A DRIVE  TO MISSISSAUGA/TORONTO AREA 

 

(A Travelogue, Nov. 2002)

    

Stephen Gill

 

 

       Mississauga and Toronto are the  hubs of cultural activities in Canada, next  to Vancouver in British Columbia. These metropolises  are the  hubs of business activities as well. Most  of  my friends   lived  there.   It may take a drive of  two hours  through the nerve-wrecking  rush  hours   to  see any of them  even  within  the  city. Moreover,  streets  as  elsewhere  in Canada,  become  messy  in winters.  It takes time to put on heavy jackets and  boots before going out. On certain days  one has to wear warm gloves and  cover  heads  and  ears  to be outside  even for five minutes.  The passing cars often splash the mud on the  windshield.  This needs special precautions, such as   having enough  fluid in the tank to clean  the front view, and    the  wipers  to  be in  reasonably  good  shape.  Moreover,  the defroster  should  be  working properly, and  still better if the rear  windshield is also defrosted.

       

There are risks if one has to walk  even  with special   boots.   Just  weeks  before  this visit,  a  friend  of mine  in Cornwall slipped  while removing snow from his car.  Every time he tried  to get up,  he  slipped  back  because  of  the ice. It happened about 9:30 in the morning in the parking lot of his own apartment building. He remained  in  cold  for about  fifteen  minutes  before  someone   spotted   him to call an ambulance. He  could have  frozen to death if  it  had  happened  in  the  night.  Luckily  he  did  not suffer  any fracture.   Several Canadians  break  their bones every year due to slipping.    He was in his early eighties and lived  alone  like  the Canadians who are  able  to  renew  their driving  licences  every  two  years even  in their nineties. Driving on the highway  in the snow  in  traffic-chocked Toronto and Mississauga  is  sure to invite  misfortunes.

 

To be on the safe side,  I  keep a  blanket,  candles  and matches in the  car  in  long drives. Surprisingly, one candle can keep the inside  warm   if  the car  breaks  down  on the highway.  It is  prudent  to carry  a  scrapper  and   a  shovel  to remove the snow if the car gets stuck.  The best  is to remain  inside the house in bad  weathers. A good weather in one city does not mean it would be  good also in another.  Moreover, the weather may change any time in spite of the prediction of the weather man. This is  a partial list of the extra cares to be taken in winter that discourages me to be on the highway.

 

I  have been to the Toronto and Mississauga area  several times as a speaker and  also as  a poet even in the snow season.   I never  felt  the urge   to write about  those  visits as did  this time in November 2002, although  my former literary visits were equally important as this visit  was. One reason for this visit  was to have my  two additional  poems  sung and added  to my album called AMAN.  The singer had developed  melodies and selected music for  these two poems.   It  needed  the  sittings  of  five to seven  days with the singer for his  rehearsals in my presence.   Considering  the distance of seven hours,  my  heavy  schedule at home and the snow season,  I waited  for something  else  to  combine  with this trip to make it more worthwhile. That opportunity came when HAC Ministry from Hamilton invited   me to read  at   their first  national gathering of Asian poets and singers on November 16.  The  organization of   Hamilton  asked the Writers Union of Canada to sponsor  my  reading  to  pay  travel expenses and  an honorarium. A day before  that,  PEN Canada was arranging a gathering at the University of Toronto for which I was selected to participate.

 

 The PEN reading  was dedicated to those prisoners  who had been  behind the bars  the  world  over  for expressing their personal opinions.  Due to the pressure from the national offices of  the Pen,  several  prisoners  had  been  released  by  their  governments.  A stream of constant  pressure  from  abroad   works  because  national  governments of  the  third world countries, particularly of  India  and  Pakistan, are sensitive  to any criticism that appears about them in the Western  media.   PEN Canada is the national body of International PEN founded in 1921 in England. The organization is committed to defending freedom of expression   guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and enshrined in Section 2 (b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Canada.

   

 As soon as the Hamilton reading was approved by the Writers Union of Canada,  I began to select my  poems  to read and  the telephone  numbers of my  friends I wanted to see. I  phoned  some of  them  about  my arrival. I left Cornwall on November 14. The next evening,  I presented a  poem  on  democracy at the gathering of  PEN Canada   before an  audience

that represented the multicultural nature of these two cities.                                                   

To any new visitor, every street, shopping plaza and high rise apartment  building would confirm that  these cities are multicultural in every aspect. One can see women hiding their faces behind their scarfs, men in their ethnic dresses, and people of all colours and languages  mingling  and  laughing in the same crowd. This area can boast of publishing multilingual weaklies, including the Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Urdu, Panjabi, Hindi, Italian and other languages.       

