New at Uddari

View Cultural Events Page for information on South Asian Peoples Unity Conference organized by South Asian Peoples Forum (SAPF), and scheduled to be held in Toronto in October 2008; The 9th Annual Deepak Binning Walk-a-Thon in Vancouver on Sunday June 8, 11am at King George Park followed by the Westcoast Bhangra Festival; The dateline for This Magazine’s 12th Annual Great Canadian Literary Hunt is July 2, 2008.
View oil paintings, water color and sculptures by Shahid Mirza and Kanwal Dhaliwal at Uddari Art Exhibition.

Lost and Found

LOST UNESCO REPORT
Lost and Definitely Not Found is the citation on Punjabi in the UNESCO report referred to by Author Activist Kuldip Nayar that lists Punjabi as one of the languages set to disappear in fifty years. We are getting frantic messages at Uddari from all types of flustered Punjabis to the following effect:

“I have wasted much time in locating the alleged report on Punjabi. It does NOT exist. The language spoken by 120 million people can NOT disappear in 50 years. It is a simple logic.” Poet Amarjit Chandan in an email message from London, Britain.

“For quite some time now reference is being made on both Pakistani and Indian Punjabi Internet networks to a UNESCO report that allegedly predicts that in the next 50 years the Punjabi language will become extinct. I have tried in vain to get hold of the report to make sure it is not a hoax” Author Ishtiaq Ahmed in The News, 5/24/2008 previously Stockholm and now from Singapore.

“Early last month Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed had asked me about such report and source was Mr Kuldip Nayyar. I checked with several persons including Mr Nayyar. He said he had seen some such report and did not remember where and when. He was quoted in The Tribune of March this year. Accordingly I informed Prof. Ishtiaq” Journalist Gobind Thukhral from Chandigarh, India.

I first heard of this report and Kuldip Nayar’s initiatives from Rights Activist Mohammad Tahseen in Lahore. Now, though unsuccessful in locating Punjabi either in the ‘UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages’ or in the UNESCO report ‘Our Creative Diversity’, i did FIND a March 2008 news report where Kuldip Nayar seems to be in the same situation as the rest of us.

“I have gone through a report prepared by Unesco which says the Punjabi language will disappear from the world in 50 years. It shocked me. I am out to save Punjabi language and culture,” he said. He was invited by the Punjabi Bachao Manch seeking his help to save Punjabi in Chandigarh, capital of Punjab, a state carved on the basis of Punjabi language.” (http://www.sikhsangat.org/news/publish/social_issues/Punjabi_language_will_disappear_in_50_years_Unesco_report.shtml)

I must tell you that the FINDING of such a report is an issue of mere academic interest to me because i, coming from the West Punjab, do not need UNESCO or Kuldip Nayar from East Punjab to tell me that Punjabi is an endangered language; and that, if appropriate actions are not taken it will for sure become extinct in the near future. Here is a criteria that United Nations has developed to find the survival state of a language.
“Languages were originally divided into five categories; a sixth, potentially endangered languages, was added later:
(i) extinct languages other than ancient ones;
(ii) nearly extinct languages with maximally tens of speakers, all elderly;
(iii) seriously endangered languages with a more substantial number of speakers but practically without children among them;
(iv) endangered languages with some children speakers at least in part of their range but decreasingly so;
(v) potentially endangered languages with a large number of children speakers but without an official or prestigious status;
(vi) not endangered languages with safe transmission of language to new generations.”
(Source: http://www.helsinki.fi/~tasalmin/europe_index.html)

The status of MaaNboli Punjabi languages in Pakistani Punjab hovers between these two:
(iv) endangered languages with some children speakers at least in part of their range but decreasingly so;
(v) potentially endangered languages with a large number of children speakers but without an official or prestigious status;

And so, i would say to find a way to multiply Kuldip Nayar in both his male and female incarnations, at the rate of Thousand-A-Minute-Aggregate, and give tenacious support to all Kuldip Nayars and Nayara Kuldips in both the Punjabs and the Diaspora, to pull our Maanboli Mothertongue out of this rut.

Still, that UNESCO report needs to be FOUND.

Meanwhile, i like to take this opportunity to log a few other cases of Lost & Found but this time, i will be brief and do it later.

