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Poet, Singer, and Activist

Know Your Poets: Anwar Masood

Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in Featured, Know Your Poets | 1 comment

Anwar Masood

Anwar Masood

Many people think about Pakistani poet and singer, Anwar Masood as a very humorous poet and I must admit the first poem of his I heard, “Lassi te Cha,” I initially thought was really funny, but he so skillfully weaved the poem to be about very deep and dark societal issues of caste and privilege. He is a poet that has the rare gift of being able to take a very serious subject and make it light and entertaining. His background is also very interesting to me because although he has a Masters degree in Persian from Oriental College in Lahore and has written poems in Urdu and Persian, he is mainly known for his Punjabi poetry that cuts to the bone.

He made hijrat to Lahore, not across the border but back and forth from Gujarat in Pakistan. His poetry is in Punjabi I really like not only because of how he sings it, but because they always involves Punjabi culture and tradition, often things that either don’t exist or may very well be extinct in the coming years.

He wrote a deeply moving poem about mothers that was so rhythmic. Writing about mothers is the most emotional for us humans and other living creatures alike. Anwar Masood’s Punjabi poem titled as ‘ Maa Di Shan’ is the one which makes me cry every time I watch this  video clip with Noor Ul Hassan’s introduction in the ‘Visale Yaar’ presentation.

It is a very happy feeling to see that a Punjabi poet is able to draw in the crowds and write meaningful poetry as receives standing ovations from men and women, old and young when he reads or sings his poetry. There is little doubt why he is immensely popular in Pakistan and I hope his fame extends to India and more! One of my Pakistani friends tells me that Anwar Masood is perhaps the only well known Punjabi poet in Pakistan where Urdu poetry is systematically promoted, who stands shoulder to shoulder if not taller than Urdu poets in terms of popularity in Pakistan especially in Punjab. He uses metaphors that you wouldn’t think a learned scholar would use that he easily taps into what makes us all connect as human beings: banyan, chah, lassi (undershirt, desi tea, lassi is lassi). He uses these metaphors to press some red-hot buttons in a very poetic way.

Do you have a favorite poet, whose words you find moving? Who is your Anwar Masood?

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Know Your Poets: Zehra Nigah

Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in Discussion | 0 comments

A poet, whose work I greatly admire is Zehra Nigah, who like me had to cross the border in 1947. Only she crossed into that line drawn in the sand to the other side into Pakistan, while I crossed over to India. She is an Urdu poet and scriptwriter and as you can hear in the video below, she is a marvellous poet. She was one of only two female poets to gain the respect of the country in a time when poetry was completely dominated by men.  A few years ago, Sheraz Khan posted this video of her poem as above on youtube, recited by Anwar Maqsood, who is also a fantastic poet. The lines of the poem are “Suna hai Jnglon ka bhi koi Dastoor hota hai,” where she uses the metaphor of the jungle to talk about larger moral implications. The literal meaning is even in the jungles, there is a social order, something we don’t really think about. That animals, like humans, are rational thinking beings, who are also governed by morality.

Zehra-nigahWhen I decided to pick this poet to write about, the difficulty did not come from what to write, but what not to write. There were so many of her poems that were so beautiful and immersed in variations in tone. Some started off humorous and became poignant, others were poignant from the start and became even more so. One such poem is called, “Mai bach gai, Ma,” told from the point of view of a girl-child, who has escaped abortion. The lines literally translate to “I have survived, mother.” And it is such a moving poem, regardless of whether you have daughters or not. Everyone has sisters and mothers anyway! Watch the video and see what you think!


Tell me one of your favorite poets, and which language?

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Lohri Message 2013: Is Punjabi a Dying Language? It may well be!

