Tufail Niazi

The other day someone forwarded on WhatsApp to me a clipping of an old live performance on PTV. The song was evergreen “tarak kar ke”. As I had heard the song in my childhood, this clipping brought back whole lot of memories. A little bit of research revealed that the artist was Tufail Niazi, the king of folk music. His repertoire includes such marquee songs as “sada chidiyan da Chamba” , ” main nahin jaana kheriyan de naal” apart from the evergreen “tarak karke”. These songs are popular on the either side of the border and are sung in Punjabi households during marriages and other functions.

Two things crossed my mind while writing on this subject. First is Tufail Niazi represented a breed of artists who had lived on the either side of the border, shared a common heritage and were loved equally ardently in both the countries. Like Dilip, Dev or Raj, all born in Peshawar in Pakistan, Tufail was born in Jalandhar and had performed all over India from Saharanpur to Jaipur to Kolkata before moving to Pakistan post partition. In his interviews he fondly recalled his association with so called Hindu centric activities such as managing a gau shala ( and actually publicising the need to treat cow as mother and not to abandon or slaughter her), taking parts in Ras Leelas, singing Krishna bhajans and performing nautanki. This clearly shows that for an artist only music is his religion and language. With the demise of almost every one of that era, this breed is on the verge of extinction and that much touted common heritage, music and performing arts that the two countries shared will be a thing of the past.

Second thought is that punjabi pop and punjabi influenced Bollywood songs that are heavy on rhythm are not true representatives of punjabi folk and it’s richness. It’s raagdari, gharana based singing , mellifluousness and richness would in no sense be less than Hindustani or Carnatic classical music that we aficionados of music hold in such high esteem while discounting punjabi songs as shallow and frivolous.

Tufail Niazi’s sons under the banner of Niazi brothers are carrying forward their late father’s rich legacy.

Winters of childhood

Northern and Eastern parts of India are experiencing unprecedented cold. Delhi recorded a maximum of 9 degrees centigrade, which was lowest in a century. This brought back the fond memories of my childhood spent in Delhi. Though this year might have broken a century old record, Delhi used to experience severe cold, especially during the period between Christmas and Republic Day. Mornings used to be foggy (pure crystal fog and not smog that we see today), days were murky with sun eluding for days altogether and nights freezing cold. Houses were not compact, heating was not very effective (mainly coal fired angeethis or sigris) and geysers were unheard of. Bathing was infrequent and body sponge with change of undergarments helped in keeping one clean. All these memories came alive when I recently read a piece in Urdu titled ” Bachpan ki sardiyan” or “Winters of childhood”. Though translation does not fully capture the finer nuances, I have tried to be as close to original as possible. It reads as under:

In winters in our childhood, geysers were unheard of and our Amma would heat water in a five litre ghee canister emptied after use of its content and give short bath ( munh haath) to all of us brothers and sisters. She would then put mustard oil in our hair, cold cream on our faces ( Neeli sheeshi wali cold cream – I think it’s Afghan Snow) and Vaseline ( he uses the word Pomade) on extremities to prevent dryness. Then she would dress up us in colourful jerseys. To outside world, we would like jokers but to mother, howsoever ugly her children may be, they always look cute and the best in the world. Today, we spent thousands on centralised heating, water heaters and geysers, costly and designer woollens, best of the food and diet, but the charm of the winters of childhood cannot be recreated .

Very simple, but touches the chords of the heart somehow! I hope it gives readers, most of whom are in Mumbai, a flavour what harsh winters of north are all about and how middle class dealt with it in the past.

Gifting ideas for the new year 2020

This is the season of gifting, with Christmas just having been celebrated (though as explained in one of my earlier blogs, Christmas festivities continue for 12 days and 5th January is actually the last day of Christmas season ) and New Year spirit very much in the air. As it’s said, gifting is an art; in fact, it’s an art for both – the giver as well as receiver. What you gift is important, but how it is received by the receiver is even more important.

Just read an interesting article on what the receiver says and what he actually means when he receives a gift not as per his/her expectations. When someone received a grinder, while thanking the giver profusely, in her heart the receivers felt like grinding the giver. A gold ring (normally a precious gift and sure shot winner when a man gifts it to his beloved) made the lady blush, though in her heart she was cursing her lover for delaying this gift so much! The article wittily deals with gifts of various kinds and reaction of the receivers. In the end I Phone emerged as a great gifting idea on which the reaction and thought of the receiver were fully aligned.