Feel free to make use of this space if you have lost something that you can not do without, something that is not a pet but still has to be found. If there is something of immense cultural value that you have found that was lost and it is not your pet…

Writings of Kuldip Nayar
Endangered Languages

Autobiography of the Great Dada Amir Haider Khan (1904-1986)

A new edition of the out-of-print autobiography of Dada Amir Haider published in 1988 titled “Chains to lose: Life and Struggles of a Revolutionary – Memoirs of Dada Amir Haider Khan, Vol 1” edited by Hasan N. Gardezi (462 Pages, Rs. 350, Patriot Publishers, Delhi 1988) is now available. Here is the cover page of the new edition.

Life and Struggles of a Revolutionary, Memoirs of Dada Amir Haider Khan

Chains to Lose – Life and Struggle of a Revolutionary
– Memoirs of Dada Amir Haider Khan

Hasan N. Gardezi, Ed., (Karachi 2007)

The following book review on the 1988 Edition by Shafqat Tanvir Mirza was published almost 20 years back in Weekly Viewpoint, Lahore. Today, i am honoured to post it at Uddari as it brings together at least five individuals who have and are contributing to the enrichment of our cultural and political life in the most magnificent ways.

Dada Amir Haider induces tears of love and respect from anyone in the Punjab with a mention of his name; Shafqat Tanvir Mirza’s life in journalism shows us how to live and work with integrity under oppressive regimes; Hasan N. Gardezi has shaped our ways of thinking with his political and literary writings; Amarjit Chandan reminds us of the best traditions of our poets who fight for revolutionary change; and, Mazhar Ali Khan who brought out Viewpoint and kept it going in Lahore in the toughest of situations.

Because of this, today is a beautiful day at Uddari even when clouds are bearing down on Vancouver.

Dada Amir Haider

Dada Amir Haider Khan
By Shafqat Tanvir Mirza

CHAINS TO LOSE is the life story, in his own words, of a great revolutionary, a father figure, a living legend. Every inch of a rebel from his very childhood, this colossus of a man stands before us dominating a whole era. In these pages, for the first time in print, revolutionary and trade union leader Dada Amir Haider chronicles in graphic detail the class struggle in colonial India. The readers of these memoirs will see the events of an important era in our history from the perspective of a highly refined proletarian consciousness.

Dada Amir Haider Khan 1904-1986

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Dada Amir Haider (1904-1986)

This is how the publisher has introduced Dada and the first part of his autobiography, which was written in English in 1939 when the leader was denied personal appearance in a Bombay court. He was arrested in Bombay under the Defence of India Rules and lodged in the Central Prison, Nasik Road, on a two-year sentence. Dada filed an application in the High Court demanding that he be allowed to plead his own ease against his conviction. His application was rejected. Dada then decided to put down in writing what he wanted to say, and gradually resolved to preserve in writing the entire story of what his life and labour had taught him as a revolutionary activist. The narrative covered the period from Dada’s childhood to 1926 when he, for the last time, bade goodbye to the United States and sailed out for Moscow to get training in revolutionary work.

Dada has narrated the story in the minutest detail in the last chapter of the book. According to him, the C.l. (Communist International) was attempting to help all colonial countries which had industrial workers to develop Communist parties. With this in view the Cl was attempting to help train some revolutionary workers who would become party organisers and political workers m their respective countries. The Indian Communist Party was also asked to select some students. The job was assigned to M. N. Roy, who could not find any in India. Therefore, he asked the American Communist Party for help which in turn contacted the Ghadar Party. The Ghadar Party selected five students of whom Dada was one.

VD Chopra, an old political colleague of Dada in Rawalpindi, writes in the preface: “These memoirs in reality are recollections of the history of this Sub-continent and bring into sharp focus how the revolutionary urge of a peasant youth in the most economically and politically backward region of the Punjab before partition, the Pothohar region in north western Punjab – in Kahuta in particular gripped his mind. This was not an isolated development because from this very region a large number of young men had joined the INA. This fact is being recapitulated to make out that the national movement of united India did leave a deep impact on the common people of the entire country. Dada Amir Haider Khan was a product of this new national awakening who through a zigzag process became one of the founders of the Indian Communist Movement.”

Dada Amir Haider’s memoirs, therefore, are not only a narration of events and how these events moulded his life. They form a rich source material for historians and research scholars. However, the most important aspect of the memoirs is that they reveal how determined efforts were made by him, step by step and against heavy odds, to liberate our country from foreign domination and build a new social order.

