Saturday, October 28, 2017

Ambedkar Study Corner at D.A.V. College Library

Ambedkar Study Corner at D.A.V. College Library
D.A.V. College Jalandhar, my alma mater, is a premier educational institution of the region for the last 100 years. Today, October 28, yet another feather has been added to the cap of the college library.  The Lala Lajpat Rai Library has established a separate enclosure, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Study Corner, for the benefit of students and the faculty. It is a matter of all the more satisfaction for me personally that one of my close friends and a fellow BootanMandian, Ram Lal Dass, who is also an alumnus of D.A.V.
College, has joined hands with the college to give shape and form to the study corner by donating a rare collection of 101 books on the life, mission and thought of the greatest son of India, Babasaheb Ambedkar along with relevant paraphernalia. At a solemn function at the college library the study corner was declared open by the Senior Vice Principal G.K. Sareen in the presence of distinguished guests. The day was chosen by management particularly by Principal S.K. Arora in consultation with Ram Lal Dass and our teacher, guide and philosopher who acted as an interlocutor in this regard, Prof. K.K. Ghai. It was the day when Dr. B.R. Ambedkar delivered a lecture on parliamentary democracy in India on October 28, 1951 at D.A.V. College in Jalandhar.  The lecture is, till today and will remain so, a well documented treatise on the subject. Principal S.K. Arora, Prof. K.K. Ghai, Ram Lal Dass and other concerned deserve all appreciation and applause for this good activity and contribution not only to honour the icon Babasaheb Ambedkar but also add to the already existing good facilities at the well stocked and managed library under the control of Librarian Naveen Saini. I am confident that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Study Corner will become a hub of academic and intellectual intercourse for the larger good of students and researchers.
After the formal opening of the study corner, a session on the life, philosophy and mission of Babasaheb was held for the benefit of young students which were presided over by Principal Dr. S.K. Arora. Dr. B.B. Sharma, HOD of Political Science Department of the College in his welcome address underlined the importance of easy availability of source and reference material to students and
teachers and added Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Study Corner will fulfill the much needed requirement at the college library. Ram Lal Dass spoke with emotion and conviction and expressed happiness that one of his long cherished desires was fulfilled today as a humble tribute to the memory of Babasaheb Ambedkar with a sense of gratitude to his alma mater. He spoke on the multifaceted personality of Babasaheb and said that India was India because of the thought and vision of the great leader. Prof. K.K. Ghai spoke with total engagement and appreciated the gesture his worthy student Ram Lal Dass made in establishing the study corner. He said that he was happy to see that so many of his students and alumni of the college, who made a mark in their respective careers, were sitting on the high table. It was a matter of pride for him personally and the college.  Another distinguished alumnus of the college, IPS and retired ADGP and Chairman of UP Public Service Commission, Malkit Singh recalled his close association with Ram Lal Dass whom they used to call ‘Guru’ for his knowledge of alternative Indian political thought involving Dr. Ambedkar and others which was not so common those days. Paying glowing tributes to Babasaheb Ambedkar, Malkit Singh said that the ongoing Swacch Bharat campaign was good but there was a need to start a campaign to clean the mindset of the society for all-round development and progress of the country. Retired IPS and ADGP of J&K Dr. Lubhaya Ram Jassi spoke briefly and mentioned about the unfortunate sense of intolerance creeping in the psyche of the society at large.  I also got an opportunity to address the gathering. Nostalgia came alive in me. It was the same lecture theater where I read a paper on parliamentary democracy way back in 1968-69 at a paper reading declamation contest and quoted extensively from Babasaheb’s lecture of October 28, 1951. My naïve intension was not to win or lose but to bring to light the lecture of which there was no information and awareness in the college. It was gratifying to note that it was not a futile exercise. I underlined the fact that Dr.
Ambedkar was very fond of books and the college in cooperation with Ram Lal Dass did a good job by setting up a dedicated corner of his books. Quoting Lord Macaulay, “I would rather be poor in a college full of books than a King without the desire to read”, I said that the study corner was a befitting tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar. Bringing to focus the current political and social scenario in the country, I reminded the audience of the three warnings Dr. Ambedkar so thoughtfully gave in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949 i.e. use of constitutional means while pressing for socio-economic demands to avoid ‘Grammar of Anarchy”, shedding the tendency of Bhakti or Puja of  political leadership to ward of our democracy from the fear of dictatorship and adviced to transform political democracy into social and economic democracy, the sooner the better.  Dr. Dinesh Arora of Political Science Department, which did a yeoman’s job in facilitating Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Study Corner, ably conducted the session to make it a lively mix of ideas and thoughts propounded and generated at the function.
Generous hospitality with snacks and tea was offered both at the office of the Principal and Department of Political Science. These informal occasions provided us opportunity to unwind and socialize.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Father Mere Puttran De

