Cru­saders of Indo-Pak Peo­ple’s Con­nect

Af­ter demise of Jus­tice Sachchar, Kuldeep Na­yar, Pran Nevile and Ashma Ja­hangir; cul­tural con­nect that they main­tained (even in hot Indo-Pak po­lit­i­cal mi­lieu) would re­ceive a jot

The Day After - - CONTENT - By humra Qu­raiShi

In the last few months we have lost three well known and well re­spected men who worked for that vi­tal con­nect be­tween the peo­ple of In­dia and Pakistan. Yes, it was Jus­tice Ra­jin­der Sachar and Kuldip Na­yar and Pran Nevile, who didn’t let the wounds of the Partition come in way and till their last days had con­tin­ued to meet and di­a­logue with the peo­ple of Pakistan.

Jus­tice Ra­jin­der Sachar and Kuldip Na­yar not just led peace brigades at the Wa­gah bor­der but spoke out pas­sion­ately at any given fo­rum; fo­cus­ing on the sig­nif­i­cance of peace pre­vail­ing be­tween the two coun­tries. For decades they had con­tin­ued with their ef­forts for that peo­ple to peo­ple con­nect to per­sist, no mat­ter what the po­lit­i­cal ob­sta­cles could be.

In fact, Pran Nevile who passed away last fort­night would travel at least once if not twice a year to La­hore to meet his fel­low ‘La­ho­rias’. Af­ter all, there was an emo­tional con­nect to the place of his roots. As he wrote in his pref­ace to his book on La­hore - “This book on the La­hore of my days was con­ceived in the lonely din­ing room of Ho­tel As­to­ria in Geneva in Novem­ber 1963. I was hav­ing break­fast when I heard some­one call­ing me in Pun­jabi, ‘Mo­tian aleo, Hin­dus­tan de o ke Pakistan de?’ (Prince of Pearls, are you from In­dia or Pakistan?) I looked back, re­spond­ing promptly ‘Bashao aao baitho, main La­hore da han’ (Your Royal High­ness, please come and sit down, I hail from La­hore). In no time we be­came very friendly, a blend as it were, of ghee and khichdhi (clar­i­fied but­ter and cur­ried rice) and talked about our glo­ri­ous city. The con­ver­sa­tion re­leased a flood of mem­o­ries deeply im­pressed on my mind for decades. I have tried in th­ese pages to com­mit them on pa­per.”

And it’s with the same sense of im­mense pride he wrote on Noor Je­han, who was right­fully ti­tled Mal­lika-e-Taran­num. Let me quote him, “On a per­sonal note I have been an ar­dent fan of Mal­lika-e-Taran­num for as long as I can re­mem­ber. I had the priv­i­lege of meet­ing her in 1978 dur­ing her visit to Chicago where I was then the In­dian Con­sul Gen­eral. There was no Pak­istani mis­sion there at that time and the

or­ga­niz­ers of her con­cert asked Noor Je­han if she would agree to my be­ing in­vited as the chief guest. I learnt that she read­ily agreed to the sug­ges­tion when told that I was a great fan of hers and also a La­ho­ria by birth and up­bring­ing. The con­cert hall was over­flow­ing. There was a roar­ing wel­come and stand­ing ova­tion as Mal­likae-Taran­num made her ap­pear­ance on stage. A thun­der­ing ap­plause fol­lowed as she be­gan the pro­gramme with the eter­nal melody awaz de ka­han hai. I re­quested her to sing one of my favourite songs laga hai misar ka bazar dekho, and she smil­ingly re­sponded with the re­mark that she was thrilled to find an In­dian diplo­mat fa­mil­iar with her lat­est film songs.”

And none of the po­lit­i­cal dents, cre­ated by the politi­cians there and here, had man­aged to dis­rupt his bond­ing with the peo­ple of his birth­place. He wrote on any given topic, ex­cept on pol­i­tics. There was a sense of de­ter­mi­na­tion in his voice as he would say that he never al­lowed pol­i­tics to en­ter his writ­ings. “I have seen to it that no mat­ter what hap­pens, I’m not go­ing to com­ment on the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion … Till date I have avoided writ­ing or fo­cus­ing on any type of pol­i­tics. Even when I’m in­vited to Lit­er­a­ture Fes­ti­vals in Pakistan I never com­ment on pol­i­tics. I tell the au­di­ence that I’ll not en­ter­tain queries re­lated to diplo­matic or po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries…it’s the same set of rules fol­low here. I can write vol­umes on any given topic re­lated to mu­sic and arts and cul­ture but not on pol­i­tics! Never go­ing to break this rule!”

In fact, its through mu­sic and those mu­si­cal ge­niuses of the past that Nevile wanted to con­nect the peo­ple of this sub­con­ti­nent. Mind you, his knowl­edge of the arts and cin­ema of the two coun­tries was re­mark­able. “We in In­dia first made the film Anarkali and later they in Pakistan made that film with the same ti­tle .Then, they in Pakistan first made Pa­keezah and Um­rao Jaan …yes, both th­ese two films with th­ese ti­tles were first made there in Pakistan and then later we made them here. And one par­tic­u­lar Pak­istani Pun­jabi film – Naukar Woti Da - was copied it here , to­tally copied , scene to scene …the only thing is that the ti­tle was changed - from the Pun­jabi to Hin­dus­tani .Here it was ti­tled - Naukar Bibi Ka.”

Once when I had asked him, how we ,the masses , liv­ing in this sub -con­ti­nent could co-re­late and he’d quipped , “The bu­reau­cracy doesn’t seem in­ter­ested in peo­ple – to – peo­ple con­nect. Af­ter all , what hap­pened to those ear­lier talks of ‘no visas’ for se­nior cit­i­zens - for all those over 60 years - keen to visit each other’s coun­tries. All those hyped prom­ises of peo­ple to peo­ple con­nect failed for the bu­reau­cracy doesn’t seem in­ter­ested , not re­ally both­ered.”

And as we sit and mourn the pass­ing away of three of our peace ac­tivists, we can­not over­look the demise of hu­man rights ac­tivist Asma Ja­hangir who’d passed away ear­lier this year in La­hore. She too worked tire­lessly for peace to pre­vail in this sub­con­ti­nent.

A vac­uum holds out as within months we have lost th­ese ex­tra­or­di­nary per­son­al­i­ties. And in th­ese po­lit­i­cally tur­bu­lent times they were greatly needed for sense to pre­vail.

La­hore Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val 2014

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