Monday, August 29, 2016



( Man-Mohini , Shyama , Janak and their mother Lado Rani )


                           ( Photo Ladli Prasad Zutshi )

     ( Photo ..Lado Rani Zutshi   daughter of Jeevan Lal Tikku  ..  1882-1968  )
                               ( Photo Man Mohini Zutshi )
                               ( Photo Janak Kumari Zutshi )
  ( Photo Chandra Kumari   with her husband Sri krishna Handoo )
                                        ( Chandra Kumari )
                                 ( Shyama Zutshi )


( Man-Mohini , Shyama , Janak and their mother Lado Rani  )

They were four sisters. Man Mohini, Shyama, Janak Rani and  Chandra Kumari.This  Zutshi family  of Lahore   was closely related to Pandit Nehru . Man Mohini, Shyama and Janak Rani were adventurous  and highly  talented girls  .The Zutshi  sisters knew horse riding , dancing , bicycling and also took lesson in music .
Hailing from an affluent Kashmiri Pandit family of Lahore , these  girls   were  modern , educated  and enterprising . Ladli Prasad Zutshi ( 1875-1954 ) ,  their father was a reputed barrister of Lahore . This Zutshi family was from Allahabad.Ladli Prasad Zutshi was also enrolled at Allahabad bar .In 1917, he along with his family moved permanently to settle in  Lahore . He was a nephew of Moti Lal Nehru.

Chandra Kumari was a little shy type of girl .Chandra Kumari (born 1903)  was married at a very young age to Sri Krishna Handoo who belonged to a respectable Kashmiri Pandit. family. She died in 1968.

Shyama  did her BA and joined  Hindi cinema . She was the first   Kashmiri Pandit  girl to join films . She  left the cinema and plunged herself into the  freedom struggle of the country .Shyama (1910 -1953) was  married in an affluent Punjabi Khatri  family and was later  known as Shyama Chopra . Her husband Suraj Prakash Chopra was a navy officer.A daughter was also born to them in 1947 whom they fondly named Bittoni.Bittoni also died in 2009.

And Man Mohini ( born 1909 ) is reported to be the most rebellious child in the Zutshi family.She was born In Anand Bhawan  , Allahabad. She happened to be the favourite niece of Moti Lal Nehru .She was married in Sehgal family from Punjab and later came to be known as Man Mohini Zutshi Sehgal .Man Mohini was also a post graduate in history .
Man Mohini married Amrit Lal Sehgal ,a chartered accountant who took emplyment with the  central government . She wrote her autobiography also  and died in 1994.

Janak Kumari  Zutshi was a post graduate in English and taught at  the Govt College for Women,  Lahore ( Joined in 1930 and later resigned to join freedom struggle  ) . Janak Kumari fell in love with Dr Jalil Asghar and  married  him . She came to be known as Janak Kumari Asghar. Along with her husband , she moved to Pakistan in 1952 and the family settled at  Lahore. Ali Asghar was ICS officer.She did not convert to  Islam and involved herself with social work and educating women.Indira Ji sent a personal invitation to her to join Rajeev Gandhi's marriage and she happily came to India for the family reunion .She died in 1997 in  Lahore  .

In an interview a few months before her death, a bed ridden Janaki recalled: “My grandmother and Moti Lal Nehru were siblings. Indira was my cousin. I lost touch with her after my marriage. Her behaviour was different then the rest of the family. She genuinely welcomed me and was extremely happy to see me when I went to attend her son’s wedding.”

The  sisters usually visited posh  Mall Road,  Lahore  for shopping along with their mother  Lado Rani Zutshi ( Tikku )  .Lado Rani was the daughter of Jeevan Lal Tikku of Allahabad. There used to be a hotel  known as “ ARAB HOTEL “ in Lahore before 1947 .  It was just opposite Islamia College  .This hotel was frequented by elite of the city  including prominent artists,writers, poets and intellectuals. Zutshi sisters  would be seen in this hotel along with their  Mother .

