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Sunday, May 2, 1999
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Heroic all, in victory and in defeat
Lest We Forget by Amarinder Singh. Regiment of Ludhiana Welfare Association, Patiala. Pages 438. Price not stated.
Review by Bimal Bhatia

An American in Delhi
A Passage Through India by Robert Hamburgher. Sputen Duyvil, New York. Pages 182. $ 12.
Review by Darshan Singh Maini

George on MAD,then and now
George Fernandes, Defence Minister of India by S.R. Bakshi, Sita Ram Sharma and S. Gaprani. APH Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 334. Rs 500.
Review by Himmat Singh Gill

Converting a people into a religion of sacrifice
An Introduction to Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Pages 312. Excellence of Sikhism. Pages 276.Hair Power. Pages 213.All by Sarup Singh Alag and published by Alag-Shabad-Yug, Ludhiana. These are for free distribution.
Review by Randeep Wadehra

New rules of living with nature
Third Millennium Equipoise by Vinod Saighal. Lancer Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 238. Rs 395.
Review by J.N. Puri

50 years on indian independence 50 years on indian independence 50 years on indian independence
50 years on indian independence

Heroic all, in victory and in defeat

Lest We Forget by Amarinder Singh. Regiment of Ludhiana Welfare Association, Patiala. Pages 438. Price not stated.

Reviewed by by Bimal Bhatia

THIS is a heavy book but it doesn’t weigh you down. If you think military history is cumbersome, this will change your mind.

Amarinder Singh went through the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy before he was commissioned in 2 Sikh. At the special request of his father Maharaja Yadvindra Singh, his release from the Army was obtained in August, 1965, by Lieut-Gen Harbaksh Singh, Commander, Western Army.

War clouds appeared and Amarinder reported back to Harbaksh Singh, requesting permission to rejoin his unit. The General took him back as his ADC, from which position he would be able to see war from the highest level. Harbaksh Singh, who was a daring commander with deep insight, says in the foreword that this book is a consequence of that experience.

It impelled Amarinder, now the Congress President of Punjab, to research the significant battles fought by the Indian Army. Chosen by him are seven battles from three wars: the Kashmir war of 1947-48, the Indo-China war of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.

Old soldiers, some now in their eighties, happily accompanied Amarinder Singh to the battle sites to reconstruct the events. Official versions tend to be staid and the unit accounts glorify events in the extreme.

With extensive interviews and group discussions recorded for posterity, the narrative in "Lest We Forget" promises you a high degree of objectivity. The reader is struck by that as he or she goes through the pages. The language is simple and takes you directly to the scene of action.

In weaving the battle account, the author paints the larger picture before leading you to the trenches. You are thus transported with comparative ease from the army commander’s perspective to the sound-bites of combat where bayonets and blood fail to flesh out the spirit of martyrs who are born in battle. Supplementing the text are elaborate maps, sketches and annotated coloured photographs.

Part One on the 1947-48 Kashmir war contains two crucial battles. The airlifting of 1 Sikh from Delhi to Srinagar where the unit could have dug in at the airfield. Instead, the commanding officer Lieut-Col Dewan Ranjit Rai chose to move further up to Baramula to save Srinagar and gain time for the build-up.

Well-trained in Burma where they held fire till they could see the whites of the Japanese eyes, the Sikhs now in skeletal strength took on the Pakistanis. Ranjit Rai was killed and was awarded a Maha Vir Chakra.

Throughout their Kashmir tenure, the Sikhs has a reputation that preceded them. In one battle the Sikhs suffered 121 casualties but killed 300 of the enemy.

Of those killed was Jemadar Nand Singh who had won a Victoria Cross in Burma. The Pakistanis recognised Nand Singh because of his VC ribbon. Shamefully, they took him to Muzaffarabad where his body was tied spreadeagled on a truck and paraded through the city with a loudspeaker proclaiming that this would be the fate of every Indian VC. This brave soldier’s body was later thrown into a garbage dump.

Contrast this with the Indian treatment of dead Pakistani soldiers. In 1971 Lieut-Col Mohammad Raza was killed while leading his troops in a desperate counter-attack. The Indians not only returned the body with full military honours but also handed with it a citation for gallantry in the name of their fallen commanding officer. Happily, that citation was honoured and Raza got a posthumous Nishan-e-Haider award of Pakistan.

