to parking lots
There are many things in common among the monks, fakirs and sadhus of the subcontinent that is timeless
By Haroon Khalid
No matter what political strand one belongs to, hardly anyone would disagree with the fact that in the larger context of India and Pakistan, there are various threads intertwining the two regions, in their multifaceted cultural hues. The result sometimes has been a strong reaction; with attempts to sever all ties, as is represented by the Hindu and Muslim extremist movements across South Asia, whereas on other occasions, there has been an amalgam of traditions in such a way that it has been often difficult if not impossible to untangle the various cultural products. Even though religion has been identified as the primary source, a contention of identification and differentiation; nowhere has this fusion been more pronounced and easier to identify. The monk, sadhu, fakir, sufi, dervish, all may represent diverging religious traditions, nonetheless share a common paradigm, easily identified in their practices.
On a trip to Bhera, I noticed a mural on a Sikh smadh, representing a Sadhu, with just a lungi, long hair and beard, sitting in the Buddha position. This was my first encounter with an Udasi Sadhu. On another conference, I saw a documentary on the mela at Sher Garh. Here I noticed young boys, in lungis with shaven head in a large number dancing on the beat of dhols. They looked more like Jains than Muslims. Finally, when I met a young 'Muslim' fakir, clad in a black chola, a green turban, black beads, numerous bells, huge ghongroos and rings, I realised that all of these examples representing different religious doctrines had in common certain principles that needed to be explored. That's when I met the Udasi Sadhu.
According to the Encyclopedia of Sikh Literature, the word Udasi is derived from Udas, which happens to be a Sanskrit word, meaning a state of depression, primarily because of somebody's absence. Udasi is also termed as a pilgrimage, taking one away from the familiarities of one's home and familial relations. The Encyclopedia notes that the first Sikh Guru during his lifetime took part in four Udasis covering all the cardinal directions.
Within the Hindus and Sikhs, (to be joined by Muslims later) there is a common sect known as the Udasi Sadhus. They derive their origin from the eldest son of Nanak, Shri Chand. His first student Baba Gurdita, later taught four disciples: Balu Hasna, Al-Mast, Phool Shah, Govinda, all of whom eventually formed their four divergent sects.
Some people believe that the first two out of these four, were Muslims, however there are others who deny the authenticity of this claim. Even though these various sects didn't fall under the main stream Sikhism, all of them still enjoyed the blessing of the Sikh gurus, and they used to obey their command.
Earlier, they used to maintain their hair like the Sikhs, wearing the orange chola (a symbol of Sufi, monk, and Sadhu tradition in South Asia, which all of them share in common), with a black cloth around the neck, and a tomba in the hand. They mostly had a long cap on the top of their heads.
Gradually however, they commenced differentiating themselves from mainstream Sikhism, when they began changing their coiffure. Some of them left their hair hanging on their shoulders, while others started removing all of their body hair (like a sect in Jainism). They took off their cholas and began wearing nothing but lungis. This brought them the name of Nanghe, derived from Nange (naked). They began rubbing ash and oil on their bodies, to blacken them further, perhaps symbolic for abhorring everything that is not ephemeral. They formed their deras where they started living as a community, secluded from civilisation. Instead of reciting Granth Sahib, they started venerating Dasant Granth, the holy book written by the tenth guru.
Muslims, who had been lured into these deras as a result of Al Mast and Bannu stuck to the Koran and teaching of the Sufis for their spiritual guidance. However, other practices, which included staying naked in deras, and rubbing ash and oil over the body could not elude them. Because of this they were deemed as the same Udasi Sadhus.
They chant the hymns of Al Mast, so they are also known as Al Mast. Perhaps the verb Mast, meaning a state of ecstasy is also derived from them. Al Mast along with Boo Ali Qalander, Lal Shahbaz Qalander, and Hazrat Rabia Basri is considered one of the the 2 ﬁ
Muslim Qalanders, of which the latter is ﬁ a Qalander. This explains the term Mast Qalander often used in Sufi Qawwalis and poetry.
In Pakistan, these Mast Qalanders are found in large numbers centered on Shahbaz Qalander at Sehwan Shariff. They are perpetually involved in Udasi from one tomb to another, and are found dancing or Mast on the rhythm of dhol during the urs celebration of famous Sufi Saints.
Derived directly from a Sikh tradition, however it would be unfair to state that the traditional origin of these Malangs can be attributed to a single religious entity. It predates Sikhism, Buddhism, or even Hinduism. We notice in Indus Valley tradition these spiritual people wearing minimal clothing, renouncing the world, to follow a spiritual quest. The tradition of course was given an institutional establishment with the development of the Brahminical and Buddhist culture of the Ganges Valley Civilisation. The Brahmins and Buddhists began renouncing the world, whereas the Jains started removing all of their hair, as an emblem of disdain for the material world. They were the ones to choose the orange chola, worn by the Buddhists and by the Hindu priests, even today. The Muslim fakirs, very much part of this religious milieu stick to this colour, and refrain from the world, sometimes growing their hair long, sometimes, cutting it completely. So no matter how much these religious cultures of South Asia try to raise up boundaries, to protect themselves from the barbaric influences of each other, the syncretism that underlines the Indian tradition, culminating in the Sufi, Sadhu, and monk culture would continue to haunt the orthodox in these traditions.
