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Punjabibynature|1965: The narrative of ‘Ragraa’ must end

Posted on September 21, 2015 at 4:12pm by khushwant.singh No Comment

Amongst the blazing guns and cannons in the 1965 war, there were patriotic songs and jingles that brought relief to the ear. Khushwant Singh shares what was sung and narrated on either side of the border.


 One of the recommended songs was ‘Awaaz do, awaaz do hum ek hai’, a non-film song by Rafi

When one thinks of war, the mind automatically starts flirting with the words soldiers, guns, tanks, bombs, cannons and fighter jets. But ever thought of melody being part of war? Think of the melody of the patriotic songs, jingoistic jingles and slogans on radio and television providing that momentary relief and humour from the sound of the blazing cannons.

Frankly, I didn’t realise this facet of war till my father shared a couple of jingles that he had heard during the 1965 War days. Ironically, what he heard was on Pakistani radio as their radio waves would invariably find a way into India and viceversa.

Nevertheless, this set my mind pondering over the narrative of India and Pakistan during the 1965 war as these jingles and songs are usually highly reflective of the times they were sung in. Agreed that they can be condescending and full of xenophobia but they still reflect the times.
My search, unfortunately, did not yield anything much from the Indian side, but to my surprise I found innumerable patriotic songs and jingles from Pakistan, which are well documented in a blog. Was it that the then Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ (Hail the Soldier Hail the Farmer) enough to arouse fire in the Indian belly and there was no need for more?

Not fully satisfied with the outcome of my research, my quest to further my knowledge saw me posting a query on Facebook asking for patriotic songs or jingles from either side of the border. The post attracted considerable replies but most of the suggested songs had been dedicated to the Indo-China war.

One of the recommended songs was the ever inspiring ‘Awaaz do, awaaz do hum ek hai’, a non-film song by Mohammad Rafi. Sung during the 1962 Indo-China War, this song found great resonance during the 1965 war too. The other song that someone shared was a song by Punjabi folk singers K Deep and Jagmohan Kaur.

Zulfikhar Khan, a dear friend from Islamabad also responded to my post and shared a song of the famous Pakistani singer Noor Jehan ‘Ae watan ke sajeelay jawano meray naghmay tumaray lyea hain’. The post also had a note that it could also be applicable to the Indian troops since it was a generic patriotic song. Perhaps Noor Jehan’s best war rendition (the song brought her a lot of fame and transformed her image from that of a colourful lady to that of a patriot). Sadly, he had to share the song by changing the Facebook settings to hide it from my Facebook compatriots, lest they went into frenzy.

I also requested my father to recall the jingles he had heard on Pakistan radio. The jingles were condescending and smacked of religious intolerance but allow me to share what happened after.

‘Dhar Ragraa, dhar ragraa, bla ji hun dhar ragraa. Mukey …da chagraa. Bla ji hun dhar ragraa. Aloo, gobi, choley kha kha, hoye eh javan. Ji kar mariye eko nara, hai nikal gayi jaan.’

However, when the real ragraa happened and the brave Indian soldier started dominating the war, the Pakistani radio according to my father was equally quick in taking a complete U-turn and changed its tune to ‘Faslaan khoob ooga beliyaa, rudge rudge kay khaa.’

It is the 50th anniversary of the 17-day long war on September 6 and many angles are being discovered, especially from the military aspect. Perhaps it is time for a human narrative – a narrative that promotes friendship and sheds hatred.


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Punjabi by nature: Dear youth of Punjab

Posted on September 21, 2015 at 4:10pm by khushwant.singh No Comment


My conversation in this letter is about a crucial topic the approaching Punjab assembly elections.

Although the elections are still a year and a half away, the politician is already in election mode and so it becomes imperative for the voter to gear up well in advance. The question arises that how should the youth prepare since the politician is wily and shrewd. He is all set to bombard you with lies and promises and before you even realise he would have sucked you into his story. It’s time you become aware and turned around the narrative your way rather than the politician’s.

The best way to strike is by questioning the politician, since in her/his hand lies your future. Don’t forget that you are 65 per cent of the Punjab population and in you lies the force to change the politician. No point in venting your frustration later or when you are pressing the voting machine button. Please understand that, because no one questions and that is the reason that the politician is having a free run.


Catching up with Nihangs in the quiet hills of the Nilgiris

Posted on August 26, 2015 at 1:14pm by khushwant.singh No Comment


Booking airline tickets early is a good and cheap option to go on a family holiday. I did exactly that and visited family and friends in Bangalore and Coonoor in the Nilgiri hills. However, little did I realise that the Coonoor visit would take me to the abode of the Nihangs.

