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Poet, Singer, and Activist

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 in Discussion | 0 comments

Pashaura Singh Dhillon: Poet and SingerVictor Hugo once wrote, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has
come.” In the 21st Century however, it appears there are more than one idea whose time may be already much overdue; Indo -Pak normalcy is one of them.

As the diplomats from both sides wearing smiles of hope shuffle to cross the barbed wires more frequently these days, I came across a six liner poem written in Gurmukhi script by a son of Punjabi Language, Subhash Kla-kaar. The poem is  posted on the face book by the courtesy of Harpreet Sffi. Since I myself would not have been able to write a better poem than this one on this Valentine’s Day, I could not think of a more appropriate gift for my people on both sides of the border  than to share this poem on my Blog.

while I cannot thank the poet Subhash enough for writing this piece from the bottom of his heart and Harpreet for posting it on his wall ; For the benefit of non-Gurmukhi readers however, I have converted this poem to Roman script also and have taken the liberty to add a two liner of my own. Judging from the positive Facebook response so far where many friends have already liked it, I hope my blog readers will like it too. As always I look forward to having your thoughts !

  ਫਿਰ   ਕਰਮਾਂ   ਨੂੰ  ਸਸੀਏ  ਬੈਠੀ   ਝੂਰੇਂਗੀ,
  ਲੁਟ ਗਿਆ ਜੇ ਸੁਤੇਆਂ ਸ਼ਹਿਰ ਭਮਬੋਰ ਜਿਹਾ !
                                                            Pashaura S Dhillon

Jhootth Smein da Sup di Tedhi Tor Jiha
Aapna Such Hei Pailaan Paunde More Jiha
Kaash! Ke Tu-N Vi Vekhe-N Sada Ludhiana
Kaask! Ke Mein Vi Vekha-N Shehr Lhor Jiha
Too-N Chahein Znjeer Bnaa Vi Skde Haa-n
Hale Sada Rishta Kuchhi Dore Jiha
Phir Krma-n Nu Saseay Betthi Jhoorengi,
Lut gia jay suteaan Shehr Bhambore Jiha!
-Pashaura S Dhillon

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Election 2012: Land of Milk and Honey vs. Land of Drug Rivers

Posted by on Jan 10, 2012 in Discussion | 0 comments

Punjab Elections 2012It is Election Time again!

While lines are being drawn here in America, the land of milk and honey, the battle has already begun back home in Punjab, where drugs flow in otherwise drying rivers. The drug problem that has been ravaging through Punjab is no longer something that can be swept under the carpet. It used to be a running joke in India that a housewife in Punnjab has to walk longer to buy the mirch-masala for her kitchen than for her son to get his alcohol or hard drugs delivered at home. What is interesting is while there are so many other ailments such as indebtedness, failed education system, law and order, mass unemployment amongst educated youth, human rights, corruption to name a few, which are dragging Punjab down, the same politicians who ignored the rising drug problem in Punjab for more than a decade, are now crying out loud to declare it as their top priority. It used to be that Punjabi politicians seeking funding from NRIs would talk about Punjab in romantic terms. Now, almost every politician tells us here that Punjab is in the Tube.

I don’t blindly endorse any particular party, but it invigorates me to see any chance of hope. Before Obama had even won the primaries back in 2007, I was so moved by the breath of fresh air he symbolized to the political landscape of American politics, that I wrote and sang a poem called “Obama de Naa’, which my son Navdeep S. Dhillon helped me to make it into a video slideshow and posted on you tube.

The only candidate from Punjab I had the oportunity to listen to live was Manpreet Badal.  Similar to my feelings on Obama before the primaries, I have great hope for Manpreet’s vision of Punjab and what he represents to the people of Punjab: HOPE!

First : Read my post, ‘Irony of Punjabis and our 2012 Election Part 1, and Part 2

And please also take a moment to listen to two poems: the first one I wrote back in 2008 before Obama had even won the Primaries, and the second one is taken from a radio show I co-host when I sang a poem as I see it, on what Manpreet Badal represents. As always, feel free to leave me a comment either on my YouTube Channel, down below, or on FaceBook, and I will be sure to respond!

