Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Archive for December, 2011

Living a healthy lifestyle

This is the first of the series of Health Blog posts I begin from January 1, 2012 to raise awareness amongst South Asians on different  Health issues of importance to them.


What comes to your mind by hearing of Healthy lifestyle ?

Exactly, it is these four essentials along with some other things which together make up the components of a Healthy Lifestyle.

There is nothing in it which any ordinary person cannot achieve. Healthy Lifestyle is no rocket science , and it needs no huge investments.

Just tiny conscious steps which will build up with time into habits and reap as a reward a Healthy YOU .

Why need a Healthy Lifestyle?
I ask why not?

A healthy lifestyle :
• Shall reduce chances of illness and injuries, and hence improve quality of life.
• Will reduce visits to doctors, save time and misery.
• Will reduce cost of health care, less medical bills.
• Enable us to pursue our passions and work better and uninterrupted.
• Keep us employed, and with less of sick leaves or leave without pays.
• A sound mind in a sound body will enable better relationships at home, at work and in society at large.
• A healthy individual will be a healthy citizen of a healthy nation.

What constitutes a Healthy Lifestyle?

They are all simple steps, and as you go through them check which all you already follow, which ones you need to follow more. It just requires a constant conscious effort.

STEP ONE: Make Healthy eating habits:

I know our foods are delicious, but some are pretty unhealthy too. However, there is still a way we can manage to strike a balance between satisfying our taste buds and eating healthy.

A healthy balanced diet which has all the nutrients and vitamins we need is essential to make us stay healthy and avoid diseases.

The next very blog shall be in detail on healthy eating while we enjoy our desi food at the same time.

STEP TWO: Have an Optimal Weight:

Do you know what is your weight and height?

Do you know what is BMI (Body Mass Index), its significance is and how to calculate it?

Please check your BMI by plotting the weight and height on the chart below.

See where does your BMI lie.

If it is in the green zone, congratulations, your BMI is normal, but you need to maintain it in the same color.

If it is in the red or yellow zone, you need to check it and think of bringing it down to green.

Benefits of weight control: Maintaining an optimal weight saves us from a number of serious diseases like Heart disease, Stroke, Diabetes, Blood Pressure, Joint problems like arthritis, and Cancers like breast cancer, colon cancer, and sudden death.

(A blog shall be dedicated to weight management too.)

In the meantime you can check the link for more information:



STEP THREE: Be physically active and exercise:

Do you know how much is the minimal exercise you need to do to stay healthy?

For adults it is a minimum of 30 min per day for 5 days or 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (which is enough to increase your heart rate upto safe limits) is needed to keep an optimal heart health. It could be a brisk walk or jogging.

What exactly is moderate exercise?

A study suggests that a moderate-intensity walk should have 100 steps per minute, or 3,000 steps in 30 minutes.

And some studies have suggested that moderate-intensity exercise –like walking — may be just as beneficial as more vigorous exercise.

It does not need to be continuous…you can split it into three session of 10 min each through the day.

It could be swimming, walking, skipping rope, or playing sports like tennis.

– Benefit of Exercise: A daily routine of exercise will help control weight, increase the body metabolism, gives sound sleep, reduces stress and makes you feel good.

Caution: And if you have any health problems or have never exercise, I suggest you to first get a check up from your doctor before you begin.

For children the minimum exercise should be 90 min each day of active play, every day.

Do you also know that it is unhealthy for the children to be watching TV more that 2-3 hours a day?

It leads to obesity, hyperactivity and low attention span in the children-hence not only poor school grades but also many problems in later life.

Instead of watching TV or sitting on Computers all day, encourage them to play physical games . If space is a concern, after the minimal play, even indoor board games like ludo, chess, scrabble are great which encourage interaction, active thinking, learning frustration tolerance and competition.

Encourage them to read books. Studies prove if you expose children to books from early age, they do not get aggression later.

And for children below 2 years, no TV viewing at all, is the recommendation.


For more on exercise check :

STEP FOUR: Avoiding unhealthy habits:

• Excess of caffeine, tea, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
• Avoid smoking as well as second-hand smoke. (A couple of blogs on smoking shall follow too).
Avoiding drugs of abuse… it all begins with poor parent child relationship and smoking. If the parents-kids  have a positive relationship and the parents  counsel their child against the harmful effects of drugs and smoking since early, the kids can most likely not tread that path.

I strongly recommend you check this link for preventing drugs abuse in children:

STEP FIVE: Have adequate sleep

–a healthy mind needs at least 8-9 hours of sleep to rejuvenate.

Sleep debt occurs if the hours slept are less than the hours one needs.

Studies show that such short-term sleep deprivation leads to a foggy or confused brain, worsened vision, impaired driving, and troubled memory.

Long-term effects include obesity, insulin resistance (Diabetes), and heart disease.

A Fact: Do you know that the Chernobyl Disaster and Challenger Explosion have been attributed to lack of sleep.

For further on this check:

STEP SIX: Prevent Infections by good hygiene:

Our South Asia  is a region where infections of all sorts are so common.