 

I met  Susana Molinolo, who spoke English without any accent but her last name appeared to be ethnic.  She  worked  as a  secretary in the office of  the  PEN.  She  took  pictures while I was presenting my poem.  She  mailed that picture to me for my personal file. During the social hour, I met Metin Ciyayi, a Kurdish writer. I was amazed to know something about the one of the oldest culture and literature of the Kurds in our brief meeting. He invited me to their next gathering of writers. I contributed later my poems  on peace to their web site.  I went  to  the  Pen  reading  with a  Pakistani  writer,  Dr. Rashid Gill,  a poet  who contributed articles regularly to the Urdu  publications of Toronto area. The political situation in Pakistan and how it affects minorities is the subject  of  his  special  interest. He is not related to me.                   

 

The weather was  fine when I left  Cornwall on November 14.  Two days after that I had to go to Hamilton from  Mississauga  for my next reading. It had  started  snowing  from  the  morning. I hate to drive on highways on such  days. One can be careful, but not all drivers are.   A minor slip on the highway, where cars  sped at  more than  one hundred  kilometres  per hour and  traffic  is  high  and  everyone seems to be in a rush, may land cars  in the territory of undeserved destiny.    It   was  a  drive of about  forty minutes  from  Mississauga  to Hamilton.  Due  to the heavy  traffic it takes an hour and even more. In bad weather, it   takes  longer  for a person like me  because I do not drive  fast. At the same time I am anxious  to reach much earlier  to be able to feel relaxed to enjoy  the event.  

 

It was the same address in Hamilton where I had given a talk two years before.  This time it was the presentation of my  poetry  in Urdu,  national language of Pakistan that  is understood widely in India.  According  to  the printed program there were twenty-nine artists to participate. There were eight poets, including  Ayub  Din, Anil Dass, James Malik, Dr. Rashid Gill, Swapna Shail, Isaac Wilbert, Dr. Dannis Isaac, and Stephen Gill. The rest of  them were singers and musicians, including Neeraj Perm, Albert Kamran, Reuben Arthur, Sam Arthur, Newton Peter, Edward Nelson, Solomon Gill, Samuel Inyat, Parkash and Olive Masih, William Masih, Vishal Reniga, Ropi Romero, James Luke, Sanjay Lal, Javed Jamil, Ch: Iqbal Mujahid, Austin Raj Rattan, and Yousaf Murad.

 

Out of the town participants included  Swapna  Shail , a  prominent  Hindi poet   born in India. She read Gumshuda (lost) that  was a  sensitive  rendering of a raped girl.  Swapna is an eye-opener in this poem  as she is in most of her poetry. She openly lashes at  hypocracies.   Swapna    sang  also  one  of  her  own  compositions. She was  from Ottawa, the capital of Canada.  I  went  there  from Cornwall, a city close to  the capital. People know Cornwall  also because of  its nearness   to  Montreal, a  prominent  city  of the province of Quebec.  Poets  who  went  there  from  the  surrounding   area  of  Hamilton,  included Dr. Rashid Gill and Dr. Dannis Isaac.  Dr. Isaac is a  respectable  playwright  from  Pakistan. Other poets included James Luke,  Isaac Wilbert, and Anil Dass.

 

Among singers,  Yousaf Murad  went  from New York, and Austin Raj Rattan from Mississauga, Ontario.   Reuben  Arthur  from  Hamilton,  an accomplished  young  artist,

played  tabla  with  several  singers.  The event was attended by more than two hundred and fifty people in spite of the unfriendly weather. They  were entertained with South East Asian snacks. The participants were recognized with plaques handed  by  Rev. A.G. Van Aek. There was also a group photo. The person  responsible for organizing this  memorable  evening  was Pastor  Salim Arthur. Encouraged  with  unusual success, Pastor  Salim Arthur had decided to repeat this event every year.  At the social hour, several admirers expressed  their  hope  for similar   groups  to provide  platforms along the same line to encourage  artists from the region of South East Asia. I presented a long poem about the situation of human rights in Pakistan. The demons of  minor flaws concerning the organization   were overpowered by  the brighter  aspects. I was cheered  with frequent clapping that  made  me  feel  that my poetry was being  appreciated.

