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Jun 2nd, 2002, 04:05 AM #1----
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A date with the desi http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews
By Asha'ar Rehman
Two organisations recently joined hands to come up with a Punjabi calendar -- as part of a campaign which aims at protecting our heritage
There have been occasions when the desi calendar date given on one Urdu daily has not tallied with the date carried on the masthead of another Urdu daily. This could well be yet another example to prove that the task of promoting all that is indigenous has been left to the English-language newspapers -- newspapers which do not carry the desi-calendar dates.
They include in their columns stories about weather, about how a particular month has been hotter, cooler or wetter than what has been the 'norm' over the years. If you are lucky, there may be some clues thrown around that while it may be a freak year according to the Georgian faithful, the nature 'perhaps' is in perfect harmony with the time and place according to our own calendar as our forefathers saw it. But on the whole, while in the villages the old jantari may still have some say in deciding issues crucial to life, all the average overloaded urban-dweller seems to be interested in is counting the days till the next weekend materialises.
The desi calendar is vital since everything we do and are a part of revolves around it. "Just to give you an example, it determines the time of sowing and harvesting of crops," says Amjad Saleem Minhas, convener of Punjab Naujawan Mahaz. His organisation has recently collaborated with the America-based Punjabi Council in taking out a desi calendar for the year 2059. The calendar has been illustrated by Sabir Nazar "in the colours of the Earth", and carries verses from the collection of famous sufi poets on each page.
Minhas recalls that the Youth Front had decided to publish a desi calendar a decade ago, but despite promises that it will be a permanent feature, the project had to be shelved after publication of only one calendar. This time round, however, he says that the people behind the idea are keen to ensure that there is no let up and the calendar is published regularly. With each copy of the calendar priced at Rs 100, they are expecting that they will make just enough money through these sales to keep the project going.
The people behind the calendar have been active in politics. They have been part of movements, and one constant running through their activism has been protecting our heritage in the face of a modern-day clamouring for change just for the sake of it.
Along with Amjad Saleem Minhas and Haroon, who is the convening secretary of the Punjab Naujawaan Mahaz, the group includes people from various professions all committed to one common ideal. The Punjabi Council comprises names such as Irfan Malik, a former leader of the Democratic Students Federation, and Chaudhry Nazir, who, with a background of activism in Pakistan, is now a member of the Green Party in the United States.
The two organisations have shared the cost -- Rs 57,000 -- of producing the calendar. Valuable help has been provided by Maqsood Saqib, the editor of Pancham, a respected Punjabi journal from Lahore, by well-known Punjabi writer Iftikhar Qaiser who was assigned the job of determining the accuracy of the dates and of course by artist Sabir Nazar who has illustrated the calendar and laid it out with assistance from Ashfaq Ahmed.
"We had to follow an accurate jantari on which to base our calendar on," Amjad Minhas says as he details the process of producing the calendar. "We came across quite a number jantaris, many of which were just the reprints of jantaris available in India. They had one thing in common; contrary to what the poets who have in their verses mentioned Chetra as the first month of the desi calendar, these jantaris all begin the year with the month of Waisaakh. Thus we have also begun our calendar with Waisaakh. But generally these jantaris were published for monetary gains and lacked the accuracy of dates which we were looking for. Finally we decided to follow the Mufeed-i-Alam Jantari."
The exercise has led to a need being felt about coming out with a standard jantari. Not only this, Minhas says the people behind the calendar are now thinking about compiling a Punjabi dictionary for children -- a task which he adds should have been taken up by a university.
"We are striving to create a Punjabi syllabus in two years time. We are working in association with likeminded people in other towns of Punjab and are looking forward to establish small groups all over the province for promotion of the Punjabi language.
"It is much more than a linguistic issue for us. It is part of a greater whole that concerns the people directly," Amjad Minhas explains, saying that the calendar, fulfilling a need as it has, is only the beginning.
How can a man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the Temple of his Gods?
Jun 2nd, 2002, 03:52 PM #2----
Good, the logic goes that as more Punjabis realize the importance of their own language and culture, the more they will let other people breathe.