For whom the bell tolls
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
The ballad of Mirza Saheba’n
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
The 16th day of April 1853 is special in the Indian history. The day was a public holiday. At 3:30 pm, as the 21 guns roared together, the first train carrying Lady Falkland, wife of Governor of Bombay, along with 400 special invitees, steamed off from Bombay to Thane.Ever since the engine rolled off the tracks, there have been new dimensions to the distances, relations and emotions. Abaseen Express, Khyber Mail and Calcutta Mail were not just the names of the trains but the experiences of hearts and souls. Now that we live in the days of burnt and non functional trains, I still have a few pleasant memories associated with train travels. These memoirs are the dialogues I had with myself while sitting by the windows or standing at the door as the train moved on. In the era of Cloud and Wi-fi communications, I hope you will like them.
Illustration by Mahjabeen Mankani/Dawn.com
This is Danabad, a small village but a large monument of love, a tomb of reverence. Though the story of Mirza Saheba’n has been filmed, re-enacted and told many a times but something about this ballad, so fascinates the audience that it appears afresh, every time.
Danabad was home to the Kharal Jaats. Wanjhal, the tribal head, was blessed with a son, who was named Mirza Khan. Almost at the same time, in another village nearby, Mahni Khan, a Jatt Sardar from the Kheva sub-clan, was also blessed with a daughter, named Sahiba’n. According to some traditions, Mirza’s mother was sister to Mahni Khan and a few differ that she was sister to Saheba’n’s mother. Regardless of the maternal linkage, the story of Mirza and Saheba’n is the one of cousin love. By some twist of fate, Mirza was sent to live at Saheba’n’s place after the death of his mother.
From Haryana to Vancouver, and Fatehgarh to Victoria, whenever this ballad is staged, there are two scenes which initiate the story. The first is of a mosque, where a teacher tells Saheba’n to write Aleph, the first vernacular alphabet, but she wrote “Mirza” instead. The maulvi canes Saheba’n and the lash marks appear on Mirza’s back. The other scene is of a grocery shop, where the keeper loses his wits to Sahiba’n’s beauty. Baba says that a woman’s beauty is a moment of amazement, which just captivates the man.
The love story became public and shortly, was the talk of the town. Mirza returned to Danabad and Saheba’n was engaged elsewhere. When her wedding guests started pouring in, Saheba’n summoned Karmu Brahmin, an old confidant, and sent a message to Danabad. The message was her intent to fight against fate. Karmu covered the 40 miles and warned Mirza of the impending disaster, with a word that any delay might deprive him of the love of his life. At Mirza’s house, another wedding was in waiting, his sister had henna on her hands but Mirza chose to leave. Before he could ride Bakki, his mare, away, the women folk of the household gathered. They tried to dissuade him; unfortunately, love not only blinds vision, but also reason.
Mirza reached the village and with an aunt’s help, made a rope ladder. Saheba’n was instantly transported from her palanquin to his horseback. Soon the dholak beat was swallowed by Bakki’s hooves beat. The love lore of Mirza Saheba’n is incomplete without the mention of Bakki. Peelo draws her lineage to the six saddles that graced history. It included Duldul of Hazrat Ali, Hick of Gugga Chohan, Neela of Raja Rasalu., Lakhi of Dulla Bhatti and Sandal of Raja Jaymal. The others draw her pedigree from Guru Gobind Singh’s horse and yet others think that the stuffed horse, of Ranjit Singh in the Shahi Qila is also from the same bloodline.
With the glory she carried, Bakki well understood the situation. For the safety of her riders, she first halted short of Danabad, where a banyan tree awaited the ill-fated couple. Once Danabad was in view, thoughts of Kheva eluded Mirza’s mind. He could see the decorated haveli and the baraat of his sister. The same sister, who had held the reigns of Bakki and had warned Mirza of the dangerous women of Sials. Jatts, across Punjab, are fearful of their sisters so Mirza decided to head home once the wedding was over but fate had other plans. Soon, Mirza was asleep with Saheba’n awake by his side.
When the silence prevailed, she heard the hoof beats. Horses of Khan Shahmeer, her brother, were a rare breed and the riders appeared familiar. The dangerous woman of Sial thought for a while. If the riders were her brothers, Mirza was unlikely to spare any of them and she had never wished Kharal arrows for Kheva men. All she had wanted was the love of her life but did not perceive the prohibitive cost. In the split of moment, she broke the arrows and hanged the bow by the tree. When the fighters ranged closer, she woke Mirza up. Confident of his archery, Mirza still thought he could manage them all. He reached for his bolt and found the bent arrows and hooked bow. His great heart broke. Few opine that Mirza lost it to Sahiba’n’s trickery, before Shameer’s sword stuck him. Yet others record that he last called out Sahiba’n, instead of Kalima. Before the lights go out completely and curtains roll, Sahiba’n is also seen falling on the stage. Peelo’s voice feeds in the ambience.
Manda Keetoi Saheba, Mera Turkish Dittoi Tang, Ser To Mandasa Lay Gaya, Gal Wich Payendee Chand, Bajh Bharawan Jatt Mariya, Koi Na Mirzay Day Sang
O Sahiba’n! You did no good by hanging the bow on the branch (of the tree) The turban fell from the head and the face was puffed in dust The Jatt was killed away from the brothers as Mirza died alone
Besides Peelo, the story has been told by Mola Shah Majethvi. R.C.Temple heard this ballad from many local performers and preserved it in his book. A myth, other than the grave of Mirza Saheba’n, fills up the tragic romantic cosmos of Danabad. It is said that a young girl in every generation of the Sials falls in love and dies an unnatural death. Across the canal, the road and the railway line, Jhang also celebrates a similar tradition, courtesy Heer.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM— PUBLISHED APR 01, 2013
The death of a Maharaja
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
The Maharaja breathed his last on the fifth day of his sickness, the 15th of Asarh, 1896 (Bikrimi / Punjabi Calendar and 20 June 1839 Gregorian Calendar), Thursday, around dusk. It had already grown dark, Raja Dhiyan Singh, the Prime Minister was ordered to maintain calm in the city, in case riots broke out. The next day, in accordance with royal tradition, the dead body of the Maharaja was bathed and made up the way he appeared in court, in a royal dress and jewels. A podium of gold was prepared for his last rites.
His last two Rajput wives, Maharani Rajdai and Maharani Hardai, daughters of Raja Sansar Chand, ruler of Kaangra, started their preparations for Satti. At first, they declared all their estates and property including jewels, gems and stones to charity. Driven by the Maharaja’s love, they dressed up in their bridals and walked out of the palace, bare feet.
Amongst the men, Raja Dhiyaan Singh, the Prime Minister, declared that he would also burn to death with the Maharaja and ordered his effects to be given to charity. On seeing this, the nobles from the court came and persuaded him to change his decision. They pleaded that the Maharaja had chosen Raja Dhiyan Singh, amongst all men because of his wisdom and it was in the greater interest of Punjab that he looked after the affairs, run the state and guided the crown Prince Kharag Singh. Raja Dhiyan Singh, however, refused to listen. Prince Kharag Singh then, walked up to him and convinced him to change his mind. He offered him to leave the assignment as soon as calm prevails, to which he agreed.
Both the Ranis, moved out of the palace and sat around Maharaja’s dead body. Geeta, the holy book, was placed on the Maharaja`s body. The Satti Ranis administered the oath on Geeta and the body of Maharaja, by Raja Dhiyan Singh and Prince Kharag Singh to fulfill their duties for the best of Khalsa Raj and the Punjab Empire.
The Maharaja’s dead body was lifted with great prestige. Hundreds of gold coins, minted with the Maharaja’s figure, were thrown in the air. A large number of servants and citizens accompanied the funeral procession. The procession was taken out from the western gate of Hazoori Bagh and it moved alongside the River Ravi, where it was placed on a heap of Chandan wood for cremation. Prince Kharag Singh lit the fire. Both the Ranis sat in the fire, holding the head of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and 11 Kaneez (maids) sat on both side of the dead body, to be burnt with the Maharaja. Raja Dhiyan Singh went near the Ranis and requested for prayers for Prince Kharag Singh, the Sattis did not reply and stayed still with tight lips and closed eyes.
When flames flickered high, oil, ghee (purified butter) and scents were thrown in. A pigeon flew from nowhere and fell into the fire to become Satti. After a little while, it started to rain. The skies also seemed to mourn the death of the Maharaja. After the fire finally extinguished, the bodies of the Maharaja, Ranis and the maids had completely burnt and the rituals had been completed, Prince Kharag Singh took a bath and returned to palace.
On the 4th day, the remains (of cremation) were dispatched honorably, to Ganga. The remains were taken out in the form of a procession. All the courtiers, who attended the royal procession, paid their respect to the Maharaja’s remains. The reagents of the area, from where the remains passed on their way to Ganga, came out to pay homage. On the 13th day, when the remains were finally merged into Ganga, millions were given to Brahmins and the last rites culminated.
The crown prince ordered to build a Tomb (Samadh) and valuable stones were called for across India. The tomb was under construction, when Maharaja Kharag Singh died. A pause prevailed throughout the regimes of Maharaja Sher Singh and Maharaja Duleep Singh.
Finally, when the British assumed the rule of Punjab, the tomb was completed. Many people visited the tomb in the coming years. On account of the heaviness of the upper Dome, cracks were observed in the eight supporting pillars. When British administrators observed this, they contacted me and as In charge of the buildings of Lahore, I was given the responsibility to stabilise and restore the tomb. I added eight more supporting pillars and the cracking pillars were strengthened through iron rings. To date, the Samadh is stable and attracts visitors throughout India.
Excerpts from Chapter 44, Tareekh-e-Punjab by Kanhaya Lal Hindi Translated by Muhammad Hassan Miraj
Curtsey:DAWN.COM PUBLISHED NOV 09, 2012
The Jhang of Abdus Salam
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
Other than Sultan and Chander Bhan, Jhang has references which the national history has chosen to forget. One such reference is Dr Abdus Salam, who is intentionally being erased from public memory, unfortunately, on accounts of religion. Official historians stumble upon his reference much similarly as they deal with the chapter of genetics in advanced biology textbooks; staple it and think it forgotten.
Born in the small dwellings of Santok Das, Abdus Salam spent most of his childhood in Jhang. His grandfather was a religious scholar and his father was an employee in the education department and so, it was the mainstay in Abdus Salam’s household. There are rumours that his parents saw a dream forewarning them about his illustrious career and then there are stories about him being taken to school for admission in the first grade but qualifying for the fourth grade instead. Regardless of these anecdotes, his academic life was indeed, a matter of honor. When anyone inquired about his young age and distinction in examinations, he simply raised his finger and pointed towards the sky, attributing it towards Allah. Those were the times of the Raj and religion was a private affair, rather than now when it is determined by parliamentary committees under the influence of protests.
Despite his love for literature, Salam took up sciences when he joined college. He opted for this route for qualifying for ICS, a job much envied by his family but after being turned down on medical grounds; he decided to pursue further education. Cambridge University, those days, offered scholarships for which Abdus Salam applied, despite his frail economic conditions. Between the benevolence of Sir Choto Ram, a minister in the Punjab Government and Abdus Salam’s luck, a candidate dropped off from the final list. The much desired Cambridge scholarship, for which people applied for months in advance and prayed for days, now belonged to him. That year, when people across the world arrived at Cambridge with their expensive effects, a young man from Jhang with his sole steel trunk was also amongst them.
After the completion of his Masters degree, Abdus Salam was offered scholarships for further studies and various employment opportunities but Pakistan was a free land now and it needed men like him. He came back and started teaching at the Government College, Lahore, his alma mater. He taught mathematics in the morning and coached students for football in the evening.
Dealing with differentials and equations in the first half of the day; and taking the lost team for Doodh Jalebi to Chau Burji at night, this young professor was certainly not the two sides of the coins but rather a prism which imparted seven colors to every incident ray. Lahore was subject to anti-Ahmadiyya violence in 1953 for the first time and it cut Salam off his base. He, like so many others, was at a loss of identity.
A month later, he was offered an instructional post at the Imperial College, London which he accepted. The 30-year-old, youngest ever assistant professor of Imperial College, London, was a Pakistani now.
Having settled the Martial Law issue and the political manipulation, Ayub Khan arranged for Abdus Salam’s come back. He is credited for drafting the first comprehensive scientific policy. Abdus Salam went on to found SUPPARCO and arranged for scholarships, which helped hundreds of Pakistani scientists’ to educate themselves abroad. Making PINSTECH, Karachi Nuclear plant and Atomic Energy Commission, a reality and leading the IAEA mission, Abdus Salam set the grounds for scientific research. Many research institutes, from where hundreds of Islamic missions take off for reformation every now and then, were once founded by this non-Muslim scientist. Regarding his contributions towards Pakistan’s nuclear programme, he was instrumental in the Multan meeting and initial research but when the Bhutto government declared Ahmadis non-Muslims, he left for England. Despite the change in countries, his heart never changed for Pakistan and he kept guiding all scientists involved in the programme till he breathed his last.
He was offered the nationality of all those countries whose asylum seekers, today, lead the criticism on his faith. On being asked that why he avoided Pakistan, he replied, it was not him who avoided Pakistan but Pakistan that avoided him.
Abdus Salam’s credentials of were finally acknowledged by his nomination for the Nobel Prize in 1979. He worked for the Grand Unification Theory that declared a single source for all forces. When the prize was announced, he offered nawafil in gratitude. On the day of reception, Stockholm saw for the first time a recipient dressed in the Pakistani national dress, reciting Soorah Mulk in the acceptance speech.
Then return [your] vision twice again. [Your] vision will return to you humbled while it is fatigued. Chapter 67: Verse 4
The same year, the Pakistani government, rewarded him with the highest civil award. It is not the case that the state had not valued Abdus Salam but his vision and farsightedness was on a constant colliding course with our resources, rigidity and short shortsightedness. The government did honor him by issuing a postage stamp but when he proposed the making of a centre of excellence for research and technology, the then finance minister turned it down, declaring that the country could not afford a luxury hotel for scientists.
After he had received the Nobel Prize, he chose to visit Lahore, first. On landing, he headed straight to Data Saheb and then went to the Government College, Lahore. His humility held both the places with equal reverence and despite his 300 plus awards, he remained the same Abdus Salam of the yesteryear's, attributing his all achievements to God. In a public gathering, someone commented that Jhang was initially famous for Heer and now will be famed for Abdus Salam’s Nobel Prize. He remarked that there are hundreds of Nobel Laureates but only one Heer.
While Abdus Salam opted to be buried Pakistan, little did he know that he would require a magisterial permission for his tombstone. Abdus Salam might have believed that if the Quaid’s speech of 11th August 1947 had finally found its way, his speech of 1944 at Srinagar would also be made public one day.
Besides the salinity, the fertility of Jhang is being ravished by something else as well.