The first volume of memoirs covers the first 22 years of the 20th century. Dada had a very, very hard life right from the beginning. He was born to a Chib Rajput family of village Sabbian of Kahuta. This family had its social roots in the Kashmir area. Dada’s first bitter experience was at a very tender age. At the time of the death of his grand father his father and his younger brother were minors. Therefore their brother-in-law was made their custodian. This gentleman cleverly deprived both the brothers of agricultural land left by their father. They were no match to their brother-in-law and therefore avoided confrontation and legal battles. Dada’s father selected a barren, rather stony piece of land and with his hard labour turned it into a small farm.

Dada was still a lad of hardly five or six years when his father died. Difficult days were ahead for him and his elder brother. The circumstances led their mother to marry the younger brother of her late husband. The stepfather’s attitude was almost hostile towards the young Dada who was very fond of education.

Unfortunately there was no school in the village, and the nearest one was four or five miles away. Anyhow his stepfather unwillingly agreed that Dada should go to a maulvi of the village who would teach him the Quran.

That was the beginning of Dada’s hardships. Dada went to many maulvis and then to schools but ultimately had to desert his home. Once he ran away and went to his elder brother, who was in the army at Peshawar. He was brought back but again forced to leave the house. This time he went to Calcutta where his elder brother after release from the army, had joined a gang of drug traffickers. The gang was headed by some Europeans. Dada was recruited in the gang. When this group was smashed he left Calcutta and went to Bombay where he got a job as a labourer on a ship. This assignment took Dada to Europe and America and it was there that his contacts with the American Communist Party and the Ghadar Party were established.

SS Leviathan is one of many ships Dada Amir Haider worked on

SS Leviathan is one of many ships Dada worked on.

What did Dada do after leaving America for Moscow in 1922? For that we have to wait for the next volume of his autobiography.

Ayub Mirza has written a biography of Dada in Urdu in the form of a novel. Both these books make extremely interesting reading. — SHAFQAT TANVIR MIRZA
[November 30, 1989. VlEWPOINT, Lahore]

The New Edition is available from Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, Karachi-752702007. Price Rs 800 (Vol I-II), Pages 793. Contact the Publisher Syed Jaffar Ahmed at pscuok@yahoo.com, and Editor Dr Hassan Gardezi at gardezihassan@hotmail.com.

More information on Dada, and a review of the 2007 Edition by literary and art critic Sarwat Ali, is posted here: nasir-khan.blogspot.com

Materials provided by Amarjit Chandan

‘Sexual abuse of children by aid workers and UN peacekeepers’?

A children’s rights organization has released a research report pointing to cases of child sexual abuse by aid workers and UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, Southern Sudan and Haiti, and how most remain unreported.

Save the Children UK research titled ‘No One to Turn To’ (The under-reporting of child sexual exploitation and abuse by aid workers and peacekeepers, Tuesday 27 May 2008) suggests that the perpetrators can be found in ‘every type of humanitarian, peace and security organisation, at every grade of staff, and among both locally recruited and international staff’. The children interviewed report many types of abuse ‘including trading food for sex, rape, child prostitution, pornography, indecent sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex’.

Save the Children UK has made the following recommendations to the UN Task Force on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. An effective local complaints mechanisms to be set up by the UN in countries where there is a significant international presence; The establishment of a new global watchdog to monitor and evaluate the efforts of international agencies regarding this issue; An increased investment in tackling the underlying causes of sexual abuse, for example support for legal reforms, public education and awareness raising, and the development of national child protection systems. (Source: www.alertnet.org)

This heart-clenching report involves the most vulnerable young persons growing up in some of the most threatening situations of war, hunger, poverty, homelessness and violence. We, as adults are sending them help that includes such aggregated threats as sexual abuse. It is as if what was happening with our young on the ground was not enough to pervert them away from life.

Though the research references three countries, the universality of its findings is implied. View it here in English and French.

It is hard to stay away from the thoughts of children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Darfur, Tibet and other areas where populations are at war; in Sichuan province of China, and areas hit by earthquakes and other calamities; in short, in situations of acute vulnerability and need.

As well, we must remind ourselves of sexual, emotional and physical abuse suffered by children growing up in oppressive family and social structure in Pakistan, Iran and many countries under Muslim Laws; of children living in the so-called ‘Polygamy Compounds’, ‘Reservations’ and ‘Ghettoes’ within advanced democratic societies such as the United States and Canada.

And a word of caution perhaps, that the most sexual, physical and emotional abuse suffered by our children may not come from aid workers and UN peacekeepers but from individuals in our own families, communities, schools, religious institutions and other social and economic structures.

