other but where lived experiences are so different that it is hard sometimes to communicate the meaning of words. The term ‘violence against women’, for example, may not give any clear idea to a person born and raised here in Canada about the extent of violence faced by Muslim women in Pakistan. The same term when used to illustrate the situation of women in present day Canada, may also provide misleading notions to a reader in South Asia. To me, these things cannot be told; they must be experienced. So, Skeena happens in the present, and is steeped in the culture/s of its characters.

As well, there was a desire to involve Punjabi Canadian youth, the second/third/fourth generation, by using a lay-person’s form of roman for Punjabi, similar to the written communication now carried out by Punjabis on facebook, twitter and in texting. It was also geared to overcome the Gurumukhi/Shahmukhi divide in the language, and by offering the dialogue in both Punjabi and English, I was hoping to create a story that could unobtrusively become a beautiful culture-sharing, language-learning tool.

In 2004, the first draft of the novel was complete. An engaging story that begins in Pakistan, ends in Canada; uses both English and Punjabi; and, is captivating in the projection of its themes and subject matter. I felt that the manuscript fulfilled all its purposes. But my editor felt otherwise. She said that it would be tedious for the reader to go through two languages at every dialogue, and, she said that I will be ‘ghettoizing’ my writing if I did not remove the Punjabi.

It took many months of thinking while I worked on my other two novels, to come to a point in 2005 where all Punjabi sentences were removed from English manuscript, and placed in a new file. At that point, I think, I heard an actual sigh of relief from the English manuscript as it was released from the repetitive burden of about 200 pages of Punjabi. Plus, I was overjoyed to see an 80% complete Punjabi manuscript, even when in roman. What an amazing bonus! Skeena gave me the gift of two novels when I was writing one, and my mother language gave me the third, Skeena’s Gurumukhi edition via script-conversion. But that happens a little later.

After Punjabi sentences were removed, numerous Punjabi/Urdu/Arabic/Persian words and terms remained in the 2005 manuscript because I thought the reader may like some flavour of languages without being stalled by them. I sent this manuscript to a couple of friends including one in California who went ahead to read over the phone, a couple of scenes from the second section, to a mutual friend in Pakistan who happened to be a writer, editor and publisher. Zubair Ahmad, who later edited the Punjabi ms of Skeena, was taken by the passages he heard over the phone, and invited me to come to Pakistan to translate it in Punjabi for publication. I left for Pakistan in early 2006.

Zubair Ahmad asked me an important question: which language did I use to ‘perceive/imagine’ the story. My thoughtful reply to him was ‘English’ since the novel was perceived, told and written in English. But that was half the truth because all dialogue by and among Punjabi characters was mind-developed in Punjabi, written in roman on the page, and then rendered in English.

In about six months of full time work, a Punjabi Shahmukhi manuscript was ready for publication. Daily I translated a few pages, and worked with the editor to finalize them. It was a powerful and learning experience for me in many different ways. First, the creative space that evolved between the Writer, the Editor, and the Publisher was conducive to both fine-ness and speed. The result was a satisfying manuscript that was then published by Sanjh Publications in Lahore in 2007. Second, something i never expected or knew that could happen though Zubair Ahmad had predicted it: After 1975-76 when I had adapted from English to Punjabi Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novelette ‘The Poor Folk’ for Pakistan Television, I had not had the chance to do any major work in Punjabi except for two incomplete novels and a couple of unpublished short stories. Now suddenly, during translating Skeena in Lahore, a fountain of Punjabi words and terms began to sprout in my mind, even words that I thought I never knew. With it, a whole lot of Punjabi poems began to surface. Some of them are part of my (out-of-print) chapbook ‘Passion Fruit/Tahnget Phal’ (Surrey 2011)*.

I returned to Canada in 2007, and began to work on the English manuscript referencing it with the published Punjabi version. The detail became clearer at every step. The English manuscript became freer of all kinds of weaknesses in expression, content and style. In Lahore, as I was converting dialogue from lay-roman to Shahmukhi script, and translating narrative from English to Punjabi, I had felt that all the remaining weaknesses/gaps, the things i call the ‘lies’ of a manuscript, in concept, style, structure or expression, were revealed to me (i remember wondering if it’ll at all be ‘practical’ to run this same ‘test of translation’ on my other two English novels). I found that it’s really hard to translate an unfamiliar action or concept from one language to another, and even harder to translate an unclear one. I have examples of both.

