Saturday, April 15, 2006

Make peace with pain
Khushwant Singh

Khushwant SinghOnce an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now, how could I help him? What should I tell him? Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question: "What would have happened, doctor, if you had died first, and your wife had to survive you?"

"Oh," he said, "for her, this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!" Whereupon I replied, "You see, doctor, such a suffering has been spared, and it is you who have spared her this suffering ó to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her." He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office. In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice."

The above is an excerpt from a letter written by J.M. Rishi, an industrialist from Jalandhar. Though we have never met, we keep in touch through letters. He is evidently a man of faith, and like most religious men, takes a gloomy view of life with death hanging over them like a black cloud.

Like them, he is "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He often writes of dukh (sorrow) and how to come to terms with it." I think men of religion go on brooding because they take a one-sided view of life (the dark one); they overlook its brighter side. No doubt, there is plenty of suffering, particularly when one loses oneís parents, brothers, sisters, wife, children and dear friends.

But there is plenty of ananda (joys) as well which outweighs misery: sunrise, lightning, mountain peaks, sunsets on the ocean, rainbows spanning the horizons, the full-moon night, birth of offspring, birthday celebrations, engagements, marriages, festivals. All said and done, it is neither suffering nor exuberance which occupy our lives but mundane daily chores and boredom relieved by yawning and sleeping.


Modern short verse

Mohammed Fakhruddin publishes a monthly magazine Poets International from Bangalore. I go through its contents faithfully. Though much of it is devoted to Zen, haiku and sonnets which donít rhyme, I learn a lot what inspires budding poets from different countries. A poem I liked very much in the current issue is by Arunachalam of Erode. It sums up the views of people of different faiths on matters people like me regard trivial. It is entitled: What is this species?

Beef? Yes. Pork? Yes. Liquor? Yes.

This way to the Calvary Hills.

Beef? Yes. Pork? No. Liquor? No.

That way to the slopes of Mecca.

Beef? No. Pork? No. Liquor? Occasionally.

Up that icy steeps to the Kailash Mounts.

Beef? No. Pork? No. Liquor? No.

The usher is confused. Women? Wife Only. Bribe? No.

Bewildered....What are you? Human....

Humaní. The usher is confounded

O God! The usher looks up and shouts for help

Hereís a novel species. Calls himself human.

Human? Call the Creator the Destroyer is piqued.

Sorry. Thatís my new experiment. Didnít succeed.

Thou shanít despair! Peace shall prevail!

Truth shall triumph

Woe be mine. I am outwitted. I canít hold

The preserver is skeptical.

Thereíll be utter chaos. All round contempt of divinity

An ordinance for order!

A bill for peace! A jehad for brotherhood

Will wisdom prevail? Chuckles the citizen.


American kirtan

One Sunday evening having finished my schedule of work, I felt I deserved a break. My options are limited: being unable to step out I turn either to my world satellite radio channel Maestro for classical western music or the television. Since my mornings usually begin with Maestro, I take the second option. I find most channels a bore: they largely have songs, bhangra-type dancing or pravachans (sermons) by self-styled jagad gurus (world teachers) who have nothing new to say.

I try the Gurbani channel giving live programmes from the Golden Temple without interruptions of commercials. If the kirtan is melodious, I relax and listen to it for an hour. If it is not, I try other channels. Usually, I end up switching off the TV and returning to my books.

I was going through the drill when I was arrested by a deep, melodious voice starting with the invocation Dandaut Vandana Anik baar. I had not heard such a rich voice for a long time. When the camera focused on the raagis, I was foxed. They were goras (white men) with blond or brown beards wearing blue or white turbans. Not a flaw in the pronunciation of words. There was not a false note in the raga in which they were rendering it.

I could not identify them as the channel never reveals the names of raagis in print. When the camera focused on womenís section of the audience, I noticed many white women in white turbans. I realised they were the American followers of Yogi Bhajan. I was profoundly impressed. Even when it comes to Gurbani, Americans can do more than match the best of our own established raagis.


Double negative

One woman to another in tea-room: "The service here is terrible, but you donít mind waiting, because the food is also very poor."


Bad company

"Why did you drink so much last night and make a nuisance of yourself?" The officer asked sternly.

"Bad company, sir," the subordinate replied.

"What do you mean by bad company?"

"All of them were teetotallers and I had to consume their drinks as well."

(Contributed by KJS Ahluwalia, Amritsar)