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Javed, Lata, Shabana & Pakistan!

   By Vijay Darda | 27-02-2023

At Faiz Festival in Lahore, Javed Akhtar showed everyone the mirror in his sharp characteristic style

Vijay Darda

Jidhar jate hai sab jana udhar achha nahi lagata,
Mujhe pamaal raaston ka safar achha nahin lagta.
Galat baaton ko khamosi se sunana haami bhar lena,
Bahut hai fayade is mein magar achha nahi lagta

This couplet of famous lyricist, poet and screenwriter Javed Akhtar fits his own disposition perfectly! The harsh things he said in Pakistan are reflective of his personality. I have been friends with him for years and I can say that he speaks the truth to the face even if it is bitter! Javed Bhai has participated in the Faiz Festival organised in the memory of famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, earlier too. At the 7th Faiz Festival hosted by Faiz’s grandson Adil Hashmi in Lahore, a spectator sarcastically asked Javed Bhai to give a message that Pakistan is a positive, friendly and loving country on his return to India.

Had there been someone else in place of Javed Akhtar, he would have said: Yes, of course! But he caught the sarcasm and the reply he gave was amazing! Javed Akhtar said: The reality is that we both should not blame each other. The important thing is that tense relationships should get mitigated. I am a citizen of Mumbai. I saw how the terrorist attack took place there. The attackers did not come from Norway or Egypt. Those people are still roaming freely somewhere in your country (Pakistan)! Javed Akhtar did not stop here. He did not mince words when he said that while India warmly welcomed Pakistani artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Mehdi Hassan, Pakistan did not organise even a single show of Lataji! When this was met with a muted applause, he quipped saying, applaud properly at least!

Whatever Javed Akhtar has said is truly the voice from the heart of every Indian. I got many opportunities to visit Pakistan as the president of the South Asia Editors’ Forum and as a part of parliamentary delegations. Once I was accompanied by film actor Shatrughan Sinha and the then editor of Punjab Kesari Ashwini Kumar Chopra. I had directly asked the then ruler of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf as to why you never called Lataji. Be it Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Sabri Brothers, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Abida Parveen, India has warmly welcomed each one of them. Pervez Musharraf evaded a direct reply by saying that we do not have a big enough ground to organise Lataji’s programme. I remember that during the visit to Lahore, the journalists asked me, when both the countries got freedom together, what is the difference between the two. I replied that we have Gandhiji and you don’t! We have a free press, you do not have freedom of the press. The biggest thing is that none of our leaders sell the country to feather their nests, nor do they work at the behest of any country.

The reality is that the people of Pakistan may talk about friendship, but the entire political set-up spits venom against India. If they stop India-bashing, used mainly to divert attention from the pressing issues facing them, the hungry country will plunge into civil unrest. There are cries of hunger everywhere in Pakistan with the country facing an acute flour crisis, resulting in long queues in front of utility shops. India is getting a lot of free advice about helping out the crisis-hit country, but leaders who do childish politics like Bilawal are not refraining from spewing venom. So, how can it help spread the message of friendship? As soon as Javed Bhai left Pakistan, one of the actor-producers named Ejaz Aslam started making rubbish statements. Aslam tweeted: “If Javed Akhtar has so much hatred in his heart, he should not have come here. We still let you leave safely. This is our answer to your nonsense. He considers Pakistan a terrorist country, so why did he come to our country?” Is this the kind of language one uses against a guest? It is due to such a diatribe that Pakistan is facing a situation akin to hell today. May Allah have mercy!

Let us now talk about some other things Javed Akhtar said at the Faiz Festival. The anchor raised a question quoting an unknown audience. Is your relationship with Shabana Azmi based on friendship or love? He replied in his poetic style. Just pay attention to his words and what lessons he gave to Pakistani society. He said love is not love in which there is no friendship and friendship is not true when there is no respect! That respect is false wherein authority is not given. Our friendship is so strong that even marriage did not matter anything! Two people can be happy with each other only when they respect their feelings and are selfless in their love. If this does not happen, at least one of them will remain unhappy. Those who have been unhappy for centuries must learn to respect each other. Habits die hard. It will hurt a lot to reform but it is time to get better!

His reference was to the pathetic condition of women in Pakistan, whom they want to keep imprisoned in the four walls of the house in the name of customs. Women are considered only commodities. He said this world is a club of humans and no one has permanent membership in it. Those who came earlier invented many things and we are reaping the benefits. At least we shouldn’t ruin this club! If possible, contribute something of your own too! Javed Akhtar also raised questions on the language and said Urdu is pure Hindi language and its real name is Hindavi. It is the language of the heart. It has nothing to do with religion.

Javed Bhai, such vastness of thoughts can only be possessed by an Indian for whom ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ is the norm of life. It hurts when some people try to make you their victim too. However, as of now, I remember only one song of yours:

Panchhi nadiya pawan ke jhonke koi sarhad na inhe roke,
Sarhad insano ke liye hain socho tumne aur maine kya paaya insan hoke

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