Review by Roopinder Singh
Kinsmen—History of a Sikh Family by Preminder Singh
Sandhawalia, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, Pages 108. Rs 250.
families have history, in the case of certain prominent ones it
is worth recording. Documentation of histories of families has
largely been an oral tradition in which generations of family
bards (marasis) recited family history on important occasions.
Such accounts were, more often than not, hagiographic.
history demands a certain definition of family and also
objectivity that history demands. As the author says, he faced
problems in defining family, he settled for the root and the
branches model of a family tree, and in presenting a credible
account. He has traced the root of the Sandhawalia family tree
to Didar Sigh who moved from Sukarchack village to Sandhawala
village in 1780 to found his own lineage.
Singh was a Sukarchakia, who belonged to the same ancestral
stock as the Sandhawalias, but did not share a direct line of
descent with them.
plus years of history of the Sandhawalias is a daunting task,
the canvas is wide. When you look at the vicissitudes that
families go through, the rise and fall theory, a la an Arnold
Toynbee or a John Kennedy, has a powerful attraction. If we look
at the Sandhawalias, you have Budh Singh who consolidated the
presence of his family and "in defiance of the Mughal law
enforcers, rode far and wide carrying off cattle and resorting
to other predatory acts. He was baptized a Sikh and changed his
name to a Budh Singh."
It is this
refreshing frankness that is quite attractive about the book.
The writer manages to present various happenings about his
ancestors in an objective way. Treating the history of the land
as a backdrop, he touches on the advent of Sikhism, the dying
days of the Mughal empire, the rise of the Sikh empire and its
fall (1790-1839), Maharaja Dalip Singh’s abortive bid for the
throne of the Sikh kingdom, the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy (1919),
World War II, partition, and more contemporary events like the
1962 Indo-China War and the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak Wars, as well
as Operation Blue Star and the anti-Sikh violence in Delhi in
Sandhawalias either had a role to play in such events, or were
affected by them and as we look at their changing fortunes, we
see the rise of the family till 1844, its hour of glory for the
next three years, and its decline till it rallied in 1908 by
becoming "less feudal and more progressive and
Many of the
prominent family members had a larger than life presence in
Punjabi polity, even though they were forever to stay in the
shadow of their cousin Ranjit Singh and to be content with being
his noblemen rather the rulers.
sardars, as they were called, were "an ambitious lot. Their
competitive character, their past successes in the internecine
warfare and the meteoric rise of their collaterals, the
Sukarchakias fuelled in them an ambition, which when unbridled,
cause the family a fair amount of distress."
honoured and used in the court of Ranjit Singh, often as
commanders who distinguished themselves. They included Amir
Singh Sandhawalia Bud Singh Sandhawalia and Lehna Singh
Sandhawalia who distinguished himself in Attock. At the same
time, they were not able to consolidate their position because
of various reasons, including erratic and even errant behaviour
(Amir Singh Sandhawalia, unslung his gun and primed it when
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was preparing to mount his horse (1803),
Budh Singh Sandhawalia plotted to seize power while the Maharaja
was ill (1825).
After the death
of Ranjit Singh in 1839, there was a tussle for the control of
the Sikh kingdom that turned into a struggle between the Jammu
Dogras and the Sandhawalia sardars. They lost the struggle,
which carried its usual quota of intrigue and bloody
assignations (Sandhawalia sardars killed Maharaja Sher Singh,
his son Pratap Singh and his enemy Raja Dhian Singh). In
becoming contenders for power after the death of Maharaja Ranjit
Singh, the Sandhawalia sardars had a significant, though
short-lived impact on Punjab polity.
A period of
ignominy followed, in which they hunkered down and became feudal
lords again. The Sandhawalias, however, gained prominence
because of Thakur Singh Sandhawalia (who was also the first
president of the Singh Sabha movement in Amritsar). He later
played a role in reviving Maharaja Dalip Singh’s quest for his
kingdom and was appointed Prime Minister by the latter. Thakur
Singh Sandhawalia set up his headquarters in the French colony
of Pondicherry and became a thorn on the side of the British
Empire for a while.
The canvas is
rather broad and condensing the hundreds of years of the history
of the Sandhawalias into a 100-page book is quite a challenge,
especially since the author says he had no precedent. He writes
with remarkable brevity and gives us an overall picture of the
rise, fall and recovery of the family. He says that the book was
a journey in exploring his family history, which he was not
acquainted with since he had not lived in Punjab till his
retirement as an international civil servant.
Preminder Singh has engineered
a readable family history. He has a nice turn of phrase and
often says a lot between the lines. Some readers may want more
details of various people who come on the stage of the
Sandhawalia saga. Well, if it whets one’s appetite for more,
the book has certainly done its job.
Review by Deepika
Daughters by Manju Kapur. Penguin India, New Delhi. Pages 262.
opening line of this novel is a steal. "The one thing I
had wanted was not to be like my mother." This is Virmati’s
daughter Ida speaking. Ida who is without a husband, child or
parents. She is embarking on a voyage of discovery to find out
more about her mother and the journey begins at Amritsar, a
place she had always associated with her mother.
sentimental story "Difficult Daughters" follows the
journey of Virmati, a woman torn between family duty, who has
the desire to study but is caught in the trap of illicit love
and all this is happening to her at the time of partition.
What better setting could one ask to tell the story of Virmati,
who the author describes as strong, independent and as someone
who knows exactly what she wants and how to go about getting
there is Kasturi, Virmati’s mother who was married off at a
tender age. In a marriage spanning 17 years Kasturi bears 11
children, the eldest being Virmati, on whose shoulders the
tough role of mothering for her siblings falls. While
childbearing takes a toll on Kasturi’s health, child
rearing, studying, managing household chores and being an
arbitrator in the innumerable fights between her siblings
takes a toll on Virmati.
break to Dalhousie to recuperate works well for both mother
and daughter. It is here, in the midst of the hills and the
quiet, watching the sun colouring the snow on the distant
mountains of the Dhauladhar range that Virmati gets to know
her cousin, Shakuntala Pehnji, better. A liberated woman of
her time, Shakuntala lives in Lahore where she teaches.
Virmati’s imagination is fired by the desire to be
independent and like Shakuntala be able to wear what she wants
to wear and not look around shyly for approval each time she
spoke or acted.
With her as
role model, a rather saddened Virmati returns to Amritsar as
managing two separate households in two different places was
proving to be a rather expensive proposition for her family.
