Monday, December 31, 2007

Selected couplets of Mirza Ghalib: Legendary Urdu poet's most quoted Urdu 'ashaar'

Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, one of the greatest poets of India, sub-continent and the world, was born on December 27, 1797. Here is a selection of 25 couplets of Ghalib. People are entitled to their own preferences and there are hundreds of other 'ashaar' that can be termed the best of Ghalib's couplets.

meherbaaN hoke bulaa lo mujhe chaaho jis waqt
maiN gayaa waqt nahiiN huuN ki phir aa bhii na sakuuN

jaate hue kahte ho qayaamat ko milenge
kyaa Khuub, qayaamat ka hai goyaa koii din aur

ragoN meN dauDte phirne ke ham nahiiN qaayal
jab aaNkh hii se na Tapkaa to phir lahuu kyaa hai

kii mere qatl ke baad usne jafaa se toba
haae us zuud-pashemaaN ka pashemaaN honaa

koii mere dil se poochhe tere tiir-e-niimkash ko
yah khalish kahaan se hotii jo jigar ke paar hotaa

bandgii meN bhii voh aazadah-o-khudbiiN haiN ki ham
ulTe phir aaye dar-e-kaaba agar waa na huaa

zindagii yuuN bhii guzar hii jaatii
kyuuN teraa raahguzar yaad aayaa

pakDe jaate haiN farishtoN ke likhe par naahaq
aadmii koii hamaaraa dam-e-tahriir bhii thaa

zikr us parii-vash ka aur phir bayaaN apnaa
ban gayaa raqiib aakhir, thaa jo raazdaaN apnaa

mohabbat meN nahiiN hai farq jiine aur marne kaa
usii ko dekh kar jiite haiN jis kaafir pe dam nikle

hamne maanaa ki taGaaful na karoge lekin
Khaak ho jaayenge ham tumko Khabar hone tak

maiN ne chaahaa thaa ki andoh-e-wafa se chhuuTuuN
voh sitamgar mere marne pe bhii raazii na huaa

aataa hai daaG-e-hasrat-e-dil kaa shumaar yaad
mujh se mere gunah ka hisaab aye Khudaa na maang

hai pare sarhad-e-adraak se apnaa masjuud
qible ko ahle nazar qibla-numa kahte haiN

niiNd uskii hai dimaaG uskaa hai raateN uskii haiN
terii zulfeN jiske baazuu par pareshaaN ho gayiiN

ranj se Khuugar huaa insaaN to miT jaataa hai ranj
mushkileN mujh par paDiiN itnii ki aasaaN ho gayiiN

is saadgii pe kaun na mar jaaye aye Khudaa
laDte haiN aur haath meN talwaar bhii nahiiN

jab maikada chhuTaa to phir ab kyaa jagah kii qaid
masjid ho, madarsa ho, koii Khaanqaah ho

mai se Garz-e-nishaat hai kis ruu-siyaah ko
ek guuna be-Khudii mujhe din raat chahiye

zindagii apnii jab is shakl se guzrii Ghaalib
ham bhii kyaa yaad karenge kii Khudaa rakhte the

dekhnaa taqdiir kii lazzat ki jo usne kahaa
maiN ne yah jaanaa ki goyaa yah bhii mere dil meN hai

apnii galii meN mujhko na kar dafan baad-e-qatl
mere pate se Khalq ko kyuuN teraa ghar mile

siikhe haiN mahrukhoN ke liye ham musavvarii
taqriib kuchh to bahar-mulaaqaat chaahiye

(musavvari=art, painting)

unke dekhe se jo aa jaatii hai muNh par raunaq
woh samajhte hai ki biimaar kaa haal achchhaa hai

chand tasviir-e-butaaN chand hasiinoN ke khutuut
baad marne ke mere ghar se yah saamaaN niklaa

Read five selected Ghazals of Mirza Ghalib in Urdu, Hindi [devanagri] and Roman English scripts at Best Ghazals.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Azamgarh Ijtima: That's the photo of India, not Bangladesh

The photo on the left shows a train on its way to Azamgarh [Uttar Pradesh].
The nondescript Sherwan village near Sarai Meer in Azamgarh district is hosting an Aalami Tablighi Ijtima.
Special trains have been run, cell phone towers installed, hundreds of makeshift eateries set up for the grand gathering.

Dispensaries have already been opened for the devout who will arrive here for the congregation. Here, you can see, how participants are standing on the space on either side of the railway engine.

