Thursday, January 18, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


An avoidable controversy 
A wholly avoidable controversy is being sought to be ended by the RSS accepting that the Sikhs are a separate religion with a distinct identity. So far so good. But
more efforts are needed to defuse the situation and ensure that the communal harmony in Punjab is not disturbed. 

Throwaway crisis
N exasperated British farmer had said many decades ago that of many ways to lose money, farming was the most dependable. This harsh reality rings all the more true in India even in the year 2001. 

Jitendra Prasada
HERE are mainly two categories of fighters. Among the first are those who must indulge in this activity on the slightest pretext, not bothering about the consequences. 


Panchayat polls in J&K
January 17, 2001
Signals from Maghi mela
January 16, 2001
Lynching labour force
January 15, 2001
The Clinton Years
January 14
, 2001
The passport tangle
January 13
, 2001
Sugar melts in PDS
January 12
, 2001
Maruti in third gear
January 11
, 2001
Enron power cut
January 10
, 2001
With a bamboo sword
January 9
, 2001
Lower phone tariff
January 8
, 2001


What Li Peng’s visit really means
by Inder Malhotra
HE rather prolonged visit to this country by China’s number two leader, Mr Li Peng, has once again underscored both the promise and pitfalls of the relationship between India and the People’s Republic, Asia’s two largest countries. 


A soldier’s soldier
FTER taking over as Chief of Army Staff in September last year, Gen Sunderrajan Padmanabhan refrained from having any interaction with the media. He concentrated on boosting the morale of the forces under his command and meeting the troops guarding the country’s frontiers. 

  • Investigator par excellence

  • Javed Abidi


The touch of sublimity
by Darshan Singh Maini
HOMO Sublimans is man dreaming?", a definition of poetry by Charles Lamb. And I find it a profound statement in a special sense. For poetry, or for that matter, creativeness (and poetry is but a correlative process) comes into play when a person in a dream (and dream is as much a spiritual experience as a Freudian unconscious) feels as though he were possessed. 


Parameters of wisdom
by S. Subramanian
N his immortal classic Tirukkural, written in the first century B.C., Tiruvalluvar spells out the parameters of wisdom and attributes of the wise. We are living in an era of information explosion. Print and electronic media, the Internet etc. are bringing to the doorsteps of millions a vast array of information.


Cigarettes get more leading roles
IGHTS, camera, cigarette — action? Despite the onslaught of anti-smoking ads since the tobacco settlement of 1997, a new study shows that cigarette use in Hollywood blockbusters such as Men in Black and My Best Friend’s Wedding are on the rise.

  • “Obesity Gene” plays role in immunity




An avoidable controversy 

A wholly avoidable controversy is being sought to be ended by the RSS accepting that the Sikhs are a separate religion with a distinct identity. So far so good. But more efforts are needed to defuse the situation and ensure that the communal harmony in Punjab is not disturbed. There has been a long period of peace and friendship between the two religious groups and it is absolutely necessary to maintain it and keep it above narrow political or partisan considerations. To that extent the admission of the RSS that though Sikhism is a panth of “the large Hindu society”, it is different and needs a differential treatment is hugely welcome. This was plain from the beginning and emotions were aroused because insensitive statements were made about this theme. It is well to remember that Hinduism is a conglomeration of panths as is natural in an ancient and vast country. In fact the first “communal clash” occurred not along religious lines but across panth lines as between the Shivaites and the Vaishnavite followers of the newly started Ramanujacharya school and centuries ago. In this respect panth is not so much a strand of an established religion as an offshoot of it. Looked at this way, Sikhism is a full-fledged religion as is any semitic one. On the other hand, India’s assimilative tradition ordains that all offshoots of the religious beliefs of the time like Jainism and Buddhism be treated as an integral part of the mother religion. That is the greatest strength and distinguishing characteristic of the oldest religion in the world. A clear understanding of this basic principle is necessary both to sustain the fundamental strand of Indian civilisation and to retain its assimilative virtues.

