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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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Music Slideshow: Umber Di Shehzadi (To the Princess of the Skies)

Posted by on Oct 4, 2010 in Featured, Music Slideshows | 0 comments

I wrote Umber Di Shehzadi – Princess of the Skies, a poem about space colonization, 41 years ago. Back then, people thought this was something in a science fiction novel or movie (they also thought the same of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon!). Space Colonization may happen within my lifetime, who knows? But before we jump up and clap our hands at this so-called progress, we should pause and think about what we are doing to the planet we live in, before colonizing other worlds. I recently created this moving image slideshow set to images and my voice. If you are interested in learning more about the story behind this kavita (poem), please read my Kavita Di Kahani blog here.

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Sufi Sensation, Mamta Joshi, Pays a Tribute to ‘Umber Di Shehzadi’

Posted by on Sep 27, 2010 in Discussion, Videos | 2 comments

Dr. Mamta Joshi

Dr. Mamta Joshi Live in Concert

Dr. Mamta Joshi, a Sufi singer with a Ph.D. in music, contacted me through FaceBook after listening to my poem “Umber Di Shehzadi: To the Princess of the Skies” set to images and my voice on the you tube. She is a young woman with a lot of passion and tremendous talent. She wanted to sing my poem at her upcoming concert in Surrey, Canada on October 10, 2010.  As many of you know, I have no classical training in singing, so I am very excited to see, how Dr. Mamta Joshi brings out the soul of a poem I wrote 41 years ago, with Sufi Music.

I am constantly amazed at just how small the world keeps getting. I wrote “Umber Di Shehzadi” 41 years ago, when I guess the world was still too large and communication not so fast. The poem was published in Punjabi magazines and newspapers and I sang it amongst friends, certain party gatherings and local functions. It was only recently when my son Navdeep Singh Dhillon, a NYC based writer and English instructor, helped me to modernize the poem by creating Moving Images: setting the original poetry to images and my voice (as well as translating it into English), which we then posted on the you tube (subscribe to my you tube channel)

Although I received numerous phone calls, emails, as well as wonderful comments on the you tube worldwide, the world really started to get smaller when this happened:  Devinder Singh Saroya, Director North Zone Cultural Center (NZCC), Ministry of Culture Government of India, who shares an interest in other cultures, art, lalit kala, human rights, and happens to be from the same area of India I am from, found me because of this you tube video. He wrote this on my face book a couple months ago, “It is a pleasant surprise that human beings like S. Pashaura Singh Dhillon with such pious feelings and universal appeal can be found on Planet Earth in our times! Discovered him today from the page of an intellectual who in turn was found by sheer chance after two decades… “(Courtesy FB Suggestions).

And somehow, Mamta Joshi, the rising Sufi Maestro herself came to know of it. I still don’t know how she found me. I was logged onto face book one day and Dr. Mamta Joshi got hold of me in the chat box one night, a place I didn’t know even existed before she approached me to chat! During the conversation, she told me that she had watched my poem on the you tube and hadn’t seen anything like it before. “The poetry is so close to my heart,” she said before asking if she could have my permission to sing “Umber Di Shehzadi” with classical taans for her forthcoming concert in Canada.”  I am very selective sharing my poetry, but for some reason, I immediately gave Mamta Joshi permission. Perhaps it was her enthusiasm or the way she spoke about music and poetry that gave me the confidence to let her have a go at a poem I have held in my heart for over 40 years.  I was immediately impressed and even more confident of my decision as soon as I heard her sing on the youtube. In addition to videos on you tube,  she has performed at venues all over India and abroad, with many articles written about her in various newspapers.

SD Sharma, a reporter for the Chandigarh Tribune writes about Mamta Joshi, a young lady passionate and learned in Sufi music. He writes, “Blissfully unaware of the lyrical connotations and deep philosophical and spiritual content of songs, child prodigy Mamta preferred to sing Heer Waris or the utterances of Bulleh Shah and other Sufi saints while her class mates relished popular filmy songs at her school functions at Jalalabad in Punjab. As ordained, Mamta kept achieving excellence in the realm of folk, classical and sufi  music in academics and performances. She was rightly hailed as a golden girl at the GNDU (Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar), winning six gold and silver medals each in various national music competitions. She also won the HRD (Human Resource Development) ministry (Govt. of India) scholarship of Rs. 50,000.”

