Tuesday, March 29, 2016



     ( Balkar Sidhu Performing  a NUKKAD play in Punjab University Campus Chandigarh )
BALKAR SIDHU..(Born 1952)

He is a well known Theatre Personality from Punjab . Presently General Secretary Chandigarh IPTA , Balkar Sidhu has been performing on Stage , Streets ( Nukkad ), Television and in films . A versatile Actor , Director, writer and choreographer , his story is again a life dedicated primarily to Theatre . Having worked with doyens of Theatre in the country, Balkar Sidhu is currently engaged in imparting acting skills to children and younger generation in Punjab. He also trains them in various dance forms like Bhangra, Jhoomar, Luddi, Gidha and Sammi. He is a member of the National Executive committee of IPTA affiliated to UNESCO.
              (With Film Actor Ranjeet)      

A student of Punjab University Chandigarh informed me :

“ It is a treat to watch him act . He came to Chandigarh University Campus to perform a Nukkad play that was so powerful in its message . Not only the students , even the teaching staff rushed to see him act as Madaari with a Dug-Dugi.”

He superannuated as Assistant Director from Languages Department Govt of Punjab.Balkar Sidhu is post Graduate with Honours in Hindi and a Diploma in Translation(Urdu).A Diploma in Bharatnatyam and a Sangeet Bhushan is demonstrative of his varied Artistic and literary interests.

                                              ( With Hindi Cinema Actor  Rishi Kapoor )

                                                      ( With  Actor Om Puri )
Balkar has represented India in various Theatre Festivals or folk dance Festivals either as principal performing Artist or Choreographer and sometimes as Troupe leader..In this capacity, he has visited Indonesia, Malaysia, England, USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea and many other countries.
And in 2004, he has represented India in the International Street Theatre Festival held at Burno in Czech Republic.

     (With filmmaker M.S Sathyu )
Balkar has a rich experience of directing Operas .SASSI PUNNU , that he directed for National Theatre Competition in 2004 was very well received by audience .Then again he acted , choreographed and danced for the popular Play GOODMAN DI LAALTAIN that had more than 150 shows all over the country . This play was performed continuously for 6 years( from 1986 to 1982 ) on repeated public demand. He has directed , choreographed and performed and danced in hundreds of shows , Plays , Ballets and operas .
Though his focus area has been Street Theatre , Stage , Punjabi Films and Television , We also saw him in some Hindi films like Tanu Weds Manu , Desi Magic ,Meray Dad K Maruti .Aayi Bala Ko Taal Tu etc. Not only that , Balkar has written and published some Books as well.I quote some notable works l like Batth Peiyaa sona ( a collection of Three Plays ) and punjabi translation of Dr Paul Hauck's Book "Depression" . He is currently scripting SASSI PUNNU for a stage performance .


 He defines his life and the struggle that he launched in a couplet of  urdu poet  Mazhar Imam :

 “Havaa Thhi  Teiz  Jalaatay  Rahay Dilon Mein Charaag,
Kati hai Umar lahu Apnaa Raigaan Kartay..
Dayaar Khwaab Mein Thehray Hisaab  e Gul Mein Rahay,
Magar Yeh Gham Hi Rahaa Khudd Ko Shaadmaan kartay..

So long so much on Balkar Sidhu..Next time something more on this dedicated and wholesome Artist.

( Autar Mota )

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Saturday, March 26, 2016



(PHOTO 1880 AD).

Kashmiri Muslims have always been master Artisans /craftsmen . The Papier Mache , Willow works, Walnut Wood carving , Shawl Making , Namda making , Gabba making , Crewel Embroidery, metal works especially copper,Silver works , Glass making , Paper making and so many crafts in Kashmir valley have flourished due to the extraordinary skills of Muslim artisan .And contribution of Sultan Zail ul Abdin or Budshah is second to none in this field.

Another contribution by kashmiri Muslims is the creation of a huge repository of Taleem Papers or Manuscripts of Designs for Carpet Industry.

However some kashmiri Pandits have also contributed in the field of Taleem writing or Writing Carpet Designs . Late Sher Ali ( Exporter of Kashmiri Handicrafts ) used to talk about one Moti Lal of Downtown as Master carpet Designer . According to him , Moti Lal had some exquisite Persian Designs in his Custody . Some one from his family was working as Master Designer or Taleem writer in a carpet factory .

Adds Shri Brij Krishen Dass :

“Pundit Arjan Nath Koul-Charibuchea, resident of Dadikadal was one of the professional 'Taleem' writer and an ace designer in great demand. Early fifties he shifted to Kanpur.”

Adds shri Tej Krishen Tikoo:

“Pt.Kashi Nath Bhan also knew the art of Talim writing and of course he was himself a best designer.Even Gabba center at Shiwala Mandir was looked after by him which exclusively was opened to help widows.All designs at the center were designed by him.”

And later in the second half of twentieth century , some top kashmiri Pandit Artists contributed immensely for creation of a Repository of Designs for kashmiri Handicrafts when a " School of Designs " was started by Government of Jammu and kashmir .Even prior to that , some Kashmiri Pandits were working as Handicraft Designers in Kashmir Valley .

This photograph clicked in 1880 AD in Srinagar city , shows a kashmiri Pandit working on Taleem papers ( Carpet Designs ) .

 ( Autar Mota)


(a) Please see extreme right.The person sitting with an overcoat is a  kashmiri  Pandit. 
(b) This post refers to a period covered by 19th and 20th  Century .
(c) The post in specific Refers to Artisans and not Traders .

