Evoking the madness of Manto, what we need is ‘one big roar of laughter across Southasia’

Sharing a feature I co-wrote with Priyanka Singh in Delhi about Sapan’s last event on the first anniversary of the Southasia Peace Action Network. The next one, on labour rights and democracy, will take place on the last Sunday of April.

Southasia Peace Action Network

Artists, journalists, sportspersons, healthcare workers, educators, businesspersons, students, gather for the first anniversary of a Southasian peace coalition.

By Beena Sarwar and Priyanka Singh

April 9, 2022, Sapan News Service: “Each of our countries is facing moments of total insanity and the only recourse is laughter – one big roar across Southasia,” said arts educator Salima Hashmi of Lahore, speaking at an event organised recently to mark a year of Sapan, the Southasia Peace Action Network

“To see the ludicrousness of Southasia right now,” she said, we need the “dark humour” of the great storyteller Saadat Hasan Manto.

The online discussion tackled various themes in nine breakout sessions, even as Pakistan plunged into a constitutional crisis and Sri Lanka into an economic tailspin.

“It’s us the little people who can say the emperor has no clothes, and laugh at the demi-gods pretending to be gods — because they…

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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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The need for ‘radical love’ – Cornel West, Dalit and Sheedi solidarity, and a #WC4BL Boston report

This is a follow up to my earlier post about physicians of Pakistani and Indian origin, already in the frontlines of the Covid19 battle in the US, stepping up in the war against a longer-running pandemic, racism. We know that racism is not limited to the US. In our home countries in South Asia, it is expressed as casteism and oppression of vulnerable communities.

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Commemorating K. A. Abbas: Ideas, ideals and more

Born: June 7, 1914, Panipat. Died: June 1, 1987, Bombay.

This post has the following sections:

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Badri Raina’s marvelous Professor Higgins poem (But the ‘Equality idea’ ain’t dead)

Prof. Higgins haranguing Eliza in My Fair Lady

Another marvelous poem by Badri Raina in Delhi, published in ZNet, referencing Prof. Henry Higgins’ famous line in the musical My Fair Lady based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. I will differ from Badri ji only to humbly offer that far from being dead, the ‘Equality idea’ is alive and kicking. It is in fact the growing prevalence of this idea that so threatens the beneficiaries of oppressive systems that they feel compelled to churn up fascism and bigotry, that get amplified in the news and social media. Am I wrong? 

Remembering Professor Higgins

We raised eyebrows when Higgins asked
“why can’t a woman be more like a man?”
Look how whole nations now build upon
That thought in the Professor’s brain. Continue reading

Salute to a stellar actor and courageous humanist: Farewell Om Puri (October 18, 1950 – Jan. 6, 2017)

I’m not a great film follower but this is something I felt compelled to write yesterday. Published in the Aman ki Asha website and crossposted here.

Farewell Om Puri (October 18, 1950 – January 6, 2017)

Om Puri: Principled stand for peace

The legendary Indian actor leaves a legacy of humanistic and compassionate values and peace aspirations

Legendary actor Om Puri’s untimely death has saddened film and peace lovers not only in India but in Pakistan and around the world. Like his long-time friends and colleagues Naseeruddin Shah and Mahesh Bhatt, and younger colleague Nandita Das, he had a special relationship with Pakistan due to his desire for better relations between the two largest countries of South Asia. Continue reading

Binge-watching desi films

My article in The News on SundayJan 1, 2017, on two film festivals in New York recently showcasing work from Pakistan and India. I wanted to write more about some of them but didn’t have space. Below, with additional links and pix.

mah-e-mir

Mah-e-Mir director Anjum Shehzad and producers Badar Ikram, Khurram Rana with Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Desi audiences thronged to two recent film festivals in New York showcasing films from Pakistan and India

Many of the films in what is being heralded as a revival of Pakistan cinema feature the sprawling megapolis of Karachi. The multifaceted city’s historic sandstone buildings, sandy beach, traditional tiles, boundless energy emerge in these films… dreamily romantic under a perpetual full moon (Mah-e-Mir), wildly eclectic (Mailay), effervescent, multi-cultural (Actor In Law), violently revengeful (Gardaab), creative, musical (Ho Mann Jahan), a playground for street dancing (Dance Kahani), a tangle of underworld sewers and space-age factories (Teen Bahadur, animation). Continue reading

Finding lost heritage: Pakistan’s Sikh legacy

My Personal Political column in Himal Southasian, Aug 3, 2016, published also in Aman ki Asha and TOI blogs, posted here with additional links and visuals.

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Finding lost heritage

“If you could visit any place in Pakistan, where would you go?” asks Amardeep Singh whenever he gives a talk to introduce his recently published travelogue Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan.

The question, aimed primarily at Sikh members of the audience, invariably elicits two answers: Sikh holy places. Their ancestral village.

It was the same in Boston on June 18, 2016 at the E-5 Center where Amardeep Singh gave his 42nd such talk. He understands the response all too well. After all, he too once had the same “myopic” reasons, as he says, for wanting to go to Pakistan, which he considers his “homeland”, being the land of his ancestors and also where Sikhdom’s holiest sites are located, like Nankana Sahib, birthplace of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. Continue reading

Lifting the veil: Queer life undercover in South Asia

AMZ-photo

“Secret” – fine art photo by Ali Mehdi Zaidi

The struggle of Muslim homosexuals in Pakistan, South Asia, or as expatriates is not just about LGBTQ rights but part of the larger fight for inclusion and pluralism within Islam. My essay published in The Boston Globe Ideas section (July 31, 2016)  on South Asian and Muslim attitudes towards homosexuality, reproduced below with additional links, info and photos, as well as parts not included in the final published version. The attack in the Orlando gay nightclub put the spotlight not just on the perpetrator, but his victims — Muslim gay (queer) folk who are particularly vulnerable to homophobia besides facing as Islamophobia in the West, and receiving little or no support from the Muslim community at home and abroad. Plus they are now increasingly being targeted by extremists claiming legitimacy from Islam. Thanks to all those who took the time to speak to me, gave me feedback and entrusted me with their stories, and to the Boston Globe editors for their empathy and openness.  Continue reading

Author of travelogue on Pakistan’s Sikh legacy experienced “nothing but love” there, grateful for visa

Amardeep Singh-book

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

“I experienced nothing but love in Pakistan,” says Amardeep Singh, author of the photo-illustrated travelogue “Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan”, published in January 2016 (Himalayan Books).  Continue reading

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