He nailed Hastings and
founded the Tory Party
Off the shelf
IN India Edmund Burke is
known not so much as a political thinker of great
calibre but as a crusader against corruption and
reckless abuse of power and as the one
responsible for the impeachment of Warren
Hastings, the founder of British Empire. The book
under review, "Edmund Burke. Vol. I.
1730-84" by F.P. Lock (Oxford, pages 564, £
75) belongs to a different category. It focuses
on Burkes political life when the fortunes
of political parties rose and fell in Britain.
Burke may have
been a failure as a practicing politician, but as
a founder of a political system he greatly shaped
the posterity. His political ideas left a
profound impact on the course of history.
Goldsmith dryly commented that to the
Conservative Party Burke gave what he meant to
give to mankind. This view is not entirely valid.
Burke finds a prominent place in the scholarly
writings of Lord Acton who often met Burke for
understanding the basic political and
constitutional issues of British public life.
Acton wrote to
Mary Gladstone, "You can hardly imagine what
Burke is for all of us who think about politics
and are not wrapped in the blaze and whirlwind of
Rousseau. Systems of scientific thought have been
built up by famous scholars on the fragment that
fell from his table. Literary fortunes have been
made by men who traded on the hundredth part of
As for his
politics Acton thought that Burkes speeches
from 1790 to 1795 are the law of the prophets.
German historiography was a reaction against the
French Revolution and was primarily inspired by
"History of England in the 18th
century" E.H. Leeky paid Burke a great
compliment. "No other politician or writer
has thrown the light of so penetrating a genius
on the nature and working of the British
Constitution... it had a peculiar gift of
introducing into transient party conflicts
observations drawn from the most profound
knowledge of human nature. There is perhaps no
English prose writer since Bacan whose works are
so thickly starred with thought. The time may
come when they will no longer be read. The time
will never come in which men would not grow the
wiser by reading them."
Author F.P. Lock
gives a synoptic view of Burkes early life.
Burke applied himself first to literature and
then to law. In 1750 he published his essay
"Sublime and the Beautiful", which
helped him be friend some men of letters and
politicians. His "The Abridgement of English
History" showed his firm grasp of the
fundamental historical problems, to which he
addressed himself with a view to understanding
the contemporary political situation.
He did not have
the speculative mind but he invented the value of
history. Acton describes Burkes
"Abridgement..." as "a most
remarkable literary production", and quotes
Lappenberg to say that if Burke had devoted
himself continuously to historical pursuits,
England might have produced a history worthy to
rank with the masterpieces of the Attic and
It seems that
Burke altered his view when he found that David
Hume had taken up the subject. For his
"Abridgement..." he was paid £ 300 in
installments. Lock emphasises that it was
Burkes grasp of Roman and Greek classics
which broadened his horizon and gave a wider
dimension to his historical perception.
political career began with his appointment as
secretary to W.G. Hamilton, Secretary for
Ireland, in 1761. Thereafter, he was appointed
private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham,
the First Secretary to the Treasury. He gave up
the idea of practicing as a lawyer which his
father regarded as defiance. He entered
Parliament in 1765.
By then the
question of taxing the American colonies was
occupying Parliament. The Rockingham Ministry
acting mostly on Burkes advice was
dissolved in 1766. From 1770 to 1780 Lord North
was in prison, and Burke held no office. From
1770 to 1780 he represented Bristol in
Parliament. In many of his speeches, as Lock
emphasises, Burke strongly criticised the
ministerial measures with regard to the colonies,
and advocated a policy of justice and
conciliation. In 1782 when the Rockingham
Ministry returned to power, he was appointed the
Paymaster-General of the Forces.
Lock focuses on
Burkes role in Parliament. Burkes
pamphlets expounded clearly the ideas and
principles of the Rockingham party. This he did
by relating them to the events which dominated
the party during last seven years of its
existence. His admiration of King George III and
Bute was severely criticised. This was due to the
prevailing perception that the Kings
mother, the Dowager Princess of Wales, was
desperately in love with Bute, and that his
resignation had been a sham. They still managed
to wield power behind the throne.
Burke adopted a
different approach. What mattered to him were
principles, not expediency and he was fanatical
about them. Burke attacked not Bute and the
Princess but the "new system of double
Cabinet whereby the influence of Lords who had
the ability to adjudge political issues
independently had been considerably
weakened". The remedy, Lock points out, that
Burke sought was for some other opportunistic
group to come to the aid of one party that had a
chance of ensuring stability.
Lock deals at
length with Sir Lewis Namiers criticism of
Burkes "double-faced" attitude in
public life, which he had made in his classic
"The Structure of Politics at the Accession
of George III". Namier had attached more
importance to the influence of
"interests" than "ideas" in
explaining political behaviour. Namier maintained
that because of Burkes lack of
understanding of the British Constitution,
"it seems extremely doubtful whether Burke
and his friends, if in power, would have
succeeded in saving the British power at the time
of the American crisis. Their ideas were no less
hierarchical and authoritarian than those of
George III and Lord North... Had Burke been in
office, might merely have had to antedate his
counter revolutionary Toryism by some twenty
pamphlet "Thoughts on the Consent of the
Present Discontent" was not well received.
Horace Walpole assailed the pamphlet on the
ground that it had focused on men rather than the
"measures". What the pamphlet had said
was that the cant of "not men" but
"measurement" was a sort of
charm "by which many people got loose from
every honourable engagement".
Burke of weakening the party system by his
"inviolable attachment to the Marquis of
Rockingham, a weak, childish, ignorant man".
