a case for kite-flying
men on a bike
By Sher Ali
While the rest of the world continues to mix both sports and education to grow well-rounded individuals, Pakistan continues to lag behind in its attempt to reinvigorate its education system.
"Only festival where people come together"
By Sher Ali and Aoun Sahi
The News on Sunday: How can we make basant safe?
Yousuf Salahuddin: To start with, you have to ban motorcycles from Saturday night to Sunday evening because a majority of accidental deaths have been of motorcyclists.
Secondly, there are two companies manufacturing these dangerous strings. The issue is not kite-flying or celebrating the festival; it’s about the deadly string. Children are buying these strings regardless of the danger these put their lives in. So, the manufacturers should be held accountable.
Thirdly, aerial firing has to be stopped. This was done during Shabhaz Sharif’s last term. If he gives the stick to the police, this can be regulated.
TNS: What does basant mean for Pakistan and Lahore?
YS: For Lahore, basant means an amazing boost to the economy and the placing of Lahore onto the cultural map of the world. India has been trying to copy basant for years. The truth is that basant is in the blood of every Lahori. This is one festival where the rich and the poor interact. They do not interact even on eid. The elite class offers eid prayers at FC College or Aitchison College mosque while the general population goes to other mosques. Basant is the only festival which the rich and poor celebrate together.
This is a festival of the poor. Look at how much misery we are going through; drugs are common; children are being picked up from streets; law and order is non-existent. In this scenario, mothers feel safe when their children stay at home. Flying kites at least keeps them in the house. Most of all basant does not cost anyone anything. Even if you don’t fly kites, the enjoyment in just being part of the fun on the rooftops is simply amazing. It is this beauty that we can sell to the world.
TNS: How can basant benefit the economy of Lahore and Pakistan?
YS: It’s actually costing the government nothing and the government can make money. The Punjab government should be announcing basant a year in advance so that people all over the world can make plans. The ban on basant is a great cultural loss for Lahore and Pakistan. Basant is the best event to show to the world the real face of Pakistan. The Punjab government, the federal government and the inept Tourism Department need to stop wasting public money and invest in preparations for a proper basant.
The Punjab government would have to, in its first year, invite hundred journalists from different parts of the world. They should organise a basant for them. If we plan it carefully it will become the Mardi Gras of Pakistan. If the government helps plan it, I can easily get people like Madonna and all the top stars. Imagine Madonna coming to Pakistan for basant. This will attract major media coverage around the world.
The things we can sell from Pakistan are basant and Sufi music. Any foreigner that will visit Pakistan during these two days will go back saluting Pakistan.
TNS: Where did you get the idea of promoting basant?
YS: For me the idea of a properly organised basant festival came when the Duke of Somerset and his wife came for basant at my place once. Prior to that, I would never have a big basant; it was a day usually enjoyed with my family. I started celebrating it on a relatively larger scale and started inviting friends from Pakistan and abroad after their visit.
TNS: Basant is also termed as an anti-Islamic or Hindu event. How do you respond to this criticism?
YS: Let us admit the fact that we were all Hindus several generations ago and that the people became Muslims through the ways of the Sufis and that’s how Islam came to the subcontinent. When our ancestors converted to Islam, the things that were not clashing with the basic principles of Islam were retained. If anyone insists that the wahabi practices which are practiced in Saudi Arabia should be implemented then that’s not going to happen. Allama Iqbal used to celebrate basant.
The size of kites and ban on charkhi may check accidents
By A. S. Nizami
Kite flying is equally popular among men and women. A kite fills the hearts of young and old with exaltation when it takes to the air.
"I don’t want my children to play in the street and mix up with a lot of riff-raff so I buy them kites and twine to keep them before my eyes," says a housewife while talking to TNS. Winter is considered the kite-flying season for its gentle breeze and sunny days but after the ban, we hardly see any kites in the sky.
The people who used to sell kites and twines in these shops are now seen offering ice candies, soft drinks and other eatables in front of schools and colleges and their shops have turned into outlets of everything but kites and twines. The rooftops which were used for flying kites are also giving a deserted look.
"Kite manufacturing and twine coating had become an industry, engaging thousands of people including rural women and children, particularly widows and orphans, to earn their livelihood by making kites and twine. But the ban has rendered them jobless which ultimately led some of them to commit suicide," says Sheikh Saleem, Chairman Kite Flying Association while talking to TNS. He says, "Basant is a seasonal festival and kite-flying is its main feature, but the Punjab government before lifting the ban on it, is demanding the kite association to give an assurance that no kite-related casualty takes place on basant.
"Does any minister give assurance before taking office that nothing wrong will happen in his ministry? How can we give assurance that no casualty will take place during basant?"