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016



YEAR 1903 .

They are possibly engaged in singing some  Leela or  Bhajan  . A Dolak and Harmonium can also be seen . Even young children have a Pugrree or headgear or Dastaar on their heads . Dastaar used to be a  tradition , culture and a dress code in valley. Dastaar was s symbol of respect and dignity as well.

Dastaar  or Headgear was common to Muslims and  Pandits of kashmir. With the style and colour of one’s Dastaar , people would recognise the  Economic  status of the person  in the society .During  marriage time or functions  a colourful Dastaar was used  . A  White  Dastaar meant respect and dignity .

  In kashmiri society , A Father would  generally tell  his  grown up son or daughter ;

“ Dastaarus kareiziem Raetchh. Yenna Rubb  Mathhaa’humm”
 “This Headgear  is my respect . Conduct yourself in such a way that this respect is  protected. Don’t ever put  this Pugrree or Dastaar to disrespect ”

And Prof. Hari Krishen Kaul wrote a wonderful satirical  kashmiri play DASTAAR for   Door Darshan. This popular play was  staged at Tagore Hall also .

Further  Dolki or Dolak and Harmonium  was in vogue in  kashmir in later part of  Nineteenth Century . Many Punjabi khatri families  in Srinagar city used Dolak  .  

Sadhus coming for Annual  Amarnath ji  yatra  to kashmir would always bring Dolak  for singing Bhajans during their Journey.

( Autar Mota )    

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Monday, March 21, 2016




( water colours by William Simpson )

William Simpson ( 1823-1899 ) was a scottish Journalist ( War Correspondent ) and water colour Artist . In 1859, his employers (Illustrated London News) sent him to India to collect stories about the Mutiny of 1857. While in india ,he was also required to prepare sketches for subsequent publication. The artist arrived at Calcutta on 29 October 1859, and traveled to Punjab, Bengal, UP, Madras , Central India , Himalayas and Kashmir. In February, 1862, he left India and returned to England . He drew about 250 sketches . These sketches were lithographed and published in the form of a book later in 1867.
In kashmir, he was amazed to see craftsmanship of shawl weavers . Some of his sketches relate to artisans of kashmir. These water colours created a renewed demand for kashmiri shawls in European market . It had already captured some market in France and England where it was known as Cashmere Shawl and was popular in Aristrocratic families .Even Josephine Bonaparte (Napoleon's wife) wore a Cashmere Pashmina Shawl. Josephine had a collection of 60 kashmiri shawls. Emperor AKBAR and Ottoman Royals also wore kashmiri shawls.Royals in princely states of undivided India wore kashmiri shawls. I have personally seen these expensive shawls in various museums all over India.
                                                 ( Shah e Hamdaan Mosque by William Simpson )
                                                         ( Pir Panjal Pass by William Simpson )
                            ( Maharaja Ranbir Singh Meets Viceroy by William Simpson )
British Officers were more than happy to receive a kashmiri Pashmina shawl as NAZRAANA from Indian royals. Even Article 10 of the Treaty of Amritsar signed in 1846 required Maharaja Ghulab Singh to present three pairs or 6 Pashmina shawls annually to British Government.

In early nineteenth century, a kashmiri shawl could be seen in Iraq, Turkey and Egypt.

Taxed heavily in kashmir, it had brought the artisans to abject poverty .The poor shawl weavers were also exploited by middlemen and greedy Traders .

*The state used to collect a revenue of 12 lakhs per annum from shawl manufacuring Industry known as DAG- I –SHAWL. It was Maharaja Ranbir singh( 1830-1885) , who once remitted this DAG- I -SHAWAL altogether so as to help the Industry survive as it had turned totally sick . Maharaja Ranbir singh ruled the state from 1857 AD to 1885 AD.But damage had already been done. A large number of shawl weavers had already moved out to punjab and other areas for livelihood .
( Autar Mota )


• Source for Waiver of Shawl Tax or Dag I Shawl......Page 108 “ Kashmir Through Ages “ by Gwasha lal kaul ( BA) Journalist .

*In Carola Oman's book 'Life of Sir Walter Scott, The Wizard of the North' , published in 1897, it is mentioned that Scott's French bride Charlotte Carpentier was given an expensive Kashmir shawl in 1797 which cost about 50 British Pounds at that time.

*During 19th century, a sizeable number of shawl weavers from Kashmir were moving out of kashmir valley due to various reasons .These reasons could be  High Taxation on Shawl  Trade and Manufacture ( DAG I SHAWL ) , Industrialization, Recurring famines, floods and cholera .Though Maharaja Ranbir Singh waived shawl Tax or Dagi shawl but the damage had already been done.This Taxation was started during dark days of Pathan rule. There is a definite route through which these kashmiri shawl weavers moved out.They moved via kishtwar and Bhaderwah to hilly kingdoms of Basholi, Chamba,Nurpur and Kangra etc. They also moved to Punjab primarily to Amritsar, Ludhiana and Lahore.They were also instrumental in establishing shawl industry in Amritsar and Ludhiana. Many kashmiri shawl weavers had settled in Basholi. .So were they employed by hilly kingdoms of Chamba, Nurpur, kangra etc. you have a Pashmina shawl weaving tradition to this day in Basholi, Nurpur, Chamba and adjoining areas. The phulkari of Punjab has some designs that are starkly kashmirian. And Amritsar was a second home of kashmiri shawl weavers. The tallest kashmiri  sufi poet Shamas faqir practiced shawl weaving for some time in Amritsar before his return to Kashmir. And  then  M J Akbar  ( Journalist , writer and Politician ) , Saif ud Din kitchloo (The great Nationalist leader from Punjab ) and  Agha Hashr kashmiri ( Urdu Playwright connected with Parsi Theatre  )  belong to  the families of shawl Makers/ Traders  that had moved out from kashmir.