 

For the social hour,  I set up a table in the hall where tea  was  served to  display  some of my books and  the cassettes  of  my  Urdu/Hindi poems that were sung by  Khaled Saleem.  I was happy  to  meet  the persons  who came to talk to me. At the same time, I was  getting nervous when I looked out of  the  window. It was still snowing, covering the ground  with  a thick layer.  Obviously it was not safe  to drive on the highway.  At  night, it is not easy to see if the roads  were  ploughed or still covered with snow.  If  wipers fail  for any  reason, it is not  easy to pull  the car   to a safer spot  when there is  a maddening traffic  to the right and  to  the  left.  The  problem  is compounded  if  the driver is  new to the area and it is  night and  the rush hours. The signs are partly covered with snow that  make  a driver  more  nervous.  Under these conditions, one wrong turn  becomes extremely  annoying. 

 

Afraid of hitting  the highway,   I began to  think of phoning  a hotel or motel for my overnight stay. Often I looked around   to  see if there was a  friend who would ask me about my stay or if  there  was  a   telephone  close by  with a directory.    I also  thought  of staying in the car in the church parking lot if worst comes to the worst. I do   this  on the highways  when the weather is  terribly risky. I  park my car at a gas station and even  sleep.  I appreciate  the Canadian  arrangements to locate these gas stations  in  large  safe  areas with restaurants and other facilities.

 

Sleeping in the car when  tired in a long drive and   when  the weather is harsh  solves problems till it is morning and the  weather  gets   better.   I   flatten  my  driver=s  seat to be able to  straighten myself.  It is hazardous   to keep the car running because of the possibility of the emission of the carbon monoxide.  Therefore, I   turn off the ignition when it is hot.  It gives  a reasonable  sleep for a while. When it gets cold, I let the engine run again.  Wide areas of restaurants are comfortable  to sit and move around.  While I was in that frame of mind,  something  happened.

 

A person approached to shake hands.  He told me  enthusiastically  that he was reading about me and my articles with interest. He also told me that his wife was anxious to see me. Soon he left and returned with his  wife who  looked like Chinese or Vietnamese.  While chatting,  he asked  if I was going back.  I said  the weather was bad and I did not know what I was going to do. He took his wife aside to  consult for a while, and then   turned  to  me and said    they would be pleased to host me that night, although they had  a few  guests.

 

It was a prayer answered.  They suggested me  to follow their car.  I wanted more time  to meet  people.  After all that is  one reason  to be in  social atmospheres. Gatherings provide opportunities to meet people personally. Writing is a lonely profession. Social evenings provide diversions that writers and poets  need like anyone else.  Moreover, cultivation of public relations is also important for success. That  is  a  way for writers to  make more contacts.

 

I accepted  their  invitation with thanks, asking them to allow me another hour or so. I would   take the directions over the phone if  that  would  not  be  late for  them. They did not mind.  That person was Emanuel Gill from Pakistan and his  wife Larence   from Phillipine. When some persons began to mop the floor and  put the chairs in order and women began to pack utensils,  I asked Pastor  Salim Arthur  to give me directions to go to the house of  Mr and Mrs. Emanuel Gill. He phoned  them on my behalf that we were on our way.

 

Their  meticulously clean  house was palatial. So was the heart of Mr and Mrs Emanuel Gill. They were  humble. Larence Gill was a  hostess beyond comparison.  The food  was  appetizing. They  introduced me to their guests Mr. Qamar Khan,  his wife Sarala, and Vincent Nadeem. The Gills were retired nurses. Mr. Qamar Khan was  a registered  nurse and a  diabetes  educator in Toronto. He was a delightful conversationalist  with  a  mine of knowledge about human rights situations in Pakistan.  His wife Sarala was a pharmacist.  It was a  pleasure to be in the company of warm and intellectual souls.  Most of our talks centred around  minorities in Pakistan and India. We  agreed that the countries where minorities are not happy  cannot enjoy  peace because it is  a  prerequisite for prosperity.

