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Himachal, the land of gods

Vanishing cultures of Himachal (Saturday Extra, Nov 29) was informative and interesting. Himachal has 12 districts. While Lahaul and Spiti is famous for its tribal people and their traditions, Kullu for its worshipping and dance-loving people, Kangra for its temples, Chamba for its shepherds and Hamirpur for being home to several gallantry award winners.

Not only is Himachal the land of gods but also of fairs and festivals and beautiful scenery and serenity. Despite materialism, fortunately, it is still steeped in the richness and diversity of its ancient culture and can be justifiably proud thereof.

The writer has confined himself to writing about the loss of culture in Kotgarh area of Shimla district only, but has kept mum about the rich and diverse culture of the other 11 Himachal districts. Thus, a reader’s curiousity to know about the culture of the whole of Himachal remains unsatiated.



We have to look beyond the clichés that describe Himachal Pradesh as the ‘Abode of Gods’ or ‘ beautiful Himalayas’. We can certainly discover some forgotten village or temple, some interesting archaeological site or an exquisite craft.

Sincere efforts are required to preserve and portray the diverse culture and charisma of Himachal. But while the authorities talk tall, they are willfully allowing this heritage to slip into oblivion, instead of saving it.

Tourism (apart from apples) is the state’s major revenue spinner. Tourists throng various hill stations in lakhs. Ironically, the authorities do not showcase its famed age-old fairs like ‘Patharon ka mela’ or ‘Thoda ka khel’ while Kufri is always over hyped.


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Beyond stars

Khushwant Singh’s article “The power of stars” (Saturday Extra, Dec 20) reminded me of the ultimate truth that the course of our life is predestined. People seek refuge in predictions, prophesies and prognostication to take solace when they feel insecure, infirm, anxious, and disconcerted. And the palmists, soothsayers, psychologists, magicians and astrologers exploit this weakness of the gullible, naive, fearful, apprehensive and superstitious people to make money.

These people can actually predict nothing about themselves. A horoscope maker in Jammu who had predicted the future of many girls, was unable to foresee what lay in store for his own daughter who was divorced a months of her marriage.

William Shakespeare has rightly said in “King Lear”: “This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters, the sun, the moon, and stars...” heavenly bodies have nothing to do with our lives.


Queen of ghazals

Begum Akhtar’s first song Deewana banana hai to... (Spectrum, Nov 2), which brought her in the limelight, has a history. In 1925, when she was 11 years old, her mother took her to Bareilly sharif to seek blessings for a successful singing career.

The presiding ‘pir’ asked her to open a page of her notebook at random, which she did. He placed his hand on the page and asked her to start performance with that song. The song was poet Behzad Lucknawi’s, Deewana banana hai to... which she sang and recorded as Akhtaribai Fizabadi. The song became so popular that it even fascinated noted vocalist Pt Jasraj.

In her heydays no music conference was considered complete without her participation. She nursed an ambition to learn sitar and started training under Jamaluddin Bhartiya, a disciple of Pt Ravi Shankar but had to discontinue on latter’s decision to leave India and settle abroad.

On her marriage to Ishtiaq Abbasi, a Lucknow Barrister, she re christened herself from Akhtaribai to Begum Akhtar. At 60, she was at the peak of her professional career. After a brief illness she breathed her last on October 30, 1974. A commemorative stamp was issued in 1994, but was never released for unknown reasons.

Ae Mohabbat by Rita Ganguly is not the first book on Begum Akhtar. Earlier, Shanti Hiranand, a senior disciple brought out a definitive book on her guru, The Story of My Ammi (Viva Books, 2005)’. These two books should serve as the greatest tribute to the memory of the ghazal queen.

V.K. RANGRA, Delhi



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