And then one day everything changed suddenly . A  lecture By Mahatma Gandhi in Lahore ( that these sisters heard  with their mother ) changed their lives  .Influenced by Moti Lal Nehru and their their parents, Shyama and Man Mohini  were   already organizing agitations and picketing against the  British rule  during their college days . Shyama  finally left films . Along with their mother, these  three  sisters  plunged totally  into freedom movement .  Chandra Kumari remained a housewife whille all other sisters plunged into the freedom struggle of the country .

Following Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930, Man Mohini organized protests, demonstrations,  courted arrest, and was sentenced to prison on three separate occasions.

As a matter of fact, Lado Rani had joined Congress Party in 1919 and was actively involved in freedom struggle .Her close associates were Kartar Kour and Parvati both eminent freedom fighters from Punjab. Parvati was Daughter of Lala Lajpat Rai.

On 15th December 1929,  A grand  flag hoisting function was organised at Lahore by freedom fighters .  Sardar Mangal Singh took about 2000 Congress volunteers under his command and joined this event that was attended by almost all stalwarts of freedom movement that included Maulana Azad , M A Ansari , Saif ud din Kitchloo ,Sarojini Naidu , Moti Lal Nehru , Jawahar Lal Nehru ,Madan Mohan Malviya ,Jamna Lal Bajaj , Srinivasa Iyengar , Vallabh Bhai Patel and many more   . Sardar Mangal Singh  had carved out a 'Women Brigade ' from  among his  volunteers  . This brigade had many women including all the three Zutshi sisters and their mother Lado Rani.

I quote Sardar  Mangal Singh  GOC Congress  Volunteers , Lahore session  :

“ I had two main lady volunteers  as commanders . Lajya wati and Lado Rani Zutshi. Lado Rani had brought her three daring daughters also.  They were educated and fashionable . The call of  Mahatma made the family to forget all comforts . A session was held on the banks of Ravi till 12 o’clock. It was a grand success . Pandit Nehru unfurled the national flag.  Forgetting comforts , every leader had his entire family in the movement . Dr N S Hardikar was there . Pandit Ji danced in happiness with the volunteers of freedom struggle. I remember the Pathan dance that was performed by the volunteers  ”

I quote From Bharti Thakur's book " Women In Gandhi's Mass Movement " ( Refer page 93 )..

" On July 9, 1930 , Shyama Zutshi and Man Mohini along  with 25  other volunteers from Ambala and Shimla  picketed at  the gate of the  assembly   in Shimla along with other volunteers of the  Congress committee . They went  in groups of two or three  with  black flags  hidden under the folds of their   Sarees and stood outside the gate of the assembly hall. As soon as Viceroy  Lord Irwin came out , they took out their black flags and shouted " IRWIN GO BACK ". Forthwith they formed a small procession and marched to the Mall singing National songs .Back In Lahore , Man Mohini  , who was also the president of  the students union called for  a complete Hartaal on  8th  October , 1930 as a protest against death sentences imposed on Bhagat Singh ,Sukhdev and Rajjguru and decided to picket Govt College for Men , Forman Christian College and the Law  College . Shyama also joined and  these sisters along with other women volunteers  stood at the gates of these colleges challenging the students to enter . Soon the police arrived and arrested them. When Janak Kumari heard all this , she resigned from the post of  English lecturer at  Govt College for Women, Lahore  and offered herself to court arrest. "

Zutshis had close and cordial  relations with noted artist A R Chugtai and his  family.They were also close to artist Amrita Shergil's family..

( Avtar Mota )

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                    ( POLSON BUTTER IN KASHMIR )

In Kashmir, we knew only Polson butter . Amul gained popularity in the early sixties of the last century. And then sometime around 1970 or 1971, Polson vanished from Kashmir.
I Remember the word " Polson" vividly.

" Kyaa sa laagaan chhivuss" Polson"

"Are you busy in flattering him ?"