Bagot took the same view and wrote that Burke
wished "to be thought of as an unbiased,
independent man but his conduct in Parliament
shows the contrary".
criticism of Burkes political conduct,
Bagot admired his "Philosophical
Enquiry" in which he founded his theory on a
theological belief with insight and analysis. His
main concern in his "Enquiry..." was to
study the "commerce, the times and
Constitution of his country". Locks
analysis of "Enquiry...." is
opposed to financing the war against Americans
saying that it was "contrived in ways not
fit to be avowed by Ministry and introduced Bills
to reform Crown finances and limit the extent to
which MPs could be corrupted". Burke
delivered a number of powerful speeches
emphasising that the "King was merely a
trustee for the public, the servant, and the
creature of the people". These reform
measures won public support because they
represented "a safe and surer way of
reforming Parliament than changes in the
With the fall of
Norths Ministry, Burke as Paymaster-General
introduced some economic reform measures. He
resigned after Rockingams death in 1777 but
became Paymaster-General again in 1783. When Pitt
did not have a majority in Parliament and took
well over 100 seats from the opposition to
consolidate his position. Burke said, "I
consider the House of Commons as something worse
than extravagant". He added, "We have
been labouring for nearly 20 years to make it
independent, and as soon as we had accomplished
what we had in view, we found that its
independence led to its destruction. The people
did not like our work and joined the Court to
pull it down."
that British political philosophy up to 1784 was
pragmatic "evolved in the Press and in the
House of Commons". After discussing
Burkes philosophical essays, Lock says that
although Burke, the politician, triumphed over
Burke the philosopher, "no radical
discontinuity separates the old politician from
the young philosopher".
But in the
summer of 1789 when he launched a crusade against
the French Revolution (which falls outside the
scope of this work). Burke had good reason to
keep the two apart. Burke was endowed with a
powerful imagination which endowed him to present
every measures he took up in the most vivid
authoritative study of Burkes political
ideas and life is insightful and incisive.
A great dons pop
Review by Manju Jaidka
The Crescent and the Vermilion by Shiv K. Kumar
UBS Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 161. Rs 175.
SO, you are tired of all that
"heavy" reading! All those tedious
books that pontificate more than entertain. Books
that insist on using unfamiliar jargon,
obfuscating language, highflown rhetoric. Books
that make irrational demands on your mental and
intellectual energies. Yes, you are tired and
need a change. Or perhaps you have some traveling
to do and need some light reading material other
than the newspaper.
are in no mood for yet another of those
"in" writers who try and show off their
linguistic calisthenics on every page. Not even
somebody like Salman Rushdie or Vikram Seth who
intimidate you by the sheer bulk of their works.
You want something light. Something breezy,
something that would not leave you in a state of
why not try this one this latest one by
the well-known Shiv K. Kumar? Kumars
"Infatuation: The Crescent and the
Vermilion" where the writer is at his
"popular" best. Given your present
circumstances, here is a novel that fits the
bill. Fits it to a T.
Kumars name and reputation hover somewhere
between reality and legend. Reality because he is
one of the foremost and most prolific Indian
writers in English, whose works find their way
into college and university syllabi. And
legendary for the same reason because here
is a man who has been so productive with his pen
that his achievements have become almost
incredible, almost a legend.
the author is best known for his poetry
Silences". "Cobwebs in the Sun",
"Trapfalls in the Sky", and
"Woolgathering". He also has a
collection of short stories, "Beyond Love
and Other Stories", a play, "The Last
Wedding Anniversary", a translation of
Faizs poems, two books on literary
criticism, and three novels: "The
Bones Prayer", "Nude Before
God" and "A River With Three
Banks". Name the genre and Kumar has tried
his hand at it.
Kumar has been Chairman of the English Department
at Osmania University, a visiting Professor in
the USA and the UK, and a Fellow of the Royal
Society of Literature (London). In 1988 he was
the recipient of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi
Award for his poetry collection "Trapfalls
in the Sky". And after all these laurels
what does he do now? Kumar lives in retirement in
a quiet corner of Hyderabad where his numerous
friends and admirers frequently visit their
"Uncle Shiv". Like a giant tarantula he
sits back in his parlour, enjoying their company,
regaling them with his recitation of Urdu poetry,
his great sense of humour and wit. Here is a
septuagenarian who is as full of the joie de
vivre as any young man of 20. Septuagenarian,
is he? Or octogenarian? Or is he in his naughty
forties? It hardly matters. As they say, age is a
question of mind over matter; if you dont
mind, it dont matter!
is Kumars zest for life which is reflected
in his latest novel, "Infatuation".
Throwing off the erudite mantle of a stuffy
Professor of English literature, he takes on the
role of a popular story-teller and narrates a
tale set in contemporary times a tale of
inter-personal human relationships, of love,
betrayal, sorrow, and the entire range of human
sub-title of the novel is evocative: the
vermilion is the red of the sindoor worn by a
Hindu woman as a mark of her marital status. And
the crescent is a Muslim symbol. Thus, as the
title indicates, the novel focuses on
relationships between communities that have the
dubious distinction of professing undying hatred
for each other. Shiv Kumar brings the two warring
groups together on the cover itself, dreaming of
a utopic condition where religion would cease to
this seem the impossible dream of a romantic?
True, Kumar is an incorrigible romantic in his
thinking, his poems, his stories and novels.
"Infatuation" is yet another
articulation of his dream. But, if the book
reinforces the moral of peaceful co-existence,
the lesson is by no means presented in the form
of a sermon. Ay contraire, it is a
sugarcoated pill that the writer offers
presenting his ideas through a story that has all
the ingredients of a thriller from the popular
silver screen. There is adventure, there is
romance, there is beauty, love, jealousy, envy
and retribution. There is also a kidnapping and a
gory murder, too. You name it and Shiv K. Kumar
has it all the masala for the
popular palate, put together in the form of a
love story with steamy scenes in plenty.
The demolition man of
Ayodhya Syndrome by A.R. Khan. Kitab Bhavan, New
Delhi. Pages 86. Rs. 100.
