Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ahisas – a collection of Punjabi Ghazals of Roop Sidhu

 Ahisas – a collection of Punjabi Ghazals of Roop Sidhu

Roop Sidhu’s maiden literary venture – Ahisas, a collection of Punjabi ghazals was released on August 16, 2017 at Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall in Jalandhar at a solemn function. The function was attended by the who’s who of the Punjabi literary elite located in and around Jalandhar. Though I stand nowhere in this galaxy of literary personalities yet Roop Sidhu was kind enough not only to invite me to the function but also made me sit on the high-table
with prominent intellectuals namely Hardial Sagar, S. Naseem, Sital Singh Sangha and Jagdish Kaur Wadia. The book release event was ably and aptly conducted by Prof. Gopal Singh Bhuttar, President of Sahit Kala Kender, as the Master of Ceremonies. It
was indeed a pleasure to be there. Yet another gratifying factor was that the event was transformed to an impromptu Kavi Darbar. Not only the high flown names mentioned above participated in the Darbar but many more, inter alia, Narinder Pal Singh, Manohar Khaira, Des Raj Kali, Madam Sagar, came forward to recite their poems to further add to the value of the function.

I have gone through the book – Ahisas as a layman. I do not know the fine nuances of poetry. But I enjoy good poetry. Roop Sidhu’s excellent contribution fits the bill with 110 ghazals in the book. I have been reading Sidhu Sahib’s poems and ghazals, off hand, on Facebook and enjoyed myself. In the process, I suggested to him to come out with a book for wider appreciation which he did and did it with aplomb. It is a matter of great satisfaction. I have observed that Roop Sidhu is a poet of life, life in its all shades. The ghazals
in the book represent normal and common attributes of a human personality such as fear, faith, love, harmony, friendship, complaint, appreciation, elation on one hand and the travails of a poor and under-privileged in the rural backyard on the other. Roop Sidhu is fully aware of the prevailing social and political scenario of the country and the society at large.

Roop Sidhu has candidly admitted in one of his compositions that he has full realization – Ahisas – that his ghazal would naturally find a mention of spades and sickles, the tools of a poor farm labourer:-

ਗ਼ਜ਼ਲ ਕਹਿ ਨਾਜ਼ਮ ਕਹਿ ਜਾਨ  ਜੋ ਭੀ ਦਿਲ ਚਾਹੇ ਇਨਾਨੁ ਕਹਿ;
ਮੇਰੀ ਲਿਖਤਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਰੰਬੇ ਦਾਤੀਆਂ ਹੋਣੇ ਸੁਭਾਵਿਕ ਹਨ !

While making a mention of the functioning of our parliament, the author says:

ਸੰਸਦ ਵਿਚ ਹੋ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ ਇਨ ਬਿਨ ਓਹੀ ਵਤੀਰਾ;
ਇੱਲਤਾਂ ਸ਼ਰਾਰਤਾਂ ਜਿਓਂ ਗਲੀਆਂ ਬਾਲ ਕਰਦੇ!

Narrating the economic condition of a common man who finds it difficult to earn enough to meet his needs, Roop Sidhu says:
ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਆਮਦਨ ਤੋਂ ਖਰਚ ਵੱਧ ਹੁੰਦੇ; ਊਨਾ ਦੇ ਘਰ
ਸਦਾ ਮੂਧੇ ਪਏ ਛਾਵੇ ਫਾਟੇ ਪੋਣੇ ਸੁਭਾਵਿਕ ਹਨ !

An advice to exercise control on unbridled speech is timely:

ਰਹਿਣ ਬਚਕੇ ਨਵਾਂ ਕਿਧਰੇ ਕੋਈ ਕਾਰਾ ਕਰਾਵੇ ਨਾ;
ਜੋ ਰੱਖੀ 'ਰੂਪ' ਆਪਣੀ ਜੀਭ ਏਨੀ ਬੇਲਾਗਾਮੀ ਤਾਈਂ !