I support the recommendations of Save the Children UK to increase vigilance over our children worldwide, to create situation to afford more power and voice to our children within their countries, and to assure that we don’t send wolves to take care of lambs from our privileged overseas human rights positions.

Here is an unexpected Punjabi poem titled Dil ‘Heart’:
Dil
Fauzia Rafiq

Uthan behn, jagan sawn
Likhan likhan, paRhan paRhan
Rinnan pinnan, khawan pewan
Ishq muhabtaN
Duftar rozi, mail mulqataN
Eh sarae kam
main Thehr ke kraN gi
dil hali Thaleya nahiN

More on child sexual abuse

Slumbering Over Islamic Unity

A widespread occurrence of deep sleep, napping, snoozing, dozing and blissful slumber has been witnessed by heidariam.blogfa.com during the sessions of the 21st International Conference on Islamic Unity in Tehran held May 4 to 6 this year.

According to a story posted May 5th, 2008 by Mudassir Rizwan, Muslim Ulema from Oman, Sudan, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Germany, the US, Tunisia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, France, Morocco, India, Algeria, Hong Kong, Qatar, Britain, Denmark, Iraq, Turkey, Gambia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and the United Arab Emirates are participating; over a hundred articles from foreign and domestic authors have been received by the secretariat of the conference of which 70 articles have been selected for presentation, he said.
“Preparing grounds for unity and solidarity of the Muslim World and bringing closer various cultural and scientific views are major goals of the conference. The participants are also to promote coexistence and find way out of current obstacles including the enemies’ plots and secular thoughts. The Islamic unity charter which has so far been signed by over 2,000 Muslim thinkers and scholars will be studied by the delegates.”

Here, find the Umah in action.

From waging heroic struggle against the onSlumber Image 015salught of sleep

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To a continued resistance against it;

Slumber Image 011

From hiding faces

Slumber Image 009

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To Giving in;

Slumber Image 010

From going overboard,

Slumber Image 004

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To blissfulness,

Slumber Image 008

To an invitation to an open slumber party.

Slumber Image 003

No wonder, people in North America are inquiring about the materials those chairs and tables are made of; about the general environment of that place in Tehran; about the sounds heard by the participants; and, indeed the ideas discussed by the presenters. Their quest is to adopt or improvise the methods used in this Conference to bring sleep to millions of sleepless North American. This can be a breakthrough for consumers who are spending fortunes on sleep-inducing and anti-depressant drugs, on special mattresses and beds, pillows and pillow covers, and on slumber music and videos.

Keep our fingers crossed.

Information sent to Uddari by Shahid Mirza of Lahore Chitrkar.

More on Islamic Unity
I need my sleep!

A Book Launch and an Event Report

Information about the launch of a new collection of poems on London titled ‘All That Mighty Heart: London Poems’ edited by Lisa Russ Spaar is online at the Cultural Events page.

Also, view a report “May 12 Karachi Carnage Remembered in San Francisco Bay Area” by Ali Hasan Cemendtaur on a recent event held by Friends of South Asia (FOSA), in Pakistan Link.
Pakistani-American law professor Tayyab Mahmud, Ijaz Syed, Javed Ellahie, and Dabbir Tirmizi at “Pakistan’s Judicial Crisis and Remembering Karachi May 12 Carnage”

View the report here: www.pakistanlink.com

Punjabi Poems at Uddari

Please visit the new Punjabi Poems page, and view poems in Roman with English translation. Shahmukhi and Gurumukhi versions will be online soon:
1. Social Self dee LoR by Fauzia Rafiq
2. Peyar de ChiRi by Fauzia Rafiq
3. Sabq PkawaN by Fauzia Rafiq

Previously published in Monthly Pancham Lahore.
Monthly Pancham Lahore

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For more information about Pancham, contact Editors Faiza and Maqsood Saqib at: suchet2001@yahoo.com

May 23: Komagatamaru Arrived in Vancouver

Gurdit Singh and others on Komagata Maru, Vancouver July 1914

Ninety four years back, on May 23, 1914, Komagatamaru arrived in Vancouver from India carrying 376 passengers. They had come from one British colony to another, and they were made to suffer atrocities by the colonizers at both ends.

Komagatamaru Plaque Vancouver, 14 May 1990Komagatamaru Plaque Vancouver, 14 May 1990

Today is to remember the sacrifices made by Baba Gurdit Singh and other passengers; the support given to the passengers by the Sikh community of British Columbia, and by Vancouver’s Khalsa Diwan Society.

Komagatamaru Play. Leaflet. London,1983. Amarjit Chandan CollectionLeaflet of a play on Komagatamaru, London1983. (Amarjit Chandan Collection)

It also is a harsh reminder of the violent and racist methods and policies of British Canadian government in Vancouver and British Indian government in Calcutta that caused lifelong hardship, disease and death to innocent people.

From our history, it is one of the more painful lessons in courage and perseverance.

More on Sikh Community

UBC Students of Punjabi Literature, Delightful Performers!

This post was going to indulge in a discussion on different ways to further develop Punjabi literary communities in Canada with reference to the UBC Conference on Modern Punjabi Literature but then Sadhu Binning sent me photos that brought back all the smiles and laughs drawn by a skit performed by the ‘junior’ students of Punjabi at that Conference.

The package also includes an expected group photo with newly emptied tables that i am happy to present to you here.

UBC Conference on Modern Punjabi Literature, First Day

For the rest, please stay posted.

The skit ‘Mr. Binning’s Retirement’ was presented by the UBC students of Punjabi to celeberate the life long tenure of their teacher Sadhu Binning. A 20-delightful-minute long exploration of all available career options of a retired South Asian Canadian teacher of Punjabi literature in Vancouver, the skit was a light-hearted view of a teacher and the system.

Before we proceed further, it will be helpful to see this mobile-phone photo of a youth who could so easily project the body language of his teacher.

Sandhler as Mr. BinningShamsher Sandlas, the ‘Mr. Binning’, ready to hail Nasiruddin Shah?

The ‘Mr. Binning’ character played by Shamsher Sandlas brings out all of Sadhu’s laid back mannersim where though disinterested in climbing social ladders, he does oblige Mrs. Binning (Rupinder Gosal) time and again by giving a good shot to each presented career choice by turning it into a viable opportunity. From making an on-the-spot call to Actor Om Puri in India and arriving there for an audition on the next flight from Canada- to playing golf with BC Liberal Politician Ujjal Dosanj as a career move- to going all out for a chance to become a Punjabi Pop Singer- Mr. Binning tries everything with mild enthusiasm, and good-natured submission to various hiring requirements. Yet he FAILs at everything. This leaves an open stage and eight happy artists to ponder over various new possibilities.

The Seven UBC Students who predict Sadhu Binning’s post-retirement career options as being NIL. Shamsher Sandlas (Mr. Binning), Rupinder Gosal (Mrs. Binning, in red shirt), Daljit Mahal (Om Puri, Ujjal Dosanjh), Harman Bains (Actress), Rupeela Gill (Director’s help), Akashdeep Villing (Actor and Music producer), and Aman Oberoi (Music producer) in ‘Mr. Binning’s Retirement’.

The Eighth, if you are wondering, is Sadhu outside the frame at this point; and, if you find that people are not standing where their names indicate than please be my guest because i also can not understand all the moves made by our youth.

Moral of the story? Mr Binning CAN NOT do anything but teach Punjabi, and/or that Mr. Binning MUST NOT do anything but teach Punjabi. Sounds good to me because i know that teaching Punjabi the last few decades has not stopped Sadhu from working on his creative writing, and that is what matters the most.

An interesting observation is that the teacher role of Sadhu presented by his students who all appeared to be second generation Punjabi Canadians, is the same as is revered in South Asia for centuries where the love of teaching a particular discipline makes a teacher a strong role model for the students or at least, someone that they respect, learn from and remember as they move along to shape their lives. Yet at the same time, unlike the traditional model of a teacher in South Asia, Sadhu does not create distance as means to command respect but remains informal and communicative with his students, a quality attributed to teachers in the ‘Western’ education system. The character that comes out is a cross between the two traditions.

Another observation is that each time Mr. Binning enters his living room and takes a seat after a day’s hard work, the ominious remote (weapon of TV) control finds his right hand in a brisk and un-observing manner, compliments of course, to the groundedness of Mrs. Binning played by Rupinder Gosal.

Daljit Mahal was comfortable with enacting both character actor Om Puri and our own leader Ujjal Dosanjh. Harman Bains and Rupeela Gill, the actress and the director’s assistant in the film scene, provided faster tempo and some tension to Mr. and Mrs. Binning’s slow and comfortable drawl. Akashdeep Villing (Actor and Music producer) and Aman Oberoi (Music producer) came out strong in their roles as well. And of course, in the shape of Shamsher Sandlas we may be looking at an expatriot Nasiruuddin Shah, to say the very least!

