Saturday, January 13, 2001
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L

Dying flame burns bright

By Khushwant Singh

IT is believed that the flame of a candle burns brightest as it dies out. Is that also true of human beings? Do people who have been sick for a long time suddenly seem to get the better of their ailments for a few hours and then without any apparent reason suffer a relapse and die? The question has been raised by Dr P.S. Sahni of Delhi. He asks if there is any substance in the belief — maut aaney per beemaaree shareer chhor deyetee hai — as death comes close disease leaves the body?

He cites the instance of his father who died last November at the age of 87. Dr Sahni writes: "Three months prior to his death he had a fracture around the left hip. He refused surgery. Being an orthopaedic surgeon, I put him on conservative treatment (traction), converting his bedroom into a mini nursing home. As he had to be in bed for three months, I took leave from work and nursed him full-time. A diabetic for over 20 years, he went through several life-threatening situations during this period — low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) with blood sugar falling to 28 mg and 32 mg% on two separate occasions. He survived these emergencies as he did an attack of near-fatal pneumonia. However he had memory lapses (diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease). Two weeks before his death, he was unable to swallow fluids — diagnosed as incoordination of pharyngeal muscles by an ENT surgeon. Besides, an ulcer erupted on his left leg; this ulcer refused to heal with treatment. His face looked weak and pale for over a week before his death as he had spent restless nights then.

Honouring Gurudev
January 6, 2001
Assamese are the friendliest Indians
December 23, 2000
The Father Teresa of Punjab
December 16, 2000
Metros bursting at the seams
December 9, 2000
Going for Ganga darshan
December 2, 2000
To be among celebrities
November 25, 2000
The dawn chorus at Santiniketan
November 18, 2000
A priceless Divali gift
November 11, 2000

Making documentaries is her forte
November 4, 2000

The Indo-Malaysian connection
October 28, 2000
Lessons terrorism taught us
October 21, 2000
Blood-letting in Punjab
October 14, 2000
Translating the Japji Sahib
October 7, 2000

"However on the morning of November 30, he woke up rather cheerful. He had slept well in the night (without any tranquilliser pill). His face was fulsome, with redness (glow) on his cheeks. After giving him bowel and bladder care, he was provided a hot water sponge bath, followed by a change of clothes. I dressed his leg wound and lo and behold the non-healing ulcer had healed overnight! Un-believable. I had an eerie feeling. That day (between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.) he drank one-and-a-half litres of fluids without regurgitating any bit!! He enjoyed his breakfast heartily.

"During his period in bed these three months, I had been recording his vital signs. His pulse-rate, blood-pressure and temperature had returned to normal that morning after a long period. Examination of his chest showed that it was clear; his breathing was normal. He recited several lines from the Guru Granth Sahib and spoke a few sentences to my mother, praising her for having been a dutiful wife for over 60 years of their marital life. That very morning, my mother had commented that with the readymade turban perched on his head, he looked as if he was heading for his office as in earlier years of life. However at 5 p.m., he developed a cardio-respiratory arrest. He stared at his children — daughters and myself, who were at his bed-side as he breathed his last.

"I confess that I got ‘cheated’ by his normal vital parameters and the more-than-usual healthy look that day. I believed he was improving, whereas he was preparing for death!

"Could readers offer any comment or explanation? Have others come across this phenomenon personally? How often is it observed? Do allopaths have any explanation to offer or would they simply dismiss it?"

Filthy lucre

I did not know why money is called filthy lucre. There is nothing filthy about a wad of crisp, new currency notes; nor of shining silver coins. Now I know.

At the first World Punjabi Conference in Chandigarh the conveners gave me a copy of the citation stating why I had been among the chosen Punjabis of the millennium, a silver plaque with two coins of the earliest Sikh currency depicting inscriptions in Persian on both sides. I also received a blue velvet pouch with a golden string. It contained the prize money — one lakh rupees . I expected it to be a cross-cheque; it was cash, a bundle of 500-rupee notes. My troubles began.

I hurried back to Hotel Shivalik View, I had invited A.S. Deepak and Vandana Shukla to join me for lunch. I put the velvet bag containing the notes on the table so that I could keep my eyes on it. "You want me to count them?" asked Deepak. "It may be more than one lakh." I declined his offer. "It will take you all afternoon to do so. It may be less than the promised one lakh."

After lunch I went to my room to have a siesta. I locked the room door from the inside, put other things in my bag but held the velvet bag under my pillow and dozed off. I woke up to make sure the bag was still there. And dozed off again.

The room bell rang. I opened the door to let in two janitors. They said they had come to check if all the light bulbs were functioning. I had not complained about any having fused. They changed one bulb. I became suspicious. I had to go to dine with the Kaushiks, Anil of the Indian Police and his wife Sharda. Rather than leave the money in my room, I took it with me. I could not put all of it in my pockets and gave it to Deepak who had come to fetch me to put it in his coat pockets.

In the Kaushik’s home I mentioned the problem of having so much cash on my person. "Lets have a look," said Anil. He felt the wad of currency notes. "Have you counted them?" he asked. "No," I replied, "I will do that in Delhi."

Back in my hotel room I bolted the door from the inside. Put the velvet pouch under my pillow and switched off the lights. I slept fitfully. Every little noise outside woke me up. I switched on the lights to make sure no one had broken into my room. I felt under my pillow to make sure the velvet pouch was still there. I must have got up at least four times in the night, the longest of the year. I was finally woken up by the operator announcing it was 6 a.m. and the room bearer was bringing in a tray with a glass of fresh orange juice and coffee. My throat was sore. I went down with a heavy cold. It was the one lakh rupees in cash that brought it on.

In the train taking me back to Delhi I hugged the pouch against my chest. It was very awkward with a running nose and streaming eyes. However, I managed to get the money safely home. I dumped the pouch in my grand-daughter’s lap and said "take the bloody lucre as a New Year gift." And soon the nose stopped dripping and eyes stopped watering. That proves how filthy lucre can be.


"Music is my God," she said

And raised quite a storm

For the fanatics of course

It was anti-Islam

For the frayed nerves of the sub-continent

Her music was a healing balm.

The ring in her voice is indeed her own,

The melody that moves even a stone

Except, of course if it is a Taliban.

‘Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mahboob na maang’

For one, when she sings Faiz

We know what she and she alone has the magic that music and poetry work.

But when the Lashkar breaches the Red Fort

And Musharraf blows hot and cold

I don’t know who should be told

That with Noorjahan gone

Another bridge is broken

Between India and Pakistan.

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

Happy New Year

"Time has no divisions to mark its passage; there is never a thunderstorm to announce the beginning of a New Year. It is only we mortals who ring bells and fire pistols."

Thomas Mann