Back in Amritsar, when there is talk of getting a separate
house for Kasturi and her growing brood, Virmati’s aunt also
begins the battle for her rights and the patterns of a
communal life are to be disturbed forever with separate houses
for the two families.
transition from Tarsikka to their new dwellings Leppel Griffin
Road will also mark the beginning of tumultuous changes in
Virmati’s life. It is here that her cousin Somnath finds
tenants to rent a portion in his side of the family house. The
arrival of the British educated professor who teaches English
literature and who happens to fall hopelessly and helplessly
in love with Virmati who also happens to be his student in
college. To complicate matters, not only are the families
different but the professor is already married and has a child
from his first marriage. His wife dotes on him but the
professor himself is driven to Virmati as he seems to be
unable to carry on any conversation with his wife.
This leads to
Virmati calling off her arranged marriage, attempting suicide
and finally leaving Amritsar for Lahore to do her bachelors
degree. But the professor follows her there and their
rendezvous at his friend Syed Husain’s home leads to an
untimely pregnancy followed by an abortion. Virmati is finally
convinced that the professor is not interested in her. After
getting her degree she agrees to take up the principal’s
post at a girl’s school in Nahan. Here she throws herself
wholeheartedly into her work and then again the professor
surfaces leading to her untimely dismissal from the school.
desperation, Virmati again asks to be legally married or tells
the professor to end the relationship forever. Finally, just
as she has made all plans to leave for Santiniketan, there is
a coerced marriage and Virmati finds herself trapped. The
professor’s eventual marriage and installation of Virmati in
his Amritsar house, next to his furious first wife, helps her
towards the course of furthering her studies in Lahore but
this is small consolation for her scandalised family who
disown Virmati entirely.
Then there is
partition and the pain and by the time the professor’s first
wife finally leaves Amritsar for Lahore, Virmati has realised
that she has created irrevocable lines of pain and partition
well-researched novel begins well, Manju Kapur seems to be in
a hurry to end the book. "Difficult Daughters" also
falls flat in its attempt to portray Virmati as a woman who
breaks rules and defies traditions to get something she always
aspired for — independence. In the end all Virmati wants is
to be the professor’s legally wedded wife and a happy home.
Her daughter’s marriage ending up in a divorce and the
deduction that being Virmati’s daughter meant such things
could happen to her, just seem to be an over-simplistic
deduction. On the whole, the book is a fairly interesting read
though the story does tend to drag at times, especially when
the exchange of letters between the two lovers is presented.
If Manju Kapur can pepper her
text with a little more humour, her work will certainly be
worth watching out for.
the queen of America
Review by Andrew Rissik
Queen; The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Sarah Bradford,
Viking, London. Pages 600. £ 20.
before Diana Spencer, Jacqueline Kennedy was the world’s
ultimate fantasy princess. Her endlessly photographed and
pored-over face was a screen onto which her emotionally hungry
admirers projected their dreams of flawless refinement. Until
she broke her own, extraordinary spell by leaving the USA and
marrying Aristotle Onassis in 1968, she possessed, in the minds
of most of the American people, a kind of stylistic perfect
socialite with aristocratic pretension, she began as an ornament
to her millionaire husband’s presidency, and ended by
redefining it. Her elegantly petite figure and startled gazelle
eyes, her familiarity with France, the 18th century and the
finer points of dressing, lent a keynote of civility to the
image of the Kennedy White House that the young President’s
freewheeling, technocratic glamour could not have provided
Then, in the
traumatic days following his assassination in Dallas, by
brilliantly echoing what had been said and done after Lincoln
was killed 100 years earlier, she raised him in death to a
pinnacle of nobility that he could almost certainly never have
attained in life.
state funeral she helped to plan, the solemn obsequies at
Arlington, the eternal flame poignantly flickering in the
freezing November twilight: these were her final, canonising
gift to the husband who, though he had often betrayed and
humiliated her sexually, had always hypnotised her imagination.
Through a flawless sense of the dramatic fitness of things, and
by the moving, healing stoicism of her publicly borne grief, she
subtly magnified the nation’s sense of the scale of the loss,
and, therefore, of Kennedy’s actual political achievement.
is right to spend two-thirds of her quiet, lucid, well-written
new biography on the years before the assassination. Between
them, the Kennedys altered the whole tone of the modern
presidency. Temperamentally, they had much in common and a
shared "snobbery of style" united them, more
enduringly than sex. Both of them had wanted to be writers, and
both possessed qualities of coolness and detachment, of
intellectual reserve and ironic cruelty — common in literary
or artistic figures but exceedingly rare in the folksy,
glad-handing, philistine arena of American political life.
For well over a
century — since the days of the log-cabin President Andrew
Jackson — the White House had been looking west. Increasingly
it thought it fit to identify itself with the down-home Mark
Twain/ L Frank Baum aspect of the national character. Theodore
Roosevelt, replacing the assassinated William McKinley in 1901,
achieved unprecedented personal popularity by bringing
explicitly cowboy values into his conduct of government.
innovation was to restore to the presidency some of its old,
east coast elegance, to re-evoke, in appropriately modern
guises, the spirit of Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and the
It is easy now
to be satirical about the Kennedy White House — those tales of
naked girls scattering into the undergrowth like cats whenever
Jackie’s limousine brought her home unexpectedly still amuse
— but one of the strengths of Bradford’s book is that she
does not underestimate its genuine, if mild enlightenment. In a
dangerous age, it lacked cheap fanaticism.
The tone JFK
created in those three short years set the moral agenda for the
rest of the decade. His idea of the presidency was aspirational
and literary, drawn from the 18th century English Whigs. His
tightly honed but grandiloquent rhetoric rang like gold on
marble, even when it was covering gross political ineptitude. In
public, at his side, Jackie’s air of breathless
sophistication, her chic cultural warmth complemented it
perfectly. In private, she could be softly malicious, infinitely
sceptical of those who jostled for influence, scurrilously
funny, and full of the entertaining intolerance of those who are
young, rich, beautiful and (as they think) impregnable.
the relationship with Onassis, were to prove her mistaken. She
lived on, massively famous but not especially admired, sad but
no longer tragic, an icon of stylish jet-set reticence, a living
image of tasteful conspicuous consumption, regretted most
because she had proved, in the end, to be more psychologically
ordinary than history had hoped or expected.
dwindled the moment she left America, dwarfed by the shadow of a
personal legend that she had now outgrown, finally fulfiling
Charles de Gaulle’s cynical prediction that she would
"end up on some millionaire’s yacht". Sadly, the
second half of her life — much of it spent on beaches or in
villas or palatial apartments, after the manner of the idle
European super-rich — is little more than a transmutation of
the theatrical pure gold of her historically approved widowhood
into the base metal of mildly despised celebrity.
like most iconic figures, she remains eerily featherweight, more
potent as an image than as any sort of rounded or recognisable
personality, the reality of her life rendered insubstantial by
the public self that replaced it. Probably no biography can
convey what she was really like, although Bradford’s seems a
calmer and more authoritative account than usual. As Norman
Mailer’s impressionistic prose suggested long ago, the
clear-cut certainties of the essayist tell us more about our own
aspirations, and their inevitable disappointment, than they do
fruitless now to survey the casual detritus of her life and
pronounce her vain, vapid or self-seeking; to call into question
her much-vaunted ersatz-aristocratic good taste; or to accuse
her of being, at heart, small-minded and avaricious. There is a
morally tough common sense in such criticisms that the
immaculate self-absorption of her public persona was always
designed to elude or frustrate.
