This year marks 70 years since the partition of India (Punjab and Bengal) and the subsequent creation of Pakistan. Throughout the world, faith leaders and community groups are acknowledging this in various ways.
One such initiative - which aims to not only commemorate the partition, but also hopes to build common ground and open a much needed dialogue surrounding the human experience of partition - is the Grand Trunk Project. Comprising of a range of faith leaders and facilitated by the Faiths Forum for London, The Grand Trunk Project (tgtp.co.uk) seek inspiration from the famous and unifying Grand Trunk Road (G.T. Road) which runs across the Subcontinent of South Asia. TGTP aim to help foster healthy relations between the British-Asian faith communities who are somewhat still divided religiously, historically, and politically since 1947.
We were invited to perform at the launch of The Grand Trunk Project last week, at The Guildhall in London. We chose to begin our performance with the opening couplet from 'Heer' - the most recognised poetic verse in Punjabi culture, written by Punjab's most noted Sufi saint, Waris Shah.
This was followed by our rendition of Ajj Akhaan Waris Shah Nu, a poem by the Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam, in which she invokes Waris Shah. The legend of Heer Ranjha is the most famous of the literary love legends in all of Punjab, with constant references made to these lovers in books, poems, films and songs.
Even today, people on both sides of the 'Radcliffe Line', (regardless of their religion) identify with this love story. It is a shared community story that belongs to neither Hindu, Muslim or Sikh - which is why we chose to include this in our performance