June 3, 2001
the way to be the best
Review by Ram Varma
Be the Best
by Joginder Singh.
Indian Publishers Distributors, Delhi. Pages 289. Rs 395.
retired officer is like a loose canon. Having gained his
freedom of speech after retirement, he starts shooting his
mouth left and right. Offering advice to all and sundry is a
post-retirement privilege. He sermonises and pontificates,
exhorts and expostulates, especially if he has been as
successful in life as Joginder Singh, popularly known as
"Tiger", who retired as Director of the CBI. The
book under review is his recipe for success.
"Success," he says, "is a continuous and
constant road. The effort should be to reach new horizons and
move constantly into a new future." Rather in the spirit
of "Yeh dil mange more".
that this book is a "product of personal experiences,
introspection, thinking and some difficult situations"
faced by himself, his friends, colleagues, etc., and the words
of wisdom of the "great masters" who have influenced
him. In all fairness, he should have put the "great
masters" (as he calls famous authors) first, as he has
quoted from them chapter and verse.
Half the book
consists of quotations, some not faithfully reproduced, some
not properly acknowledged, just lifted from here, there and
everywhere. For instance, Chapter 18, entitled "Every day
is a new life" has nine pages. It is entirely taken by
five longish quotations, "A prayer on a new dawn",
"Just live the day" by Benjamin Stein, and three
anonymous compositions, "Do not wait to be happy",
"Today is what matters", "Today is the
day". The blurb on the jacket invites the reader to test
this "pudding"; it is rather a potpourri which is
more likely to give indigestion.
But of course
there are fleeting glimpses of personal experiences too: how
Jamuna Dass, a relation, who "could persuade a snake to
shed his scales in his favour or coax meat out of the mouth of
a lion" became successful by engaging a servant for
touching the customer’s feet and offering a cold drink, or
his daughter Harleen whose "room looked like a slum"
but she was happy to live in it and achieve success, or his
friend Damar, a glib talker, who "could literally snatch
food from the mouth of a python" and who made crores
during the stock market boom but later landed in jail. I
cannot imagine how is it possible for someone to literally
snatch food from the mouth of a python?
ebullience overflows in the book. It even shows itself in the
chapter "Your reach". "Be an ideal man rather
than an alibi expert", "Always carry the image of
victory inside you","Isolate yourself from negative
mourners", "When you get blues decimate them",
"Tune your positive antennae", "It takes guts
to leave the ruts", "Mountain moving faith can
accomplish Miracles", "Live to the full",
"Be always a liver" (sic) and so on. Now if one may
ask how does one always be a liver and not a kidney?
paragraphs and words seem to flow in a torrent. The author’s
zest for life drips through the book, his enthusiasm oozes
out. "Develop a beauty parlour within your own soul. Let
the sunshine dance in your log book every day". Syntax
and sentence construction sometimes cannot keep pace. And
where is the time for niceties such as proof reading? So if
the printer’s devil gives a sub-heading as
"Communication is The Sky" in the very first
chapter, or "Time your teme well" in the 15th, one
can only chuckle. In any case the errors are so many that one
having decided to convert all quotations he had collected all
his life into a book, he lunges ahead in full force without
looking back. Here is a sample from his outpourings taken at
random from the chapter "Be always a liver".
"Remember a winner is always a winner. Always be willing
to do things which failures hate to do because either they are
too lazy or too contented. Do not be phoney and only try to
cash on your charm. Charm cannot replace guts, courage, and
knowledge. We encounter impossible people in our families,
neighbours, work place (sic) and in our day-to-day contacts.
You just cannot erase them from your life. The only way is to
cut them out of your life. You cannot change such people, but
you can change the way you interact with such people".
have the "Tiger’s mantra: If you can’t erase them,
cut them out. Simple. Thereupon he proceeds to give a quote
from Les Parrot, and then a poem by Walter Malone, "They
do me wrong who say I come no more", followed by a
quotation from E.M. Cioran and another from St Paul and
another from Madame Chiang Kai Shek and Peter Drucker and
finally asserts: "The sky is not even the limit for your
On page 195,
under the sub-heading, "Use prime time for prime
work" the author quotes Dale Carnegie on human craving
for recognition, Emerson on humility, Benjamin Franklin on not
speaking ill of anybody, Carlyle on sympathy for the small man
and the Buddha on love vanquishing hatred, all in one
paragraph, but nothing on prime time for prime work. The next
paragraph is taken by the author to expatiate on the virtues
of offering compliments, etc. and he goes on to the next
sub-heading "Every living human being, has problems"
and starts quoting from good old Dale Carnegie again.
The point is
I have no quarrel with Les Parrot or E.M. Cioran or Charles
Hummel or William E. Channing or Sir Lauren’s Van Der Post
or Chamberlain or Michael Maccoby or L.W. Prince or Napoleon
Hill or any of the hundreds lined up in the book in such a
dazzling display of the author’s brilliance. I do not
dispute they were "great masters". But I have
nowhere to turn to if I wish to refer to any of them for
amplification or corroboration, especially as even quotations
have been recklessly mutilated. Sample this nugget: "We
cannot convince people with ourselves worth (sic) by looking
lethargic, listless, slow moving, as people judge us by
appearance. Said Shakespeare, "Appear (sic) oft
proclaimeth the man". (from chapter "Ticking for
success", page 69).
Or see how he
has presented Eisenhower: "I make it practice to avoid
hating anyone. If somebody had been gustily (sic) of
despicable action, especially towards me, I try to forget him.
I used to follow a practice — somewhat contrived, I
amid..." (sic) (page 201). I am sick of writing
"sic" over and again. Courtesy demands that the
author give a proper reference of his sources and take special
care in faithfully reproducing the quotes. He is writing like
a typical college student, half from memory, and half from
soiled notes tucked up his sleeve!
He can be
trite and tiresome. But once in a while the message gets
across. One is particularly struck by his faith in God, which
I suppose he inherited from his simple and devout father,
Mahant Kartar Singh.
supposedly complimentary cartoons have been included in the
book. They are obviously intended to liven up the book and
carry home the message to the reader. But they seem to achieve
the contrary effect of lampooning.
The book has been produced in
haste. There are howlers and spelling mistakes galore.
Carelessness on both the author’s and the publisher’s part
tells upon its quality.
and fighting in a man’s world
Review by Priyanka Singh
captive of hope
by Kay Afaf Kanafani.
