|Saturday, February 17, 2001||
MOST educated Indians are one-track bores: they have very little interest in anything besides their professions. Lawyers can only talk about law cases they have argued, ill-tempered judges and their own legal acumen. Doctors have hardly any topic in mind besides medicine and cases they have treated. Bureaucrats talk only about the travails of civil service and ministers they have to serve. Politicians talk only about political factions and the wretched state of the country. Even journalists who we expect to be well-read are usually illiterate when it comes to other subjects like literature, art, music, religion or nature. Educated Indians have few social graces. Go to any party and you will notice that to start with everyone is either silent or talking in whispers about others present. We make poor conversationalists because we have little to converse about.
Doctor G. Lakshmipathi of
Coimbatore agrees with me. He has a sense of humour, spares no one and
takes a swipe at all forms of healing: allopathy, naturopathy,
acupuncture, yoga and urine, aroma and music therapies.
Since eating too little, too much or the wrong kind of food is the primary cause of many ailments, the doctor quotes an ancient text in support :
Eka bukho maha yogi — (The man who eats once a day, is a great yogi)
Dwi bukho maha bhogi — (The man who eats twice a day, is an epicurean)
Thri bukho maha rogi — (The man who eats thrice a day, is a sick man.)
Chatur bukho maha drohi (The man who eats four times a day, is a saboteur.)
Most Indians believe that vegetarian food is satvik (pure), while meat is tamsik. As a matter of fact, flesh is easier to digest than vegetables. Sir Robert Rutchison, President of Royal College of Surgeons, opines: "Vegetarianism is harmless enough, though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-righteousness. One can sympathise with people who suffer from constipation but few can resist guffawing with laughter when someone is unable to contain wind in the belly and lets it out noisily." Dr Lakshmipathi quotes a popular limerick:
There was this girl from Saragota
Who was widely renowned as a farter
Her deafening reports
At the New Delhi sports
Led to a hue and cry to deporter!
Came to think of it, a doctor who wants to win the confidence of his patient cannot afford to be a jovial fellow. Though laughter is known to be the best medicine, a medicine man must not occasion mirth. Samuel Johnson was of the opinion:
"A successful doctor needs three things. A top hat to give him authority. A paunch to give him dignity, and piles to give him an anxious expression."
I don’t know what Dr Lakshmipathi looks like, but he must be great company.
Making good in Amreeka
Almost every Indian who migrates to the USA or Canada does better than he or she would have done if they had stayed on in India. They excel in studies and become top earners in the country of their domicile. Some earn recognition as writers, some become millionaires, a few get elected to the congress or the Senate, become ministers in government and one has even become the Prime Minister of a large province. There are not many examples of all members of one family doing well in their own fields of interest. I came across one which has done so. Mrs Jagdish Singh who was visiting Delhi to attend a marriage told me about her family.
Jagdish was born in a lower middle class family of Haveli Chobdar village in Batala district. After getting a degree from Baring Christian College, she got a diploma from the YMCA, Madras. She married Amarjit Singh and with their infant daughter migrated to the USA in the early 1960s. They made their home in Virginia where they had four more daughters. Everyone of them went to college and after graduating got into business or politics. Jagdish (the mother) involved herself in organising social and cultural activities of emigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Burma. Last year she was nominated by a Pakistani organisation and won the Martin Luther King Award for Social Service. Her fourth daughter Shamina has made it in a big way. After taking a bachelor’s degree in political science from Old Dominion University in 1991, she became an active member of the Democratic Party and canvassed for the party in national elections. In 1999, she was picked to be Executive Director of the White House Initiative onAsian Americans and Pacific Islanders to advise President Bill Clinton. "Since the type of initiative was brand new and had to be built up from the ground, I think they were trying to find someone crazy enough to take it on, but also someone who had many of the skills I had developed through the years," she said. She developed a close relationship with the President’s wife Hillary Clinton.
Now that the Clintons are out of the White House, so is Shamina Singh. But like them she is not out of politics and is in the running for the post of mayor of a small town in Virginia. In America if you have something in you, you can get anywhere. Shamina has a lot of aspirations to fulfil.
I have sinned all my life,
If you don’t believe me ask my wife,
Indulged in treachery, lechery, fraud,
Ask my wife because she is a truthful lady
She’ll tell you how I am mean and greedy
And now I have missed the one and only opportunity
Of washing my sins, as she has given me a slip
And along with Sushma Swaraj and Sonia Gandhi
Has gone to Sangam to have a holy dip.
She is bound to rise politically
And becomes a minister, maybe
And be earthquake-free
While I stand here high and dry
And for at least twelve years cry
While she with all the past ones gone
Is free to commit any new sin
And once again the holy pardon win
And justly scoff
At the missed opportunity of her worse half,
Will you please speak on my behalf!
(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)