Wednesday, August 21, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Indian idea: towards fraternity

I went through all the three parts of the thought-provoking article “Indian idea: towards fraternity” (Aug 12, 13 and 14) by B.G. Verghese. It is a comprehensive study of the present-day socio-cultural and political upheavals of India. It is a serious attempt to appreciate the genuine feelings of the minorities, Dalits and backward castes. It is full of nice suggestions, sane advice and a strong urge for national unity. I agree with the writer’s view “Culture is wider than religion.” People have a strong belief in their religions but culture is such a social phenomenon which binds them together and generally transcends the barriers of religion. Casteism is withering away in proportion to the growth of industries and new urban centres. It has still a vice-like grip on the rural people. I share the writer’s concern that the “adjustment of deep-seated mind-sets and primordial emotions” is not so easy. It will certainly take more time to pull our countrymen out of tribal beliefs which have been transferred from one generation to the other for ages.

Our Constitution is undoubtedly the glorious document which guarantees equality to all citizens irrespective of their religious and ethnic affiliations. But the performance of our leaders has been quite disappointing since Independence.

The Dalits and the backward castes have started playing a significant role in national politics. The tribal areas have witnessed an upsurge for equality and honourable treatment. This is an upward trend in our social life.


The minorities don’t face any discrimination in this country. But of late, the communal forces are busy these days teaching them the lessons of patriotism. They have done the maximum harm to the cause of national unity. Gujarat is a burning example. Whatever has happened in this state can never be described as “victory for Hinduism”. In fact, it is quite shameful and disgusting. It is a big blow to our existence as a civilised nation. There is a difference between being religious and communal. A religious person does not indulge in communal frenzy. He has a firm faith in his own religion but does not hate other religions. The writer’s argument that “it is the weak, uncertain and diffident who suffer a minority complex” is correct to some extent. The Gujarat incidents have scared even the bold and saner elements out of their wits. They have left an indelible impact on children and adults both. They have certainly created an ambience for “minority complex”.

The controversy about conversion has been blown out of proportion in India. The Constitution accords freedom to every Indian to embrace any religion or faith. Conversion is very often an attempt to escape the rigidity of a given religious community. Sometimes we try to overlook the grim realities of history. Low castes were not treated even as human beings in Hindu society for centuries. They are still facing discrimination. If they go in for conversion, it is only out of conviction.

The article in its totality is an appreciable academic exercise but I am surprised at Verghese’s questionable opinion about the Left parties’ trade unions. He calls them “fossilised”. Such a national level journalist out to tell the people how they are fossilised if he really feels convinced so.



Feudal behaviour

Even after 55 years of Independence and a democratic set-up in the country, feudalistic behaviour in our society persists unabated.

The conduct of political leaders, bureaucrat and everybody in a position even at the sarpanch level remains unaccountable and insensitive to ordinary citizens. Law-makers at all levels take it as their godly privilege to breach laws. It is surprising how fearlessly they take arbitrary decisions.

Have we witnessed any political occupant of a position being punished for not only a normal breach of law but also when heinous crimes of embezzlement, moral turpitude, carelessness and inefficiency take place?

A glaring example of feudal behaviour is displayed by those occupying red-light and hooter-fitted cars. The drivers take it as their god-given right to overtake the normal flow of traffic, ignore the light signals and press on regardless as if they have an urgent appointment to safeguard national security. I am sure this display of unconstitutional authority gives rise to anger, disloyalty and unpatriotic feelings in the mind of the common man.

The acquisition of tremendous perks by our legislators known as public servants has an adverse effect in the voting practices. People rightly ask for a price from those who seek their votes.

Will such a scenario take us to the President’s vision of India as a developed country.

Either we accept feudalism and carve out a governance system accordingly or take stringent steps to eradicate this mental mindset and work for the Westminster democratic set-up. Let us not hang in-between.

AIR MARSHAL P.K. JAIN (retd), Chandigarh


Of tasty food

In his middle Taste of times gone by (Aug 7), Mr R.S. Dutta has, besides that of different dishes, made a mention of “arhar” dal. In Punjab “arhar” is considered to be the most inferior of all pulses.

I am reminded of Haji Laq Laq’s verse: “Janaab-e-Shaikh ko rindo khila do daal arhar kee/Agar peena hai parhezee to khaana bhee ho parhezee”. But when it is cooked by a person well versed in culinary art, it is very pleasing to taste.

“Khichri” is a light food generally served to patients and old persons. But when it is prepared by a good cook and spread with “desi ghee” it is a delicious dish. I do not know whether or not “khichri” figured in the menu of a famous Urdu poet, Pt Mela Ram Vafa, but it does find a mention in his verse” “Bhala jis bazm mein ghairon kee khichri pakti raihti ho/Vahaan kab ai dil-e-naadaan hamaari daal galti hai”.

“Moong” dal and “beasni roti” (bread with condiments and gram flour in it) were often prepared in the royal kitchen of the last Mughal King, Bahadur Shah Zafar. Once he sent these delicacies to Mirza Ghalib, who wrote beautiful verses on them as a token of gratitude.

In his book “Na-qaabil-e-faraamosh”, the late Diwan Singh Maftoon, editor of The Riyaasat, has mentioned that he had eaten meat cooked at very good English and Indian hotels and the kitchens of some Rajas, but that cooked by Surain Singh, meat-seller of his native place, Hafizabad (Pakistan) was by far tastier. A Pandit occasionally prepared meals for him. He never seasoned any vegetable with onion or garlic. Yet these were wonderfully delicious.

In the times of Nawabs the cooks of Lucknow were very famous. Some of them prepared vegetables, dals, achaar, chutney and other relishes of sugar. When a guest felt distaste for sweetness, he dunked a morsel in dal and found it also sweet. Then he turned to “achaar”, etc, which too were sweet.

Once a “Ra’ees” of Lucknow employed a very good cook. He asked his master to take meals immediately when prepared by him. One day he cooked dal “masoor” (lentils). The “Ra’ees” was enjoying the jokes of jesters and did not respond to the requests of the cook. The incensed cook threw dal on the roots of a dry tree and left the place saying “yeh munh aur masoor kee daal” (He does not deserve it). Since then this saying has been in use. It is said that after some time some sprouts appeared on the tree. While some people believed it a miracle of the dal, the others felt that there was some natural cause of the tree being green again.


Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |