Archive for the ‘Language & Literature’ Category

The state of Punjabi

Farid, do not slander the dust, hate the dust

Nothing is so great as dust

When we are alive it is below our feet

When we are dead it is above us


Eat dry bread and drink cold water

Farid, if you see someone else’s buttered bread, do not envy him for it


Farid, my clothes are black and my outfit is black

I wonder, I am full of sin

Yet people call me a dervish, a holy man.


For the past hour, my little sister has been chanting these verses, first in their original Punjabi, then in the English translation. I typed them as she repeated them over and over again, with her back turned to me. She has a Punjabi exam tomorrow. Just a little glimpse of the educational system in schools in Lahore: Punjabi is compulsory in grades 7 and 8 in Lahore Grammar School, one of the best schools in Pakistan. Ever since our beloved principal learnt that Sindhi is being taught in the schools of Karachi, Punjabi has been a struggling subject in the Gulberg branch of LGS, at least.


Hence, Baba Farid, no less, is being chanted by my thirteen year old sibling; who is, put bluntly, a tensed-up workaholic who simply wants the highest score in every exam or test or assignment she’s given.


The sad, sad part of it is that she has no idea of what she is saying. I am myself ignorant of many things, and the essence and appreciation of Sufi poetry is one of them. Especially these Punjabi verses. Only a slight enjoyment comes to me from hearing the well-known rhythm of the Punjabi words. But at the moment, I would give anything to have had someone force me to learn Punjabi Sufi poetry and give me an exam on it. But then, what kind of exam and what kind of a joke of Punjabi is being offered to us?


One must face it; Punjabi is a joke among us ‘educated’ people. But literally. Punjabi comedy plays are the most that we come up with in appreciation of the language that gave us Waris Shah; Bulle Shah; Baba Farid.


At the most, what do we middle class and upper class Lahoris do with this language? Comedy, or for bantering with friends. Or to elicit a ripple of laughter from students in a university audience during a lecture that is almost solely in English.


It is a joke for us to study Punjabi; it was for me when I was in grades 7 and 8, and it still is for my sister, and all LGS students who are studying it. But I cannot blame the students. I blame the teachers and the school.


While this subject is there in the curriculum, the manner in which it had been handed to these kids is…abysmal, to say the least.


Imagine, as I am now remembering: one of my fondest memories of Punjabi class was of us playing catch with the teacher’s backpack. He used to bring in a little deck to play Punjabi songs for us, and when he took it out of the backpack, the latter went all around the class with the teacher chasing after it! It was a mean, mean thing to do, but the question is; why were seventh-graders allowed to do such a thing? Why did we not feel the beauty of the language we were supposed to be studying, and why has the situation not changed in eight years?


As of now, my sister comes home on the days when she has Punjabi and gives us all a complete parody of what their teacher said and did that day. Hold on…no, it’s not a parody; it’s a complete reenactment of what happened in Punjabi class that day. This teacher-person stands in front of her class (eight-grade) and recites a Punjabi poem with all the actions and embellishments that drive the kids crazy with mirth. She waves her hands to depict a floating breeze; bow and jumps and makes a fool out of herself, but there’s nothing anyone gets out of it except a good laugh. Little sister mimicks it to perfection; she’s a born actress in that sense.


And this same teacher, when the exams are near, goes and tells her students exactly what is coming in the exam paper! I mean, what’s the point of teaching something if you’re not even going to test it in the proper manner? It’s a joke, that’s all it is then, isn’t it? You’re making Bulle Shah and Baba Farid and all the rest of the Punjabi Sufi poets just something to be learnt by heart, three puny couplets at a time, for one exam, and then forgotten! A hundred out of hundred in the Punjabi examination…bravo…


They’re eight-graders, for heaven’s sake. I myself started studying Shakespeare seriously before that age. It’s not that Punjabi poets touch on concepts that are only for the fading elites to grapple with, but how many preteens can fully grasp the beauty of Shakespeare? They can’t, but it’s still thrust upon them, and no one dares laugh at the Bard, do they, now? So why laugh at Punjabi poets? Why not respect them? Why not respect what we have been given? What’s wrong?

Short Story sitting with Bano Qudsia

Lahore Arts Forum (LEAF) has organized a short story narration session by Bano Qudsia followed by discussion promising a very interesting evening for literary minds.

Date: October 09, 2008

Venue: Model Town Library

Time: 6:00 pm

So, be there and share any pictures or videos that you may make.

All Pakistan Music Conference

At the time of the history’s greatest migration, along with geographical disorientation, the infant Pakistan was also psychologically lost and depressed. These were dire times when simple survival as a seperate nation was the only priority and arts at such time could not be given much heed. This led to further gloom of the art lovers as well as artists themselves. Apart from radio Pakistan there was no more music in the air. Music lovers reminisced the live music concerts whereas maestros in the field of music started to crumble. At such a difficult time for music in Pakistan it was cocncerned citizens that collectively volunteered to initiate the All Pakistan Music Conference in 1959. Their main objective was to rejuvenate and relive the glory of classical music and arrange seminars, conferences and concerts. (courtesy:

Today, 49 years later the All Pakistan Music Conference maintains its poise and is held every year without fail reminding us of the art that breathes in the same ambience as we do. Classical music and dance is in the air of the subcontinent. We can choose to ignore it but not eradicate it.

The remaining APMC Festival 2008 has been postponed but the last of the few events was last month when Hajrah Khan, a Social Sciences Major from Lahore University of Management Sciences read an academic paper on “Urdu Ghazal & English Sonnet” very intricately interlacing the two and reminding us , art has no boundaries, geographical or demographic. The esteemed presence of Shaista Sirajuddin to read out the English Sonnets selected by Hajrah and Dr Arfa Syeda Zehra to recite Urdu Ghazals added to the magic.

