Every day we witness pathetic stories regarding crisis of water. We see our water taps thirsty for long. We see our citizens agitating against the scarcity of water. We find our rich streams have been left with dirt. The water as a precious resource has gone deep and deep and left our land dry. We have to accept that water there is also scarce now. Climate change has disturbed the Earth’s hydrological cycle (water cycle), changing when, where, and how much precipitation falls.
Humans are inextricably linked to the environmental landscape within which our daily lives unfold. We depend completely on nature for essential, life-sustaining services – clean air and water, a stable climate, food – yet our activities are having an increasingly dramatic and detrimental effect on wildlife and ecosystems, putting not just wild species but also our own survival at risk. The inconvenient truth is that we are meeting our short-term needs largely at the expense of the planet, and it is people – particularly those who are most vulnerable or who have no say in decisions about how natural resources are being used (including future generations) – who will suffer most (www.fauna-flora.org). With the water crisis in mind and then seeking good opinions from some vital members of the society makes it worth for me to share the concern and the remedies.
A renowned environmental expert, Prof. M.R.D Kundangar from Kashmir treats water as a social good. “Water is first and foremost a social good in Islam – a gift from God and a part of, and necessary for, sustaining all life. Water belongs to the community as a whole – no individual literally owns water. The first priority for water use is access to drinking water of acceptable quantity and quality to sustain human life, and every human being has the right to this basic water requirement. The second and third priorities for water are for domestic animals and for irrigation. Humankind is the steward of water on earth. The environment (both flora and fauna) has a very strong and legitimate right to water and it is vital to protect the environment by minimizing pollution. Individuals, organizations, and states are liable for harm that they have caused to the environment or to the environmental rights of others, including water use rights. Water resources must be managed and used in a sustainable way. Sustainable and equitable water management ultimately depends upon following universal values such as fairness, equity, and concern for others. Water demands good management. Water conservation is central to Islam. Mosques, religious institutes, and religious schools should be used to disseminate this principle so as to complement other religious and secular efforts. Wastewater reuse is permissible in Islam; however, the water must meet the required level of treatment to ensure purity and health for its intended purpose. Full cost recovery is permissible: that is, the full cost of supplying, treating, storing, and distributing water, as well as the cost of waste-water collection, treatment, and disposal. However, water pricing must be equitable as well as efficient”.
Prof. Yogesh Upadhyay, Academician and Management Guru from Gwalior, suggests that it is the every drop of water that matters. Water is important for tourism, rivers, agriculture etc. In fact it is the water that covers the basic sustenance of life. Humans must learn lessons in daily life how water can be effectively managed, which if mismanaged will pose a serious threat. How to ignite the appetite to do good for environment is a million dollar concern? Different routines and practices need to be revisited towards ever depleting and limited resources. Recycling of everything- water, food, waste, consumables, goods etc is the need of the time. We need not to wait for govt. to do something good for us, rather develop ways and means on our own to contribute towards sustainable society as an individual and as a group…..
Even best of the lessons can be received from those who have never been to school. We need to keenly listen to them and be motivated on our own. Rafiq Bhai, a general citizen and running a Tiffin center in Gwalior shared some grave concerns and measures regarding the ongoing water crisis. “We must revisit 30 years back time period and usage of water in the past. We have now wash basins in our houses, showering the huge quantity of water but more water is being wasted than being used. A good amount of water in routine we lose when we face wash or go for shave or brush. Earlier we used a balti (tub) and a mug for our bathing purpose but now we have showers running without calm. We can use those clothes which will require less water on washing…..We need not to use surf or detergent continuously in summer as it needs more water”. Iqbal Bhai, a neighbor joins in and asks Rafiq bai for the availability of water for the day. Rafiq bai responds that for last three days they have no water availability and facing huge problems. Now again showing concerns and further suggests that people are washing cars and other transport means regularly…We can dry clean cars and other vehicles without using water. Engineers of this country have a huge responsibility to put water harvesting as a big focus in design and construction activities. For every building we must have water sewage treatment system….We should have some harvesting system where authorities can think of storage, processing and usage of water in right ways…