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Caruthers, Callifornia Makes History!

Posted by on Nov 29, 2011 in Discussion, Radio Show, Sikh Council of Central California | 0 comments

Caruthers, California Makes History

Caruthers, California Makes History

I first started working for the Fresno County Department of Agriculture in 1994 and still remember my supervisor, Paul Cook, telling me about Caruthers after he had described the satellite towns around Fresno which would fall under my jurisdiction. He looked at me jokingly and said, “Now don’t ask me where the hell is Caruthers. You have to go there to see it!”

When people talk about the Central Valley of California, they immediately think of Bakersfield, Tulare, Selma, Fresno, Madera or Modesto etc.. Not many people are aware of this sleepy, tiny town tucked away 30 miles southwest of Fresno en-route Hwy 41 South. Caruther  lies right in the middle of miles and miles of almond groves and vineyards, many farmed by Sikh American farmers, producing some of the best almonds and raisins in the world. Caruthers is also a base for the well-known Gill Insurance Company of Gill brothers and of course is the home for the Sikh American farmer who is considered to be the  largest Raisin Grower of the world, Charanjit Singh Batth, affectionately  nick named the “Raisin King.”

But Caruthers made a history of a different kind on November 19, 2011 when Randy Mehrten of  Fresno County Education Department presented the Sikh Council of Central California (SCCC) at the 542nd Guru Nanak Prakaash Utsav, its proclamation designating November 2011 as California Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month.  And the Assembly member Thirty First District Henry Perea persuasively spoke of working with other legislators in the Assembly to make it permanent.

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Ladoos: Pink and Blue Lohri Celebration

Posted by on Jan 31, 2011 in Discussion | 0 comments

Yesterday evening, I was invited to say a few words and present the Moving Image Slideshow of my poem, “Dheeaan: Daughters” for Jakara Movement’s first Ladoos: Pink and Blue Lohri Celebration at the Sikh Center of the Pacific Coast in Selma, California. I have been very impressed with the strides that the next generation of Sikhs have made through Jakara Movement, which is made up entirely of Sikh youths. The story of why I even wrote this poem can be read here at Kavita Di Kahani. Below are the Music Slideshow (with translation) and the downloadable audio version.


Lohri is still erroneously thought of as a celebration of the birth of a son. And that somehow, the birth of a daughter is not worthy of a celebration, or the distributing of ladoos. I have a son and a daughter, as well as two grand-daughters. I cannot understand how anyone can look at the birth of a child and say that one is “better” than the other. So, while I was a little uneasy about eating a blue ladoo, I was willing to try it, despite it being bad for my cholesterol.

There were many young and very young members of the congregation, so I was very pleased when they all sat attentively listening to me speak, and watched my Moving Image Slideshow set to my voice. The occasion was to celebrate the birth of newborn boys and girls in the Fresno area collectively as a community, especially including those older girls whose parents had not been able to celebrate Lohri at their birth for one reason or another.

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Sufi Sensation Mamta Joshi’s Maiden Concert in Surrey, Canada

Posted by on Oct 22, 2010 in Discussion | 0 comments

As many of you know, Dr, Mamta Joshi, a well known Sufi singer from Punjab, is singing one of my most prized poems, “Umber di Shehzadi: To the Princess of the Skies” that I wrote 41 years ago. She specially invited me to attend her concert in Surrey, and with such a special invitation, I couldn’t refuse. Besides, I was excited to hear her interpretation of my poem. Even despite some hiccups, it was a fantastic show and an equally great honor to attend Dr. Mamta Joshi’s maiden concert Mehfil-e-Sufi in this very important part of the concert world Surrey on October 10, 2010.

My wife, Inderbir and I flew to Seattle from San Francisco on Saturday and stayed overnight with relatives. We drove from Seattle to Surrey across the border in Canada, the next day on Sunday with my cousin sister, brother in  law and my nephew Navtej, an Aircraft Engineer behind the wheel using Highway 5. We were there right on time and the Bell Art Center Auditorium with a capacity of 1200 was nearly packed.

