Archive for March, 2014

Khushwant Singh: A Tribute To The Vintage Sardarji

Book lovers will always remember him for classics like “Train to Pakistan”, “I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale” and “Delhi – A Novel”. One of India’s best-known authors and journalists, Khushwant Singh elevated English writing in India with uninhibited wit and humour and was equally facile with his pen on serious issues like partition. He kept on writing virtually till the end and at 95, he wrote the novel “The Sunset Club”. Here’s a tribute to the Vintage Sardarji.

Khushwant Singh: facts and his fictions – Excepts from IBN Live

Singh was best-known for his trenchant secularism, his humour, and an abiding love of poetry.

– Khushwant Singh was born on 2 February 1915 was a novelist and journalist.

– An Indo-Anglian novelist, Singh was best-known for his trenchant secularism, his humour, and an abiding love of poetry. His comparisons of social and behavioral characteristics of Westerners and Indians are laced with acid wit. He served as editor of several literary and news magazines, as well as two broadsheet newspapers, through the 1970s and 1980s. He was a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India.

– Singh was born in Hadali District Khushab, Punjab (which now lies in Pakistan), in a Sikh family. His father, Sir Sobha Singh (builder), was a prominent builder in Lutyens’ Delhi. His uncle Sardar Ujjal Singh (1895-1983) was Ex. Governor of Punjab and Tamil Nadu.
Khushwant Singh: facts and his fictions
An Indo-Anglian novelist, Singh was best-known for his trenchant secularism, his humour, and an abiding love of poetry.

– He was educated at Modern School, New Delhi, Government College, Lahore, St. Stephen’s College in Delhi and King’s College, London, before reading for the Bar at the Inner Temple.

– Singh edited ‘Yojana’, an Indian government journal, The Illustrated Weekly of India, a newsweekly, and two major Indian newspapers, The National Herald and the Hindustan Times. During his tenure, The Illustrated Weekly became India’s pre-eminent newsweekly, with its circulation raising from 65,000 to 4,00,000. After working for nine years in the weekly, on 25 July 1978, a week before he was to retire, the management asked Singh to leave “with immediate effect”. The new editor was installed the same day. After Singh’s departure, the weekly suffered a huge drop in readership.

– From 1980 through 1986, Singh was a member of Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974 for service to his country. In 1984, he returned the award in protest against the siege of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army. In 2007, the Indian government awarded Khushwant Singh the Padma Vibhushan.

– Singh was said to wake up at 4 am each day and write his columns by hand. His works range from political commentary and contemporary satire to outstanding translations of Sikh religious texts and Urdu poetry.

Singh was derisively termed as an Establishment Liberal.

– As a public figure, Singh was accused of favouring the ruling Congress party, especially during the reign of Indira Gandhi. He was derisively termed as an Establishment Liberal. Singh’s faith in the Indian political system, however, was shaken by events such as anti-Sikh riots that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination, in which major Congress politicians are alleged to be involved. But he remained resolutely positive on the promise of Indian democracy and worked via Citizen’s Justice Committee floated by HS Phoolka who is a senior advocate of Delhi High Court.

– He was married to Kawal Malik and is survived by a son, named Rahul Singh, and a daughter, named Mala. Actress Amrita Singh is the daughter of his brother Daljit Singh and Rukhsana Sultana. He stayed in “Sujan Singh Park”, near Khan Market New Delhi, Delhi’s first apartment complex, built by his father in 1945, and named after his grandfather.

Honours and awards

  • Rockfeller Grant,1966
  • Padma Bhushan, Government of India (1974)(He returned the decoration in 1984 in protest against the Union government’s siege of the Golden Temple, Amritsar)
  • Honest Man of the Year, Sulabh International (2000)
  • Punjab Rattan Award, The Government of Punjab (2006)
  • Padma Vibhushan, Government of India (2007)
  • Sahitya academy fellowship award by Sahitya academy of India (2010)
  • ‘All-India Minorities Forum Annual Fellowship Award’ by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav (2012)

