Friday, June 27, 2008

The Candy-seller on Cycle is back: Magic of Mithai-wala

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In my childhood, the guy on cycle who sold this unique 'mithai' (sweet) was always a much sought-after person.

The guy would take a bit of 'mithai' from the pole on his cycle, and then create any shape out of it.

A small butterfly or a tree, a bird or even a four-wheeler like a jeep or car, you just asked and he made it.

Of course, the bird and the butterfly were the cheapest and in those days not everybody could afford to pay more than 50 paise or Re 1.

Most of the kids went for the 'chidiya' [bird] that cost just 25 paise. It was like a desi chewing gum, though much tastier.

Or, perhaps memories of childhood are always more tastier. After a long time, I recently spotted a mithai-seller.

He told me that business was not good. The mithai-wala also said that he had come from Malegaon [Maharashtra] and mostly sold this mithai in slums and outside schools.

Not the public or English medium schools but government schools where children still get ber, imli, jamun outside.

That is another reason why we don't come across these mithai-walas, as much. I gave him Rs 5 and he deftly created a cycle for me, within seconds.

Back to Bachpan

It was like a magic in childhood when the mithai-wala made the 'chidiya' and would blow a customary whistle without any lip movement while handing it to the kid.

That was a sales trick as children would feel that the sound had come out of the 'bird' and they always tried to imitate.

Of late, I was feeling that these mithai-walas have become extinct. And when I found it decades later, again I was fascinated by the art. In the photo along with the post, you can see this little ' sweet cycle' made of the sugary floss.

As it was quite hot, I rushed to my destination, showed it to a couple of friends before it melted into my mouth.

Really delicious! Is there anybody who hasn't tasted it? If only a Pepsi or an Uncle Chipps markets it, this would be sold for five times the existing price.

And then it would be fashionable to buy it. But the poor mithai-walas continue to earn barely in the range of Rs 100-Rs 150 on their best days and confine themselves to areas inhabited by the poor.

Pictures: 1.The desi sweetmeat seller on his cycle that holds a pole covered with umbrella to prevent the sugary material from melting.

2. In the other photo a child looks at mithai-wala's art, engrossed. 3. Here the 'mithai wali cycle' is ready for consumption.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nida Fazli's poetic journey: Urdu poets' profile and poetry

Today Nida Fazli is considered a big name in Urdu poetry especially after the deaths of entire generation of veteran Urdu poets in the last couple of years. But this is not to belittle Nida's contribution to literature.

Along with Shaharyar and Ahmad Faraz (Pakistan), Nida is among the rare Urdu poets who have achieved fame across the sub-continent and outside. Nida Fazli has been writing lyrics for Bollywood movies but he didn't let this affect his literary output.

apnii marzii se kahaaN apne safar ke ham haiN
ruKh havaaoN ka jidhar ka hai, udhar ke ham haiN

waqt ke saath hai miTTii ka safar sadiyoN se
kisko maaluum kahaaN ke haiN, kidhar ke ham haiN

Success hasn't come the easy way. It has been a life, full of struggle for the Gwalior-born poet. He is often bitter that critics (and also poetry lovers) made fun of him back in the late sixties, because of the particular couplet:

sooraj ko chonch meN liye murGha khaDaa rahaa
khiDkii ke parde khiinch diye raat ho gayii

It was a simple couplet written at the height of modernist movement that highlighted the difference between urban and rural life style. Living in air-conditioned rooms, one doesn't come across the birds and the sounds of nature.

Living amid towering skyscrapers and moving in cars you don't get to see the sight of moon which used to be an every day experience in villages where lying on the cot in open, moon was a 'rafeeq' (companion).

The ghazal has other couplets also but people didn't bother to read them or react to them:

raste mein voh milaa thaa maiN bach ke guzar gayaa
uskii phaTii qamiis mere saath ho gayee

naqsha uThaa ke koii nayaa shahar DhunDhiye
is shahar meN to sab se mulaqaat ho gayee

It is the loss of home that haunted Nida in the early part of his poetic journey. After independence, Gwalior had witnessed more bloodshed that any where else in Central India. Most of his family memebrs migrated to Pakistan.

