notes of Sufiyana kalam
wedding guests on hire
life is best
There is more stigma to women prisoners than men, says Upneet Lalli as he recounts his visits to jails in different parts of the country
Crossing the tall iron gates, as a visitor I entered an entirely different world — behind high walls and iron bars. "Who are the people inside the prison?" is a question that evokes much curiosity. Normally, it is the poor, undereducated, unskilled and those from an impoverished environment who are lodged in prisons either as undertrials or as convicts. And the majority of them are men.
Prisons serve as an instrument of social control for both men and women. However, the effect of incarceration on women is much more severe. The proportion of women prisoners in detention around the world varies from three to eight per cent. Their issues remain neglected since they are confined in a system that is designed, built and run by men with men in mind.
Women’s voices rarely get heard outside the prison bars. Since they have broken or defied the gender roles, there is more stigma and automatic labelling for women offenders than men. Each woman has her own unique story of crime and punishment and encounter with the legal system. At times, it is quite in contrast to the media portrayal and gender stereotypes, while at other times truth may seem stranger than fiction. Some women in prisons share their life quite easily and it’s almost a cathartic experience for them to talk about their life and how they ended up in prison, while others maintain a stony silence.
Adaptation to prison life is always difficult and more so for women inmates. The value of freedom is obviously most realised within the confines of prisons. The process of prison institutionalisation i.e. fitting into prison regime occurs over a period of detention time and it varies from individual to individual.
While visiting the Vellore women prison, I could never have imagined that the frail and calm woman having her meal was Nalini, the assassin in the Rajiv Gandhi case. There was no sign of narcissistic rage associated with a terrorist. It seemed it was a closed chapter for her and she had moved away ideologically.
In contrast, was this frail middle-aged Naxalite woman in Hyderabad prison who had got severely injured in a police encounter. Her half bandaged face was a testimony to the struggle and violence she had faced. Yet, she was fully resolved to continue with her mission regardless of any personal cost.
The days in prison may seem endless, with dull activity in most prisons. This monotony, however, breaks whenever any high public profile person is lodged in prison. It is a challenge for prison administration to manage such persons. How such high profile persons are treated and the manner in which they respond to it is a matter of great media interest. This has happened in the case of Monica Bedi, Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan, etc. It seems that sometimes the prison becomes more like a Bollywood studio. The media tries to create an audience pseudo-participation in the drama of crime and punishment.
In Monica’s case, the media had almost camped near the prison with flash bulbs to record every single movement of hers that they could while she was on her way to the court and back to prison. Sans make-up and dressed up in jeans I saw that the attractive young girl walking towards the deori was none other than Monica Bedi going to the court for hearing. She had a dupatta in her hand to veil herself from the camera lights.
Hope for an early release is reassuring to every undertrial and helps them to deal with imprisonment. So was the case with Monica, who was quite optimistic about her early release as she felt that it was just a passport case that she was booked under. She seemed to have reconciled with the lack of facilities like an air-conditioned room and washing machine that were available to her inside the prison in Portugal. A prison is a prison, she remarked, and I wondered how had she got enmeshed in the mess. This was hard reality and not just a movie that she was acting in. There was no helplessness of the alcoholic star of Gangster. Her transition to prison life may have been made smoother by an understanding prison staff.
The recent upsurge of educated professionals involved in murder cases is a challenge to study since most of them are not open to sharing personal details. Their usual way of adapting to prison life is by keeping to themselves or seeking refuge in religion and spiritual programmes.
I was surprised at the change in one woman inmate who had been convicted in a murder case. She actively tended to the vegetable garden in the prison. She disclosed how meditation had made her realise her deed and narrated her story to me. There was a sense of regret in her and as a way of prayashchit, she wanted to help the victim’s family after her release. A sense of hope in future gave her courage to move on.
Managing one’s own demons and developing a sense of empathy for others is a way to emerge as a better person. A change in attitude is required for successful reformation and this may be triggered by various means — spiritual, artistic, religious, etc. However, society may emerge as a more harsher prison with its psycho-social barriers for women prisoners. The keys to open this prison lie with the family and friends. Will they get a second chance?
(The writer is Deputy Director, Institute of Correctional Administration, Chandigarh)
Ehsan Fazili says music festival Bazm-e-Sufiyana gave a shot in the arm to India-Pakistan cultural diplomacy
A unique five-day Indo-Pak Sufi Music Festival was held in Kashmir between June 11 and 15. In the backdrop of 16 years of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, the mega event — the first of its kind since the country’s Independence — was aimed at developing "cultural diplomacy" with Pakistan.
The music festival Bazm-e-Sufiyana, organised by the Amarnath Shrine Board, presented a scintillating programme at the Shere Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar for the first three days, and for one day each at Baramula and Pahalgam. The event was organised in collaboration with Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Doordarshan, and with the cooperation of Information and Tourism departments of the Jammu and Kashmir Government.
According to Pawan K. Varma, Director-General of the ICCR, the basic aim of the centre has been to strengthen relations between India and Pakistan using the medium of culture as there is a tremendous "cultural relationship" between the two countries and more so because Kashmir is the cradle of Sufi culture. Such events send messages of love, harmony and brotherhood beyond the walls of religions, he added.
