Friday, July 19, 2013

An Urdu poem for Children: Or is it Hindi, Hindustani, let's find out?

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

On the left you can see a children's poem which some of you might have read or heard long back.

Most of you will recognise that it is in Urdu script. Innumerable children in India, have read this verse, 'Chal re matke tammak tuu.n'

These words have an affect on children. They laugh and keep repeating it.

It was in syllabus and was read by Urdu students as well as Hindi medium students in India.

If you read it aloud, can you make out which language it is written in? It has the commonly used word 'Budhiya', not 'Vriddha' [Sanskrit] or [Zaeefa].

Neither Urdu nor Hindi can have exclusive claim over 'bohat' [bahut in Hindi], laaThi, chamak, maTka and similar other words. All of them are in Urdu dictionary as well as Hindi.

If someone says it is Hindi, then words like 'Tadbeer', 'Taqdeer' are strictly Urdu [Persian]. But then, Hindi and Urdu both are living languages that absorb words from everywhere and borrow from each other.

So is it Hindustani--considered the 'lingua franca' of yore that died long back and no one uses the term?

Whatever is the language this verse is written in, it is a fact that school children in Lahore would consider it as their own language and similarly it is the language of kids in Lucknow. Either its a student in Karachi or Kanpur, the words aren't alien to either. So what's the difference?

Languages can't belong to religions. They can't be Hindu or Muslim. So shall we attribute this to Fort William College and Gilchrist? The era when British decided to divide a language in two and use it for their own advantage. Nowhere in the world, such a project could succeed as much, as it did in the sub-continent.

Can an Urdu-wala say that he can't understand this 'Hindi Kavita'. Or a Hindi-wala say that he doesn't understand this 'Urdu Nazm'. Not just words, the grammar is same. There is nothing different. Just a few high  [tough] words here and there, make them two different languages.

And when scripts are changed, they are no longer sister languages but often pitted against each other. Read it in Roman and Devnagri scripts:

Hue bohat din, budhiyaa ek
Chalti thi laaThii ko Tek

Uske paas bohat thaa maal
Jaanaa tha usko sasuraal

Magar raah mein cheete sher
Lete the raahi ko gher

Budhiya ne sochii tadbeer
Jisse chamak uThe taqdeer

Matka ek mangaaya mol
Lamba lamba gol maTol

Us mein baithi buDhiyaa aap
Voh sasuraal chali chup chaap

Budhiyaa gaati jaati yuuN
"Chal re maTke, tammak too.n"

चल रे मटके टम्मक टूं 

I wish I knew the name of the poet who wrote these beautiful and humorous lines which bring smile on our face. Perhaps, that would have settled the debate. If the author is a Hindu, it becomes Hindi and if its a Muslim then its Urdu. So simple! No, even that doesn't work. Anyway, my suggestion is that you just recite the poem.

Scores of books have been written on the language politics in India. Indians, Pakistanis understand all this. There is a language of movies, the lyrics and then there is the language of the official radio and TV in both countries. We all know what's the truth behind the cultural, religious and social divide. Don't we.

Still, we debate. Endless discussions that never end. In my humble view, we all need to do a little more 'Tammak too.N'. The word  makes even the toddlers dance. Now, I hope that after reading this post, you won't pit the languages against each other and take it to Hindu-Muslim differences or give your scholarly views. Just do a little Tammak Too.n.  टम्मक टूं 

[I would be obliged if someone informs me about the name of the poet who penned these lines]

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mausoleum for husband: The Monument built by a woman in memory of her beloved husband in Najibabad


This is not a very well known story--that of a wife building a monument in memory of her husband.

The mausoleum stands amid ruins in the historic Najibabad town in Bijnore district in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India.

Unlike the story of Taj Mahal, which is famous across the world, and which was built by Shah Jehan in memory of his wife, the presence of 'Chahaar Minar' or 'Char Minar' in Najibabad, is testimony to a woman's love for her late husband.

The wife of a Nawab, she got the monument constructed to immortalize her husband's memory after he died young. The tomb was built in memory of Nawab Jahangir Khan, a kin of Najibuddaula--the founder of Rohilla dynasty at Najibabad.

