Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SMOKING, KISSING STATUE IN PAKISTAN COLLEGE

Saima enjoying a smoke in college, a student of National College of Arts Lahore . Notice back nails paint on hands and toes


Sculptor of Man Woman kissing on swing, National College of Arts Lahore
Mosaic tiles Monalisa , National College of Arts Lahore

Lone statue from British era of Alfred Woolner stands outside National College of Arts Lahore,
Hijab clad painter, National College of Arts Lahore 6. Western graffiti art at canteen, National College of Arts Lahore
Western graffiti art at canteen, National College of Arts Lahore
Subtle nudes in Ink painting art, National College of Arts Lahore
PHOTOS BY RASHMI TALWAR

Friday, December 12, 2008

"OASIS" OF FREEDOM IN LAHORE COLLEGE PAKISTAN, ...SMOKING, KISSING-STATUE ET AL …AS SEEN BY AN INDIAN

"OASIS" OF FREEDOM IN LAHORE COLLEGE IN PAKISTAN...SMOKING, KISSING-STATUE ET AL ..... …AS SEEN BY AN INDIAN NATIONAL COLLEGE OF ARTS LAHORE WHERE GIRL STUDENTS WEAR JEANS, SMOKE FREELY AND INTERACT IN LIGHT HEARTED SHAIRI WITH OPPOSITE SEX WHILE A STATUE OF A KISSING COUPLE WELCOMES THE VISITOR , FIND MORE WITH RASHMI TALWAR …….. Even as nearly 10,000 people watch the popular 'Beating Retreat Ceremony' at the Attari-Wagah Indo-Pak joint check post, someone shouts-" look at the Pakistan side"! They turn to see-- separate enclosures for Men and Women at the Wagah Side of Pakistan. For the motley crowd of Indians and foreigners present, the scene is a true confirmation of widespread reports of discrimination among sexes. Although onlookers return with the excitement of the thrilling ceremony they also carry a vivid impression of ancient prejudices still prevalent in Pakistan. But set afoot just 25 Kms of the dividing Radcliff line into Lahore, Pakistan and the views may change. With scores of private schools and institutes in Lahore having co-education, the mixing of sexes is as ordinary as in India. Of course the lines may still be drawn among sexes in government institutions of Lahore but in the private institutions the atmosphere is far from constrictive. That religion plays a significant role cannot be denied in a theological state like Pakistan corresponding to which, all educational institutes have a Islamic prayer room and mats for the purpose. However "National College of Arts Lahore" truly seems to be an 'Oasis of Freedom' in more ways than one. At the entrance itself this institute can stump you over ! Beyond the beautifully carved marble fountain from mughal era in the centre of the well manicured lawn, sits a statue of a human like couple on a swing. The metallic brownish statue of the couple is shown in a "kissing posture". One looks and looks closer but the boy and girl lip- locked in metal forever in wild abandon, continue eternally-- unmindful of the stares they may attract-- not so much as in their existence but the fact that they are housed in a country that boasts of decrying all matters of sexual or so called western behavior in public. Where the lifeless arts too hold no special privileges. Rather time and again the artist and their art attracts the ire of the religious zealots, admits an Asistant Professor NCA. But this statue has been the stamp of the institute for years and even country heads like President Parvez Musharaff during his visit here laid no objection to it, is the proud contention of registrar of the college Prof Nadeem Hasan Khan. Khan says the statue was created by Artist Khursheed Gohar and has never encountered any adverse comments. It is also surprising that just outside the premises of the college a statue of Englishman Alfred Woolner 1878-1936 – Prof of Sanskrit and Vice Chancellor of Punjab University from 1928 to 1936 -is the lone surviving human sculptor in whole of Lahore or even Pakistan after locals vandalized and destroyed all statues belonging to English era or when Pakistan was created as a pure Islamic state . All sculptors either found their way into the Lahore museum or were waylaid by private collectors. The students of this college not only contribute to the liveliness of Lahore with a annual huge displays of colored lighted paper floats on the waters of the canal proudly called "Lahore di nehar "--a must watch for any tourist but the whole pathway trees along the canal are aesthetically lighted adding to the glow of the city by night . Huge butterflies, Shikara , lotus flower, peacocks stand anchored in the waters glowing subtly with gossamer lights. Although one may not describe the freedom prevalent here from merely one aspect another sight at the college completely zaps you. Sample this scene between a girl student and a Male professor in the college premises…. … "Prof Do you have one last fag left? Saima (name Changed), there is only one cigarette and you never spare me any from your own pack, he pouts. Come on Prof I will give you a whole pack but just spare me this one." Saima gaily takes the new cigarette brings the last glowing butt of a near dead one close to one end , expertly sucks and lights up the new one, throwing the smoldering butt smartly twisting her sandal heel over it . …. When asked to pose for a picture for an article Saima feels elated, has no qualms about its publication and happily models with the fag, showing off her black painted finger and toe nails . A woman sub editor with newspaper The Nation says many of these institutes have late night mixed parties with drinks et al and smoking amongst women is all too common. She is not far from the truth as the Basant Festival In Lahore has nightlong soirees of barbecue parties on terraces that may cost one upwards of Rs 10,000 on prime locations for flying kites for a single night. A further stroll in the premises of the college brings more striking things that completely negates some preset ideas of the country with its gutsy struggling readily defying new generation. A whole portion of a nearly 20 feet high wall of the college has Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous Monalisa in beautiful mosaic art. While the Registrar of the college exclaims that "nudity in explicit form is out of bounds for students or teachers" but that hardly deters a student who paints a mono coloured sketch of man in subtle nudity. He is not far from a veil clad girl in another room whose bold black strokes adorn a canvas or a group of students enjoying a chat in the prayer room even as boy offers namaz . A visit to the canteen surprises one with American style graffiti on the walls with famous American cartoon characters. The atmosphere here is lively amongst students and teachers with the jean clad girls and shayrana mahaul that is the inborn culture and character of Lahore-- a boy being pressured by classmates to attend his lecture leaves them laughing with a tease ---"thokrey maar ke apni mehfil sey uthatey bhi ho , aur ek pau sey daman bhi daba rakha hai " or a reply –"woh, ke har ehdeh mohabbat sey mukarta jaye , dil woh zalim ke usi shqs par marta jai " ……………………..eom

HAPPENING In AMRITSAR -LAHORE INDIA-PAKISTAN OR ANYWHERE IN WORLD

HAPPENING In AMRITSAR -LAHORE INDIA-PAKISTAN OR ANYWHERE IN WORLD

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Beautiful Heritage of SARAI AMANAT KHAN AMRITSAR


PHOTO 1: DELHI DARWAZA OF SARAI AMANAT KHAN, AMRITSAR
PHOTO 2 : LAHORI DARWAZA OF SARAI AMANAT KHAN, AMRITSAR
PHOTO 3 : JAIL CELL OF SARAI AMANAT KHAN, AMRITSAR
PHOTO 4 : MAGNIFICIENT CIRCULAR DOME OF SARAI AMANAT KHAN, AMRITSAR
PHOTO 5 : RARE AKBARI PILLAR NEAR SARAI AMANAT KHAN, AMRITSAR
PHOTOS BY RASHMI TALWAR

