On the mat
The akhara is still there but the sea of people is nowhere in sight. The gate remains open most of the time but hardly anyone enters the place
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Right in the middle of a busy Mohni Road street is situated the famous akhara owned by Bholu Pehalwan family. This place was once centre of great activity, visited quite often by renowned wrestlers and wrestling fans from all over the country. It was the place where leading trainers, called Khalifahs in local language, would get together to share their experiences and discuss latest techniques being used in the game, for the benefit of their respective pupils.
Locals still remember the days when people coming from far away places would wait endlessly outside the Akhara. All they wanted to have was a glimpse of Bholu Pehalwan, Jhara Pehalwan or Nasir Bholu grapple with others as part of their training. The gate would remain closed till the time the trainers ordered the gatekeepers to open them and allow the flood of people come inside.
The akhara is still there but the sea of people is nowhere in sight. The gate remains open most of the time but hardly anyone enters the place, except some youth who are members of the gym that was set up here sometimes back. The place remains deserted and depicts the current state of desi style wrestling in Pakistan. The boys coming here prefer bodybuilding over traditional wrestling as the former does not involve dedicated coaching and expensive diet. Neither do they have to role over mud and rub oil on their bodies.
This doesn't mean that people are rushing to the spot to exercise in the adjoining bodybuilding gym. The interest of the locals in the game is so low that the gym owners (Jhara's family) have allowed trainers to pay Rs 5 as gym fee on daily basis as well. The owners have no option but to manage the place despite the fact that returns are too low for a family's sustenance.
Azeem Butt son of Chacha Nasrullah, one of Jhara's trainers, tells TNS that they regularly visit the place in hope that some day lady luck would shine again. Once Zubair Jhara wrestled here now he lies in his grave right in the middle of the compound, he says. These gives a message that all of us, irrespective of the power and wealth we wield, are temporal and have to depart one day, he says.
Azeem says the government should intervene now and at least help Jhara family win back their farms in Okara. These farms were given as gift to the Pehalwan family by Field Marshal Ayub Khan but right now they are in the possession of a sitting federal minister hailing from Okara. "Besides, I would request the government to check the practice of building shops, buildings and petrol pumps on akharas. Instead, it should allocate more and more land for akharas and patronise budding wrestlers," he adds.
Bilal Yaseen, sitting MPA from PML-N tells TNS that revival of wrestling in the country is not possible without the involvement of this family. They have an excellent track record and known all over the world for their achievements. He says right now "we are in the process of getting Rustam-e-Hind Memorial Trust registered." Once this is done the trustees would start a campaign for the revival of the game and involve people from the government sector as well as the corporate sector that is widely sponsoring traditional sports events in the country, he adds. "Sponsorships are imperative as even the well-off wrestlers are unable to bear the expenses incurred on traditional wrestlers' diet," Bilal says.
By Aoun Sahi
The traditional styles of wresting called desi kushti has remained popular in this part of the century for decades. The wresting competitions are called dangals and are fought on a mud pit bare-footed by wrestlers. Earlier, every city, town and village of the country had its own mud pit called akharas in local language. But now these akharas are hardly seen especially in bigger cities. Where they were in the past, commercial buildings stand at those places now. In fact, the downfall of the game has been brought about by both the lack of masses' interest in the game and the neglect shown by the government to desi kushti.
The state patronisation is imperative as wrestlers were always supported by the Maharajas and Kings. It was a matter of pride for rulers to have invincible wrestlers in their folds, something that was a symbol of those rulers military might. It was because of this that pre-partition India produced good wrestlers.
Unfortunately today we are a witness to decay of this great art of wrestling for so many reasons. A brief overview of different phases in its history is given below to show how the journey from glory started and is fast heading towards gloom.
To start with, most of us can recall the names of Gama Pahalwan and Imam Baksh often mentioned by our elders with awe and admiration. Gama who was the uncle of the famous Bholu Brothers and was born in 1878 in the town of Datia, Madhya Pradesh, Central India. He was crowned Rustam-e-Zaman (world champion) in London after defeating Stanley Zbysco of Poland in 1910. He spent his childhood playing with the Raj Kumar of Datia. The Maharajah of Datia employed Gama Pahalwan after the death of Gama's father, Aziz Pehalwan. Later the Maharajah of Patiala supported him.
