Thursday, March 1, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Reformer Sinha in full bloom
NDIA saw a stunning new avtar of rollback Sinha of 1998 on Wednesday. He is now a determined reformer ready to swim against the political current, risking the electoral fortunes of his party and the alliance government it heads.

Help the police
HE stand-off between the landlords and the police in Ludhiana over the order requiring house-owners to furnish details of the tenants and servants staying with them is unfortunate.


A house of cards
What happened to new Indo-US camaraderie?
Sumer Kaul
AS the much-hurrahed grand new edifice of Indo-US camaraderie turned out to be a house of cards? Did the “qualitative change” in mutual perceptions and ties pertain to just Mr Clinton and Mr Vajpayee, two individuals rather than two countries?


New security set-up
February 28
, 2001
Goodbye, Sir Don
February 27
, 2001
Bad news for Congress
February 26
, 2001
‘Judyben’ helps in weaving threads of life
February 25
, 2001
Performance and promise
February 24
, 2001
A peace vote for J&K
February 23
, 2001
A strident Congress
February 22
, 2001
Tactless attack
February 21
, 2001
Real issues untouched
February 20
, 2001
A matter of interest
February 19
, 2001
Who will protect our protectors in khakhi?
February 18
, 2001


Of Lahore’s Basant mania
AHORE, Pakistan’s cultural capital, is well-known for its Basant madness. But this year (which means February 18) all records were broken. Nothing could dampen people’s enthusiasm. Not only hotel rooms but also rooftops in the old city areas were booked much in advance at higher rates than before.

  • Na-Na Didi

  • From Karachi to London


Pak’s response to ‘Border’, ‘Refugee’
Islamabad, February 28
After fighting over Kashmir on the diplomatic front for decades, Pakistan and India have extended the streak to the film theatre, which critics say will only fuel animosity among their people.


Why are some children “difficult”?
HY do children bully their classmates? Is there a clinical reason for some children to be "difficult"? Does research explain why a few youngsters tend to get stuck on words?

  • Voting with your food


Surrendering self to the divine
P. N.Chopra
HE Bhagavadgita has delineated three distinct though interrelated approaches to self-realisation — meditation (Dhyan yoga), the path of devoted action, (Karma Yoga), and the path of knowledge (Gyan Yoga). On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna advised Arjuna to be a Karma Yogi, i.e. to fight for righteousness without bothering for the fruit of the actions.




Reformer Sinha in full bloom

INDIA saw a stunning new avtar of rollback Sinha of 1998 on Wednesday. He is now a determined reformer ready to swim against the political current, risking the electoral fortunes of his party and the alliance government it heads. In this respect he is totally different from Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee who defied the dictates of the Prime Minister and perhaps the entire Cabinet by refusing to increase the passenger fare. His budget for the coming year can only be described as the delight of industrialists, fundamentalists among reformers and odd economic thinkers. The common man has much to worry about and in leisure. In their off-the-cuff reaction to the budget proposals, the chieftains of industry and their apologists lavished praise on the Union Finance Minister and rated his performance in the very high region of nine out of 10 points. Here are the reasons for their happiness. The corporate tax rate has not been increased despite the financial crunch the Central government faces. On the other hand, those companies not paying any tax have only been asked to present their case and not necessarily pay up. Two, the excise duty on several items has been rationalised, which means aligned to a more realistic or lower rates. Scooters and motorcycles will cost marginally more but, considering the popularity backed by the advertisement power, the makers can take up the challenge easily.

Who suffers then? The common man, no doubt. The interest on his savings will drop by a hefty 1.5 per cent. His provident fund will now earn only 9.5 per cent interest as will his small savings. It is designed to help investors, read big industrialists, to take bank loans at lower interest rates to invest in whatever gives them greater profits. This is the way Mr Sinha has found to boost economic reconstruction and higher economic growth. He may succeed, but the so-called man on the street has to pay the price. There is more. The government will more or less freeze recruitment, restricting to filling 1 per cent of the 3 per cent of employees retiring every year. This way it hopes to shed 10 per cent of the staff in five years all in the name of downsizing. This comes in tandem with a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to induce younger men and women to quit service to take advantage of the generous severance benefits. The labour laws will be amended to empower all units with less than 1000 employees to close down without the present mandatory government permission. The government is clearly moving away from the workers to the employers. Not unexpectedly, this proposal evoked loud protests in the Lok Sabha and is bound to reverberate in the days to come.