It was common to use the word ‘Polsoning ’ instead of flattering. When Polson Butter vanished, usage of the word " Polson " also vanished from the Kashmiri language. Many elders have confirmed that one Mr.Wattal from Gund Ahalmar (near Nai Sarak in Srinag├ór city ) was the oldest stockist of Polson butter in Kashmir. After 1947, it was sold by many traders in Kashmir. This butter would come in small tin boxes. It was yellow and salty. It tasted like homemade curd and unusually delicious. 

 It was also available in military canteens. Accordingly, many Kashmiris, who were employees of MES ( posted at Badami Bagh Cantt., Srinagar ) would buy this butter at cheaper rates from C.S.D. canteens.

Polson was started by Pestonji Edulji, a Parsi from Mumbai sometime in 1915 or 1916. In north India, Lahore city happened to be major distribution centre of Polson. Mr Wattal who traded under the name and style of "Kashmir Butter Company ", imported Polson butter from Lahore and supplied it to some European families, hotels including Nedou's hotel and Maharaja's Palace. He had his shop at Pahalgam and Srinagâr city around 1940.
Kashmiris, in general, did not consume butter till the early fifties of the last century. But once they started applying butter to local bakery items like Tsoett, Kulcha, Telvoru, Lavasa and Girdha, they never abandoned it. Butter is a household item in every Kashmiri family now.

In restaurants of Kashmir, butter toast remains a much sought after item with a cup of tea. A cup of tea is incomplete if not accompanied by hot and crispy butter toast.

And from my personal experience of living in Punjab, I can say with confidence that Punjabis are leaders in butter consumption. They consume it with chicken, Chapatis, Paraatha, Lassi, fish, Daal, vegetables, Kulcha and many other food items.

Once a Unani Hakim from Rainawari told me that during exigencies, he would buy Polson butter for preparing medicine for his patients suffering from haemorrhoids/ piles. This Hakim would say:-

" Local butter is cool in Taseer ( effect ). Tin butter is hot in Taseer. It has salt also. But I didn't get local butter often from the market. See I can't go to Shopian to buy those white butter balls every time. So I was constrained to buy Polson butter tins for preparing my medicine during exigencies."

(Avtar Mota)

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Thursday, August 25, 2016




My friendship with him is barely one year old.  Prior to that  , I had never seen him either at Jammu or  in  the Kashmir valley  .

Prior to meeting him in person,  I knew him well  through his write ups , books , poems and superb translations. He taught English at various colleges in Kashmir. Many friends told me,  “beware ! he  is terrible with his pen” .  Those who knew him would often say   that he was friendly , leisurely  and above all helpful to the young and promising  writers . Some people tried to  introduce him as   writer  Siddhartha  Gigoo’s father .  In any case both happen to be brilliant  writers .  

In the very first meeting that I had with him, he turned out to be a   jovial,  candid  and helpful person.  And then a  very well read and well informed writer who dislikes people with double speak. “ I detest Double Talkers “
 The last trait   also makes him  profoundly  different  from others ,  affable and  respected .

 I kept meeting  him thereafter  mostly at his residence and quite often in the company of   Ramesh Hangloo of Radio Sharda . He usually  talked about his books , translations , future proposals and so many things from the world of literature and fine arts. 

As writer, Arvind Gigoo  has  a  unique style  and  flavor that keeps  you engrossed . He is  a wonderful narrator of events  . His narrations  are laced with a unique perspective   . Sometimes one feels as if Sadat Hassan  Manto is reborn  and writing in English .As a poet ,he comes up with his own style and content .Philosophical yet simple . Apparent humour but a  subterranean  and  profound criticism of  life .  " I AM DOING NOTHING " is a  poem  by Arvind Gigoo  that I need to  present to substantiate  what I have said about his poetic talent ..