Described next is the battle by Rajindra Sikhs (Patiala State Forces) to clear Zojila. After the second attempt had failed, Lieut-Gen Cariappa is reported to have said, "Change the name of the operation from Duct to Bison, but continue we must in our plan for Zojila and the capture of Kargil."

Making full use of the Patiala’s Dodge trucks with their winches, a single troop of Stuart tanks was got through in rain and slush to Zojila, at an altitude of 11,472 feet.

The sound of tanks made the enemy panic. Rajindra Sikhs intercepted a message from a Pakistani outpost commander to his headquarter which elicited the reply in explicit Punjabi that he must either be drunk or a coward.

Chapter Two describes two battles of the 1962 Sino-Indian War. That war is something we would like to forget, but cannot and must not. Despite the looming threat, when the question of India having to go to war with China was raised with the then Defence Minister, Krishna Menon is recorded as having replied in his usual sarcastic style "... that there would be no war between India and China and, in the most unlikely event of there being one, he was quite capable of fighting it himself, on the diplomatic level."

Krishna Menon later prevailed over a series of spineless, sychophantic Generals to evict the Chinese from the north bank of Nam Ka Chu to "make an impact on the Chinese in NEFA before they settle down for winter."

"My God, they mean business," had been General Kaul’s startled reaction to the Chinese attack on the Indian lodgement across Nam Ka Chu. Later the Chinese mounted a full-scale offensive.

What followed was the heroic battle by 2 Rajput which fought to near extinction as part of Brig John Dalvi’s 7 Infantry Brigade holding untenable defences.

Described here is the story of valorous troops committed to undertake in impossible military task, operating at altitudes ranging from 12,000 to 16,000 feet in summer clothing without adequate weapons, ammunition, equipment and even rations.

In the Rezangla battle 13 Kumaon stemmed the Chinese offensive in Ladakh in November 1962. Cut off, Major Shaitan Singh and almost his entire company perished battling the Chinese who acknowledged their own highest casualties at Rezangla. Shaitan Singh got a posthumous Param Vir Chakra and the Chinese gave permission three months later to recover the dead, some of whose hands had to be prised open to extract live grenades ready to be lobbed.

Chapter Three contains three battles to give you a flavour of the 1965 Indo-Pak war. The spearheading of 3 Jat towards Dograi on the Amritsar-Lahore axis to relieve the pressure of the Pakistani offensive in Chhamb demonstrated the Jat spirit inspired by Lieut-Col Hayde, MVC.

The other two battles were pincers with a strategic aim. The attack by 2 Sikh on Raja picket in the Poonch sector to link-up with a northern thrust from Uri towards Haji Pir. Lieut-Col Khanna, MVC, was killed leading the valiant Sikhs from the front, and the battalion suffered massive casualties.

It was the daring of Major Ranjit Dayal, MVC, of 1 Para moving in from the north which put Haji Pir in our hands. Without food for 72 hours, his men made a semi-cooked meal out of a goat grazing nearby.

All through these battle of 1965 the leadership of the Army Commander Lieut-Gen Harbaksh Singh comes through clearly. He planned to eliminate the infiltration of guerrillas into J&K by taking the Haji Pir bowl in a classic pincer. This strategic bowl was later returned to Pakistan. With it also went forever India’s opportunity of linking Uri with Poonch.

We are a forgetful people, which is why "Lest We Forget" should be compulsory reading for all those concerned with national security. Even politicians.



An American in Delhi

A Passage Through India by Robert Hamburgher. Sputen Duyvil, New York. Pages 182. $ 12.

Reviewed by Darshan Singh Maini

CONSIDERING the spate of travelogues on India, it appears as though it has become a compulsive ritual to do a book for different orders of writers, academics, media men, etc. from the West. For even when each new book tends to draw settled conclusions based on clichés, old perceptions and stereotypes, there is clearly something in the air of India, something in its complex and mystifying history to bait each receptive or responsive imagination.

So each eye trying to take in the immensities and gigantism and populousness of India, including its sum of polarities, contradictions and irrationalities, seeks to find a viable paradigm if only to assuage its own "wounded" vision, or in some cases, to understand the puzzle of pluralities that teases them out of thought, to recall a Keatsian phrase.