In the first section that takes place in a village in Pakistani Punjab, a character makes a common (in Punjab) gesture of seeking forgiveness from Allah where certain fingertips are placed on the tongue and then on the lower ear tips with the word ‘tauba’ meaning ‘forgiveness’. It took many agonizing attempts before I could come to this, with the help of my editor, i presume.
Allah Forgiveness!’ He touches his tongue with both his first finger tips, and then touches his ears with them’. 
But I was not happy with it because in Punjabi, it was effortless:
Allah Maafi!’ Oh unglaN de poTay jeebh te rakh ke kannaN noon laanday naiN’.
Later, back in Canada in 2007-08 when I was referencing the English manuscript with the published Punjabi version, the above English sentence also became better.
‘Allah Forgiveness!’ He places his fingertips on his tongue, and then touches his ears with them. (Skeena, Section 1, 17. Libros Libertad, Surrey 2011)

The second example is of another difficult point that benefitted from the act of translation. This is what I had in 2005 in a para, again from the first section, and with the same character:
SaeeN Jee is lying unconscious. His cheeks are blotched with surma kohl from his eyes, and his white and orange hair is sticky with sweat. But the scariest is his mouth with his dandasa-orange lips stretched over sparkling white teeth biting a light brown piece of wood.
However painful in English, it’s rendering in Punjabi flows perfectly. Later, still bumpy, it does become a bit better in English:
SayeeN Jee is unconscious. The run-down kohl from his eyes has blotched his cheeks, and his henna-coloured white and red hair is sticky with sweat. But the scariest is his mouth where his walnut-tree-barked orange lips are stretched around a jaw revealing sparkling white teeth over a brown horizontal piece of firewood. (Skeena, Section 1, 18. Libros Libertad, Surrey 2011)

The manuscript was accepted by a publisher in 2010, and the very first editorial ‘suggestion’ was to remove all non-English words. I expected it but there’s no harm in trying. I removed most of the words within a couple of days but even then so many remained. Several methods were applied; explaining the word in text, putting meaning beside it, coming up with an acceptable translation, and re-doing the sentence. It had to be done this way, and in stages, so that the manuscript did not get scratched or injured by the extraction or addition. I am grateful to its editors and publishers in Lahore, Surrey and Vancouver for their support in letting me find suitable solutions for each instance.

Going through the editing of the Gurumukhi version of Skeena with Editor/Author Surjeet Kalsey in 2010, I realized that there were a large number of Arabic/Urdu/Persian words that would be new or unclear to the Gurumukhi reader whose cultural reference is Sikhism with language influences coming from Hindi/Sansikrit. We did contemplate adding meaning of some words but the task seemed larger than the time available. Also, how some words are written differently in Shahmukhi, and, questions if they should be left as they are or changed to the prevalent Gurumukhi convention. May be these issues will be addressed when Skeena’s Gurmukhi edition actually publishes from India.

In poetry, i find that my voice changes from one language to the other. In Punjabi, it easily links to the folk, and the emotion; in English, it is a bit blunt, unwilling to express deep emotion. Mainly because, as I was saying to Jordan Strom, so far I have had many funerals in Punjabi but not many in English, so when a woman is stoned to death or buried alive, my experience of mourning and sadness will likely find expression in Punjabi, and my anger and outrage in English. This, I guess, somewhat has to do with the privilege of being a first generation immigrant who continues to own both my languages and all my chosen Pakistani Canadian cultural values.

My current projects include a translation of Madholal Hussain’s selected Punjabi poetry in English, and some of my favourite English poems to Punjabi.

Fauzia Rafique Surrey 2011
http://gandholi.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/fauzia.zohra.rafique
@RafiqueFauzia

Photo by Janet Kvamman 2011 (treated)
*Now in an upcoming collection of Punjabi poetry.
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Don’t Cry For Punjabi

tragedy

 

Written by Randeep Singh

We hear about the “loss” of Punjabi, the “tragedy” of how Punjabi is not taught in schools in West Punjab, of how Punjabi youth speak only Urdu, Hindi or English in Lahore or Chandigarh. “Imagine the sound of Punjabi and the rich cultural heritage it boasts,” writes Affan Chaudhary, “lost forever.”[1]

If there’s a tragedy, it’s the idea that the demise of Punjabi has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more one believes it, the less likely one will do anything to reverse it and the less likely that anything will change in any positive respect, least of all the feelings of doom and gloom.

I am not denying Punjabi faces challenges, but the circumstances suggest a more balanced view on the question.

First, Punjabi is neither an “endangered” nor a “vulnerable” language.[2] While it may not enjoy national or official status like Hindi, Urdu or French, neither is Punjabi an endangered or vulnerable language like Basque, Corsican or Gaelic all with less than one million speakers.

Punjabi is in fact one of the world’s most spoken languages with its number of speakers ranging from 80 to 110 million.[3] The total number of Punjabi speakers moreover has been increasing, not decreasing, since 1951.[4]

Second, rather than compare Punjabi to Urdu and Hindi, it would make more sense to compare Punjabi to languages like Gujarati, Pashto and Telugu with which its shares a similar legal and official status. What does the experience of these languages have in common with Punjabi? What initiatives have such languages taken in promoting awareness and education in one’s mother tongue in ways which can help Punjabi?

Third, few languages have proved so culturally vibrant in India, Pakistan and in the diaspora as Punjabi. Punjabi has historically dominated the film and music industry in Pakistan thanks to icons like Noor Jehan. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan raised the profile of Punjabi poetry through his musical performances. And Punjabi MC’s bhangra/dance track “Mundiyan To Bachke Rahin” topped charts in the UK, Italy and Germany and crossed over into hip-hop collaborations with Jay-Z and Timbaland.

We could add the growing popularity of Punjabi through Sufi Rock, Coke Studio and Bollywood. The point is that any discussion on Punjabi needs to count its achievements and opportunities along with its setbacks.

So don’t cry for Punjabi just yet.

[1] Affan Chaudhary, “I Speak Punjabi but My Kids Might Not,” in Express Tribune (March 16, 2012): International Tribune: :://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/10622/i-speak-punjabi-but-my-kids-might-not/

[2] UNESCO defines an endangered language as one which children no longer the language as a mother tongue in the home; and a vulnerable language as one which is spoken by most children but whose use is restricted to certain domains like the home.

[3] Ethnologue lists Western Punjabi (Lahnda) and its various dialects as the 11th most spoken language with 82.6 million speakers with an additional 28 million speakers of Eastern Punjabi. The Swedish language million speakers, the Swedish language encyclopedia, Nationalencyklopedin (2007) lists Punjabi as the 10th most spoken language in the world with 102 million speakers.

[4] http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/pco/index.html

 

Book Review – Punjab: A History From Aurangzeb to Mountbatten

title-rajmohan-gandhi

Written by Randeep Singh

Punjab: A History From Aurangzeb to Mountbatten (Rajmohan Gandhi, Aleph Book Company, New Delhi: 2013).

Gandhi’s Punjab surveys the history of the region from the decline of the great Mughals to the invasions of Afghan rulers and Nadir Shah to the reign of Ranjit Singh and the British Raj to the creation of independent India and Pakistan in 1947. The book is engaging, commendable for its scope and brings to the foreground figures like Adina Beg Khan, Ganga Ram and Fazl-i-Hussain who are otherwise passed over in Indian histories on the region.

From the outset, Gandhi underlines the importance of understanding a common Punjabi identity (‘Punjabiyat’) through centuries of foreign invasion and colonial rule. Unfortunately, his history, coloured by colonial and nationalist historiography, produce a distorted picture of the Punjabi.

In categorizing Punjabis before the 19th century as either Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, Gandhi replicates the colonial-era practice of classifying Punjabis (and Indians at large) solely by their religious identity forgetting that Punjabis before the colonial era typically defined themselves by their clan, village and caste. Such a categorization overlooks the diversity amongst and overlap between Punjabis and the extent to which they cooperated with one another across religious lines as under Adina Beg Khan, Ranjit Singh or in the Punjab’s Unionist Party.

Gandhi’s chapters on independence and partition moreover largely follow the contours of the Indian nationalist narrative. He adopts a critical tone towards the Muslim League in the making of the Partition without questioning in the same breadth the politics of the Indian National Congress and the British. Such a filtering of history is unlikely to advance understanding between Punjabis of India and Pakistan.

All this despite Gandhi’s reminder to us throughout of  a Punjabiyat symbolized by Farid, Waris Shah, Amrita Pritam and Shiv Kumar. His own history could have contributed greatly to that Punjabiyat and to Punjab studies. One can only hope that Gandhi’s Punjab will inspire more balanced histories on the region in the years ahead.

 

 

 

 

An Evening with Saeen Zahoor

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Written by Randeep Singh

On May 31, 2014, Pakistani Sufi singer Saeen Zahoor performed at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre, sending the audience into trance, dance and inspiring reverence throughout.

