Yunhi hamesha ulajhti rahi hai zulm se khalq / na in ki rasm nayi, na apni reet nayi"
(translation: “Thus always has the world grappled with tyranny / Neither their rituals nor our rebellion is new”).
Yunhi hamesha ulajhti rahi hai zulm se khalq / na in ki rasm nayi, na apni reet nayi"
(translation: “Thus always has the world grappled with tyranny / Neither their rituals nor our rebellion is new”).
You hear a lot about the 1988 Hamas Charter, which is anti-semitic and calls for the destruction of Israel — though it is questionable whether that is what Hamas still seeks, or can seek, frankly, and they have offered a long-term truce on 1967 borders.
But also consider the 1999 Likud Charter (Netanyahu’s party), which said that the settlement of the West Bank is “a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel.” In another chapter, “[t]he [Likud] Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.” The recent 2014 Charter is more vague about these, but I have heard Netanyahu recently reconfirm this.
When it comes to charters, then, Likud doesn’t quite have the moral high ground. Both have issued deplorable documents.
When you meet an adult woman, who is perhaps your mother’s age, what do you call her? Mrs.? Ms.? If she is between 10 and 20 years older than you, do you address her by her first name or last name? Or, do you pause to ask how she would like to be addressed?
If you’re an Indian American, you’ll probably just call her “aunty.” “Aunty” and “Uncle” have become easy fallbacks when addressing people including distant associates, neighbors, acquaintances, and even total strangers who are older than oneself. I’ve watched the attractive shopkeeper in our neighborhood Indian store cringe and straighten her kurti when a jean-clad matron has the gall to address her as “aunty.” And I identify with her indignant irritation completely. As an adult woman who has also been called “aunty” one too many times by too many adults who I barely know, I have a bone to pick with what I believe has become a hapless naming practice.
According to Probal Dasgupta’s study The Otherness of English: India’s Auntie Tongue Syndrome, the term aunty “functions these days as a marker of Western sophistication among the upwardly mobile middle classes in urban and semi-urban India.” Many of the Indians who reside in the Bay Area are products of this urban, elite heritage, and they seem determined to use “aunty” liberally and pass on the custom to their unsuspecting offspring.
Today, the title “aunty” is so overused and misused that it has lost its position and meaning. Indian-American children are taught that every adult female is a potential aunty; many carry this presumption to the conclusion that any adult female older than them can be an aunty. I’m not referring to school children here, but to those I see as adults, the lipsticked and bearded variety, who ought to know better. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with terms like ammayi, or cheriamma, oredathi, all specific Malayalam words that acknowledge individuals who are close family members and deserve rightful respect in the family’s pecking order. There are equivalent terms in every Indian language: terms like maami, mausi, and didithat all validate close family connections. But amongst English-speaking Indian Americans, the frequent use of “aunty” or “uncle” is more often an example of lazy speech, or a desire to bump the individual in question into the category of doddering older-other, than it is a thoughtful moniker of respect. Therein lies the problem.
I attended an art exhibition in the home of an Indian-American couple a few months back. The woman who answered the door to show me and my companion around said she was the homeowner. She was of an indeterminable age, but definitely an adult—and I don’t mean only in a legal sense! The gathering was of mixed age, ethnicity, and gender. Wine flowed and hors d’oeuvres were nibbled. It was a cosmopolitan scene. We were all adults in a neutral setting, and yet when it was time to leave, the hostess said to me, “Thanks for coming, aunty!” I bristled. How dare this woman call me aunty? Was this the result of her vanity? Was my anger an indication of mine? Her use of the term “aunty” with a perfect stranger was both deliberate and careless. This was not about respect. There was no regard for long-term association or affection. This was clearly an example of “you’re from an older, other world, and I’m still young, and I want to put some distance between us.”
Here are some guidelines for the use of the term “aunty” and to prevent against the kind of encounter I’ve just described.
If I have not known you when you were a child, and been a part of your life as you learnt and grew—I am not your aunty.
If you are an adult with or without furrows on your temples, and our paths have never crossed before—I am not your aunty.