Gama came to Lahore at the age of 18. By the age of 30, he had become invincible and became a force to reckon with in professional wrestling in Pakistan and the surrounding countries during 1950s and 1960s.
Gama had no son but his younger brother Imam Baksh, also a great wrestler, had six sons of which five became illustrious wrestlers. They were Azam Pehalwan, Akram Pehalwan, Bholu Pehalwan, Aslam alias Acha Pehalwan and Goga Pehalwan. Bholu was declared the first Pakistani wrestling champion (Rustam-e-Pakistan) in late 1940s (after partition) soon after he had defeated Younus Gujranwalia of Punjab. Bholu received the 'Pride of Performance Award' in 1962 from then President of Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan. Ayub Khan also allowed financial support and a piece of land for his services as a wrestler.
But soon afterwards the decay started. Though the descendants and pupils of these great wrestlers showed good wrestling potentials later but due to deteriorating standards, lack of state patronisation and other discouraging factors these highly talented wrestlers did not acquire the fame and recognition like Bholu Pahalwan.
Examples of Nasir Bholu, son of Bholu Pehalwan, and Zubair Jhara, son of Acha Pehalwan, can be quoted here. In June 1979, the 19 year old Jhara fought with former World Heavyweight Champion, Antonio Inoki to a draw. Nasir Bholu got an offer from Inoki to join his team of professional wrestling in Japan. But Bholu Senior opposed the decision and Nasir gave up wrestling in 1990. Jhara who had challenged wrestlers from all over the world to fight with him died in 1991 at a young age of 31.
By Farah Zia
Intizar Hussain may have had a point against copyright when he compiled tales and myths of yore in the form of a book. By doing so he has put his weight behind our very own oral tradition and has every right to do so.
One dare not disagree with him nor does one have any problem with Plato's take on mimesis. What one wants to talk about here is much more plebeian than that and yet worthy of a thought.
The Punjab University administration may actually be as serious as it appears in the newspapers about proceeding against its professors who've been caught plagiarising. The key word here, of course, is not 'plagiarising' but 'caught' because many of their kin lived off other people's intellectual gains and progressed without letting a soul get wind of it. So why pick on a few poor ones now just because they were caught, is one simple question.
But that too is not a subject of discussion here. Here the subject of attention are the verbal plagiarists who get a chance -- or make it a point -- to sit in intelligent company, pick up ideas and run them as their own.
One wouldn't mind if it was only good jokes they heard and spread because if Khushwant Singh can bring out joke books under his own name they too must be forgiven. Besides, jokes are one thing that even WTO has not bothered taking notice of as far as one's knowledge goes. And lastly, one seriously believes that a good joke must be spread since it makes your day like nothing else. (For this alone, one must thank the mobile phone companies for the bucket or whatever SMS facility they have on offer).
But as said earlier, these verbal plagiarists do not pick jokes. They steal analysis, not just from people more knowledgeable than them, but from famed journals. Journalism thrives on such characters and, in a largely non-reading milieu like the professors in our universities, they manage to get away with it.
Sometimes, like the professors, they do get caught and that makes one feel more embarrassed than them. They bring to a meeting their 'most original' analysis (they'd read it on what they thought was an obscure corner - Page 8 or 9 - of a newspaper that very morning) but was unfortunately not missed this time by their smart colleagues.
Our plagiarist stays undeterred.
In the world of newspapers, this takes some interesting dimensions because reporters have this leverage of quoting sources in their stories (which may turn out to be all fictitious at the end of the day). One recalls an experience in one's early professional life about this reporter who was very fond of quoting sources. So the report would always read something like: "A source said..." followed by "Another source said..." and then predictably "Yet another source said..."
Another reporter quoted an energy expert who did not wish to be named in his piece and upon editorial inquiry revealed that the energy expert is he himself. "Who knows more about the subject than myself," was the innocent reply.
But we decided to stick to plagiarised conversation, didn't we? So to come back to one's brief, the mediapeople, generally, find it too easy to say "I think" (no equivalent of Mere Mutabiq which has none really) instead of "I read" or "I heard him or her say that".
An incorrigible plagiarist ended up narrating the same anecdote to the same friend who had told it in the first place.
So all said and done, verbal plagiarism is not as dangerous as the other form because it does not need a committee or set of laws to be exposed. It gets exposed anyway and it's so much fun to have these plagiarists amongst us. The fun part is very original though. And ours is an oral tradition anyway.