SARAI AMANAT KHAN , AMRITSAR

GATEWAYS OF OLD SARAI AMANAT KHAN , AMRITSAR
BY RASHMI TALWAR
AMRITSAR
"In exercise of power conferred by rule 32 of the ancient monuments archaeological sites and remains rules 1959 (of AMASR Act 1958) The central government has declared the area upto 100 meters from the protected limits and further beyond it upto 200 meters near or adjoining protected monuments to be prohibited and regulate area respectively for the purpose of mining and construction. No person can make any kind of construction/excavation/ mining operation within prohibited and regulated area without the written permission of the Director General, Archaeological survey of India, New Delhi. Whosoever unlawfully undertakes any mining operation or construction shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees or with both. ………Archeological survey of India (Chandigarh) This blue warning board is written at the "SARAI AMANAT KHAN" MONUMENT PRESENT STATE OF THE MONUMENT However it was seen by this writer that the adjoining areas are being used as residences with new constructions. This was evident from the fact that while the monument and its adjoining areas are constructed with "NANAKSHAHI BRICKS" the new construction uses ordinary thick modern bricks . many of the adjoining portions are also being used as animal sheds and shelters. Also the restoration work undertaken hardly gels with the structure's construction . on many occasions movie production houses use the sarai in a historical backdrop . While the rooms in the arches are portrayed as jails without due permission from the ASI , they only connive with the local guardian of the monument and use the premises for photo shots . In the process many of the monument's structures are misued by using nails and others articles to launch lights and other paraphernalia used for filming . The beautiful 'SARAI' is situated in village Amanat Khan located 35 Kms South-East of Amritsar on Tarn Taran-Attari road. The Gateways and Sarai was built by 'AMANAT KHAN', the Mughal noble and calligrapher of the magnificent Taj Mahal. PROTECTED MONUMENT The warning reads on the Protected Monument reads: "This monument has been declared to be of National Importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological sites and remains Act 1958 (24 of 1958). Whoever destroys, removes, injures, alters, defaces, imperils or misuses. This monument shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to 3 months or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees, or with both". THE SARAI WAS BUILT ON A SERENE PORTION OF LAND It comprises of small cells around a big quadrangle with two imposing Gateways known as LAHOURI DARWAZA –which is white inlaid with fine glazed tile and Persian calligraphy and on the opposite side is the DELHI DARWAZA of red sandstone of RAJASTHAN and file filigree work can be seen in the upper balcony . Both DARWAZAS are placed in the center of eastern and western wings. A mosque, well and open space for horses and bullocks etc. were provided within the quadrangle. It has a "prayer Chamber" and is entered through arched opening. The roof is spectacularly made with Nanakshahi bricks in a grand circular rising upto the dome The spandrels of the arches are decorated with fine glazed tile work. The gateways, both similar in design, consist of two chambered central passage with rooms. The façade has two arched recesses, placed on either side of the central opening above which are Projecting balconies, executed in triviate style. The remaining portions are being decorated with arched recesses in low relief to the outer corners are added two octagonal towers crowned with Cupolas. The edges of the arches, the spandrels and two small panels are decorated with glazed tile-work. The colored designs show floral scrolls and GULDASTAS placed in between foliage. (Notification No. PN 19571 Dated 25.06.1928).

Friday, October 24, 2008

BSF traps One Bangladeshi

AMRITSAR OCTOBER 24, 2008 BSF traps One Bangladeshi RASHMI TALWAR TARN TARAN (AMRITSAR ) October 24, 2008--- BSF's 08 Battalion on Friday nabbed one Bangladeshi Nitin Bishna of village Janetta in Bangladesh while he was trying to cross over to Pakistan from the Khalra sector . BSF personnel Vipin Kumar nabbed the Bangladeshi at BoP (Border out Post) no 145 while he was attempting to cross the barbed wire. A case has been registered xxxx

Rs 98,000 in Indian fake currency seized from Indo- Pak border village

AMRITSAR OCTOBER 24, 2008 Rs 98,000 in Indian fake currency seized from Indo- Pak border village RASHMI TALWAR TARN TARAN (AMRITSAR ) October 24, 2008---- As much as 98,000 in fake Indian currency were seized from one Jatinder Singh of village Havellian Naushera Dhala on Indo Pak border, falling in the Tarn Taran district, on Friday. SP Special Narcotic Cell (TT) while talking to the press said that the SNC had set up a decoy and laid a trap for Jatinder son of Gurcharan Singh of the village. The deal between an SNC decoy and the smuggler was sealed at Rs 10,000 for fake currency of One lakh Rupees in Rs 500 denomination. When Jatinder came with fake currency he was nabbed by the sleuths of the SNC informed SP SNC Gurpeet Singh. a case has been registered against the accused. According to SNC Paramjit Singh is the mastermind behind this gang of Indo Pak smugglers. xxxx

DLH-CHD-AMRITSAR high speed train gets nod for pre-feasibility report from Lok Sabha

AMRITSAR OCTOBER 24, 2008 Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar high speed train gets nod for pre-feasibility report from Lok Sabha RASHMI TALWAR AMRITSAR October 24, 2008--------- Even as the issue Mumbai to Ludhiana freight corridor's extension to Amritsar is held in abeyance the Ministry of Railways has decided to conduct pre-feasibility studies for construction of high speed passenger corridors equipped with state of the art, signaling and train control system for Delhi – Chandigarh – Amritsar corridor . along with this studies would also be conducted for three other "high speed rail " corridors including ' Pune – Mumbai – Ahmedabad'; ' Hyderabad – Dornakal – Vijayawada – Chennai' and 'Chennai – Bangalore – Coimbatore – Ernakulam' . The proposed section will be having dedicated tracks solely for running trains at speed of 300 to 350 kilometers per hour. These trains will have state of art technology, traveling comfort and on board services. The Rail ministry said presently, technology for such trains is not available with Indian Railways. Detailed requirement of technology will be assessed during the course of pre-feasibility study. Till now, global tenders for engaging a consultant for Delhi– Chandigarh – Amritsar and Pune–Ahmedabad have been invited by Ministry of Railways. Minister of State for Railways Dr. R. Velu informed in a written reply in Lok Sabha . xxxx

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

VEER ZARA -Real life Indo -Pak Wedding SAGA first time in AMRITSAR


FIRST HINDU INDIAN BOY OF AMRITSAR MARRIES PAKISTANI HINDU GIRL OF PESHAWAR
A BIT OF PAKISTAN'S PESHAWAR BROUGHT TO AMRITSAR ESP FOR THE WEDDING THROUGH SOUND RECORDING OF TEMPLE BELL CHIMES OF ANCIENT MANDIR
BY RASHMI TALWAR
/Amritsar

October 13, 2008 ----
A 20-year old Pakistani bride, Anita Kumari in her bridal finery felt lucky and glowed under the shade of the "shaguni " red duppata bespeckled with stars as she approached the wedding 'mandap', shyly stealing a glance at her groom Pawan Kumar (23), amidst sounds of "temple bell chimes" of her 'maika' in Peshawar. Complete with Hindu traditions of ghori , jai mala , saat pherey et al the wedding between a "Hindu Pakistani" girl Anita from North Western Frontier province's capital city Peshawar and Pawan Kumar a Indian Hindu boy from Amritsar was solemnized with much fan fare in the city on Monday.