The evening brought together local Indian and Pakistani performers, organizers and audience members. Indo-Pakistani band Naqsh IPB opened the evening with their blend of modern Sufi, rock, classical and filmi musical stylings. Through clashing drums, pulsating guitar riffs and the soaring vocals of Daksh Kubba, Naqsh warmed up the crowd for Saeen.

He entered in his long black kurta embroidered in yellow, ghungroo bells jingling around his ankles, carrying his colourfully decorated ektaara (one-string instrument). “I am not an artist,” he began, “I am a dervish who recites the name of His Master.”

Saeen didn’t just sing: he performed in every sense of the word. The spirit of Bulleh Shah poured through Saeen, his songs, his dance, his story-telling. His two hours on the stage was a musical theatre on the life and poetry of Bulleh Shah.

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After declaring his devotion to Bulleh Shah in “Ni Mai Kamli Haan” (‘Crazy I Am!’), Saeen sang “Aukhen Painde Lambiyaan Raavan” (‘Hard and Long are the Paths’), of how Bulleh Shah journeyed for miles in search of his teacher. On meeting his teacher, Shah Inayat, Bulleh Shah asks: “how does one find God.” Shah Inayat, planting spring onions, replies: “what do you want to find God for? Just uproot this from here and plant it there.”

Saeen then broke out ecstatically into “Nachna Painda Ae” (‘Dance One Must’) swirling on the stage in his ghunghroo bells just as Bulleh Shah had once for Shah Inayat.

Saeen also sang on Bulleh Shah’s rebukes to legalistic Muslim clerics in “Bas Kare O Yaara Ilm” (‘Enough of Learning, My Friend’). Saeen tells us, Bulleh Shah gave up the shariah for the way of Love just as Heer refused to marry another man according to the shariah because she had been wedded spiritually to her Beloved. On love’s path, Saeen sings “let’s go Bulleh to that place where everyone is blind” in “Chal Bulleha Uthe Chale.”

From his stepping onto the stage, the audience became disciples of Saeen. He sang with abandon, he whirled with frenzy and he ended the night to the boom of the dhol drum bringing the audience to its feet. The air was filled with passion, energy and devotion. People went up to the stage and paid their respects by touching their heads to the stage or folding their hands in reverence: the theatre became a Sufi shrine, a dargah.

Above all, Saeen ensured Bulleh Shah will live on as a shared heritage. His spirit and art were the spirit of love and unity. Says Saeen: “humanity is to love one another.”

The Dharma Politic

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“Hatred is not appeased by hatred. Hatred is appeased only by Love”
(Dhammapada, 1.5)

Written by Randeep Singh

What role does politics play in Buddhism?

Buddhism originated at a time in India when the state was active in expansion, trade, war and diplomacy. The state is found in the Buddha’s ideas and his teachings have the following implications for politics.

First, like all phenomena in Buddhism, politics is imperfect, subject to change, interrelated and composite and conditioned by many interdependent factors, such as geography, history, inter-state relationships and how people relate to the ruler.

Second, politics is governed by the universal moral law or dharma. The ruler in Buddhism is appointed by the people (Maha Sammata) to protect their life, security and property.[1]  The moral law of Dharma requires such a ruler to be benevolent (adosa), moral  (sila) and not to act contrary to the will of the people (avirodha).[2]

Third, the “benevolent ruler” (dharma raja) is essentially the secular counterpart of the Buddha, a person who has realized his highest spiritual and ethical potential (buddha) and who directs that energy (chanda) to the people’s welfare. He improves their economic condition so they have a foundation upon which to pursue a good life.[3] He avoids harm to others in thought, word or action, particularly through the practice of non-violence (ahimsa).[4]

The purpose of Buddhism is to end human suffering. Government in Buddhist politics lays the foundation for such a life by enabling the people to fulfill their potential for goodness and happiness and, thereby, putting an end to suffering. The Dharma Politic is “for the good of the many, for the happiness of many, out of compassion for the world.”

 

 

[1] Digha Nikaya, 3.80.

[2] “Ten Duties of the King” (dasa raja dhamma). Jataka I, 260, 399

[3] “Kutadanta-sutta” in Digha Nikaya. Emperor Ashoka of India (r. 269-232 BCE) for instance provided public works and medical care. In China, Buddhism encouraged the building of orphanages, hospitals and rest homes for the elderly; see Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey, Kenneth Chen (Princeton University Press, NJ: 1985). 484.