Those who participated in the programme included Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma, the Wadali brothers, Manjari Chaturvedi, Anwar Khan (Rajasthan) and Zilla Khan. Artistes from Pakistan included Naeem Abbas Ruifi, a disciple of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Farhana Aijaz and Umrao Mazhar Bandhu Khan. Several Kashmiri artistes, including Ghulam Mohammad Saaznawaz, Rasheed Hafiz and Yaqub Sheikh, also participated. The prominent father-son-duo in santoor, Pt Bhajan Sopori and Abhay Rustum Sopori, known for their Sopori Baaj from Kashmir, were among those who enthralled the audience with their performances.
The fest was inaugurated by the state Governor and also chairman of the Amarnath Shrine Board, Lt Gen (Retd) S K Sinha, at the SKICC in Srinagar on June 11. Inaugurating the event, the Governor said: "Kashmir is all set to become a world centre for spreading the message of Sufism and rishi cult". Renowned artistes such as Pt Shiv Shankar, and Nayeem Abbas Rufi, on the occasion, remarked that languages could be different but music had one universal language. Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma said that artistes from the two countries would work towards ending hostility in the region. He added that people of the valley craved to listen to music. He had experienced this need not only this time but also the last time he had visited Kashmir about two years ago.
Naeem Abbas Rufi, 35-year-old singer from Pakistan and a disciple of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, felt that cultural exchanges would help Indo-Pak relations as music had the power to diffuse tension and bring people together.
The performances presented a blend of meditation, prayer and message of peace. Sufiyana poetry and music has roots in Kashmir, beginning with the great saint, Hazrat Bulbul Shah in 1320, and carried forward by Sheikh Nooruddin Wali or Sheikhu-l-Alam and Lal Ded. There is only Sufiyana Kalam (poetry), which portrays "love for God", and no such thing as Sufi music, clarifies Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma. The music used in presentation of Sufiyana poetry becomes Sufiyana. The message of love, tolerance, and spiritual striving was preached through Sufism in Kashmir in the 14th century, when the Kashmiri society was crushed under a social, cultural, political and economic crisis.
Performing in the valley was like "homecoming" for Pandit Bhajan Sopori, a Padma Shri recipient who has devoted over five decades of his life to classical music on santoor. A Kashmiri, he shifted to Delhi about ten years ago. The santoor and Pandit Bhajan Sopori are synonymous, and he is the bearer of the rich legacy of the Sufiyana Gharana of Kashmir. He had been initiated into santoor by his grandfather, Pandit S C Sopori and later by his father, Pandit S N Sopori. Bhajan has been the pioneer in establishing the santoor on national and international platforms as a solo instrument. "Music is a unifying factor`85, especially in the valley," he commented after performing in the festival.
The youngest performing santoor player of the country, Abhay Rustum Sopori, son of Bhajan Sopori, aims at carrying forward the legacy. He performed with his father on the inaugural day of the festival. His recent composition Aao Kadam Badhayain for raising donations for the Kashmiri earthquake victims has been a musical hit. Abhay Rustum aims at encouraging youth in this field.
Now, wedding guests on hire
A club in Jodhpur provides "guests" on rent for weddings and other functions at Rs 300-700 per person.
"We arrange guests for parties and functions in Jodhpur as per the requirements of our customers, who are mainly outsiders or foreigners holding events in the city," said 34-year-old Mujahid Islam Syed.
"We can give functions an ambience of archetypal Rajasthani tradition by supplying the right kind of guests. We have over 80 members in the Guest Club who include doctors, engineers, lawyers, students and businessmen," added Syed, a telecom agent by profession.
"It all happened a year ago when one of my friends came from Chennai to conduct his engagement ceremony in Jodhpur. He requested me to bring a few guests with me as he hardly knew anybody in the town. The idea clicked and I started working on it," Syed explained.
The customers are charged according to the class and status of the guests. "We have three categories of guests. Ordinary guests at the rate of Rs 300 per person, middle-class for Rs 500 per person and elite for Rs 700 per person," Syed said.
He said the middle-class category was the most sought after by hosts. About 60 per cent of the money earned is equally distributed among the "guests", he said.
Syed is now planning to give the club a more professional look. "Earlier, I started it as a part-time work, but seeing the good response, I want to streamline the club’s services." — IANS
Actress Daryl Hannah urges celebs to enjoy the simple things in life, rather than deriving satisfaction by spending heavily on acquiring material comforts beyond their needs.
The Kill Bill star left the Hollywood scene years ago because she hated attending parties at huge estates. She now lives simply in a stone cabin in Colorado.
And the actress asks Tinseltown's energy-conscious stars to follow her example and move from their massive mansions into smaller homes.
"My house is very tiny. It's a one-room house, actually. I added a little bathroom and closet because there wasn't one," Contactmusic quoted her, as saying.
"There is no need to have a billion-square-foot house to live in. People very often think that big is better. I just don't agree."
Hannah, a fervent environmentalist, also drives a car that runs on recycled grease from local restaurants.