Tag Archives: India

The Pakistani Inspiration Behind the Indian Song, “Munni Badnaam Hui”

23 May

Did you think Munni Badnaam Hui was brilliant? Well Umar Sharif thought of it before Bollywood it! Recently a friend introduced me to this 1992 video from the Umar Sharif that shows him doing a qawwali where there is no Munni but  there is a larka who is in the process of becoming badnaam for a haseena akin to israel – hear the song and figure it out! Pay attention to the lyrics – they are quite spectacular!


Searching For Aftab Manzil

7 Jul

Nana: Aftab Omar's only son who died in Pakistan without ever being able to return to his childhood home

In 1947, Aftab Omar and his wife AshfaqJehan Begum packed a suitcase, locked the front door of their house in Meerut, got on a tonga for the railway station and left for Pakistan. They took nothing but a few clothes. They did not know that this would be the last time they would look at the house where they had raised three children and left countless happy memories. (The also had a teenage daughter buried in Meerut.) As the border between India and Pakistan became increasingly unbreachable for the common man, Aftab Omar and his wife died without having ever returned to the home they loved—leaving it as if they were going away for a week or two.

Fifty seven years later, in 2004, my cousin Ammar and I, great grandchildren of Aftab Omar and Ashfaq Jehan, returned to Meerut to find our great-grandparents’ house. We were accompanied by three Indian friends whom I knew from college abroad who had grown up near Meerut. As we filed out of Simran’s shiny new car, we all felt a sense of adventure as we set out to find this house. Splitting up in the old market, we started asking people if they knew about the house and shared with each other any information we found. I was surprised by how helpful people were. They ran around asking others and soon the whole market was abuzz with the news of Aftab Omar’s relatives looking for his house.

Not making much headway, we went to another part of the market. And as we were walking away from there, a young boy came running to ask if we were searching for Aftab Manzil. We were! He asked us to follow him. He led us to a courtyard, where an ancient woman sat surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She stood up to greet us and, hugging me, started to cry profusely.

She was the daughter of the gardener, Pirbhu, whom Aftab Omar had entrusted with the keys of the house before he left. She had been a young child then. She had played with my Dadi and Nana (paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather), who had grown up in the house. She described to me how bitterly her father wept when Aftab Omar and his wife had left, and how he had waited till his dying day for them to return. She walked us around what remained of the once vast grounds of the house. It was strange to be walking with this woman whom I had never met before but who spoke of my family as her own.

I am not the only one. Thousands of friends and families were divided at Partition and never reunited. The horrors of the division of the subcontinent are not alien to the children who have been raised on the stories of the massacre that took place during and after Partition. But if you probe deeper, you will find thousands of narratives of the friendships and loves lost and yearned for on both sides of the border. There are eyes that long for friends and family on the other side of the border and the familiar, fond places of their youths and childhoods.

And every few years, because of circumstances and geopolitics, the two countries try to undo the failings of yesteryears. We play a cricket match or two. We start a bus service. We have high-level talks. Some of our singers visit the country and sing songs together. And then, one unfortunate event stalls the entire peace process and brings us to the verge of war. While the frequent CBMs are great for making us all feel good for a while, they do little to create the needed lasting peace or friendship in the region.

Therefore, it is time for governments on both sides of the border to recognise that appealing pictures and cultural exchanges do not make for lasting peace. There is need for a longer-term commitment to peace in the region. A political agreement between the two countries needs to be worked out, which guarantees an atmosphere of cooperation and trust between the governments. Pakistan must, on its own side, work to find and convict any and all involved in the heinous attacks in Mumbai. And India must come clean on its involvement in the Baloch insurgency. It is high time both countries realised that hostility benefits neither.

In the same vein, Pakistan and India need to cement their ties in something a little more concrete than handshakes at SAARC summits. The cost of aggression and hostility should be higher than the price of cooperation. What Pakistani politicians do not realise in their myopic vision is that the economic and strategic benefits of cooperating with India far outweigh the short-lived popularity gained from hating it.

The two countries must cement their relationship in strong economic ties, either in the form of trade agreements and joint business ventures. Common economic interests will prove to be much more effective war deterrents than bombs. Economic cooperation can bind both countries in a symbiotic relationship that requires peace and mutual trust.

But seeking such measures from both sides will not be politically easy. The present generation on both sides of the border has been raised on doses of hatred for the neighbouring country, and mistrust and hate run deep not just on the political level but also the cultural. This requires a comprehensive review and purging of textbooks in both countries of biased contents and hate-filled propaganda against the other country. And it requires media cooperation and promotion. None of these tasks is easy to undertake or quick to perform.

