initiative
Sweeping changes
A bunch of students have taken upon themselves to clean the city, encouraging others to come forward for a good cause
By Waqar Gillani
"What is going on here?" was the abrupt question raised by everybody who saw a bunch of youth in Gulberg's Ghalib Market, wearing disposable gloves, brooms in their hands, attempting to sweep the market roundabout. The time was around 1:30pm and the sweepers were none other than students from different educational institutions of the city.

MOOD STREET
When a drifter meets another drifter
By Saeed Ur Rehman
"Drifters of the world, don't stop for too long at any place," I want to say to the man who has come too close to the pot of boiling chai. His emaciated face has long dribbles of glue stuck in the brown beard. The chaiwala tries to wave him off with disdain. He has seen too many addicts like him.

TOWN TALK
Lahore's 4th
Critical Mass
Weekend cycle ride today from Model Town Park main entrance gate at 10am.
Play: Tom, Dick and Harry, a play by Shah Sharabeel at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall from 8:30pm to 10:30pm daily till April 12.

astrofests
Celebrating astronomy
The Khwarizmi Science Society is holding a series of Falakayati Melas in the province. The year 2009 has been marked as the 'International year of Astronomy' by the Unesco
By Suleman Sami Qazi
Creativity and thirst for knowledge lie dormant within us. Akin to a seed that will not sprout unless it is watered, our fertile minds will lie barren unless they are stimulated by the pursuit of knowledge and the joy of discovery. Since its founding in 1997 by Professor Saadat Anwar Siddiqi of Punjab University, the Khwarizmi Science Society (KSS) has been actively involved in the development of a culture of science-appreciation among Pakistan's youth.

Temple wrought with stories
Inside Icchra stands a temple called Bheeru da asthan which according to the British Gazetteer, is the oldest temple in the oldest town known in Lahore
By Haroon Khalid
Lahore is ever expanding, mercilessly eating away any village or town that comes in its way. Many towns and villages like Niaz Beg, Hanjarwal, etc, which were historically well outside the city are now deemed as part of Lahore. However, even after being incorporated by the phenomenon that is Lahore, such places have managed to retain their past, culture and identity as something that is different from the city itself, and that is what makes this new city of Lahore so interesting and endearing. Whereas most of these settlements do not predate Lahore and were never historically as significant as Lahore, there was nonetheless one such locality, which is believed to have existed even before Lahore did. Its significance chronologically exceeds that of Lahore. This town is Ichhra.

 

 

initiative

Sweeping changes

A bunch of students have taken upon themselves to clean the city, encouraging others to come forward for a good cause

By Waqar Gillani

"What is going on here?" was the abrupt question raised by everybody who saw a bunch of youth in Gulberg's Ghalib Market, wearing disposable gloves, brooms in their hands, attempting to sweep the market roundabout. The time was around 1:30pm and the sweepers were none other than students from different educational institutions of the city.

The girls and boys, seemingly from educated families, were not only picking garbage from the roads and sweeping but also encouraging others -- like the shopkeepers watching them keenly -- to join them.

Some boys and girls in green T-shirts and white trousers (colours of Pakistan flag) were a part of Student Action Committee (SAC), a group active in the recently concluded historic movement that sought to restore the sacked judiciary.

"I am happy to see the members of privileged class showing this commitment to clean their city," said Anwar, a labourer having a cup of tea at a stall on the same side of the road.

"I am both happy and sad," said Karamat, a motor mechanic keenly watching this group. He was doubtful if this activity would encourage the general public to take initiative. "No sense of realisation is possible in a country with no system."

Some students were accompanied by their mothers like Murtaza Khawaja, a fourth year student of a private medical college, who was among those who planned all this volunteer work. "We were also active in the Student Action Committee."

He said the idea of this campaign named "Responsible Citizens" came after they saw people breaking a signal on a road in Defence Housing Authority (DHA) despite instructions displayed on the board near the signal. "This forced us to sit together and start the awareness campaign at the very basic level like having and maintaining cleanliness. We come to this market and do this from 1-4pm every Sunday and will continue to do so until people make up their mind to clean their roads themselves," he said. "The next step will be forcing City District Government Lahore and its Solid Waste Management Department to put trash cans and dustbins in this area, urging people to throw garbage in them. Though the regular number of volunteers is not more than two dozens, we have spread our message through Internet and Facebook and are getting support from others too."

He said they would start voluntary work at selective places and will carry on the work till there is a notable success at least in one such area.