Prior to Chandar Bhan, Jhang belonged to Sultan. This mystic was born in February 1628 in the area now known as Shorkot. Nature had already lined up the arrangements for the spiritual to be brought up as his mother, Raasti bibi, known for her piety, who taught him the basics of spiritualism. Hazrat Sultan Bahu did not acquire formal education but according to a tradition, his quest for knowledge was satiated by illuminated dreams. His devotion to God and love for His creations is evident through Sultan’s verses which are part of every Punjabi household.
To-date every student of mysticism begins his journey with the much revered “Aleph Allah chanbay dee booti” and graduates to “Dil darya samundroon doonghay”. These verses illuminate the inner self so as to see the human heart match the depth of oceans. Despite being Sultan-ul-arifeen (the king of the pious), the devotees who visit his shrine in Garh Maharaja, are first expected to visit the grave of his parents.
The mystery of Jhang revolves around the trinity of mysticism, love and poetry. Alongside Sultan Bahu, many other shrines populate the city. While the Muslim spiritual quest was enlivened by the shrines of Hazrat Shah Shiekha, Peer Jabbo Shareef, Shah Kabeer and Rodo Sultan, the Sikh Darbar of Guru Nanak Dev and Hindu temple in Ware Sulaiman tended to the other faithfuls.
Besides the tombs of holy men, a monument of love also adorns the city. However, unlike other shrines, the soul interred here did not belong to a saint but a lady. For the cultural world, she is the Heer of Waris Shah but if any Sial is consulted, he would swear upon her chastity. The story goes as a lady from the Sial family, Mai Heer, was famous in the entire region for her spirituality. When the political struggle between the Nauls and Sayyals geared up, the former decided to demean the saint woman. They made up a story which defamed Heer and her love for God was propagated as her love for one of her disciples, Ranjha.
The shrine of Sultan Bahu.
Originally, the story of Heer was written by Waris Shah in 1776, but a letter is said to have been written, by a historian to Behlol Lodhi, the ruler of Punjab, much earlier. This dispatch explained the reality of Heer and the conspiracy of the Nauls. It also explained how, entertainers, puppeteers and bhaats were employed to present this story as true. However, time did prove her innocence as all attempts to defame her failed. The efforts to malign her eventually glorified her love and earned her respect. True love, be it mortal or immortal, leads to God and has His will.
The details of Waris Shah have been covered in the episodes of Sheikhupura but the story of his story remains to be told. This chronicle of love between the Dheedho of Ranjha and the Heer of Sayyal is similar to the love stories across the world. There are, however, a few aspects which make it remarkable.
When Ranjha had a word with the mullah for spending a night in the mosque, it was in fact the dialogue between man and religion. His argument with sailor Luddan for crossing Chenab is the discourse between the material world and the ideological world. The detailed description of Heer’s beauty is an excellence of narration and Ranjha’s stunt as a shepherd for 12 long years is the embodiment of negation of self. His soul searching Joge and talks by Balnath are the reflections of the human mind and his arguments with Sehti at Khera’s village are the illustration of human belief. When Inayat Hussain Bhatti, recites the kalaam to the point that Heer laments the arrival of Ranjha at her village
Rab jhooth na keray jay hovay Ranjha, Taan main chor(d)e hoyee menun pattya soo
And if (God forbid), it is Ranjha, I am doomed and ruined
Listeners can visualise Heer stumping her head against the wooden door. Inayat hussain’s recital infuses such an expression that Heer comes to life. Her creased forehead, teary eyes and repentance struck body, appears so real that one could reach out and touch her. Towards the end, the sudden death of the two lovers highlights the futility of this world. Heer Waris Shah, to say the least, is not a story but a wondrous world.
The desert-like environ of Jhang is so fertile that the city lives up to its creative tradition without fail. The day to day dialogue carries such humility that when these expressions are disciplined into poetry, it causes heartache. The poets who crafted these piercing impressions are the third angle of the Jhang trinity.
When Riaz Ahmed migrated from India and made Jhang his home, he had never thought that making a life here would cost him his life. His constant financial fears did not hinder his creative sojourn initially but crippled him eventually. Riaz, who took up the pen name of Ram Riaz was too sensitive to stand against sickness and poverty. Lost to a routine that clipped his imagination, he lived a life of misery. The idealist was reduced to a subsistence amount of a mere 500 rupees per month from the Academy of Letters, so he resigned to death along with his imagination,
Jaanay kia kuch dil pey guzri, aaj jo dekha yaro’n ko, Kaisi mitti chaat gayee, in pathar ki deevaron ko
My heart skipped a beat as I saw my old friends today, Giants of yesteryears had been reduced to mere dwarfs
The second poet from Jhang is Majeed Amjad. This marvelous poet wrote many awe-inspiring poems but published only one book in his life. His anthology of poems was named as Shab-e-Rafta (A night gone by). Most of his work was compiled after his death. Fame came but after the hour and this sensitive soul did not live to see it.
Mehaktay jaatay hain chup chaap, jaltay jaatay hain, Misaal-e-chehra-e-paighambaran gulaab kay phool
They give away fragrance by smoldering their inner self,
Much like the prophets, the roses bloom
In pessimistic times such as ours, any poetry has to be diversely realist and feasibly pessimist to claim relevance. It has to be themed according to our lives. For those who fell in love in past decades, Shaam kay baad is one such expression that has many hearts tied with those words.
Tu hay sooraj tujhay maloom kahan raat ka dukh, Tu kissi roz meray ghar main utar, sham kay baad
You, being the sun, have no idea about the miseries of the night, Grace my house some day, when the evening falls
Mesmerising the youth with his description of death, Farhat Shah is also a poet from Jhang.
I felt that the entire city lives under the ambience of love. It might have been because of the madressah of Maulvi Imdad Ali where Sahiban and Mirza studied together and after Mirza left for his village, Sahiban never returned to her class. It might have been the handlooms, which as late as 1950s, existed in every house of Jhang and every Jhangvi was skilled in tying the two ends and knitting it together.
Across the railway line, a faqeer sang, solving the equation:
Assi Jhang da vaasi lok sajjan, Saada dil darya, saadi akh sehra
We, the people of Jhang, are friends forever, Our hearts resemble the rivers and our eyes, the deserts.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM PUBLISHED JUL 02, 2013
Ganga Pur and Lahore
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
An old banyan tree stood somewhere around the city. Its shade hooked up the travellers who sat down and retired for a while before resuming their journey. Then, they cut the banyan and those who sat under its shade moved elsewhere. There are trees now but no more travellers. Despite its betraying nature, there are few men who yearn for these shades, and in defiance to the turn of events, they refuse to part with this memory. That, precisely, is the reason that folks as old as that tree, remember Jaranwala with awe. Away from the business capital of Faisalabad, lies the silent yet growing city of Jaranwala, much like a beaming bride, part unaware of her beauty and part conscious about it too. But Jaranwala is incomplete without a few mentions.
Next to Nankana, is the railway station of Buchiana, a small grain market, where life is all about fields and yields. Here, in this vicinity is a village, far more fertile than the lands of the bar. Though, the divinity of Ganga is restricted to the other side of the border, any resident of Ganga Pur can see beyond the futile divisions of colour, caste and creed. This, devout disciple of Ganga and Ram was Sir Ganga Ram, who built Lahore as we see it today.
Fondly remembered as “man of all the seasons”, this Sufi is close to every Punjabi heart. Those who spend their days and night, practicing medicine at the Ganga Ram Hospital and those who wait for their visa to fly abroad know him alike; no one escapes his signature. Whether posting a letter at the GPO or answering a summon at the High Court, visiting the courts of Faisalabad or benefitting from the powerhouse of Renala Khurd, walking around the Saigol Hall of the Aitcheson College or waiting at the Albert Victor wing of Mayo Hospital, the name of Ganga Ram finds a reason to leave a footprint on your heart, just like these buildings.
Born in 1851 to Daulat Ram, a police official in Mangtanwala, Ganga Ram was eldest of his siblings. He spent his initial years at Amritsar and after graduating from Government College, Lahore, joined Thomson Engineering College, Roorki. He was appointed Assistant Engineer at Public Works Department, Lahore employed on completion of his education.
I asked the old man about the definition of “Rizq”, he replied. “Those with the worldly vision take Rizq as mere subsistence whereas, in the actual essence, every good thing that comes your way, be it a fellow passenger, qualifies for “Rizq”.
Whether Ganga Ram thought this way or not, here at PWD, he met Kanhayya Lal Hindi and Bhai Ram Singh. The aristocratic grandeur around the Mall, which now defines the Raj era, was christened by this trinity. These three men were not only gifted in their craft but knew well how to fuse one culture with another duly supplementing the inherent beauty of each.
India, in those days buzzed with the British talent hunt. The Raj looked for able men and Ganga Ram was soon discovered. He was sent to England for advanced training in structural engineering. On his return, he was greeted with luck and fame. Serving as the executive engineer for Lahore, for almost 12 years, he commissioned many monumental works. The National College of Arts, Aitcheson College, Dayal Singh Mansion, Hailey College, Lahore High courts, Lahore Museum, Lady Maclagan High school, Widow House at Ravi Road, and the Lady Maynard School of Industrial Training are a few among them. The lining of trees astride the Mall Road, planning the first sewerage scheme for the city and developing Model Town were also the marvel of his town planning genius. Conclusively, it can be said with convenience, that before Lahore grew into a double story joy-ride, the city owed its beauty to Ganga Ram’s craft.
On retirement, he was made the Governor of the Imperial Bank of India. After a few months, he found it too boring to continue and joined the Patiala State Service. As head of constructions, he administered historical works like Ijlaas-e-Khaas and the new Moti Bagh Palace.
Despite his life in cities, the countryman inside him refused to settle down. Lahore, with all its vastness, had failed to charm him. Far and away, Chenab Colony awaited him and the life he brought along. Originally the revenue record, on that white cotton latha, registers this place as Chak 591 G B (Gogera Branch) but since Ganga Ram acquired it from the British authorities and rehabilitated it, the village has been named Ganga Pur, a tribute to Sir Ganga Ram. This vast expanse of land stretches over thousands of acres laid barren. Gogera Canal flowed through this area but irrigation was not possible because of difference in the water level. After analyzing the situation, Sir Ganga Ram decided to lift irrigate the village through a heavy motor. The machinery was transported through rail from Lahore to Mandi Buchiana but could not be brought to the village. A special 3 km long track was laid which was completed in 1898 but the train that traversed this track was different. Instead of puffing engine, it was pushed by huffing horses. After the motor was installed, the metamorphosis began and within six months, everything turned green. The efforts of Ganga Ram had converted the barren land to fertile fields. These 90,000 acres of arable land were the largest private enterprise of its time.
An engineer at heart, he carved a heart of gold for himself. After he turned the sand into gold, he started sharing the bounties with the lesser children of God. Built in 1921 by an amount of Rs 1,32,000, the Ganga Ram Hospital to-date remains the last hope of many poor patients. Alongside the hospital, he built the first widow house in Lahore and, here too, religion remained a non issue.
Ganga Ram died in 1927 in London. He was cremated there and his ashes were brought back to Lahore, where the whole city mourned this great philanthropist of his time. On the banks of Ravi, abaradari, with a dome atop, marks the burial place of Sir Ganga Ram. It was the site of Baisakhi celebrations, pre-partition. After 1947, however, there is no such gathering. Festivities go on but the spirit has faded away.
On the right side of the track, lies Khurdianwala, a town about to grow into a city. The town has an amusing story. Sher Shah, the Suri King, ordered a well to be dug at the site of the rubble. Once both the words combined, the name of the city was carved. It is now famous for textile mills, heavy industries and a warning shot for Lyallpur or Faisalabad.
Amidst this all is Jaranwala, a 400 years old city, famous for its fields and canals. The history of city is inscribed on a gate called the Pakistani Gate. Amongst other old things, it has a jute mill and a Jamia mosque. The mill has been abandoned and the mosque has grown. Before the partition, the city had three temples. Two of them were razed and the third one, with its frescoes and carvings at the basement, awaits encroachment. Located next to the National Bank, this temple is an archaeological site and can be visited anytime, subject to will. A more deliberate look reveals the demolished Burji’s.
Apart from temples, there was a marhi, which has now been converted into a girls’ college. A sizable population of the city resides abroad. Fewer are those expats whose parents lived here prior to partition and still miss this grain market.
When the train rolled from Ganga Pur to Buchiana, many locals benefitted. The water reached the fields and travellers hit their homes. After functioning for almost a century, it broke down. Residents of Ganga pur looked up in the sky and towards the state but neither the God sent any Ganga Ram, nor the state formed a committee. They decided to help themselves and within a few weeks, the horses pulled it again, last year.
On arriving at Ganga Pur, I realised the difference between the urbans and the rurals. Ganga Ram brought water to this village and the villagers gave up their name for him; he spent his life beautifying Lahore but the citizens could not take care of even a statue.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM PUBLISHED MAR 18, 2013
The River that played god
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
Photo Credit: Imran Nafeel
The charm of Tilla Jogian and Rohtas is preamble to Jhelum. The city casts its spell, slowly and unknowingly, like love in the later life, tempting yet destructive. The city dates back to countless BCs and there is no account of who actually founded it. Its history and that of the river supplement each other, much like an umbilical cord. The magic of the city precludes talisman of the river.
Besides Indus, which is sacred to most inhabitants of its basin, Jhelum also finds its mentions in Hindu scriptures. Vyeth, Vatista and Hydespes are few names of this river, which according to Vedic scripture, is a source of purification for India. These days, however, it is the source of hydro-power. According to Greek mythology, the river is named after the god, Hydespes, whose parents controlled sea and cloud and whose siblings mastered rainbows and winds. Historians are divided on whether the river was named after the god or the god was named after the river. Despite this myth, reality and tradition, those who have lived by it, believe there is something divine about it.
Verinag, the spring source of Jhelum, is around 80 km from Anant Nag. After the Moghuls made their summer capital at Kashmir, they developed this place into a garden and reshaped the spring into an octagonal structure. From the mountain ranges of Pir Punjab, the river traverses long distances through Saupore, Bara Mola and enters Pakistan at Muzaffarabad. Before irrigating the land of pure, it brings life to Indian lands. The nature has no immigration procedure.
Throughout its course, the river flows past structures, humans and emotions. These sparkling waters have stories to tell but we, the unfortunate children of God, have no time to listen. It wants to tell how it fills the Wooler Lake and also the story of how a king built a small island in the middle of the lake. Another story is about the girl who cried while pedaling alone near Saupore. A tale of a love affair caught between communal strife in Srinagar. A word about the old man at Muzaffarabad, who, after having lived his whole life abroad, has come home to die. However, it does not tell at all about the agony of its riverbeds being excavated for sands to construct shopping malls. The river falls in Chenab at Trimmu Headwork.
Jhelum city was passed on to Sikhs from the Moghuls and eventually came under Raj. The imperialism of the city can be related to the British-style of town planning. The whole city was planned on both sides of the railway line. Hospital, Post office and Garrison developed on one side and the city on the other. A clear demarcation existed between the White man and his burden.