For the holy city this was a first wedding solemnized between a Indian Hindu boy and Pakistani Hindu girl.
The family of Pawan had migrated to India after Indo_Pak partition but kept alive their relations with relatives in their ancestral town of Peshawar Pakistan . The wedding was an arranged marriage and the bride's s family had come with 13 relatives to the holy city for the wedding .
At the wedding ceremony Anita's family had brought a bit of the bride's 'maika '( Peshawar ) in the form of sound recording of "temple bell chimes" from Peshawar Pir Rattan Nath Mandir - an ancient temple in Peshawar, played during the traditional "jai Mala" (exchanging garlands) ceremony of the couple .
The 400-year old temple in Peshawar is considered holiest among Hindus there with ancient idols of Lord Shiva , Shivling , Krishan –Radha , Ram –Sita –laxman and Hanuman besides Bahiron Nath and Mata where under security by Pakistan government, festivals of Dussehra , Diwali , Navratras and Shiv ratris are celebrated, says the temple in-charge Balwant Ram of Peshawar who had brokered the matrimonial match between the two families .
Anita wearing a heavy mauve and gold lehenga made in Amritsar complete with wedding "chora" while talking to The Pioneer said "my friends and cousins in Pakistan were envious of the fact that I was marrying an Indian. For Pakistani Hindu girls the fascination for India extends even to getting Indian grooms." she laughed and "Yes I feel lucky" she added .
On a solemn note, having seen the hassles that her family went through, Anita said, visas should be eased for weddings between the families of both countries and also for relatives residing on both sides of the Indo Pak border. The bride's family including the bride herself has got the visa only for 45 days, in India .
Anita and her family including her aunts and their children are Hindus but have for the first time witnessed the grandeur of the "big fat" Hindu wedding for real in India.
" We have seen grand Indian weddings only in Indian movies . Islamic Weddings in theocratic Pakistan are mostly low key affairs with limited dishes and ostentation reduced to a minimum, so minorities communities there too have followed the majority communities diktats and adhered to simplicity even in various traditions , financial status also being a major factor", says Anita's father Inder Prakash who is a general merchant in Peshawar.
The bride's mother Giani devi could not make it for the wedding due to ill health but her aunts Jasodha and Kamla besides their other relatives made up the guests from Pakistan from the bride's side .
The groom's father Dhian Chand a kiryana merchant in Amritsar said nearly 1000 Hindu and Sikh families reside in Sind Pakistan . "While many Peshawaris came with us to India in 1956 after Indo –Pak Partition . They kept on percolating in year 1970, then after the Indo Pak war of 1971, again the migration of Peshawaris started to India in 1980 before militancy took roots in Punjab and stricter conditions followed . Even today the mindset among Peshawari Hindus is to migrate to India . Comparing themselves with their counterparts in India they too want to settle here . "When asked if this was another way to migrate the family said "we have only strengthened bonds between our families with a "sacred marital thread" which is pious to both our families . We as families have exchanged visits over the years and now felt we could conjoin our children in holy matrimony".
Two years back Pawan, his father and his mother Indu Prakash had gone to Peshawar where the bride side had liked the boy and had said yes to the wedding between their children although the girl is a plus-2 and the boy is a matriculate .

Thursday, October 9, 2008

DUSSEHRA EFFIGY MAKER

DUSSEHRA SPECIAL For 46-years he has smiled when his creations goes up in flames Father a master craftsman in Lahore used to be fondly referred as 'Lahori' Ram Rashmi Talwar/Amritsar October 4, 2008--------- On Thursday, the 9th of October, Harbans Lal (62) would see his month long hard work go up in flames ,he would smile and also 'rejoice' along with thousands of onlookers that the evil creation has been destroyed in full public view. Harbans, has been a master craftsman for over 46 years in making of effigies of Ravan, Meghnath and Kumkaran—symbolic of the evil brothers who are set aflame on every Dussehra festival as a symbol of destruction of evil and the dominance of good, as enshrined in Epic Ramayana and celebrated for eons . Talking here to The Pioneer Harbans says although he earns a measly sum of Rs 150 of labor daily, for the month that takes to form the three big effigies, he not only enjoys his work but is never disheartened as he holds religious sentiments for this work along with familial ties with the creations. His three sons also help him. Harbans says his father 'Lahori "Ram" too was a master effigy maker before partition and had created effigies over the years in Lahore, Pakistan during un-partitioned India when Dussehra was celebrated with much gusto in the open parks of Lahore, that had a sizeable Hindu population, He was fondly referred to as 'Lahori "Ram" –(the Ram of Lahore who killed Ravan –the evil), Harbans explains affectionately While the effigy of Ravan would zoom upto 90 feet, the other two would remain as at 70 feet each. The three effigies cost a total of about 4.5 lakhs contributed by people. As much as 350 metres of cloth, quintals of paper including colored paper , 10 quintals of bamboo, 30 kilos of seba (jute) and 7000 patakas in each, make up the effigies that takes only a maximum of 5 minutes to be reduced to dust, at the crack of dusk on Dussehra Day. Last year was the first for him when one of his effigies lost balance but was handled deftly with cranes , says Harbans . At other times of the year Harbans along with his sons Naresh , Ashwani and Deepak make different sizes and shapes of kites including patangs, pari's, paddar , gudda and others . In the lean period they sell 'amm pappar' (mango preparation ) and others eatables he adds. "But making Butts (effigies) remains my first love since I was 17 years old and helped my father make them" says he . eom…………..

HISTORICAL FORT GOBINDGARH AMRITSAR--THROWN OPEN TO PUBLIC







ARMY HANDS OVER HISTORICAL FORT GOBINDGARH TO CIVIL ADMINISTRATION
Rashmi Talwar /Amritsar

October 6, 2008--------
The coming Monday was indeed be special and a magnificent historical moment in the history of the holy city as the army handed over the Fort Gobindgarh ramparts to the civil administration of the city, after several rounds of talks between bureaucracy, the political leadership and army authorities.
Major General P.S.Paul,VSM, General Officer Commanding Panther Division handed over the reins of the fort to Deputy Commissioner KS Pannu on this Monday .
The Punjab Government has already chalked out an ambitious plan to tap the great tourism potential of this historic city which includes a plan for the adaptive re-use of Fort Gobindgarh as a National Museum displaying memorabilia of India's Freedom struggle besides a contemporary history of the Indian armed forces and the role of these forces in preserving the integrity of the country.
Located on the northwestern boundary of India, it was here that Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his armies for the first time were able to shut the Khyber Pass and prevent the invaders from invading India in the early 19th century.
It may be recalled that on December 20, 2006, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had handed over the key of the historic fort to the then Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.
This monument was kept out of bounds from the people of Punjab for over 150 years who have emotional attachment with the events related to Fort Gobindgarh. It had remained under the control of Army since 1849, when Punjab was annexed by the British after the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It is expected that Fort would be thrown open to the civilians who could witness firsthand the past history of the monument and of the period .
Built in 1760, it was called Bhangian Da Kila (Bhangis was one of the twelve Sikh misles), The fort occupies a unique place in the Indian military history.
During 1808, the fort was known as the fort of Gujjar Singh Bhangi. Later it was re-built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh with the help of Jodh Singh. The legendary Maharaja Ranjit Singh, strengthened the fortification of the fort in order to keep his treasures and treaties safely. Towards this end, is a specially constructed "Toshakhana", in the centre of the fort. The huge Toshakhana was also used to store large amount of grains and provisions for the 12,000-strong Maharaja's army.
Made with brick and lime with number of army bastions and iron gates and 25 cannons on the ramparts that are now replaced with modern weaponry, the fort was constructed on a square pattern with a parameter of 1500 sq mt with two strong gates, four large bastions and well-defined rampart.
The majestic entrance has been named 'Nalwa Gate', after General Hari Singh Nalwa –the great Sikh warrior in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's army.
The other end of the gate is known as 'Keelar Gate' and it was rumoured that in its close proximity existed an escape tunnel, connecting to Lahore tunnel. However, the army authorities said that they had not been able to locate any such tunnel so far.
Of special interest to the denizens and tourists is the Darbar Hall, Hawa Mehal. and Phansi Ghar (hanging chamber) besides the "O'Dyer Bungalow" a grim reminder of -- a reminder of the Jallianwala Bagh bloodbath (General Reginald E. H. Dyer, chief of the British army in Amritsar and the perpetrator of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that is merely a crows flight to the historical bagh where thousands lost their lives in the bloodiest carnage) . the British Army had added these to the fort after the annexation of Punjab about 150 years ago
Significantly after the Indo Pak Partition the fort provided shelter to a large number of refugees from Pakistan. A year after Partition in October 1948, the fort was handed over to the Indian Army. It was last occupied by 176 Field Regiment of the artillery
However, reservations are already being expressed whether the state government would be able to preserve (and restore) its original glory. Talking to The Pioneer, Pannu said the administration and the Army authorities had worked out a solution. A part of the fort still held by army establishment would be properly segregated to give safety to their unit and also provide suitable camouflage by raising a wall with a cost of Rs 2.50 crore. A special road has also been constructed to provide a separate entry to the Army establishments.
He said the Ministry of Culture and Tourism had already earmarked restoration fund of Rs 2.50 crore that had been lying with the administration and would be used for proper facelifting and conservation of this historic monument..
Despite the prolong army occupation of the monument , the forces had to this day maintained the historicity of the place with the names of the various buildings still intact and etched in original form and have even tried to enhance the usage of the place by displays .
One such instance is the "Phasi Ghar" (hanging chambers ) that has a mock effigy hanging from a noose pointing explicitly over its use by the British who condemned hundreds of Indian freedom fighters and patriots to the gallows. It is reported the General got sadistic pleasure in watching patriots being hanged in ‘Phansi
Ghar’ which is situated just opposite his residence-cum-office. On this occasion , the "Association of Families of freedom fighters" demanded an inventory of those condemned to the gallows by the British , to be handed over to the civil administration as well as all previous records of the fort so that history could be truthfully , clearly and concisely conveyed to the public through historical memorabilia and corresponding documents in the proposed museum .
Also such a list could piece in the puzzle of several "missing" freedom fighters "who were known to have just 'vanished' during the freedom struggle and their mention in any incident or report could not be located .