Thus 'ghar' remains an elusive dream for him despite the comforts of later years, apart from 'child' who is always present in his poetry:

bachchoN ke chhote haathoN ko chaand sitaare chhune do
chaar kitaabeN paDh kar yeh bhii ham jaise ho jaayenge

A humanist to the core, Nida's poetry has often stunned the traditionalists:

masjidoN meN sajdoN kii mashaaleN huiiN roshan
liye chiraaGh galiyoN meN kheltaa Khudaa dekhuuN

He asks God to come down to earth and help people out:

Nile gagan par baiThe kab tak chaand sitaaroN se jhaankoge...
khaali hai aaTe ka kanastar geNhuu ban kar usmeN aao
TuuT gaaa hai maaN ka chashma sheesha ban kar use banao
gum sum haiN aangan mein bachche, ban kar gend unhein bahlaao...

Nida has read a lot. Unlike other poets who restrict themselves to reciting their own poetry, Nida has read Latin American literature, East Asian, European and African poetry. He pores over Kabir, Wali Dakhani, Amir Khusro, Rahim and classical poets.

Nida is no longer the struggler. He now lives a comfortable life in Mumbai. He has learnt the tricks of the trade. He used to criticise Ali Sardar Jafri but has also picked up some of those habits.

He knows what sells. When TV channels' crew comes to him for interview, he exactly gives soundbytes which they want. He blasts globalisation for all the ills, though he is also a beneficiary of it and loves all the luxuries which modern day lifestyle offers.

He wants to be known as Nazir Akbarabadi of this era. But sophisticated Nida despite wearing it on his sleave, has shed the 'phakkad-pan' far behind. Still, he has his place secure in the annals of Urdu language and literature.

Read Nida Fazli's selected ghazals and Nazms in Urdu, Roman and Devnagri scripts at Best Ghazals & Nazms. Click

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don't brand Muslims as terrorists: RSS & bomb blasts

With the arrest of Hindu Janjagriti Samiti office-bearers for the blast at a theatre in Thane, it has again been proved that members of radical organisations linked to RSS are involved in terror acts. This punctures the attempts of the communal forces who wish to brand Muslims as terrorists.

The fact is that no religion sanctions such terror activities and any of the misguided belonging to any sect or religion could be involved in killing innocents but their acts shouldn't be used to demonise an entire community.

After it was proved that the blasts in Nanded (Maharashtra) were the work of Bajrang Dal activists and that the bomb blasts in Tenkasi (Tamil Nadu) early this year was engineered by Hindu Munnani workers, now comes this latest revelation about those responsible for Thane theatre blast.

The arrest of Ramesh Gadkari and Mangesh Nikam, the activists of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanatan Samstha by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) should come as no surprise. They were upset with film Jodhaa-Akbar and also wanted to protest a Marathi play, which they felt showed Hindu gods in poor light, according to ATS chief Hemant Karkare.

But the truth may be that they would have thought that nobody would suspect a Hindu organisation for the blast. After all, it was not their first act--they had attempted similar blasts in the past also. Read report in Hindustan Times.

Earlier, the activists of Hindu Munnani were arrested for the blasts at RSS office and at the Bus Stand in Tenkasi that was apparently planned to cause a communal clash in the City. Obviously, they believed that the Muslims would be blamed for blast at RSS office.

But Tamil Nadu police nabbed the activists unlike their counterparts in UP and Maharashtra who believed that any blast has to have a Muslim hand. Even the fake beards and topis recovered during the course of investigation were ignored by the local police.

The police often looks askance when it comes to the possibility of involvement of a non-Muslim in the blasts. The blasts in Mecca Masjid and Malegaon where the terrorists had struck on the on Shab-e-Baraat, are yet to be solved.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil had recently stated in the Parliament, replying to a question, that multiple investigative agencies who conducted investigation in the Nanded blasts found the involvement of Bajrang Dal cadre.

Most of us have either received Emails or SMS messages in the past that 'All Muslims are not Terrorists but all Terrorists are Muslims'. The fact is that: A terrorist has NO religion.

And the aim of this post is just to highlight the fact that there is neither a Hindu terrorist nor a Muslim terrorist. Neither a Christian terrorist nor a Sikh terrorist. By identifying terrorism with a religion we also play in the hands of the forces who are involved in such inhuman acts.

Read the news about Tenkasi blasts that was published in The Hindu. I haven't deliberately linked to any website run by Muslims. Ironically, such reports were not published prominently by the mainstream media.