•Concert: Atif Aslam and Omer Inayat live at Royal Palm Country Club today at 8pm. For details contact the venue.
• Lawn Exhibition by Warda at Pearl Continental Hotel starts today. It will continue till Tuesday, April 3 from 10am to 10pm.
• Monthly classical music concert of the All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC) today at 6pm at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall. Vocalists: Badar & Qamar uz Zaman. Clarinet solo: Jaffer Hussain. Accompanists: Shabbir Hussain Jhari on tabla, Faqir Hussain on sarangi, Zafar Qadri on harmonium.
• Music Programme: Josh art music presents a jubilant performance of music tomorrow (Monday) in Alhamra (The Mall) Hall 2 from 3pm to 5:30pm. Entry free.
• Dastangoi by supporters of The Citizens Foundation at Open Air Theatre Bagh-e-Jinnah on Saturday, April 7 at 8pm.
• Puppet Show for children is held every Sunday morning at Alhamra, The Mall at 11am. Ticket: Rs 5/10.
• Youth Performing Arts Festival from Friday, March 30 to Tuesday, April 10 at Alhamra, Gaddafi Stadium.
• Nazir Ahmad Music Society stages a concert every Saturday at GCU.
•Talent Hunt musical programme every Saturday at Alhamra Lawns at 5pm. For more information call 9200953, 9200918, Alhamra Art Centre, The Mall.
Temporary shops selling food items along historical sites do not strictly qualify as encroachments. It's the permanent structures that need to be strictly dealt with
By Saadia Salahuddin
The Archeology Department has a list of historical sites in the city which are encroached upon by people who are doing small businesses there. The encroachments are numbered at 3,320. In early March the Supreme Court directed the Punjab Government to scrutinise the cases involving encroachments on 124 monuments.
The list shows there are 231 encroachments on the Old Fort alone. These are makeshift kiosks and rehris, mostly offering refreshments to the visitors. These shops are put up every day and the businesses here are going on for generations. "My father did the same thing and before him my grandfather. What else can I do. I have no skill and selling food is all that I know," says a simple vendor outside the Old Fort.
The footpath along the road that leads to the gate of the fort is a food street. A stall owner says: "We block no traffic. Who do we hurt. Why do you see this as encroachment. Aren't we doing service in a way. What fun can people have without food and drink. We do not cook here. We bring cooked food from our home only to sell here," the perplexed man loaded me with questions.
Another shopkeeper suggested the government can make stalls on the ground adjacent to the footpath. Dr Ajaz Anwar says: "Making shops for vendors is not appropriate. It has been seen that many move back to the old place of business. Then structures will give them hereditary rights." But he says: "I wouldn't go harsh on them. They are also providing some service. It's the permanent structures that need to be strictly dealt with."
There is a small union of the vendors along Lahore Fort. When a delegation comes to the city, particularly to The Fort, the vendors are told to leave. "One to two months go without business. Then we beg the high officials to let us put our stalls back and they allow us to go about our business."
An old fellow on the food street along the Fort says: "It all started when Nawaz Sharif removed us. We ran from pillar to post for six to eight months to have our businesses restored. Then we went to the corps commander with our children who sent us to the military cell. An enquiry was held and we were re-instated at our old places. That military cell is no more. After two years we were again removed on the charge of encroachment. Since then life has been all tension."
The vendors do not want to talk about the corporation's role. Many a times all of us have witnessed the taking away of rehris and stalls on corporation trucks in different parts of the city which means a work day lost and fine ranging from Rs 300 to Rs 1000 at least. Whenever a news appears about encroachments, there is a crackdown on these poor vendors. There is a request to the corporation staff to spare these poor people.
"Nobody is there to listen to us even though we supported PML-Q in the last polls but Mian Azhar lost. Now we are told to go to him and we are stranded. The DCO doesn't see us, we have tried to see him several times."
"We are in trouble anyway, please do not write a report that will make us pay for saying the truth," a senior vendor requested.
A vendor has a laminated visiting card of an MPA on whose back he has requested a high official to listen to the vendor and do the needful. "I am carrying it for years now. This officer has retired and this card is no more useful but I visited this high-up several times in the hope that our problems will be solved."
It's the more permanent encroachments that need to be seriously dealt with, says Dr Ajaz Anwar. The one behind the wall of Jehangir's tomb is permanent. Then there are timber shops at Zebunnisa's tomb on Multan Road. In the tomb furnitures are dried after polishing. Once fire broke out in this shop a few years back.