Do what you like
By Noorzadeh S. Raja
For the vast majority of young people including myself who very recently finished a strenuous academic year, one which demanded ceaseless, vigorous activity of our grey cells, the summer holidays are an eagerly-anticipated break, a chance to relax, unwind and bask in the relentless heat. For most, summer is in full swing. For yours truly, summer has comprised thus far of a regular rendez-vous with an ice-cold swimming pool, chocolate mint ice cream containing little chunks of After Eight from Cosa Nostra and last but not least, an internship at a prestigious newspaper.
I have been inclined towards writing since the very beginning, and throughout my childhood, I spent many happy hours scribbling bits of amateur poetry and nonsensical prose here and there on pieces of paper and occasionally, much to my mother's dismay, using walls as my literary canvas. As I grew older, my thoughts matured and gained some form of coherence, so I tried my hand at writing articles for a couple of publications.
Therefore, when the time approached, it seemed only natural and perfectly obvious that my choice of internship should involve some form of writing. In the short span of two weeks that I have been working at a newspaper, the experience has lived up to my expectations. I consider writing to be my forte, and this internship has given me the opportunity to explore various literary avenues, with which develops a certain fluency and continuity of thought. In addition, my ability to promptly pick out and correct even the smallest of grammatical and punctuation errors, which has been a constant source of annoyance to my classmates throughout my school life, has been put to good use.
I derive a kind of sadistic pleasure from slicing other people's sentences and rearranging and changing their words around a bit to make pieces of writing more effective. However, watching my own work being edited by others, witnessing paragraphs which I had spent much time and effort in writing be casually crossed out without so much as a thought, is an ordeal in itself. Editing it myself is relatively easier, for Isaac Singer put it well when he said, "The waste basket is the writer's best friend."
The general consensus on internships seems to be that they make one's college applications look impressive and appealing, while some people intern to gain work experience in a certain field. However, my humble opinion is that if you spend your summer doing what you love and are passionate about, the results will be fairly more pleasing and you will find that your time has been well-spent. You may have to spend more time looking but if you look in the right places, you will find an internship which is best suited to your talents and natural abilities, something which you can excel at, not just get a certificate for.
*Two day training session on Tunnel Farming organised by LCCI Standing Committee on Kitchen Garden Promotion and Horticulture at Amin Hall, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thu, July 15-16 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
*One Day Drama Festival on 24 July at 5.00 pm at Alhamra Art Council, The Mall. 'Revival of Heritage', a group of youth led organisation, is presenting the drama on burning issues in Pakistan which are disturbing the life of youth, women, local community etc.
*Pancham: Punjabi Literary Meetings every Monday around 4:00 pm at 11-Sharf Mansion, Ganga Ram Chowk, 16- Queens Road, Lahore.
*Urdu Baithak/Sing Along Session every Sunday at Faiz Ghar from 3:45 to 5:00 pm.
*Tea Party at Cafe Bol every Tue at 8:00 pm.
Saturday night cricket
Cricket during the day is a common sight anywhere in the country but if you want to catch the fun of the game, it has to be on weekend nights when the rest of the city has gone to sleep.
The sight of boys playing under floodlights on a given weekend is so enchanting one can't resist joining them or, at the very least, watching them play. Shahalmi, Lohari, Saadi Park, Anarkali, Samanabad and Walled City are all common sights of these 'night' cricketers.
The atmosphere in Iqbal Town where cricket is played at night time is simply amazing because of the 4-5 white lights which hang loose from atop the houses on both ends of the street. As for the game, it starts with the good old toss, if not with a coin. The players are selected not by any sports official but by the captains of the two teams that stand facing each other, name the chosen players, clap on each other's hands and begin the match. This is the standard practice; you can call it Lahori style.
The boys are equally game for winning since it involves taking home a trophy that has been specially got for the night's match. Every player pools in Rs 20 each, which makes him eligible to participate. The collected 'funds' cater for the packet of tape balls, among other things.
There's a rub. The ball that lands the 'not-so-friendly' neighbourhood is never returned.
When it comes to a game of cricket, no matter how amateur, betting can't be far behind. For B.Com student Umair Aftab, "We have devised a plan. The team which loses is required to host a breakfast of halwa puri and naan chanay with lassi. It means a lot to us. So all my team mates perform their level best to win."
Mostly, the teams which play cricket by night go for a 4- or 5-over match. The teams consist of eight people each. Traditionally, the match starts at 12 at night when everybody in the mohalla is asleep, and it goes on till the early hours when birds come out of their nests and start twittering and searching for food.