Personal Hygiene: Some common practices can help us minimise these infections like:

1. Wash hands frequently and properly–It is the single most act that prevents major infections
2. Do not share razors, combs, nail cutters, tooth brushes, towels and needles.
3. Practice safe sex habits.
4. Get the required vaccines on time.

There are more steps which need detail discussion in a separate blog. Till then check the 10 tips to prevent infections:

It is very important to know that in our countries Hepatitis C and HIV infections have high prevalence. Many of the people are not even aware that they are infected.

It is very important to not share your razors, combs, scissors, nail cutters and needles, to avoid infection.

Also know that handshakes, hugging, kissing, sharing utensils or eating together will not cause spread of Hepatitis C or HIV infections.

It also very important that if you happen to get injections or blood transfusion in a Hospital, make sure the seal of the disposable needles, syringes or the equipment are opened in front of you.

And you also have the right to inquire from the health personnel about adequate sterilization of instruments and blood products.

(A separate blog shall be dedicated to Hepatitis C and HIV infections and their prevention).

Do not forget the cleanliness of your surroundings.


Further links on avoiding littering :



The following steps are more to do with mental health and we all know
‘a sound body needs a sound mind’.

STEP SEVEN: Healthy personal relationships:

• Along with taking care of ourselves, ne need to give the due attention to the people around us. Sharing and caring with the loved ones makes one feel good.
• Take time off to just sit with your loved ones. Have a family time, with no laptops, smart phones, television coming in the way.
• Talk to the kids at an eye level as friends, not as their commanders.
• Eating together as a family at least one meal a day. Talking on dinner table is a proven way to strengthen closed family ties.
• Hug your ageing parents for no rhyme or reason, no matter how old you or they are.
• Add humour to your life. “Good humour is one of the preservative of peace and tranquility.”Jefferson.
• Take time to say ‘How’re you’ to people who work for you like your driver, maid, your gardener. Then  see a smile on their face and  a twinkle in their eyes.

STEP EIGHT: Healthy connection with the surroundings;

  • It is so important to look beyond one’s personal and family life and see what s going on in the outside world-both living and non living.
  • Make sure to watch the news on TV or read Newspapers to know what is going on in your country or in the world at large. The news may be depressing, but it makes us conscious of the various problems in the world.
  • Understand your sociopolitical responsibility: Form healthy opinions on the events occurring in your society.
  • When its election time, make sure you vote (with your conscience).Remember that each vote counts.
  • Give charity. Charity is not just through money, we can give our time and a few words of empathy to those who are in need. Research proves that charity or public service helps the individual develop self-esteem and mental well-being.

STEP NINE: Stress management

Yes stress is a reality. But we need to manage the stress of our lives. Half that work is done if we eat well, exercise, sleep well, and have less illness.
However there are many scientific tools available on the net to manage stress. A blog shall be dedicated to stress management.

In the meantime for more on stress management check:

I know this blog was long and loaded with lots of information. I would suggest go slow, read the three different parts over different times, and if needed come back again. It’s going to stay here 

You may begin the New Year with great resolutions, with great enthusiasm, but will forget in the middle. That’s all so normal. I do the same. So long as you keep getting back on track and not give up, it’s all very human. Keep trying! I am trying too 

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. (Arabian Proverb)

With a hope that 2012 shall be a healthy year for all of you…



P.S. 1: This and the other forthcoming Health Blogs do not substitute a Doctor and they are only aimed at increasing Health awareness and to develop interest in the readers to read further about health issues. For any serious health problems, do not delay a doctor’s advice.

P.S. 2 This is the first of the series of Health Blogsposts  that shall be posted every fortnight with a new Health topic relevant to the South Asians. Please share and do play  the Audio to those family members who do not ‘indulge’ in the social media.

P.S.3: Many thanks to DrBabarKhan and FarhanMasood for their generous ReTweets. 🙂


Let’s celebrate for Peace–in South Asia and in the whole World

What a beautiful song with lyrics by Nida Fazili, music by Jagjit Singh, and  singers from India ( Jagjeet Singh, Sonu Nigam etc.), Pakistan ( Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hasan, Iqbal Bano) and Bangladesh( Runa Laila), and rest of the World singing together for the New Year.

Naya saal ho aisaa ab ke
Rang bhare jeewan mein sab ke
Sooraj ghar ghar dhoop bikhere
Chand sajaye sab ke andhere

Kheton mein faslein lehraayein
Nadiya sab ki pyaas bujhayein
Jurey rahein sabke rishtey
Juda na ho bhai se bhai
Naya saal ho sabko Mubarak
Naye saal ki sabko badhaii..

Urein kabooter khuli hawa mein
Naache chham chham more ghata mein
Seemaon mein bante na dhartee
Faujon mein kam kam ho bhartee

Sona jhoomer ban ker damke
Chandi payal ban ker barse
Naye saal ki sabko badhai

Chhape kitaabein, khulein dukanein
Chire kahin na aur laraiii
Naye saal ho sabko Mubarak
Naye saal ki sabko badhai

Celebrate, make it a special one
Let’s speak -one promise,
Let’s celebrate, for our future
For our children’s sake , let’s celebrate.