Mr Sinha has thrown in several goodies for the common man. Barring scooters and motorcycles, several items will cost him less like pickles and other food products. Imported cycles and agricultural products will cost more but patriotism will cushion it. The abolition of quantitative restrictions has forced the government to erect tariff walls to stem the unacceptable volume of imports. The most glaring is the case of second hand cars. These are available for a song in the USA but the budget virtually bans their import by imposing a stiff customs duty. Similarly, he has also increased the customs duty on a large number of agricultural and poultry products to protect the wobbly domestic industry. These are in the larger national interest, but it is not clear how long he can combine these with his drive to rationalise the duty structure. He deserves praise for aligning the Indian rates of excise and customs duty to the general levels in this region and still maintain the hope to generate revenue. That calls for a close study of the existing rate and the impact of changes and the Union Finance Minister and his team of advisers.

There will be two violently conflicting reactions to the budget. One will look at it from personal interests and this assessment will be very hostile. The prospective loss of jobs in government departments and banks in the name of downsizing and the lower income from small savings and provident fund are unacceptable. But aligning the interest rate to inflation, implied in the budget proposals, is welcome as much as it promises an assured income on savings. All the rest of the profound commitments on rural development and infrastructural schemes will have to wait for their fruition to be assessed.


Help the police

THE stand-off between the landlords and the police in Ludhiana over the order requiring house-owners to furnish details of the tenants and servants staying with them is unfortunate. Both sides are at fault. Reports that the police has begun to harass landlords for not complying with the order reflect the impatience of the law-enforcers in dealing with a problem which requires sensitive handling. Over 30 persons were arrested according to the Ludhiana Tribune investigations and were later released on bail. This should not have happened. The police had no legal case to justify the extreme step it took for enforcing the order. The District Magistrate should have given the landlords a time limit for providing details of the tenants or servants or paying guests kept by them. The police evidently acted on an order issued two years ago, whereas such an order as was issued by the Ludhiana District Magistrate automatically lapses after a period of 60 days unless renewed before its expiry.

However, instead of using coercive methods, the police should have explained in civilised language why the registration of the names of tenants and servants was in the interest of the house-owners. In recent months there has been an alarming increasing in incidents of violent crimes in which the landlords or their family members have been killed or attacked by intruders. Punjab and Chandigarh have a large floating population made up of poor migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The overall level of prosperity and the generally high living standard of the people in the region tempts these migrants from impoverished backgrounds to commit heinous crimes in the hope of becoming rich overnight. It would be in the interest of the house-owners if they themselves take the initiative to keep the police posted about the tenants or paying guests or servants sharing their premises. In Chandigarh three daylight-murders have taken place in less than a fortnight and landlords are being advised to install safety devices and report any suspicious movement or happening in their locality to the nearest police post. It takes two to make a city safe for its residents. One is the law-enforcing agency and the other the residents themselves. They should help each other instead of working at cross-purposes in combating crime.


A house of cards
What happened to new Indo-US camaraderie?
Sumer Kaul

HAS the much-hurrahed grand new edifice of Indo-US camaraderie turned out to be a house of cards? Did the “qualitative change” in mutual perceptions and ties pertain to just Mr Clinton and Mr Vajpayee, two individuals rather than two countries? Has the heavy foreign policy investment made by the BJP regime in Uncle Sam’s securities crashed on the Bush bourse?

These questions arise from the new US administration’s first and patently portentous pronouncements about this country. India is “threatening other people” — not just a threat to but actually threatening other people! — “including,” no, not the terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad but “the USA, West Europe and countries in West Asia”!!

This is not an utterance from a lunatic from America’s many such fringes; this is the assessment of the new US Defence Secretary, Mr Donald Rumsfeld — an assessment, therefore, of the government of the United States of America — the same creature which in its latter-day Clintonian incarnation had called India a world leader for international peace, progress and cooperation, to the delerious satisfaction of the Indian government. The same India is now, virtually overnight, a dangerous dragon about to devour entire chunks of the globe, including the poor little US of A!

