Far from India and far from Pakistan a friend wrote to me saying her primary school going daughter, born Indian, was invited for lunch by a friend of hers, born Pakistani, who is younger than her. My friend was writing to me soon after having dropped her daughter at her friends place.
Far from the nation (India and Pakistan), divorced from all the jingoism and masculine nationalism, true friendships flower between children belonging to supposedly ‘enemy nation,’ true love blossoms as unadulterated hearts meet.
Far from where I am, two little girls dine together and I feel reassured. I send my love to those little girls because of whom I can still hope.
PS: Later in the day my friend wrote again saying how she and the Pakistani mother spoke to each other ‘normally’ when she went to pick her daughter up. She said she was amazed by the ‘ordinariness’ of the meeting.
Jayanth Kaikini, one of the finest Kannada writers, in an informal conversation recently spoke to me about the cover photo of the book by Dr. Mamta Rao on the short stories of Jayanth Kaikini titled ‘Janath Kaikiniyavara Kathanaavarana’. He said, “I like the pic on cover which Srajana clicked in Delhi market when I was unable to cross road. It looks as if my charcters have gheravoed me and asking me, “what do you think you are?” Pen and paper in my shirt pocket look so stupid and helpless like me.“
That reminded me of a short note I had written, in Kannada, on 10 April 2015 on Facebook when I finally managed to lay my hands on a copy of the book. Here I just reproduce a translation of that small note.
The book by Dr. Mamata Rao titled ‘Jayanth Kaikiniyavara Kathanaavarana’ finally reached me last evening. I first learnt about this book when the designer of the book Raghu Apara, months ago, shared the cover page of the book on Facebook.
A book on the stories written by Jayanth Kaikini triggered immense curiosity and excitement in me. And I was thrilled to see the cover page because I was very familiar with the moment – time and space- in which the photo on the cover page came to life.
It was monsoon of 2010. Jayanth Sir had come to Delhi for the admission of his daughter Srajana, also a dear friend of mine, at JNU for MA in Arts and Aesthetics. After completing the admission process on day one we decided to go around Delhi to see places of historic and heritage value on the following day.
Next day we started our Delhi tour with our visit to Kutub Minar. On seeing the flowers and creepers chiseled on the walls there, some broken some fallen some still intact, Jayanth Sir clicked photographs of those sculpted floral designs and said, “This can make a good cover page for a book.” He followed that sentence with his observations and thoughts on what makes a good cover page, what is the purpose of a cover page, what emotions should a cover page invoke, what impression do cover pages create etc.
I had heard, until then, people discussing books. But never had heard anyone discussing the cover page of the book and its aesthetics.
After the visit to Kutub Minar we went to the Lotus Temple and from there we went to the Red Fort. Opposite the Red Fort we found this small but colourful shrine which made Jayanth Sir say, “even this will make a good cover page picture.” As he said that he clicked couple of photographs of the shrine along with the cycle rickshaws around. He made Srajana and me stand in front of the shrine and clicked a photo of us.
Following this Srajana clicked the photo of Jayanth sir caught in traffic, which has now made it to a book cover page.
I am thrilled because the photo that came to life while discussing about cover pages, has now become a cover page by itself and I have been a witness to that moment.
Thrilled also because the cover page is so apt with this photograph! Jayanth Sir is standing amidst the flow of life and observing the life and humans around him, breathing the same air. There are human beings around him, there is a shrine behind him where God resides. Behind the shrine is a huge tree, representing nature. There are cycles around, which stand for mechanization and human craving to make lives easy. Amidst humans, motors, nature and the divine stands a writer who seeks humanity in the rush of life, enriches human spirit through his writings and tries, in his own way, through his writings, to makes life easy/ bearable by showing the beauty of life.
I congratulate my friend Srajana for this meaningful and loaded photo and also Raghu Apara for designing this beautiful cover page
Cutting through the dusty roads and then the mist on NH-01, when we reached Patnitop it was almost 14:00 hrs.
Starting our journey from Jammu at around 8:00 in the morning we had reached Patnitop, pausing our journey at several places for temples-Dargah visits and for tea.
The driver initially played some bhajans in the car but slowly as our journey proceeded he started playing old Hindustani film songs, all stored in his pendrive. We joined our sincere though un-melodic voices with those songs. He narrated stories of his association with some songs and so did I.
When we crossed Udhampur and started getting on the hills he said, “There is a dhaba run by a friend nearby. We will have lunch there and then proceed.” I agreed. When we stopped the car by the dhaba for lunch the music also stopped and we forgot to play it again when we continued the journey after a good meal.
When we reached Patnitop I was amazed by the beauty of the place and felt the need to underline the experience with some good music. I requested him to play the music. He said, “Let us listen to radio. It catches the signal of Sialkot station.” He tuned the radio to Sialkot station which played good old Hindustani film songs from Bombay cinema. We sang along and continued the journey.
I was thrilled about the radio catching signals of a radio station across the border and the station across the border playing old HIndustani films songs of Bombay cinema.
When we stopped for a cup of chai at Patnitop the shopkeeper told us about 18 soldiers being killed at Uri that morning.
Few days into this incident it felt like a war had begun not just at the border but also everywhere. There came a demand to ban all Pakistani artists from Indian cinema. Those who defended the Pakistani artists not surprisingly got branded as anti-nationals. There was a call for boycotting the films which had Pakistani artists. As I kept reading and hearing about these I recollected the moment of the radio catching signals from across the border and the radio station across the border playing Hindustani film songs from Bombay cinema. This memory would bring a smile on my face and to this moment I cant figure out if that smile is an indication of agony or ecstasy. But everytime I remember that moment I also remember a song penned by Javed Akthar, whose opening lines are:
“panchi nadiya pawan kay jhonkay,
koi sarhad na inhey rokay.“
(birds, river and the blow of wind
no national borders ever stop them.)
~ Javed Akthar
But the paradox/ tragedy of our times is that someone like Javed Akthar (has been brought to a position where he) questions/ condemns the silence of Pakistani artists over Uri.
On one hand nobody, even the line of control, could stop the radio signals/ waves coming from across the border and the broadcasting of Bombay film music by a radio station across the border. On the other hand the situation has built such pressures on the likes of Javed Akthar to make statements which given an ideal, equal and fair world they wouldn’t feel compelled to make. The unhindered music makes me happy but the poet’s heart being taken over by political pressure pains me.
May the heart of the poet write again of the futility of wars. And this time, I pray, let these songs not just cross borders but also erase borders.