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Saturday, March 19, 2016





“ Deprivition often makes a writer.”
Ved Mehta

He is Ved Mehta. Ved enjoys a respectful and long  Presence in Literay circles of America.He is an American Citizen but India lives in his heart .

Born in 1934 in Lahore, the youngest of five children in a well-to-do family, Ved was Struck by Cerebro-spinal meningitis . He turned Blind due to irreversible damage from this tragedy when he was barely three years old.

In 1947, his family crossed into India and moved to Bombay as refugees with just clothes on their bodies . Later his father ,who happened to be an affluent doctor in Lahore , got him admitted to the Arkansas School for the Blind .He also went to Cambridge and Oxford.

1983, at the age of 49, Mehta married Linn Cary whom he knew since she was 11.

“ She gave me what I always wanted: Companionship and children. I was a rolling stone, and she brought stability and joy to my life."

Since the 1980s, Mehta has taught creative writing and Indian history at universities including Yale, Vassar, Columbia and Oxford. He has been a staff writer for “New Yorker” magazine.

 His life happens to be the source material for a  great Novel.  Ved Mehta has written about 20 Books . Some  prominent Books penned by him  are …

(1) Face to Face (Autobiography, 1957)
(2) Walking the Indian Streets (Travelogue )
(3)Fly and the Fly-Bottle: Encounters with British Intellectuals (contemporary Philosophy and Historiography)
(4)Delinquent Chacha (Novel)
(5)Portrait of India
(6)Daddyji (Biography),
(7)Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles
(8)All for Love ( A Personal History of Desire and Disappointment )
(9)The Ledge Between the Streams ..

I have read only one book penned by him; His Autobiographical work “The Ledge Between the Streams” .It is the story of a boy who lost eye sight at an age of three years and his subsequent sruggle to come up the ladder of life and be a successful writer . You also learn how he learnt English, Braille, horseback riding, bicycling, touch typing, roller skating coping with his blindness.
The book takes on an engrossing journey through Lahore, Muree and Rawalpindi . The stories of Partition and then Mehta family living as Refugees. Some rare family photographs also form a Part of the Book .Chapters Like “Threads of Lahore “ keep you engrossed .

kashmir also figures in this book where Ved Mehta along with his parents visited as a boy of 9 during summer Holidays of 1943. In fact the Book derives its title from an incident in Kashmir only where he and his family had a miraculous escape.

During the family’s kashmir visit in 1943, He remembers he was tempted to put his hands in the confluence of Jhelum and an icy stream. A narrow ledge separated the icy fast-moving water coming from the snows of the Himalayas and joining Jhelum river . When Ved sat on his heels down on the ledge and put a hand in each stream at the confluence point, A cloudburst suddenly caused the Jhelum River to rise, and the Mehtas had a miraculous escape.

The book comes up as a  brilliant  and engrossing Narrative  .  He writes with a unique and impressive style that is unruffled  and leisurely.  I read it in one go .

He has been a frequent visitor to India and has also visIted kashmir during some visits . About one such visit Poet Farooq Nazki Informed me as under :

“Yes I did spend sometime with him in Nedous  Hotel where he stayed for a couple of weeks.I  read out some passages from kashmir history  and also about the Prophet’s (PBUH) relic  at  Hazratbal shrine in kashmir. We  had a shikara ride up to  to Chhatabal.  He never made you to believe that he had some disadvantage;  I mean his unfortunate  blindness. He was brilliant and well informed  all along our conversation. Such people are actually God’s gift  “

My friend Adarsh Azad Arora ( son of poet Jagan Nath Azad ) informs  as  under :

“I met Ved Mehta when I went to invite him for a DD programme. As I entered his room, he got up from his chair, came to me unerringly and offered his hand. A person who did not know would never imagine his visual handicap.We sat down and talked. I told him of a book of his which I had read. I appreciated the masterly way he had narrated the issue concerning the 1964  Holy Relic issue  of kashmir  , and quoted the exact lines where without specifically accusing, he made it clear who actually was  responsible  for that unfortunate incident . He liked it.”

In July 1982, he won a  John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award, a five-year fellowship for $236,000 .

So Long so much on Ved Mehta …..

( Autar Mota )

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                                   ( Poet Ali Sardar jafri with his wife Mrs Sultana jafri )

ALI SARDAR JAFRI ( 1913-2000)

The world of love does not distinguish people on the basis of name or caste . Flowers are meant to cheer up humanity at large . Fragrance was never created for division like this Indo Pak divide. But In every upheaval , the flowers are the lone sufferers . The thorns have nothing to lose ;Neither the conviction of peaceful coexistence nor elegance , colour or exquisiteness.

 Urdu Poet Ali sardar Jafri adds..