"ONE needs very little
planning to eliminate a dozen A.R. Khans
overnight in different parts of Shimla... I did
feel weak not out of a sense of insecurity
but for a feeling of loneliness. They (my Hindu
colleagues) were following the news (of the Babri
Masjid demolition) on their TV sets. Then why did
they not talk about the grave issue? Was it out
of courtesy, not to make me feel small over the
demolition of the mosque for which, they as
Hindus, though not a party to the deed, felt
guilty? Or was it out of embarrassment or
bewilderment of being unable to comprehend or
explain the events? Or, out of a sense of triumph
which good neighbourly etiquettes would not allow
them to demonstrate?"
words of Prof A.R. Khan are excerpted from his
article, "December 6, the day I felt
lonely" published in The Sunday Tribune on
October 31, 1993. The pain is evident as is the
bewilderment, even though 11 months had elapsed
since the demolition. It was as if his lifelong
endeavours as a secular nationalist had come to
a noted historian, has brought out this volume to
give a more cohesive response to the 25
pamphlet titled "The Political Abuse of
History: Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi
Dispute,". He felt that the pamphlets
authors were meting out dubious treatment to
history through distortion and concealment of
evidence. Khan, a pupil of the re-doubtable Prof
Nurul Hassan, had graduated from the F.C.
College, Lahore. The sojourn in Pakistan between
1956-1960 reinforced his nationalism. The
association with a secularist like Prof Hassan
moulded Khans perceptions.
Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992,
proved to be a turning point in Khans life.
It prompted him to "think more seriously
about discovering my place and identity in my
social and cultural milieu." He wrote a
series of articles. One of them titled,
"December 6, the day I felt lonely" was
published in The Tribune on October, 31, 1993,
and created quite a stir in intellectual circles.
is different if not impossible to look
objectively at an event that not only has a
historical background, but also repercussions for
the present and coming generations. The
demolition of the Babri Masjid is one such event.
While the Hindu Right hails it as a just
denouement of wrongs done by Muslim rulers in the
past, the obverse viewpoint condemns it as a
provocative act with designs to browbeat the
largest minority in the country. The truth, as
usual, remains shrouded in the haze of
becomes a victim of political skullduggery and
expediency. It becomes well nigh impossible to
sift fact from fiction when historians begin to
wear glasses tinted with politico-ideological
colours. Compiling history has never been an easy
job. It becomes all the more hazardous when
polemic and passions blur the vision.
Hesse, the late German novelist and poet, rightly
remarks: "History seems to us an arena of
instincts and fashions, of appetite, avarice, and
craving for power, of blood lust, violence,
destruction, and wars of ambitious ministers,
venal generals, bombarded cities, and we too
easily forget that this is only one of its many
aspects. Above all, we forget that we ourselves
are a part of history, that we are the product of
growth and are condemned to perish if we lose the
capacity for further growth and change. We are
ourselves history and share the responsibility
for world history and our position in it. But we
gravely lack awareness of this
the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi controversy was
raging 25 historians of JNU, including S. Gopal,
Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra and Harbans Mukhia,
came out with the pamphlet, "The political
abuse of history". Inter alia it questioned
the very basis of the belief that a particular
spot in Ayodhya was the actual birthplace of Lord
Rama. The argument ran thus:
There is no archaeological
evidence to suggest that Rama, who
according to the Valmiki Ramayana was
born in the Treta Yuga (thousands of
years before the present Kali Yuga),
actually ruled the present-day Ayodhya.
The place was probably not even inhabited
then. The earliest possible date for a
most primitive kind of settlement at the
site is indicated in the eighth century
The Ramayana describes an
urban settlement at the site during the
Treta Yuga, which is not tenable as per
archaeological findings pertaining to the
The location itself is
controversial. The Buddhist and Jain
texts make very few references to
"an Ayodhya", but, "this
is said to be located on the Ganges and
not the Saryu..."
The Gupta king, Skanda
Gupta, made Saketa his residence and
renamed it Ayodhya "to gain prestige
for himself drawing on the tradition of
the Suryavanshi kings, a line to which
Rama is said to have belonged."
references to Ayodhya begin only after
the seventh century AD.
The local tradition too is
ambiguous on the history of
Ayodhyas origin. "The story is
that Ayodhya was lost after the Treta
Yuga and was rediscovered by
Vikramaditya... even in the myths the
process of identification of sites
appears uncertain and arbitrary. If the
present-day Ayodhya was known as Saketa
before the fifth century, then the
Ayodhya of Valmikis Ramayana was
fictional. If so, the identification of
Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya today becomes
a matter of faith, not of historical
This confusion contrasts
with the historical certainty of the
birthplace of the Buddha. Two centuries
after his death King Ashoka put an
inscription at Lumbini village to
commemorate it as the Buddhas
Hsuan Tsang mentions
Ayodhya as a major centre of Buddhism.
Ayodhya has been an
important Jain pilgrim centre too... an
archaeological find of the fourth and
third century BC is a Jaina grey
terracotta figure, the earliest such
figure found so far.
The 11th century AD texts
refer to the Gopataru Tirtha at Ayodhya
but do not mention anything about the Ram
The cult of Rama was
popularised by the Ramanandi sect in the
Barring the Persian verses
inscribed on the two sides of the mosque,
there is no primary evidence to indicate
that Mir Baqi built the mosque there at
Even Tulsidas, who was
Akbars contemporary and a great
Rambhakta, does not mention anything
about the demolition of Ramas
temple at the site.
The story (of the temple
demolition) entered official records in
the 19th century during British rule.
response, Prof Khan wrote an article titled,
"Evidence, Reasoning and Belief in History:
Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Dispute"
carried by The Indian Express on February 25,
1990. While admitting that the JNU historians are
known for their secular approach to history, Khan
points out that their "conscious
"over-enthusiasm" have made an issue
out of academic non-issue.
also questions the historical methodology adopted
by the JNU dons. Khan points out that it is not
proper to lightly dismiss the mythological
references to the location of Ayodhya merely
because there is no archaeological evidence to
back up the claims. Here, one is reminded of the
Xia or Hsia, the first Chinese dynasty
(traditionally dated circa 2205-1766 B.C.) No
historical documents or archaeological evidence
has been found to corroborate the legends about
this dynasty too.