Also, read this report published in Tehelka: 'The Hindu Hand' about involvement of Sangh activists in blasts in the state. RSS is known to have been involved in such acts from the days wheof killing of Mahatma Gandhi. In inquiry reports of several communal, the RSS cadre has been indicted.

Of course, there are Muslim groups who have justified their inhuman acts in the name of Islam. And similar is the case of fundamental organisations belonging to other religions. But we shouldn't let their acts cloud our vision, hijack the religions with their narrow interpretations and let them divide us.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Finally, compensation to Bhagalpur riot victims after 20 years

This is one of the decisions of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government that is surely going to strike a chord with a large section of populace especially the Muslims.

It has taken nearly two decades but it's definitely a step in the right direction, a move that will help hundreds of households that had lost their family members.

The riots had occurred in 1989 and the lawlessness in Bhagalpur had continued for months. The figure of deaths was estimated as high as 4,000. After the Jabalpur riots of 1961 , the Ahmedabad riot of 1969 and Moradabad riot , it was the biggest carnage in Independent India along with the Neilly massacre of Assam.

It was a different era in eighties, much before the advent of electronic media and it had taken months for the outside world to get to know the extent of death and destruction in Bhagalpur riots where bodies were dug out from fields much later.

Though the decade had witnessed major riots in Northern Indian cities including Meerut, Firozabad, Moradabad and Hashimpura-Maliana killings, the magnitude of riots in Bhagalpur had eclipsed all previous killings.

The passions had been building up for quite sometime after later Rajiv Gandhi's former aide Arun Nehru ensured the opening of locks at Ayodhya. The aim was to appease the 'Hindu voter' who was apparently upset due to the Congress' stand on Shahbano issue.

Before Bhagalpur, Bihar didn't have a history of rioting on such large scale. The rural area of Bhagalpur district was also affected. At Longain alone the figure of Muslims who were killed was 15oo. The rioters had butchered the innocents, buried the bodies and planted vegetables over them to conceal the deaths.

After sanctioning compensation for victims of Gujarat pogrom, the decision of UPA government to earmark Rs 3o crore for the Bhagalpur riot victims has come as a piece of rare good news. Hundreds of women were widowed in the riot and for them and their families lost their every bit.

The ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh will help has come too late, but at least, it will help them in improving their lives.
At least, Nitish Kumar has the civility to accept that the financial package was necessary. He did make a pitch for riot victims and had also appointed commission to probe the riots after coming to power.

This is in sharp contrast to the BJP that had put up a shameless stance after the UPA government had announced the package for the victims of Gujarat riots. One hopes that there would never be communal riots of such magnitude in future in India.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Anti-Ahmadiyya rage in Indonesia

The sight was impressive, tens of thousands on streets of Jakarta protesting against the Ahmadiyyas (Qadianis) but the cause wasn't.

Sea of Muslim demonstrators protesting against a micro-minuscule minority in Indonesia. It is true that most of Muslims consider the Ahmadiyyas as heretic and outside the pale of Islam but it is unjustifiable to come out in such massive strength on the streets, against your own countrymen because they have a different set of beliefs.

The rage is clearly manufactured by the mulla for his own interests. Haven't heretic sects existed in Islamic world for centuries. Religious groups as diverse as Nusayris, Druzes and Yazidis have been living together in Middle-East.

Or is it that Ahmadiyyas are the latest of the group, barely a century old. Many fundamentalists among mainstream Islamic sects also keep accusing the other sect of heresy and there is no end to such internecine disputes. Despite their propaganda, the Ahmadiyyas don't seem to be growing and it's clear that the figures are also exaggerated.

In Pakistan, the community has been persecuted for long and they (including the Lahori group) have been declared non-Muslims. Lately the same anger against the sect is witnessed in Bangladesh and even Indonesia, countries that could have shown the way to monarchies of Arab world by establishing democratic law-abiding societies.

Unfortunately this disease has spread up to Indonesia. The government is giving in to the demands and making life difficult for the sect. Rather than succumbing to the pressure of clerics, the society and government in these countries can do well to strengthen democratic values.

It is not only un-democratic and unjust to harass a sect or group of people but also un-Islamic. This should be condemned. I had written a post on Ahmadiyyas including and on Urdu poet Obaidullah Aleem, who was an Ahmedi.