Our society as a whole need to revisit religious practices deeply where there are opportunities to save huge quantities of water. We must do it being realistic and without being biased and intolerable towards other religions. A Jammu based lovely Hindu boy in my recent train journey added to my knowledge that Hindus earlier used to celebrate Holi with Gulal (natural colour from flowers) and there was little or no water being used to celebrate the festival. Moreover I got an attention of a video clip recently by some Muslim clergy where only a single cup of water can be sufficient for ‘wudhu’ (ablution) to offer prayers. The general practice is that we use twenty times more water for the same practice. Besides there is more water being polluted and wasted on ‘Eid-ul-Adha’ for ‘Qurbani’ (sacrificing an animal on Muslim festival) which can be saved significantly. There is also a good link between water and electricity, the more power saved means more water saved. Our houses and buildings need to have natural light system. Even we have sufficient natural light available but still we never dare to switch off lights to save the energy. We need to install energy efficient LED and fluorescent bulbs. This is an easy way to save energy and lower water foot print. Switching to solar energy is an alternative. Washing our clothes frequently is wasteful and bad for our clothes. We can also use many clothes which don’t require an iron. We can save water, money and energy by only boiling as many cups of water as we need. We need to think of using low flush toilet. Washing a full machine load of clothes uses small water than two half loads. We must turn off taps and try quickly fixing leaky taps. One study finds that about 6 litres of water a minute can be saved by turning off tap while we brush our teeth.
Residents from Cape Town have taken matters into their hands to avoid “Day Zero”, the date the city’s water supply was set to be turned off. A recent report reveals that it found one of these “Day Zero Heroes” in a modest looking house on the city’s outskirts. Masha-du-Toit is a teacher who has turned her home into a water harvesting and recycling machine. If it rains, Ms-du-Toit catches every drop with a series of large black tubs connected to her drain pipes. “There is soot, smoke, sand and bird droppings in there so this is not drinking water – this is for flushing the toilet.”She proudly showed her new toilet attachment (which makes it easier to “self-fill” the cistern) – the dirty dishes storage system (so the washing up is done less frequently) and her bucket-and-container strewn shower. “We don’t do this ‘two-minute shower’ anymore, we just do bucket baths,” she revealed.
Companies public or private that require relatively large amounts of water must have good water programs in place, especially areas that pose the greatest risk to water resources. Moreover innovators and thinkers must offer solutions ranging from a dry toilet to applications that include conservation agriculture to minimize soil disturbance, maintain soil cover and regularize crop rotation. Good solutions must be aimed in urban areas, including green buildings, green walls, roof gardens and vegetated infiltration or drainage systems, landscape restoration, or even systems that improve the performance of built infrastructure. The most important water management strategy: grow and produce things in the right place. In other words, water-intensive crops like rice and cotton should be grown in water-rich regions. The agricultural policy needs to be revolutionized to challenge conventional agricultural practices, which increases water insecurity.
With populations rising, the water scarcity stresses will only see a rise. There are indications that the world will badly suffer if the issue remains unnoticed. Water and resource management has to become an order of the day. At global and national levels, momentum is building to safeguard the water but a lot is to be done more. There has to be a change in our conservative approach and believe that together we can achieve and small initiatives matter a lot. It is not only the policy makers who have a role rather responsibility lies on each and every vital member of the society. We have the right and responsibility to think in different ways to save our water. The purpose is to show the progress being made and gaps needed to fill in order to solve the global water crisis. It is not something that we should take for granted. We should all make water saving part of our lives because our rich future depends on it.
(The writer is Assistant Professor, ITM University Gwalior and can be reached at: ([email protected])
INDESCRIBABLE JOHN ELI
By Shabbir Aariz
This indeed is proverbially a herculean task to describe or define John Elia in any particular frame. Whosoever while mentioning him, is either trapped in contradictions of one’s own opinion or is able to confine to a few verses of John Elia to judge him. But the more one tries to understand John, the more confused one is and I believe that you need another John Elia to explain him. He is a phenomenon, a thing like a live fish to hold in your hand or an elephant amongst blinds to be described. Wusatullah Khan, a noted broadcaster, holds that knowing John is as good as dating with a liberated lady. And it is quite obvious that a man who in him is a philosopher, a scholar, a biographer, a linguist with command over Urdu, Arabic, English, Persian, Sanskrit and Hebrew and needless to say that the Ismaili sect of the subcontinent could not find anyone other than John to translate Ismaili treatises from Hebrew, it becomes a tedious affair to be conclusive about John. Common perception though with an element of truth is that John is a progressive Marxist, an unconventional poet and always in denial of everything including himself while himself saying in three line verse,
“KISKO FUSAT K MUJSAY BAHAS KARAY…..
