Friday, July 10, 2020

Sharib Kausar Kakorvi: Urdu poet who mastered calligraphy, composed chronograms and also wrote ghazals in Persian




Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The ever-smiling poet Sharib Kausar Kakorvi's life was an inspiration for many of us.

A self-made person, he didn't let physical disability stop him in his passion--acquiring knowledge.

One can't forget the twinkle in his eyes when he would talk about writing a second 'qaseeda-e-lamia' or a 'hamd', composing a chronogram or ghazals in Farsi. His zeal to constantly learn and improve his skills, was unique.

Despite polio that had affected his legs, I never saw him sad or depressed for even a moment, though it affected his school education. But he learnt from books, mastered languages, taught innumerable children. Also, he achieved financial independence.

If there was no one to teach him a particular subject, he would delve deep in books or find a way to learn it. He learnt 'arooz' [prosody] from Iftikhar Ahmad Alavi, who lived in Delhi, and was a disciple of late Sahar Ashqabadi.

The hunger for learning, child like enthusiasm, the passion, it was inspiring for all of us. ٰٰٰI remember when he used to do composing work for publishers, doing 'kitaabat' i.e. writing with 'klik' pen on those yellow pages before advent of computer apart from teaching.

Alongside, he would teach kids--correct their Sheen, Qaaf, as well as looking at their handwriting. In later years, he would always have a certain aim. For a period, he would focus on Arabic, then he would feel that he needs to improve his English.

In recent years, he would ride his tricycle and often attended 'mushairas' too. In the town he was loved by all and sundry. When he would go out, people would gather, stop and won't let him go unless he recited a few verses or ghazals.

He has left several collections of poetry in Urdu. His recent collection of ghazals in Persian is yet to be published. It was remarkable that in recent years, he composed ghazals in Farsi, when very few poets in India are penning poetry in Persian.  

As far as chronogram is concerned, it is the art of composing couplets in such a way that it denotes a particular date--the addition of Urdu letters as per the 'Abjad' system, brings out the date or year of the event. 

All these things apart, the single biggest thing one could learn from him was that if a person doesn't have a dedicated teacher or resources, has several constraints, but can still go against all odds and carve a niche for himself, if he has such a strong desire and determination to do so. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Urdu Podcast in India: Urdu Literature Radio brings excerpts from eminent Urdu authors in audio form to break script barrier, take text to more people


Podcast is fast emerging as a medium to communicate and connect with the audience.

The aim behind 'Urdu Literature Radio' is to present excerpts from major works of Urdu authors, poets, and litterateurs.

Firstly, the aim is that reading a few paragraphs from, may draw the attention of the reader and prompt him to read the book.

For example, if 5 pages are read out from a 500 page novel, it can be an introduction to the reader.

Once interest is generated, people make an effort to read the book. After the first episode itself, I got queries from people as to where they can get the book.

Hence, I like this idea. Besides, there is a need to focus on Urdu pronunciation. The podcasts can play an important role in this regard. Those who are not reading enough and have lost touch with the script, can again be brought back towards the 'rasm-ul-khat'. Also, there is yet another angle.

People who speak Urdu but never learnt to read the script. For them, it can break this barrier. It is an amateur work. So initial episodes will have glitches. Later on, not just literature but we plan to read from books that focus on a particular era or contain information.

The initial episodes are about Lucknow, the culture of Awadh, the battle against East India Companya and its aftermath, reading from Qurratul Ain Hyder's magnum opus, Aag Ka Darya. Hope, you will enjoy Urdu Literature Radio.

Check it here: URDU LITERATURE RADIO

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Police Reforms in India: Reasons that neither police atrocities go down, nor there is real intent to reform policing in India



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The aim behind 'police reforms' is to have a people-friendly force that is held accountable. A force that is more fair, less corrupt and treats people equally.

Unfortunately, all talk about 'police reforms' is basically elitist and has little connection with the ground realities. Giving you a recent example:

A man gets beaten up by policemen but when he approaches the local police station, his FIR is not registered. He was injured, there is the medical report, yet, no action is taken, even after he knocks all doors and goes to SP, IG and even DGP.

