Friday, February 11, 2011

Jis Lahore: A Logically Written Emotional Argument

Jis Lahore Nahi Dekhya, Woh to Jamya Hi Nahi - A Logically Written Emotional Argument

Asghar Wajahat is an extremely logical guy. 

When I was first invited for the play reading of Jis Lahore, I lent my voice to the character called Ratan Ki Maa. However, I did not feel any awkwardness mouthing the lines of a sexagenarian female; as all of what she or the other characters around her said absolutely made sense. Guess you could also pass that off as an extension of the creative sensibilities of the play, which made the whole experience so ethereal.

As I got more engrossed in the play and other leads started overtaking the scenes, the rationale just started staring right at my face more blatantly. Every dialogue, thought and sequence is how a civilized creature would process information. With the exception of some goons, who obviously want to ignore what we call is the right-thing-to-do. And this sparks tension, creates the uneasy undertone which make the play more yearning.

As rehearsals progressed and the actors started sculpting the characters on paper with their own quirks and flavors, the horizon of the play started expanding within the realms of my consciousness. Here’s a slice from one of the most important events of history, and when you break it down from a nation to city to family and eventually to an individual level – the whole madness keeps making more sense. I’ve just heard about the horrors of the partition, however I can now vouch that the overall mood wouldn’t have been very different from the riots in Ahmedabad which I’ve been a witness to from a close quarter. 

It all begins with ignorance. The root cause. 

A Pahalwan has a considerable influence in the society around him due to his ability to exert brute force and a loyal band of followers. He is blinded with what is religion and the implications of partition and hence has lost the broader argument of reasoning along with other enduring qualities of a civilized society such as love, trust and tolerance. Jingoism subtly dawns the veil of the new found definition of patriotism towards a nation which is still struggling to find the right reasons for its existence. What amazes me more though is the mass hypnotism. We have seen a certain irreverence for the nobler values around us in varying degrees. However, when this intensity rises sharply and is accompanied by a widespread loss of cogent dharma; large scale destruction is inevitable. This is what happened in post-partition India/Pakistan.

And there are fewer examples of a threadbare portrayal of the ground level realities in post partition Pakistan than Jis Lahore. Of course, it would have taken an extremely sensitive yet logical mind to deconstruct the chemistry of that era by each molecular mohalla and further break it down to the dynamics and interactions of its various constituents.

So, Is Jis Lahore about India, Pakistan and Partition? Yes. However, it’s much more than that. It’s a journey to the deepest corners of human fear and ignorance. It’s about the personification of the innate radiance which still manages to penetrate the engulfing smog of hatred all around. And at the end it signifies how the extremist forces strangled the tolerant voices of reason leading to perhaps the darkest hour of humanity.

- Sriram V (A NoMAD)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


She remembers that August to be the hottest summer ever in Delhi. They were happy and carefree school girls looking forward to a prosperous free nation. With dreams in their eyes, my mother, a 15 year old Hindu girl, and her best friend, a Muslim girl, spent all their waking hours together. On August 14, 1947, they decided to go watch the celebrations of August 15 together. At nightfall, the servant of the house informed my Naniji (my maternal grandmother) that something terrible was going to happen that night. She asked them to lock the doors and windows and be prepared to escape. My Naniji ordered all 6 children to wear three sets of clothes. She handed each child some jewellery to hide in their clothes. The whole family sat in their store room, turned off all lights and locked all doors and windows. The whole night was spent hearing loud chants of “Har Har Mahadev and Allah Ho Akbar”. They could hear people screaming and calling for help. Not a soul slept that night. In the morning, my Nanaji (my maternal grandfather), went to check on my mother’s best friend’s family. No one was to be found. On my mother’s insistence her brother searched for her friend’s family until 1950, but no one knew anything. She has found many of her Muslim friends from childhood now; some in Pakistan, some in the U.K., and some even in the U.S.A. but not her best friend. My mother still mourns her loss.