OOR SABIT KARAY K MERA WAJOOD….
ZINDZGI K LIYAY ZARORI HAY
(Anyone prepared to argue and prove that my existence is imperative for life). His poetry is admittedly very close to life and his verses in the words of a legendry poet, Majrooh Sultanpuri, are like a dialogue which no other poet has the distinction to be capable of. John has an extra-ordinary craft of connecting with his audience that has created an unprecedented fan following which no other contemporary poet can claim to have. So magical is his poetry and its rendition that it has created a cult of his admirers with such an obsession and longing for the life of melancholy lead by John Elia himself. It is no secret that he was never a happy man with defiance and protest against everything and anything around. Loudly a nonconformist when he says
“unjaman main mayri khamooshi…..
burdabari nahin hay wehshat hay”.
His style made him famous and popular. He appears to be disgusted even with creation when he says … “HASILE KUN HAY YEH JAHANE KHARAAB….
YAHI MUMKIN THA AYSI UJLAT MAIN”.
His admirers strangely wish to pass through the same pain and despair that is hallmark of John’s poetry besides satire and the disdain for the system which contributed to his sadness in life. He has so glorified and romanticized the pain and sadness that it leaves his audience in frenzied ecstasy.
John Elia was born in the year 1931 and died in 2002. He originally belonged to Amroha in the state of Uttar Pradesh, younger brother of Rayees Amrohi, a known journalist and writer. John migrated to Pakistan in the year 1957 and settled in Karachi where he is buried now. But Amroha never left his heart and mind. He never felt comfortable after leaving Amroha partly because his stay in Karachi brought him in conflict with the system too. Many other things have also contributed to his sadness in life. He was married to a well-known writer of Pakistan, Zahida Hina but in mid-80’s , the relation between the two became bumpy and ended up in divorce which left John devastated and for ten long years thereafter went in depression without writing a word.
As is true about many in the history of literature, John earned his name and fame more after his death than in his life time while he was not received well and felt a strange type of suffocation when he says,
“AAP APNAY SAY HUMSUKHAN REHNA…..
HUMNISHEEN SAANS PHOOL JATI HAY”.
Thanks to the electronic boom and You Tube that brought him to the lime light and enabled audience to reach him and his works. As if this was not enough that his first poetic collection only came to be published when he reached the age of 60. It is worthwhile mention that he has as many as seven poetic collections to his credit namely SHAYAD, YANI, LEKIN, GUMAAN, GOYA, FARMOD and RAMOOZ. Except one, all other are published posthumously. This is besides his scholarly works in prose which may require greater insight to go into.
John all his life remained honest, direct and straightforward in expressing his views on matters of public interest. He also never demonstrated any pretentions or reservations while expressing the truth of his personal life. He never made any secret of his fantasies, love affairs or drinking habits. Yet he was never at peace either with the times or with himself. John Elia, in my humble opinion lived ahead of times and even the desire of dying young without being bed ridden was not granted to him except that he strangely enough wanted to die of tuberculosis and which he did.
(The author, a senior lawyers, is a well known poet and writer. Feedback at: [email protected])
Manto: Why I wanted to read a ‘lewd’ writer
By Naveed Hussain
I first read Saadat Hasan Manto as a teenager and the spirit of what I’m writing now was etched on my memory in those years.
I was too young to understand the intricacies of his stories but I enjoyed what I read and craved for more. Back then, Manto wasn’t available in the small town of Haripur where I lived. A friend introduced me to a schoolteacher, a bibliophile who had a modest collection of Manto in his personal library.
“Why do you want to read Manto, he’s a ribald, lewd writer,” he quipped. “This is exactly why I want to read him,” I replied, almost impulsively. He smiled and agreed to lend me Manto’s books. Thus began my journey to explore Manto. The more I read, the deeper my love for him became.