Dr. Mamta Joshi, Canada Tour

Dr. Mamta Joshi, Canada Tour

In addition to holding a doctorate in Indian classical and vocal music, she also has a gold medal in her MA (Music) and a silver medal in MA (Kathak dance). SD Sharma continues, “Mamta Joshi emerged as a female sufi singer of eminence. After hearing her, acclaimed sufi maestros Wadali brothers Padamshri Puran Chand and Pyare Lal blessed and extolled in their inimitable style saying ‘If Pakistan has Abida Praveen, we have Mamta Joshi to emulate after she attains that age and experience.’ The prophecy proved true as Mamta Joshi became the first Indian female sufi singer to give solo performance of Sufiana qalams at the India Nehru Centre, London in June 2006. She repeated her tradition of excellence to perform at the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Hall later. Earlier, as student artiste she toured UK under Heritage cultural exchange programme giving live performances in Glasgow, Wales, Chester, Cardiff, and Ludlow Castle in 2003 . “The exposure was a good learning experience. I remember that my recital of ornate sufi poetry enlivened the Shiv Kumar Nite at Birmingham in Septmber of 2008,” claims Mamta. Decorated with prestigious awards by legends like Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Amrish Puri and Indian High Commissioner in London, Mamta still has her feet firmly rooted to the ground. Mamta owes all the credit to her guru Arun Mishra ji for imparting the best nuances of music and DS Saroya for her promotion in the realm of musical arts”.

And now Dr. Mamta Joshi is going to pay a tribute to “Umber Di Shehzadi” after 41 years of waiting, bringing out its grandeur and soul with Sufi Music. Her first concert is scheduled in Surrey, Canada on October 10, 2010. Mamta wants me to be there so that she and her husband Chetan could meet me and ask how I decided to write ‘Umber di Shehzadi.’ I am still debating if I should cross the Canadian border!

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Jakara Youth Movement and My Poem “Umber Di Shehzadi” : The 21st Century, Age of the Word

Posted by on Jun 25, 2009 in Discussion | 0 comments

I was invited to share “Umber Di Shehzaiye,” a poem I wrote at the closing banquet of Jakara Movement. Jakara began in 2000 with a mission to call the next generation of Sikhs from all places, backgrounds and points of view to reflect on their past and prepare for the future. In 2009, they came together as the next generation of Sikhs to continue the process of empowering, engaging , and educating the Sikh community.

They came together to commemorate the 1984 government attack on the Golden Temple Complex, and the “riots” in Delhi. At the same time and in another country, there were a series of seminars and papers being presented by other Sikh scholars at the University of Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada.

Without its meaningful closure, where a deliberate genocide of the Sikhs by another community was portrayed and allowed to be passed as a simple riot, this is how painful its legacy still is even after 25 years of its happening. A well known Psychologist Sudhir Kakkar described the 1984 attack on the Golden Temple Complex as a ‘Great Shock’ to the Sikh psyche. A Great Shock as he describes it may be summarized as a major happening which reminds one section of people the helplessness against the atrocities committed in a selective way by another. The psychological impact of this Great Shock impinges on the collective identity of that section and that Great Shock comes alive again and again. In spite of all these atrocities and excesses, the memories of preserving and reasserting itself in such difficult times, fosters kinship and makes that section stronger. This is what I saw that day in Jakara at Fresno and also as being reported from Canada and elsewhere, wherever the Sikhs reside in the new global community.

I thought that 9/11 and its aftermath was telling humanity that big or small, a sword alone cannot protect you in this day and age. September 11, 2001 took place in New York, and 10,000 miles away Operation Blue Star happened in Amritsar, 1984. These tragedies are not restricted to any specific nation, religion, or ethnicity. Although in different countries, in different contexts and at different times, at their core, these are human rights issues. These are common issues.

Kanwar Anit Singh Saini (Sikh Knowledge) and Kanwer Singh (Humble the Poet), two Canadian rappers and participants of 2009’s Jakara said it best. “1984 is all around us. It is happening in Rwanda. It is happening in Palestine. We should try to find connections with people who are also victims because then the minority becomes the majority.”

But I was not there to repeat what had already been reported or was going to be reported on this subject. As a poet I wanted to invite them to a different plane, whereby they not only take the message of what happened to the Sikhs 25 years ago but also what is happening all around the world today and how it relates to us all. A big picture where these compounded atrocities and excesses not only of humans on humans that are happening everyday but also collectively of humans on this planet Earth, which threatens its very survival. The victim of human’s inhumanity the Earth pleads with the princess of the Skies whose domain the fugitive from Earth is now so impatient to intrude. Without further adieu, here is “Umber Di Shehzadi De Naa: To the Princess of the Skies” :

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