Tuesday, December 11, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



All (not) dressed up and waiting for tourists

I read the article “All dressed up and waiting for tourists” (Dec 1). Actually, I would have better called it: “All not dressed up and waiting for tourists”. Of course it is a sad thing that India does not attract so many tourists as it should. I am a foreigner living in Himachal Pradesh for the time being, studying Indian philosophy and writing about it. Being an artist (painter) and doing meditation, it is an ideal place for me to get away from the rush of western lifestyle. There is very much in the Indian way of living and thinking truly attractive to me and worthwhile to learn about. I enjoy it greatly!

But when I think of who of my family and friends would be happy - or even able - to visit us here without suffering from a severe shock, there are few left who I would dare to invite. My mother? She would just not be able to be comfortable here except we lock her up in our house. Where could she have a nice evening walk without being confronted with the huge piles of waste everywhere? How could I even get her out of Delhi without making her totally miserable?

Even to find her a suitable transport is a real problem. Sightseeing? What? Some temple, old palace? Very nice for me. She will suffer from the bumpy road, dirty toilets and she will not be able to see anything nice in the building structures wheresoever.

Look at the roads in McLeod Ganj, a main tourist attraction. They are worse than anywhere else. There is a severe shortage of water, though some handy contractor digs up one of the only two roads leading up to lay a drain for the waste water. There is no water up there to drain. No drinking water except rain water in the monsoon, which horrifies the place to the standard of rubber boots and muddy pants each time one walks the streets.


And to tell you the truth, I am making a photobook on buildings for my sister, who is an architect, about the nouveau rich ugly pink concrete houses, sitting in piles of waste, which are so hilarious to us that it is worth a book. Okay, not everything is in the appearance, one has to look deeper, which I do, and I know, there is a lot to look for. But the average tourist? It is just not nice to walk in the shit! Imagine my pretty sister-in-law, holidaying in Goa in a truly beautiful resort, trying to show off her nice new highheels in the rubbish piles just outside the fence, being forced to view the slums of the workers who build the hotel for 30 rupees a day! It will make her feel like screaming, wanting to get away as quick as possible!

Ah, you want the super rich tourist who moves from luxury hotel to luxury hotel, only to be driven now and then by, I am sorry, cheaty chauffeurs to cheaty tourist shops? Getting laid off wherever he goes. You know, India does not have a very good name; in the West they hide their poor better. I do not mean to say that that that is better, it is even much worse, but we are talking about the well-to-do average tourist here who does not want to think about poverty, but wants to relax. They have so many other beautiful places to go to.

What India will get is the cheap charter flight tourist who drinks himself unconscious in the evenings, like it already happens in Goa. Because it is cheap. And people like me who are looking for something completely else. My older brother will come and visit in April together with his daughter. He wants to give her a little education and how the world looks really like, because he thinks she is spoiled and he wants to stir her up. She will most probably not enjoy it much but it is good for her. He wanted her to go and work in a factory, which she refused, so India is a good alternative to shock her out of her mind. I have heard from parents of friends visiting, who even refused to eat, to go anywhere at all. Just reaching here nearly finished them. They do not want to go out on the street, completely paralysed. I think, it is good for them, but it is more a form of rough education than a holiday. I will not invite my sister; I just do not have the time to nurse her around. I will not invite our oldest friends; I am afraid they might get lost. I personally do not want to push western standards into India, far from it. I am convinced the West would fair well by introducing some of your Indian standards; let us just take the example of respecting old people, a grace nearly lost in western countries. There are many more things I admire in your country. They are too subtle to the average eye, though.

EVA-MARIA MEHRGARDT, Sidhbari (Dharamsala)

Road accidents

This has reference to the news item “More vigorous action against rash driving”  wherein the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the lower courts to deal more strictly with the drivers who play with the lives of innocent persons. Where circumstances so warrant, a charge under Section 304/302, IPC, may be framed along with charge under Section 304A, IPC.

Thousands of innocent persons are being killed every year in road accidents in our country, but the government has not felt the necessity to introduce police patrolling on the national and state highways. There are no signboards on the roads about the speed to be maintained by the types of vehicles.

Just see the callousness and the insensitivity of the Punjab Government that a couple of times fully loaded passenger buses have fallen into canals just because drivers try to overtake the other vehicle on a bridge. But the government has not bothered to raise dividers on the bridges to stop overtaking nor raised any effective speed-breakers near the bridges. Dividers can minimise head-on collisions. But welfare of the public is not on the agenda of the government.



Poet Iqbal

Delivering a lecture on “Iqbal, Jinnah and Partition of India” at Aligarh Muslim University, Prof V. N. Datta has observed that the poet gave a clear concept of the two-nation theory and emphasised on a separate homeland for the Muslims. (“Iqbal was political mentor of Jinnah”).

In the first phase of his poetry, Allama Iqbal wrote many remarkable poems, which reflected his patriotic fervour and belief in communal harmony. However, he took pride in being a highly enlightened and devout Muslim despite being a descendant of an idolatrous Sapru Brahmin family of Kashmir. He declared: Hai jo peshaani pe Islam ka teekah Iqbal.

Koi Pandit mujhey kaihta hai to sharm aati hai.

He was an ebullient propagator of pan-Islamism and ardently wished the ascendancy of his faith. Islam and Muslim prominently figured in his poetry. Rejecting the doctrines of composite culture and secularism, he propounded a clear concept of two-nation theory and wanted a separate Muslim state. Jinnah doggedly followed this theory, which resulted in the partition of the country, the most unfortunate political upheaval.

According to a Firaq Gorakhpuri, Iqbal considered the love of country “as something satanic. But the alternative is not love of humanity, nor identification with humanity as in Tagore, but love of an identification with the Muslim world. The ‘millat’ was every-thing and the superman was the man of Islam or ‘mard-e-momin’..”

He adopted “shaheen” (falcon) as his symbol for Muslim youth. He expostulated with God for bestowing his favours on non-Muslims: Raihmatein hain teri aghyaar key kaashaanon par. Barq girti hai to be-chaarey Musalmaanon par.

There is, however, no doubt that Iqbal was the greatest poet after Ghalib. He had marvellous command of English, Arabic, Persian and Urdu and embellished his verses with well-turned phrases and beautiful imagery. The central message of his poetry, which is a great source of inspiration, is that man should fortify his will power so much that even God should ask him about his wish before shaping his destiny

(Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer sey paihley/

Khuda bandey sey khud poochhey bata teri raza kya hai).

Before his death, he said:

Sar aamad-e-rozgaar een faqirey.

Digar daana-e-raaz aayad ke na aayad.

(This faqir, i.e., Iqbal, is the most prominent man of his times. Some other such sage, knowing the secrets of things, may or may not come in future).


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