[4] The Buddhist-influenced Gupta Empire (c. 320-551CE) for instance was noted for its minimal state interference in society and its abolition of capital punishment.

 

The Trouble with Hindutva

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Written by Randeep Singh

With the likelihood that a Hindu-right led government will come to power in India in the current elections, it’s worth examining the foundations of Hindutva (‘Hindu-ness’), the ideology underlying the Hindu right.

The seminal text on Hindutva is “Essentials of Hindutva” written by Veer Savarkar around 1922.

According to Savarkar, “Hindutva” is a cultural and national (not a religious) idea underlined by a common nation (‘rashtra’), race (‘jati’) and culture (‘sanskriti’). To qualify as a “Hindu” (Indian), one must regard “Hindustan” (India) as one’s fatherland (‘pitrabhumi’), motherland (‘matrabhumi’) and holyland (‘punyabhumi’).

Those who do not regard Hindustan as their holyland – namely Muslims and Christians – lack the “cultural” element necessary to be a Hindu. They can only become Hindu if they choose to embrace Hindustan as their holyland as well.

The trouble with Hindutva begins with the term “Hindu.” The term “Hindu” is a term foreigners used in referring to the inhabitants of the subcontinent, a point Savarkar concedes noting that it was the ancient Persians who first used the term. The term “Hindu” is scarce found within Sanskrit literature and Hindus have traditionally referred to one another not by “Hindu” but by their respective caste names (e.g. Bania, Chamar, Brahmin etc.). Savarkar’s national “Hindu” moreover is essentially north-Indian, upper caste and Brahmanic in race and culture.

Second, Savarkar’s essay is not so much a work of political ideology as it is itihaasa, a work combining history, myth, legend and fantasy. Savarkar does not question whether Rama, Krishna or the Mahabharata are mythological figures, whether the Aryans originated from outside of India and and whether Sanskrit was a language restricted to upper-castes. Any such inquiry is drowned out in an epic call for “Hindu” unity.

Third, Savarkar’s basic failure to define the term “nation” results in ambiguity and contradiction in his defining a Hindu. To say that a Muslim is not a Hindu (Indian) because Islam’s holyland is Saudi Arabia, is tantamount to saying that a Catholic in Spain cannot regard himself as Spanish because Christianity’s holyland is Palestine. It is also interesting that while Savarkar disqualifies Muslims as Indians because they lack the essential prerequisite of culture (i.e. viewing India as their holyland), he qualifies as Hindu those Caucasians who convert to Hinduism despite their lacking his otherwise essential criteria of race.

Savarkar’s “Essentials of Hindutva” is a yearning for unity. One can understand its appeal to millions in India, particularly those of a religion as diverse as Hinduism. That yearning is perhaps necessary to the idea of India; but any imagined unity like Hindutva’s imagines its others too as Ayodhya and Godhra have demonstrated. The coming election will help determine Hindutva’s place in India’s imagination tomorrow.

 

Congratulations Zubair Ahmad and Surjeet Kalsey!

Two Punjabi writers, long time Uddari supporters, and my dear friends Zubair Ahmad and Surjeet Kalsey are now being recognized for their valuable contributions to Punjabi language, culture and literature.

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Zubair Ahmad has just received Masud Khaddarposh Trust award for his collection of short fiction ‘Kabootar, Baneray tay GalyaaN’. He is an enchanting poet turned fiction writer, and does very well with both. He has served Punjabi language and literature as an author, publisher, bookseller, community organizer, linguist, translator and teacher. Here’s his fb page:
facebook.com/zubair.ahmad

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Surjeet Kalsey has been selected for Writer’s Lifetime Achievement Award by Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Program of University of British Columbia’s Asian Studies Department. Surjeet is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, editor, translator, community organizer and a women’s rights activist. She also runs a successful blog:
surjeetkalsey.wordpress.com

I am so lucky because both also have made contributions to my novel Skeena. Zubair worked with me as an editor for over six months to produce a publishable manuscript of the Punjabi (Shahmukhi) edition of the novel in 2006 in Lahore; and, Surjeet took over the responsibility of editing the Gurumukhi edition of Skeena in 2011 in Vancouver. Grateful to both for their knowledge, skills, time and caring.

While Zubair has already received his award in Lahore last week (April 19th), the ceremony for Surjeet will take place at 7:00 PM this Thursday May 1 at Center Stage in New Surrey Hall (13450 -104 Avenue, Surrey, BC).
See you there.