I dialed the number ,
“ Hello !“
It was my four year old grand daughter .
“ Hello Amia , What Are You doing ?”
“ Dadu , I am doing Nothing .”
Doing Nothing is the acme of wisdom.
Silence prevailed upon the words.
I kept the phone.
People do because doing means living .
They are dynamic and hardworking ,
And are busy in doing for their families , 
the society and the world.
“ I am not greedy or ambitious .
But people whom I know and don’t know 
Have sped ahead of me .
I do not want to sit behind .
I crave for recognition and superior position “
“ Do You watch the full moon
and the stars and the clouds and the sunset?”
“ The skyscraper blocks the view .
Have you seen the drawing room of Malhotras ?
They have two more flats . 
And their new car !
It is very expensive .”
Dear reader , I will disagree .
Eating is a ridiculous activity .
The unmistakable rapport and the perfect 
Friendship of the hand and the mouth keep us alive 
And are the basis of life .
And we do for remaining alive .
We race against others 
And climb ladders to accumulate wealth.
We doom ourselves into doing , Into exhibitionism,
Into show .We speed for we are in haste .
“ Damn others , I want my buck . 
I will do for twenty years and then live “
“ So you will live in twenty years ! ?”
( Amia had said : I am doing nothing .)
Sitting still is doing nothing or doing nothing 
Is the cessation of all actions –Of the speed and the climb.
Doing is evil , curse , trouble , unhappiness .
It is un-living or not living .
He said :” perform duty without thinking of the fruit .”
Performing duty is attending to the ordinary 
and the commonplace.
Doing breeds endless desires .
“ Why shouldn’t I desire the fruit of my doing ? I want to prove myself .”
Doing is “ enjoying .“
When doing is in the process of doing ,souls and being get defiled .
Doers stop doing .
As for me while doing 
I don’t – know- what I talked much and spoke nothing .
Do nothing and talk nothing .
Not doing and silence are inaction –I mean in – action.
What man needs is nothing.
No- thing .
Evil will disappear .
The inside will flower .
Your mind is a curse .
If you say ‘NO” to whatever “IS”
You will stop doing and start living .
It takes a flash to stop doing .
Doing is undoing the you in you.
Do and suffer .
Don’t do and live.
When I stopped writing , the telephone bell rang.
“Hello !”
It was my sixty year old friend.
“ What are You doing ?’
“ I am doing nothing .”
“ You fool , stop this nonsense . Dress up, Come out and live. “
I am the contradiction.
I am the clever Rascal .
I am the evil doer .
I dangle between not doing and doing.
I live in silence and speech..
( Arvind Gigoo.. Source ..Sheeraza  published by J&K Academy of Art Culture And Languages ..April- June 2009 issue )

 In his books  and essays written in English  , Arvind  Gigoo  uses small sentences  with simple English words. Understood easily and effortlessly ,  this style    creates  a vast readership  apart from making  an everlasting impression on  the mind of the reader . In this style ,he  comes closer to Sadat Hassan  Manto.  Like Manto , he spares none while  dealing  with men and  issues in his books  .No prejudices and no biases  . He  remains confined to objectivity  .  With this approach , some people may  get   hit and some  may  get positively revealed  , he bothers not.  His conviction remains “ na kaahoo se dosti na kaahoo se beir “.
  Read him to know that  he is a master in conveying   the apparent and the veiled. I quote some anecdotes  written by him  as they appear in the Book “ A LONG DREAM FOR A HOME   “ Chapter  “ Days of Parting “.

(a)     “Shaha , the old Muslim woman in our neighborhood , tells me on the road, “ what nonsense is this ! we are fed up .” A Muslim gentleman joins us . Shaha  now shouts ,‘ we are prepared to die one by one for independence .”’  Searches and searches.  Deaths. Killings . It is horrible . A Muslim neighbour tells me in confidence,  “ I am afraid of my  own son. Strangers are his friends .I have never seen them .“

 (b  )We pack our things . Father is weeping . I ask Hafiz to arrange a truck for us . He says :’ go home . A mini bus will come to you in twenty minutes but don’t talk to me on the road  henceforth. “  We put our things In the mini bus very quickly. One almirah full of old books belonging to my grandfather remains untouched .I will come some day and carry them. These are rare books which my grandfather had bought in  Italy , Turkey  and other countries . Through the window the daughter in law of Mohi ud din tells me, " forgive  us . Go wherever you want  to go . May god protect you.’  She is weeping .”

