There are no Flying Carpets in Baghdad anymore

In the story The Thief of Baghdad, Prince Ahmad’s friend Abu steals a flying carpet to help his friend escape from the clutches of the evil vizier Jaffar. For most people of Iraq, however, there are no flying carpets to escape from the clutches of a mindless war that has unleashed too many evil jinns seemingly impossible to put back in the bottle. After five years of the invasion, the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussain seems preferable even to some of its critics.

Aljazeera reporter Rageh Omaar returns to Iraq after five years and reports the state of the country and its people. Just the scale of the humanitarian crisis unleashed by the war is revolting, just as its barbarism is. A very touching piece of reportage.

Watch Part 2 and Part 3 too. The last one covers the stories of the refugees from Iraq- that number 1.5 million into Syria alone.

Sudarshan Faakir

Sudarshan Faakir, poet and lyricist whose ghazals and some nazms were sung by Begum Akhtar in her last phase and Jagjit Singh in his early phase in the 1970s and 1980s died on 19 Feb in Jalandhar. He will be remembered as one of the significant though minor poets of the language. In context of the language issue, it needs to be remarked that he belonged to the small and diminishing tribe of non- Muslim Urdu poets from East Punjab. Krishna Adeeb, who passed away couple of years back and Joginder Lal (known by his nome de plume Naqsh Lyallpuri) are others that come to mind. His compositions may not have been prolific, but each is remarkable for its profundity and perfection.

Pretty much a recluse, this is one of the very few interviews that one can find on the internet. I have heard that he was associated with the left- progressive circle around NK Joshi in the early 1970s in Jalandhar.
Newsreport about his passing away
One of my own favourites is a film song by Faakir
Zindagi main jab tumhare gham nahin the.  Another is the one by Begum Akhtar below.

Another ghazal sung by Mohammad Rafi:

This is a popular Jagjit Singh item Kagaz ki Kashti:

You can listen to a good collection here too.

Romanized text of some of Faakir’s poetry at Urdupoetry.

Don Quixote for the 21st Century

Don Quixote for the 21st Century is incarnated as Donkey Xote in this animation movie to be released next week in Spain. Do all great literary characters, like all great historical events, have to end the first time in a tragedy, and the second time in a farce? One will have to wait to see the movie but the trailer seems to indicate that this is indeed so.

Donkey Xote features stars of film, TV and radio as the voices of the eponymous hero, his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza, and assorted animal companions as they set off to fight a duel in Barcelona over Don Quixote’s beloved Dulcinea del Toboso.

The adventures of Don Quixote may take up hundreds of pages in Cervantes’ classic, but the film’s producers have by necessity played fast and loose with the story in their adaptation. Squeezing the novel into 80 minutes, it gives starring roles to Don Quixote’s trusty steed, Rocinante, and Sancho Panza’s donkey, Rucio – who bears a striking resemblance to the donkey from the successful Shrek series, voiced by Eddie Murphy. (Guardian report)

Youtube link

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Michael Moore Uncensored

Michael Moore takes on the CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the Iraq war and his movie on the US healthcare system, Sicko.

 A transcript from the report:

Rudy Giuliani: “The free market principles are the only things that reduce cost and improve quality. Socialised medicine will ruin medicine in the United States”.

Moore: “…We have one of the largest socialised system called medicare … even though it is under funded and too much control has been handed over to private companies…”

A longer video on the topic in which the CNN’s “reality check” preceeds Michael Moore’s response.

Michael Moore website

Thanks to HD for the link to the video.


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“Do Not Despair”: Charlie Chaplin Speaks

He could very well have been speaking in 2007: “Greed has poisoned men’s souls… more than machinery, we need humanity”. The ideas towards the end of the speech when Charlie invokes the 17th chapter of St lukes “Kingdom of God is within you” are similar to Faiz’s invocation of ‘Anlahaq’ in Hum Dekhenge.

Youtube Link

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“Barfi Hindu Hai?”

A reader of the Diwan-e-Ghalib can hardly discern the humor that Ghalib was known for. These excerpts from the television serial Mirza Ghalib that introduced the master to a new generation bring out some of his quips.

There is also a great selection of Mirza Ghalib’s Letters: Mirza ke khutoot.

