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Poet, Singer, and Activist

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Is the Earth Just Old And In The Way? Maybe It’s Time to Move to Mars!

Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in Discussion | 0 comments

India-Mars-OrbiterIndia’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is all over the news, from the BBC, to the New York Times, and of course, every major newspaper and media outlet in India. It has broken many well deserved groundbreaking records: 

  • The first first Asian country to accomplish this feat
  • It is the ONLY to accomplish this on its first attempt
  • It is TEN times cheaper than the U.S. mission to Mars.

On September 30, 2014, an agreement was drawn in Toronto between India and America, to launch a joint Earth-observing satellite mission and establish a pathway for future joint missions. India, it seems, has joined the elite superpowers, and this partnership between two large yet vastly differing democracies with economic models on earth symbolizes a strange common thread: the hurry to abandon Earth and ignore talk of Human Rights, Climate Change, or environmental issues, and simply find a new planet to inhabit.

1240811773377The idea of people abandoning Earth and colonizing Mars might seem far fetched and in the land of science fiction, but not according to many businessmen, such as British Billionaire Richard Branson, who bought the world’s first commercial space line several years ago, Virgin Galactic, in hopes of populating Mars by 2024.

“In my lifetime, I’m determined to be a part of starting a population on Mars. I think its absolutely realistic. It will happen,” he said.

If you have the financial resources, you can even book your flight to Mars when it becomes available at the Virgin Galactic website.

The MOM mission being so cheap is the talk of the industry and the world. Responding to this someone however, quickly expressed his wonderment by writing that Indian government can swing mission to Mars on time and under budget, yet fails to accurately forecast electricity needed for most of the states, every year. According to this CNN article, it claims that a huge part of the reason for it being so cheap is the labor: “For example, highly-skilled aerospace engineers in India might receive a salary of $1,000 per month, a fraction of what they could earn in Europe or the U.S.” During the media frenzy over MOM, I read an interesting article in a local newspaper published here in California:

”The 57 year old writer argued that living to be 75 years of age was long enough for anyone. After 75, we are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” Conveniently forgetting, how our present lives would be poorer if we take away history’s 75 year olds, it goes on to say that aging is more costlier than youth,. Not surprisingly, this argument was to attack the Medicare bills of Obama Care. Although, I wouldn’t agree with any of this, nor would I expect anyone else with no axe to grind would believe this, yet I found a relevance here of some sort. Read this:

Man on Moon 1According to a United Nations Report freshly launched this week, population will reach 9.6 billion. The already exhausted and over taxed Earth will run out of food by 2050. Food prices will inevitably spike with a rising demand for protein foods such as meat, milk, fish and eggs. Growing shortages of fresh water are already adding to the catastrophe. The two major food baskets of the world namely: California in America and Punjab in the Indian sub continent, are already half empty because of the seasons being out of gear and due to Climate Change/ Global Warming. Subjected to continued exploitation and pollution over the years, both are at the verge of an environmental disaster.

In California, the Central Valley agricultural landscape for instance, is already changing for the worse. In a prolonged drought and due to the shortage of irrigation water, thousands of acres of farmed land are left as fallow and hundreds of acres of mature almond orchards have been abandoned and left to die. The environmentalists and the farmers are already fighting each other for their rights to water and the government is caught in the middle of it all. Situation in Punjab wanting to be California so to speak, is even worse, since they don’t seem to be aware of its coming or where they are going. In many studies, a recurring hypothetical is regarding potential wars involving more than 50 countries on five continents all over water rights, unless something is done to control how to share reservoirs, rivers, etc.

Rather than look towards the skies for a new planet to colonize, our focus should be on helping to make this one livable. In the late 1960s,  I watched Neil Armstrong taking those momentous steps on the moon, and I remember the same feelings of amazement mingled with sadness and fear for this planet. Our home. I wrote my poem, “Umber di Shehzadi de Naa,” (To the Princess of the Skies) in 1969. I imagined the Earth and Moon as two sisters. Man has taken all he wanted from Earth and is now knocking on the Moon’s door, intent on doing the same to Moon. Earth writes a letter to her estranged sister, warning her not to open the door. To read more about the story behind this poem, read my Kavita di Kahani.

Please listen to my poem and I would love to know your thoughts in the comments, either here, or on my Facebook Page.

Sufi singer, Mamta Joshi, also sung a beautiful rendition of my poem, which you can listen to below:

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Fighting Our Own Battles: Using Technology to Educate People on The Sikhs!

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in Discussion | 0 comments

safe_image.phpIt always pleases me when I see organizations like SALDEF (Sikh American Legal Fund) stepping up to actively educate people about the the Sikh turban. It seems like it’s an ongoing series of battles, even though we have been living here in America for over a century!

Caused primarily by ignorance and misunderstanding, several community activists and Sikh American organizations are actively engaged to overcome this bias by spreading awareness and educate our fellow American brothers and sisters. They are working with the legislators, educators and other community leaders and organizations. Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, SALDEF has launched a historic new media initiative on behalf of Sikh Americans, with first ever PSA (Public Service Announcement) by a Sikh American – Waris Ahluwalia, an actor, writer, and designer. Please take a moment to view it above and you can read more about the initiative HERE

Under different circumstances and in a different land, the Sikh turban has a long history representing a revolutionary voice against oppression, ever since Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion donned it the first time more than 500 years ago. Below is a video slide show of my Punjabi poem “ਪੱਗ ਦੀ ਸਾਂਝ,” (Pag di Saanjh with English subtitles): a Tribute to the Sikh Turban that I sang to add to this dialogue and hopefully instill pride, respect, and understanding in its history and all it represents.