Maliha Khawaja, mother of Murtaza and a teacher at Aitchison College, said she would not blame any government agency for lack of cleanliness. "We are doing what we feel like, being a citizen. I am happy when I am playing my role and feel a sense of responsibility," she said. She was happy that Murtaza and his friends realised this. "I am proud of them. I am also happy that they want to take things in their hands."

Saad Durrani, another volunteer and student of Lahore School of Economics (LSE), said, "This is our place, our country and this is a mission which gives us a sense of belonging."

Interestingly, the students have been making efforts at a place where there is no trash can, no dustbin. City District Government Lahore (CDGL) Nazim, Mian Amer Mahmood, was surprised to hear about the situation as well as the efforts of these students. "I would love to meet these students and encourage them. I have been looking for such spirited youth for a long time." He said that there was a need to streamline their efforts with the help of CDGL and a project could be started. "After all the Solid Waste Management department of the CDGL has to cater to 9 million population of Lahore at hand." He stressed upon the need to clean the city just as people clean their homes.

Muhammad Akhtar, a shopkeeper, said: "We sweep our road ourselves every morning but who cares from the government side. The local government representatives supposed to do these jobs are just after making money instead of serving the people who have elected them." He said no CDGL staff comes here regularly; even the garbage container is never lifted for many days.

Meanwhile, the students will be in Ghalib Market again the same time today. Will there be more students joining up the cause, let's see?

[email protected]

 

MOOD STREET

When a drifter meets another drifter

 

By Saeed Ur Rehman

"Drifters of the world, don't stop for too long at any place," I want to say to the man who has come too close to the pot of boiling chai. His emaciated face has long dribbles of glue stuck in the brown beard. The chaiwala tries to wave him off with disdain. He has seen too many addicts like him.

The glue-sniffer looks towards all the customers sitting on the benches, his eyes pleading for a cup of chai. It is raining. I can understand his need. He is an addict and has already spent his money to enjoy a chemical haze. But I can show no pity, empathy or sympathy or compassion. Because I am like him, another drifter. Like the glue addict, I have reduced all human bonds to the minimum possible and now am only committed to my own euphoria. The only difference is the choice of chemicals, perhaps.

Drifters are only committed to soothing their own nerve endings with a chemical of their own choice. Nothing else. Not even each other. Not even money. Money is a means to an end, one's own calm.

Begging, holding on to demeaning jobs, breathing traffic fumes on the roads or the mouldy air-conditioned air in a multi-storied office building are all the same after a while. A drifter attaches to people for as long as a certain need is satisfied.

The chaiwala shows no signs of relenting and the chemical ghost is begging for a cup of chai. They are both trying to assert their life-choices. The chaiwala is a sedentary being, fixed assets and fixed values and a fixed amount to deposit in his account for the education, future businesses, and marriage ceremonies of his children. The glue-sniffer has nothing fixed except the bony frame of his body. Even that frame is at risk at night when he sleeps on the footpath or under the steps of an electronic superstore, wrapped in a stolen woollen blanket.

And now they are both trying to assert their values. If the chaiwala relents and gives him a cup of chai, he has helped the habits of a drifter. If the addict gives up too early, he is at risk of starving himself to death. Begging, like tolerating the insults of a boss, is a game of patience and the drifters have mastered it, elevated it to an art form.

All the drifters know fighting over values and ideologies is meaningless. Survival, without attaching to any cause, any social narrative, any grand scheme of things, is the ultimate value for a drifter so that he or she can enjoy his own chemical haze for as long as possible.

The chaiwala has started serving other customers and brushed off the nuisance. The drifter has moved to the side of the stove and is now hovering around for the warmth wafting off from the boiling pot. To me, it feels like hanging on to a job even after all the promotions have been denied, the bonuses channelled to other divisions of the company, the coveted office cubicle given to someone less capable.

Drifters are shameless hangers-on because they know honour is not conducive to survival. And they also know, despite all the insults and abuses and exploitation hurled at them, they have managed to carve out a space within themselves where they are untouchable, out of reach for all humanity. That is where they retreat and become immune to everything around them. A shouting father, a screaming spouse, a wailing child, an insulting shopkeeper, a heartless employer are not allowed to enter the warm inner igloo, carved with utmost care, in the middle of a barren landscape, after turning the powdery snow of human emotions into a medium of construction.

The emaciated hawk comes to me. I feel the urge to offer him a full meal and show camaraderie but check myself. That is against the unwritten, but universally known, manifesto of drifters. If a drifter helps another of his ilk, he is very likely to be robbed. Show a drifter your soft side and you meet the harshest truth of the world: property and solidarity based on shared identity invite violence. And drifters are always ready to teach this essential lesson to each other.