For, to be sure, India heaps upon a visiting consciousness from abroad in so many odd, inexplicable ways as to throw one’s gathered ideas out of focus causing, in many cases, an astigmatism of view and vision. The drawn visitor has thus to adjust and readjust his sights if India’s offensive smells and scenes, its visible abominations living cheek by jowl with the world’s most amazing products of a great civilisation — from the palaces and pagodas of recondite Vedanic thought and the stunning aesthetic of Hindu temple architecture to the grandeur and loftiness of a Taj Mahal — have to make any sense.

For once, India has got under the white skin, it can throw up a rash of absurdities even as it can make a "mocker" a reluctant seeker in search of the ultimate reality.

Hamburgher, a visiting Fulbright professor at the Jamia Milia in New Delhi, had to do his "song" — and his credentials are impeccable — obviously he has to say something about the raison d’etre of his "passage" and his piece. And I hasten to add that he has done this in a spirit of empathy and insight.

His problems were no less daunting, but where one brings the imagination of affinities to bear upon one’s labours, the volume in question cannot but carry the mark of authenticity whatever its constraints or limitations otherwise. And that is how he puts his case:"In a sense, I wrote ‘A Passage to India’ as an antidote to this impulse to comprehend the incomprehensible.... And I learned to value the unknown.... a sharpened awareness of the absurd.... (of) India’s truths".

One could perhaps interpret such an affirmation as an attempt to discover one’s own true self — distanced from one’s own culture and samskara, and thus a compelling moment of "illumination", one could light up the inner landscape, so to speak.

In its layout and mechanics the book follows the usual route, eschewing the larger questions that are bound to lift their heads once a humane tourist with no chips on his shoulder and carrying a knapsack of home spun perceptions begins what I call a picaresque adventure through a vast, intriguing and fascinating country which is as much a state of mind as a land of the most fantastic flora and fauna, a land of the loftiest mountains and the long deserts full of surprises. If his teaching of American literature courses, his lectures at seminars, his interaction with Indian students and faculty gave him a measure of insightful peep into the pedagogic mind of India, his travels to the South and to the Himalayas, and to other tourist sights in Rajasthan and elsewhere brought home to him a fairly comprehensive view of a fabled country whose gods, big or small, still seem to exercise their eerie spell.

For, as I have said earlier, each such journey, at bottom, is an ontological outing, and it may stretch the seeker’s mind to the outposts of thought, should he have the talent and the inclination. Hamburgher’s aim had little to do with the metaphysic of India and he didn’t, on purpose, plunge into the destructive question: "Is India a mystery or a muddle?" — a question that, among other great writers, compelled E.M. Forster and Hermann Hesse to understand the poetry of the Indian spirit in action and in repose.

That in the end India remains a massive metaphor for the miracle of life is perhaps only one side of the story, for the Naipauls of enormous intellects and unearned allergies are still around to present the "other" face of India!

I am not surprised that Hamburgher finally elected to use the word passage in his title, for in a philosophical sense, it implies a degree of transience, something quite in keeping with the Hindu concept of "illusion and reality".

Forster obviously borrowed the expression from the great American bard, Walt Whitman, whose "passage to India" was the purest of all such journeys — a journey of an avid and worshipful imagination to a land of the mind — across the oceans and the continents to a piece of earth that is for ever India. Few Americans after him ever got down to that grid of energies which feeds the human flame from India to nowhere!

If the Taj Mahal proved a small "sell", it is understandable but that the romance of India in general stays with him back home is something to remember. Often, certain crucial residues stay long in the mind and are ignited when a contingency or a crisis is triggered in one’s native context. Clearly, the visiting Fulbright professor has carried to New York not only some of India’s souvenirs and artefacts, but also a flexible bag of the truths felt on the pulse.

India through "the western eyes" is then a theme that invites endless variations. And now that nuclear India is a palpable, uncomfortable reality alongside the elephant-snake-charmer-naked fakir-holy cow reality solidified into a stereotype, the new American intelligentsia visiting this country would have to collate their impressions and perceptions in a more thoughtful manner. A radical perspective is needed. On the eve of the new millennium, India is already more than a nebulous metaphor.

A word about the writer’s style and mode of narration. There is a clear nervous economy in prose, a lucid, flexible, flowing style that seldom deviates into gratuitous lyricism or rhetoric. Particularly memorable are some of the "portraits" and profiles — of the Mankekars, his landlords in New Delhi, of the Fulbright House.....