Let’s make 2012 a healthy year–A health blog series starting from Jan 01, 2012

I plan to start from the New Year 2012 a series of Blogs on Health issues named

Let’s make 2012 a Healthy Year.

The blog series shall be target the South Asians, primarily living in their homelands, but could be useful to others living elsewhere.

The need of the blog was felt primarily due relative less awareness amongst South Asians on Health issues.
Primarily, this is because culturally we we worry about health only when sick or unwell.
Secondly, due to relative deficiency of health activism in our countries.
Thirdly, though there is a mine of information on health issues on internet, but not much of it is specific to South Asian context, hence many times lacks relevance.

I have been working on the contents of the blogs for the past 4 months. Most of the information would be from the well researched, evidence based sources, and shall be peer reviewed by the specialists from the field.

It would be an informal format, not a lecture. I have tried my best to make it like a walk through for the readers where they will along with the information also be guided on what to do ?

The blog post shall be up loaded every 1st and 15th of each month and will consist of different health issues on which I feel there South Asians need to be aware of.

The blog in English shall be accompanied by a podcast in a Hindi-Urdu language, in case those who wish to share it with their kin who feel more comfortable in their language. A lot of medical jargons will be used in English instead of Hindi & Urdu so that both can easily understand.

The blog shall not serve as a consultation, but just a means to give direction towards increasing interest in the readers to inquire more on health issues.

The first few topics in the serial order are

1. Living a healthy lifestyle ( Jan 1, 2012)
2. Healthy eating the Desi way ( Jan 15, 2012)
3. Love Your heart to live ( Feb 1, 2012)
4. Diabetes- the bitter truth ( Feb 15 2012)
5. Smoker but you won’t quit ( March 1, 2012)
6. Smoker and you wish to quit. ( March 15, 2012)

There shall be others on Infection Control, Weight Management, Osteoporosis, Arthritis, Chronic Bronchitis, Depression, Stress Management Strategies etc.

Readers are welcome to suggest any topic, and if deemed of importance to large numbers, we would be glad to include it.

The readers are also welcome to post their questions, point out any criticism or disagreement to any content in the blog. I would try my best to answer them in Consultation with the specialists from the relevant field.
And I would request that if you feel worth, please share the blogs with others and contribute towards spreading of Health Awareness.

Thank You and see you with the first one on January 1, 2012.



Special thanks to Fatima Fasih for technical support.

Ghalib ka pata ( Ghalib’s address)

Who could’ve described Ghalib better than he himself.

Hai aur bhi duniya mein sukhanwar bahut ache
Kehte hain ke ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur.
(There are many good poets in the world, but they say Ghalib’s style (( of poetry) is different) 

And in humour narrates his notoriety :

Ho goya koi aisa bhi jo Ghalib ko na jaane,
Shayar to who achha hai, mager badnaam bahut hai.
(Is there anyone who isn’t aware of Ghalib? He is a good poet, but pretty infamous). 

Yet my favorite description of Ghalib in his own words remains this:

Likhta huun Asad sozish-e-dil se sukhan-e-garam,
Taan rakh na sake koi mere harf pe angusht.
{I write Asad, the pain of my heart in ‘hot’ poetry, So that no one can point a finger at my words}.

Indeed Ghalib needs no introduction. However, I dedicate this post to his association with the city of Delhi.

He was born in Agra in a family with Turk ancestors who had migrated from Samrkhand in Bukhara. After being married at 13 years of age he came to live in Delhi.

He lived, composed poetry and prose, then  passed away in Delhi.

Delhi came to be associated with the name of Mirza Ghalib.

It would not be wrong to consider Ghalib as the most coveted residents that Delhi city takes pride in. And the most well known address of Delhi, known worldwide happens to be:

Ghalib’s Haveli
Gali Qasim Jan,
Chandni Chowk,

Ghalib lived in  this haveli and  the address was immortalised  in a tribute by none other than Gulzar,  to the great poet . The verses aptly describe the narrow, dark alleys of Old Delhi. Anyone familiar with it, would find an accurate picturisation the character and life of the place, in these verses, .

