Thursday, September 24, 2009

Of Hakeem Balwant Singh

Naseer A Ganai

Hakeem Balwant Singh is not alien to any reader of Urdu newspapers in Kashmir. The day Hakeem Sahib doesn’t appear in the papers is the day when the papers didn’t hit the stands. Elders say over the years the contents of Hakeem Balwant’s advertisement has not changed. It continues to occupy the same space, on the same page of the papers, which it was occupying three decades ago. In the advertisement, Hakeem Balwant Singh claims, he is the only hope for hopeless patient (read patients suffering from sexual disorders). He claims his presence in Srinagar is last chance for the hopeless patients. He has more to say. He says, he diagnoses the disease of a patient just in seconds. He comes to know about disorders and orders of a patient once he puts his hand on latter’s pulse.

In each advertisement he says, he is in Srinagar for last 40 years, but in the same advertisement, he says, his presence in Srinagar is last chance for the hopeless patients. He says his elder son Hakeem Kuldeep Singh too is Srinagar for short time and patients are advised to take benefit of his presence. It is being repeated every day.

Hakeem Balwant Singh’s advertising slogans are:

Quick Relief,

No Side Effect,

Hakeem Balwant Singh Kahndani Shahi Tabib Specialist in Sex and Chronic Diseases.

The advertisement also carries a warning: “There is no other Branch of Hakeem Balwant Singh in valley.”

The second warning is: “Medicine could be exchanged not returned.”

Hakeem Balwant Singh had no competition in showing his face every day to readers of Kashmir albeit through advertisements. But situation has now changed.

It changed when Prof Riyaz Punjabi replaced Prof Wahid as vice chancellor of Kashmir University three years ago. Now, like Hakem Sahib, Punjabi is everywhere. One day, that is on Monday, he is on front page. Next day, that is on Tuesday, he is on third page. Remember second page is for Hakeem Balwant Singh. And third day, that is Wednesday he is again on front page. Idhar Dubay Udhar Niklay. On Thursday he is on fourth page. On Friday he is again on some page. On Saturday he occupies last page. But on Sunday he jumps back to the front pages of papers. Whatever the page, whatever the day, he is there. Interestingly, he is always in the same pose in every photograph.

On Monday newspapers carry his statement about the Decline and Fall of Dal Lake. Next day they carry his gems about peace and pathology. Third day on Medicine and Kashmir conflict. Fourth day on pedagogy and importance of tomatoes for health of teachers.

Fifth day, we are told by newspapers, he spoke on fiction, plagiarism and Ph.Ds offered by Kashmir University, sixth day, we are told he delivered a lecture On culture and Vultural Activistism at the Vultural Academy of Art and Artists, and seventh day that is Sunday he talks about importance of being Riyaz Punjabi.

His presence is so dominant in newspapers that he seems to be an autocratic ruler of the independent Kashmir where every newspaper is duty bound to carry his statement. One feels, if some day newspapers here won’t publish his words of wisdom, he will hang up newspapers on the wall and shoot at them. One by one.

Punjabi like Hakeem Balwant Singh has solution for every problem including most complicated problems. But, that doesn’t mean newspapers should publish claims of Balwant Singh as advertisement against money, and carry statements of Punjabi as news reports. This is gross injustice to Balwant Singh. He should agitate the matter. It is indeed discrimination.

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