A view of the Army Public School, Dagshai
Dutt meets three women writing in three
different languages to build bridges of peace in the subcontinent
"Being a woman, writing stories and having dissenting opinions are three afflictions in our society and I am the sum total of the three." This is how Zaheda Hina, a celebrated Karachi-based fiction writer and columnist, places herself in life and literature. A remarkable writer who has a significant fan following in India too as her writings are being widely transcribed into the Devanagri script. Having penned many memorable short stories, her novella on the Partition, Na Junoon Raha Na Pari Rahi, was acclaimed by critics and published in Hindi by a Delhi publisher.
A peace activist over long years and winner of the SAARC literary award, Zaheda Hinaís writings prove that she has always dared to write in what she believes. She was among those who boldly opposed the martial law regime of Zia-ul-Haq in Pakistan. Hers is an ornate style of writing but never at the cost of the content. She migrated with her family from Bihar at the time of the Partition to Karachi. "I know well what it is to be an outsider. I struggled to make my identity in the new land as circumstances had greatly changed for our family with the migration. An announcer for BBC in London for long years, Zaheda was one of the first to espouse the cause of peace between India and Pakistan.
Recently, she chose to link
the entire South Asia be using literary tradition as the means. Her sequel
to Rabindranath Tagoreís famous short story Kabuliwala is counted a
masterpiece in fiction emerging from the sub-continent. Talking of the story
called Kumkum Theek-thak Hai, Zaheda says: "In this story, time
has moved forward and Minni of Kabuliwala fame is a granny. Her
granddaughter Kumkum, a doctor, volunteers to go to Afghanistan after the US
attack on the country. There she forms a fond bond with an injured Afghan
militant." Written in the form of a letter to her granny in Kolkata, it
is one of those rare short stories that has made waves. It indeed belongs to
the tradition of Chandradhar Guleriís Usne Kaha Thha and in a way,
Krishna Sobtiís Ai Ladki. For it is not every day that a piece of
long-short fiction can rise to epical scales.
Attiya Dawood, a Sindhi poet and prose writer, made her place in Karachi also with great struggle. The daughter of a middle-class family, she struggled hard but grew from strength to strength as she transformed her experiences into rich poetry and prose. Content rather than style is her forte. Pakistani critic Sikandar Sarwar says of her: "She is more than a poet, an aesthetic and sensitive voice, a woman responsive to the cries of anguish and anxiety of women abused around the world."
Attiya has often dared to
raise her voice against establishment including the laws forbidding women to
love. In her famous poem, To my Daughter, written especially in
English, Attiya the poet says: Even if they brand you a Kari/ And condemn
you to death/ Choose death but live to love. Addressing conflict and at
times encouraging it is often the route to peace and Attiya has never been
afraid to take it. Living in and writing in violent Karachi, Attiya says:
"I was once caught in an area where a bomb burst and that experience
found way in a poem that questioned the validity of bequeathing gunpowder to
our children. I have often written against violence in South Asia. Peace is
a must if our children are to survive." Attiyaís autobiography, Aine
ke Saamne, was recently published in Hindi.
Naseem Shafai comes from the land that gave us women poets like Hebba Khatoon, Lal Ded and Arnimal. Yes Kashmir, of course. Lal Ded was the Sufi poet of the 14th century, Hebba belonged to the 16th and Arnimal to the 18th. For nearly two centuries after that there was no poet of prominence in the Kashmiri language. It was late 20th century that saw Naseem breaking the male citadel. Naseem, who has just stepped into her 50s, was for many years the lone woman at mushairas. "It now makes me happy to see that there are a number of girls writing in Kashmiri."
How has she reacted to the violence over long decades in the Kashmir Valley? To this question Naseemís reply is: "As a poet and as a Kashmiri we have seen much sorrow. My journalist husband too was shot at by militants and was bed-ridden for a long time. We have witnessed death and sorrow as Kashmir became a pawn in the power game between India and Pakistan. In spite of it all, I can say with pride that my son completed his school living with our Kashmiri Pandit friends in Delhi." This poet of the lost paradise wants to see pain and fear wiped off the faces of young Kashmiris. She puts it thus in poetry: My prayer goes to them/ Iíll sing them psalms/ May the new moon/ Ever shine in their sky.
Study in diversity
Sharma on the Army Public School,
Dagshai, where students come from different regions
Nestling amid the sylvan splendour of the Shivalik foothills is Army Public School, Dagshai, an ideal place for academics and sports. Located in a sleepy hamlet, Dagshai, it lies mid-way between Shimla and Chandigarh. Built at a height of about 6,000 feet above sea-level, it is known for its huge play fields which once hosted Durrand Cup Football matches.
Barely 50 km from Chandigarh, the school came into existence in June,1986. It was the brainchild of Lt Gen K. Sunderjee, PVSM and Lt Gen R.S. Dayal PVSM, MVC, AVSM, ADC. It was inaugurated by the then GOC-in-C ,Lt Gen H. Kaul on June 1, 1986. Spread over 40 acres, it has 500 students on its rolls. Though essentially a residential school catering to the defence personnel, it has on its rolls a few day scholars from the nearby areas. Initially, the school had only V to VIII classes and it was decided to add one class each year. The ratio of boys to girls is 60: 40.