Welcome as the RSS climbdown is, there are unanswered questions. Mr M.G.Vaidya, the chief spokesman of the organisation, has said that the Sikhs, as indeed the Muslims and Christians, belong to “the larger Hindu society”. Perhaps he means the larger Indian society. But the repeated declarations of the RSS and the quaint interpretation the organisation gives to the term Hindu will cause unease among the minorities who fear being absorbed by the majority community. As the late Prof Attar Singh said in the mid-eighties, Hinduism has an enormous appetite to include welcome features of other panths and incorporate them in its own belief and cultural structures. No other religion has this resilience. While this fact makes the threatened sects suspicious, it forces the practitioners of the majority religion to be more careful so that they never deviate from the path of total trust. The statement of RSS chief Sudarshan and some hotheads in Punjab violated this simple rule. Still nothing is lost. Top RSS and the state’s RSS (meaning Rashtriya Sikh Sangat) should walk an extra mile to reassure the Sikh brothers that they have no hidden agenda and their stated aim to restore and strengthen communal harmony so vital in the border state is very much in force.


Throwaway crisis

AN exasperated British farmer had said many decades ago that of many ways to lose money, farming was the most dependable. This harsh reality rings all the more true in India even in the year 2001. The farmer here is twice unblessed. On the one hand, he has to lead a hand-to-mouth existence. On the other, he has to bear the contempt of others who think that he is a pampered person, getting subsidy and what not. The dumping of millions of kilos of potatoes on the roads of Jalandhar by the farmers of the Doaba region on Tuesday was an act of sheer desperation. But it seems that neither the government nor the urban dwellers have fully appreciated their plight. Such disasters have been staring the farmers in the face almost every year. The analysts who sit in air-conditioned comfort and find fault with the income tax exemption extended to farmers and the subsidy on electricity and fertilisers fail to realise that it is not the farmer who is protected by these sops but the urban consumer who makes life miserable for the government whenever the price of bread or milk goes up by so much as 5 per cent. As far as the average farmer is concerned, he just has to live in penury. If the crop withers, he has no safety net. If he gets a bumper crop, either the prices crash or he is conned by middlemen. The cycle never breaks. It is potato this year. Next year it could be onions, or paddy, or cauliflower, as in the previous years. The kisan’s tragedy is that he never gets a level playing field. Leave alone exporting his produce to other countries, he cannot even freely send it to other states. The government is not interested in lending a helping hand. If he wants to take some initiative on his own, the railways do not provide him with wagons in adequate number.

Several agencies have unwittingly betrayed the farmers. The potato glut comes soon after the ambitious second push sought to be given by the state government to agriculture with thrust on diversification to change the wheat and paddy cropping pattern. Many farmers went in for cash crops, without realising that there was no assured market. Several other states have started producing enough potatoes. Even if it were possible to export the produce, there would have been no takers for the Indian potatoes because they are not of international quality. Agriculture universities should have played a central role in improving the crop, but that was not to be. Procurement by official agencies can be a stopgap arrangement, not a permanent solution. Due to the faulty policies of the government, the kisan is in dire straits. Production costs are skyrocketing. And yet, there is an attempt to reduce the minimum support price of wheat by as much as Rs 60 per quintal on the recommendation of the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices. A canard has been spread that the margin of profit in agriculture is more than that in industry. How one wishes the “experts” had seen the withered faces of the farmers who brought 400 trailer loads of potatoes to Jalandhar. If the country does not wake up to their plight, the self-sufficiency in foodgrains which has been achieved with such great difficulty may evaporate. Even otherwise, many unwelcome consequences are inevitable. In short term, there may be a spurt in crime and suicides. In long term, the failure in farming may lead to a disastrous trudge from rural areas to the already overcrowded cities in search of menial jobs. 


Jitendra Prasada

THERE are mainly two categories of fighters. Among the first are those who must indulge in this activity on the slightest pretext, not bothering about the consequences. They are the compulsive type, who mostly waste their energy and earn a bad name for themselves. The second category consists of the people who keep sharpening their acumen and use their energy and experience for launching a crusade for a cause dear to them. They are the intelligent type, like Congress leader Jitendra Prasada, who died in New Delhi on Tuesday. When in last November Jeetibhai, as he was known among his friends and admirers, took upon himself the responsibility of challenging the leadership of Mrs Sonia Gandhi during the hotly debated Congress presidential election, he knew that he was no match to the heavyweight representing the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. But for Prasada winning or losing the battle for the top Congress post was not significant. He wanted to present before the Congress rank and file his viewpoint in a forceful manner. And he could not get a better opportunity than the one provided by the presidential poll. He strongly felt that the Congress could not be revived as a vibrant political force, as it was a decade ago, in the absence of strong inner party democracy, so essential under the changed circumstances. In one of his media interviews he had declared at that time that party workers were feeling demoralised because the Congress had an ineffective leadership which few of his colleagues were prepared to admit. In his view the workers constituted the link between the organisation and the people in general. Their demoralisation meant a weak link, which was interpreted by him as the organisation being "away from its workers". Such a party, obviously, could not make a mark at the hustings. He wanted this serious illness of the Congress to be cured, which was not possible unless it was discussed in an atmosphere free from the fear of intimidation. Jitendra Prasada succeeded in bringing this factor into the limelight. That his party could not benefit from it was not his problem.