Ballimaraan ke mahalle ki wo pecheeda daleelon ki si wo galiyan
Saamne taal ke nukkad pe batero ke qaseede
Gurhgurhati hui paan ki peekon mein wo daad wo wah-wah
Chand darwaaze par latke huye boshida se kuch taat ke parde
ek bakri ke mamiyaane ki awaaz
Aur dhoondhlayi hui shaam ke be-noor andhere
Aise deewaron se moonh jor kar chalte hai yahan
Churi-waalan ke katri ki bari bee jaise
Apni bujhti hui aankhon se darwaaze tatole
Isee be-noor andheri see gali qaasim se
Ek tarteeb charaghon ki shuru hoti hai
Ek quran-e-sukhan ka safa khulta hai
Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ ka patha milta hai.
(The lanes of Ballimaran so much like the confusing arguments
With patridge stories at the lane’s corner.
The sounds of applause amidst the gurgling sounds of  chewed beetal leaves.
With worn out rug curtains hung outside a few doors
The bleating sound of a goat
And the lifeless darkness in the hazy evening.
That creep along the  walls.
Like the old lady from the alleys of Chooriwalan
Who hunts for the doors by the partial vision in her eyes.
In one such dull, dark street Qasim
Where a  row of lit lamps starts, 
And a new page of poetry begins
There,  the  whereabouts of Asadullah Khan Ghalib are  found).
(Pardon my inability to do justice through translation)).

He rented the haveli through his friend. And spent the last decade of life there.

With a prose as powerful as his poetry, he describes the dilapidated state of his house in a letter to his friend :

Balakhana ager che gira nahin, lekin chat chhalni ho chuki hai. Kahin lagan kahin ughaal dan, kahin chilamchi rakh diya hai.Abr do ghante batrasta hai to chat hamri chaar ghante barasti hai.
(Although the house did not fall, the roof has become a sieve. We put various utensils benath the points– of leak. Though the skies rain for two hours, our roof rains for four.)

And in true Ghalib wit he says:

Huaa huun ishq kii ghaarat garii se sharmindaa
Sivaay hasrat-e-taamiir ghar men khaak nahiin
(I am guilty of the destruction that my love has brought, There isnt anything at home except for the ‘castles in the air’).

Though living a life of extremely limited means, and financial hardships, he continued to live in Delhi:

Hai ab is mamure mein qaht-e gham-e ulfat asad
Ham ne yih mana kih dilli mein rahe khavenge kya
(There is now in this town a famine of the grief of love, Asad
We’ve agreed that we would remain in Delhi– what will we eat?)

He lived and loved the city Delhi, but with a complain about it’s changing character, in another letter:

Bhai kya poochte ho. Kya likhoon. Dilli ki hasti munassar kai hangamon per thi. Qila, Chandni chawk, her roz majma Jama Masjid ka, her hafte sair jamna ke pul ki, her saal mela phool waalon ka. Ye paanchon baatein ab nahin, phir kaho Dehli kahan. Haan koi shehr is naam ka Hindustan mein kabhi tha.
(What do you ask? What  should I write ? Five things kept Delhi alive – the fort, Chandni Chowk, the daily crowds at the Jama Masjid, the weekly walk to the Yamuna Bridge, and the yearly fair of the flower-sellers. None of these survives, so how could Delhi survive? Yes there used to be a city of this name in the land of Hindustan.)

Ghalib passed away in the same house on Feb 15, 1869. His house ultimately got turned into a place for coal storage.
It remained in a dilapidated condition until in 1999, when Government of Delhi acquired, renovated it,  after protests.

It was restored into a Ghalib Memorial Museum which opened on his birth anniversary on Dec 27, 2001.
Despite of  having lived the life of hardships of all kinds-emotional, personal, physical, financial, he had confidence that his poetry would keep his memories alive :

Hui muddat ke Ghalib mar gaya par yaad aataa hai
Woh har ek baat pe kehna ke yooN hota to kia hota.
( It has been a long time since Ghalib passed away, but he is still his saying of what if this or that had happened).

And as predicted by Mirza, for all the lovers of fine Urdu poetry, he still lives in each of his verses.

This reminds me of one his lesser known couplets which happen to be a favourite of mine, and which exudes his optimism in life,

Hoon garmi e nishaat e tasavvur se naghma sanj.
Main andaleeb e gulshan e na afrida hoon.
I sing with joy when I imagine tomorrow.
I am the lark of a garden that is yet to be.

(My tribute to the great poet on his 214th birth anniversary).

Food for thought & Merry Christmas

Come December and you see that along with the Christmas festivities, the spirit of philanthropy also gets an exponential rise.

Santa Claus , the iconic person associated with Christmas and especially with ‘gifts’ for the children are seen standing at various locales collecting charity—be it money, toys, chocolates, food items.

Writing a letter to Santa is a Christmas tradition going back to some centuries. The kids not just send in their wish list for toys or presents, but also promises of being a ‘good boy’ or a ‘good girl’. The more generous ones ask Santa to give gifts to the poorer and less fortunate kids.

What is even more exciting is that in many  countries, the Post Offices make sure that the letters they receive are replied back too.

Canada Post replies to letters in almost 30 languages each year including in Braille. Canadian postal workers volunteer to write back the replies to hundreds of thousands of letters received each year. Canada has a special address and postal code for Santa :

North Pole, Canada. H0H 0H0.

The other day I was moved to hear from a Paediatrician friend of the story of a 7 year old child admitted in a Hospital with leukemia. He mentioned that the ailing boy admitted in the hospital,  wished to see a white Christmas while there isn’t snow yet. The Hospital authorities did not want to disappoint the kid by their ‘regret’. Instead they pushed in all their efforts and finances to bring in snow to the hospital and even managed the boy to make a snow man by himself.