Worse, the cops refuse to give CCTV cameras recordings, then say all got deleted. So evidence was destroyed. With such levels of dishonesty? Even more, it is claimed that the person was at fault (after destroying evidence) and it is claimed that he was drunk and mistreated policemen, so as to defame the person and instead justify the 'action'.

This is when the medical report didn't find any trace of alcohol. Imagine, that's the reality. Dreamy-eyed youngsters who read about law, constitution & crack competitive exam to become officer, strangely, instantly start acting like the traditional Khaki-wala soon after join the force

Hide info, make false claims, save offender who is from their own ranks and go to any extent to discredit the complainant. This is just one of the examples. In this case, complainant is a lawyer, who is able to fight and still he faces a 'system' that is not in favour of the victim.

There is possibility of reform when there is morality, sense of justice & aware society. Not when officers parrot same line from constable to the top like a gang. You can't get a basic FIR registered in such a case until you reach courts & then department turns against you.

Just look at officers who led the movement for reforms. Many of them want more freedom [powers], not even the basic executive control [of IAS officers, politicians'. Right now, some cops get transferred or face inquiries, suspensions and dismissals.

But those in favour of reform, don't even want it in the hands of non-IPS officer or politician. The 'reform' that is needed is not on their radar. It is just more power and more autocracy. It is not about transparency or being more humane.

Media won't take it up or give due attention, because it generally suits media houses locally to establish good relations with 'officials' & 'force', rather than criticise-question them. Everything (entity) & everyone who has 'some power' is a 'holy cow' now. Stand with strong, bully is the mantra now.

As we all know, action is taken after 'public outrage'. When media won't take up these cases or will not take stand, rather, present a case of atrocity in a manner that victim appears aggressor, it is smart manipulation of public opinion. So when there is no public anger or pressure from top. No action.

This 'model' is well in place. Those who have power, have been able to create a successful arrangement. Interests of these people are foremost, rest of the society can live like 'ulloos', are victims, rights gone but don't realise, even cheer when someone like them suffers.

Vernacular media even makes humans wary of the word 'human rights'. Can we even think of a real reform when there is no intent to set right things that have gone wrong. We need real reforms. First, acceptance that there are issues, structural problems and then correctional measures.

For this, we need to understand that the policemen are to serve the citizens, ensure law-and-order and uphold the law. The policemen need a different training, they need to have more empathy, must be held accountable for their actions and there should be diversity--representation of people from all sections and communities in the force.

Monday, June 22, 2020

93-year old Hindu woman lived with Muslim family for 40 years, finally gets reunited with kin: Communal Harmony Project-54



An elderly woman who was found abandoned decades ago, was kept like a family member in a Muslim household.

The woman Panchu Bai, who hailed from another state and couldn't tell much about her kin, became a part of Noor Khan's family in Damoh in Madhya Pradesh.

The woman who hailed from Amravati in Maharashtra, 400 kms away, went missing in 1979. Noor Khan had rescued her from a bee attack in Madhya Pradesh in the year 1980. He gave her medicine and again found her on road side a few days later and then decided to take her home.

As she was unable to tell anything about herself and spoke a different language (Marathi), they couldn't find much about here family and ancestral place. She stayed with Khan's kin and became a part of the family.

Noor Khan had asked his children to take care of  'aunt'. Everyone was attached to her and respected her. Khan died in 2007. Recently, during lockdown period, she uttered a few words like 'Khanjama Nagar', a locality or place that was not found on internet.

Noor's son Israr Khan said that they finally found that Khanjama was a village in Amravati and sent her photos on WhatsApp. The message got circulated and finally she was identified. But when her kin came to meet her in MP, it was an emotional moment.

Not just Khan's family, she was an 'aunt' to everyone in the locality as kids grew watching her and counting her as an elder. Hundreds came out to bid her farewell. Her grandson Prithvi Shingne, who lives in Nagpur, says that he wasn't even born when she went missing. "She was taken to Nagpur for treatment when she went missing. Now we have found her 40 years later".

LINK, LINK, LINK

[Harmony exists all around us but is often ignored. Instead, stories of hate, discord and communalism get spread easily.