 

Next day, Pastor  Salim Arthur phoned  to ask me to be their guest that night.  At their place,  we had a  singing party till late in the evening  in which Mr. Yousaf Murad sang ghazals, kawalis, Heer in a typical Panjabi  way and other songs. He was accompanied by Reuben Arthur with Tabla. The next  afternoon I interviewed Pastor  Arthur Salim for my book.   He was tortured  in Pakistan by  fundamentalists and  police for his  religious  beliefs.  Police damaged his four ribs. He managed   to escape  from Pakistan with the members of his family.

 

It was  November 19 in 2002. The snow  from the sides and house tops began  melting. It was cooler,  yet sunny and pleasant. I came back to Mississauga to my sister Josephine.  Next day in the evening, I went  to Khaled Saleem,  singer of the first album of my Urdu/Hindi poems.  On  the suggestion of Khaled  Saleem  I  read  first  two stanzas of every poem that were  followed by  his  music and singing. 

 

It  was  a religious month of Muslims, called Ramzan.  Muslims in this month observe fast from  sunrise  to sunset. They do not drink even a drop of water. To be able to face the day, Khaled Saleem and his family  would  get up  around four in the morning to eat heavily and break their fast  around five in the evening when they hear Azan, their religious call over  the  radio  for their  prayer. The   activities of Muslims during  Ramzan are reduced to bare minimum.  Khaled Saleem is used to  tobacco-chewing.  He had to struggle   to  refrain from this habit.  He appeared to have  gained his  weight  during  those days.

 

Khaled Saleem  told me that during the day it was almost impossible for him to concentrate on any work due to his fast.  I used to see  him after five in the evening  with  two hours of  drive  and stayed with him till midnight. He used to do rehearsals when I was there.  We often discussed  how  to  make the updated  album more presentable. We also shared our  views  about  the different aspects of writing, particularly the technique of poetry and other cultural activities. He convinced me that the top  Urdu poets became famous after their poems were picked up by singers.   The poets who became famous  this  way  and  grew  in  demand include Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Fraz.  I learnt from him how to breathe  while giving  public presentations.  In  one of those evening, Khaled Saleem helped me to locate the telephone number of Naseem Sayed, an Urdu poet who used to live in Kingston. Once I wrote an article about  her poetry.

 

The following afternoon, I was browsing ethnic newspapers that were  published  from Toronto/ Mississauga area, and  distributed free through local Indian and Pakistani stores and restaurants. My sister brought several of  them  because she knew I loved to read them.  Most Panjabi and Urdu weeklies present their news with spices. In one of those Urdu language publications, I read a short piece, appeared  to  be part of the editorial, that  condemned music, dance and poetry because these arts are against  the  teachings  of  Islam.  It added  that the Hindus taught these arts to the Muslims of the subcontinent of India and Pakistan.        

When I met Khalid Saleem the next evening, he was upset to hear about  this writing. He said the holy book of Islam, the Koran, is written in the poetic form. He added that Amir Khusru, a spiritual leader of Islam from India, invented musical instruments, including the tabla, sitar and kawali, a form of song. Khalid Saleem was so much upset that he even expressed his intentions to write to the government against the publication for spreading the venom of hatred in Canada. He also condemned  the  fanatics who came to power in NWFP of Pakistan for banning music and several good things of life. He appreciated that the base of nearly every religion is poetry and music. Prophet  David and Solomon had been poets.  Life would be barren if there is no poetry.

 

Khalid Saleem was born in a Muslim family in Pakistan and has become  a  Canadian citizen. He does not talk against any religion, even a person. He is from a family of singers and musicians. His  teachers from  whom  he has  perfected  these  arts  came from  both Hindus and  Muslims backgrounds. He felt  proud to say  that his admirers included a considerable number of non-Muslims. His home is a Mecca for people of every  creed  and colour. He is polite, a patient  listener and down to earth. These qualities and his individual way of singing and  musical skills have made him a popular artist.

 

While going  over   ethnic  weeklies  that  afternoon,  my eyes stopped at an interview that  was about Naseem Sayed, author of a collection of Urdu poems, titled Adhi Gwahi (half witness). It referred  to the laws  in some Muslim nations, including Pakistan, where the witness of  a  female is accepted half in court.  I phoned to  let her know how much I appreciated her views expressed  in the interview.

 

Those days,  Muslim   activists had  started disapproving  gender discrimination.  Naseem  from  Pakistan was one of those activists.  In her  interview,  appeared  in the Pakistan Post of November 27, 2002 on page 35, she  condemned the horror of killing of women in Pakistan in the name of  honor.

