Friday, February 20, 2015

Nave Nibandh – Collection of New Essays

Amb. Bal Anand
Ambassador Bal Anand, a senior colleague in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) during our diplomatic service and one of our family friends is an intellectual and a literary personality apart from his professional acumen as a diplomat. His latest book ‘Nave Nibandh’ – a collection of new essays, which he very kindly sent to me with personal greetings and dedication, is in hand. It is Ambassador Bal Anand’s second book in Punjabi. Earlier, he wrote ‘Sukh Sunehe’, a collection of letters exchanged with his friends in literary and social circles. I wrote about this book in my blog: in August, 2014. It is gratifying to write that Ambassador Bal Anand has a masterly flare and attribute in writing good prose both in Punjabi and English languages. It is an excellent co-curricular activity in the post retirement life. He rightly writes in his brief bio-profile, given at the back cover of the book, that his hobbies are “free-lance writing, brain-storming and friendship”.

Nave Nibandh is a bouquet of essays on diverse subjects of contemporary relevance. It is a kaleidoscope of thought provoking, informative and interesting ideas and issues concerning the society at large. I think the collection would be a useful study material for the young aspirants to sit and write competitive examinations.  In the essay on education, the author underlines the importance of education with a poetic quote from a famous Punjabi poet Dhaniram Chatrik and rightly so:

ਜਿੰਨ੍ਹਾ ਵਿਦਿਯਾ  ਦੀ ਜੋਤ ਜਗਾ ਲਈ ਹੈ, ਉਨਾ ਕੁੰਜੀ ਖ਼ਜ਼ਾਨੇ ਦੀ ਪਾ ਲਈ ਹੈ !

With this, I wish Ambassador Bal Anand all success and good personal health in the years to come. I am confident that the book ‘Nave Nibandh’ would be well received.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Guru Ravidassji’s Prakash Utsav at Bootan Mandi

Bootan Mandi in Jalandhar, my native place, is a non-descript locality on Nakodar Road (Ambedkar Marg). The Mandi once was a thriving business centre for raw and tanned leather. Most of the residents belong to dalit community of Chamar (Ad-dharmi) extraction and as such are the followers of Guru Ravidass.  The birthday anniversary of Guru Ravidass is celebrated at the Mandi with great devotion and gaiety traditionally for about a century. The celebrations culminate into the Shoba Yatra or Nagar Kirtan (previously called Jaloos) one day before the Prakash Utsav or Gurpurab (previously called Janam Din) and the religious Congregation in the day time and grand reverential song and poetic Darbar on the day of Gurupurab. With the increasing political and socio-economic profile of Bootan Mandi, the occasion became an important event in the socio-cultural life of Jalandhar over the years. Traditionally it was a sober and solemn occasion and was observed under spiritual norms. Later on, with the changing times, it has tended to become a common Mela type event with all fun and frolic around. The entire area, in and around Bootan Mandi, is cordoned off for the event. Each and every building and even the private houses are decked and illuminated for a week or so. The Prabhat Pheris (street recital and singing of Gurbani in the moorings) start about two weeks in advance. The community kitchens (langars) are set up and served on both the days at several places. The entire area becomes a gallery of large hoardings of congratulations on the Gurupurab of the great Guru.

Singer Surinder Shinda at Bootan Mandi
With this background, I would like to touch another aspect of the celebrations at Bootan Mandi. In the mid 1960s dedicated youth took over the reins. I remember and recall my cherished memories of excellent Kavi Darbars (Poetry Recital) in 1965-66 under the guidance of Pritam Ramdaspuri and leadership of Seth Durga Dass and Prem Shant. Some of the known poets like Vidhata Singh Tir, Hazara Singh Mustak, Kartar Singh Balaggan, Charan Singh Safri, Gurdass Ram Alam and others mesmerized the audiences with their poetic renditions. For the next three years, the responsibility to maintain the tradition fell on my slander strength as the General Secretary of the then Guru Ravidass Youth Club. I did my best in the face of many odds as the trend of inviting famous singers rather than poets was getting favour merely because of attraction to glamour. Over the years, the organizers could not resist and the culture of dance and song by an array of the best singers in Punjab creped in. The lure of money and the urge to get famous attracted the best of talent to perform at Bootan Mandi on the Gurupurab. My brother, Paramjit Mahey, also remained at the helm as General Secretary of Guru Ravidass Educational and Charitable Trust for many years. The traditional Gurudwara was transformed into an elegant Satguru Ravidass Dham with the efforts of the then Mayor of Jalandhar, Surinder Mahey and his associates. Now, the Dham is the focal point of Gurupurab celebrations. The song writers like Rattu Randhawa, Chann Gorayanwala, Madan Jalandhari and others penned lyrics invoking the beauty and gaiety of Bootan Mandi in the celebrations. The famous singers namely Hans Raj Hans, Kanth Klair, K.S. Makhan, Master Saleem, Nooran Sisters, inter alia, gave their voice to the songs and enthralled audiences over the years. It is a matter of pride for the Bootanmandians. 
Singers Sardool Shikander and Noorie at Bootan Mandi
The legendary Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans remained one of the regulars for many years to perform at Bootan Mandi.  He sang with élan:
‘Sohne Punjab Da Shehar Jalandhar;
Bootan Mandi Jisde Andar !’

In a lighter vein, he devised his own folklore called Mahia:
 ‘Do Pattar Anaraan De, Jehne Sanu Milna Hove Vehde Aajo Chamara De”

Another famous Punjabi singer Kaler Kanth beautifully sang:
‘Bootan Mandi Aajo; Jene Dekhna Nazara e”
This song became the tune of spontaneous bhangra in the Shoba Yatras for many years.

Shobha Yatra at Bootan Mandi
Adding to the dance and song sequences, Master Saleem:
‘Aawo Sangate Ajj Nachiye Ta Gaayiye Appan,
Bootan Mandi Janam Dihada Khusiyan Naal Maniye Appan’

Babbu Jalandhria referred to the Mela at Bootan Mandi:
‘Bootan Mandi Mela Lagda Ravidas Piare Da’

Nooran Sisters last year stole the show at Bootan Mandi with with their rendition in the Qawwali style:
‘Bootan Mandi Lag Janda Dil Bhagto”

It may be added that Nooran Sisters are the grand-daughters of the famous folk singer Bibi Nooran who was a resident of Bootan Mandi.

Appreciating the illuminations and fire work at Bootan Mandi on the Gurupurab, the famous singer K.S. Makhan sang in his imitable style:
‘Sajavat Karke Karti Jhandi, Lishkaan Maare Bootan Mandi’

Satgurr Ravidass Dham at Bootan Mandi
These were some of the picks which I could gather off the cuff. There may be many more. It is a matter of gratification for Bootan Mandi and its residents. But at the same time, it evolves responsibility to maintain and improve the content and tenor of the celebrations of the Prakash Utsav of the great Guru Ravidass in the coming years. It will be a befitting tribute the Guru.

Greetings and Congratulations on the Gurpurab of Guru Ravidassji on February 3.