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Padmavati Controversy: Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair

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Padmavati

By Saeed Naqvi

Padmavati, in a sense, is a neighbourhood story. My village, Mustafabad, happens to be in Rae Bareli, which embraces numerous Chishtiya Sufi shrines or places where the saints spent some time, including Khwaja Ashraf Jehangir Semnani, the saint Malik Mohammad Jaisi, the author of Padmavat, was devoted to. Jaisi would faint at the controversy surrounding his masterpiece.

From nearby, Salon, Naeem Ata Shah in his flowing orange robes and headgear often visited Mustafabad. Jaisi, who preceded Tulsidas, in the list of great poets of Awadhi, was an endless source of quotations. So was Tulsidas, whose correspondence with emperor Akbar’s premier courtier, Abdul Rahim Khan e Khana, on meter and structure of poetry one heard about later and which is something one would have expected more scholarship on.

To a most unexpected source I owed my acquaintance with the fact that Rahim, known for his dohas, wrote devotional poetry on Lord Rama in Sanskrit. The source happened to be Vishnu Kant Shastri, former Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, Governor of UP. It always puzzled me how a man of such catholic interests – knew Jaisi as well as Akbar Allahabadi backwards – had actually emerged from the RSS stable.

If Jaisi’s flight of fancy can create so much mayhem, I shudder to contemplate the fate of the 1960 classic, Mughal-e-Azam in a similar circumstance. By today’s yardstick, that was the original, unadulterated case of “Love Jihad”. In fact the settled conventional wisdom in the 60s conceded Akbar victory at Haldighati. The national mood today has reversed the outcome of that battle in favour of Maharana Pratap. There have been suggestions that New Delhi’s Akbar Road be renamed “Maharana Pratap Road”. In other words revenge with retrospective effect is in order. To give this trend a more contemporary twist, Vishwa Hindu Parishad has demanded that an FIR be lodged against Mulayam Singh Yadav for ordering the police to fire on Kar sewaks in 1990. In that framework, it can be argued that producer K. Asif glorified Akbar’s love jihad. For that unforgiveable guilt, copies of the film must be consigned to the flames by way of historical revenge. Dilip Kumar, who played Prince Salim, is lying in coma otherwise he could have been brought into focus of public ire with great effectiveness on the eve of key elections with a singular purpose – polarize the poll.

At a time when logic has been crowded out by a rush of non sequitur, some pundits have attempted common sense. It will not work.

The new cultural brigade destroyed the grave of Wali Dakhni who showered adoration on this land with such verses as:

“Koocha e yaar ain Kashi hai

Jogiya dil wahaan ka baasi hain.”

(The lane where my beloved lives is like holy Varanasi;

The yogi of my heart has made it his dwelling place.) The sentiments the poet represents did not deter the vandals seething with anger against past historical injustices. 

Never will the bandish Munmohan Braj ke rasiya in Raag Paraj, steeped in Krishna lore, be sung better than by Ustad Faiyyaz Khan. They tried to desecrate his grave in Vadodara, regardless.

Rasoolan Bai’s plaintive appeals to Rama, in so many of her songs, did not protect her house from being gutted during the 1969 Gujarat riots. It did not matter that the Congress was in power then. What is being tapped into is something which gained a lease of life after Partition and which invites instant, angry, passionate response at the street level. In his very first speech in Parliament after the 2014 elections, this was precisely the nerve Narendra Modi touched: “the nation has to recover from the subjugation of 1200 years”. This is what differentiates the present government from previous regimes. Congressmen may have privately believed in “1200 year of subjugation”, but they considered it tactically proper to speak only of the British as foreigners.

Let us, meanwhile, revert to Jaisi’s purpose in Padmavati. The sentiment is common in western poetry too.

The “desire of the moth for the star, of the night for the morrow.

The devotion to something afar from the sphere of our sorrow”

Shelley’s lines are an ultra simplified version of the interplay between love and beauty which Jaisi is delineating. Padmini and Khalji are secular symbols of Jaisi’s elaboration of the theme on an epic scale.

Keat’s “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know” can also be tossed in to simplify communicating Jaisi.

Maulana Hasrat Mohani communicates the mood thus:

“Maslak I Ishq hai parastish e husn

Hum naheen jaante azaab-o-sawab.”

(Love’s purpose is adoration of beauty.

Gains and losses I do not measure.)

 Should the ever expanding tribe of the new cultural warriors run out of ideas, here are some on offer, gratis. They should denigrate with retrospective effect those Muslims who dared to take liberties with Hindu Gods. Remember, how India’s greatest modern painter, Maqbool Fida Hussain was exiled for his supreme guilt: excessive adoration of Goddesses. His “adoration” was considered lewd by the protectors of culture and faith.

Well, in like fashion, Maulana Hasrat Mohani deserves to be shamed retrospectively. He wrote a great deal about Krishna in Urdu, but in his Bhasha or Braj verses he takes liberties:

“Mose ched karat Nandlal”

(Krishna teases me all the time)

“hum hoon jo dei liptai ke Hasrat

Saari yeh chalbal nikaal”

(One day I shall embrace him tight and squeeze out all his mischief)

“Squeeze out”, in a tight embrace, has erotic connotations which should be unacceptable to the new cultural brigade.

Book reviews

The Hill Of Enchantment Review: Ruskin Bond revisits his life as writer

The book not only delineates Ruskin Bond’s journey as a writer but also depicts the changing literary landscape from the 1950s to recent times.