Father Mere Puttran De

Prof. Sarita Tiwari has written the book “Father Mere Puttran De” about her loving husband Prof. Virainder Kumar Tiwari, an intellectual, educationist, administrator and a social activist of standing. The title of the book is uniquely tri-lingual – Father in English, Mere in Hindi and Puttran De in Punjabi and the author’s name i.e. Sarita Tiwari is also shown in these three languages. The author has explained in the beginning why she has opted to write
the book in three languages. Father Mere Puttran De, a tribute “Tiwari Sahib Nu Yaad Kardean” on his first death anniversary, October 10, was released at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall in Jalandhar on October 10, 2017 by Lt. Governor (Retired) Iqbal Singh, a politician and a social personality of Punjab, a good friend of Prof. V.K. Tiwari, Kuku for the friends and family. Governor Iqbal Singh and other distinguished speakers namely; Chairperson of Governing Council of Khalsa College Group of Institutions  Balbir Kaur,  niece of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Gurjeet Kaur Dhatt, Seth Kundan Lal of Local Advisory Committee of D.A.V. College and Gurmeet Singh General Secretary of Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee spoke very high of Prof Tiwari and paid glowing tributes to the highly regarded son of the soil who, from a humble background of a mofassil town called Alawalpur near Jalandhar rose to coveted positions at a well attended function in which who’s who of the Jalandhar academic and educational circle were present. Sarita Tiwari, the author of the book, who herself is an acclaimed academician and cultural personality of the region, conducted the function herself with obvious emotional involvement. Before the formal release of the book, a dedicated session of musical presentations by the local talent led by no other than Sarita Tiwari herself, sons (Putter) – Mohit and Chetan in attendance, set the mood of the evening in its right perspective. I was invited to the function as a humble acquaintance of Tiwari Sahib whom I met, in recent years after my return to Jalandhar on retirement from I.F.S., and found him a
charming and cultured personality on one hand and erudite and a spell-bound (Jaadu-bian Mukarrar) speaker on the other. Later, after
At Prof. V.K.Tiwari Computer Centre
Tiwari Sahib’s death, I met Saritaji and their sons Mohit and Chetan at a SPEED function to name a computer centre in memory of Prof. V.K. Tiwari at Ram Nagar in Jalandhar of which a reference has been made in the book.

In the foreword of the book Governor Iqbal Singh appreciated Prof. Tiwari for his humility and love, put together. The book has been divided into four parts:-

Mere Apne – In this part, tributes and homage of Prof. V.K. Tiwari’s 68 friends, associates and well-wishers, representing cross sections of the society, have been compiled. The author has termed them as “Speaking Dictionaries”.  All of them, in one way or the other, have written very high of Prof. Tiwari bringing out all the good attributes in his dynamic personality which a human being may attain and possess not only to lead a good life himself but also contribute positively to the overall well being of the society at large. Some of them quoted poetry to remember their ‘friend, philosopher and guide’ as Jasreen Kaur of Khalsa College Jalandhar aptly quoted to flag Tiwari Sahib’s down to earth humility:-

जो आला ज़र्फ़ होतें हैं; हमेशां झुक के मिलते हैं,
 सुराही सर नगुन होकर; भरा करती है पैमाना !

Yet another friend of Tiwar Sahib, S. Sondhi, writes that he was an open hearted man with full of understanding  and compassion:-

जिंदगी में ऐसा इंसान भी होना बहुत जरूरी है;
जिसे दिल का हॉल बताने के लिए लफ्जों की जरूरत हो !

A couple of contributors mentioned about Tiwari Sahib’s distinctive Urdu-laced mannerism in his routine informal talk like use of words, Hazur, Waah Janab, Hazoorewala, Fouri Tour Pe etc. I may also testify that Tiwari Sahib was a conversationalist par-excellence.  Many of the Left oriented intellectuals and comrades like Jatinder Pannu, Sital Singh Sangha, Raghbir Kaur, Gurmeet Singh, among others have paid glowing tributes to him remembering and recognizing his affiliation and leaning towards the leftist ideology. He was actively associated with the Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee. The well groomed sons, Mohit and Chetan have paid wholesome homage to their worthy father, a difficult task to say something about a larger than life personality in the upbringing of his children.  Dr. Jagdish Chander Joshi wrote about the fellow alumnus of D.A.V. College Jalandhar and said that Dr. Virainder Tiwari enjoyed a rare distinction of a student, a teacher and a Principal of D.A.V College at one stretch of his illustrious career. Hats off to this self made man of Jalandhar.  Much more could be said about Prof. Tiwari. Though some of the ‘Speaking Dictionaries” have narrated a few anecdotes yet it would have been better if some more space would have been provided to this aspect for the advantage and benefit of the younger lot.

