Saturday, December 9, 2006



This Above all
Driven by the greed for power
KHUSHWANT SINGH

AN anecdote was fabricated about Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra who was elected President of the SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee) for a record period of 18 years. It was said that once as the Jathedar was leaving the Golden Temple, he was accosted by an elderly woman who touched his feet and placed a ten-rupee note on them. Taken aback, Tohra protested: "Bibi, go and place this money in front of the Granth Sahib." The lady replied: "Jathedarji, it will ultimately come to you, so why do I have to go through the ritual and not hand it directly to you?"

There is no substance to the story. Jathedar Tohra was a wily politician and used the SGPC’s enormous income from offerings to keep his stranglehold on the many institutions run by it and ensure his re-election year after year. Unlike other leaders, he never feathered his own nest. He lived a spartan life of a small farmer in his village. The story gained currency because it made a point. All religious institutions, be they Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, are corrupt to the core. Since offerings are made in cash, opportunities of pilferage are plentiful. That is why every time they have elections, candidates fight like dogs to get elected. They are not motivated either by Sewa of their gurus or the Panth but greed for power, patronage and money (golak, the brass pitcher in which the offerings are put.) K.J.S. Ahluwalia of Amritsar who specialises fabricating new versions of abbreviations — at times he sends me ten post cards a day — with his suggestions, writes it was time that the SGPC was re-named Shiromani Golak Prabandhak Committee.

Personally I am for the government taking over the managements of all religious institutions and appointing civil servants belonging to the community to manage them. I am sure many people will agree with me. I am equally sure this is not likely to happen as no governments, Central or state, could be able to stand up against the onslaught of vested interests and bigots construing the move as an attack on religion. Even states run by Communists haven’t dared to make a move in that direction. Our best bet is to build up public opinion against the skulduggery rampant in the managements of our temples, mosques, dargahs, gurdwaras and shrines — not to destroy religions but to prevent squandering money on meaningless rituals (e.g. organising massive processions comprising elephants, horses, gutka groups, bands on the pretext they are Nagar Keertans), but to restore religious practices to the pristine purity.

In love with verse

Many years ago the Bangalore Press Club invited me to be the chief guest at their annual function. All the speeches were in Kannada of which I could not understand a word. However, my ear caught one name which I understood — Dronacharya. I presumed it referred to me as the teacher of journalistic archery. I was mighty pleased. Although I taught no one anything, quite a few of my younger colleagues hit the target, some got the bull’s eye and did a lot better than I. I also put a few budding authors and poets who made names for themselves. My formula was simple: I read the first few paragraphs of unsolicited manuscripts and decided whether or not it deserved to be read by a publisher. With poetry it was even simpler: I read the first few verses and decided whether or not the rest was worth the trouble. Most of it was teenage stuff composed before the composer has grasp of the language and sent to me by their doting mothers to encourage their offspring. So my first question to them was "how old is your child?" And gave an appropriate response. My latest discovery is barely a month old. A female voice from Chandigarh asked me timidly: "Will you be good enough to read my poems in English and Hindi and tell me if they are good enough for publication?"

This civil servant is also a poet
Sumita Misra: This civil servant is also a poet

"How old are you?" I asked.

"Twenty-nine."

"Okay! post some to me."

I read the poems and was immediately impressed. The ones in Hindi were in Devnagri script, but the vocabulary was Urdu —something I wholly approve of. The Statesman devoted a whole page of its Sunday edition to her poems. The Hindi are with The Dainik Tribune and Hind Samachar.

Sumita Misra came to meet me a few days later. I discovered she is an IAS officer with the government of Haryana. She belongs to a family of doctors: father, mother and brother. She was a topper in school and college, was in the top ten in the Civil Services. Her mother is a Sardarni, her husband a Sikh, an engineer-cum-farmer. She sticks to her maiden name.

I reproduce the first three verses of a poem entitled Except Love. You can decide for yourself.

There are no revelations

Except love.

In this forsaken planet of sighs

The spaces of eternity are created

Amidst the rubbing of tongues and things.

The dance of bodies was original worship

Its after tremble a perpetual prayer.

There are no songs

Except love.

Since, frozen crystalline polar, sweeps

Through the veins and dells of humanity

Unless shattered by the delirious screams

The throaty private laughter

Only lovers everywhere share.

There are no words

Except love

The chant of protoplasm was passion

The thirst of soul, the deep sleeping pain

Awakening, climbing to unsought wisdom,

The world of raw thought, impetuous poems opens

Mortgaged timelessly to love.

Juvenile jotting

An answer written in school exam: Thunder is a rich source of loudness. "Water is composed of two gins, Oxygen and Hydrogen. Oxygen is pure gin. Hydrogen is gin and water. H2O is hot water, and COs is cold water.

(Courtesy: Vipin Bucksey, Delhi)



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