118 years of Trust This above all
THE TRIBUNEsaturday plus
Saturday, December 12, 1998

Regional Vignettes



In what language does God speak?

By Khushwant Singh

I HAVE no idea because God and I have not been on speaking terms for more than 50 years. Before that I used to speak to Him in Punjabi; He never deigned to reply. I assumed He could not read or write Gurmukhi.

At school, I had to cram a few slokas in Sanskrit and was assured that Sanskrit was God’s chosen language because the Vedas, Upanishads and the Bhagvadgita were written in it. I never got to learn Sanskrit or understand the meanings of slokas I knew by heart, or perhaps I mispronounced what I recited by rote. God did not take notice of what I said.

At college my Muslim friends assured me that Allah’s chosen language was Arabic and it was in Arabic He revealed ayats of the Holy Koran to Prophet Mohammed. My friends did not understand Arabic but said their prayers in that language. I got a Maulvi Sahib to teach me the Koran. I was able to recite al Fatiha in the original and even picked up a few lines of Ayatul Kursi (the throne verse) and Surah

Yaaseen. I was unable to establish communication with Allah.

In England, I took to reading the Bible and persuaded myself that God was an Englishman who spoke King’s English. My Jewish friends assured me that I was on the wrong track because God’s language was Hebrew and they were His chosen people. I did not pursue the linguistic line of approach to God any further. Wasn’t He known to be omnipotent (all-powerful) and Omniscient (all-knowing)? If that was so, it was clear, as night follows the day, He did not want to converse with me. I gave up attempts to communicate with Him.

The controversy over God’s language has surfaced again in Tamil Nadu. They are hotly debating whether prayers in temples should be in Sanskrit or in Tamil. Karunanidhi, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, has gone on record saying that God could not be God unless He knew Tamil. Or words to that effect. This has left me more confused than before. It reminds me of a brief exchange of letters I had with Supriya, daughter of Rajmohan Gandhi and granddaughter of C. Rajagopalachari (Sanskrit & Tamil) on the one side, and Bapu Gandhi (Gujarati), on the other. Rajmohan was then Editor of The Indian Express in Madras. I was working at the Wilson Centre in Washington. On Rajmohan’s invitation, I wrote an article in my credo which he published in his paper under the title "Why I don’t believe in God". A few days later I received a letter from his daughter. It read: "Dear Uncle, I read your article in Daddy’s paper. You don’t believe in God? You are wrong. God visits our home every day. He talks to Mummy and Daddy, to my younger brother and me. So there...!

Yours Supriya".

Evidently, God spoke to Rajmohan Gandhi and his family not in Sanskrit, Tamil or Gujarati but in English.

I wrote back to Supriya Gandhi: "Dear Supriya,

I am glad to hear that God comes to your home every day and talks to your Mummy, Daddy, your brother and you. But He does not

talk to me. Please send me His telephone number."

Supriya did not send me God’s telephone number. Even if she had, I doubt if I could get God on STD. Perhaps the bell would keep ringing and He would refuse to pick up the phone at His end.

Nikkie Gill

She rang me up and introduced herself as a painter. Her voice was anguished. She had a one-artist exhibition in Delhi’s leading picture gallery. Hundreds of people came to see her work. Many of her paintings were sold. Scores of art critics also visited the exhibition, helped themselves to tea, coffee and cakes.Not one word appeared in the papers, praising or criticising her work.

Nikkie Gill was not used to being ignored. She has been painting for over 30 years and has had many exhibitions. Her work can be seen in the National Gallery of Modern Art, in Punjab and Haryana government offices and in many private homes in Europe and India. She had good reasons to feel hurt with Delhi’s media ignoring her.

Nikkie, born in Narnaul, is 65 and mother of three grown-up married children. Her husband Kirpal Singh Gill, a scientist, worked with many government and non-governmental organisations before he retired from the post of Managing Director of Krishan Bharati Coop (KRIBHCO). The entire family was living happily in Delhi till November 1984 when the anti-Sikh violence broke out. They first moved to Patiala for safety; her two sons decided to quit India and migrated to the United States.

It took Nikkie and her husband some years to return their home in Gurgaon. Nikkie’s painting career began in her 30s in Billingham (England) where her husband had been sent to help designing the Kanpur fertiliser plant. She joined an art school under the tutelage of a painter, Dr Moore. It was under his guidance that she matured into a landscape painter. She was very impressed by England’s achievements — a small country with a few natural resources had a very high standard of living. Why could not big India with so much given by God to her do as well? She writes: "I felt my people are not getting what they deserve, as they are kept in ignorance and blind faith in God and past life. How will they discover the root cause of their problems when they think that man is powerless and everything is decided by God and destiny. My people are still living in a superstitious and primitive way in today’s advanced scientific age".

Tit for tat

Two Pakistanis boarded a shuttle out of Washington for New York. One sat in the window seat, the other in the middle seat. Just before take-off, a fat, little Indian guy got on and took the aisle seat next to Pakistanis. He kicked off his shoes, wiggled his toes and was settling in when the Pakistani in the window seat said, "I think I’ll go up and get a coke". "No problem", said the India, "I’ll get it for you". While he was gone, the Pakistani picked up the Indian’s shoe and spat in it. When the Indian returned with the coke, the other Pakistani said, "That looks good. I think I’ll have one too".

Again, the Indian obligingly went to fetch it, and while he was gone the Pakistani picked up the other shoe and spat in it. The Indian returned with the coke, and they all sat back and enjoyed the short flight to New York.

As the plane was landing, the Indian slipped his feet into his shoes and knew immediately what had happened. "How long must this go one?", the Indian asked, "This enmity between our people... this hatred... this animosity... this spitting in shoes and pissing in cokes?"

(Contributed by H.S. Jatana, Mohali.)back

Home Image Map
| Chandigarh Heartbeat | Dream Analysis | Regional Vignettes |
Fact File | Crossword | Stamp Quiz | Roots |