That was a lot of fun Shamsher, Daljit, Harman, Rupeela, Akashdeep and Aman, thanks; it was a great group effort to write/direct/produce the skit in such a short period of time. We also must thank Bibi Anna Kaur Murphy for her advisory role in the skit, and so, thanks Anne.

Also view Rana Nayar’s forceful comment on Modern Punjabi Literature at UBC: A Glass Half Full, that goes right into the discussion that is about to take place in the next post. Before we split, let me tell you that from 40-50 new people that i had the pleasure to meet, Rana Nayar got me the most confused in that after hearing his first presentation par excellence i was sure he was a British Punjabi from London but he turned out to be a Punjabi Punjabi from Chandigarh thus challenging some of my myths and assumptions.
No More Watnu Dur by Sadhu Binning
Earthy Tones by Gurdial Singh and Rana Nayar
Punjabi Books at Amazon

Thriving on the Culture of Exclusion: Punjab Auqaf

Durbar Baba Bulleh Shah

This is the resting place of a great Malamti Sufi Poet Baba Bulleh Shah (1680 to 1790) in Qasur, Pakistan. Every year in August, people come here from all over Punjab and Pakistan to celebrate his work and person. Bulleh Shah is part of the proud tradition of South Asia that nurtures equality and celebrates diversity; that takes a clear stand against discrimination on the basis of religion, sexuality, race and gender.

Bullah in his verses taught us that people who follow different religions or are born into them, are equal; that organized religions are discriminatory idealogies; and through his life, he showed us that the highest form of spirituality may sometimes reveal itself in gay love; that whatever our race, the basic fact that must rule is that we are all human beings; and though he did not preach feminism, i have yet to read a verse written by him that smacks of gender discrimination. Then why, in the name of Bullah, women are not allowed to set foot in his shrine?

Durbar Baba Bulleh Shah

The red line on the right highlights the notice that says that women are not allowed to go beyond that point; that means we can not go through the door, can not touch the stone that surrounds Bullah or pick up a couple of flowers from the top; and, we can not receive a rose and jasmine garland from the caretaker inside.

The two lines on the left, frame a part of Bullah’s verse now etched in stone but still not heeded. He says, and like most of Bullah’s verses, this one is also known to people throughout Punjab by heart, ‘Jis tun lugeya ishq kamal, naachay bay sur tay bay taal’. It means a body that has been touched by devotional love, dances without rythm and without beat or out of rythm and out of beat.

The line on the floor shows how far i can go; and, the person standing smack in the middle of the door is there to guard against the possibility that i may try to get in. His fears are not unfounded; this is what i did when i came in the courtyard ten minutes back because I knew that my only chance was to take them by surprise. And so, by the time they stopped me and then pushed me out of the shrine, i had done it. I had gone in, touched the stone, and took a few flowers lying on top of it.

It is important for me to tell you why i did that. I did that to tell myself that Bulleh Shah is as much ‘mine’ as he is anyone else’s in this world, and that i am not going to let Mehkma Auqaaf define Bulleh Shah in terms where the culture of lokai people is again taken over by religious bigots. And the reason i knew that ‘surprise’ will work, is because i faced the same situation at Jeevay Madhulal Hussain’s in Lahore time and again; caretakers at his Durbar would become alert upon seeing me enter the courtyard even when i had only crashed the prohibited door on my first visit.

At the place of Baba Sohna Bulleh Shah, I did not ask for the garland when i went in because the caretaker was busy pushing me out but that is okay because my friend Amarjit Chandan who was welcome inside with Afzal Sahir and Abdullah Malik, was kind enough to give me his garland. Here is this ‘privileged’ group of people; or should i say here are some of the ‘privileged’ members of my group; or simply, a group of ‘privileged’ people flanked by two additional distinctive individuals.

Durbar Baba Bulleh Shah

The fourth person from this group, Akram Varraich, though also equally privileged can not be seen in this photo because he was taking it.

Of course, i am lucky to have so many distinctive friends but i want their privileges to increase in quality as i try to expand mine because the advantages granted by the Department of Religious affairs in Pakistan may not be worth enjoying as they exclude over half the population of the Punjab, and Pakistan. And if ‘thriving’ on the ‘culture of exclusion’ seems like an exaggeration to you, consider that segregation is or was sanctioned in so many dominant cultures, and humans in power have always created their societies by excluding ‘other’ peoples and beings.