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Discussion | 0 comments

Lohri 4In view of the intense debate started about the future of one of the most ancient languages and associated cultures i.e. Punjabi and Punjabiat  and as a concerned citizen who watches this debate closely, I wrote an article titled, “Is Punjabi a Dying Language? and posted it on April 2, 2012. As usual I received some very interesting comments. One of the most recent comments that I received in the new year a few days ago was by Jehanzeb Mahar from Pakistan and I quote, “A few months ago, in Pakistan, parliamentarians from Sindh forwarded a bill calling for giving the status of national language to Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto and Balochi, to a parliamentary committee. Amazingly, the members from Punjab, alongwith Urdu members, came out to be the most vocal opponents of the bill. So, the bill was rejected and couldn’t even be presented in the parliament for voting.” Vow! You should read that again and ponder!!
The question arises if the goodwill is any better on the eastern border of the Indus Valley?

Tradition has it that all Punjabis celebrate Lohri as a festival in their own ways, families get together and exchange good wishes. Not intending to water down the jubilations, I wonder how many of us really know the sober history behind it all. Reflecting on this and to bring it to the forefront of all concerned Punjabis living at home or in the Diaspora, I thought it appropriate to publish again the article as well as my Punjabi poem, ” Ma Boli Punjabie Tera Kon Vichara”, which I had written and posted on the website. Celebrating this ‘Lohri’ will not be complete unless it rekindles the spirit of ‘Dulla Bhatti’ of yesteryears who laid down his life saving the honor of a daughter of Punjab. From the ongoing it appears now the honor of Punjabi Ma is at stake!

On this note I leave you with the links to read my article as well as my poem and ponder :


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The year that was 2012!

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013 in Discussion | 0 comments

Dear Friends,
2012 has been a dramatic year, from Malala Yousafzai to Damini to mass murders and unrelenting violence, especially against women and children in places where they are most vulnerable. Having received a lot of good wishes for the new year, I was thinking hard how to reciprocate to all of my friends. Then came along an email written by Prof. Chaman Lal of Jawahar Lal Nehru University Delhi addressed to Kuldip Nayar, copied to me.  I could not have found better words than this to wish you with the year 2013 and I partly quote: “May the year prove to be little just, with less violence, reviving more humaneness. There would be no lasting peace till society becomes just with equitable distribution of natural and social resources to all human beings on earth without reference to class, race, caste, nation, gender or age. Where there are no crimes or fewer crimes with fast justice.”

I leave you my Punjabi Kavita,”Dheeaan” (Daughters)  and you can read the Kavita di Kahani if interested.


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My Father’s Day Present: Heer CD Cover Design

Posted by on Jun 20, 2011 in Discussion, Punjabi Poetry | 0 comments

Audio CD for Waris Shah's "Heer" sung by Pashaura Singh Dhillon (artwork by Navreet Kaur Dhillon)

Audio CD for Waris Shah’s “Heer” sung by Pashaura Singh Dhillon

This year for Father’s Day, I received a very nice joint gift. My daughter, Navreet Kaur Dhillon, is a physician in the Bay Area, and also a very talented artist. My son, Navdeep Singh Dhillon, is a Creative Writing/English Literature lecturer in New York City.

Both my son and daughter collaborated via phone and internet from East and West Coast to create a CD cover for “Heer,” an album I didn’t even know I was making! I had recorded one track giving my own interpretation to Waris Shah’s epic poem, and uploaded it to FaceBook after several people requested me. It was (and still is) available for free download in a blog post I wrote, “Heer Forever Stands Tall (ਗੁੱਝੀ ਰਹੇ ਨਾ ਹੀਰ ਹਜ਼ਾਰ ਵਿਚੋਂ )” in addition to Audio Downloads (above in the navigation bar). Many have since asked me to sing some more tracks, which I had said I would do in my own time. Now, it looks like I better get moving!

Below is my daughter’s original drawing:

Artwork for Waris Shah's "Heer - Ranjha" by Navreet Kaur Dhillon

Original Artwork for CD Cover of “Heer” by Navreet Kaur Dhillon

And below is my son’s contribution. Have a listen to this CD, which currently only has one track, but there will more soon! Let me know what you think!

While you wait for “Heer” to be completed, check out my e-books, available in Punjabi (both Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts) and English. You can also download/listen to completed digital albums/CDs at


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