Even the unknown, common Indian of the street and the bazaar, of the field and the country, comes alive in brief snatches of insight. Inter alia, the Americans back home also receive a couple of disturbing comments in comparison. "Compared to America, India has little violent crime," he observes, though I wonder if this is really true in certain contexts. For the nature of Indian violence has a political and psychological layer. One, of course, is inclined to endorse another view which Hamburgher quotes from Robert Stone’s "Flag for America", "America is a clumsy giant; when it rolls in its sleep, small nations are crushed."Top


George on MAD,then and now

George Fernandes, Defence Minister of India by S.R. Bakshi, Sita Ram Sharma and S. Gaprani. APH Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 334. Rs 500.

Reviewed by Himmat Singh Gill

The study of contemporary political leadership in India throws up two interesting types of those at the helm of affairs since 1947. One is that Nehru, Sardar Patel and others like K.N. Katju were mostly foreign educated, highly sophisticated Brahmins and belonged to well-to-do families. They were the then elite and the highbrow, who were to rule over the teeming millions living in Mahatma Gandhi’s rural India.

Two, after Nehru’s death in 1964 came the new order of India’s political leadership that sprang from a more humbler strata of society, representing the grassroots cadres from the multiple regions, castes and religious denominations.

This book is a biographical study of one of the commoners from the second category, George Fernandes, currently the country’s Defence Minister and much in the limelight these days became his highly personalised and novel style of functioning (sending Ministry of Defence officials on enforced visits to the forward areas and Siachin), and the former Chief of Naval Staff Bhagwat episode, which does not appear to die down one bit.

Mostly, a close look at newspaper reports and some personal assessments of the editorial team, this compilation paints a fairly life-size portrait of the trade union leader-turned-Mantri, who is correctly firefighting much of the Vajpayee government’s political and internal contradictions.

What kind of a man does George Fernandes come out after one has read the book under review? A straightforward and totally non-communal Indian, going by his correspondence to the then President of India, Giani Zail Singh, on February 25, 1984, on the killings of Sikh persons and the destruction of their property in Panipat in Haryana during those troubled days. Following a fact funding mission to that state. Fernandes writes thus:"The fact is that all the eight Sikhs killed by the mob were local people, and it is either a measure of the total failure of the civil administration that they have not been able to know the facts about them or it is a deliberate and mischievous effort on their part to damn the Sikhs and create further animosity between the Sikh and Hindu communities."

Requesting the President to take immediate action, he goes on to state: "The Prime Minister and her advisers have failed miserably and I expect no good to come from any of them." The mission consisted of Biju Patnaik, Madhu Dandavate and Inder Kumar Gujral, but it was left to Fernandes to convey the first-hand impression in an unambiguous and fearless tone.

In much the same forthright vein, Fernandes addressed President Zail Singh on June 13, 1987, on the scandal surrounding the Indian submarine deal with the German firm HDW-IKL, and lambasts the German submarine builders for passing on the designs of the submarines to be produced for India to another country, namely, South Africa in this case.

He says: "I learnt from my sources that in the kind of contract entered into by India with German submarine builders, there is always an understanding that if the same designs are to be made available to another country, the earlier customer has to be consulted. Was India consulted by the German company?"

Fernandes goes on to level more serious charges (this time against Rajiv Gandhi) in the same submarine deal, when he informs the President: "And to crown it all, long after HDW-IKL entered into this clandestine deal with South Africa, Mr Gandhi personally ordered the purchase of two more submarines from West Germany. The price of these two submarines is nearly double that of the earlier ones which, of course, is understandable, given the cost escalations. But it is no longer a secret that money is deposited in Swiss bank accounts as a result of this second order. HDW-IKL have made this obvious to the Indian government. And Mr Gandhi knows into whose accounts these monies are going."

From the details that Fernandes has recounted, it is clear that the present Defence Minister has it in him to now unravel this arms scandal that once rocked the country, but about which much less has been said and written about than the Bofors deal. Whether Fernandes would have the inclination or the time to clear up this mystery is, of course, a different matter.

Fernandes has always stood up for the underdog and those who have a feebler voice than the rest of their countrymen, in the media and the television. Speaking on the demand of rural society that their savings be utilised for their own development, as opposed to the urban areas, he declared at a seminar at New Delhi in 1981 that, "The villages are still the colonies that our urban elitist ruling classes exploit to sustain their own high standard of living". How true, but the question is: Are the colleagues of Fernandes in the Cabinet to do something about this unfair and sorry state of affairs?

A subject that has often worried our countrymen is about the human rights abuses by the Indian security forces within this country and abroad when conducting operations on alien soil. In an introduction to a publication titled, "India’s My Lai: Massacre at Valvettiturai", published in September, 1989, at Bombay (Mumbai), this is what Fernandes had to say about one of the Indian Army’s military actions in Sri Lanka at the time at a place known as Valvettiturai, "The Indian army has enacted its My Lai".

Fernandes said this in the context of an editorial in the Daily Telegraph of London at the time. He states that he had said repeatedly that, "Soldiers everywhere were alike, their training and the rigours of their life, not to speak of the brutalisation caused by war making (made) them behave in the most inhuman ways when under pressure". And hence he had joined issue in the early days of the Indian military action in Sri Lanka with "everyone who came to accept that our soldiers were cast in the mould of boy scouts who went around the fighting fields of Sri Lanka looking out for opportunities to do their day’s good deeds, particularly for damsels in distress."

Strong words these but then Fernandes was not a member of the government. Today when he is in, and that too as Defence Minister, one must hope that any alleged human rights violation by the Army in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East would be looked into expeditiously and in a fair manner.

There is considerably more in this book if one is to read between the lines, in the press clips put together to make up this biographical sketch. Fernandes has been a fighter all his life, a remarkable trade union leader and an able parliamentarian. He projects himself as a comrade and a leader of the masses, and does not hesitate to lead from up front by personal example. A matter the defence forces take easily to, and respect immensely. His simplicity and common style of living without the normal adds-on of security personnel and screaming gypsies do single him out as a leader with a new and more practical approach to problems and issues.

The one problem which George Fernandes would have to resolve somehow, with books of this kind appearing on the shelf during his tenure, is the difficult reconciliation of what he has said or preached earlier with the realities on the ground today. It often becomes difficult to swallow one’s own words, when one has to carry out government policy at a later stage (as today), as this undated and uncredited piece by Fernandes titled, "No bomb please", appearing on page 167 of the book would indicate.

"No two countries would look more grotesque in the comity of nations if India and Pakistan should choose to squander the money denied to their hungry and dying millions into the making of nuclear bombs, their delivery systems and the anti-bomb systems. MAD is the acronym used by the nuclear powers of the world to explain the logic behind the nuclear weapons, the three letters standing for Mutually Assured Destruction. In the case of India and Pakistan, MAD would mean what it normally means, a deranged mind. Only the mentally deranged could lead India and Pakistan to a nuclear arms race. One hopes that the land of Mahatma Gandhi (no kin of Rajiv Gandhi) will have enough people of strength and character to prevent its bomb lobbyists from succeeding."

Ahem! Words spoken once are such dangerous little things!Top


Converting a people into a religion of sacrifice

An Introduction to Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Pages 312. Excellence of Sikhism. Pages 276.Hair Power. Pages 213.All by Sarup Singh Alag and published by Alag-Shabad-Yug, Ludhiana. These are for free distribution.

Reviewed by Randeep Wadehra

Death of Yusuf made Yakub weep
Such a Prophet they say has come
Who did not shed a tear
Even after sacrificing his four sons.
thus Guru Gobind Singh,
Exalted the status of the rishis.
— Alla Yaar Khan (a Muslim poet).

HISTORICAL accounts tell us how vibrant Indian society was once upon a time. Denizens of north-west India were not only culturally advanced, but were formidable warriors too.

No wonder Alexander’s victory over Porus had proved to be Pyretic. His dispirited soldiers refused to go deeper into the subcontinent. After all if a relatively small state could put up such a fierce resistance, the famed Magadh empire might well prove to be their doom. That fiercely independent spirit, over a period of time, got emaciated. Repeated invasions from the north-west took a heavy toll of human spirit. Coupled with the divisions inherent in society, the picture of woe is complete.

By the time the Muslims became masters of the subcontinent, the Hindu society, especially in the North, had touched its nadir. For a civilisation there is nothing worse than a demoralised people... values are eroded, resulting in negative thought and action, a sense of inferiority predominates the collective psyche, and an irreversible feeling of hopelessness as well as ennui grips the nation.

Such was the state of affair in society when reformers like Guru Nanak Dev went about infusing purpose into the people. It was a long haul. A succession of Sikh Gurus, through personal example and sacrifice, injected a sense of self-respect in a paralysed community.