Coming from an aristocratic family (his grandfather, an ICS officer, had married Poornima Tagore, a niece of Rabindranath Tagore), he had prepared himself throughout the nineties for playing the difficult yet necessary role in the interest of the Congress. He considered his party even dearer than his family. As the political secretary to Rajiv Gandhi — when the mantle of the Congress leadership fell on the youthful leader after the assassination of his mother, Indira Gandhi — and also to P. V. Narasimha Rao, who came to occupy that position after Rajiv's death, Prasada could see from inside what was required for infusing a new life into the Congress. After the end of Congress rule in 1996 and the emergence of Sitaram Kesri at the centrestage the shrewd Brahmin from UP perhaps realised that destiny had placed him in a situation from where he could try to bring back the great culture his party had killed bit by bit----the culture of tolerating differences of opinion.

Many may think that after serving the Congress as Vice-President when Kesri was its head, he might be nursing the ambition of guiding the destiny of the party from the front. Even if this was true, what was wrong with it? If the Congress did not have the " jee-huzoor" culture promoted by the coterie controlling 10 Janpath, Prasada could come up as the helmsman of his party. Over the years he had transformed himself from one of the Congress back-room boys into a leader of the masses, at least in his home state. He could achieve this because he could feel the pulse of the voters. He never forgot to nurture his constituency, Shahjehanpur, since he won his first Lok Sabha election from here in 1971. Even Mrs Sonia Gandhi would admit that she needed a colleague who could point out her weaknesses, as that is how she can improve her performance as the Congress chief. But, alas, providence willed otherwise! Prasada has departed from our midst when he was just 62. One wished he was there for a few more years to strengthen the country's democratic fabric. 


What Li Peng’s visit really means
by Inder Malhotra

THE rather prolonged visit to this country by China’s number two leader, Mr Li Peng, has once again underscored both the promise and pitfalls of the relationship between India and the People’s Republic, Asia’s two largest countries. The promise lies in the basic need of both nations for peace and tranquillity so as to concentrate on economic and social well-being of the two peoples that constitute, between them, more than a third of mankind. An equally important task confronting both is to cope with the tough challenges of globalisation that accompany the tremendous opportunities this process, virtually sweeping the world, offers.

In fact, the massive hue and cry in this country over the dumping of the Chinese consumer goods is a clear manifestation of some of the problems that globalisation is creating in this part of the world. Of course, it is quite possible, indeed probable, that a part of the Chinese goods with which the Indian market is awash has come in through smuggling from across the porous borders of Myanmar and Bangladesh and the open border with Nepal. But the other side of the coin, and the hub of the matter, is that free movement of such items over a period of time is an integral part of the charter of the WTO of which India is a founder-member and to which China is being admitted belatedly. In any case, to stop smuggling is our own duty, not someone else’s, especially when unscrupulous Indian businessmen are a party to the racket.

Consequently, shedding tears and wailing is not an answer to the problem. We have to put our own act together and to compete. Especially when the demand for Indian goods in China is also on the increase. The latest trade figures, to which scant attention has been paid, reveal that trade with mainland China has risen to $2.6 billion, to which must be added $3 billion worth of trade with Hong Kong, now an integral part of the PRC, under the “one China, two systems” rubric. Together, these figures make China the third largest trading partner of India. Why are Indian trade and industry unable to make use of the opportunities available in China?

My purpose in referring to this subject is to hammer home the point that from China, as from other countries, the principal challenge is going to be economic, and failure to meet it would be disastrous. However, this having been said, it must also be recognised that economic relations cannot be divorced from the overarching geo-strategic equilibrium between the two sides. These two elements surely reinforce each other, but avoidance of a clash of geo-strategic interests, to say nothing of a conflict, is imperative.

It is against this backdrop that the message that Mr Li Peng conveyed, both publicly and in private, needs to be assessed and acted upon. In the first place, his title of Chairman of the National People’s Congress, technically equivalent to the Lok Sabha Speaker here, should not mislead us about his importance, especially because of our peculiar penchant for equating a person’s power with the post he holds. The Chinese power structure, with a seven-member standing committee of the Communist Party Politburo at the apex, is different. In this body, as in his following in the lower echelons of the Chinese Communist Party, Mr Li remains second only to President Jiang Zemin. The latter combines in himself a trinity of top offices, President of the republic, Chairman of the party and Chairman of the supremely important Central Military Control Commission.

The timing of the Li visit is also significant. China’s relations with almost all countries always have had an element of fragility. This became obvious, in India’s case, immediately after the 1998 nuclear tests at Pokhran. Chinese protests were even shriller than those of the USA. This was partly because India had cited the Chinese “threat” as a reason for going overtly nuclear. Since then, however, the USA, Europe and even Japan have tried to put aside the nuclear issue and embarked on deepening and strengthening their relations with this country. During President Clinton’s visit last year, Beijing made no secret of its worry that New Delhi might become part of the American design to “contain China”.

Reassured that this was no part of Indian policy, just as New Delhi was averse to an anti-US combination led by China or anyone else, the Chinese leadership evidently concluded that the time had come to put the India-China relationship back on track. President K.R. Narayanan’s sojourn in China and Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Washington contributed to this development.

No wonder then that Mr Li’s basic message, even when clothed in standard Chinese rhetoric, was refreshingly positive. He said repeatedly that to have friendly and cooperative relations with India was China’s policy. He did say that on certain matters Asia’s two major powers did not fully comprehend each other. But this was a call for enduring this situation, not for perpetuating it. At the same time, the Chinese dignitary made it clear that his was a visit for “setting the direction” of India-China relations and creating the necessary atmosphere for it, and not one meant for “negotiations” on outstanding issues.

These negotiations, he stated more than once, should be taken up by the established agencies such as the Joint Working Group, headed by the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries, the Group of Experts and so on. The Indian side has also indicated, most conspicuously by the Prime Minister during his visit to Indonesia, that the mood is upbeat. Mr Vajpayee expects the long-standing and vexed issue to be resolved in not too distant a future. South Block has attached great importance to the exchange of maps about the central sector of the India-China border, and it expects that maps of the other two sectors, which are far more complicated, will be exchanged soon.

However, nothing about China ever lacks in complexity. Just when the Prime Minister was addressing a Press conference in Bali, the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen S. Padmanabhan, in a message on the eve of Army Day, was talking about the “problems” being created by “Chinese activities” on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). He did add though that the situation along the line was stable.

This is as good a place as any to do some plain speaking on one aspect of our China policy which is usually slurred over or fudged. Unlike China that has a long view, we haven’t thought through our policy over the long term. While the Chinese are talking of a “strong, powerful united and rich China”, we tend to be in a complaining frame of mind. What is understandingly worrying General Padmanabhan and the Army is that the PLA, on its side of the LAC, particularly in the Western sector, is vastly improving its infrastructure for “border management”. Evidently, this is both a consequence of the Sumdurongchu syndrome a decade ago, when they were taken by surprise, and a prelude to the long-awaited “clarification” of the LAC. Shouldn’t we be engaged in the same exercise on our side of the LAC?

A strange division of opinion within the country has further aggravated the state of affairs concerning the LAC and other issues. On the one side is a small but highly vocal section that paints China as “evil incarnate” and advocates an insanely aggressive policy towards our most powerful neighbour. And this at a time when the principal threat to Indian security and supreme interests comes from Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir with Pakistan-based Islamic fundamentalist groups in the forefront of cross-border terrorism. On the other hand, there are wooly-headed groups that blame their own country for having “wronged” China. Nobody in the ruling establishment makes the slightest attempt to educate the public opinion.

This brings one to the crucial and painful question of China’s support to Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes in cynical violation of all its nonproliferation commitments. The USA, in a Pentagon report, has recently reconfirmed that such an activity has gone on. And yet the USA ironically waives mandatory sanctions on China while imposing them on Pakistan and Iran, recipients of Chinese largesse.

Regrettably, the Indian side has seldom pressed this issue in the course of the dialogue with Beijing with the requisite forthrightness. China thus gets away with bland denials and Sino-Pakistan collaboration in this extremely sensitive area continues.


A soldier’s soldier

AFTER taking over as Chief of Army Staff in September last year, Gen Sunderrajan Padmanabhan refrained from having any interaction with the media. He concentrated on boosting the morale of the forces under his command and meeting the troops guarding the country’s frontiers. He also channelised his energies for ensuring that the Army continued to maintain the hoary traditions of being among the best in the world. However, at his first press conference convened by General Padmanabhan on the occasion of the 53rd Army Day, he advocated extending the unilateral ceasefire declared by the NDA government in Jammu and Kashmir beyond the Republic Day deadline.

The gutsy General or “Paddy”, as he is known among colleagues and friends, emphasised that the unilateral ceasefire had led to a lot of political activity in the state which could result in peace. He said its advantages far outweighed the disadvantages. “If it is a good thing, and it is a good thing, it should continue,” he observed. It was a statement not from any run-of-the-mill officer but from a person who is directly responsible for every act of the Army.

It was apparent that General Padmanabhan was expressing his opinion in a medium-to-long-term perspective though it did not go down well with all the officers and men of the Army. In a way, it reflected not only Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s resolve to find a solution to the protracted Kashmir tangle but also the Army’s determination to discharge its duties unflinchingly as always.

Right from the days as a junior officer, General Padmanabhan has stood out as an individual who can maintain his cool even during a crisis. To his juniors and colleagues of equivalent seniority, he has been “a model officer, someone to look up to”. As he steadily went up the ladder, he fine-tuned his trait of maintaining a proper balance.

He has been described as a soldier’s soldier who prefers keeping a low profile. A strict vegetarian, General Padmanabhan is the fourth artillery officer to become the Chief of Army Staff, and at 60 years he is the oldest. He has two years to go before retiring. He is known to be a very clear-headed person, leaving no ambiguity about his orders while allowing full freedom to his staff and formation commanders.

Investigator par excellence

WHETHER it was indepth investigation into the politically sensitive Bofors pay-off case or the recent Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) probe into the involvement of cricketers in the match-fixing scandal, one man who deserves kudos is Mr K. Madhavan. If the CBI is today proud to have achieved considerable progress in the Rs 64-crore 155 MM Howitzer guns deal case, due credit must be given to Mr Madhavan.

He joined the agency as a Deputy Superintendent of Police (direct recruit) way back in 1963 and rose to the level of Joint Director in 1990. It was Mr Madhavan who initiated the probe into the Bofors case during Mr V.P. Singh’s regime and did all the groundwork relating to the case. This enabled the agency to acquire vital documents pertaining to the Bofors deal from Sweden.

During his tenure in the CBI, he held many important and sensitive posts and also won the President’s Police Medal in 1992 and the Indian Police Medal for meritorious service in 1985. He took voluntary retirement from the CBI.

Mr Madhavan did not rest on his laurels after retiring as the Joint Director of the premier investigation agency. He started practising law in the Supreme Court. His impeccable credentials as a top class investigator with legal acumen resulted in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) appointing him as the Commissioner in its Anti-Corruption Unit and entrusting him with further scrutiny of the cricketers named by the CBI in its report on “match-fixing and related malpractices”.

Without being influenced or overawed by the plethora of reports in the media on match- fixing, he conducted a systematic and thorough probe in a time-bound manner. His indepth analysis of the clues available with the CBI vis-a-vis cricketers, involvement in match-fixing and also their nexus with bookies and the underworld coupled with the personal questioning of the “indicted” players culminated in the imposition of a life ban by the BCCI on former Indian cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin and a five year ban on Ajay Jadeja, Ajay Sharma and Manoj Prabhakar.

The “tainted and banned” players may knock at the doors of the court, but anyone who knows the capabilities of Mr Madhavan will be rest assured that his recommendations to the BCCI will stand the test of the law.

Javed Abidi

THE man who moved heaven and earth to facilitate a barrier-free access to four Delhi monuments for world renowned wheel-chair bound physicist, Prof Stephen Hawking, is none other than Javed Abidi. A paraplegic, this Delhi-based disability rights activist has been in the news for initiating face saving measures to ensure that Professor Hawking’s desire to see the Red Fort, the Qutab Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and Jantar Mantar was fulfilled.