The year of 1857 changed everything about India. Peshawar uprising was curbed with relative ease due to mail censorship and initiatives by the British officers, however, Jhelum appeared as a center of resistance. Thirty-five British soldiers lost their lives. After the order was restored, a plaque was erected at St. John Church to commemorate the lives laid for the Queen mother. The lives laid for our Moghul King, however, find no mention in the history and were lives lost in the real sense.
Nothing much has changed ever since, only that GT Road is the new boundary between the trimmed lawns of garrison and roughly drawn fields of Tahlianwala. In the year of 1873, John Galwey designed a magnificent bridge across river. These days, an imposing hotel, rather the bridge, catches the eye with the promise of rented limousine for wedding ceremonies.
On the other side of the river, is the Inn founded by Moghul king, Aurangzeb Alamgir. It goes by the name of Sara-i-Alamgir. During the First World War, the British realised the military potential of the place. To honor the veterans of Jhelum, a school was planned to provide free education for their children. Inaugurated in 1922, King George V Military School Jhelum was renamed Military College Jhelum after independence and is now known as MCJ. Mostly, the sons of junior commissioned officers study here and after undergoing the selection procedure, join the Pakistan Army. The students of MCJ, known as Alamgirians, have both the attributes in their upbringing, the quest of a student and the vanity of a soldier. Inside the college gates, the world is very different. At a place where Alamgir once provided for the comfort of travelers, an old teacher of language, now provides for the development of his students. Professor Bashir, an instructor with an experience of over 40 years, aims at mending the hearts rather than the sentence structure of Alamgirians.
The city of Jhelum lays claim, not only on the fallen soldiers of the British Infantry, but also on the three brothers Mati Daas, Dayal Daas and Satti Daas, who laid their lives for Guru Taigh Bahadur during the Sikh persecution. Major Akram is another valiant scion of Jhelum who sacrificed his life for the country while fighting against the Indian army at Hilli in 1971. Strangly enough, the Nishan-e-Haider recipient of Pakistan and the Padma Bhushan recipient of India, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, both hailed from Jhelum. The narrow alleys of one of the mohallah, still remember the young Inder Kumar Gujral, who later rose to become Prime Minister of India. While he excelled at statecraft, the younger brother Satish Gujral learnt to draw and carve, making his name as a sculpturist and artist.
Nasser Azam, another artist, moved to England at a young age but Jhelum is still fresh in his memory. Sometime around partition, Balraj Dutt, who lived by the banks of Jhelum River, migrated to live by another river bank, Yamuna. He later took it to acting and was famous as Sunil Dutt. History is like a tornado and its might prompts it to possess short-term memory. The people of Jhelum, no more remember the kings and the generals, but a saint called Mian Muhammad Bakhsh. The mystic poet, who penned “Saif Ul Malook”, is held in reverence by many throughout India and Pakistan. The master-piece revolves around the story of a Prince, who fell in love with a fairy. Fewer believe that the couple still lives in one of the caves in the scenic tourist spot, north of Pakistan. Somewhere on the banks of Jhelum River, I once heard a shepherd, reciting his verses. Beneath the words, a subtle message was being conveyed to the soul through the subconscious, a message which was simple yet thought provoking ...
Loay Loay Bhar Lay Kuriyay Jay Tu Pani Bharna Fill in your pot with water, if you intend so Shaam Payee Bin Shaam Muhammad, Ghar Jaandi Nay Darna When the sun will set, you will fear going home alone ...Mian Muhammad Bakhsh
Curtsey:DAWN.COM PUBLISHED AUG 13, 2012
The town of soldiers and saints
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
Rohtas Fort near Jhelum – Photo courtesy Creative Commons
The train is supposed to move from Dina to Kaloowal and Kala Gojran to reach its destination, Jhelum, but it does not. Like most of the mythologies still in narration here, a mix of haunted voices, captivates the traveler and paralyses his intentions. There is indeed something magical about the cities that flourish on the hills and by the rivers.
In the dusty record rooms of revenue department, log books mention a reservation, Boorha Jungle, next to Dina. A road departs from this place to a wonderland called Rohtas. The weary bridge on the river Kahan is reminiscent of the cultural amnesia of the nation. Constant deprivation of basic amenities has devoid us of aesthetic curiosity. The sense to curate, preserve and educate on the cultural history is non-existent. Once a part of GT Road, Rohtas lost its clout after British engineers altered the ancient route. The fort also suffered as the road drifted further right.
On an expanse of about five kilometres, it is one of the architectural master-pieces of the sub-continent. Within the confines of invincible walls, a small populace inhabits this place, since the construction started, and marks its time calmly. These few good men have refused to believe that times, like the waters of river Kahan, have changed. They are Punjabi alternative to the abandoned soldiers of Alexander, dwelling in Kailash, who live on the Macedonian promise to return one day.
The tradition of developing two cities with the same name at the extents of the conquered empire was quite in vogue those days and Sher Shah Suri was no exception. To compliment the Rohtas Garh on the far side of his kingdom in Bihar, he developed this sleeping beauty and named it Rohtas.
The story of Humayun’s succession is rather interesting. The young prince fell ill and had little chance to survive. Babar was told about the Indian tradition of offering something substantial to affect a change in divine decision. The nobility at the court thought he would offer Koh-i-Noor but he was a father of another kind. An avid reader of Rumi, he declared that he could not present stones to God and the only thing worth the life of Humayun, was his own. The Padhshah of India is said to have spent all night on the prayer mat and in the morning circled the bed of ailing Humayun. Within hours, the prince started showing signs of improvement and the king fell sick.
The throne had cost Humayun his father but India has always been asking for more. Sher Khan, a vassal of Mughals formerly, took up arms and dared him for a decisive battle. The battle did come at Qannauj where Mughals were badly defeated. With a view to block the Northern route and minimise chances of Humayun’s retreat, he ordered a fort to be constructed. Most of the orders issued by the Suri King took little or no delays in implementation, the fort construction, however, was taking long. The local Gakhars had promised their allegiance to Babar so they refused to facilitate the construction. In a fist of fury, Sher Shah pledged to nail Gakhars for the world to remember. Now that the Gakhars have settled abroad, the fort is still a reminder of Afghan fury.
After the Gakhar’s denial, Sher Shah brought forth the man, we now know as Todal Mal. A Kaisath Khatri by caste, he announced that anyone who brings a brick would be rewarded by a gold coin. After few weeks, people worked all day only to earn a copper penny. What Soori sword could not win, Todar Mal coins secured. Despite his love for nailing Gakhars, Sher Shah did not live to see the fort completed. Todar Mal, like a good technocrat, had no difficulty in mending fences with Mughals.
In spite of being a trusted governor of Sher Shah, Todar Mal quickly gained acceptance in Mughal court. He ascended to the coveted post of Revenue Minister and subsequently was inducted in Nav Ratan (A council of nine gifted intelligent people that Akbar always kept his side). Todar Mal introduced many reforms in India. He standardised all the measurements, promoted Persian as official language and conditioned the rate of revenue with the produce in each season. His standard system was based on barley corn and was adopted by East India Company. The same was approved by Sir Thomas Munroe and is still practiced in most of the rural India. Though Sher Khan tried his best to block the Mughal entry into India, but the fate of Indian sub-continent has never been an individual decision, alone. A few years later, Sher Shah died and his empire succumbed to rivalries. Humayun marched back to revitalise the house of Mughals. The fort which cost almost a quarter of a billion, welcomed Humayun with Ghakahrs by his side.
Even if it was possible to evade the sensation of Rohtas, reaching Jhelum remains a dream. By rain-washed garrison, moist alleys and the hustling city, a road leads to Darapur, unnoticed. Passing through Sanghoi and Radiyala Hardev, it reaches Tilla Jogian. There are more stories attached to this hill feature than what appears. These narratives are seconded by the historical manuscripts as well as local myths. The teela has been the seat of Budhist monks, the first school of Ayurvedic medicine, the temple of Sun-god and the meditation centre for Kan Phatta Jogis. Ranjha came here to become a Jogi under Guru Gorkahnath and so did the hero of another folk lore, Pooran Bhagat. Guru Nanak Dev sat here for forty days in solitude. Alexander addressed his troops before marching any further. The ruins of balcony constructed by Ranjit Singh in remembrance of Guru Nanak Dev and the temples and baths, built almost a millennium ago, can still be seen.
The famous historian Al-Beiruni also visited this place and lately there was a rest house which now stands abandoned. But this fact sheet is for the historians and archeologist, what satiates the soul is the solace it offers and the spell it casts…on lion-hearts and broken-hearts, alike.
Reaching Jhelum has never been easier. With soldiers and saints en route, either you have to lay your life or pledge one.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM PUBLISHED AUG 06, 2012
Uch Sharif: Alexandria on the Indus
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
Chani Goth Station
Between Ahmed Pur East and Liaqat Pur, the rail halts at Chani Goth, a century old railway station that has managed to contain countless stories in the hollows of its domes.
These mysterious tales of reflective emotions are only to be told to the wandering gusts of wind. A century ago, this town was famous for the best of Gurr that would travel across India but it wasn’t until a year ago that the town regained fame. This time, for unspeakable violence.
In July 2012, when the handicapped Ghulam Abbas was alleged to have desecrated the Quran, the religious party with the claim to revive sunnah, motivated people through fiery speeches and invoked a sudden realization upon the faithful.
An hour later, the charged mob attacked a police station, dragged the accused out of custody, tortured him until his death and set his dead body on fire. All this in the central chowk of Chani Goth. After six hours, when the traffic had restored to normal on the national highway, the burnt body of Ghulam Abbas lay outside the police quarters of the town. The citizens went to bed that night in peace; the prestige of faith restored. The city, however, did not sleep for it had lost today the sweetness of its Gur to smoke and tears.
The Shrine of Bibi Jiwani at Uch Sharif. Photo by Humayun M
A little short of the convergence of the five rivers, where the Indus meets the Chenab to flow southward stands Seet Pur, another century old settlement. Next in the river-guard is Ali Pur, a small town with a namesake in Karnataka. Ali Pur manifests Iranian culture in India in a manner that travels from Ras Kumari to Leh. Jatoi, is another town in the same perimeter, with a public school that has aged alongside the railway station of Chani Goth.
Across the Indus is the sleepy town of Jam Pur. Initially, called Jadam Pur, for the Jadam, a subcaste of Aheers that had settled here ages ago. Groomed in the prophetic profession of goat herding, this Jadoo-bansi tribe had linkages with Samma and the Rajput Bhattis. Years ago, the carved pens of Jam Pur were a souvenir but as the original name of the place sank into oblivion, this memento was also lost to time. This was the time when authors read and the learned wrote – a phenomenon that was to be reversed later.
The criss-crossing riverine is home to the innumerable stories that range from those of the Hoat Baloch tribes of Kot Addu to the ancient city of Muzaffargarh. These unforgettable tales are either cloaked on account of divine compromise or due to mortal negligence. However, the epics are predestined to create new history whenever they will be retold to newer generations.
Ethically, the mention of all the stopovers enroute to Sindh is mandatory but the description of Uch Shareef is almost a religious obligation. Despite the sleepy sands of space and the murky waters of times, Uch Shareef has been extraordinary since its inception.
It is said that when Alexander passed through this place, he was awestruck by the confluence of the rivers. The Macedonian had heard from his folks that cities established on the coming together of rivers, prospered till eternity.
What remains common to all successful men is the fact that no matter how broad their scope of exposure somehow, deep down they always believe in the superiority of their native wisdom. Alexander was no exception, and so, he ordered the establishment of a city here. Now that the confluence has flowed southward to Mithan Kot, Uch Shareef still lives by the courtesy of royal decree. Few wisdoms can prove themselves superior through time.
Initially, the cities founded by Alexander connected with each other on colonial bondage but gradually, local interactions assisted in their expansions. In the times of Raja Chach, when the northern mountains were connected to the ports of the south, the maintenance of order implied defenses but the city did not take up a suspicious posture until the threat from the Mongols matured.
A few decades later, Muhammad Bin Qasim brought the sword of Hajjaj Bin Yousuf sheathed in religion. Initially, the city put up a tough resistance but the seven day siege paved the way for a conversion to Islam. With every coming year, faith bound the Indus region but the division of belief disintegrated the Middle East. Occasionally, scholars and the clergy tortured and persecuted by rulers of Bano Umayya and Bano Abbas flocked to Uch Shareef and made it their home. Within a millennium, the locality founded by herders was a city famous for its saints.
With its eventful history, Uch Shareef reminds one of the post card with a colourful picture on the front and black and white writing at the back. The vivid picture on the front is of multicoloured threads, heavy with prayers and tied to the trees in a courtyard where lie five graves, the resting places of Jalaluddin Surkh Posh, Jahanian Jahan-Gasht, Mayee Javinda, Abdul-Aleem and the architect, Ustad Nooriya. The double tone writing, at the back, is of sadness that drips from the rustic bricks, collapsing domes and fading signs.
Prayers tied up in threads, Uch Sharif. -Photo by Madeeha Syed
Interestingly, the colours of satiation, separation and unification are the same on both sides.
Between Ahmed Pur East and Liaqat Pur, the rail halts at Chani Goth, a century old railway station that has managed to contain countless stories in the hollows of its domes. Of these graves, the oldest, belongs to Jalal ud Din Surkh Posh.
This 14th century father-saint of South Punjab was once the citizen of Bukhara, until he decided to move on. Following the prophetic tradition, he left his Central Asian homeland and settled in Bhakkar. Soon after he had chosen this place as his home, the Soomro, Sayyal and Samma of the area opted for Islam as their religion and mapped the new geography of faith. They settled in areas like Kashmir, Bhanbhore, Jhang and went on to establish the town of JalalPur.
Today, a few of his followers run the meditation houses in Thatta, while others have established spiritual centres in Brussels. Through the long-winding traditions of Pir Pehlwan Shah of Kurram Agency to Shah Jamal of Lahore, the disciples of Jalal ud Din Surkh Posh are strongly committed to Sufi Islam.
As mystics carry the cross for humanity, the colourful wooden columns at the tomb bear the burden of its heavily decorated roof. Every morning, the sun ray enters the building, takes on rainbow colours and captivates the devotees.
The ambience inside the tomb reflects the brilliance of architecture and dawns up on every visitor in a different shade. It is, by these graves, that one learns how need curates the believers and belief castes differing images of reality, all through the prism, called faith.
Around the grave of Jalal ud Din Surkh Posh, his kinsmen are buried in a manner which is organized yet divine.
Lined up with the adjacent wall, are the residential quarters, where visiting sufis stayed during their quest for the 'ultimate truth'. One of the residents was Bulleh Shah, who had a relatively long stay.
In the periphery of the mausoleum, the footprint of Hazrat Ali continues to attract the visitors. This revered artefact was brought in the 13th Century and is to date famous for its miraculous powers. The fresh petals and dull confetti, scattered around the venerated cast, translates into the age old conundrum of new wants and spent-out desires.
