Saturday, December 30, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Sukhoi deal
AD the light combat aircraft (LCA) project not proved to be such a damp squib, India would not have to spend upwards of Rs 20,000 crore on procuring the Sukhoi-30 aircraft from Russia and even exult over it. 

Passport to Pakistan 
is happening in Jammu and Kashmir today has many common elements with what happened in Punjab during the dying days of militancy. The most striking is the stepped-up violence by the opponents of peace and by those who are frightened of the future. 

Diamond-tipped performance
IT continues to remain the cynosure of all eyes and its success story is repeated over and over again to underline India's position in the world market, there are quite a few areas that have set their own pace and captured dominating heights in the global bazaar. 



Now, a conclave
December 29, 2000
Red Fort and “red alert”
December 28, 2000
PM’s birthday gift
December 27, 2000
Mounting peace pressure
December 26, 2000
Red Fort breached
December 25, 2000
Hijacking regulation of metabolism
December 24, 2000
Slap and Samba case
December 23, 2000
It’s now R-Day ceasefire
December 22, 2000
A rotting scandal
December 21, 2000
Hell called Pak jails
December 20, 2000




What does it mean for India?
by V. P. Dutt
HE drama surrounding US presidential election is finally and mercifully over. From a tragi-comedy it turned into a farce. No one knows who the real winner was but everyone knows who was the real loser — the American electoral system. One person finally decided who would be the next U.S. President.

Why string the UN along?
by V. Gangadhar
HE village bully has his own laws. Try asking him for the money he owes you, and you may end up with a punch on the jaw. But he will also punch you in the nose if you do not pay back the money you owed him. Bully’s Law applies all over the world.

On the spot

by Tavleen Singh
Looking for hidden India

WHEN you travel, as I do, seeing things only through journalistic eyes much that is valuable and magical in India remains hidden. Inevitably, since all you are looking for is a story or a news peg to hang one on. Usually, this means seeing only things like violence and poverty, political chicanery and corruption.

Window on Pakistan

By Syed Nooruzzaman
Music: traumatising  developments
December has been a cruel month in the music scene of Pakistan. The parting days of the year 2000 have robbed it of two celebrated singers. They were Malika-e-Tarannum Noor Jahan — who got wide publicity on both sides of the Indo-Pak divide on her final journey — and Aziz Mian qawwal, whose departure from this world almost went unnoticed in our part of the subcontinent.




Sukhoi deal

HAD the light combat aircraft (LCA) project not proved to be such a damp squib, India would not have to spend upwards of Rs 20,000 crore on procuring the Sukhoi-30 aircraft from Russia and even exult over it. But leave alone the 230 aircraft or 10 LCA squadrons that the Indian Air Force was to have by the year 2000, the indigenous baby is yet to be fully conceived. As such, one can more or less give up hopes on the prestigious but elusive LCA, which will now be no more than a technology demonstrator. Due to this setback, the strategic vulnerability of the IAF has been increasing. Its MiG fleet should have been phased out by the 1990s, but continues to be flogged. In such a bleak situation, the Sukhoi deal signed by the representatives of the Irkutsk Aviation Production Corporation and the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) on Thursday is perhaps the best that India could get. (Russian papers have described the Indo-Russian project as Russia’s “most successful” defence deal ever.) Till as recently as 1994, the IAF top brass was of the view that the Sukhoi aircraft was irrelevant to the IAF. Let down by the LCA, it just had to look up to the Russian long-range multi-role jet. The $ 3 billion agreement is not only the largest ever that Russia and India have signed, but SU-30MKI with its full payload of the Indian, Russian, French and Israeli avionics is perhaps the first aircraft specially tailored to meet the country’s strict requirement. In fact, the “I” in MKI stands for India. The “deep licence” that it has signed provides for the indigenous production of all components of SU-30MKI over a period of 20 years, including its state-of-the-art thrust-vectoring engine, the first of its kind in the world.