For now, we know that the ‘Religious Affairs and Auqaf’ of Punjab Government controls over 37 shrines in the province under the Punjab Waqf Properties Ordinance of 1979. Meanwhile, here is the email address of Lieutenant General (Retired) Khalid Maqbool, Governor of Punjab since 2001: governor.sectt@punjab.gov.pk

Chief Minister Punjab, Dost Muhammad Khosa is here: www.punjab.gov.pk

Photos by Akram Varraich first published at http://www.apna.org/

Sufi Movement
Muslim Culture
Punjabi Culture

SL Parasher: The Chronicler of Punjab’s Partition

SL [Sardari Lal] Prasher, painter and sculptor, was born in Gujaranwala on April 7, 1904. He took his Masters degree in English literature at the Forman Christian College, Lahore in 1935. The following year he joined the Mayo School of Art as a lecturer and vice principal. More at Uddari Art Exhibition

South Asian Art
Partition

Sixty Years of Unflinching Beauty: Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan

A Great Punjabi Woman at Great Women of Punjabi Origin. Founding member of Democratic Women’s Association (DWA) in 1948, she is active in leading the movement for social change in 2008.

SL Parasher ‘Partition and Beyond’

Artist, Sculptor, Muralist and Writer S.L. Parasher (1904-1990), Art exhibition in Berlin, Inaugration on Tuesday May 13, 7:30pm by Ambassador Meera Shankar. More on Cultural Events Page

Punjab Partition

Inside Uddari Pages

‘Zameen’ by Satinder Kaur Chauhan. Kali Theater Company, London 7-17 May, 2008 in Cultural Events Page

Vimla Dang: A Great Punjabi Woman in the Great Women of Punjabi Origin

‘The Victim’ by Kanwal Dhaliwal in Uddari Art Exhibition

2. Royalties for Punjabi Language Authors

After the first post, i received some feedback questioning the need to raise the issue of royalties for authors of MaaNboli mothertongue languages, and asking why even after getting royalty on my novel Skeena, i am still keeping on about it.

It is the historic discrimination faced by MaaNboli languages in Pakistan where most of the meager resources earmarked for the development of languages, art and literature are awarded to the ‘national’ language Urdu at the expense of all local languages. So now the MaaNboli literary organizations, authors and publishers of Punjab (Punjabi, Seraiki, Potohari), Sind (Sindhi, Behari), Balochistan (Balochi, Brahvi) and the NWFP (Pushto, Pukhto) face depreciation due to the persistent non-recognition of native languages by national and provincial cultural agencies. It is a miracle performed by writers, intellectuals and publishers of maaNboli literature that any of our languages have survived the last sixty one years of Pakistani politics.

Punjabi writers and publishers, artists and patrons, musicians/dancers and producers are facing decreasing markets and lesser value for their creative work and hardship because of the ever-increasing conservatism of the political environment that does not encourage or allow creativity in art and literature. Nahid Siddiqui, a master of Kathak classical dance, and i assure you there aren’t many left in the country, does not get a chance to perform on stage or on television very often; and so, she sustains herself with a percentage of student fees from her dance classes with a community-based non-profit cultural organization that struggles each month to pay its own bills in the absence of any core funding or structural support.

The perpetual lack of government funding and public resources has pushed Punjabi cultural communities to operate at ‘charitable’ levels from before the Partition of 1947; and, now the defensive strategy once adopted to help the ailing art and literary institutions recover, has become the only ‘possible’ way to continue. This has flung most Punjabi literary organizations into an overall low-lying introvert stance where work is valiantly carried on even in the absence of ‘basic necessities’ such as scanners and printers. A living example of it appeared in my inbox yesterday in the form of a general request to help fundraise for Publisher/Distributor Kitab Trinjan to get a UPS, a printer and a scanner (For more information and to extend your support, email Zubair Ahmed at kitab.trinjan@gmail.com).

I had the unique opportunity to travel within Pakistan from May to August last year to launch my novel Skeena; and, it was most rejuvenating to meet poets, fiction writers, prose writers, publishers, musicians and cultural/social activists in nine different places including my own city of Lahore. This was made possible by many individuals and organizations but most of all by Amjad Salim of Sanjh Publications who took a big step forward by launching what may well be the first actual promotion campaign for a Punjabi book in the Punjab; Columnist Hasan Nisar who gave the campaign his unconditional support by dropping the first cash donation; Mohammad Tahseen of South Asia Partnership (SAP) who supported the Campaign by approving funds for it. I am most grateful to the cultural communities of Gujranwala, Kot Adu, Multan, Sargodha, Islamabad, Jhung, Karachi, Hyderabad and Lahore who supported this action by organizing the events to launch ‘Skeena’ in their cities.

