#RIP- Shamshad Begum: A song in her heart


Written by: Gitanjali Roy | Updated: April 24, 2013 1

Shamshad Begum: A song in her heart

New DelhiShamshad Begum, a pioneer of Bollywood’s music fraternity and the voice behind some of it’s most memorable hits, died in Mumbai after a long illness. She had celebrated her 94th birthday just days before.Shamshad Begum was born on April 14, 1919 in Amritsar. A movie buff, she was a K L Saigal fan and reportedly watched Devdas 14 times. She promised her father that she would never appear before the camera, and so forged a long and successful camera in the recording studio. In fact, so faithfully did she keep her promise to her father that the public at large did not know what she looked like till well into the 1970s.

Shamshad Begum made her singing debut on Peshawar Radio in 1947. She then sang for All India Radio as part of Delhi’s Crown Imperial Theatrical Company of Performing Arts. Her songs were frequently broadcast on AIR Lahore, bringing her voice to the notice of music directors.

Her very first mentors were sarangi maestro Ustad Hussain Bakshwale Saheb and composer Ghulam Haider. Shamshad Begum’s earliest film songs were in Ghulam Haider’s Khazanchi(1941) and Khandaan (1942). Ghulam Haider soon moved from Lahore to Mumbai, taking Shamshad Begum with him as part of his team.

Shamshad Begum’s unique voice and style of singing set her apart from contemporaries such as Geeta Bai, Amirbai Karnataki, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. She sang some of Hindi cinema‘s best-loved numbers between the 1940s and 1950s. Her hit parade, many of which have been remixed, include: Leke pehla pehla pyar and Kahin pe nigahen kahin pe nishana from C.I.DKabhi aar kabhi paar from Aar PaarMere piya gaye Rangoon fromPatangaSaiyyan dil mein aana re from Bahar and Kajra mohabbatwala from Kismat, in which she sang not for the heroine, played by Babita, but for the hero, played by Biswajeet, in drag.

In 2009, Shamshad Begum received the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honour. The same year, she also received the O P Nayyar award for her contribution to the world of film music.

Shamshad Begum was married to Ganpat Lal Batto who died in 1955. She is survived by her daughter Usha and son-in-law.

 

Ta(l)king sex beyond English #sexuality


By Meenu Pandey

This is the second of a series of posts written from the experiences at CREA of implementing a program called “Count Me IN! It’s My Body: Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Young Girls through Sports”. CREA is a feminist human rights organization based in Delhi (www.creaworld.org).

 (Take fifteen seconds for each of these words.)

Think of one regional language word each for the following: Consent. Assumption. Choice. Pleasure. Agency.

These are some of the words which form the foundation of the world of sexual rights. How many did you get?

How does one talk of sexuality? How does one express desire and consent? How does one articulate violation? What do we call the body parts, what do we call ourselves? How do we claim identities or demand space and rights on sexuality? In societies where conversations about sex are silenced, how do we talk about our everyday lives, which are as much about sexual boundaries and norms as they are about the politics of caste, religion, gender, class and so much more besides.

Working on sexuality in local languages is not only crucial but radical. It is radical because it dispels the myth that most of sexuality work happens in the ‘English world’. It is also radical because it demonstrates that no cultures are devoid of sexuality. This means, saying that “we don’t have the language to talk of sexuality” isn’t correct. A friend from Meem[i], Lebanon, berating the mainstream western understanding around the ‘Middle East’ and sexuality, said recently to me, “it’s not that we don’t talk of sexuality, it could be that we just don’t call it sexuality.”

Also, the concept of sexuality isn’t unpacked in a uniform way everywhere. Different meanings are made of it in different contexts. A group of young girls we work with from Jharkhand, when asked what what they understood by sexuality, said in unison,“sexuality means what we like and don’t like in all aspects of life.”

There are many terms, words and connotations that find space in a regional language, but not in English. Hindi offers the space for many terms that connote a cultural construct – such as Hijra. There is no equivalent term in English for Hijra – the only word that comes closest is ‘transgender’, an unsatisfactory translation. Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai’s work[ii]brings together diverse texts that uncover stories of same-sex desire and gender diversity, spanning centuries of the subcontinent’s history and numerous linguistic traditions. Non-English speaking people have not needed English to claim and articulate their realities. Their lives are lived, and desires expressed in a manner they find appropriate for themselves.