"Jahaane Ishq mein Tafreeq e Ism o Zaat Nahin
Jahaane Husn mein Taqseeme Hind o Pak Nahin
Siva Gulon ke Girebaan Kisi Ka Chaak Nahin
Nafas Nafas mein Meray Zamzamaa Muhabbat Ka
Mera Wujood qaseeda Bashar Ki Azmat Ka
Yeh Sab Karishma Hai Insaaniyat Ki wahdat ka"
( Autar Mota)

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Friday, March 18, 2016





“ The Weapons Agreement signed with Pakistan is something great.Please stick to it .On other front , please strike a similar deal with India as well.Send old and discarded weapons to both the countries because all those weapons that you used in previous wars must be of no use to you . This discarded and useless ammunition shall reach a proper destination and your Arms factories shall not go idle .
Uncle , Old American woolen coats are fantastic. Our *Loonda Bazaar was totally worthless had these coats not arrived . But why don’t you send us trousers . Don’t you remove your *trousers ? May be you divert them to India . You are very clever .There is something to it ; You send your old coats here and your trousers to India . And when India and Pakistan go for a war , it shall be actullay your coats and trousers fighting each other with the ammunition that you dispatched to both the countries “

( Translation from Urdu )


“ Uncle , Why my country was carved out of India and How it became free must be well known to you by now.That is why I take the liberty to write this letter .The way this country became free after being cut apart , I too feel I was made free after being cut apart . Uncle , a person of your stature can well understand what freedom does a bird acquire when its wings are cut apart.
Let us forget this story for the present moment, Uncle My name is Sadat Hassan Manto and I was born at a place that is known as India currently. My mother lies buried over there .My father too is buried over there .My first child is also sleeping under the soil of the land that is not my country at the moment .My country is known as Pakistan now .

Uncle , My counry is not like your country .I regret to say that if the supreme court over here punishes me , there is hardly any paper that can publish my photograph and print the stories of my court cases .
My country is very poor.We don’t have paper to print our Newspapers . We don’t have good printing units .I am the biggest proof of the poverty over here .Uncle , you may not believe it But a writer of 22 books like me does not have a house to live in . You may slip into a great shock on learning that I do not own a Packard or Dodge or even a second hand car. As and when I have to go to some place , I use a rented bicycle.In case any write up gets published in any Newspaper , I earn @Rs7/= per column . That makes me to earn Rs20 to 25 for a story or write up.The moment I earn this amount , I feel like using a Tonga as my mode of transport for buying my drink that is purely Country made or Home distilled cheap liquor . I am sure you shall use Atom Bomb to destroy any such Distillery in your country that manufactures this spurious liquor. “


( Autar Mota  )

( For Letter No 1 )

* ( Kya Aap Patloonein Nahin Utaar-tay? is the sentence that Manto writes in Urdu ).

* Loonda Bazaar exists In Lahore and Amritsar . It is a Bazaar where old clothes and cheap goods are sold . Old Coats , shirts , Trousers ,Blankets, caps , Books and even socks are bought by people from this market. Something like Sunday Market of kashmir . In Amritsar , This Loonda Bazaar thrives just opposite the Railway station.

* Uncle Sam was a personification title used for America as a nation more specifically for American Government .

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016




K A ABBAS (1914- 1987)

Yes he is K A Abbas . Lonely , left out by people ( whom he helped to grow ) at the fag end of his life. Many betrayals visited him and made him to suffer but he never opened his mouth . At heart , he remained a child . Simple, without malice , sensitive and forgiving but emotional to the core; That was K A Abbas . Any scene that touched him brought tears to his eyes .Any story that he heard made him pensive . Those who worked with him were often touched by his childlike simplicity .

He loved cooking . He would feel happy  making tea for  friends and guests who visited him.Yaqub Bhai, his trusted cook  remained with him all along his life.

A small, simple , ground-floor flat , a small table , Some chairs and books . Here in this room , sitting on his chair and sometimes sitting on the mattress below, he wrote some master pieces for Indian Cinema. He wrote short stories , Books , Plays , columns and articles for many News papers . On the simple white washed walls of his room , a visitor would see  photographs of Abbas with Khrushchev, Tito, Nasser or Nehru.  And here ,he would be seen cooking his own food or making Tea  for the guests that visited him .

Actor Tinu Anand ( son of inder Raj Anand ), who treated him like his father would drop in and be by his side during those critical days . Inder Raj Anand  was always  dear friend  to Abbas .

He was the man who gave first break to Amitabh Bachan in Saat Hindustani (1969) . Amitabh once clarified this issue in an interview . And before allowing him to report for shooting , Abbas spoke over telephone to his father Dr Harivansh Rai Bachan to confirm that Amitabh had not run away from his home. Dr Harivansh Rai Bachan was a personal friend of Abbas .

His wife died at a young age . He had a daughter. He helped his friends and relatives in whatever way he could. He would make it a point to attend marriage functions and other events of his friends and relatives . A present on Walima or Gift on Birthdays would always come from his side .

He remained connected to IPTA , never joined any political party or group but remained steadfast in his commitment to Socialism and Democracy .

Great Grandson of well known urdu poet Altaf Hussain Hali from Panipat, K A Abbas was doyen of paralell cinema.The man who wrote Naya Sansar  for Himanshu Rai and the man who gave a new lease of life to Raj kapoor ( His life long friend ) after the Great showman landed  himself  in severe financial Mess with his Autobiographical venture “ Mera Naam Joker “. For his friend he compromised with his story and script and wrote a playful teen-romance Bobby. And that turned out to be a superhit ! Raj Kapoor not only paid all his debts but also earned enough for his newer Projects.