The outer walls of the tombs are painted blue, a typical color scheme of South Punjab that foretells Sindhi influence, and the frescoed ceiling inside is the signature of Abbasid architecture. Defying the summer sun that scorches the earth, the serenity of serving the mankind keeps the necropolis of these Bukhara immigrants calm and tranquil.
The second tomb belongs to Jahaniyan Jahan-Gasht, the world-wanderer. Translating to literally and literary sense of the world, this traveller`s identity included 36 pilgrimage trips that he marched to Mecca.
It was during one of these journeys when he came across Lal Deedi in Kashmir. Deedi was a saint in pursuit of spirituality. Some historians believe that Lal Deedi was a devout Hindu and others record that she had embraced Islam but no accurate account is found in this regard. She was lucky to have lived in an age when religious self had not seeped into social behaviours and faith was hardly an identity.
Despite her belief, Lal Deedi is regarded as one of the greatest mystics from Kashmir.
The tomb of Bibi Jawindi at Uch Sharif. -Photo by Humayun M.
After Jahanian Jahan-gasht, she met Sheikh Hamdan and is said to have nursed and tutored young Nur ud Din Wali. To date, her verses (Vaakh) are part of Kashmiri folklore and local wisdom. Birds of the feather, probably, have flocked together since long. From the colour scheme all the way to the overall ambience, the tomb of Jahanian Jahan-Gasht, is in many aspects, a close look alike of the tomb of Jalal ud Din Surkh Posh.
After the revered men, there is a series of three tombs. First one in line is the mausoleum of Bibi Jawindi, the grand-daughter of Jahanian Jahan-Gasht and an acknowledged saint of her time. Her divine reputation transcended Indian borders and as a token of devotion from Persia, the cost of her tomb was borne by an Iranian prince.
The second tomb belongs to Ustad Abdul Aleem, the teacher of Jahanian Jahan-Gasht and the third houses Ustad Nooria, the architect who designed and built all these tombs, lending them their share of eternity.
The tombs at Uch Sharif are a meaningful manifestation of an age long gone.
While half of its structure has caved in, the other half derives strength from its glorious past and stands, in dignity. Besides being a rare fusion of splendour and destruction, these monuments also symbolize the nature of Rohi populace, who won’t abandon the engaging charm in their tone, despite the adversity that surrounds them.
Partly the decay of these shrines is attributable to time and partly it was God-sent. According to an old keeper, the structures have been adversely affected by recurrent floods; most devastating was the one in last century. Wrath of past monsoons can easily be traced by marks left by flood levels. The tomb compound of Uch Sharif is a desert, in essence, and the surroundings carry the feel of the forest brought up by colonization canals. The contrast ensures the spiritual vastness of the shrine does not escape and the man-made soothe of jungle does not intrude.
Every day, the place is filled by the hustle and bustle particular to pilgrims. Devotees show up with their load of expectations, gratitude and despair and end up tying them with the branches of leafy trees, resting against the walls and prostrating on the hot tiled floors. The crumbling bricks and the fading shadows await the miracles which just do not happen. Strangely, the conviction which marked the life of the saint, buried inside, is totally missing from the lives of all those who frequent his tomb.
Like most places that thrive on religious faith, this is all that makes up most of the Uch Sharif.
Before partition, the Urs at each Sharif was one of the most happening events of the area. It featured a fair that was attended by Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims alike. Post partition, the attendance was reduced to Muslims and off late, it is left to Barelvis alone.
The sleepy towns of Fazil Pur and Rajan Pur lie up for Kashmore and exist indifferently around the convergence of rivers. On the other side, the railway station of Feroza precedes the contented town of Khanpur Katora. At some point in its history, Khanpur was famous for its pottery but its recent claim to fame is the sweet, Khoya. The train, then heads to Rahim Yar Khan and the road leads to mysticism. In between, a track leads to Bagh o Bahar, where an unknown village had a forest, full of memories, irrigated by RD-60, a rather memorable distributary.
Before it shunts away from the river, the train halts at Rajan Pur for paying homage to a seven-language epic buried in neighboring Chachran Sharif. The polyglot, Khwaja Ghulam Fareed, was born in Chachran but is buried in Mithan Kot. Having spent most of his childhood, without parents, his verses speak of the calm of a mother and concern of a father.
When the sun sets on Chachran Sharif, and local musicians guide and track their instruments, the humming tune of Mendha Ishq Vee`n Tuu hangs heavy in the air. Far and away in Kot Addu, something stirs by Pathanay Khan's grave, probably the memory of the voice that was as sad as a train that whistled away through December morning.
Mendha Sanwal Mithra Sham Salona,
Man Mohan Jana`n Vee`n Tu
Mendha Mulk Maleer Tay Maroo Thalrda,
Rohi, Cholsitan Vee`n Tu
Jay Yaar Fareed Qabool Karay
Sarkar Vee`n Tu, Sultan Vee`n Tu
Curtsey:DAWNN.COM: PUBLISHED JUN 30, 2014 10
The legend of Rohi
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
Derawar Fort, Cholistan Desert.
After Bahawalpur, the train shunts for Samma Satta. Like most good things, this centurion railway station is said to have been closed since July 2011. Moving past this now silent junction, the rail sounds its trademarks whistle across the wilderness of Rohi, echoing through the vastness reaching far and away.
The Nawabs were wise about developing another city, Dera Nawab Saheb, in the vicinity of Ahmed Pur East. The tasteful Abbasids, rightly credited for embellishing this part of Punjab, had developed beautiful cities for the public and elegant palaces for personal residences. The Sadiq Garh Palace is one of the series. Away from the flurry of the state capital, Bahawalpur, this residency had a mosque, as well as a cinema. It was built to house royal paraphernalia, and function as a camp office. The palace, more than a century old now, had 99 rooms, just one short of a hundred. Staying short of perfection was a lesson, the Abbasids learnt from Noor Mehal. Besides being home to the royal families, it also housed memoirs of dignitaries, the likes of the Shah of Iran, Prime Minister, Viceroy and the Field Marshals.
However, the year 1947 took away much of the grace of the princely states. As times changed, Ahmedpur East too developed a new outlook but Sadiq Garh chose to dwell in its past. In the chaos that saw the departure of regality, the large family of the Nawabs started telling the tale. Feuds for inheritance exceeded a receding estate. At last, there came a day when the residents abandoned the palace. Ironically, the building that once extended jurisdiction over Bahawalpur was now closed over sub judice. The large palace has decayed into an enormous vestige. It’s violated boundary walls and unkempt lawns are a sight of sorrow. The chandeliers are gone but the signature of majesty is still writ large on the empty hooks. The chess-patterned floor has lost its shine in rooms, where the wind enters and leaves through broken panes, unchecked. The frequent dust storms cover and uncover the city intermittently as memory jogs back to the story of the other sleeping beauty.
As this sleeping palace exists in the vicinity of a city wide awake, the towns of Liaqatpur, Feroza and Khanpur Katora, breathe in the proximity of a desert that lies still. On one side, the sand slips coolly into the sight and on the other, the greenery soothes the heart. A mustard field brings forth the desert and the sand dunes baptise the vegetation. In between, a silent agreement in the form of a small water channel runs calmly.
Right from this point, the magic of Cholistan starts taking over. Its name is derived from the Turkish word chol, which literally means sand. This sea of sand has some flashing islands of sand dunes, known locally as tibbas. Matching the destiny of an explorer, these dunes change their place and shift their location but never alter their temperament. If it rains, the earth is hardened and before turning white, it stays green for a little while. The drying pool of water can also be spotted, provided the under-ground water tanks built by Arab Sheikhs are not in close vicinity. With this magical metamorphosis, it is given an equally mysterious name “dhaar”.
Experiencing the strange life of the Cholistan nomads is subject to an obsession with the wild spirit of hitchhiking. While it envelopes the stranger with mystifying silence, the sand grains continue to whisper the secrets of survival into the ears of native residents, telling them to be more patient for the rains. From the AC coupe of the train, to the magical realm of a dhaar, this is all set like an opera of thrill, bliss and feral.
The tracks emanating from the main road cast a strange scene. Dripping with extended hours of stay, the residents file in their cattle and then herd them towards the desert. These cattle not only graze without a shepherd but also turn back from a certain point, without caution. God alone knows the rope they hold tight to; for neither do they distract nor disappear. These cattle follow an almost divine tradition of the one of the salah and continue grazing with only propriety brandished on their bodies.
These branding shepherds, ordinary owners and landlords who have long given up on a sense of inferiority or superiority, distribute the grazing areas amongst each other where they dig wells for sweet water. Having lived through 58 dry monsoons, Ashraf is a shepherd who owned the cattle counting upto 3000 heads. He did not know the exact rakats of the Isha prayer but stopped every passerby to offer them water. His grandfather had mastered the craft of foretelling the location of sweet water, partly due to his knowledge of metals and partly, his common sense. Based on his instinct, a party of six men, equipped with shovels and a ton of lime took six days to dig a well. The seasoned of them all, dug the earth and the skilled of them all, applied the lime, while the other four collected the earth and evenly spread it out nearby. After every 10 hands, they expanded the hole by half a hand and as they touched the water, the hole gradually took the shape of a well. Ashraf did not remember how they treated the lime to get the desired effect of cement.
If rains abandon Cholistan, the dhaars dry up like parched lips. The dunes symbolise barrenness and with every breath, the vastness of the desert sinks in. The entire desert is reminiscent of an Arafat, filled with imposing silence and the calmness of the final Day of Judgment.
The interspersed skeletons of animals died during quest for water, and intermittently grown shrubs are telling of a prayer that rose up to the sky but returned unsanctioned.
As the evening falls, the silhouette of small caravans can be traced in the far distances. Their convoys sink in and out of sand dunes and hark back the curse of Sassi and Sehti to the camel hoarder. The sacred silence of the desert and its consecrated winds prompt an inspiration in responsive souls, but transposing the desolate desert into the bustling cities, merely by melodies, remained the sole strength of Reshma…
The tales of Rohi and the travels of the camel hoarders are yet to unfold.
Kori Wala Dhaar
12 April 2002
As our jeep disappeared into dunes of Fareed’s Rohi, the sun also set into the folds of earth. The journey that started this morning from Sola Khoi had ended at Kori Wala Dhaar, after a brief stopover at Giglaan Wala Toba. Like me, a pair of desert sparrows has also chosen the lone tree in this Dhaar to spend the night.
Life in the desert has disciplines of its own and does not take much to adapt. The magnanimity of the local heart and it’s yearn for simplicity is yet to be scathed by the current civilities of our urban world. Raised on brackish water and salted camel meat, the sturdy bodied shepherds and colorfully attired dusky women, converse in the lyrical local dialect – a rhythm that can only be comprehended in the desert.
Ages ago, when the human wish list extended from living under the sun and over the earth to caves and structures, these nomads were fascinated by the idea of a house. The conflict, however, was not over the household but the very gypsy nature of these wanderers. They loved their land yet never wanted to commit. The earth would never let them go and they would never build a house on it, so a makeshift home was developed. A hedge raised in a circle served as wall and weeds woven into a sheet formed the roof that stood on a pole. This one room house is called a Ghopa and is, considerably, a world in its own. The props like clothes hanging from the hooks, rations stacked up in booths and water-filled earthen pots buried in earth alongside a pile of memories, establish that someone has just left, while the lonely smell of sadness lingers. The colonies of these hutments amply suit the nature of these wayfarers.
Most of the water reservoirs in Cholistan are filled by the first rain. These initial monsoons serve the residents for almost weeks before the reservoirs dry up. The residents, then, move to some other water sources, leaving behind the memory infested Ghopas, destined for a yearning wait. Despite the meager water availability, they do not forget to fill up a water pot and bury it in the Ghopa, for a thirsty traveler who might have lost his way.
Tired from constant travel under the sun, the rare sight of a Ghopa is no less than a miracle to dehydrated convoys. What is more human, than divine, is the fact that despite the parched lips and bodies drained due to thirst, the travelers still exercise selflessness. They enter the huts but leave the filled water pots for somebody more deserving; a phenomenon that keep the Ghopas water-ready.
Amidst these dunes, the oasis of Nawan Kot is situated at a crossroad of four sand highways. One track leaves for Bijnot, the other leads to the city and the other two navigate around local dunes and dhaars.
On one side of Nawan Kot, lies the centuries old Mughal fort. Located by the riverside, it was one of the series of forts built at Khan Garh, Islam Garh and Khair Garh. As time lapsed, all arches, elephant gates, tunnels and Mughal grandeur caved in while the boundaries, minarets and stories survived to tell the tale. On the other side, stands the mosque maintained by the Hobara Bustard hunters. Centered around a pond that sits at the crossroads of these sand highways, the oasis of Nawan Kot has the ability to transcend through the physical dimensions of time and space. Between the mosque and the fort, the water pond serves the cattle of Rohi, the soldiers of the Rangers, the residents of Rohi and the plants that compose the fabulous world of Cholistan.
The place is comparatively livelier because of the constant existence of water. The real beauty, however, is the immaculate trimming of the trees. The plants are so precisely manicured that the use of an accuracy instrument cannot be ruled out. At the outset, this phenomenon remains a mystery that is until the locals explain that the trimming is a result of the grazing cattle that eat the dropping leaves, maintaining the linear silhouette.
In this chowk-city of Nawan Kot, where Rangers and gypsies are always in transit, Haq Nawaz is the most permanent resident. Every morning, a vehicle from the Abu Zahbi Palace Office imports this cleric of the Nawan Kot mosque from the neighboring city. Haq Nawaz only returns after he has preached the message and has completed the long day’s journey, including five divine stopovers. Besides the meager palace office salary of Rs8,160, he also runs the lone grocery shop of Nawan Kot.
Despite his devout manner of ablution, Haq is far and away from the rigid dialectics of religiosity. His conversation is free from the vanity of serving his faith in a desert for the last 20 years. His deep set eyes, framed with Gandhi-glasses tell of a faith that was born out of redemption.
Though the cash box at the shop and the devotees at the mosque are mostly discouraging, Haq is persistent. The unseen devotion of this cleric-entrepreneur with his Lord closely resembles the invisible umbilical cord that ties the calf with its mother. Haq shows up to open the shop and the mosque, regardless of customers and the faithful.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM:Published JAN 27, 2014 and FEB 17, 2014
The Kot of Kamalia
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
The Aalif Laila of the wood remains untold. Sheherzad and Sheheryar, are themselves lost in time. Inside the city, one of the streets houses the last of the Pirjhas, Akhtar. He trains his apprentices in this art but their craft is restricted to the heavy furniture of dowry, a commodity that could never graduate to become an artifact, no matter how artistic.
As religion and culture fell to politics, khaddar resigned to the confines of Kamalia.
In one corner of the shop, sits a model of the Taj Mahal made by Pirjha. This wooden replica is probably the closest any artist could get to the real wonder and can qualify as a resting place for any Mumtaz Mahal.