Suggesting safety measures to avert kite-related incidents, especially casualties on roads, Sheikh Saleem says, "Thick and chemical-coated twine cuts throats on roads which can be checked if the government bans big kites and allows small kites only which do not need thick and chemical-coated twine. Twine-makers should be asked to use pinna (twine ball) in place of charkhi (reel) because rolling chemical twine on pinna is impossible. This will certainly stop usage of chemical strings.
"When stray kites with metal wire fall on Wapda electric wires and transformers, they cause frequent power tripping and damage to Wapda installations but such kites are normally flown by the kite catchers who use tandi. This calls for a ban on selling tandi. Fixing flexible rods on motorcycles and cycles can help stop kite-related casualties on roads."
This raises a question. Can tandi be banned? Isn’t it used for upholstery.
Kite-lovers are switching to other pastimes. Ustad Sohail Sakhi, 2009 pigeon competition winner in Lahore, says: "It seems pigeon keeping is replacing kite flying as those who flew kites throughout the season are now taking part in pigeon racing competitions. With the ban on kite flying, the trend of keeping pigeons is increasing among Lahoris."
It becomes hard for those who fly kites throughout the year to swallow the restriction, but they have done it by switching over to pigeons, said Khalid, a pigeon racing umpire. Basant is meant for kite flying and for kite lovers all Jashan-e-Baharan programmes are meaningless without kite flying.
By Naeem Safi
On way to the Walled City of Lahore for a photography assignment; the road is blocked after one had crossed the Railway Station. The closed windows and the popular songs on an FM channel running western songs are the only solace against the noise and the visuals of the dilapidated urban fabric.
In the midst of all this sound and fury, something shiny and very colourful catches the eye. It looks like two metal benches welded together and then set on wheels. It’s a Qingqi rickshaw decorated with vibrant coloured motifs and objects.
But then, it’s not the only one; there is a swarm of them, not all of them colourful and decorated. They are causing the roadblock. That just adds to the passion, and one scrutinizes this weird looking ‘thing’ that some humans use as a vehicle.
One finds some striking similarities between this machine-age-creature and our beloved state, beginning with the question of its origin. Some say these things were inducted after removing the tongas with an organised campaign (read conspiracy) by one of the ‘top 10’ families. A propaganda campaign was launched against the horses on various forums, instilling fear in the masses of some extremely dangerous virus found in horse droppings.
The same horse — which made empires for humans — had to witness this disgrace by the same ‘superior’ species; thus leading to a partition between the two, both sides oblivious to the real causes.
Instead of planning a proper urban transport alternative by the government, this wonder-of-the-world was offered instead. What a way for a nuclear power to enter the 21st century.
The structure of this creature is a puzzle in itself — half bench and half bike (of Chinese origin) and some interesting improvisations according to the owner’s need. It is imagination stretched to the maximum. But in a way, they are ahead of the Greeks in creating a mythological creature that not only exists in real life, but plays a vital role in the common man’s life—a god or a beast; leave that to the riders of this storm.
It is beyond comprehension why would someone spend so much money and effort to decorate a badly designed product and above that, seek a stamp of approval for that? We will have to wait for some white skinned foreigner to approve of this futile exercise as ‘art’; just like its predecessor, the so-called Truck Art.
The passengers are compulsorily divided into two groups, each having a view of the same journey 180 degree apart from the other. The driver’s seat has a provision for an extra passenger, whose weight balances this creature against the load at the back (doctrine of necessity?). The cannibalized bike pulls the entire load (population) with its small engine (economy), as a result, making more noise (read owning the conflicts of the entire Muslim Ummah — another myth?) and creating more pollution.
The passengers on these swarming creatures get to hear the blasting sounds (the religious and political rhetoric) as if they are riding in some rally, but in fact are barely travelling, and that too in a dehumanised manner. They are denied the right to privacy and, above all, a sense of decency.
The whole thing just shows the psyche (or helplessness) of our people who will do anything to get from point A to point B; no matter how harmful and senseless the means are; compromising their honour and dignity.
* Calligraphy of Holy Bible by Shafique Shad Khan at Alhamra, The Mall till Wednesday, Feb 10. Timings: 8:00am to 4:00 pm.
* Exhibition of Works by Hasnat Mehmoood at Rohtas Gallery till Sat, Feb 13.
* Exhibition of Painting at Ejaz Art Gallery by "Iqbal Hussain" till Mon, Feb 15.
* Exhibition "Aaj Ke Naam" Faiz’s life in photographs, solo show of Salima Hashmi’s paintings at Alhamra, The Mall from Tue, Feb 9 to Mon, Feb 22 from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm.
* Perdesi: Prints by Damon Kowarsky at Alhamra, The Mall from Mon, Feb 8 to Mon Feb 22.
* Kalaam-e-Faiz: Vidya Shah, singer from New Delhi at Faiz Ghar on Fri, Feb 12 from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.