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mamas turn sons into monkeys --LANGOOR WALA MELA IN AMRITSAR...


WORLD FAMOUS LANGOOR WALA MELA IN AMRITSAR
RASHMI TALWAR , AMRITSAR
September 30, 2008------

'Amritsar' conjures up images of the glistening 'Golden Temple' but few are aware that the holy city of Amritsar is also "world famous" for the "langoorwala Mela". What "Durga Puja" is to West Bengal and "Dandiya celebrations" are to Gujarat, the Langoorwala Mela is to the Holy City of Amritsar.
Every year on the occasion of the Navratras, thousands from across the country and abroad arrive at the ancient “Bara Hanuman Prachin Mandir” at Durgiana Temple here to take part in the internationally famous nine-day Mela to make a wish for a child or for thanksgiving.
The unique mela that began here on Tuesday, on the auspicious occasion of Navratras saw children dressed as “langoors” dancing to the tune of drums in a procession passing through different parts of the holy city , in a rare feast for the eyes.
More than 2000 langoor costumes have already been distributed say temple authorities.
Many childless devotees, irrespective of 'religion' or any caste, don the garb of langoor to seek Lord Hanuman’s blessings for the birth of a child, while many children can be seen wearing the languor dress to show their gratitude towards Him.
In bright red outfits, with silver and golden trimmings, conical caps, faces smeared with fuller’s earth and make up like langoors complete with long tails and silver-coloured staffs, children dressed as langoors dance to drum beats for all nine days of Navratras.
The temple boasts of a "rare" idol of Lord Hanuman in sitting position. Except for Hanuman Gadri, Ayodhya, such posture of the idol is believed to exist nowhere in the world.
According to legend in the epic Ramayana, twin sons of Lord Rama – Luv and Kush (Lahore and Kasur in Pakistan were named after them, respectively) — who lived in exile with their mother, Sita Mata at Ram Tirath (near Amritsar ) captured the Ashwamedha horse let loose after “Ashwamedha Yajna” performed by Lord Rama to stake his claim over the territories where the Royal horse set afoot.
Lord Hanuman, who came to defend the horse, was taken prisoner by the twins and tied to a banyan tree which is located in the Durgiana Mandir . Later, a temple was built at this place. To commemorate this, couples still tie a red thread on this very ancient banyan tree after wish fulfillment.
Interestingly, an eighty-year-old and a few months old baby alike can be seen dressed as langoors to fulfill the vows of their parents or grandparents. On their part, the parents or a guardian sleeps on floor, observe fast, avoid footwear, eat vegetarian food uncut with knife and recite verses from Ramayana during the entire 9-day period. The “langoors” on their part remain bare-foot all the 9- days and sleep on the floor. On the first day, they bring some sweets, coconut and flowers after seeking blessings from the head priest.
Many childless devotees, irrespective of religion, don the garb of langoor to seek Lord Hanuman’s blessings for the birth of a child, while many children can be seen wearing the langoor dress to show their gratitude towards him.
The mela concludes on Dussehra festival when “langoors” finally take off their langoor outfits near the banyan tree.
The childless mothers gifted with a child, untie the thread on the ancient tree on the fulfillment of their wish. According to a popular legend, the unique festival has been celebrated for centuries.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

INDIAN PM's CLASSMATE FROM PAKISTAN MEETS HIM IN INDIA

INDIAN PM's CLASSMATE FROM PAKISTAN MEETS HIM IN INDIA



Indian PM classmate frm vill Gah Pakistan here in India to meet him

PM's Childhood Classmate from Pakistan to visit India ………Hopes to meet PM Dr Manmohan Singh BY RASHMI TALWAR Amritsar May 18 , 2008------------
Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh childhood classmate Raja Mohammed Ali from village Gah in Chakwal district of Pakistan has crossed his first and biggest hurdle in his dream to meet his class fellow in India . He was recently granted a visa for a visit to India. Raja Ali talking to The Tribune here today from Pakistan said he said Allah has been kind to him and he was thrilled to be coming to India in May 2008 with a relative Mahmood Ahmed accompanying him. Earlier he had applied for visa but was refused on several occasions. Raja Mohammed said he would be getting the 'mitti' (soil) , water and another "Tilley Walli Chakwali Jutti" for the Prime Minster . Mohammed had earlier in March this year (2008) written a letter in Urdu (as he knows no other language) to Prime Minister and handed it over to a hindu jatha member visiting Katasraj Shrines in Pakistan. In the letter to Prime Minister he wrote that he fervently desired to meet him and have a few moments to relive the memories of him and their other class fellows when they studied together in the ancestral village . He further wrote that because of him (PM) a lot of development work has been undertaken in their village and each person of village remembers him and sends their good wishes. He reminded the PM that he had earlier sent a 'tillay walli jutti' for him and hoped that he must taken out some precious time from his busy schedule to have tried on the shoes . He acknowledged getting a letter from PM who had sent his regrets on the sad demise of their only girl classmate "Baqt Bano" and added that he was pleased that the PM had done higher studies."God willing I will get a ticket to India in near future ", he wrote. Recalling the time when he sent a tilley wali Jutti to the PM with the 29-member delegation of Pakistan local council that crossed over to India in August 2004, Mohammed said joyfully, "I had made the estimate of his (PM’s) foot-size from his television appearances that we collected together to watch in houses of friends and relatives in adjoining townships". The class mate said he studied from class I to class IV with Manmohan Singh lovingly called 'Mohna' by all, after which he (Mohammed) became a school drop out and took to agriculture with his father . He said that while Mohna was a studious one they were all upto tricks. He recalled a moment when 'Mohna' used to be deep in study and they used to quietly steal dry fruit from his pockets. "He knew our tricks but preferred to smile instead". Mohna’s family were dry fruit agents in Gallah mandi.. "Mohna was very fond of marbles, gulli danda and often we used to play kabbadi", recalls Mohammed. Reminiscing the celebration in the ancestral village when Dr Manmohan Singh became the 17th PM of India, Mohammed says:" The whole village was agog with cries of sada Mohna Hindustan da wazir-e-azam ban gaya ..... The same year the blessings continued as the village was declared a model village by the Pakistan government. The village was doubly overjoyed when they received the first ever letter from the Indian 'Wazir-E- Azam' , said Mohammed and added " The village had received the PM's condolences through its Nazir (deputy commissioner ). The letter in Urdu was written in a very poetic style. The whole village had felt pride that a man from their village had risen so high in life but had not forgotten his roots and expressed his sympathies for one of them. The PM had written that he was moved by the present of a Tilley walli jutti sent to him by the people of his ancestral village." . The PM wrote : "I am grateful to receive a copy of old school Examination result of my ancestral town along with a pair of Chakwali shoes. These traditional shoes reminded me of my childhood memories. I am very much thankful to you for sending these things which reminded me my past. A few years ago, I came to know that Ms Bakht Bano had passed away I was deeply shocked to hear this. If possible, please convey my condolence to her son Mr. Khizar Hayat."………………………….eom