In another corner, Pirjha has placed the recently filled admission forms. His son Anas Ali is set to join an engineering college in RawalPindi to study Mechatronics. Pirjha believes that instead of excelling in ancestral craft, his son should graduate from a universal faculty. Pirjhah silently mourns the death of a heritage, while the city lies indifferent to the fallen jharokas of Gulzar Mahal.
From Chiniot, the rail moves to a desolated station. Almost 40 years ago, this station saw a small feud which eventually grew into a persecution; the honest account of which is neither told in public nor written in history. The place is Rabwah. Those who named the city, had a verse of the Quran in mind and those who desecrated graves, had the constitution to uphold. Nobody, however, recalled that somewhere in 1944 at Sri Nagar, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had something to say about it.
The road that links Sargodha with Chiniot cuts Rabwah in two halves. On one side, is the graveyard which is almost mythical for the children in the neighbourhood and on the other side, is the deserted city. The names of various settlements are reminders of medieval boroughs but the derelict appearance defies those. The opulent houses look neither vacant nor lived in. A day of wandering in the city registers only handful of faces. This state of the city is attributed to both, the devotion and hatred that stems from religion. Till time tells who is on the right side of faith, the city will, probably continue to live in this desertion.
Rabwah, Chenab Nagar or Chak Digian (whatever the constitutional committees chose to call it) gives way to Lalian, a city that claims political descendants from Tipu Sultan, and a police station from the year 1867.
Subsequently comes Dhoop Sari, now known as Sargodha. The city is a candy store of stories but the deserts of the South strike the same chord as that of the peacock that craves to be seen. Going any further is not an option.
After Jaranwala, the train halts at Tandlianwala. There in one of the graveyards, rests Naz Khialvi, in eternal peace. The legendary lyricist’s claim to fame was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s "Tum ik Gorakh Dhandha ho". The train whistles past Rehmay Shah and then halts at Kanjwani, a town famous for its mela. The fair, which was once a Baloch nomadic tradition, is now a Punjabi celebration.
Almost all participants bring a human dimension in to their relationship with their cattle. There are oxen that have been raised as sons and horses with phenomenal lineages. Often, the roosters and quails raised for the show, take precedence over blood relations. But, of late, the politics of democracy and dictatorship have made their ingress in these dimension as well. The Balochs, Jats and Syeds who once rode the wild stallions together are now more aligned on caste lines.
Staying away from the waters of Chenab and drawing close to the mystery of Ravi, the train reaches the Kot of Kamalia.
A dense jungle by the river was all that could be said about Kamalia centuries ago. On the river bank, Khokhar boatmen had established their settlements. Apparently peaceful, the Khokhars had what it took to defend their land, so when Alexander attacked them, they gave him tough battle. The account of this battle is not mentioned anywhere specifically, except for a hint of the glorious resolve here and there; the fact that remains, however, is that Alexander now finds a mention in the history of Kamalia.
After almost a millennium, Raja Sircup ruled the area. Known for his brutality, he played polo with heads at stake. The notorious Raja manipulated easily to see the opponent lose his head, a trophy he would decorate on the walls of his fort. That was until he came across Raja Rasaloo, the son of Raja Saalbhan of Sialkot.
Despite his manipulation, Rasaloo won the game and had Sircup’s head and as a matter of ritual, his daughter, Rani Kaukalaa. Rasaloo, in this folk lore, appears to be an adventurous spirit who spent his time hunting and building palaces near game grounds. Dhoosar was one such palace, where Rasaloo had housed Kaukalaa, when the Raja of Attock, Bikram saw her. The two met accidently, but fell in love instantly. Before the romance could prosper, Rasaloo became aware of it. He had Bikram killed in the woods and sent Kaukalaa, the kebabs made up from his meat. Devastated, the queen jumped out off her window to her death.
The present name of Kamalia is derived from the Kharal chief, Kamal Khan. In the early years of the 14th century, Kamal Khan met Rai Hamand Khan, the Kharal ruler of this land, then known as Hindal Nagri. The latter introduced him to Shah Hussain, the saint. Kamal Khan presented a khaddar khais to Shah Hussain, who reciprocated by foretelling him as the ruler of the jungle. Months later, Ibrahim Lodhi replaced Hamand Khan by Kamal Kharal. The new state founded by the Kharals at the site of Sircup’s city is now known as Kamalia.
During the war of independence in 1857, the city remained, with the freedom fighters for almost a week. After the war was over, trade through the rail added to the development of the city. The atrocities of the Raja and the injustice of the Raj would have prevailed in public memory for longer had the country not had its chance with democracy and dictatorship, both of which overcast the tyrannies.
Now famous for its khaddar, the city is as introverted as the spinning wheel. At the dawn of the last century, Khaddar became the insignia of the "Saudeshi" movement (all things local) and subsequently, the emblem of the "Swaraj". The coarse cloth defined nationalism and the spinning wheel symbolised tradition, where a mother explains the ups and downs of life to her daughter while they spin. As religion and culture fell to politics, khaddar resigned to the confines of Kamalia.
When the two countries gained independence, khaddar also bore the fruit of a free economy. It has graduated from the spinning wheel to shuttle-less, power looms. Brand names like khaadi on this side and fashion phenomenon like In Sync on the other have brought new realities to khaddar. This insignia of the nationalist movement is now a feature at international shopping malls.
Next up is Pir Mahal, a city established in the memory of Pir Qutub Ali Shah. When the Pir wanted to build a house, his devotees obliged. They baked each brick themselves to construct the palace. The city was properly planned after the arrival of the municipality. With a block each allotted to Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs and named Masjid block, Mandir block and Gurudwara block, respectively.
The Masjid block has retained its name, while the other two blocks have been renamed to Makkah block and Madina block.
Throughout this journey, the stories from the other side of Ravi remain untold.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM:PUBLISHED SEP 16, 2013
The Alexander of Samundri
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
Sadhar, initially, stood away from the city, distant and disconnected, but as the population exploded, it fell into city precincts. The Sardars who migrated from Sadhar never let it go completely and it now qualifies as a Sikh sub-caste. Leaving Lyallpur and by passing Samanabad, the train halts at Sar Shameer.
A bricked house in the village stands as fresh as an early morning dream. It has been 10 years now but the image of a grey hand pump watering the paved courtyard is etched afresh in memory. The cemented walls of the house perpetually radiate the sadness of impending departure. While a father returns after completing his service, his son goes back to safeguard the land. Once a warrant officer and now a farmer, the silence of this father spoke of his inner conflict. Caught between the pride in his son’s military career and his own failure in passing on the love for his land, a mix of the feelings prevailed, though the orphaned grains sided with the melancholic father.
Sarshmeer was earlier known as Dhoop Sari or the sunburnt. Awestruck with the tragedy of Sahiba’n, the village took after the name of her brother. In 1947, Dada Ghulam Ahmed arrived here from Ludhiana, homeless and broke. The villagers helped him settle in one of the two Sarais, the inns. Abandoned by the immigrating Sikhs, the building was almost a century old and its simple layout reflected the mood of that time; four rooms, a courtyard and an old Keekar tree, which had grown up with almost everyone in the village. The tree had seen the kids toddling, the children growing up, the teens meeting secretly and then marrying off to someone else. Besides many Baraats, it had mourned many funerals and had even burnt for some pyres.
But with Baisakhi, arrived a few old men from Canada and India. They sat under its shade and stared into its branches. Later, when their eyes welled up, they would get up and leave. Before they left, they held the hands of Dada Ji and his son, the headmaster Chacha, with sheer gratitude, and thanked them for preserving their heritage. Dada ji was also greatly attached to the Sarai. Even in his last years, he walked to the Sarai for evening prayers and returned in the morning.
At the age of 104, Dada ji died in 2008 and the Sarai was abandoned for the second time. Months later, under the influence of his sons, headmaster Chacha, decided to demolish the Sarai. When the first hammer head struck the rear wall of the Sarai, many birds flew off from the keekar tree, forever.
The road on this side is embedded with memories. Those Immigrants, who could not bring their memories along, have named the villages as Jalandhar Araian and Jawahar Singh. Similarly, the villages of Theekree walah and Jagat Pur are the tags of the luggage left back home as their namesakes continue to prosper in India. The canals of Rakh Branch and Gogera Branch have distributed the left over villages amongst each other evenly.
After Jaranwala, the train halts at Tandlianwala. Named after Tandal, a local herb, the town lives under the calmness of plants. It is this artistic serenity that incited creative men like Naaz Khayalvi to write his legendry poem “Tum Aik Gorakh Dhandha Ho”.
The track heron, accompanies the road and canal for a while before parting ways. The train takes a dip and with Satiana and Awagat astride, the road leads to Samundari. North of Jaranwala is the village of Suraj Kund, though not as famous and historical as Suraj Kund of Farid Pur, Haryana. The two are separated by a few centuries and a line, frequently fostered by the blood of Sanaullahs and Sarabjeets.
Faisalabad and Jaranawala are not just two different railway lines but carry many differing stories in their folds.
The first one is of Dijkot, historically referred to as “Dich kot”. Raised from an ancient graveyard site, Dich Kot translates into a city inside the fort, but neither the city nor the fort exists anymore. Although the real politick is far more devastating than the ancient armies that marched on the cities, Dijkot had witnessed the wrath of many legions. Alexander’s army and neighboring tribes destroyed it and Chandargupt Moria and Soori Kings brought life back to the city. The British reached here at the twilight of 19th century. They built a hospital, a police station, a post office and hoisted the Union Jack till 1947. Somewhere between the lines, Muhammad Bin Qasim also finds a mention and some locals claim that he was arrested from this very place.
The next one is the story of a police officer’s son. In the Samundari of 1901, Darogha Basheswar Nath was blessed with a boy. Being a police official, he moved around a lot, but the child was kept by the grandfather Keshav Mal, who introduced him to the world of phonetics. When Basheswar Nath was posted to Peshawar and the family shifted to their house in Dhakki Munawwar Shah, the boy also moved from Lahore to King Edward College, Peshawar. By now, his passion for acting had surpassed religious epics so he ended up in the College Drama Club, where a professor was evincing his love with an English lady through dramatics. The classics of Shakespeare had its characters speak for the two. When Othello swore commitment to Desdemona, Jay Dayal spoke his heart and when Portia wept for Bassanio, Nora Richards wiped her tears. Before this love story took a turn, the boy borrowed the money from his aunt and left for Bombay.
He met Babu Rao Patel here. The one-man movie journo of India’s first film magazine, Babu Rao cast a sarcastic glance and reminded him that there was no place for an uncanny brawny Pathan in this industry. The boy responded,
“If there is none, I might have to swim across the seven seas and establish myself there.”
But Prithiviraj was saved from swimming that far. From Bombay, he moved to Calcutta and then there was no looking back. His command over the language and unique tone that came with his Hindku accent made him a brand name of success in film and theatre. When Sohrab Moodi’s Sikander was released, the Samundri features of Prithviraj had completely taken over the Macedonian looks of Alexander. Playing Porus, as a hero, for the first time in popular culture, the movie was an instant hit. Fifty years later, while preparing for my civil services exam, I asked Baba, “what did Akbar look like?” and he brought me Khan Asif’s "Moughal-e-Azam".
From Darogha Basheswar Nath, playing the judge in “Awara” to Ranbeer Kapoor as Samer Partap in “Rajneeti”, the first family of the Hindi Cinema has been a part of the Indian daily life since five generations.
In 1995, Prithvi Theatres celebrated its golden jubilee and a postage stamp was issued to mark the occasion. The stamp carried the company logo and an image of Prithviraj without his name. The Kapoors had a reason. Few faces, they believed, were an identity itself.
After almost a century, the Kapoor household in Juhu still burn Peshawari clay in hawans and on turning 100, the Hindi Cinema still begins its history with one signature sentence:
Curtsey:DAWN.COM: MAY 20, 2013
Jahandad and Warburton
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
Khyber Regiment Riflemen.
From Shiekhupura, one track leads to Lyallpur via Safdarabad and the other passes through Nankana to Shorkot. Enroute Nankana, lies the slumber of Warburton.
The deserted railway station with Warburton painted on the central arch is in vicinity of the Robin Neel factory. Stiffened railway lines occasionally talk to the baked bricks of the factory walls, otherwise the silence reins. In the middle distance, a textile mill rolls out countless meters of denim. Very few know that the discolored name on the station has a history of its own. Warburton, like the Sindhis, had a golden heart. Once they sailed off to new found lands, they never looked back and made new homes happily. They were neither prisoner to past, nor complained of homesickness. Now that the time has long gone and we have learnt that history is not about men but the man, Warburton has been conveniently forgotten.
After the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, large numbers of immigrants moved to England; Warburtons were one of them. They settled at Cheshire, near Wales, a place still indifferent to immigrants. After some eight centuries, they started travelling with the sun that never set on the British Empire. From Australia to Ireland and USA to India, wherever the Pax-Britannica fluttered, some Warburtons shouldered the white man's burden.
A Warburton policeman.
Tehkal Cemetry in Peshawar is now known as the Gora Qabristan (The Christian graveyard). Painfully neglected, this cemetery is an important annexure of the Ango-Afghan episode, a war diary tabulated on tombstones. These men, women and children died in their bid to host the Union Jack in Kabul. One of the stone indicates Robert Warburton, most famous amongst the Warburtons. An officer of the Bengal Artillery, born and buried in Peshawar, he was imprisoned in the Ghilzai Fort during the afghan campaign. During the imprisonment, he fell in love with Shahjehan Begum, the divorced niece of the Amir of Afghanistan, who later on married her. Together, they raised their two sons, who carried the combined brilliance of Shahjehan begum and Warburton.
Jahandad was the first son of Shahjehan Begum from her marriage with Amir Faiz Talab, a noble at the court. During his schooling at the Roman Catholic School, Agra, Robert brought him up and he soon took up the name, John Paul Warburton. He joined the Punjab Police and retired in 1900 as the Inspector General of Patiala State Police. In 1909, as recognition of his services, he received a grant of land from Viceroy. This land in Gujranwala district is now known as Warburton. Particularly famous for his handling of the famous thugs of India, a menace for Raj, Warburton gained sufficient fame to inspire characters in Kipling’s stories. This brilliant cop died after falling from horseback at the Gilbert House in the garrisoned hill station of Kasauli, in 1919.
The second and only son of Shahjehan Begum and Robert Paul Warburton was born in the Ghilzai Fort, during his father’s imprisonment. He took up his father’s name and followed him in the profession of arms. At the end of the second Anglo-Afghan war, the British awoke to the fact of keeping the Khyber road open. To accomplish this, they needed someone with local flavor and imperial ambition. Robert Warburton was definitely the best choice who tamed the Afridis and kept the route open. Many military historians believe that the diplomacy of this young officer outweighed the British war effort. Due to his Durrani bravery and Warburton temper, this first commandant commanded great respect of his men. The last name in this family tree is awfully strange … Pamela Warburton Durrani.