 

The Face Weekly Newsletter of November 8, 2002, published from Pakistan, mentions  AThree girls who had run away from home were killed by their uncles on their return, their parents told police on Friday. The parents had recovered the girls from a hotel in Faisalabad a few days ago. The well-educated cousins belonged to Mohallah Yarookhel (Mianwali) and were between 18 and 22 years of age.

 

AThe news spread in the city in no time, but the police were reluctant to register a case against the influential accused. Finally, on a written complaint on Thursday night, DPO Rao Sardar Ali raided the houses of the missing girls. On Friday, he called the parents to his office where they confessed that the girls had indeed been killed by two of their uncles. Earlier, the Core Group of Social Welfare Department at a meeting unanimously condemned the honour-killings and demanded police action in this regard. According to the complaint, the girls had been tortured for seven days when they were taken to the bank of Indus and butchered. Their bodies were allegedly thrown into the river.

A social worker claimed at the core group meeting that he had met the girls' parents before the murders, but failed to have them change their mind and spare the young lives.@

 

The same newsletter tells in the same issue:

 

APolice have registered the murder of three girls in the name of honour without naming the alleged killers 27 days after the incident. The report was made by a woman named Sadaf Fatima who described in her application to the district police officer that the daughters of a tyre dealer of civil lines, Amanullah Khan, and two hoteliers of Yarookhel, Mazhar Khan and Abdul Malik (brothers), had absconded from their homes last month and were recovered by their parents from a hotel in Faisalabad a few days later.

 

AThe girls were kept at a house in Yarookhel, tortured for a week and finally taken to the bank of Indus and killed. It was believed that the body of a young girl found downstream at Chashma Barrage was that of one of the ill-fated girls. Since no one owed it, the police buried it in Kundian as an unidentified and unclaimed body. Although the news spread in the city in no time, no one dared report it to the police for fear of the influential accused.@

 

On December 22, 2002,  Dr. Ishtiaq  Ahmed, moderator of  Asiapeace, says: 

 

“During the last three years the women of Pakistan have been the most vulnerable and convenient targets of social and domestic violence. Not a day goes by when an incident of violence against women is not reported. It was reported recently that a girl in Larkana the hometown of our two-time Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was stoned to death for daring to dance at a marriage ceremony. The innocent little girl was attending a wedding and participated in singing traditional songs. So overjoyed was she by the music that she danced and forgot the social customs of her area. On seeing her dance, her uncle fired at her. She tried to escape but was followed by several men who then beat her with sticks. The poor girl=s nightmare did not end here. She was then taken to her village where her hands were chopped off and she was stoned to death.

AAccording to the news report the killers bribed the local SHO to hush up the matter. It was only when an anonymous complaint reached the chairman of the district public safety commission that the police in charge of the area suspended the SHO and registered the case against the accused.@

Women throughout the globe suffer abuses because of their gender. These  abuses include honor killing, dowry-related deaths, domestic violence, genital mutilation, and rape in police custody.

 

Those days, Balbir  Singh  Momi,  a  friend   from  the  early   years of  my  writing,  was basking in the sun of his additional recognition by his peers. He had  received a Gold Medal from an organization and plaques from several  groups for his services as a writer and editor.  Whereas  other  Panjabi  writers  from  the  Toronto  and  Mississauga  area have almost broken their pen, Momi  is still using it diligently.  He   was editing   the Punjabi section of Nagara Weekly.

 

In those days, my visits to Toronto and Mississauga used to remain incomplete without one or two evenings with Dr. Solomon Naz, minister of a church who is also a  poet  from  India.  Father of Dr. Naz  was a  poet of India. Dr. Solomon Naz  is  a  keen  student of comparative religious studies. We often talked  about philosophical  bases of  different  faiths.  Due to his  reasoning and intellectual approach, I call him Rev. Abdul Hac of Canada. Rev. Abdul Hac was born in the Panjab of Pakistan and lived and died in Chandigarh, India. He is known for his comparative and intellectual as well as his  philosophical approach to religions. Dr. Solomon Naz and I  read a couple of poems one evening after the delicious food and exchanged views on those poems. 