In 1990, it became a secondary school. A member of the Indian Public Schoolsí Conference (IPSC) it is affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary School, New Delhi. On its raising day every year on June 1, the General-officer-in-commanding, Western Command is the chief guest.
The pine-scented air and serene ambience propell the natural energies of an individual, provides the perfect atmosphere for study and recreation. The large British buildings, huge play fields and the sprawling campus provides the perfect locale for the education of young minds away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The school is under the administrative control of the Army Welfare Education Society and its management is under the administrative control of the commandant of the 14 Gorkha Training Centre, Subathu. Imbibing discipline, a spirit to serve the nation and to uphold the rich traditions of the Army, the values of nationalism are inculcated in the young. The schoolís motto, " Dedication to the nation" fosters a sense of ceaseless love for the country, enabling an individual to strive for the betterment of the nation.
As the principal, Col A.K. Maini, says, " Our mission is to provide opportunities through classroom teachings, co-curricular activities, games and sports, excursions, personal care, attention and affection, coupled with a controlled environment to inspire our children to perform to the zenith of their potentials. We make all our efforts in the right direction of raising the overall standard of all children who get the opportunity to study in our school, so that an average child may come up to a higher standard and a good child may excel."
There is a provision of coaching students desirous of joining the armed forces for the NDA entrance test. It was a moment of both pride and grief when a 1992 batch alumnus Maj Udai Singh of 1 st PARA Regiment gave away his life on November 29, 2003 while defending the nationís borders in the Rajouri Sector. Commissioned in 1997, he had spent four precious years of his life in the school. His outstanding gallant service to the nation won him the Sena Medal in 2003 and Shaurya Chakra in 2004 posthumously. A dream to join the armed forces is nurtured by a majority of defence officials who send their wards here.
Dispelling the apprehension and confusion of young students, a counselling cell regularly provides guidance to them. To hone talents and abilities, a whole range of adventure, sports and co-curricular activates are regularly organised. The day starts at 6 am for the students when they gather for PT. It is followed by regular classes and later games. The school offers a wide range of streams for the students to choose from in class XI, including science, commerce, humanities and information technology. French can be an optional subject. The virtual classroom system which links the school to the latest information across the nation.
The availability of professionally trained coaches for various games and facilities like a table tennis hall with a paddock for horse riding, a squash court, a cricket pitch, etc., enable the overall development of the children here. The students have been segregated into five houses which have been named after Nehru, Patel, Tagore, Subhas Chandra and Indira Gandhi. Unity in diversity is visible in the school where students from the North-east, South India, Ladakh as well as Nepal besides the major chunk from the Northern states are seen mingling with ease.
From a small town in Tamil Nadu to the front pages of Washington Post is a phenemonal journey. As Hollywood movie houses seek film rights for the story of Krishnan Suthanitharan, the Dindigul-born millionaire became the toast of American business after he bought the mining town of Kitsault in Canada.
A non-resident Indian (NRI) who has created waves by buying a former mining town in Canada was once so poor that he could not afford college education and washed dishes to survive. Back in 1963, when Krishnan Suthanthiran was minding his fatherís grocery store in Tamil Nadu, he was asked why he didnít go to college even after topping in his high school.
A friend replied: "His father is too poor to send him (to college)." Suthanthiran, today a millionaire busy transforming a ghost town he bought for $5.7 million, admitted he had found the reply "a bit insulting".
The father of one of his friends gave him Rs 300 and sent him to meet the college principal. Later, Suthanthiran, who left India when he was 15, started scholarships in the name of the man who helped him and helped to build a school in his hometown.
After he got admission in Carleton University in Canada, he washed dishes to make ends meet. He finally got a research assistantship and in the 1970s moved to the US, looking for a job.
Now the founder-CEO of Best Medical, a US-based company supplying high-tech medical equipment, he credits his rise to the many well-meaning people who crossed his path "at the right time, at the right place". "Also, I made sacrifices. I didnít marry and have children. My work became my life. Thatís what is unusual but also unbelievable. I maintained a low profile and did not have much of a social life," said Suthanthiran.
At 56, heís catching up with a vengeance. Written about in many newspapers in Canada and featured in the Washington Post, Suthanthiran does not tire of talking about his journey and his acquisition of Kitsault and his plans to make it a tourist hotspot in Canada. He has also bought a TV company to make sure the tourism plan gets in-your-face publicity. He envisages not just buildings, houses, apartments, swimming pools, coastline and hills but also spas, skiing and water sports facilities.
And he is making sure he brings in the native Indian Nisgaía tribe to join his scheme and make it a reality. "The natives themselves wanted to buy the property. Every project I take up has to benefit the people and the country. Kitsault is not just a moneymaking venture. If I make some that will be a plus." Why did he buy Kitsault, a town abandoned by minersí families over 22 years ago? "Itís almost a crime to see the community die out. Weíre going to enhance the economic activity... That area is getting a lot of attention that did not exist six months ago." Asked whether he thinks Kitsault was an impulse buy, Suthanthiran said: "Iím an entrepreneur. If I have to be successful, I have to take chances. I have travelled paths before when I did not know much about themóthere are always surprises. Itís like walking through a jungle. But Iím not surprised about the fact that there are surprises. "I think itís going to cost us a lot more than we thought. You are dealing with a town, not a person."
In a few weeks, Kitsault will be named after his mother, Chandra Krishnan. ó IANS