The importance of not only educating others, but educating ourselves on the history of the Sikh turban and contextualizing it is especially important today when it has become almost a standard part of a Sikh boy’s educational experience to be called “Osama,” or “terrorist,” simply because people don’t know who the Sikhs are or what the turban represents.

Sikhs have been in the United States for over a century. It’s about time our fellow Americans knew!

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This Father’s Day, Read a Book: “ਬਿਰਖ ਦਾਤਾ “

Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 in Discussion | 0 comments

pashaura

Fathers Day ਨੂੰ ਸਮਰਪਿਤ:

Happy Father’s Day!

Recently, my grandson was featured on Huffington Post’s article: 15 Reasons Why You Should Celebrate Father’s Day With A Book (he is number 15!) and it was wonderful to see so many dads and grandfathers actively reading. There is a social media movement called #DadsRead (Read about it HERE) that encourages all Dads to read to their children and grandfathers too. It occurred to me that there isn’t much written in Punjabi about this topic. So I have written this blog post in Punjabi, dedicated especially to fathers and grandfathers of Punjab.

ਪਿਛਲੇ ਸਾਲ ਫਰਿਜ਼ਨੋ ਕੈਲੇਫੋਰਨੀਆ ਵਿਚ ਨੌਜਵਾਨਾਂ ਦੀ ਬਣੀ ਸੰਸਥਾ “ਜੈਕਾਰਾ” ਵਲੋਂ ਬੱਚਿਆਂ ਵਾਸਤੇ ਪ੍ਰੋਗ੍ਰਾਮ ਉਲੀਕੇ ਗਏ ਸਨ |  ਇਕ ਅਜੇਹੇ ਪ੍ਰੋਗ੍ਰਾਮ ਲਈ ਪ੍ਰਬੰਧਕਾਂ ਦੀ ਬੇਨਤੀ ਉੱਤੇ ਮੇਰੇ ਵਲੋਂ  ਸ਼ੈਲ ਸਿਲਵਰਸਟਾਈਨ ਦੀ ਅੰਗ੍ਰੇਜ਼ੀ ਵਿਚ ਲਿਖੀ ਹੋਈ ਕਹਾਣੀ ” The Giving Tree” ਦਾ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਰੂਪ ਪੇਸ਼ ਕੀਤਾ ਗਿਆ | ਆਪਣੀ ਇਸ ਬਲੌਗ ਉਤੇ ਪਾਠਕਾਂ ਦੀ ਨਜ਼ਰ ਕਹਾਣੀ ਦਾ ਓਹ ਰੂਪ ਪੋਸਟ ਕਰ ਰਿਹਾ ਹਾਂ :

Boy Up on Tree
ਇੱਕ ਸੀ ਬਿਰਖ !  . . .ਤੇ ਉਹਨੂੰ ਇੱਕ ਨਿੱਕਾ ਜਿਹਾ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਬੜਾ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਲਗਿਆ ਕਰੇ | ਓਹ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਹਰ ਰੋਜ਼ ਉਸ ਬਿਰਖ ਕੋਲ ਆਉਂਦਾ , ਓਹਦੇ ਪੱਤੇ ਇਕੱਠੇ ਕਰਦਾ, ਸਿਰ ਦਾ ਤਾਜ ਬਣਾਉਂਦਾ ਤੇ ਜੰਗਲ ਦਾ ਰਾਜਾ ਬਣ ਬਣ ਕੇ ਖੇਡਦਾ ਰਹਿੰਦਾ | ਓਹ ਉਹਦੇ ਮੋਟੇ ਤਣੇ ਤੇ ਚੜ੍ਹ ਕੇ ਓਹਦੀਆਂ ਟਾਹਣੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਝੂਟੇ ਲੈਂਦਾ ਖੇਡਦਾ ਰਹਿੰਦਾ ਤੇ ਜਦੋਂ ਥੱਕ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਓਸੇ ਬਿਰਖ ਦੀ ਛਾਂਵੇਂ ਈ ਸੌਂ ਜਾਂਦਾ |

ਉਸ ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੂੰ ਓਹ ਬਿਰਖ ਬੜਾ ਈ ਚੰਗਾ ਚੰਗਾ ਲਗਦਾ ਸੀ  | ਤੇ ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੂੰ ਖੁਸ਼ ਵੇਖ ਕੇ ਬਿਰਖ ਹੋਰ ਵੀ ਖੁਸ਼ ਹੁੰਦਾ !