Surely, the administration should have anticipated the arrival of the large number of people. The railway could have commissioned special trains and in process it would have earned money as well.
Till now we had seen photos of passengers sitting atop trains and hanging by the door of the compartments in Bangladesh where the Biswa Ijtema is held. This sort of overcrowding is not commonly seen in India.

However, the trains on way to Azamgarh present a similar picture. The Tablighi Jamat is holding the meet which will purely be dedicated to self-improvement in the light of Islamic teachings. The Jamat's congregations are totally non-political.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated: Whither Pakistan?

One of the most charismatic leaders of our times, Benazir Bhutto was killed in a terrorist attack in Rawalpindi in Pakistan on Thursday.

Few leaders evoke the sort of admiration that Benazir got from across the world. She is often blamed for squandering her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's legacy.

Also, despite being Prime Minister of Pakistan, she failed to fulfil the expectations during her stints, Benazir still was a people's leader and a champion of democracy.

The charges of corruption against her husband Asif Zardari had tarnished her image. But the Daughter of the East was loved outside her country as well.

She was a courageous woman, no doubt and after several years in exile came back to her country despite the threats to her life.

Ironically she was assassinated at the same place in Rawalpindi where the first Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan was killed. Truly this is a defining moment in the history of Pakistan.

The Pakistan state, its leaders and its citizens have to introspect of what future course they want their country to take. With the cult of fidayeen flourishing the Islamic state of Pakistan and suicide attacks becoming the order of the day, Pakistan has become one of the most dangerous places in the world.

With her politics, some agreed and others didn't. But such a tragic death! In her interview to Karan Thapar she had said that there was a major battle between the moderates and the extremists going on in Pakistan and that's why she came back. Sadly, she is no more.

Along with her 30 others died in the attack. Just like Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated when he had appeared to have become more mature, Benazir was also assassinated when she seemed to have learnt from her mistakes and was back to her homeland as a crusader for democracy.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Zakir Naik's comments on Battle of Karbala and Yazid

The speech of Dr Zakir Naik during the Aman Conference organised by Islamic Research Foundation in Mumbai has truly been shocking. Regarding his opinion on the battle of Karbala, as 'just another fight for attaining political clout', I am not as astonished as I am with the use of the word 'Raziallah Anhu' with the name of Yazid.

As we all know, the term 'Raziallah anhu' ie RH (or often Raziallahtala anahu) is used as suffix mostly with the name of either the companions of Prophet Muhammad or other leading figures in Islamic history as a mark of respect. It means, one whom God is pleased with.

Though some scholars of a bit of standing here and there have held these views on the battle of Karbala, it is the use of this suffix (RH) with Yazid's name which is absolutely unacceptable to majority of Muslims. I have never listened to Zakir Naik's speeches for long. But this comment will surely damage his reputation.

It is unthinkable to eulogize and glorify Yazid. Dozens of Muslim organisations and scholars have condemned the statement. Says Hafiz Syed Tahir Ali, 'the battle between Hazrat Imam Husain and Yazid was a fight between good and evil'.

Muslim leaders have questioned how a person like Yazid, who was responsible for the brutal killings of the grandson of Prophet and his family & companions, and the person who led the destruction at Medinah, could be held in such a high esteem by Naik.

Such thinking has nothing to do with Shia-Sunni difference as non-Muslims also take inspiration from the sacrifice of Hazrat Imam Husain. I remember once a guy was expressing similar sentiments about Yazid in a drawing room conversation and all of us were outraged(of course, everybody was a Sunni there).

He was trying to justify the tyrant's conduct, when Comrade Khalid Saifuddin, who wanted to end the discussion, told the guy, "if you are such a staunch supporter of Yazid why don't you name your son after him". That silenced him. [Zakir Naik is president of Islamic Research Foundation that owns the Peace TV Network]
A year after I wrote this post, Zakir Naik is again in the midst of a controversy. Clerics in several Cities in UP are up in arms against him. Also, a fatwa has been issued by a Lucknow mufti against him.
Naik said that one should seek help from Allah alone, not even the Prophet (PBUH). A few other statements were also responsible for this wave of anger against him. Naik says that there is a conspiracy against him.
Though he is an oustanding speaker with a strong memory, Muslims of Indian sub-continent often feel pride when he compares religions and subtly puts the other religions down. Islam is the second biggest faith in the world in terms of believers and the fastest growing religion.
We have no reason to be insecure or have any sort of compex that we need a fluent English speaking guy to rundown others. Non-Muslims see arrogance in his style. He can be a bit more humble and appreciative of other faiths and also traditions like the Sufi and Islamic sects while Muftis can also keep their cool and contain the habit of issuing fatwas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Eid preparations in India: Photos of Muslim youths preparing for the festival

Eidul Adha or Eidul Azha* [Baqrid, as we call in sub-continent] will be celebrated just a few days from now.