avers that the confusion between the Saryu and
the Ganga rivers being contiguous to Ayodhya can
be resolved by attributing it to erroneous
identification in Buddhist and Jain texts. He
further states, "...despite their
reservations about accepting Valmikis
characters, places, personalities, events and
locations as authentic, they have not paused a
while in uncritically accepting Valmikis
poetic exaggeration identifying Rama with the
Treta Yuga in the area where Ayodhya is
Khan points out that the JNU historians have
conceded, albeit inadvertently, that the
tradition of Rama and his association with
Ayodhya had gained widespread acceptance as early
as 1500 years ago. Otherwise why would Skanda
Gupta go to great lengths of renaming Saketa as
Ayodhya in the fifth century AD and claim a
Suryavanshi lineage by adopting for himself the
name "Vikramaditya" to gain prestige?
is it that the learned historians willingly
accept Ashokas identification of Lumbini as
the Buddhas birthplace two centuries after
the latters death, but not Skanda
Guptas identification of Saketa as Ayodhya?
absence of textual reference is no proof of
Ayodhyas non-existence during the relevant
period. Similarly, it is not acceptable to equate
the genesis of Ramas worship and popularity
to the rise of the Ramanandi sect. Khan takes the
historians to task for dismissing the Persian
verses on the Babri Masjid as "not primary
evidence" proving that Babar himself had
ordered the building of the mosque. He states,
"Here all the reasoning of the advocates of
historical evidence fails and only
belief prevails upon them in
rejecting, without giving any reason, the
contention of the inscription that the mosque was
built by the command of Emperor
describes as "fallacious" the arguments
that because Abul Fazal does not mention in the
"Ain-Akbari" anything about the
mosque erection by Babar on the site of
Ramas temple, it proves that he had not
ordered the building of the mosque. Similarly,
the absence of any reference in Tulsis
works to the temples demolition does not
also does not give much importance to the
argument that Muslim rulers did not always
support each other when one of them came in
conflict with a Hindu enemy. Nor does he feel
that just because some nawabs helped build or
maintain Hindu shrines, it was proof enough of
their secular credentials.
takes this argument further in his article,
"Composite Culture: (Ir)relevant?",
published in The Tribune on March 20, 1994. He
says, "Over the years historians of a
particular genre, call them secular or
progressive, have been talking of the growth of a
composite culture in India consequent upon the
coming of Islam... a qawwali or a performance by
Ravi Shankar may, at times, throw me and Atal
Behari Vajpayee alike into momentary ecstasy with
an equal intensity. But as soon as the trance is
over, the consciousness regained, and the
intellect takes over, we may find ourselves at
the opposite ends of... what we call
attack on a mind-set that equates secularism with
Hindu-bashing is a robust indication that the
non-partisan intellectual might be an endangered
species, but is by no means extinct.
back to the main controversy, Khan asserts that
more than the historicity of Ramas story it
is the popular belief, sentiments and faith of
the millions down the ages that should be given
due recognition. He points out, "The belief
of the Hindus in Rama as an avatar, or a
god, is as strong as the belief of the Muslims in
the Quran as a revealed work, as the word of God.
Can the said exponents of reason dare talk of
evidence on the latter?" Truly, the ivory
towers denizens are ill-equipped to combat
the grassroots-level creed dating back to the
relevant is the Ayodhya controversy to the needs
of the people aspiring to leapfrog into a
post-modern 21st century? Are our academics
insensitive to the majority communitys
religious sentiments? Is this what really pushes
even the saner elements among Hindus into the
waiting arms of fundamentalists? Would things
improve through an inter-community dialogue? How
can the communal conundrum be resolved?
us see what John Keay, much acclaimed as a
"gownless" academic with no axe to
grind, has to say,"... Babars only
noteworthy additions to Indias monuments
had been three mosques of little stylistic
distinction. One, at Panipat, celebrated his
victory over the Lodi, although another, that in
Ayodhya, has since upstaged it. Historians have
of late been sorely taxed over this Ayodhya
Babur-i- (or Baburi) masjid. Did it replace a
Hindu temple which marked the spot where Lord
Rama (of the Ramayana) was born? And what, if
any, was Baburs role in its construction?
Ever since Hindu fanatics laid into the mosque
with pickaxes in 1992, thus provoking a more
serious cave-in of modern Indias secular
credentials, more words have been written about
this unimpressive site than about any other in
India. Adding to them would only invite
message is loud and clear: "Let the sleeping
A tiresome travel
by Kavita Soni-Sharma
The Devils Teeth: Journeys in Gondwanaland
by Tahir Shah. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages
330. Rs 295.
THERE are some who would say that
this part-fiction part-travelogue is about
traveling in the Third World countries. Tahir
Shah however prefers to say that he travelled
around in Gondwanaland. That itself needs some
say, I do not know how far it is true, that at
one time the earth got divided into two great
land masses. The one which moved south was called
Gondwanaland, after the ancient adivasis of
Central India, the Gonds. This large mass itself
split into three and formed the current
continents of South America, Africa and South
Asia. It is this land that Tahir Shah, a
Britisher of Pakistani descent, decided to
travel across ancient Gondwanaland is a unique
idea in itself. Shahs verve and spirit of
adventure only added to it. As he travelled from
India to Pakistan and thence to Uganda and
Rawanda, Kenya and Liberia, and then across the
Atlantic to Brazil and the Patagonian glaciers,
Shah came across a variety of people and
without much paraphernalia, he found rough and
ready ways to adjust to the new places and
climates. One of the sure shot ways that he
shares with us is on how to acclimatise.
"Leaning with ones head dangling over
the end of a bed was the best way to achieve
this," he informs us. Though much of the
acclimatisation was done through his contact with
this Texan woman who wanted him to admire various
tattoos all over her body. Travel- weary readers
could try out both the techniques to find which
of them would work after a long-haul flight.
once the interest in such arcane experiences has
worn out, the reader would quickly tire out at
the rather trite descriptions that Shah has to
offer of his adventures in far-flung towns of the
Third World. Soon one realises that Shah is
primarily reporting to us his wonderment at the
quaint ways of living that he discovered in the
poorer quarters of these countries.
is this adventure with a motor vehicle which
broke down and could not be repaired easily. Or
the adventure with eating very hot and spicy
food. Or of having been stranded on a deserted
road. Or of having had to share the most intimate
of secrets of various people who did not seem to
realise that Shah was an outsider with whom such
sharing should not have been done. Or of,...
well, of getting bored with Shahs
continuous misadventures and statements about the
foibles of his interlocutors.
the book provide us with any meaningful
understanding of these new cultures and people?