English Sonnet and Urdu Ghazal

The research paper was followed by Tabla maestro Shahbaz Hussain from Manchester, who gave a talk on different components of Tabla(solo) playing again resembling those of an English Sonnet and and Urdu Ghazal. Shahbaz Hussain is a student of Ustaad Allah Rakha’s son, Ustaad Shaukat Hussain and Ustaad Fayyaz Khan. He has also performed with Ustaad Valayat Khan on his last concert in London. Shahbaz Hussain teaches at NewCastle University which happens to be the first university in the world to have introduced a degree in Tabla. Himself being born in the UK, his parents hail from Lahore and so here’s a son of the soil making us all proud of the fact that we share his roots. This event was by far the best account of playing any classical instrument and the accompanying talk (given in English) was surprisingly free of any (greek!) jargon  and completely comprehendable by the common man.

Tabla Talk

The best part was where he told how long ago a girl from Lahore was married into a musical “gharana”(family) in Delhi and her father gave her 500 “gats” as her dowry. Shahbaz also played one of those Lahori Gats in the end.

Tabla performance

All Pakistan Music Conference is an association which is truly (and quietly) conserving our heritage and not letting it wash away with the graffiti of all things new.

Andaaz tumharay jaisa thaa…


Iss baar bhi baarish khoob hui,
aur baadal toot kay barsa tha

Galiyaan, koochay jal-thal thay,
par soch ka sehr’aa payasa tha

Band darwazon kay shishoon par,
jab boondon nay yun dastak dee

Ehsaas hua tum aaye ho,

Andaaz tumharay jaisa thaa…!

Forwarded by Usman Latif

Protest in Punjabi Tappa Style

Lawyers, civil activists who had gathered at the Lahore High Court this monday to protest on Human Rights Day made the event more interesting by shouting slogans in Punjabi Tappa Style. Have a taste of it:

ballay ballay,
ho ballay ballay,
asan judgaan di bahali waikhni,
PCO dian jarran kata kay,
judgaan di bahali waikhni

(We want to see the judiciary restored; we will uproot the Provisional Constitutional Order)

ballay ballay,
ho ballay ballay,
bhae shehrian ne paye wakhtay,
policaan beh gyan thaanay jaa kay,
shehrian ne paye wakhtay

(The citizens have rose to the occasion and now the police is in trouble)

ballay ballay,
ho ballay ballay,
bhae choraan nay judge dak laye,
saday bolan tay pabandian la kay,
choraan nay judge dak laye

(The thieves have caught the judges and put a ban on freedom of expression)

ballay ballay,
ho ballay ballay,
bhae tor muzahmat di,
kalay kapray tay kalay banner,
tor muzahmat di

(Look how well the protest is being carried out by the lawyers and other civil society members)

Full Story: DT

LMB in Urdu…

…or any other website for that matter. is a pretty neat site – it can translate websites containing English text to Urdu. The translations aren’t exactly perfect but they’re fairly good nevertheless. Read LMB in Urdu for a change by clicking here!

Check out the author names in Urdu – hilarious! =D

Pretty Simple = خاصا سادہ

A for [pine]Apple = ایک کیلئے[بیماری سے گھل]سیب

The Festivities Begin!


As intimated earlier by Pretty Simple, the 11-day World Performing Arts Festival has kicked off from today bringing the desparately exhausted Lahorites, a sigh of relief and a breath of freshness in the environment of high political tension around.


A more detailed schedule of daily events, film screenings, artists, acts, timings and ticket prices are mentioned on the Rafi Peer Festivals’ website.

LahorrrRrri Touch ;-)

What more to write … when Desi Bak-a-Rr-r-a‘s Payyay are available so easily to savour your taste ;-)

Image Courtesy: Naeem Rashid

Phillips Talbot – a Lahori from the old times

Senior US diplomat as well as a distinguished journalist, Mr. Phillips Talbot was in town to revive his memories of the time he spent in Lahore and to get feedback on his latest publication; ‘An American Witness to India Partition’.

Talking to Daily Times during his recent visit to Lahore, he recalled memories of Lahore, a city that he considered the loveliest and relatively liberal in Pakistan. He wished to visit the place – Minto Park (now Minar-e-Pakistan) – where once Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had passed the Pakistan Resolution and historic buildings like National Museum on The Mall. He termed consistency of democracy key to Pakistan’s progress.

He said, “I still remember the tall buildings of the Aitchison College and the National Museum. He said, “Lahore is the only city in Pakistan I am affiliated with.” During his stay in Lahore, he said, he used to write for several newspapers.

He said he had a bulk of memories, which he later published in his book An American Witness to India Partition. “I have heard that Lahoris are conservative, but I have still to see any evidence of this.”

News Source: DT

Talent@Lahore: Mohsin Hamid

Talent@Lahore is a series in which I will talk about the talent, the aptitude, and sheer brilliance of various personalities hailing from Lahore

This is the first installment of Talent@Lahore series, and we are going to talk about a 36 years old writer whose work has been translated in 20 languages, adapted for TV as well as an Italian operetta, and who has (most recently) been short listed among 5 other candidates from around the world for the prestigious Booker Prize for Fiction in 2007 – one of the most renowned literary awards in the world.

Mohsin Hamid takes over the throne of immensely rich literary heritage of Lahore, the only difference being that he writes in English not Urdu, yet remains very much in touch with all things Desi. Born in 1971, Mohsin went on to attend Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and worked as a management consultant in New York and a freelance journalist in Lahore, before moving to London. His claim to fame, however, are his two novels of international acclaim, both set in the backdrop of the city of Lahore.

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