Her virtues and
their matching, mirroring vices belong less to history than to
the world of Scott Fitzgerald, and, like so many of Fitzgerald’s
haunting and ambivalent characters, she was deliberately
arrested and incomplete. She lived within the poetic fiction of
her own impossible sensitivity, and was eventually doomed by it.
In any case,
after the husky-sweet ingénue of the Kennedy years, the later,
Mediterranean-island Jackie — dark, lustful, greedy, perverse
— should come as a relief. It is good to see her turning at
last from Audrey Hepburn into Sophia Loren, becoming candidly
flesh-driven and obsessively materialistic, as if her hormones
were in open revolt against the glacial, photogenic dignity in
which she had been imprisoned for so long. She was surely never
meant to be either a chaste or a particularly serious person.
The small liaison with Bobby Kennedy — if it actually took
place, which Bradford more or less accepts it did — certainly
makes fine dramatic sense. So, too, does Bradford’s
psychologically plausible thesis that she was scared, all her
life, of poverty because she felt she had sailed too close to it
imaginatively too early on.
Nevertheless, once the layers
of scandal and scandalous speculation are stripped away, we are
left with certain observable, significant actions, and these
mostly do her credit. She gave much more to JFK than he gave to
her, and in public she neither betrayed him nor criticised him.
When the nation needed her to act like an old Roman, and
ceremonalise her private grief, she did so sparely and
magnificently. She cared for and protected her children,
surrounding them with a cocoon of privacy from which they
clearly benefited. The rest — as Bradford’s well done and
essentially sympathetic account surely demonstrates — is of
very little consequence.
as reinterpretation of history
Review by Shelley Walia
The Map of
Love by Ahdaf Soueif, Bloomsbury, London. Pages 529. £ 6.50.
is more important than the writer’s commitment to the work in
hand. What matters is the truth of writing, that it is written
from the heart and to the absolute best of one’s ability. To
alter one’s writing to suit an agenda, may it be that of an
extremist or that of an imperialist, Zionist or an Islamist,
would be to cater to the art of propaganda or tendentious
literature, and this is exactly what Ahdif Soueif, the Egyptian
writer, shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize, avoids.
problem has been her struggle with the issue of language. She
chose to write in English though she always wanted to write in
her mother tongue which is Arabic. From her childhood, she has
been obsessed with piecing together stories, and in her heart
she feels that she can only employ the narrative or the anecdote
to express the story of her life and her country.
But woven into
these stories are the many misconceptions of Egypt in the
western mind. The British Museum, the Mummy, or raiders of the
lost ark are evidence of the deep-set obsession with the exotic
East, its camels and pharoahs, its voluptuousness and
desirability. This is a type of a prototype of the seductive
eastern woman that Soueif wants to counter. Egypt as royal and
desirable represented by Cleopatra, the temptress, becomes the
"other" that attracts and repels at the same time.
Egypt in the
writings of the western historian, traveller or storyteller
becomes a site for social stability, whereas the East becomes
paradoxically a place of savagery and unrestricted pleasure, a
harem caught in a timeless self-indulgent, violent, cruel, lusty
and pagan world. Travellers and story writers wrote these
accounts to construct a discourse that would legitimise
imperialism as well as eroticise with the only motive of
already carried a wealth of imagery and a host of characters
from his voyage to the East. The Queen of Sheba in "La
Tentation de Saint Antoine" with a pastiche of Oriental
female prototypes: she dances like Salome, tells stories like
Scheherazade, is regal and ridiculous like traditional
portrayals of Cleopatra. It was Europe’s collective day-dream
of the Orient.
Delacroix’s "La Mort de Sardanapale" was painted in
1827 before he actually made his journey East. It contains the
stock images of the empire’s Orient, culled from Byron’s
popular poem of that name. An oriental despot sits enthroned on
his bed while his naked concubines are being stabbed to death.
The violence of the narrative is linked with its eroticism;
indeed, the female bodies in the throes of death are made to
take on positions of languor, of sexual abandon.
shown a deep dislike for the West’s insistence on Egypt as a
pagan land of extreme Islam, of cruelty and fundamentalism. The
terrible killings at Luxor found headlines in the western press,
but the heroic efforts of the Egyptians to save western tourist
in the floods a few months later went unreported. This lop-sided
emphasis of the media is a source of great agitation to her.
responsibility of the writer and the reader, Soueif uses her
western education for the creation of the mobile and diasporic
psyche to react against the impact of western civilisation on
the traditional culture of Egypt, a motive in a revolutionary
society where the art of writing turns into the art of politics,
always endeavouring to overturn the stereotypes of the Old
Testament Egypt present in the western mind.
imaginatively into the lives of her characters in her novels,
"Aisha", "The Eye of the Sun", and
now in "The Map of Love" with an ability to portray
convincingly the disruptive effect of foreign culture. Her
upbringing in both England and in Egypt has been of great
advantage in developing a lucid insight and an imaginative
awareness of the historical setting of colonialism in Egypt.
When she had not even reached her teens, she had attended
anti-war demonstrations in Trafalgar Square and Whitehall.
Her mother who
was pursuing her Ph D in England and her father who diligently
worked on his post-doctoral research were the inspiration behind
her creative impulse. Egyptian money was frozen in 1956 by
Britain leading to dire financial straits as no grants were
forthcoming. Her parents’ friends who had Left leanings,
however, supported them.
multiplicity of imaginative detail, the social variety of
characters and the complexity and variety of her personality are
the outcome of these heady days. At a personal level, England is
where she lost her wider family circle, her grandfather’s home
and shop which finally were replaced by a single room in a seedy
locality in Stockwell. But it was here, in such circumstances,
that she read her mother’s thesis on the impact of the
Oriental tale on English literature, as well as other
fascinating texts such as "The Arabian Nights", Moore’s
"Lalla Rookh", Edward Lane’s "Manners and
Customs of the Modern Egyptians", Richard Burton’s
"First Footsteps in East Africa", Charles Robeson’s
"News from Allepe", H.M. Stanley’s "Through the
Dark Continent" and W.M. Thackeray’s "Notes of a
Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo".
In 1956, Soueif
returned to Egypt with a desire to brush up her Arabic. She read
up voraciously on Arabic literature, equipping herself to remain
deeply in touch with her native heritage which was to give her
the creative confidence to write her novels after having
absorbed the nationalist politics of her country. She left for
England to do her Ph D in 1973 which further broadened her
social awareness with the underpinnings of strong cultural
Though there is
an intense impulse of cultural nationalism in her novels, she
moves between the two worlds of Egypt and England where she is
now based. In spite of this, as years pass, she maintains that
she is increasingly Egyptian and that whatever Englishness she
"does have is more to do with English literature than
English life". What she is trying to give her children is a
sense of "Egyptianness" without undermining their
ability to belong to and live in England. She hopes that they
will be equipped to choose where they want to be or move freely
between the two cultures in the "in-between-space"
that she has occupied all her life.
Map of Love", she tells the story of the ever-changing and
volatile relationship between Egypt and Britain. Rich in
historical detail and debate finally it is Egypt that emerges as
the true hero of the novel. Set in the early 20th century, the
novel is a story of a trans-cultural love affair that can have
no happy conclusion but only a doomed outcome.
Winterbourne, who has unfortunately lost her husband, reaches
the shores of Egypt in 1900. There she falls headlong in love
with Sharif Pasha al-Barundi, a man committed to upholding the
nationalist cause, countering the snobberies and vulgarities of
colonialist Britain through reawakening interest in Egypt’s
folklore, art, music and cultural habits that are distinct from
the metropolitan. He is an Egyptian patriot who extolls close
attachment to his country and infusing the present generation
with a sense of pride in traditional life and culture.
that without a struggle and without knowledge of the practices
of action and popular violence, nothing can be achieved. War,
culture and politics become synonymous for him. To him, Anna
represents the western worldview which he detests, and for her
Sharif is the embodiment of Egypt’s ancestory, gods,
mythology, folklore and fantasy — all elements that are used
by the writer for the revitalisation of the traditional tales
told through the importation of the western genre of novel
obsession with traditional culture and the erosion of it by
Christian religion and European culture brings about a
reassessment and contemporary reawakening of indigenous Egypt.
But in spite of the clash of the old and the new, the two fall
in love, but with a lingering fear of the dangers of social and
psychic differences between two conflicting cultures.
And then in the
year 1997, Isabel Parkman, herself a divorcee and a descendent
of Anna and Sharif, meets Omar-al-Ghamrawi, an Egyptian based in
the USA. They fall in love and later she, in search of answers
to questions that continuously nag her, travels to Egypt,
carrying with her an old family trunk which she hands over to
Omar’s sister, Amal, a resident of Cairo.
political tension builds up in contemporary Egypt and when Amal
unpacks the trunk, she unravels from Anna’s notebooks and
diaries which she finds there, the story of her love affair not
only with Sharif but with the nation of Egypt almost 100 years
The past thus
continues to speak to us and is always constructed through
memory, fantasy and narrative. Soueif very tactfully interweaves
these two plots locating them within the political and the
historical events that govern the most personal relationships.
trunk ransacked of its treasure sits by the wall at the end of
the novel and "the old journals, emptied of their secrets,
lie on the table. Beside them are the pages, neatly stacked, in
which Amal has written down the story of Anna and Sharif. Next
door, Isabel sleeps soundly. Sharif is cradled in Amal’s arms
as, once again, she makes her way with him down the long, dark
corridor. She holds him close, patting his back, whispering, ‘Hush,
my precious, hush’. . ."
In the novel,
Soueif has seen the need for reassessment of the story of the
Empire, of her land and of the historical cross-currents in last
century. It is a novel in which she and Egypt confront their own
history and the paradox of the colonial experience which first
severs you from your roots, splits the consciousness and
distorts psyches along with the feeling that you have no history
or culture worth preserving; and opposed to this is the present
opportunity for re-examining and recontextualising one’s
"maps" in depth the human condition with a deep sense
of history. Soueif is undoubtedly a cultural hybrid but uniquely
Egyptian and it is for this reason she has now been accepted and
recognised by her countrymen. She tours Egypt often, reading
from her novels, lecturing at different universities, mainly
with the purpose of documenting themes and techniques that are
deeply rooted in Egyptian culture and historical context.
therefore, derive their force and logic from the two cultures
that she inhabits, generating tensions, conflicts and
ambivalences in the lives of her characters, especially Anna and
Sharif. This is, therefore, her politics of position expressed
through the narrative of displacement and shared cultural codes
which become powerful creative forces in the rediscovery or
retelling of one’s past. It is an experience of dispersal and
fragmentation emerging from her response of resistance and
identity confronting the western view. Her fiction, therefore,
becomes a continuous play of history, culture and power.
The brain behind Rajiv
Review by Randeep Wadehra
Tigers: Tracking Rajiv Gandhi’s Assassination by Rajeev
Sharma.Kaveri Books, New Delhi. Pages xxv + 278. Rs 395.
My Life and
Times by S. Nijalingappa. Vision Books, New Delhi. Pages 192.
India: Transitions edited by Peter Ronald DeSouza. Sage
Publications, New Delhi. Pages 388. Rs 475.
Tigers: Tracking Rajiv Gandhi’s Assassination by Rajeev
Sharma.Kaveri Books, New Delhi. Pages xxv + 278. Rs 395.
of political figures have always been treated as riddles that
have no answers.John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas on
November 22, 1963. Till date allegations persist that his
murder was not a one-man show but a result of a larger
conspiracy. The same is said to be true of Gandhi, Indira
Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
book is an addition to the same genre — albeit with a claim
to being a meticulously document expose on the larger
conspiracy theme. Since Rajeev Sharma is a journalist who
specialises in internal security and investigation-related
matters, his claim cannot be ignored, especially when it is
reinforced by the former CBI chief Vijay Karan in the forward
and introduced by another journalist T.R. Ramachandran.
killed Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur? Was it
a security lapse that the LTTE-sponsored human bomb exploited
or was there a larger conspiracy? If the answer to the second
question is in the affirmative, then what are these dark
forces that cannot be identified even after a decade-long
investigation and inquiry?
discounts the possibility of the DMK’s involvement in the
assassination. He claims that while conducting investigations
in Colombo in June, 1991, he had heard whispers about the late
Sri Lankan President R. Premadasa’s complicity again without
any corroborative evidence. As far as he is concerned, the
LTTE alone was responsible for the act as Dhanu and Sivarasan,
the prime suspects, were its members.
Sharma, however, remains "unconvinced by the SIT’s
version" because he too feels that there were
"forces who (that?) helped the Tigers carry out the
plot". He also does not dismiss the possibility of
documenting the efforts made by the SIT as well as the Jain
and Verma commissions, Sharma goes on to pinpoint the dark
areas of the episode, which, if illumined, could help unravel
the murder mystery. The slipshod manner of decoding messages
to and from the LTTE strongholds and their sympathisers in
India; the manner in which Major Sabharwal, an explosives
expert, was made to change his report on the belt bomb which
killed Rajiv Gandhi, the various obstacles placed to prevent
Kumudavalli to file her eyewitness account — she had to face
death threats for her pains — and the Shanmugham enigma are
some of the points raised by the author. He also talks about
the "frozen intelligence" giving the example of
Karamjit who had tried to kill Rajiv Gandhi with a
Sharma mentions the former Cabinet Secretary Zafar Saifullah’s
revelations that indicated a nexus between the LTTE, Mossad,
Chandraswami and Subramaniam Swamy. While reading the book one
might feel like being transported to the world of thrillers.
But the question that remains to be answered is: what were the
forces which scripted Rajiv Gandhi’s murder? What is the
My Life and
Times by S. Nijalingappa. Vision Books, New Delhi. Pages 192.
was born in a poor rural Lingayat family in Karnataka. After a
long struggle he became a successful advocate. He was one of
the early leaders of the Mysore Congress. Because of his
political activism he was debarred from legal practice.
However, in order to establish himself as a lawyer he had to
face the collective opposition of Brahmin lawyers who
dominated the profession. None of them would take him as a
junior, forcing him to start independent practice.
odds, when his practice began to flourish, professional
jealousy made his rivals run him down. However, Nijalingappa
was well supported by non-Brahmin judicial officers. The bane
of casteism had been afflicting our polity’s vital organs
even before India became independent.
In fact his
narrative is full of caste and creed-based conflicts. At one
place he talks of a Brahmin who hates Muslims. Then there is a
Lingayat who hates Brahmins and so on. One wonders if we have
been unfairly castigating the Laloo Prasad Yadavs of today.
did go to jail during the freedom struggle. He played an
important role as a leader both at the state and national
levels. He was Chief Minister of Karnataka for two terms.
His tenure as
the Congress president (1968-1971) is memorable due to the
fact that during this period the Congress party split. He says
he and Indira Gandhi got along well till she decided to
nationalise banks, transport, industry, etc. as a "show
of socialism". They openly clashed at the Faridabad AICC
worse on the choice of the Congress nominee for India’s
presidentship after Zakir Hussain’s death. That Indira was
not being honest about Neelam Sanjiva Reddy’s candidature
has been well documented by various political commentators.
autobiography is a valuable addition to the literature on not
only India’s political happenings during a specific period,
but it also provides today’s lay reader with insights into
the working of India’s oldest political party.
intrigues, the pettiness and pressure groups et al have been
exposed in a "deceptively simple" manner. It is true
that he was respected in Karnataka as a principled politician
and much admired for his courage of conviction. It could only
be a rare soul who would dare stand up to Indira Gandhi, who
was reputed to be vindicative and ruthless towards all those
she considered a threat to her supremacy in the Congress.
Nijaliangappa always on the right? Did he commit no mistake?
He was a mortal after all. Some warts and moles are bound to
exist even on his political, if not private, face.
Let us leave
it with a quote. Will Rogers, an American humourist writes in
"The Autobiography of WillRogers": "When you
put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out
the bad ones you did do, well, that’s memoirs".
India: Transitions edited by Peter Ronald DeSouza. Sage
Publications, New Delhi. Pages 388. Rs 475.
There is need
for a dialogue between modern India and the West, particularly
Europe. This need arises from the fact that for an
excruciatingly long time India’s image in the West has
remained frozen in time — snake charmers, fakirs on a bed of
nails or thorns, the rope trick, etc.
India’s efforts at communicating by using the contemporary
metaphor are seldom taken seriously enough. Even the nuclear
explosions created a minor, albeit temporary, interest in what
we perceive as modern India.
that contemporary India "has the potential of rejuvenate
the social sciences, especially in the West, which I daresay,
has lost its engagement with the grand concerns of social
author cautions that basically this book is an outcome of a
conference organised in Lisbon in June, 1998, that aimed at
beginning "a new conversation, after nearly four decades
of sullen silence, between Goa and Portugal.... The larger
canvas of contemporary India was chosen to locate this
conversation, as it was only within such a location that the
transitions that mark the visual, social and mental landscape
of Goa and Portugal would gain some perspective."
points out that initially the European imprint on Indian
historical scholarship was very strong. This imprint is now
gradually fading as the Indian point of view takes a definite
shape. She tries to answer in the first chapter such questions
as "What is the nature of these imprints? And to what
extent is historical interpretation today in India reflective
of intellectual concerns which may have a global context but
which, nevertheless, grew out of an Indian understanding of
both history and its context." She also attempts to
explore the process that causes the disjunction which left an
European imprint on Indian scholarship.
that in modern writing of Indian history there is a
"continuing dialogue and debate with colonial
interpretations, with nationalist interpretations and with the
evolution of theoretical formulations in the post-colonial
period". As a result of the rise and recognition of
Indian perspective, there has been a perceptible modification
in the use of theoretical explanations in the histories of
other parts of the world. This has enriched historical theory,
sharpened the debate and evaluation of comprehending the
Ananthamurthy points out that the literature in Indian
languages (the generic Indian term is bhasha) has a
frontyard and a backyard. Giving the example of Kannada, he
notes that while Sanskrit literature was its frontyard,
"it had a secret backyard, fragrant, fertile and
neglected. Here one could find the innumerable indigenous folk
and oral traditions in Kannada, the desitraditions."
states that since Sanskrit as a language had no backyard of
its own, it had to admit the bhashas of the backyard to
ensure the survival and continuity of its spiritual substance.
However, language is but one aspect of India’s cultural
transition from the Himalayas to Dharavi. Caste and other
factors have made their own contributions to India’s
essay deals with the dalits’ place in the Indian polity. He
maintains that the present form of democracy has not been able
to expand the social basis of dalit political aspirations. He
asks, "In such a situation, can the civil society expand
the social basis of the democratic imagination of the dalits?