Repression by Mughul rulers, especially Aurangzeb, culminated in the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699. That was the first day of the month of Baisakh, the harbinger of vigour and life, which stirs up all inert organisms. Consequently, a vibrant force came into being that rejuvenated the Hindu community. Today, Sikhs are considered the pride of the nation, not merely for their martial spirit but also for their contribution to the exaltation of spiritualism and regeneration of moral values. They have proved that materialism and piety can go hand in hand.

"An introduction to Sri Guru Granth Sahib" is a collection of spiritual outpourings in praise of the Almighty. The language of the holy Granth is a mix of Braj, Bhojpuri and other dialects of the common man; Zafarnama by Guru Gobind Singh is in Persian. Since idol worship is shunned in Sikhism, the devotional compositions are of the "nirguna" — instead of the "saguna" — variety.

Alag has painstakingly collected and provided information on the Sikh Gurus and 30 other holy men — the "bhaktas" and "Bhats" — whose contributions are part of the holy Granth Sahib. He has translated the hymns into English.

By and large, these retain their original poetic-spiritual quality. For example, "Attachment with the ignorant/Or with one of higher status/ Is fragile as a line drawn on water/That no way is traceable."

Or sample this one. "Why revile anyone when/In all beings is the Eternal manifest?" You notice the sheer moral force in these simple renderings.

Similarly, Bhagat Trilochan’s following lines are unforgettable. "Within the heart lies impurity, uncleansed;/Outwardly is assumed anchorite’s garb,/ In the lotus of the heart, in the self is the/ Supreme Being not realised/What good such a one renouncing the world? Listen Jai Chand! In illusion is the world lost/Not realising the Lord, source of supreme joy".

In this volume Alag has given biographical accounts of the Sikh Gurus and other contributors to Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

In "Excellence of Sikhism" Alag dwells on the universal relevance of the Gurus’ teachings. He has given ample space to the views expressed by non-Sikhs on Sikhism. The "teachings of the Gurus and the Gurbani do not address themselves to a particular denomination of humanity," nor are they subject to obsolescence due to the passage of time. The injunction of "worship, work and charity" is certainly not creed-specific.

Alas! The anaemic Hindu society during the medieval times had already lost its religio-philosophic moorings and was behaving like a rudderless ship buffeted by ritualism and superstition. The onset of Sikhism set in motion a chain of reforms that helped revive hoary traditions, albeit in a modified form more suitable to the extant situation.

The author makes laudatory references to Murari Bapu, the renowned Ramayana minstrel. It goes to show the healthy attitude that Indian religious personages retain for each other, a hoary tradition of which one should be proud. Murari Bapu’s reverence for Sri Guru Granth Sahib too is well known.

Similarly, Alag acknowledges Mohammad Iqbal’s humanistic, spiritual and socialistic philosophy and quotes his famous couplet, "For thousands of years/The narcissus bemoans its dullness/And only then with great difficulty/ A seer is born."

Alag narrates an incident when Ragi Dharam Singh Zakhmi was requested by Acharya Vinoba Bhave to sing Guru Nanak’s hymns, "Gagan mai thaal ravi chand deepak bane tarika mandal janak moti". On hearing the devotional rendering, Acharya Bhave was transfixed with divine bliss. The same hymn had a great impact on Rabindranath Tagore too, who declared that it was "the best ever composed in the entire body of world literature... dancing and playing in tune with the wonderful glory of the Lord."

Indeed the Gurbani represents the essence of the Indian thought and philosophy. Its approach is secular and all encompassing. to wit, "sabh ko meet hum apaan keena/hum sabna ke sajan. (We have befriended everyone, we are everybody’s companions).

"Eulogising Guru Gobind Singh, the author mentions the great sacrifices made by the Tenth Guru to infuse martial spirit among the people. Indeed, he transformed the lambs-for-slaughter mentality into a leonine mode of thought and conduct. To fight the unjust, to resist the evil, to think high and to be imbued with pure and noble thoughts were some of the virtues that the Guru-da-Sikh-turned-Khalsa was trained for.

Kartar Singh Balaggan, a noted Punjabi poet exclaims: "Whose sparrows dominate the hawks/How brave his Singhs be!/He who equalled one to sawa lakh/How powerful that Guru himself be!"

Today Sikhs play a prominent role not only in national affairs but they are also a much respected community throughout the world. They have made their mark as soldiers, writers, economists, scientists, sportspersons, judges, administrators, politicians and intellectuals.

In "Hair Power" Alag explains the importance of hair to human body. He quotes the findings of research carried out by people whom he fails to identify, that conclude "the hair serves as a factory providing Vitamin D to the body, which provides protection against such diseases as tuberculosis, and are essential for healthy bones, teeth and nervous system." he asserts that it is unnatural to cut or trim hair. Moreover, ‘they are an integral part of the human body, a manifestation of strength and chivalry, symbolic of social respect and reflection of mental equipoise. They are also an example of India’s cultural richness".

He goes on to aver that hair is important medically, spiritually, scientifically, etc. However, needless to say, the main argument of the author is that hair forms a vital symbol of Sikh’s identity. The five K’s — katchha, kara, kripan, kangha and kesh — give Sikh a distinct identity. He stands out in a crowd. Symbolism, no doubt, has its value. During the fight against the Mughals these symbols were a great morale booster for the Sikh forces.

They fought with a zest and zeal that earned them respect throughout the world wherever martial spirit exists. Yet, Sikhism will be revered more for its spiritual contributions. The teachings that ennoble the soul and guide our actions towards the righteous path, shall ultimately prove more enduring than any outward show of piety. After all, the great Gurus had always emphasised the exaltation of content over the form.Top


New rules of living with nature

Third Millennium Equipoise by Vinod Saighal. Lancer Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 238. Rs 395.

Reviewed by J.N. Puri

Some books are meant for teaching, some for preaching and a large number simply entertain.Humanity has evolved different processes of learning. Today man has reached a stage where there are numerous ways for learning and for developing science and technology. Ironically we are also working for the extinction of the human race with the help of science and technology.

At another level we are also living through a historical transition of human activities conflicting with environmental concerns. Natural resources are finite, but have to provide food and energy to the world population which will double sometime in the next millennium. These resources have already been overtaxed; can we sustain a world economy that is set to grow five to ten times?

Human society is at the crossroads. Abundance coexists with extreme need, waste overshadows want and our very existence may be in danger owing to mismanagement and over exploitation of the earth.

This book presents a grim picture of environmental deterioration, and is intended to warn the humanity about the impending disaster.

The author of this volume is a retired Maj-General and had active command assignments, apart from doing a stint with the U.N. peace-keeping force and also as the country’s military attaché. Above all, he has been a student of various subjects ranging from population, ecology, nuclear disarmament to global governance.

The book is a competition of articles and speeches he wrote and delivered over the past 20 years.

Although the end of the cold war has changed the world scenario, the huge nuclear arsenal is still a potent threat and the developing countries naturally feel insecure. The West is widening its network through multinationals and target certain countries to dump consumer products and exploit the natural resources of the victim countries.

The author has picked up the thread from the well-known "Our common future, our global neighbourhood" and the Canberra Commission reports. These reports have identified several remedies but unless steps are taken to remove the hurdles, problems will have no solution. The author has synthesised all findings and forged an elegant model.

The book starts with three unusual chapters, "Notes on terminology", "A general note" "Prologue and introduction". The rest of the book is divided into three parts with two chapters analysing the ongoing nuclear debate.

One section spells out the discrete steps necessary to transform the UN Security Council to spearhead the resolution of the nuclear issue.

Part III, "Looking beyond", has one chapter looking sharply at some of the issues that will confront nation-states and world organisations in managing the eco-revival of the planet.

In the last section the book examines the needs of the animal world and makes out a strong case for protecting the fauna as it is a unique gift of nature. Man should live in harmony and maintain a balance with plants and animals if only for his own good.Top



Trees of Beauty The review of the book “Trees of Chandigarh” by Chhatar Singh et al, (The Tribune, April 11) was puzzling in some ways. First, it is not clear why the book was reviewed so late, a year after publication. Second, the critic seems for some reasons very keen to find as many faults as possible, looking for spelling mistakes and wrong botanical names.

As a result the review has become laborious and at places technical and hence almost unreadable.I am one of those who purchased this book last year. I must say I am delighted with the book. It has suddenly opened my eye to the beauty of trees around me.

Almost every week, I have something interesting to read from this book about a newly identified tree in the neighbourhood or to know about the trees blossoming in different seasons.

In spite of rather unfair criticism by your critic, I will continue to hold this popular book as an important contribution to the life of the citizens of Chandigarh.

N.N. WIG (M.D.)

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