|Saturday, September 8, 2001||
RAJA RAM Mehrotra is Professor of English at Benares Hindu University. He specialises in the use and misuse of English by Indians. In the latest issue of English Today, he has focused on obituary columns appearing in Indian newspapers. The words used are usually literal translations of the Hindi words. Thus Swargvaas becomes heavenly abode unknown to the Brits who do not treat death with the solemnity we do. They are coarse enough to make fun of it. To wit expressions like give up the ghost, peg out, bite the dust, pop off, kick the bucket, cash in one’s chips etc.
The word abode is archaic and no longer in use elsewhere in the English-speaking world. With us it has several variations: eternal abode, entered the portals of the Lord’s abode, rested on the Lord’s lotus feet. At times instead of abode, our obituaries have eternal home.
persist in obituaries sent in by Indian Christians. Amongst the most
popular is "Safe in the arms of Jesus". Often blame is cast on
God for taking away one’s relation:
He was stolen away by fate for ever...
The wind of fate blew, making her lifeless.
Cruel fate grabbed him.
Destiny whisked him away.
We were robbed of our most precious possession.
Destiny took your benign presence and our breath away in an aircrash.
Nature recalled him to his fold.
God took you away from us.
God snatched my father.
God took away his precious gift from us.
He was plucked from God as he was the best flower on earth.
The Hindic family of religions subscribe to the belief that with death a person merges his or her identity with God: Jyoti Jote miley ( as light mingles with light eternal). The other examples are:
He left us all to abide for ever with the Almighty.
He attained the lotus feet of the Almighty/Lord Mahavira.
We handed God’s gift back to him.
He passed on to the eternal glory.
She attained eternity.
He became more dear to God than to us all.
My precious gift flew away from my own lap to the Heavenly Father.
God withdrew him to light up a world elsewhere.
The greatest of the great called him.
He became one with Parmatman.
Life on earth is regarded as temporary halt in a continuous journey:
He left his earthly sojourn.
She travelled on a voyage of no return.
He made his journey to heaven.
She took departure from this world.
He left for his ultimate journey.
He left us for that journey to the unknown.
She departed from the ethereal to the celestial.
He left for an unknown destination never to return.
He completed his earthly journey.
He crossed over...
He slipped into the other world.
He glided away in a silvery flash.
His river of life reached its final destination on this day.
He entered the realm of immortal bliss.
His soul migrated from the ephemeral world.
He left this mortal world with Hari Om Namo on his lips.
Everyone who falls in battle becomes a martyr with slight variations like:
He attained martyrdom.
He laid down his life.
He embraced death for the honour of his country.
He went away to God while in uniform.
Professor Mehrotra maintains: "One of the basic tenets of Indian thought is to consider the whole world as a family (vasudhaiva kutumbakam) and hence a mourner prays not for the peace of his relative alone but of the others also who are no longer alive:On this day we also bow our heads to other departed souls and pray to God to keep them in a peace."
A tribute to R.G.K.
There are people who do what they think is their duty (karma) to the best of their ability without caring whether or not they get recognition or monetary compensation for it: they are true examples of the exhortation in the Bhagavadgita: Karmanyev adhikarstey ma phaleshu kadahchana (Perform your duty without consideration of the fruits thereof). One such person who came into my life for nine long years was RGK. He was on the staff of The Illustrated Weekly of India when I took over as Editor. He stayed on after I was sacked. The management ignored my recommendation that he take over from me. Without the slightest concern, he continued to do the job under a succession of editors — Kamath, Khanna, Pritish Nandy — till he retired. He died a couple of weeks ago, unhonoured and unsung.
Despite being in daily contact with him for almost a decade when he my number two, I knew very little about him besides that the ‘G’ in his initials RGK stood for Gopal, the name with which we called him. He wrote more for the weekly than any other member of the staff, but did not want any credit or byline besides his initials. He was one man we relied on to write on different aspects of Hinduism because he knew all the sacred texts in their Sanskrit originals.
All the time he worked for the journal he sat on a corner table of the large hall which also accommodated the staff of Dharmyug, Femina and Filmfare. Behind him were urinals and toilets. Newcomers and visitors who wanted to use the facility often interrupted RGK in his work to ask ‘Where is the loo? He put a placard on his table reading "Toilets straight ahead". He did not have a great sense of humour. I never heard him laugh and rarely saw a smile on his face.
We knew he was South Indian but not sure whether he was from Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu or Kerala. Once Bikram Vohra asked him, RGK, are you Malayalu?" RGK replied, "How would you like if I asked you ‘Are you Punjaboo?" And that was that.
Not many people from the Times of India group of newspapers and journals knew of RGK’s existence. He could not care less if on one in the world knew about him. Grey’s verse applied to him:
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
Dark, unfathomed caves of the ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness in the desert air.
The story about the advantages some gain in the Olympics through the use of technology suggests that a return to the original standards of the games is in order. The Greeks competed in the nude. People forget that the origin of the words gymnasium, gymnast and gymnastics derive from the Greek gymnos, or naked.For the Greeks, competing nude kept females from participating. But today it would ensure that no athlete would get an undue advantage from new technology, be it special swim-wear or running shoes. And perhaps such a change would greatly increase viewership of the games.
(Chris Thompson in The Washington Post)