Welcome Author/Publisher Parveen Malik to Vancouver – Dhahan Prize 2018 Events

This year, as part of the celebrations of Dhahan Prize for Punjabi literature, Pakistan’s renowned author, poet and publisher Parveen Malik will be visiting Vancouver. ‘Parveen Malik is a writer of fiction, teleplays and radio programs; a known literary personality on radio and TV; and, a highly respected publisher of Urdu and Punjabi literary books.’ More about Parveen is here: parveen-malik-punjabi-maanboli-writer

Parveen will participate in ‘Afternoon with Winners and Finalists’ on Sunday October 21st at Crossroads United Church in Surrey.
View the details in the poster below.

The main Dhahan Prize 2018 Awards Ceremony will take place on:
Saturday October 20th
6:00 PM – 9:30 PM, at:
Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre
UBC, 6163 University Blvd
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
More information:
eventbrite.com/e/dhahan-prize-2018-awards-ceremony

Uddari congratulates the 2018 Dhahan Prize winners:
Baldev Singh Sadaknama for ‘Sooraj Dee Akh’ (Sun’s Eye), historical fiction.
Nasir Baloch for ‘Jootha Sacha Koi Na’ (Anything Goes), short story collection.
Harpreet Sekha for ‘Prism’, short story collection.
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India’s Supreme Court Ruling

section-377.jpg
On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court of India ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was unconstitutional. The section – enacted in 1861 when India was still a British colony – effectively criminalized gay sex.

India’s LGBT communities erupted in euphoria. The Indian and international press joined in the jubilation with one BBC headline ringing, “India’s Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Sex … ”

The Supreme Court’s decision marks an important beginning for India’s LGBT and for the country. For India’s sexual minorities, it represents a victory in a long struggle against an inhumane and draconian law. For India, the ruling holds the promise of a new era where India starts to step out from the shadows of its colonial past.

I too was euphoric after reading the headlines only to confront a few sober realities.

First, the Supreme Court of India ruling has not legalized gay sex. It has declared that the law discriminated against LGBT sex is unconstitutional. The law is still in force and cannot be repealed or amended except by an act of Parliament.

Second, as long as it remains on the books, the section will continue to be invoked. Certainly, a better off and well-informed gay Indian will now challenge a policeman who tries to lay a charge. But those LGBT Indians who are poor, working class or villagers are less likely to contest the enforceability of the law.

Third, the ruling leaves untouched the more basic challenges facing India’s LGBT communities. In particular, the ruling does not recognize India’s LGBT communities as legal persons who can claim basic rights or freedoms as any other Indian. It has brought India’s LGBT persons out of the shadow of criminality, without making them persons under the law.

If anything, the Supreme Court ruling stands for the same principle that Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made back in 1967 that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” Tushar Mehta, the Assistant Solicitor-General for the Government of India, has otherwise made it clear that the Government of India will construe the ruling narrowly so as not to accord legal status to the LGBT citizens of India in terms of marriage, property rights, government benefits or inheritance.

India’s LGBT communities have just won their first battle against the state, but their war for recognition as equal citizens under the law has yet to begin.

The Gay Faqir

shahhussain.jpg
Shah Hussain was a gay Punjabi poet of the 16th century. His love for a young man, Madho Lal, is legendary. Shah Hussain and Madho Lal are buried side by side at Shah Hussain’s shrine in Lahore. They are known to eternity as “Madho Lal Hussain.”

When I read Shah Hussain for the first time, I felt like I was looking back at myself five hundred years ago. Reading his work, as a gay Punjabi-Canadian man, gave me a sense of pride and belonging to a culture I’d long grown alienated from. I was then recently put off to see Naveed Alam trying to deny Shah Hussain’s sexuality in Alam’s introduction to his translation of Shah Hussain’s verse.

According to Alam, Shah Hussain couldn’t have been gay, because:

  1. Shah Hussain’s poems make no overt references to homosexuality;
  2. Shah Hussain’s love for Madho Lal was platonic;
  3. Shah Hussain wrote in the feminine voice in keeping with Sufi tradition (where God’s devotee refers to himself in feminine terms).

Alam’s first point makes no sense. He claims that a poet like Shah Hussain cannot be gay unless he overtly expresses his homosexuality in his poetry. By this logic, a poet cannot be heterosexual either unless his heterosexuality is overtly expressed in his poetry.

In any case, Shah Hussain probably didn’t express his sexuality overtly in his poetry for good reasons.

According to the platonic love theory, Shah Hussain and Madho Lal were master and disciple respectively and their love should be seen in that context.

The problem is that there is no proof that Madho Lal (a Hindu Brahmin) was even a follower of Shah Hussain or that he was part of a Sufi order. In fact, had Madho Lal been a disciple, then it would’ve been he who was expected to write poems in praise of his master, not the other way around.