Russia has a similar strategic partnership with China also, but has not granted a licence to that country to produce SU-30 jets. The deal is confined to the sale of 60 planes. Nor are the planes being given to China equipped with an advanced radar for ground-attack capability. To that extent, the deal goes beyond being a mere buyer-seller contract. Moscow cannot sell this jet to any third country without New Delhi’s written consent. The Sukhoi corporation has even expressed its willingness to jointly develop a fifth-generation fighter with India for the Russian and Indian air forces if the political leadership of the two countries agrees. But before that, what will be watched with keen interest is the performance of the 150 next generation combat jets, which will be manufactured here under licence over the next two decades. Initially, the more sophisticated components will be supplied to HAL by Russia. It will be up to the Indian engineers to master the intricate technology. If they do, perhaps the moribund light combat aircraft project can also be revived. That is one spin-off worth hoping for. 


Passport to Pakistan 

What is happening in Jammu and Kashmir today has many common elements with what happened in Punjab during the dying days of militancy. The most striking is the stepped-up violence by the opponents of peace and by those who are frightened of the future. Once leaders get accustomed to a prolonged period of turmoil, normalcy may induce in them unease and uncertainty. This is because a few have benefited during the unsettled days and are loathe to let go. They have to be isolated and the trick is to dress up the peace process as inevitable even if the obstacles stubbornly refuse to melt away. The government has done exactly that. The release of passports to four executive members of the All Party Hurriyat Conference is a gentle nudge in that direction. It is not a flamboyant or flashy gesture as first the announcement of Ramzan ceasefire or later its extension was. And the government did well to project this dramatic decision as a routine one, not linked to any demand for a reciprocal response. In a manner of speaking, it is what the freeing of the travel documents is. In most cases they are country-specific, meaning they allow the holders to visit Pakistan and return by April next year. Since they are going to talk with the militant groups from Kashmir now based in that country, it is part of the enlarged peace effort. Anyway, India has agreed to Pakistan being a party to the basic dispute and a meeting between the Hurriyat delegation and the Pakistan authorities is not objectionable either. It does not mean that the visit is as good as made. Passports have been given only to five of the seven executive committee members and the other two have not been. There is a grey area here. It is not certain whether they indeed applied either in writing or in person. The impounded document can be passed on in one hour if the Home Ministry so decides. And the time to reveal its mind will come after January 2 when the Hurriyat meets to finalise the members of the delegation. The two who still do not have valid papers are known hardliners — Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Sheik Abdul Aziz — and if their names figure in the delegation, New Delhi may hand them the necessary papers. That would be only natural; the other five, not by any stretch of imagination confirmed peace-mongers, are not sworn pro-Pakistan elements. They will neutralise the twosome if only to safeguard their political interests.

Back to militants. Since the hilly terrain forming the border in the valley is frozen these days, the infiltration route has shifted to Jammu. And from the number of deaths in daily shootouts, the crossing does take place but on a somewhat lower scale. Part of this can be because of unbearable cold or heightened vigilance by the security forces. With the common man tightly embracing the prospects of peace, and the Army demonstrating exemplary self-control, militants are slowly losing their icon status. The ordinary Kashmiri has not swung away from them but is no more enamoured of them. The ceasefire paved the ground for this happy development but the soldiers won it. This was brought out by the Badami Bagh suicide bomber. It is the headquarters of 15 Corps and a car crashed into it killing three. Until six weeks back, the blast would have triggered a frenzied shooting for several minutes, spreading panic. Not this time. The same cannot be said of the police and other uniformed men. The detention of a school-going girl and the resultant expression of mass anger as indeed her later release were unfortunate. That set an ugly mood but the indications that there will be no ban on the Hurriyat visit to Pakistan and the release of passports have assuaged the popular feeling. Fighting for peace is not a picnic but an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, as a commentator has written. It is important to build the puzzle as one goes on, not being obsessed with fitting a particular piece one is obsessed with. Seen in this respect, New Delhi has done all the right things so far. But only the chess pieces have been set and the moves start now. It is going to be a backbreaking process but the collective prayer is that peace should checkmate militancy.


