Thursday, October 17, 2019

Rafta Rafta – An Assortment of Poems

Rafta Rafta – An Assortment of Poems

Rafta Rafta is a fine collection of poems by my respected friend, guide and philosopher Principal JagdishChander Joshi. Though I am a novice in the fine art of poetry yet Principal Jagdish Joshi gifted me a copy of Rafta Rafta with a genuine and gracious approach with the citation under his hand and seal “To the one who is a great lover of poetry – Shri Ramesh Chanderji Ambassador”. He was generous as always.

I must admit that I am not fully qualified to comment on the contents and genre of the poetry book of its learned author “Josh”, the num de plume of Jagdish Joshi. The preamble (Pesh-Lafaz)of the book is written in chaste Urdu of literary caliber and mostly
went over my head. But it seems Josh Sahib was not oblivious of the fact that readers like me would find it difficult to understand and thoughtfully gave the meaning of difficult Urdu vocabulary in the foot-notes on the page itself. The cover of the book rightly and aptly says it in a poetical parlance as to how difficult it is to understand poetry: Manzil-e-Shayari , Door -Bahut Door Hua Karti Hai.

There are 103 poems on varied themes pertaining to human day to day life. The author has aptly explained this in the Preamble of the book. The name of the Book is Rafta Rafta as, in accordance with the circumstances, one passes through these stages of life with ones intellect and understanding. The stage of Youth (Jawani) has its own potent message and that of Middle age (Mutbashist) has its own color. Then comes Old age (Zayafi) and its demeanor is different from the preceding two. Rafta Rafta revolves around these human emotions and stages.

The first ghazal of the book is about love (Mohabbat) followed by many more on the lofty feelings of love:

Mohabbat Jab Bhi Hoti Hai, Mohabbat Hi Hoti Hai;
Ibtda se AkhirTak, Mohabbat Hi Hoti Hai !

 I am reminded of the legendary song of a Hindi Movie – Pyar Ko Pyar Hi Rehne Do, Kuch Naam Na Do !

It seems the author is fully drenched in love as he said in one of the poems – Dhong Mohabbat ka ‘Josh’ Bhi Kar Leta Hai ! and depicted the natural feeling of love as felt by Ghalib“Ishq par Zor Nahin” in yet another beautiful composition:

Na Jaane, Kyon Mujhe, Tum Se Mohabbat Hoti Jati Hai,
Na Jaane, Yeh Mohabbat, Akidat Hoti Jati Hai!

The author ‘Josh Sahib’ describes the free and candid trait of Youth (Jawani) as:

Josh To Josh Hai, Hosh Se Ise Kya Lena !
Hosh Ki Aad Mein Josh Chhupate Kyon Ho ?

I have no mind and capacity to comment in detail on the excellent contents of the book and leave that to the discerning readers. Ghazal No.22 on page 38 impressed me a lot. Jagdish Joshi Sahib had recited the poem to me on telephone a couple of times. One may gauge from this his involvement and magnanimity with friends
Principal Jagdish Joshi speaking at the launch of  The Bits and Pieces
and novices like me. In fact, I had already written about Joshi Sahib’s earthy simplicity and humility in my recently released book “The Bits and Pieces - Reminiscences and Reflections of a Novice”.  His poetry is also laced with earthy wisdom which comes in the Middle age (Mutbashist) as referred to by the author. The Matla (Opening couplet) of one of the Ghazals in the book fully depicts the ease with which Josh Sahib says his mind:

Sadgi Se Jo Keh Dete Hain, Sada Alfaaz;
Gehrai Ka Pata Dete Hain, Sada Alfaaz!

Jagdish Joshi has seen more than 84 springs of life and is still kicking. I wish him many more springs to come. He got nostgalic in the last poem of the book. One can feel that:

Assi Aur Char Guzaar Diye, Maaji Ke Andhere Mein;
Jaane Kitne  Aur Jama Honge, Maaji Ke Andhere Mein!