In its initial phase of work, sexual rights activists in India were constantly told that poverty was a far more pressing issue than sexuality. These activists brought forth an understanding of  intersectionality as a perspective to do any work related to human rights. This perspective also sheds light on access to language in which work is done and the need to work in different local languages is something that became clear fairly earlier on. Since most of the activists who began this work were themselves urban and English speaking, their work would be inaccessible, possibly culturally-alien, if it remained only in the realm of English.  Sexuality is a deeply cultural thing – in terms of its specific taboos, the controls, the ways in which it is allowed to be expressed, the breaking of norms, articulation of experiences which are different, naming desire. In India, how can these multilayered cultural manifestations ever be fully expressed in English, without losing its richness?

A few friends decided to say words which we used for our nether regions. Cunt was one of the most used. We felt very empowered, smugly so. At some point one of us said, but what are the non-english words? We came up with a few, choot being one of them. None of us appropriated a single one of those words for ourselves or our amorous moments. We were empowered in English. Elsewhere, we were as good as people who didn’t/couldn’t say cunt.[iii]

One of the challenges of working in Hindi is that sexualised words often also used as slang, and are therefore considered obscene, or are stigmatised. It could feel less personalised. But what is it really that makes us uncomfortable? Could it be that for the English speaking people, our language of thinking limits our expressions around sexuality?

In this work in Hindi, creating new language, and sometimes modifying the existing language becomes crucial to convey meaning.[iv] In the latest edition of the annual Hindi journal on sexual and reproductive health and rights, Reproductive Health Matters (RHM), themed Abortion and Rights, we wanted to highlight the element of ‘right to choice’ for termination of pregnancy.[v] The popular hindi term, garbh paat seemed stigmatised at one level and on further research, it was clear that its literal translation means miscarriage. To keep the right to choice about one’s body and life inextricably linked to induced abortion, we chose to use a lesser used but thought provoking term, garbh samaapan (termination of pregnancy). Such experiments in translation and creation of a new language to talk about sexuality and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), keeps our work political.

Another crucial point is about the kind of hindi scholarship around sexuality being created. Is it influenced by the assumption that theory is for English-speakers, while practice is for non-English speakers? This despite the interconnections between practice and theory, and the influence our everyday worlds and their construction have on theory. The diversity in resources available on sexuality in English isn’t the same as that in Hindi. We felt the need for Hindi RHM, a peer reviewed journal, precisely because such theoretical scholarship was not available for Hindi speaking activists. The Institutes on Sexuality, Gender and Rights in Hindi have as much reading and engaging with theory as the English Institutes.

Sometimes popularising certain English terms may make more sense. The term Intersex in Hindi would be antarlingi. Not only does this term in Hindi have no resonance in colloquial Hindi, it is a highly sanskritised way of using language, which we are, very consciously, trying to move away from. The words sex, transgender, surrogate, sex work are some more of such examples.

As part of our sports and SRHR program, It’s My Body, we produced resources for young girls. We wanted to steer clear of the producing material which looks like SRHR outcomes – HIV transmission and menstruation. We realised that we need to think about the kind of language we want to use. We wanted to talk not only of menstrual cycle, but how young girls should have information around their bodies. We wanted to not only talk of how to have safe sex, but that young people should be able to decide who they want to have sex with, when and also have the knowledge, confidence and agency to be able to say yes, no as well as maybe. We decided to use words like sahmati, poorv-anumaan, chaahat, chunaav, haan, naa, pasand –the language used in the work with the groups of young girls. We designed them in a way so girls can keep them hidden, if they needed to; to take out and discuss and read with peers when they felt comfortable.

A conversation on language and sexuality is incomplete without thinking about who is creating the Hindi scholarship in the sexuality world. The people who live in both ‘English and Hindi worlds’ are different from people who live in ‘Hindi worlds’. If we are clear that practitioners are also capable of creating scholarship (as we should be!), a larger objective of creating Hindi scholarship on sexuality must be to put this work in the hands of people for whom English is not the first language. That will alter the canvas of negotiating the language of sexuality.

Meenu Pandey works as the Program Coordinator – Global South Knowledge Resources at CREA. She works on creating scholarship in Hindi on gender and sexuality. She is the co-editor of Close, Too Close: The Tranquebar book of Queer Erotica.

Big thank you to S. Vinita for thinking this through with me and Sanjana and Vrinda for their very useful feedback.

[ii] Same-Sex Love in India, Readings from Literature and History: Edited: Ruth Vanita, Saleem Kidwai, Macmillan 2000

[iii] An old conversation between a group of  English speaking friends.

[iv] This blogpost focuses on Hindi as a language but the arguments are relevant for any regional language.