First, he persuaded Akshay Prathisthan, a South Delhi-based NGO, to spare a specially designed vehicle fitted with a hydraulic lift to meet the visiting physicist’s transportation needs. Then he wrote letters to the Delhi government, the ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Archaeological Survey of India. He followed up the request by visiting the monuments to monitor the ramp-building arrangements made on a war-footing by the Institute for Physically Handicapped with cooperation from the ASI.

This is not the first time that the 35-year-old physically challenged activist has championed such causes. A free-lance journalist, Mr Abidi has been crusading for the rights of the disabled since 1992 when he joined the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation as Programme Officer in charge of the disability unit. He set up the Disabled Rights Group in 1993 by bringing together eight persons. The group lobbied extensively for the passage of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Particiaption) Bill, 1995.

The National Centre for the Promotion of Employment for Disabled Persons was set up in July 1996. The NCPEDP ensures that the disabled are not discriminated against in any sphere of employment through policy advocacy.

Mr Abidi feels that all disabled persons must come forward without any inhibitions to participate in the census exercise scheduled to begin in February. He has vivid memories of a childhood free of disability till the age of eight. He cherishes the memories of those days when he was the captain of the cricket team at Aligarh’s Lady of Fatima school.


The touch of sublimity
by Darshan Singh Maini

HOMO Sublimans is man dreaming?", a definition of poetry by Charles Lamb. And I find it a profound statement in a special sense. For poetry, or for that matter, creativeness (and poetry is but a correlative process) comes into play when a person in a dream (and dream is as much a spiritual experience as a Freudian unconscious) feels as though he were possessed. You may say, he is in the grip of an emotion which, beyond a point, is inexpressible. I'm not talking here of day-dreaming as we commonly understand it, a mind that goes on a spree in a light manner even as we are fully awake. Of course, Lamb's "Dream Children" a reverie, is closer to what I'm seeking to convey, or perhaps even more than that. Already, the little argument is beginning to meander. I must stop for a while....

And what has this little preamble to do with the subject in hand? Much more than you may think. For the homo sublimans, or the man sublime is really a process, not a concrete creature of blood and flesh. Sublimity lies not in the man dreaming (though a corporeal existence is the condition), but in the process reaching out — to whatever the imagination needs to hoist its show. Let me make matters a little clearer.

When the Editor initiated the series in The Tribune, the second piece entitled "A Voyage in Values" conveyed some ideas of my understanding of sublimity — sublimity of art, music, poetry, mountains, oceans etc. though I referred, in particular, to the definition of sublime by Longinus. Today, I'm concerned with how sublimity touches not only the elect of the Lord, but also the common human creature in certain moments of grace. Since in most such persons, such moments are like a passing spring breeze in a hot summer, come and gone before they realise the meaning of that phenomenon, sublimity remains an abrupt, almost unconscious, impulse — of generosity, pity, charity, utter truthfulness, honesty etc. You may consider it a kind of moral awakening. Since it has no staying power, and is not a part of the conscious self as such, the persons in question return, as it were, to what George Eliot, the great Victorian novelist, styled as "The persistent-self", that is, the habitual, almost 'fixed' self. And since most common men and women do not acquire an affluent personality, and remain at the level individuality, moments of sublimity as I have said above, touch such a person and vanish.

I'm reminded here of what one of the greatest 20th century Christian philosophers, Nicholas Berdyaen says about personality and individuality in his profound book, The Destiny of Man. "Individuality", he writes, "is a naturalistic and biological phenomenon, while personality is a religious and spiritual one... Personality is not generated, it is created by God." Thus, the presence of sublimity in the commonest clay may be seen all the time. For instance, when a cynic, a tyrant, a pervert, a cold, calculating person, a blindly jealous husband or wife or friend, and the rest of their ilk suddenly, on an impulse, show something foreign to their nature — kindness to a suffering person, throwing a coat over a shivering beggar or tossing a tenner to a starving child, or a moment of trust, faith, open-heartedness, etc.... there's surely an unexpected rise of the sublime but soon enough the whole thing vanishes into the thin air, leaving not a trace behind. They are back to "square one", as they say.