For his friend Raj kapoor , He also wrote many successful films like Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955), Jagte Raho(1956), Boot Polish ,Bobby etc.. RK banner’s Henna (1991), which was directed by Randhir Kapoor, was also based on one his story . In fact , he also wrote the beginning and end of Raj Kapoor’s Ram Teri Ganga Maili, a fact that not many people know. And Raj Kapoor almost snatched Awaara  from Mehboob Khan who had read the story and wanted to make a film based on the story.

He  lost everything in his production venture ” Chaar Dil Chaar Raahein “ (1959) .but never gave up. He believed that the show must go on.

In 1953 he made Rahi (1953), a story by Mulk Raj Anand, depicting the plight of workers in tea-plantation estates. His next film, Munna, (1954) so impressed Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister, that he expressed a wish to meet the child actor of the film, Master Romi. Some other films of Abbas come to my mind at the moment . I can recall Shehar Aur Sapna (1963) that won the National Film Award ,Bombay Raat ki Bahoon Mein , Asmaan Mahal and Do Boond Pani (1972).

And for 35 years , he wrote the last page of Bombay’s popular English Tabloid Blitz. As a matter of fact , this tabloid had ever widening readership on account  of the last page that Abbas wrote  . He wrote it in his unique  humanistic and beautiful style.

I still remember his short story Abaabeel ( Swallow ) and the central Character Rahim Khan . I believe I read the story sometime around 1985. He was as brilliant as Ernest Hemingway .

He also did some films with Chetan Anand who was his associate at IPTA. Neecha Nagar written by K A Abbas for Chetan Anand is worth mentioning cover here.
Abbas's  best known fictional work remains 'Inquilab', based on  communal violence, which made him a household name in the Indian literature.

 Abbas was a Kashmir lover. He had so many close friends and admirers  in Kashmir both in literary and political fields .
   ( 1947..K A Abbas in kashmir with  Navtej singh ,Som Nath Zutshi and Rajinder Singh Bedi )

So Long so much . More some other time.

I end this post with some couplets of Ahmed Faraaz ,

Aey Yaar e Khush Dayaar Tujhe Kyaa khabar Ki me
Kab se Udaasiyon ke Ghane Jangalon Mein Huun
Tu Loot kar Bhi Ahle Tamanna Ko Khush Nahin
Me luut Ke Bhi Vafaa ke Unheen Kaafilon Mein Huun…”

( Avtar Mota )

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Monday, March 14, 2016


     ( Safia and Sadat Hassan Manto in Bombay  )
                                ( Safia )

                    (Manto with his daughters)
                          ( Sisters.. Safia and Zakia)

SAFIA MANTO  ...(1916-1977)

Not much is known and written about Safia, wife of Sadat Hassan Manto .Let me add a little that I happen to know.

Safia belonged to Kashmiri family from Lahore. Her father was an officer in Bombay police during British Raj  .He had been deputed to East Africa for some time  and the family lived in a flat on third floor of 'Jaffar House 'at Mahim , Bombay.

It was Manto's mother who was eager to get him married. She had seen Safia and her family as she also happened to live at  Mahim with Manto's married sister. Manto's brother in law  did not go well with Manto .He had given clear message to his wife that neither should Manto visit their house nor could she go to his house  to see him .

Manto's Nikaah ceremony was solemnised in September 1938.In his letter dated nil september , 1938  ,Manto writes to poet   Ahmed Nadeem Kasmi:

" I have been engaged to a girl from a Kashmiri family of Lahore.we have many things in common .Her father is dead and so is mine. She uses spectacles and so do I .Both of us are born on 11th May. Our names start with S. "

Safia was possibly a matriculate .She was an excellent cook who served Keema Paratha to actor Ashok Kumar as and when he visited Manto's house in Mumbai.Safia had befriended actress Nargis as well. She would also visit actress Naseem Bano's residence along with her husband .  Safia  would also go for shopping with Ashok Kumar's wife.

Safia had literary tastes. In Bombay, she went to many Mushiaras with Manto. Urdu writer Ismat  Chugtai was  also  close to Safia . She proved an excellent housekeeper  who tried  to put some order in the disorderly life that Manto lived .

In her spare time, Safia  read Manto's stories and enjoyed them. She loved films.  That was Safia Manto's Bombay phase of  life. Possibly the only happy period of her married life .

Safia was often the first reader of Manto’s stories and Manto brought many of her ideas into his stories. Manto also published a short story ‘Hameed Aur Hameeda’ in her name.
When Manto died in 1955, their daughters Nighat, Nuzhat, and Nusrat were 5, 7 and 9-years old respectively. Arif ,their only son died as infant. Both ,Safia and Sadat were greatly upset by this tragedy.

After partition riots broke out , Manto had little work. It was Hamid Jalal, his favourite nephew who brought Safia and children to Lahore and put them in a   flat on ground floor in Lakshmi building .Manto arrived months later.

Hamid Jalal also lived on first floor in this building with his family. The building belonged to Lakshmi Insurance co .And Lakshmi insurance company was a venture of the owners of the then Lakshmi commercial Bank Ltd.

Though Safia's brother , Bashir Deen also visited Safia now and then  ,it was her sister Zakia's husband and Manto's favourite nephew Hamid Jalal who supported Safia  all through be it bringing up the children, their education and their  settlement in life. Sister Zakia stood like a rock to support  Safia Manto's family.Her mother also stood firmly behind her .

 While in Pakistan, Manto turned an  alcoholic and did not earn much .He was dragged to courts  for his writings.He also remained sick for long durations. Before his death, he wrote simply  to earn for his daily  drink .


