Saturday, January 1, 2005

Khushwant Singh
All that passed by
Khushwant Singh

Tomorrow yet to come
December 25, 2004
The truth about lies
December 18, 2004
From Aryana to Afghanistan
December 11, 2004
Goings-on in the name of god
December 4, 2004
Of matters religious and erotic
November 27, 2004
Faith should unite
November 20, 2004
Fine art of party hopping
November 6, 2004
Kiss and kismet
October 30, 2004
Food fads and filmi gods
October 23, 2004
Yesterday once more
October 16, 2004
Bose smart, Nehru smarter
October 9, 2004
Exploding myths
October 2, 2004
Candid confessions
September 19, 2004
Return to the hills for verse
September 18, 2004
The power of doubt
September 4, 2004

I wish my readers a happy 2005. In my little family we need no excuses to celebrate. So we sing carols and make merry on Jesus’s birthday as we do on birthdays of Sikh Gurus. We light lamps and let off crackers on Divali and though we don’t fast during Ramadan we have Muslim friends over the Eid-ul Fitr. We are agnostic Indians.

M.S. Subbulakshmi left music lovers in tears
M.S. Subbulakshmi left music lovers in tears 

Let me go over some events of the year that has ended. January started by being very cold with fog in the mornings which affected air, rail and road traffic. There was a train accident near Jammu which took seven lives. In Tamil Nadu a fire at a wedding pandal left 50 dead (23rd). Among the celebrities who departed were the poet Nissim Ezekiel, Ramakrishna Hegde (many hoped he would become Prime Minister). India continued to do badly in hockey and we lost to Germany, Pakistan, Australia and South Korea. The gloomy sports scene was partly redeemed by India scoring over 650 runs with Sachin Tendulkar scoring over two centuries in Sydney in a match which sadly ended in a draw. The month ended on a happy note with the ravishing divorcee and mother of two Kishwar Ahluwalia marrying Lord Meghnad Desai, father of two.

February brought in a feast of colours; first chrysanthemums, then roses, then every blossoming tree and bush in full bloom. On the 17th my yellow Jasmine hung down from the railings like a veil covering the face of a bridegroom. But the month started badly. On the first day 210 pilgrims, including two Indians on Haj, were killed in a stampede at Mecca. In Assam, a landmine killed 30. Four eminent people crossed the threshold: Malika Pukhraj of Abhi to main Jawaan hoon fame; Goldie Anand and Sikandar Bakht (BJP Governor of Kerala) on the same day (23rd) and three days later, S.B. Chavan.

March was more merciful in the way of disasters attributed to the Ides. India went murder free. But we did lose the sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan and Justice V.M. Tarkunde, a man of impeccable rectitude and courage.

April started badly with the death of Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, six times MP and 17 times elected President of the SGPC. A blast in Jharkhand killed 20. More sinister were the deaths of 19 poor women, who had come to get free sarees, in a stampede on the 12th in the residence of BJP leader Lalji Tandon, who was celebrating his birthday. We also lost the Odissi maestro Mahapatra.

May will go down as the watershed in recent history with the forces of obscurantism masquerading under the name of Hindutva, represented by the Sangh Parivar in full retreat, and the upsurge of the Congress party led by Sonia Gandhi. This was contrary to all predictions made by astrologers thus exposing once again their false claims of astrology being a science.

Many who bit the dust at the polls included Murli Manohar Joshi, patron of astrology, Sahib Singh Verma, Jagmohan (unfortunately) and former PM I.K. Gujral’s son who had thrown his lot with the Akalis. Among the casualties was the Telugu Desam Party which lost in Andhra Pradesh. This was sad, as Chandrababu Naidu had done a lot of good work in Andhra Pradesh. India chose its first Sikh Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh; its first Sikh Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and a few months later its first Sikh Chief of Army Staff General J.J. Singh. I heard the first full-throated call by the koel on the 18th.

June was comparatively uneventful. A train went off the rails, killing 60 people. But on the 2nd we lost Dom Moraes, our best poet in English at the age of 68.

I will skip July, as little of importance happened in the month except that when it should have been raining, we did not have a drop. The long delayed monsoon arrived on August 2. And made up for its tardiness by a continuous downpour for a few days. The unpredictable sanyasin Uma Bharti threw up the post of Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and Oomen Chandy replaced Antony as Chief Minister of Kerala. Among the departures was Dhananjay Chatterjee rapist and murderer, who was hanged in Kolkata on the 14th. The following day died Amar Singh Chaudhry, former CM of Gujarat.

If any evidence was needed to prove the worldwide menace of terrorism, we got it in September. After much wrangling, and no doubt paying a huge ransom, three Indians held hostages in Iraq returned home. (Russians held by Chechens were not so lucky; 332 were slain in cold blood). In the last week, we lost an eminent scientist in Raja Ramanna, a renowned Thumri singer, Shobha Gurtoo, and a litterateur Mulk Raj Anand who narrowly missed scoring a century. The most cheerful news of the month was the Fijian Vijay Singh of Indian origin beating Tiger Wood to become world’s number one Golf player. He did it on Janmashtami (September 7).

October saw resumption of violence. Nagas blew up 40 in Dimapur (2nd); Bodos killed 12 in Assam. Sushil Kumar Shinde, CM, Maharashtra was shunted off to Andhra Pradesh as Governor and replaced by Vilas Rao Deshmukh. The BJP tried to plug its leaking boat by tossing out the blabbermouth Venkaiah Naidu and bringing back L.K. Advani as its captain. On the 7th the Sikhs lost an eminent missionary in Yogi Bhajan who died in his ranch in California. The most noticeable departure was of the gangster, murderer of men, elephants and sandalwood trees Veerappan, and two of his companions who were gunned down by the Tamil Nadu police on the 18th.

November went badly for the BJP. On the 10th, Uma Bharti stormed out of a party meeting and was promptly expelled. For ever given to tantrums, she described it as a daughter being thrown out of the family on Dhanteras. One could understand by why Govindacharya turned down her proposal for marriage. The process of breaking the ice with Pakistan initiated by Atal Bihari Vajpayee gathered speed: The Pakistani Prime Minister came on a three-day visit to Delhi, and Pakistani Punjabi Chief Minister came with a contingent of several hundred athletes, men and women and had a gala week in Patiala with Punjabi Indians. They received a very warm welcome from Captain Amarinder Singh and got a royal treatment with songs, dances every evening, stressing their common heritage.

On December 3, the President of Russia arrived in Delhi and promised support to India’s claim to a seat in the Security Council. A collision of trains near Mukerian (Punjab) killed 34. On the 11th died Mir Kasim, former CM of Kashmir, and a day later M.S. Subbulakshmi died in Chennai leaving the nation in tears. The year ended on a sad note with the passing of P.V. Narasimha Rao in New Delhi on the 23rd. Rao was the first Prime Minister from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to complete a full term in office.

I had to send in this piece a few days before the year ended. I did so with the prayer they would pass without anything catastrophic taking place.

Shavian short shrift

* It is dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid.

* A doctor’s reputation is made by the number of eminent men who die under his care.

* England and America are two countries separated by the same language.

(Contributed by Judson K. Cornelius, Hyderabad)