Where joining the Army is a tradition

The article, Palra: Joining the Army is a tradition here, (Saturday Extra, Nov 11) by Maneesh Chhibber was very informative. Palra has an earlier military connection too. The village drew distinctive recognition during World War I and received commendation from the Viceroy of India for contribution to the Army.

Five Indian officers and 32 jawans were honoured at a special ceremony in 1921. Since British officers were all KCO, parchment commission was issued by the Viceroy to Subedar Majors. Subedars and Jemadars were usually rewarded with land grants in districts now a part of Pakistan. Subedar Major Umrao Singh VC was also granted land in Pakistan which he could not retain after Partition. The firmness with which the family is holding the prized gallantry medal despite allurements is highly commendable. I too belong to Palra and am a contemporary of the VC holder.

Lt-Col UMRAO SINGH, Gurgaon


Traitor or martyr

I refer to Bahadur Shah Zafar: Traitor or martyr,” by Deepak Tandon (Nov 12). I may add that King Bahadur Shah Zafar was ill advised by his courtiers. Most of them, including his trusted Hakim Ahsanullah, were in league with the British. His favourite queen Mumtaz Mahal was more interested in securing recognition of her son Mirza Jawan Bakht in preference to the legitimate claimant Mirza Mughal, as the heir apparent and was approaching the British Resident directly through her own sources.

As for Tandon’s statement that Bahadur Shah Zafar looked upon the British intruders as his subject (under the terms of the Diwani of Bengal signed by his grandfather Shah Alam), the British never thought so. In fact, one of the charges framed against him in his trial was that being a subject of the British Government, he proclaimed himself the Sovereign of India and waged a war against the Government.

Had he followed the advice of his commander Bakht Khan for safe escape, he would not have suffered the humiliation and torment of being held a prisoner and deportation.

V.K. RANGRA, Delhi

Meat of the matter

Kitchen-based religiosity by Khushwant (Saturday Extra, Nov 11) was informative. The author is in a dilemma about meat-eating and could not resolve it. His longevity supports meat eating. Singh says that meat eaters are healthier than vegetarians but this perception is wrong. Mahatma Gandhi, who was totally vegetarian, used to say that man could live up to 125 years if he led a balanced life. The strength of health should not be based on body structure but on mind. Lions and tigers are robust but they eat raw flesh, which the humans cannot.

True, there are no divinely ordained rules on meat eating but man has no moral sanction to kill any creature when he cannot give life.


Veil of controversy

Veil of controversies by Khushwant Singh (Saturday Extra, Nov 11) was thought-provoking. The burqa controversy is unmistakably restricted to Muslims. If “Muslims are an integral part of our society” why do they avoid the Common Civil Code? It is people like Khushwant Singh who try their atmost to incite the Muslims to remain away from the mainstream of Indian society.

As far as the veil is concerned, it is the right of people to dress as they like. But a lady in a burqa is more graceful as compared to a woman showing flesh. n



True creativity often starts where language ends: Koestler

Darshan Singh Maini’s Koestler: Insider who walked away (Spectrum, Nov 12) is, as his wont, packed with exhaustive information about Arthur Koestler (1905-83) who was born in Budapest (Hungary). He worked as a foreign correspondent in the Middle-East, Paris and Berlin, and was imprisoned by General Franco during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

Later, he served in the French Foreign Legion (1939-40), and then settled down in England in 1940, and became a naturalised citizen of Britain. Koestler was a prolific writer. Of his numerous publications, Spanish Testament (1938) and Darkness at Noon (1940) are well known.

In fact, the latter is his masterpiece in the political novel, as in it, Koestler “dropped the allegorical garb of The Gladiators and presented the problem of totalitarianism in all its nakedness and horror”. The Gladiators (1939) was his first English novel, and it gave him a break in English language. In Act of Creation (1964), a study in the history of scientific discovery and essay in the analysis of literary and artistic creation, Koestler maintains that “true creativity often starts where language ends”, because “a learned language” in the words of Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) is full of “decent obscurity”, Koestler’s The Sleepwalkers (1959) is the history of man’s changing view of the universe.

His non-fiction books and essays not only deal with politics, but also with scientific creativity and parapsychology. Scum of the Earth (1941), Arrow in the Blue (1952) and Dialogue with Death are autobiographical. In Ghost in the Machine, he says: “God seems to have left the receiver off the hook and time is running out”. The God That Failed seeks to expose “the weaknesses of the Communist theory”.




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