Canada Tour: Chetan Joshi, Dr. Mamta Joshi's husbandIt was dark inside and the stage was so beautifully designed and decorated with Sufiana ornaments. The subtle lighting arrangement on the stage made it glow like a jewel in the crown of surrounding darkness. Equally subtly, the musicians touched the strings and the tabla, the violin and other instruments mingled to make a very melodious sound. Suddenly Chetan Mohan, the MC announced Dr. Mamta Joshi’s arrival as she bowed to her admirers who were sitting waiting for her to show up and got seated, settling down in front of the multi-microphones.

Perhaps very few of the audience members, except myself, knew that the comfortably seated looking orchestra was hurriedly assembled as she could only bring less than half of the musician team with her from India and had very little time to rehearse with all of them as one team.  So I was kind of nervous to think how she will pull them all together in such a complicated classical music composition. But it was fascinating to watch her in great shape against all the odds of her distress and discomfort she encountered due to visa problems for her husband Chetan Mohan, toddler son and the musicians. Since they  had arrived at the eleventh hour, there was not much time to relax and get in shape.

Canada Tour - Dr. Mamta Joshi LiveCanada Tour - Dr. Mamta Joshi's StageSo the show began with the Sufi prayer and then gradually progressed in a very melodious way to cover everything the audience had asked for nonstop for nearly four hours. The Singing Doctor proved her metal and leadership qualities; the newly met musician’s team from two different countries proved their professionalism by playing and singing it in one tune in such a short time. Everyone seemed to have loved it which one could judge from the applause. Talking about the applause, interestingly it was much prolonged after she sang “Umber di Shehzadi: To the Princess of the Skies” or it seems so to me because I was there. The young doctor was very kind to have us seated in the VVIP first row and stopped her show to say some very kind words about me, how she found me on the internet and then asked me to identify myself before she sang “Umber di Shehzadi: To the Princess of the Skies” with the most beautiful ta’ans.

This Mehfil-e-Sufi was perhaps one of the few mehfils of its kind in an environment which is currently so used to Bhangra and dancing beats everywhere. Mamta managed to pin some of her more enthusiastic younger admirers down to their seats for nearly 4 hours to listen to some serious stuff such as Sharnjit Fida’s written “Dili vilkdi te Tarhphda Lahor vekhya” and “Umber di Shehzadi: To the Princess of the Skies” written by Pashaura Singh Dhillon of California (yes, that’s me!).

Gurmant and Nina Grewal, MPAlso in the audience, the most famous couple of Surrey, Gurmant Grewal and Nina Grewal MP, graciously stopped by us and congratulated us for attending and be a part of the Mamta show across the border. It was a very thoughtful gesture. Nina Grewal made me feel even prouder when she specifically mentioned to me that her parents are also Dhillons and that she felt very proud that I had written“Umber di Shehzadi: To the Princess of the Skies.”

We had to return to Seattle across the border overnight and therefore had to leave immediately after the show. Consequently we could not meet her to say good bye. The next morning, they had assumed I would still be in Surrey, and were both disappointed to hear that we wouldn’t be able to meet, even though I told them I completely understood how stressful the day of performance can be. And add to that the extra stress of not having all of your musicians and visa problems! I can only imagine how she pulled it off and made it look so effortless to her audience! Besides, I am looking forward to meeting her on the next tour which will be in the United States next summer when she will be incorporating my poem, “Dheeaan,” included below:

Mamta Joshi’s next concert took place in Abbotsford on October 17. As soon as I receive a video and audio of “Umber di Shehzadi: To the Princess of the Skies” in her voice, I will post it on the blog for  my fans and friends to share it with one and all. Meanwhile listen and watch this youtube video of Mamta Joshi singing Sharnjit Fida’s written “Dili vilkdi te Tarhphda Lahor vekhya” about the devastating effects of the 1947 partition:

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