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

MINORITIES ART-WORK FINDS ESTEEM IN LAHORE---COCCO'S DEN





ANCIENT ARTWORK FINDS SEMBLANCE OF ESTEEM AT COCCO'S DEN IN LAHORE, PAKISTAN
BY RASHMI TALWAR
LAHORE (PAKISTAN)
Nothing surprises you more than finding a rich repository of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Christian ancient artifacts in the heart of Lahore, Pakistan. Broken or cracked is no issue.
If any individual has dared to salvage ancient "art" of minority communities in Pakistan and given them some semblance of esteem – it is the "Cocoo's den"—Art Studio cum Restaurant–Cafe --in Lahore.
For owner- painter Iqbal Hussain and restoring the 4-storeyed Haveli known as 'Holy Castle ' a evacuee property in the Heera Mandi –the red-light area of the city-- was a daunting task!
"I faced heavy odds from mullahs and extremist elements who questioned this amalgam of art of differing religious sensibilities. Sometimes the higher or lower levels of placement of artwork in comparison to the Muslim 'Kalma' evoked outrage. At others it was my collection of paintings of modern day 'tawaifs' in various modes of undress amidst these artworks have borne the ire of fundamentalists. But now with the round-the-clock security, things have been more settled," he added .
Queried over his paintings of flesh traders he answers without a hint of embarrassment " My mother -- 'Nawab Begum' was a 'tawaif and a' 'nautch' dancer in the court of maharaja of Patiala hailing from Dharampura from where we came to Lahore during partition".
About the extravagant collection that he has painstakingly chosen to decorate in nooks and corners, even on balustrade ledges! he says "I collected and bought works of art from local junk dealers -- temple jharokas/domes , statues of Hanuman lifting the Sanjivni , Buddhist busts , striking bells, flower platters , ancient diyas , life size statue of Mother Mary, Guardian and cupid angels and virtually turned this into a art studio. However financial -crunch pushed me into remodeling the studio-- into a restaurant and cafe where I displayed 'my' art now."
His art has been aptly described by Aryn Baker in 'Time' Magazine as "Hussain's searing portraits of teenage prostitutes, thickset madams to wizened harmonium players amidst ancient art ---- a mix of the "debased and the divine" .
Senior Superintendent of Police Special Branch, Lahore Ms Neelma Durrani admits that the 'strange mix' has brought its share of hardships to the place and owner. Owners of other shops around the restaurant also give credence to the fact that the place faced hullabaloo from those claiming to be the protectors of Islam on several occasions.
However Cooco's den is replete with a unique combination of ancient culture, gastronomical delights and a near perfect view. It is no surprise then that it has become the most favored spot for a Lahore visitor including many Indians and foreigners.
The indoors are intriguing in contrast to the dazzling outdoors, giving a feel of different time zone.
Tastefully, laid tables, glassware, antique chairs in almost all settings including indoors, patio, terrace, and rooftop.
A bell hung over a beatific statue of Virgin Mary on the main patio is used to ring in the delicious food orders from lower floors as a 'handi' strung on ropes is lowered and swiftly pulled from the rooftop to serve sizzling cuisine food on any floor .
'Rope- pulling'-- is an ancient method used to lift purchases like groceries, vegetables others to upper floors of the house practiced even now in many congested parts of Punjab in both India and Pakistan but especially in Amritsar and Lahore. "I have kept alive this ancient mode of transportation," the owner lets out with a guffaw.
Warm marble tables heated with electric heaters underneath, under the glow of the lanterns with flavors of mint, strawberry and vanilla 'hookah' –called 'sheesha'--absolutely transforms as one breathes in the unique roof-top view of the breathtaking sight of 350-year old ancient minarets of Badshahi mosque—bathed in floodlight, underneath a chilly, clear, twinkling, dark sky.
The view adds to the exotic ambience of bells, marbled statues, frescoes of deities, flower platters, wood- framed mirrors, and sparkling glow of 'diyas' that casts a virtual spell.
"I respect all faiths. After the Babri Masjid went down in 1993 lots of shrines in Pakistan came under violence. I offered to take in any statue of any Hindu, Buddhist, Jain God or Goddess if it came on the market. So they came to me. I don't want any disrespect shown to them," says Hussain.
Interestingly, according to Hussain his 90-years old mother tells him that his father was a Hindu – a Pandit named 'Karamchand' –a singer of big, local fame. He even claims to have a picture of him

Saturday, April 26, 2008

TRAIN JOURNEY AMRITSAR LAHORE SAMJHAUTA EXPRESS

AMRITSAR –LAHORE JOURNEDY BY TRAIN SAMJHAUTA EXPRESS Jet lag Versus "Mal Gaddi –lag" By Rashmi Talwar I remember arriving back from America and facing the proverbial jet lag that could sap the strength out of anyone, but nothing could beat the "travel fatigue" after the"longest Train journey for the Shortest distance" in the world -- from Amritsar to Lahore or vice versa . Mind you, the distance between Amritsar –Lahore --the twin cities (before partition) is just 60 kilometers from each other and merely "3 Kms" apart from each others border and not thousands of Kms. However when I arrived back from Lahore just before the deadly twin blasts in capital of West Punjab, my family heaved a sigh of relief. Seeing my groggy appearance for the second day after arrival they broke into peels of laughter and commented "lookan nu JET LAG honda hai tuhanu "mal gaddi –lag" (goods train) hoya hai " The Samjhauta Express train between the two countries may be the "train of emotions" for those who were separated during partition but surely the "Samjhauta-Compromise" is all for real on every front, even if it means the dubious distinction of being a train for smuggling. But for many of us the ground reality saw emotions of a different kind---of endless wait, rushing, grabbing, queuing, minor scuffles along with hunger pangs and hot tempers. Due to the sizeable number of our group our journey from Lahore to Amritsar started at 6 am to reach Lahore station. Formalities of passports, tickets et al done, the train finally started at 8 am. As the first "International" train between India and Pakistan chugged along the railway track towards Wagah (village in Pakistan on border ) the nearly 25 Kms of journey to border took more than one and half hour in a third class compartment . On reaching Wagah, entire baggage of passengers was downloaded for immigration and customs. "Helter-skelter ran people looking for baggage trolleys standing in long queues. After another set of formalities, people struggled to get back to their seats but nothing remained in the name of seats!" All were occupied or laden with baggage. The passage-ways full of sacks and assorted luggage. Weary and hungry, a bottle of coke with pack of biscuits was all that I could manage to grab from the lone vendor at Wagah station. No sooner did some eye the goodies and what remained was the 'transparent' bottle and a biscuit cover. After that no one dared to open the "meager morsels" that they stored for onward journey. Perched precariously on baggage it was a 'rock-n-roll' experience. Painstakingly, the train departed at about 2 pm to be again halted near border gates. Emotions ran high in fascination to see BSF personnel gracefully riding a horse alongside the train. For those with cameras the snail's pace proved a boon as pristine rural landscapes on either side were caught for posterity in 'unblurred' picture frames. Many prayed post crossing the Radcliffe railway line while many were amused as police personnel on duty offered them handsome exchange currency! The situation was no better with cumbersome customs and immigration at Attari "International" Railway station on the Indian side. Again the race for trolleys--with only 200 of them for nearly 500 alighting passengers-- Minor scuffles and hot words ensued-- At about 5 .30 pm I managed to reach my waiting family outside the station. Ordeal of nearly 12-hours over, some aptly commented "what can you expect with a rail ticket on Indian side costing measly Rs 18 but surely the Pakistani side could do better with a Lahore to Attari ticket at Rs 100 (Pakistani)", some smiled. My last remembrance would be the 'mal' arrived in the 'gaddi' and the 'lag' followed ……………..eom