Diamond-tipped performance

While IT continues to remain the cynosure of all eyes and its success story is repeated over and over again to underline India's position in the world market, there are quite a few areas that have set their own pace and captured dominating heights in the global bazaar. The gem and jewellery trade is one such sector which has achieved remarkable growth over the years and has been a major forex earner for the country. Building on this trend, in 1999-2000, the sector recorded an all-time high export earning of $8.025 billion and a growth of over 30 per cent as compared to its performance last year. The achievement is all the more laudable as it has come about with little or no help from the Government. In fact, the Centre had announced a cut in basic custom duty rates (from 40 per cent to 15 per cent) in this year's General Budget. Simultaneously, however, it took away some tax reliefs that were available to the industry in the rate of tax on export profits. The industry did feel a bit let down but it did not allow the setback to affect this "precious" sector's growth potential.

The steady rise in India's market share in international diamond trade is the most sparkling feature of the industry's performance. The country now supplies to the world over 80 per cent of processed diamonds. These stones are largely sourced in rough form from Africa and, after value addition here, are exported to major diamond centres of the world. It is only because of the enterprise and business acumen of the local players that India improved its market share from 50 to 55 per cent in terms of value of pieces. In terms of carats and pieces exported, it has an 80 per cent and 90 per cent share respectively of the total international trade volume. This achievement has shifted the focus of business from Africa and Europe to India. In other words, New Delhi now enjoys a virtual monopoly in this trade and can dictate terms to the world. Domestically, the sector grew by 14 per cent to $3,565.3 million during April to September. The last fiscal year witnessed a heady performance with the target of $6.716 billion set for this year being surpassed quite easily. It will now be only appropriate if the government gives this neglected sector incentives so that not only the growth rates are maintained but India's hold on diamond trade is also consolidated. 


What does it mean for India?

by V. P. Dutt

THE drama surrounding US presidential election is finally and mercifully over. From a tragi-comedy it turned into a farce. No one knows who the real winner was but everyone knows who was the real loser — the American electoral system. One person finally decided who would be the next U.S. President.

The election revealed how deeply divided US public opinion is. Even if Al Gore had been declared the winner the margin of victory would have been pathetically slim. This was not the first time that such a piquant situation arose in the USA. John Quincy Adams won through a similar razor-thin and, perhaps contrived, majority.

Both sides in the electoral fray had chinks in their armour. John W. Bush was trying hard that at least many thousands of votes should not be counted. Al Gore was rooting for a count that would for the first time venture to divine the intentions of the voter, where he was actually wanting to vote. It is ironic that while India is trying to shift over to electronic voting, Americans were trying to switch back to manual voting.

Having said all this, it should not be ignored that, no matter what the vagaries of the electoral system and what remedial measures may be needed, American democracy remains strong and vibrant. This came through from the manner in which everyone was willing to abide by the one-vote majority decision of the U.S. Supreme Court and also through the speech Al Gore made conceding the election and the general comments from both the major political parties.

One phenomenon is very evident, that of American nationalism. This writer has been drawing attention to American nationalism as a major factor in the determination of U.S. foreign policy which our foreign policy formulators and executors must keep in focus. Both Bush’s acceptance speech and Gore’s speech conceding defeat were dripping with nationalist sentiment. People in India often forget that American internationalism is solidly based on a sense of American uniqueness and exceptionalism.

This phenomenon may perhaps get a little more accentuated under George W. Bush. It would neither be isolationist nationalism nor indiscriminately interventionist nationalism but is likely to be based on the reported view of his designated Secretary of State, Colin Powell: either do not intervene, but if you do intervene, do so with massive and decisive force. The Bush Administration is also likely to emphasise upholding US dominance in every field and first of all in the military field.

But Bush’s nationalism may be tempered by certain obvious considerations. He has become President on a doubtful mandate obliging him to strive harder for a consensus. The need for consensus would inevitably mean the softening of any rough edges that might be there.

This nationalism would also be influenced by America’s economic performance. If the economy slows down, the concern with American dominance could be diluted. If the economy resumes its robust growth, we may see more flexing of the muscles. It is interesting to note that two top slots in the Bush Administration, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, have gone to black people, one of them being a lady academic, 46-year-old Condoleeca Rice who wrote two books on Russia and was a top professor of international relations at Stanford University.

George Bush is still somewhat of an unknown quantity as far as his foreign policy, more particularly policy towards our region, is concerned. We cannot go by the election rhetoric of presidential hopefuls. U.S. Presidents are notorious for saying one thing during the elections and doing the opposite as Presidents. Candidate Clinton, while campaigning for his first term, had accused the senior Bush, who was then President, of “mollycoddling” the “Chinese dictators”, but President Clinton became perhaps the most pro-Chinese President of the USA.

Moreover, foreign policies are in general run by the bureaucracies and there is a strong element of continuity. Bush was opposed to the CTBT and had indicated that he would not insist on India signing it and that he would revoke the sanctions against India slammed after India’s nuclear tests. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy would permit that to happen.

Nevertheless, a change in administration provides an opportunity for change of nuances in foreign policy. A recurring theme in the speeches of Bush and his teammates has been the pursuit of foreign policy with “humility and strength”. If pursued faithfully, it could mean somewhat greater restraint in dealing with other countries. But then it all depends on what the mix between humility and strength would be.

Other things remaining the same, as they say in economics, it should be on the cards that the Bush Administration would give more attention to relations with Japan and India. Clinton had ruffled Japanese sentiments when he skipped a visit to Japan because he was visiting China and wished to emphasise the “strategic partnership” he was forging with Beijing.

Bush’s first concern in the Asia-Pacific region would be relations with Japan. Bush has himself gone on record during his election campaign that he would give priority attention to the U.S.-Japan partnership. This has been the cornerstone of the East Asia policy of the USA until recently when Japan received a few diplomatic shocks generating a feeling that it was now balancing US-Japanese relations with US-Chinese relations.

Bush is now telling the Japanese; perish the thought. It was with Japan, and not with China, that the relationship was that of partnership. Necessarily, much would depend on their economic relations. If the Japanese surpluses in trade with the USA did not once again fracture their ties, US policies in Asia would be recentred on Japan.

Similarly, Bush may turn the focus a little more towards India. There can be no doubt that Clinton had been tilting towards China more heavily than any other U.S. President. He virtually invited China to share suzereignty along with the USA over the South Asian region. A notable feature of the last two decades has been the heavy U.S. tilt towards China and Pakistan.

Clinton himself strove to redress this imbalance during the last year and a half of his term. Bush would in all likelihood further redress this imbalance. This does not mean, and should not mean, any renewed Sino-US hostility, but a more even-handed U.S. approach between India and China.

There is a window of opportunity for India, provided we shun the proclivity of running from one extreme to another. Our problem has been that if the USA demanded a foot, we were willing to yield a yard. This happened in Narasimha Rao’s time and has happened again under Vajpayee — this wilting under pressure. If we are clear about our interests and can pursue them determinedly as the Chinese do, the Bush era might witness a broadening of Indo-US relations. We had given too many concessions to win Clinton’s favour, including the promise to sign the CTBT without a clear quid-pro-quo. We have an opportunity now to retrieve the ground and strive for a less unequal relationship. That what require more grit and sophistication on our part than we have shown so far.


The writer is former Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University.


Why string the UN along?
by V. Gangadhar

THE village bully has his own laws. Try asking him for the money he owes you, and you may end up with a punch on the jaw. But he will also punch you in the nose if you do not pay back the money you owed him. Bully’s Law applies all over the world.

What is good for the village bully also holds for the international bully. Like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the US strides the world like a Colossus. It is the only super power in the world. Yet, it does not pay its dues to the United Nations which is supposed to maintain peace and tranquility in the entire world.

At the end of World War II, the USA was one of the parties which agreed on the need for a forum like the UN. The UN began to function on US territory, in New York and despite several hiccups had continued to survive. But the UN is a huge organisation and continues to grow. It needs money, which comes from subscriptions from the member nations. And this, the USA refuses to pay. Today, the US is the biggest debtor to the UN.