 

TOWN TALK

Lahore's 4th

Critical Mass

Weekend cycle ride today from Model Town Park main entrance gate at 10am.

 

Play: Tom, Dick and Harry, a play by Shah Sharabeel at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall from 8:30pm to 10:30pm daily till April 12.

 

Islamic Banking: Awareness Road Show on Islamic Banking & Finance from Khyber to Karachi at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), in collaboration with AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking on Tuesday, April 7 at 10am.

 

Panjabi Sangat every Friday at Najam Hussain Sayed's (Punjabi poet, playwright, critic) house, where Punjabi classical poetry is read, interpreted and sung. The sangat has been going on for the last 30-40 years. Any person who chooses to visit the Sangat can freely and actively participate in the above mentioned activities. Time: 7pm.

 

Guru Circle: Q & A session with Bilal Qutb at Model Town Library on Monday, April 6 in which people will talk about emotions, philosophy, psychology, personality, development, religion, history, art, culture & mysticism. Time: 5:30pm.

astrofests

Celebrating astronomy

The Khwarizmi Science Society is holding a series of Falakayati Melas in the province. The year 2009 has been marked as the 'International year of Astronomy' by the Unesco

By Suleman Sami Qazi

Creativity and thirst for knowledge lie dormant within us. Akin to a seed that will not sprout unless it is watered, our fertile minds will lie barren unless they are stimulated by the pursuit of knowledge and the joy of discovery. Since its founding in 1997 by Professor Saadat Anwar Siddiqi of Punjab University, the Khwarizmi Science Society (KSS) has been actively involved in the development of a culture of science-appreciation among Pakistan's youth.

The year 2009 has been marked as the 'International year for Astronomy' (IYA) by the Unesco. This year will commemorate the impact of astronomy and science on human life. I was very happy to learn that the KSS was actively involved in bringing these stellar festivities to Pakistan.

The Society invited Professor Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a distinguished professor of physics from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, to deliver a popular lecture on astrophysics to kick off an extensive series of events planned to celebrate the IYA. The lecture was titled "The Usefulness of Extra Dimensions of Space-Time" and was held at the auditorium of the Environmental Law College, University of the Punjab, New Campus in Lahore.

The lecture focused on two of the greatest ideas of all time, namely, quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Dr. Hoodbhoy expounded on the dream of modern physicists to unite the four major forces of the universe into a single force and the importance of Salam's theory in making this possible. The lecture included references to valuable contributions made to this field by Professor Dr. Abdus Salam, Pakistan's only Nobel Laureate. The event was well attended by people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Another innovative activity being regularly organised by the Society are the 'falakayati melas' or Astrofests. Ever since man set foot on earth he has looked up at the sky with a mixture of awe and amazement. Through the ages, celestial events like comets, shooting stars (meteors) and eclipses have evoked fear and superstition. Ultimately such negative sentiments stem from a fundamental fear of the unknown and an inability to understand the scientific causes of astronomical phenomenon. Who hasn't heard of the famous account of Christopher Columbus, reading from his astronomical charts and aware of an impending lunar eclipse, claimed to control the hand of god and terrified the ignorant natives of America into acceding to his demands. However, any attempt to re-enact the same chicanery today would be less than successful; the lesson has stood the test of time. Any nation that turns its back to science and rationality would end up being dominated by more advanced societies. The science of astronomy is no less.

With the goal of educating the public about the objects visible in the night sky, the falakayati melas are held in the early nights of the lunar months, when the light from the moon is not too bright and distracting. Modern telescopes and night charts allow the public to see with their own eyes, the wonders of the skies.

The first of these melas was organised on January 29 in the lush green fields of Punjab University New Campus. I was very happy to be a part of this event. The festival was a unique combination of socialisation and scientific pursuit. People gathered at the event had the opportunity to sight the zodiac constellations, the awe-inspiring lunar craters named Theophilus, Cyrillus, Hypatia and Ibn-e-Rushd; the Apollo 11 landing site, the beautiful planet Venus in its phase, and the Orion nebula, often dubbed the maternity ward of stars.

Umair Asim, an executive Life member and resident astronomer at the KSS, who is one of Pakistan's most accomplished amateur astronomers was the focal person at these events. He used his remarkable computerised 14 inch telescope to project mind and soul-lifting images of the celestial bounties. The reaction of looking through the telescope for the first time is one of utter delight. Objects seen as mere blobs of white with the un-aided eye show up as majestic bounties spread out on the skies. In order to facilitate the huge number of people in attendance, the Society made arrangements for the images from the telescopes to be directly projected onto two large projector screens, so no one misses out on the fun.