The photographs of bakras [goats] are appearing in newspapers. Later we will see photos of Muslims offering prayer on the Id day.

I found two nice photos in the context of Iduzzuha. The first is photo of a youth trying out his cap (topi).

He looks in the mirror to check if the skullcap fits perfectly and looks good on him. In another photograph, there is a girl who is looking at a necklace in a shop.

Markets are abuzz as shoppers are out on the streets, ahead of the festival.

I am sure you will also be preparing for the day. Non-Muslims would also go to their friends' places and wish them.

Remember, on Id, you don't need an invitation. It is considered improper. You are supposed to go and wish them, and of course have 'siwain' or other delicacies.

In case you eat non-vegetarian food, you will be waiting for the day eagerly. I am quite sure about it.

As far as spelling confusion about Eid, I wrote a post on this blog. It is Eiduz Zuha or Eidul Azha  Do read it HERE.

Winning Brass Crescent Award: Indscribe's blog wins the award for best blog in South Asia

Add caption
I am far away from my place, it's a sort of hibernation, and couldn't access net also when a friend rang me up.

He told me that this blog has won the award in the category of 'Best South/South East Asian blog'.
Frankly, I thought I had little chance. I am thankful to all of you, friends and co-bloggers, who have written mails to me, congratulated and also voted for this blog.

Over the last couple of years I spent time, lot of time and energy on this blog even when I was occupied elsewhere. Hundreds of posts, lot of friends in blogosphere and the intense discussions in comments.
Feels good. The awards site website mentions, 'The Islamsphere is truly a global phenomenon. In Iraq, despite the chaos and uncertainty, there is a sea change of free speech and expression, the vanguard of which are blogs"

"....There are also bloggers in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Jordan, and most other countries that host Muslims, all of whom have their own perspectives on faith, culture, and politics."

Earlier, in the year 2006 too, this blog--indscribe's blog [also termed An Indian Muslim Blog] was listed among top five blogs in the category of Asian and Middle Eastern blogs. And it was given an 'honorable mention'.

Also, it is heartening to see, emerging as winner in the category of Best Group Blog. All the contributors to the blog, especially Mohib, who founded it and has been a driving force behind it, have reason to be delighted.

Thanks to, the pioneering website of Indian Muslims, which published the news of the nomination and also the results. Of course, thanks due to Brass Crescent. A blogger loves nothing more than recognition in blogosphere and more hits--number of readers. The list of winners in all the categories of the Fourth Brass Crescent Awards is available at the site.


In 2010, it was again listed among top blogs in the category for the best South Asian blogs. The site mentioned, "Indian Muslims Past winner in this category, An Indian Muslim Blog provides an in-depth look at a minority Muslim community larger than that of most Muslim countries".

Once again, two years later, in 2012, it was in the list of best blogs in the world. It was termed, 'look into the world of Islam in India, with an honest balance of modernism with tradition and religion". Besides, it also featured in the list of best regional blogs' category.

In 2013, the blog was again in the top five of best blogs in regional category. "An Indian Muslim's Blog (Indscribe) An portrayal of India as an honest balance of modernism with tradition and religion, and one of the few that covers the niche category of Indian Muslims".

Friday, December 14, 2007

Immortal Couplets of Moin Ahsan Jazbi: Famed Urdu Poet's Life and Poetry

Moin Ashan Jazbi
Renowned Urdu poet late Moin Ahsan Jazbi never cared for fame or critics' attention.

Though his Nazms and Ghazals were more popular than many of the well-known poets, he preferred to remain in the background. Jazbi had a tough life, especially because of stepmothers' harsh treatment.

Jazbi suffered financial problems and remained unemployed for long. A reflection of these frustrations, as well as the lack of love [which he mentions openly in interviews, publicly and in his poetry] are visible clearly in his couplets.

It was after he got a job in AMU that he got financial security. He wrote less than his contemporaries but his couplets have more poetry and lyricism, as well as the poetic strength to survive time. Once he settled in life, he took great care of his stepmother, who had made life hell for him in his childhood.

Moin Ahsan Jazbi was born in 1912. A close of friend of Asrar Ul Haq 'Majaz' Lakhnawi, he initially kept 'Malaal' as his pen name but later changed it to Jazbi. Among the last of the poets of Progressive Writers' Movement, along with Wamiq Jaunpuri, he nurtured young talent till his old age.