Humility is a family trait with Roop Sidhu. I can say this safely after meeting his family. One of the ghazals in the book amply demonstrates this much needed attribute:

ਜੇ ਗ਼ਜ਼ਲ ਅਜੇ ਤੇਰੀ ਚੱਜ ਦੀ ਨਹੀਂ; ਤਾਂ ਰੋਸ਼ ਕਾਹਦਾ
'ਰੂਪ' ਜੀ ਚੁਕੋ ਕਲਮ; ਕੁਜ ਹੋਤ ਚਾਰਾ  ਕਰ ਲਾਵਾਂਗੇ

These were some of the examples to appreciate Roop Sidhu’s meaningful and thought provoking ghazals which would ultimately be availed of as food for thought by the connoisseur of good poetry.
Roop Sidhu has dedicated the book to his mother Smt. Swaran Kaur and rightly so. She witnessed the release of the book of his worthy son from the high table and was visibly moved when Sidhu Sahib rendered one of the couplets as a word of gratitude to the mother. Hardial Sagar, a renowned poet and ghazalkar himself, sitting by my side, instantly commented that this ‘Sher’ will remain as a much acclaimed Sher in the years to come.

ਕਾਸ਼ ਰੱਖ ਕੇ ਅਕਾਸ਼ ਨੂੰ ਖੜਮਾਂ;
ਉਸ ਵਿਚ ਤਸਵੀਰ ਮਾਂ ਦੀ ਜੜ ਲੈਂਦੇ !
The foreword of the book has been written by no other than the literary guru of Roop Sidhu, Amrik Ghafil who taught Sidhu Sahib the nuances of poetry and ghazal and turned a raw talent into an expert handler of the sophisticated art of penning excellent poetry. Sidhu Sahib and Ghafil Sahib met in Dubai where they both went for greener pastures. They not only registered success in respective professions but also created good social and community life for themselves. Amrik Ghafil is a recognized poet by his own right. He recited his own poetry at the function which touched the audience.  He quotes Sidhu Sahib to pay rich tributes his style and matter and involves “Ahisas”:

ਤੋੜ ਹੀ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਜਦ ਰਿਸ਼ਤਾ ਵਫਾ ਦਾ;
ਫਿਰ ਕਿਸੇ ਅਹਿਸਾਸ ਦੀ ਹੁਣ ਲੋੜ ਹੀ ਨਹੀਂ!

Commenting on the egalitarian outlook of Roop Sidhu, his literary mentor quotes him:

ਕਦੇ ਜੇ ਤਿੱਤਲੀਆਂ ਦੇ ਖੰਭ ਗਿਣਨੋਂ ਵੇਲ ਮਿਲ ਜਾਵੇ;

ਅਦੀਬਾ ਕੌਮ ਮੇਰੀ ਨੂੰ ਜਗਾਉਣੇ ਦੇ ਲੇਇ ਵੀ ਲਿਖ !
He further quotes the author:
ਮਾੜਾ ਹੀ ਘਬਰਾਈ ਜਾਵੇ; ਏਦਾਂ ਥੋੜੀ ਹੁੰਦਾ
ਐਂਮੇ ਝਿੜਕਾਂ ਖਾਇ ਜਾਵੇ; ਏਦਾਂ ਥੋੜੀ ਹੁੰਦਾ !
The publisher Gurdial Roshan has rightly commented on the book and said, “It is the next phase of the Punjabikaran of ghazal, to my understanding, as in these ghazals one finds the heartbeat of the villages of Punjab. Roop Sidhu has started his own style of Punjabi ghazal.”

Roop Sidhu and I came to know each other from our common interest and concern in some of the community matters pertaining to the weaker sections of the society particularly dalits. He is a knowledgeable man with all positive traits to contribute to the social well being of the community and the society at large. I take this opportunity to congratulate my friend Roop Sidhu and wish him all the best in the years to come.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