ਪਰ  ਸਮਾਂ ਲੰਘਦਾ ਗਿਆ ਤੇ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਵੱਡਾ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਗਿਆ | ਹੁਣ ਓਹਨੇ ਓਸ ਬਿਰਖ ਕੋਲ ਆਓਣਾ ਜਾਣਾ ਘੱਟ ਕਰ ਦਿੱਤਾ | ਓਹ ਬਿਰਖ ਹੁਣ ਕੁਝ ‘ਕੱਲਾ ਇਕੱਲਾ ਮਹਿਸੂਸ ਕਰਨ ਲੱਗਾ !
ਫਿਰ ਇੱਕ ਦਿਨ ਓਹ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਉਸ ਕੋਲ ਆਇਆ ਤੇ ਬਿਰਖ ਨੇ ਚਾਈਂ ਚਾਈਂ ਆਖਿਆ ,” ਓਏ ਮੁੰਡਿਆ ਆ ਜਾ, ਮੇਰੇ ਤਣੇ ਤੇ ਚੜ੍ਹ ਜਾ , ਮੇਰੀਆਂ ਟਾਹਣੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਝੂਟੇ ਲੈ, ਫਲ ਖਾ, ਮੇਰੀ ਛਾਂਵੇਂ ਬੈਠ, ਖੁਸ਼ ਰਹੁ ਸੱਜਣਾ ਤੇ ਮੌਜਾਂ ਮਾਣ” |Boy asking for money

“ਮੇਰੀ ਉਮਰ ਹੁਣ ਬਿਰਖ ਤੇ ਚੜ੍ਹਨ ਤੇ ਖੇਡਣ ਵਾਲੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹੀ | ਮੈਂ ਵੱਡਾ ਹੋ ਗਿਆ ਵਾਂ | ਮੈਂ ਹੁਣ ਕੋਈ ਚੀਜ਼ਾਂ ਵਸਤਾਂ ਖਰੀਦਣੀਆਂ ਤੇ ਮਜ਼ੇ  ਲੁੱਟਣਾ ਚਾਹੁੰਦਾ ਵਾਂ  | ਮੈਨੂੰ ਕੁਝ ਪੈਸੇ ਚਾਹੀਦੇ ਨੇ | ਤੂੰ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਕੁਝ ਪੈਸੇ ਦੇ ਸਕਦਾ ਏਂ “? ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੇ ਪੁੱਛਿਆ |

“ਬਈ ਮੁੰਡਿਆ ਇਹ ਤੇ ਬੜੀ ਮਾੜੀ ਗੱਲ ਹੋਈ | ਮੈਂ ਤੇ ਪੈਸੇ ਰਖਦਾ ਈ ਨੀਂ ; ਮੇਰੇ ਕੋਲ ਤੇ ਪੱਤੇ ਈ ਨੇ ਤੇ ਜਾਂ ਫਿਰ ਫਲ ! ਤੂੰ ਇੰਜ ਕਰ ਬਈ ਮੇਰੇ ਫਲ ਲੈ ਜਾ, ਸ਼ਹਿਰ ਜਾ ਕੇ ਵੇਚ ਲਵੀਂ, ਪੈਸੇ ਵੱਟੀਂ, ਚੀਜ਼ਾਂ ਵਸਤਾਂ ਖਰੀਦੀੰ   ਤੇ ਮੌਜਾਂ ਕਰੀਂ,” ਬਿਰਖ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ |

ਬਿਰਖ ਦੀ ਗੱਲ ਸੁਣਕੇ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਬਿਰਖ ਤੇ ਚੜ੍ਹ ਗਿਆ, ਖੁਸ਼ੀ ਖੁਸ਼ੀ ਫਲ ਇਕੱਠੇ ਕੀਤੇ ਤੇ ਲੈ ਕੇ ਸ਼ਹਿਰ ਚਲਾ ਗਿਆ | ਮੁੰਡੇ ਦੀ ਖੁਸ਼ੀ ਵੇਖਕੇ ਬਿਰਖ ਵੀ ਖੁਸ਼ ਸੀ |

ਪਰ ਹੁਣ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਬੜਾ ਚਿਰ ਮੁੜਕੇ ਨਾ ਆਇਆ | ਰੁਖ ਉਦਾਸ ਹੋ ਗਿਆ | ਇੱਕ ਦਿਨ ਕੀ ਹੋਇਆ ਬਈ ਓਹ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਫਿਰ ਆ ਗਿਆ | ਓਹਨੂੰ ਦੂਰੋਂ ਈ ਆਉਂਦਿਆਂ ਵੇਖ ਕੇ ਬਿਰਖ ਖੁਸ਼ੀ ਵਿਚ ਝੂਮ ਉਠਿਆ ਤੇ ਚਾਅ  ਨਾਲ ਅਖਣ  ਲੱਗਾ ,” ਆ ਜਾ ਆ ਜਾ ਮੁੰਡਿਆ ਆ ਜਾ | ਮੇਰੇ ਉੱਪਰ ਚੜ੍ਹ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਮੇਰੀਆਂ ਟਾਹਣੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਝੂਟ | ਫਲ ਖਾ, ਮੇਰੀ ਛਾਂਵੇਂ ਬੈਠ, ਹੱਸ ਖੇਡ ਤੇ ਮਜ਼ੇ ਕਰ |

“ਮੇਰੇ ਕੋਲ ਹੁਣ ਖੇਡਣ ਦੀ ਵੇਹਲ ਕਿਥੇ ? ਮੈਨੂੰ ਵਹੁਟੀ ਚਾਹੀਦੀ ਆ, ਬੱਚੇ ਚਾਹੀਦੇ ਨੇ,  ਮੀਂਹ ਹਨੇਰੀ ਤੋਂ ਬਚਣ ਅਤੇ ਸੁਖ-ਆਰਾਮ ਲਈ ਘਰ ਚਾਹੀਦੈ ? ਕੀ ਤੂੰ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਘਰ ਦੇ ਸਕਦੈਂ “? ਮੁੰਡੇ  ਨੇ ਪੁੱਛਿਆ |