[v] Reproductive Health Matters (RHM) is an independent charity, producing in-depth publications on reproductive and sexual health and rights for an international, multi-disciplinary audience. http://www.rhmjournal.org.uk/ CREA has collaborated with RHM since 2005 to bring out annual editions of the journal in Hindi.

source-

http://ultraviolet.in/2013/04/24/talking-sex-beyond-english/

 

Press Release – On Earth Day Doon valley declareS Chipko Movement -Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola ‘Quit India’ #CSR


DEhradun, April 23, 2013E

Forty hectares (about 85 acres) of land with more than 60,000 trees of different species such as Shisham, Kher, Bakkaiyan, and Sagwan, is in danger.  On the  17th of April 2013 the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Vijay Bahuguna, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited, allowing them to establish a 600 crore bottling plant on this land, of which Coca-cola has already handed over a cheque of 1.6* crore.  In response the villagers of Charba and their pradhaan (village head) congregated at this forest to declare a chipko movement in protection of this green belt on the 21st of April 2013. The Navdanya team was present at this meeting to extend our support and distributed brochures which highlight the hazards of Coca-cola and such bottling units to the local environment and, consequently, the people.

On Mother Earth Day 2013 (April 22nd) in response to the village level protests against the Coca-cola bottling unit that is to be set up in Charba village, Vikasnagar, Uttarakhand, with agreement from the state government, the Navdanya team focused its energies towards this area with the intention to continue the resistance and remember why such a plant will not only effect Charba but the surrounding areas as well.  With the support of Mr. Shiv Singh Tomar, the principle of the Government Primary School in Usmanpur, Navdanya involved the youth and young minds from the area by planting trees at this government school.  The Navdanya team, including the director Dr. Vinod Bhatt, along with five students from Shivalik College of Engineering’s Ecoclub began by talking about Mother Earth Day (Prithvi Ma Divas), the meaning and importance of such an event and how the children can be involved. Then the children, school faculty, Shivalik college students and Navdanya team collectively planted five trees, which will from now on be cared for by the students.

The Navdanya team, accompanied by Mr. Tomar, proceeded to the Charba gram panchayat office in Charba village.  Here we planted an Ashoka tree in front of the office along with village members and elders as a symbol of our collective dedication and drive to continue working for Mother Earth.  To gather village voices together in a petition, the Navdanya team formulated a petition arguing against the establishing of a Coca-cola bottling unit in Charba village.  Mr. Pramod Kimothi presented this to the villagers in attendance, who signed their agreement and accepted the petition in order to collect further support by gathering signatures from other village members.

The day concluded with hope and resolve to take the issue of the Coca-cola bottling plant further.  In May 2013 Navdanya and the Charba village members will conduct an aazadi bachao aandolan (a movement to defend freedom) where a demonstration will take place at the Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm, Ramgarh, Dehradun.

Doon Valley Declaration

Water is the basis of life; it is the gift of nature; it belongs to all living beings on earth.  Water is not private property, it is a common resource for the sustenance of all.  Water is a fundamental human right.  It has to be conserved, protected, and managed. It is our fundamental obligation to prevent water scarcity and pollution to preserve it for generations.  Water is not a commodity. We should resist all criminal attempts to marketize, privatize, and corporatize water. Only through these means we can ensure the fundamental and inalienable right to water for people all over the world. The Water Policy should be formulated on the basis of this outlook.  The right to conserve, use, and manage water is fully vested with the local community.  This is the very basis of water democracy.  Any attempt to reduce or deny this right is a crime. The production and marketing of the poisonous products of the Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola corporations lead to total destruction and pollution and also endanger the very existence of local communities.  The resistance that has come up in Plachimada, Puducherry, and in various parts of the world is the symbol of our valiant struggle against the devilish corporate gangs who pirate our water.  We who are in the battlefields are in full solidarity and are putting up a resistance against the tortures of the commercial forces. We exhort people all over the world to join us as we boycott the products of Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola ‘Quit India’

From the experiences of Plachimada in Kerala, Kaladere in Rajasthan and Mehandi Ganj in Uttar Pradesh, where similar bottling units have been set up in the past, we have learned and are aware of the situation.  The water table in Plachimada dropped from 40 feet to 125 feet, well and hand pumps went dry. While in Mehandi Ganj the water levels have dropped by 40 feet and the surrounding fields have been polluted.  To prevent such situations from taking place in our Doon Valley we must take steps now by uniting to defend our water sovereignty, land sovereignty.  The land allotted to the Coca-Cola plant in Charba was given to Doon University which has now been built elsewhere.  This land has now been given to Coca-Cola without our consent by the government.  This land should now be returned to the village. We do not agree to this land being handed over to Coca-Cola, we will not allow for this land grab and water theft to take place.  This is our declaration on Mother Earth Day 2013 and we vow to take up the methods of Sri Sundarlal Bahuguna by adopting our own ‘chipko movement’ to save our trees, our land and our water.

Village Panchayat Charba, Vikasnagar, Doon Valley

 

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