Penguin India, new Delhi. Pages 338.
and more women are writing about themselves, their
circumstances and what it is to be living in a repressed,
male-dominated society, out to crush the independent spirit
when it shows in a rebellious woman. several women from the
middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America have written
memoirs. "My Feudal Lord" by Tehira Durrani, which
has at its centre the ugly, chauvinistic Pak society, made it
to the best-seller’s list. "Nadia: captive of
hope" by fay afaf kanafani is another such memoir.
feature in these autobiographies is the indomitable spirit of
these women and the courage they possess to expose society of
which they are an inseparable part.
is essentially an autobiography but fay (Nadia in the book)
has changed some names to protect the privacy of those
mentioned in the book. At present, she is the president of
women’s interfaith dialogue in the middle east and a member
of the american interreligious council for Peace in the middle
east. the proceeds of the book go to a fund to support women
who want to write about the rights of women in the middle
born in 1918 at a time when world war 1 had just ended and the
ottoman empire had collapsed, leaving the middle east
vulnerable —the UK assumed the mandate over palestine and
iraq and france over lebanon and syria. She recounts her
childhood with an honesty that is rare. She talks of her abuse
by her father when she had just about begun to attend school.
she tells her elder sister nora,’’think of drowsy
children, of girls who can no longer trust the touch of their
father’s hands, that see in his eyes the unutterable.’’
she writes of
her disregard for her unsupportive mother ‘’who had been
an excellent model of subservience and compliance’’ and
domineering brothers; her imposed engagement at the age of 13
and subsequent marriage at 17 to Marwan, a man she scarcely
admired; and the birth of her first child when she was still a
with accuracy and passion about the political upheaval in
palestine and the creation of the state of israel. she talks
of the riots which claimed her husband’s life and left her a
widow at 29 with three bewildered children. It would be a
while before she could again have the security and comforts of
she mentions the love she felt for nadim, a Christian family
friend, while still married and the responsibility she feels
towards her children that prevents her from accepting his
her dilemma and of several others in a similar situation, she
writes,’’Such a misfortune was not rare in a community
that held on to its tribal habits. It struck women and
children every time a husband or any male bread-winner died.
Most of the women of our clan were unprepared to take charge
of themselves. they were also not trusted to be given custody
of their children.’’
writes, ‘’my father, who was my legal guardian, could
decide what to do with me...enslave me inside his house or
that of any of his married sons, or arrange for another
husband to take me out of sight....in a male-structured
society such as ours, a penniless mother of three sons had no
chance whatsoever to be given the freedom of choice.’’
As a child,
and even later, nadia was recalcitrant. Nora’s warning to
her,’’You know what happens to girls who defy the rules’’
is indicative of the pressure on women to surrender their
individuality. However, undeterred, Nadia refuses to be cowed
down to total submission or conform to a pre-determined role.
Even at an age when most women would be bashful and acutely
conscious of their social role, she tells her sister-in-law:
‘’I have the right to prevent my husband from violating my
body.’’ This when she was entirely dependent on her
husband and his family for practically everything.
abhorrence for quaint compulsions is evident when she
describes her mother as a woman who was 52 and weary of
nursing the poor little boy who was the tenth child of her
25-year matrimonial career.
do not go to school in my village. Girls have to work until
they are married,’’ a maid tells nadia. It is true of
patriarchal societies where woman’s role is confined to the
four walls of the house and is expected to synchronise with
the needs of the family.
‘’In general, the women in a well-to-do, urbanised clan
like ours were well fed, bejeweled, delicate and pampered,
like porcelain dolls. In most cases, they were as defenceless
as those dolls.’’
however, departs from the traditional barely-there role to
educate herself in order to get a job and take control of her
life. She gets a job in the Ministry of Education and Fine
Arts, and marries Fuad Salem, her soulmate, after all her sons
however, follows Nadia at every step. Fuad suffers injuries
during Lebanon civil war and remains in coma for 14 long
months. Later he becomes paralysed. In 1981, Nadia suffers a
heart attack and another one the following year. She is taken
to the USA for treatment. At about the same time, the
political situation worsens and Fuad is rushed out of Beirut
by his family.
Nadia and he
are reunited after she gets back and is able to trace him.
Their happiness is,however, short-lived as a few days later he
dies, leaving a vacuum in her life. Notwithstanding the loss,
she refuses to indulge in self-pity. At 60 she leaves for the
USA to begin her life as an artist, writer and peace activist.
commentary and analysis run parallel to the emotional
narrative in the book. Geraldine Forbes, series editor, says,’’I
was struck by the memoir’s value as a 20th century document.
Here was a gendered account of 50 years of middle Eastern
Nadia’s fight for her
rights in the face of oppression and her sheer grit to
overcome gender barriers and social devaluation of women will
inspire women to stand up for themselves.
oppressor as the oppressed
by Manju Jaidka
by Francine Prose. Perennial (an Imprint of Harper
Pages 314. $14.
college campus is agog with the story. Women’s organisations
are up in arms. It is a case of sexual harassment that gets
magnified to terrifying proportions. What spurred it in the
first place was a seemingly innocuous situation: a Professor
of art history, showing slides in the classroom, happened to
utter an involuntary "Yum" while displaying a
classical Greek sculpture of a female nude. This
"Yum" blew up in his face, got him suspended without
pay, and called for an entire revamping of the institution’s
policy for sexual harassment.
It is against
this backdrop that Francine Prose presents the story of
"Blue Angel", the tale of yet another Professor who,
by virtue of his very human failings, allows himself to fall
into a trap laid by a sultry, seductive female student driven
by unscrupulous ambition. Ted Swenson is a Professor of
English who teaches creative writing to a group of
adrenalin-charged students with the strangest of stories in
If one writes
about having sex with a dead chicken, another writes of
fellating a German shepherd, and yet another vents her erotic
fantasies through tales of physical violence. These are
assignments in creative writing which are later read and
critiqued in the class. Whoever thought creative writing was
easy would have to think again — the inexorable scrutiny of
theme, imagery, character, action and motive involves not just
the writer of the assignment but the whole class that takes
the story apart and passes verdict on it.
students is Angela Argo, "a skinny, pale redhead with
neon-orange and lime-green streaks in her hair and a delicate,
sharp-featured face pierced in a half-dozen places." She
wears "a black leather motorcycle jacket and an arsenal
of chains, dog collars, and bracelets." This is the girl
who, in a very methodical, calculated manner, seduces the
teacher, choosing occasions to meet him alone, handing him
stories of a clearly erotic content, thus deliberately, even
cold-bloodedly, stalking him down, step by step into an
inevitable physical relationship.
receiving so much attention from someone young enough to be
his daughter, Swenson succumbs to her charms, only to be
blackmailed later. The girl tries to use him as her academic
ladder, later lodges a complaint against him to the
authorities, plays the gender card and arouses women’s
organisations. There is a formal inquiry which finds him
guilty of the ultimate unpardonable offence – physical
intimacy with a student. Consequently ostracised from the
academic community, disowned by his wife and his daughter,
there is not much left for Swenson to look forward to.
So much for
the fallible, human condition!
Prose is certainly not the first to write a novel peopled by
professors and students. Nor is she the first to build a story
around the complex sexual politics between the teacher and the
taught. In recent years John Coetzee spoke of it in
"Disgrace" when he showed the ageing professor of
English, driven by loneliness, entering into a relationship
with a student only to suffer ignominy thereafter. Coetzee’s
novel is a sombre study of a complex human situation,
analysing the either/or of a choice, and the consequences that
follow. Human beings, because they are human, make choices for
which they alone are responsible and must pay the price. Such
is the burden of being human.
Angel" takes up the same theme but from a different
perspective: partly funny, partly sad, with a faint, mocking,
sardonic humour running through it. Swenson, this ageing,
47-year-old unheroic hero with a sagging belly and decaying
teeth, is aware that he cuts a sorry figure. He can direct his
amused, self-mocking gaze at himself. He knows the games that
are being played and why. And yet, he falls into the trap,
becoming a prey to a scheming, conniving student whose
overvaulting ambition knows no limits and can steamroller
anything and everything that gets in her way.
novel that speaks of contemporary academic mores, "Blue
Angel" is about power politics – the struggle for
dominance that is ever present between two power blocks. It
begins with the authority of the teacher in the classroom
trying to help his students develop into mature, thinking
individuals, inculcating in them an independent spirit of
inquiry – a lesson that boomerangs on him when the taught
turn against the teacher, challenging his authority and
overthrowing it. It is based on the ferocity that lies
smouldering in adolescents, a force that can erupt without
warning to have disastrous repercussions. Caught in this
viciousness, Swenson flounders, takes a wrong step, and then
suffers a free fall into infamy. There is no going back, he
must pay the price.
story sets us pondering on the exploitation of social power,
in particular the gender prerogative. Under the camouflage of
sexual harassment a male teacher may be charged of assault or
indecent behaviour, but what are the safeguards to ensure that
the charges are genuine? That the complaints are not motivated
by vested interests? If man is reportedly the oppressor, what
is being done to ensure that the so-called oppressor does not
become the oppressed?
tangentially, the young girl’s relationship with an older
man brings to mind the controversial tale of Vladimir Nabokov’s
"Lolita". The nympholept Humbert Humbert’s affair
with a twelve-year old made Nabokov notorious. Banned by
censorious readers –but hailed by some critics – on both
sides of the Atlantic, "Lolita", with its
scandal-tainted history, became a landmark text in the
literary world. The Lolita syndrome is almost a household term
today, referring to sexual partners separated by a vast age
And why, one
may wonder, do a number of men on the wrong side of the hill
find themselves younger partners? Psychologists would come up
with varied explanations for such liaisons. They would
elaborate on how, during the middle-age crisis, a man tends to
change either his job or his spouse. Is it, then, a boredom
with the spouse of many years? Or a sense of insecurity? Or
the desire for some kind of reaffirmation of their physical
attractiveness? A reassurance of their libido? Perhaps one of
these reasons. Or all of them together. Whatever the reason,
sexual relationships of this nature are not uncommon. Francine
Prose has simply given us another take on this theme.
When all is
said and done, the impression "Blue Angel" leaves in
the mind is the image of an errant, lonely Professor, guilty
of lapsing into a human error, much wronged and maligned,
trudging off into the sunset of his career, hounded by
indictment. It isn’t fair, we protest, he alone was not to
blame. But such unfairness is part of life, take it or leave
it. The vulnerability of the individual against forces of
viciousness is hammered home effectively – join the gang or
else perish. What can one lonely, cornered voice do against
the tide of violence and disgrace? It can only raise a feeble
whimper in protest.
A whimper that goes unheard
amid the cacophony of a callous, material world.
fighters — 1975-1977
by Harbans Singh
by Chitra Kanungo. APH Publishing Corporation, New Delhi.
Pages 314. Rs 700
KANUNGO'S "Freedom Under Assault" would be of little
merit if it were to be read only as a comparative study of the
response of two of the leading national dailies during the
period of emergency. There is little gainsaying that while one
of them "crawled when it was only asked to bend,"
the other stood as upright as it was possible in the
circumstances. At the end of the day even the architect of
that dark period, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, had
accepted the folly of having clamped censors on a press that
had been in the vanguard of the freedom struggle.
It is true
that not all newspapers stood up for their freedom, but then
not all newspapers had stood for the freedom of the country,
and The Indian Express, at the national level, and many more
at the regional centres fought with all their might for their
fundamental rights. The real value of the book is in the
number of uncomfortable questions that assail the mind while
reading it. The answer to those questions is beyond the scope
of the book, but they do lead to a meaningful intellectual
six chapters, it is a scholarly study of journalism, its aims,
objectives and constraints. Also, the author has in great
detail delved into the relationship of the Press with the
government and policies of the latter in normal times as well
as in the emergency. Since the period under study is the
emergency of 1975-77, the author has tried to put in a proper
perspective the relationship of the main protagonist Indira
Gandhi and the press. In this Chitra Kanungo has often quoted
Indira Gandhi’s father Jawaharlal Nehru, who remained a
champion of the freedom of press till his dying days as also
her own quotation from the year 1966 when she wondered how
much freedom the press required in a country which was best
with the enormous task of restructuring socio-economic lives.
A number of
times the author has also alluded to the fact that relations
of Indira Gandhi started deteriorating from the year 1969 when
she found herself pitched against the syndicate led by Morarji
Desai. The year 1969 would remain an important landmark in the
history of the country, for it unfolded events like the
nationalisation of banks and the break-up of the Congress in
the Left and the Right.
battle unto finish, much of the established press stood in
opposition of Indira Gandhi’s Congress, who responded by
encouraging small and regional papers through patronage and
quotas. She found followers who were only too eager to fill
the vacancies left by the rightist stalwarts in the party.
rising numbers, she blindly pursued a path which her better
sense told would be self destructive.
discontent that had started brewing in the sixties had only
been partially contained by the steps taken by Indira Gandhi
in 1969; the eclipse of the syndicate and the grand alliance
in 1971 was but a temporary setback to the forces symbolised
by them. Riding the wave of discontent born out of rising but
failed expectations, they were soon ready to confront Indira
Gandhi. The subsequent railway strike in 1974 and it ruthless
suppression should be ranked as a major turning point in the
development of Indira Gandhi’s personality and manner of
politics. From then on she was only a High Court judgement
away from launching herself on the road of dictatorship.
But this is
not the subject of Chitra Kanungo’s study. These details are
incidental to her comparing and contrasting the response of
The Statesman and The Hindustan Times. Both the papers began
in contrasting styles, with The Statesman a little bit timid
in its approach and The Hindustan Times taking a bold stand to
the imposition of emergency. Things, however, soon changed
when S. Nihal Singh and Hiranmoy Karlekar replaced N.J.
Nanporia and B.G. Verghese as editor of the The Statesman and
Hindustan Times respectively. The Calcutta daily had S. Sahay,
as an equally bold and innovative resident editor in Delhi.