What made me wonder was that to how much length did the Hospital go to make a tiny face glow with smile and how much effort does the Canada Post makes so that millions of kids float in seventh skies when they receive replies to their cards from Santa.

Enslaved by my mindset, I can’t help think of our kids back home ( in India or Pakistan) .

Do our governments make any effort to make our kids smile?

Leave aside the government, do we even as desi parents really take extra care to keep our kids uphold their self esteem?

There is no two thoughts that as parents we really work hard for the kids—that they get the best education, achieve the highest grades or wear the best clothes in  parties. We even go extra extra miles to buy plots and leave bank balances to make their lives easy.
But in doing so are we really making them happy? Or ourselves?

Do we let them be themselves or do we make our own dreams come true through them?

Do we really talk to them as friends, or just command them  what to do and what not to do?

Before we ask the government or others in authority to take care of our kids, we need to take ‘good’ care of them too.
And good care certainly does not mean to dictate to them what we deem correct, but to guide them and let them realise their potential to the best.

I know all this has nothing to do with Christmas.

I just thought of revisiting the idea that if our kids will have a higher self esteem, the higher will be the hope to have a better future for us, in the years to come.

Just a random food for thought…

“Merry Christmas”.

‎**_██_*。*. /★\ .˛* .˛.*.★* *★ 。*
˛. (´• ̮•)*˛°*/.♫.♫\*˛.* ˛_Π_____. * ˛*
.°( . • . ) ˛°./• ‘♫ ‘ •\.˛*./______/~\*. ˛*.。˛* ˛. *。
*(…’•’.. ) *˛╬╬╬╬╬˛°.|田田 |門|╬╬╬╬ .
¯˜”*°••°*”˜¯`´¯˜”*°••°*”˜¯` ´¯˜”*°´¯˜”*°••°*”˜¯`´¯˜”*°

Continuation of a joint heritage

Published in Aman Ki Asha , in TheNews on December 14, 2011.

Ilmana Fasih recounts some examples of the ‘Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb’ and centuries’ old, peaceful coexistence beyond religious divides

An otherwise sane looking person I met at a party recently started to spew venom laced with conspiracy theories about “Hindu Muslim animosity”. To top it all, he tried to use my own life to justify his views, insisting that my going

to live in Pakistan after marrying a Pakistani was proof of the natural divide. He refused to accept my views that a peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths is possible or that my going to Pakistan from India was not based on religious reasons.

His hate-filled thoughts kept me sleepless for hours that night. But talking over the phone to my mother in Delhi later, I was cheered up by her mention of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb. Our conversation triggered off thoughts about this beautiful, fluid culture that refuses to be boxed up and compartmentalised.

The name Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb is as beautiful as its spirit. It refers to the centuries’ old, peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims of the subcontinent. Not only did the two faiths borrow cultural practices from each other, but they also exchanged each other’s vocabularies. So much so that now one is hardly able to find any difference between spoken Urdu and spoken Hindi.

The Nawabs of Awadh in north India in the 1700s are considered the pioneers of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb. At least, the term was coined in their times. But on ground it existed well before that era.

The starkest example of this syncretic culture is the Purana Hanuman Mandir in Lucknow, which is crowned by an Islamic symbol, a crescent. According to legend, the temple was built by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan to honour the wish of his mother, who had dreamt of building a temple. The tradition of honouring the Nawab’s gesture still continues when the Muslims in the area put up stalls of water during the Bada Mangal festival at the temple, and Hindus manage sabeels (stalls) of sherbet and water during Muharram in reverence for Imam Hussain.

Not far from Lucknow, the rulers of the Hindu holy city of Kashi (also known as Benaras or Varanasi) observed the Azadari (the mourning) during Muharram, wearing black on Ashura. Ustad Bismillah Khan, the renowned Shehnai maestro, began his career as a shehnai player in Vishwanath temple, Kashi. In fact, many of the musicians, Hindu and Muslim, who play in the temples, fast during Ramazan and also observe Vrat during the Hindu Navratras.

Even today, Muslim artisans in Kashi/Varanasi who make Taziyas for Muharram also make effigies of Ravan for Dussehra, a friend tells me. Hindus too participate in Muharram processions and make Taziyas in many cities, notably Lucknow.

Similarly a Sindhi friend talks of the centuries-old peace and harmony between the Hindus and Muslims of Sindh. Adherents of both faiths revere and pray together at the shrine of Jhuley Lal, she says. The shrine walls are inscribed

with Arabic verses as well as Hindu names of Gods. An age-old common greeting of Sindhi Hindus and Muslims is “Jhulelal Bera-Hee-Paar”.

Karachi’s 150-year old cremation ground for Hindus has a Muslim caretaker, although there are many Hindus in the city. This caretaker is responsible for cleaning the statues and lighting the lamps in the temple, and takes care of the urns that contain the ashes of the dead after cremation, until their loved ones immerse the ashes in water.

