A line-up of the top customers reveal the high pedigree: from the late Ustad Vilayat Khan and Ali Akbar Khan to Pandit Ravi Shankar and Amjad Ali Khan and even George Harrison of The Beatles. But ask any auto-rickshaw driver in Delhi’s Connaught Place for the shop of Rikhi Ram; he will betray ignorance. You somehow reach there – a shop bang in a locality that is the centre of the national capital – and you might first take it for a museum. So much for the old-world charm of the shop that has seen the brightest and dimmest of times.
The store’s third-generation owner Ajay Ram himself serves at the counter and attends calls from musicians big and small. The first thing that catches your attention are the walls embossed with pictures of the biggest names of Indian classical music. Continue reading
In a personal email, my friend AC wrote these lines. I was quite moved by the tenor of the text and the exceptionally sensitive understanding of our past from a second generation post,-partition Punjabi. This post makes an important point as we have been discussing issues of history as well as the senseless point-scoring that goes on in the blogosphere by avid nation-state-ists. Raza Rumi.
Comments on India-Pakistan-related blogs all to quickly devolve into “Hindus this” and “Muslims that.” It’s just so useless. We should be enjoying and rejoicing in each other’s existence rather than incessantly lamenting past wrongs, real and perceived. An Indian on your blog is asking why Hindu Bengalis didn’t exterminate Muslims as effectively as the Sikhs and Hindu Punjabis did; a Pakistani is claiming that the Congress actively sought to wipe out the Muslim population across all of India.
My family saw some real hell in partition, but I have to tell you, that generation has always shown a keener interest in stories of my travels to Pakistan than their children or grandchildren. My grandparents’ generation experienced the catastrophe of partition firsthand, lost much wealth, and lost many years of their lives to rebuilding. But they were schooled in Urdu and left homes and friends behind, so I assume there was a feeling of affiliation as well. They saw humans at their worst yet at the same time held in their hearts memories of what was best in the people they knew — stories of courage, generosity, and affectionate friendships. So it is their kids who seem to bear the most personal grudges against Pakistanis. Easy to dehumanize people you have never known, I suppose.
Also, it seems everyone’s story is different. I recently heard the family accounts of a Pakistani friend from Islamabad whose family migrated from Delhi; he said that his grandparents had no real recollection of living amongst or knowing any Hindus. (That would make sense; Shahjahanabad and its environs were an overwhelmingly Muslim place pre-1947.) In that sense, perhaps Punjab was different… more social intermingling, more religious and cultural ferment over the centuries thanks to the colliding influences. That Punjab is lost forever…
The image depicting is from the LIFE magazine archives: “Men placing bodies in mass grave as bulldozer stands ready to cover them up with dirt after [communal] attacks …”
Location: Wagah, Pakistan Date taken: October 1947 Photographer: Margaret Bourke-White
Internet is simply amazing. I received this excellent article by Ranpreet Singh Bal on Lahore’s great son whose name lives on despite the changes of borders, tumult of history and bitterness of the violence. Many thanks, Bal-ji! (Raza Rumi)
One of the greatest sons of Punjab in the second half of 19th century Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia was a versatile and amazing personality.
His father General Lehna Singh Majithia was one of the Generals in Ranjit Singh’s army, who was an engineer and Chief of the Ordinance department of the Maharaja.
For three generations the family had provided generals to the maharaja’s Army. Majithia Sardars family was so eminent that when Viceregal Durbar was held in Lahore in 1864, of the 603 people invited, Dyal Singh then age 16 was allotted 55th seat and his uncle Sardar Ranjodh Singh Majithia being 103rd.
Anarchist situations that prevailed in Punjab after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, forced General Lehna Singh Majithia to leave Lahore.
After travelling Hardwar, Banaras, Jagannath Puri and Calcutta the family settled down in Banaras, where Dyal Singh his only son was born in 1848. Continue reading
By Ahmad Rafay Alam
I was born into one of those families that presumes one completes their studies in a Western university. And so it was that I found, like the many other Pakistani law students who read law in the United Kingdom, preparing for my bar qualification as a student barrister at Lincolns’ Inn. Though the bar was dreadfully boring and, as I later discovered back home, totally irrelevant to the Pakistani legal system, I was lucky to find accommodation in the Goodenough Trust’s William Goodenough House in London’s quiet McLenburgh Square.
Under one of the terms of the trust governing the William Goodenough House, accommodation is open only to post-graduate students from outside the United Kingdom. This was refreshing because, in place of the drunken undergraduate shenanigans common at other student accommodation, “Willie G” offered an amusing alternative in the drunken shenanigans of international post-graduate students.