Or should one invest faith and confidence in the state for
such expansion? If the ‘state’ is preferred to the ‘civil
society’, how does one come to terms with the experience of
the past 50 years which shows that if the state is pressed
into service, it ends up producing only passive citizenship
among the dalits? Should one go beyond the state for the
expansion of the democratic realm?"
Gopal Guru is
convinced that the dalits will have to seek active citizenship
both within and beyond the state.
contributions to this engrossing mosaic of diverse
perspectives and voices are S.S. Bhandare, Rajiv Bhargava,
Rustom Bharucha, Errol D’Souza, Bhupat M. Desai. Zoya Hasan,
Nawaz B. Mody, Seemanthini Niranjana, Maria Ligia Noronha,
Ghanshyam Shah, D.L. Sheth, Soli J. Sorabjee and B.G. Varghese.
This volume does indeed present a "fascinating account of
the complex processes that shape India’s transition from an
ex-colony to a modern nation in charge of its own
An excellent read, and a
valuable companion for those who intend doing introductory
courses on contemporary India.
in Delhi? Try out these recipes
Review by Minakshi Chaudhry
Essential Delhi Cookbook by Priti Narayan. Penguin Books
India, New Delhi. Pages 292. Rs 250.
one has heard of Bengali, South Indian, Punjabi, Hyderabadi
and Kashmiri cuisine, but Delhi? Many may ponder over what
exactly is Delhi cuisine. No need to do that now.
under review is a detailed account of the history of Delhi
cuisine and presents a rich and diverse selection of recipes
drawn from different communities which have made Delhi their
It is an
excellent work that is different from the run of the mill
cookery books. The writer not only offers mouth-watering,
delicious recipes but also traces the history of Delhi cuisine
from the age of the Mahabharata to present time.
She has put
in meticulous work in collecting and arranging the recipes and
given interesting information about the gourmet nawabs, Muslim
rulers or for that matter the Delhiites.
has covered a wide array of food that is as delectable as it
is eclectic in its origin and history. Spicy kababs, fragrant
biryani, hot paronthas, korma, tangy chat and sumptuous kulfi
are only a few temptations. Drawn from different sources,
including old cookery books, it is written in a manner that
facilitates easy use.
history from the period of the Kauravas and the Pandavas who
lived around what we now call Delhi, the author states that
their cuisine included meats of pig, deer, cow, sheep, birds
and even donkeys and camel. The Mahabharata mentions dishes
made of milk and rice mixed with ghee, honey and roots.
Mahabharata era vegetarianism developed which became the most
accepted under the influence of Buddhism and Jainism. Onion
and garlic ceased to be widely used as they were considered
foods which aroused man’s basic instincts like lust, anger.
Even today these are not used in traditional Bania and Jain
cuisines, which is probably the only Delhi food that has
remained unchanged to this day.
rule meat made a comeback, it received greater emphasis with
the arrival of Afghans and Turks. The Muslims brought the
concept of community eating to the rather austere eating
habits of the time.
came to India he imported grapes and melons and started their
cultivation here. Chillies were a late entrant. It is said
that the use of chillies in Delhi was recommended by Hakim
Alvi, physician to Mohammad Shah Rangila, to ward off the
"ill humours" thought to be generated by the canal
flowing through the Chandni Chowk.
from Central Asia come to the Frontier Province and then to
Delhi around the partition time. The man responsible for
introducing this food was Kundan Lal of Moti Mahal restaurant
in Darya Ganj. Butter chicken and chicken pakoras were his
is Delhi food? Today you can get everything from pizza to
paella, South Indian to Thai, Mexican to Chinese to tandoori
food. The author has explicitly stated that traditional Delhi
food, which is believed to be Punjabi and Mughlai, is
available in the old city of Delhi. From piste ki lauz
and badaam ki lauz at Ghantewala and Kunwar Sain to habshi
halwa at Ballimaran; from rabri and khurchan
in Parathewali Gali (in addition to paronthas!); jalebi
at the corner of Dariba and Chandni Chawk and Sultan ke
kulle at Nai Sarak. At Jama Masjid you can eat kabab,
biryani, kheer, kulfi, nankhatai and biscuit. Or, you can go
to Karims or Jawahar Restaurant for a proper meal of korma,
pasanda, bheja and a variety of roti and nan.
adds that the best food of any region is to be found in the
homes of people, especially in joint families. Accordingly,
she has used the recipes of various families of old Delhi. Mrs
Zakia Zaheer’s collection of old Urdu recipe books has been
referred to and some excellent recipes have been added to the
present work. One of these Urdu books is called ‘‘Rezia ka
shahi dastarkhwana’’ another is a 150-year old treasure
called ‘‘Pukht-o-paaz shehzada Mirza Mohommed Baker Ali
Khan Sahib Bahadur ke daroga bawarchi, Janab Shiekh Ahmad Ali
in the book under review are basically from the cuisine of the
Muslims, the Kayasths. Banias and the Khatris. These were the
four main groups of people who settled in Shahjehanabad which
Soups are not
part of Delhi cuisine. Kababs, liver, dry chicken and fish
were served with drinks and were called gazak. Gazak
Daru was a must before the more serious business of dinner
began. Among the Muslims and Kayasths the main items on the
menu were meat dishes, all others were to complement the meat.
The book has
been conveniently divided into 11 sections which include
mutton, chicken and fish, lentils, vegetables, rice, roti,
deserts and sweets, snacks and accompaniments, chutnis and
pickles and beverages.
mainly to goat meat throughout the section. In all there are
32 recipes elaborately explained hence can be followed even by
beginners. Most of the dishes are from Muslim cuisine. The
recipes include shabdeg, raan, roghan josh, korma dilpasand,
bharvapasinde, masala chaap and nargisi kofta.
and fish section has 13 recipes. Some of the recipes require a
lot of time to prepare. This section includes the recipes by
Mrs Meera Narayan (sandali murgh), Babu Shahi (white
chicken) and grandmother of the author (murg mussalm).
section has eleven recipes. Most of them are not common and
should be tried out. Dal is an extremely versatile ingredient
and is used all over the country in a number of ways. Among
the Mathurs, Banias and the Khatris the wedding preparations
traditionally begin with the making of mangries. This
section includes recipes of sookhi mangori, dal ki kaleji,
dal ka keema, aalan ka saag, mandhiya, takke paise.
In all 23
recipes have been described in the vegetable section. Many of
the vegetables used were fairly late entrants in India. Potato
came in 1830 and tomato in 1850. Most of these recipes are
known and common such as saag, sabut baingan, baingan ka
bharta, masala arbi.
auspicious in all cultures. It is a symbol of fertility,
prosperity and good fortune. Pulao and biryani are a term for
a dish of rice cooked with meat. Rice and meat cooked together
go back a long time and even find mention in the Mahabharata.
