I had the privilege of having Zohra Sehgal and her Pakistani sister Uzra Butt over for dinner. Zohra is two years older than me; Uzra two years my junior. Both sisters are fitter than I am both in mind and body. Zohra (92) has a phenomenal memory. She can recite reams of Urdu poetry by the hour without looking at a scrap of paper: I learnt Uzra (88) does much the same in Lahore. The two sisters conceived, concocted and enacted a dialogue between them Ek Tthee Nani (once there was a maternal grandmother) which draws packed houses in India and Pakistan. What is the secret of their physical and mental fitness? From Zohra I gathered she eats very little and lives largely on soups and broths.
She spends an hour every morning on the roof strolling about and refreshing her memory of Urdu poetry. She has cut down her social life to the minimum and refuses to give interviews either on the phone or in person unless it is paid for. I chided her when she came to wish me on my 90th birthday. I said, "Zohra, I hear you charge a fee for talking to anyone. Is that true? "She beamed a smile and put out an open palm of her hand "Haan — yes, lao fees do, pay me at once."
From Uzra I picked up another clue to longevity. The sisters had been with Prithvi Theatres and then with Uday Shanker’s dance troupe doing Bharatanatyam. I asked Uzra whether she was still dancing. "There are not many takers for Bharatanatyam in Pakistan. But this time in India I have been learning Odissi — it is less mechanical and more sensuous. I find it more fulfilling." I was amazed: to learn a new form of dancing at the age of 88 is truly defying the passage of years. Moral: If you want to prolong your life, look forward to doing something in the tomorrows to come.
Two happenings no
Indian would like to recur were the one following the assassination of
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the other following the attack on the
If the first had been put down with an iron hand, the second might not have occurred. Since those responsible for the first remain unpunished, those guilty of the second may also go scot-free as well. Both were reminiscent of Nadir Shah’s order for a general massacre of the city’s population to teach it a lesson for the murders of a few of his soldiers. The main differences were that while Nadir Shah was a foreign marauder, our two pogroms were carried out by our own countrymen. Nadir’s general massacre took place in the 18th century; ours two took place in the 20th and 21st centuries in independent India.
I never wanted to relive October 31, and November 1, 1984. I had to when I sat through Sashi Kumar’s Kaya Taran meaning chrysalis or pupa of a moth or a butterfly. It is based on a short story in Malayalam by N.S. Madhavan entitled when big trees fall — words borrowed from Rajiv Gandhi’s explanation of the wide spread anti-Sikh violence of November, 1984. His story is based on a true incident in Meerut when a Sikh woman and her seven-year old son, running to escape a gang of murderers, were rescued and given shelter by nuns of a Convent. Sashi Kumar expanded his theme and linked the killings of Sikhs in northern India with the killings of Muslims in 2002 in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat.
Among the stars are Seema Biswas who acted Phoolan Devi in Bandit Queen and cricketer Bishen Bedi’s son, Angad. It is a highly emotional film with the moral "Never allow such things to happen again in our country." Though the dialogue is in Hindi, it is far too sophisticated to make a box office hit; no songs, no dances but a tear-jerker.
Santa always pronounced J for Y or U. Dialect-wise he substituted B for V. He would utter, "I am still Jung man of 70. I served in Junion Bank of India for 40 years. One day he invited Banta, "You are most heartily invited on our Bedding Anniversary." All the visualisation of Banta ended in smoke when he reached his home.
Courtesy: Madan Gupta ‘Sapatu’,