                      ( Manto with his daughter 1949 )

              (  Safia with Farida . Safia is sitting  in  Centre )

Hamid Jalal rose to become a very senior and influential bureaucrat in Pakistan.He was  a man of liberal views and quite  helpful to his relatives in general more specifically to the family of his wife's sister.

Fed up of  living with an alcoholic, many times Safia thought of leaving Manto.It   was  her brother who would console his sister and tell her to leave him aside and focus on children.

Safia was a courageous woman  , devoted wife and a caring  mother who  had no personal or material ambitions.

Alas this great lady saw only pain and suffering. She did not live to see her children getting well settled in life. Safia died  in 1977 when she was barely  61.

(Avtar Mota)                                     
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Sunday, March 13, 2016





When Maharaja Gulab Singh took over the reins of the J&K state, he decided to develop Udhampur , Ramban and Banihal route to travel to Kashmir. This road came to be known as Banihal  Cart Road or B.C.Road. At Ramban, a  small wooden bridge was built over river Chenab for movement of men and material.Later ,  a suspension bridge was built  over river Chenab . For many many years , this suspension bridge was the only link to Kashmir valley  for movement of men ,material and motor vehicles. This suspension bridge  opened  new windows of culture  for the people .The bridge entered Duggar folklore. A popular folk song “Dhaarein Dhuraan peyaan, Kandiyaa peya Barsaala ( fog has settled over hills while  Monsoon rains are washing the Kandi areas )" makes mention of this bridge as under:-

" Ramban pul baneyaa baneya baaj garaaria
Teri meri Preet lagi aey Lagi aey baaj rawaariya".

  Passengers had to get down and cross the bridge on foot. Thereafter, the  vehicle would slowly cross the bridge . The  passengers then boarded the vehicle across the bridge.This  suspension bridge was completed during the rule of Maharaja Partap Singh who sat in the first vehicle that passed over this bridge on 2nd May 1921 .This was annual Darbaar move from Jammu to Srinagar.
The RCC bridge that is in use currently was built much later in late sixties of the last century.
And in 2004 , the old suspension bridge was declared unsafe for vehicular traffic.
A  motorable bridge was built over river Jhelum at Sangam near Bijbihara town by Maharaja Partap Singh in 1910. Before that , passengers would generally use Doongas or river link to travel  from Khannabal to  Srinagâr.
Presently, in Reasi district of Jammu division , a new bridge is being built  over river Chenab for train link to the  Kashmir valley. This  bridge will be 359 meters above the Chenab river bed and will also be 30 meters higher than the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The bridge will be about 1.3 metres long .Once completed ,  the bridge will be  an engineering marvel. The bridge is likely to be completed by December 2021.

( Avtar Mota ) .

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


  ( Left to right  Akhtar ul Imaan , daughter Shehla , another daughter , wife Sultana and son in law actor Amjad Khan husband of Shehla )

                                                            ( Akhtar ul Imaan )



 In an Interview  Akhtar ul Imaan once said :

  My ancestors were   Surajvanshi  Rajputs from Raokhedi  . It was sometime  during  1857 that our ancestor Ram Singh embraced Islam .  "

He did not bring his poetry to films and never  his scripts and stories to his poetry. For him poetry remained an art while story and dialogue writing  for films a profession. He   wrote scripts/ dialogues  for  films like Do Badan, Mera Saaya ,  Daag ( 1973 ), Phool Aur Pathar  ( 1966 ) , Waqt ( 1965 )  Dharamputra ( 1961 ) . Gumraah  ( 1963 ), Roti ( 1974 ), Pathar Ke Sanam  ( 1967 ) and many more movies that proved  quite successful at the box office.

 “Chinoy Seth, jinke ghar sheeshe ke hon woh doosron par patthar nahin phenka karte”

 (Chinoy Seth, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at  others )

This signature dialogue picturised on actor  Raj Kumar was written By Akhtar ul Imaan  for Waqt , a film that broke all previous records at the box office.

He was well educated ( post graduate ) and had  profound knowledge of world literature . His life took many turns .  As child , he lived in an orphanage  but never abandoned his education .Akhtar ul Imaan started his  film career from Shalimar Studio, Pune ( owned by W Z Ahmed ) as story writer on a monthly salary of Rs150/= in 1947.   And in June 1947  , the studio was closed due to partition  riots and he had to move to Bombay. He had already performed  Nikah ceremony with  Sultana who belonged to a well off   family from Delhi. Krishen Chander , Ramanand Sagar  and Bharat Vyas also moved to Bombay after  June 1947.He took up a residence at Turner Road .

During  this period , poet Meeraji was roaming in Bombay  like a wretched fellow. Meeraji  shared a room with  Madhusudan ,  a friend of Akhtar ul Imaan   who lived at Kalaghoda, later Meeraji  moved to live with Mohan Sehgal and finally shifted to a stable at Byculla. He was broke and ill. It was Akhtar ul Imaan who stepped in and brought him to his home and engaged him by starting a  monthly magazine  ‘Khayal’ .Meeraji died in 1949. Some work here and there , Akhtar ul Imaan finally moved to  ‘Story Department ‘ of Filmistan while simultaneously writing scripts for Kamal Amrohi , M Sadiq , S M Yusuf and Kabir Ahmed. He wrote Nastik and Anarkali but no credit was given to him. In 1956 , he launched his own film company . This too  did not solve his financial crisis. In 1958 ( he  remained there till 1975 ), he Joined ‘Story Department’ of  B R Films on a monthly salary of rupees twelve hundred  .  It was only after the release of  films like  Kanoon , Mughal e Azam ( he was a co writer ) and Waqt that his luck took  a swift and favourable turn.Offers for dialogue writing and scripts poured in and he started charging good amount for his services . By now he was a father of three daughters  Shehla, Asma  and Rakshanda  and a son Ramish whom he fondly called Guddu. He ensured their good schooling and as father , got deeply attached to them and their welfare.

