Saturday, May 31, 2003
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L

The treadmill of Indo-Pak relations
Khushwant Singh

Atal Bihari Vajpayee Zafarullah Jamali

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Zafarullah Jamali

IN every modern gymnasium there is an electronically powered machine called treadmill. It has a broad rubber belt which starts moving at the press of a button. Anyone who wishes to take a brisk walk or jog stands on the belt and switches it on to any speed he or she wants.

It gives you a good exercise, creating an illusion that you are getting somewhere, whereas in fact you are exactly where you were to start with. Both protagonists in the newly opened negotiations between India and Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Meer Zafarullah Khan Jamali, could do well to shed some flab by exercising themselves on a treadmill. I do not for a moment think that our Prime Minister was suddenly overcome by the goodness of heart when he made a short visit to Srinagar, and offered his hand of friendship to Pakistan. Nor do I believe that President Musharraf grasped the proferred hand because he wants to play cricket in India. It was not they who pressed the button to set the treadmill going and it will not be either of them who will set the pace at which it moves. We know the hand that switched it on and will dictate its speed.

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I, for one, find nothing wrong with a third party coming to mediate between two antagonists who have failed to arrive at any amicable settlement on the future of Jammu and Kashmir. Nor am I impressed by the likes of Brajesh Mishra and N.N. Vohra doing to and fro between Delhi, Srinagar and Washington and pretending they are privy to secrets none of us know.

The core issue is public knowledge. It is a question of the future of Muslim inhabitants of the Valley. They are not happy with our presence in the Valley but they do not want to gamble about their future with Pakistan. They have failed to create a sense of security in the minds of Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs who continue to live among them. And they do not speak with one voice. Is it not possible to arrive at a consensus between India and Pakistan which will give complete autonomy to the Valley, guaranteed by both the countries and overlooked by an official of the United Nations? In order to arrive at some such settlement, infiltration of terrorists into India must stop and transgression of human rights by our troops and the police must also stop. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost and thousands of crores have gone down the drain. Neither India nor Pakistan can afford to continue waging this senseless undeclared war.

Belittling Allama Iqbal

Last month, I happened to switch on Pakistan TV. Normally, I listen to their news and political discussions in which a lot of anti-Indian biasis evident; I am anxious to know what they have to say about us. But that morning they were celebrating Allama Iqbalís birth anniversary. President Musharraf was presiding over an international seminar attended by delegates from foreign countries. The one country not represented was India. India has produced as many, if not more, Iqbal scholars and more books on Iqbal in Urdu, English and Hindi than any other country. Iqbalís works are better translated into English in India than in Pakistan; his poems better rendered in music by our Lata Mangeshkar than by their melody queen Noorjahan. Why then did they leave India out of their guest list?

The eulogies of Iqbal I heard on Pak TV were uniformly second-rate, overstressing his role as the propounder of an independent Muslim state carved out of a predominantly non-Muslim India. He certainly did so in a few lectures he delivered but this is untraceable in this poetry, which is full of patriotic fervour for India and stresses the need for a revolution which would topple the palaces of kings and burn the standing crops of rich zamindars who did not feed the poor. He wrote in praise of Lord Rama, Guru Nanak, Swami Ram Tirath and is of course the author of Sare jahaan se acchha Hindustan hamara. A fair portion of his poetry is also devoted to the rise and downfall of Islam as a secular power: Shikwa (complaint) and Jawab-e-Shikwa (answer to the complaint) much in the tone of an earlier work Musaddas by Artaf Hussain Hali are now available in English verse, having been translated by Syeda Saiydeem Hameed of Delhi.

It is unfair to attach labels to poetic geniuses of the calibre of Allama Iqbal. They speak in different togues at different times: only their poetry defies the passage of years. I recall a couplet by him:

Too issey paimaane-e-imoroz-o-farda say na naap

Jaavedaan, paiham, ravaan, hardam javaan hai zindagee

(Measure not life by the hour glass

Of yesterdays and tomorrows to come

Life is eternal and ever-changing and

Forever renewing its youthfulness).

Betting game

Santa Singh and an American are seated next to each other on a flight from LA to NY. The American asks Santa Singh if heíd like to play a fun game. Santa Singh is tired, so he declines and tries to get some sleep. The American persists and explains that the game is easy and a lot of fun. He says. "I ask you a question and if you donít know the answer, you pay me $5, and vice-versa." Again Santa Singh declines. The American, now agitated, says, "Okay, if you donít know the answer, you pay me $5, and if I donít know the answer, I pay you $500."

This catches Santa Singhís attention. He sits up, yawns and agrees to play the game. The American asks the first question: "Whatís the distance from the earth to the moon?"

Santa Singh doesnít say a word, reaches his wallet, pulls out $5, hands it to the American. "Okay", says the American, "your turn."

Santa asks, "What goes up a hill with 4 legs and comes down with 8 legs?" and goes back to sleep. The American, totally puzzled, takes out his laptop and searches all his answer. He taps into the air phone with his modem and searches the Internet and the library of answer. He sends e-mails to all his friends and answer. After an hour, he wakes Santa Singh up and hands him $ 500. Santa Singh thanks him and goes back to sleep.

The American shakes Santa Singh and asks, "Well, whatís the answer?í

Without a word, Santa Singh reaches into his purse, hands the American $ 5, and goes back to sleep.

(Contributed by Zamir Anzari, Delhi)


A bicycle canít stand on its own because it is two-tired.

Whatís the definition of a will? (Itís a dead giveaway).

A backward poet writes inverse.

She had a boyfriend with a wooden leg, but broke it off.

You feel stuck with your debt if you canít budge it.

He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

A plateau is a high form of flattery.

When an actress saw her first strands of grey hair she thought sheíd eye.

(Courtesy: Amir C. Tuteja, Washington)