An idea that might be easier to implement is to allow exchanges between school and college students across the border. The future, after all, lies in the hands of young people. And maybe we should put aside the textbooks filled with hate and allow our young people to communicate openly and freely with each other. Nothing is more effective in combating stereotypes than personal interactions on a sustained basis. And maybe through these interactions young Pakistanis and Indians will discover new friends. And before they become too tainted by the biased opinions of media persons like Zaid Hamid and Zakir Naik, they can maybe learn to appreciate their friends from across the border for their humanity, their friendliness and for our shared language and culture. And maybe we can once again learn to coexist in peace, as we had for centuries, and restrict our battles to cricket fields and hockey grounds.

Published in The News July 8th, 2010

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Stop War Start Tennis

28 Jun

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A handsome looking Indo-Pak Peace Project: Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna


I’m sick and tired of hating India. We’ve been doing it for over 60 years and all we have gotten out of it is three wars, an inflated defense budget and bad press. Its time to stop! And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, the stellarly good-looking Pakistani tennis champ (yes I have a crush on him – who wouldn’t, he’s so cute!!) and his Wimbeldon doubles partner Rohan Bopanna seem to agree. The unlikely Indo-Pak pair have been playing as one team and they have been sporting tennis jackets that say “Stop War Start Tennis.”  The world is not used to seeing India and Pakistan step onto any field (playing or battle) as one team so the unlikely duo have been making headlines. And they are making full and good use of it by promoting the game of Tennis in the cricket dominated subcontinent and spreading the message of peace.     

Aisam and Rohan met at the age of 16 at a tennis camp and they have been good friends ever since. They are a good example of how friendship can overcome barriers or race, religion and nationality. While their international tennis playing status has allowed them to remain friends and see each other frequently, there are thousands of people on both sides of the border who long and yearn to see the people and places they once loved and knew as home but have been unable to see for over 60 years due to cruel visa regimes and heartless politicians who drive wedges deeper and wider between India and Pakistan for personal gain.     

I visited India in 2004 and it was a wonderful experience, largely because a lot of the friends and people I met there had recently been to Pakistan to see the India Pakistan cricket series. The people I met would not stop talking about the wonderful time they had, about the generosity of the people and the delicious food. They told me about how shopkeepers had opened their shops to them at all times of the night and given them free food and gifts when they found out they were from India. The Indians I met had been bowled over by the love and hospitality of the Pakistani people. Friends who had visited India during the cricket matches had a similar experience. And even I benefitted from many a shopping discount at the mention of having travelled all the way from Pakistan.     

Ever since the Mumbai terror attacks, relations with India have been at an all time low and, in my opinion, this benefits neither country. A number of steps have been taken to improve relations and at the forefront of this is the Aman ki Asha initiative by the Jang Group and Times of India. The recent meeting between the home ministers of the SAARC countries, held in Islamabad also went well and everyone seems to have left it with warm, fuzzy feelings and a general increase in the “lets be friends” feeling. Which is why, I think this is the perfect time to do what Aisam and Rohan have proposed – organize a tennis match between the dynamic duo at the Wagah border.     

According to a report by the Guardian, the two tennis players want to play a tennis match at Wagah, the border separating India and Pakistan. The border will serve as the net. Aisam will play on the Indian side and Rohan will play on the Pakistani side of the border. The tennis stars are trying to turn this fantastic idea into reality. And at this point in time, I think that is exactly what the two countries need. I don’t know much about tennis but I really want this match to happen! I will go to watch. And I promise to read up everything I can and ask anyone I can to help me understand the game better so I am prepared to watch the war of tennis at the border. And I’m sure a lot of other Pakistanis will two. We all love a little bit of healthy competition with the Indians!     

I don’t know how one goes about organizing a tennis match at an international border and one of the most terse borders in the world on top of that. But I wish I knew how to do it. So if any of you have ideas, please help. I would like to see some Indo-Pak tennis and also some regional peace and good will. And while I watch this match, I will put aside my intensely competitive patriotic feelings and cheer loudly for Rahul Bopanna. Because it takes a lot of courage for an Indian, to cross the border and play on Pakistani soil. And it also takes a lot of courage and common sense to ask for an end to war and the promotion of peaceful sport. So Rohan, you try to make this tennis match happen – and we the 170 million people of Pakistan will cheer you on with all our might!     



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