People of different age groups and professions are welcome to play. Ibraq Ahmed, a student of MBA, says, "I love to play cricket on Saturday nights. Even if there's work at home which I am supposed to attend, I make sure I slip out and join my buddies on the street. After all, we all wait eagerly for the Saturday night the whole week. I don't want to miss it.
"Playing under light bulbs puts greater focus on the players and the pressure to perform mounts. Floodlights create just the right atmosphere," he adds, gushingly.
Umair Aftab, a student of B.Com, seconds Ibraq: "The main advantage [of night cricket] is that it becomes a buddies' night out. We play, we chat and we eat. We also end up fighting at times, as it's a game and no one wants to lose it."
For Umair, Saturday night cricket is also a time for "re-union of friends who have moved away from my neighbourhood. I don't get to see them other than on these matches we play."
Mohammad Asif who works at a readymade clothes shop in Anarkali is also a regular at these night cricket matches. "They are a good way to keep in touch with my mohalla friends who I don't get to see otherwise, because of my hectic work hours."
According to Asif, day time is not quite appropriate for playing cricket because the streets are crowded.
"There are a few grounds in Lahore and they too aren't accessible to us because high profile cricket clubs have booked them for years with the support of the ground staff," he says.
Asif also urges the government to make proper grounds for common people, especially the youth, where they can play any sport. "This way, their energies will be channeled in a proper way."
He also requests the concerned parents to not put restrictions on their children regarding playing cricket in the street late at night.
Next day being Sunday always helps, since the boys can catch up on their sleep during the day.
Public space is shrinking in the city as we are losing grounds to cars and concrete
By Syed Ali Abedi
Recreational and sports activities play an important part in shaping the lives of the people. They keep the people healthy and fit, besides providing them relief from their worries. Parks and playgrounds are necessary for bringing up children in a healthy environment.
Today, children spend less time outside than the children twenty years ago, thanks to internet and videogames. The reason for getting away from the culture of visiting parks and playgrounds is schools. Most of the schools either do not have playgrounds or if they have, these are in a poor condition. The schools are only working for improving their curricular activities, ignoring the co-curricular and extra curricular activities. Playgrounds are important as they serve as places for children to go in crowds and get mixed in them. This helps develop self-confidence in children.
Pakistan lacks playgrounds and parks. Small villages and towns have no such facility and if they have, that too in such a condition that the people avoid going there.
Some parks do not have proper parking places while others have been turned into motorcycle or car parking lots due to lack of parking areas in different places along or near these parks.
There is no proper parking place in Nasir Bagh. People, especially literary figures, park their cars inside Nasir Bagh, which now houses a literary club, Chopal.
A small park opposite Muhammadan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College has been turned into a motorcycle stand for those who visit the Capital City Police Office.
A ground of the University of the Punjab opposite to the Government Chishtia High School at Islampura, is being used as a parking lot for visitors of the Civil Secretariat and District Courts. The park is commonly known as Baba Ground or Chishtia Ground. The ground was reserved for sports for the Oriental College and the Law College of the University of the Punjab by the then deputy commissioner in 1920. Since then it remained under the possession of the university.
However, two years back, the Punjab government took the ground under its control for parking of lawyers' vehicles after the establishment of district courts around the vicinity. The park has been deteriorating from the day it was turned into a parking lot. Buses of the civil secretariat are also parked in the playground. The park is also being used as a marriage lawn at night.
The worst affectees are school students who have been deprived of the playing ground. As there is no ground in the school, the university playground was the only facility for the students. They played cricket, football and other games during lunch break and after school timing but now there is hardly any place for most of the ground is covered with motorcycles and cars.
About five or seven years ago, this ground was renovated. Grass was grown on it, besides installing lights and fixing benches. But, now all these things have either been stolen or broken. There is also a grass pitch in the centre of the ground covered with nets from all sides along with four cemented pitches. Now, the cemented pitches have started developing cracks. There was a time when the ground was booked for cricket matches by clubs for weeks, but now the club matches are restricted to Sundays. Ahmad who loves playing cricket, is no regular visitor of the ground due to its deteriorating condition. He says there is a need to renovate the ground as it is near his house and his friends' houses.
Punjab Sports department official on condition of anonymity said, "The government also took pitch rollers and other valuables there after sacking the staff from there. The then Horticulture Authority director general Kamran Lashari had contacted the university authorities through proper channel for taking the ground under their control but they refused."
He further says, Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo had also tried to take the ground's possession in 1985 and placed the construction material there but he backed away after a strong protest by the university authorities. He says the possession order issued by the then deputy commissioner in 1920 is still with the university.
"One will not find boys playing on streets in Model Town because there are many grounds there contrary to old localities where there are very few grounds, forcing children to play on roads," he said.
Assistant Director Sports Rana Liaqat says the ground is under controversy for the last five years. He says the university has filed a petition against land occupation by the Punjab government in 2009 and the Lahore High Court has admitted it for hearing. He says the ground issue is now in the court.