In a column in Jakarta Post, Jennie S Bev reminds Muslims about the stress on compassion in Islam. And this form of bullying that because we are in greater number we will crush you, is outrageous.

It is sad to see the energies of Muslims getting channelised in the wrong way. No wonder, a columnist had remarked that all Muslim countries together haven't achieved anything in magnitude compared to the achievements of a tiny country like Korea.


A programme of the Ahmadiyya Jamat in Hyderabad Deccan (India) was cancelled by the administration on Sunday after Muslim groups including MIM and Majlis Bachao Tehreek held protests and threatened to take law in their hands if the programme was allowed to be held.
[Photo: Map of Indonesia]

Monday, June 09, 2008

Faiz Ahmed Faiz' poetry: Selected Urdu couplets

Until my teenage I hadn't read much of Faiz and only a few of his couplets I could recall. Of course, he was one of the most important names in Urdu poetry and his popular Nazms like:

bol ki lab aazaad haiN tere
bol ki zabaaN ab tak terii hai....

yeh daagh daagh ujaala, yeh shab gaziida sehar
voh intezaar thaa jiskaa yeh voh sehar to nahiiN'
...(in the context of partition)
nisaar maiN terii galiyoN ke aye vatan ki jahaaN
chalii hai rasm ki koii na sar uThaa kar chale...

...were known to most of us. But I could never find his divan in those days though works of Jigar, Josh, Firaq and others were easily available apart from Mir, Ghalib and other masters. Of his generation, poets like Majaz, Makhdoom Muhiuddin, Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri and Janisar Akhtar achieved great popularity but Faiz went on to attain international fame.

It was after reading his Nazm 'Raqeeb Se', that I fell in love with his poetry. It was an overwhelming experience to read the Nazm, every time I read it. Raqeeb is your competitor in love.

And here the poet recalls how both of them had fallen in love with the same woman, and only they can understand each other's pain and passion. How failure in love becomes an inspiration for the poet to understand the pain of others and it becomes a mission for him to fight for the poor and underdog. I have written a post on this Nazm in the past also.

Here are some of the oft-quoted couplets of Faiz:

na gul khile haiN, na unse mile haiN, na mai pii hai
ajab rang meN abke bahaar guzrii hai

guloN meN rang bhare, baad-e-nau-bahaar chale
chale bhii aao ki gulshan kaa karobaar chale

zindagii kyaa kisii muflis kii qabaa hai jis men
har ghaDii dard ke paivand lage jaate haiN

chaman meN Gaarat-e-gulchiiN se jaane kyaa guzrii
qafas se aaj sabaa be-qaraar guzrii hai

terii suurat se hai aalam meN bahaaroN ko sabaat
terii aanKhoN ke sivaa duniaa meN rakhaa kyaa hai

ham parvarish-e-lauH-o-qalam karte rahenge
jo dil pe guzartii hai raqam karte rahenge

huii hai hazrat-e-naaseh se guftguu jis shab
voh shab zaruur sar-e-kuu-e-yaar guzrii hai
viiraan hai maikadaa khum-o-saaGar udaas haiN
tum kyaa gaye ki ruuTh gaye din bahaar ke

uTh kar to aa gaye haiN terii bazm se magar kuchh dil hii jaanta hai kis dil se aaye haiN

voh baat saare fasaane meN jiskaa zikr nahiiN
voh baat unko bohat naagavaar guzrii hai

dil meN ab yuuN tere bhuule hue Gham aate haiN
jaise bichhDe hue Kaabe meN sanam aate haiN

duniyaa ne terii yaad se begaanaa kar diyaa
tujh se bhii dil-fareb haiN gham rozgaar ke

tumhaarii yaad ke jab zaKhm bharne lagte haiN
kisii bahaane tumheN yaad karne lagte haiN

kab Thahregaa dard-e-dil kab raat basar hogii
sunte the voh aayenge, sunte the sahar hogii

aaye kuchh abr, kuchh sharaab aaye
uske baad aaye jo azaab aaye

tum aaye ho, na shab-e-intezaar guzrii hai
talaash mein hai sahar, baar baar guzrii hai

Faiz Ahmed Faiz was born in Sialkot (Punjab, Pakistan) in undivided India in 1911. He achieved remarkable fame and emerged as most outstanding voice among the poets of Progressive Writers' movement. He was jailed in Pakistan and also spent years in exile. He passed away in 1984.