This team was well supported by Cushrow Irani, the paper’s
the saga of the Calcutta paper’s consistent opposition to
the regime of Indira Gandhi, where the courts and ingenuity
proved to be the most reliable friends. In this , it must be
added, not a little help was rendered unintentionally, by
those officials who by virtue of their positions had been cast
in the unlikely role of censors. Relentlessly and obstinately
The Statesman waged a battle to become the voice of dissent.
It ignored Indira Gandhi and painstakingly inserted news that
would otherwise have failed to pass through the censors.
Times, meanwhile, became a paper which was a bulletin board of
the activities of Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, V.C. Shukla
and their camp followers. Of course financial gains in the
form of government advertisements accrued to them, which The
Statesman, The Indian Express and The Tribune were denied, but
at the end of it all, it was extremely short on credibility,
the one major asset of any paper.
discerning reader will find disconcerting questions arousing
his curiosity. How and who judges the credibility of a paper?
If the reader is the final arbiter, the critical faculty has
to answer a lot. For, the Hindustan Times had become an
extension of the government’s press information service,
and, yet it did not take long to regain its old position when
Indira Gandhi was voted out. Its loyalty, it must be pointed
out, was always divided between the two factions of the
Congress, which perhaps explains the bold stand against the
imposition of emergency in the initial months, but then should
one also concede that the paper might have been representing
the views of a large number of its readers? This is also
corroborated by the fact that a large number of states which
had been spared the forcible family planning drive voted for
Indira Gandhi in 1977, and the rest too responded likewise in
The Statesman and The Indian Express have been in terminal
decline after having peaked during those heady years. So, do
the readers feel that the proprietors of the newspapers had
their personal scores and grudges to settle, and that the
freedom of the press was but an instrument for fighting their
personal battles? Could there be a better example of an editor
being totally out of touch with reality than when he expresses
his scepticism about the free and fair polls for 1977? Could
this not be a shade of the "invisible ink"
explanation offered by the grand alliance after the 1971
author herself has in the last chapter conceded to the
dictatorial attitude of Cushrow Irani, who soon after
accomplishing the mission assumed the additional title of
editor-in-chief. And, ironically, today he is a member of the
committee constituted by the present government to review the
working of The Indian Constitution, something which was so
passionately but rightly opposed by him and his team during
would have done a great service if she had examined in greater
detail the politics of the times. She has alluded a number of
times that the dark period was the culmination of the
confrontation that had started between Indira Gandhi and her
adversaries in 1969. She has admitted in the introduction and
the concluding chapter that journalism and editorial freedom
is not the same today. This must not have happened suddenly.
It is a pity, indeed, that some of the knights in shining
armour were not treated with the respect that was due to them.
And, it is cruel to say, but one suspects that freedom of the
press and its soldiers were but weapons for those whose
battles were fought for more earthy and less lofty reasons.
There would always be a
debate about the role of the press. It is conditioned by the
changing times and men who control it and society. Looking at
some of the papers today, one might think that the main
purpose of the press is to entertain and titillate. But one
question will forever dog it at all times: How much freedom?
On one hand, a wise ruler is he who has the courage of his own
convictions, and pursues the goal irrespective of the
criticism from the press. It is when you are assailed by self
doubts, and the efficacy of your policies, from which
undoubtedly Indira Gandhi suffered after her massive victory
in 1971, that one becomes irritable and intolerant of
criticism. If this happens, and there are editors ready to
stand up for whatever motives, there can only be one winner.
No dispute about that. Indira Gandhi had realised that in her
from pious devotees to saint-soldiers
Substratum, Substance and Significance
edited by Satish K. Kapoor. Centre of Historical Studies,
Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar. Pages xvi+217. Rs 400.
UNIQUE event of great
historical significance occurred at Anandpur Sahib in 1699 AD
when the tenth and last guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh,
created the order of the Khalsa through the sacrament of
baptismal "amrit." The guru thereby institutionlised
the universal and humanistic teachings of Guru Nanak, who in
the medieval age had envisioned a new social order
characterised by a new value system which stressed on
equality, justice and brotherhood of mankind.
of Guru Nanak played a revolutionary role at the sociological
level in restructuring society on an egalitarian basis by
rejecting the concept of pollution and purity and by accepting
an equal status for women. Thus the hierarchy based on birth
(ascribed status), the main cause of inequality in society,
was denounced by the first guru.
sociological significance of the baptismal ceremony of amrit
lies in its being a revolutionary alternative to
sanskritisation as it provided new normative principle,
process and channel to the lower classes for vertical
mobility. The principle of equality was the main theme of
baptism, as the "Panj Piaras", the five beloved
ones, who were given amrit, the "sacred water of
immortality", belonged to different castes — Daya Ram,
a Khatri, Dharam Das, a Jat; Himmat Rai, a cook, Mohkam Chand,
a washerman, and Sahib Chand, a barber.
Hargobind, the sixth Guru, transformed Sikhism from a
brotherhood of pious devotees into an organisation of
"soldier saints". And the reason for this change in
Sikh principles was the martyrdom of his father as he realised
that he must make certain adjustments in character and
organisation to protect the infant Sikh church. Thus Guru
Hargobind tried to play a twofold role — the role of helping
his disciples to work for their salvation by worshipping the
true lord on the lines suggested by the first five gurus and
also preparing and training them to bear arms to defend their
lives and honour. And after the martyrdom of the ninth Guru,
Tegh Bahadur, his son decided to infuse a new spirit among the
followers of Guru Nanak’s house to fight against political
and religious tyranny. And consequently, in 1699, he convened
an assembly of his followers at Anandpur Sahib and created the
under review is a collection of essays and provides multiple
perspectives on the Khalsa and its social, historical,
religious, philosophical and ethical dimensions. Apart from
the editor’s own essay — "Imprimis: interpreting the
creation of the Khalsa", he has broadly divided the
remaining 14 essays into four parts — historical
perspective, substratum and substance, significance of the
Khalsa and its literary dimensions.
Essays in the
first part of the book discuss the historical perspectives of
the Khalsa. "Guru Tegh Bahadur: Prophet of harmony,"
written by Satish K. Kapoor, describes his accession to guru-gaddi
despite opposition from Ram Rai, the elder brother of Guru
Harkishan, and Dhir Mal, grandson of Guru Hargobind. Guru Tegh
Bahadur was against the religious policy of Aurangzeb and
disapproved the theocratic character of his regime much to the
chagrin of the Mughal emperor. And finally for the cause of
Kashmiri Brahmins, whom Aurangzeb wanted to convert to Islam,
he laid down his life.
Sahib: an introduction," by Dr Bhajan Singh Giani; and
"Anandpur Sahib: birthplace of the Khalsa" by Major
Gurmukh Singh (retd) deal with the historical significance of
the gurdwaras in and around these two holy places of the
"Creation of the Khalsa: journey from Sikh to Singh"
Jasbir Kaur Ahuja discusses the happenings on the first day of
the month of Baisakh, March 30, 1699, and the metamorphosis of
pious devotees into soldier-saints.
part of the book has essays on the substratum and substance of
the Khalsa. In "The meaning and dimensions of the Khalsa"
Dr Satish K. Kapoor opines that the Khalsa proclaimed
sovereignty at four levels and thus had individual, social,
religious and political connotations. As an individual a Sikh
had to make his mind pure by keeping himself away from immoral
acts and greed. At the social level, the formation of the
Khalsa was an attempt to create a classless society by
opposing stratification in terms of caste, creed, power or
status. As far as its political connotations are concerned, it
asked its followers to oppose political oppression.
Singh in "The Khalsa ideology: philosophical
exploration" opines that the personality of the Guru
transformed from spiritual to temporal in the times of Guru
Arjan Dev. And the sixth Guru, Hargobind, concretised the idea
of revolutionary Sikh polity by erecting Akal Takht adjacent
to the Golden Temple at Amritsar. After the ninth Guru became
a martyr for the sake of human freedom and truth, tenth Guru
Gobind Singh created the Khalsa.
Singh stresses on the tenth Guru’s views on democratic
values as he denounced the "divine right of kings
theory" and stood for welfare, humanism and equality
before the Guru and the congregation. Dr Birender Kaur
explains the significance of the 5K’s — kangha (comb),
kachha (drawers), kara (steel bangle), kirpan (sword) and kesh
(hair). Dr Madanjeet Kaur highlights the importance of "Panj
Piaras" on Sikh ceremonial occasions and functions of
religious as well as of political importance.
part of the book has essays about the significance of the
Khalsa. According to Dr Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, "The
founding of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh was an epitome of
the mission of Guru Nanak." Guru Gobind Singh created the
order of the Khalsa with a universal mission to provide a role
model for mankind, he adds.
Bhatti gives the biographical sketch of Guru Gobind Singh and
elaborately explain the Khalsa tenets and its unique features.
Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia discusses the significance of the
order of the Khalsa in world history and civilisation.
section of this book deals with the analysis of "Vaar Sri
Bhagauti Ji Ki" and the issue of authenticity of Dasam
Overall, it is a good book
which discusses various dimensions of the Khalsa — its
formation, its contents and finally its significance.
Moreover, it is written in a very simple and lucid language.
Facts regarding Sikh history are also given in a chronological
order and even a non-Sikh will be able to understand the
ideology of Sikhism. Any person who is interested in religious
studies should not miss this book.
record junkie, facing the music
Review by Deepika
Fidelity by Nick Hornby.
Riverhead Books. New York. Pages 323. $12.95.
book had developed a pop-culture following when it was first
released in 1995 and the following continues. If one were to
draw more contemporary publishing parallels, this is clearly
the Bridget Jones of the male world. The story of Rob Gordon,
owner of a semi-failing record store in London, where he sells
music the old-fashioned way — on vinyl — unfolds like a
diary of sorts. Rob is a self-professed music junkie who
spends his days at Championship Vinyl with his two employees,
Dick and Barry.
have an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music and are consumed
by the music scene, it is of no help to Rob, whose needle
skips the love groove when his long-time girlfriend, Laura,
walks out on him. As he examines his failed attempts at
romance and happiness, the process finds him being dragged,
kicking and screaming, into adulthood.
Fidelity" is essentially a story about the overwhelming
power of pop culture — not just the way it can illuminate
every element of our existence but also the way it can cloud
our judgement. Pop music can be like a prism hanging in the
window, a gorgeous little thing through which everything in
life is filtered. But it can also be an excuse for never
leaving the couch to actually live, and Hornby, is acutely
aware of that.
Rob is one of
those guys who knows that he needs to get off the couch
sometimes. Thus begins his marginal experiment with the record
store, located rather conveniently on a London side street
that does not get much foot traffic. For Rob music means
everything and with that emerges an element of snobbery. That
snobbery rubs off his employees as well who continue
tormenting customers with their "I know better than
read like a veritable tangle of lists, there is the top-five
movies list, top-five records about death list and top-five
opening album tracks list. Rob even has a list of top-five
breakups. That’s almost how the story unfolds. Rob revels in
his arrested adolescence. He gorges on music trivia, lives in
a dumpy apartment devoted to his vast record collection and
surrounds himself with friends who share his geeky pop culture
obsessions. It is only when his longtime girlfriend Laura
tires of his aimlessness and dumps him for the yuppie who
lives upstairs that Rob gets inspired enough to recount his
all-time top five most memorable breakups — as well as take
stock of the meandering course his life has taken.
The day Laura
finally walks out, Rob sits mourning the breakup by trying to
figure out why he can never seem to keep a relationship
together. He starts by tracking down every girlfriend who ever
spurned him. With that dawns the even more painful process of
self-realisation. As Rob tries to call or even meet. Some of
his former loves, he realises that in several of the cases he
was to blame for the spurning. Lost in love and in love with
the music. The process seems to move in tandem, so Rob resorts
to playing records — lots of them.
If you are
looking for a real novel with structure, sub-structure,
developing story line, forget it. "High Fidelity"
just moves with ease in the unravelling of a snapshot of the
hazy, miserable time that marks the demise of a relationship
that may have been taken rather seriously. The writing flows,
there are plenty of wiseacre jokes, loads of fun characters,
chief among them being Rob himself who has the rare ability to
make fun of himself and highlight all his failures in the name
and game of love.
What is even
more appealing in the novel is Laura’s supremely likable
persona. She comes across as a matter-of-fact and fairly
grounded person. You can just about visualise then why things
don’t work out between dreamy, idealistic Rob and earthy,
real Laura. It is almost perfectly understandable why she is
close to being exasperated half the time she is with a guy
like Rob. By the time she walks out of the relationship her
patience and calm have been truly tested.
of Rob’s moaning about how badly he has been treated, its
hard to live with his lost-boy syndrome. His stories of
romantic engagements and disengagements just flow through as
does his lack of perspective on relationships. He has this
picture of an ideal woman in front of him. And what is
miraculous is that he even finds his picture perfect woman but
he never can find a way of keeping this perfect woman
perfectly happy. So it is that he goes through a string of
lousy starts, great middles and tragic endings. His romantic
cluelessness, though, makes for great reading.
is the kind of book that ends with the happily ever after
ending is something I’m going to save for you to find out in
the book. All I’ll say is that it is a great weekend read,
not too taxing, words fusing into each other, funny kind of
book that doesn’t look too bad on the shelves either.
I enjoyed it
enough to go in search of "High Fidelity" the movie
that stars John Cusack as Rob and Iben Hjejle as Laura. The
cast also includes Lili Taylor and Catherine Zeta-Jones as two
of Rob’s ex-girlfriends; Lisa Bonet as a singer who wins his
heart (for a while); Joan Cusack as Laura’s best friend; Tim
Robbins as Laura’s eccentric new squeeze; and Todd Louiso
and Jack Black as Rob’s two record store employees, who are
even more fanatical about music than he is. Now, the movie,
that’s quite another story.