Manto was a nonconformist, an unorthodox and ruthlessly bold writer. He didn’t believe in the so-called literary norms of ‘decency’ and ‘civility’ set by didactic writers of his time. For him, truth is truth. No matter how bitter and despicable the reality, Manto never dilutes the truth. Like a muckraker, he pokes his nose into the muck, rakes it, and then holds it up to the reader – in all its profound ugliness and twisted beauty. “If you don’t know your society, read my stories. If you find a defect, it’s the defect of your society, not my stories,” he says.
Manto wrote on socially taboo topics like sex, incest and prostitution, which earned him the wrath of contemporary traditionalists, conservatives and even progressives. For some of his ‘lewd’ and ‘obscene’ stories he had to face lawsuits – among them were great stories such as Thanda Gosht, Bu, Khol Do, Dhuan and Kali Shalwar.
But it is to miss the point to simply say that Manto wrote about sex. He wrote about the sexual debauchery of men and the sexual exploitation of women; about our patriarchal society where women are often treated as a ‘sex toy’, not a human being. Unlike many, I don’t compare Manto with DH Lawrence, because Manto is not lustful, even though he explicitly writes about the female anatomy. He’s more like Guy de Maupassant, who sees the throbbing heart, not the sensuous body, of the prostitute.
Manto blames the ‘diseased mind’ for reading ‘ribaldry’ into his stories. If a sex maniac derives morbid gratification from Venus De Milo, should we blame Alexandros of Antioch for chiselling such a ‘graphic’ sculpture? No, certainly not.
For contemporary literary pundits, Manto was also unacceptable because he wrote ‘indecent’ language. “They [the critics] criticise me when my characters verbally abuse one another – but why don’t they criticise their society instead where hundreds of thousands of profanities are hurled on the streets, every day,” he wonders.
I also love Manto because he was honest. He was an unflinchingly true writer who believed in calling a spade a spade. Sketch-writing was introduced as a genre in Urdu literature much earlier, but Manto created his own peculiar tell-all style. He didn’t write only the good qualities of his characters. “In my bathroom, everyone is naked. I don’t clothe them because it’s the tailor’s job,” he writes.
Manto’s sketches, which he initially wrote for the Lahore-based Daily Afaq newspaper, were later collected and published as Ganjay Farishtay. Manto wasn’t a hypocrite. He minced no words while writing about his dead friends. “I curse a thousand times a so-called civilised society where a man’s character is cleansed of all its ills and tagged as ‘May-God-Bless Him’,” Manto wrote in Ganjay Farishtay. Manto wrote sketches of filmstars Ashok Kumar, Shyam, Noor Jahan, literary figures such as Meera Ji, Agha Hashar and Ismat Chughtai and some politicians. “I have no camera that could have washed smallpox marks off the face of Agha Hashar or change obscenities uttered by him in his flowery style.”
Before embarking on his literary career, Manto had read Russian, French and English masters like Chekhov, Gorky, Victor Hugo, de Maupassant and Oscar Wilde and translated some of their works into Urdu. Surprisingly enough, despite his love for revolutionaries, Manto was not a Marxist ideologue. He was a humanist who was pained to see social injustices, economic disparities and exploitation of the underprivileged. He hated the obscurantist clergy and parasitic elites alike.
Although Manto had migrated to Pakistan after 1947, he couldn’t understand the rationale of partitioning a land along religious lines. His stories of bloodshed and cross-border migration, such as Teetwaal Ka Kutta and Toba Tek Singh, made him unpopular with ‘patriotic’ Pakistanis. To this day he remains a shadowy figure on the official literary lists of Pakistan: our school curricula, our national awards, our drawing room conversations.
Manto was acknowledged as a creative genius even by his detractors. And he knew this, which is perhaps why he wanted these words to mark his grave: “Here lies Saadat Hasan Manto and with him lie all the secrets and mysteries of the art of short story writing. Under tons of earth he lies, still wondering who among the two is the greater short story writer: he or God.”
Manto’s family feared his self-written epitaph would attract the unwanted attention of the ignorantly religious, so on his grave one finds a Ghalib couplet. He faced censorship all his life and even now has chunks of his stories taken out by the authorities. But as we mark his centenary year, I can say this with the instant certainty I felt as a young man in Haripur: the words and stories of Saadat Hasan Manto will outlive us all.