I am privy to gifting related goof ups made by both givers as well as receivers. A gift like watch, pen or Bluetooth speaker invariably leads to duplication at the receiver’s end, resulting in further gifting! A piece of clothing can lead to size and taste mismatch issues. Shopping vouchers may force the receiver to go to the particular store much against his/her liking, while gift cards can ruin shopping experience when retailers refuse the card or give excuse of the card reading machine not working. Cash is king, but people could find themselves in uncomfortable zone while giving or accepting cash! Of course, I also came through a news item where a marriage invitation was sent on a cloth handkerchief (Hanky to be used in future), only blessings were solicited as gifts and as return gift, all the guests were presented with cloth bags having two saplings – neem and pipal – with full process on the paper on how to plant the saplings and care them to grow into trees! Very thoughtful gifting indeed!

Some of us seem to have overcome this dilemma at least as far gifting for occasions like marriage and birthday are concerned. It’s stated on the invite itself that gifts in the form of blessings will only be accepted.

Let in this new year, we gift everlasting gift of love, compassion, piety and kindness to fellow human beings as these gifts neither require any elaborate planning nor entail the risk of being sneered at by the receiver!

Happy 2020!

New year’s musings

2020 is special; its not only a new year but start of a new decade also. In fact my previous blog welcoming 2020 is all about positivity and optimism. However, its risky to be living in a fool’s paradise and closing our eyes to the harsh realities on the ground. This feeling has provoked me to compose a few lines that capture the grim reality of today but as is typical of me, ends on a positive note.

New Year’s Musings

What’s all this hullabaloo about

Years come and years go

What are all of us celebrating

When the only change is a big No

Girls will continue to be molested and raped

Even infants and children will not be spared

Polarisation on caste, religion and ideology will go on unabated

How it can it be stopped when it’s been deliberately created

There’s negativity all around on Demon., GST, CAA et al

How can it be banished when misuse of social media is rampant

And while Bible preaches that love thy neighbour

But our neighbours are always challenging our valour

Does it mean it’s all very gloomy and all very murky

Not if we decide to get rid of the above evil faced turkey

If we are aware, awake and put up a united face

All the adversities can be converted into a magic mace!

Happy new year to all on the hope that none of us falls prey to the evil web being woven around especially through myth and fiction on social media. Let’s keep our ears and eyes open for real facts and think from our minds rather than hearts!

Welcome 2020

Memories of new year eves mainly revolve around the special programme that Doordarshan used to telecast and when the clock hit 12’o clock, wishing family members happy new year over some sweet meats. Not that, I have not celebrated arrival of new year partying with friends and family at a club or restaurant, but I think memories of distant past of childhood are more strongly imprinted on one’s psyche.

For a change, I have welcomed 2020 only at 6 AM after waking up. Probably it was partying and celebrations of past few days during my daughter and her children’s 3 weeks stay here with us that took toll on my stamina that led to such a cold reception of the new year. But that does not for a moment indicate that I am not excited at the prospects of having a great 2020, which also heralds the start of a new decade. An eternal optimist, I have lots of wishes and yearning for the good of me, my friends and family, organisation, our country and the world at large.

(1) India, the land of peace and love, should get over these acronymic syndromes such as CAA, NPR etc and be the multi ethnic, multi religious, peaceful and tolerant society – the land of Krishna, Mahavira, Budha, Nanak and Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti- that it always has been since the time immemorial.

(2) Kashmir, the heaven on the earth, should become heavenly once again and those snow laden mountains be pristine white, trees of chir and deodar prosperous green and waters of Dal lake blue and serenely calm instead of the current regime of fear, hatred, helplessness currently prevalent there at.

(3) Let this be the end of the woes of our farmers and our prudent water management never leads to another draught , forcing our farmers to commit suicide. Let our rivers and water sources be filled up to brim to quench the thirst of parched throats and lands.

(4) Can hatred and criminal mindset be eradicated from human psyche so that we don’t witness indiscriminate shooting on the praying mobs in temples, churches and mosques and on children and patrons in schools and restaurants, rapes of girls and minors and jihad of any kind? Can this world be a happier, safer and more beautiful place the way in which God almighty has endowed it to us?

(5) Can my family members and friends and why only them and not everyone else be healthier and happier, overcoming their worries and troubles and fulfilling all their wishes and aspirations?

(6) Can my organisation,in which I recently completed 25 years, become the best – in its line of business, for its customers, as the best employer and in its philanthropic pursuits – and become a niche organisation?

As a popular saying goes, ” if wishes were horses, beggars would ride them”! We can wish for the moon and sky but we will have to work towards all the above aspirations rather then expecting their fulfilment to be served to us on a platter! So karma is a pre requisite for all this goodness to come into our laps.