“ਮੇਰੇ ਕੋਲ ਤੇ ਕੋਈ ਘਰ ਹੈ ਨਹੀਂ | ਮੇਰਾ ਤੇ ਜੰਗਲ ਈ ਘਰ ਆ,” ਬਿਰਖ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ | “ਪਰ ਤੂੰ ਇੰਜ ਕਰ ਮੇਰੇ ਟਾਹਣ ਈ ਵਢ  ਕੇ ਲੈ ਜਾ, ਜਾ ਕੇ ਘਰ ਬਣਾ ਲਵੀਂ ਤੇ ਮੌਜਾਂ ਕਰੀਂ, ਖੁਸ਼ ਰਵ੍ਹੀਂ “|Boy Taking Limbs away

ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੇ ਬਿਰਖ ਦੇ ਟਾਹਣ ਵਢ ਲਏ ਤੇ ਲਿਜਾ ਕੇ ਘਰ ਬਣਾ ਲਿਆ | ਮੁੰਡੇ ਦੀ ਖੁਸ਼ੀ ਵੇਖ ਕੇ ਬਿਰਖ ਵੀ ਖੁਸ਼ ਸੀ |

ਪਰ ਹੁਣ ਫੇਰ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਕਈ ਚਿਰ ਮੁੜ ਕੇ ਨਾ ਆਇਆ | ਬਿਰਖ ਫਿਰ ਉਦਾਸ ਹੋ ਗਿਆ |

ਬੜੀ ਦੇਰ ਬਾਅਦ ਜਦੋਂ ਬਿਰਖ ਨੇ ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੂੰ ਆਉਂਦਿਆਂ ਵੇਖਿਆ ਤਾਂ ਖੁਸ਼ੀ ਵਿਚ ਉਸ ਤੋਂ ਬੋਲਿਆ ਹੀ ਨਾ ਜਾਏ | ” ਆ ਬਈ ਮੁੰਡਿਆ ਆ ਜਾ | ਆ ਜਾ ਮੇਰੇ ਕੋਲ ਤੇ ਖੇਡ-ਮਲ੍ਹ,” ਬੜੀ ਮੁਸ਼ਕਿਲ ਨਾਲ ਬੜੀ ਹੌਲੀ ਜਿਹੀ ਆਵਾਜ਼ ਵਿਚ  ਬਿਰਖ ਨੇ ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੂੰ ਆਖਿਆ |

“ਹੁਣ ਤੇ ਮੇਰੀ ਖੇਡ੍ਹਣ ਵਾਲੀ ਉਮਰ ਈ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹੀ,” ਮੁੰਡਾ ਅਖਣ ਲੱਗਾ | “ਹੁਣ ਤੇ ਮੈਨੂੰ ਚਾਹੀਦੀ ਏ ਇੱਕ ਬੇੜੀ, ਜਿਹਦੇ ਉੱਪਰ ਤੈਰ ਕੇ ਮੈ ਕਿਤੇ ਦੂਰ ਜਾ ਸਕਾਂ “| ਕੀ ਤੂੰ ਮੈਨੂ ਬੇੜੀ ਦੇ ਸਕੇਂਗਾ ?

” ਤੂੰ ਇੰਜ ਕਰ ਬਈ ਮੇਰਾ ਇਹ ਮੋਟਾ ਤਣਾ ਈ ਵਢ ਲੈ ਤੇ ਬੇੜੀ ਬਣਾ ਲੈ,” ਬਿਰਖ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ | “ਫਿਰ ਤੂੰ ਬੇੜੀ ਨਾਲ ਪਾਣੀ ਤੇ ਜਿਧਰ ਮਰਜ਼ੀ ਸਫਰ ਕਰੀਂ ਤੇ ਖੁਸ਼ ਰਵ੍ਹੀਂ “[

ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੇ ਬਿਰਖ ਦਾ ਮੋਟਾ ਤਣਾ ਵੀ ਕੱਟ ਲਿਆ ਤੇ ਬੇੜੀ ਬਣਾ ਕੇ ਪਾਣੀ ਤੇ ਸਫਰ ਕਰਦਿਆਂ ਓਥੋਂ ਦੂਰ ਚਲੇ ਜਾਣ ਲਈ ਠਿੱਲ ਪਿਆ |STUMP , MAN  & River

ਪਰ ਬੱਚਿਓ ਬਿਰਖ ਭਲਾ ਹੁਣ ਅੰਦਰੋਂ  ਖੁਸ਼ ਸੀ ? ਨਹੀਂ ਨਾ. . . !

