Skewed view of nation’s psyche

This has reference to Khushwant Singh’s “We’re hardly peace loving” (Saturday Extra, July 22). One does not expect this type of observation from a seasoned scholar-historian like Khushwant Singh. It would be too simplistic to judge a nation’s psyche by citing these types of incidents of violence while completely ignoring its reaction to them.

When Babri Masjid was demolished, there was national outrage and the BJP governments in three states were dismissed and in subsequent elections in these states the BJP was defeated. Now compare this with what happened in Pakistan where Nawaz Sharief, the then Prime Minister, himself participated in the demolition of Hindu temples in Lahore.

Bombay riots were the results of bomb blasts sponsored by foreign-based mafia. The people, too, condemned these riots, on the whole, including the media. In spite of Operation Bluestar and militancy, which prevailed for about 12 years in Punjab, there were no communal riots.


Similarly, there were no Hindu-Muslim riots after Islamic militants’ attacks on temples in Varanasi and Akshardham. While the militants pushed out Hindus from the Kashmir Valley, there is no Hindu-Muslim riot in Hindu majority areas of Jammu.

The people condemned Gujarat riots vociferously and vigorously on the whole and our TV channels and other media rather went out of the way in condemning the tragic incidents. Violent acts done by a small group cannot be taken as representing the national psyche.

V.P. MEHTA, Chandigarh

Pench Tiger Reserve and Kipling connection

Sometime in the 1990s, an inter-active seminar spread over 3-4 days was organised between the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), eco-tourism industry and NGOs representing concerns of both wildlife and Nature conservation and of people living in and around the protected areas. It lead to the formulation of a comprehensive policy document by this Ministry balancing the needs of all the stakeholders involved.

My comments in these columns on June 18 on Usha Bande’s account of her visit to the Pench Tiger Reserve were directed at the forest staff and tour operators for violating the prescribed Dos and Don’ts while conducting visitors in Tiger Reserves. Campfires in the open inside or on the fringes of Reserves and leading visitors to water-holes on foot and especially after dusk are totally forbidden. In fact, in most Reserves all movement of vehicles and mount-elephants ceases altogether by 4-5 p.m.

I did mistakenly allude to Usha Bande a statement about the Jungle Books for which I sincerely apologise. Usha Bande, in a letter (July 23), states that Kipling “set his Mowgli in Pench”.

Now I am neither a Kipling scholar nor an academic but simply a compulsive Kipling reader. Anyone who has read Kipling’s autobiography, Something of Myself (1937) and his two biographers Carrington (1955) and Lord Birkenhand (1978) will realise that there are no leads to arrive at this conclusion.

I may also mention here that Peter Hopkirk recently tried to identify the real-life persons, towns, bazaars, alley-ways, railway platforms etc that made up Kipling’s book Kim. Not much luck. But Hopkirk certainly succeeded in giving us a griping book Quest for him: In search of Kipling’s Great Game published in 1996.

Lt-Gen BALJIT SINGH (retd), Chandigarh

Poetic voice

Khushwant Singh, while quoting extensively from Keki Daruwalla’s latest poetic compositions, (Saturday Extra, July 15) has rightly described him as “a rare phenomenon among poets writing in English.” The 1970s witnessed the arrival of Shiv K. Kumar, Jayanta Mahapatra and Arun Kilatkar. Indeed, Daruwalla is a keen observer of the Indian scene, as also of human nature, and yet he remains absolutely detached.

He declares: “Between my pity and contempt/I find no difference”. He is determined to bypass and circumvent “maudlin mud” of sentimentality, as we find in We, the Kauravas, quoted by Khushwant Singh. His satire is often dipped in “bile and acid”, as seen in the description of Prez Musharraf’s ‘disinformation minister’, or his remarks that ‘votes and terror are linked’. Daruwalla’s favourite images are those of violence and disease. To him, the Taj is ‘domed leprosy’ rain ‘arthiritic’ and the river as ‘dark as gangrene’.


Soulful tribute

M.L. Dhawan’s tribute to the legendary music director Madan Mohan (Spectrum, July 9) was excellent. Like most Indians, one’s early youth had been spent in either watching sports or listening to Hindi film songs as favourite pastimes. One grew up with Madan Mohan’s soulful music and the songs of Raja Mehndi Ali Khan and of course the ever-soothing songs of Talat, Rafi and Mukesh.

As the writer mentions, Madan Mohan’s choice or preference for Talat Mahmood to sing different ghazals like Phir wohi sham, Teri aankh ke aansoo was correct. He showed his courage in ignoring the producer of Jahan Ara. No doubt, Rafi is a king but Talat is Talat. Rafi saheb could not have sung Main Teri Nazar ka saroor hoon as soulfully as Talat.

From an Army officer to music director of excellence is an inspiring story worth a biography. Every music lover will love to know about the parents and family of Madan Mohan, the pride of humanity.

SANJEEV, Kurukshetra



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