Fauzia
gandholi.wordpress.com
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Ruptures in Arrival: Art in the Wake of Komagata Maru

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Written by Randeep Singh

Surrey Art Gallery is hosting “Ruptures in Arrival,” an exhibition marking the Komagata Maru centenary.

What’s refreshing about this exhibition becomes apparent from its introduction. The Komagata Maru is not just the story of one religious or cultural group. It is the story of all peoples who have migrated to Canada, only to be deemed illegal, or unfit for entry and sent away.

The exhibition contextualizes the Komagata Maru in time through Ali Kazimi’s short-film presenting vignettes on the lives of South Asians in B.C. in 1914. The journey of the Komagata Maru is also represented in space by Avantika Bawa who traces the routes taken by the ship on a cascading fabric.

There is a video presentation of “Mass Arrival,” a live enactment by five Toronto artists of the expulsion of a cargo ship of Tamil refugees featuring (white) residents of Toronto. The video presentation is surrounded by walls of tabloid print-outs; headlines illustrate Canada’s phobia towards refugees and migrants, including acrid political cartoons on the never-ending Yellow Peril. The introduction to the exhibit reminds us not only of the Chinese refugees from Fujian who were turned away in 1999 but of the MS St. Louis, a ship carrying 937 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany whom Canada turned away in 1939.

I end with “Four Boats Stranded,” a model exhibition of Ken Lam’s work. In 2001, Lam constructed and had positioned four ships facing four directions atop the Vancouver Art Gallery of which one was the Komagata Maru. Looking at those ships, with all the exhibits in the gallery, one remembers the journeys that made Canada and the continuous journey of defining oneself in an ever migrating world.

http://komagatamaru100.com/event/rupture-in-arrival-art-in-the-wake-of-the-komagata-maru/

An Evening with Arundhati

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Written by Randeep Singh

She came. She spoke. She conquered. Arundhati Roy filled the pews of St. Andrew’s Wesley Church on April 1 as part of the Indian Summer Festival 2014.

Roy began by criticizing “representative democracy” as too much representation, not enough democracy. Democracy has plenty of institutions, Roy remarked, but those institutions have turned into conduits for a short-term, extractive, economic philosophy. “Could it be that democracy is such a hit with modern humans,” she reads, “precisely because it mirrors our greatest folly – our nearsightedness?”

Capitalism controls culture too. Roy spoke of how corporations engage in “perception management,” deliberately not funding artistic projects which question the system. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy says, drew a connection between capitalism, imperialism and the Vietnam War; but American multinationals did not highlight this aspect of his legacy when they sponsored the Martin Luther King Junior Centre for Non-Violent Social Change, an organization which works with the US Department of Defence. The Indian mining group, Vedanta, Roy points out, recently sponsored the “Creating Happiness” film competition for film students to make films on sustainable development (in communities affected by the mining) with the tagline “Mining Happiness.”

Roy also questioned Gandhi as the mahatma or “great soul.” Roy recounted how the anti-imperialist, anti-racist Gandhi fought alongside Great Britain in the Boer Wars, refused to ride in the same railway carriages as Africans and wrote in prison that Indians deserved separate prisons from vile and immoral blacks and Chinese.

When asked whether she was an activist, Roy replied she was a writer telling the world’s stories. Her readings and discussion with The Tyee’s David Beers, brought to life the politics of development, resistance movements and the management of culture by corporations just as the arts have reenacted the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement or the experience of Canadian aboriginals in Residential Schools. As Roy puts it, “why wouldn’t we write about the critical issues our society is facing?”

Welcome Radical Desi in Surrey this Sunday March 23/14

Uddari welcomes the launch of Radical Desi, a new monthly magazine, and congratulates Gurpreet Singh and his team for initiating it. Below is the cover page of the first issue, an introduction and some information about its launching ceremony tommorrow.

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Radical Desi
Monthly magazine on alternative politics
Official Launch
Sunday, March 23, 2014
2-5 pm
Dr. Ambedkar Room (418)
City Centre Library
10350 University Drive, Surrey

The launching ceremony will be held during Dialogue on Bhagat Singh’s Atheism. Those on the panel will include the author of Naastik Basni and a known atheist Sadhu Binning, the Centre for Inquiry leader Pat O’ Brien and the leader of the Canadian Taraksheel Sabha, Avtar Gill.