Father Mere Puttran De:- In this part, Savita Tiwar, the gracious wife of Prof. V.K. Tiwari, has given a graphic account of the last ten days, October 1 -10, 2016, of Tiwari Sahib and also the cherished memories of their marriage in June, 1980 followed by chronologically arranged memoirs, both sweet and sour, of their social and professional lives. The narration is informal without any academic or literary pretence which make it readable at leisure. Otherwise hale and hearty, Tiwari Sahib’s sudden death reminded me of the death of my young nephew Brijesh of 28, my brother’s son, in November, 2015 under the same circumstances – Home - Patel Hospital- DMC Ludhiana- Home – in a matter of a few days with the same deadly ailment “Dengue Shock Syndrome”. Saritaji’s story telling skills as an artist of standing is evident from her narration of her Navaratra fasts and the couple’s usual tiffs on small matters which we all face in everyday life. One can feel that Kukku and Sarita were made for each other. Tiwari Sahib belonged to an Arya Samaji family by birth and by education and experience he developed a Leftist leaning. Defying the tradition, he decided to marry Sarita without dowry and much fanfare. Sarita has stated, in a lighter vein, that on the marriage reception ‘there were more of speeches than dance and song’.

The author has succeeded in bringing out clearly that Prof. V.K. Tiwari was a man of sterling worth as described in the book “Teacher, Researcher, Linguist, Academic leader”. Apart from his profession as a teacher and educational administrator, Tiwari Sahib was a union leader for the rights of the academic fraternity. He served as General Secretary of the World Federation of Teachers’ Union. He was actively engaged with All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations (AIFUCTO) and as such very popular among the teaching community.  He was an international activists and travelled abroad intensively with regard to his union activities and also of the World Peace Movement etc. Tiwari Sahib believed in a little modified version of the dictum ‘Do or Die’, as stated by the author. He believed in ‘Do it before you die’.
कुछ उलझने हैं राहों में; कुछ कोशिशें बेहिसाब;
बस इसी का नाम है जिंदगी; चलते रहिए जनाब !

Condolence Messages: - The third part of the book is a compilation of condolence messages from cross sections of the academic and intellectual circles of not only Jalandhar but also Punjab and beyond. By reading these messages, one can feel the emotions of pain and sympathy people felt and expressed on the untimely demise of Prof. V.K. Tiwari and the bereaved family.  Dr. S.S. Bains of Lyallpur Khalsa College has rightly quoted someone, “The most beautiful good-byes are the ones that are never said and never explained.”

Tributes:- The concluding part of Father Mere Puttran De is the Tributes paid to Tiwari Sahib by his friends and associates in a vernacular daily with leftist affiliation, Nawan Zamana and some journals of the trade union outfits. Prof. Virainder Kumar Tiwari was a multifaceted personality and a leader by his right. My brother Paramjit had been his student at D.A.V. College in the late 1970s. He speaks very high of Prof. Tiwari. Paramjit told me that Prof. Tiwari was not only a competent teacher of English language but also great source of strength to the young students in extra-curricular activities. His informal and humble mannerism was very impressive and motivative.

Punj Aab Parkashan has done a good job in presenting the book with an excellent cover and professionally set contents. The book is readable and that too gratis at one go as the price of the book is “Your precious time out of your busy schedule to read this book” as graciously offered by the author and publishers.

अपना मुक्कदर आप बनातें हैं एहले दिल;
हम वह नहीं जिन्हे जमाना बना गया !