Jazbi He passed away in 2005. Read Moin Ahsan Jazbi's eight immortal couplets here. In order to read them in Urdu script and Devanagri Hindi, CLICK HERE:

na aaye maut Khudaayaa tabah-haalii meN
yah naam hogaa Gham-e-rozgaar sah na sakaa

tere karam kii bhiik le aisaa haqiir Gham nahiiN
jaa O sitam-sh'aar jaa, aarzuu-e-karam nahiiN

tuu giraa degii mujhe apnii nazar se varnaa
tere qadmoN pe to sajdaa bhii ravaa hai mujhko

ho na ho dil ko tere husn se kuchh nisbat hai
jab uThaa dard to kyuuN maiN ne tujhe yaad kiyaa

jisko kahte haiN mohabbat jisko kahte haiN Khuluus
jhopDoN meN ho to ho, puKhtaa makaanoN meN nahiiN

terii nazar meN rah ek raaz ban gayaa thaa
gir kar terii nazar se afsaanaa ho gayaa maiN

aah kii dil ne na phir shikva-e-bedaad kiyaa
jab se sharmiilii nigaahoN ne kuchh irshaad kiyaa

daastaan-e-shab-Gham qissa tuulaanii hai
muKhtasar yah hai ki tuu ne mujhe barbaad kiyaa

Past posts on Jazbi:
1. Jazbi's famous nazm 'Maut' in Roman and Devanagari scripts
2. Obituary and the circumstances when he wrote Maut
3. Read his ghazals, couplets and poetry in Urdu, Roman and Devanagari scrips AT THIS LINK

Monday, December 10, 2007

Culture fest begins with Milad & Hari Katha: Remembering Tansen, India's great Musician

Legendary musician, Tansen, is considered the greatest singer-musician ever born in India.

One of the nau-ratnas (nine jewels) in the court of Emperor Akbar, Tansen was born around 1505 AD near Gwalior.

Though a Hindu by birth, the 'Sangeet Samrat' was also a believer in Islam. He was a disciple of Sufi Saint Sheikh Muhammad Ghaus, and after his death the great musician was buried near his spiritual master's mazaar.

The annual Tansen Cultural Festival started in Gwalior recently. The four day long event was inaugurated with Hari Katha, Milad and recital of verses from Holy Quran, as per the age-old tradition.

The bhajan 'Ek raaii ke hazaar hisse, us mein bhii Khudaa basey' was sung. After Naat Sharif and Qawwali, the 'chaadar' was ceremonially brought to the Mazaar of Sufi Saint Muhammad Ghaus. With 'chaadar-poshi' on Miyan Tansen's mazaar, the function started.

Tansen's real name was Ramtanu Pandey. He learnt music under the tutelage of Saint Hari Das, also a Bhakti Sant. (The painting above shows him in the company of his guru Sant Hari Das and the Emperor Akbar). It is commonly believed that this singer-instrumentalist could bring rains with Raga Megha Malhar and candles would light immediately when he started singing the Deepak Raga.

Even till the early part of 20th century, it said that were a couple of exponents who could turn a a place warmer with the raga. Truly Tansen's Ragas laid the foundation of Classical Hindustani music and all the mausiqui (sangeet) gharanas of India trace their linkage to him. Tansen is the most important person in creating the genre of classical North Indian music. Abul Fazl called him the greatest musician since Bharat, the son of King Dhushyant and Shakuntala.

Legend has it that his Pir Ghaus had placed a drop of paan juice from his mouth on the child Tannu's tongue. And the boy after receiving the blessing went on to become be the Emperor of music.

Five centuries have elapsed but the tamarind tree (Imli) under the shade of which he practiced music, still stands though it has dried down and there were plans to cut it recently, which met resistance.

KL Saigal came to Gwalior and tasted the leaves of the tree. Tansen popularised rubab. He created dhrupad style of Hindustani vocal music and invented ragas like Miyan ki Tori, Mian ki Malhar and raga darbari. This great composer musician died in 1589. His tomb is in Gwalior and every year the Sangeet Samaroh is held in his memory. (The photo of Tansen's tomb on the left. The tomb of Mohammad Ghous is close to it)

Tansen had both Hindu and Muslim wives. In Gwalior court, the legendary Queen Mrignayani got friendly to him. Also, there are tales about his affair with Akbar's daughter Mehrunnisa. In popular folklore Baiju Bawra is considered another musician of the era who challenged Tansen and they had a musical duel in the court of Akbar.