On the second route, the town of Farooqabad has three dimensions, a Seminary, a Gurudwara and a mental health facility. The first dimension is the 92-years-old Adventist Seminary where Christians are trained for pastoral duties. These shepherds spend two to four years before they tend to the flock and heal the wounded souls. Somewhere in the vicinity, Baba Nanak fed Jogis with the money his father had given him for business. He traded coins for prayers and the devotees found this equation true to its essence. Gurudwara Sacha Soda is a monument of this true bargain and is the second dimension. The security hazards, however, have made it difficult for people of other faiths to visit this Gurudwara.
Western scholars have concluded that the surroundings contribute significantly towards the mental ailments. The indifference of a society isolates its individuals and creates conditions for degeneration. Locking these patients or calling them names not only alienates them but wanes their belief in humanity. On the other hand, the vastness of the fields straightens these conflicts and the scent of the soil dissolves this chaos. This therapy, first evolved in New Jersey, was not very novel so when practiced by Dr Rasheed Chaudhary, it delivered. Fountain House is the third dimension of Farooqabad.
Among the old buildings, Thakurdwara was a temple, constructed in 1822 and was the largest in the area. After the partition, the temple silently gave way to a mosque. The cremation ground was equally divided between the Seminary and an Islamic organisation. Some of the temples and Gurudwaras fell prey to the Babri mosque madness and others silently developed into shops.
Farooqabad does not ring a bell with the old people, it should not. As a matter of fact, the original name of the place was Chuhar Kana. Along with Shamke, Banduke and Jhamke, it was also developed by a Sikh Sardar, Chuhar Singh and as Ranjit Singh; Chuhar Singh also had one eye. When Pakistan came into being, the puritans took the driving seat but by then Chuhar Kana did not pose a threat. Decades later, when a military dictator tried to Islamcise the country, a need was felt to baptize this city. Finally in 1983, Chuhar Kana was christened Farooqabad, inside the city, Muhallah Guru Nanakpura also cut its Kais, exchanged its turban for a skull cap and converted to Madni Nagar.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM : PUBLISHED FEB 18, 2013
Bao Train and Dorian Gray
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
But, perhaps, that was another city. The orchards that dotted the green mosaic of fields and huts appeared intermittently. Noor Bawa, a locality enroute Gondalanwala was flanked by Islamabad and Kishan Nagar on either side. The faithful of Islam and devotees of Kishan enjoyed their religious freedom and never complained about cultural invasion. Away from these colonies, Mehboob Alam High School served the educational needs of the area and Soofi Jamat Ali of this school was famous for his strictness, throughout the division.
In the city, the residents spent their lives in Kapooran Wali Gali, Gali Sheikh Ghulam Hussain and Gali Sheikh Jhandoo, silently and unceremoniously. These streets, quite the living beings, grew young and old with each human being, individually. The bond between the two can best be described by the silence that is prologue and epilogue to their mention. Motor mechanics and shoe-makers have taken over these streets now. Some images should never be seen in real.
Sheikh Jhandoo was a successful entrepreneur, who remained wary of his managers. To make up the requisite workforce, he decided to educate the poor Muslim kids for prospective employees. He picked up brilliant yet needy children across India and brought them to this street for education. The graduates of this street gave a new identity to the city and produced the likes of Justice Sheikh Deen Muhammad of Radcliffe award and Altaf Gohar.
The Municipality had seven members and four of them were Hindus. Among the Muslim members, Sheikh Ata Muhammad aka Baboo Ata, dominated the city politics for many decades. The Gujranwala Bar, at that time, had 40 members and 30 out of them were Sikhs, Khushal Singh and Rajinder Singh, to name a few. Despite this demography, Gujranwala was a calm place and the residents mastered the art of co existence.
Urdu Bazar, Khalsa College and Hindu College (established subsequently) helped enlisting the city in intellectual domain. Besides these footprints of Raj, a number of temples and Gurudwaras existed in the city. The Jain temple, located in Bairee Wala Chowk, is famous for the woodwork at the entrance. The finest carving attracts many art lovers, including the students of NCA. Devi wala Talab was another temple, which had large space around it. Kashmir Mehal, a cinema, marks this place now. Kashmir adds to the national fervour and serves the religious sentiment. Guruduwara DamDama sahib, a historical Gurudwara was located off the railway line. The office of Subash Chandar Bose’s Indian national Army on main G T Road was another dimension of Gujranwala.
It did take a while for the city to reclaim its original appearance after partition but as the trauma survivors can never be their real self again, Gujranwala remained a shade shorter. The advent of electricity saw a boom in the fan making industry. Electric fan, once a commodity for rich and the affluent, was soon a part of the dowry list and was reduced to a normal utility item. The city could then be mapped on foot. Civil lines, the arena of Zia, the wrestler, Grand Trunk Road and the labyrinth streets.
Without the mention of Bao Train, Gujranwala remains an incomplete story. The train shuttled between Lahore and Sialkot and fit in the educational and work schedules. The name Bao Train was a reference to the formally dressed students and office workers who took this train. Other than these passengers, the train ferried a large number of railway workers from Mughalpura workshop. The hearts of thousands of viewers were touched after Munno Bhai wrote a TV serial on the emotional side of passengers.
The city has hundreds of stories and thousands of references. Besides Amrita Preetam, wordsmiths like Noon Meem Rashid, Abdul-Hameed Adam, Dr Faqeer Muhammad Faqeer and Meera Ji hailed from Gujranwala. The first Melody Queen of India, Surayya was also born in Gujranwala but circumstances, however, had her interred in Bada Kabristan, Marine Lines, Mumbai.
Gujranwala has lived up to its traditions of chivalry and continues to produce men of valour like Air Commodore Mitti Masood and Captain Ahsan Malik. While Mitty was a hero outside the theatre, Ahsan’s resilience in the 1971 war won him special appreciation of Sam Bahadur. The Indian Chief of Army Staff, Field Marshal Manekshaw, wrote to his Pakistani counterpart and requested to merit Ahsan’s bravery. The list also includes Parameshwar Narayn Haksar, the chief architect of Simla Accord and a close aide of Ms Gandhi. Religious icons such as Grand Ayatollah Bashir Najfi and Swami Ram Teerath also have a connection with the city. Gujranwala has produced some of the finest comedians for the entertainment industry. The versatility of Dildar Pervez Bhatti, wit of Sohail Ahmed, timings of Babbu Barral, slapsticks of Younus Butt and comedy of Munawar Zareef is attributed to Gujranwala.
Fewer in the city have read Oscar Wilde beyond text books but there once lived a deputy commissioner who was quite the Dorian Grey. Mustafa Zaidi was a poet par excellence and equally narcissist. The DC house at Gujranwala, during his stay, had only one neighbour – the Qazilbash family was of three daughters and their parents. They mixed well with Zaidi and his German wife. Shehnaz, one of the daughters, soon graduated to be the title of Zaidi’s poems. The sorry affair cost the poet his job, family, and eventually his life. Shahnaz managed headlines for a while and then left the country along with the family. Much to his dismay, Zaidi’s poetry was recognised posthumously, a ritual he criticised fiercely.
Donald Jeevan Mall is the scion of Dhall Rajputs. His great grandfather converted to Christianity. The story of his conversion can still be found in archives of Gujranwala Church. His age defies the social pressures that prevent people from being straight forward. Somebody asked, “Did you ever face religious discrimination?” “Never”, he replied, “Its been almost a lifetime, I have moved all the way from Bakhtay wala to Gill Road and never did it occur to me that I was different. The city and the people have been more than just neighbours, they are the family.”
I thought I never knew this place.
cURTSEY:dawn.com PUBLISHED DEC 17,2012
The philanthropist and the dacoit
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
The journey back home is like reliving the past. In between the calm of old age and idle moments of prosperity, there comes a time on every man when he sets himself free to float on the tide of memories, intentionally losing track of his surroundings. The places he could never visit, the promises he could never keep and the wishes that could never come true, await him at this time unceasingly.
Wazirabad was a busy railway junction with trains connecting four parts of India. One to Jammu, one to Sialkot, another to Lyallpur via Hafizabad and lastly to Gujranwala through Dhaunkal, Gakhar Mandi and Rahwali.
This side of the Chenab was the land of care-free Jatts with an open heart. Discarding religion, there existed only one distinction, Jatt or not and they ruled this area. Their fields, horses, hounds and hunts had distributed their time amongst each other. Only in the August of 1947, did it dawn upon them that the times had changed … and changed a lot.
Next to Wazirabad, Dhaunkal is a small size town, almost entirely made up of legends of Sakhi Sarwar, a saint known for his philanthropy. The town derives its name from one of the many myths. In Klair Kot, the land of Klairs, there lived one Dhonkal Laal, the son of a Jatt Sardar, who was lost in a village fair. Though the father was a Sikh, yet he lived up the tradition of the Jacobs of crying his eyes out, and lost his sight. When he heard of Sakhi Sarwar, he approached him. The saint prayed and the father saw his son again. Indebted, they did not only convert themselves but also renamed the place Dhaunkal.
Dhaunkal and Sakhi Sarwar are synonymous to each other. The saint spent his life in Jhang, Multan, Baghdad, Dhaunkal and eventually settled in Nigah, Dera Ghazi Khan, where he breathed his last and is buried. His stay at Dhaunkal is featured with myths and characters, including the Raja of Eimenabad and the carpenter of Dhaunkal. Sir Edward Douglas Maclagan cannot be thanked enough for two things. Firstly, he oversaw the establishment of the Maclagan Engineering College (which later came to be known as University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore) and secondly he collected all the folklore of Punjab and transferred them from the memory of local performers to archives.
A shrine and a well in Dhaunkal are now the monuments of Sakhi Sarwar. The outer wall of the shrine is decorated with titles bestowed by devotees and the inner wall displays epic images. Other than the well, a large size pond (Baoli) is also attributed to Sakhi Sarwar. HisUrs, celebrated in different places on different dates, starts from Vaisakhi in areas around Chenab to the Jhandon Wala Mela in Peshawar and Qadmon Wala Mela in Lahore. Before 1947, all the small sized shrines en route Nigah were known as Choki. The devotees would take a journey break here and sleep on the floor. This tradition of sleeping on the floor was known as Choki Bharna. Those who could not join the convoys to Dera Ghazi Khan would go to some Choki and spend a night there, sleeping on the floor. Others who could not afford leaving the house at all, slept on the floor for the days of Urs to mark the tradition. Another tradition was cooking the Rot, dough of equal quantity of flour and Gurr (Raw Sugar) was kneaded and baked. One fourth was kept for the household and the remaining was distributed amongst the devotees. Tradition binds human beings like nothing else does. He often succumbs more to tradition rather than God.
Sakhi Sarwar had faithfuls amongst all religions. In Guru Tej Bahadur’s time, many Sikhs reverted to the puritanical form but the bonds of tradition were too strong to break and they reconciled shortly. When the reformist movements gained strength, followers of Sakhi Sarwar, known as Sultanis, faced heavy critique. A scholar, Giani Dutt Singh, published a pamphlet with the name Pir Powara (the troubles of Pir) demeaning these practices but nothing changed. However, the reforms which the Akalis and Singh Saba wanted to introduce were finally brought in by the Muslim League and Nehru ... in the form of a partition. The Sultanis from the other side of the border could not visit the shrine and many devotees on this side of line were caught between faith and survival. They chose the latter and left. Yet, in these days of new definitions of faith and the destruction of shrines (to purify the religion), a few green flags with Peacock figure, a Sakhi Sarwar emblem, can still be seen atop houses in Malwa.
Next is Gakhar Mandi, a place famous for hand-woven rugs, known as Durree. Now that carpets are a part of a lifestyle and people take offense in sitting on bare ground, durrees have lost their relevance, fading into darkness. The traditional weavers have adjusted to this transformation and have resorted to other rewarding businesses like automobile spare parts and medical stores. I asked one of the weavers whether he had inherited the craft. He remarked sarcastically, “Yes, my son is a qualified dispenser and works as a physician in the next village”. Everyone, we met alongside the track was contented with life yet cribbed about the changing times.
Next is Rahwali, an abandoned railway station with two references; a sugar mill and a garrison. The mill, constructed in 1936, was one of the largest industries in India and met a similar fate too. Now, the signboards stacked in a large junkyard and a pond are vague reminders of the mill that once existed here. On the other side of the road, however, the cantonment grows phenomenally.
Far and away, across the paddy fields, the city of Daska flourishes. The fields tell the story of the Jatt commitment to till the land, till the last moment. The name of the city has a geographical connotation. Located within the distance of 10 Kos (a unit to measure the distance) from the neighbouring cities and villages, it was initially called “Das Kos” deteriorating to Daska.
Now famous for tanneries and grain trading, the pre-partition fame of the place was Jaggat Singh aka Jagga, the dacoit. The Robin hood of Punjab amongst the officers of Raj, Jagga would rob the rich and distribute the wealth amongst poor. At the young age of 29, he stood as a symbol of local resistance to British imperialism and is immortalised in folklore as such. The story of Jagga has been featured in many movies on both sides of the border but the brevity of following lines remains unmatched.
Jagga jamiya fajar dee bangay Tey loday welay khedada phiray (Jagga was born at Dawn and was playing by the evening) Jagga jamiya tay milan wadhaiyan Tay wadda ho kay daakay marda (When Jagga was born, greetings poured in and when he grew up he became a dacoit) Jaggay marya Lyallpur daka Tay taran kharak gaiyan (Jagga robbed Lyallpur and it created panic all around (the administration telegraphed all the nearing police stations)) Jagga wadhiya borh dee chavain Tay no mann rait bhij gayee (Jagga was cut down under a banyan tree and tonnes of sand soaked his blood)
Though he was born near Chunian, Daska was the hub of his activities due to the affluent residents, loyal to the British Empire. He was survived by his wife and a daughter. The family later moved to Mukatsar, where his daughter lives to-date and tells the eventful career of his father as dacoit which spanned only three months.
Farmhouses dominate this landscape. Besides the fields, the mill and garrison of Rahwali, the market of Gakhar and the spiritual side of Sakhi Sarwar explain human anthology. It defines, how a man lives through the need to feed the body, builds shelter, trades, seeks protection and eventually takes a recourse to religion. The whole issue of existence is settled between the fields, the market, the garrison and the shrine.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM— PUBLISHED NOV 26, 2012
Pur Suroor and Parsu Ram
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
Once upon a time, there was a princely state with the name, Amber. Long before Hawa Mehal and Jantar Mantar became the icons of this pink city, Man Singh of the Kechwah dynasty was a reference to this place. Akbar, pleased with the acumen of this prince, granted him a fiefdom, which lied on way to Kashmir. Man Singh knew Moghuls too well, so he decided not to stay away from the court. He gifted this land to his Jain beneficiaries, who had financed many of his campaigns. The Jains happily moved from Rajasthan and settled here. They would have excelled as tillers but the inherent art of knitting compelled them to take up weaving as an alternative source of income. Soon, the Jain Chaudharies were famous as producers and traders of hand-made apparel, which was so profound a source of revenue that it found place in the gazetteers. Jehangir passed through this land on his way to Kashmir and was mesmerised with it’s serenity. He named it Pur Suroor, full of joy. The name eventually deteriorated to Pasroor. There are opinions that the name is derived from one Parsu Ram but that is another story. The town is either mentioned as the resting place for Moghul caravans or their hunting site and that is good for the rest of sub-continent.