Monday, April 14, 2008

Amritsar:emergency contraceptive pills?..think again

For Headlines Today Gynecologists sound caution to women resorting to "emergency contraceptive pills" to prevent unwanted pregnancy By Rashmi Talwar Amritsar April 7, 2008 ---------------- Men and women who practice unsafe sex and then resort to the "emergency contraceptive pills" to prevent unwanted pregnancies need to be aware of certain counter effects of using the "pill' . Vigorously marketed by some pharmaceutical companies that claim its cent percent success, the "pill" is far from safe as noted by some gynecologists in Amritsar. Several cases have been reported in the city where woman were found to have developed "Ectopic" pregnancy post usage of these pills . The 'Ectopic' pregnancy is when the pregnancy takes place other than the uterus. Most commonly these pregnancies can take place in the fallopian tubes besides other areas could be ovaries, cervix or even abdomen and can be fatal for mother. A gynecologist of the city requesting anonymity revealed that at least three patients had come to her for treatment in the past 3-4 months with severe abdominal pain. When tested it was found that they had 'Ectopic' pregnancies and surprisingly all three had been consuming the 'emergency contraceptive pill'. "Their pregnancy occurred in the fallopian tube and caused severe pain in the abdomen with bleeding . The condition is life threatening as contrary to pregnancy in uterus as the most natural environment for the foetus, the egg fertilizes and is implanted in the fallopian tube of the patient", the gynecologist added Another gynecologist explained that as per medical reports the movement of the ovum or the egg is controlled by natural hormones. The pill is targeted to change the natural balance and course of hormones that serves to control the 'unwanted' pregnancy. However the pill is also known to be causing imbalance in hormones leading to unnatural changes that have resulted in 'Ectopic' pregnancies. Undetected or ignored cases of Ectopic pregnancies may lead to rupture of the tube internally causing death, the doctor contended. The gynecologist who dealt with three such cases in a private hospital of the city said "when some patients came to me with severe abdominal pain their ultrasound proved the presence of the foetus in the fallopian tube. Subsequently a number of such cases have been recorded in the city wherein patient had felt safe in the knowledge of having taken the emergency contraceptive pill to prevent pregnancy but have landed in a serious situation". She advised that companies advertising such pills should be asked to fully inform the patient about the effects of the pill and possible outcomes through wrapper information or in the advertisements to help them make a sound decision on its usage. "But vested interests play a pivotal role in keeping this information under wraps thereby putting under threat the lives of women users " she added . Amongst the most common symptoms recorded by some doctors for the presence of Ectopic pregnancies could be a missed period, symptoms during actual pregnancy , abnormal bleeding, pain in the lower abdomen or the pelvis. …………..eom

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Indian "Reshma'' found in Jadev Kalan border village

Melody reigns supreme at Jagdev Kalan village
Rashmi Talwar

On the wings of soft wind, rustling through an ancient banyan tree, a clear melodious song wafts through. It breaks through the shouts of "Reshma, Reshma". Sarabjit — a shy, kohl-eyed eighteen-year-old girl emerges nervously, wiping her face with a handkerchief. She is Reshma for her classmates. "Our friend is no less talented than the noted Pakistani singer Reshma," says one of Sarabjit's classmates at Senior Secondary School at Jagdev Kalan village, the birthplace of renowned Muslim poet Hasham Shah. Interestingly, the marble plaque at the school informs — "From this village, 105 men went to the Great War of 1914-1919 (World War-I). Of these, three gave up their lives." Sufiana kalam, Heer, Shah Hussian, Waris Shah , Bulleh Shah, Shreen-Farad -Sarabjit renders all effortlessly and with élan. The afternoon slides into evening that is filled with the melody of Punjabi folk songs, bolis and qawwalis. Sarabjit's brother Kuldeep (12) and many of her classmates and junior students, too, are singers and performers. The best comes in when the brother-sister duo sings Sassi Punnu, Nazuk pyer maluk sassi de, mehendi nal savarey — the creation of poet Hasham Shah. Sarabjit and Kuldeep's parents, Dharm Singh and Balwinder Kaur, both are singers. Guru Nanak Dev University recently recorded a CD of Sarabjit's songs. She was also invited to radio station two years back after an audition survey, and instead of the "Bal Vani" programme for children, she was chosen for "Yuva Vani" in which young adult singers participate. Interestingly, the village boasts of many singers and performers. One Manjit Singh anchors programmes, mimics, sings and plays harmonium and dhol. Sardool Sikander is another upcoming singer. The singers from this village like to call themselves descendants of Bhai Mardana — a Muslim who accompanied Guru Nanak Dev throughout his journeys. But this may be far from the truth.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

AMRITSAR:NO FADE OUT YET FOR JHATT-PHATT PHOTOS,LAL TOPIWALAS

AMRITSAR:NO FADE OUT YET FOR JHATT-PHATT PHOTOS,LAL TOPIWALAS



This “dentist” in Amritsar confesses earnings up to Rs 4000 per month A man sits almost motionlessly. He removes a cover from a black case mounted on a makeshift tripod made of old crutches. Within five minutes his black and white (B&W) picture is ready — all with the help of a century-old “jhat patt” (immediate) camera.
BY RASHMI TALWAR
AMRITSAR
: While early pin-hole and daguerreotype cameras may have found proud berths in museums in France or other developed countries, the improvised “desi” versions of these cameras are still a source of income in the city, despite the hi-tech innovations in the field of photography.
The indigenously-made “desi” camera called “mint” camera has many takers. It can churn out a good number of photos, and at Rs 25 for two pairs of passport-size photos, there are many who prefer to have their pictures clicked with these cameras to save a few bucks. Photographs for admission, pension and other official purposes are often clicked with such cameras.
Says Mr Kulwant Singh, owner of Bedi Studios, “My ‘ancient’ camera comes alive several times in a day.” Clearly his century-old apparatus competes with the camera of his next-door neighbour who has set up a newly-innovated computer operation studio using the back portion of an auto-rickshaw that has been turned into a colour-lab run by a genset that even has a fan to keep the machinery cool!
Interestingly, many foreigners flock to these “jhatt-patt” cameras to get themselves clicked and carry back memories of the city. Mr Kulwant Singh still earns up to Rs 200 per day from his “jhat patt” camera. He reveals that about seven such “desi” studios continue to line up near the base of the Bhandari Bridge on the way to the railway station.
The city, in fact, is unique in many ways. Here, century-old delights continue to co-exist with the latest technological advances. Next to the photo stall, a “quack” dentist displays various dentures and tooth moulds and his banner reads — “Full denture and artificial teeth”. This “dentist” confesses earnings up to Rs 4000 per month. The profession is more than century-old, he says, as his forefathers had passed it on to him. Dr Navneet Grewal, Assistant Professor and Head, Government Dental College, says that these “quacks” often are not equipped to treat patients. “We get ‘spoilt’ cases of infections, especially from the lower socio-economic strata of society to which these quacks cater.”
Near Jhajgarh and Shani Mata Mandir, Hall Gate, a troop of “ear-cleaners” or “Lal Topiwalas”, as they are popularly referred to, descends in mornings. Many a customer is seen enjoying the strange luxury of someone cleaning his ears. But it is a fact that more than cleaning, these so-called ear-cleaners induce infections. Dr Vivek Khanna, an ENT specialist, admits that amateur cleaning could lead to “iatrogenic infection” (induced) that is caused by unhygienic conditions.
Also “medical messiahs” who claim to be “Khandani Hakims” (ancestral hakims) exploit ignorant people who hesitate to approach qualified doctors due to “social stigma” attached to sexual problems. Clinics run by chemists or grocery shop owners are seen openly selling ‘wonder drugs’ with tall promises of aphrodisiac power. The trump card of most of these unscrupulous persons is a catchy line like “fresh herbs from high altitudes” and big hoardings such as “action”, “energy creator”, “safe harmless herbal capsules”, “a triple energiser for all types of weaknesses”. Such tactics are enough to fleece the gullible customers. “Quackery is the legitimate offspring of ignorance,” says Dr Suresh Chauhan, a qualified Ayurvedic doctor.
The city offers yet more interesting age-old customer-care contraptions. “Kacha-koyla hot presses” operating on pushcarts can give a corporate look to any shirt in the city at just 80 paisa for one shirt! While models of such irons find place as mementos in houses of NRIs abroad, in the city they are very much a part of the daily life.
There’s still more. The dhobi ghats of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time continue to make bhatti (furnace). Manual washing on these ghats is carried out in the city despite the use of hydro machines. Similarly, vendors selling “kikar ki datan” (indigenous toothbrush) are still popular with old-timers, though some use datans of neem, shahtoot for medical reasons.
“Budhi mai da jhatta” candy-man often rings a familiar bell in the city and jaggery-man “gatta wala” blows the whistle ever so sweetly as he designs peacocks, flags, cycles out of the yummy candy.
“Gola” or “chuski” (ice candy) and locally-made ice creams served on banana leaves have many takers. Special culinary delights “batta”, marble-sealed bottle of lemonade and “Rose” from Ami Chand outside the Golden Temple have become a “must-try”, despite MNC beverages and fruit juices in tetra packs! The famous “kulfi” of the Hall Bazaar, too, retains its unusual flavour despite many city cousins of it being marketed at posh shopping arcades in fancy wrappers.
Even the “desi tandoor” (earthen oven), which is exported to neighbouring countries and is especially popular in Dubai, finds favour with many foreigners and Indians who take a smaller version of it abroad for making lip-smacking naans, rotis, kulchas and all Punjabi tandoori fare that is a rage in the West.
"JHATT-PHATT" FAKING............
It is learnt that persons indulging in dubious land deals prefer to get clicked from “jhatt-patt” cameras for purpose of revenue records, as the picture quality is lost within a short span of time.
This “desi” version of the pin-hole camera is an interesting device precariously balanced on a tripod made of old rickety crutches. A slot is made to put photosensitive Nova RC glossy paper from a hole made in the case and the target is positioned on a chair.
On the other side, a lid is uncovered for a split second for exposure of light from target, while a shade protects the exposure slot from sunlight. The exposed paper is pulled out from the case by the photographer who inserts his hand into an old trouser-leg of a pair of jeans attached to the other end. The paper is put into a developer solution in the case which acts like a mini “dark room” and further dropped into a fixer below which is wrapped with wet towel to keep it at suitable temperature. The pictures are ready in five minutes!