The US pride and joy at the UN evaporated very quickly. As a world power, the USA wanted applause, not criticism of its international policies. This, however, did not happen. When the Soviet Union and the USA functioned as two super powers during the Cold War era, there was considerable criticism of the US policies from the poorer nations in the Third World. Quite often, the USA sided with military dictatorships and worse tyrants all over the world and helped in putting down democratic aspirations of people the world over. When these nations accepted Soviet support, they were dubbed “Soviet puppets” and harassed in every possible way. It is ridiculous that even after 40 years, the USA had not “forgiven” tiny Cuba for turning to the Soviet Union for help, after its overtures for help were turned down by the USA during the Eisenhower era. Eisenhower might have been a leading military commander, but his concept of international politics was nil! The USA still maintains a travel and trade embargo against Cuba.

The same blind-as-bat policy continued till recently against Vietnam. During the 1950s, the USA, which called itself the champion of democratic ideals, supported France which tried to hold on to its colony, Vietnam, and was finally ousted after a bloody war. The USA then went to clandestine war against the Vietnamese nationalists who, it alleged, were communists and determined to take over all of Asia. It never dawned on US policy makers that a nation which had shed precious blood in freeing itself from the French colonial rule would surrender that precious freedom to communism. The clandestine war became an open war, and the USA almost bombed North Vietnam to the Stone Age. But the brave Vietnamese would not give in and the USA finally withdrew its forces from that country. It was only recently that the USA “condescended” to resume ties with Vietnam which it almost helped in obliterating from the map of the world.

The list is endless. In Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, the USA was most of the time supporting bloody dictators on the pretext they were the bulwark against communism. The notorious Central Intelligence Agency was directly implicated in the assassination of the popular Marxist leader of chile, Salvadore Allende, who was succeeded by one of the worst dictators of modern times, Gen Augustus Pinochet. In the Philippines, the USA backed the corrupt Marcos regime where the first lady Imelda Marcos stashed away a huge fortune in the USA and also owned more than 300 pairs of shoes.

These were not the policies to be pursued by the self-appointed leader of the Free World. Naturally, such policies were debated and roundly criticised in the UN. In West Asia, Israelis, who took on the role of neo-Nazis, tried to annihilate the Palestinians who had been driven out of their homeland to make way for the artificially created Jewish state. The Zionist imperialism could not have been sustained without the support of the USA, which, in the Security Council, time and again used the veto to put down resolutions critical of its approach.

Obviously, the US rulers did not relish being criticised in the forum of the UN. They had given accommodation and financial support to the world body, and how dare its members criticise the mighty USA. The attacks from Third World nations particularly hurt. India’s friendship was spurned for a long time to favour successive military dictatorships in Pakistan, which was more appreciative of the US policies. There was clearly a feeling in the USA, particularly among right-wing Republicans and Democrats, that the USA should have nothing to do with the UN.

The issue of UN peacekeeping operations found the USA and the UN on the opposite sides. Though, the world was fortunate in avoiding major wars, minor skirmishes were happening all over the world. Ethiopia and Somalia were at each others’ throats, Rwanda and Burundi soldiers were killing each other, Sierra Leone often erupted into violence, Sudan and Angola suffered terribly from civil wars. The conflicts never seemed to end and the UN resources thinned as peacekeeping operations had to be launched almost round the clock. These cost money and were a drain on the UN exchequer. The position became desperate because the USA, which opposed the concept of peace keeping operations, failed to pay its dues to the parent body. The attitude hardened after some of the US soldiers, part of its peace keeping force in Somalia, were killed by some of the military factions in that country.

Unlike peacekeeping forces from India and other Third World nations, those from the USA were not popular because of their arrogance and lack of understanding of local conditions and people. The attacks on the US troops set off an anti-UN feeling in the USA which was fuelled by right wing groups. The best way to throttle US operations was to cut off payment of dues. Since the USA was the biggest contributor, such an attitude hurt the world body.

