|Saturday, September 23, 2000,
India quits Sierra Leone
China in WTO
Aaj ka Mayor
A NO-WIN SITUATION
The business of sustainable poverty
Come back, Babur, all is forgiven
Kimonos for my friend
India quits Sierra Leone
SIERRA Leone was a jinxed assignment for the Indian peacekeepers from the very beginning. Major-Gen V.K. Jetley, Commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, would hopefully throw more light on what went wrong and why, which compelled India to pull out its 3059-strong contingent from the 13,000-member force charged with the responsibility of maintaining peace in a most backward African country. Indian troops have usually earned high praise for their conduct as part of the UN peacekeeping teams. But Sierra Leone had the makings of a major disaster ever since the landing of Indian troops for taking part in an unequal battle, made more difficult because of the unfamiliar terrain, with the Revolutionary United Front guerrillas. Differences between the Indian Commander of the UN force and troops from African countries came to a head when 21 Indian peacekeepers were taken hostage by the RUF. Indian diplomacy took a back seat and General Jetley found his hands tied militarily because of the British, Nigerian and US attitude of non-cooperation in the matter of resolving the hostage crisis. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's stand on the modalities for ending the crisis too contributed to the lowering of the morale of the Indian troops on duty in a foreign land. General Jetley was told to restrict himself to performing only peacekeeping duties even when the security of his troops was involved. India should have walked out of Sierra Leone after after securing the release of the troops held hostage by the RUF for over two months. But Indian Ministers Jaswant Singh and George Fernandes ignored the negative signals while praising the brilliant execution of Operation Khukri for rescuing the hostages.
The commitment to not
withdraw the Indian troops from Sierra Leone was made two
months ago. The External Affairs Minister and his
colleague in the Ministry of Defence owe a cogent
explanation for the delay in withdrawing the troops from
UN peacekeeping duties in Africa. The official
explanation that "we have decided to withdraw from
Sierra Leone as part of a routine rotation out so as to
give other member States a chance to participate in the
mission" conceals more than it reveals. General
Jetley, a strict disciplinarian, was evidently not
popular with the officers of other nations, particularly
those from Nigeria. At the root of the struggle for power
involving the RUF and other "interested
parties" are the huge diamond deposits in Sierra
Leone. When General Jetley accused the Nigerian officers
of undermining the UN mission and profiting from Sierra
Leone's diamond deposits through an official memo, copies
of which somehow landed on the tables of two local
newspapers, it became clear that Indian troops' agony of
performing peacekeeping duties in an "all round
hostile atmosphere" would end soon. The Nigerian
army chief had called for General Jetley's resignation.
India wisely decided that diplomatic retreat rather than
allowing the stand off to result in some kind of an
internal war within the peacekeeping force was the better
option. But the decision has come, perhaps, two months
too late. The right time to pack up and leave was after
the successful execution of Operation Khukri for securing
the release of UN peacekeepers from the RUF guerrillas.
China in WTO
DECKS were cleared for the entry of China in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) when the US Senate adopted a bill to extend normal trading facilities to the communist country earlier this week. The vote85 in favour and 13 againstends the 20-year farce of annual sanctions accompanied by angry denunciations. Now, China becomes a normal country like all others with free access to the US market for a variety of its goods. In a reciprocal measure, China has also promised to lift all restrictions on the export of US goods and capital. Within a day, China greeted the news by opening up the Internet and telecommunication sectors to private operators. The annual voting did not restrict the Chinese trade with America and it has flooded the US market with a large number of low-priced consumer goods, some of them priced at a dollar each. In fact, until the 1997 crisis, China regularly had a trade surplus of around $ 40 billion and now this is set to sharply go up. What is more interesting is the new opportunity for American exporters and investors. The US giant car-makers are smacking their lips, hoping to increase sale by shipping hundreds of thousands of vehicles. Similarly, billions of dollars are expected to flow for setting up new fibre optic cable network and boosting Chinese land-based and satellite telephone system. In fact, China may soon rival Europe as the most attractive investment option for the USA. Economic growth which had slowed down to a single digit in the past few years will now climb as US companies jostle with one another to take over dilapidated state enterprises strewn all over the country. All in all, this will spark a new revolution in China as significant for the world as the one in 1949.
