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
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!
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)