Shah Hussain wrote otherwise:

My lover grabbed my arm
Why would I ask him to let go?
Dark night drizzling, painful
The approaching hour of departure
You’ll know what love’s all about
Once it seeps into your bones…
(trans. N. Alam)

Hagiographic accounts also tell us about Shah Hussain’s love for Madho Lal:

When he looked at Madho, he signed painfully and said: ‘Friends, take heed. This boy has set my heart out of control. With one look he has made my heart restless. With one look he has taken away my heart. Taken the life out of my heart, and the soul out of my body. What should I do, friends? What should I do to make him fall in love? Friends, I’ve become a prisoner of his love. I shall not find peace till I see him” (Haqiqat al-Fuqra (‘Truth of the Saints’), c. 1660).

In another account, one of Shah Hussain’s followers spies on Madho Lal Hussain:

You [Hussein] are taking a glass of wine from Madho and kissing Madho on the forehead and the Madho is also kissing Hussein’s forehead … Madho again gives a full glass to Shah Hussein, stands and greets him respectfully. Hussein also gets up and greets Madho respectfully. The two friends remained busy in this matter, and kept kissing each other like milk and sugar … and then the two friends become one.

As for the feminine voice, Shah Hussain uses it even when not speaking to God. Shah Hussain refers to himself in feminine terms when sitting at the spinning wheel, taking part in women’s folk dances and sharing secrets with his girlfriends. This feminine voice is Shah Hussain’s soul speaking as a gay man.

In Shah Hussain, Punjabi and Pakistani gay men can hear their own voice, songs and verses singing back to them. The light and passion in his poems is smothered by people foisting their own culturally acceptable interpretations onto it. Shah Hussain’s love for Madho Lal comes alive when we embrace it fully for what it is.

Meet a Peoples’ Poet Laureate – Baba Najmi in Surrey July 7

Baba Najmi, a Pakistani Punjabi poet who has gained the stature of a Peoples’ Poet Laureate in the Punjab, is visiting the Diaspora this July.

Baba Bashir Husain Najmi was born in Lahore in 1948. He has published three poetry books: ‘Akhran Wich Samundar’ Ocean in Words (1986), ‘Sochan Wich Jahan’ World in Thoughts (1995) and more recently, ‘Mera Naan Insaan’ My Name Human. He is a labourer, a trade unionist and a poet who distinguishes himself from others by challenging regressive laws, rules, cultural values and political entities. He is revered by many Punjabis in India, Pakistan and the diaspora. He has won many award. A statue of him has been installed in Jalandhar to recognize his poetic peace efforts between India and Pakistan. Visit Baba Najmi’s Facebook page: facebook.com/PoetBabaNajmi. Below are the details of his July 7th appearance in Surrey

Beyond the boundaries; An event with Great poet Baba Najmi
When: SATURDAY. JULY 7, from 1.30 – 4.30 pm
Where: Crossroads United Church 7655 – 120 St, Delta, BC
Tickets: Only $10.00

Organized by
The Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians (CPPC), Vancouver Chapter.

Program presented in Association with
The Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature, Centre for India and South Asia Research UBC and Tarksheel (Rational) Society of Canada.

Supported By
Indo Canadian Workers Association (Brampton & Vancouver), Punjabi TV Show, ‘Mehak Punjab Di’, Progressive Arts Club, Surrey.

Facebook event page
facebook.com/events/

For more information and RSVP, contact:
Saif Khalid at 604-889-0233
Avtar Gill at 604-728-7011

Additional Events: Updated July 4, 2018

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‘Legacies of the Homeland – 100 Must-Read Books by Punjabi Authors’ – Paramjeet Singh

Legacies of the Homeland
ISBN: 978-1-64249-423-5
Paperback
28-03-2018
Order it at the link below:
notionpress.com

‘Legacies of the Homeland’ is a pleasant new resource that introduces Punjabi literature to the English reader by listing the top one hundred books in autobiography, novel, poetry, plays and short story collections. The selection process required that each book be also available in English, and this has kept many worthy authors from being a part of it yet one can get a strong and clear picture of the body of literature that this book represents.

Paramjeet Singh

As is apparent from the title, the collection’s primary aim is to engage the diaspora, and it does that very well. Author and Editor Paramjeet Singh has developed a much-needed and timely resource for a growing Punjabi readership and for the ever increasing number of authors, teachers, researchers, art lovers and students of Punjabi language and literature in the diaspora. As well, it strengthens the stream started by Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature that began to offer each year a substantial award to Punjabi fiction writers regardless of their geographic locations, belief systems and favored scripts. Both serve the Homeland by asserting the Diaspora, both assert the Diaspora in serving the Homeland, and both attempt to bring the two together.

These are forceful interventions, it is possible that there be some negative outcomes or reactions to them but in large part all such projects provide a strong uplift to Punjabi language, literature, art and culture at the local and global level as they must by nature defy narrow constraints of nationality, religion, gender, race, and even the barriers of scripts and languages. In that, it is our hope that we can nurture an atmosphere of open-mindedness, discussion and interaction among different communities of Punjabis to enjoy all benefits that these robust processes may yield.