His description about life in downtown Srinagar goes as under :

“The street urchins pelt stones on the houses of Pandits when a cricket match is played between India and Pakistan. Nobody takes  such things seriously. Educated and illiterate persons rub shoulders. All steal electricity . Pandits celebrate marriages in the houses of those Muslims who have big houses .Carpets and furnishings are lent to Pandits for use all the day. Shias ,Sunnis and Pandits live in  harmony. Many Muslim families have leanings towards Pakistan.On two Eids , most of the Pandits go to Eidgaah . My Muslim  friends come to me on Shivratri days and have lunch with me. Pandits and Muslims play cricket in Eidgaah. Others fly kites over there . In the evenings , some Pandits smoke charas in the Janam Bhumi temple or in the compound of Ram Mandir. A handful of Pandits gamble in Ram Mandir. A few Pandits and Muslims drink in stealth. The quarrel of boat women lasts for days  together . For onlookers , it is an entertainment of the highest type .Some young Pandits and Muslims steal hens and cocks belonging to few Muslim families , kill them , cook them and eat them. The owners of the hens shout curses on “ cock thieves “ .   The lanes , Kochas and roads in our locality are filthy and covered with garbage .. Jagan Nath Saqi , the well-known radio artist sits in the shop of Shamboo Nath ( Shomb Kak ) and talks about his past.  Pandits who now live in new colonies wonder how we Pandits live in the down town.”

His translator’s note  to the book " Light And Shade" Poems by Sunita Raina Pandit   is inimitable and matchless .  This book contains Kashmiri poems  translated  into English by Arvind Gigoo. I quote  the  text of  this  note:-

" While translating the Kashmiri lyrics of Sunita Raina Pandit into English, I resorted to compression, reconstruction and re-composition . I allowed the architecture and linguistic nuances of the original to suffer. I subverted without worrying about exactness, fidelity and accuracy of equivalence .I ruined the syntax, metre and richness the original Kashmiri .The   lackluster  voice is an artificial exercise in which the ineffable impact of the Ghazals is lost but their soul swings and rings. This translation does not communicate the music, rhythm ,passion and transparent grace of the original.."
( Arvind Gigoo...... Translator..)

 A sample of his English Translations are as under:

(Portrait of a Child)

A portrait hung 
the wall. 
The chubby child 
and opened his cupid mouth. 
I said, "are you my virgin past?" 
The rainbow smile vanished, 
and the thoughtful child said: 
"Are you my defiled future?" 
The answer reached me. 
  Grown-ups don't remember purity 
children don’t know defilement.
( This is  a poem by noted  Kashmiri poet Arjan Dev Majboor translated into English by Arvind Gigoo  and published in the  book titled "WAVES "  )
 (Spring-wind passed by our door)

Spring-wind passed by our door
with restive fingers
beat its breast.
I asked a flower, “What happened?”
In a corner
it puckered its lips.
Soon a dry petal appeared
the spring bushes
beat their breasts.
( From “  Anecdotes  “ Mini poems of loet Dina Nath Nadim translated into English by Arvind Gigoo )
(The oil in the lamp dwindled)

The oil in the lamp dwindled;
the wick was a flicker
the light too dwindled.
A moth danced into the dying flame;
the half-burnt hope
fell into a niche.
When the flame died
darkness gave a hysterical laugh.
Why trust laughter!
Weeping knows no end.
Who lost
who won?
( From “  Anecdotes  “ Mini poems of Poet Dina Nath Naam translated into English by Arvind Gigoo )

He  has also done beautiful  English translation of  Hindi poems written by     Maharaj Krishen Santoshi , Agnishekhar and Kshama Kaul apart from Kashmiri poems of Dina Nath Nadim, Sunita Raina Pandit,  Bimla Raina  and some more poets .