Books

  • The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories, 1950
  • The History of Sikhs, 1953
  • Train to Pakistan, 1956
  • The Voice of God and Other Stories, 1957
  • I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale, 1959
  • The Sikhs Today, 1959
  • The Fall of the Kingdom of the Punjab, 1962
  • A History of the Sikhs, 1963[10]
  • Ranjit Singh: The Maharajah of the Punjab, 1963
  • Ghadar 1915: India’s first armed revolution, 1966
  • A History of the Sikhs, 1966 (2nd edition)
  • A Bride for the Sahib and Other Stories, 1967
  • Black Jasmine, 1971
  • Tragedy of Punjab, 1984
  • Delhi: A Novel, 1990
  • Sex, Scotch and Scholarship: Selected Writings, 1992
  • Not a Nice Man to Know: The Best of Khushwant Singh, 1993
  • We Indians, 1993
  • Women and Men in My Life, 1995
  • Uncertain Liaisons; Sex, Strife and Togetherness in Urban India, 1995
  • Declaring Love in Four Languages, by Khushwant Singh and Sharda Kaushik, 1997
  • The Company of Women, 1999
  • Truth, Love and a Little Malice (an autobiography), 2002
  • With Malice towards One and All
  • The End of India, 2003
  • Burial at the Sea, 2004
  • Paradise and Other Stories, 2004
  • A History of the Sikhs: 1469-1838, 2004
  • Death at My Doorstep, 2005
  • A History of the Sikhs: 1839-2004, 2005
  • The Illustrated History of the Sikhs, 2006
  • Why I Supported the Emergency: Essays and Profiles, 2009
  • The Sunset Club, 2010
  • Agnostic Khushwant Singh, There is no GOD, 2012
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ridiculous, 2013 (Co-authored with Humra Qureshi)

Short story collections

  • The Voice of God and Other Stories. Bombay, Jaico, 1957.
  • A Bride for the Sahib and Other Stories. New Delhi, Hind, 1967.
  • Black Jasmine. Bombay, Jaico, 1971
  • The Collected Stories. N.p., Ravi Dayal, 1989.
  • The Portrait of a Lady
  • The Strain
  • Success Mantra
  • A Love Affair In London

(Courtesy: http://ibnlive.in.com)

Are the Bosses Hearing???

It was late evening. The otherwise thriving office block was silent.  The darkness interspersed with a few lit cubicles, where as the HR head of the company pointed out, the “bang on achievers and the super dedicated” were literally burning the midnight oil. Curious, I wanted to enquire – why are these people still toiling on, when it is way past normal office hours? What is it that is egging these young people to chug along when their colleagues have long gone?

Tea Break

Tea Break

The answers were startling. They were not there reinventing the wheel. They were there, ensconced in the air conditioned comfort of the office with free coffee, unlimited bandwidth et al, as they had nothing better to do back home! Besides, staying late on a regular basis earned the brownies – boss’ admiration as a hard worker, the fat bonuses, the booster dose for the rat race, even in some cases, the taxi fare back!

The Indian mentality of rewarding the hard worker, the stoic was at play with some smart cookies utilising it to their benefit. Just imagine the cost to the company – keeping the system on for no apparent reason and paying for it. What then is the way out? Simple, encourage people to leave on time. Discourage the act of lounging in the office for no reason and encourage such people to spend their time gainfully. The Pressures of work, the tension of relocation, the fragmenting family structures, the lack of true friends is forcing many a young man and woman into isolation and extreme loneliness. It is our duty to channelize these youngsters into proper areas – take up a hobby, keep a pet, learn a language, join some art class … the possibilities are endless. Why not take your partner and explore the city instead of wiling away the valuable years of youth?

Young workers are increasingly becoming more and more glued to their jobs which is not only making them feel increasingly claustrophobic but is also leading to a greater number of early burn out’s. Add to it the unhealthy practice of some bosses who do not recognize merit but are wont to reward the so called hard worker. They consider the one putting in extra hours as a value for money employee as opposed to the one who performs the tasks at hand well within the stipulated time and is seen as one wasting time. It is wrong notions like these that are quietly creating havoc amongst the lives of many a young achiever apart from leading to huge unnecessary wastages in terms of the cost to the company to keep the support systems on to pander to the folly.

“Bang on achievers and super dedicated.” The terms sound so damn good. But have you calculated the cost that the company has to bear for their so called dedication? Are the bosses hearing it out?