Evident here is not just an anti-India tilt, a la Nixon. It is not even dullesian hatred for India’s “immoral” nonalignment at the time. What we see here is a perception designed to keep India weak and cowering. Hence the US State Department’s admonition to Russia to “stop supply of nuclear fuel to India”. Yesterday it was the cryogenic engine. Today it is nuclear fuel. Tomorrow?

You have got it all wrong, say the mandarins of our Ministry of External Affairs, ever anxious to put benign constructions on hostile statements from other countries — not, one must add, for love of those countries but entirely in a bid to avoid the government’s foreign policy initiatives being seen in poor light. A day after the two American statements, the MEA was at pains to tell the media that these are actually targeted at Russia, not India. Therefore, nothing to worry!

Why should the USA make not just hostile but utterly wild allegations against India to convey whatever it wants to convey to Russia — especially when, singly as well as through the G-7 and the World Bank-IMF combine, Washington has enough instrumentalities at hand to twist the Russian arm? The MEA’s “no-problem” interpretation of Rumsfeld’s outrageous statement brings to mind a similar reaction in South Block when, within a week of Mr Vajpayee’s famous bus ride to Wagah, Mr Nawaz Sharif had warned India of “some other option” if Kashmir was not settled “within a specific timeframe.” Nothing to worry, said the MEA spokesperson; the Sharif threat was aimed at certain jingoistic elements in Pakistan, nothing more. The trouble with such benignity, I wrote at the time, is that it befogs a proper perception of reality. Kargil proved this.

Nothing even remotely similar can happen in Indo-American affairs, our policy-makers would like us to believe. There is no history of active enmity between India and the USA, as there is with Pakistan, they say. But, let us face it, nor is there a history of trust and friendship either. In fact, leaving aside the short-lived bonhomie in the last few months of the Clinton presidency, which was stupidly seen in New Delhi as signalling irreversible solidarity, the USA has never sided with India on any important issue, be it our national security or our territorial integrity. But, say the apologists, look at the new and growing economic links. These are the bedrock of the new Indo-US relations and no US administration can overlook this and do anything to jeopardise it.

There is some truth in this assumption. After all, if we are doing their bidding, why should they jeopardise the cosy arrangement? No country has genuflected so completely to the new trinity of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation as India has, first under the Narasimha Rao regime and now even more wholeheartedly under the Vajpayee dispensation. Economic emancipation of the country has come to mean MNC-pation of the economy, and to hell with swadeshi and swabhiman; progress is to have a choice of 10 foreign cornflakes, 20 cellphones and 30 cars, and to hell with the starving millions.

While the global club of the rich and industrialised nations is responsible for forcing the new economics on the poorer nations through the WTO and the Bank-Fund duo, the flagships of modern-day imperialism, in matters political, the USA stands alone and tall. It is the only super power now, knows it and enjoys being so as never before. It can rain missiles on any country, can bomb the erstwhile Yugoslavia, pummel Iraq (and call it “a routine mission”), and generally tell everyone how to behave and how to settle their domestic problems.

This is not just the arrogance of power; involved here is also the mindset of a bully. What we in this country fail to realise is that bullies want no friends, only chamchas, and it is not for chamchas to ask why, they must simply do and die. This is what is happening to India and to Indian soldiers and civilians in Kashmir. But why blame the bully — bullies are bullies only till you agree to be bullied. The disastrous course in Kashmir began when we actively sought American help. Don’t fight the secessionists, talk to them, they said. So we released the secessionists and tried to talk to them but they said no. Never mind, said the Big Brother; stop fighting the terrorists. So we declared a ceasefire, and the attacks escalated. Never mind, said the BB; don’t shoot the terrorists, let them shoot you. So we extended the ceasefire once, then again, and now for three months!

If coming events cast their shadows before, we seem to be in for a lot more advice, as much on Kashmir as on other matters of grave national import. But, judging by their total lack of reaction, the powers that be seem to have chosen not to see the Rumsfeld shadow. Could it be that, far from being offended, they feel elated that a dispensation that cannot tackle the terrorists in Kashmir is seen to be threatening the almighty US of A? Three cheers for the castle of cards!

The writer is a veteran political commentator.


Of Lahore’s Basant mania

LAHORE, Pakistan’s cultural capital, is well-known for its Basant madness. But this year (which means February 18) all records were broken. Nothing could dampen people’s enthusiasm. Not only hotel rooms but also rooftops in the old city areas were booked much in advance at higher rates than before. Over 10,000 visitors from various parts of Pakistan as also from nearly 30 countries, including India, the USA and West Asia, helped Punjab province to generate revenue totalling, hold your breath, Rs 8 billion. And over 10,000 people got employment for at least two months. But this is a conservative estimate.