Keeping in view their impact and popular appeal, the KSS has now resolved to take these melas to distant and underprivileged areas as well. Consequently, the second falakayati mela was held on the 9th of March at Government High School Number 1, Phoolnagar. Phoolnagar is the new name of Bhai Pheru, located about 50km on Multan Road, southwards from Lahore. The school has an outstanding history of producing excellent results in Board examinations. The headmaster proudly claims the fifty year old traditions of the school which currently has 1500 students and 50 teachers. Demographically, the area belongs to a deprived economic setting and most students come from poor and oppressed families where the parents cherish in their hearts, the lasting dreams of their children aspiring for strong and respectable careers.

The function was scheduled to begin at 5pm, however, the excited students had started pouring into the school's large auditorium, built with the help of the locals, since 3pm. Within an hour the auditorium was filled to its capacity of a thousand. It was a real surprise to see the enthusiasm and spirit of those young souls and the KSS team decided to start the programme almost an hour earlier than scheduled, a rare practice indeed.

Just before the start of Umair Asim's presentation, there was a huge clamour in the hall which soon fell to a dead silence as all the young people stared with their mouths agape at the astonishing pictures of the stellar bodies being projected in front of them. Many students who were previously quibbling over seats could then not care less for them. They had to hear what the speaker was telling them, many of them were seated on the bare floor.

Umair spoke about the various galactic phenomena, the celestial violence that precedes and succeeds the creation and death of stars, the concept of light years and other similar topics. At the end of his hour-long lecture, students encircled him as if he was some much-loved celebrity and peppered him with questions. It was clear at that point, how much the lecture had inspired them and how eager those young minds were to learn more about the matters of the heavens.

Soon after the lecture, the two telescopes arranged by the KSS and the Lahore Astronomical Society (LAST) were set-up for viewing and quickly became the centre of attention for everyone. The students were prepared to spend the whole night gazing through the telescope at the night sky. The schoolchildren were shown stunning live images of the famous star cluster, the Pleiades, often referred to in Urdu literature as the Thurayya or Parveen. But to our surprise, the students were more interested not in Pleiades, the Orion Nebula or the constellation of Taurus but in our own very moon. What a sight the moon presented with its jaw-dropping scenes of craters, often obscured by randomly meandering clouds.

When it got really late and the call for the night prayers started reverberating in the silent environs of Phoolnagar, the event had to conclude. The KSS team was then allowed to pack up their things and return but not without a promise to return.

Through my attendance at these two events, my confidence in the mission of science popularisation has been greatly energized. Out of this confidence, we must derive a greater personal sense of responsibility to educate and inspire our youth with science. Our youngsters are all craving for inspiration. It is the need of the hour to present to them role models, just as our astronomers, who can play their vital role in instigating the scientific curiosity of our students, teachers and parents alike.

The vision of the Khwarizmi Science Society, as spelled out by its members and the Founder President, Dr. Saadat Anwar Siddiqi, is to see Pakistani students' transition from merely reciting science for the sake of exams into strong and independent thinkers who stand shoulder to shoulder with their international colleagues. Events such as the falakayati melas will undoubtedly encourage many would-be astronomers, physicists and biologists to shed their inhibitions and take that first bold step forward into a career of science. Eventually, it is hoped, that this will contribute to the overcoming of the extreme shortage of qualified scientists, inspirers and role models in Pakistan. (The writer is Laboratory Engineer, School of Science and Engineering, LUMS).

 

Temple wrought with stories

Inside Icchra stands a temple called Bheeru da asthan which according to the British Gazetteer, is the oldest temple in the oldest town known in Lahore

By Haroon Khalid

Lahore is ever expanding, mercilessly eating away any village or town that comes in its way. Many towns and villages like Niaz Beg, Hanjarwal, etc, which were historically well outside the city are now deemed as part of Lahore. However, even after being incorporated by the phenomenon that is Lahore, such places have managed to retain their past, culture and identity as something that is different from the city itself, and that is what makes this new city of Lahore so interesting and endearing. Whereas most of these settlements do not predate Lahore and were never historically as significant as Lahore, there was nonetheless one such locality, which is believed to have existed even before Lahore did. Its significance chronologically exceeds that of Lahore. This town is Ichhra.

In the popular culture Lahore's origin is tied to the Hindu mythologies. There are historians who argue that before the walled city of Lahore became Lahore, Lahore actually was the locality of Ichhra. A very interesting observation is presented to substantiate the thesis. Mostly what we find in the appellations of the doors of a walled city is that the gates are named after the city which they face. The Delhi darwaza of Lahore is named so because it faces Delhi, so is the case with the Kashmiri darwaza. There has been some controversy regarding the name of the Lohari darwaza. It is argued that the Lohari darwaza points towards Ichhra. Lohari could be a primeval name of Lahore in this case, and Ichhra would be that historical city of Lahore.