If your children are younger than mine, or you are the same age as my grown children, but I am meeting you for the first time—I am not your aunty.
And if you’re just not sure what to call someone? Ask; don’t assume.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve seen what happens when friends’ parents visit from India, all articulate, successful, professional individuals in their own right, most still working adults, some retired perhaps, who nevertheless are made to feel like tag-alongs in the United States. Many of these parents insist that they prefer to be “left at home” when asked to accompany their offspring to local dinner functions and are pushed to the “aunty/uncle” section of the room. What happened to Indian grace, hospitality, and our cultural reverence for the wisdom and experience of age?
In the India of my childhood, aunties were privileged and exceptional members of the family. If they were not the sisters of your father or mother, or the wives of your uncles, they were close family friends who had known you since infancy and had a stake or significant interest in your well being. In a culture in which godmothers were unfamiliar, the aunty, like the “aunt” elephant in a matriarchal herd of elephants, took on that distinctive, responsible role and helped our mother defend and protect her calf.
Children have always needed aunties: women who were caring and courageous enough to share in the act of mothering. And aunties have always been part of every child’s “village,” whether in India or the United States. In fact a bestselling tribute to the institution of aunty-dom, The Complete Book of Aunts by Rupert Christiansen, was published in the U.K. in 2006 and states that of all our blood relations, an aunt offers the most potential for an uncomplicated friendship. As the author writes, there’s no reason to “let the aunt slide unremembered into the dust box of history.” Acknowledging significant family members is important, and I agree that we should celebrate those figures who mean something to us. But “mean something” is the operative phrase.
Think of all the older desi ladies you call “aunty.” Do you reserve use of the term for those with whom you have a significant relationship?
Let us not diminish the value of extended family, or reduce the importance of commitment and involvement, by loose interpretations and titles drawn by vanity. It’s time to redefine words like “aunty” and “uncle” in our vocabularies and restore their use to a rightful position. It’s time to honor those friends and family who truly have a hand in shaping our lives.
This article was published in the February 2009 issue of the India Current.
Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan is Director of Development at SVILC, Santa Clara County’s Independent Living Center, a full time mother, and a voice-over artist in her spare time.
South Africa, in fact, has successfully implemented such a pre-paid electricity system. A major power distributor expanded its power network to households. It opted for a pre-paid system, which was very successful with those users who consumed less electricity. While there are many advantages of the pre-paid system, lack of theft to name one, the company, however, failed to initially anticipate numerous logistical challenges.
Still, the success of the pre-paid electricity supply in South Africa holds the promise for Pakistan where the pre-paid approach in combination with smart, temper-proof meters can help address the rampant theft of electricity.
Try asking the apolitical youth of pakistan about Iftakhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and even they will connect with the man, through the lawyer’s movement. where as not many could relate to Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah khan, the former President of the International court of justice, who rendered a great service to Pakistan in particular and the Muslim world in general.
Zafarullah khan’s name is buried in the lowest abyss of pakistan’s historical archives just like many unsung heroes of the past. It is a pity that subcontinent’s smartest legal mind is hardly acknowledged for his efforts, leave alone being remembered on his death anniversary, which happens to be on the 1st of September.
To a large extent, this bizarre indifference has got to do with his religious affiliation as an Ahmadi.
Zafarullah, the Jurist with a Midas touch, had an illustrious career worth sharing. Considered destiny’s child he was born in a small town of Daska. His mother dreamt of him becoming the chief justice one day. Zafarullah commemorated the unrelenting faith of his mother posthumously in his book titled ‘ Meri Walda’ (my mother).
Recounting his prodigious academic achievements would be difficult. Rather it would suffice that he studied at Government College Lahore under the tutelage of Allama Iqbal, only to be called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn after completing his Law degree with distinction from the King’s college London.
Lincoln’s inn was not zafarullah’s only affiliation with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as it is clearly evident from history that he was a close aide of Quaid e Azam and had his approval on most instances. He first rubbed shoulders with the likes of Jinnah and Gandhi during the round table conferences on Indian reforms in London.