« « «
How to Become
CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any Organisation by
Jeffrey F. Fox. Vermillion, London. Pages 162. £ 7.99
I ended up
reading this book by sheer accident. My bus ride to work takes
about an hour and not having something to read is almost a
killer for me. So it was just one of those mad Monday mornings
where you wake up feeling you just do not want to head for
work and in that semi-dazed state realise you do not have a
book on hand to redeem you for the rest of the journey. Then
hurriedly look for the keys and grab the first thing in sight.
Which in this instance happened to be a management book and
management books and me are like worlds apart.
I must admit
that I was disappointed but rather than fret, frown and moan
about the fact that I’d picked up a book that may not
interest me, decided to make the most of the present by just
reading it. Barely past the contents and I was already
enjoying this little dynamite of 75 ideas that broadly
encompass "How To Become CEO – The Rules for Rising to
the Top of any Organisation." As I went along I realised
why it was no surprise that this little wonder had emerged on
the top of the US bestseller lists and is even now among
Amazon.com’s top 10 business books.
insightful book Jeffrey J. Fox — founder of a marketing
consulting firm and an MBA graduate of Harvard Business School
— offers solid, practical advice and recommendations on how
to fulfill your ambition to better yourself, to be a
contributor, to make a difference, to grow professionally and
to be more successful. .
Chapter X of the book goes:
have a drink with the ‘gang’ after work. It is a waste of
time and money. Have a drink with your spouse or your friend.
Don’t drink at lunch. Whether you are on the road at a sales
meeting or a seminar or a management meeting, don’t go to
the cocktail party before dinner. Go running or swimming
instead. Have a sauna, shower, and dress for dinner. Never get
tipsy with anyone connected with your company. It is a sign of
weakness. It shows you are out of control."
may seem radical but it is sage advice and holds as it is
indeed often the same sea of faces at work who congregate on
Friday nights or other nights, more often than not to
speculate and keep the rumour mills grinding.
that ring loud and clear are:
business with pleasure.
stay at the office until 10 every night. You are sending a
signal that you can’t keep up or that your personal life is
poor. Leave 15 minutes late instead. In those 15 minutes
organise your next day and clean your desk. You will be
leaving after 95 per cent of the employees, so your reputation
as a hard worker stays intact.....Give more time to your
*And this is
what Jeffrey Fox says about not finishing your work on time:
"You are a) not managing your time properly b) boring c)
wasting non-precious work hours d) all of the above"
a vacation as "it is an occasion to observe other ways of
life, new fashions and trends, different ways business is done
and literally to broaden your horizons".
force your spouse or children into second place is a mistake.
When your spouse or children speak to you put down the
newspaper or book or mute the TV, and turn and look at them
when they are speaking. You will strengthen that relationship
and practise your listening skills at the same time. It is
also a very polite thing to do. Respond to your family as you
do to your job, or to that big, important client."
about career advancement are either weighty examinations about
success in the workplace or flippant, humorous takes on
surviving the countless inanities of modern work life, Jeffrey
Fox’s book fits in snugly somewhere in between by being
presents 75 commonsense rules about successfully conducting
your career. Each tip that he offers in the arduous climb to
the top is accompanied by a page or two of succinct and
thought-provoking explanations. For example, for rule 27,
"Don’t hide an elephant," Fox writes, "Big
problems always surface. If they have been hidden, even
unintentionally, the negative fallout is always worse. The ‘hiders’
always get burned, regardless of complicity. The ‘discoverers’
always are safe, regardless of complicity."
of the book is what makes it enormously appealing. It’s like
a 101 ways sort of guide, with many sharp, short yet concise
chapters. The tips offered do not just relate to management;
rather they can be applied to almost anything in life. And for
those wittingly or unwittingly caught in the corporate growth
race, some of the insights in this book, if applied
practically, can also help the popularity charts soar both on
the professional and personal fronts.
Fox heads his
own marketing consulting company and the experience shows as
Fox clearly demonstrates how to package an idea. While there
is nothing especially original about a list of rules for
getting ahead, this guide is fresh and enticingly packaged.
The author highlights some basics of life that our current
work intense environment has made us forget.
forewarned, a couple of key points may sound extremely
shocking but they need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Ideas
like the "skip all office parties" rule and the
"eat in your hotel room" to "don’t work late
hours" and "don’t take work home with you".
While the book does make some
excellent points, it sometimes confuses the practical with the
cynical. And the must read reading list for CEO’s in the
making does sound rather spaced out. The "Complete Works
of Shakespeare" meets Sun Tzu’s "The Art of
War," the Bible meets Machiavelli’s "The
Prince", Hemingway’s "The Sun Also Rises"
meets Clausewitz’s "On War" in a rather unlikely
meeting of sorts. To dub the list eclectic would be a definite
understatement, it just seems like a collection of the author’s
favourite books over the years, so if the title for this
section were "Study my favourite books" rather than
"Study these books", it would have somehow redeemed
to study society, not science alone
Review by Jai Narain Sharma
Human Growth Model by M.N.Rudrabasaraj.
Himalaya Publishing, Bombay. Pages 716. Rs 1200
has become trite to say that the most significant development
in the new century will take place not in natural science but
in social sciences, that industry — the economic
organisation of society has the basic knowhow to utilise
physical sciences and technology for the material benefit of
mankind, and we must now learn how to utilise the social
sciences to make our human organisations truly effective..
agree in principle with such statements; but so far they
represent a pious hope, and little else.
century the basic understanding of the nature of matter and
energy had changed profoundly from what they had been since
Newton’s time. The physical scientists were persuaded that
under proper conditions new and hitherto unimagined source of
energy could be made available to mankind. We know what
happened since then. First came the bomb and then many other
attempts to exploit these scientific discoveries — some
successful some not. The application of theory in this field
is slow and costly. We expect it always to be thus.
pretentious to seek any direct correlation between
developments in physical science leading to the harnessing of
atomic energy and human resource development. But in a
tentative fashion we are in a position in social sciences
today what we were in physical sciences with respect to atomic
energy in last century. We know that past concept of the
nature of man is inadequate and in many ways incorrect, and
what is more we have abundance of it
If this hope
of developing human resources is to become a reality instead
of remaining a pious hope, we will have to view the process
much as we view the process of realising the energy of atom
for constructive human use — as a slow, costly and sometimes
discouraging approach toward the goal. The ingenuity of
industrial management in the pursuit of economic ends has
changed many scientific and technological dreams into
commonplace realities. It is now becoming clear that the
application of the same talents to human side of enterprise
can not only enhance substantially these materialist
achievements but can also bring us one step closer to good
"Global Human Growth Model" by M. N. Rudrabasavaraj,
president and executive director of MNR Associates, Singapore,
is an attempt to transform this hope into realty. The volume
is divided into 11 chapters, starting from the contemporary
human conditions to the global human growth vision and future
is at cross-roads in the 21st century. The people of the world
and their leaders face daunting challenges in improving human
condition by providing the three fundamental Es — education
for all, employment for all and energising all men, women and
children to realise their real and ultimate potential..