Cultural practices in Sindh are a fusion of the two cultures. If the Hindus, fervently use Allah as the reference to God, the Muslims touch the feet of their elderly as traditions borrowed from each other’s cultures.

The contribution of Sufi poetry towards this peaceful coexistence, from Kabirdas and Amir Khusro, to Bulleh Shah on the other side, is well known.

Beyond faith, at the cultural level, the Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb has seen some beautiful creations like the Ghazal style of singing and the classical dance form Kathak.

Kathak’s journey from ancient times to its present form merits a walk-through. The word “katha” comes from “katha” or story telling. It has its roots in ancient times, when storytellers narrated epics or mythological stories like Shakuntala, and the Mahabharata through dance forms in temples. However with the arrival of Mughals, the dance, enticed to come to the courts, developed into a more Persianised form. The Kathak dancers adopted the whirling

from the dervishes to the ‘chakkars’. The rhythm of the footsteps found harmony with the beat of the tabla recently discovered by Amir Khusro. The female Kathakaars (storytellers) abandoned the sari of ancient times for the angarkha and churidar pyjama. The language of narration also transformed from Sanskrit to Brij Bhasha and then Urdu.

There may be more examples of such coexistence and development in other regions of the subcontinent too.

Those who propagate conspiracy theories and narrate stories of hate and disharmony need to know that even with the physical separation between India and Pakistan, the spirit of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb lives on. The lack of communication between the two countries, particularly after the 1965 and 1971 wars, has not managed to dampen the natural instincts of sharing these cultures.

Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammed, the renowned Qawwals from Pakistan continue to sing Bhajans which their gharana has been singing for the last 300 years. On the other side are Wadali brothers who sing Bulleh Shah Kaafis and Naats with the same devotion. Despite all odds, Sheema Kermani and her students in Pakistan have continued to keep the dance forms, not only of Kathak, but also Bharatnatyam and Odissi, alive and known in Pakistan.

The recent collaboration between Zeb and Haniya from Pakistan and Shantanu and Siwanand Kirkire of India yielded the soft melody “Kaho kya khayal hai” in a beautiful blend of Dari and Hindi. I could not help relate it to the Zehaal-e-Miskeen composition by Amir Khusro which was a beautiful fusion of Persian and Brij Bhasha.

And now another peacenik in the form of Shahvar Ali Khan makes a music video titled ‘No Saazish No Jang’ (No Conspiracy, No War). It is heartening to see the visuals, and hear the voices of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Bapu Mahatama Gandhi together in the backdrop.

It is not possible to list all collaborations between the two countries and across religious divides, particularly in fields of films, music, health (the most significant being the Heart to Heart initiative by Rotary and Aman ki Asha). But all these initiatives testify to the desire for peace, not hate.

As for me, convinced that each of these efforts towards peaceful coexistence is based on foundations going back centuries, I slide into my bed, comforted by the faith that peace, not hate, will ultimately prevail.
It’s just a matter of time.

Dr Ilmana Fasih is an Indian gynaecologist and health activist married to a Pakistani. Her blog is Blind to Bounds

Call me an Indian Pakistani, please

Part of it published later in Express Tribune:

My way of prayer for Peace  between India and Pakistan, today-December 18, 2011.

I thank everyone who bothered to comment on my blog ‘An Indian moves to Pakistan’  in Express Tribune Blog ( December 9, 2011), and gave their input, be it positive or negative.

I would take this opportunity to broadcast loud and clear my childhood dream of a world without borders and wars.

Let me make it very clear, I do not have any ill-wish to undermine the sovereign political borders between India and Pakistan or between any other countries. My dream is to erase the psychological borders that are etched in our minds in the shape of prejudices and hatred for the other.

I would tell those friends who pity me, please pat me,instead. For I am an Indian Pakistani.

So what if I do not hold an Indian passport, I have 24 years of fascinating memories, an excellent upbringing that taught me to speak without fear, sealed in my heart as an Indian.

Pakistani, I am not by passport but by the love and respect that I have got from numerous Pakistanis, who took no time to accept me as one of them.

I own both the lands and a good 1.4 billion are my fellow compatriots.

What more could translate my feelings than this poem I wrote some time ago?,

To both the lands I belong
Yeah my heart throbs alike for the two lands
Yeah my love is equally blind for the two cultures.
Yeah my voice sings songs of love in two languages
Yeah my eyes see identical dream for the two peoples.
Yeah my lips whisper the same prayers for the two communities
Yeah my heart aches on hearing hatred screamed by bigots from two faiths
Yeah my tears roll witnessing the bloodshed by the misguided in two nations
But, I feel no difference between the two names the world calls INDIA and PAKISTAN
For the hammock of my life hangs between my two beloved lands I call my HOMELANDS.

I feel equally passionate about the happenings of Lok Pal bill as much as I was about the NRO case in Supreme Court.

When it was cricket World cup I got to support two teams, and whenever there is an India-Pakistan match, unlike the other billion and a half who dread for the result, I rejoice since if any team wins, my team is the winner.