Surprised? Yes, I was equally surprised when I reached Crossways, home of Ramneek and his wife Manal in Coonoor about 20 kilometres away from the polluted and filthy Ooty.

No No! Ramneek and Manal are not a Nihang couple by any stretch of the imagination, neither do they live in a dera. Nihangland it is because Ramneek and his family have an interesting tryst with the word Nihang, meaning armed Sikh fighter. Conversations with Ramneek revealed how his family was one of the earliest Sikh settlers in Coonoor. According to the tale , his great maternal grandfather Sardar Bahadur Dr Moola Singh, after quitting the army, had joined the Pasteur Institute of India in Kasauli. In 1916, he was transferred from Kasauli to the newly set up Pasteur Institute of India in Coonoor from where he retired in the 1930s as a deputy director.


Punjabi by nature: The incorrigible Fauja Singh

Posted on August 11, 2015 at 6:54pm by khushwant.singh 1 Comment


Last week there was this buzz to adapt my biography on marathoner Fauja Singh (Turbaned Tornado) into a biopic. While the murmur is yet to be translated into anything concrete, but what it did was spark a discussion on Fauja Singh amongst my family members. Everyone got talking about Faujaisms and their experiences with him, especially of the times when he has come to Chandigarh to spend a few days with us.

My wife’s all time favourite is his remark about her mother when the latter along with her friends had come to meet the Running Baba. My mom-in-law faced the ire of the fit Fauja Singh when he passed a remark about her weight. ‘Tainu ki hoya, teri sahelian tey shiti wangar payiaan ney’ (Why are you overweight. Your friends are as fit as a fiddle). I thought he had done the deed for the day, but luckily I survived without incurring any injuries.

His other classic Faujaism pertains to his meeting with Captain Amarinder Singh in 2011, who especially came calling on the Turbanded Tornado. Sure enough, Fauja within the first few minutes of the meeting had thrown his Faujaism at him with the line, ‘Bibi Bhattal bulaari tagdi hai (Mrs.Bhattal is a great orator).’ (more…)

Punjabi James Bond: The Super Sikh

Posted on July 20, 2015 at 3:23pm by khushwant.singh No Comment

Déjà vu should I say? Something that I had been contemplating to create over the years had suddenly caught the media’s attention. Confused? I am talking about the Super Sikh comics for children launched recently by Silicon Valley-based senior financial executives Supreet Manchanda and Eileen Alden. Supreet is a venture capitalist, while Eileen is a portfolio manager.

It’s interesting and amusing about how I was sure that if I failed to accomplish my desire to create a Sikh Super hero, it would only be a matter of time before someone else conceptualised it and he or she would be from the Silicon Valley, California. No, I am not saying why I didn’t get to create a Punjabi James Bond, as I am rather thrilled that someone has actually gone ahead and developed the idea, which looks sustainable. For example, the Sikh Super Hero is a highly trained Indian security agent, wears a turban and loves Elvis over Honey Singh. Though I am yet to lay my hands on the comic, initial reports indicate that it is not an over-the-top one.

Supreet and Eileen’s team seem to have maintained the right balance to ensure mainstream commercial success. (more…)

Tablet vs traditional slate

Posted on July 4, 2015 at 11:44am by khushwant.singh No Comment

The other day, while driving to my farm in Hoshiarpur, I was shocked to see a bunch of government school children with chalk-slates clutched under their arm pits. Yes, the old dreary slate, in a zamana where these children should have been carrying a tablet. The appalling sight, other than reinforcing the fact that the education system in Punjab sucks big time, prompted me to share the kind of stuff that a device as small as a tablet can bring to the classroom.

Though, traditionally described as a flat slab of stone, clay or wood, used especially for inscription, the modern tablet has come a long way and the iPad version undoubtedly is the new avatar of the chalk-slate, phatti etc, etc.

The technological marvel brings along unlimited possibilities and opportunities for learning, which can transform the lives of thousands of children who have been denied quality education for decades. No more looking for chalks or rubbing of text with saliva, as all you got to do is swipe, touch or scroll and the world is in your fist. Its new avatar is the most convenient visa to the world, which could only be dreamt of, but never was possible, till a few years ago.

The cynic, the politician and the bureaucrat by now would have dubbed this thought as idiotic, impractical and utopian. But, who cares! If the super intelligent ideas have failed to kick off, isn’t it high time we took a chance with the idiotic ones? (more…)