ਲੰਮੇ ਸਮੇਂ ਪਿਛੋਂ ਓਹ ਮੁੰਡਾ ਫਿਰ ਆ ਗਿਆ |

“ਮੈਨੂੰ ਅਫਸੋਸ ਹੈ ਮੁੰਡਿਆ” ਮੁੰਡੇ ਵਲ ਵੇਖ ਕੇ ਬਿਰਖ ਨੇ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਨਾਲ ਆਖਿਆ | “ਹੁਣ ਤੇ ਮੇਰੇ ਕੋਲ ਤੈਨੂੰ ਦੇਣ ਵਾਸਤੇ ਕੁਝ ਵੀ ਬਾਕੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਿਹਾ | ਮੇਰੇ ਤੇ ਫਲ ਵੀ ਹੁਣ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹੇ”|

“ਮੇਰੇ ਵੀ ਦੰਦ  ਹੁਣ ਹਿਲ ਗਏ ਨੇ , ਮੈਂ ਵੀ ਫਲ ਖਾਣ  ਜੋਗਾ ਹੁਣ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹਿ ਗਿਆ” ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ |

“ਮੇਰੀ ਤੇ ਕੋਈ ਟਾਹਣੀ ਵੀ ਬਾਕੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹਿ ਗਈ ਜਿੱਥੇ ਤੂੰ ਝੂਟ ਸਕੇਂ ” ਬਿਰਖ ਬੋਲਿਆ |

“ਮੈਂ ਵੀ ਵੱਡਾ ਹੋ ਗਿਆ ਵਾਂ ਹੁਣ ਟਾਹਣੀਆਂ ਤੇ ਪਹਿਲਾਂ ਵਾਂਗ  ਝੂਟ ਨਹੀਂ ਸਕਾਂਗਾ” ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ | “ਮੇਰਾ ਤੇ ਮੋਟਾ ਤਣਾ ਵੀ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਲਗਾ ਜਿਸ ‘ਤੇ ਤੂੰ ਚੜ੍ਹ ਸਕਦੋਂ ,” ਬਿਰਖ ਕਹਿਣ ਲੱਗਾ |

“ਮੈਂ ਵੀ ਏਨਾ ਥੱਕ ਗਿਆ ਵਾਂ ਬਈ ਤਣੇ  ਤੇ ਚੜ੍ਹ ਈ ਨਹੀਂ ਸੀ ਸਕਣਾ”  ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ | “ਮੈਨੂੰ ਇਸ ਦਾ ਡਾਢਾ ਦੁੱਖ ਹੈ,”  ਬਿਰਖ ਨੇ ਹੌਕਾ ਲੈਂਦਿਆਂ ਆਖਿਆ | “ਮੈਂ ਚਾਹੁੰਦਾ ਸਾਂ ਤੈਨੂੰ ਕੁਝ ਦੇ ਸਕਦਾ, ਪਰ ਮੇਰੇ ਕੋਲ ਦੇਣ ਲਈ ਕੁਝ ਬਚਿਆ ਹੀ ਨਹੀਂ | ਹੁਣ ਤਾਂ ਮੈਂ ਇੱਕ ਪੁਰਾਣਾ ਮੁਢ਼ ਹੀ ਰਹਿ ਗਿਆ ਵਾਂ ,”  ਬਿਰਖ ਨੂੰ ਬੜਾ ਹਿਰਖ ਸੀ |Return after Long Time

“ਮੈਨੂੰ ਵੀ ਥੋੜ੍ਹੀ ਬੈਠਣ ਲਈ ਥਾਂ ਤੋਂ ਬਿਨਾਂ ਹੁਣ ਹੋਰ ਕੁਝ ਨਹੀਂ ਚਾਹਿਦਾ | ਮੈਂ ਬਹੁਤ ਥੱਕ ਗਿਆ ਵਾਂ | ਆਰਾਮ ਨਾਲ ਰਤਾ ਬੈਠਣਾ ਹੀ ਚਾਹੁੰਦਾ ਹਾਂ,” ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ |

“ਹੱਛਾ” ! ਬਿਰਖ ਨੇ ਥੋੜ੍ਹਾ ਆਪਣੇ ਆਪ ਨੂੰ ਜਿਨਾਂ ਕੁ ਓਹ ਹੋ ਸਕਦਾ ਸੀ ਸਿਧਾ ਹੋ ਕੇ ਆਖਿਆ,  ” ਫੇਰ ਤਾਂ ਇਹ ਮੇਰਾ ਪੁਰਾਣਾ ਮੁਢ  ਵੀ ਤੇਰੇ ਬੈਠਣ ਦੇ ਕੰਮ ਆ ਸਕਦੈ | ਆ ਜਾ ਮੁੰਡਿਆ ਆ ਜਾ | ਤੂੰ ਇਸ ਮੁਢ ਉੱਤੇ ਚੜ੍ਹ ਕੇ  ਬੈਠ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਆਰਾਮ ਕਰ” | ਮੁੰਡੇ ਨੂੰ ਮੁਢ ਤੇ ਆਰਾਮ ਕਰਦਿਆਂ ਵੇਖ ਬਿਰਖ ਅਜੇ ਵੀ ਖੁਸ਼ ਸੀ. . . !!!Boy now a Tired Oldman
ਵਿਸ਼ੇਸ਼ ਨੋਟ:
ਸਾਡੇ ਪੁਰਖਿਆਂ ਨੇ 5000 ਸਾਲ ਤੋਂ ਸਾਂਭ ਸੰਭਾਲ ਕੇ ਹਰਿਆ-ਭਰਿਆ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਰੂਪੀ ਓਹ ਸਵਰਗ ਸਾਨੂੰ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਸੀ ਜਿਸਦੇ ਵਗਦੇ ਰਗਦੇ ਖੂਹਾਂ ਤੇ ਜਿਵੇਂ ਰੱਬ ਆਪ ਵਸਦਾ ਰਿਹਾ ਸੀ ! ਦੁਧ ਵਹਿੰਦੀਆਂ ਨਦੀਆਂ ਵਾਲੇ ਉਸ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਵਿਚ ਅਜ ਉਸ ਦੇ ਆਪਣੇ ਧੀਆਂ-ਪੁੱਤਰ ਨਸ਼ਿਆਂ ਵਿਚ ਡੁੱਬੇ ਫੋਕੇ ਪਾਣੀ ਨੂੰ ਤਰਸ ਗਏ ਹਨ | ਪਾਣੀ ਦੀ ਘੁੱਟ ਲਈ ਵੀ ਦਿੱਲੀ ਵਲ ਵੇਖ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ | ਹਰ ਪਖੋਂ  ਵਾਤਾ-ਵਰਨ ਦੀ ਇਸ ਟੁੰਡ-ਮਰੁੰਡ ਵਿਚ ਆਓ ਰੁੱਖ ਦੇ ਉਸ ਮੁਢ ਤੋਂ ਉਠੀਏ ਜਿਸਨੂੰ  ਲਾਲਚ-ਵੱਸ ਅਸਾਂ ਆਪ ਆਪਣੀ  ਹਥੀਂ ਪੋਰੀ ਪੋਰੀ ਕਤਲ ਕੀਤਾ ਸੀ ਤੇ ਆਪਣੇ ਬੱਚਿਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਮੁੜ੍ਹ ਉਸ ਬਿਰਖ ਨਾਲ ਜੋੜੀਏ ਜਿਸਦੇ ਮੋਢਿਆਂ ਉਪਰ ਚੜ੍ਹ ਕੇ ਅਸਾਂ ਅਜੇ ਹੋਰ ਅੱਗੇ ਜਾਣਾ ਹੈ | ਮੇਰੀ ਜਾਚੇ ਸ਼ੈਲ ਸਿਲਵਰਸਟਾਈਨ ਦੀ ਇਹ ਕਹਾਣੀ ਸਾਡੀ ਤਰਾਸਦੀ ਦੀ ਹੀ ਓਹ ਕਹਾਣੀ ਹੈ ਜਿਸ ਤੋਂ ਵਧ ਕੇ ਅਸੀਂ ਅਜੇ ਆਪ ਬਿਆਨ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਰ ਸਕੇ  !
ਜਿਓਂ ਜਿਓਂ ਓਹ ਸੁਣਨ ਅਤੇ ਸਮਝਣ ਯੋਗ ਹੋ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ, ਮੈਂ ਅਤੇ ਮੇਰੀ ਪਤਨੀ ਆਪਣੇ ਦੋਤ੍ਹ- ਪੋਤ ਨੂੰ ਇਹ ਕਹਾਣੀ ਅਤੇ ਇਸਤਰਾਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਹੋਰ ਬਾਰ ਬਾਰ ਪੜ੍ਹਕੇMudh te Baittha JJ ਸੁਣਾਉਂਦੇ ਰਹਾਂਗੇ | ਵਾਅਦਾ ਕਰੋ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਆਪਣੇ ਬੱਚਿਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਅਜੇਹਾ ਕੁਝ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਅੱਗੇ ਆਓਗੇ ਤਾ ਕਿ Father’s Day ਕੇਵਲ ਪਿਓ -ਪੁੱਤਾਂ ਵਾਸਤੇ ਮਹਿੰਗੀ ਟਾਈ ਜਾਂ ਕੁਝ ਹੋਰ ਖਰੀਦਣ ਤੀਕ ਹੀ ਸੀਮਤ ਨਾ ਰਹਿ ਜਾਏ | ਜਿਥੇ ਸ਼ੈਲ ਸਿਲਵਰਸਟਾਈਨ ਹੁਰਾਂ ਦਾ ਇਸ ਕਹਾਣੀ ਲਿਖਣ ਲਈ ਦੇਣਦਾਰ ਹਾਂ ਓਥੇ ਇਸ ਕਾਰਜ ਲਈ ਤੱਤਪਰ “ਕੈਮਰਾ ਚੁੱਪ ਨਹੀਂ” ਵਾਲੇ ਇਸ ਤਸਵੀਰ ਵਿਚ ਮੁਢ ਤੇ ਬੈਠ ਕੇ ਕੈਮਰਾ ਸਾਫ਼ ਕਰ ਰਹੇ ਜਨਮੇਜਾ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੌਹਲ ਹੁਰਾਂ ਦਾ ਵੀ ਇਸ ਤਸਵੀਰ ਲਈ ਖਾਸ ਤੌਰ ਉੱਪਰ ਧੰਨਵਾਦੀ ਹਾਂ !

