august 06 programmes

Sir Sobha Singh Memorial Lectures on Delhi

Sobha Singh was a 22 year old contractor working on the Kalka-Simla railroad when he visited Delhi in 1911. He was present at the Delhi Darbar at which King George V declared that the capital of British India would be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. He saw his opportunity and took it.

"Rarely was a man so identified with the birth of a city as Sir Sobha Singh was with New Delhi, translating into sand stone and marble most of the imperial blueprints of Lutyens and Baker. Few builders in the world have left behind as tributes to their genius such an imposing list of edifices encompassing most of the colonial face of Delhi as he has done. "This series of lectures and events encompasses many facets of the life of Delhi- its history, architecture, cuisine, music, environment, and the arts. We welcome you to these events co-sponsored by The Attic, India International Center and The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

tuesday 1st august
6.30 pm 'IIC Main Auditorium'
"My Father, the Builder" By Khushwant Singh

The first in this series of lectures is by Sobha Singh's most famous son. Khushwant Singh has written about every topic under the sun - the sex life of Delhi, his favourite women, Sikh history, Indian politics, humour including the best Sikh jokes in seven volumes and some forgettable comments on Rabindranath Tagore and Sanjay Gandhi.

He talks for the first time today about his father whose life was so linked with the building of Imperial Delhi. How a boy educated up to class five, feeling the lack of his education, studied English and many other subjects with a Maharashtrian tutor for two hours every evening after dinner for 15 years. How titles and honors were bestowed on him due to his enterprise skill, ability and integrity and how the best in the land, Viceroys, Generals, architects, bureaucrats, nationalists and politicians dined at his table. Khushwant Singh delves into family archives and talks not only about his father but about a fascinating slice of early 20th century British history peopled by a host of colourful characters, Lutyens, Baker, Walter George and Lady Willingdon. The enterprising Sindhi and Sikh contractors Lachman Das (who built Parliament House), Narain Singh (ancestor of the Imperial Hotel), Dharam Singh (stone & marble), Basakha Singh (North Block), and the skilled and unskilled craftspeople from Punjab & Rajasthan.

saturday 5th august
7.00 pm' "n Transit" a Post-Modern Examination of Relationships, Religion, and Redemption through Music, Poetry, and Drama

In Transit takes its title from the Sufi metaphor of life as a journey. The protagonist, a poet named Hussein Ibrahim Dawood - last descendant of the Mughal Empire and steadfast bastion of Old Delhi culture - must reconcile himself both to his failures in life and to a shining India. Along the way, he must navigate through art, aesthetics, existentialism, women, and religion. Co-written and co-directed by Murad Ali and Neil Aggarwal, the script exemplifies the kichdri language of modern India. Primarily in Urdu verse, but with healthy doses of English and Punjabi, the performance transcends barriers by wedding poetry with politics, verse and music, and recitation and drama to deliver a post-modern tale through a post-modern medium.

Murad Ali is known as a photographer, poet, actor and a young film maker. He has exhibited his photographs in Delhi, recited Urdu poetry with Tom Alter at The Attic and has acted in over 10 films including the recently released 'Kal'. He has also made a film 'The Buddha of Badamtam' and is making another one on Nizamuddin village titled 'Noor'.

Neil Aggarwal is a student of religion and anthropology at Harvard University. He has graduated from medical school and will be practicing psychiatry and medical anthropology. He has formally studied Arabic, Persian and Urdu.

tuesday 8th august
7.00 pm 'Literary Creativity: Visions and Concerns' - a talk by Ajeet Cour

In the elite English speaking and reading world of Indian literature 'bhasa' writing does not figure at all except for better known Bangla, Tamil and Hindi translations. Punjab is largely associated with 'bhangra' and 'agriculture'. Ajeet Cour was not a name known to this elite till the publication of her moving memoir Pebbles in a Tin Drum. This courageous and frank autobiography witnesses the displacement and trauma of partition, the finding and losing of a soulmate, an abusive marriage, life as a single mother of two daughters one of whom died tragically and the anti Sikh riots of 1984.

Ajeet Cour's daughter Arpana inaugurated the Attic with a wonderful slide-show and talk of her paintings and exactly one year later Ajeet, will speak about creativity, Indian values, literature, specifically Punjabi and other bhasa literatures. She is an activist observer, a fierce crusading spirit with a passion for giving voice to the underprivileged and like her friends and admirers Khushwant Singh and V.P. Singh is unafraid of speaking her mind on any subject of concern - social, personal or political.

She was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1986, and Padmashri in 2006; and is the recipient of numerous other awards. She is the Chairperson of Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, a unique cultural centre of Delhi with its multifarious activities and social concerns, including empowerment of women living in the slums.