For the first
time in human history we need a new way of looking at people
and their potential. Scientifically and systematically we need
to analyse and identify the potential of every individual in
every nation and help him or her to grow and optimise his or
her potential to achieve full individual development but also
contribute to the development of human family, society,
nations and the world. In the development of the individual
lies the development of organisations, nations and the world.
But it is a
sad commentary on human resource that it is considered a
liability and efforts are directed towards the containment of
human power rather than enhancing it. Downsizing of manpower
has become an end in itself in every organisation, public or
private. Many consultants and policy makers are advocating
In order to
save the human beings from this fait accompli, the author
emphases the need for a new concept, a new theory, a new
practice, a new practice of growth and a new model of growth,
not just economic growth and development, where the emphasis
is on production of goods and services and economic wealth.
The greatest challenge facing mankind is human growth, not
just economic growth: how to put people at the core of growth
and development, by providing the fundamental 3Es to realise
their ultimate potential. We must bring the people and the
leaders of the world together to think, to cooperate and to
share their ideas on how to convert the masses into an asset
and to utilise the global cooperative advantage of nations to
create a world unmatched hitherto in human prosperity, peace
and happiness and compassion. We need a global approach,
leadership and cooperation to evolve and to put into practice
the global human growth model.
test of managerial effectiveness is its return on investment
in human resources. The time is now when employees insist on
meaningful participation in company affairs. Employees at all
levels should have options that determine a company’s
success or failure, and they will exercise these options in
accordance with what the company does for them.
management today involves totally new leadership, demands, and
risks. Human-oriented decisions must now be made with an eye
to the potential consequences involving legal compliance and
investigations, employee relations, customer response,
productivity, human costs, outside group pressure, and
economic impact. Too often, a solution in one of these areas
can create numerous new problems in others.
issues inherent in hiring, compensation payment , working
conditions, leadership, promotions, and discharges require the
highest form of value judgment on the part of management.
People-related action demands careful overall planning and
cautious but firm leadership.
addresses itself to a comprehensive, total approach to people’s
problems through achieving a return on investment in human
resources, human time being the largest single operating cost
for most enterprises. The book confronts the most complex and
challenging demand made on management — that of managing
people. In today’s humanised era, every manager from the
chief executive of the largest corporation down to the
first-line supervisor in the smallest unit needs to understand
and respond to the impact that return on investment in human
resources has on both daily operating activity and economic
return on investment in people does not mean exploiting,
manipulating or taking advantage of employees. Rather, it
means providing the highest form of benefit a company can
offer its employees — a systematic, organised approach to
guaranteed opportunities for the full use of talent and
potential. Such an approach offers the individual an
opportunity to achieve an appropriate return on his or her own
investment of time and effort through greater economic and
personal rewards. The company in turn benefits as its
production, sales and profit goals are achieved..
also provides the framework for realistic human resource
planning and management. It contains numerous guides, lists,
charts, illustrations, examples, and specific steps and
recommendations based on years of firing-line experience. It
attempts to put all the pieces together in a logical,
practical and sequential process to help the manager take
appropriate action regarding all areas related to people. As a
planning guide the book should result in more effective,
profitable human activity and should provide a realistic
operating system for individual managers. The overall goals of
the organisation, its leaders, and its individual employees
can best be advanced and achieved through the implementation
of the human resource concepts advocated.
and guides in this book should be of special interest to top
executives who are responsible for the return on investment in
human resources and overall employee relations, to middle
managers who must achieve quantitative results and teamwork
within their units, and to individual employees who will
insist on a personal rate of return on investment as it might
affect their careers, pay, growth, job satisfaction, and that
portion of their time sold to the company. Educators should be
interested because the book reveals the type of education that
will best qualify individuals to become effective contributors
in tomorrow’s world.
about bin Laden again
A story of
ISI, bin Laden & Kargil
by Rajeev Sharma.
Kaveri Books, New Delhi. Pages 223. Rs 295.
does the USA do with a man who has openly declared war against
Christians? How does it deal with a man who has bombed US
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (in 1998), whose men have
attacked US soldiers in Yemen and Somalia during peace-keeping
operations (in 1993)? The man, Osama bin Laden, has since then
become a menace for the USA. Declaring that the USA is the
biggest enemy, he has also acknowledged that the International
Islamic Front (IIF) which he himself formed in February, 1998,
is responsible for the "jihad" world over.
has discussed the man, his movement which is taking the world
to the brink of disaster, the role of the ISI and Pakistan in
assisting him and the victim, India, besides the world, which
had to face the Kargil intervention. Into journalism since
1982, Rajeev Sharma in this work has gone into depth to show
how grave the danger can be when one man vitiates the
religious sacrosanct. No religion, the author says, teaches us
to hate, to indulge in mayhem and brutality, but a group of
people are bent on destroying the world order. The proxy war
which Pakistan has unleashed in Kashmir has to be dealt firmly
by India, for while India was talking in terms of Lahore bus
yatra, it is shocking to learn that Pervej Musharraf was
conniving against the Indian state.
If we have to
fear Osama bin Laden, who says that "one day in
Afghanistan is like a thousand days of praying in an ordinary
mosque", Pervez Musharraf, one of his
"lieutenants" in his jihad, is as ruthless. The
general’s personality which led him to win a place in
General Zia’s heart and to gradually rise to the present
position, is one of the well written chapters in the book. A
Mohajjir from Azamgarh and Karachi origin, an ardent follower
of Jammat-e-Islami, he detests Mohajjirs and prefers to
project himself as a Punjabi. It is details like these which
give us an insight into the man who planned the Kargil
intrusion right from the day he took office.
He went about
the project with an eagle’s eyes, never losing sight, busy
fulfilling his other obligations of terrorising Sharif’s
political opponent Benazir Bhutto, setting up special military
courts to conduct trials of the arrested MQM cadres, etc.
has even included a verbatim record of the conversation
between Lieut-Gen Mohd. Aziz, Chief of General Staff and Gen
Pervez Musharraf, Chief of Army Staff. Along with this he has
given details of the diary of a Pakistan soldier which gives
this work a humane touch. The Pakistan soldier is a lonely one
who while taking orders from his superiors unknowingly is part
of a reckless battle which will do no one any good.
systematically tracing the roots of the Kargil affair the
writer sympathises with the India force which showed must
restraint even under heavy pressure. For example he informs
the reader that Air Marshal Vinod Patney, AOC-in-C of the
Western Air Command has gone on record saying that the IAF did
not use any laser guided bombs during the Kargil conflict
because of the huge costs of these weapons. An interesting
detail this. For instances he has collected the fact that
General Musharraf alongwith the air force and navy chiefs were
not there to receive Vajpayee when the latter crossed into
Wagah. Musharraf called on Vajpayee in the Governor’s House
at Lahore, and he shook hands with the leader of the enemy
country for he had declared so in a meeting of Pakistan’s
Cabinet Committee of Defence held a few days before the visit.
