Saturday, January 4, 2003
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L


The not-so-great Churchill
Khushwant Singh

IN a recent public opinion poll on the greatest Englishman of all times, Winston Churchill was voted a clear winner. Undoubtedly he had great qualities of leadership and rallied his countrymen to fight and defeat Hitlerís Germany; he was also a great orator with a malicious wit as well as a man of letters. But none of his positive qualities can erase the negative aspect of his character: he was also a narrow-minded bigot, a White racist, anti-Semite, anti-Black and a shameless imperialist. A research student Amy Iggulden ferreted out statements made by Churchill at different times in his life to substantiate charges of racist bigotry against him. They were published in The Guardian.

Churchill had a very low opinion of Indian leaders, particularly Mahatma Gandhi. In a letter to his mother written on his first visit to India in 1896 he described India as "a godless land of snobs and bores". (I suspect this was meant for the Sahibs and not Indians). In 1931 Lord Irwinís invitation to Gandhiji to discuss terms of a settlement was condemned by Churchill in the British Parliament in the following words: "It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a campaign of Civil Disobedience, to parlay on equal terms with the representative of the Emperor-King."

EARLIER COLUMNS
Pritam Singh: Bhapaji of the Punjabi literary world
December 14, 2002
Rarest of the rare
December 7, 2002
Begums and their sahibs
November 30, 2002
A policeman who is a poet too
November 23, 2002
The power of silence
November 16, 2002
Cultivating the art of conversation
November 9, 2002
Thus spake Sant Kabir
November 2, 2002
What is the strongest thing on earth?
October 26, 2002
Have you seen God?
October 19, 2002
Mocking at oneís own people
October 12, 2002


He justified the exploitation of Blacks and Red Indians by White slave dealers: "I do not admit... that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia... by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race.. has come in and taken its place."

Although Churchill fought Adolf Hitler, he had a sneaky admiration for the dictator. Two years before England declared war on Nazi Germany, Churchill said: "One may dislike Hitlerís system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as admirable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations."

What seems unworthy of an educated, thinking man was Churchillís naive and heavily biased view of world Jewry. In 1920 he wrote of Zionism in the following words: "This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky (Russia), Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany), and Emma Goldman (United States)... this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the 19th century; and at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire."

From bania to krishi pandit

Arjan Das AggarwalThe stereotype of an Aggarwal bania is that he can do everything which brings in money ó money lending, shop keeping, trade and commerce medicine, engineering and service ó name it and heíll do it ó except soldiering and farming. This is not true to Arjan Das Aggarwal of Kaithal, Haryana. Along with the family business he inherited a sizeable tract of agricultural land. Instead of leasing it to Jat farmers as his forefathers had done, he decided to cultivate it himself. He picked up books on horticulture and decided to try his land at growing high quality bers (Zizyphus). With the first crop he was able to prove that there was more money in growing this poor manís grape than in growing mangoes and oranges. Then he tried his hand at growing flowers:orchids, gladioli and roses which had a ready market in Delhi. Among the roses his special favourite was an intensely fragrant Indian variety, Chaiti, which was highly prized by vaids and hakeems. He made gulkand and extracted rose water out of them, and put it in the market. His Arjuna Gardens and Nursery at Kalayat now caters to a large clientele in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi. With it he published Udyan Patrika to disseminate information. He also runs the Indian Nurserymen Association. Now he is more into producing Ayurvedic medicines: his Arjuna Herbal Pharmaceuticals at Kalayat is managed by his grandson and grand daughter-in-law.

Arjan Dass Aggarwal is 80 but besides his peppery black-n-white hair, he does not betray the slightest trace of being an octogenarian, . He walks ramrod straight and is in the pink of health. He has the travel bug in him. Heís been to Europe and West Asia and is constantly exploring his own country. His interests are not places of pilgrimage, ancient monuments or scenery, but people ó only interesting people.

Crooked and stupid

Leland Gregory has compiled some anecdotes of criminals who were as crooked as they were stupid. I quote a couple of stories from this The Stupid Crook Book:

Ninety-Proof Moron:Before the cashier knew what was happening a man with the shotgun appeared at the counter and demanded all the cash in the register. The cashier quickly filled a paper bag with the registerís contents and handed it over to the shotgun wielding robber. Before he made his escape, the robber saw a bottle of Scotch on the shelf behind the counter ó and it looked pretty good to him. He stuck the barrel of the gun in the clerkís face and told him to put the Scotch in the bag with the cash. The cashier said he wouldnít do it. It wasnít that it was a particularly aged or valuable bottle of Scotch, he told the robber, he simply didnít think the man was old enough to drink.

The robber claimed he was, but the cashier still refused to give him the liquor. To prove he was over twenty-one, the robber produced a valid driverís license and showed it to the conscientious clerk. The clerk looked it over, realised that the man was over twenty-one, and gave him the bottle of Scotch. The robber then dashed out of the store, ready to celebrate his newly acquired cash with a shot or two of fine single-malt Scotch. The cashier celebrated the manís stupidity by calling the police and giving them the robberís name and address, which he had memorised from the driverís license. The door to the thiefís prison cell closed before he could even open his bottle of Scotch.

The first sign of stupidity: A young entrepreneur in Baltimore, Maryland, looking to generate more sales, put up a sign announcing his wares on the side of a newspaper box. Two plainclothes police officers saw the unlawful advertisement and approached the man, asking if he had posted the sign. "Sure," he said. "Itís the only way I can get people to stop." The sign in question offered the sale of ten-dollar bags of marijuana.

Wrong call

One evening Banta returned from office and told his wife: "I have been fired." "Why?" asked Banto.

"Boss said, your wife was very rude to me on the phone," Banta replied.

"Oh my God! I thought I was talking to you," exclaimed Banto.

(Contributed by Manjit Inder Singh, Mandiani, Ludhiana)

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