‘Mai Boli’, keeping Marathi alive in Jerusalem

In his Marathi quarterly magazine, Mai Boli (My Mother Tongue), Massil writes: “I want to be happy,/but my heart is not happy./ Why?/ I remember India./ Here, nothing is missing,/but always I remember you, India.”

One house in the hills of Ramot in Northwest Jerusalem stands out from others. On its lawn, the Indian tricolor takes its place alongside the blue and white flag of Israel. Inside the house lives a portly, friendly, Marathi Jew named Noah Massil and his wife Sybia.

Now 65, the one time Mumbai electrician, and long time president of the Central Organization of Indian Jews, immigrated to Israel in 1970. Most of the Maharashtra-rooted Bene Israel community, to which Massil belongs, came here on the heels of Israel’s victorious Six Day War in 1967. They are by far the largest of the three Indian émigré groups that together number around 75,000. Jews from Cochin and the Baghdadis from Calcutta mainly, are the other two. There are perhaps 30,000 Bene Israel, but estimates vary. Some put the figure much higher.

In a country where immigrants often cut ties definitively to their native lands, Massil and his wife, like many in his community, return every year to visit old friends, places from their youth. In one of his poems for his Marathi quarterly magazine, Mai Boli (My Mother Tongue), Massil writes: “I want to be happy,/but my heart is not happy./ Why?/ I remember India./ Here, nothing is missing,/but always I remember you, India.”

“We publish seasonal stories, first person stories, poems about India and about Israel,” he says.

Massil himself is the author of two books of Marathi poetry, Kawya Nad (1970) andMazi Mai Marathi (2002). Though its subscriber base, at just over 500, is modest, it was praised by Madhav Gadkari, the late editor of the Marathi daily, Loksatta, as “a bridge between Israel and all Marathi speakers,” deserving “to be saluted for their contribution in strengthening bonds between India, Israel and abroad.”

There are no Marathi classes in Israel, even in places like Ashdod, where the Bene Israel community is strong. The young are too busy assimilating. The job of preserving the Marathi language and culture is left to the old.

But Massil isn’t complaining.

Read the full article in Little India: Keeping Marathi Alive in Jerusalem


Journalists’ fraternity appeal for Kazmi’s release

It’s been over a month since Urdu journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi’s, who was arrested by Delhi police special cell for allegedly facilitating the Israel embassy car blast, family and members of the journalist fraternity continue to run a campaign demanding his release.

Under the banner of Kazmi Solidarity Committee, activists and journalists held a press conference demanding his immediate release on Wednesday at the Delhi Press Club. “Kazmi was detained outside the India Islamic Centre. They searched his house. What was legal in all this? Why haven’t they filed a chargesheet yet?” asked senior journalist Seema Mustafa. “Initially, Indian government had categorically said that it does not believe Iran was responsible for the bombing. Israel is playing a geo-political game. India’s position changed and Kazmi’s arrest showed that… Kazmi is a decent human being. He’s an Urdu journalist and has written and contributed to Iranian news agencies. It is a clear conspiracy,” she added.

John Cherian, associate editor of Frontline, said that Kazmi was being victimised. “Kazmi sahab was the easiest scapegoat. A lot of us, including Syed Kazmi and Seema, went to Iraq in 2002 to cover the war… That was the first time I met him. We had met in Syria again last year,” said Cherian. He is not from the mainstream media and happens to be an Urdu journalist with strong views on Israel… Kazmi has always been proud of the work he’s done having covered wars. He is also very proud of his family. I hope he comes out unscathed. We will demand heavy reparation after his release for the wrongful arrest,” added Cherian.

Kazmi’s wife Jahan Ara made an appeal to journalists to stand up to one of their tribe. “If America and Israel are angry at whatever Kazmi has written, I apologise to them on his behalf. We have never lived on what Iran or Israel or America has provided us. Kazmisahab has always been an honest man… I just hope we he’s freed,” said a teary eyed Jahan.

Lawyer Colin Gonsalves rubbished Delhi police claims that there was a strong case. He opined that Kazmi could, in fact, seek legal action against Delhi police for his wrongful arrest. Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD and Manisha Sethi, President of Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) also spoke at the conference. The committee also released an appeal signed by eminent journalists, film-makers and activists.

(courtesy: Tehelka.com)