A few more couplets:

dil naa-ummiid to nahiiN, naakaam hii to hai
lambi hai Gham kii shaam magar shaam hii to hai

raat yuuN dil meN terii khoii huii yaad aaii
jaise viiraane meN chupke se bahaar aa jaaye

jaise sahraaoN meN haule se chale baad-e-nasiim
jaise biimaar ko be-vajah qaraar aa jaaye

mataa-e-lauH-o-qalam chhin gayii to kyaa Gham hai
ki khuuN-e-dil meN Dubo lii haiN ungliyaaN maiN ne

zubaaN par mohar lagii hai to kyaa ki rakh dii hai
har halqa-e-zanjiir meN zubaaN maiN ne

Apart from the above mentioned ghazals and Nazms, I specially love his verses on Palestine, the nazm he wrote on his return from Bangladesh, Sar-e-Vaadi-e-Sina, Karbala-e-Beirut etc. Faiz's poetry is now easily available in Hindi. Every poetry lover must have a collection of Faiz. Get it if you don't have one.

Read Faiz' popular ghazals and Nazms in Urdu, Hindi and Roman scripts at Best Ghazals and Nazms

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Will BJP form the next government at the Centre?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has smelt the scent of power. The party leaders are already believing that LK Advani is the next Prime Minister and there are talks as to which leader would get the particular portfolio.

One can't fault the BJP leaders even if they are daydreaming. The thumping victory in Karnataka that has taken the Saffron dream beyond the Vindhyas has come as a major boost and the Congress' magic seems on the wane despite Rahul's efforts to capture the lost votebank.

For the BJP the next elections are a great opportunity to pursue its agenda. It hopes to get much more seats alone than it got in the past and thus dictate terms unlike the last reign when allies called the shots.

Inflation is one issue that can take LK Advani to the ramparts of Red Fort in August 2009. Fuel hike and unchecked price rise will surely work to the advantage of BJP that hopes to gain from anti-incumbency at the centre.

But all is not well for the BJP either. The party has lost it in UP and the Bihar unit is in a bad shape. If BJP plays its cards well, it can hope to get, at best, 200 seats, which will also be a miracle.

Much will depend on the role of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is likely to secure anything from 20 to 35 seats. The party is aware of its limitations and that's why Advani's last hoorah would require a wider acceptability. The BJP is now planning to seriously approach Muslims and Christians.

But both the parties have their own problems. What works for the BJP is that it has an ideology whether semi-fascist or right-wing unlike Congress that now seems bereft of any ideology. It doesn't allow state leaders to grow. And Congress is not going to get rid of its culture of sycophancy and Gandhi family's dynasy rule in near future.

For the BJP, it is important to win as it still has both the pan-Indian leaders Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee around and they can seek votes. After 2008 elections, they will be too old and there is no second line of leadership.

Arun Jaitleys, Rajnath Singhs, Sushma Swarajs and Ravishankar Prasads may talk well on TV but have hardly any following. The era when hardworking RSS activists worked for the party is also gone. Now its no longer frugal lifestyle, rather flashy cars for even organisation leaders, who just join the Sangh to get to the party positions.

BJP is trying to woo all sections. It may have messed up Rajasthan but Karnataka win has given them hopes to go further down South. The party wants Muslim vote as well. The only problem with it is its 'niyat'.

It doesn't like Muslims much and in states where it has been at the helm, its regional leaders have taken extra care to ensure that Muslim institutions get damaged, which doesn't behove a national party.

In states, the local leaders still retain the old anti-Muslim bias inherited from the days of Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the Rath Yatra. Their friendly cadres of VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena remain wary of Muslims.

Though there is still sometime before the elections, one thing is most certain. BJP is going to gain, just the question is 'how much'. If they succeed in making price rise a national issue, they will strike chord with common man. Once price rise becomes the issue, everything else takes the backseat.

Inflation is hurting the Indians. And if 'mahangai' becomes the 'mudda' and the BJP gets to the power with lesser allies, it will have to thank P Chidambaram. Does the Fin Min ever go out buying vegetables or grocery? There is a rage, which Congress doesn't seem to either read or it doesn't know how to tackle the situation.

[Photo: Advani, eyes set on Red Fort]