Before I conclude these remarks of a novice on a book worth reading, let me take this opportunity to wish Principal Jagdish Joshi all the very best for his good health and his forthcoming works – One Hundred Years of DAV College Jalandhar of which we both are the alumni and other books listed on the title page of Rafta Rafta. It is gratifying to note that more than 10 books on Urdu/Hindi poetry of Joshi Sahib already adore the shelves of big and small libraries in the country and beyond. Besides this, a brief profile written by Prof. Sharad Manocha of DAV College Jalandhar which is available on the back cover page of the book fully illustrates the chequered literary and intellectual prowess of Principal Jagdish Joshi. I have nothing more to add except to say that we are determined to keep engaging him to bother us as we like to nullify what he wrote on page 37 of Rafta Rafta:

Josh Ki Be-tuk Ko Samjhne Ki Zaroorat Kya Hai;
Is Be-Akal se to Peeccha Chhudana Hi Accha Hai.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My Friend Rajesh Bagha – A Young and Dedicated Face in Public Life

My Friend Rajesh Bagha – A Young and Dedicated Face in Public Life

I, as a non-political person, thought of writing about my good friend Rajesh Bagha, a young politician belonging to the BJP who is currently contesting the bye-poll from the Phagwara legislative constituency. The purpose obviously is to lend my support to Rajesh in his maiden electoral debut, as I feel good people with a sense of dedication should enter the temples of democracy i.e. the assemblies and parliament. I did the same some years ago to support yet another young politician PawanTinu of Akali Dal from the Adampur seat. I do so, without any political affiliation, just to support the right people for the right job. Pawan won and delivered successively. I am happy. I am confident that Rajesh Bagha would also make it and stand up to the expectations of the discerning voters of the Phagwara constituency.

Rajesh Bagha is an upcoming politician with a sense of interest and concern for the issues directly affecting the common man, particularly belonging to the weaker sections of the society. A young man, Rajesh made it to the higher echelons of the BJP through the ladder. The party rewarded him for his involvement and dedication in public affairs by appointing him the Chairman of the
Punjab Scheduled Castes Commission in the Akali-BJP coalition government of CM Parkash Singh Badal. Rajesh made his mark and did full justice to his responsibilities as head of an important constitutional outfit. He gave an account of his work and achievements in his book – SC Commission Ch Mere 6 Saal which I reviewed and included in my recently released book – The Bits and Pieces: Reminiscences and Reflections of a Novice. I did so in appreciation of the good work done by Rajesh Bagha.

I came to know Rajesh only after my return to Jalandhar on retirement some years ago. He was an effective Chairman of the Punjab SC Commission. I found him reverential and considerate. In the process of our acquaintances, he desired and suggested that I should be somewhat more active in my public involvements and lend a helping hand to him and his associates with my considerable experience as a senior adviser and a Marg Darshak. I agreed to do so without any political motivation. Our cooperation resulted in the formation and launch of the Schedule Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum a few years ago. The Forum organized several awareness events for the benefit of the weaker sections of society. I together with Rajesh Bagha extensively interacted and worked with both governmental and non-governmental
organizations like the MSME, NSIC, SC/ST Hub among others to invite and motivate SC entrepreneurs to avail of the government schemes and facilities to encourage SC businessmen to become the ‘job givers rather than job seekers’. He established, and rightly so, institutional link of the Schedule Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum’s link with the apex chamber of commerce, ASSOCHAM with a view to have a wide reach of the businessmen belonging to the SC communities. Rajesh Bagha was instrumental in initiating and organizing these activities. His pioneering work in helping the SC students in availing of and streamlining the post-matric scholarships was yet another feather in his cap. Rajesh, during the course of his political and social activities, contributed positively in bringing about “Samrasta” in the society as stipulated in the constitution of India and as such integrating the just social order.  I found him always standing in the first row in all social and public causes like blood donation and Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. I know personally Rajesh is a regular blood donor himself. Apart from my interaction with regard to my regular social and community activities, I came to know Rajesh more intimately when, this July; we together visited the RSS Home in Nagpur on the invitation of RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. He was not only a good guide to me but also a genuinely reverential hand-holder right from Jalandhar to Delhi by train and from Delhi to Nagpur by flight and back to Jalandhar. I could gauge his depth and clarity about the matters of concern and interest to the community and the society at large. I also realized happily that Rajesh Bagha enjoyed good respect and rapport with the BJP and RSS hierarchy.

Rajesh Bagha or anybody else has not asked me to write this and extend support to him in the election of October 21, 2019. I am doing so on my own volition and will to help and support the right man for an important job to serve the public with responsibility and involvement. Rajesh Bagha fully deserves my humble support. I take this opportunity to wish my friend Rajesh all the very best in the days to come.

