Through the four kingdoms
many years of travelling by train and taxi to my summer abode in the
Shivaliks, I decided to do the entire journey by road. Nanak Kohli lent
me his massive Mercedes Benz — equipped with two TV panel screens and
a drink cabinet —to be driven by his best chauffeur David. It was the
kind of luxurious travel King Solomon would have undertaken when calling
Queen Sheeba. I was accompanied by my daughter Mala. We drove through
kingdoms of four Chief Ministers: Sheila Dikshit’s Delhi, Bhupinder
Singh Hooda’s Haryana, Amarinder Singh’s Punjab and Virbhadra Singh’s
Himachal Pradesh. I record the changes I saw after the years.
David took the route
through Delhi Cantonment, Azadpur, Rohini to hit the Grand Trunk road.
It was a pleasing sight to see thick tropical jungles on either side of
the broad duel highway, well maintained and spotlessly clean. Evidently
the greenery of India is going apace at least around the Capital.
We went through a
welcome arch with Hooda’s picture atop on to the Grand Trunk Road. The
road continued to be top class. On either side were hotels, modern dhabas,
with well-laid out gardens. We arrived at our half-way resthouse in
the form of a complex of eateries, shops and cafes run by the Haryana
Tourist Corporation. All very clean, carnival atmosphere and quick
We opted for the
self-service of a South Indian eatery. We ordered our favourite dishes.
They were on the table in less than five minutes: piping hot. I dipped
my vada in a very watery sambhar and coconut chutney. It
was tasteless. So was my daughter’s uttapam. One negative point
for Haryana. We resumed our journey.
We went through another
arch with a picture of Amarinder Singh welcoming us to Punjab. The
quality of the road deteriorated. Whatever else makes Punjab state
number one of India, upkeep of the national highway is not one of them.
It had a contagious effect. The second part of our journey through
Haryana to the foothills was through a single road with two-way traffic,
congested and poorly maintained.
The showpiece en route
is Pinjore Gardens. It is well-maintained and draws a lot of visitors.
Not so the town. It used to be a bottleneck but Bansi Lal had the main
street widened. It has again become a bottleneck because of heavier
An ornamental pond,
which could become an attraction, continues to be used as a dumping
ground for garbage. Neither the state government nor the citizens of
Pinjore have thought it worth their while to clean it up.
The worst day-time
nightmare awaited us at Kalka. It was still Hooda’s territory but it
is also the main inlet into Virbhadra Singh’s Himachal Pradesh. At the
best of times travellers have to reckon a half-hour delay getting
through its narrow winding bazaar if they don’t want to miss catching
their trains at Kalka or Chandigarh. It is no more than 200 yards long
but always blocked up by trucks, buses and cars.
We were stuck there for
well over one hour. For many years we have been hearing of the Kalka
by-pass road. We are still hearing about it without the slightest sign
of anyone doing anything about it. Virbhadra has a vested interest in
having a bypass because his capital city Shimla and the innumerable
summer resorts like Dharampur, Sabathu, Kasauli, Solan, Barog etc. would
be connected to it. There is no arch with the picture of Virbhadra Singh
to welcome you to Himachal Pradesh. Instead there is a toll barrier
where you have to shell out money to enter his kingdom.
We should have reached
Kasauli by 2 pm. We arrived after 4 pm. I was pooped and barely managed
to get out of the car into my cottage. I went down with a heavy cold and
fever. I thought I would send my medical bills to Hooda and the cost of
funeral to Virbhadra Singh.
Call for revolution
Of Allama Iqbal’s
(1873-1938) poems, my top favourite during my leftist years was God’s
call to the poor to rise in arms and stamp out inequality and injustice.
That is why I refuse to attach any labels on him. He wrote saarey
jahan say achha Hindustan hamara eulogies on Shri Ram, Guru Nanak,
Swami Ram Tirath, Ganga Mai as well as in praise of the Nawab of Bhopal
and a great deal on the rise and fall of the Muslims. He also believed
in the two-nation theory and is regarded as one of the founding fathers
of Pakistan. Uttho meyree dunia kay ghareebon ko jagaa do. Oddly
enough, he chooses God to exhort the people to create anarchy — as
entitled in his poem Farmaan-e-Khuda. Itake the liberty of
reproducing the first three-quarters of the original and I feel I have
not done too bad a job with the translation.
Uttho meyree dunia kay
ghareebon ko jagaa do
dar-o-deevaar hila do;
Garmao ghulaamon ka
lahoo soz-e-yageen say
Shaaheen say laraa do.
aata hai zamaana
Jo naqsh-e-kuhan tum ko
nazar aaya mitaa do.
Jis kheyt say dehgaan
ko muyassar na ho rozee
Us kheyt kay har
gosha-e-gundum ko jalaa do.
mein haail rahen pardey
kaleesa say uttha do.
Rouse the poor of the
world, get them ready for battle
Shake the mansions of
the rich, till their doors and walls rattle;
With conviction of
victory the blood of the poor ignite
Get the timid sparrow
take on the falcon in a fight
Comes time for the
masses to rule for sure
Rub out what is now too
old and obscure
Land that does not
yield what its tiller needs daily to eat
Every nook and corner
of it set on fire, burn every stalk of wheat.
Why these curtains
between the Sustainer and those he doth sustain?
Throw out the old men
controlling places of worship, let not one remain.
About a year ago, I
went to see a philately exhibition at our local Head Post Office with my
little sister, who was at that time, around eight and a half years old.
There, in a corner, were displayed a few stamps bearing the picture of
Mother Teresa. Below these stamps, her brief biography was written in
Since my sister goes to
a convent school, she was aware of Mother Teresa and knew that she was a
noble lady who worked for the poor. An inquisitive girl and fond of
reading, she started reading the biography with interest. (By chance, it
was displayed at a relatively low height). It ended with a sentence,
which read: "She died of cardiac arrest on September 5, 1997".
On reading this, my sister was quite taken aback. With an expression of
surprise, she asked me, "Bhaiya, why was Mother Teresa
Siddharth Oswal, Ludhiana)