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 8

Bits and Pieces – As I please – 8

Diksha Day at Jalandhar – October 14, Diksha Day, the day when Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in 1956, an epoch making event in the history of India was celebrated and observed as usual every year at Ambedkar Bhawan in Jalandhar. My day started early with yet another good cause. I accompanied my friend and fellow Bootan Mandian Ram Lal to D.A.V. College to deliver a rare collection of books for the Ambedkar Corner to be established in the well-stocked and efficiently run college library. The Ambedkar Corner is scheduled to be opened soon by the end of October, 2017. It may be recalled that Dr. Ambedkar visited D.A.V. College, my alma mater, in October, 1951 and delivered a lecture on the theme ‘Parliamentary Democracy in India’ which still is a relevant and thought provoking piece on the subject. I joined the Diksha Day celebrations at Ambedkar Bhawan which the organizers named as Ambedkar Sabhyacharak Mela. The function was started with the hoisting of the Buddhist flag by the revered Bhante Pragya Bodhi followed by paying obeisance at the statue of the Buddha. For school children, a painting competition, poetry recital, and declamation contest were arranged followed by one act plays by the group named Lok Kala Manch. The function was much behind schedule. The Chief Guest, IPS of Telengana cadre Dr. R.S.
Dr. Ambedkar seaking on Diksha Day
Praveen Kumar along with the Guest of Honour the youngest Everest Mountaineer Poorna Malavath arrived and I left the show half way because of some other engagement. Later, I came to know that the function was dragged up to about five in the evening. But the Chief Guest and Guest of Honour spoke well with conviction. My interlocutor commented that it was gratifying and rewarding to sit and listen to the speakers. The guest speakers fully justified their presence. I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the organizers to honour and listen to such personalities for the benefit of all. It was a mela with book stalls, photo exhibitions and gratis tea and traditional Langar at the end. As compared to many other events at Ambedkar Bhawan, the attendance was good. The students belonging to schools having affiliation with Babasaheb Ambedkar and other icons like Sant Sarwan Dass did well and conformed themselves to the life and philosophy of  Babasaheb and related themes. Credit for the good show goes to the organizers.

Now I come to the flip side of the event not as a criticism but as an honest assessment being a humble follower of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The focus of the function should have been on the Diksha Day and its solemnity but unfortunately it was missing. I sat there for almost two hours, but nobody mentioned about Diksha Day and its significance. I don’t think it was a deliberate lapse but a sub-conscience slip. The electronic invitations also did not mention about the Diksha Day except the date i.e. October 14 and so was the case for the banners at the backdrop of the stage and the podium. Some of the functionaries and organizers hosted photographs of the function on Facebook but nobody thought of hosting even a single photograph of the Buddhist aspect of the event held on Diksha Day. The local vernacular media carried stories of the event the following day. It must have been done by the media on the basis of the Press Note issued by the organizers. These reports duly reported the good presentation by the guest speakers and focused on their individual achievements without mentioning about Diksha Day. While I congratulate the organizers for the good function otherwise, I thought I should give my frank assessment. October 14 is an epoch making day in the annals of Buddhism in India when Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in 1956. I am confident that followers of Babasaheb are not oblivious to the importance of Diksha Day. Sabhyachar is fine but not at the cost of the core issue close to the hearts of millions of followers of our leader and his mission.

It may be of interest that to remember the Diksha Day, October 14 and as my tributes to Babasaheb, I posted a blog “Revival of Buddhism in India and Babasaheb Ambedkar at:

Khuralgarh Sahib – Khurali village in tehsil Garhshankar in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab has been officially named as Khuralgarh Sahib by the Captain Amarinder Singh government. It is a welcome decision. Guru Ravidass visited and stayed at Khurali
Design of Minar-e-Begumpura
in the 16th century. The earlier BJP-SAD government of Parkash Singh Badal, with an eye on elections and to appease the Ravidassia community vote bank, announced that the site “Charan-Choh-Ganga” will be developed to preserve the legacy of the great saint of the Bhakti movement, Guru Ravidass. It was decided to erect a 151 feet monument - Minar-e-Begumpura which will be a tourist attraction in the region.  I had offered my humble services to the project, being a follower of Guru Ravidassji and as a keen observer of related developments, to the then BJP-Akali government through the nodal Minisry of Culture. My interest and intent was referred to the then Minister of Culture, Sardar Sarwan
Singh but could not find favour with him. Presumably, I did not have any political clout.  It appears that the Congress government of Captain Amarinder Singh has revived the project. It should be welcomed and appreciated. The earlier government could not proceed further from the designs on the drawing board. No budget and funds were ear-marked for the project. I had written about this earlier on my blog:

Let us hope that Khuralgarh Sahib comes on the map of spiritual tourism in due course to cater to the needs of millions of followers of the great Guru, living in and around the Doaba region of Punjab.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Revival of Buddhism in India and Babasaheb Ambedkar

Revival of Buddhism in India and Babasaheb Ambedkar

Today, October 14 is the Diksha Day when Dr. B.R. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, a big and historical step towards revival of Buddhism in India. I write this as a tribute to the wisdom and vision of the greatest son of India, Bodhisatava Ambedkar.

One of the epoch making events in the history of ancient India was Gautam Buddha’s first sermon at Sarnath in the 6th century B.C. from which the noble ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and
also Compassion emanated for peace and tranquility in the world. The second such event was King Ashoka’s embracing of Buddhism in the 4th century B.C. and in the aftermath of which Buddhism was spread over the world at large as a potent force to ensure the dignity of humankind. Some of the other rulers of India like Milinda, Kanishka, Harashvardhana, inter alia, followed suit and not only preserved Buddhism in India but also did their bit to spread it to other lands. It is recorded history as to how Buddhism disappeared and was marginalized over the centuries. I will continue to focus on the revival of Buddhism instead.