Listen to some of Tansen's ragas sung by modern musicians.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Justifying extra-judicial encouters, Sohrabuddin's killing: The Law of Jungle?

'This man has no regard for constitution, how can he be allowed to take oath as head of a state, if he wins the election', a senior police official told me the other day.

I didn't want to discuss Gujarat with him but the officer who generally avoids political discussions was genuinely concerned.

He was also worried about the way a politician can simply disregard the constitution, openly declare his contempt for the law and still get away without even censure from top institutions of the nation including the Election.

Other officials I spoke to were also stunned by the statement. In fact, Modi's justification of the killing of Sohrabuddin has stunned even those who had slight BJP leanings.

After all, it is the question of how Indian state can afford to have a Chief Minister whose who doesn't believe in any legal framework. Communal polarisation is nothing new for the country but such a statement from the head of state of a province is dangerous for everybody.

Even Tavleen Singh, who is considered a bit of BJP sympathiser, had this to write in Indian Express, "When I heard Narendra Modi boasting that his policemen killed a man in cold blood because they suspected he was a terrorist, I thought I had heard wrong.

It was not possible, I said to myself, that a man who swore to uphold the Constitution of India when he was elected to public office would admit proudly to treating it with contempt."

Titled 'Our irrelevant state, she further wrote, "It was not until I watched him repeat his comments in bulletin after bulletin and heard translations by those whose Gujarati is better than mine that I accepted that Modi is the first Indian official to admit publicly that the rule of law, as enshrined in our Constitution, is meaningless.

Others have broken the law, others have ignored the Constitution, but nobody has boasted of this as an achievement as a reason to be voted back to office". She goes on to write, "All the killers are out on bail, living happy, normal lives, while those who lost loved ones in the Odh massacre live in terror.

Why? This is the question we need to ask. Why are the courts not working as they should? If a mere chief minister is in a position to subvert the process of justice, then we are in real trouble."

Read the Article.

And of course, Sunetra Chowdhury's report on how Mohammad Habib becomes Munna and Anwar takes a Hindu name Manu to avoid identification in Gujarat. They even put Hindu stickers to stay in business as there are not many takers for a taxi driven by a Muslim.

Read the article.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Failure of Ulema and Indian Muslim leaders: Mere words, Little action on the ground

Currently, the Urdu papers are full of statements of Ulema ranging from Maulana Anzar Shah to Jama Masjid Imam Ahmad Bukhari on the issue of Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

There are demands  that she should not be allowed to stay in India because she hasn't apologised for her writings.

Also, illogical statements that better not be quoted here, fill the newspaper columns. Who should she ask for pardon?

She is an atheist [not a Muslim] and has announced it many times. Outs is a democracy. If any Maulana Sahab has any objection to what she has written, they should avoid issuing statements and behaving like street politicians.

The Ulema are educated enough. They can read her books, find what particular lines are obscene or offensive to any community and then go to the court and under particular sections of IPC, get case registered against her.

Hurting religious sentiments is a serious crime in IPC. Let the courts decide. But nobody takes the route. By wasting energies and surcharging atmosphere on such issues, they unnecessarily create problems for common Muslims and the image of intolerant community only gets strengthened. 

Why always make emotional appeals that don't lead us anywhere? This makes the job of non-Muslim secularists too difficult [to convince others or take a stand]. Strangely, are the Muslim leaders [ncluding Ulema].

They rarely make any effort to do to secure interests of community through legal and constitutional ways but would simply cry and shout, always demanding  from government. And in process instilling the sense of persecution among Muslims. Why don't you act?

Muslim leaders should take legal action, rather than holding protests 

The statements are emotional and sharp but when it comes to legwork, they are simply not interested. Take the case of Narendra Modi. Entire Indian Muslim leadership including clergymen who make strong-worded statements and the MPs, MLAs never made efforts to get criminal cases registered against him.

If they felt Modi allowed the genocide, they could have got him booked. It was not that tough. It could be done in any court in any other state in India. Prosecution may not be easy but FIR registration is not that tough.

There were evidences. Tehelka tapes are there. Testimonies can at least point towards complicit or conspiracy. Former officers like Harsh Mander and retired ADG B Sreekumar are just few of the officers who can testify about the collusion of administration and orders from the top.

If not murder, at least case of section 120 (B) or other similar sections of Indian Penal Code could be registered. When police station doesn't register case, the court can be approached and directly private complaint can be filed [through Istighasa].

