By Sumit S Paul
Mar 14, 2017
In 2003, I was in Pakistan for six months
at a stretch to finish my M.Phil on Raghupati Sahay Firaq Gorakhpuri's poetry
from the famed University of Punjab, Lahore. Holi was round the corner and I
was missing its infectious bonhomie which's so integral to this colourful
festival. On the eve of Holi, I got a call from the University's Department of
Humanities. The professor of Philosophy, Dr Rahil Abbas phoned me and asked me
to come to the department to celebrate Holi. It was a surprise of surprises to
me. Holi in Pakistan! Was I dreaming? I pinched myself. No, I wasn't dreaming.
Nonetheless, I went to the department on the day of Holi. It was a colourful
spectacle to behold. There were colours everywhere. Students and professors
were playing Holi. The moment I entered the department, all greeted me with
Holi Mubarak ho in chorus. It was really unexpected. Dr Abbas told me that Punjab
University had been celebrating Holi right from its inception in 1882 and the
tradition was never broken even during and after partition. Three full-fledged
wars with India also did not affect this festival. He then quoted Urdu poet and
critic Kalidas Gupta 'Raza',
'Rang Nahin Dekhte Hindu Ya Musalmaan
Baras Jaate Hain Sab Pe Ek Samaan'
(Colours don't differentiate between Hindus
and Muslims/ They fall upon all equally).
Dr Abbas further added that Holi had the
shared history and heritage of India and Pakistan. It's not a mere festival. It
belongs to all. His words still echo in my mind, 'Holi is like a rainbow that
gladdens every heart and drives away the blues.'
This unforgettable experience enthralled
me. I left Pakistan after the completion of my M.Phil degree but I still get
the invite from the Department of Humanities, Lahore, on the occasion of Holi.
They haven't forgotten to invite me since 2003. I've their invitation this year
as well. Alack, times have changed so much. Yet, the feelings and bonhomie are
still intact in the hearts of the common people of both the countries. May that
remain intact and unbroken forever. This cordiality can be further consolidated
only through the universality of festivals because they all do not actually
belong to a specific community or faith. Diwali or Holi is as much a festival
of Muslims as it's of Hindus just like Eid is celebrated by all and not just by
Muslims. I remember, I had Sheer-Khurma on the occasion of Eid at the
place of a Christian friend of mine from Rampur in UP. His parents were Roman
Catholics but they were brought up in Lucknow, and had the inter-cultural ethos
in their blood, nay in their consciousness. My friend's parents spoke
impeccable Urdu and his mother did her Master's in Urdu literature from Lucknow
This is what we all urgently need at this
hour of increasing rancour and refusal. We all need to imbibe the universal
spirit of festivity to live happily with each other like a very big family. To
quote Pakistani Urdu poet Aurangzeb Khan Qateel Shifai:
'Holi Na Teri Hai, Na Meri/ Eid Jaise
Hai Sabki, Humari-Tumhari/Rasmon Aur Teyoharon Ko Na Baant, Mere Yaar/Sirf
Ada-E-Teyohar Ko Dekh, Jo Hai Sabse Pyari'
(Holi doesn't belong to you or me/Just like
Eid belongs to all/My friend, don't discriminate among the festivals/Just look
at the beauty of it (festival) which's of paramount importance).'
Wish, we all knew and understood this!
Happy Holi to all the readers, regardless
of their creeds and communities. That indeed never matters....