Recovery and revival of Buddhism in India started in the 18th century with the arrival of Sri Lankan Sinhalese Bhikhu Anagarika Dharmapala. He established Maha Bodhi Society of India in May, 1891. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said at a Buddhist Conference in Colombo in May, 1950, “Buddhism may have disappeared in material form but as a spiritual force, it still exists in India.” It was true, it is true and it will remain as in the future as Buddhism is the rightful flag bearer of the tradition and culture of India that is Bharat. Revival of Buddhism in India was as significant as the French Revolution in Europe, somebody has rightly said.

The real impetus to the revival of Buddhism was provided by our independence from the colonial rule in August, 1947. The Constituent Assembly was over crowed by Hindu traditionalists. But moderate and liberal Hindus were also available to steer clear the cob-webs from the way ahead with Jawaharlal Nehru on the lead. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar held the fort being a Buddhist by mind, if
not otherwise, as yet and initiated the process of revival of Buddhism in India. India’s insignia is predominantly emanates from the Buddhist history – Dhamma Chakra in the tri-colour National Flag, Three-lions from the Stupa at Sarnath as the National Emblem among others. The three gems of the Buddhist philosophy, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity, is the essence of the Indian constitution which has been enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution itself. It only makes it clear that the spirit of India is Buddhist.

Keeping in line with this thinking, Babasaheb Ambedkar, with a view to transform the social and spiritual order of India, intended to instill scientific and rational thinking among the people as against the decaying, irrational and inhuman traditions of the existing order. He appealed to the Indian masses to follow Buddhism on the Buddha Jayanti in 1951 and stressed, “ If the rest of the Hindu society does not cooperate then we the embers of the Scheduled Castes will go on our own again to bring back Buddhism to its former glory and prestige in this country. It may be recalled that Babasaheb Ambedkar had taken a vow in 1935 that he would not die as a Hindu. He studied the scenario in its totality as a nationalist
Dr. Ambedkar speaking after Diksha at Nagpur
par excellence. It was becoming clear that he was getting convinced gradually that Buddhism was the best bet to get rid of the existing social and spiritual establishment, not as revenge against anybody but to liberate and transform the society for the common good. Dr. Ambedkar was a spiritual person to the core with nationalistic aptitude in spite of his liberal western educational background. Speaking on the BBC in October, 1954, he said, “My social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words – Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. I have derived them from the teachings of my master the Buddha.”

With these developments, the D-day arrived on October 14, 1956. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar along with his wife Dr. Savita Ambedkar and more than five hundred thousand of his followers embraced Buddhism at the Diksha Bhoomi at Nagpur in Maharashtra. Incidentally, it was Vijay Dashmi Day which is also observed by the RSS in solemnity at its Headquarters in Nagpur, not far off from the Diksha Bhoomi. There was no conflict or confrontation in Dr.
Dr. Ambdedkar taking Diksha of Buddhism in 1956
Ambedkar’s mind. He made it clear and said in his speech, “Buddhism is a part and parcel of Bhartiya culture. I have taken care that my conversion will not harm the condition of history of this land.” I salute to the sagacity and vision of the greatest son of the soil, Babasaheb Ambedkar. Rajesh Ramachandran, Editor-in-Chief of the Outlook Magazine in the Editorial of its August 21, 2017 issue on ‘Idealism” has said, “The finest act of idealism was that of Ambedkar’s when he rejected the religion of the colonialists and chose Buddhism while fighting casteism. If he had listened to the colonialists, he could have probably won a Nobel Prize. Gandhi takes me close to Ambedkar. I hope Ambedkarites will also reach Gandhi one day.” Let us take Ramchandran’s assertions as ‘Food for thought’ on this epoch making day – Diksha Day, October 14.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Babu Kanshi Ram – A Tribute

Babu Kanshi Ram – A Tribute

Today, October 9, is the death anniversary of dalit icon Babu Kanshi Ram (1934-2006). Babu Kanshi Ram, addressed as Manyavar by his admirers and followers, was a leader by his own right who caught the imagination of millions of down-trodden and under-privileged people of India commonly called SCs and OBCs. He entered public life quite late after resigning from a comfortable position as a scientist in one of the government establishments.
Babu Kanshi Ram
Kanshi Ram proved himself as an organizer and strategist par-excellence. He studied Babasaheb Ambedkar and became his ardent follower. He was fully convinced of Dr. Ambedkar’s approach to empower the socially and economically weaker sections of the society based on his slogan “Political power is the master key” and the dictum of “Educate, Agitate and Organise”. Kanshi Ram earnestly tried to achieve the first goal of grabbing political power on the basis of “bargaining and not begging” as a well crafted strategy. As regards the second, he made whirlwind tours to educate the marginalized masses of their political strength and gain political power. This education and motivation in turn agitated the minds of dalits and filled them with a sense of much needed confidence. With a view to address the third part i.e. organization, Babu Kanshi Ram slowly but steadily established the necessary structures of organization:

1) BAMCEF - All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees' Federation – December 6, 1978
2) DS-4 - Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti - December 6, 1981
3) BSP - Bahujan Samaj Party - April 14, 1984

Kanshi Ram adopted the “Middle-path” of Buddha avoiding the normal course of “Revolution or Collaboration”. Though Kanshi Ram was a votary of Babasaheb Ambedkar yet their approaches to achieve the desired goals appear to have differences. Ambedkar stood for constitutional and peaceful responses to address the issues. Kanshi Ram believed in meeting force with force – “Ek
A son of the soil - Kanshi Ram
Eent Ka Jawab – Do Pathar”. India Today, in its issue of September 25, 2017, has listed 70 visionaries who defined India as “Movers and Shakers”. Kanshi Ram is one among the worthy 70, besides Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Referring to Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram, under the banner – Messiah of the Downtrodden, Ajay Bose, a senior journalist, has said, “One was an intellectual giant who set a broad agenda of emancipation for dalits while the other was a homespun, self-taught leader operating in the rough and tumble of multi-party Indian politics. Kanshi Ram himself described this difference when he said, “He used to collect books; I tried to collect people.”

Kanshi Ram was a leader with a difference. ‘Nationalism’ is a much talked about word these days. Long ago, while replying to a question, Kanshi Ram said that nationalism to him was the welfare of the masses of India. He further added that he believed in the two nation theory – One of Oppressed and the second of Oppressors. He lived to his convictions and self imposed constraints to serve the poor and under-privileged people and fully honoured his vow, “I will never get married, I will never acquire any property, I will never visit my home, I will devote and dedicate the rest of my life to achieve the goals of Phule -Ambedkar movement"

I pay my humble tributes to the memory of one of the great sons of India, Babu Kanshi Ram on his death anniversary, October 9.

Without Comment:-

“If the Dalit movement in India is to succeed, it is important to analyse both the similarities and differences between Kanshi Ram and Ambedkar so that a new strategy can be developed for the movement. The Bahujan-Sarvajan movement in Uttar Pradesh may want to borrow from Ambedkarite values in its U.P. experiment while the Dalit movement in other parts of India may learn from Kanshi Ram on how to mobilise new Dalit Politics.”

(An article written by Badri Narayan in the Hindu of May 11, 2012)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Interpreters of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)

 The immediate provocation to write this is a brief story in the Outlook magazine of September 4, 2017 “The Missing Plate” about the Interpreter who was not served food at the banquet hosted by EAM Sushma Swaraj to her Turkman counterpart. It is a sad story which indicates the mindset to treat junior officials. It is gratifying to note that people, including media, have started taking due notice of these small but important etiquette and niceties. The position is
getting better to treat the Interpreters with all care and sensitivities. There were occasions in the 1970s which I witnessed personally in the MEA and PMO where Interpreters were not arranged to sit on the main table of the talks or meetings, leave alone dinners and lunches. It was indicative of the feudal mind of the senior bureaucrats and also of the political bosses i.e. ministers. India’s increased interaction with Russia, China and Arab countries brought into focus the interpreting needs for official interaction. Interpreters have started getting due recognition and place in the hierarchy, of late.

