Nalme Nachiyar

Where the mind is without fear: Bharatanatyam by Tehrik-e-Niswan  Photo coutesy: PRO, UoH

Where the mind is without fear: Bharatanatyam by Tehrik-e-Niswan
Photo coutesy: PRO, UoH

True to its spirit, the Valentine’s day this year at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) was celebrated through cultural programmes that represented the union of two souls – India and Pakistan – through plays, poetry and dance from both sides of the land.

The India- Pakistan Culture Connect Programs for Union of Hearts was organised by Confederation of Voluntary Association (COVA) and Centre for People’s Foreign Policy in South Asia in collaboration with UoH in the DST Auditorium on 14 February.

The event saw the performance of a play, a folk dance and a Bharatanatyam recital by Tehrik-e-Niswan (The Women’s Movement), a cultural group in Pakistan that was formed in 1979 with an objective to create awareness about women’s rights and to change the patriarchal attitude towards women through the medium of performing arts.

The opening programme, however, was a play by Koshish Theatre Group, a division of the Youth TRAC, COVA. Titled Jung Chahiye Ya Aman, this play, scripted by Dr. Mazher Hussain and directed by Dr. Gopi Krishna, was performed for the first time. The play sought to narrate the story of two dead soldiers, an Indian and a Pakistani, who cross paths in the other world and gain insights into the causes of conflicts between countries and the cost of war.

Talking about the idea behind writing this play, Dr. Mazhar Hussain explained his hypothesis about how war between the two countries is related to the defense budget. “Foriegn policy is oriented towards war and weapon… and 50% of our life is affected by foreign policy,” he said.

The next programme was a Bharatanatyam recital by Tehrik-e-Niswan on the poem, Where the mind is without fear by Rabindranath Tagore. Performed by Sheema Kermani, renowned classical dancer and women rights activist, with her disciples, Aisha Maqsoodis and Muhammad Asif, it was an evocative recital with each line of Tagore’s poem gracefully played out and enacted. The presence of bols accompanied by innovative lighting added to the strength of the performance.

Haris  Khan and  Zahra Batoolis as Pushkar and Munni in Kaafir  Photo Courtesy: PRO, UoH

Haris Khan and Zahra Batoolis as Pushkar and Munni in Kaafir
Photo Courtesy: PRO, UoH

This was followed by a delightful play titled Kaafir based on a short story by Ismat Chugtai and directed by Anwer Jafri, a senior theatre practitioner and peace activist in Pakistan. Enacted by Zahra Batoolis and Haris Khan, the play narrates the story of a Muslim girl, Munni and her childhood friend, Pushkar and is presented in flashbacks from their childhood and adolescence, till they, as adults, finally decide to elope. The graph from being innocent children to much-in-love adults while dealing with the sensitive differences between Hindus and Mulsims  was strikingly scaled by the two actors.

The final act of the night, Sindhi Jhoomar, was performed by Tehrik-e-Niswan to energetic and rustic beats of Sindhi folk music. Dressed in traditional Sindhi attire, the performers gave the audience a flavour of the local culture.

The night was abound with culture and camaraderie for those present at the venue and Tehrik-e-Niswan’s offerings, in association with South Asia Partnership (SAP) and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER),  made it all the more meaningful. As the Vice-Chancellor of UoH, Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy remarked, “The significance of Valentine’s day is not lost out on us today.”