Saturday, May 4, 2002
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L

Experiencing the writer’s itch
Khushwant Singh

I HAVE often wondered why some people develop the itch to write while others do not. It has very little to do with their academic background. Many toppers in their school and college days are unable to write anything worth reading, while others who are barely able to scrape through their exams turn into good story-tellers.

Some professions make it easier to get an access to the world of literature. Journalism is the best because meeting deadlines imposes discipline and switching from reporting to commenting on events is not very difficult. Only one has to guard against using journalistic jargon. The same applies to teaching. A teacher can take to creative writing but must guard himself against becoming pedantic. Doctors often make good writers because they are enriched by close contact with sickness, the process of dying and death. Lawyers seldom make good writers. They tend to itemise their writing as they do affidavits. Soldiers are best advised to stick to writing about soldiering and battles they fought. Of course, these are generalisations because many first-rate writers have the most unlikely backgrounds like banking, chartered accountancy and insurance. All this passed through my mind as I read Harinder Sekhon’s Five Decades of Indo-US Relations: Strategic & Intellectual (UBSPD). Harinder comes from a family of soldiers. After getting a doctorate from Panjab University, she taught for nine years in DAV College, Chandigarh, before she took to writing. Her first book was on Bhagat Puran Singh, Garland Around My Neck (UBSPD) in collaboration with Patwant Singh. The book has some rare photographs, the research and writing is somewhat selective. Five-Decades of Indo-US Relations is her second book. The title is deceptive. It does not deal with Indo-American relations and anyone who thinks it is about changes in the relations of the two countries since the days of Nehru to the present times will feel cheated. The book deals only with academic exchanges: works of American scholars on Indian themes and of Indian savants in America. She has dealt with European writers writing well before her period of study, many of whom had no connections with the USA. Even of American scholars she has missed out quite a few names, notably that of Lee Seigel, Sanskrit Professor in Hawaii University and author of several books on India. Harinder Sekhon certainly has the itch for writing and can write well but she has to learn to be more thorough in researching and organising her material.

Faiz: A revolutionary Urdu poet
April 20, 2002
Tikka Khan was dubbed the ‘Butcher of Bangladesh’
April 13, 2002
What the Sahibs thought of natives
April 6, 2002
From herbs to haathis and tigers
March 23, 2002
Kashi: The oldest place of pilgrimage
March 16, 2002
When writers talk about themselves
March 9, 2002
Travelling in a women’s compartment
March 2, 2002
Glimpses of Urdu poetry
February 23, 2002
Stamping the police
February 16, 2002
Beer came before bread
February 9, 2002
Getting away from the world... to be in Goa
February 2, 2002
Coping with the death of a loved one
January 26, 2002
Count the blessings of old age
January 19, 2002
Vajpayee, the poet
January 12, 2002

Handbook of hate-mongers

Love and hate are the two passions known among animals but prevalent among human beings. One is positive, the other negative. One would not expect the two passions to co-exist as one should normally overcome the other. But human nature is so perverse that often intense love for one’s own beliefs generates intense hatred against others who do not share those beliefs. When these opposite passions animate the same persons, a terrorist is born. Recent times have witnessed a rapid growth in the breed of such people. In our own country we had Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. He had passionate love for the Khalsa Panth into which he was born and spent many years propagating it. In due course of time, he developed hatred towards the Hindus and Sikhs who disagreed with him. He thought nothing of ordering them to be eliminated and gloated over his goons killing innocent men and women. When he was killed, his admirers proclaimed him a martyr. His evil legacy has been inherited by half-a-dozen terrorist organisations.

More in the news these days are terrorist outfits of Muslims, the ULFA and LTTE — all born out of intense love and hate cohabiting the same bodies. Osama bin Laden (Al Qaeda), Maulana Masood Azhar (Jaish-e-Mohammed), Hafiz Mohammed Saeed (Lashkar-e-Toiba), Paresh Barua (ULFA), Prabhakaran (LTTE), Syed Salahuddin (Hizbul Mujahideen) are living specimens of the co-existence of love and hate; in most cases love for Islam (ironically meaning peace) and hatred for infidels inhabiting America, Israel, Russia, Serbia and India. They are willing to battle against heavy odds and die with the assurance of a better life after shahadat (martyrdom).

Most Wanted: Profiles of Terror (Roli Books) is a compilation of sixteen on top of the hit list of peace-loving nations. In addition there are two annexures of interrogation reports of Omar Sheikh and Masood Azhar which give insights into the workings of their mind. There is also a lengthy introduction by the intrepid police officer, KPS Gill, who had to deal with Khalistani terrorists in Punjab. His solutions to the problems are simpler: ignore human rights activists who are nothing but a bunch of busybodies and empower the police to kill terrorists without bringing them to trial.


Know-all Banta

Banta knows everybody. He was bragging to Santa one day: "You know, I know everyone there is to know. Just name anyone, and I know him."

Tired of his boasting, Santa says: "OK Banta, how about Sachin Tendulkar?" "Sure, yes, Sachin and I are old friends, and I can prove it" So Banta and Santa dash out to Mumbai, and knock on Sachin’s who was about to leave for a match, and sure enough, Sachin shouts, "Banta! Great to see you ! you and your friend come right in, and join me for a cup of coffee." Although impressed, Santa is still skeptical. After they leave Sachin’s house, he tells Banta he thinks his knowing Sachin Tendulkar was just a chance. "No, no, just name anyone else," Banta says.

"Amitabh Bachhan," Santa quickly counters, "Yes, I know him." And off they go to the location where Big B was busy shooting. Amitabh spots Banta and yells, "Banta! What a surprise. I was just on with a shooting session, but you and your friend come on, and let’s have lunch together." Well, Santa is very shaken by now, but still not totally convinced. After they take leave of AB he again expresses his doubts to Banta, who again implores him to name anyone else.

"George Bush," Santa retorts. "Sure!" So off they fly to Washington. Banta and Santa are assembled with a host of people on the White House grounds, when Banta says, "This will never work. I can’t catch the President’s eye among all these people. Let me just go upstairs and I’ll come out with the President." And Banta disappears towards the White House. Sure enough, half an hour later Banta emerges with George Bush on the podium.

By the time Banta returns, he finds Santa has had a heart attack, and is surrounded by paramedics. Working his way to Santa’s side, Banta asks, "What happened? "Santa looks up and says, "I was doing fine until you and the President came out, and the man next to me asked, "Who’s that on the podium with Banta?"

(Courtesy: C.K. Rawat. New Delhi)


Welcoming the dead

The electric crematorium in Chandigarh is often out of order. The late Dr Chhuttani, former Director of the PGI, Chandigarh, wished to be cremated in the electric crematorium but his desire could not be fulfilled as the day he died the electric furnace was not functioning.

The Municipal Corporation rectified the defect recently. It was a very commendable task but more appreciable was its announcement to the public which read:

"All are requested to make use of this facility. Make the environment free from pollution.".

(Contributed by Madam Gupta ‘Spatu’ Chandigarh)

Mr Khushwant Singh is away on holiday, there will be no column next week.

..................................... This feature was published on April 27, 2002