On the behest of Quaid-e-Azam, he represented the Muslim League before Radcliffe Boundary Commission. His immaculate role during that tricky phase of partition was highly commendable. Many notables had gone on record to pay tribute to the great man’s devotion towards the cause of a separate homeland for the muslims.
In pre partition era, his services as a true Muslim leagean can’t be ignored as well. He was the legal brain behind drafting the Lahore resolution of 1940, apart from representing the muslims of India as the member of viceroy’s council.
Post independence, he was cherry-picked by none other than Qauid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as Pakistan’s first foreign affairs Minister. He fought for the rights of the suppressed nations especially the muslim countries during his tenure.
As the head of the delegation, he represented Pakistan in United Nations’ General Assembly and advocated the stand of the Muslim world on the Palestinian issue. His 1947 speech at the UN Security Council for the palestinian cause sets yardstick for being the most eloquent case put forth in favour of Palestinians thus far. In recognition of his efforts he was awarded the highest civilian honour by Syria, Egypt and Jordan alike.
Transcript of Zafaraullah Khan’s speech in UN SecurityCouncilhttp://aleemkhan.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/sir-zafarullah-khan-speech.pdf
At the UN Security Council, he strongly proposed the liberation of the occupied Kashmir, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, North Ireland, Eritrea and Indonesia. Even as president of the UN General Assembly, he left no stone unturned to propound a strong case of Kashmir. In the process, he met a number of dignitaries including President Kennedy to bring Kashmir issue to the fore.
Not many muslim world diplomats could emulate his indomitable spirit for rallying the cause of the Third World nations.
His rise from a judge to the president (chief justice) of the International court of Justice in the Hague, later in his career, was phenomenal. This feat was only once achieved in the history by any Pakistani. Another feather in his cap was his knighthood as ‘Sir’ by the British empire, which is a rarity for a subcontinental great.
Interestingly, he had also Performed Umrah and Hajj in his lifetime and had written numerous books on Islam and Pakistan as a historian.
A politician and jurist of highest pedigree, he was Quaid’s most trusted luteinant and an ambassador of Muslim world on various international forums. I believe his success was not digested by many in Pakistan. For that matter his achievements, that are so vital for Pakistan, were tabled rather than being adorned as part of our educational syllabus to showcase an honest past of our nation.
Keeping faith aside, for a change if we could just honor his services towards Pakistan, then as a nation, we would have certainly moved a step ahead in the right direction.
I was passing by my father’s room and overheard him on the phone and he said something so sweet, I almost got tears. He sounds so old now. He was talking to my godmother Margaret’s husband (who’s like a brother to him): “I can sleep on the floor. My daughter (me) has to have her own room. I can…
Sounds like something my old humble man would say too. Bless them & keep em healthy.
Iqbal from Baal e Jibril:
"Kal Apne Mureedon Se Kaha Peer-e-Maghan Ne
Qeemat Mein Ye Maani Hai Dar-e-Naab Se Deh-Chand”
(The mentor exhorted his disciples once: Listen to my words, in value greater than gold)
Dec. 13, 1958: “Unless there is government in Karachi that takes what happens in Afghanistan seriously and seeks good relations, seems to us that inevitably Afghanistan will draw closer to the Soviet Union… . In conversations with senior Afghans we have repeatedly given assurance that US arms have been provided Pakistan to help build bulwark against Communism and that such arms will not be used against their neighbors … Now our assurances do not appear to be convincing.”
jim Langley’s point of view was apparently shared by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who on May 2, 1959, sent a note to Pakistan’s president, Malik Firoz Khan Noon, delivered by Langley. Eisenhower lamented that both Pakistan and India “are now devoting increasing amounts to their defense budgets at the expense of development,” and that U.S. aid was not designed for the military, but to help both countries improve their economies. Identical language went to India’s prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Maata-e-loh-o-qalam chin gayi to kya ghum hai
K khun-e-dil men dubo li hain ungliyan mene
Zuban pe muhar lagi hai to kya ke rakh di hai
Har ek halqa-e-zanjeer men zubaan mene
If they snatch my ink and pen,
I should not complain,
For I have dipped my fingers
In the blood of my heart.
