Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Am I A Hindu In India

By Promod Puri
I am a proud Canadian citizen. In this land of multi-cultural and multi-religious freedoms I am also a proud Hindu.

But when I visit India I am not a Hindu. Because, I confess, many, many, many times I have eaten beef steaks. And that I am not “hiding” the fact that our refrigerator often has minced beef.

I am not a Hindu in India because I don’t adore Trump, and I did not share the pictures showing special Hindu prayers for his success in the US presidential race. Unlike Trump, I am not an anti-refugee, and I’m not an anti-Muslim either.

More seriously, I am not a Hindu in India because I don’t understand the “moral vigilant” squads apprehending and thrashing young couples, married or unmarried, indulging in the “obscene” act of holding each other’s hands in public.

I am not a Hindu in India because I denounce the violent and at times fatal acts of “gau-rakshak dals” projecting their bizarre vision of Hinduism under the pretext of saving the holy cow. The same cows don’t get their compassion when often seen gnawing plastic garbage bags.

I am not a Hindu in India because I reject Manu and his caste classification of the Hindu race. Rather I salute Ambedkar who fought to uproot the caste system in the country.

My non-Hindu status in India qualifies me in the expanding outcaste of “go-to-Pakistan”. I love to visit Pakistan, especially to my ancestral town of Sialkot. This is the place where poet-philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal was born. He wrote: Sare jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara….

Back in Canada, in the land of true freedom, I am a Hindu again.

(Promod Puri is the author of “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, and Traditions”. Websites: progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.com and promodpuri.blogspot.ca)  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Easter & Vaisakhi:Festivals Of New Beginning

By Promod Puri

Easter is a celebration of resurrection of Jesus.

It is on this day, Christians believe in the rise of Jesus Christ after his death and burial. And that means a new beginning.

Since Easter (April 16) comes in the beginning of spring season, a symbolic connection can be ascertained with the coming back to life of Jesus, and the life of plants and trees that have been dormant in winter. Easter is a celebration of new life and rebirth in the nature and the Christian faith.

The celebration of new life and rebirth finds a meaningful implication in the Hindu-Sikh-Buddhist festival of Vaisakhi (April 13) which also falls during the spring season.

Vaisakh is the name of first month (April-May) in the Hindu calendar. It is a time of festivity when the crops are ready for harvesting. On this day in 1875, Hindu reformist Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj sect in Hinduism. And Gautam Buddh attained enlightenment on the Vaisakhi day. Vaisakhi marks a new beginning with the formation of Khalsa Panth, the birth of Sikhism by Guru Gobind Singh on April 13, 1699.

Easter and Vaisakhi are the occasions of celebrations when mother nature also promises new beginning as the spring season comes back with new leaves, flowers, and blossoms.

Happy Easter, Happy Vaisakhi amidst Happy Spring.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Nostalgic Joy With Old Filmi Songs