Monday, October 14, 2019

A visit to Diksha Bhoomi in Nagpur

A  visit to Diksha Bhoomi in Nagpur

I spent most of my productive years in the diplomatic service of India and as such travelled widely outside the country, mostly on duty. I am not a keen traveler otherwise. Being a humble Ambedkarite, a visit to DikshaBhoomi lingered at the back of mind but on the basis of ‘as it comes’. In July this year, my wish was fulfilled, incidentally, on the invitation of RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat to visit their Headquarters in Nagpur as a Guest of Honour at one of their annual functions. My hosts asked me if I
would be interested in visiting some places in Nagpur as a sightseeing slot. Obviously, I told them that it would be an honour and pleasure to see and visit DikshaBhoomi as a pilgrimage for me. As such, a senior RSS functionary took me and my associate Rajesh Bagha of the BJP to DikshaBhoomi, where Babasaheb embraced Buddhism on October 14, 1956, in the afternoon of a hot and sultry day.

I will write separately later on my impressions and reflections on my visit to the RSS citadel. Today, I will limit myself to the DikshaBhoomi and register my take on the important site in the history of the revival of Buddhism in India, mindfully chosen by Babasaheb Ambedkar on his momentous and epoch-making decision to embrace Buddhism along with several hundred thousands of his followers. DikshaBhoomi is located in the heart of
Nagpur, not far away from the RSS home. Incidentally, the day of conversion on October 14, 1956 was the Dussehra Day itself which RSS celebrates and observes as their founding day every year since 1925. Was it a deliberate move by Babasaheb or was it just a co-incident?  The scholars and historians would deal with the question appropriately though Babasaheb Ambedkar in his address at the time of embracing Buddhism aptly explained as to why he chose Nagpur and the Dussehra Day for his far reaching decision.

Coming back to Diksha Bhoomi, frankly, I was disappointed to see the magnificent monument otherwise, in a bad shape. Starting from the alighting point, there was no designated and maintained parking.  The pathway leading to the great dome, Sanctum Santorum, was not clean and maintained. The front lawns were not maintained and manicured. In spite of the hot weather, there were hordes of people to see and pay their respect to the greatest son of India and their icon Babasaheb. There was no one to conduct and guide them. The photo exhibition was in disarray. One young man dressed in a coat in the hot weather tried to engage us and pretended to be some designated person to do so. Soon I realized that he was some self appointed man to make his bread and butter. When he found out that we were not much receptive, he could not refrain himself and asked for donations to maintain the place. I felt like crying in despair. Our RSS escort was quite and did not utter a word but I could read his inner feelings. I seek no pleasure in narrating this story. In contrast with the RSS complex and prominent sites pertaining to RSS and their icons, our holy place and a site of pilgrimage for the followers of Babasaheb and the Buddhist faithfuls was nowhere near them. We are to learn something if we want to remain in the run and mere criticism will not pay us any dividend.

On enquiry from my RSS escort, I was told that DikshaBhoomi was run by a private trust. Most of the finances come from either the Maharastra government or the Central government. Surprisingly, I think to gain some mileage and take credit, there was a board just outside the dome where some details of the finances were written. The figure was in several crores. It appeared that the trust responsible to manage and run the site must be a motley crowd of self seekers and vested interests as was the case of most of Ambedkar Bhawans and Dhams and may also be of Budh Viharas throughout the country, barring a few. There is no point in falling prey to the blame game. Let us do something to put the things on rail. It will be a true tribute to Babasaheb. I am sorry to write this with a sense of remorse and concern.

With this uncharitable narration, I, as a humble Ambedkarite, salute Babsaheb Ambedkar and wish his followers all the very best on this day of revival of Buddhism in India, October 14 and I conclude:

Postscript: The great and majestic Bodhi Vriksha (Piple tree) just outside the Great Dome of Diksha Bhoomi demonstrated the abundance of nature as compared to the human conduct and
delivery. One lade Bhikhu sitting the shade of the tree on the fence, on query, informed that the Bodhi Vriksha was planted by the Mahathero Bhandt Anand Kausalyayan subsequent to the great event of Dham-Chakra Parivartna on October 14, 1956

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Gandhi Won but We failed the Mahatma

Gandhi Won but We failed the Mahatma

Today, October 2, is the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest sons of India in contemporary times. Government of India and the indebted nation are celebrating, and rightly so, the occasion in all solemnity and respect. I greet my fellow countrymen and the world at large on this occasion.