This is a plausible contention according to the British Gazetteer of Lahore, because they argue that two of the oldest Hindu temples are found in Ichhra, viz. Bheeru da asthan and Chand Raat. Sadly, the latter has been lost but the former still looks over the city. However, the question that arises is that on what premises the British say that this temple is one of the oldest temples. The architecture of the building does not suggest this nor do the folk tales.

The temple is on the Ferozepur road behind the Shama stop. In fact the Shama and the Sheesh Mahal cinemas stand today where once the huge pond of the temple was. According to Maulana Noor Ahmad Chishti, there once lived a man called Godar during the tenure of Shah Jahan. He used to handle the accounts for Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of the Emperor at Benaras. When the prince had an auditor analyse the accounts, it was learned that the accountant had been stealing from the treasury. On this the prince gave the man capital punishment. Legend has that as Godar lay in the prison waiting for his turn to go to the gallows, a man appeared before him. This man asked him to close his eyes and he did as he was told. When he opened his eyes, he found himself at the exact location where today the tall, cone-shaped structure stands. It was a Sunday. The man who had brought Godar here, was sitting on a camel and he was standing next to him. In utter amazement, he asked the man who he was? The man replied that he was Bheeru after which he disappeared.

Bheeru is derived from the Sanskrit word of Bherv, which means Bogey-man. Bheeru is an incarnation of the Lord Shiv-Rudar, who is the Hindu deity of destruction. Shiv-Rudar travels on a dog, and the fear that he excites is such that even the witches and the ghosts are afraid of him. He is usually found near the cremating grounds.

Godar was a follower of Bheeru, and after the miracle, he demarcated the spot, where Bheeru stood, and started his search in the city. He ended up at Shah Alami, where he started living near the Pari Mahal. After adjusting in the new city, he one day gathered a few Hindus and took them to the spot. There he narrated to them the story of Bheeru, after which the spot became known as Bheeru da asthan. He along with other followers made it a regular practice to visit the spot, and present it with garlands, as a token of their reverence. In this way seeds were sown for this place to become a site for one of the most sacred Hindu temples in Lahore.

Later, during the tenure of Ranjit Singh, the mother of his concubine Mora once fell sick. She was diagnosed to have been affected by djinns. Mora was informed that one of the descendants of Godar practiced magic, and he would be able to rid the body of the intruders. According to tradition, she summoned him, and he was able to cure her mother. As a reward for his services, Mora ordered all the villages that were granted to her by the Regal to bring forth a cart of bricks for the construction of a proper temple at the asthan of Bheeru. Bricks from all the hundred villages that fell under her sway came forth. Besides the bricks the total expense for the construction of the present day temple was around 1400 rupees. This temple was further extended by Ram Chandar, the nephew of Sanwal Mal, who was a minister of the Ranjit Government. Besides him contributions were also given by Raja Lal Singh.

There is a big main gate which is followed by a corridor for the entrance to the edifice. At the end of the corridor is another gate. The corridor is around 3 yards wide and 13 yards long. It is embellished by arches on both the ends. Flanking the entrance are rooms. A ground used to follow the entrance whose dimensions were recorded to be 17 x 11 yards. Now however the ground has been taken over by refugees from the other side of the border and new houses have sprouted every where. This corridor was added by Raja Lal Singh.

The area east from here was the Langar Khana, where people were given free food. In front of this is the octagonal platform upon which the temple stands. There was also a well next to it. On each side of the temple are arches (mehraab like structures). East from here is another enclosed place where now houses stand. There is a big door here that opens towards the temple. Next to it is a platform where there are 8 samadhis. During the riots following the Babri mosque incident in Ayodha, like other temples in Lahore, people tried to bring this temple down too, but since it was made of strong material, it luckily survived.

Even though the story of Godar is hard to believe there is no doubt that the present day shape of the temple was given to it during the tenure of Ranjit Singh. One plausible reason as to why this temple is called ancient by the British is that the spot where the temple now stands must have been the site of a primordial temple, which has now given way to a modern construction. It is said that a lump of mud signified the holy place before the temple, making it reasonable to believe that some sort of building existed here before this one, and later on the story of Godar was explained for the inception of the temple.  

[email protected]

 

|Home|Daily Jang|The News|Sales & Advt|Contact Us|

BACK ISSUES