But is anybody interested? Nobody says that a verdict may come immediately but at least, a legal process can create serious problems for such politicians. Even prosecution could be remote possibility but the tongues worked, not brains.

Even after Narendra Modi's speeches during the recent poll campaign, the election commission says that nobody has complained as yet.* Now why these Maulana Sahiban don't do that. And if they can't they should not always complain inaction by government.

Will Centre and Courts always take cognizance suo-moto?

Will Muslims not do anything except beating their chests?

Either this leadership should take these issues properly and take them to their logical end. If they can't do it, they should simply shut up. It is better for secular Indian set up that will anyhow deal with the grievances, sooner or later, but at least then the atmosphere will not be vitiated.

Let us only focus on development and introspect what is wrong will us. Muslim women's literac rate was 1.49% in Firozpur Jhirka and below 3% in entire Mewat region, that is close to Delhi. What a shame!

And we have seen that it is Teesta Setalwad, Harsh Mander and many others who will fight for victims of violence, in much better way than the Muslim leaders. (*Late development: Again Teesta Setalvad approched the EC that has now issued notice)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My visit to an Indian Fair: Halwa, Haleem, Biryani and Books

The Halwa-Paratha seller in the fair
Across the country wherever I have attended fairs, halwa-paratha is the most ubiquitous sight.

More so in North India. If you take urbane friends who haven't been to small towns and seen such fairs, they are quite amused and excited by such shops and the desi delicacies.

Seeing the size of the huge oily paratha my friend remarked, 'yaar cholestrol badh jaayega' [it will raise cholestoral level]. Instantly came the reply from a bystander.

An old man with a long beard who was listening gave him a piece of advise, 'khaoge to sab hazam ho jaayega, sochoge to diabetes ho jaayegi' [If you eat, the stomach will take care of every thing, if you think this much you will suffer from diabetes].

Haleem or Khichda: It's different from the Hyderabadi Haleem
The halwa is tasty and you can't get it anywhere else other than such fairs.

Second comes the Biryani Deg. In the pix, just see the kids, one of them has got a cucumber with chutney on it and another having an ice-cream.

Apart from Haleem, Kababs and other food articles, stall of Urdu books are also a permanent feature at fairs in towns with substantial Muslim population.

Over the years I have noticed the decline in titles. In the past one could get all sorts of books, novels, poetry and literature but now religious books form the major chunk of them. Books that scare the hell out of you with their titles alone!!!

The authentic kebabs: Not cooked on gas stove
Book on Etiquette of Sexual intercourse

Not surprisingly, books about Azab-e-Qabr and Qayamat mein kya hoga [What will happen in afterlife, once you die] seem to sell most.

Also, Aadab-e-Mubashrat [Etiquettes of Sexual intercourse], Jinsi Masail and Paanch Gunahgar Auratein [Five sinful women] are most commonly found at every fair that I have attended in the last couple of years.

And then their are calendars, diaries and almanacs (jantri) that sell a lot. Coming back to Halwa Paratha makers. 

Their paraphernalia is most impressive and whenever I see them, I recall the basic reader of Maulvi Ismail Merathi, which was widely used to learn Urdu till recent past. 

It was around 1979-80 when I read it and the Urdu primer [set of five books] that had seen umpteen editions over a century, remained same until then and still mentioned that 'bachcho, hamare mulk ka darul-hukuumat Kalkatta hai'.

Biryani Hazir Hai Janab!
As the books were perfect for learning and teaching Urdu, with cute Nazms [poems] on Gaai (Cow) and Panchakki, publishers never felt the need to revise them.

Hence, the old chapter of Calcutta being capital of India [it was capital of British India until 1911] continued seven decades later.

I have drifted from the subject, I know. But it was in these text books, we read Zo for Zuroof and the sight of Halwa-Paratha shops reminds me of my childhood.

Few words start from Zo in Urdu, as there are three other letters for this sound viz. Ze, Zaal and Zwaad. Along with Zuroof, the picture of stylish 'surahis' and royal cutlery lasted on my mind.

Urdu books & digests at a stall
I forgot the Seekh ke Kabab. Where you can get the authentic ones these days? 

Particularly, the Kababs that are cooked on slow burning coal. Hand-held fan used to push up the flame.

Though in a way all these fairs are same from Badaun to Barabanki. 

But they do have a different feel, an earthy touch of real country, away from the neon-lit multi-storeyed landscape of urban India.

[I used my cellphone camera and that's the reason, the quality of photos is not good]