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Poet, Singer, and Activist

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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Kavita Di Kahani on The Chandigarh That Was (Rooh Mere Punjab Di)

Posted by on Aug 11, 2010 in Kavita Di Kahani | 0 comments

Rooh Mere Punjab Di Presentation: Pashaura Singh Dhillon

Dr. M.S.Randhawa, Hardyal Singh Johl, Pashaura Singh Dhillon

Forty-two years ago, in 1968, I wrote my maiden poem ‘Rooh Mere Punjab Di’ for the maiden Rose Festival in Chandigarh and won special appreciation from the local community, specifically from Dr. M.S. Randhawa, the then Chief Commissioner of Chandigarh. On the simple stage set up at the grassy lawn under a modest tent erected for the occasion at the Sector 16 Chandigarh Rose Garden, I sang this poem with a great passion. In my heart and mind I genuinely felt as if I was singing this poem to that wonder girl of unparalleled beauty sitting right in the front row, who came of the age of sweet 16 that day. Chandigarh, later to be known as “City Beautiful” was born when they laid the foundation stone in 1952.

Dr. Randhawa who was presiding over the function was so moved by the poem that he rose up from his chair, walked up to me while I was still singing and put the perfumed rose garland presented to him earlier, around my neck whispering some kind words which are still music to my ears. That simple gesture must have made a lot of residents think and ponder about their connectivity with their new city. Performing on stage assured me that I didn’t have to choose between my dreams of being a poet/singer and a Landscape Architect (which I did a few years later). Read more about my life here.

Returning to the first ever Rose Festival started in 1968, there was no police security or extra traffic hold ups in spite of crowd control measures, car park overflows or pushing and shoving of any kind. Most residents simply walked to the festival place with families and children, the babus and high officials used their bikes, vespas or lamberettas and a few cars that were tucked away in the adjacent car park. There were no blaring loudspeakers or high volume Dj’s run music system disturbing the next door residents or the serenity of the leisure valley of which the Rose Garden was the focal point.

That Rose Festival of course, has now grown into a national celebration with all of the associated pomp and grandeur, chaos and confusion. They even offer camel rides. It may now be more “fun,” but it must be a nightmare for the traffic police, security officials as well as ordinary local residents especially children and the elderly. Especially the elderly who has seen better days as things were much simpler back then.

The city of Chandigarh was envisioned by Lee Corbusier in human form. As indicated above, I perceived this human form as a wonder girl who at the age of sweet sixteen in 1968, was blossoming into a young woman. The poem describes her unparalleled breathtaking beauty, vibrant youthfulness, exuberance and spirited promise for Punjab, the land of five rivers and for its deserving people. Blessed and protected from the evil eye by the great Himalayas, bathed in Sukhna Lake, the poem describes her decadent adornments as being made entirely of unique landscape plant material used to beautify Chandigarh.

My background in ornamental horticulture certainly shaped my view of the universe and in so doing, my poetry. After graduating from Khalsa College, Amritsar, my first job was working as a Horticultural Inspector at the then picturesque Moughal Gardens in Pinjore from 1962-1966, followed by a brief term with the capital project Chandigarh, before leaving for the United Kingdom.  All these years I had the privilege of working closely under the inspiring supervision of Hardyal Singh Johl, now an accomplished landscaper of not only of Punjab but also of north India.

The Chandigarh of 1968 was not just any other city. It was the beautiful brand new capital city especially designed by the world renowned, French Architect Le-Corbusier, for Eastern Punjab. The Punjabis were filled with hope that it would somehow fill the void of losing its old crown Lahore, to West Punjab, now Pakistan, when in 1947 during the partition its soul: its people, land and waters were in fact, torn apart.

The Chandigarh of today is a different ball game for politicians. The curse of division on Punjab, which struck in 1947 does’nt seem to have gone away. Dark clouds of division have been looming large this time on its new capital city, when one of the neihbors, Haryana keep staking its claim also. Besides it is very quickly becoming a commercial hub with name brand stores like Armani and Gucci in Sector 17, overcrowded roads, parks and shrinking roundabouts, which once reinforced the sense of space, as garden city of the north and has already surpassed the population limits envisaged by Le-Corbusier.

People often ask me what inspired me to write ‘Rooh Mere Punjab Di.’ Any poet will find this a difficult question to answer because it can’t really be pinpointed to one specific inspiration. This is obviously a poem about Chandigarh, but it goes much deeper than that. Frankly speaking, I don’t know how and why I wrote it. Let the readers be the judge and arrive at their own conclusions. If you are interested to read it, download it at:

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Music Slideshow: Obama De Naa (Original)

Posted by on May 6, 2008 in Featured, Music Slideshows | 0 comments

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