Saturday, January 19, 2008

This Above all
Let’s be good neighbours


There is no reason why Sri Lanka and India should not be the best of neighbours. A majority of the Sri Lankans trace their ancestry to Aryan Indians. A minority living in the north and east coast is Dravidian. The majority is Buddhist and looks upon India as the country that gave it faith. The Tamilian minority is Hindu. The majority speaks Sinhalese; the minority speaks Tamil. There is also a sprinkling of Muslims of either Moorish, Tamilian or Keralite descent, all of whom speak Tamil.

It was a reasonably prosperous little island earning much of its revenue from exporting tea and remittances from workers (mainly women) in middle eastern Arab countries. Sri Lankans have no real grievances against India. Nevertheless, every time we have tried to help them, we have burnt our fingers. Rajiv Gandhi was assaulted when inspecting a guard of honour and later murdered by Sri Lankan Tamils. We sent a peace-keeping force as requested by the Sri Lankan Government. It had to be quickly withdrawn. Our Prime Minister had to drop the idea of visiting Colombo. We are also at the receiving end of the wrath of the LTTE—the militant Tamil terrorist group now with an air force and navy of its own.

Mirza Ghalib constantly wrote about pain and sorrow
Mirza Ghalib constantly wrote about pain and sorrow

Our own Tamil leaders—Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi, and Vaiko— have different views on demands of eelam (independence) made by Tamilian Sri Lankans. Most of the Indians don’t know what to make of the situation in our neighbouring country except feel unhappy about it. We owe it to ourselves to know a lot more about Sri Lanka than we do. A good start would be to read Mohan K. Tikku’s Sri Lanka: A Land in search of itself (National Book Trust). It is a kind of easy-read primer which gives the background of the ethnic, religious and linguistic divide which makes Sri Lanka an enigma.

Life and sorrow

The Buddha believed that the world was full of sorrow (dukh). However, his closest disciple was Ananda, meaning bliss or happiness. His vice-regent on earth today, the Dalai Lama, is about the most cheerful man I have met. He breaks out into happy guffaws of laughter at the end of every second sentence he speaks. Most poets, particularly Ghalib, constantly moaned about dard (pain) and ghum (sorrow). He wrote: Dil hee to hai, na sang-o-khisht, dard sey bhar na aaye kyon (It is only my heart, not something made of brick or stone, you see; why should it not be full of sorrow?). Roengey hum hazaar baar, koee hamein sataaey kyon? ( I will cry a thousand times, why should anyone pester me?).

He went on further to assert that sorrow was an integral part of our lives and there was no escape from it besides death. Qaid-I-hayaat-o-band-e-gham, asl mein dono ek hain (The prison of life and sorrows’ chain are, in fact, one and the same); maut say pehley aadmee ghum say nijaat paaye kyon? ( How then can anyone find release from pain till his days are done?). Nevertheless, every evening Mirza Ghalib took his bath, got into fresh clothes, took out his bottle of Scotch and surahi (pitcher) of cold water and enjoyed his sundowners—not to drown his sorrows but to write immortal verse.

Sorrow is indeed integral to life. All of us grieve when our parents, next of kin, dear friends leave; or when we suffer a setback in business, or are stricken by ill-health. But it is a negative emotion and must be overcome by self-will. Don’t allow such incidents to take you into depression. Cheerfulness is a positive emotion; one who has a cheerful disposition spreads cheer to the company he or she keeps and is much sought after. It can be cultivated. The most important requirements are good health and a healthy bank balance created by honest endeavour. Neither is too difficult to achieve if one puts one’s energies in the right direction. Make your life worth living and spread goodwill around you.

Superlative Modi

They say Modi is bigger than Modi;

My critics don’t look beyond the wall;

Vajpayee, Advani and Rajnath Singh;

I am the biggest of them all;

After Godhra riots, flexible Atal Bihari;

Looked upon me with a frown;

He wanted me to quit CM’s post;

But I flatly refused to step down;

Advani is highly obliged to me;

With affection me he has to treat;

He seeks election from my state;

Where else can he win a seat?

I am not bigger than BJP;

This is what I outwardly say;

Inwardly I know and my party knows;

It is Modi, Modi all the way

(Contributed by G.C. Bhandari, Meerut).