Dr Ajaz takes notice of construction of a multi-storey building in front of Mauj Darya's tomb. It is a monument of Akbar's period and the very name shows that Ravi once used to pass this way. It's important to protect our heritage. Big building close to them block their view so such constructions must be checked.
A few years back the government had plans to construct a multi-storey maternity hospital before Badshahi Mosque. "We suggested the government to make such a maternity hospital elsewhere in the city because it was blocking the view of the historical Badshahi mosque," says Dr Ajaz.
There are many historical buildings that have become obscure because of constructions that blocked their view. There is a long list of such places. Monuments in Mughalpura have become obscure now. Musa Ahangar's tomb on McLoed Road is the oldest surviving monument in its original shape but try looking for it, its hard to find, there is so much that puts it out of view.
Dr Ajaz is particularly concerned about what is going on in the old city where plazas the view of the monuments. A plaza in Kashmiri gate, it is said, was constructed without the permission of LDA. Dr Ajaz doubts this. The operation in Haveli Mian Khan a year back was taken during the long Baqr Eid holidays. He says LDA is more aware than architects about what is going on. He calls LDA Lahore destruction authority which has left many scars on Lahore's face.
The new thing that has come to be known is that there is threat to the very Lakshmi building at Lakshmi Chowk. The whole of the building has already been vacated. A hurried meeting was called by the chief secretary Punjab on Thursday. Dr Ajaz said it was on a very short notice so he couldn't attend.
Jhara Pehalwan's only son narrates the ordeal he and his family are passing through
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Muazzam Zubair, 24, is the only son of the famous late Zubair Alias Jhara Pehalwan whose name is still fresh in the memories of wrestling fans. Muazzam was hardly eight years old when his father died, back in September 1991 of heart attack. Jhara had great love for Muazzam and wanted him to become a great wrestler like him and his elders who had ruled the game for decades.
He used to accompany his father to the akhara where he (Jhara) exercised for hours. He would sit with hundreds of admirers of Jhara who visited the akhara every day. He was oblivious of what was special in his father but he knew one thing that they loved his father.
Years later, Muazzam stands stranded in the middle of nowhere. He has done no planning for his future and has been left at the mercy of circumstances coming his way. The death of his father in the prime of his life was a blow to him and his family. "Life had become difficult for us even in the lifetime of my father. But after his death, it became tougher for us. He didn't leave any assets behind neither was there any assistance from the state for the family of such a great national hero," says Muazzam.
He says against all odds his family (uncles) decided to invest in him so that he can carry forward the legacy of his father and forefathers. But conditions became so unfavourable and costs of pursuing the goal so unbearable that the plan had to be dropped mid way, he says. Muazzam laments that instead of supporting them, some government departments had started creating problems for us. "You will be surprised to hear that we have received notices from Auqaf Department to vacate these premises. Our elders have fought kushtis here and this place is too sacred for us. I will not leave it even if I am offered billions of rupees in return," he adds.
He says that the akhara was purchased by Goga Pehalwan, paternal uncle and father-in-law of Jhara Pehalwan from a woman custodian of the adjacent shrine. According to Punjab Auqaf Department records, Pir Wali Shah Mallah is buried here. He was a sailor associated with the great Sufi saint Syed Ali Hajveri. "People believe that it is because of him being buried here that those trained at the akhara have excelled in the game. Many pehalwans from distant areas come here just to rub mud on bodies to win spiritual blessings associated with the place," Muazzam says.
He says he is also running a health club named 'Jhara Gym' here but the returns are too little even to make both ends meet. Muazzam tells TNS that soon after his father's death, Antonio Inoki had asked his uncles to send him to Japan. "He had offered to meet all the expenses incurred on my training but my uncles declined the offer. They said it would against their dignity to leave me at the mercy of a foreigner. But all of them were thankful to him for the offer he had made," he says. Muazzam is quite confident that he can become a good wrestler within months if he is able to get state or non-state patronisation.
Top 10 dating spots in Lahore
1. Lawrence Garden (Gulshan Cafe)
3. Jallo Park
4. Nairang Gallery
5. Jehangir's Tomb
6. Quaid-e-Azam Library
7. KAPS, MM Alam Road
8. Race Course Park parking lot
10. Virtual Space
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'Top ten fortune tellers, tarot card readers in Lahore'.