Gauhar Raza: Giving Poetry the Power to Protest
By Asheesh Mamgain
If things were different his poems would have been different, or maybe he would not have been a poet at all. But things are what they are. And that is why Gauhar Raza, the poet is writing, and it is why he writes his poetry of protest.
“Maybe I would have written about love, the beauty of nature and science. But as things stand my poetry is predominantly about resistance and protest,” said Raza, who is faithful to the tradition of resistance poetry to the extent that he has throttled, without much difficulty, the romantic and the scientist in him. “The need to write poetry always arose when something happened around me which affected me, to the core. I have never written and will never write poetry just for the sake of it.”
“The murder of Safdar Hashmi, the breaking up of the Soviet Union, the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the killing of an activist in Afghanistan, the death of Rohith Vemula are some of those things,” he said.
Raza’s second published collection of ghazals and nazms (71 in all) came out in November 2017 and is titled Khamoshi, or Silence.
Is there a lot of anger in his poems? Yes, there is definitely a lot of anger. But then there is also hope. That is where Raza becomes special.
“For me, a poem that merely complains or rants about the injustice, violence and persecution happening all around is not enough. A poet has to go beyond this; he has to give a vision. The vision of an alternative world, of a better world. Only then will his poetry be successful and meaningful. A poet has to show the consciousness he wants to bring into society.”
So how does he define good poetry? “Well, a good poem should be able to raise the level of the reader at least one notch higher, and also give him a fresh perspective about the aspect being dealt in the poem. Something new to dwell upon,” said Raza.
The influences that shaped his poetic thought came pretty early, at home and at the Aligarh Muslim University where he studied. Raza’s father, Wizarat Hussain, worked in the education department there and was a second-generation Leftist.
“The question about the existence of God came up very early in my life and soon I became an atheist for life,” said Raza. Literature was read with passion at home and by the time he was 15 he had read all the Urdu literature available at the AMU library as well as a solid portion of Russian literature.
“During my growing years, Leftist thought had a major presence in the university. On the other hand, the fundamental forces were also steadily getting stronger. I was smitten by the leftist idea. I was part of a literary study circle, we served tea at the secret meetings of leftist groups and listened to discussions at home between my father and other intellectuals such as Irfan Habib and Iqtidar Alam Khan.”
There was a lot of churning in his mind and soon he started pouring the remnants of all that into his poems. When it comes to poetry some of Raza’s major influences have been Ghalib, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi. He is often seen reciting their work at length during his various lectures, with Sahir Ludhianvi’s long poem ‘Parchhaiyan’ or Shadows one of his favourites.
“Writing the kind of poetry I do is not easy. Each time a write a poem I must relive all the pain and emotion I went through when the particular incident happened that forced me to write. All those disturbing images come rushing back to me. It is a difficult thing to undergo.”
Nor is poetry Raza’s only means of reaching the people. He recently retired as chief scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. He is also into documentary filmmaking, his documentaries on Bhagat Singh and the 2002 Gujarat genocide being very well known.
Where does poetry stand today, as a means of communication with the reader? According to Raza, “for one, social media has helped. It has helped poets reach a wider audience. Also, the tradition of musharias and kavi sammelans (poetry meets) is still very strong in India. So even if a poet is competing with the multimedia world, it is easy to reach one’s audience with one’s poetry, provided you have something pertinent to say.”
More broadly speaking, however, “I have to say that things have progressed in a disturbing direction. A poem I wrote 20 years ago, I could rededicate it to Rohith Vemula and then to Gauri Lankesh. This disturbing trend is seen all over the world. I believe that the fall of the USSR has been a major turning point in the way our World has evolved.”
A few lines from one of his poems brings out his concern and struggle.
Mein phool khilata hoon jab bhi,
Woh baad e khizan le aate hain,
Mein geet sunata hoon jab bhi,
Yeh aag se ji bahlate hain.
Whenever I make a flower blossom
They bring the autumn wind
Whenever I sing a song
They give the soul succour with flame.
But Raza is still hopeful. “There has been a resurgence of resistance poetry in Urdu in the recent past. The trend of religious poetry in Urdu has also reduced in recent times. The youth today has become more involved in this attempt to bring a positive change. I have seen young people reading protest poetry and reacting to it. Once again universities have become a place of resistance and struggle for change.”