There are a million examples in our daily lives across India but they don't get promoted, hence, news of hate and discord gets heard more. Let's change it, now. This is a small attempt to change it through Communal Harmony Project. For reading similar reports on this blog, Click the link HERE and also find out more about Communal Harmony Project]

Saturday, June 20, 2020

From Hinduism to Hindutva: How fundamentalism changed religion and society in India


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In early 90s, right-wing leaders were addressing a public rally near my house. I was passing by and stopped.

There were fiery speeches, speakers were using terms like 'Babar ki aulaad' [Babar's descendants] for Muslims.

I met a 'friend' who was clapping, he saw and gave me smile but there was no awkwardness or shame in him.

I wondered how he is not uncomfortable. This was a 'friend'. I couldn't dare to imagine myself in a similar situation where my friend's religion is targeted or abused and I'm even listening, let alone clapping or feeling happy.

This was not the first such instance. It happened later too, a boy whom I'd taught when he was in sixth and I was many years senior. He respected me a lot. I'd never charged him a penny for the tuition but then the transformation was really surprising.

For me, it was not the normal human reaction. It bothered me for years. I tried hard to figure out what gets into these people. In my college life too, it happened. Remember, it was all much before Gujarat riots or the Islamophobia across the world.

This is all pre-2000. It was painful. It still happens and now people are even more audacious, don't at all care about basic manners or civility. Those who hate an entire religion or community, generalize, make sweeping remarks. It is too irrational but it is around us.

Trolls have made it worse. But over a period, we develop our own mechanism to deal with it. I've learnt to sever any such relation. Someone who can't take a stand, who knows your for years but still doesn't stand with you, rather, use racist terms, can't be a friend.

I understood more in years to come, the entire process--how it happens, not just this reaction, but the entire psychology. Apart from the cocktail that consists of victimhood, the competition and the grudges, there is a a lot more.

So much is drilled in them about invaders, kings and wrongs committed for centuries, that it changes the personality. Every generation grows up with own experiences. It happened in the 1980s and 1990s. It happened in 2010s and 2020.

Photo. Arti Agarwal

Friday, June 19, 2020

Dealing with 'dissent' in democracies: 'Discredit, defame, destroy' is the strategy but a bad one



Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In an ideal or even a functional democracy, there must be freedom to speak up, question and criticise government's policies.

In strong democracies there are traditions--people are allowed to speak their mind, oppose official and government line and agitate on the failures. 

Earlier, it was mostly in monarchies that dissent is seen as 'rebellion' or even linked to treason. However, now a days even in several democracies, dissenters and opposition is seen with suspicion, they are viewed as 'enemy' and even termed 'anti-national'.

This is not a good sign for any strong nation. Of course, 'system' is powerful and can deal with a dissenter in many ways. But it's better to let him speak because diverse opinions make a country stronger. 

There must be right to agitate, right to peacefully protest, right to express our disagreement with the government. It also acts as a safety valve. If there is a section that is angry, it feels relieved once it is able to express itself, well.

But often it happens that detractors are seen as adversaries. So, they are discredited, defamed and steadily 'destroyed'. There are dirty tricks that are used, lapdogs on TV channels will target them and make the person(s) appear evil. 

In case of groups, new terms can be invented to make them sound more sinister. Defaming is not tough. Once, the lapdogs get signal, they go after the person. Cut a video, if not possible then insert audio in background or claim anything. 

If slogan was 'Jine (life) ki Azadi', it can be given a spin and falsely claimed that they were seeking 'Jinnah ki Azadi'. Media invents the new 'anti-national', manipulates the public opinion, ignoring all other important issues affecting us.

Somebody makes a provocative statement or not, it seems 'enemies' have to be invented constantly because youths, students continue to be hounded. If there is no statement, some media persons event 'invent' it to defame or for 'eyeballs'.

Then, they can be demonized and booked under harsh laws so that they don't get bail for months. On the other hand, those who threaten, warn of repeating 'Godhra like massacres', threaten just before riots in Delhi or give hate speeches, are never booked for sedition, let alone facing interrogations or arrests. 

This is happening for too long now. The script remains same and continues to play in front of us for years now. But it doesn't help anyone in real sense. it speaks volumes about a powerful government if they can't handle, deal with dissent.

Overall, temperature remains high, there is too much anger in the society and it doesn't help the country in the long run. If only the leaders realised that voices are necessary, all the voices, especially, the dissenting voices for a healthy democracy!

Photo courtesy: Jason