The cash-rich Pakistani expatriates and other foreign visitors must have spent more than expected, as the Jashn-e-Baharan of 2001 was a highly publicised event, with the participation of a record number of multinational corporations and the Government of Pakistan providing it official patronage for the first time. In fact, this was the main reason why it became the subject of a hot debate between culture-wallas and ideology-wallas.

Interesting interpretations were made by those involved in the controversy and newspaper analysts. One view was that the celebrations to mark the end of the winter months and the advent of the spring season were held officially also with a view to changing the international image of Pakistan from a conservative and backward-looking country to a liberal and modern one. Another view was that certain politicians and ideology-wallas did not want the Basant festivities to be promoted officially because these might work as a cementing force between the two parts of Punjab, not to their liking.

Anyway, this unique festival of romancing, kite-flying, dancing, eating, etc, in Zinda-Dilan-e-Lahore even forced most of the foreign diplomats stationed in Islamabad to visit the provincial capital along with their families on that memorable February Sunday. To their surprise, Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf, the top brass of Pakistan’s armed forces and the visiting economists of the IMF were also there. The Lahorites could not have asked for more.

Na-Na Didi

No Union Minister has attracted in a budget-related issue such concentrated flak in recent years as Ms Mamata Banerjee. Last time people, academics and politicians felt outraged was in 1963 when Morarji Desai imposed savage taxes to raise money to strengthen the armed forces after the Chinese attack. Ironically this time what has angered people is her adamant refusal to increase passenger fare to repair the poor railway finances. Also her naïve juggling of figures. She has found hundreds of crores of rupees from nowhere to make it all look rosy.

Newsmen who have been warning the readers of a harsh railway budget as a prelude to an equally harsh general budget, were particularly harsh in their criticism. The fundamentalists among reformers all the more so, feeling personally betrayed. Many linked her aversion to add to the burden of the commonman to the impending election in her state and her unconcealed ambition to capture power. One cartoon said it vividly. A passenger asks a coolie on a platform which station a particular train was destined for and the driver is the formidable Mamatadi. Polling station, comes the reply.

A sample of the string of caustic headlines. The longest is also the most devastating. “Mamata Express derails: finances hurt, passengers safe. Railway Minister snubs the PM’s advice. Polls around the corner; so the gravy train to Bengal.” The softest is from an economic newspaper: “Hard numbers, soft instincts.” Then there are the in-between ones. “Mahajot budget turns into mahaflop”, “Lion’s share for Mamata’s Bengal”, “Chugging along the beaten track”, “Mamata’s dream budget could be a nightmare for the nation”, “Vote-for-me budget, Mamata’s Bengal package…”

The prize for the sharpest sarcasm goes to a well-produced business daily. Its editorial carried the caption: “Down the down line”, a pun on the technical term for the track going away from a major junction.

On day two there was a bit of alarm. A sober newspaper headlined a curtain raiser on the general budget with “Sinha to do a Mamata today?” We would know today.

From Karachi to London

So, Mr Altaf Hussain, Pakistan’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) supremo, living in self-imposed exile in London for a long time, is now a British citizen. Only recently he was granted citizenship by the country from where he had been guiding the 20 million-strong Mohajir community without any challenge to his leadership. Has he plans to allow someone else to take up the reins of the MQM and fight the coming elections in Pakistan? This is not clear so far. But one thing is certain: anyone replacing Altaf Bhai, as he is fondly called, as the MQM chief, may not be able to influence the thinking of the disillusioned migrants from India the way he has done all these years. In fact, the MQM without that gutsy Muhajir as its head is unthinkable.

Born in Karachi 48 years ago after his parents migrated from Agra, Mr Altaf Hussain has given Pakistan its third largest political movement, after the Pakistan Muslim League and Ms Benazir Bhutto-led PPP. Karachi and Hyderabad, the two principal cities of Sindh province, have been the MQM’s pocket-borrough. The reason: the Hussain effect, more visible during an election or an MQM-organised agitation.