She is also the Founder President of 'Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature' and Editor of its journal 'Beyond Borders', as well as Editor of the first ever Directory of Indian Women (1975). She is a leading figure in Punjabi literature with 19 collections of short stories and novels, travelogue, 2 volumes of memoirs, 2 research monographs documenting Punjabi literature in the Encyclopedia of Indian Literature and various translations and trans-creations.

friday 11th august
7.00 pm Illustrated Talk 'Kailash Manasarovar - a personal quest' by Sunil Nehru

Mount Kailash (22,000 ft, 6700 mts) the famed snow shrouded holy peak is the Northern Himalayan barrier in Tibet. It is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and the pre-Buddhist Bonpos. It draws pilgrims and trekkers from India, Nepal, Mongolia, Japan, China and South East Asia. The slopes of Kailash drain water into the Manasarovar Lake considered to be the highest freshwater lake in the world (4585 mts). The area gives birth to four great rivers - the Brahmaputra, the Indus, the Sutlej and the Karnali.

From May through September the Ministry of External affairs organizes the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra where 16 batches of 30 to 40 people undertake this 30 day pilgrimage at weekly intervals. Besides being a test of personal stamina and determination, the yatra is an opportunity to experience the social diversity of India and to witness the exquisite natural beauty of the Himalayas and Tibet.

Sunil Nehru is a retired corporate manager who fulfilled a long-cherished desire to undertake this Yatra in June-July 2005, taking the arduous trekking route along the valley of the Kali Ganga and across the Lipulekh Pass (16700 ft) into Tibet, in preference to the easier land-cruiser route from Nepal. He will share his very personal experience of the yatra through a 90 minute talk illustrated with slides.

tuesday 22nd august
6.30 pm IIC Annex Lecture Room
'Discovering the Ancient in Modern Delhi' by Upinder Singh

Most Dilli-wallahs visualize their city extending from somewhere near the Qutb Minar to somewhere beyond the Red Fort and recollect a vague connection between ancient Indraprastha and the Purana Qila. The more discerning might recall the famous iron pillar in Mehrauli or remember reading about the legendary seven cities of Delhi.

But Delhi from the stone age to the times of the Rajputs stretches much further than one can imagine. From an-open air shrine in the village of Tilpat to an inconspicuous mound in the village of Sihi and from stone implements in the area of Delhi University to the layers of civilizations revealed in archaeological digs at the Purana Qila in search of the ancient city of the Pandavas.

In the second of the Sir Sobha Singh Memorial Lectures on Delhi, Upinder Singh will take you on an illustrated, whirlwind tour of Delhi and will show you how ancient remains have a habit of turning up at the oddest places - at popular picnic spots, in farmer's fields, in people's courtyards and in small remote village shrines. She will tell you one of the many stories of how 'Dilli' got its name and how the ancient, medieval and modern rub shoulders in Delhi's landscape. How broken sculptures of Ganesha and Vishnu are worshipped in goddess shrines in villages in and around Delhi. How an ancient iron pillar came to stand in the courtyard of a medieval mosque, why a medieval Sultan invested so much time and money in hauling two Ashokan pillars from Haryana to adorn his palace and hunting lodge and how these pillars got involved in a still continuing worship of jinns and pirs.

Upinder Singh taught Ancient Indian History for many years in St. Stephens College and now teaches in the History Department of Delhi University. She travels to remote sites and has an eclectic interest in many subjects ranging from the ancient history of Orissa to the evolution of Buddhist sites, from ways of understanding the inscriptions of Ashoka to explaining the early cults and shrines of Mathura. She is the author of Kings, Brahmanas & Temples in Orissa (1994), Ancient Delhi (1999), a children's book, Mysteries of the Past: Archaeological Sites in India (2002), and The Discovery of Ancient India: Early Archaeologists and the Beginnings of Archaeology (2004).

friday 25th august
7.00 pm 'Viraha' Hindustani Classical Music in 'Khayal' by Priya Kanungo

'Viraha' is a sense of the void stemming from an unslaked longing, an unfulfilled desire, a pining for the beloved or the divine. Khayal is the most popular form of North Indian classical music today. It has more freedom than Dhrupad and is filled with delicate embellishments and romantic expressions. Occasionally the text of a song may become just a melodic vehicle and a technique for expressing the various rasas (emotions) in Khayal singing. Priya begins her recital with raga, Bihag and continues with Raga Des, the lyrics describing the beauty of the monsoon and lamenting the fact that the beloved hasn't come home. She concludes with a Meera bhajan in praise of Lord Krishna.

Priya Kanungo's training in music started from childhood under the guidance of Shri Brijinder Singh in Delhi and Pandit Damodar Hota in Orissa. She continued her music training under Shri Ratan Chand Sharma, and was also privileged to be a student of Pandit Amarnath of the Indore gharana. She also briefly received musical guidance from Shrimati Shubha Mudgal and is currently a student of Pandit Deepak Chatterjee. Priya has an M.A., M. Phil. and Ph. D in Hindustani Vocal Music from the Delhi University. She was also awarded the National Talent Scholarship in music by the Department of Culture, Government of India.