Further, the USA was not in agreement with the very concept of peacekeeping operations. Whenever there was some unrest in its own backyard like Panama, Nicaragua. Grenada or Paraguay, the USA did not need any peacekeeping forces. It despatched the Marine Corps to these countries so that its vested interests were not disturbed. Most of the US Presidents in the post-Second World War era, had indulged in this kind of armtwisting by landing the Marines. Why keep peace when you can start and win wars with the help of your Marines? If such tactics led to critical resolutions in the UN Security Council, the USA and its allies were ready with their vetos.

The USA just about tolerated the presence of the UN on its soil. It questioned the one-vote-for-one nation policy. Why should tiny nations like Antigua or Belize have the same voting rights as mighty nations like the USA? The anti-UN feeling rose sharply in the USA and it was with great difficulty that President Bill Clinton persuaded the US Congress to pay roughly $1.8 billion which his country owed to the UN. However, the US Senate insisted that the payment be conditional on a 12 per cent reduction in the US contribution to the UN administrative budget and a 20 per cent in its share of the peacekeeping operations. Naturally, most of the member nations had been hostile to the US attitude towards the UN.

But the importance of the UN in trying to maintain a semblance of world order had not been lost on some American citizens. This was what prompted Ted Turner, the US TV baron to offer $ 34 million to bridge the gap between what the USA should pay the UN and what it actually was prepared to pay. It is doubtful if the UN members would agree to any payment from a private US citizen. Perhaps, Turner should spend some of his millions in educating the US citizens on the importance of UN and his country’s obligations to the world body.


Looking for hidden India
by Tavleen Singh

WHEN you travel, as I do, seeing things only through journalistic eyes much that is valuable and magical in India remains hidden. Inevitably, since all you are looking for is a story or a news peg to hang one on. Usually, this means seeing only things like violence and poverty, political chicanery and corruption. So, every now and then on my travels I make a special effort to look for that hidden India, those aspects of this country that nobody looks for any more because they lie buried under so much garbage.

Last week in Pune I got to see beyond the garbage by ignoring the sadness of a once beautiful town gone to ruin, by looking beyond its wrecked, chaotic streets for those hidden things. My search took me first to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute where I went seeking to meet the great Guru himself, B.K.S. Iyengar. I saw him almost immediately, seated in a small, sunny garden immersed deeply in some book. From a distance he looked austere and forbidding and I did not dare approach as I had no prior appointment. Instead, I wandered around the strange, conical shaped building with its plaster images of the Guru in various yogic asanas, I had expected a more old-fashioned, Indian building and so was slightly disappointed but not nearly as disappointed as I was at the thought that in my two days in Pune I might not be able to meet the man who virtually reinvented yoga in a modern context.

A young man, loitering in the entrance told me that I could definitely not see Guruji immediately but could leave a note in the office and if he agreed to see me they would let me know. So, I was led into an office filled with trophies and large pictures of various people of which the most prominent was of his wife, Ramamani, in whose memory he built the institute that is today the most famous centre of yoga in the world.

A message from Guruji awaited me in my hotel room asking me to return to the Institute at 3.30 in the afternoon. This time I was led down a narrow, stone staircase to a room filled with simple office furniture and glass cupboards filled with books. Guruji sat at one of the tables drinking coffee South Indian style out of a small steel glass and bowl. He sat with the relaxed but upright demeanour of someone who has done a lot of yoga and close up looked remarkably young for a man in his eighties. In repose his face continued to have that forbidding austerity I first noticed but it disappeared when he smiled and be smiled widely when I asked him to tell me about his discovery of yoga.

“It was ill-health in my childhood and destiny that brought me to yoga,” he said. “My mother had influenza and this affected me as well and developed into typhoid. When I didn’t get better they suspected I had TB of the lungs. I was so dependant on other people that I even thought of suicide rather than having to live like this. Then my sister got married and it was my brother-in-law who suggested that I do yoga.”

From this began a journey that led to a discovery of yoga and its reinvention as a practice that ordinary human beings, and not just yogis, could benefit from. Guruji recounted how at the time he started practicing yoga there were no more than a handful of teachers left in the whole of India. When he started to practice it he was so weak and lacking in stamina that his own teachers did not think he would ever amount to much and this is where destiny came into the picture. His Guru was asked to give a demonstration of yogasanas and his star pupil was not available to perform so it fell to the young Iyengar, still not fully recovered from his childhood ill health, to perform before the Maharajah of Mysore. His Guru was impressed enough by his performance to agree to continue teaching him and in the next few years came other performances in places like Dharwar, Belgaum and Bombay.

At one of these performances the Civil Surgeon of Maharashtra was among the audience and was so impressed that he asked Iyengar to come and teach in the schools of Pune. For three years he taught school and college students in Pune and decided, aged 21, that this was where he would settle.

The real turning point in his career came, according to Guruji, when Yehudi Menuhin, already one of the world’s most famous violinists, came to India in 1952 as a guest of the Government of India. He was interested in learning yoga because the pace of his life and the endless circuit of performances had exhausted his body. But, when he met leaders like Jawaharalal Nehru and Dr Rajendra Prasad they recommended their own yoga teachers rather than Iyengar who was then considered too young and unknown. Menuhin seems not to have been too impressed with those he met so when he came to Bombay as a guest of the Governor, Zubin Mehta’s father Melli Mehta recommended Iyengar. “I was told that I had five minutes to show him what I could do and that I should be in Raj Bhavan by 7 a.m. I arrived five minutes ahead of the time but nobody opened the door of Raj Bhavan for half an hour so I just walked right in and straight into Yehudi Menuhin’s bedroom.”

Menuhin asked for a demonstration of his skills rather than theory so Iyengar put him into shavasana (corpse position) and relaxed him so totally that Menuhin cancelled all his appointments and practiced with him for two days. At the end of these two days he gave a concert in Bombay that everyone considered the best he had ever given. He pleaded with Guruji to return with him to the West and succeeded in persuading him only two years later when he returned again for some more yoga lessons. Guruji says he returned with him to the West and it was Menuhin then who introduced him to other people so ‘the seed I planted in India went under the sea and came back here from the West.”

Today, there are millions of people all over the world who practice what has now come to be known as Iyengar Yoga. Guruji’s books, he has written several, have spread the message and his teachers can be found in nearly every country. He is pleased that yoga is now officially part of the curriculum of the Doon School and that other Indian schools as well.

After my visit to the Iyengar Institute I wandered off to the Osho Ashram and again discovered a magical place of black pyramids with blue windows set in meditation gardens filled with lotus ponds and flowering trees. And discovered an atmosphere of peace and beauty that made me slightly ashamed of the disdain with which Osho in his life time was treated by hacks like me. There is much that is still wondrous and worthwhile in India but it can only be found on journeys that are not journalistic in their nature.


Music: traumatising  developments
By Syed Nooruzzaman

December has been a cruel month in the music scene of Pakistan. The parting days of the year 2000 have robbed it of two celebrated singers. They were Malika-e-Tarannum Noor Jahan — who got wide publicity on both sides of the Indo-Pak divide on her final journey — and Aziz Mian qawwal, whose departure from this world almost went unnoticed in our part of the subcontinent.

Noor Jahan, who was 74 plus and had no capacity for commercial performance because of a heart problem, had earned her recognition as a singing sensation even in her teens during the pre-Independence days. Since she had begun her illustrious career as an Indian, having broken the monopoly of the male sex in the area of singing for films, older people on this side of the border continued to treat her as their own extraordinary talent. Most newspapers in India carried as extensive obituaries, highlighting her achievements, as could be seen in the media in Pakistan. This was obvious.

She had innumerable admirers not only because of her voice and singing expertise but also owing to her devastating looks. Among her admirers was the maverick General who passed into history as the last ruler of untruncated Pakistan — Gen Yehya Khan. Noor Jahan, of course, exploited this weakness in the ruler of the day but only after ensuring that her position in the world of music remained undiluted.