Mr Altaf Hussain believes that the partition of the Indian subcontinent remains one of the biggest blunders committed by mankind. The two-nation theory of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in his opinion, collapsed as early as 1951 when Pakistan refused to accept any more migrants from India. He never spares an opportunity to criticise the Punjabis of Pakistan, who, he asserts, have been treating the Sindhis, Mohajirs, Baluchis and Pakhtoons as “traitors”. In September last year he warned at a conference held in London under the auspices of the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement that if his country gets balkanised “the loser will be Punjab”. He compares Pakistan with the Titanic “which has begun to sink”. And nobody is going to come to its rescue, as he sees it.


Pak’s response to ‘Border’, ‘Refugee’

Islamabad, February 28
After fighting over Kashmir on the diplomatic front for decades, Pakistan and India have extended the streak to the film theatre, which critics say will only fuel animosity among their people.

A series of films released in the past few months by the Pakistani film industry, popularly called “Lollywood”, have themes centred on allegations of human rights excesses by Indian security forces against the people of Indian-administered Kashmir.

“These movies are our rejoinder to a number of Indian films that linked Pakistani forces and intelligence agencies to subversive activities on Indian soil, particularly the insurgency in the disputed Kashmir territory,” wrote film critic Shahid Naqvi in the Urdu-language newspaper Ausaf.

But not all associated with Pakistan’s film industry agree that the medium should be used for political purposes.

“We should use the popular medium of films to reduce rifts and differences among people,” says Ejaz Gul, Managing Director of the government-run National Film Development Corporation. He believes that films have potential to create wars.

Pakistani journalist Najeem Haider Zaidi, who works with a domestic news agency, agrees. “Peace is not an isolated effort made by governments,” he points out.

However, a large number of cinema viewers in Pakistan think that Lollywood’s new productions, “Terey Piyar Mein” and “Musalman” are a fitting response to similar films made by the Indian film industry.

“A number of Indian movies have put down Pakistan and its forces over the last few years...these movies were nothing but a bunch of lies,” says Nadia Rehmat, a student in a local girls college.

Still showing in cinema halls after its release in December 2000, “Terey Piyar Mein” is about an Indian Sikh girl who falls in love with a Pakistani boy during a visit to Sikh holy shrines in Pakistan.

Her Pakistani lover follows her to India where he is caught by an Indian Army officer, who is also in love with the Sikh girl. The film ends with Kashmiri militants helping the Pakistani boy escape jail and cross the border into Pakistan with the Sikh girl.

In keeping with the Pakistan Government’s allegations against Indian Security Personnel in Kashmir, the film shows the Indian Army officer torturing the Pakistani man in jail.

“India has made many movies against freedom fighters in Kashmir that are viewed by our youth...I feel that the government should patronise such efforts that portray the true feelings of the Pakistani nation,” a woman said.

She was referring to the high popularity of Indian films “Roja”, “Border”, “Mission Kashmir” and “Refugee” in the Pakistani home video market.

These films, which depict the Indian view of the Kashmir issue, are being secretly rented after a ban by the government, which dubbed them as Indian propaganda.

“Terey Piyar Mein” is not the first effort of famed producer Shahzad Gul to cash in on the anti-India sentiment in Pakistan.

A year ago he produced the highly successful “Ghar Kab Aao Gey” that dealt with subversive activities, allegedly carried out by Indian intelligence agencies in Pakistan. IPS


Why are some children “difficult”?

WHY do children bully their classmates? Is there a clinical reason for some children to be "difficult"? Does research explain why a few youngsters tend to get stuck on words?

Questions that have long bothered the schoolteacher have some answers now. A new publication, "The Teacher's Toolkit: Strategies for the Classroom", gives a medical insight into why some children tend to be difficult, aggressive or nervous.

Published by the Goa-based voluntary group Sangath, which works on child and family guidance issues, the book aims to help teachers understand the deeper problems that "difficult children" might be suffering from. It also offers tips on how to build the young minds.

Teachers faced with the "difficult child" are reminded that high energy levels could sometimes be just part of the liveliness of being young. But it also could be a sign of temperament, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), emotional disturbances, hearing difficulties or even giftedness.

Educationists need to be sensitive toward these possibilities and the book tries to explain how one varies from the other.

Bullies are not necessarily bad people. They often are being bullied themselves, are selfish or spoilt, could have family problems or even come from violent homes, the book says.

It could also be that bullies simply want to look "big" in front of others as they are insecure.

SLD, or Specific Learning Disability, is about normal intelligence children who still find it difficult to cope with one specific area of learning -- say reading, writing, spelling, comprehending language or mathematics. "In a classroom, five out of 50 students could be suffering from SLD," says the book.

One to 4 percent of schoolchildren stammer. "Despite ongoing research, we still do not know why some people stammer. A child's intelligence is not affected by their stammer and famous stammerers included Winston Churchill and King George VI," the book says. IANS

Voting with your food

WHAT you eat may influence the way you vote. Some fascinating research carried out by Allen et al, a university department of psychology in Australia, into the values and beliefs of vegetarians and omnivores concludes that omnivores are more likely to place less value on emotive issues than vegetarians and to endorse right-wing principles.

Question: I've been feeling drained and worn out for the past three months. Is there anything I can eat or drink to make myself feel better? Sophie Spearman, Redding

Answer: A The first thing that you should do is see your family doctor to ascertain whether you're suffering from iron-deficiency anaemia. If tests show that you are indeed deficient in iron, start to include more foods that are rich in both iron and vitamin C (which helps your body to absorb iron) in your diet, and your haemoglobin level should quickly rise, making you feel stronger. Unless your iron levels are seriously low, try to eat more iron-rich foods rather than taking an iron supplement, many of which cause constipation, diarrhoea or nausea. Lean, red meat, game, liver and kidneys (but avoid offal if you are pregnant - it contains too much vitamin A), green leafy vegetables, watercress, broccoli, eggs, lentils, blackcurrants, black treacle and chocolate are all packed full of iron. Foods that contain vitamin C include fresh vegetables, kiwi fruits, blueberries, cabbage and dark-green, leafy vegetables. Try to have these before or after your meal - perhaps a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice beforehand or a fruit salad afterwards - to enable your body to better absorb the iron.

Steer clear of caffeine while your iron levels are low: not only can it badly disrupt your sleeping patterns and energy levels by stimulating your body to step up its production of insulin, the hormone that lowers blood-sugar levels, but it also inhibits your body's absorption of iron.

Opt for a cup of good-quality decaffeinated coffee, tea or a herbal infusion instead, and aim to drink at 2.5 litres of water a day. Guardian


Surrendering self to the divine
P. N.Chopra

THE Bhagavadgita has delineated three distinct though interrelated approaches to self-realisation — meditation (Dhyan yoga), the path of devoted action, (Karma Yoga), and the path of knowledge (Gyan Yoga). On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna advised Arjuna to be a Karma Yogi, i.e. to fight for righteousness without bothering for the fruit of the actions. As a warrior, he had no choice other than to slay his enemies, whoever they be — cousins, teachers, dear old grandpa or erstwhile playmates. But Arjuna abhorred the violent choices available to him and wanted to become a hermit rather than slay his kith and kin to get the throne of Hastinapur. The situation that Arjuna faced in the midst of the two armies ready for combat was not something unique. This is the eternal human dilemma. Those who are afraid of the consequences are indecisive. They choose inaction, just as Hamlet did. Others, in a fit of anger, rush to do the worst to the ‘enemy’. But there are only a few who evaluate the choices and select the one that conforms to social justice and moral standards.

Arjuna raised a number of questions about his duty (dharma) and the Lord answered these by explaining the three paths to righteous living.

About Karma Yoga, the modern man asks how he can act with full energy without a motivation arising from self-interest. There is a breakneck race and winning by only means would be worthwhile. But no, even the international community has evolved a set of do’s and dont’s for global trade. There are rules of the game. Not that these rules are not broken. But the consequences of taking liberties with the rules are frightening. World leaders who jumped into the World Wars proclaimed that they hardly had a choice. One illusion from which all human beings suffer is that they can design strategies for a definite win, yet everybody has found that he is never in a win-win situation. The choices made are ad hoc or guided by narrow self-interest or an effort is made to postpone action till the situation snowballs into a catastrophe. The interest of the family, group or party is generally the motivating force for politicians, the national interest guides statesmen and humanism is the uppermost in the minds of great souls. Lord Krishna wanted Arjuna to act like a great soul without an eye on the consequences of his actions. This is the path of the spiritually awakened, the party of accepted social standards (maryada) of conduct.