There is no room for
India to rejoice. After becoming a member of the WTO,
India has to extend all benefits to China, which means
opening its trade doors without any restriction. China
and India have conflicting interests as both turn out
almost the same type of goods. With the possibility of
China diverting a big part of its produce to India once
its production base widens with foreign capital, it will
pursue an aggressive export policy on the crust of
enormous price advantage. This is the fear that
particularly haunts small-scale units and the Indian
government has only a few months to devise a protective
shield. Obviously, it cannot be high tariff as that would
violate WTO rules. While it is good that a constant
source of irritation has ended between China and the USA,
there is a strong possibility that the new arrangement
will lead to friction between China and this country.
Many American lawmakers who are strong sympathisers of
the Taiwan regime used the annual voting to lambast
Chinas poor human rights record and its export of
nuclear and missile technology to countries like
Pakistan. They have lost that opportunity now. But
industrialists have hit a goldmine in the shape of
expanding Chinese market.
Aaj ka Mayor
THE mayor of a city is called the City Father because he is considered to be a father figure. However, the Mayor of Amritsar has proved to be anything but that. He was allegedly caught red-handed recently by the police with a girl in a local hotel. After initial dilly-dallying, the Bharatiya Janata Party expelled him for six years, but the worthy is yet to resign from his post. That only compounds his moral turpitude. While sacking him would have meant the serving of the right desserts, it is unfortunate that behind-the-scene parleys are going on to find a face-saving formula. The disgraced Mayor met senior leaders of the party in Chandigarh the other day and if media reports are to be believed, he may be told to resign, but his expulsion from the party may be withdrawn. If that indeed is the gameplan, it may boomerang because some of the mud that he has accumulated may also stick to those who come to his rescue. In fact, that has already happened to some extent because of the studied silence which his party colleagues maintained when the scandal broke out. A district BJP leader issued him a clean chit and then did a volte-face. Even the police officials did not show the uprightness expected of them. Had it not been for the persistence shown by the media, the matter might have been pushed under the carpet. To that extent, the local journalists deserve kudos for continuing a relentless fight even in the face of tremendous pressure.
What is all the more
sickening is that the Amritsar episode is not one of a
kind. Moral decline has become a way of life. Similar
stories emanate from almost all places. Instead of
becoming role models, most leaders abuse their exalted
position for giving the rules a go-by. In one city,
municipal councillors misuse their official position to
ensure that the ongoing encroachment drive does not apply
to their premises. In another, a history-sheeter MLA
issues slips on his official pad to the drivers of taxis
being plied in the district illegally. Instead of
isolating the black sheep, their colleagues prefer to
look the other way. It is because of this conspiracy of
silence that the wrongdoers are becoming more and more
bold. The failure of society to make them mend their ways
not only makes them more crooked, but also encourages
many more people to cock a snook at the law. Any attempt
to discipline them is always branded by their cronies as
political vendetta. But this excuse has worn
so thin that nobody is fooled. Exemplary punishment in
even one case can send the desired message to many VIP
criminals. Now that the Mayor has allegedly been caught
in the act, the authorities and his colleagues have to
stand by the law instead of trying to shield him and his
acts of wrongdoing. It has been noticed that someone
indulging in unlawful activities does not confine himself
to just one field. A BJP MLA has alleged that the person
concerned had amassed wealth and property beyond his
means during his tenure. Now that the cat is out of the
bag, there is need for a dispassionate, broad-spectrum
A NO-WIN SITUATION
THE Indian Army has been combating insurgency for close to half a century. No army in the world has so much experience in this field. Our senior officers have vast hands-on experience, starting from the level of patrol leaders, chasing insurgents through thick forests, raiding their camps, searching villages, breaking through ambushes etc to planning operations at company and battalion level and later at higher command positions. A large number of officers have died in the course of these operations. Understanding and gaining grasp of counter-insurgency operations does not easily come to those who do not have this ground-level experience of fighting insurgents. Those who operate from secure offices and send only their underlings to fight insurgents, are naturally inhibited in their capacity to plan counter-insurgency operations. That has been the bane of central police organisations where senior appointments are taken up by IPS officers who have no field experience in fighting insurgency. In these 11 years of insurgency in J and K only one senior police officer has been the target of terrorist bullets. He was shot inside a high security area as he came out in his dressing gown to check on the commotion in the camp, whereas senior army officers have been taking active part in these operations. GOC Baramula Division was wounded and his Colonel died in an exchange of fire with the insurgents. I as GOC was ambushed a number of times and my ADC accompanying me was wounded. On another occasion my escort vehicle was blown up by an IED.