I write this piece with a mixed bag of feelings of good and bad. Mahatma Gandhi, like many other great men preceding him, is much revered on one hand and on the other maligned in no less measure for his deeds and thoughts - not so much by the international community but by some sections of his own country that is India. Many people would shy away from telling this ground reality. But, as a novice, Ifelt like saying what I feel with a sense of respect and regard to Mahatma Gandhi.  Mohandas Karamchand
Gandhi did win as a politician,and may be as a nationalist as well, in spearheading the struggle for freedom from the British rule and setting the direction and pace of the politics of free India for many decades which followed. But at the same time, it seems, he failed miserably as Mahatma who professed and followed the dictums of morality, spirituality and humanity. It is a matter of regret to say that we the people of India have failed the Mahatma in Gandhi – be it establishing casteless society, cleanliness (swachata), corruption, environment, non-violence, intolerance, respect for minorities and trusteeship of the rich, inter alia.

Mahatma Gandhi was a man of great understanding and mass approach both for his political goals and also for his social, religious and spiritual agenda. He successfully led the movement for independence and won. Happy ending, India became free on August 15, 1947. He was a staunch Hindu and fought tooth and nail to save Hindu society from disintegration in the wake of the Communal Award of PM Ramsey Macdonald in 1932. Mahatma Gandhi was a wily politician. He made Babasaheb Ambedkar to relent, by hook or by crook, to sign the Poona Pact of 1932 which rejected the Communal award granting separate electorates to the Depressed Classes and the Sikhs. Had the separate electorates prevailed as stipulated in the Communal Award, the political history of India would have been different.  Gandhi won us independence from the British rule. He saved the Hindu society from further division and disintegration. Gandhi became the Father of the nation. His birthday, October 2, is observed as the International Day of Non-violence. He enjoyed unparalleled respect and recognition both at home and beyond. A hardcore Hindu, Nathu Ram Godse removed him from the scene, on account of ideological differences, soon after on January 30, 1948 in a fatal shoot-out in Delhi. It was a sad and bad thing to happen to a person like Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian nation. On the other hand, some analysts feel that providence intervened and saved Mahatma Gandhi from ignominy to see the Mahatma in the persona of Gandhi falling apart and failing in the decades to follow.

Gandhi failed or we Indians failed him as a Mahatma. The country and the society are increasingly becoming non-violent. People are resorting to public lynching and the ruling outfits seem to close their eyes. Corruption has gone to the roots of the system. The cries of Hindu India are getting shrilled by each passing day. The Hindu society is still as cruel and torturous to the fellow dalits as was before. No caste Hindu is still ready to understand and undertake the “spirituality’ lessons of the great Mahatma in cleanliness. Dalits are condemned to do this ‘dirty spirituality’ as before. Casteless society is still a dream even after numerous constitutional provisions to abolish caste based discrimination. Minorities in the country feel threatened. It is a saga of utter failure of the lofty ideals of the Mahatma. It seems that these spiritual experiences of Gandhi proved to be utopian. Take the case of caste and untouchability, Gandhi’s reading differed from that of Ambedkar.  According to Suparna Gooptu, Director of the Gandhian Studies Centre at Kolkata, while Ambedkar preferred rights based approach, Gandhi believed in faith and spirituality. Sometimes, it is felt that Gandhi’s approach to address these issues was half hearted which could not impress or reform the Hindu manuwadi mindset. Dr. Ambedkar in his interview to BBC in 1956 said, “As a politician he (Gandhi) was never a Mahatma”.

The redeeming feature of the scenario, with respect and regard to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary, is that the current government of PM Narendra Modi has done and is committed to undertake some of the so called spiritual experiences of Mahatma Gandhi for the advantage and benefit of the society such as International Yoga Day, Swach Bharat campaign, Fitness Movement, Plastic Free India among others.

 It is a real tribute to the memory of the great leader Mahatma Gandhi.  Let me conclude with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., “Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk”