Saturday, February 24, 2001
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L

Where has one come from?
Khushwant Singh

I am beholden to Dr K. Hussain of Salar Publications of Bangalore for drawing my attention to Sufi poet Amjad (I had not heard of him) who raised the same question as did Adi Sankara: Kastwam? Kohum? Kutah Aayat? Ko mein Janani? Ko mein tat? Where have I come from? What for? Who are my real father and mother? It is these vital questions that people who believe in the existence of God and life hereafter are puzzled by and find no answers. Amjad put it in simple Urdu:

Bahu socha, samajh mein kuch na aaya

Mujhey us nay banaaya, kyon banaaya?

Adam mein kis mazey say so rahaa tha

Mujhey kis nay jagaaya, kyon jagaaya?

*  *  *

Most educated Indians are bores
February 17, 2001
Sensing disasters before they strike
February 10, 2001
Mystery behind mystic numbers
February 3, 2001
Of time-wasting rituals
January 20, 2001
Dying flame burns bright
January 13, 2001
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

Bahut door ik koney mein para tha

Mujhey kis nay bulaaya, kyon bulaaya?

Phir aakhir us bharee mehfil say Amjad

Mujhey kis nay utthaaya, kyon utthaaya?

Dr Hussain translates these lines as follows:

I have pondered very much, but could not understand anything.

He created me... But why did he create?

I was sleeping comfortably in the state of my Non-Existence.

Who awakened me from my sleep, and why was I awakened?

I was lying in a distant obscure corner.

Who called me up, and why was I called up?

Then, in the end, from this crowded (worldly) congregation, Amjad...

Who had recalled me to the Heavenly repose and,

Why was I recalled?

Singer and her song

I first saw her at a dance recital in the Habitat Centre by Malavika Sarrukkai, who I admire vastly. She was sitting in the row in front of mine. As usual in Malavikaís dance performances, before the curtain went up there was an announcement that no photographers, movie cameramen would be allowed to take pictures during the dance performance, people must switch off their mobile phones and not bring young children into the theatre. I entirely approve of Malavika ensuring that no one should be allowed to distract an artiste or her audience during a performance. What about other distractions? This lady sitting in front of me had a large diamond in her nose-pin which caught the gleam of stage lights and sparkled like the Kohinoor every time she turned her head. Her handsome face was enough of a distraction. And once she stood up to adjust her saree, so was her figure. I decided she was a dancer: she had come unescorted.

I was looking for an excuse to talk to her. In the first intermission, it was she who turned round to speak to me. "I sent you an invitation to my recital at the India International Centre, I donít think you came". I mumbled some excuse: "I donít understand pukka raag, only light stuff like ghazals. In any case I rarely go out in the evenings during the winter. My fire-side is cosier than those drafty theatre halls". We got talking. "I am not pukka; I specialise in light classical Hindustani: thumri, dadra, ghazal and that kind of thing. Iíd be happy to sing for you one evening".

I have yet to hear Rekha Surya sing, but I have got to know her. She says she looks upon me as a father: it is a price aged men have to pay for ogling good- looking women.

Rekha is the daughter of Punjabi parents who during Partition migrated from Lahore to Lucknow, where she was born and received her schooling till she went to Miranda House (Delhi) to take a degree in English literature.

She heard Nazakat and Salamat Ali in Lucknow and decided that music would be her calling. She went to Calcutta to study under Girija Devi. Back in Lucknow she asked Begum Akhtar to teach her. The Begum first turned her down, then seeing the depression on her face, asked her to sing a few lines for her. She was enchanted and accepted her as a pupil: "Sirf iss liye kay aawaaz zaayaa na jaye"(only for this that this voice should not go to waste). Begum Akhtar left the stamp of her genius on Rekha Surya. She was taken up by AIR as a producer-singer. Since then she has sung in most Indian cities as well as in England, Canada and the USA. Two years ago she represented India in Sri Lankaís Music Festival. She has made 17 documentaries; four of her CDs are to be released this year.

I could not resist asking her why she never married and had children. "I love children, other peopleís children. I toyed with the idea of marriage for some time. Then decided to remain single and pursue my music. Mind you, Delhi is not an easy place to live in for a single woman", she said.

I can well believe her: any city in the world would be difficult to live in for an unattached woman who has talent and good looks.

Bengali saga

The size of the novel is daunting (743 pages). The canvas stretches over half a century: the translation by Aruna Chakravarti, flawless; above all it is the delicate blending of facts and fiction by Bengalís best- known novelist Sunil Gangadhyaya which goes into the making First Light (Penguin), a saga of classic dimensions.

The novel begins in the princely state of Tripura. The raja despite the desolate life he leads is a connoisseur of literature and is charmed by the composition of then a little known poet Rabindra Nath Tagore and seeks his friendship. We see the beginning of the movement of women demanding equal rights with men. Also of double-standards of leaders like Keshab Chandra Sen who clamoured for raising the age of marriage for girls but gave his 11- year- old daughter to the Maharaja of Cooch Behar. We meet Rama Krishna Parmahans and Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita and dozens of others: scientists, revolutionaries, actresses and commoners. It is the story of the Bengal Renaissance which embraced all sections of society. The connecting link is provided by the liaison between a bastard princeling and a maid servant who became the heart-throb of Bengalís theatre lovers. There is far too much in First Light to be summed up in a few paragraphs. How does any one review War & Peace?

All about wives

A good wife always forgives her husband when sheís wrong.

*  *  *

I bought my wife a new car. She called and said, "There was water in the carburettor".

I asked her, :Where is the car?" She replied, "In the lake".

*  *  *

The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.

*  *  *

After a quarrel, a wife said to her husband, "You know, I was a fool when I married you".

The husband replied, "Yes, dear, but I was in love and didnít notice".

*  *  *

When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her.

*  *  *

I havenít spoken to my wife in 18 months ó I donít like to interrupt her.

*  *  *

My girlfriend told me I should be more affectionate. So I got myself two girlfriends.