International Day of Equality

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 6

International Day of Equality - Greetings on Independence Day

PMO, in a routine circular E-mail message, asked for ideas and suggestions for the PM’s Independence Day address to the nation on August 15 from the ramparts of Red Fort. I also got the message and just off hand it came to my mind to reiterate my suggestion made to EAM Sushma Swaraj in June, 2015 to make a demarche to the UN to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality in the run up to observe and celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the greatest son of India. The proposal was duly acknowledged by the UNES Division of the MEA in August, 2017. I followed up the matter with MEA and also wrote to PM Narendra Modi. PMO also sent an E-mail acknowledgement.  It encouraged me and I started to spread the message to garner support to my proposal. Many individuals and organizations came forward and supported the proposal in the regular media and also social media and some of them wrote to EAM and PMO in this regard. Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs under the patronage of the then Speaker of the Punjab Legislature, Charanjit Singh Atwal, submitted a Memorandum to PM Narendra Modi in November, 2015 and supported the proposal. Atwal Sahib included
the proposal in his speech at the UN celebrations of 125th Anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar at New York in April, 2016. He took up the matter with PM Modi, on his return from New York, in his letter to PM and urged him to officially take up the proposal to declare International Day of Equality with the UN through official channels. Since then, much water has flown in the Hudson Waterfront (Gold Coast) in New York and the Jamuna in Delhi. I am not aware of any formal response from the MEA or PMO in this regard. Again on my own, I made a New Year Resolution to follow up the matter with the concerned leadership and wrote to EAM Sushma Swaraj again in February, 2017. I also urged various outfits to support the proposal wherever I happened to speak and interact. Many of these tended to support. But it is a matter of regret, that most of the followers of Dr. Ambedkar and their organizations are still living in the Jai Bhim and Jai Gurdev Syndrome and as such have no wherewithal to carry forward their agenda. The dalit politicians are either ignorant or have developed myopic vision on the basis of their party affiliations.

All said and done, on an invitation from the PMO, I reiterated my proposal in an E-mail message on August 12, 2017 and requested that it may be included in the PM’s address to the nation on the auspicious occasion of Independence Day on August 15.

Text of my message to PMO:

"Thanks Sir. It is a true democratic practice which PM Narendra Modi has introduced to as the citizens of the country for their inputs for the national agenda. I appreciate this.
Now coming to my humble input, I may add one point. After GOI decision to observe 125th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar in 2015, I wrote EAM followed by my various demarches to PM and other high ups and suggested to approach the UN to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality. Subsequently, then Speaker of Punjab Assembly, Charan Singh Atwal also followed up the matter with PM in writing (my last letter to EAM and Atwal Sahib's letter to PM are enclosed for ready reference). The matter is resting at that in spite of my attempts to follow up the matter with MEA and PMO.

To cut the matter short and keep it focused, my humble suggestion is to consider and include this appropriately in the speech of the PM to be delivered from the Red Fort on August 15, our Independence Day. and declare the resolve of the GOI to approach the UN to declare April 14 as the International Day of Equality to honour the greatest son of India Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and to extend support to the millions not only in India but in the world at large to stand up as equals to bring about much needed harmony and sense of brotherhood.

I am confident, Sir, my humble suggestion will find favour. I am open to any consultation or explanation in this regard.

With regards

(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador - IFS (Retired)
Tele: 09988510940”

Let us hope somebody in the GOI, particularly EAM Sushma Swaraj and PM Narendra Modi, pay due attention to the proposal and decide to make a suitable approach to the UN to declare April 14 as the International Day of Equality to honour worthy son of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on one hand and to raise the flag of equality in the world at large.

इक तर्जे तुगाफिल है; सो वह उनको मुबारक;
इक अर्जे तमन्ना है वह हम करते रहेंगे!

Greetings on the Independence Day. Long live India.

 Jai Hind. Jai Bhim. Jai Bharat.

Without Comment:

“When we speak of a New India, what do we mean? There are some obvious parameters – like a house for every family, power on demand, better roads and telecom, a modern railway network, rapid and sustained growth. And yet there is more. New India must include that integral humanist component that is in our DNA, and which has defined our country and our civilisation. New India must be a society rushing towards the future, but also a compassionate society,”

President Ram Nath Kovind, Independence Day Eve Address on August 14, 2017.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review – Ambedkar Mission Atey Bodhi Dham

Book Review – Ambedkar Mission Atey Bodhi Dham

The Punjab Chapter of the Samta Sainik Dal invited me to a book release function on July 2, 2017, of a recent Punjabi publication “Ambedkar Mission Atey Bodhi Dham” compiled and edited by Sohan Lal Sampla of Germany at Ambedkar Bhawan in Jalandhar.  Sohan Lal Sampla is a staunch Ambedkarite and a Buddhist. The book in Punjabi is a simple narration of some of his visits to
various countries like Japan, Hungary, among others to the see the commemoratory sites and venues pertaining to Gautama Buddha and the main reviver of Buddhism in India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, in the contemporary times and also some of the articles of others like K.C. Sulekh, Sohan, Surinder Ajnat and Soma Sablok and also poems of Sohan Sehjal, Monika Ambedkar and Pammi Madhopuria.  Sohan Lal Sampla has provided good and interesting information on his visits to Japan and Hungary not only about his impressions about these countries but also about his interlocutors and followers of Lord Buddha and Babasaheb Ambedkar. I must add, with due respect and regard to its author, that the book is not strong in its content but the motivation and spirit behind it is genuinely compelling.  