My gains are unlimited. Just getting the feel of different places and meeting some of the most inspiring people there would have been enough for me but i got luckier than ever; great exchange of ideas, strong cultural impacts, heated discussions, hot and cold weathers, home-cooked foods, great Hasheesh, and no kidding. On the question of royalties, most authors and publishers said that since Punjabi books do not sell it will be meaningless to ask for or grant royalties to authors; some reject the very idea of running a self-sustained Punjabi publishing business as being a ‘commercial’ and so negative activity while others feel it will be impossible to make a Punjabi literary publishing business a commercial success in a market catering to Urdu and English.

The most important factor in resolving this situation is to push for language reforms as has been suggested by Shahid Mirza in his comment on Uddari-Home: “It is so unfortunate that in the new provincial assembly there is no party/individual/group to voice the right of children to study in the mother tongue. maybe we need to start a signature campaign to promote the cause”; and, the comments made by Shumita Madan Didi here, and there. As well, this is the reason for Publisher Amjad Salim and I to launch an extended promotion campaign for Skeena that included discussion on language rights, and for Mohammad Tahseen, and others to support it. I believe that winning author royalties for Punjabi writers is an important part of developing Punjabi language and literature.

The sentiment behind rejecting the concept of author royalties is well expressed by Author Amarjit Chandan in his comment on the previous post: “…In principle there can’t be any debate about royalty rights for Punjabi writers. A Punjabi writer should assert his/her rights while dealing with big publishers, but sadly we don not have any in Punjabi book industry.” I understand this view but do not share it; to me, its not a question of whether a publisher is big or not, an author is ‘successful’ or not, a publisher is ‘commercial’ or not. “Everyone has the right to the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which (s)he is the author.” (UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27). It is a matter of human rights; of how creative work is used and valued in a society; of how creators of art and literature are recognized for their work. To me, it is important to see that a system contains at least a semblance of the ‘possibility’ for writers and artists to sustain ourselves through our creative work; and, may also improve the quality of our work as suggested by Jatinder in her comment.

Amarjit Jee further says, “I belong to the old tribe of writers who wrote and published for the love of it without asking for any reward.” Yes, in South Asia as elsewhere, writing has been a noble profession and the profession of the nobility as it required not just intellect but also education, a commodity still inaccessible to a large majority of people. I shirk from it also because it reminds me of all those other ‘recommended’ and ‘favored’ roles that are created to dupe people into feeling good about themselves while they are made to serve larger vested interests; for example, the ‘sublime motherhood’ concept for women where a woman is prompted to negate all other aspects of her person to fulfill that one role.

In the absence of royalties, what do writers do? Depend on local monarchs where available, find affluent patrons and befriend wealthy printers; Have dual careers, self-publish through an established publisher, and stay in a position of acute valuelessness for being an author who is often reminded that her/his creative work is not read by many; few want to buy it; and, the publisher is taking a loss by printing it. That reminds me of Poet Arshad Malik in Sargodha who would not publish his collection of poetry because “Ke faida? whats the use?” he said; Mushtaq Sufi, a poet of unique sensibilities who has stopped writing poetry; Painter Shahid Mirza who may have canvases ready for six exhibitions but has not exhibited his work in years outside of his own Lahore Chitrkar, “ke faida?” he says.

In every city, i met some creative artists, poets, writers, singers, dancers who are working on their art day and night without hope to publish, perform or exhibit their creations. I am clear that this situation is caused by larger political realities where literary and cultural communities suffer as a whole regardless of their role in it. But the publishers and producers of Punjabi art and literature in Pakistani Punjab though miraculous in sustaining maaNboli languages, can not continue to overlook the negative impacts on their communities of their non-recognition of creative and intellectual rights. Seen from my perspective, this non-recognition mirrors the same model of projected valuelessness to authors of native languages and literature that is projected by the larger mainstream society in relation to native languages and cultural communities; the model that we are all fighting against.

Meanwhile, we are all in a bind and at this end, even authors who are not dependent on Punjabi publishers feel slighted by them, “Lugda ai Punjab de publishraaN agay sadee koi value nahiN” (It seems punjabi publishers do not value us) says Poet/Playwright Ajmer Rode of Vancouver who has worked with publishers both in India and Canada.

Punjabi Authors and Publishers Page brings this discussion together.
books on Punjab