I am honored that ‘Legacies of the Homeland’ counts my first novel ‘Skeena’ as one of the top 100 must-read Punjabi books.

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com
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Celebration of Life Ceremony – S. Budh Singh Dhahan – Sunday June 3rd at Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver


It is with a heavy heart that we announce the Celebration of Life Ceremony of Sardar Budh Singh Dhahan (December 5, 1925 – April 20, 2018) scheduled to take place in Vancouver this Sunday.

Sunday June 3rd
10:00 am- 12:00 noon
Khalsa Diwan Society
The Sikh Temple
8000 Ross Street, Vancouver
(Northwest corner of South East Marine Drive and Ross Street)

Budh Singh Dhahan passed away peacefully on April 20, 2018 in Nawanshahar, Punjab, India but his vision lives on in Canada and India. A visionary bridge builder among diverse cultural and religious groups, he demonstrated his skills as an international collaborator in education and healthcare, and a prosperity and peace maker. He turned his idealism and vision into reality by mobilizing groups and communities to cooperate on initiatives that brought about lasting change.’

Uddari stands by his wife Kashmir Kaur Dhahan, and children: Harinder Kaur, Raghbir Kaur (Bachittar Singh Jawanda), Manjit Kaur (Ajit Singh Thandi), Barjinder (Barj) Singh (Rita Janet Dhahan), and Kuljinder Kaur (Gurtek Singh Shoker); his fourteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

View Obituary
obituaries/vancouversun
Sign the Guest Book
budh-singh-dhahan-condolences
More information
theglobeandmail.com
View in Punjabi PDF
Budh Singh Dhahan – Obituary – Indo-Canadian Times
Contact the Family
Barj S. Dhahan: bdhahan@sandhurstgroup.ca
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No Ordinary Sufi

shah hussain

“If you want your life, die before your death” (Shah Hussain).

This is my summary of Fauzia Rafique’s presentation on the life and poetry of Shah Hussain. The presentation was part of the Dead Poets Reading Series which took place at the Vancouver Public Library (Central) on May 6, 2018.

Shah Hussain (1538-1599) was a Punjabi poet from Lahore. He wrote 163 poems in Punjabi and introduced the kafi genre into the language.[1] His collected works remain among the top selling books of all time in Punjabi.

When he was thirty-six years old, Shah Hussain had a dispute with his religious teacher over the interpretation of the following verse:

“duniya khel tamasha hai” (‘the world’s a play and spectacle’).”

For the teacher, the verse meant the renunciation of the fleeting material world. For Shah Hussain, it meant that life is to be enjoyed. With that, he laughed, donned himself in a red cotton robe and became a dancing mendicant in the streets of Lahore.

Shah Hussain was a “malamti” Sufi, one who took pride in the “malamat” or “shaming” he was subjected to. He stood against the the political and religious establishment in support the common people. He identified himself with the julaha (weaver), the chuhra (sweeper) and the faqir. He associated with rebels like Dulla Bhatti who stirred peasant rebellions against the Emperor Akbar. His poetry reflected the folk rhythms and idiom of everyday Punjabi.

Shah Hussain was a rebel in another way. Unlike the male poets of his day who used the feminine voice (rekhti) to express the “feminine” emotions of grief and anguish, Shah Hussain wrote in the feminine voice to acknowledge and express his own self as a gay man.

If Shah Hussain’s love was transcendent, it was in the earthly sense of overcoming distinctions of class, gender, creed and sexual orientation. He belonged to no sect or lineage other than humanity’s.

Kafi 131

Swaying in ecstasy play on in the inner yard, all is near to those meditating
Rivers flow in this yard, thousands of millions of boats
Some are seen drowning, others have reached the shore
This yard has nine doors, the tenth is locked shut
No one needs to know, from where my lover comes and goes
This yard has a pretty curve, a hollow in the curve
I spread my bed in the hollow to love my lover at night!
A wild elephant in this yard, is struggling with the chain
Says Hussain the Beggar of His Beloved, (the elephant) is teasing the awake

(Trans. Fauzia Rafique)

Jhume jhum khaid lai munjh vehRay, japdeyaN nooN hur naiRay
Vehray de vich nadiyaN vagan, baiRay lakh hazar
kaiti iss vich Dubdi vekhi, kaiti langhi paar
iss vehRay de nauN darvazay, dusswaiN qulf chuRhai
tiss darvazay de mehram nahiN, jit shauh aaway jai
vehRay de vich aala soohay, aalay de vich taaqi
taaqi de vich sej vichaawaN, apnay pia sung raati
iss vehRay vich makna haathi, sangal naal khahaiRay
kahe Hussain Faqir SaeeN da, jagdeyaN kooN chehRay

 

 

[1] A kafi is a lyric poem of four to ten lines.