Or even work as a simple guide on how to travel
in these lands? That remains a matter of personal
perception. Perhaps for a fifth grader in an
English school it does. For an Indian it might
just be a repetition of what we have read about
ourselves from various orientalist travellers.
The various travel survival kits published by
Lonely Planet are more informative.
for laughing at the foibles and quaintness of
Third world culture, I personally prefer Peter
Sellers for India and Bob Hope for Africa. In
other words, do flip through the book. As for
reading it? Do it if there is nothing better to
Osho, the dissenting
by P. D. Shastri
The People of the Path: A Lotus of Emptiness by
Osho. Diamond Pocket Books, New Delhi. Pages 206.
ACHARYA Rajaneesh (Bhagwan
Rajaneesh to his followers) has the reputation of
being the most original mind of the 20th century,
the boldest and most innovator-thinker. Other
masters repeat old stale thoughts, maybe in a
fresh idiom, which you have already heard a
hundred times. His disciples claim that he gives
to the world virgin turns of thought, unprecented
mataphor and something very novel. His ideas have
the freshness of the morning dew on flowers.
Reading him is a pleasure, one seems to have
strayed into some strange world, with unfamiliar
ways, where standing on the head is the norm.
disciples call him Osho, from the ocean. He is
expansive as the ocean, deep as the sea, and full
of all manners of wealth (spiritual) as the sea.
The word Osho has been historically used in the
Far-East to mean" the blessed one on whom
the sky showers flowers". His followers have
deified him, made their living God. They describe
him thus: "Never born, never died: visited
the planet earth between December 11, 1931, and
January 19, 1990".
prophets and religious leaders preach celibacy
and restraint. Oshos formula is super
consciousness through sex". God can be
achieved through sublimated sex. No wonder
well-known personalities from the East and West,
famous leaders, business magnates, superstars
from Bollywood and other top class women come
together in Pune to celebrate and join his
meditation groups. Perhaps they have their hidden
deserves too. These are the novelties of
todays spiritual age. A modern gurus
greatness is judged by the number and ranks of
his followers; more foreign disciples the better;
his five star living style, with his own radio
and TV network, planes and a fleet of cars.
has no faith in organised religions. Their books
are the holy writ that teach philosophy true for
all time. There is finality about them. The
prophet has said the last world. Osho objects to
all this. They stand for change in the world
which is actually changing at great velocity. He
says The Buddha went on changing and improving
till the last day. That is why the church came
into a violent conflict with Darwinian theory of
evolution. Moses gave a certain pattern of life.
People follow it. We are worshipping the dead
past, the corpses. Rules cant be more
important than man.
a village, the people worshipped hundreds of
gods. Oshos is: "Throw them all in the
Ganga". Their scriptures are the gospel,
ageless and timeless. Oshos advice is:
"Burn them all, including my books."
chief worry was that after his death his
institution may become also another church, with
its fixed ideas, philosphies, code of conduct and
is among the founders of science because he
advocated constant experiment. Experiment should
also become the method of all true religions, not
the present-day finality which makes for many
absurdities that embarrass the faithful.
idea of his is that the religion of a person
should be decided not by birth as now but by free
will and experimentation. In that orientation,
the father may be a Buddhist; mother a Christian,
the son a Hindu, the daughter a Muslim and so on.
Is not this saying something that has never been
said before, at least not in this fashion? He
seems (pretends) to preach Sufism. At the bottom
of every page with an odd number the words
appear: "Sufis the people of the path".
At the bottom of all pages with an even number
appear chapter headlings.
only that. Oshos small picture is there on
every page or all the 206 pages). Again after
every few pages, there is Oshos full-page
or half-page photo. This is also unique".
is Osho, Osho, everywhere. (Did not Kabir rank
the guru even higher than God?)
is Sufism? It is not a scriptural religion nor is
it logical. It condemns philosphising. You follow
this new religion with a new rhythm and in a new
wavelength. Sufism is the effort to free you of a
belief system to debunk them all. The guru here
is not a teacher but just a master, like a master
carpenter, artisan, painter, etc. The student is
just an apprentice, not a worshipper, like the
one learning to swim.
writer gives the example of (an imaginary)
meetings between Kabir and Farid. They sat silent
for 48 hours. That is true spiritual communion
through the language of silence.
same will happen if the Buddha were to meet Jesus
Christ, another high mark of his originality.
system has three cardinal points, love,
celebration and happiness (ecstasy). Man is
trinity body, mind and soul.
is the food of the soul. Without love, the soul
is dead. Personality blooms with love.
should be one long celebration. What is there to
celebrate? Everything rainbow, ocean, mountains,
do we remember God only when we are suffering?
Why do we associate God only with suffering? Link
him with happiness. God goes on signing a
thousand songs. Where can I always find
happiness? In the dictionary, under the letter H.
question is not how long you live, but how
happily you live.
disciples asked him, "What shall we do when
you are gone" His reply was: "There is
no I. It has no foundation. There is not death.
Never worry about the future. That is none of
your concern. After my death, my message. We are
waves. God is the ocean. We are part of the
bigger whole. We are the wave and God is the
ocean. The ocean never dies though waves come and
disciple hold sessions, playing the cassettes of
his speeches. To them, his every idea is gospel
truth and they receive every word of his with
what about the vast non-committed masses, the
general reader? They would rather be bewildered,
feeling that they had lost their way in this
labyrinth of an unfamiliar world where everyone
seems to be standing on his head.
starts with ego. One feels that he is the centre
of the universe, the manifestation of the
universe. By dropping the ego, one becomes big.
Right. But then he adds that society needs your
ego. "Swami Rama in America never used the
word (I). He would say" Swami
Rama feels hungry. "I am as far away from
Swami Rama as you are from me."
debunks miracles. Satya Sai Baba can produce
rings and Swiss watches out of thin air. Osho
calls them tricks. Two of a trade never agree. To
a guru the other guru sounds bogus and is a
pretender. The real miracle is to change the life
of a whole people.
touch cured a hopeless case of leprosy. He took
no credit. It was your faith that cured you,
Christ said and accepted water from a low class
woman. He quenched his thirst, the womans
lifetimes thirst was gone.
was laughing when being crucified. "They are
killing the waves, someone who is not
there." To common people, death is a daily
claimed that God made us in his own image, dog
which is god in reverse. One dog leader told them
not to bark. He found them all silent. He then
started barking; gurus do not practise what they
astrologer reading Christs hand predicted
that he would conquer the world, but there is
only one world. Alexander wept that there are no
more world to conquer. Alexander lay dying. He
wanted his life term to be extended just by 24
hours (he was only 32).
all his wealth or power, nor the best medical
skill of all specialists, could save him.
man claimed he could walk on water (he had spent
18 years acquiring the skill). Another could fly.
Osho dismissed these miracles as useless. A fish
can float on water, a bird, even a fly, can fly.
Why waste a lifetime to acquire such a skill.
disciple said, medication is for mystics. Why do
you foist it on us, ordinary people? Oshos
reply was: "There are no ordinary persons.
Each one is extraordinary, unique, a miracle. God
puts his signature on each human being. God is a
creator, not a manufacturer like that of Ford
cars, which are all identical".
run after perfection. Perfectionism is a
psychological disease. Imperfection is beautiful.
No one is ever perfect, except my wifes
last husband. Love totally, not to perfection.
religions talk of absurdities. Tall statues are
made of the prophets. Some of the Jain
Tirthankaras were 1,000-2,000 ft high and lived
for thousands of years.
religions are not problems; the leaders ego
is and that leads to wars and bloodshed. The
politician today is more powerful than God ever
was supposed to be. By unleashing an atomic or
hydrogen war, he can send up the whole world in
must you keep perfect silence in the church?
Because people are asleep. It is a metaphysical
sleep. Your heart does not leap in joy to see the
rainbow, because you are asleep. With meditation,
you can become a flame of awareness. When you are
awakened, you have become a Buddha.
apostles were intelligent persons, not
intellectuals. A woodcutter, farmer and a
fisherman could be more intelligent than the
said, "God is dead and so man is free."
The world is a super market where different
godmen display their wares in competition.
ye not. There are no right or wrong judgments.
All judgments are evil.
was a prophet. When comes another?
Stripping life of its
NARINDER Singh KAPUR has
emerged as one of the most prolific essayists in
Punjabi. He started his career as a lecturer in
English, became Professor in Punjabi, then moved
on to become Professor of journalism in Punjabi
University, Patiala. He is easily the most
qualified university teacher in Punjab.
collections of essays, he has perhaps overtaken
all old and contemporary writers in his field.
Not only in quantity but in quality also, he has
added something of his own to the form and
content of this genre. His prose is smooth
without stylistic stilts and props. Every
sentence is well-chiselled, carrying a bit of
folk wisdom which in modern times is becoming a
latest collection of 27 essays "Antar
Jhaat" (Lokgeet Parkashan, Chandigarh)
appeared towards the end of 1999. All the pieces
in this collection are in a meditative style,
displaying a mellowed mind of a person who is
well-settled after the initial convulsions every
greenhorn faces. The author believes that
devastating storms can be faced with grit and
guts, not with prayers. Difficulties in life
teach you to confront greater difficulties.
Self-assured endeavour moulds your surroundings.
A person grows old only when he renounces his
beliefs and ideals. Life cannot lose its meaning
in the face of worries and anxieties. Courage and
confidence can convert defeat into victory.
There are many
impossibilities in life but the number of
possibilities is not small either. Even God has
limits to his powers. Darkness cannot remain
under a bright sun even if God wills it. But the
question is how do we recognise the possibilities
If you become
honest, the world has at least one dishonest
person less which would be your great
achievement. Everybody complains that he has
grown old before time. Incidentally, what is the
right time to grow old? We cannot change the wind
direction but we can certainly adjust our sails
to the wind. Knowledge without action is a
burden. If the objective is not good, acquiring
knowledge is a sin.
As one advances
in life, his surroundings, his family, his ward,
his town and his country all advance.
Most of the
things in the world are meant for mediocres. The
world does not have anything to offer to a great
man. That is why they take very little and give
everything to the world. Sometimes great men have
so much to give to the world, which it cannot
easily absorb and utilise. Great men live for
their ideals but mediocres live to fulfil their
desires. A great man retains his equipoise even
in the most trying times. Once the Buddha went to
the village of his old enemy who began to hurl
abuses as he saw him. The Buddhas followers
were wild. Advising them to remain calm, he said,
"I have come here to be abused."
A healthy body
is obedient whereas an ailing one is a rebel. A
spiritually developed mind is an image of bliss.
It creates suffering neither for itself nor for
others. It is liberated inside and it longs for
the liberation of everybody around. It always
gives the fellow human beings due respect. There
are people who spend their lives finding faults
with their surroundings. They crave for autumn
even in spring. The plants that grow in pots do
have shadows but not shade. One cant hang
swings on their boughs and no rainy season
festival (tian) is celebrated under them.
The author adds
that a friend of his wasted most of his life
saying "I have no capital to realise my
dreams." When capital was arranged for him,
he stopped meeting his friends and could meet
them only after working on the "bottle"
for hours together at night. Now the dreams of
his ruin have been realised. He has sold his
house and after blaming his wife for his failure,
has filed for divorce.
Luck plays only
a small part in everyones success. A
decisive role is played by hard work,
perseverance and a sense of responsibility. The
author has his own view about the nature of
crowd. He says it has the power to destroy but
truth has the power to survive and shine.
People who break
a new path bring about moral and spiritual
revolutions in the world. There is no set formula
for a revolution. Every revolution is unique.
Crowds do not bring about any revolution. Only
those unusual and lonely individuals make
revolutions, who have the vision to see across
the darkness around them. A society cannot
produce cheerful citizens if its average members
are distracted and disappointed.
holds: "A baby is a product of nature
through the mother. The child is brought up by
nature through the parents." In this way we
all follow the laws of nature and life is a
product of this observance. After an accident
those who come to your rescue do not have the
means and awareness to help the injured and those
who have them, never stop to help anybody. Such
are the ways of the world.
strength of a woman, he observes, lies in her
physical assets; in her ability to be
inaccessible; in her power to keep you waiting;
in her ability to be absent and to create a
vacuum so that she is being missed by you. At
such times she looks like a fairy queen. If she
is present all the time, she becomes an earthly
woman and when she gets married, the man takes
her casually since she cannot go anywhere else.
In this situation, the man says, "I have
been cheated" and the woman says, "My
love is not being adequately reciprocated".
The things we are afraid of losing are always
over-protected. In the days of courtship there is
a constant fear of losing each other. That is why
lovers are so eager to get married.
The author feels
that housewives are usually more unhappy than
working women since they get more time to think
about the excesses committed against them.
There is no
concept of a gentle police officer in our
society. Evil-doers attract more attention than
good people. We usually avoid a good turn. Evil
is too charming to be eschewed. We can brush
aside somebodys praise but not his censure.
Tolerance is the
result of vast knowledge and experience in
addition to the capacity for deep thinking. This
is a state of the beyond, a kind of liberation
from day-to-day living. We long for the sea
though our thirst can be quenched with a mere
glass of water. We do read good books but never
follow them in real life. We deliberately go
astray though we know everything about the right
No doubt lots
and lots of things have been done in the world by
earlier generations but a lot more remains to be
done. They are waiting for your attention. The
fastest race is yet to be run. The sweetest song
is yet to be sung and the greatest book is yet to
be written. The most beautiful building of the
world is yet to be designed. The greatest of
tasks namely, removal of ugliness and evil
from the world is yet to start.
infinite opportunities for the common man to be
great. Once a man prayed to God to send somebody
to redeem this sinking world. The answer was:
"You have already been sent."
All these 27
pieces are full of such ruminations. The title of
the collection "Antar Jhaat"
(introspection) is fully justified.
Our Bonds live
& live well theme
by Kuldip Kalia
Book of "Comfort" by Ruskin Bond.
Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 142. Rs 75.
GOOD idea is an exciting
exercise. It can make your day. Equally important
is the thought process. These thoughts come in a
daring mental venture. Sometimes, an idea strikes
as an entertaining investment. Such a driving
force of talent is nurtured with magic words and
provides an "optimistic outlook" on
life and helps in achieving and targeting true
"potentials". Also he encourages
identifying the beauty "within" and
"in the world around us".
failure does affect life but one should not feel
dejected because as Bond rightly points out,
"As one door shuts, another opens." So
never allow things to disturb you to the extent
of overpowering you, and, in case such a
situation arises, "Ask yourself, does it
really matter?" This is how he treats an
adverse situation. Moreover, to him,
"Failure is not defeat, it is just learning
And here he
gives a tip on how to become successful.
"Try loving your enemies. If nothing else,
you will confuse them." Then there is the
second clue: "The greatest victory is one
you win over yourself."
tone changes and Bond asks: "What if you
failed yesterday? Today is not yesterday. Is
it?" Similarly, others do have a right to
succeed. So listen to his advice again: "Do
not allow their successes to cast a shadow on
your efforts." These days depression has
become an intrinsic part of our lives but Bond
warns against it, saying, "That pebble at
your feet has as much beauty as any great work of
art." Always keep in mind that
"Adversity is always intermittent,
therefore, if effort is constant, you are bound
to win." Moreover, it needs hardly any
effort to explain that "bad times are good
times to prepare for better times".
It is an old
saying that there is a "right time" and
a "right place" to do the "right
thing". But Bond explains the same thing in
his own style. "There is money to be made in
the market, but under a shady tree there is
principle of life is to avoid quarrels if you
want to live peacefully. However, he explains the
reason for avoiding quarrels when he says,
"You will find that most quarrels are weak
on both sides."
help live" is perhaps better than the
principle of "live and let live".
Undoubtedly he is wise. His inspiring instinct is
reflected in this: "Sow an act, reap a
habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a
character, reap a destiny." So when things
come to destiny, always identify your potentials
and judge your intellect because, "What you
think of yourself is more important than what
others think of you". That is why, he points
out, "Destiny is simply the strength of your
desires." So "we die only when the will
dies". Truly speaking, you can be considered
stronger than the man who rules the city if you
can "rule your own spirit".
Bond, "Smiles are born, not made. If they
are forced, they are not smiles, but
grimaces." Do listen to his advice; "If
you can smile when you feel hurt, the hurt is
half cured. Comparatively speaking, it is
only "a merry heart" which can do more
good than any medicine.
If you wonder
whether man is mortal or immortal, Bond explains
it philosophically. "A good man can never
die. The person of a man may be taken away, but
the best part of a good man lives on."
Talking too much is against the basic character
of mankind. That is why he warns those who speak
too much. His thinking is in line with the basic
spirit of the universe because "many words
initiate many defeats".
Finally, time is
the crucial aspect of life. It can be the
deciding or healing factor and so always keep in
mind that, "Time is too slow for those who
wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for
those who grieve, too short for those who
rejoice." But for those who live "time
is eternity". Thus time is ultimate and it
is how you perceive it.
"Some people are always complaining because
roses have thorns. Let us be grateful that thorns
have roses." How true! Always, "Be
useful, be wanted and be necessary." This is
real life or the true spirit of living.
and the Afghanistan
This is an
abridged chapter from "Afghan Communism and
Soviet Intervention" by Henry A. Bradsher,
an American journalist, with a fairly long stint
in Delhi and Moscow.