 

Whenever I visit this area, I see also  Dr. Ned Bijjany, a poet of English and Arabic languages from Lebanon. He used to edit  The Mawaheb International, a literary and cultural publication. I always enjoyed eating  the Lebanese salad with him.   This time, I asked Dr. Bijjany to make the salad  in my presence.          

 

While preparing the salad, he kept explaining  me the importance of each ingredient that I kept  noting  down. He  told  me  that   almost  40  per cent of the population in Lebanon are poets. One of their  recreations is to construct poems on the spot. They normally divide  themselves in groups of three or four persons on certain occasions to entertain the crowd while competing with each other by completing poems on the spur of the moment. Usually, it takes the form of questions and answers. The poems have to be original. This process

continues for hours. The audience is the judge.


    

Dr. Bijjany also  told  me  that   there  have been several poets  like  Khalil  Gibran in the Arabic language. For some reasons they have not achieved fame as Khali Gibran has.  There is hardly anyone who writes also in English as he does.

 

I  could  not  see  Gurdip  Singh Chauhan, a dear  friend.  Gurdip and I  loved to  exchange  our views about   writers and  writing as well as about  philosophy and the formation of one world government and other peace related issues.  His  wife  always prepared appetizing  foods  for us.  I could  not see   him  because most of the time  he was  under  the  effect  of  the medicines that he was taking due to  his illness. His family, including his daughter Meera and  son Shera, provided  a  family  atmosphere.

       

Gurdip  has  taken  a  formal  training in  Indian  music.  He  could  have made the world a better place with his talent.   I have often criticized  him  for not using his talent. Gurdip  Chauhan is known for editing  Perdesi Panjab, a pioneer newspaper of  Panjabi language that  has brought  several  beginning writers to lime light. Once he edited  a  special  issue  on me  and  my  literary works. He also sang some of my  Panjabi  poems.  One of  them is  in the Kadara  Rag, a  classical  Indian  melody.  I  have rendered this poem  in Urdu/Hindi version that   Khaled  Saleem  has sung   in the same melody with a slight variation  for  my  album Aman.

 

I  felt  this tour was enriching  because I was able to revive my acquaintances and find new friends. Among the old ones  was Chaudhry Albert Bahadur Ghori, President of  Pakistan Masihi Party  and Minority Advisor for Pakistan Muslim League from  Canada.  Back  in Pakistan, Chaudhry Ghori  was  an  active  political  leader.  His opinions are sought by  political  leaders  in  Pakistan  even  now.  He asked me to write a regular column for  an ethnic publication for which he wrote regularly. It was an honorary work. I accepted to do it occasionally on the condition that the publication would send me a copy of every issue in which my contribution would appear.  He took the responsibility to look after this side.

 

It was necessary to meet   Salina Jharna,  an award-wining  dancer. I had arranged a  kathak dance of Salina  at a multicultural festival in Cornwall, Ontario, several years ago.  It  was important to meet her  because she was going to perform in the video presentation of my album Aman. This album will have the subtitle of every line  in English and  scenes to illustrate the symbols and nuances of  my  poems.  This  video  presentation   would open  doors  to  wider  English speaking audiences. However, its production does not seem to be within the possibility of short time because of the demons of finances.

 

Salina was born in Bangladesh where she learnt  classical dances, specializing in the Kathak. She had   given performances successfully  in  countries, including Bangladesh,  England,  India, Quater, Scotland, Switzerland, France, Italy, Belgium, the United Sates and Canada.  

Kathak  dance is  popular in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It has its origin with storytellers who disseminated moral and religious instructions in the form of kathas or stories. Later   the storytellers added  music and  movements  of  different part of the body. This style combines both the Hindu and Muslim  influences  in perfect  harmony. A constant theme for Hindu dancers was the love  that  Radha  had  for  the god  Krishna.

 

Later  the  kathak  dance incorporated social and contemporary themes. Gradually, the kathak dancers concentrated on  variations of rhythm, the beauty of which was heightened by  tantalizing pauses and  fast movements. Thumri Andaaz is a unique feature of the Kathak dance. In this particular manner of rendering a poem, the performer repeatedly sings single line and interprets it differently each time. The acting or dance brings  metaphors, images, similes and metaphysical conceits to life,  which are not  explicit in the poem. Salina Jharna was  best suited to interpret the soul of my poems.  She   was  teaching   Kathak dance and Choreography in  her school in Mississauga, called Saj.

 

I met Salina  after years. She came to see me at  my  sister=s  place  with Dr. Khan Monzoor who looked after her stage and video productions.  He  held  a  doctorate in computer science from a university of England. He reran the master CD  of Aman to improve its audio quality.  He did it fast  when I was chatting with him one evening in his studio.

 

Among  the  new comers  that  I had  the opportunity to see was Dr. Dannis Isaac,  a  prominent  playwright  of  Pakistan. He was  getting  active  with  the  literary  scene  in  Canada.   By   November 27, I began to feel restless  due  to my daily long  drives and  the  hectic  life of  Trontonians.  Moreover, I had seen or talked with most of my friends. Also it was my  work  pending in Cornwall  that  wanted  me to return soon.  Before  leaving,   I  wanted  to  be sure   there  was  nothing  else to be done. I was not going to drive back to Toronto before the summer because of the snow, long distance,  and the reasons I have mentioned earlier.

 

Normally my food patterns  are disturbed  when I am  on a   literary tour.  Wrong  type  of food and over eating become disturbing factors. It did not happen this time because of my sister.  Writers  have to be careful or  extra careful for  their health because of their sedentary work and  compulsion to get up and write even in the middle of their sleep  if any  idea hits  them. If ideas are not caught when they appear, they are likely to disappear.  Writing  demands  lonesomeness.   Even in  a  crowd  they  write  in   their  mind  when people  think they are enjoying  the surrounding.  In my  case,   I remain confined  often  to  my office in  the basement for   days.  I forget what day of the week  it is   and what sort of weather is   outside.  In Canada, people enjoy  the spring madness going out.  Poets  and writers like me cannot 

indulge in this kind of luxury.  Because of the  unusual  lifestyle,  writers have to take precautions for  their food and physical exercise.

 

I should  thank  my  sister  who  took   precautions as far as food is concerned during my stay in  the  Toronto/Mississauga  area. She was so much concerned about my health  that  sometimes  I  could  not  relish  her   half-backed  preparations  because  I like  spicy  food  with a   good  amount of red or green chillies.   My mornings  start   with a couple of bananas,oranges and other fruit and nuts  with tea. This sort of breakfast is almost a must for me. Any change  upsets  my  day. Once  I have  the  breakfast I want, I can digress from main food during the day.

 

I was around Mississauga and Toronto area for around ten days now.  Khaled Saleem  completed the update of the album  in our seven sittings. On the last day, he  produced   two master copies of  the  CD.   He did  not  have means  to  copy  songs  on a  cassette and  I did  not have a   CD  player in my car. On my way back  to  Cornwall, I stopped at a  Sears store to  buy a CD  player that could  be  hooked  to  the  cigarette lighter   plug  in  the car. It  was  reasonably  priced.  I  asked an  assistant  to put the parts of  the  equipment   together  for  me.  With  the  help  of  this  timesaving  small  piece of  wonder  I was able to listen to the CD again and again   while  driving  back  home.  I  found  a  few  areas  to  be refined. 

 

I was not pleased the way I presented my poems.  I could have done better if I had practised reading  them  in more than one sittings. That is what I wanted to do, but  Khaled  Saleem   had   urged to complete my reading  in  one  session.  Moreover, in spite of my suggestions, he  kept  repeating a  few lines  in  the song  before  the  last.  The result  was not that good. In  the  rest  of the album, Khalid Saleem  had  infused his  blood in the vein of his calm and  moving  melody and  a  skilful  combination  of  the organ from the West and Tabla from  the  East.

 

A week  after I left Toronto, Khaled  Saleem  phoned  to let me  know    he  was dissatisfied  with the production.   He  wanted  to replace  the melody of  the last  song  with  that  of  the  Heer  to  introduce   something  new  and experimental  like  the  second  song.  He  also  told me   he   wanted to attempt   the song before the last again  to eliminate awkward repetitions. That is what  I wanted.  At  the  same time,  I  wanted  to read   my  poems again.  We

postponed this work to my next visit.

I am not  a  singer or a  musician. I never took any course in the art of music nor I have  ever read  about it. I cannot draw  a  line of distinction between classical and  modern music or melodies.  I admire a  song  or music   if  it  touches me. This is my criterion to judge a piece. My  suggestions to  Khaled  Saleem  were   in the light of this thinking.    The  results  were pleasing, but  in  this  particular case he  blamed  Ramzan.  He told  me  that  the  normal  life is disturbed  during  the month of  fasting. I was happy to know  his decision to reproduce the

updated  album  though  that  meant   another time-consuming  tiresome drive   that  I avoid in the months  of  the snow. 

      

There  were  three  areas  that  deserved   our  special attentions. One was  the presentation   of  my  poems.  I thought  of  using  my  computer to record  those  lines at my own paces  on a  CD.   The  second  area  was  concerning  the last  but one song  to eliminate  wearing  refrains.  The  third  area was the experimentation with the final  song of the updated  album  to be sung in  the melody of the Heer.    On my suggestion when  I was  present during a

rehearsal, he once  tried  this  melody.  The  experiment proved superb.


    

The Heer, a  Panjabi  love epic, was   written by  Waris Shah around 1735.  It is a passionate expression of the  love  between Heer, female,  and Ranjha, male. The epic  Heer  has its own traditional  tragic and sweet melody  that  most established  as  well  as  non  established  singers usually attempt  because  of  its  popularity.   Whereas  the  epic is in  Panjabi  language,  my poem  is  in Urdu/Hindi  and  in  a   different  style.  As love is symbolized in the Heer, peace is symbolized in my  poem  as  an eternal quest  of humans. Khaled  Saleem  was going  to  sing my last poem in this melody in my next visit that I scheduled towards the end of January 2003  when I was going  around that area for a talk. I was combining again my visit for the recording with something else.

     

The  second  song of this album  is  also experimental and successful.   I wrote this poem along  the lines of the haiku, a form of Japanese poetry.   I have  written several  haiku and also  articles on  the haiku in English. I have created  this section for  this album  on the rhythm  of a  Panjabi  folk  song called maya or tappey.  Panjabi  folk song  has  the theme of love and romance to describe the beauty of  the  beloved in an exaggerated language.   It is  usually  in a  light mood. Moreover, the  first  line does  not contribute  to  the main message.  It is mainly to rhyme  with the third line.  Unlike in Panjabi, I wrote my  haiku-like presentation  on the  serious subject of  peace  and  bloodshed.  Every  line is an integral part of the whole. Moreover, these presentations are in Urdu/Hindi.  The result of this experiment is   a  unique  and  meaningful soul-touching creation. 

 

The  album called AMAN  is  a serious  contribution  of  hope at  this  time  when the  clouds of war and  the  vultures of  terrorism  hover  above peace. Several persons  have said  that enjoyment increases with each successive  listening to  this  album. This  sole element gives a classical touch to this  album AMAN  that  means  peace  in English.  Aman  is a combined  honest  effort of two artists  to spread  the gospel of peace in the war-torn subcontinent of India and Pakistan and among their peoples settled all over the world.  Both artists   are  from two  different religious backgrounds and from two different countries. Both artists  are Canadian citizens   now, and  the countries of  their  birth  are  bent   upon  annihilating  each other.  Its video format with subtitles in English would carry its message to other nations.

 This is a way to use the arts  peacefully  to promote peace. I was shocked to read condemnation of poetry, dance and music in the school text books of Pakistan as it was condemned in an ethnic newspaper of Toronto.  I read about   this condemnation  in  the  forum of Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed that referred to an article of February 12, 2003 by Mohammed Shehzad in The Friday Times. The article says that the books published by the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan teach hatred, and Aart and music are forbidden so instead of a handicraft, children are asked to purchase plastic guns and trained to shoot at balloons.@  This article reminded me that Khaled Saleem also condemned  the editorial  in an ethnic publication of Mississauga for the same message.

 

Coming back to the   recording of  my  reading at home  for  the  updated  album  Aman,  I was frustrated in the beginning. I had never used my computer to burn CD=s   though  I wanted  to learn it badly  to get into the main stream of modern  technology.  A  computer with all the necessary equipments was  right there, but I did not  know  how  to  use  them. I was aware that the proper  exploitation of the advanced means of communication even  at  leisure gives   oxygen to writers and poets in  their suffocating  market.    It   was  baffling   to make  a  sense  out  of the printed help.  These so-called  helps  are written by professionals for professionals  though  the  software  producers  claim  them  to be  otherwise. I was sure I will be able to conquer this everest as I did others. I  had to conquer it  in order to survive in the hard to survive  market of writers.

 

===========================