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Bahadur Shah Zafar

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‘About suffering they were never wrong’

Miniaturist Saira Waseem is the latest exponent in a long list of Pakistani artists resisting the country’s political, cultural and social erosion.

Saira waseem4Passion Cycle, 2005

Pakistani art going global is a remarkable story, for it typifies the ineffable contradictions of the country. In part it is a testament to the country’s creative expression, an explosion of sorts; and partly a mode of resistance to the anti-art ideology that is permeating the social fabric. It’s not just painting or the booming art galleries, there is a revival underway of the moribund television drama, the resuscitation of cinema and continuous experimentation with music.

Salima Hashmi, a leading arts academician and practitioner noted in a recent essay that the “proverbial worst of times are certainly the best of times for contemporary Pakistani art.” Our foremost historian, Ayesha Jalal in her latest book “The Struggle for Pakistan” views the creative expression as a resistance to Pakistan’s forced Islamisation. Jalal writes:

saira waseem5 Ethereal I, 2014

“The globalization of Pakistani music has been accompanied by a remarkable leap in the transnational reach of the creative arts…a younger generation of painters are making creative uses of new ideas and technologies to both access and influence a diverse and dynamic transnational artistic scene. The dazzling array of new directions in the contemporary art, literature, and music of Pakistan displays an ongoing tussle between an officially constructed ideology of nationalism and relatively autonomous social and cultural processes in the construction of a “national culture.”

Jalal as a contemporary historian reminds us that the domestic battle of ideas and ideologies is not over and is assuming newer shapes. At the same time, the issue of a crumbling Pakistani state haunts the future trajectory. Is the arts and literature renaissance of sorts an antidote to a state unable to fulfill its basic functions such as securing the lives of its citizens? There are some immediate examples from the subcontinent that come to mind: The reigns of Wajid Ali Shah and Bahadur Shah Zafar in nineteenth century India were also remarkable for their artistic endeavours before the final takeover of the British. Not entirely relevant, these are important phases of our recent history to be remembered.

[…]

Sultana Begum – a surviving heir of Bahadur Shah Zafar

Neena Jha and Shivnath Jha have launched a nationed wide movement to protect musicians, artists, academicians and others who have brought laurels and pride to India through book – Andolan Ek Pustak Se.

Sultana Begum

In the midst of pompous celebrations over the 150th year of India’s First War of Indepedence, a fact that rankles is that the heirs of the Mughal’s last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, Sultana Begum, continue to languish in squalour and anonymity.
The story of middle-aged Sultana Begum brings tears to one’s eyes. She runs a tea-stall in Howrah to earn a living for her family. Bahadur Shah Zafar’s heirs are struggling to take out a bare survival. Due to the poverty, daughters in the family were deprived of higher education. […]
July 4th, 2008|books, History, India, Personal, South Asian Literature|143 Comments

Journeying into mysticism (noted as one the best articles of 2007)

Indian Muslims Blog is now two years old. The IM team have compiled the best articles published at the blog in 2007. Shameless as it sounds, one of my guest articles – Journeying into Mysticism is included in the category. As the editor Mohib, said the “colorful downloadable pdf file is worth reading for the diversity of views and opinions. IM blog team has been most kind to allow me to occasionally contribute to the space. In the process I have learnt a lot about the country and its Muslim population. But most importantly, I have found a few good friends from Lucknow, Kakori, Bhopal, and Bihar among other places. wah wah, kiya kehnay blogosphere ke…

To blow my own little trumpet in this seamless and infinite blogosphere, here is my piece for those readers who may not have read it earlier.

Journeying into mysticism



I turn my face towards the monsoon breeze and lament that I’m in Delhi for work. How will I manage the sightseeing agenda? The faint scent of champa flowers seems hauntingly familiar and I am reminded of Lahore. Despite my efforts, visa hassles and my non-Indo-Pak-peace-brigade status have prevented this journey from materialising for years. Driving through Delhi at night, I almost start the litany of superficial judgments but stop for fear of falling into the abyss of cliches. Nevertheless, I cannot help but notice the images of exotic India, or the official Incredible India. Yes, incredible is the word.

The Maurya Sheraton hotel is a haven of comfort totally removed from the real Delhi world. This is what I resent about luxury hotels in developing countries: the sense of disconnectedness, the ultimate denial of what lies beneath. Maurya is packed with party-hoppers as there is a huge weekend bash at the hotel. The Delhi party-goers are far more free-spirited than the Pakistani lot. They appear at ease with what they wear and do, and conduct themselves in a remarkably unselfconscious manner. The hotel driver, Uttam Ram, warned me that the ‘real’ India is different, that this crowd is too Westernised and the influence of Bollywood is to be blamed. . . but how can I agree? I live on Bollywood myself. The journey has been too long and that first night in Delhi, I crash on the huge four-poster bed. I am not a party boy after all!

Sunday morning passes in work – yes, I work on Sundays and have often thought of killing myself for accepting such terms in my mortal life. After an afternoon nap, I wake up to a sense of regret for having wasted a day in Dilli. I get in touch with Sadia Dehalvi, hoping for her company during my visit to Nizamuddin Auliya’s tomb. She is already planning to go there and we plan to meet a little before sunset.

I reach Mathura Road in an hour and soon find myself wading through its distinctly medieval ambience: labyrinthine alleys, crowds of beggars and street-vendors, a bazaar mood. To my delight, I spot a sign pointing towards Ghalib’s mazaar . This is a traditionally Muslim area: there are several signs offering Umra packages and most signs are in Urdu. The stereotype of suffering Indian Muslims gains currency here. I try not to notice all that and walk around until I find Ghalib’s mazaar . Having being fixated on Ghalib and his poetry for the better part of my life, I am a little disappointed by the matter-of-factness of the place. Even though the tomb has recently been renovated after a court order, it is quite low-key. Nevertheless, the area retains a unique atmosphere and the building itself is somewhat alluring. Near it is the Ghalib Academy, but I rush to Nizamuddin’s dargah and follow the scent of desi roses until I find my way to the tomb. […]

January 15th, 2008|India, India-Pakistan History, South Asian Literature, Sufism|6 Comments

Fate Of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s Descendants

I had recently posted a few verses from the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. Read this story by Indscribe that spells a heart wrenching denouement to the dazzling Mughal Empire.

Full entry here >>

April 20th, 2007|History, India-Pakistan History|14 Comments