What Century Is This!
By Shoaib Hashmi


The old dog has learned a new trick! We finally got the Ramdan Moon business in control; everyone got to see the moon for himself, and it was clearly a new moon, thin as a whisper, and all were happy -- except the usual assheads in the north who have made fools of themselves every year for years, and did it again this having started their month two days before, and so they got to keep about forty fasts. But the rest of us, who are sane, got both the Ramdan and the Eid moon right.
That left the timing of the Eid prayers, and we went to town with those. All the papers I read started with the accurate prediction that the largest congregation would be at the Badshahi Masjid -- that was easy, they have got it right for sixty years. Then the Daily Times gave the time for prayers as 7-30, the Dawn at 8-30 and The News as 8-45! I am glad we don't get the other two papers, I could have had a hernia.
It could be a spill over from our other great cultural innovation, the wedding invitation. People have developed a habit of being late, so the parents of the bridal couple are sending out invites for hours before they actually intend to move. The last wedding I went to at 8-30, the bride and groom and his mother didn't turn up till 11-30 and we had to come home to leftover mutter-keema. It was their wedding and they are welcome to come when they want, but they diddled me out of biryani and palakgosht.
With all the confusion over the time we got to the venue forty-five minutes early, and were fortunate to catch the leaders preliminary sermon in full. It was gratifying to hear that he began by exhorting us all to spare a thought for fellows who have borne the brunt of nature's fury in the north. He asked us to offer to share whatever we could because sharing is a part of our own culture.
Oddly enough, he began by citing the example, from history, of an occasion when a group of people landed up as guests of another, having been forced to leave everything behind. One refugee discovered that along with his clothes and possessions he had left behind... his wife. Thus, he had none at all, so his host, as the example of sharing offered to give him one, especially as he had two. A hundred thousand people heard this story out. It is his story and he is free to tell it as he wishes. I just want someone to write me and tell me what century this is!
Stop Press.
The gracious lady Amrita Pritam has passed on.
Whenever thinking people, in either of our two nations have sat together to talk or reflect on ourselves and our history, we have generally agreed on one thing: That whatever we may think of it, the 'Great Divide' was a landmark in the history of mankind, as such it would have been fitting if it had evoked great art or literature; and it has not!
This is not to dismiss what has been done. A great deal has been written, a lot of it excellent, and artists have painted and filmed their own vision of it. But none of it can be called definitive, and none has become an instant and universal symbol like 'All Quiet on the Western Front' or 'Guernica' or 'War and Peace'!
And yet all of us without any exceptions I know of, have also agreed that if there is one magnificent exception to this truism, it is the great poem of the Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam, 'Aj Akhaan Waris Shah noon...'. It is a lament addressed to her great forerunner the poet Waris Shah, chronicler of the tragic romance of the lovers Heer and Ranjha, and it was recognized and universally celebrated as a masterpiece when it was written in 1947.
It is a sublime piece, short and heartfelt and of immense intensity and the power to move. It is perhaps apt that the lady should have chosen this moment to leave us, when we are in the midst of a critical tragedy, not of our own making. In her poem, written in the midst of another crisis, Amrita wished her mentor would find another page in the book of love; the people, in this hour of trial have proved that her prayer is answered this time round. Rest in peace.(Courtesy The News)


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