On a par with Freedom at Midnight

This refers to the book review “Chronicling a community” by Roopinder Singh (Spectrum, January 22). Khushwant Singh is an engaging raconteur but writing history needs an eye for details, an incisively analytical intellect and an unbiased mind—the three basic requirements, the writer of the book lacks.

Hence The Illustrated History of the Sikhs is, in all probability, on a par with Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapiere and must be taken with a pinch of salt.

If, as the reviewer points out, the author has erred about present-day facts, that is, Hardev Singh’s parentage and the time of Charan Singh, he could be pitiably wrong about past events.

There is no mention in the review that Khushwant Singh ever laid hands on primary sources of Sikh history. He must have only browsed through the secondary and tertiary sources of his subject. I do not hesitate to surmise that the book is nothing more than another hagiography of the sect and in the Macanliffe style, to boot.


Dear readers

Letters to the Editor, neatly hand-written or typed, upto 150 words, should be sent to the Letters Editor, The Tribune, Sector 29 C, Chandigarh. Letters can also be emailed at the following address: letters@tribunemail.com

— Editor-in-Chief


Wandering mendicant

This refers to Radhika Nagrath’s “A prince among men” (Spectrum, Jan 8). With saffron robes and leonine dignity, the wandering mendicant, Swami Vivekananda, identified himself with the sorrows and sufferings of millions of Indians. The abject misery of the masses deeply touched him. With his fiery eloquence and scriptural knowledge, he endeavoured to impart to them confidence, manliness and knowledge about the rich culture of India—values which were in the process of being overwhelmed by the glamour of western civilisation. Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru says in his autobiography that Vivekananda gave us a measure of self-respect again and roused up our dormant pride in the past.

The almost more than 140 years old message of Vivekananda with regard to nationalism is still relevant in India today where politicians, to realise their narrow, parochial ends, indulge in playing the communal and casteist cards.


No mean feat

Shakti Singh Chandel in his article “The Raja and the Mahatma” (Spectrum, Jan 22) has so graphically portrayed the sterling qualities of Raja Anand Chand of Bilaspur that it has caused our hearts to swell with pride. That during the period of foreign dominance in the country, Raja Anand Chand by thinking ahead of his times took a slew of welfare measures for his subjects with an unflinching sense of patriotism to achieve a near Utopian state was no mean feat and is laudable.

Major BALDEV SINGH, Ambala cantonment

Vintage Khushwant

Khushwant Singh’s write-up “A toast to Patiala” (Saturday Extra, Jan 14) was, to my mind, one of his finest. It was vintage Khushwant Singh with sparkling wit, erudition and incisiveness. How succinctly, in a few bold strokes, he brings to the fore the lifestyle, psyche and the personae of the Punjabis of Patiala as well that of the royal family. It speaks volumes about his firm, scholarly grip and authority on the subject.



I disagree with the writer for commenting on the personal life of the dead. I am surprised that a writer of Khushwant Singh’s caliber should deal with the dead in such an indignified manner. The readers, however, may give Khushwant Singh the benefit of his advanced age when some writers feel compelled to comment on men and events of the past. The late Maharaja of Patiala enjoyed the titles of the British days, which still remain one of the highest anywhere in the country. These were: Lieut General, His Highness, Farzand-e-Zaman, Amir-e-Umra, Maharaja Dhiraja Rajeshwar, Maharaja Bahadur, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, GBO, LLD, ADC, Maharaja of Patiala, etc.


Women’s cause

This refers to “Champion of women’s cause” by Reeta Sharma (Saturday Extra, Jan 28). It is heartening to observe that Dr Aruna Goel, Chairperson of the Department of Sanskrit of Panjab University, is doing such a good job for the betterment of women.

She has held several seminars to educate women about their rights and how to protect themselves with firm faith and conviction. In fact, in North India, Panjab University is the only university to give a masters and a PhD degree in women’s studies.


Dharma of journalism

This is apropos B.G. Verghese’s article “Serious Journalism must remain part of democratic dharma” (Perspective, Jan 29) and Fali Nariman’s views expressed subsequently in these columns about newspaper proprietors setting up trusts to oversee their functioning (Feb 5). A pertinent point is about the capability and competence of the members of such a trustee board overseeing the independence and vision of a national daily.

Will all the trustees themselves be men of letters? Can they spend sufficient time on editorial and other matters of import affecting the people of the region they claim to represent? Will they in their deliberations take care that the interests of minorities in the country are adequately represented? If they are not doing all this, they will serve little purpose, and a newspaper might as well be a corporateship.

Maj Gen Himmat Singh Gill (retd), Chandigarh


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