I should not complain
Even if they seal my tongue,
For every ring of my chain
Is a tongue ready to speak.
This is Muhammad Umar memon’s translation of an article by Sadat Hasan Manto. The translation first appeared in The Annual of Urdu Studies.
The Hindi-Urdu dispute has been raging for some time now. Maulvi Abdul Haq Sahib, Dr Tara Singh and Mahatma Gandhi know what there is to know about this dispute. For me, though, it has so far remained incomprehensible. Try as hard as I might, I just haven’t been able to understand. Why are Hindus wasting their time supporting Hindi, and why are Muslims so beside themselves over their preservation of Urdu? A language is not made, it makes itself. And no amount of human effort can ever kill a language. When I tried to write something about this current hot issue, I ended up with the following long conversation:
Munshi Narain Parshad: Iqbal Sahib, are you going to drink this soda water?
Mirza Muhammad Iqbal: Yes, I am.
Munshi: Why dont you drink lemon?
Iqbal: No particular reason. I just like soda water. At our house, everyone likes to drink it.
Munshi: In other words, you hate lemon.
Iqbal: Oh, not at all. Why would I hate it, Munshi Narain Parshad? Since everyone at home drinks soda water, I’ve sort of grown accustomed to it. That’s all. But if you ask me, actually lemon tastes better than plain soda.
Munshi: That is precisely why I was surprised hat you would prefer something salty over something sweet. and lemon isn’t just sweet, it has a nice flavour. What do you think?
Iqbal: You are absolutely right, but…
Munshi: But what?
Iqbal: Nothing. I was just going to say that I’ll take soda.
Munshi: Same nonsense again. I’m not forcing you to drink poison, am I? Brother, what’s the difference between the two? Both bottles are made in the same factory after all. The same machine has poured water into them. If you take the sweetness and flavour out of the lemon, what’s left?
Iqbal: Just soda… a kind of salty water…
Munshi: Then, what’s the harm in drinking the lemon?
Iqbal: No harm at all.
Munshi: Then drink!
Iqbal: And what will you drink?
Munshi: I’ll send for another bottle.
Iqbal: Why would you send for another bottle? What’s the harm in drinking plain soda?
Munshi: N… n… no harm.
Iqbal: So then, here, drink the soda water.
Munshi: And what will you drink?
Iqbal: I’ll get another bottle.
Munshi: Why would you send for another bottle? What’s the harm in drinking lemon?
Iqbal: N… n… no harm. And what’s the harm in drinking soda?
Munshi: None at all.
Iqbal: The fact is, soda is rather good.
Munshi: But I think that lemon… is rather good.
Iqbal: Perhaps, if you say so. Although I’ve heard all along from my elders that soda is rather good.
Munshi: Now what’s a person to make of this: I’ve heard all along from my elders that lemon is rather good.
Iqbal: But what’s your own opinion?
Munshi: And what’s yours?
Iqbal: My opinion… hum… my opinion. My opinion is just this… but why don’t you tell me your opinion?
Munshi: My opinion… hum… my opinion is just this… but why should I tell it first?
Iqbal: I don’t think we’ll get anywhere this way. Look, just put a lid on your glass. I’ll do the same. Then we’ll discuss the matter leisurely.
Munshi: No, we can’t do that. I’ve already popped the caps off the bottles. We’ll just have to drink. Come on, make up your mind, before all the fizz is gone. These drinks are worthless without the fizz.
Iqbal: I agree. And at least you do agree that there’s no real difference between lemon and soda.
Munshi: When did I ever say that? There’s plenty of difference. They’re as different as night and day. Lemon is sweet, flavourful, tart-three things more than soda. Soda only has fizz, and that’s so strong it just barges into the nose. By comparison, lemon is very tasty. One bottle and you feel fresh for hours. Generally, soda water is for sick people. Besides, you’ve just admitted yourself that lemon tends to be tastier than soda.