 The poet suffered major  financial crisis  after he ventured into film making in 1979.With Jaimal Singh as partner, Akhtar ul Iman produced a movie” Lahu Pukaarega” . He wrote the script and also directed it. From the editing room , the negatives were whisked away by Jaimal Singh who released the film on his own . But then radical changes were  allready  sweeping Indian Film Industry post 1970. New faces , new film makers ,newer concepts and new challenges had arrived . New equations were visible in the  film world  .  Film making passed on to people who just wanted to make quick buck . He    spurned many   offers to write Masala scripts that lacked social purpose . He did not go well with Yash Chopra also .

After  “Bikhare Moti”  ,he never ever  wrote a song  for films . When  his friend Giri Lal Jain , Editor , Times of India  requested him to write a song for  his daughter’s wedding , Akhtar ul Iman politely refused .He would always say :-

“ Poetry comes from somewhere deep within . You can not write for an externally created  situation . That is not poetry . It is heartless as it does not move through your heart. ”

After he parted company with B R Chopra , he had only five assignments in 13 years ( from 1975 to 1988  including his own film Lahu Pukaarega ) .He had almost no work  in  films .This was followed by his heart  surgery in 1986. It was his son in law and actor Amjad Khan ( Gabbar Singh of Sholay )  who came to his rescue. He did all arrangements and booked tickets of  Mrs Sultana ( his wife ) Dr Ashok Hitolkar ( his family physician ) and Akhtar  ul Imaan for the  US apart from paying advance amount  to St. Luke’s Hospital ,Texas . He stayed there for about a month and  returned to India with pending bills to the extent of 26000 US dollors. To his son in law , he told  that all bills  had been settled . Again some close friends raised a substantial   amount from BCCI, Hamdard Foundation and  other  charitable institutions of Mumbai. Amjad Khan’s death in 1992 came as a great shock to the poet.


Dr Ashok operated him again for a painful Fistula where after he got his Kidney problems that needed regular dialysis .He also sold his spacious  Bandra flat for 30 lakhs and shifted to a two room small flat on ground floor of Ravi Darshan ( A 3) . Shamas ur Rehman Farooqi’s intervention and Ashok Vajpayee’s help brought a monthly stipend  of Rs5000 for two years  to him. The expenditure on dialysis alone was Rs 6000 per month. His wife stood like a rock to support him .  He was on regular dialysis since 1994 and breathed his last on 9th March 1996.Dr Ashok Hitolkar (  from  Nanavati  Hospital ) was at his bedside at that last moment.

I need to say something about his poetry as well…

 Though he carries his own  style , language and content , his work also  bears   influence of two well known urdu  poets  namley  Noom Meem Rashid and Meeraji .An integral part of Akhtar Ul Imaan’s poetry is its intensity , suggestiveness  and  philosophical style . Akhtar ul Imaan has the capacity to bring his reader to a spot that is in between a dream and the reality .His Nazms project a deep and profound humanism. His  thought is emancipated .It is free from religion , history and political commitments .  I quote …



(Tabdeeli )


“Iss Bhare Shahar mein Koyee Aissa Nahin

Jo Mujhe Raah Chaltay Ko Pehchaan Le

Aur Awaaz Dhe “O Bey! O Sar Phiray!”

Donon Ek Doosray se Lipat kar Vaheen

Gird o Pesh aur Maahaul Ko Bhool Kar

Gaaliyan Dhein Hansein Haathha Paayi Karein

Paas Ke Peid ki Chhaanv Mein Baith Kar

Ghanton Eik Doosaray ki sunein Aur kahein

Aur Iss Nek Roohon Ke Bazaar mein

Meri Yeh Qeemati Be -baha Zindagi

Eik Din Ke liye Apnaa Rukh mod le”



( Change )


(On the pathways of this teeming city ,

There is none to recognise a traveller like me .,

And then cry, “ so here you are ! my reckless friend !”

And then and there  ,

We embrace each other ,

Forgetting who is around or in our surroundings ,

Start  abusing each other ,

Engage in a brawl and smile together ,

Sitting under the shade of the near by tree,

Keep listening and speaking to each other,

for hours and hours .

And then in this marketplace of virtuous lives ,

This precious and priceless life of mine ,

May take a new turn and change direction ,

Just for a day only.)



“Tum se berangi-e-hasti kaa gilaa karanaa thhaa

Dil pe Anbaar hai Khuun-gashtaa tamannaaon kaa

Aaj Toote huve taaron kaa Khayaal aayaa hai

Eik melaa hai pareshaan si ummeedon kaa

Chand Paz-murdaa bahaaron kaa Khayaal aayaa hai

Paanv thhak thhak ke rah jaate hain maayusi mein

Pur-mahan Raah-guzaaron kaa Khayaal aayaa hai

Saaqi-o-baadaa nahin jaam-o-lab-e-juu bhi nahin

Tum se kahanaa thhaa ki ab aankh mein aansu bhi nahin”




“Loghaat alfaaz ka ek  deir hai  lafzon pe mat jaana

Naya aahang hota hai Morattab Lafz o maani ka

Meray haq mein abhi kuchh faisalaa sadir na farmaana

Me jis din aaoonga taaza Loghaat hamraah laaoonga”


(The dictionary is nothing but a pile of words

Be careful and discreet as a fresh plan is in the offing

To describe everything anew .

