|Saturday, May 24, 2003||
I HAVE been intrigued by the fact that so many Indians achieve eminence in different fields in foreign lands which they were unlikely to have if they had stayed in India. You can see them prosper as farmers, physicians, engineers, entrepreneurs, hoteliers, scientists, litterateurs, athletics ó name the profession and youíll find an Indian name in the list of toppers. Children of Indian parents get higher grades than do children of other ethnic groups. Millionaires of Indian origin in Europe, Canada, the USA, East Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan far outnumber millionaires found in India. Why?
It has to be conceded that
Indians have it in them to make as good, if not better than any other
people of the world in any profession they enter. Why they donít do as
well in their own country is because of extensive corruption,
favouritism, red-tapism, rampant trade unionism and mob rule to which
they are frequently subjected. Countries in which Indians have
flourished have less of these negative factors.
Indian achievers abroad ó led by Sindhis, Gujaratis, Punjabis and Keralites ó come from all parts of the country. Among the most remarkable are Sikhs. They were amongst the earliest to go abroad and because of their distinct appearance (turbans and beards) had to face more discrimination than others from their country. They overcame enormous odds and are today counted amongst the most prosperous of non-Resident Indians (NRIs). The saga of their achievements needed to be put on record. It has been done by Dr Surjit Kaur, a sociologist based in Washington DC. Her book Among the Sikhs (of US, Canada, England and Australia) has been recently published by Roli books.
I thought the succession of scorchers with hot winds (loo) blowing would continue till the advent of the monsoon sometime towards the end of June. I began to resent hours of sunlight and escaped them encapsulated in an artificially cooled room darkened by heavy black window curtains to shut out the light. Mornings were only marginally cooler but lasted barely an hour till the sun came up and turned the world into a living inferno. One morning it was different. As I threw open my windows, an aroma of parched earth freshly sprinkled with water filled my nostrils. There had been a mild drizzle at night, the thirsty soil had expressed its gratitude by exuding a heavenly fragrance, the like of which no flower or perfume has succeeded in matching. What comes closest to it is the odour of a curtain made of khus fibre when water is sprinkled over it. The French have made a perfume Vetivert which is a poor imitation.
The cool morning breeze of summer has inspired a lot of poetry in Urdu, Persian and Arabic, for the simple reason that it is a phenomenon more known and enjoyed in desert lands, than in temperate or humid climate. I donít know of any other language, European or Indian, which has a word for it. It is a zephyr which evokes fantasies of love and longing. Meer Taqi Meer has a memorable couplet on the subject:
Jaisey Naseem her seher, teyree karoon hoon justajoo
Khana-ba-khanna, dar-ba-dar, shahr-ba-shahr, koo-ba-koo
(As the morning breeze, so I do look everywhere for you from house to house, door to door, city to city, and lane to lane).
That morning I sat in my little garden now fragrant with the scent of jasmine. I let the soft cool breeze lull me to half-sleep. I dreamt of the years gone by, people I loved who have gone out of my life or are dead. Iíve had a full life with no regrets. Thanks to a few drops of water on the parched earth and the baad-e-Naseem.
India, Pakistan and America
Iraq is liberated, and before that
Afghanistan and Kosovo
And due for deliverance, among others are
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria.
The world had gone rotten, and something had to be done ó
Arrogant and self-respecting, assertive and independent
Despite warnings and opportunities to mend and bent.
This drift had to end
And all must fall in line with the wisdom and sagacity
All must subserve and be at the mercy
All must lie prostrate and be willing mates
To the unilateral glory of the United States,
Its desire to extract, exact and acquire
its desire to fix and fire
Or else, well-well-face the inevitable
And be ready for the bombing hell.
Well, India and Pakistan can sit pretty
And go on fighting over Kashmir endlessly
Go on spreading poison against each other
And endless animus harbour
And court the USA sincerely, openly, avidly
To be their benefactor
Like the two cats and the monkey,
Completely forgetting the American passion
To refashion the world after their own heart,
It being completely out of their mind
That if autumn comes, winter cannot be far behind
That India and Pakistan
Are not really very far from Syria and Iran.
(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)
Diplomat: A man who can convince his wife that she looks vulgar in gold.
Waiter: A man who thinks money grows on trays.
Bachelor: A rolling stone that gathers no boss.
Life insurance: A contract that keeps you poor so that you can die rich.
Race horse: An animal (or a horse) that can take several thousand people for a ride at the same time.
Appetisers: Little things you eat until you lose your appetite.
Secret: It is something you talk only to one person at a time.
Rehearsal: A show at which the main role is played by the director.
(Contributed by Rajnish, Shimla)
Note: Khushwant Singhís
column will not appear for the next two weeks.