* Launch of Shoaib Hashmi’s book Aaj Ke Naam on Feb 12 at Alhamra, The Mall. Timings: 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm.
*Tina Sani sings Faiz at Alhamra, The Mall on Sat, Feb 13 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. School children will also sing Faiz with mime performance.
Tina Sani will sing Faiz interspersed with Mira and Adeel reading Faiz-Alys letters from jail.
Padahana and its perpetual chiefs
History of a prime village near the border of Lahore and Amritsar district
By Haroon Khalid
East from Burki on the Burki road is a village Hadyara. At a distance of about two kilometres from here, right on the border of Lahore and Amritsar districts, is a large village Padahana. It is evident from the sheer expanse of the village that this was once a prominent area. In desperate need for metalled roads, clean drinking water, full voltage of electricity, and other basic amenities, this village was once the regional capital of the surrounding areas because of its prominent position.
It was the centre of at least 7 villages around it, one of which is Nowshera Dhala, on the Indian side of border.
Well-maintained buildings are sight of this village. A point of easy comparison is the two gurdwaras one in Padahana and the other in Nowshera. The one in Padahana is almost torn down by neglect, whereas the one in Nowshera reflects a thriving culture and a religion. Both of these sanctuaries were built at the same time.
The story of Padahana centers round an old man known by the name of Sardar Amanullah Khan, once known by the name of Har Dhayan Singh. His family is the most important family of this region. During the partition of India, he along with his father converted to Islam from Sikhism. According to his personal narrative, his father Har Charan Singh, who later became Nasarullah Khan, converted a few years before the partition, having being inspired by the veracity of this religion. This reminds me of a few other prominent non-Muslim landlords at the time of partition who also converted to Islam.
Amanullah, now in 80s, lives in his ancestral haveli along with his two sons and grandchildren. The day we met him, he was wearing a white kurta, and a Muslim cap. He also wears a long white beard. If one was to only replace the cap with a Sikh turban, he would look like a sturdy Sikh. He is referred to as Sardar even today, and so are his sons, because of the prominent position that this family holds in the village.
His cousins, who used to live with him before the creation of Pakistan, all migrated to India, and secured important government jobs. One of them who joined the British army earlier, and later became lieutenant general in the Indian army was Sardar Gurdial Singh. One wonders if he visited his ancestral haveli in 1965 when the Indian army secured this village, and wrought immense damage to the building.
The haveli is dilapidated, except the outer part. Originally a three-storey building, now intact rooms are only to be found on the ground floor. There is also a basement inside, which now lies vacant. In the courtyard, numerous buffalos are tied, which the family owns. All around it are remains of what would have been numerous rooms, arches and piers. One notices a blend of Mughal and Sikh influence upon these constructions. The Mughal arches are simple, whereas the Sikh arches are divided into three parts. Even though the courtyard presents a heart-rending sight of a magnificent palace on the verge of collapse, one is amazed at the relics of the structure, its intricacy and luxurious outlook. This surely would have been a fabulous sight at its zenith.
The stairs lead to the top floor, but then there is nowhere to go. The ceiling has disappeared, and one would have to walk on the narrow passages that are left. From the top one gets a holistic view of the village, and the neighbouring area of India. However, this place is not for the weak hearted like myself. A turret, which adorns the crown of the main entrance, still stands. This main entrance is towards the Eastern side of the village. This haveli is the biggest structure in the village.
The structure was originally constructed by the grandfather of Sardar Amanullah Khan, Jawala Singh. Jawala Singh was a general in the army of Ranjit Singh. After having captured Multan, Mankera, Kot Kapoora, and Kashmir for Ranjit Singh, he was given a lot of gifts and land around this village, which the family enjoys to this day. Jawala Singh was known for his generosity and magnanimity. Even the British historians noted this trait of his personality. When the reins of Punjab fell to the British, Jawala Singh joined their ranks and secured important positions for his family. As a result of their loyalty, they were permitted to retain their land, and also made the honorary magistrates of this village. This meant that they could hold courts in the area, and their decisions were legally binding. Even today the people of the village come to them to resolve their petty problems. The Smadh of Jawala Singh and his wife are still present in the village.
Jawala Singh was not the first person from this family to have his name noted down in the annals of history. Padahana owes its origin to a people known as Padahana, sub-caste of Gujjar. Having first established this place, on their name in the 11th century, for some inexplicable reason, they abandoned this location and moved to a place near Rawalpindi, where they established a new village. Lying in a state of ruins, for centuries, Padahana was once again populated by a man called Changa, who had moved here from Ilaka Taran Taaran. The village, however, retained its name.
Changa was a contemporary of Akbar. In fact in ‘Punjab Chiefs’ there is a story attributed to him and Akbar. It is said that once Akbar saw a very pretty girl in Ferozpur whom he wanted to marry, but the girl’s family, who happened to be Rajput, refused. The emperor instead of using brute force, formed a council of elders, composed of 35 Juts and 36 Rajputs, to solve the problem. The father of the girl conceded that he would accept whatever decision the council makes. Thirty five Juts voted in favour of Akbar, whereas 35 against the regal. The only Rajput, Changa, voted for Akbar and the King married the Rajput girl.
Changa had 7 sons, whom he bequeathed 7 villages under his sway, surrounding the area. The eldest one got Nowshera Dhala. Dhala was the nick name of that son, which is why it got attached to the name of Nowshera. However, the regional capital remained Padahana, which is evident from the fact that when the Afghans came for loot, people from the surrounding areas came and secured themselves here, because there was a moat protecting this village.
From Changa’s progeny there were two brothers by the name of Sahab Singh and Mith Singh. When there was chaos in Punjab as a result of downfall of the Mughal Empire, the former joined the Misl of Gujjar Singh, whereas the latter joined the Misl of Ranjit Singh. Jawala Singh was a son of Mith Singh. It is said that the first foundation of this fort at Padahana was originally laid by Mith Singh, but it was later expanded by Jawala Singh.
Before concluding a brief history of Padahana and its chiefs, I would like to mention that Har Charan Singh aka Sardar Nasarullah Khan, was not the first Muslim from this family. During the tenure of Jahangir, an ancestor of Changa, Suleman, committed a murder, as a result of which the Qazi ordered death or conversion to Islam. The convict was left with no other option but to become a Muslim. His wife, enraged by his desertion of his religion, abandoned him and moved to Hardvar. Suleman formed a new village on Ferozpur road, Lahore District, by the name of Asal Suleman ki. This village is still present near the town of Kahna. Therefore, it is highly likely that if Amanullah Khan visits this place, he would find his long lost cousins.
Two men are working to promote leadership and improve education standards through reintegration of sports into school curriculums
By Sher Ali
While the rest of the world continues to mix both sports and education to grow well-rounded individuals, Pakistan continues to lag behind in its attempt to reinvigorate its education system.
Two crusaders by the name of Nawab Ashiq Hussain Qureshi and Amir Bilal have been working together to promote organised sports at school level. Bilal is founder of an organisation called the Sports Development Foundation, and Qureshi, who lives in Lahore and is a member of the Pak Veterans cricket team, founded the organisation Sports for Life. Their paths crossed and so far their resolve to promote sports in educational institutions has not wavered.
Their goals are simple to promote leadership and improve education standards through reintegration of sports into the school curriculums. Bilal, an athlete, former Pakistan basketball player and first-class cricketer, has also worked as an advisor and administrator for the Pakistan Cricket Board. His passion for sports led him to study sports management abroad.
"Being an athlete, I always met other athletes who said studies and sports could never be interconnected. It was when I went abroad that I saw how interconnected everything was," says Bilal.
Going back to the time of the Romans, sports have always been seen as character enhancer. Intellectual pursuits are complemented with sport for the promotion of society across all fields and professions. Bilal explains, "The first letter written by Chairman Mao in office was about the use of sports to rejuvenate the society and then there was Nelson Mandela who also used sports as a way to reinvigorate a nation.
There has been a great tradition of sports in the British school systems. "When the British arrived in the subcontinent, sports were used to connect community. So when one hears about Aitchison College and St. Anthony’s among other schools where sports were promoted, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Sadly, in public schools, sports never got the same importance in the curriculum," says Bilal.
In Pakistan, the sports board was established under the Ministry of Education through the Sports Development and Control Ordinance in 1962. In Pakistan, things changed drastically during the times of General Ziaul Haq, he explains.
"Since the policy makers did not understand the value of sport being integrated with education, they made changes in the Ministry of Sports, Education and Culture and created three separate ministries. These separate ministries meant there was no inter-ministry coordination."
Bilal explains that there are several benefits of education that are overlooked by the majority. "In our country, we have a huge level of primary school dropouts. We fail to highlight that students have less incentive to come to school until education becomes a joyful experience, which comes from sports."
In terms of academic performance, decades of research has proved that play is crucial in insuring physical, mental and social development. A recent study done in 2007 by Michigan State University, found that children had 10 percent increase in grades in general classes such as math, science, English and social studies.
Moving away from the ‘PT’ master culture that is prevalent in the local schools, Qureshi and Bilal are working to develop sports plans that will be integrated directly into some of the major private school systems. The plan is to enhance sports on the campuses by developing organised roles for students so that they can properly administer sports on each campus. The other focus is to build the capacity of teachers and coaches regarding sports and its relation to education. This process will also include promotion of physical education teachers who have knowledge of sports administration and children psychology.
It is important to realise that sports have always complimented education. Wherever there is education, sports will thrive. Till all stakeholders unite around this banner, educational standards will continue to suffer.