Other related links re: Father’s  Day and the Environment :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKXhEEVPasg

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Happy International Women’s Day From Madera, California with the American Association of University Women and my Punjabi Poem with English subtitles: “Daughters”

Posted by on Mar 14, 2014 in Discussion | 2 comments

On Friday and Saturday, I celebrated International Women’s Day locally in Madera California with the American Association of University Women (AAUW), where I was kindly invited to introduce my poem, “Dhean,” or “Daughters.” Both events were organized by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which has been empowering women since 1881! It was a matter of great privilege for me to have been invited for both these occasions. The Galloway Hall at the Madera Public library and the conference room at the Methodist church were filled by women and children of all ages. There were 17 other speakers, along with some wonderful children’s dance groups.

AAUW Galloway Room Library Picture

AAUW Galloway Room Library Picture

Me with President AAUW Madera

Standing with some of the members of AAUW Madera, including the President

I was the only male speaker present and it was humbling to hear the very personal stories other speakers shared. Ileana Herera shared her story of suffering domestic violence and overcoming it. She was married and pregnant at 18. She endured beatings during her pregnancy by her husband, and is now a survivor, bravely sharing her experience to educate and give hope to victims of domestic violence. Offering her advice she said,” if you don’t do anything, your hope is false. You can’t rely on someone changing their ways. You must act.”

There are many areas that need improvement, but there is also much to celebrate of the progress made in women’s rights. But it was not always like this. Women’s rights groups have been pivotal in the strides made, and should be commended for this.

In Western countries, when we think of inequality of human rights, gender based violence or the most horrific acts of violence against women around the world, such as acid attacks, female genital mutilation, sex slavery, child marriage, honor killings, feticide, to name a few, we tend to assume these are things that only happen in “Third World” countries, far away from us, or places that don’t have democratic governments or are ruled by religious zealots. But the reality is that it happens everywhere, including right here in the United States. Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Former Secretary of State called gender-based violence “an issue of international human rights and national security.”

300px-Guru_nanak_sri_lankaGuru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion understood it as no easy task to change people’s age old mindset. He declared it in no uncertain terms 500 years ago in the poetic verse from the Guru Granth Sahib – the Sikh Holy Scripture, on page 473: “ਭੰਡਿ ਜੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਨਿੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਮੰਗਣ ਵੀਅਹੁ ॥ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਚਲੈ ਰਾਹੁ ॥ ਭੰਡੁ ਮੁਆ ਭੰਡੁ ਭਾਲੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਬੰਧਾਨ ॥ ਸੋ ਕਿਉਂ ਮੰਦਾ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਤੁ ਜੰਮਹਿ ਰਾਜਾਨ ॥

This roughly translates in English to: “She is the one to whom we are born. In her womb develops life.  She is the one who makes friendships, becomes a lover, a wife and a partner in procreation and it is through her we make relations with others.  It is from the woman the creation goes round. If someone loses his wife he looks for another one. After all she is the one who gave birth to the bravest of the brave and king of kings. So don’t say she is a lesser person than a man.”

When I first wrote my poem, I imagined a very small number of people would be interested in it, not just because it was written in Punjabi, but because the subject matter is one that is not often addressed: daughters. My son, Navdeep, convinced me to write an English translation, and soon after that we created a moving image slideshow set to my voice, which we uploaded to youtube. It was wonderful to be able to share this particular poem with the AAUW.

DHEAN: DAUGHTERS

I wrote this poem as a father, brother, husband and as a grandfather. Although I completed the poem recently when the news of feticide and dowry related violence started to get worse in India, I had been thinking about it for some time. I had first listened to the famous singer Noor Jahan’s rendition of a Punjabi song a while ago.

Here is the original video by Noor Jehan:

Starting with the lyrics, “Eh Puttar Hattan te Nahi Wikde, Aven na Takkran Mar Kure” roughly translated in English, meaning: “our sons cannot be bought in the market place, they are a gift from god.” How so very much I loved the tune and the very melodious voice of Noor Jehan, the lopsided message of what was left unsung in this song always irked me. If sons cannot be bought at the marketplace, what is being implied about daughters? Are they not a gift from god? Are they expendable or replaceable? Praising only sons, I thought the lyrics of this song knowingly or unwittingly further reinforce the age old stereotype. Read the full Kavita di Kahani (Story behind the poem).

  • Through this poem, I wanted to tell that, daughters are an equally a precious blessing.
  • I wanted to draw attention to the frightening statistics of feticide as well as to the curse of dowry in India.
  • I also wanted to make this poem stand out as a tribute to ‘daughters of the world’ and make it accessible to those who do not speak Punjabi by adding English sub-titles.
  • But more importantly, I wanted to slowly make people think and change the age old mindset.

If you like this poem, please share this post with others, and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or on my Facebook fan page.

 

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My Visit to the Historical City of Sultanpur Lodhi, a Hidden Jewel in Punjab

Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 in Discussion | 5 comments

Historical Sultanpur Lodhi

Mosque inside the compounds of the Historical Sultanpur Lodhi Fort

I have just returned from a wonderful visit to India, and as usual I spent most of my time in Punjab visiting family and friends, with a day or two in Delhi. The main reason for my visit this time was to attend my nephew’s wedding in Gurdaspur, and then there was a very interesting Parvassi Samelan in Punjab during this month.