If you need to read some serious humour and cameos  then read his book, ” The Ugly Kashmiri (cameos in exile)”. Here he spares none  in his crisp , brief and poignant cameos ( 180 in total ) .He touches the very edifice  of social  life in Kashmir where he lived . He provokes you to think, “ was that life  based on hypocrisy and falsehood ? “

 In this book , he  talks about Pandits , Muslims , militants,  killers , plunderers , intellectuals , leaders , language and  customs  . The reader is  perplexed   with his incisive and  scissor like style that rips open every thing for display. It takes some time to understand  and comprehend what he actually intends to convey. I quote some cameos :


"I am where I am not,
Therefore, I am not where I am"
"We must preserve our culture."
"By reviving dead rituals."
“We salute this man for he is a martyr,
We kill this man for he is a traitor,
We nail this man for he is an informer.”
“ From Pakistan to plebiscite to India to Pakistan to independence to anything and anywhere in one breath.”
"Listen! How can I talk about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits? I am a secularist."



"Mohd. Yaseen , Take this money that I owe you.I am leaving this place tomorrow"
"You nasty Pandit, you betrayed our cause.But accept this one thousand  rupees from me for you will need them in wilderness."



" We resolve to preserve the Kashmiri language without reading it, without writing it and without speaking it"
" The motion is carried"



( From left to right Dr Ayaz Rasool Nazki  former Director ICCR Kashmir ,  Well Known Kashmiri Actor Shadi Lal Koul, Avtar Mota and Prof Arvind Gigoo at "THE  DIALOGUE " Venue in 2016 )

 He is a Kashmiri  at heart and a Pandit as well. Liberal ,forgiving and  patient . No ,never an agnostic or an atheist as was conveyed to me by some friends .I could infer that  he  does not believe much  in  ritualistic  and dogmatic  religious activity. Can’t say beyond that . 

As and when I meet him , some specific  couplets of Majaz  Lakhnavi come to my mind . I quote them ..

" Dair o kaaba ka me nahin kaayal,
Dair o kaaba ko aastaan na banaa.
Mujh mein tu rooh e sarmadi mat phoonk,
Raunaq e bazm e arifaan na banaa .
Iss zameen ko zameen rehnay dhe,
Iss zameen ko tu aasmaan na banaa. "

 Next time  more . So  long so much on  Arvind  Gigoo ..

( Avtar Mota )

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016




Hony Capt. Bana Singh PVC ..

The scroll of honour at Indian Army’s Siachen base camp readsthis:-

 “Quartered in snow, silent to remain. When the bugle calls, they shall rise and march again.”

Honorary  Capt.Bana Singh Param Veer Chakra awardee  from 8 JAKLI  is a ' Siachin Hero' and native of village Kadyal falling in Tehsil  R S Pura, Jammu(J&K). I have met him three or four times. As DCO/Chief Manager,  Marketing  of my bank, I have personally organised three functions that were presided over by him .He once told me this :-

" At Siachin , so intense is the effect of the climate that you forget everything; friends , family, relatives, your native village and all connected memories. You only remember your  duty and keep  fighting a  terrible climate . Unbelievably terrible. The outside world is totally  closed.Snow is your  friend,companion,enemy  and killer . White is the only colour that  confronts you everywhere and  at every moment. As and when a letter is brought by a helicopter from the base camp, you are reminded that you also belong to the world below the glacier."

A  year after the Kargil war,  Hony. Capt. Bana Singh  retired after 32 years of exemplary service to the nation. He lives  in his native village in R S Pura , Jammu. He is happy to see his son Rajinder Singh following his illustrious footsteps. Rajinder Singh has also joined the army to serve the nation  .

(Avtar Mota)
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