Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Khushwant Singh the Great

Khushwant Singh (1915-2014), a much revered journalist and columnist, passed away on March 20, 2014 at the ripe age of 99. Khuswant Singh was also an accomplished historian of Sikh history and also a recognized novelist. He will be greatly missed in the enlightened circles of the society at large. I liked Khushwant Singh from my young days. I used to read the Illustrated Weekly regularly in the library of DAV College, Jalandhar, my alma mater. I read or glanced through most of the books subsequently besides reading his regular columns ‘This Above All’ and ‘Malice towards One and All’ with great interest. I may or may not have agreed with him but I felt like reading him. I have had the opportunity to meet him briefly during my diplomatic duties at a Reception at the then Yugoslavia Embassy in New Delhi sometime in 1991. He was casually dressed in a Pathani suit. As he was rightly puncturing many egos in his writings, I found him totally relaxed and without any airs of a great scholar and journalist. He created a persona for himself as a dirty old man interested in sex, scotch and easy life. But in reality he was a modest and serious man in his personal life. I wrote about Khuswant Singh many a times in this Blog. Khushwant Singh was a great man.

I was in Delhi on March 20. My daughter Vaishali gifted me Khushwant Singh’s book ‘Khushant Singh – Obituaries – Death at my doorstep’. I had read many of the articles compiled in the book. Khushwant Singh wrote his own obituary when he was young and wrote “I will like to be remembered as someone who made people smile.” He proved to be so and wrote many joke books. In his regular columns he included good jokes sent to him by his readers and admirers. He wrote his own Epitaph:

Here lies one who spared neither man nor God;
Waste not your tears on him, he was a sod.
Writing nasty things he regarded as great fun;
Thank the Lord he is dead this son of a gun.

I have found that in many of his obituaries he quoted Allma Iqbal’s lofty poetry:

Baagh-e-bahisht say mujhay hukm-e-safar diya thha kyon;
Kaar-e-Jahaan daraaz hai, ab meyra intazar kar.

(Why did you order me out of the garden of paradise? I have a lot of work that remains unfulfilled, now you better wait for me)

I think Khuswant Singh made God to wait till he reached 100 years and completed his job of enlightening and entertaining through his books and columns.


Friday, March 7, 2014

GURU RAVIDASS COMMUNITY – 4th International Conference

On March 2nd, 2014, Vigilant Brotherhood (International) hosted Guru Ravidass Community – 4th International Conference in Jalandhar. I was also invited and I joined them at the Conference. The President of the Vigilant Brotherhood (International), Manohar Lal Mahey, is my old friend from school days. I have been hearing about this organization and activities of Manohar from here and there with some interest and appreciation. It is a good effort by Manohar and his associates, prima facie, to provide a platform to discuss the problems and concerns of the community. But, to be fair, I could not find any substance in the proceedings of the Conference. There was no theme, agenda and format. It was free for all. The speakers spoke on different and varied subjects. Nobody cared nor was deputed to sum up the proceedings. It was disappointing in spite of the fact that some of the speakers were good and well placed to stand and speak, inter alia, Lahori Ram Balley, S.L. Virdi, Rajesh Bagha. There were delegates from other states like UP, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J. & K. and Delhi. Vigilant Brotherhood under the leadership of Manohar Mahey deserves recognition and appreciation in attracting participation from far off places.

The gratifying aspect of the Conference which surfaced was that almost all the speakers were of the view that the community was getting divisive and fragmented on account of non-issues. The leadership, including the Deras, should understand the underlying current of induced elements of division and conflict by the vested interests to meet their nefarious goals to keep the community retarded and backward. Balley Sahib spoke with conviction and said that there was no conflict between the mission and philosophy of Guru Ravidass and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Virdi Sahib was also loud and clear that Dr. Ambedkar’s dictum of ‘Educate, Organise and Agitate’ emanated from the teachings of Guru Ravidass.  With a view to underline this outcome of the Conference, I said in my brief remarks that, to my mind, the message of Guru Ravidass Community – 4th International Conference was to guard the community from getting divided as Buddhists, Ravidassias, Ambedkarites, followers of this and that Dera. The community should stand together as dalits and oppressed people and fight for our due space in the polity and society.