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The Hill Of Enchantment Review: Ruskin Bond revisits his life as writer

India’s most loved and prolific writer from the hill, who wrote his first book when he was around 17, Ruskin Bond, turned 90 this year. In his seven decade literary journey, the author has written more than 500 novels, short stories, and poems set mostly in the hills and mountains of India. 

The Hill Of Enchantment published by Aleph Book Company, is a memoir of his writing journey, with the subtitle, the story of my life as a writer. Bond revisits the people, mountains, railway stations, rooms, and markets that shaped him as an author. He says, characters in his novels and short stories are mostly inspired by the people he met in his life. The author confesses that some characters also portray his adopted family, friends and colleagues. 

Expressing that if a writer wishes to create a little magic with his pen he must find a little magic in his life, Ruskin Bond shares that he only has to open his window to see a magical world – clouds racing across the sky. In the book, the author mentioned how Pari Tibba, Fairy Hill, which he could see from his window, and solitude has influenced his books.

In The Hill of Enchantment, Ruskin Bond pens about how his need for privacy and solitude have inspired his first work, The Room on the Roof, published in 1956. He also portrayed how his frequent visits to a railway station led to the story, Time Stops At Shamli and others. Sharing an anecdote, Bond wrote that his frequent visits to railway stations made him so popular, just like a coolie, he did not have to buy a platform ticket to sit at the railway station.

The book also highlights the ordeal of Indian writers in the days dating back to 1950s to get published as compared to modern writers. It pointed out the change in the literary scene in the twenty-first century, which brought literary festivals along with online forums for writers and publishers. The author says, “writers were becoming faces and mini celebrities”. 

Ruskin Bond’s book not only delineates his journey as a writer but also stresses on the changing literary landscape from 1950s to recent times. The book is an utter testament for the aspiring writers. 

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Amit Shah claims NDA has already got 310 seats after 5 phases of Lok Sabha elections

Shah was addressing 2 election rallies in Sambalpur where the BJP has fielded Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

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Amit Shah claims NDA has already got 310 seats after 5 phases of Lok Sabha elections

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday claimed that the NDA has already bagged 310 seats after the completion of 5 phases of the Lok Sabha polls. He urged the people of Odisha to free the state from babu-raj and allow the BJP to form government at the Centre and also in the state.  Shah was addressing 2 election rallies in Sambalpur where the BJP has fielded Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

Shah claimed after the 5th phase of elections, the NDA has already got 310 seats and they will secure 400 plus seats after the 6th and 7th rounds of elections. The union home minister added that Odisha has been ruled by a handful of officers and this election will end the ongoing babu raj in the state.

He said that the tribals of Keonjhar get no benefit even though most of the mines and mineral reserves of the country are located in Keonjhar district. Shah enlisted Modi government’s achievements and said that the prime minister has ensured that there is no terrorism across the country. He added that PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) was with India and it would remain with India.

Shah criticized Congress of being frightened over Pakistan possessing an atom bomb and said PM Modi has given a befitting reply to Pakistan’s terror activities and he does not fear such threat of nuclear bombs. He attacked the previous Congress government for doing nothing for tribals. Shah pointed out that former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had formed a separate ministry for tribal affairs while Narendra Modi as the PM has worked to eliminate Naxalism in Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The Union Home Minister said PM Modi has constituted District Mineral Foundation and given crores of rupees for the development of the tribal region. Shah said the budgetary allocation for tribal affairs has been increased to Rs 1.25 lakh crore during Modi government from Rs 25,000 crore given during the previous UPA regime.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Congress accuses PM Modi of communal campaigning, questions his silence on key issues like caste census, reservations

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh’s attack came over Modi’s remarks in an interview to the media in which he had said that he has never uttered a word against minorities, and the BJP has not just today but never acted against them.

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Congress accuses PM Modi of communal campaigning, questions his silence on key issues like caste census, reservations

The Congress on Tuesday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been indulging in polarisation throughout the election and has prepared a communal pitch, but Congress refused to play on that and pursued its paach nyay agenda. Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh’s attack came over Modi’s remarks in an interview to the media in which he had said that he has never uttered a word against minorities, and the BJP has not just today but never acted against them.

Jairam Ramesh said that PM Modi’s entire campaign from April 19 has been based on communalisation with the Hindu-Muslim rhetoric throughout and has not talked about Viksit Bharat, issues of the farmers, Modi ki guarantee, women, youth workers, SCs, STs and OBCs.

Speaking about the remarks made by PM Modi on minorities, Ramesh said what nonsense was he talking about?  He further added the prime minister is fast losing his memory and he has never had any adherence to truth. Ramesh called PM Modi a jhoothjeevi and said PM Modi does not remember what he said the day before and then claims that he never said it.

Ramesh said the prime minister had raised the issue of Muslim League imprint on the Congress manifesto, the mangalsutra remarks and the allegation that the Congress will give reservations on the basis of religion, which are all bogus statements.

He said this is the prime minister who, when asked some years ago whether he had any remorse at the killings during the Gujarat riots, said even when a small puppy comes under a car, one feels bad. This is the language that he had been using. Ramesh claimed that when Atal Bihari Vajapayee became the prime minister, L K Advani and company wanted a committee to review the basic structure of the Constitution. Ramesh said Congress boycotted that commission and this has always been the objective of the BJP and the RSS.

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