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Erroneous title to Khushwant Singh’s book

Khushwant Singh has produced a new book titled ‘Agnostic Khushwant. There is No God!’ It is a compilation of what he has written over the years about his views on God and on religion as practised. The book is informative, aimed at exposing the abuse of religion and the self-righteousness of the ignorant and the prejudiced who profess to be holy but are hypocritical and intolerant of all others. I am honoured at the dedication to me. I write now to deplore the appalling cover of the book, and to correct the erroneous title. Khushwant Singh has publicly declared himself to be an agnostic. An agnostic is one who holds that we know nothing outside the material world and, therefore, cannot know if there is a God. It is the atheist who declares positively “There is no God.”

 Khushwant has never had the arrogance or the self-importance to be an Atheist. He is frequently humble, often self-deprecatory, and sometimes jocular about his own beliefs. In the half-century that I have known him as a friend, he has never authoritatively declared: “There is no God”. To attribute these words to him, out of context, is to completely misunderstand the man. If Khushwant was not old now and unwell he would not have allowed such a misleading and unjust title for his book. Nor, I hope, would he have agreed to the Bollywood picture of himself or approved the production of this sensation-mongering cover.


Cultural awakening

The article ‘Political elites and honour crimes’ (December 16) written by Prof DR Chaudhry has very thoughtfully and realistically analysed the changing contours of rural society in Haryana.

He has very aptly reminded the state government of its utter failure to positively reply to a letter written by the Ministry of Home Affairs about the introduction of the Indian Penal Code and certain other laws (Amendment Bill, 2010).

The message is loud and clear: the ruling politicians ought to cultivate the habit of studying serious issues of larger social concern (like honour killings) with an open mind and avoid blaming the print media and TV channels for distorting the existing social realities. Haryana has unfortunately remained a cultural desert even after 45 years of its existence as a separate state.

If we wish to bring a democratic change in the family set-up and social life of Haryana, we should encourage cultural programmes and social reforms which target social issues like caste prejudice, dowry and female foeticide. If the ruling elites shun the indifferent attitude towards honour killings due to vote bank politics and actually help the common people in unleashing their cultural growth through education, art and cinema, literature and folk theatre, we can have a culturally advanced Haryana with a new democratic mindset.


Vocabulary on ‘bread’

The middle ‘Warm from the oven’ (December 5) by Shelley Walia was quite appetising and delectable. Truly speaking, bread is absolutely vital for man’s survival. He has to sweat it out to earn his bread. Bread is of many types, such as French, white, pumpernickel, black, dark brown, hardback, leavened, unleavened, sourdough, raisin and corn. Irrespective of its numerous types, it forms an integrated part of our staple diet. Such is the vitality and necessity of bread that it has given birth to many words and phrases related to it.

‘Break bread’ means partake, have a meal; ‘know which side one’s bread is buttered on’ implies to be prudent, save, look out for number one; ‘a bread-and-butter letter’ is one sent as thanks for being treated well as someone’s guest; ‘bread basket’ is an important area for grain production. ‘Bread bin’ is a container for keeping bread so that it stays fresh while ‘bread board’ refers to a wooden board on which to cut a loaf of bread into slices; ‘bread fruit’ signifies a tropical tree that bears a round fruit that looks and feels like bread when baked and ‘on the breadline’ means extremely poor.

Obviously, bread is an all-important commodity without which it is difficult to sustain life. And there is enough bread for everyman’s need, but not for his greed.


Disrespect to Tricolour

This is with reference to the news item, ‘LJP seeks ban on the use of the Tricolour during agitations’. People have always held the Tricolour as a symbol of national pride and patriotism. It is difficult to understand whether the political party is upset with the use of Tricolour as a mark of national pride and patriotism or with Anna Hazare and his supporters.

Political leaders must read the flag code of India which defines the conditions that amount to an insult to the national flag. It has been made clear that the insult to even a resemblance of the national flag amounts to an insult to the national flag itself. Everybody, including political parties and leaders, should note that political parties use flags which are an exact resemblance of the Tricolour.

They print photos of their leaders and election symbols on the flag which amounts to disfigurement of the Tricolour. The Tricolour is misused and subjected to all types of insult during and after political rallies.

TIRATH GARG, Ferozepur

Why ‘Merry Christmas’?

At Christmas we are dazzled by Santa Claus and X-mas trees in every street and gifts. We tend to forget that Jesus Christ, the true light of the world, is present closer to us than we are to ourselves. Wishing each other ‘Merry Christmas’ helps us to recall and stay fixed on our true joy. The English word ‘merry’ did not originally mean ‘jolly, mirthful’ as is often assumed today. It meant something as ‘blessed, peaceful’ a deep down inner joy rather than revelry. One gets a sense of its original meaning in the well-known carol, ‘God rest ye merry, gentlemen’. As can be seen from the comma, the word is not used to describe jolly gentlemen, but rather was a blessing from God invoked upon them, ‘God rest ye peacefully, gentlemen’. Thus, ‘Merry Christmas’ when spoken to one another is a blessing. Let us greet one another often with this blessing to strengthen our certainty that the Lord comes amongst us and continually renews his consoling presence of love and joy.


Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor, neatly hand-written or typed in double space, should not exceed the 150-word limit. These can be sent by post to the Letters Editor, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160030. Letters can also be sent by e-mail to: Letters@tribuneindia.com

— Editor-in-Chief



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