First came news that concerned politicians in Pakistan have recently decided to begin investigating the pernicious effects of “Hindu cartoons”, claiming that these “cartoons which glorified mythology characters such as Hanuman had a bad impact on the minds of young children.”
And then came Manan Ahmed's excellent piece in the Express Tribune:
The politicians are afraid, I assume, that watching the Amar Chitra Katha cartoons – which depict stories from the Mahabharata or Ramayana or Jataka or Panchatantra – will turn impressionable Punjabi Muslim children into Hindus. I would reassure the politicians – the Panchatantra tales were translated into Arabic and distributed in the late seventh century as Kalila wa Dimna, for the edification of courtly children, and failed to make the Umayyad or the ‘Abbasid or the Buyid sultans Hindu. Subsequent translations and re-imaginings of Ramayana, of Yogavashistha in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth century Mughal courts were also done without the fear that exposing innocent Muslim children to these narratives will make them “Hindu” – leaving aside the glaring logical fallacy that mere knowledge about the stories and rituals associated with a faith makes one a convert. That this statement is being made on Punjabi soil, however, is one of those ironies that make you cry.
Punjab, after all, is the land of Shah Hussain, Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah – mystics whose poetry, lives, ethos were drenched in divine, both lil-lah and Krishna. Their kafi and their qissa drew equally on Perso-Islamic and Sanskritic mythologies, stories, folk-tales to illuminate daily lives, teach love, moderation and acceptance. The love of Shah Hussain and Madho Lal is itself legend. Their words and verses are, undoubtedly, the very definition of “Punjabi”, and there they stand, historically “tainted” in the views of Punjab politicians with “Hindu” signs, symbols, stories and themes, corrupting Punjabi children for nearly 400 years.
These stories, whether of Krishna or of Ram or of Hanuman, are part of the Punjabi fabric of being for centuries – not simply in an ecumenical way, but in a transcending way: Gal samajh laee te rolah kee?/eyh Ram, Rahim tay Maula kee? (If you have understanding, then why this hubhub?/ About who is this Ram, Rahim or Moula?)
Read the full piece: ‘If you have understanding, then why this hubbub?’
Had tweeted about this earlier, and had put off blogging after finding an appropriate Youtube video of someone singing the above Bulleh Shah. Somehow just didn't get the time. Would appreciate if links can be placed in the comments section. I have heard Abida and Wadalis sing this one, and perhaps there might be a Nusrat recording too...