I trust, I have made it clear enough that here we are not talking of the sublime as is found in Guru Nanak or in such prophetic personalities. Also we are not really concerned with a Mother Teresa, a Bhagat Puran Singh, a Swami Vivekananda, for the sublime becomes a part of their personality over a period of worshipful labour. The process and the personality have a symbiotic aspect. To be sure, some evil persons never receive a positive signal, and are damned till the end. That kind of deep and dark evil as in an Iago, the Villian with "motiveless malignity" in Shakespeare's Othello abides, for its roots are in primeval, natal darkness. Such is the nature of that order of evil, and its dark dialectic is beyond our understanding. They belong eternally to "the Devil" — the kind that one sees, for instance in Dante's Divine Comedy, those who can never climb out of Hell into Purgatory....

There are, however, scores of instances in life and in plays and novels which show a reverse swing, as it were, turning from evil to good after a long period of villainy. In such cases there's a slow chemical movement at work, and it turns into some kind of an epiphany or illumination. The man is redeemed. The sublime has touched him deeply somehow, somewhere. And we marvel at that miracle.

It's the over-reachers in life — in pursuit of power, riches, sex — who bring about their own tragedy and of those closest to them. In history we may see scores and scores of such persons who devastate the world around, or ravish innocence and beauty. They are of the avil tribe, though some may deviate into a moment of goodness. The sublime has perhaps brushed their faces and passed. It's better, therefore, to remain on the plateaus of life, or be under-reachers. For there, the sublime has a more fertile or hospitable piece of land.

Homo sublimans is, thus, an eternal phenomenon. It operates in its own way, in its own rhythm. And you cannot create it, or will it into existence.


Parameters of wisdom
by S. Subramanian

IN his immortal classic Tirukkural, written in the first century B.C., Tiruvalluvar spells out the parameters of wisdom and attributes of the wise.

We are living in an era of information explosion. Print and electronic media, the Internet etc. are bringing to the doorsteps of millions a vast array of information. The capacity to sift these and discern the useful from the not-so-useful and make purposeful use of the information to achieve the goals and objectives is wisdom.

The purpose of knowledge is self-realisation. Knowledge should not be used for destructive and unproductive purposes. It is to be used for understanding the ultimate truth. Unfortunately, those who possess considerable knowledge use it to subdue and intimidate others. One seer bemoans this fact in his Prayer to the Lord: 'Oh Lord, Why have You endowed me with so much knowledge, which I use to frighten people. When a man well-versed in Sanskrit comes to me for a debate, I use Pali and vice versa. people have started running away from me and I am severely alone. I was happy when I did not possess so much of knowledge. Please make me human again'. It is said, 'Knowledge is proud that he knows so much, Wisdom is humble that he knows no more'.

Wisdom is the quintessence of knowledge and can be acquired by listening to wise men; analysing and subjecting what has been perceived through the five senses to the triple tests of rationality, utility and practicality and through self-experience and self-realisation. Tiruvalluvar says: "Wisdom is the ultimate and impregnable defence for protection against self-destruction and it is also the fortress of inner strength against the assault of the vices".

He goes on to enumerate the attributes of a wise man:

* The wise have the power to concentrate on the truth and the good without allowing the mind to be distracted by petty things;

* The wise have the capacity to accept the truth and wisdom from whichever quarter it comes;

* The wise have the power to express complicated ideas in simple terms. They have also the capacity to pick up subtle points from the speech of any one;

* The wise love the entire humanity without the distinction of caste, creed or religion;

* The wise have the capacity to foresee future developments through logic and are able to withstand adverse circumstances; and

* The wise have the capacity to enjoy every living moment without caring for worldly comforts.

These ideas are also reflected in the works of all the seers of all religions from all regions of the world. None of these are difficult to comprehend and follow.

Adi Sankara advised wise men to keep the company of those who are good and virtuous. Here is a test to select good company.

'He who knows and knows he knows, he is a wise man, seek him.

He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is a child, teach him.

He who knows and knows not that he knows, he is asleep, wake him.

He who knows not and knows not that he knows not, he is a fool shun him'.

Let us strive to become wise.


Cigarettes get more leading roles

LIGHTS, camera, cigarette — action? Despite the onslaught of anti-smoking ads since the tobacco settlement of 1997, a new study shows that cigarette use in Hollywood blockbusters such as Men in Black and My Best Friend’s Wedding are on the rise.