Historians say Nawab Jahangir Khan was married in Kotra, Kiratpur. Two years after the marriage, once when he had gone to bring back his wife, he died in a mishap. During the celebratory fireworks on his visit, a 'gola' [big cracker] hit him.

Is is mentioned in texts that Jahangir Khan got injured as he got burnt in the chest. The Nawab had later succumbed to the burn injuries. The death of her husband shattered his wife. The Begum, then built the 'maqbara' (tomb) in memory of her late husband, at Moazzampur Teligarhi on the outskirts of Najibabad.

The grave [Qabr] was in the middle under the big dome, with the four minarets around it, on four corners. The dome fell long back. The minarets stand even now. Each of these minarets is quite thick, three-storey tower, with staircase leading to the top.

The building made of 'lakhauri' [old style bricks that were smaller but more baked and gave a different texture to structure] has minarets separated from each other at a distance of 50 feet.  The unique structure is crumbling now.

Even the foundation of the minarets is in a dilapidated state. The mausoleum was constructed long ago and though it survived centuries, the apathy of local officials and the indifference of Archaeology department, is killing the monument.

Some vernacular newspapers have taken up the issue earlier. In a few Hindi newspapers, the news about the  ancient building has been published. Recently, Aftab Nomani, wrote an article in Roznama Sahara [Urdu] highlighting the sorry state of affairs in the Archaeology department and the plight of this monument.

Nomani wrote that Sardari Begam had built the monument for her husband Jahangir Khan. Shouldn't such monuments be conserved? Except Agra, the condition of numerous such monuments in districts of UP, remains pathetic.

Low budget and lack of interest on part of tourism-archaeology officials is leading to the destruction of such amazing heritage. With builders and encroachers eyeing every inch of land on the Indo-Gangetic belt, the future is bleak for monuments.

The 'Chahar Minar' maqbara is located on the lofty mound known as Mordhaj. For years it has been awaiting restoration. Will it ever happen? Unlike the famous Taj Mahal, [also a mausoleum] this monument is expression of a woman's love for her husband.

See other links:
1. Hidden Heritage: Coming across a Shia shrine, The Karbala at Mohan
2. Mysteries, Secrets and Little-Known Facts about Taj Mahal

Monday, July 01, 2013

Can Indians, Muslims forget Gujarat riots, get over the 2002 communal carnage?

BJP President Rajnath Singh recently made an appeal to Indian Muslims, asking them to forget [or ignore] the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

I have a few things to say on this issue. You can read the ten points below. But first: it's not an issue for Indian Muslims alone.

Innumerable non-Muslims are fighting to get justice for the victims. The question of forgetting and forgiving is really strange.

We all know that Time is a great healer. Many among Muslims also may wish to forget and forgive at some point of time. Others may not.

Naturally, those who suffered [either Hindus or Muslims] can't forget easily. The criminal cases are in courts. However, for electoral gains, it is expected that Muslims must shed their anger against BJP.

If you remember, in the decade of 90s, sections of Muslims were getting fed up of Congress and were seeing BJP as an alternative just when 2002 riots took place. They voted en bloc against BJP in next Lok Sabha elections.

People ask about the difference between Gujarat riots and all other riots or massacres in the past. I haven't forgotten the role of administration in Maharashtra when Sudhakar Rao Naik was the Chief Minister and Mumbai saw the worst communal conflagration in 1992-93 under Congress rule.

I haven't forgotten Moradabad riots of 1983 or the 1969 Ahmedabad riots about which we heard from early age. Neilly, Hashimpura-Maliana, Jamshedpur and Surat are all recalled still by victims or those who witnessed them.

Muslims don't have any pathological hate for BJP. Elsewhere, in other states, they have voted for BJP candidates. In MP and Chhattisgarh, Muslim majority areas have seen voting for the BJP candidates, in different elections.

Who would want to be eternally facing the might of the state in any region! It's quite easy to say that we forgot, then join them and make them happy in order to enjoy 'fruits of development'. After all, how many idealists or fighters are there in our society?