Zia-ul-Haq’s "Operation Topac" is written about to
put Pakistan once again as on anti India entity. It simply
dealt with the issue of Kashmir and how to wrest it from India’s
hand. He was the one who exploited the shrewdness and
intelligence of the Kashmiris in a negative way combining it
with political intrigue. We come to know all this from General
Zia’s speech in which he outlined the operation and has been
quoted in direct words.
into the Taliban, its working and how it manages to trick the
common people and then use them for its purpose is well
described. Being the rightful interpreters of the divine law,
they feel it gives them the authority to acquire power with
the help of the gun and then impose their thinking on others.
The increasing role of the Madrasas is something to worry
about, the writer feels.
these, the author has linked issues with the strategic
interests of other states in the region and on the wider plane
with that of China and the USA. It also provides us with vital
information on some Pakistan-backed militant outfits,
Pakistanrole in terrorism in Kashmir and terrorist
organisations active in Jammu and Kashmir. What is most
interesting are the figures of the conventional military
forces of Pakistan and India which decides the Indo-Pak
A book comprising rich facts
is a must-read for it traces the roots of the problem without
recommending solutions. The forward by Air Chief Marshal (retd.)
N.C. Suri rightly says the reading of the book by the
intelligentsia "would be prudent as it gives food for
thought which could help us come to grips with the reality of
the demon of terrorism".
humble, too humble, servant of the abandoned
Review by Himmat Singh Gill
Around My Neck
by Patwant Singh & Harinder Kaur Sekhon. UBSPD, New
Delhi. Pages 173. Rs 495.
is the story of a humble, unassuming and gutsy Sikh destitute
of united Punjab, who single-handedly built an oasis of hope
and rest for the sick, the disabled and the poorest of the
poor in the Pingalwara at Amritsar, and left behind a stirring
saga of selfless sacrifice and truth so unparalleled in the
history of modern India that very few individuals or
institutions will ever be able to match in the coming decades.
biography of Puran Singh of the destitute home of "pingalwara",
where the mentally challenged and those hopelessly afflicted
by disease are cared for until their cure or death, is no less
an edifying example of hope and succour than the yeoman
service being rendered by the Mother Teresa homes, and
deserves to be talked about from every street corner in this
country. Though many, including Khushwant Singh and this
reviewer, have earlier written about Puran Singh and his
humanitarian deeds, this is the first time that Patwant Singh
and Harinder Kaur Sekhon have written a definitive and
well-researched account of a man who has become a living
legend in both life and death, (1904-92), leaving behind a
heartwarming legacy, the path on which few mortals will ever
be able to tread.
compassion and the dire need to highlight the heroic deeds of
a few who dare to dream and also make these come true, the
authors have amply highlighted the ostrich-like attitude of
the governments of India and Punjab, which have been unable to
recognise a messiah in their own courtyard and country.
men and women do not look for awards and decorations while
carrying on their work, it must be recognised that the
churlish attitude of the Union Home Ministry of the day in
downgrading the Padma Vibhushan to a mere Padma Shri in the
award list in 1979 to Puran Singh, did not do it any good, and
has only fuelled the feeling that often the awards are rigged
and can be discriminatory and parochial in nature. It is to be
hoped that the Padma Shri that Puran Singh returned in 1984
after the army’s assault on the Golden Temple will be
replaced now by the nation’s highest civilian award, and the
blemish of the past removed in recognising the true merit and
rock-like grit of a man who had few equals.
believed in himself and in his own way of doing things. He
once said that what the common man needs "is not
another... hospital, but greater boarding facilities, as he
can always avail of the outdoor treatment provided by existing
hospitals". To him it was important to provide a very
sick man clean sheets and a bed so that he could die in
"peace and comfort", and he could not care less
whether he put his wards under the tree or in abandoned
buildings when he could feed and cloth his flock, the
responsibility of which no other "sanstha" or
organisation was prepared to take at the time.
He did not
want the overawing shadow or control of any kind to affect the
simplistic running of his Pingalwara. He lamented that
"people in India are not aware that orphanages in the
country refuse to admit or give shelter to deformed children
who cannot look after themselves". I hope our Ministers
concerned will go into this aspect.
the success of the setting up of the Pingalwara literally from
the sidewalks to his "implicit faith in the Darbar Sahib,
Amritsar" and the "sangat" and "sewadars"
of Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore, for their support to him in
his formative years.
wisdom comes to the fore when he says, "It is not good to
lead an idle life. A person can remain healthy only if he is
physically active. All human beings must walk, at least eight
miles every day..."
hand-printed wall papers on pollution, environment, economy
and "sewa" or personal service, of course, became a
byword of his signature and campaigns on behalf of the masses,
and are to be found even today in most parts of northern
This is an
unusual book of an unusual man and laced with some excellent
photographs by Jan Habersalt of Zurich and Amritsar’s own
Sewa Studio, it definitely is a collector’s item, which is a
treat to possess.
the Pingalwara which one has visited a number of times, it is
to be hoped that the present keepers of this human edifice
will continue to tread the path so nobly charted by Puran
Singh for the benefit of all sections of society. Since the
Punjab Government, the SGPC, the NRIs and others are
contributing their mite in addition to the "golaks"
or which collect offerings for the needy (these "golaks"
have been placed outside most gurdwaras), the management and
the transparency in the running of the Pingalwara should
continue to be of a high order. Any let up on this will be a
blot on Puran Singh’s memory.
during one of my visits to the Pingalwara I was happy to learn
that the family of the writer Khushwant Singh had contributed
handsomely to have a building block constructed for the
Pingalwara. So here is another fact of the man, who is so
often accused of writing sensational, sexy stuff, or
long-winded tales of whom he has met on a long plane ride or
some stuffy seminar.
was a poor man who helped the poor, without a godfather or
patron, with no money or an organisation, to help him on his
way. His will power, tenacity and never-say-die attitude was
able to overcome the ridicule that many heaped on him as he
paddled the dusty lanes leading to the Golden Temple, carrying
with him "the garland around (his) neck", Piara, on
his back, and later when he grew up in a cycle-rickshaw, to
his "place of work" just outside the pavements of
Harmandir Sahib. Even a belated recognition of the man now,
(thank God Patwant Singh has not anointed him as a "Bhagat"
or with some other title), will bring national and
international recognition to the humane edifice that he has
left behind for all mankind.
One hopes that this simply
written tale of the saviour of the poor will awaken the
governments of the day from their slumber and spur them on to
doing things humanitarian, so different from politics.