Saturday, January 15, 2005

Khushwant Singh
Gem of a man
Khushwant Singh

AMONG the least readable books I include autobiographies of retired civil servants and army officers. Some of them have turned out good fiction but when it comes to their memoirs, they cannot get away from recounting how good they were at their studies, how they qualified for jobs, got out-of-turn promotions till they got to the top.

J.N. Dixit
J.N. Dixit

Years of writing reports, memoranda and notings on files blunt their writing abilities and all they can churn out is banal prose expended on self-praise. J.N. Dixits memoirs were no different. He was an extremely able civil servant and diplomat but what he wrote was not very readable. I gave his book a very adverse review and made it a point to rule it in him that becoming a foreign secretary was not like getting on the top of the Mount Everest; there were dozens of foreign secretaries before him and there will be hundreds more who will make the grade and then go into oblivion.

I thought the next time I met him, he would spit in my face and tell me some home truths about myself as a scribbler. I had got the man wrong. He dropped in to see me, never said a word about what I had written about him and was most affable. He made me ashamed of myself: there was more, much more, to J.N. Dixit than I had thought.


I had always scoffed at meditation as something people who wanted to feel superior practised instead of opting for religious ritual: "Main mandir-vandir nahin jaataa, meditate karta hoon (I dont bother to got to places of worship, I meditate)." My immediate response would be to ask "kya milta hai (what do you get of it?)" Invariably the reply would be "Peace of mind (sukoon or shantee)." I did not let them get away with it and asked again, "And what do you get out of peace of mind? Why not take a short nap instead?"

No one gave me a satisfactory answer. I would proceed to explain that nothing worthwhile was created by minds at rest but only by minds highly activated: great works of art, music, literature, science and everything else came from mental agitation. In support of my point of view, I quoted Allama Iqbals lines:

Khuda tujhey kisee toofaan say aashna kar dey

Osho calling
January 8, 2005
All that passed by
January 1, 2005
Tomorrow yet to come
December 25, 2004
The truth about lies
December 18, 2004
From Aryana to Afghanistan
December 11, 2004
Goings-on in the name of god
December 4, 2004
Of matters religious and erotic
November 27, 2004
Faith should unite
November 20, 2004
Fine art of party hopping
November 6, 2004
Kiss and kismet
October 30, 2004
Food fads and filmi gods
October 23, 2004
Yesterday once more
October 16, 2004
Bose smart, Nehru smarter
October 9, 2004
Exploding myths
October 2, 2004
Candid confessions
September 19, 2004
Return to the hills for verse
September 18, 2004
The power of doubt
September 4, 2004

Keh teyrey bahar kee maujon mein iztiraab naheen

(May God bring some storm in your life!

The waves of your ocean are not agitated).

I have begun to change my mind and have come round to the view that ones mind also occasionally needs rest from its restless hopping from one subject to another like a monkey hopping about from branch to branch. Stilling the mind for even a short while refreshes it and renews its energy.

One does not have to sit in padma aasana (Lotus pose) to regulate ones breathing. Make yourself as comfortable as you can. Shut your eyes and silently chant the mystic syllable om in its elongated form Aum stretching over to between five to ten seconds. Osho Rajneeshs interpretation of Aum is pertinent: A stands for awareness, U for understanding, M for meditation.

Meditation need not be emptying of the mind, but single-minded concentration on one thing. I find listening to music a great help in achieving stillness of mind, provided you think of nothing else; let the music resound in your head. If you simply switch on your radio or TV and go on reading newspapers or books then music simply goes in through one ear and goes out of the other.

To get the maximum benefit out of kirtan or classical music you must listen to every word and tone. I find listening western classical music more rewarding than listening to ragas. Being superficially acquainted with my own I find it predictable. I know next to nothing about western classical music so I have to concentrate on every note to imbibe it. Every time my mind begins to wonder, I bring it back to focus on the music. At the end of the session I feel re-charged with energy and am able to concentrate better on what I read or write. You will discover that peace of mind need not be sterile but productive of the best you have in you.


While working on translations of Urdu poetry, I am stuck for English equivalents of many words. There are many which lose the flavour of the original. The one I find most troublesome is angdaai. In English it simply means stretching ones arms. In Urdu it is loaded with sexual innuendo. When a woman takes an angdaai, she stretches her arms above her head, puts out her chest. It is not an expression of fatigue or desire to sleep of shed sleeplessness but a wanton gesture indicating desire to engage in sexual intercourse. It is a challenge to mans macho instincts. That is the way I interpret it and find no matching words in English. Perhaps White women do not indulge in such gestures and send messages through their eyes or in words. Urdu poetry has more than its share of this secret code. I give a couple of examples. One is from Rasikh:

Dabey fitney qayamaat ban kay utthtey hain qayamat mein

Voh jab angdaaian ley lay kay seena taan leytey hain

Hidden desires like devils from hell raise their heads

When she stretches out her arms and pushes out her breasts.

And Jurat:

Abs angdaaian lay lay kay maltey ho aankhon ko,

Bhalaa yeh bhee to ghar hai, so raho gar neend aayee hai

(For what do you stretch your arms and run your eyes?

Regard this as your home, fall off to sleep if that it what you want.)