Another change from the past is that I am not making any new year’s resolutions because there’s no point in resolving something and be disheartened at the end of the year for having not kept the resolution. Instead, this year our resolve should be to be happy and to spread happiness as ultimately the objective of all the goals and enrichment is Supreme bliss!

I wish all my readers Supreme bliss that should not last only one year but the entire decade as it’s being made at the start of this new decade and in fact, the entire lifetime! For my country, I wish that in this year 2020 let the nation score quick runs as is done in a T20 match for we have to do catching up with the rest of the world and batting like a 5 days’ test may not help!

To end, let me say a few lines:

Is 2020 merely a number

Or is it the start of a new year and decade?

When we leave behind our worries and woes

And become a real happy brigade!!!

Santa, stocking, tree and goodies

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best-known St. Nicholas stories is the time he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors.

A Christmas stocking is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that is hung on Saint Nicholas Day or Christmas Eve so that Saint Nicholas (or the related figures of Santa Claus and Father Christmas) can fill it with small toys, candy, fruit, coins or other small gifts when he arrives. These small items are often referred to as stocking stuffers or stocking fillers. The tradition of the Christmas stocking is thought to originate from the life of Saint Nicholas. In some Christmas stories, the contents of the Christmas stocking are the only toys the child receives at Christmas from Santa Claus; in other stories (and in tradition), some presents are also wrapped up in wrapping paper and placed under the Christmas tree. Tradition in Western culture threatens that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a piece or pile of coal. Some people even put their Christmas stocking by their bedposts so Santa Claus can fill it by the bed while they sleep.

The modern Christmas tree originated in western Germany. The main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was a “paradise tree,” a fir tree hung with apples, that represented the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up a paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. They hung wafers on it (symbolizing the eucharistic host, the Christian sign of redemption); in a later tradition the wafers were replaced by cookies of various shapes. Candles, symbolic of Christ as the light of the world, were often added. In the same room was the “Christmas pyramid,” a triangular construction of wood that had shelves to hold Christmas figurines and was decorated with evergreens, candles, and a star. By the 16th century the Christmas pyramid and the paradise tree had merged, becoming the Christmas tree.

Santa Claus, Christmas stocking and Christmas tree are three most visible symbols of Christmas and it’s all about goodies – whether filled into the stocking by Santa or hanging from the Christmas tree- to celebrate the spirit of Christmas, the day of nativity of Jesus. Many of us may not be attending midnight masses , but most of us do get smitten by this overwhelming festive spirit of this occasion and irrespective of our religion caste or creed, Santa, tree, stocking, cakes, pastries and other goodies are firmly embedded in our tradition!

Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas and season’s greetings

The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus. In most Western ecclesiastical traditions, “Christmas Day” is considered the “First Day of Christmas” and the Twelve Days are 25 December – 5 January, inclusive. The Twelve Days of Christmas” is also a famous English Christmas carol that enumerates in the manner of a cumulative song a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. The song, published in England in 1780 without music as a chant or rhyme, is thought to be French in origin. The tunes of collected versions vary. The standard tune now associated with it is derived from a 1909 arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin, who introduced the familiar prolongation of the verse “five gold rings”.

However, the matter of greater interest to me was the historical significance of each of the gifts, which has been very nicely explained by a fellow blogger, ” Coach Mueller” in one of his recent blogs. Taking the liberty of liberally borrowing from his aforesaid blog, the significance of these gifts are:

Day 1: “The partridge in a pear tree” is Jesus Christ

Day 2: “Two turtle doves” are the Old and New Testaments

Day 3: “Three French Hens” stand for Faith, Hope, and Charity

Day 4: “Four Calling Birds” are the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark Luke, and John

Day 5: “Five Golden Rings” recall the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old testament.

Day 6: “Six Geese A-Laying” stand for the six days of creation

Day 7: “Seven Swans Are Swimming” represent the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy

Day 8: “Eight Maids A-Milking” are the eight Beatitudes (blessings listed by Jesus in the sermon on the mount)

Day 9: “Nine Ladies Dancing” are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control

Day 10: “Ten Lords Are Leaping” are the Ten Commandments

Day 11: “Eleven Pipers Piping” stand for the eleven faithful disciples

Day 12: “Twelve Drummers Drumming” symbolizes the twelve points in the Apostle’s Creed.

There’s festivity in the year as we approach Christmas and also prepare to bid adieu to 2019 to enter into a new decade. Hopefully, this festivity overwhelms the current state of disturbed atmosphere in the country.

Merry Christmas and season’s greetings to all my friends and readers.