Since my time is very limited, I don’t usually venture outside what is familiar. Aside from visiting various historical Gurduaras in Punjab and of course Jallianwallah Bagh in Amritsar, I wasn’t even aware of historical places in Punjab, and even less of a movement to preserve it. I was delighted to have been invited to visit the Sultanpur Lodhi Fort, apparently built in 1 A.D.  I am not a scholar or academic with any in-depth knowledge about the history, but it is a place that I am glad some people are taking the initiative to preserve before it is bulldozed to the ground and a mall comes in its place in the name of “progress.”

Bhai Baldeep Singh invited me to visit this historic place for a deeply moving experience. He is the chairman and Founder at the Anad Foundation, which aims to preserve the history and also the artistic culture of that history, especially Punjab’s musical traditions, like the dying art of the Rabab, and artistic traditions like calligraphy. He is also a very talented musician. To find more details of the history of the fort, check out this link and definitely check out the Anad Foundation.

IMG_4817_resizedAt first, I thought my ignorance that this historic fort even exists was because  I live thousands of miles from Punjab, but many of my relatives or friends in Punjab, who lived in the vicinity of it,didn’t know of its existence or significance either. So there is certainly something else going on and the major reason is that Sultanpur Lodhi is not being treated with respect as it deserves as a place of historical significance for Indians, Punjabis, and especially an important part of Sikh history. A similar effort one hears is underway to preserve historic sites in other places in India, so I fully encourage this to take place in the Punjab.

The audience in attendance of the seminar Bhai Baldeep Singh invited me to were calligraphers, painters of Gurbani Ragas, poets, and those with an interest in preserving this important part of our history as Punjabis and Indians, but especially for those who are Sikh. I felt greatly honored to be amongst them and found the entire event utterly engaging and thought provoking.

My son-in-law’s family live in Kapurthala next door to Sultanpur Lodhi, and they insisted I should come visit them first, and then they will take me to Sultanpur Lodhi. I quickly accepted the twin invitation. I never say no to kind hospitality, good food, and great conversation! The road from Chandigarh was in a thick fog and I almost felt like I was back in the Central Valley of California! The fog blanketed the roads and wouldn’t lift for the entire day, which really raised expectations of what this historic site would be like. Even back in California, I try not to drive anywhere when weather conditions aren’t good, but this was completely worth the hazardous road conditions, although I would strongly recommend waiting for the fog to lift before driving!

Just a few miles from Sultanpur Lodhi, I attended Khalsa College in Amritsar. My wife grew up just a few miles in the other direction in Tarn Taran, yet neither of us had ever stopped to see a treasure in the form of a historical place at Sultanpur Lodhi for all Indians, Punjabis, and especially Sikhs. Growing up in Bhakna a few miles away in the west, I heard stories from the Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak Dev Ji returning from his meditative trance and declaring what would become the foundation of the Sikh religion and resonated with the ideology of the Ghadrites who really tried to put in practice: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim,” a call to the end of discrimination and a fight for human rights, a fight that continues today.

IMG_4805_resized

One often worries and complains about the destroyed history due to ignorance as the marble has replaced our humble yet proud heritage up and down the country over the years. But what about the landmarks still standing by the mere stroke of luck or their sheer resilience and are in the state of complete neglect and encroachment only waiting to be replaced or come down on their own? One such monument of the greatest importance for the Sikhs is the Nawab’s fort at Sultanpur Lodhi! Many people believe that the mosque still standing within the compounds of this fort (Quila) is the same mosque where the Nawab Daulat Khan had invited Guru Nanak to participate in that much talked about namaz or Muslim prayer. Next to the mosque, there remains that ancient narrow brick lined well which is now covered by an iron grill.

All of the photographs you see in this blog post were taken by an incredibly gifted young Punjabi photographer, Anhad Khinda, my son-in-law’s nephew, and I am very happy he takes such care with this art form. Follow him on instagram @anhad_khinda. Below are some more images he took of Sultanpur Lodhi Fort and the last one is just outside it: 

Sultanpur Lodhi ©Anhad Khinda 2013

Part picture of Sultanpur Lodhi Fort taken from within compound walls

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Sultanpur Lodhi Fort Main Entrance

IMG_4850_resized

Outside the Sultanpur Lodhi Fort is a ruin called HADERA which is believed to be once the place of rest for the queens on their way to royal gardens.

Have you visited Sultanpur Lodhi? Leave a comment and tell me about your experience. 

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Which is Better: Acappella (voice only) or with Musical Accompaniment?

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in Audio Download, Punjabi Poetry | 1 comment

A few years ago when I published my first collection of poetry, Diva Bale Samundron Paar, I also had the opportunity to work with some wonderful musicians and a recording studio in Chandigarh. On my upcoming trip to India, I am going to take some of my poems and collaborate with more traditional musicians, like tabla and dilruba players. I will post that on here when it is ready in February! In the meantime, check out both versions of my previous album – with musical accompaniment and without. Let me know what you think!

Awaaz te Parvaaz (a cappella – my voice only, without musical accompaniment)

Awaaz te Parvaaz (with musical accompaniment)

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New Album: Toon Sathon Mukh Na Morhin (a-cappella)

Posted by on Dec 8, 2013 in Audio Download | 1 comment

As many of you know, I usually sing my poems a-cappella (without musical accompaniment). My son, Navdeep, helped to setup a recording studio in my home so that I can do more a-cappella recordings, which is more familiar and comfortable to me, but I am interested in experimenting!

Have a listen to my latest album and let me know what you think:

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