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Poet, Singer, and Activist

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

Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 in Discussion | 7 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.

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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

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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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Irony of Punjabis and our 2012 Election (Part 1)

Posted by on Aug 15, 2011 in Discussion, Radio Show | 3 comments

Punjab Elections 2012Punjab Assembly Elections are here one more time at Punjab’s doorsteps. In the spirit of “freedom,” there will be candidates and party propagandists from the parties in power and aspiring for power, selling their new slogans and others repackaging or coining new phrases to sell the old ones, all in the hopes of getting our votes and becoming elected in the 2012 Elections. The voter, on the other hand, is also getting smarter and shrewder if not totally fatigued and frustrated over this seasonal drama recurring every 5 years since 1952. The voter is expected to look and listen more carefully this year before casting his or her vote. As far as the NRIs in the Diaspora are concerned, since they have no vote or have no bowl of rice directly at stake one way or the other, it is big community news and the subject of gossip and discussion anywhere Punjabis congregate: at Gurdwaras, Mandirs, and Masjids all over the world, including California, where I and many other Punjabis, live.

Eying the voter at home in Punjab, there will be horse trading, arm twisting and dangling of all kinds of carrots to lure the voters in and keep the candidates to toe the line. Paid news, muscle power, threats, blackmailing, bribery, alcohol, and drugs are almost seen as acceptable and “natural” means to seduce the bride to come to the altar for all states in India. Falling for an extra fancy for it, and taking it to new heights or depths (depending on your perspective), this practice has been especially facilitated in the land of five rivers by our successive governments over the years so much so that this has slowly but surely crept into our most sacred of elections for our religious institutions such as the SGPC. People in general and that includes our political parties, have little faith in the local police. Running an honest and ethical election has become quite the challenge for the Election Commission who is contemplating import policing to conduct their business this time; this is what democracy looks like today!

View Irony of Punjabis and Our 2012 Election (Part 2)

 

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Punjab is in the Tube!

Posted by on Jan 10, 2011 in Discussion | 2 comments


A Relic of the Past: The Persian WheelA few days back I was invited by one of my friends to attend a dinner party he helped arrange to honor a promising legislator from Punjab. The dinner party took place in Fresno the uncrowned capital of California. Fresnans of the Punjabi community are unique in welcoming politicians of all parties with equal zeal and affection. Although weary of unkept promises to the NRIs by visiting politicians from Punjab in the past and not so good news from near and dear ones back home, they still appear to be ever so anxious to hear any leader big or small, in power or in an opposition party from Punjab tell them what he or she has to say. They love to share their concerns and ask questions in the hope of learning something positive or expecting something new. Any news giving them the hope that Punjab is not going down the tube.
Over the years, I have attended many such gatherings, and the questions posed this time were ones I have often heard over and over covering topics from rude treatment meted out by the Indian Consul General office in San Francisco for getting visas, rampant corruption, brain drain by mass exodus of youth in hopelessness leaving Punjab by whatever means; drugs, unemployment, farmer indebtedness and suicides, safety of NRI life and property in Punjab, and everything in between.

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Music Slideshow: Pag Di Saanjh (A Tribute to the Sikh Turban)

Posted by on Nov 5, 2010 in Featured, Music Slideshows | 0 comments

Regardless of whether you are a Sikh who wears a turban, a Sikh who doesn’t wear one, or are simply curious about why the turban is so important to the Sikh identity and cannot simply be taken off at will, here is a music slideshow of a poem I wrote with English subtitles set to my voice and images, conveying my thoughts on the matter. As always, please leave me a comment if you have anything to say.

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