In the rice section there are 13 recipes and nearly all of
them are uncommon and need to be tried out by rice lovers.
There is Sunday pulao, the yakhni pulao (layered
mutton pulao), moti pulao, Babu Shahi’s biryani,
mahi pulao and, of course zarda pulao (sweet rice).
The roti section has 12 recipes.
a sweet tooth and Delhiites are no exception. There are as
many as 25 mouth-watering recipes simple and easy to make.
These include various kinds of kheer made with bajra,
rice, lotus seed, almond and vermicelli. Other sweet dishes
include shahi tukra, kurchan, kulfi, daulat chaat, halwa prepared
in the traditional manner, pistachio sweet and almond sweets.
accompaniments include 26 recipes with that of gooja, keoka,
gari, sabut matar, dahi bara, gol gappa and alu ke
meal is complete without pickles and chutnis and
in this section the writer has given 15 recipes which are to
be made to be believed in their tangy and spicy taste. There
are yummy chutnis of mint, corriander, onion, ginger,
mango and tamarind. Pickle recipes include that of lime,
garlic, onion, cauliflower, mango and green chillies.
advent of bottled drinks, thirst quenchers were made at home
to help one get through the hot summer days. Unfortunately now
no one makes them except for nimbu pani. There is no
doubt that both taste as well as nutrient wise they are no
match to the empty calories being provided by bottled aerated
drinks. All the five recipes of sharbat-e-gulab, aam ka
panna, imli ka panna, zeere ka paani and kachri ka
paani are excellent concoctions, easy to make and fresh in
It may be
taken into account that the recipes in the book are not for
the diet conscious, diabetic and heart patient. Most of them
are rich in ingredients with oil and ghee extensively and
freely used. Moreover, the dishes cannot be eaten daily but
during special occasions when one can indulge in rich, oily
and calorie laden food.
A drawback of
the book is the lack of photographs. One picture is equal to a
thousand words applies to food too. Good photographs of
delicious dishes garnished to please the eye would surely have
motivated the reader to try these dishes.
Shelling out Rs 250 is worth
A little compassion will do the trick
This is an
edited chapter from "Worlds in Harmony", a
conversation between the Dalai Lama and a distinguished panel
of psychologists and psychotherapists of the USA.
Question: Much of
what we’ve talked about has to do with suffering and
harmfulness. Can you say more about joy and happiness?
Dalai Lama: It
is already happiness when someone decreases your suffering. We
have a saying in Tibet, "If you are too excited by joy,
later you will have to cry." This shows the relative
nature of what we identify as joy and pain, and it implies
that there should be a limit.
Buddhist practitioner’s viewpoint, the important thing is
that your mental state remain steady, not too many ups and
downs. There are joys and pains, even depression, but not too
low or too high. This way of life may seem colourless, but a
more colourful, exciting way of life is, in a deep sense, not
good. It is like having lighting in the room. If sometimes it
is blindingly bright and other times it is too dark to see, it
is not very useful.
way of life depends mainly on mental attitudes, remaining calm
and stable. This, I think, is most important. This stability
of mind is developed through training. One’s heart and mind
become more resilient, firmer, less likely to be pushed around
by external events. The opposite is too much sensitivity, so
that the slightest negative input will agitate you or throw
you into depression, and the slightest positive input will get
you very excited. This is not helpful.
In the depths
of your mind, you have wisdom that will carry you when you
encounter something negative. You don’t get thrown by it;
you simply take it in your stride. Likewise, when something
good happens you can take this in your stride. Taking things
in your stride is the key.
Your Holiness, I wish
to ask a question about the inner nature of this practice.
There seem to be two kinds of practices — those designed for
working with the more negative, or non-virtuous, qualities of
mind, and those that are designed to actively cultivate
virtuous qualities. These seem to be complementary but
independent practices. Working with negative states doesn’t
necessarily lead to the rising of positive qualities. One
needs, in addition, to actively cultivate these virtuous
qualities of mind like faith, patience, and an altruistic
society, a lot of the more analytically-oriented therapies
like psychoanalysis have been emphasising working with the
negative qualities of mind. Other therapies — namely, the
transpersonal therapies — have said that isn’t enough,
that we also have to cultivate these positive qualities. So we
are also struggling with the same kind of issues. How, in
Buddhism are these positive qualities developed?
Dalai Lama: To
cultivate an altruistic attitude, a meditator takes the
well-being of others to heart and reflects again and again on
the benefits of caring for and cherishing them. But he
balances this by reflecting on the disadvantages of simply
cherishing his own well-being, placing priority on himself as
opposed to everyone else. These two facets of this meditation
together lead to a wholesome state of mind.
when he practises the cultivation of loving kindness, he
balances this by countering hatred. These two also go together
and are mutually helpful. Which should you emphasise in the
beginning? We cannot make any uniform statement. It is really
an individual matter.
Holiness, we in the West have a model of mental health, of
mental wholesomeness, that only goes part way. What is the
Tibetan Buddhist model of mental health?
Dalai Lama: Ultimately,
the only healthy person is a Buddha. But this is a bit far
away. So, keeping our feet on the ground and looking at our
present circumstance, we simply look to worldly convention to
see when a person is healthy. When does society acknowledge a
person as good or wholesome? There is nothing absolute here.
One person might appear to be very fine but then, when you see
another person with even deeper compassion or greater wisdom,
the first person appears to be inferior. There are no absolute
But if you
want to be more precise, you say that a healthy person is
someone who, when there is an opportunity to be of service to
others, engages in that service. When that is not possible, he
or she at least avoids causing harm. A person who does that is
a healthy person. This is the essence of Buddhism. In fact, I
believe that this is the essence of all spiritual traditions.
Goleman: So a single
person loving someone who is unloved can open the way to
Dalai Lama: Yes
is very frequently the position in which a helper, a
psychotherapist, finds him or herself to be that one person
who can genuinely feel love for this person who comes in
suffering, in pain, and who has so sense of ever having found
in him or herself anything lovable.
So I often
say to students, after the first hour when they have seen
somebody who is in great pain and who wants some help,
"Do you like this person at all? Really, honestly?"
And if the answer is, "I really don’t," then I
say, "Please let someone else be the therapist for this
person. If you cannot see anything lovable in this person,
that you can respond to in a genuine way, then you are not the
right person to help this person."
Dalai Lama: Yes,
absolutely. This is very true.
Goleman: It seems
when people have been brought up feeling unloved or have been
victimised, abused by parents, or so on, it is very hard for
them to find compassion for other people. Your Holiness, how
can you help someone who doesn’t feel love for himself to be
able to love others, to be compassionate?