AMAN-- THE ANGEL--About a 14 year old who lives through 11 people

MIDDLE Published in The Tribune page 10 AMAN--The Angel--Is About a 14-year old who lives through 11 people
by Rashmi Talwar (Amritsar)
February 5, 2008

I rushed into the arms of Mamta Jain, my dearest friend, at the Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. She wailed “My baby” “My Baby” and broke in tears. This was my second time to the hospital straight from the railway station since Mamta’s only son Aman was admitted there in the April of 2005. All around her relatives and friends cried anew with the mother’s sobs as her son struggled between life and death from an acute asthma attack rendering him comatose. As Mamta’s tears poured down my neck, suddenly she lifted her head and announced that she and her husband Arun Jain had decided to donate all the organs of their 14-year-old son who was declared brain dead. The announcement by this couple from Gurgaon took everyone by surprise and overwhelmed even those unknown to them, while the hospital suddenly showed signs of furious activity. The couple, their family and friends had tried every possible means to revive the son who was the youngest after two daughters Rashi and Disha. Oxygen tent, rushing to gurus, “mannat” to reiki, no stone was left unturned, as round the clock the family prayed for a “miracle”. Mamta and Arun even recorded their voice telling Aman how much they loved him, reminding him of their good times together and conveyed their message through a walkman to rekindle the desire to fight back and live again! When all hope failed they decided that their beloved son would not go unsung — he would go as an “angel”. They donated all his organs and gave fresh lease of life to 11 people. In a moment alone Mamta answered to me that she feels proud to have been able to carry out such a decision and didn’t let the thoughts of his teenage body being cut even as his heart was kept beating to flush the organs, ever cloud her mind. I felt like saluting this courageous and brave woman! Many letters of condolences praising the couple poured in for months. Many were read out at his “chautha” ceremony. It reminded me of the first time we had come for Aman’s birthday celebration to Gurgaon and the present scenario of kidney racket in the same city that threw up suggestions in favour of cadaver donations. A recent article about an army hospital research and referral in Delhi truly showed the way to organ donation and a wakeup call to all those who truly feel close to god unmindful of dogmas and superstitions of their religion. As one poster in this hospital reads, “Don’t carry your organs to heaven because God knows we need them here more ….” Aman truly became an “angel” not only for his parents who still cradle his memories in scrapbook and the 11 who benefited from him but for all those who hear his story.

Promote AtamJeet' Artwork

Friday, January 18, 2008

Little India away from homeThe over-the top desi touch at Jackson Heights in the US leaves an Indian visitor both nostalgic and amused, writes Rashmi Talwar
Indians with a cutting edge: Tailors at Jackson Heights — Photos by the writer
Nothing excites you more than a piece of homeland on foreign shores! At "Little India" ensconced in a maze of American neighbourhoods at Jackson Heights in Queens, a borough of New York City, it is almost impossible not to fall captive to the mouth-watering charms of fresh samosas, pakoras, kichori and chat. For an Asian it is just the place that comes as a "homely antidote" after the glitz, glamour, flashing neon lights, water cruises, pubs, nightlife, beaches, pizzas, burgers and hot dogs of America. A virtual paradise for every Indian, this locality makes you feel as though you are home. Some of the top Bollywood stars make a beeline here to unveil their shows. No doubt then that this tiny locality offers everything authentically Indian — a rarity in other parts of the US. Dotted with Indian shops choc-a-block with jewellery, sarees, music, grocery, and other paraphernalia, the locality is home and offers business to most South Asian communities, including Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis. However the ‘Indian diaspora and display’ dominates every nook and corner of the place, earning it the sobriquet of "Little India". Road to recognition: A street has been named after Kalpana Chawla in New York Streets here are abuzz with beats of pop bhangra, latest Indi-pop, ghazals and old Hindi songs. There are life-size posters in music shops of Preity Zinta, Rani Mukerjee and muscle-flexing Salman and Shahrukh Khan besides popular Punjabi singers Babbu Mann, Jazzy B, Hansraj and Gurdas Mann. Along with music and movie releases, the extravaganza of forthcoming shows on posters adds desi glamour to the street. There are also posters of spiritual and religious organisations, offering details of their organisations and programmes. So you have announcements of bhakti sangathans, Swami Ramdev’s yoga camp, Baisakhi mela celebrations, meditation classes and even Hindi plays playing at a community temple. If the Indian culture and colours seem overplayed and flamboyant, a street named Kalpana Chawla Way — as a tribute to the Indian astronaut who died during a space expedition — truly makes an Indian proud. CHANTING DESI MANTRA: A pandit heading for work The street in Little India has everything that an Indian would need in the US. There are 120V to 240 V compatible electronics, fixo for pasting beard along with special round-tipped scissors for moustaches. Surprisingly, kali mehndi (henna) is more in demand than hair colours. If there’s a wedding in the family, there’s no need to fret. For, all the items required in the ceremony and rituals are available here: sehras, kalirey, chura, lehangas, nariyal, banana leaves, mauli, kum-kum, trendy bindis, etc. Also, on sale are havan kunds, portraits of the 10 Sikh gurus, idols of gods and goddesses as well as strings of rudaraksh. Add to this CDs of Gayatri Mantra, bhajans, Sufi songs, Guru ki bani and shabads. It is a little surprising to see a number of elderly Indians working at these stores. There are turbaned ‘old’ men pressing leaflets to passers-by for saree sales at glittering stores or elderly Punjabi women displaying CDs and DVDs of Bollywood masala and music before prospective customers. Manjeet, alias Maan, a shop owner, says it is common to find "pop-mom shops" among the Indians here. It is common for Indian families to run businesses that involves the elderly in the family," he discloses in ‘Pinglish’— a mix of Punjabi and English. While fresh karelas, bhindi, tori and mirchis jostle for space with mini tomatoes, baby corn and snow-peas outside some grocery stores in neatly lined cases, tindas and parbal shunned back home as the poor man’s meals, are really a treat here with the magic of Indian spices. Interestingly the most sought after item is the "curd starter" — jaag— that promises to prepare the perfect Indian curd. Mouth-watering snacks like papri chat, honey roasted nuts, kebabs, tikkas, and rasmalai are enough o make one nostalgic. Fragrance of sandalwood incense emanates from jewellery and multi-ethnic stores. Surprisingly, the gold jewellery displayed here is hideously loud and garish. Perhaps this is the only place where pizzas are sold cheaper than Indian delicacies like kalakand and kaju ki barfi. While the barfi comes for $7 a piece, two large slices of pizza and a can of soda are sold for $4. A foodie could find a sumptuous buffet ($120 to $150) of chicken tikka, tandoori drumsticks, malai kofta, palak paneer, kadai ghosht, chicken and goat curry, raita, palao, giant glass of lassi, chach (buttermilk) or panna (mango drink) with kheer, gulab jamun or rasgollas as desert. Even halal meat is available. Sadly, however, mostly the Mexican variety of mangoes are available here and there are hardly any varieties of desi mangoes. There are ‘authentic’ tailors for salwar kameez, saree blouses, kurtas and yoga pants. Flooded with orders, they charge the moon for latest necklines like halters and back-strings styles of saree blouses and salwar suits. "We keep in touch with the latest fashion trends from Indian TV serials," smilingly admits Vinod Tiwari, a tailor here for the last 30 years. Anything Indian or Asian is hot news with about 20 weekly newspapers coming in English, Punjabi, Hindi and Gujarati. The most popular are India Abroad, Desi Talk, India New England, India in New York, India Weekly In USA, India Tribune, Aji (Punjabi), Independent Voice, Pardesh News (Punjabi), Indus Business Journal and Desi Match (for matrimonial purposes). Interestingly, the street wares are too Indian by even Indian standards. For instance, a handy sewing kit comes with a mattress needle — the typical Punjabi kandhuee used by our grandmothers to sew quilts. But perhaps the quaintest sight was to see a panditji complete with saffron robes and all.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"LITTLE INDIA" IN NEW YORK, USA

