Roundabout | Vintage Eid card stirs remembrance of things past
This Eid, a picture of two women on a swing caught the imagination of people on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. The image is common enough, one which has travelled through the centuries, and is still a familiar sight in parks and school playgrounds.
What makes this particular picture, painted in realistic calendar-style art and reminiscent of Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings, special is the attire of the women that represent two cultures. The woman sitting on the swing is wearing a traditional Hindu attire (half a saree, and an odhani), while her companion is dressed in a Muslim court attire (an anarkali kurta,waistcoat and choorhi).
The picture had an emotive appeal for many as this joyous frame was seen on a vintage Eid card, circa 1940. On the Tasveer Ghar page on social media, the photograph was embossed with the words ‘Eid Mubarak’. Gleaned from Priya Paul’s page, the greeting card was widely circulated.
I first came across the card on the timeline of Lahore’s famous writer Nain Sukh. The post was accompanied with the words: ‘Guzrey huye zamane ko yaad karte huye!’
So much hate for the ‘other’ has been propagated of late that this particular image is all the more refreshing, celebrating as it is the spirit of festive togetherness.
The greeting card, which was printed at a press in Bhindi Bazaar, a predominantly Muslim area in Mumbai, comes with a beautifully calligraphed message in Urdu, which most of the post-Independence generation on this side of the border never got to learn. So, it is over to the language experts of the Haryana Urdu Akademi in Panchkula, veteran writer Chander Trikha and poet Jatinder Parvez.
A nameless younger woman is addressing an older one in the message. Beginning with Mohtarma Appa Sahib Adaab it goes onto say that even though they are far apart, yet her affection, benignity and compassion are with her, and on the occasion of Eid she hopes that her older sister will remember her with kindness in her prayers. The elegant Urdu language gives the message a poetic touch.
Courtesy and grace indeed belong to a time long past.
Acquaintance with Eid
I had heard the word ‘Eid’ mentioned in old songs picturised against the crescent moon, but did not quite understand what it meant. The word seemed magical as it made the heroine blush, giggle, and dance, while coyly looking at the thin slice of the moon. One remembers Shyama, crooning in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice: ‘Mujhe mil gaya bahana teri deed ka, kaisi khushi le ke aaya chand Eid ka’ in the 1960 blockbuster ‘Barsaat ki Raat’.
At times, Eid would come without the festival, if the beloved happened to arrive unexpectedly. So it was for Jahanara Begum, in another film of the ‘60s dedicated to her name and story. The heroine breaks out into song on seeing her lover: ‘Ik zamane ke baad deed huyi, Eid se pehle meri Eid hui’.
Eid seemed to be some code word in Hindi films, until I visited and re-visited Rawalpindi with my mother in my childhood on Eid-ul-Fitr. The reason for the odyssey was to visit an aunt and uncle who had stayed on, while all others fled in 1947.
Colloquially known as Meethi Eid, it brought the sweetest of delicacies with it. This festival was a revelation for me as on this side of the border many mosques in small towns and villages had closed down after the Partition. However, when I returned from my mother’s home town, I insisted on celebrating it with fanfare. I distributed sweets and duly collected coins from elders as Eidi. Older relatives would mock me at times, but my mother encouraged me to own and celebrate all festivals that I may encounter in life.
A pilgrimage to Lahore
While brooding over the Eid card, I came across a book cover with the curious title ‘Yaar Mera Hajj Kara De’. Now, Hajj is something that is connected to Mecca, but the title refers to an old man’s journey back to Lahore, the city he had to flee in his adolescence.
The boy who was forced to abandon his young dreams was Sat Pal Arora (1934-2008), and the book has been penned by his son Rajinder Arora, an alumnus of Panjab University. Rajinder, a creative soul, named his well-regarded Delhi-based design and advertising enterprise ‘Ishtihaar’.
The book, which was simultaneously published in Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi is set to be published in Devanagari. This out-of-the-ordinary travelogue begins with the words, “The malaise of the heart will not rest until it has taken its toll on the affected person’s life, and so it was with our father.”
It all began when his father after suffering two heart attacks said, “Yaar mera hajj kara de.” Not quite understanding what he meant, Rajinder was initially taken aback, until his father explained that he wanted to visit Lahore. So, in 2002, Rajinder Arora set forth on this ‘sacred’ journey with his wife, Rajni, and his parents.
Each word said and each moment lived in those seven days in Lahore when his parents found their respective homes in the heart of the city is remembered . The writer says, “My father asked me to photograph a particular jamun tree. When I dismissed the request saying Delhi had ample Jamun trees, he said that particular tree was special, because it was the tree of his childhood.”
The journey brought them face to face with people of the other side of the border, who longed just as much for their beloved Meerut and Dilli. The book documents the havoc wreaked by The Great Divide on the common people.
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