|Saturday, September 1, 2001||
FOR many years when I was young and believed in resolutions to improve myself, my New Year’s resolve used to be to not run people down behind their backs. I was in the habit of doing so and hated myself afterwards. Whatever I said somehow got known to the person I had maligned. When confronted by him or her, I had to deny what I had said and had reason to feel low in my self-estimation. I was able to check myself from talking about others behind their backs for a few days. I resumed the bad habit but somehow it got lesser and lesser on its own. I came to realise the truth of Guru Nanak’s admonition:
Nanak, phika boleeai
Tan man phikka hoi
(Nanak, if you speak ill of people
Your body and mind will
Another of my annual resolution was that no matter how grave the provocation I would not lose my temper. My father had a short temper; his father was even more ill-tempered. My father never used bad language but being overworked, he was impatient and inclined to snap at everyone. We were terrified of him and kept out of his way as much as we could. In later years of his life, he mellowed a great deal and I looked forward to joining him in the evenings for a sundowner. However, I could never get over my allergy towards people with short tempers. Incidents of people snubbing me still rankle in my mind. I have no forgiveness for them. I write off people who lose their temper with me forever and no amount of their trying to make amends makes any difference in my attitude towards them.
According to our ancient scriptures, Hindu and Sikh, krodh (anger) is as serious a short-coming as kama (lust), lobh (greed), moh (self-love) and ahankaar (arrogance). They exhort us to overcome them in order to achieve moksha (salvation). They do not tell us how we go about getting the better of them. As far as anger is concerned, people have their own formulae: "When roused to anger, count ten before answering" or "swallow the insult and keep your mouth shut". There is no doubt that a person who loses his cool, loses the argument. Another school of thought is that it is better to let off steam and get over with it because if you contain your anger, your blood-pressure will rise and you may get peptic ulcers. I have evolved my own formula to get anger out of my system. I say nothing to the person who has insulted or snubbed me but when I narrate the incident to my friends later, I let loose a torrent of the choices abuse in Punjabi and Hindustani — Ihave a large repertoire of filthy words in four languages — and purge myself of anger. I even feel exhilarated at having scored over my traducer by saying nothing to him or her and cleansing my system by letting out the accumulated venom in front of third parties who thoroughly enjoy my outburst.
With the onset of the summer monsoon came mosquitoes and dengue flies ushering in malaria and dengue fever. Since drinking water also gets polluted there is an epidemic of cholera, intestinal disorders and unnamed water-borne diseases. Sore throats, colds and coughs afflict those prone to them. Doctors and chemists make more money than they do at any other time of the year. Every third person you know is down with something or the other. Some ailments are easy to diagnose. Malaria starts with fits of shivering followed by high fever and sweating. Dengue fever is accompanied by aches and pains, cholera with vomiting and loose motions. There are also subtle variations of these illnesses which are harder to diagnose. You are put through various tests: blood, sputum, urine etc. When nothing yields a positive clue, doctors wisely shake their heads and pronounce "viral fever" — whatever that means. In old times we used to call it miyadi bukhaar (which would run its course for a week or ten days with or without medication). Now they call it viral and prescribe antibiotics which make you feel worse without shortening the miyaad (period) by even a day.
People who believe in self-medication for monsoon ailments, dispense with doctors and chemists. In my younger days I knew young men who believed in sweating out mild fevers with vigorous exercise. In some cases it worked, in others the illness became worse. There were others who believed the best cure was to starve yourself, on the presumption that colds and fevers flourished on the food you ate. Harivansh Rai Bachchan in his autobiography In the Afternoon of Time (Penguin) has this to say on the subject:
"I was never one to make a fuss over being unwell; in fact, I was always quite firm with illnesses. I read in one of Gandhiji’s essays that to be ill is blameworthy; and if we cannot look after the body we have been given, then we are indeed at fault. I took this argument one stage further and felt that illness deserved punishment. Whenever I had any minor ailment such as a cold, a cough, or a headache, I would make myself work all the harder; people who worked for a living had no right to fall ill; illness was the wicked indulgence of the wealthy, and the poor should keep out of its clutches. I remember going out to my evening tuitions with a raging fever, when the heat within me would make me teach with even greater zeal; when I was writing, I would find a high fever a catalyst and an inspiration (Kipling too said that he wrote good stories when feverish), while a minor temperature would have no effect on the normal way I did things. If someone touched me and said Ihad a fever, I would reply: "Yes, I have a fever, and I have me too!"
Guns for Musharraf
"General Musharraf, General Musharraf what have you done?"
"I have made myself President as I am the son of a gun."
"But General Musharraf, General Musharraf we’ll have to give you a 21-gun salute!"
"Ya Allah! I became President because my Begum says, ‘the boom of guns will sound very cute.’"
(Courtesy: R.E. Canteenwala, Lucknow)
Ninety-year-old Banta’s grandfather went into a coma and was taken to a government hospital. All Banta’s relations and friends thronged the hospital corridors and pestered the head surgeon with questions. The doctor lost his temper and shouted at them: "You are a brainless lot. Take your old man to another hospital for treatment."
Banta was very put out and took his bapu to a private hospital where he died. The family decided to give him a grand funeral led by a band and parties of singers. Someone accosted Banta and asked him why they were celebrating his bapu’s death instead of mourning it. Replied Banta: "that fool of a government doctor called all of us brainless. Bapu proved him wrong. He died of a brain tumour."
(Contributed by Madan Gupta, Spatu, Chandigarh)