During my diplomatic service, I have had opportunities to work with Interpreters of the MEA and those of several Indian Embassies abroad. I joined the MEA in March, 1970 and was deployed with the then Interpreter’s Cell where all the Interpreters of the MEA were located. It was the beginning of my education, not with the secretarial staff, as expected, but with the intellectuals and linguists of their own standing. I still cherish the memories of those formative years of my career. I was not even 20 yet. All the Interpreters treated me like a baby of the Cell and gave me all love and affection and also support and guidance in my office work. Dr. William Sadoc, a jovial Punjabi with a heavy frame and a fatherly figure, was the German Interpreter. Other senior Interpreter colleagues used to call him ‘Fatty’. He used to narrate many stories of his work and interaction with big-wigs. One such anecdote was his experience to interpret a German speaking VVIP at a public meeting at the Red Fort in the presence of PM Jawahar Lal Nehru. A funny thing in my memory, about Dr. Sadoc, is his vintage motor-bike which he was used to park on the slope of North and South Blocks just to get an easy start on return. A gracious and up-right Anglo-Indian lady, Teresa d’ Souza, was the French Interpreter. She was very kind to me – my English language tutor and type-writing instructor at work. I recall vividly that she used to bring cakes, pastries to office to share the goodies with us. Many a times, I relished fresh lettuce with tomato ketchup, which was an unusual savory those days for a young man from Punjab, which she brought from the kitchen garden of Rashtrapati Bhawan. Teresa was fond of home parties and get-togethers. The taste of mutton dishes which I ate at one such party at her flat at the MEA Hostel, is still lingering in my mouth. An anecdote may be of interest. Teresa did not know much Hindi. She narrated an interesting experience. One day she visited the mutton shop and wanted to convey her order of liver by saying ‘Hum Apka Dil Mangta’. The butcher was amused and started staring at her.  A fellow customer came to her rescue by explaining her intension to the butcher. R.P. Budhiraja, with a scholarly demeanor, was the Persian Interpreter. Apart from these seniors, there was a younger lot, Santosh Ganguly – Russian and Abdul Wadood Azami – Arabic during my initial years with the Interpreters Cell. Both Ganguly Dada and Azami Sahib were very friendly and considerate to me. I even attended his marriage in old Delhi along with other Interpreters. Azami Sahib was very friendly. We used to travel in the same bus from our residences in Nanakpura/ Moti Bagh. I recall a sumptuous dinner with him at Kake Da Dhaba at Connaught Place after his pre-posting shopping from the nearby employee’s cooperative store. I have some educative anecdotes of my company with Azami Sahib. As I wrote earlier that we both were living in Nanakpura. One day, I was standing in the queue for the bus to the Central Secretariat. Azami Sahib’s wife, with a saree and a bindi, came and informed me that her husband will not come today as he was not well. One of our regular fellow travelers, a high caste Hindu, remarked that Azami Sahib’s wife appeared to be a Hindu from her dress and expressed unexpected surprise. I narrated this episode to Azami Sahib. He was furious and said that it was a pity that we had divided ourselves on these flimsy considerations.  Yet another tit-bit, I will like to add. One day, we were to catch a bus from the Central Secretariat for home. As usual, there was a great rush. We were trying to enter the bus. One Sardarji fellow was blocking the way for some reason. Azami Sahib requested him politely in his Urdu laced Hindustani to give us the way. There was some shouting on each other. After we got in and settled down, Azami Sahib innocently told me that I must have noticed that when he addressed that Sardar as ‘Tum instead of Aap’ he understood my displeasure. I laughed and remarked that Azami Sahib, it was unlikely that his friend knew the difference between Tum and Aap. Azami Sahib was a cultured and sophisticated person. Later, he called me in Prague from Lucknow where got settled after retirement and revived our association. He was very happy that I could make it to the higher echelons of the service hierarchy. Later, I worked with some more scholarly, friendly and lively Interpreters namely; Dr. R.A.K Sherwani – Persian, Abdul Khalique – Arabic, Afzal Naqvi – Arabic, Abdul Majid – Arabic, M.L.R. Jafri – Persian, Jaya Mukherji – Russian, Anne Kurian – German, Syed Sajid Mian, Kanakendu Ghosh – French, T. Steven – French, S. Nene – German, among others. Dr. Sherwani and Abdul Majid were fatherly figures. Abdul Khalique and Syed Sajid Mian were living in old Delhi near Jama Masid. They were kind enough to bring delicious Pans for us. I also attended Syed Sajid Mian’s marriage (Niqha) at his traditional Haveli at Balli Maran, near the house of Mirza Ghalib, at Chandni Chowk, my first experience to see a Muslim wedding. Jaya Mukherji was a vivacious young lady and was the heartthrob of many foreign returned young fellows hanging around the famous Hira Lal’s canteen. She belonged to a well to do business family and her uncle was the Head of Department of Modern European Languages at Delhi University. She used to take me along to Chandni Chowk for purchase of books. There was a funny incident on one such visit. One afternoon from the office, we went to Nai Sarak for purchase of books. As usual a beggar followed us and pleaded for some alms by using their usual and characteristic phraseology to young couples – “Aap Ki Jodi Salamat Rahe – Alla Aapko Khush Rakhe – Doodhon Nahon-Putton Fallon”. We both felt embarrassed and with great effort guarded ourselves by giving a few coins. Later we enjoyed the encounter by teasing ourselves. Jaya was a cultured young lass with an open mind. Her demeanor amply demonstrated her good education and up-bringing.  Anne Kurian treated us many a times on the south Indian specialties at a chosen hangout at the Electric lane near the MEA Hostel. In those days in the 1970s, Interpreters deployed to help other Ministries and Departments on request were getting some honorarium for their services. There used to be frequent parties in the Cell as and when any of the Interpreters got such payment. Kanakendu Ghose was a funny character. He himself told us many stories when he was scolded by PM Indira Gandhi on his not satisfactory Interpreting skills as she herself was good at French language. He used to fake an itchy throat while interpreting just to attract attention. He would tell boastfully that how a Minister offered him a glass of water in front of the VVIPs. My association with the Interpreters was so deep that they invited me to the Interpreters Cell to say farewell on my posting to Peking (Beijing) in October, 1977, though I was no more working with them. Later Dr. Sherwani died in an air-crash in Iran, unfortunately. I met his son in Tehran in February, 1991 working for the Indian Embassy. Anne Kurian joined JNU and Syed Sajid Mian Jamia Millia Islamia for academic pursuits. Afzal Naqvi joined All India Radio. Jaya Mukherji left for Kolkata after marriage. I feel like meeting them again.

