Saturday, March 4, 2000

Bringing pride to Punjab
By Khushwant Singh

INDIA has reason to be proud of Dosanjh. He is the first India-born to become Premier of British Columbia, the most beautiful state of Canada. Punjabis can take pride in the fact that both he and his wife Ravinder Kaur are children of the Punjabi soil. Sikhs can puff their chests with pride because
Dosanjh is a Sikh who has done his community proud. I too have good reason to pat myself on the back as I know Dosanjh, had him over in my home in Delhi more than once and have corresponded with him. We were one in opposing the demand for Khalistan which both of us regarded as suicidal for the Sikhs. He needed more courage as Vancouver had become the hotbed of Khalistani terrorists and they almost succeeded in killing him. Khalistan had minimal support in India and I was comparatively safe in Delhi. The closest the terrorists got to me was to put me high on their hit list, flood me with hate mail and send a would-be assassin who could not do more than make a rough sketch of my apartment. Though Dosanjh is more than 30 years younger, I learnt to have respect and affection for him.

  In the first telephone interview that Dosanjh gave to Indian pressmen, he said: "My victory is a tribute to the freedom fighters of Kamagata Maru." I don’t think many of the present generation would know anything about this Japanese ship carrying immigrants to Canada which triggered off violence in Vancouver on its arrival and on its return to Budge Budge harbour near Calcutta. The voyage was an important episode in the Blood-stained short history of the Ghadr Party. We have much to learn from the Ghadr Party. It was the first attempt at armed revolution which was totally above communal considerations: Till then the Anusilan Samitis of Bengal and terrorist groups in Maharashtra were confined to Hindus and strictly excluded Muslims from their fold. Not the Ghadr Party. In its clarion call issued on November 1, 1913, it proclaimed: "Today this begins in foreign lands but in the country’s language, it is a war against British Raj. What is its name? Ghadr. What’s our work? ghadr. Where will ghadr break out?

In India. The time will soon come when rifles and blood will take the place of pen and ink."

I had the opportunity of examining some issues of Ghadr, published in Punjabi and Urdu. I reproduce some in English translation:

No pundits or mullahs do we need,
No prayers or litanies we need recite,
These will only scuttle our boat.
Draw the sword; it’s time to fight
Though Hindus, Mussalmans and Sikhs we be,
Sons of Bharat are we still
Put aside our arguments for another day,
Call of the hour is to kill.
Some worship the cow,
others swine abhor,
The white man eats them at every place;
Forget you are Hindu, forget you are Mussalman,
Pledge yourselves to your land and race.

On May 13, 1914, the Kamagata Maru arrived in Vancouver. It was berthed at a distance from the docks and no passenger was allowed to disembark. After a futile wait of many days the ship was forced to return to India. When it docked at Budge Budge harbour, British-Indian police tried to force its passengers in a train bound for the Punjab. The passengers resistance was put down by gunfire. There were many casualties. When the remaining were taken to the Punjab they broke loose and jumped off the train carrying them. They tried to foment revolution in Punjab and elsewhere. But the country did not respond to their call. Many Ghadrites ended their lives on scaffold in the Andamans.

As a footnote, let me add for the benefit of Messrs Sharad Pawar, Sangma, Anwar and their ilk who oppose Sonia Gandhi’s aspirations to become Prime Minister of India because she was born in a foreign land, Dosanjh was born in India not in Canada and is today Premier of a Canadian province.

Art of good eating

We have our regional cuisines with delicacies of their own. Even vegetarian food well-chosen and well-cooked can tickle the palate. But a westernised sophisticated gourmet’s notion of great food is different. He will spurn fast food as the lowest form of eating, he will frown upon buffet meals where there is a choice of a dozen items all spread over on a long table in metal containers with spirit lamps burning under them to keep them warm. His demands are exacting: the atmosphere should be congenial, fellow-eaters should be properly attired; crockery, cutlery and wine glasses must be classy; wines must be of vintage quality to match the food, desserts must be European (not rasgullas gulab jamuns, halva or ice-cream), liquors should be served with black coffee and to end the feast there must be a Havana cigar. A gourmet feast is a leisurely affair spread over a couple of hours: It is a ritual, a kind of meditation focused on the tongue.

A European gourmet’s notion of a memorable meal is usually meat, fish or crustacean-based. He will begin with avocado, peer, artichoke or some other such vegetable delicacy. He will go on to the main dish probably beef or chicken cooked in wine with appropriate sauce — Crustacean (lobsters or prawns) should be served with garlic sauce — he will have a side-dish of salad with dressing. He does not much care what the dessert is but if strawberries are in season he will deign to have them smothered in ice-cream.

Is there a future for this kind of gourmet eating in India? The answer is positively yes. Despite kill-joys who periodically force Prohibition on us, we have begun producing excellent vintage wines and champagne from French grapes grown in Karnataka and Maharashtra. In all our metropolitan cities, our five-star hotels have gourmet restaurants vying with each other to offer-their patrons lunch and dinners which will linger in their memories for years to come. The cost of such memorable feasts may range between Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 per head. They are strictly for the upper-most crest of Indian society with cultivated taste and plenty of cash.

The next best thing to savouring a gourmet feast is to read about it. Fortunately we have for the first time a magazine exclusively devoted to good food, wine, crockery, cutlery and where to look for them in your city: It is aptly named Upper Crust: India’s Food Wine and Style edited by Behram (Busy Bee) Contractor’s wife Farzana. It is the most lavishly produced magazine I have seen in India. It costs a fraction of what it would cost you to eat a meal recommended by it.

Super power

China is mortally afraid of us
With all its bluster gone
Everyday she is beseeching us
‘‘Let us for heaven’s sake become friends, come on.’’
Pakistan, the rat that it is, has gone into its hole
And there is just no nibbling on the line of actual control,
The flower of peace blooms broad in the valley
Because there is a total cessation of terrorist activity.
USA is another country
Which takes our advice
In every single matter of policy.
From casting an evil eye on us
We have deterred everybody successfully.
Isn’t it a miracle really?
And has this miracle not been wrought
Because we made a nuclear blast?
Aren’t we now a super power
And isn’t this our glorious hour?

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)