Don't we all make compromises in our lives all the time. But still, people are not forgetting, not ready to just say that "we have moved on". The wounds are too deep, too painful. Why? Gujarat 2002 changed everything. Not other riots but 2002. You know why?

It was the first televised riot unlike Neilly or Hashimpura. In those incidents, it took months for people elsewhere to realise extent of the killings. Here, the hate was seen, felt and state's absence was visible. Raj Dharma was not followed. It was clear, deliberate.


1. Even if everything that happened during riots is forgotten and it is accepted that it was an aberration or sudden failure of administration in anticipating and containing the outburst of anger, did we see any effort to reach out to victims after the riots?

We hear a lot of need for reconciliation. But for years, even after 2002, we saw just plain hatred. No sorrow, all Shaurya. We remember Chief Minister's statement about Muslim women, four years after the riots. The entire election campaign after riots rode over 'Ham Panch-Hamare Pachchees' slogan.

2. There have been major riots in India in the past. But the politicians, at least, appeared solemn, saddened and sympathetic. They visited the riot-affected areas or at least did the lip service. What else we expect from our politicians? Not much, at least, a few kind words. Here there was none. The administration didn't come to the succour of the victims.

3. Today we get lectured about inclusive development and are told how State government in Gujarat is concerned about the progress and protection of all its citizens. But where was the concern after riots? Do you remember any BJP leader visiting the relief camps? Who provided or offered any help whatsoever to survivors!

4. Perhaps, a lot might have been forgotten had Narendra Modi just placed his hand on the head of an orphan of the Ahmedabad riots. Had he just embraced a child, shown a little affection or concern and wiped his tear, perhaps, we could have believed a lot about administrative failure and BJP's intent.

5. Of all the mosques and religious structures that were demolished, there was also the tomb of the legendary Urdu poet Wali [Wali Gujarati] also known as Wali Dakani--the Urdu poet who loved Gujarat and sang paeans of it. Was there even a word about restoring or reconstructing the mazaar?

6. People have grievances against their leaders and governments. They may or may not act on our demands but at least they should listen.

Here, there was nothing. Just cold silence. No empathy, no healing touch was visible for the next 7-8 years.

Isn't the anti-Sikh rmassacre in Delhi still an issue, more than a quarter century later? Aren't the politicians named by victims finding it tough even today?

7. Now that pan-Indian acceptability is needed and the BJP wants to form a government at the centre and needs allies in other states, Muslims are asked to forget 2002. It's not a Muslim-only issue. Muslims even didn't know how to fight this battle to secure justice.

It is the large number of Hindus who are putting their lives to discomfort, fighting this battle and most of them will continue to do so. Are they ready to forgive? I have already written about this great untold story of secular India, on this blog. It is this reason that India remains India.

8. If there is injustice you should accept it or take measures to correct that. Even today, we don't hear any remorse for what happened over a decade ago. Congress said Sorry for Sikh riots, BJP can't do the same. By the way, there is no reason to ask someone to say it, if they don't really mean it.

9. Frankly, I don't think the issue is as simple as it is made out. Its not Muslim Vs BJP or Muslim Vs Modi. Its about Justice Vs Injustice, Hate Vs Harmony and Atrocities Vs Penance.

People who urge riot victims to forget, conveniently ignore that they recall 1526 AD and 1000 AD, at the drop of hat. If not they, their followers do it regularly. Even today, running businesses or earning livelihood is not easy for Muslims in the state.There are a host of other issues on the ground. Please try to do something and then ask to move on.

10. Ours is a democracy. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has a strong constituency, a large number of supporters, and he may lead the party to a massive win. He has definitely managed to create an image for himself. I don't discount the possibility, even if remote, of him even becoming Prime Minister.

No one can stop that if the electorate in this country would really want him at the helm. There is no need to talk about forgetting or forgiving, but the BJP leaders haven't come out to be large-hearted. Also, they haven't shown the ability to be inclusive which is required from great leadership that really intends to move on or wish the citizen to do so.