It is not surprising that the book has been dedicated to his ideological and spiritual inspiration Lahori Ram Balley of Jalandhar, an ardent Ambedkarite and Buddhist. In a sort of introduction, Fateh Jung Singh of Chandigarh has appreciated and thanked Sohan Lal Sampla for publishing and free distribution of books with a view to spread the message of Buddha and Ambedkar.
Sampla Sahib’s account of his Japan visit via China is interesting as it comes from a layman’s understanding and narration. He is impressed by the Japanese culture and tradition. His visit to the statue of Dr. Ambedkar in a prominent park in the city of Wakayama was of great satisfaction to him. Similarly his journey to Hungry gives a sense of over-whelming reception with regard to the fact that Dr. Ambedkar was increasingly being recognized in European countries and rightly so. His interaction with the leaders of the Roman-Gypsies and his elation to see Ambedkar High school in a prominent city in Hungry is clearly evident from his narration. A bust of Dr. Ambedkar, given by the Indian Embassy in Budapest, has been installed in the school. Sampla Sahib paid visits to various places of interest in India like the birthplace of Dr. Ambedkar in Mhow, Chaitya Bhoomi in Nagpur, and Ambedkar Smarak in Lucknow and pilgrimaged the important sites pertaining to Buddhism namely Lumbini, Sarnath, BodhGaya, Kushinagar etc. In the book, some interesting and informative articles on various issues of interest and concern like Poona Pact of 1932, Karva Chauth, Ravana, Raksha Bandhan etc. written by various writers have been included in the book. One may or may not agree with them but these made a good reading. Sohan Sampla’s movements of involvement and pride in the community affairs find a detailed mention in the book particularly his Cycle March to Delhi in 1964 along with The volunteers of Republican Party of India and participating in the Sit-down Hunger Strike in front of the official residence of the then PM Lal Bahadur Shastri and also his Jail Yatra in Jalandhar in support of the RPI agitation for the demands of the poor and under privileged of the country.

One can see and observe that Sohan Sampla and his family are fully dedicated to the community causes even after his migration to Germany many years before. He tends to distribute free of cost not only his own publications but also other literature on Dr. Ambedkar and Gautama Buddha. Yet another feather in the hat of Sampla
Sahib is that he, with a sense of paying back to the society, often offers financial help to various individuals and outfits connected with the community matters which has been much appreciated. Though I don’t know Sohan Lal Sampla personally yet I felt that people like him must be recognized and appreciated in the larger interest of the community. Hence this humble effort. Being a proclaimed Buddhist, Sampla Sahib does not believe in God as such. In one of the articles he has quoted likeminded poets like Allma Iqbal, Akbar Allahabadi and Mohan Singh respectively which I myself enjoyed:

ਬੈਠਾ ਕੇ ਅਰਸ਼ ਪੈ ਰਖਾ ਹੈ ਤੁਨੀ ਬਾਯਜ਼;
ਖੁਦਾ ਵੋ ਕਯਾ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਬੰਦੇ ਸੇ ਇਤਰਾਜ਼ ਕਰੇ
ਜੇਹਾਂ ਮੈਂ ਜੀ ਘਿਰ ਗਯਾ; ਲੈ-ਇੰਤਹਾ  ਕਯੋਂ ਕਰ ਹੂਆ ,
ਜੋ ਸਮਜ ਮੈਂ ਗਯਾ; ਫਿਰ ਵੋਹ ਖੁਦਾ ਕਯੋਂ ਕਰ ਹੂਆ!
ਰਬ ਇਕ ਗੁੰਜਲਦਾਰ ਭੁਜਾਰਾਤ; ਰਬ ਇਕ ਗੋਰਖ ਧੰਦਾ,
ਖੋਲਣ ਲੱਗੀਆਂ ਪੇਚ ਇਸ ਦੇ ਕਾਫ਼ਿਰ ਹੋ ਜਾਇ- ਬੰਦਾ!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 5