Iqbal: Well, that I did. But I never said that lemon is better than soda. Tasty doesn’t mean that a thing is also beneficial. Take achaar, it’s very tasty, but you already know about its harmful effects. he presence of sweetness and tartness doesn’t prove that something is good. If you cnsulted a doctor he would tell you the harm lemon does to the stomach. But soda, that’s something else. The thing is, it helps digestion.
Munshi: Look, we can settle the matter by mixing the two.
Iqbal: I have no objection to that.
Munshi: Well, then, fill this glass halfway with soda.
Iqbal: Why don’t you fill half the glass with your lemon? I’ll pour my soda after that.
Munshi: Makes no sense. Why don’t you pour your soda first?
Iqbal: Because I want to drink soda-lemon mixed.
Munshi: And I want lemon-soda mixed.
One of the great forgotten figures of Lahore’s history is Bamba Sofia Duleep Singh Sutherland who decided to stay in Lahore after partition, died in 1957 and is buried in the Gora Kabristan next to Lahore Gymkhana. She was the grand-daughte…r of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Queen Victoria was her Godmother. Her friends in Lahore included Allama Iqbal.
She was married to King Edward Medical College Principal, David Sutherland (d.1939), had no children and lived in Model Town taken care of by her trusted secretary Pir Karim Baksh Soopra. Soopra’s descendants still visit her grave every Christmas, Shab-barat, Good Friday and Eid and leave a wreath.
The Persian verses on her gravesite:
“Farq e Shahi wa bandage Bar Khwast
Choon Qaza-i-Nawishta Ayed Paish
Gar Kisay Khaak Murdah baaz Kunad
Na Shanasad Tawangar Az Dervaish”
There remains no difference between royalty and servility When the moment of (fore-written) death arrives. If someone opens any grave they cannot tell the difference between the rich and the poor.
Most Successful & Attempted Coups
Consider, for instance, Sahir Lohdiyanvi’s trenchant critique of India’s language policy, written in 1968 when the government suddenly decided to mark the 100th anniversary of Ghalib’s death. Titled jashn-e-Ghalib [Ghalib’s Celebration], the poem critiques the treatment meted out to Urdu by Indian policies:
jin shehron mein goonji thhi, Ghalib ki navaa barson un shehron mein aaj urdu, be-naam o nashaan thehri aazaadi e kaamil ka elaan huaa jis din, maatoob zabaan thehri, ghaddar zabaan thehri jis ahd e siyaasat ne ye zinda zubaan kuchli us ahd e siyaasat ko marhoomon ka gham kyon hai Ghalib jise kehte hain, urdu hi ka shaayar thha Urdu pe sitam dhha kar Ghalib pe karam kyon hai
[In those cities, where Ghalib’s voice echoed for years In those very cities now, there is no trace of Urdu The day we announced our independence It became an oppressed language, a traitor language The political will that crushed this living tongue Why does that very politic mourn Urdu’s dead The one who you call Ghalib, he was a poet of urdu Why bury Urdu to praise Ghalib?]
Marina Abramović, “Rhythm 0,” 1974…
Marina Abramović is best known for her performance pieces, in which she tries to explore what is possible for an artist to do in the name of art. Her best known piece was the recent “The Artist Is Present,” in which she sat motionless for 736.5 hours over the course of three months, inviting visitors to sit opposite her and make eye contact for as long as they wanted. So many people began spontaneously crying across from her that blogs and Facebook groups were set up for those people.
Her bravest piece, however, is my favorite. This piece was primarily a trust exercise, in which she told viewers she would not move for six hours no matter what they did to her. She placed 72 objects one could use in pleasing or destructive ways, ranging from flowers and a feather boa to a knife and a loaded pistol, on a table near her and invited the viewers to use them on her however they wanted.
Initially, Abramović said, viewers were peaceful and timid, but it escalated to violence quickly. “The experience I learned was that … if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed… I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.”
This piece revealed something terrible about humanity, similar to what Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment or Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiment, both of which also proved how readily people will harm one another under unusual circumstances.
This performance showed just how easy it is to dehumanize a person who doesn’t fight back, and is particularly powerful because it defies what we think we know about ourselves. I’m certain the no one reading this believes the people around him/her capable of doing such things to another human being, but this performance proves otherwise.