Saturday, February 26, 2005

Khushwant Singh
The good, the bad & the ugly
Khushwant Singh

A much-cherished and widespread belief is that the names of evil-doers are forgotten as soon as they are dead whereas those of the good are remembered forever. For understandable reasons, all religions lend support to this belief to discourage evil-doing and encourage do-gooders. In one of the earliest texts, the Old Testament, the wisdom of Solomon waxes lyrical about how the names of evil men evaporate as soon as they are gone. I quote: "What hath pride profited us? Or what good hath our riches our vaunting brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow, and as a post that hasteth by and as a ship that passeth over the waves of the water, which when it is gone by, the trace thereof cannot be found, neither the pathway of the keel in the waves; or as when a bird hath flown through the air, there is no token of her way to be found, but the light air being beaten with the stroke of her wings, and passeth with the violent noise and motion of them, is passed through, and therein afterwards no sign where she went is to be found or as like when an arrow is shot at the mark, it parteth the air, which immediately cometh together again. So that a man cannot know where it went through; even so we in like manner as soon as we are born, begin to draw to our end, and had no sign to virtue to show, but were consumed in our own wickedness."

However noble the sentiments, they do not tally with facts. I recall my childhood years in my village lost in the desert. We had a lot of peers (population being predominantly Muslim) and Sikh sants visiting us. I can’t remember their names. The two that have stuck in my mind are Sultana and Tora, notorious dacoits who looted, killed and terrorised the entire region for many years. There was also the much-loved Dulla Bhatti, a highway robber who waylaid Mughal caravans and besides looting them rescued Hindu girls taken captive and return them to their parents. We sang praises of Dulla at every Lohri. Ask any English child the one name from history he or she knows best, and the answer will be Robinhood who ruled the New Forest with his gang of brigands. And the later generation of English children know more about the serial killer Jack the Ripper than any saintly men or women of his time. It is the same in America, the name of Bill Cody has outlasted that of his good contemporaries. Back home in India, whose names do you think will stick in the minds of generations to come? Undoubtedly those of Phoolan Devi and Veerappan.

Sunset of life

My musings on death and dying and disbelief in generally accepted religious beliefs in the Day of Judgment, heaven or hell, cycle of births, deaths and rebirths, has stirred many readers to come out with their thoughts on the subject. One of them is eminent film producer Som Bengal. I reproduce some of the verse:

In the evening of life in this world,

the prospect is not of entering a night of eternal sleep,

but of an awakening to a new sunrise

Of a new Sun that holds its radiance

on an incomparable world

Of realms beyond our present experience.

Perhaps there is a material reality

Of a dimension we know not; or,

Perhaps an immaterial spirituality

of a supernatural continuum which

we cannot even imagine.

But this much we surely must know —

The vital force, the energy which

quickens life is indestructible

and can only change from one

form to another. This is the immortality

bequeathed to us in boundless universes

and timeless eternities

Therefore the evening of life as it draws

to its close is not a time for despair or

despondency or resignation, but rather

for sublime composure, untroubled peace,

tranquil expectation above and beyond

today’s transient travails.

The light of other days
   February 19, 2005
The fiction of Tagore
   February 12, 2005
Gossip is what gossip does
   February 5, 2005
Kingdom of God
   January 29, 2005
Abandoned innocents
   January 22, 2005
Gem of a man
   January 15, 2005
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


Long live the Bawajis

My friend, Jamshedji Dinshawji Ardeshir (J.D.)is a Parsi Bawa.

Jamshedji, as usual, was always bragging to his American boss. "You know, I know everyone there is to know. Just name someone, anyone, and I know them." Tired of his boasting, his boss called his bluff, "OK, J.D. how about Tom Cruise?"

"Sure, yes, Tom and I are old friends, and I can prove it," said Jamshedji.

So the two fly out to Hollywood and knock to Tom Cruise’s door, and sure enough, Tom shouts, "Jamshedji Bawa, Great to see you. Come on in with your friend and join me for a Parsi peg or two and lunch."

Although impressed, Jamshedji’s boss was still sceptical. After they leave Cruise’s house, he said, "J.D. your knowing Cruise was just a lucky break."

"O.K., then just name anyone else," says Jamshedji, "President Clinton," his boss quickly suggests.

"No problem," Jamshedji said, "I know him very well. Let’s go to Washington D.C." and they fly out. At the White House, Clinton spots Jamshedji on a White House tour and motions him and his boss over, saying, "J.D. what a pleasant surprise, I was just on my way to a meeting, but you and your friend come on in and let’s have a cup of coffee first and catch up with all the girly gossip." The boss is very shaken by now, but still not totally convinced.

After they leave the White House grounds, he voices his doubts to Jamshedji, who again implores him to name anyone else, anyone. "The Pope," his boss replies. "Sure," says Jamshedji, "I have a lot of friends in Poland, and I’ve known the Pope since a long time." So off they fly to Rome. Jamshedji and his boss are assembled with the masses in Vatican Square when Jamshedji says, "This will never work. I can’t catch the Pope’s eye, among all these people. Tell you what, Iknow all the guards, so let me just go upstairs and I’ll come out on the balcony with the Pope. Jamshedji disappears into the crowd, headed towards the square. Sure enough, half an hour later Jamshedji emerges with the Pope on the balcony, waving to the masses, along with his friend the Pope.

When Jamshedji returns, he finds that his boss has had a heart attack and is surrounded by paramedics. Anxiously working his way to his boss’ side, Jamshedji asks, "What happened boss?" His boss looked up and murmured, "I was doing just fine until you and the Pope came out on the balcony, when the man next to me asked.... "Who’s that guy on the balcony with Jamshedji?"

Moral: Never ever underestimate the popularity of a Parsi Bawaji.

(Contributed by E. Kanga)