She had added another dimension to her personality by involving herself in charitable projects. During a visit to India in 1982 she disclosed that her last dream was to build a hospital at Qusur, her birthplace. She was then working day and night to raise the required funds to provide this facility to the people of the area. She felt that the name and fame she had earned could not satisfy her so long as she did not do something special for the place of her birth.

Noor Jahan was endowed with a heart which could not tolerate the sorry plight of the ordinary people. Greatly upset by the growth of the gun culture in Karachi in 1993, she had declared that she would not participate in cultural programmes till this madness came to an end. This was the legendary figure that is no more in our midst.


The death of Aziz Mian, the qawwali icon of Pakistan, is more painful as his end came at just 56, when he had many fruitful years to go. He was admired for the musical quality and religious fervour of his qawwalis.

An unusual artiste with an MA in Urdu and Persian, he had scaled great heights of fame since his days on the footpaths in Lahore and in the area outside Data Durbar. And he was always proud of his humble beginnings.

Aziz Mian, a trend-setter qawwal, came into the limelight in the early seventies when he was invited to Tehran by the then ruler of Iran, Reza Shah Pehlavi. The Shah was easily won over by Aziz Mian with his compositions on Hazrat Ali, the fourth Great Caliph of Islam.

He was not only a qawwal but also a highly respected poet. The numbers he sang were mostly composed by himself. An admirer of poet Iqbal, Aziz Mian was immensely fond of reading books on Urdu and Persian literature. He would spend a major portion of his earnings from his qawwali performances on the purchase of books. A man of character, he will be remembered for his commitment to the qawwali form of poetry. He died of jaundice in Iran, the country which played a key role in his professional journey to reach the pinnacle of success.


If the world of music has become poorer with the death of Noor Jahan and Aziz Mian, it is stunned by a severe paralytic attack of ghazal king Mehdi Hasan. He had suffered two such attacks in the past too — one in 1968 and the other in 1999 during a visit to India — but the one he had this month was of a crippling nature. According to Dr Farrukh Iqbal, the doctor who treated him at Lahore’s Sheikh Zaid Hospital, “the stroke affected the left side of his brain where lies the speech area and thus paralysed the right side of the body, including the tongue.”

A long-time asthmatic, he has been himself damaging his system by an excessive chewing of tobacco and certain other harmful ingredients of “paan”. It is not known whether he will be in a position to sing again as a normal human being.

On the hospital bed he was mainly worried about his position as the top ghazal singer of his times. He would often try his voice at his favourite ragas but only to get disappointed at the end of it all. His fans all over the world will be greatly disappointed if Mehdi Hasan is not the same again.


Spiritual Nuggets

Offer reverence to the punitive power of God,

Like a sharp blade it severs the binding

rope of life and death.

The feelings of tender love are hidden

beneath this piercing blade,

It liberates us from the bondage of desires and temptations and guides us

to the path of righteousness.

The sharp edge of this pain-giving

blade cuts the knot of life's entanglements.

Be grateful to the Lord of death,

the destroying power of God,

as He delivers us to death once again

for ultimate salvation.

— Rig Veda, 6.63.2


Should, all-time companion of the Radiant Lord

Be not sorrowful at your limitations;

Enlightened with light divine,

aspire to unite with God, and get eternal bliss.

Inspired by divine energy,

blessed with all wordly gifts,

Rise above them all and aspire

to attain ultimate salvation.

— Atharva Veda, 4.14.1,2


Diet plays a prominent part in keeping up Brahmacharya (state of celibacy). There are different compartments in the brain and each food produces its own effect on each compartment and on the general system.... Garlic, onions, meat, fish and eggs stimulate the passion.

Give proper attention to food, Have moderation in diet. Take sattvic food such as milk, fruits and wheat. Occasional fasting checks passion, calms the emotions, controls the indriyas (senses), and helps brahmacharya.

— Swami Shivananda, Bliss Divine, chapter 6

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