Mr P.C. Dogra in his article, Concept of Unified Command, (September 5), has made some very pertinent observations and yet has been less forthcoming in others. Mr Dogra does accept the imperatives of a unified command to fight insurgency, especially the type now going on in J and K, but his concept of unified command is more in the form of pooling resources with a loose central control where individual responsibility gets diffused and accountability is absent rather than a meaningful command and control structure with well delineated areas of responsibilities. What he has in mind is perhaps workable in less stressful situations, such as flood relief work or at worst a law and order problem. In J and K we are faced with a far serious situation which Mr Dogra himself admits, as an advanced stage of proxy war, in war like conditions only a very tight and firm command and control structure can meet the exigencies of the situation.
Intelligence is unexceptionably a very important element in the fight against insurgency and it is something which is missing in J and K. Success depends on good and timely intelligence, else looking for insurgents is like locating a needle in a haystack. Time-sensitive intelligence must reach, without delay, the components of security forces which have to act upon it. Therefore, in such cases it must flow faster, laterally than upwards. Take the case of the BSF. Many battalions of this force are deployed on the LoC in J and K and as such are under the operational command of the infantry brigades concerned. The IG, BSF, in these cases exercises only administrative control over such battalions and therefore, has no operational responsibility in their regard.
Consider the anomaly; while the BSF battalions are under the operational command of the respective brigades, their G sections (intelligence sections)operate under the direct control of the HQ, IG, BSF, which otherwise has only administrative control over the battalions. Consequently intelligence obtained by this section is passed on to the BSF, HQ, which would relay it to BSF. HQ at Delhi from where the information may filter back to the military or it may not. Sometimes, depending on the wish of the local BSF HQ it may at the same time be passed on to the army formation concerned. The peculiarity of this arrangement creates its own friction with the command set-up as well as rivalries with other intelligence agencies. This is just one example of the pattern of functioning at the grassroot level and the situation is aggravated as you move up the ladder. In the sort of situation obtaining in J and K, there has to be central control and coordination of all intelligence agencies at the state level and not at Delhi. The more important intelligence information would, of course, get to Delhi where a separate and independent assessment could be carried out along with other inputs and the same passed down to those in J and K.
In counter-insurgency operations the most important source of information is admittedly the local police, especially when related to urban and rural areas. Therefore, one of the first acts of insurgents is to neutralise the local police on the one hand and terrorise the locals on the other, to kill that primary source of intelligence of the police. This is what the terrorist did in Punjab too. There is hardly any other similarity between the ongoing insurgency in J and K and the terrorism in Punjab of those days. The police in J and K had been neutralised through long exposure to politicisation, corruption and subversion of loyalties. It had stopped carrying out its normal functions even in less insurgency prone areas in J and K. The lower level bureaucracy (patwaris, tehsildars, BDOs and their lower staff etc) are the other useful channels to obtain information, but these had become non-functional almost a decade ago. Resurrecting these basic ground level organisations is essential but almost impossible in the current state of affairs and in any case it is not the task of the army.
In a war situation no one should really get concerned about rewards, but instead focus on the tasks at hand. That is the spirit under which forces must operate, else individuals would be more concerned with preserving themselves so as to be able to claim rewards afterwards. When seniors are reluctant to expose themselves to risk, these impressions and feelings get transmitted down the line and have a debilitating effect on the performance of lower echelons. Army officers are exposing themselves to equal risk as the men under their command and the casualties amongst the officers in J and K are testimony to this basic requirement and function of command. This cannot be said of others.
The problems in organising a proper unified command in J and K is one of attitudinal hang-ups, of preconceived notions, of false ideas of status created by successive pay commissions, mindset and lack of understanding of command function. Of course, command places enormous responsibility and the attendant accountability for failures and under performance and there is no escape from it. This fear of accountability, more than anything else, works against the idea of unified command. No commander, particularly in a war situation, would disadvantage any component of his force so as to make it under-perform. Not to understand this basic point is to betray absence of understanding of command function, spirit of joint operations, of team spirit and an ability to adjust to the pressing demands of the moment. The military experience of centuries enjoins the path of strict channel of command and bypassing it is taboo and unacceptable at every level. So Mr Dogras apprehensions of dilution of command and control of senior officers of the central police organisations, (CPOs - BSF, CRP, ITBP etc) if placed under command of the army, are ill founded and misplaced. But in a unified command it would be impossible to exercise authority without responsibility and accountability. Many officers of the army (at every rank) who under-perform in counter - insurgency operations (as elsewhere) have their future sealed. This is the dominant fear amongst the CPOs of being placed under the unified command.
My own experience of commanding a division in the valley and conducting anti-insurgency operations is that the central police organisations are not willing to be placed under the full control of unified command. The political executive is incapable of disabusing these forces of such hang-ups. What we see in J and K is limited cooperation, more oneupmanship, rivalry and the worst, amongst various security forces. Since unified command idea has eluded us for over a decade and we lack the political will to enforce it, the better alternative is to clearly delineate the geographical boundaries between the CPOs and the army. The valley, areas of Poonch-Rajouri-Naushera, Jammu (between the Chenab and the Ravi) Udhampur, Doda and north of Zojila are the areas that lend themselves to geographical division and therefore, can be distributed amongst the army and the CPOs and responsibilities assigned accordingly. In this case coordination between various security forces would be feasible. This perhaps is the only solution in the present state of political will or absence of it and the police mindset.
The business of sustainable
THIS year the World Banks annual World Development Report is titled attacking poverty. It is indeed true that the bank wants the worst of poverty to be alleviated. But the bank does not want poverty itself to be removed. The policies recommended by the bank actually are such that they will perpetuate poverty. The bank only seeks to provide a safety value for the pent-up anger against the worst deprivations to be released so that the poor do not revolt against the exploitative reforms being promoted by it and poverty becomes sustainable.
The bank accepts that market reforms have not been fully satisfactory. But instead of re-examining the reforms themselves, it only seeks to mitigate its worst impacts on the poor. It admits that reforms can also be a source of dislocation. The experience of (countries in) transition... vividly illustrates that market reforms in the absence of effective domestic institutions can fail to deliver poverty reduction (page 32). It goes on to point out that reduction in poverty due to the reforms have been very vulnerable in East Asia.
The elitist character of the reforms should have propelled the bank to re-examine the basic premise that free market economy is fundamentally anti-poor. When bank President Wolfensohn writes in the foreword that forces of global integration must be harnessed to serve the interests of poor people, this is actually an admission that the character of reforms themselves is anti-poor. But challenging the reforms would not have served the interests of the banks masters in Washington and Brussels. Thus it has put on a pro-poor mask and advocated policies not for the removal of these evil effects but for the mitigation of their extreme impact while perpetuating the anti-poor reforms themselves.
The three-point formula suggested by the bank is that developing country governments should make special efforts to secure (1) human capital health and education; (2) political empowerment of the poor; and (3) establishment of safety nets to help poor tide over economic and natural crisis. Thus far there is no problem. Who would challenge the need to secure these objectives?
The disagreement arises in the road to the securement of these objectives. There are two distinct ways to reach this end. The developing countries can invest in labour-intensive infrastructure creation, ensure that every person has employment and enable the poor to secure health, education, empowerment and safety themselves. The alternative is for them to spend more in directly providing these services and, in the process, cut expenditures on infrastructure and employment.
The bank itself admits that the employment approach has some merits. Regarding health and education it says that poor people consistently emphasise the centrality of work to improving their lives (page 34). It goes on to point out that some countries in East Asia having high growth rates also secured massive improvements in health and education of the poor. In other words, to a large extent growth per se would lead to better health and education for the people. And growth, all would agree, would be secured by investment in infrastructure.
