Saturday, September 23, 2000
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L


To forgive and forget
By Khushwant Singh

IT is much easier said than done. I was provoked to go over episodes in my life after reading a pocketbook-sized booklet Forgiveness, comprising quotations on the subject by Anil Bhatnagar, published by Penguin India. All very pious statements to prove that forgiveness was nobler than anger and desire for revenge and ultimately it was the forgiver who won the battle against the person who had wronged him; that hatred took a heavy toll of oneís peace of mind and was self-destructive. It sounds very nice but consider the following examples from real life ómy life. Without any provocation or lapse of duty on my part, my super-boss insulted me in front of his staff. I was deeply hurt and humiliated. Later in the day, the boss explained away his bad behaviour by saying that what he said was not meant for me but for my immediate superior and he expected me to have the brains to understand him. During the tenure of my service I noticed that humiliating people who could not hit back was his second nature. Before he could repeat his first performance, I quit the job. But the anger remained and the insult rankled in my mind and would have continued to do so for the rest of my life. I got even with him by writing a profile which made fun of his intellectual pretensions. It was widely read and reproduced in many journals and books. I knew I had got even with him. I regained my peace of mind, then forgave and forgot him.

EARLIER COLUMNS
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September 9, 2000
Times are out of joint
September 2, 2000
His voice is immortal
August 26, 2000
No end to hostility
August 19,2000
Visit to a once peaceful metropolis
August 12, 2000
The most abominable crime
August 5, 2000
Unveiling Indian women
July 29, 2000
A spiritually incorrect mystic
July 22, 2000
India without Pilot
July 15, 2000
Young millionaires of Pakistan
July 8, 2000
Lamenting old age
July 1, 2000
Maharaja Dalip Singh
June 10, 2000
Writers’ code of honour
May 27, 2000
A lyricist & revolutionary
May 20, 2000


Another man betrayed my trust in him by carrying false tales to people who mattered. He was not worth bothering about or making fun of. I simply described him as a snake in the grass and a contemptible character. I did not lose sleep over him. Others discovered that what I had said about him was correct. He did not get very far because no one trusts him any more.

Yet another character whom I trusted caused me a lot of heartburn. I let him occupy a part of my property on the understanding that he would vacate it the day after I asked him to do so. Nothing was put down in writing: I accepted his word because I thought he was a gentleman. When I asked him to vacate my premises, he wanted me to find him an alternative accommodation. When I filed a suit against him, he forged letters from me, giving him rights of tenancy. It took me 20 years to get him out and that too because I discovered he had two passports ó one with a Hindu name for India, the second with a Muslim name for countries in the Middle-East. He was fired from one job after another. Although I got back my premises, I was out of pocket by several lakhs of rupees. How can I forgive and forget him?

Fortunately, I did not suffer any other slights or betrayals of trust from any other people. I came to the conclusion that you cannot forgive unless you have righted a wrong done to you. It is not vengefulness but sticking out for fairness in oneís dealings. Am I wrong?

Examine the veracity of some of the quotations: "Forgiveness is an antidote to suffering". It is not. You may feel you are a superior person if you forgive someone who has wronged you but it will rankle your mind till you have settled scores with the wrong-doer. "Most of us find it difficult to forgive because we can only think of revenge". To right a wrong is not the same thing as revenge, it is more to teach the wrong-doer that wrong-doing does not pay. "When you cannot forgive someone for causing you hurt, you are allowing that person to control your thoughts and your life". Rubbish! None of the people who wronged me controlled my thoughts for more than a day or two. Then I rubbed them out of my life. "He who has not forgiven an enemy has never tasted one of the most sublime enjoyments of life." (Lavater). Not all people have enemies. I have none; many detractors but not one enemy. There is a Chinese saying that one who pursues revenge should dig two graves. Wrong again. You do not have to make revenge a life-long pursuit: just get even in as short a time as possible and thereafter get on with your life. In my own way I may have dug the graves of one or two people, I have no intention of digging my own.

Dire warning

"But for the trees, the insects would perish; but for the birds, the trees would perish; and following this inexorable law of nature to its conclusion... but for the trees, the world would perish."

This was Dr Salim Aliís favourite quotation to warn his fellow countrymen of the consequences of reckless felling of trees, killing of birds, animals, snakes and thoughtless use of pesticides. This is the quotation with which Salim Aliís student and disciple Tara Gandhi begins her book Birds and Plant Regeneration (Ravi Dayal). She repeats the warning, giving concrete examples of how dependant all species of life are on each other: if one is destroyed, another dependant on it dies out. Nevertheless, we go on thoughtlessly, cutting down trees to make furniture, fire-wood and cremate bodies of dead persons; we kill tigers, deer, wild fowl and snakes; we spray our fields with poisonous insecticides. In short, we are digging our own graves.

The classic instance is of the flightless bird dodo, once found widely in Mauritius. Three hundred years ago the Portuguese occupied the island and slaughtered dodos to extinction: they could not fly, they were fat and fleshy and good to eat. Dodos lived on fruit and dodo trees and expelled their seed which germinated to produce more dodo trees. Now only 13 trees, all males, survive. Soon they will be as dead as the dodo.

There are 8,600 species of birds in the world of which 1,200 are found in India. Certain plant species are entirely dependant upon particular bird species for survival and propagation. For example, trees such as neem, peepal, shahtoot, sandal, pilu and barh, which we regard as our national heritage, rely entirely on birds to defecate their seed to propagate. Birds have no sense of smell but very sharp eyes. Trees adapt their flowers to attract the attention of birds. Birdsí favourite colours are red, yellow and blue. Most fruit trees have flowers of these colours. A majority of bird species also eat insects of which India has over 30,000 species.

The most pestilential insects are locusts which devour trees and greenery. Storks and starlings, however, eat them by the dozen and save trees from extinction.

Another destructive species are rats and mice. One pair of rats can produce up to 880 offspring within one year. Both rats and mice come out at night. Their exploding population is kept in check by owls and snakes. Owls are silent fliers. One Great Thorned Owl can eat several rats and mice in one night. They are also the favourite diet of snakes. If we kill all snakes, rats and mice will destroy our standing crops and overrun our cities.

Nature has provided us with a very balanced system of survival. We must not meddle with it otherwise we will pass death sentences on ourselves. This is the message that Tara Gandhi gives us in her well-researched and well-written little book. It will take you no more than two hours to go through it. You will cherish its message all your life.

Kismet

Jethmalani aspired to become Rashtrapati,
He was sacked as a Minister.
Sheshan had also similar hopes
He failed to become a legislator.
Strange are the vagaries of Fortune
It uplifts a downcast runner
Barnala who had wandered in disguise
Became an Honourable State Governor.

(Courtesy: G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)

Punjabi to English

Some friends from Punjab and one from UP were discussing the present political turmoil in the country. Winding up the debate, one of them said: "Anni paye hoi aye, sab apna ullu sidda kar rahe ne."

"What,... what," asked the one from UP. Another friend from Punjab, explaining the nuance of this Punjabi idiom, translated: "Blind woman is lying and everyone is straightening his owl".

(Contributed by D.P. Sharma, Dharamsala)