THE Soviet Union did not become
involved in its longest war because of any
intrinsic importance of Afghanistan to Moscow.
Ensuring Afghan adherence to Marxism-Leninism was
not a goal that in itself could justify such an
involvement. Instead, the involvement showed
Soviet determination, at the height of Leonid I.
Brezhnevs power, to assert Moscows
authority wherever the USSR perceived danger or
opportunity. After the determination of the
Afghan people to maintain their independence had
bloodied the Soviets while devastating their own
country, the imperialistic thrust ended. But,
again, Afghanistan was not the cause.
Moscows abandonment of the Kabul regime was
a result of long-festering Soviet internal
weaknesses, some of which had been exacerbated by
the Afghan war. Belated recognition of those
weaknesses, rather than any battlefield defeat or
the wars immediate costs, produced the
changed Kremlin thinking that led to the Soviet
Armys withdrawal from Afghanistan. Those
weaknesses later brought the collapse of Soviet
Communist power and of the USSR itself. Aid to
Soviet aid, Afghan Communists lost power.
Afghanistan turned inward to resume its struggle
over modernisation. The Soviet model had been
discredited. Another model, of greater reliance
on Islam for answers, had been strengthened.
Traditional factors of national unity had been
weakened, leaving uncertainty about
Afghanistans political structure and
coherence. And a land that stumbled into war
while seeking economic development had been
blasted backward into an even more desperately
primitive economic condition.
basic reason for withdrawal was the USSRs
domestic situation, which was worsening because
of factors more profound than the peripheral
Afghan problem. When Gorbachev became CPSU
general secretary in March, 1985, he faced
systemic weaknesses that Brezhnev had allowed to
fester behind a clock of censorship into crisis
proportions; that Brezhnevs successor,
Andropov, had begun to recognise but had not had
time enough or health to address; that the next
leader, Chernenko, had tried to ignore. A
disgruntled public perceived living standards no
longer to be rising, even to have begun
declining. This was primarily a result of trying
to maintain a superpower status from an
inefficient economic base. The armed forces were
eating up far more resources for competition with
the United States than the country could
rationally afford. Their demand for higher
budgets grew while overall national output was
stagnant or shrinking. This structural problem
was compounded by the disaffection of the
impoverished Soviet people with the old Stalinist
social contract. The satisfaction and security
they derived from cheap but poor housing and
medical care, from guaranteed jobs and other
returns on acceptance of dictatorial rule, were
so minimal that they felt little obligation to
work productively in return. Corruption
undermined ideology. Social ills arising from the
Afghan war only exacerbated existent
and a clique of iconoclastic thinkers around him,
men who saw the need and had the willingness to
question Brezhnevian orthodoxies, recognised that
continuing on the path he had inherited would
only lead to greater problems and unrest at home
as well as undermining the base on which rested
the appearance of strength abroad. The long-term
health of the USSR and of its Communist system
required an improved economy. The leadership had
to regain the confidence of a sullenly
uncooperative people and give them incentives to
work more productively. That required a
reallocation of resources and qualitative
improvements through cutting a growing military
burden. It also meant raising the technological
level of an antiquated civilian economy with the
import of western technology.
figured in the necessary reforms in three ways,
none of them a primary driving reason for change.
Its direct cost was only a minor factor, since
military and foreign aid expenditures were
overwhelmingly devoted to competition and
confrontation with the West and China. The
wars contribution to Soviet public malaise
was real but only another element in decades of
accumulated grievances. In the third way, the war
was significant but not divisive.
needed to reorder foreign policy in a quest for
relaxing international relations, thus justifying
to the Soviet military-industrial complex and
other Communist traditionalists a reduction of
the arms burden and seeking access to western
loans and technology. Arms control agreements,
not armed confrontations, were needed.
"...[O]ur international policy is more than
ever determined by domestic policy, but our
interest in concentrating on constructive
endeavours is to improve our country,"
Gorbachev said in 1987. He added in 1990,
"...without a new foreign policy, we would
have been in no position to transform our own
situation had come full circle since 1979. Then,
the Brezhnev leadership felt it had little to
lose in already poor East-West relations and
stalled SALT II negotiations and invaded
Afghanistan. Now, the need for better relations
and new arms control agreements argued for
removing western and Chinese complaints about the
Soviet role in Afghanistan. The "limited
contingent" came to be seen by the reformers
around Gorbachev as blocking their countrys
Afghanistan was burdened by four basic kinds of
difficulties. One was the broad problem arising
from its internal ethnic balance, its borders,
and its relations with neighbours. The 1978-92
war ended centuries of Pushtun dominance while
shifting leadership among Pushtuns from the
Durranis to the rival Ghilsais. The Taliban
sought to reimpose Pushtun control with power
moving back to the Durranis, creating unrest
among Ghilzai Pushtun recruits to the Taliban
cause. Across the northern border, the
independence of Tajik, Uzbek and Turkmen peoples,
after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, created
possible alternatives to Kabul as attractions for
Afghan minorities that had been separated from
their ethnic brethren and placed in a
Pushtun-dominated state by the border drawing of
the 19th century British and Russian colonialism.
Across the Iranian border, where the division of
waters flowing from Afghanistan in the Helmand
River remained a latent issue, Tehran exerted
influence on Afghan Shiites, particularly
Hazaras, a group disaffected within the Afghan
polity as a result of being consigned to a
second-class status for generations.
the most obvious continuing issue was the border
with Pakistan. Decades of efforts by the ISI to
create an Afghan leadership that would not
question the Durand Line had failed to resolve
the problem of Pushtuns being divided by
another colonially drawn border. Both Karmal and
Najibullah had kept the issue of Pushtunistan
alive during the 1980s. The contending factions
that succeeded in Kabul had no immediate time for
such subjects. But the Talibans recruitment
of Pushtun youths from Islamic schools in
Pakistans Northwest Frontier and
Baluchistan to fight Tajiks, Uzbeks, and other
minorities blurred the border distinction even
more than Pakistans official involvement in