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Heer Waris Shah by Taimur Afghani

A chance search on youtube led to this superb rendition of the Heer Waris Shah by Taimur Afghani, a name I never heard before and don’t find any more information on google except what appears in the accompanying text at youtube:

Taimur Afghani, a budding singer, makes a very special rendition of singing Heer Waris Shah at the historical Hirn Minar, Shaikhupura, Pakistan.

Taimurji is resident of Jandiala Sher Khan. Jandiala Sher was probably settled by Pir Waris Shah’s father, Syed Sher Gul Khan, a migrant from afghanistan. Taimur is working very hard on establishing Pir Waris Shah academy in Jandiala. He is also an organizer and coordinator for Heer singing gathering at the Darbar on 14th moon night of each month. He is happily married and is a father of a beautiful young son.

Part 2, Part 3 (distracting conversations in the latter half somewhat mar the last one)

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Begum Nawazish Ali


The talk show host making waves in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (and  apparently Kashmir) is purportedly a stylish, middle-aged, socialite widow of an army colonel. Her monologues are often laced with sexual innuendo, she flirts openly with her guests, and sometimes embarrasses them with probing questions about their private lives. Her guests include some of Pakistan’s most well-known personalities: the urban elite, film and television stars and even some top politicians. Most are nevertheless thrilled to be invited to appear on a program millions are watching.Viewers are obviously fascinated too. Dinner party conversations here in Karachi are often peppered with anecdotes about her risqué banter and sly digs at Pakistani politics. Women call the television station to inquire about the tailoring of her sequined blouses and where to buy her glamorous saris.

The thing is, Begum Nawazish Ali is actually a man. Ali Saleem, the 28-year-old man who dons lipstick, mascara and a wig to Begum Nawazish Ali, has managed to break many taboos in conservative Pakistan through the character.(more)

More than Begum Nawazish Ali, I found Etiraz Hussain’s responses fascinating. Hussain, a parliamentarian and lawyer, is one the invitees to the show along with the Pakistani actress, Nirma in this episode. Besides the delectable Urdu couplets, his passing remarks on Pakistani politics and society delivered with well tempered flamboyance are matched by those delivered somewhat more gregariously by the ‘Begum’. This comes out more in part II below.

Youtube Link Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Link via 3Quark

Inventing India

Arvind N Das, who died seven years ago at a tragically young age at 52, nevertheless packed a lot in his intense life. A product of the “Spring Thunder over India” in the late 1960s, he was part of the brilliant team at the Times of India in the late 1980s which is when one became acquainted with his insightful writings.

Trained as a historian, he moved, first to print journalism and then to the medium of TV setting up Asia Pacific Communications to produce a nuanced documentary on the history of India. In the documentary, as in his writings, he showed himself as a student of DD Kosambi to whom he dedicated the documentary that appeared in 13 parts on Doordarshan. He remained an engaged social historian in the tradition of DD Kosambi and EP Thompson.

In his book “India Invented”, he made the observation that India is not something waiting to be discovered, as Jawaharlal Nehru had treated it in his Discovery of India, but something that is to be constantly invented in the process of understanding it- that was his statement of praxis.

The first part of the documentary is now available at google videos. It is also available from Asia Pacific Communications and can be ordered, I believe, from the address given at the google videos site.

Link to Google Videos

Needless to say, it is a very ennobling, and educative experience to be able to watch this documentary once again. One of the best in the series is the one where Das delves into the emergence and decadence of Buddhism (part 5), though this one doesn’t seem to be available online as yet. DD Kosambi had himself written very insightfully on the decline of Buddhism in India in his collection of essays Exasperating Essays.

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"We locked away Gandhi on Feb 28"

“Terror was unleashed at Godhra Station because this country follows Gandhi, we locked away Gandhi on Feb 28 (2002), reform yourselves or we will forget Gandhi. Till we follow Gandhi’s policies of non- violence … kneeling before Muslims, terrorism cannot be eliminated. Brothers we have to abandon Gandhi.”

– Praveen Togadia (quoted from his speech in the video)

A heart wrenching documentary Final Solution on the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and subsequent elections in the Hindutva laboratory.

Link to google videos

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