(Please do use all the links in this article and enjoy)
Living in Canada for the past 45 years, my nostalgic window often opens to the blissful sounds of popular Hindi filmi songs and music. From this retreat, the flights to the past are the pleasures of the present.
In the voyage, tuning in on Aye mere pyaare vatan, aye mere bichhade chaman, tujh pe dil qurabaan, is an emotional joy in self-recreation. Manna Dey, in his masculine and classical voice, creates a melody of mellow submission towards motherland in the film Kabuliwala. Composed by music director Salil Chaudhary, the song literary takes me back to the melodious world of Indian filmi songs and music.
For me, it has been a fabulous and everlasting journey which began way back in early ’50s. During my teen years of life, I often spoiled myself listening to the filmi songs of that era from All India Radio and Radio Ceylon of Binaca Geetmala fame. The early indulgence ever since has become an absorbing and addictive pastime.
I still get stirred up by the grace and pride in the marching beats of Watan ki rah mein watan ke naujawan shaheed ho, pukarate hai ye zameen o aasamaa shahid ho, by singers Khan Mastana and Mohammad Rafi from the film Shaheed (1948). Raja Mehdi Ali Khan penned the revolutionary wordings with music composed by Ghulam Ali Haider who was credited with initiating the career of well-known playback singer Lata Mangeshkar, a legend who dominated the Hindi filmi music scene for decades. “Ghulam Haider is truly my godfather. He was the first music director who showed complete faith in my talent”, Lata once remarked about her mentor.
In my avocational abode, audibly residing forever are Noor Jehan’s renditions of Aawaz de kahan hai (a duet with Surendra); Mere bachman ke sathi muje bhool na jana, dekho dekho hase na zamana; and Jawan hai mohabbat hasin hai zamana, lutaya hai dil ne khoshi ka tarana (film Anmol Ghardi).
Malika-e-tarannum Noorjahan’s distinct and immaculate voice uplifts the spirit and clarity of the lyrics. Her sweet but eloquent and uninhibited style continues to echo eternally across nations’ borders.
It was Naushad Ali (assisted by Ghulam Mohammed) who scored the music for these alluring compositions. He was one of the most talented and creative melodists credited with popularizing the folk music especially from the Hindi speaking belt of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, his signature compositions were often based on classic Hindustani music.
The best example of Naushad’s compositions in both classical and folk music reverberates in the songs of Baiju Bawara. There is rhythm, folk and classical mix in them. Door koi gaye, Tu Ganga ki mouj main, Jhoole mein pawan, Bachpan ki mohabbat, O duniya ke rakhwale, and Mohe bhool gaye sanwariya, are ageless all raga-based symphonic creations by musical maestro Naushad for generations to enjoy.
In Naushad’s music, there has always been the subtle sweetness and zest, like enjoying a glass of merlot.  Gaye ja geet milan ke, Dharti ko aakash pukaare, Ye zindagi ke mele (Mela); Jhoom jhoom ke nacho aaj, Hum aaj kahin dil kho baithe, Tu kahe agar, Uthaye ja unke sitam, Tod diya dil mera ( Andaaz); Murliwale murli baja, Tu mera chand mein teri chandani (Dillagi); Dhadke mera dil, Chhod babul ka ghar, Kisi ke dil mein rahna tha, Lagan more man ki, Mera jeevan saathi bichhad gaya, Milte hi ankhen dil hua diwana (Babul) are some of his early feats reflecting his impeccable mastery to create a delightfully ecstatic mood.
In the treasure trove of Hindi filmi music Suhani raat dhal chuki, na jaane tum kab aoge stands out as one of most adored compositions by Naushad from film Dulari. Mohammad Rafi in his immaculate voice and with perfect breath control did a superb job which launched him as the most loved and one of the most sought after male singers in the industry.
Naushad was an ingenious and versatile composer creating new tunes, as well as rewriting the folk-based ones which were intrinsically popular among amateur and perpetually novice as well.
His celebrated list is adorned with such evergreen numbers: Maan mera ehsan, Dil mein chupake pyar ka, and one of my favourite holi songs Khelo raang hamare sang (Aan), Jaanewaale se mulaaqaat na hone paayi, Insaaf ka mandir hai yeh bhagwan ka ghar hai, Na milta gham to barbadi ke afsane kahan jaate (Amar); Lagan more man ki sajn nahin jane, and my most adorable lullaby Chandan ka palna resham ki dori (Shabaab).
Naushad was one of the most decorated music directors who composed music for about 100 Hindi films. Many of them were silver, golden and diamond jubilee hits simply because of the popularity of the songs in these movies. Na toofan se khelo, Ghar aya mehman koi jaan na pehchan, Mera salam leja, Mohabbat ki rahon mein, and Saiyan ji utrenge paar from the film Uran Khatola still take the listeners to exuberant heights even after 64 years when the movie was released in 1953.
Naushad was at his pinnacle of popularity with his superb compositions in the Oscar- nominated film Mother India (1957). Nagari nagari dware dware, Duniya mein hum aaye hain, O gaadiwale, dukh bhare din beete re, Pi ke ghar aaj pyari dulhaniya chali, and another of my most relished holi songs Holi aayi re kanhai, are among the most popular numbers out of 12 in the movie.
The movie Mughal-e-azam (1960) was perhaps the climax of his success story. The raga-based compositions in this epic drama won instant popularity. I remember the song Pyar kiya to darna kya burst in the number one spot the moment it entered the Binaca Geetmala’s 16-song grading list. Based on the story of love affairs between Mughal prince Salim and court dancer Anarkali, the music of Naushad in Mughal-e-Azam competed with that of the 1953 musical hit Anarkali.
Anarkali offers a bonanza of most melodious songs with superb poetic depths. C.Ramchandra composed tuneful and forever popular music of the film.  A maestro in musical compositions, he liberally delivered his art in Anarkali.  It was one of the very few films in which all the songs, without exception, were hit numbers for years and years. Even today listening to Anarkali songs offers delightful engagement both in its lyrical reflections and serene music.
Ye zindagi usiki hai, Aaja ab to aaja, Mujhse mat poochh, Dua kar gham-e-dil, Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag, Mohabbat aisi dhadkan hai, Zindagi pyar ki do char ghadi, O aasman wale shikva hai zindagi ka (I love the lyrics of ‘shikva’ meaning complaining to god), Ae baad e saba zara ahista chal and Mohabbat mein aise kadam dagamagae, are the songs which will always remain as crafted jewels with everlasting brilliance.
C.Ramchandra was an accomplished singer himself under the name of Chitalkar. With Lata Mangeshkar, his popular duets were Kitna haseen hai mausam in film Azad or Shola Jo bhadke in Albela.
Aana meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday (Shehnai), Mere piya gaye Rangoon (Patanga), Gore gore o banke chore (Samadhi) along with Ina meena dika (Asha), where he introduced the rock-n-roll rhythms in the Indian filmi music for the first time, were very popular songs because of their hilarious verbal and trendy musical combination. Even today these songs often pop up in the entertaining game of Antakshri.
Dheere se aa ja re akhiyan mein (Albela) is another of my favourite lullaby.  Mehfil mein jal uthi shama (Nirala), Tere phoolon se bhi pyar (Nastik), Dil ki duniya basa ke sawariyan, Dekh Hamen Aavaaz Na Denaa (Amardeep), Katatay hain dukh mein ye din (Parchhaain) and Aadha hai chandrama (Navrang) are the soundtracks where the nostalgic needle usually get struck.
C.Ramchandra enjoyed the distinction of being the composer of non-filmi but one of the most popular patriotic songs, Aye mere watan ke logo, zara ankh mein bhar lo pani. Literally moving the live audience to tears Lata, in her touching presentation, sang the patriotic composition penned by poet Pradeep after the India-China war in 1962 in honor of the fallen Indian soldiers.