I understand, Interpreter Cell was disbanded in the early 1980s and Interpreters were deployed with relevant territorial divisions of the MEA. I again happen to work with at least two Russian Interpreters, Jyoti Savarkar and Suresh Babu, both young and intelligent. Jyoti stayed at my small flat in Delhi along with her boyfriend and later husband for a couple of years. Later, they could not maintain their love marriage and got divorced. Jyoti left for her native place in Maharastra and continued with her interpretation and translation work. I was told that she translated and dubbed the Mahabharta TV serial of B.R. Chopra in Russian language. Suresh Babu did well and is still in service. On my return from Kampala in October, 1997, I took over as Director (Central Asia) in the MEA. There also we had two Russian Interpreters, Sipra Ghosh and
Sipra Ghosh
Ganesh Haloi.  Both are still in service. Sipra is a simple lady but highly motivated and good at work. I witnessed her interpreting with confidence and poise with PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and EAM Jaswant Singh many a times. Similarly, Ganesh Haloi is a shy but dedicated professional. I am sure that both Sipra and Ganesh will go further up in their respective careers.

Interpreter’s cadre was a dormant cadre – Interpreter-Interpreter-Interpreter. They have been struggling to change the position. Except the lone example of Vasant Paranjpe, about whom I would write a few lines separately, nobody was able to change the track. Dr. Sherwani on his own, as I know, undertook additional responsibilities for Afghanistan and Iran Desks and set the ball in motion. Later when the Interpreters were deployed with respective territorial divisions, they got their normal designations as Attaches, USs, DSs, and Directors and so on and started doing additional work apart from their duties as Interpreters. It was a welcome change which opened more avenues for them. Santosh Ganguly was the first to cross the D-line who was appointed Consul General
Ambassador T. Suresh Babu
of India to St. Petersburg in Russia in early the 1990s. It took another twenty years or so for Suresh Babu to cross the barrier. He was appointed as Ambassador of India to Armenia in 2013. Suresh Babu is now a serving Ambassador of India to Mongolia.

There are some more interesting stories pertaining to Interpreters of MEA. Teresa d’ Souza and William Sadoc used to narrate these tales. Vasant Paranjepe, first Interpreter to become a Joint Secretary (EA) and Ambassador of India, was a carefree and unkempt official in his younger and formative years. Teresa even combed his hair when he was called by PM or EAM for Interpretation on a short notice. Paranjpe was a brilliant Interpreter. Chinese Premier Chou-en-Lai, seeing his fluency in the Chinese language, when he worked as an Interpreter for talks between him and PM Jawaharlal Nehru complimented Paranjpe by say that he knew better Chinese than Chou-en-Lai himself. I have had the opportunity to meet him in Peking (Beijing) in 1978 during the visit of then EAM Atal Bihari Vajpaye. Paranjpe was specially called from Pyongyang (North Korea), where he was the Indian Ambassador, to be a member of the EAM’s delegation due to his expertise on not only the Chinese language but also the entire gamut of India-China relations. There was yet another Interpreter, Weer Rajendra Rishi alias Walliati Ram Rishi, who achieved laurels in his chosen field.
W.R. Rishi
Rishi was a scholar of Russian language. He was awarded with Padma Shri on his pioneering work ‘Russian Hindi Dictionary’.  He wrote some more books on the language and culture including:
Roma - The Panjabi Emigrants in Europe, Central and Middle Asia, the USSR, and the Americas. Rishi was also the founding Director of Indian Institute of Roma Studies established in Chandigarh. There may be many more interesting stories about Interpreters which may be listed and told as they are not only first hand privy to ‘inside  and behind the curtain’ facts but also a treasure house of interesting incidents and tales involving dignitaries who shape and mould the destiny of nations and their people.