Chintan Girish Modi
It was a lovely Thursday evening in Mumbai. I had just submitted the final assignment for my course in Peace and Conflict Studies, and felt like celebrating the moment with some music. Browsing the collection on my laptop, I came across a gem sung by Farida Khanum: ‘Mohabbat Karnewaale Kam Na Honge’! I dare not try to capture that sublime feeling through the limited resources of language.
It brought back three happy memories from my recent trip to Pakistan. The first was from a post-dinner outing in the company of friends Owais Rana and Abdul Mueed, chai, jalebis and gulab jamun at the dimly lit rooftop of Andaaz, a restaurant in Lahore that I highly recommend. Farida Apa’s ‘Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo’, playing in the background, was the perfect accompaniment to that spectacular view of the Badshahi masjid, its moonlit minarets, and the majesty of its silence on that wintry night in Lahore.
The second was from a car ride with two other friends Abdul Majeed and Samreen Shahbaz on the way back from Lahore University of Management Sciences, after some stimulating conversation with a professor, and some delicious dal-roti-achaar from the cafeteria. Abdul had been lucky enough to make it to Farida Apa’s performance at the Khayaal Festival of Arts and Literature a few days ago, and was regaling us with recollections from that evening. Soon after, we were listening to ‘Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo’ and ‘Woh Mujhse Se Hue Hum Kalam Allah Allah’ in the car, on loop, for almost an hour, until we reached the Wazir Khan masjid.
The third was from just after we stepped out of the Wazir Khan masjid and were on our way to Gurudwara Dera Sahib. I remember taking out my phone, with Farida Apa’s voice singing in my soul, and texting another friend Osama Motiwala in Karachi, “Yaar, Farida Khanum ki aawaaz mein jannat hai. Bas milva do unse.” What I wanted to do at that moment was just meet this lady, touch her feet and seek her blessings.
It is amazing what music can do, the emotions it can bring up, the memories it can recreate. Sitting in Mumbai and floating in that Lahori dreamscape, I was suddenly thrown into the cesspool of reality. My cousin heard me singing ‘Mohabbat Karnewale Kam Na Honge’, and said, “Oh, is that a Pakistani song?” I said, “It is a beautiful song, and yes, the singer lives in Pakistan.” He replied, “You are becoming completely Pakistani. You just came back from there, you talk about that place all the time, and now you are even singing Pakistani songs. You should give up the right to sing your national anthem now. Learn their national anthem and sing that.”
I was surprised, amused, disturbed, all at the same time. And I told myself, “Chintan, this will come your way, again. Several times. Your job is to sing your song. Just do that.”
About the author: Chintan Girish Modi is an independent educator, writer and researcher living in Mumbai. He was recently in Pakistan for the Lahore Children’s Literature Festival organized by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi and Oxford University Press. His work is located at the intersection of education, arts and peacebuilding. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org