Saturday, June 29, 2002
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L

You don’t always reap as you sow
Khushwant Singh

ONE of the most cherished myths that mankind has clung to from ages immemorial is that everyone pays for his misdeeds: as you sow so shall you reap. People cite instances of persons who acquired wealth by corrupt means and were later brought to book, or were afflicted by some incurable disease or their progeny turned out bad. For every one such instance of an evil person paying for his sins I could adduce twenty where they went unpunished. They did not suffer from pangs of guilt, remained in good health, ate well, lived well, enjoyed life and esteem of their fellow citizens, sent their children to the best schools and colleges and saw them fixed in plum jobs, married into rich families which ensured their future prospects. "There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, and wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness," says the Bible. When faced with hard evidence that more often than not evil persons get a better deal in life than good people, upholders of the myth resort to inane explanations like honesty is its own reward, in the end truth always triumphs. They have even more devious explanations when confronted with cases of suffering inflicted on the good and the God-loving who have children born blind, mentally deficient or spastic. "It is karma. They are paying for sins they committed in their past lives", they say and explain the prosperity of evil-doers thus, "they will surely pay for their sins in their lives to come: be they re-born as snakes, pigs or vermin." Such explanations are offered in the assurance that no one knows anything about past lives or lives to come. As Ghalib said about paradise, I say about past and future lives: Dil kay behallaney ko yeh khayaal achha hai.

Daughters of the earth get a raw deal
June 22, 2002
How to handle compulsive talkers
June 8, 2002
The Bible as literature
June 1, 2002
Marriage on the rocks
May 25, 2002
Have you ever thought of death?
May 18, 2002
Experiencing the writer’s itch
April 27, 2002
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

My friends, don’t suffer from the delusions that people suffer for their misdeeds. How many paid the penalty of the crimes they committed in November 1984? How many were punished for the destruction of the Babri Masjid? Far from being punished, three of them are members of the Vajpayee cabinet and the man who soured the wind by his mischievously conceived Rath Yatra from Som Nath to Ayodhya and reaped the whirlwind of widespread communal violence which has not abated to this day, is the man-in-waiting to be next Prime Minister. Do Jayalalithaa and Laloo Prasad feel guilty for squandering public money on weddings in their families? Do stock-brokers who fiddled with public money to the tune of thousands of crores, Pandit Sukh Ram or Ravi Sidhu have sleepless nights for what they did? I don’t think so. They must have explanations which give them peace of mind. No, my friends there is no justice in the world. To succeed in life you have to be three Cs: chaalak (cunning) chaaploos (sycophant) and a

chaar-sau-bees (a cheat as defined under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code).

Sheikh Peer

When I was first introduced to Shakespeare’s plays in college, a common joke was to say that Shakespeare was not an Englishman but an Indian named Sheikh Peer who the English had abducted from India and given another name. However, when I read some of his plays, I could discern nothing Indian in them. They also seemed to be beyond being translated into Indian languages. Nevertheless Imtiaz Ali Taj and Ahmed Shah Bokhari translated Midsummer’s Night’s Dream into Urdu. It was staged in Government College, Lahore. It was so well-rendered with necessary adaptations that I enjoyed the Urdu version more than the English original. Since then I have been curious to know if Shakespeare has been translated in other Indian languages and his plays put on the stage. I have little doubt that as in other matters of literature or art, the Bengalis must have been the first. But I have never heard of any being put on the Kolkata stage. I may be wrong.

A few Hindi writers, notably Harivansh Rai Bachchan translated some plays and read them out to a small audience in the home of the then head of the British Council, Henry Croome-Johnson. I don’t think any of them were acted on the stage. Now my mentor in matters concerning Hindi literature, Professor Pramilla Sharma, tells me that probably the first man to try his hand at translating Shakespeare into Hindi was Gopinath Purohit of Jaipur: He was born in 1863, educated at Maharajah’s College, Jaipur, took a diploma in Sanskrit from Vishwa Vidyalaya, Agra, did his MA in English literature (the first to do so) and was appointed lecturer in Maharajah’s College. The Governor appointed him advisor to the ruler and in 1905 nominated him to the State Council and made him Rai Bahadur. Purohit first translated The Merchant of Venice (Venis ka Vyapaaree), followed by As You Like It (Man Bhaavan) and Romeo and Juliet (Prem Leela). All these translations were done before 1900. Purohit also wrote some novels and was, in his time, highly regarded as the doyen of Hindi literature. He died in 1935. I am not sure if any of his translated plays were put on the stage. Pramilla Sharma has given me a photostat copy of Prem Leela. My Hindi is not good enough to judge whether or not he did justice to Romeo and Juliet.

Unholy matrimony

What does one do when lovers

Become, husband and wife

Without the bondage of marriage?

When passions refuse to ignite

Like an aging car on winter morns

When emotions flows sluggishly

In time hardened arteries.

When the cataract of proximity

Obscures clarity of vision.

When boredom seeps in like

Damp under the carpet.

And quarrels become as predictable

and repetitive as night and day

When love has come and gone

Like a virulent attack of small pox,

Leaving indelible scars behind;

What does one do?

Cling together for old time’s sake

Or go, while the going is good?

(Courtesy: Amarinder Bajaj, Delhi)

World Cup winner

The Devil challenged God to a football game. "How can you win?" God asked, "all the famous football players are up here."

"How can I lose?" retorted Devil, "all the referees are down here."


Santa: "My wife and I argue a lot. She’s very touchy — the least little thing sets her off."

Banta: "You’re lucky. Mine is a self-starter."

(Contributed by Reeten Ganguly, Silchar)