Walking across the border is such a thrilling experience, even if all involved ensure that you are completely conscious of the physical act of it. This last mile is loaded, a palpable tension. But one look at the other end of this passage, where an elegant figure in the same Salwar Kameez that I am wearing, waves at you, all this melts into a muffled excitement. So close to entering Pakistan.
When Prof. Salima Hashmi and her sister Moneeza Hashmi mentioned to me sometime last year that they would like to explore with me the possibility of my performance at the Faiz Ghar as part of events to set off the Centenary celebrations for Faiz Saheb, at the cost of sounding maudlin, I have to say I was moved to tears. An appropriate irony, I should come across the border to sing remembering a man who suffered these boundaries in life and in thought! This was really special, an invitation to share my music in a space set up in the memory of this remarkable wordsmith, one who continues to inspire many in my generation in his belief that peace, syncretism and equality should not become mere rhetoric.
On day one at the book launch of Shoaib Saheb’s translations Salima requested me to sing a short piece to lend to what was such a beautifully choreographed evening with readings and music and reminiscing. But day two belonged to me. I sang the traditional Khayal (in Basant since this was also special in Lahore just as it is in North India), Thumri, Dadra and some of Begum Akhtar, who Salima remembers listening to with her father. In this intimate space of a Baithak at the Faiz Ghar, me and even my Saazinda’s who had come with me from Delhi, felt rather emotional and warm about the overwhelming response that we received.
Ali Sardar Jaffrey concludes his powerful verse Isi Sarhad pe kal dooba thaa suraj ho ke do tukde with:
Main is sarhad pe kabse muntazir hoon subhe-e farda ka (I stand on this border
waiting for tomorrow’s happy dawn)