I find divine tranquility in  reading Kaafis of  Bulleh Shah, as much as I drown in the depths of Kabir Dohas.

And I know how Kareem’s nalli nihari from Delhi tasted before it began its journey to end up a Sabri’s maghaz Nihari in Karachi.

I wear a Kanjeevaram sari and dangle a Sindhi embroidered bag together, and still boast both of them are my country’s handicrafts.

To those who ridiculed or criticised me, please shed the word ‘hate’ from your dictionaries.  Look beyond prejudices.

Believe me, I bear witnesss that there are millions and millions on both sides who want to live in peace with themselves and with their neighbours.

For you I have this poetry as a reminder:

Oh the souls of the subcontinent,
Let for amity be our energies spent.
Arent we neighbours? Shall be forever,
Let being friends be our real endeavour.

How can the love our hearts not seal,
How can the vibes our minds not feel?
How can my eyes and your deny,
Shared treasures that make us sigh.

Himalayas on our heads so stand,
Lofty mountains guarding our lands.
The twist and turns in the Indus river,
Who’s ancient stories, makes us shiver

Enchanting Thar and its golden sands,
Weave beauty in each of its strands.
And then the grand Arabian Sea,
That enthrals both you and me.

How could we now live apart,
We’ve been one from the start.
Oh! Those lines on our lands sketched,
Let they not on our hearts be etched.

We have seen firsthand how hatred leads to conflicts, conflicts to instability and then to an excuse to more defence expenditure. We have already wasted measurable revenue which could very well have been used for the alleviation of poverty, hunger, illiteracy, women issues which exist in astronomical proportions on both sides of the border.

Why should a handful of bigots sabotage the road to peace we need to take reach the goal of prosperity? We do not have any other way out, but peace.

Our histories, our geographies are common, 
Our genetics, our problems are common, 
And with them all , our destinies are woven.

A spirit of mutual cooperation would lead to prosperity for the 1. 4 billion on both sides and in turn would mean a strong and peaceful South Asia.

Please think.

Caption: If my hand can heal, why cant INDO-PAK relations.

PS: A special thanks to Kamran Rehmat, a great supportive Face Book friend, who first suggested the Indian-Pakistani term, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to  grab it and own it. 🙂

An Indian who moves to Pakistan

Published in @ExpressTribune Blog on December 9, 2011

This blog post is a response to an article published in The Express Tribune by Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy titled:“Deepening the Pakistan-India divide.” Hence I address this to him.


I know exactly how you feel. I have been feeling the same every year for the last 20 years when I go to seek a visa for India. I have to fill the same form which is ‘special’ for Pakistani Nationals (and it is the same for Indians in the Pakistan embassy).

I am not a professor like you who gets an invite and a letter to give a lecture at some university. Nor am I an artist who gets to show a business contract for facilitating the visa. In both these cases, to be able to get an Indian visa is much easier than it is for me.

I am an ordinary Pakistani who wants to visit my relatives in India. And every year the daunting question arises:

What if I do not get the visa?

Days before I fill up the forms, my soul shudders with this fear.

But then, why do I want to go to India so desperately each year? No, I do not want to visit some old relatives whom I got separated from during the partition, nor do I want to see my ‘virtual’ friend or my distant cousins who I reconnected with on Facebook or Twitter.

No, Sir. I seek a visa to visit my parents and brothers. You read it correct – my parents.

It was 20 years ago by the stroke of fate I guess, I chose to marry a Mr Right. And in that youthful enthusiasm perhaps, I chose to deliberately to ignore that he wasn’t an Indian like me, but a Pakistani. And after having got married I also deliberately chose to take the Pakistani passport knowing that it would be the most practical solution for my family. I have no regrets for either of the decisions I took.

However, each year that I wish to visit my parents I have to stand in the same queue as any ordinary Pakistani would, furnishing the same documents and details, facing the same scrutiny without being given an iota of consideration that I am Indian-born, and bred in New Delhi for 24 years – an Indian who graduated from a premier medical school in New Delhi.

Sir, I would also like to let you know that my parents aren’t any Indians who’s credentials are hazy or in doubt. Both my parents have retired as professors from Delhi University and are well-known vocal secular individuals. But this does not matter to those who have the authority to grant a visa. To them, I am just a passport number holding a Pakistani nationality.

If my husband travels frequently to India with me, he is taken aside by the non-uniformed personnel in Pakistan, who ask why there are so many India visa stamps on his passport. If I do not travel for three years in a row, the Indian authorities say they need a fresh inquiry about me and that it will take any amount of time, between three months to any unspecified duration for my visa to be approved.

Honestly, I have not had much disappointment in obtaining a visa (though at times I have waited several months), barring the time when the Kargil dispute was fresh. This does not happen because of any procedural ease, but because a resourceful relative managedto push for it in the right place. And during the Kargil time, not even the contacts were willing to help.