Willie G had quite a few Pakistani residents. United, I suppose, by a shared social and cultural background, we forged the type of deep friendships one forges when they live thousands of miles from home. Of course our revelry came at the cost of our grades. I once heard an admissions tutor comment about how it was dangerous to recruit more than a dozen Pakistanis into any academic program: “They form a cricket team and never do any work.” Though we never formed a cricket team – a good idea, in hindsight – the sentiment echoes true enough.
It was when I was in Willie G that I met and became friends with Martand. Martand was from India, and for a Pakistani like me he was a great way to get to know about India, the country next door that figured so prominently in defining what my country was. At the time, I had never been to India. I had no notion of what India was like or what Indians were like other than the opinions I’d picked up in school text books, novels, television, the press, movies. You get the picture. Like anyone else, I suppose, I was coloured by the prejudice of history. In the case of India and Pakistan, nothing attracts more prejudice than the fractural events of Partition. Continue reading
Vandana K Mittal
First published here
WHAT WAS once just one portion of the thousands of kilometers long border that India and Pakistan share has over the years evolved into a place almost of pilgrim for both nations. I am not sure whether the name Wagah comes from some village or bit of land on ‘our’ side or ‘their’ side but there sits, right bang in the middle of the fertile Punjab fields that are planted with same crops by farmers of both sides at the same time, creating a seamless green carpet.
I first visited this border post in early 1972 as a child. The war had ended just a few months earlier and we lived in a small place called Khasa just about 25 kilometers from the Indo-Pak border.
We were shown around the border post by a Sikh officer of the Border Security Force. It was evening time and the sun was about to set. The lowering of the flag was about to take place and the Indian soldiers blew the bugle, marched to the gate and in a flurry of dramatic steps and salutes lowered the tri-color. The Pakistani soldiers came next but minus the fanfare and took their flag away quietly. We were told by the officer that because Pakistan had surrendered to the Indian forces, as per international convention, only India was allowed to lower the flag each evening ceremoniously. I do not remember how long this state of affairs lasted because on all subsequent visits I saw the two sides lowering their flags in the same manner with equal fan fare. Continue reading
Ustad Daman’s Dera was regularly visited by the intellectuals of his time who would mix with the masses — a culture missing these days
By Ammar Ali Jan
A tiny room below a mosque in the midst of the infamous Bazaar-e-Husn. The empty room is filled with only two chairs and a bed with spider webs visible all around. No sign or tribute on the entire street for those who lived and visited this room-cum-house. Yet, it is this house that witnessed one of the giants of Sufi tradition, Shah Hussain, as well as the legendary Punjabi poet of the 20th century Ustad Daman.
The room, which is now called ‘Ustad Daman Academy’ has great historical significance for the cultural scene in Lahore. Shah Hussain resided in it and wrote much of his poetry from here. In those days, it was known as Hujra-e-Shah Hussain, named after the great Sufi poet.
Later, Shah Hussain left the house in pursuit of the Sufi way. However, during Ustad Daman’s life, this place reached mythical popularity with artists, poets, writers and common people all of who visited this place frequently.
Some of the bigwigs that have been to this place include Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Habib Jalib, Akhtar Sain, Qamar Yorash, actor Moahammad Ali, ‘Queen of Melody’ Noor Jahan besides many others. The culture that developed at Ustad Daman’s place included not only renowned thinkers, but also common people who would come to share ideas with those who had accomplished many milestones in their respective fields. Continue reading
Posted in culture, heritage, History, Lahore
Tagged Dera, Heera Mandi, Lahore, Partition, poet, poetry, Punjabi, Ustad Daman
Desh Kapoor writes at desicritics:
She must have walked on the same streets that were once walked by my father. Maybe the fruits that had falled from the trees that had once fed my grandfather had also been tasted by her. Now, she was standing right in our house bringing the air of Lahore with her. Rubab Saleem (blogs at Pakistan Times
) was visiting us in Houston and I could not miss being mesmerized by the situation. It was ridden with quiet nostalgia in my mind.Both my parents and their forefathers came from Lahore. While my father’s family was from Lahore proper, my mother’s family came from Sheikhupura, near Lahore. While my father and his parents migrated in 1920′s due to my grandfather’s Government job, my mother’s side came during partition. I would sit down with my Nanaji for hours discussing his childhood and youth. I still remember him picking up the Hindustan Times with a story on the terrorist training camps for the Khalistanis in 1980′s with a map of the various places where those camps were and pointing those places to me. “Here I played my first hockey match”… and “Here I went to college”.. etc. He had travelled wide and well in that land and was fluent in Farsi and Urdu (oral and written).
After all these decades, the Internet had accomplished me to do another thing. Sort of close the loop that had been left open – a young girl from Lahore finally brought that whiff of that city – which has a special place in Punjabiyat of South Asia – to our home. Continue reading