A team of researchers at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire, viewed the top 25 films for each year from 1988 to 1997 and found that of the 250 films they watched, roughly 85% contained tobacco use. The findings are published in the January 6 issue of the British journal The Lancet.

The investigators found a “striking increase’’ in actors handling or using cigarettes on screen, with an increase from 1% of films to 11% of films.

Of note is that this increase happened after the voluntary 1989 ban on behalf of the tobacco industry that publicly ended direct financial payments for tobacco brand placement in films.

“I think that actors should be made aware of what is happening,’’ said lead author Dr James D. Sargent in an interview with Reuters Health, referring to the increase in tobacco products in films. “It would be responsible for them not to (smoke or handle cigarettes in a movie).’’

Sargent also points out the four most highly advertised brands of cigarettes are the ones that show up in films more than any other —accounting for 80% of brand appearances — and that this ‘’suggests an advertising motive on behalf of the film industry,’’ he said.

“Whether or not a financial exchange takes place between the industries, the result is the same in that cigarettes are being marketed to children and adults around the world,” Sargent said.

The study also found that R-rated films only account for 40% of the cigarette appearances while PG-13, PG and G-rated films account for 60% of cigarette appearances.

“Obesity Gene” plays role in immunity

A gene previously thought to be involved in obesity may play an important role in immunity and protection from the body’s own chemicals, researchers suggest.

The gene, called Ucp2, had been genetically linked to obesity, so Denis Arsenijevic from Universite Laval in Quebec, Canada and an international team of researchers studied mice lacking the gene in order to understand how it might work.

Surprisingly, mice bred without the Ucp2 gene were not obese. In fact, the authors explain, there was no detectable difference in body metabolism between normal mice and Ucp2-deficient mice.

Because the gene had been identified in various parts of the immune system, the researchers decided to examine whether the mice lacking Ucp2 responded differently than normal mice to chronic infection, in this case with the parasitic disease toxoplasmosis.

Ucp2-deficient mice infected with toxoplasmosis survived throughout the 80-day experiment, the team notes, whereas normal mice died from infection within 28 to 51 days. Ucp2-deficient mice showed signs of fighting off the infection more heartily, such as higher levels of so-called reactive oxygen species (ROS).

According to the report in Nature Genetics, Ucp2 somehow limits the production of these ROS and probably acts as a defence against the damage caused by excessive amounts of them.

“The most important aspect of our work is that it has uncovered a new relationship between this protein... and immunity,’’ Dr. Sheila Collins from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, told Reuters Health. “As we understand this connection and the mechanism regulating Ucp2 there might be ways to ‘rev up’ or ‘tone down’... immunity for therapeutic purposes.’’ 



THE reformist claims that he is changing society, but in fact all that he does is paint the old society in new colours. And the old society can exist more easily in new colours than it could have ever done with the old ones.... Reform is a kind of renovation. The house is falling, the supports are falling, the foundations are shaking, and you go on giving new props to it. And you can keep the house from falling a little longer. Reform is in the service of the status quo: it serves the past not the future.

— Osho, I Say Unto You, Vol. II


When the sound of music is calm, then the mind of the audience becomes peaceful. When the words of songs are beautiful, then the singers begin to aspire. Hence the conventions and customs of people are transformed.

The effect of fantastic music and voluptuous songs is precisely the opposite, though the processes are the same.


In ancient times... music was created... to pacify the emotions of all under heaven. The tone of the music was pure and without sorrow. It was harmonious and without excess. What entered the ear and touched the heart was nothing except that which was pure and sweet. Because of its purity, desires dissolved into calmness; and because of its harmony, both the mind and heart were freed from vexation and anxiety. Free and leisured, peaceful and composed, it was conducive to a glorious state of virtue. All under heaven felt its transforming effect.... In later ages.... considering classical music to be not worth hearing, people developed new forms. Weird lewd, mournful and melancholic, that music was conducive to sensual gratification and indulgence in grief, both going beyond self control...

Alas, in ancient times, music was created to bring peace to the mind and heart whereas in modern times, it promotes the growth of desire. While in ancient times it was a means to promote culture, in modern times it only brings about the increase of hatred.

— Chow Tun Yi, The Book of Universality, 18; 17

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