The path of knowledge (Gyan Yoga) was elaborated by Adi Shankara and Ved Vyasa. But the effort gave birth to a number of interpretations of the process of self-realisation. Some claimed that the human soul was the ultimate reality and called this belief monism. Others held that the human being (jiva) is not a particle separated from God Almighty although it can taste the never-ending, celestial bliss in the state of Samadhi. The controversies and polemics raised over the centuries have gone beyond the comprehension of the common man. So only a few intellectuals follow this path. The seeker gets so confused that he goes from one guru to another who offer their own interpretations of the path of knowledge. At least, a householder cannot afford to get involved in the controversial path of knowledge.

The third path — meditation — has attracted many people, even from the Western world. The disciples of the gurus teaching meditation techniques are excited about it because it involves supposedly scientific principles of transcending the wordly tendencies of the mind and fixing it in one’s real self. Patanjali’s Raj Yoga is the basic text for this path and this treatise has been likened to Newtonian physics.

The Gurus give some beej mantra (a set of the names of God Almighty) and the disciple is supposed to choose an appropriate seat and a pose to do japa at regular hours of the day or night. The disciple might get a few glimpses of the divine light or hear sounds which are unearthly. Many are led into hallucinations of what they were told to expect through meditation. The pre-requisites for fruitful meditation are often overlooked the beej mantra has to be sown in a seed-bed hospitable to it. The soil has to be appropriately watered and fertilised. Weeds also grow and these have to be removed to allow the plant to grow to its glory over a period of time. The plant has to be strong enough to withstand hot and cold winds which often blow in real life. The plant has to be watered regularly with devotion and protected with self-control and self-abnegation. Otherwise it withers away before flowering. Often the aspirant fails into a trap. In such a state of bewilderment, the meditator starts asking some relevant questions.

The first question a meditator asks himself is whether he has got the right preceptor and whether he is following him correctly. Most often, the preceptor is not available to answer the questions directly. Fellow disciples advise him to have faith in the master and aspire relentlessly without raising any doubts.

Most of the disciples find their minds rebelling violently in the early phases. The mind often deceives them with distractions which lie dormant in their sub-conscious. They are advised to persevere and not curb the thoughts but keep up the meditation.

With some meditators the state of relaxed mind lasts only as long as they are meditating. When they enter the humdrum of worldly life, the peace of mind is lost. They are unable to meditate in day-to-day life.

The answer to all the obstacles to meditation is only one — surrender of the self to the omnipresent, omniscient and all-powerful force pervading the universe. This is the most challenging step for a meditator. Guru Nanak has declared that only those who have surrendered themselves to the will of God can get His grace. His grace can neither be begged nor be given through effort by any Guru. It has to be earned through righteous living and real love for divine grace. The aspirant has to recognise and resign to the will of God as his baggage of life unfolds. He has to be prepared even to sacrifice his life as and when called upon to do so. Only rare saint-soldiers are prepared to pay this price for self-realisation. They are the real treasures of humanity.



"Children of immortal bliss" — what a sweet, what a hopeful name! Allow me to call your brethren, by that sweet name - heirs of immortal bliss - yes, the Hindu refuses to call you sinners. Ye are the children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye divinities on earth — Sinners! It is a standing libel on human nature. Come up 0 lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; ye are not matter, ye are not bodies; matter is your servant, not you the servant of matter.

— Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions, September 19, 1893.


Only once have I been made mute.

It was when a man asked me,

"Who are you?"


It was but yesterday I thought myself a fragment quivering without rhythm in the sphere of life.

Now I know that I am the sphere, and all life is rhythmic

fragments moves within me.


Thy say to me in their awakening,

"You and the world you live in are but a grain of sand

upon the Infinite shore of an infinite sea".

And in my dream I say to the, "I am the infinite sea, and all

worlds are but grains of sand upon my shore."

— Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam, pages 2, 57


....You are divine and limitless. You are the 5-6 feet human being, suffering the blows of the world. You are immensely more powerful than you can imagine and dream. Your goal in life is to remove the covering of darkness so that light can shoot forth. Your goal is to enjoy supreme bliss. There is supreme bliss inside everyone of us, ready to burst forth. A thin veil of ignorance envelopes it and since we taste a drop or two of it we search for the source of fragrance elsewhere, all the while holding it within it.

— Swami Sunirmalananda, "Upanishads — Wealth of India"

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