Dalai Lama: If
this person has never encountered love directed towards
himself or herself from any quarter, if no one has ever shown
this person love, it is very difficult. But if that person can
meet even one person who will show unconditional love —
simply acceptance and compassion — then even if he hasn’t
experienced compassion himself, if he knows that he is an
object of someone else’s affection and love, it is bound to
have an impact, and this will be appreciated. Because there is
a seed in himself, this act of love will start to catalyse or
ripen that seed.
Holiness, I know many people who, after doing very profound
work on themselves, come to a place where they find it
difficult to experience joy in their lives. It is more than
just the recognition of the suffering of grasping after
satisfaction and pleasure. A profound sadness arises in many
people I know who are of service to others. There is not a lot
of joy in their lives. How can we learn to play in the dharma?
Dalai Lama: Maybe
you can extract a little bit from the Tibetan brain. Tibetans
are really cheerful. I’m just kidding. When someone, through
his whole life, experiences a lot a tragedies, it can be
helpful to adopt the perspective that there are many past
lives and future lives also. Then, even if one’s present
life appears hopeless, there is a broader context.
But I think
you are not talking about a life filled with misfortune, but
rather a life that is focused on spiritual practice and on
serving, and, in the context of this, still feeling depressed
and unhappy, not having the capacity for joy. In the process
of meditation, one may gain a fairly deep insight into the
nature of mind and the unsatisfactory nature of this cycle of
existence. In the process, one develops a yearning to be free
of this round of suffering. However, as a result of one’s
own personal practice and engagement with society, one many
find that one’s expectations were not fulfilled. You didn’t
do as well as you wanted, or expected to, and this
disappointment can detract from your capacity for joy. So it
may have something to do with expectations. One might have too
many expectations in the beginning that can take away the joy
Bolen: Your Holiness,
I have a question about balancing detachment and compassion.
In conventional western psychotherapy, there seems to be a
different level of closeness that we want to foster in a
person — an ability to be closer to another human being
than, I think, is encouraged and developed in Tibetan
Buddhism. The Buddhist position, I think, is more like the
position of the psychotherapist. As a psychotherapist, we have
compassion and no judgment. We are detached; we observe the
feelings in the other person and attempt not to get caught in
our own feelings as we are in the process of doing our work.
But if we were to go home with that attitude, observe the
people closest to us and not react to them, just watch them,
think about them, and feel compassion towards them, then we
aren’t close enough to form an intimacy that will endure
over the years and bring us into our own feelings.
One of the
problems that psychotherapists have, that mediators may also
have, is an inability after a while to react spontaneously to
someone else’s situation. Taking it further and further down
the line, we could get to the detachment of the bomb-maker,
where we are just too far away from the heart level, the
reactive level, and the fear level — all the emotions.
There is a
need to pull these opposites together — to be able to
observe and be compassionate, and also to be intensely
involved and care greatly, so that emotional loss will affect
us, other people truly matter to us, and we will grieve deeply
and be hurt deeply by them because they matter not just
because we have become pathologically detached or attached.
There is a different optimal level, I think, that we foster in
our work. I am raising this as an observation and also as a
potential shadow side of meditation practice.
Dalai Lama: If
one feels very profound compassion, this already implies an
intimate connection with another person. It is said in
Buddhist scriptures that we are to cultivate love just like
that of a mother towards her only child. This is very
intimate. The Buddhist notion of attachment is not what people
in the West assume. We say that the love of a mother for her
only child is free of attachment.
Jack Engler: Americans
in particular, often feel that we have a right to be happy. In
fact, we get angry when we’re not happy or when someone else
gets something and we don’t, or they get more of it. This
seems to be built into many of the assumptions on which this
country was founded.
different, I think, from the Buddhist notion that we can be
happy. The idea that we have a right to it, and we have a
right to it now, and we shouldn’t have to wait for it, or we
shouldn’t have to work very hard to get it, is very
destructive. But it is part of the American dream. Although
the American Constitution says that we have a right to the
pursuit of happiness, we usually think that means we have a
right to have happiness all the time. This colours the way we
act. If, for example, our Buddhist practice doesn’t produce
happiness immediately for us, we have little ability to assume
the perspective of a bodhisattva and concentrate on service
and compassion. Behind all of this tends to be the issue that
our own happiness is paramount, and this is reinforced by our
culture, over and over again.
Dalai Lama: It
is natural to pursue one’s own happiness and to work hard to
get it now. But this is different from pursuing it while
neglecting and ignoring, and even at the expense of, others’
happiness. There is a big difference between the two.
Question: Can you
speak more about compassion in organisations — business
organisations, social organisations or government
organisations? How can one help organisations act
compassionately as organisations?
Dalai Lama: On
the one hand, there is no organisation that is not composed of
individuals. Apart from individuals, there are no
organisations. So it is best to focus on the individuals in
the organisation, especially those who bear the most
responsibility for it, and try to encourage in them a greater
sense of awareness and compassion. If we can bring about a
greater awareness of the benefits of compassion for society as
a whole, this will be critical as a matter of survival.
Bolen: Can you say
more on it being a matter of survival?
Dalai Lama: We
have talked a lot about the crisis of contemporary
civilisation, the great turmoil, the problems we are
encountering. What do these arise from? From a lack of loving
kindness and compassion. If we focus on this, the benefits of
compassion are obvious. Of course, the threat of nuclear
weapons is extremely dangerous, but in order to stop this
threat, ultimately the solution is compassion, realising that
other people are our human brothers and sisters.
Question: I have
noticed that children begin to lose compassion when they enter
school and meet uncompassionate others. What suggestions do
you have for children who must learn to handle people who do
not have compassion, and still develop their own compassion?
Dalai Lama: It
is very important that they have very close ties with their
good friends, their wholesome friends, and with their parents,
their own family. That is where the effort needs to lie, in
very close and wholesome family ties. Apart from that, there
is not much to do.
when they are born, start nursing on mother’s milk. This is
the first lesson in compassion and love. By nature, taking
milk from our mothers is, in itself, a lesson in human
relations on the basis of affection. We must try to maintain
that spirit. That is how we develop intimate relationships —
based on affection between ourselves and our mother, through
nursing on her milk. Compassion in the family is very
important. If there is a compassionate atmosphere in the
family, not only the parents but also the coming generations
will benefit. Their mental and physical development will be
I believe very deeply that
compassion is the route not only for the evolution of the full
human being, but also for the very survival of the human
being, from conception through birth and growing up. To me,
this is quite clear.