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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 45 October 29, 2022

What Bandobast on Dengue? / Habib Jalib / Pran Nevile | Humra Quraishi

Saturday 29 October 2022, by Humra Quraishi


26 October 2022

With Dengue cases on the rise, one’s been sitting wondering: where are all the development machinery and gadgets and the much promised bandobast to keep mosquitoes away from us.

Today it gets easier for the State machinery to kill a living human form than to kill the tiny little mosquito!

Yes, that is the reality of the day. Easy and effortless to silence and demolish a human form. Mind you, the State even flaunts its encountering prowess! Tell me, how many of the killed in the various encounters could have been innocents and not hardened criminals? But even a criminal needs to be given that chance to be heard and not get gunned down.

And if one were to focus on the encounter killings on, in the so labelled disturbed areas or the conflict zones , then it is near impossible to pinpoint the exact numbers, as there’s near nil transparency and accountability. Anyone can be gunned down on mere suspicion of being a militant or even a potential militant!

It seems the State might on the human form gets unleashed without any checks. If only we had apolitical watch dog groups and strong forums and independent investigative platforms then perhaps human lives could be saved. And the killers get questioned and made accountable and punished.

o o

Leaving you with this verse of poet Habib Jalib –

Crime /
‘Why did you allow yourself to be killed?’ /
Is the charge for which I am billed./
Now lawyers are arguing amongst themselves: /
‘This small trouble that the killer had to take,/
This little dent that the dagger suffered, /
Who should be made to compensate?’

Pran Nevile Would Have Turned 100 …

One of the oldest writers in this part of the subcontinent, diplomat turned author, Pran Nevile, would have turned 100 on this 22 October. Born in Lahore exactly a hundred years back (22 October 1922), he passed away at the age of 96, in New Delhi, on 11 October 2018.

Leaving back several volumes— Lahore: A Sentimental Journey, Love Stories From the Raj, Nautch Girls of India, Rare Glimpses of the Raj, Raj Revisited, KL Saigal: Immortal Singer and Superstar, Marvels of Indian Painting, Behind The Veil: Indian Women In The Raj, Sahib’s India: Vignettes From the Raj, Stories From The Raj: Sahibs, Memsahibs and Others, Carefree Days: Many Roles , Many Lives, Passionate Players (Bookwise), which as the title relays are his essays on legends of the world of classical music — K L Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, Master Madan, Kanan Devi, Khurshid , Tamancha Jaan, Suraiya, Noor Jahan, Jahanara Kajjan …the list is indeed long of the passionate players! This volume for those who are passionate enough to know more and some more details to the lives and livelihoods of the passionate players of yesteryears.

And whilst reading the long and short details to each one of these men and women, what comes across as somewhat surprising is the fact that Pran Nevile does not dwell on any of the political build- ups of that bygone era; not to be overlooked is the vital fact that when those classical strains were coming through, the country was going through politically turbulent times. One of those turning points in the recent history of the country- the very Partitioning phase!

Once when I’d asked him to the ‘why’ to this, this is what he’d said:
“No, I didn’t want any politics to come in the writings …after all, I was concentrating and focusing on the classical singers of this subcontinent. Till date I have avoided writing or focusing on any type of politics or politicians. Even when I’m invited to literature festivals in Pakistan I never comment on politics. I tell the audience that I’ll not entertain queries related to diplomatic or political relations between the two countries…it’s the same set of rules follow here. I can write volumes on any given topic related to music and arts and culture but not on politics! Never going to break this rule!”

Though his volumes are laced with details of the entire range of the classical singers, renderers, performers of the years gone by, but one name stood out. Lahore’s Tamancha Jaan. And as I read his essay on her, whom he describes as ‘a star of the 1940s’ what also caught attention were her two accompanying photographs. One of her prime and the other of the ageing years. Pran Nevile had last met this singer around 2000, in Lahore and to quote him from his essay, “Meeting Tamancha Jaan after nearly 52 years was a moving and a memorable experience during my visit to Lahore. Who is Tamancha Jaan? A singer nonpareil, now forgotten, she was the reigning queen of song during the 40s in Hira Mandi, the entertainment quarter of Lahore…” He describes his meeting in great detail and what touched were these parting words of that famous singer, words which relay how the Partition had left dents on the lives of hundreds and thousands, surviving in this subcontinent: “In the end, Tamancha Jaan said in a disconsolate voice, ‘practically all my patrons left Lahore after the Partition and so I shut down my salon…what followed was a life of struggle and economic hardship.’ ”

And in the essay on Master Madan, the child prodigy, who died before he turned 15, yet left such a mark that till date he’s considered a genius, Nevile focuses not just on his outstanding talent but also on his death. He was poisoned to death by his rivals, who mixed mercury in milk and poison in his paan…And of course, much focus on the little -heard -of details to Suraiya, Geeta Dutt, Kanan Devi, Jahanara Kajjan,Noor Jehan, Khurshid , Pankj Mullick, KL Saigal, Rani Jindan, Muddupalani, Begum Sumroo, Lal Kunwar…

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