From the Zia dark years in Pakistan to the ‘hijab row’ in India

I was initially hesitant to add my two bits to the ‘hijab row’ in India about which so much has already been written. But I’m glad I did – gained a lot of insights and info that I tried to share with a wider audience. Thanks to Ullekh NP, Executive Editor at Open Magazine in India for prodding me. Published 25 Feb with the headline Hijab Row in India: Just Like Us, with a powchaerful illustration copied below. I’m thrilled that my SAWM sisters, the South Asian Women in Journalism, liked it enough to share it on their website under Article of the Day category. Posting the essay below with materials not used in the Open article, including my 1983 (or was it ’82?) piece in The Star with my own illustrations, HUNDRED AND ONE USES OF A CHADDAR, and link to Fahmida Riaz reciting her poem.

Illustration by Saurabh Singh for Open Magazine

WOMEN ACROSS SOUTH Asia and beyond have for centuries loosely covered their heads and bosoms, regardless of religion, shielding themselves from unrelated men as well as from the hot sun.

Those entering the work force in urban areas have been quicker to shed traditional attire. Those who find these changes threatening sometimes find ways to keep women in their place. Religion offers a convenient pretext.

The more conservative Muslim women in South Asia also traditionally wore a burqa, more all-enveloping than a chaddar or dupatta. My grandmother in Allahabad, U.P., used to wear a brown burqa that she discarded eventually in Karachi.

Growing up in Pakistan under the military dictatorship of Gen. Ziaul Haq, 1977-88, women like me have first-hand experience of such tactics. We watch in horror as shadows of the ZIa dark years seem to spread across the border into India.

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Chakwalians, Rotarians to gather for “a tsunami of peace” reunion at Kartarpur Corridor

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur: Bringing people together. Image credit: Facebook/@syed.alli

Dozens of Indians and Pakistanis with ancestral roots in Chakwal will meet up mid-week at Kartarpur Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, taking advantage of the visa-free corridor inaugurated in November 2019 by Prime Minister Imran Khan for Baba Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th birthday celebrations.

Delhi-based Rotarian Anil Ghai, whose own family has strong connections to Chakwal since before Partition in 1947, will lead the Indian delegation.

The family had to flee with whatever belongings they could take, in a Dakota aircraft, remember area natives. Ghai’s visit to Pakistan in 1996 had led to rekindling those ties.

The establishment of Chakwal International Group about six months gave momentum to the upcoming ground-breaking meeting planned for Wednesday, 23 February.

“Everyone is welcome, they do not have to be Rotarians,” says Mohammed “Mo” Ayyaz, a Rotarian in London who is also from Chakwal and one of the driving forces behind the initiative.

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RIP Saquib Hanif: A meticulous editor, generous friend, passionate cultural aficionado

Death brings people together. I had known Saquib Hanif and his wife Nadia Chundrigar for years in Karachi without really knowing them. We spent a lot of time together when they came to Boston 2015 for the funeral of Saquib’s childhood buddy, the brilliant Nasser Hussain, younger brother of one of my old school friends. Now, it is Saquib’s sudden death, aged just 57, that brings us together again.

Thanks to The News on Sunday for asking me to write his obituary, published on the same page as another obituary, of Tasneem Siddiqui, the top former ‘pro-people” bureaucrat and social activist who died recently from a cardiac arrest, aged 82. We had run into him at the Karachi Gymkhana just a couple of weeks earlier. He had attended a meeting on the morning he died.

In the process of working on Saquib’s obituary, I talked to old friends Amra Ali and Salman Rashid – their contrasting views of Saquib would no doubt have amused him greatly. Also sharing Salman Rashid’s lovely video – he had talked to me about these aspects of Saquib the day before recording it.

I took the photos below the day Saquib and Nadia were leaving. There was intense grief, and yet we found it within ourselves to laugh.

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Singing and inspiration in dark times: Art and resistance in South Asia

Inspiring, uplifting and thought-provoking event, part of Sapan’s series themed Imagine: Neighbours in Peace, held on the last Sunday of every month. Coming up: Love, activism, Southasia solidarities with Saif Samejo, Parvathy Baul, and others… Watch out for updates at http://www.southasiapeace.com

Southasia Peace Action Network

NOTE: This feature report produced by Sapan News Service is free for publication with credit to Sapan, www.southasiapeace.com. Editors may trim content to their own needs.

By Sushmita Preetha and Priyanka Singh

Feb 3, 2022: “In dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will be singing, about the dark times”

Iconic German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s words continue to echo and remain relevant, particularly in South Asia, as underscored by prominent artists at Resisting Together: Art and the Artist in South Asia, an online gathering across time zones.

Dozens of participants at the online session enthusiastically endorsed Sapan’s call for a visa-free South Asia, a demand enshrined in the regional coalition’s Founding Charter jointly presented at the meeting by the activist couple Lalita Ramdas and former chief of Indian Navy Admiral L. Ramdas, both founder members of Sapan.

Lalita Ramdas and Admiral L. Ramdas: Taking forward Bapu’s…

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