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 5

Cashless transactions: - PM Narendra Modi and FM Arun Jaitley and other ministers and functionaries of the government preached and propagated cashless transactions by electronic means to the perceived advantage of the common man and the financial system of the country. The loud pitch has died down as the dust raised during the demonetization has slowly settled down. These cosmetic
steps remained for sometime in the media and the government tended to claim lot of mileage of these facilities and reforms. But the situation on ground has not changed at all. The vested interests say the tax evaders and the corrupt are interested in this. They have failed the system. There is no body to check. It is unfortunate. Let me mention about one of my personal experiences in this regard. Most of the restaurants do not accept cards. During one of my visits to an old and established restaurant in Jalandhar at the time of demonetization, it was found that there was a notice to say “Sorry. We do not accept Credit/Debit Cards” kept at the entrance.

Will the authorities look into some of these irritants being faced by the people? It goes without saying that it will be difficult to curve these unethical practices and tendencies as long as easy cash generated through corruption and other illegal means remains in circulation. Corruption is the mother of all these ills.

Insensitive Media: - Over the last week, there have been reports in the media that somebody is chopping the hairs (choti or hair buns) of ladies for some ulterior purposes in some towns of UP and in and around Delhi. One does not know the veracity of the news but the rumour mongering had a field day. There was a news item in the Tribune of August 4 with the caption “Braid Cutter Dalit Lynched in Agra”. Yet another paper, Hindustan Times carried a
story “”Braid Chop Hysteria: Agra Villagers Lynch Dalit Woman”. I was wondering why the reporter has identified the old lady as a “dalit”. Was the word dalit needed to explain anything which could not be done otherwise? Did the reporter feel that such activities could only be done by dalits?  I think it is nothing more but a Manuwadi mindset of the insensitive media. Dalits are, of course, being lynched by anti-social elements mostly belonging to upper castes everyday in one pretext or the other in the caste ridden society. Generally, these stories are ignored by the biased and insensitive media. It is an unfortunate ground reality.

Chanakya Niti:- Saam-Daam-Dhand-Bhed: Chanakya  also known as Kautilya whose name was Vishnugupta was a philosopher adviser to Chadragupta Maurya in the 3rd-4th century BC. His political treatise ‘Arthashastra’ provides tenets of good governance and also advice on strategic and tactical approaches to deal with various aspects of governance and diplomacy. The crux of Chanakya’s philosophy is as valid today as it was before.  One of these dictums is the famous “Saam, Daam, Dhand and Bhed” The meaning of this is: -

Saam: to advice and ask or to express commonality with your counterpart.
Daam: to offer and buy or to offer monetary compensation.
Dand: to punish or threaten of harm.
Bhed: exploiting the secrets or try to single your opponent from his associates and cause division and dissention.

It is a considered and well thought of strategy to deal with ones opponents or enemy. In the present context in India, PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah are skillfully applying and practicing this Chanakya policy to deal with their political opponents. The recent developments in, inter alia, Gandhinagar,
Bengaluru, Lucknow, Patna to deal with Shankar Singh Vaghela, D.K. Shivkumar, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav are some of the clear pointers in this direction. There is no harm in practicing the traditional Indian wisdom in politics, diplomacy and governance. But I think it should not be done sparingly and selectively. Moreover, the same very Shastras also teach matching morality and Dharma. As Dr. Ambedkar also said, ‘Gyan without Sheel is dangerous’.

Incidentally, PM Narendra Modi in his message to a multilateral meeting – Sambad – Global Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environmental Consciousness the other day referred to yet another traditional gem from the Tarka Shastra to fight with the global challenges of terrorism, climate change and to eradicate religious prejudices that cause conflict across the world and said, “The ancient Indian concept of Tarka Shastra is founded on dialogue and debate as the model for exchange of views and avoidance of conflict.” May the traditional Indian wisdom finds favour with the Chinese leadership to end the ongoing standoff at Doklam – India-China-Bhutan border tri-junction.

Without Comment:-

“Fallout of Doklam may be that China will now openly back Pakistan in border disputes.”

Will There Be War – a story in India Today, August 15, 2017 issue.