Regarding empowerment it is said that poor peoples lack of assets and income-earning opportunities ties them to rich land-owners in patron-client relationships. And for women a lack of savings and assets precludes a more independent role in decision making in the household and the community (page 36). The implication is that if the poor are empowered economically by ensuring employment and redistribution of land then their political empowerment would take place spontaneously. Regarding safety nets it says that the poor live and farm on marginal lands with uncertain rainfall. They live in crowded urban settlements where heavy rains can wipe out their homes. They have precarious employment... Low level of physical, natural and financial assets makes poor people specially vulnerable to negative shocks (page 37). It would follow that one simple way of managing vulnerability to is to redistribute productive assets and ensure employment.
These quotations lead
one towards accepting a labour-intensive infrastructure
approach. This is further strengthened by the doubts
expressed by the bank regarding direct provision of these
services by the government.
On the spot
IN Chittisinghpora they talk about the massacre as if it happened yesterday. They speak of it with terror in their eyes even if they have seen no militants in the village since March 20 when they came dressed as Indian soldiers. Pictures of the 35 Sikh men they killed have been put up on a cardboard chart in the verandah of the local gurdwara and those who come asking about the massacre are first taken to see them as if to pay homage at a shrine. On the chart I see colour pictures of old and young men and one very young boy, they have the hazy quality of pictures taken from family albums, but everyone in this village remembers every thing about these men they now call martyrs. This one was an engineer, that one was a government servant, this is Lambardar Naseem Singh (my father) that is Ujjal Singh, ex-serviceman, that is Faqir Singh, his whole family was killed.
They point out the gurdwara wall against which 18 persons were lined up and shot. Eighteen here and the rest outside the other gurdwara in the village. It wasnt very late-before 8 p.m. and the village was still awake. They came on foot and we believed them when they said they were Indian soldiers, nobody thought anything of it when they lined up the men in the village and said they wanted to check identity cards. How could we have known what they were planning?
I hear the rest of the story from Nanak Singh who was one of the two men who survived the massacre. The other one has left the village, he wanted to get as far away as possible, but Nanak Singh continues to live with what remains of his family in Chittisinghpora. He lost his son, Gurmit (18), his brother Dalbir Singh and three nephews. The small living room in which we sit is filled with women and children and when he mentions the men they have lost they start weeping. Nanak orders them to stop and tells me his story.
I was sitting outside the house with the family when they came. They said they wanted only the men to come with them, they were checking identity cards they said because they had heard there were militants in the area. We knew this was true because for about six weeks before this we had seen them walking through the village, they used to be heavily armed and they told us they had come from Pakistan to fight the jehad. That evening the men who came wore Indian Army uniforms, they had a bottle of whisky with them and colour on their clothes because it was Holi. They took us to the gurdwara and made us stand in a line, they asked for our identity cards and as we were taking them out one of them fired a single shot in the air, there was an answering shot from the other gurdwara, then they turned their guns on us and started firing. I did not get hit because several bodies fell on me. But, then they fired one more shot into each body and I was shot through the hip. I heard them say Jai Hind, Jai Mata before they walked away.
It was nearly an hour after they left before people dared to come out of their homes to see what happened. Nanak Singh was then carried back to his home but since the village has no telephone and no form of transport it was several hours before help came. Three men from the village ran seven kilometres to the nearest police station in Mattan to bring the police back. This was no easy exercise since the road to Chittisingpora is still only a dirt track that winds up along a hill. Nanak Singh remembers that it was 2 a.m. before they could take him to a local army hospital. His hip was shattered and it was only the following morning that they could take him to a hospital in Srinagar. Several days later he was taken to a hospital in Amritsar where he had hip replacement surgery for which the Sikh doctors did not charge him anything. He is deeply grateful, he says, to the Sikh community who sent money and help but he is bitter about the absence of help from the State Government.
Farooq Abdullah came the next day and promised that the village would be given a telephone connection. It is now five months since then and we still do not have one. The road is still as bad as ever and the only thing they have done is provide us with a police picket in the village. I was to be given compensation which still has not come. The village has had no electricity for the past six weeks, it has just been restored today, and we get only two hours of water a day. Farooq Abdullah told us this would be made into a model village but nobody has done anything for us.
Then follows the usual litany of complaints that you hear in most Kashmiri villages. No hospital, no public transport, no electricity, no water, no jobs. The village has six graduates who were promised jobs in the State Government but nothing has been done.
The story of Chittisinghpora does not end here. A few days after the massacre the Army rounded up young men from nearby Pathribal and allegedly shot them dead as foreign militants. There was an uproar from the local people and the bodies of the foreign militants had to be exhumed from their unmarked graves. Local people recognised some of them as the men who had disappeared from Pathribal so they came into the streets in protest. They marched towards the District Commissioners office in Anantnag to reclaim the bodies of their dead but did not get there because in the village of Brakpora they were fired at by soldiers or para-militaries (they are not sure) and 12 more people ended up dead.
There is hatred and anger everywhere and it is directed not just at India but at Farooq Abdullah whom they blame for much that has gone wrong in Kashmir. In Brakpora they tell me that they are still harassed on a daily basis by ex-militants who have been employed in the police. They are thieves, looters and killers and they are allowed to do exactly what they like, local shopkeepers tell me.
At the end of the day I try to get some answers from State Government officials. They deny that the victims of the Chittisinghpora massacre have not been properly compensated but admit that nothing has so far happened about the promised telephone line. What about Brakpora? Why was a peaceful procession shot at? Oh, that was a mistake?.
Just another mistake in
the long list of mistakes that have turned Kashmir into
the killing field it has been now for more than ten
years. When Farooq Abdullah returned as Chief Minister in
1996 people had hoped that things would improve, that
there would be development and a measure of peace. Their
anger against him is mainly because so little changed.
The State Government claims it has no money for
development but the average Kashmiri believes the Central
Government has poured money into Kashmir, money that has
gone towards lining the pockets of ministers. It is an
old, old Kashmir story.
Come back, Babur, all is forgiven
BANGARU Laxman may not know it, but I am certain that both Sarvarkar and Golwalkar are turning in their graves. What a preposterous thing to do to the founders of Hindutva, to invite Muslims to join the BJP. And without conditions, too. What is our fatherland coming to?
Who is this Bangaru? He seems to have suddenly appeared on the scene like a new convert to pseudo-secularism. He tells Hindus that Muslims are flesh of our flesh. He goes against the teachings of the great Hindu philosophers like Sarvarkar, Golwalkar and Shyama Prasad Mookerji. They have defined a Hindu as one who inherits Indian civilisation as represented in a common history, a common law and a common jurisprudence, common fairs and festivals, rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments. Sarvarkar said: All Hindus claim to have in their veins the blood of the mighty race incorporated with and descended from the Vedic forefathers. By this definition, Bangaruji himself may not qualify, but thats another matter. Lets not cause more confusion.
Golwalkar was particularly adamant on the superiority and purity of the Hindu race and religion. He writes: This great Hindu Race professes its illustrious Hindu religion, the only religion in the world worthy of being so denominated, which in its variety is still an organic whole.... Guided by this religion in all walks of life, individual, social, political, the race evolved a culture which despite the degenerating contact with the debased civilisations of the Mussalmans and the Europeans, for the last ten centuries, is still the noblest in the world. For Golwalkar, there is no nation other than a Hindu nation.
Golwalkar generously gave Muslims and Christians a chance to be part of the Hindu nation. For these races he suggested that they abandon their differences, adopt the religion, culture and language of the nation and completely merge themselves in the national race. So long, however, as they maintain their racial, religious and cultural differences, they can but be only foreigners.
What about Bal Thackeray? He gives Muslims no chance to redeem themselves. They are totally out of his reckoning. It appears that Bangarus call to Muslims has the blessings of the Prime Minister and sections of the RSS. But Thackeray is furious. To invite Muslims to join the political or social mainstream goes against all that he stands for and campaigned for. The poison he has injected into the public life of the nation cannot be flushed out easily by a few words of liberal generosity. A sample of his outlook and philosophy is worth recalling. In 1993, during the Bombay riots, he told Time magazine: I want to teach Muslims a lesson. When questioned on the fact that Muslims were fleeing Bombay, Thackeray replied; If they are going, let them go. If they are not going, kick them out. Thackerays long-standing admiration for Hitler and Nazi Germany showed in his remark that if the Muslims in India behaved like the jews in Nazi Germany, there is nothing wrong if they are treated as the jews were in Germany.
It is possible that a
genuine change of heart is taking place in the BJP and
the Sangh Parivar. Maybe Im being too optimistic.
But, after all, new generations are being born. And in
the Indian climate where fresh ideas are blown about and
the social milieu is constantly changing, the chances are
that the old orthodoxy will give way to new revolutions.
A thousand mutinies may yet find their true
Kimonos for my friend
WHEN I happened to mention to a close friend that my wife and myself were likely to visit Kobe in Japan soon, his wife asked us to pick up some kimonos for her from Japan. We had never purchased the traditional dress of Japanese people before and, therefore, had no idea as to how much it would cost. After some weeks we arrived in Kobe by ship. The first day was spent in familiarising ourselves with the new country and its dazzling showrooms.
Next day we roamed about looking for kimonos. But first we came across a shop selling pearls. We were shown three different pearl necklaces of 100 pearls each. To us all these looked exactly the same. We had heard tall stories of quality and low price of these pearls. The salesgirl informed us that the necklaces cost 400 yens, 4000 yens and 40,000 yens, respectively, while 20 yens were equivalent to one rupee in those days.
We had only 60,000 yens with us for our entire shopping. On further queries the salesgirl explained that the third necklace costing 40000 yen was entirely of original mother of pearls variety. We were wiser and left the shop, abandoning the idea of buying any pearls. Instead, we decided to buy some nuts to munch with a glass of milk.
Till the last day of our stay we were unable to buy the kimonos for our friends in India. But that was very much on our mind all the while as buying such an item of Japanese cultural and traditional value, excited us. An English newspaper gave us the address of the famous Ginza departmental store where we could buy choicest varieties of kimonos.
We were almost the first to enter the glamorous store as it opened. As we approached the massive kimono wing we could see dozens of glittering kimono clad mannequins with delicate and decorative Japanese fans in their hands. Their tiny shoes engaged our special attention. As we approached this enclosure two kimono-clad girls bowed and handed over to us a large, beautifully illustrated catalogue of all the kimonos on display itemwise and locationwise. Also, they gave us a demonstration on the use of kimono and how it is worn.
Needless to state that
we liked every one of the thousands of kimonos on display
in almost half a furlong of floor area. Then we looked at
the catalogue and started checking the prices. The
simplest kimono gown was 90,000 yens more than all the
money we had. And the costliest one with heavy gold work
was worth 18,00,000 yen. We carefully placed the
beautiful catalogue in our carry bags to show it to our
friends in India, thanked the Japanese salesgirls and
left the store with our yens secure in our pockets!
When the breath is expired or held out as it is technically called it is rechaka, the first pranayama. When it is drawn in, it is the second called, puraka. And when it is suspended all at once, it is third called kumbhaka... When all three kinds of pranayama are combined in one single act, the time varies as 1,4,2 for puraka, kumbhaka and rechaka, respectively.
Manilal Nabhubhai Dvivedi, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, section II, L.
Posture becoming established, a Yogi master of himself, eating salutary and moderate food, should practise pranayama, as instructed by his Guru.
Respiration being disturbed, the mind becomes disturbed. By restraining respiration, the Yogi gets steadiness of mind.
So long as the (breathing) air stays in the body, it is called life. Death consists in the passing out of the (breathing) air. It is therefore necessary to restrain the breath.
The breath does not pass through the middle channel (sushumna) owing to the impurities of the nadis. How can thus success be attained, and how can there be the unmani avastha.
When the whole system of nadis which is full of impurities, is cleaned, then the yogi becomes becomes able to control the Prana.
Therefore, Pranayama, should be performed daily with sattwika buddhi (intellect free from raja and tama or activity and sloth), in order to drive out the impurities of the sushumna.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, chapter II, 1-6.
Just what the life-principle really is, no one can tell, but we do recognise its expression. It is the energy that enables us to act, to think, to breathe. Pranayama is control of this energy.
Swami Prabhavananda, The Spiritual Heritage of India, chapter 12
Pranayama... is a practice of rhythmic breathing.... If one could keep the rhythm by long practice one could exercise control on emotionality.
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