The city has two gates, Tehsil Gate and Kakazai Gate, and the old settlements are covered in the folds of the city wall. Broken from many places, the wall indicates antiquity. The shrines of Jalal ud din Shah Bukhari, Imam Ali ul Haq’s brother and Mian Barkhurdar are located within the convenient distance of the faithful in various parts of the city. An octagonal pond and a garden also exist on one side. The ruins of a canal can also be traced. Darashikoh, who ordered this canal, was the Moghul prince who was murdered by pious Alamgir, as he represented the change. The shamshan ghat lies on one side and mentions of Peer Muradya, on the other. This completes the landscape of the city.
The walled city contains mohallah Vesiali, mohallah Patti andmohallah Khokhran. A 12th century mosque sits in mohallah Kakay Zaiyan, another old dwelling. The old buildings of the city are haveliMuhkam Chand and the baradari of the ruler, Sangat Rai. The havelihas lost its glory and the baradari has been demolished to construct the residence of the local principal. A temple constructed by the Maharaja of Jammu, known as Gainda Mandir, was also located inside the mohallah. It was demolished by the faithful on this side as the faithful on the other side decided to discover the origin of a mosque. Another temple has moved inside a school to escape mob madness, a lesson for all those who think schools and religious places cannot coexist.
When the Jain merchants expanded their cloth business, they carried the bundles on horseback and sold it in neighboring villages. Baba Dharam Das was one such trader. One day when he left, his horse returned bareback. Baba Dharam was popular due to his piety in the local Jain community so they built a Samadhi in the outskirts of the city to honor this murdered saint. After the August 1947, the Jain community left Pakistan for India.
With riches came nostalgia and after a few prosperous years, they started missing their homes. Years later, the devotees of Baba Dharam Das would visit Pasroor, find a brick or stone of the Samadhi, take it to India and construct a whole new Samadhi with the remains of this stone. The two Samadhis, constructed by the devotees of Baba, in Meerut and Dehli carry the dust of Pasroor. How accurately says the Bible…
“Both thorn and thistles it should bring forth, for us. For out of the ground we were taken for the dust we are, and to the dust we shall return.”
Alongside the railway track, there is an old pond. It was called Deoka Nullah. On its bank, Baba Nanak met Mian Mitha, a local saint, while coming back from Hajj. Mian Mitha had a word with Baba Nanak. He recited a verse implying the importance of the Kalma and Baba Nanak replied with equal logic, the importance of good intent. The two, though disagreed, departed in good faith. Later, a Gurudwara was constructed and was named as Gurudwara Manji Saheb. There are many Gurudwaras by this name dispersed throughout Punjab but this one is in the most dilapidated condition. All that remains is a dried bed of the pond and crumbling walls. Frequent travelers in the district refer to this place as the ‘Jungle’ and agriculture authorities have constructed a research extension here.
The city has now taken a new look, a cadet college is much more well-known than the octagonal pond. Gurudwaras, temples, old buildings and the Samadhi have been lost long ago. And while they were sinking in the sand of time, on the other side of the border, a strange ritual was practiced every evening. All the siblings from the Bhabhra family listed the railway stations that fell on the line between Pasroor and Lahore. Mr Bhabhra, a Jain, had migrated from Pasroor. The others were taken up by routine but one, Surinder, of those siblings is compiling the history of Pasroor. He has penned down the lives of Pasroor in general, and Bhabhras’ in particular. It enlists the brackish wells of Pasroor and the irrigation regimen. It also recalls the chimes that were hung in the direction of the wind and gave the warning of rains and were shifted twice on equinox. Bargaining was a way of life in Pasroor and they did it for engaging each other as conversations used to drift to other avenues. The only time for premeditated haggling, Surinder remembers, was when theTaziya was placed in the lawn and the money demanded was given with a smile.
Next is the tale of three brothers and the forts they established. Deedar Singh, Mian Singh and Sobha Singh. Whenever the construction of Sobha Singh fort started, some natural calamity prevailed. A fortune-teller advised the Maharaja to have Muslim blood drained in the foundations. Maharaja, as they usually were wise men, consulted Bulaq Shah, a local saint, who confirmed it and devised a method. A Muslim was called and his finger was pricked. The drop of blood that left the finger fell into the foundations and the construction started. The ruins merely serve as a reminder of the fort now, however, the school constructed in the fort is functioning.
The train stops at Sobha Singh for a while. Everything is the same, the white washed walls, the bell, the railway line, the ticket counter but something is different. Since the train halts for a little while, before the whistle blows, it realises that the name of the place has been changed … from Sobha Singh to Ahmed Abad.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM:— PUBLISHED NOV 05, 2012
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
The Rawalpindi railway station is as cold and indifferent as the city itself. In 1849 the British took over Rawalpindi and converted it into a garrison town. After a lapse of around a century and a half, the prima facie of the city remains Military. The local Gakhars had their day, when in 1881, the train whistled into the city, making it the largest garrison of India. The three triangles sitting atop the main building of the Railway station are a premise to the three distinct regimes which define the development of this city.
On entering the city from Peshawar and having bypassed the national and international bus terminals, the area of Westridge starts. This part of the city is a reminder of the Ayub Khan regime and likewise radiates positivity in a short span. The neighborhoods include the political and non-political king makers of 1960s, well-to-do doctors and vintage politicians. Besides military establishments, markets, CNG pumps and private schools dot the area. The place can rightly be termed as the “who’s who and what’s what” of 1960s Pakistan.
During the regime of West End Mard-e-Momin, the city saw the rise of Chaklala Scheme III. All and sundry of the second generation of military elites reside here. The drawing rooms that once hummed with the planning of Afghan Jihad are now rented out to Banks, Boutiques and Saloons. Since the series of slum dwell with every regal residence, Range road prefixes Westridge and Dhok Choudhrian suffixes Scheme 3. Across Chaklala Air base, the limits of the Islamabad capital territory start, a city that is located 10 km from Pakistan.
The third part of the city is in fact the last episode of the largest interest of state. This residential scheme has finally seen the light of day after years of stay in cyberspace and power point presentations. The marketing supermen of Gulf based developers have traded far better on the promise of quality life. Heavily paid contractors are tested to the limits when they design the noise free air conditioning and uniformly spread lights. Every house has an old couple living on Vitamins, gossips and spoilt servants, marking their time from one prayer to another. They mostly talk to each other of differing time zones and the travels taken by their kids in these zones. Fewer make it to the office of the Housing Society and while they lodge complaints regarding low gas pressure, they do not forget to remind the customer service representative, about the military services rendered to the ungrateful nation.
Since the majority of the household is military in origin, the houses have dim lit ambiance. Souvenirs from across the world mark their existence next to ash trays on small side tables and centre tables. Across the drawing room, cashew nets and pickles guard the dining tables as a universal benchmark of prosperity. Alongside the TV, hang the family photos, kids and their families vacationing in somedesi restaurant, newly acquired farmhouse or Europe locales. These photos have, in the due course of time, replaced the graduation portraits with proud parents.
Almost every other house has a linkage to a non-resident doctor or engineer in the form of son / daughter or children-in-law. If the conversation kicks off, one will discover a professor mom as well. The professor / teacher mothers appear so profoundly in every success story that one cannot imagine any mother from the last decade who stayed home and refrained from teaching. With the summer approaching, these proud parents prepare themselves for their assignments as baby sitter, serving their kids, who in turn are serving humanity, only at some country side western hospital. The biggest dilemma of the parents of South East Asia (on both sides of border) is the choice to stay with their kids or see them grow.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM — PUBLISHED JUL 09, 2012
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
The train whistles away from Choohar Kahna and halts at Safdarabad. From the jungles of Sheikhupura to the reservations of Lyallpur, the whole place was once called Sandal Bar, one of the five bars of Punjab. Bar is the local name for the area that lies in between the rivers. Free spirited and generous, the inhabitants of this area bear the signature of this environ. Their temperaments remind one of wild plants, and their moods identify with the flowing rivers. When invaders made it a routine to loot and plunder Punjab, Baris were the first to resist. From the Moghuls to the British, they lived up to the tradition of resistance. It was the free spirit of these people that irked the imperialists to either belittle them as Jaangli or, in a subtle manner, eliminate them from history.
As a result of this, the locals resorted to a unique method of preserving their history. To avoid this abduction, they converted their history into rhymes and poems. Instead of writing them in words and publishing them in books, they encrypted these stories into lullabies to keep them safe in their hearts. These songs were synchronised with the rhythm of windmills, the spinning wheels of cycles and the beats of a heart. This practice saw the chivalry of forefathers travel from generation to generation, and saved of heroes from dishonest historians. When the train stopped, I got down looking for the market of Dhaba’n Singh, which was originally Safdarabad and found this song:
Sunder munderiyay Tera kon vechara Dullah Bhatti wala Dullay dee dhee viyahee Ser shakkar payee
This was a lohri, a song for many occasions. Some sang it on weddings, others celebrated the birth of a precious son and for many others it marked the change of seasons. There was a time when all the boys gathered in front of a house and sang loudly:
Dabba bharya leeran daa Ayeho ghar ameera’n daa
The box is full of rags, This house belongs to a rich man
When the door opened, they sang the lohri and demanded shagun. The returns were sugar, chickpeas or at times, gurr. Nobody returned from the lohri party without a gift for it was considered a bad omen. But that was different; those were the days when festivities were neither Muslim nor Hindu and people departed from each other by a simple rab rakha. Those who greeted with a Khuda Hafiz were not called back and corrected with an Allah Hafiz, an Arabian influence.
Lohris was declared un-Islamic in the early 50’s and no efforts today, can locate it in Punjab. A few years ago, the song once again reverberated in Pakistan through an Indian flick. Taken by its melody, Punjabis had difficulty identifying with the song and the pangs while disassociating from it. The tune sounded familiar and the words touched the heart but somewhere someone frowned so the head shook a strong “No”. Two men, aged and wrinkled, on both sides of Ravi, wept bitterly; Charhda Punjab and Lehnda Punjab
The character of Rai Abdullah or Dullah Bhatti is another feature of the Bar. His mention, in the lohri, has a history. Dullah rescued a poor girl from the wrath of a landlord, raised her and married her off as his own daughter. The grandson of Sandal Bhatti, who had Sandal Bar named after him and the son of Farid Bhatti, Dullah was a scion of the Chandravanshi Rajput’s Bhatti clan, who lived in Punjab some four centuries ago. When Akbar ascended the throne, his first priority was eliminating the rebellions. Sandal and Farid Bhatti, a father-son duo that headed the Bhatti clan, offered stiff resistance to the Empire. He ordered the arrest of both and subsequently hanged them.
On growing up, Ladhi, the mother, told Dullah the fate of his father and grandfather. Angry young Dullah vowed to avenge and ruin the Moghuls. He refused to acknowledge the writ of the Moghul Empire and stopped paying any levy. Meanwhile, he raised an army and started attacking Royal Convoys, Pro-Moghul landlords and men of authority. On the other hand, the love of Anarkali had distanced Saleem from his father, so he also encouraged Dullah’s activities and formed an alliance. Another tradition reveals that at the time of his birth, Saleem was undernourished and Ladhi nursed the young prince for some time. Regardless of reason, the alliance soon forced the Moghuls to shift the capital to Lahore.
Irritated by the daily ambushes, Akbar dispatched two of his able generals; Meerza Ala-ud-din and Meerza Zia-ud-din with the command of over 12000 troops. The army reached Dullah’s village but could not find him. Due to his Robin Hood personality, Dullah was popular amongst masses. Akbar had ordered the generals to bring Dullah, dead or alive and failing that, bring the women of his house to the court. In obedience of the orders, the army secured the women and started marching towards Lahore.
When word reached Dullah, he charged back. The two sides fought with courage but the Moghul army was soon on the run. The generals begged Ladhi for their life, who then ordered Dullah to forgive them. After the shameful defeat, the Moghuls invited him for talks and deceitfully arrested him. Upholding tradition, he was kept for a while at the Shahi Qila and was hanged in front of Kotwali, a police station now marks the place. His funeral was administered by the Sufi poet, Shah Hussain. The story of this son of the soil spans from the graveyard of Miani Saheb to Dullewala in Bhakkar District. Moghuls had thought that burying Dullah would suppress the rebel soul but the Chughtais knew little of the Punjabi tradition. Written on the lines of Mirza Saheban, the mothers of Punjab sang the epic of Dullah to their children for quite few centuries.
With partition, everything changed … forever. Now the famous men from the lineage of Dullah Bhatti have stopped riding horses and have taken up trade. They are famous for saving democracy rather than honor, and as far as lullabies are concerned, the children no longer sleep with their parents, they prefer their privacy.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM: PUBLISHED FEB 25, 2013
I came from the dreamtime
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
Photo Courtsey: Tariq Amir
Lala Musa Railway station, Daewoo Bus Terminal Lahore and Heathrow Airport have something in common, they share the ambience of departure and gloom. Much like the changing color of maple leaves, a wide array of emotions envelopes these places. A son departing to bring home prosperity in remittance is different from a daughter leaving for her new home. Apart from this maddening crowd and oblivious of their emotions, is the small group of salesmen, ticket checkers, booking clerks, hawkers and road hostesses. Their indifference somehow maintains the sanity at these otherwise charged places in South East Asia. Only the beggars, who pray for the well being in turn for charity, truly value the sentiments of the visitors and passengers.
Lala Musa is an important and busy junction from where two tracks divert. The rich historical context on both the tracks presents the traveler with the decision dilemma. On one side exists Mong, the remnants of the city set up by Alexander, and on the other side thrives the “Greece of Asia“. The exotic Moughul Baths in Gujrat equal the charm of Sikh chivalry at Chillianwala.
The rhythm of Anwar Masood is paralleled by the cadence of Sharif Kunjahi. Zamindara College on this side is rivaled by PAF College on the other. Besides geographical proximity, the land allotments for rehabilitation while developing canal colonies and the unexplained communion of two cities; something, intangible and strange binds Gujrat and Sargodha. Families with their maternal relatives on one side and paternal on the other side are more than common in both the cities. Amusing impressions and expressions dot the lives of girls who were raised in Gujrat and married in Sargodha. Regardless of the cultural richness of the other city, somewhere deep down they yearn for their place of birth. The choice between Gujrat and Sargodha was tough but I followed my heart and left for Gujrat.
Before heading to Gujrat, Chillianwala and Dinga hooked up my attention. The city of Dinga was originally established as Deen Gah, a place for the religion. Tolerant in nature, a Gurudwara, a Mosque, a madrassah and a palace defined the city. The character of the city appeared in the person of Sundar Das. A Sibal by caste, he commissioned buildings, schools and a palace by the name of Sundar Mehal. Dinga at that that time did not perceive that Gurudwaras like Nanak Sir, will one day appear in Calgaree and Wisconsin. No sane mind thought of mosques in Ontario and Washington either. People turned up at the Gurudwara, mosque or visited Sundar mehal, whatever calmed their mind. The city was nothing but these four buildings, a lane called Sibalo wali Gali (The street of Sibal) and stories of Sundar Das. The ambitious Education Minister of India, Kapil Sibal comes from the same family.
The school of Hakim Singh was a famous educational institution. It is famous to-date though nationalised. The family of Hakim Singh migrated to Jullundher and the Sibals wandered through the districts of Barreili and Jallandher before migrating to different parts of western world. Across Bhimbher Nalla, in Gujrat, another palace is famous for Ram Piari, the second wife of Sundar Daas but that will appear subsequently. After Punjab was won over by British, the city of Deen Gah became a victim of British pronunciation and soon was referred as Dinga. Besides the British dialect, Sundar Das and Nanak Sar, the sweetened saunf (aniseed) is also a reason for Dinga's fame. The amazing fact is, however, that on the other side of the Berlin wall, there is another village in Romania, called Dinga.
Every inch in this part of the world qualifies for a historical treatise, explored and unexplored. It takes only a while for the train to pass by but it might take a thousand years for a wandering heart to move on from this place. The next on the track is Chillianwala. The village is hardly anything but the month of January, year of 1849 and the courage of the Sikh militia.
The death of Ranjit Singh left the fate of Khalsa Rule to his wife, Rani Jindaa'n, and a few generals. The generals and queens are famous for their indifference to the common man. This was one of the times, Punjab suffered due to the decisions taken in the largest interest of state. The 1st Anglo-Sikh War came seven years after the death of Ranjit Singh in 1846 and cut Sikh rule to a considerable size. The 2nd Anglo-Sikh War was fought in January of 1849 at Chillianwala. The war is significant in a way that even after around one and half century, both sides believe that it was their day. The British Army led by General Gough had the best of the arsenals and the Sikh Army led by Sher Singh Atari Wala was as ill-equipped as men, fighting for freedom, normally are. The combined effect of French guns and Sikh chivalry routed the British formations. Then came the rain and the forces withdrew from the battle field. The victory was claimed by both the armies and defeat was unanimously dedicated to the rains. After the British won over Punjab, they fixed the cross and erected the Obelisk to commemorate the soldiers, only British, who lost their lives to this great cause.
Chillianwala today, is a small village, forgiven and forgotten. Despite the British farsightedness of building a monument and railway station, it is a haunted place with an old banyan tree at the entrance and a few benches over the plat-form. The silences reign the platform and the dust rules the battle field. On moonless nights, the souls of fallen Sikh soldiers sit down together and talk about their chivalry and proud heritage. At the same time, on the other side of the world, in Victoria and along Whitsunday beaches in Australia, their great grand children, now immigrants, sing with pride:
“I came from the dreamtime from the dusty red soil plains I am the ancient heart, the keeper of the flame I came upon the prison ship, bowed down by iron chains. I cleared the land, endured the lash and waited for the rains. I'm a settler. And from all the lands on earth we come We share a dream and sing with one voice: I am, you are, we are Australian.”
Meanwhile, a limping figure comes from the other side and joins the Punjabi gathering. A Major from the famous regiment of Skinner Horse, he was killed by splinters from Sikh Artillery during the battle. His fluent Punjabi amazes the Sikh soldier and he explains how the Punjabi language now forms part of British curriculum and is at par with Welsh. He adds that Chicken Tikka is now available in the frozen food section of Tesco and Wal-marts. The eyes of a Majithia topchi expand with amazement and the Skinner Horse Major walks back to the cross, reciting the Bani of Guru Amar Das
Disan?ar b?avai an?ar nah? b??le. (He wanders through foreign lands, but does not look within himself.)(Page 1060 : Line 6)
Curtsey:DAWN.COM — PUBLISHED AUG 27, 2012
Kharal and Berkley
MUHAMMAD HASSAN MIRAJ
A road from Jaranwala leads to Sayyedwala. None remains of the ruins now because the city has taken three turns on construction and destruction. To avoid disambiguation, it is named as Qadeem Sayyedwala, Purana Sayyedwala and lastly, just Sayyedwala. The story of Sayyedwala goes as Sher Shah Suri wanted to develop a new capital, away from Lahore. It was an act of Suri vengeance to rob Lahore of its grandeur. Foundations were laid and settlers moved in but Sher Shah could not. Sayyedwala had run out of its stock of fame and luck. It did thrive for a while but was subsequently abandoned to inattention. During Alamgir’s time, floods threatened Lahore Fort. Embankments were constructed to save the fort and divert the floods to Sayyedwala. Nothing stood the rage of the Moguls and with the wrath of the floods Sayyedwala was first destroyed. The residents, however, did not give up and founded a new city, three miles away, now known as Purana Sayyedwala.
The transition from Sikh Punjab to British Punjab is marked with names like Mool Raj, but most fascinating is an old Banyan tree, a well and a graveyard … a troika that denotes the spirit of freedom in Sayyedwala.
Before the war of independence in 1857, Sayyedwala and Gogera were busy grain markets astride Ravi and stopovers for caravans’ enroute to Lahore. When the war broke out, Sayyedwala offered stiff resistance and as it flopped, the wrath of the British Empire began. They put up gallows on the oldest Banyan tree of Sayyedwala, hung freedom fighters and threw them into the well in the graveyard. When the animosity did not wear out, they took recourse to punitive administrative measures and eventually Sayyedwala was relocated to its present location. The Raj did not realise that cities emulate human life; they can wear out but never be omitted from public memories. Sayyedwala lives on to-date, though like an old man, and spends most of its time in the backyard of the past.
Walking by Ravi, Jhamra comes next. The town has a tomb but the interred soul lives in the heart of those, who mourn the Punjab of yester-centuries. While the actual setting of his chivalry is celebrated on both sides of Ravi, Ahmed Khan Kharal was too free to be contained by geography. All those important and unimportant stations that lie on this route, once lived with the stories of the Kharals. Amidst the land allotments, fluid loyalties, deceit and compromises, the Jaats have documented an awe-inspiring tradition of courage and valour. Alongside Mirza, Rai Ahmed Khan Kharal was the Knight as well as the King Arthur of our culture. Today, the unknown cemeteries are not only home to these known men but also to the performers who once reinvigorated these epics with their craft, alas, the craft too has met a dusty fate. But, long ago, Ahmed Khan Kharal was part of tales mother told their children.
By caste, the Kharals are Rajput of the Agni-Kula descent. They link up their genealogy with Karan, a chivalrous character from Ramayana and were converted by Makhdoom Jahanian Shah Shareef. Saadat Ali Khan, a prominent Kharal, was granted a fiefdom in this locality by Aurangzeb and this is how these Jaats made Baar their new home. Those were the times when land and religion bonded men rather than dividing them. In Jhamra, neighbouring Nakais, Gayan Singh, Khazan Singh and Bhagwan Singh had pledged brotherhood with Rai Saleh Khan, the Kharal chief. When Gayan Singh married his daughter, Datar Kaur, to Ranjit Singh, Kharals chipped in the dowry, as a good will gesture. Rai Saleh Khan was succeeded by his nephew Rai Ahmed Khan Kharal, instead of his son. When Ranjit Singh won over Punjab, he travelled across his kingdom and met local nobility. During his visit to Sayyedwala, he met Rai Ahmed Khan Kharal and called him a brother. 1947 was almost a century away.
The battle for Punjab was characterised with patience and perseverance. It graduated from the treaty of Bherowal to the fluttering union jack in Lahore as a series of defeated resistances. A little later, in 1857, the war of Independence broke out and Punjab too, felt the heat of the actions in Dehli and Meeruth. The Raj pre-empted violence to suppress any likely insurrection in this area and constructed jails in every district. One such jail was located in Gogera.
The first shot of independence was fired in May, 1857 at Barrakpur. A few weeks later, Ahmed Khan was summoned by Berkley, the administrative officer at Gogera. He asked for the horses and men to battle freedom fighters. His demand was met by Ahmed Khan’s remarks:
"Kharals do not share wife, horse and land with anyone".
After a week, many innocent men, women and children were imprisoned by the British in Gogera. They tried explaining their innocence but no one listened. Lastly, Ahmed Khan, along his Fatiana friends attacked the Gogera prison and rescued all the inmates on 26 July 1857.
The Raj ran out of patience and started taking on Ahmed Khan. The Berkley of Gogera wrote to the Martin of Sahiwal, who then informed Hamilton in Multan. Within a week, Ahmed Khan was the new-found symbol of resistance against the British. The age when men finally concede was the age when Ahmed Khan fought against the superpower of his time. As the Raj recruited the young and mighty for the battle of Punjab, Ahmed Khan had turned 80. Rai Ahmed aakhay, Jamna tay mar vanjhna Aye naal thokar day bhaj jaona, Kangan aye kachi wang daa, Aakhay larr(d) saa`n naal angrez day, Jeevai`n baldee shama tay josh patang daa
Whoever is born, shall die, says Ahmed Khan, It can’t even stand a thud, much like the house of cards, (He vows) I shall fight the British, with the vigour that a moth fights with the flame
What followed next was the tale of courage, deceit and hegemony.
British raided Jhamra for Ahmed Khan and in his absence; they arrested children and women. The word reached Ahmed Khan, across Ravi. Taking women as hostage was a challenge that Jaats never threw on ground. Wattoos suggested attack on a police post in Sayyedwala but Ahmed Khan ruled it out.
With the British on chase, all the tribal leaders gathered at Nooray Dee Dall including Qureshi, Wattoo, Makhdoom and Gardezi. In his battle for autonomy, few sided with Kharal and others advised caution.
The paradox in Punjab is, at best, incomprehensible. It boasts of Sahiban, who let go of her love for Veer Shahmeer and of Shah Hussain who let go of his piety for Madhu.
After the meeting was over, Sarfraz Khan Kharal, a sardar from Kamalia, saddled his horse and rushed to Gogera. Berkley was awakened at two and informed about the imbuing anarchy. Before Dawn, the bugles called and a squadron of cavalry, commanded by young Captain Blake, marched out to handle insurrection. Few hours later, another officer left with reinforcements and lastly Berkley himself went to Gashkori woods.
All stories of Rai Ahmed Khan Kharal can be traced back to Dada Phogi, an eye-witness of his final days. Before they charged, Ahmed Khan spoke to his tribesmen and the words infused an iron spirit. Had he been British or an establishment hero, the speech would have been archived to form the textbook chapter of “Speeches-that-changed-the-world”, but that never happened. The Jaats of Baar fought with unmatched chivalry and pushed the artillery-supported squadron, more than two miles.
When the dust settled, the squadron had already routed, so Ahmed Khan stood up for Zuhr prayers. Berkley was hiding in a clump near-bye and one of his Punjabi soldiers indicated Ahmed Khan, to him. He instantly ordered “fire”. Gulab Singh Bedi or Dhara Singh is said to have fired the first shot.
Despite repeated performances, the ballad singers and the story tellers, choke, with emotions, at this point. Kharal fell on the tenth day of Muharram, a day revered in the Muslim world, for Hussain’s vital sacrifice against tyranny. As the bullet hit him, Ahmed Khan fell to prostration. Hereon, the narrative is featured by skilled flashbacks of Karbala, a time travels of almost 12 centuries. The battle site of Gashkori resembles Karbala with Kharal`s severed head on lance, much like Hussain.
British took the head and placed it under an armed guard, at Gogera Jail. One of the sentries, dreamt of Ahmed Khan for three consecutive nights, requesting him to take the head away as British planned its display, in London. During his duty, the guard took the head off the lance, put it in a pitcher and rushed to Jhamra. Those were tumultuous times, void of trust. He buried the pitcher near the grave and did not tell anyone of the burial.
Having shot Rai, Berkley’s advisors pushed him for execution of the rebel`s family. Rai’s wife was quick to act. Upon hearing of Rai’s death, she dispatched the kids to neighbouring village of Murad Fatyana, with a message.
“Your brother has been killed, look after the young Kharals”.
Murad Fatyana struggled hard to hold back. He hugged the shocked kids and loaded his rifles. Before leaving, he told his wife: “Take care of these two kids till I return; and if I do not, raise them as well as you will raise your own kids.
As an epilogue to victory, British troops set Jhamra on fire. Next were the villages of Wattoo and Pindi Sheikh Musa till they faced the river. Berkley thought of crossing to other side as he saw no resistance after Ahmed Khan. He could hear the battle cries but ignored and walked the horse into Ravi. It initially trotted but then reared up on seeing something in water. Before Berkley could knew it, Murad’s spear made its way through his tunic and Scottish flesh. Rapid stabbings sent Berkley down, with the horse, never to be seen again. The official history records drowning as the cause of death but Dada Phogi says Berkley over-trusted Ravi.
After Ahmed Khan, none stood against British expansion till Multan. Few years later, Berkley’s brother, a man of position and significant authority, visited Gogera and summoned, Ahmed Khan’s son. He asked Muhammad Khan to forego the murder of his father. Muhammad Khan refused citing the limitation that a son could not forgo the father’s murder. Times had changed. Reforms were taking roots and temperaments had soothed so the officer concluded.
“OK! You lost your father and I lost my brother, let peace return to Ravi”… And this is how peace returned to Ravi.
A generation later, Ahmed Khan’s grave formed part of Pakistan. His grandson wanted to build a tomb at the grave site to honour the hero. During digging, a shovel hit a pitcher and the head was finally recovered. Miraculously, time had just been irrelevant. The hooked nose, deep-set eyes, whitening hair and the teeth, all stood intact. While the thinking minds felt the strands of beard, the ailing heart could feel the dripping blood. After the funeral, the head was interred but the story re-surfaced. Crude accent of Bhaats studded with similes of Karbala have made it almost eternal. Amidst the love for freedom and hate for imperialism, Karl Marx wrote a lengthy citation for Ahmed Khan.
What unfolds human greed, is the fact that all those who betrayed Ahmed Khan, and in turn the land of five rivers, were rewarded, with the allotment of land. The mutiny reports compiled after the incident bear striking resemblance to the political elite to-date. From Gardezi to Makhdoom, Sayyed to Qureshis, all the surname that line up. as landlords, astride the rail track today, had sided with British during the war of independence in 1857! A proud heritage of misplaced loyalty.
Ohno Anakhi Nahi Samjhda Jeyhr(d)a Ahmed Khan da dukh Visaray
“I do not consider him a sensitive soul Who fails to mourn Ahmed Khan”
Curtsey:DAWN.COM PUBLISHED APR 15 AND apr 22 , 2013