Pray, Don’t pass any judgment at the instant

The day I come my lord,

I shall bring along with me the new glossary )


( Ittefaq )


“Dayaar-e-Gair main koyee jahaan na apana ho

shadeed karb ki gharriyan guzar chukane par

kuchh ittefaq ho aisa ki ek sham kahin

kissi ek aissi jagah se ho yun hi mera guzar

Jahaan Hujum e Gurezaan mein Tum Nazar aao

Aur Eik Eik Ko Hairat Se Dekhtaa Reh Jaaye ”


(In a foreign land ,

Where none is your own,

After spending some intensely anguished moments ,

And by sheer coincidence ,

one evening it so happens ,

While walking casually through a place ,

Where , among the passing crowds ,

I happen to see you ,

And then In total bewilderment ,

Each of us keeps looking at the other.)


After reading his poems , I found that the poet in him is ever in search of a new mode of expression. There is a tone of  genuine  anguish and sorrow in his poetry . A sorrow that is fundamentally linked to internal demands  of every  human being  set against  innumerable external influences arising out  of existence .It appears that he himself has been  a student all along his creative endeavours  indulging  in self analysis and self criticism with  extraordinary aloofness . For this I suggest every reader to read his poem  “Ek Ladka “ . “Ek Ladaka” is a poem about all of us .The structure of the poem is sarcastic and  spectacular.  A boy within  him keeps trailing the poet . This boy peeps into the contradictions of his tall thinking and small actions .  The  reader feels a  sense of loss and passing time in this poem. I add some lines from this great poem …


“Anaasir muntashir ho jaane nabzein doob Jaane tak

Navaa e subh ho ya naala e shab kuchh bhi gaana hai

Zafar mandon ke aage rizk ki tahsil ki Khaatir

Kabhi apna hi  nagma  unn Ka  keh kar muskaraana hai

Sahar Ki aarzo  mein Shab  ka  daaman thhaamta huun Jab

Yeh ladkaa  poochhta hai  Akhtar Ul Imaan tum hi Ho 


Akhtar Ul Imaan  has published seven collections:

Tareek Sayaara (1943)

Gardyab (1946)

Aabjoo (1959)

Yadein ( The book won him a Sahitya Academy Award in 1962 )

Bint-e-Lamhaat (1969)

Naya Ahang (1977)

Sar-o-Samaan (1983)

In an interview to Ghulam Rizvi  “Gardish “ , he once said :

“The concept of time in my poetry is so felt as if it is a part of my  “Being”and goes hand in gloves with me in my creations.   This concept is neither of Maaya  nor of Mortality . It is such a living and ever pervading being  which is infinite. Had it not been  time, it would have been something greater than God  because due to its presence even the form and concept of God ever goes on changing. Our entire poetic process bears the stamp of the same stereotyped language whereas everything has gone through a sea change.  Ironically , whatsoever is left out is nothing but slogan mongering of thr lover and the beloved. I have tried to save myself from this heresy and kept the diction as anti romantic , rough and rugged.”

About Akhtar ul Imaan , Dr Gopi Chand Narang writes this :-

“A facet of his writing can be compared to R.K. Laxman's ‘common man' who observes all that is wrong around him, all that is commercialised, and the erosion of human values. While Imaan did refer to and appreciate revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, he was not among the activists. He used  the power of his pen. He was  recognised by the Urdu community only after he was conferred the Sahitya Akademi Award for Yaadein.  It was only after the award that everyone started reading him, and his name was taken with the likes of Meeraji and N M Rashid. He was fiercely independent. Iman's writing was multifaceted. While, on the one hand, his poetry reflected a sense of longing for human values, relationships and innocence that a migrant would feel in a metropolis like Mumbai (Imaan himself migrated to Bombay from Uttar Pradesh), it also dealt with weighty socio-political issues such as corruption, poverty and injustice.”

I end this post with his  popular Nazm  Be’ Talauqi’ with my simple English rendering..


(Be’ Talauqi )

"Shaam hotii hai sahar hotii hai ye waqt-e-ravaan 

Jo kabhi meray sar pe sang e garaan ban ke giraa 

Raah mein aayaa kabhii merii himaalaa ban kar 

Jo kabh i ukdaa banaa aisaa ki hal hi na huaa 

Ashq ban kar merii Aakhon se kabhi Tapakaa hai 

Jo kabhi Khoon-e-jigar ban ke mizshgaan par Aayaa 

Aaj bevaastaa yuun guzaraa chalaa jaataa hai 

Jaisay me kashmakash-e-zeest mein shaamil hi nahin"


( Dissociation )


(Evenings keep visiting me  ,

Mornings too continue to  arrive ,

This fleeting time ,

That fell on my head like a boulder ,

Sometimes stood in my path like the mighty Himalaya ,

Sometimes twirled  itself  into a riddle that could not be resolved,

Sometimes dropped from my eyes as tears ,

Sometimes , like my  poor heart’ s blood , 

 Appeared upon  my eyelashes ;

Today , totally unconcerned ,

This time moves past me , 

As if I don’t belong to the crowds 

Struggling for existence .)


Rest in peace Akhtar ul Imaan ……………

( Avtar Mota )

Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.