Get free copies of the first edition of Radical Desi at the event. Those who are unable to attend will have an option to grab free copies at the parade being organized by the Guru Ravidas Sikh Temple in Burnaby on Saturday, March 22, 2014 and also at the annual community march against racism in Vancouver near Cambie and Hastings the same day.

We encourage everyone to be there at 1:30 pm as we plan to start the event at 2 pm sharp. Each panelist will be given 20 minutes to speak. The panel discussion will be followed by Q&A session.

Bhagat Singh was a towering Indian revolutionary- who was hanged by the British Indian government alongside Sukhdev and Rajguru on March 23, 1931. Bhagat Singh died as an atheist, yet there are attempts to appropriate his struggle by the religious fundamentalists within the South Asian community. The discussion on atheism and free thinking on his martyrdom day will be a fitting tribute to him. Please join us and feel free to ask questions to continue the dialogue that is necessary for the progress of humanity.

For more information on both events:
Gurpreet Singh, Director
Radical Desi Publications Ltd.
Phone: 778-862-2454
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White Canada Forever

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This year marks the centenary of the Komagata Maru incident. The celebration of that centenary has been marked by some as a historic episode in the story of Indians and Punjabi Sikhs in Canada.

The Komagata Maru however is not the history of any one ethnic or religious group: it is the history of Canada. It is a page in a chapter of Canada’s history whereby English-speaking Canadians sought to create a Canada of English values, traditions, language, law and institutions from sea to sea, a “White Canada Forever.”

There had been earlier attempts to exclude, marginalize or assimilate the aboriginal communities and the French in Canada. The Indian, like the Chinese and Japanese however, was considered an alien and unassimilable breed. His arrival on the west coast moreover threatened to bring hordes of Orientals to the shores of British Columbia.

What followed was the advent of exclusion towards Asian immigrants in British Columbia: the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and the Chinese Head Tax; the Komagata Maru incident; the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 which completely banned Chinese migration to Canada until 1947, and the internment of Canadians of Japanese heritage in 1942 to name a few. The exclusion of undesirables was not limited to Asians. It included denying entry to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and the internment of Italian-Canadians during the second world war.

H.G. Wells once said that history more and more becomes a race between education and catastrophe. Our history demonstrates that we have never been a multicultural utopia. We have our tragedies, follies and regrets like any country. Let’s open our eyes to the Komagata Maru, the Chinese Head Tax, the Indian Residential Schools, so we don’t close them again. Let’s remember them as the history of Canada, our reminder as how to best move forward.

Further Reading: Peter Ward, White Canada Forever (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990).

Call For Submissions: Dhahan International Punjabi Literature Prize – March 15/14

For months, i have watched with apprehension and excitement the development of Dhahan International Punjabi Literature Prize, and now after its launch(es) i am happy to report that it is indeed a giant(!) leap(!) forward for Punjabi literature. Not just because the prize money is substantial at $25,000 (all scripts, and with two runner-ups of $5,000, one each for Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi), but also because it is one of the few initiatives that recognizes Punjabi in it’s totality and so claims the history and development of its literature across scripts, national/ethnic boundaries, and religious divides.

Submission Guidelines
Date January 15 – March 1 (online), with hard-copies due by March 15.
Format PDF version and a Printed Copy
Genre Fiction – novels, novellas, short story collections
Edition Original first editions only. Reprints or translations are not eligible.
Publishing Date During 2013
Books Published by ‘recognized’ and ‘independent’ publishers only. No self-published books.

Download Call for Submissions
English
Gurumukhi
Shahmukhi
(Note revised date: Jan 15 – March 1 (online), with hard-copies due by March 15)

Uddari fully supports this wonderful initiative as it is one of the fruits of our labour. Dhahan Prize is so valuable because it recognizes:
. Punjabi writers anywhere in the World. In South Asia and outside.
. Punjabi literature in both its major scripts, Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi.
. Importance of fiction, long and short, in the development of a literature.
. Rights of Punjabi writers by offering them the first yearly living wage.

The Prize will for sure get some serious attention from Punjabi writers around the world where only a few can or have depended on their creative writing for a living. I am talking about those stubborn people who insisted on writing in Punjabi when their world was pushing it aside and saying that there’s no future in writing in Punjabi; the people who were told by non-royalties-paying Punjabi publishers that their work is not good enough for money; and, that not many wanted to read them anyway.

Dhahan Prize will create a surge in the readership of Punjabi books because writers are the very first readers of books.

At Uddari Weblog, we are in a celebratory mode because Dhahan Prize strengthens many of our goals and objectives.

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com
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Related posts on Uddari
Dhahan International Punjabi Literature Prize – Launch Vancouver Oct 8/13
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Art and Obscenity: The Case of Manto

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Written by Randeep Singh

The Urdu short-story writer Manto was charged with obscenity six times for his short-stories, three times in India before 1947 (‘Dhuan,’ ‘Bu,’ and ‘Kali Shalwar’) and three times in Pakistan after 1947 (‘Khol Do,’ ‘Thanda Gosht,’ and ‘Upar Neeche Darmiyaan’). He was fined only in one case. The charges of obscenity haunted him nevertheless until his death: “I am not a pornographer but a story writer,” he would defend himself.

Under section 292 of the Indian Penal Code and the Pakistan Penal Code in Pakistan’s early years, a book or writing would be considered obscene if “it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect … if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.”

The book or writing would not be found obscene however if it was “justified as being for the public good on the ground that such book, … writing… is in the interest of … literature, art … or other objects of general concern.”

Manto wrote about his experiences at the trial and appeal hearing of “Thanda Gosht” between 1949 and 1952. A witness at trial for Manto, Syed Abid Ali Abid, the Principal of Dayal Singh College, testified: “from Wali to Ghalib, everyone at some time, has written what is generally labeled as obscene. Literature can never be obscene. And, what Manto writes is literature.”

One witness, Dr. Saeedullah, gave Manto the title of “musavvar-e-hayaat,” the painter of life. Soofi Tabassum, a professor of Government College, deposed that “immoral writing is where the sole object of the writer is to undermine morality” and that “Thanda Gosht” did not affect public morality.

In Manto’s testimony, “Thanda Gosht” was a story “telling human beings that they are not separated from humanity even with they become animal like.” Like Flaubert’s Madame Bovary which had also been charged with obscenity, “Thanda Gosht” was a serious story filled with melancholy. As for the potentially corrupting influence of his stories on the public, Manto remarked, “my stories are for healthy people, normal beings, not for minds who dig  up carnal meanings in innocent and pure things.”

The case of Manto is relevant to the question of what is art and what is obscenity. The following questions are worth considering:

  1. What is the artists’ intention in writing the story (to arouse sexual excitement etc.)?
  2. Is the sexual element of the story the primary or dominant value of the story or is it subordinated to the writer’s aesthetic goals?
  3. How does the reader experience the story? Does it appeal more to his or her aesthetic judgement or mostly to his or her senses and carnality?
  4. Does the aesthetic experience of reading the story do away with the reader’s “practical, operational” ways of viewing its characters and situations as if they were real people or situations?

If the story’s primary or overriding goal is to sexually arouse the reader, then the work can be considered obscene. If the story’s primary or overriding goal though is to use sexual or erotic scenes for some larger artistic purpose related to theme, setting etc., the story can be considered literature. A story moreover may have sexual situations or scenes which by themselves may be considered obscene but which have some meaning in the story’s overall context.

In “Thanda Gosht,” Manto tells the story of Isher Singh, a Sikh, who tried to rape an already dead Muslim girl, a heap of “cold flesh.” In “Khol Do,” a brutalized, unconscious  girl on the verge of death, Sakeena, opens her shalwaar qameez after the doctor examining her utters the words “khol do” (‘open’) to a nurse to open a window. The suggestion of raping a corpse or a girl opening her shalwaar on hearing the words “open (it)” by themselves may have been obscene; in their proper context, they illustrate the extent to which women were brutalized in the Punjab in 1947.

Manto was not only holding up a mirror to the dirt, hypocrisy and puritanism in Indian and Pakistani society; he was showing a way out of it. Ismat Chughtai wrote in her memoir “Kaghazi Hai Pairahan” that Manto’s “flinging it (dirt) about makes it visible and one’s attention can be called to the need of cleaning it.”  His stories unsettle us because they take us to the darker corners of our psyche, to desires repressed and to the ugliness that results. South Asia still struggles with the brutalization of women, sexual repression, sexual abuse, a growing AIDS menace and with discussing sex or sexuality openly.

Manto is still holding up the mirror to ourselves.

Further reading:

Ayesha Jalal, The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide (Princeton University Press, 2013).

Aziz Akhmad, “Manto Ka Muqaddama: Obscenity Trial”:  http://pakistaniat.com/2009/09/29/saadat-manto-trial/