"LITTLE INDIA" IN NEW YORK, USA


AMRITSAR Sunday, January 13, 2008


Little India away from homeThe over-the top desi touch at Jackson Heights in the US leaves an Indian visitor both nostalgic and amused, writes
RASHMI TALWAR
Indians with a cutting edge: Tailors at Jackson Heights — Photos by the writer


Nothing excites you more than a piece of homeland on foreign shores! At "Little India" ensconced in a maze of American neighbourhoods at Jackson Heights in Queens, a borough of New York City, it is almost impossible not to fall captive to the mouth-watering charms of fresh samosas, pakoras, kichori and chat.
For an Asian it is just the place that comes as a "homely antidote" after the glitz, glamour, flashing neon lights, water cruises, pubs, nightlife, beaches, pizzas, burgers and hot dogs of America. A virtual paradise for every Indian, this locality makes you feel as though you are home. Some of the top Bollywood stars make a beeline here to unveil their shows. No doubt then that this tiny locality offers everything authentically Indian — a rarity in other parts of the US.
Dotted with Indian shops choc-a-block with jewellery, sarees, music, grocery, and other paraphernalia, the locality is home and offers business to most South Asian communities, including Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis. However the ‘Indian diaspora and display’ dominates every nook and corner of the place, earning it the sobriquet of "Little India".
Road to recognition: A street has been named after Kalpana Chawla in New York Streets here are abuzz with beats of pop bhangra, latest Indi-pop, ghazals and old Hindi songs. There are life-size posters in music shops of Preity Zinta, Rani Mukerjee and muscle-flexing Salman and Shahrukh Khan besides popular Punjabi singers Babbu Mann, Jazzy B, Hansraj and Gurdas Mann. Along with music and movie releases, the extravaganza of forthcoming shows on posters adds desi glamour to the street.
There are also posters of spiritual and religious organisations, offering details of their organisations and programmes. So you have announcements of bhakti sangathans, Swami Ramdev’s yoga camp, Baisakhi mela celebrations, meditation classes and even Hindi plays playing at a community temple.
If the Indian culture and colours seem overplayed and flamboyant, a street named Kalpana Chawla Way — as a tribute to the Indian astronaut who died during a space expedition — truly makes an Indian proud.
CHANTING DESI MANTRA: A pandit heading for work
The street in Little India has everything that an Indian would need in the US. There are 120V to 240 V compatible electronics, fixo for pasting beard along with special round-tipped scissors for moustaches. Surprisingly, kali mehndi (henna) is more in demand than hair colours.
If there’s a wedding in the family, there’s no need to fret. For, all the items required in the ceremony and rituals are available here: sehras, kalirey, chura, lehangas, nariyal, banana leaves, mauli, kum-kum, trendy bindis, etc. Also, on sale are havan kunds, portraits of the 10 Sikh gurus, idols of gods and goddesses as well as strings of rudaraksh. Add to this CDs of Gayatri Mantra, bhajans, Sufi songs, Guru ki bani and shabads.
It is a little surprising to see a number of elderly Indians working at these stores. There are turbaned ‘old’ men pressing leaflets to passers-by for saree sales at glittering stores or elderly Punjabi women displaying CDs and DVDs of Bollywood masala and music before prospective customers. Manjeet, alias Maan, a shop owner, says it is common to find "pop-mom shops" among the Indians here. It is common for Indian families to run businesses that involves the elderly in the family," he discloses in ‘Pinglish’— a mix of Punjabi and English.
While fresh karelas, bhindi, tori and mirchis jostle for space with mini tomatoes, baby corn and snow-peas outside some grocery stores in neatly lined cases, tindas and parbal shunned back home as the poor man’s meals, are really a treat here with the magic of Indian spices. Interestingly the most sought after item is the "curd starter" — jaag— that promises to prepare the perfect Indian curd.
Mouth-watering snacks like papri chat, honey roasted nuts, kebabs, tikkas, and rasmalai are enough o make one nostalgic. Fragrance of sandalwood incense emanates from jewellery and multi-ethnic stores. Surprisingly, the gold jewellery displayed here is hideously loud and garish.
Perhaps this is the only place where pizzas are sold cheaper than Indian delicacies like kalakand and kaju ki barfi. While the barfi comes for $7 a piece, two large slices of pizza and a can of soda are sold for $4.
A foodie could find a sumptuous buffet ($120 to $150) of chicken tikka, tandoori drumsticks, malai kofta, palak paneer, kadai ghosht, chicken and goat curry, raita, palao, giant glass of lassi, chach (buttermilk) or panna (mango drink) with kheer, gulab jamun or rasgollas as desert. Even halal meat is available. Sadly, however, mostly the Mexican variety of mangoes are available here and there are hardly any varieties of desi mangoes.
There are ‘authentic’ tailors for salwar kameez, saree blouses, kurtas and yoga pants. Flooded with orders, they charge the moon for latest necklines like halters and back-strings styles of saree blouses and salwar suits. "We keep in touch with the latest fashion trends from Indian TV serials," smilingly admits Vinod Tiwari, a tailor here for the last 30 years.
Anything Indian or Asian is hot news with about 20 weekly newspapers coming in English, Punjabi, Hindi and Gujarati. The most popular are India Abroad, Desi Talk, India New England, India in New York, India Weekly In USA, India Tribune, Aji (Punjabi), Independent Voice, Pardesh News (Punjabi), Indus Business Journal and Desi Match (for matrimonial purposes).
Interestingly, the street wares are too Indian by even Indian standards. For instance, a handy sewing kit comes with a mattress needle — the typical Punjabi kandhuee used by our grandmothers to sew quilts.
But perhaps the quaintest sight was to see a panditji complete with saffron robes and all.

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