There is at least one saffron clad person in Lucknow who is so full of love that she makes people shed tears of joy. Sunita Jhingran is a musician with a haunting voice. She always dresses in orange clothing, and wears a red dot on her forehead.

Listening to her sing thumri, khayal, dadra and ghazal is to forget for a while the constant threat of bulldozers around Uttar Pradesh. The music and the poetry of Sunita brings people closer to each other.

Sunita is a Brahmin who sings songs in praise of both Shiva and Husain, grandson of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Her love for one does not diminish her adoration of the other. It is remarkably easy for her to recite lyric after lyric in one breath about the attraction between Radha and Krishna penned with so much love by Muslim poets in Urdu.

After all Sunita belongs to the community of Husaini Brahmins that traces its origins to Rehab Dutt, a Punjabi who lived in Arabia in the seventh century. Dutt was a close friend of Husain. In the war between Husain and Yazid bin Muawiya in Karbala in 680, Dutt and his sons fought on the side of Husain in support of freedom, justice and equality.

Over time, the Dutts returned to Punjab and became famous as Husaini Brahmins. The legend is alive that Husain would lovingly call his bosom friend Dutt, a sultan or king. To this day the Husaini Brahmins repeat the way Husain praised his friend so long ago with a hail to Dutt the king, whose religion is Hindu but his faith that of a Muslim, making him half Hindu and half Muslim:

wah dutt sultan,
hindu ka dharam,
musalman ka iman,
adha hindu, adha musalman

Whatever is left today of the very special Ganga Jamuni way of life can perhaps be traced back to the deep friendship shared by Husain and Rehab Dutt nearly 1500 years ago.

Women Depicting Women

In yet another attempt to add aesthetics and positivity to the life of citizens, Muslim women in UP have invited female artists of all faiths to participate in Women Depicting Women (WDW), an art exhibition to open in Lucknow on 22 June.

Hosted by Rising Beyond the Ceiling (RBTC), founder Farah K Usmani believes that art offers powerful opportunities to express our common humanity, challenge assumptions, spark conversation, connect diverse people, and promote action for positive change:

"WDW recognizes and leverages the potential of engaging critical questions of social change within contemporary art. I hope the artworks will amplify compassion and sensitivity for the issues, and every person who sees the exhibition, physically or online, will take away appreciation of the diversity of humanity and the intricate interconnectedness of the web of life. Through this initiative we call for women's art to manifest its power to uplift and become an inspiring vision for women of all communities."

"As someone who has been in journalism and the arts for 20 years, for me this is a headline grabbing show. For two reasons. Firstly, the scale of participation. Secondly, the purpose of goodwill. The show is a treasure trove of stories, experiences, struggles, observations and opinions," said Sahar Zaman, a Mumbai based art critic.

Farzana Shahab, artist and curator of WDW added that she has received numerous messages… from someone who lost their loved one during the pandemic and is now using art to heal her soul, and another woman who has found new passion and zeal for life… or someone just being able to speak out loud through the words of paint and colour and canvas.

RBTC is a formidable collective of successful and talented Muslim women of India from diverse spheres of life. It includes businesswomen, media honchos, journalists, lawyers, civil servants, activists, artists, performers, writers, academicians and lawmakers.

The first chapter of this unique powerhouse is based in India's largest state. Chapters in other different states are in the process of being identified and listed. In the true spirit of Islam and in respect of the significance of womanhood, RBTC awakens the creative talent of women from different walks of life as an exercise to encourage harmony, and peaceful co-existence.

By Polls

Meanwhile, canvassing for the byelections to be held on 23 June in the Rampur and Azamgarh Lok Sabha constituencies is at its colourful best.

Seeking votes for the Samajwadi Party contestant, Asim Raja, senior SP leader Azam Khan lashed out at members of the house of Rampur who are Congress party supporters, and known as the Nawabs.

The interesting part is that the Congress hasn't even fielded a candidate in Rampur. However Khan's rude jibes are still targeted at the Nawabs due to a twisted logic.

The fight in Rampur is between the SP and the BJP. Khan, who is out on bail after more than two years in jail has nothing to say about the BJP. Khan, it is suspected does not consider the BJP contestant Ghanshyam Lodhi worthy of his piquant barbs. Raja is a close aide of Khan's. Before joining the BJP, Lodhi was in the SP and also close to Khan.

Congress leader Naved Mian of the house of Rampur said of the Congress party's decision not to field any candidate that he would support Lodhi.

Naved Mian's only objective in doing so is to see the candidate supported by his old time opponent Khan defeated. That is why he, a Congressman is supporting the BJP in the bye-elections against the SP!

And that is why Khan is attacking the Nawab instead of the BJP.

"Even the eunuchs did not vote for the descendants of the Nawabzada Zulfiqar Ali Khan of Rampur," said Khan to the glee of his audience, reminding them that in the last election the Nawab got no more than 3000 votes, even less than the population of eunuchs in Rampur.

Phew! The pathos of the very twisted politics of the day seems beyond the understanding of ordinary citizens, doesn't it?

Who is Dharmendra Yadav?

Dharmendra Yadav is a cousin of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and winner of three Lok Sabha elections in the past. He lost the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to the BJP from western UP's Budaun.

Dharmendra is the SP contestant in the by elections in Azamgarh, the Lok Sabha seat vacated recently by Akhilesh.

Azamgarh is considered a safe seat for the self-styled socialists of the Samajwadi Party.

Dharmendra said that his main fight is with the politics of lies. The BJP has also fielded a Yadav, the popular Bhojpuri actor Dinesh Lal 'Nirhua'.

The results of both bypolls will be declared on 26 June.