The visa officers are generally very kind, I must admit. They often sympathise with me, and express their helplessness regarding the matter. Their hands are “tied” they say. And of course, it is a serious “security matter”, I am told.

Over the years, I have seen that the visa procedures take sinusoidal patterns. At times all seems well and the whole process is smooth-sailing. But then some political trigger offsets the whole process, resetting it from the start.

There are many such women like me, but a lot less fortunate, for whom the idea to get a visa to go and see their parents is no less than a dream. For many women, due to financial constraints, the idea to go up to Islamabad from Karachi, to even ‘try’ for a visa is a great ordeal. Many of them have barely seen their parents more than two or three times in the last two to three decades of their marriage.

And no one seems to hear their silent wails.

Tansen, the legend.

Tansen, the father of Hindustani Music, was a music genius since early childhood. He became a court musician and one of the nine gems of Emperor Akbar. He not only composed music, but wrote the lyrics too. Impressed by his exceptional musical talent he was given the title of Miyan Tansen by the Emperor Akbar.

Tansen is known to have polished and popularised the oldest form of Indian music called Dhrupad( which could be traced back to Vedic times). It was his times that Dhrupad reached it’s peak.

Most of the music composed by him are referred with a “ Miyan ki”prefix, eg Miyan ki Todi, Miyan ki Malhar, Miyan ki Mand and Miyan ki Sarang. He is also credited to have created certain other court ragas( traditional melody) like Darbari Kanada, Darbari Todi, and Rageshwari.

Tansen performed in the courts of Akber. He also performed for the emperor alone. At night he sang ragas that would soothe and help the emperor sleep. In the morning he would sing morning ragas to awaken the emperor fresh and cheerful.

There are various legends attached to Tansen.

It is believed that his music was so captivating that even animals and birds would stop to listen to him. There is an interesting story of a white elephant being caught for the Emperor to ride. But the animal was uncontrollable and untameable. So Tansen sang to the elephant and calmed it down, so that the Emperor could ride.

It is said that his created ragas  would cause different effects e.g. such as cool the environment and attract clouds  that it would induce rain ( Rag Megh Malhar) or heat up the environment to cause fire ( Rag Deepak).

Once Emperor Akber insisted that he sing Rag Deepak in the court to prove that his music had the said effect. Tansen begged a fortnight before he would sing the raga. In this duration he made his daughter Saraswati, learn the Rag Megh Malhar.

And then the day arrived when he began to sing Rag Deepak in the Emperor’s court.

Unlit lamps were placed in the court.

As Tansen began to sing, the air around started to get warm, then warmer. The audience started to perspire. The flowers dried; including the famous rose bud that Akber is famed to have held in his hand in court. The water fountain in the courtyard began to steam up and the flames of fire could be seen flashing in the air, while the lamps lit up.

As this happened, his disciple and daughter, was directed by him to start singing Rag Megh Malhar ( the music that induced rain).

In a few minutes the cold breeze started to blow. The clouds came and overcast the sky. The music waves caused the clouds to thunder and while the rag Deepak induced lightening. And soon the heavy showers began to pour over the place, and put off the flames.

How it is said that this down pour could not put down the internal fire that was lit within Tansen while he sang Rag Deepak. And he fell ill, with very high fever, and in a few months died of the ailment.

Grieved by his death, his son Bila Khan began to sing Bilas ki Todi, based on his raga Miyan ki Todi. He sang so well that the dead Tansen’s hand rose to signal praise for the son.

One wonders not only at the likelihood of these legends being true, but also at how did these legends , which have now become part of Tansen history, come into being.

Below is the song based on Rag Deepak, picturised in an Indian movie made on Tansen.

Look beyond Veena…

I have no business to morally judge her on her picture in the magazine.

The picture had too many comparisons and contrasts to ignore.

What is surprising is the satire that many have missed while gazing at the curves.

The exposed Veena represents the allegedly exposed network  links in Pakistan. And the tattoo on the arm is the metaphoric translation of Mike Mullen’s comment , ” act’s as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s ISI.”, referring to we all know what.

Since the magazine comes from across the border, the symbolic representation becomes all the more pertinent.

Those who do not buy the validity of the picture and accuse it of photoshop agenda compares to those who do not buy Mullen’s allegations and blame it on American/ Indian agenda.

And those virtuous who feel embarrassed by a nude Pakistani Veena, compares to the conscientious lot who are embarrassed on the truth behind the mentioned links in Pakistan.

Veena’s vehement denial of the photo shoot compares with the constant refusal by the big bosses of any such links or networks.

And once one identifies the satire, the debate about it being a real shoot or a photo shop artwork becomes meaningless.

The fact that the picture spread like a wild fire too compares with the extensive acceptance of the conviction on the truth of the links by others the world over.

Who’s right, Veena or the tattoo on the arm, is for each one to decide.
Who am I to judge them ? :p

And yes, as remarked by a friend, there’s one stark contrast too. “Too bad ISI’s actual arm isn’t half as pretty or benign”.

The beauty of the satire here isn’t just skin deep.

Tag Cloud