25 Years Later, Still a Twinkle in His Eye, Mischievousness in His Wit!


The team that started Punjab Rung, from left: Feroze Shah and his wife Cookie, Shami Shah and Islam Shah, the Voice of the program, more affectionately known as “Shah Jee” at the 25th Anniversary celebration at Shahnai restaurant.  Below: With Pakistan Consul General Afzaal Mahmood     Photos: Jawahar Malhotra

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: It was as if he hadn’t left the radio dial; he just slipped from one mic in the studio to the mic at the stage. And he carried on with his usual flair of stringing together flowery verses to entertain his guests, except it was all in Urdu in deference to the mixed audience, rather than the mix of Punjabi that his show is known for.

“I had an interest in music ever since my childhood,” explained the Showman. “I would listen outside from the street, as the chowkidaar (watchman) would not let me in,” he continued. “I had to wait till I got to the US to start this radio program.”

“So I started this ‘Punjab Rung’ program with my wife Shami and younger brother Feroze,” said Shah Jee, “and everyone asked why, so I told them I am retired, I am a nikama (worthless)!” using a term that brought titters from the audience.


He still runs the show, though now from his fully equipped home-studio in his house in The Woodlands. With aging legs, he seldom gets around, but his voice and wit are still as good as gold and Shami Jee is constantly by his side.

Shah called the program in honor of the place (Lahore) of his birth and the “three rung (colors) of life: bachpan (childhood), jawani (youth) and budrapa (old age) of life.” The Pun (five) Jab (waters) that form his outlook on life are pyar (love), mohabat (romance), dosti (friendship), aman (peace) and bhaisara (brotherhood) and true to his creed, he has ran the show every week for the past 25 years stressing these principles. And during that time, he forged an affectionate friendship with the founder of Indo-American News, the late Dr. K.L. Sindwani.

At the party to celebrate 25 years of being on the air, the banquet hall of Shahnai restaurant (which is celebrating its 15th anniversary) was full on Friday, January 22 and though it was to start at 7pm, “our people have a habit of being late”, teased Shah Jee as people finally trickled in at 8, all of whom he and Shami Jee welcomed with customary gusto and affection.

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Shah Jee in an undated photo from the early days of the Punjab Rung program.

After a few appetizers, Dr. Javed Aslam opened the evening with words a witticism and verses of benediction from the Quran. And then Shah Jee recognized his adopted sister, Suraiya Saleem, who, with her husband the late Dr. S. M. Saleem, used to the run the popular “Kehkashan” radio show for 25 years, during an era when few other electronic media existed for the desi community. Suraiya offered her appreciation and continued support before she left for another event.

The Consul General of Pakistan, Afzaal Mahmood, attended the event and very gamely handed out prizes to the winners of a general knowledge quiz on Islam to three youngsters who won the series of questions. After a buffet dinner, a musical program included songs by local artists and the soothing voice of Reza Pirzada, who also DJed the event.

For more information on Punjab Rung, contact Shah Jee at 713-449-6946 or by email at pr@punjabrung.com