The way we were

This relationship has been on the rocks for awhile now, though neither Nikhil or I would tell anyone else that we have been fighting, we had always been that perfect couple. This was until recently, Nikhil started to get jealous of me as I was laughing and talking with his best friend, Tanmay and other friends, playing the perfect hostess. It all started at Nikhil’s 25th birthday party. I had taken a picture with Tanmay, and I guess we looked cool together (It was only a casual friendly demeanor), causing Nikhil to get jealous. That night he tried to force himself on me, as if he was claiming me. I hated his attitude, pushed myself angrily and walked away.

It wouldn't be the same anymore

It wouldn’t be the same anymore

Since that night, we haven’t been the same..

Tonight, Nikhil was sitting on the couch, avoiding conversation as he stared at the TV screen. I huffed and brought in the bowl of popcorn, putting it on the table next to him. A few moments later, he turned his attention to me.

“Sonali?” He whispered my name, which made me stop to look at him, biting lightly on my bottom lip before I got the courage to respond.

“This isn’t’ working.” The words hit me harder than I thought they would, I knew they were coming but I still wasn’t prepared for my college sweetheart to break my heart. I was hoping we’d get addicted to this awkwardness. but it’s been six months and we still weren’t on the best terms.

“I know, Nikhil.” I sighed softly, trying to keep myself from completely breaking down in front of him. I put my face in my hands and rub my eyes.

Suddenly, I heard him get up from the couch. The sound got my attention and I looked up at him, shaking my head quickly. “Nikhil, please don’t go. Stay the night. Our last night together, we don’t have to do anything… but just stay.” My voice was pleading with tears welling. Nikhil nodded and came over to me. He grabbed my hand to help me up.

He leads me into the bedroom, tomorrow it would go back to being mine when he would decide to pack his belongings and go. He sat down on the bed and pulled me down with him. I sat next to him before I decided to get under the blankets up over me. Nikhil turned the lamp off before he got under the covers with me. I smiled to myself at the warmth of Nikhil ‘s body next to mine.

I zoomed closer to him to get more of his heat, he loops his arm around my waist, letting me snuggle up to his chest. We both were quiet for awhile before he spoke again. “Sonali?” I tilted my head up to look up at him, biting my lower lip and shockingly, he leaned down and placed his lips to my bottom lip, he whispered out “You always do that, you have been doing that since I met you at nineteen.”

“When we were nineteen, god that feels like ages ago!” I whisper, smiling at the memories before speaking them out loud. “Remember that one time we went to the Golf Point on your bike and that’s when we figured out we will be happy together! Because the moon was shining bright and we kept stealing glances of each other.” My words came out soft and slow, taking my time to remember the details as best as I could. He just nodded.

“Good Bye”… the words seem to echo in the sultry air!

“Good Bye”… the two  words seem to echo in the sultry air!

The silence gave me more time to think all of all the memories behind us. It should have hurt, but I was smiling because it happened. Nikhil happened to me, I had never been luckier than the day he walked up to me and asked me if we could start living together. He had always been my best friend, my escape, my everything… Soon, we would depart and it wouldn’t be like that anymore.

I turned my head to look up at Nikhil, may be, one last time… I tried leaning in to kiss his cheek, my lips parting on his skin to speak softly. “Thank you, for the last few years, I’m sorry that this isn’t what you want anymore.”

“Good Bye”… the words seem to echo in the sultry air!

A Wake Up Call for “Awakening!”

Some time back, a friend of mine advised me to read ‘Waking From Sleep’ by Steve Taylor as she believed that the book would be of my interest. And to an extent, it happened to be one of those. Although the book had nothing groundbreaking to convey and was more like a collage of thoughts, there are interesting facts that I would like to share.

One interesting observation Steve Taylor made was that he believes that our day-to-day consciousness is a ‘deep sleep’ from which we sometimes wake up into a more complete, total reality.  This can happen in many ways, accidental or not, such as near-death experiences, sleep deprivation, sickness, and so on. For a short span of time, the world seems more beautiful, colours are vivid, objects breathe life and all is full of love. But while these experiences feel life changing, they usually don’t last very long.

Waking From Sleep’ by Steve Taylor

Waking From Sleep’ by Steve Taylor

In this book, the author explores the ways in which mankind has generated ‘awakening experiences’, which he refers to as the ‘higher states of consciousness’, through space and time and questions its validity. Taylor holds the Western capitalistic culture responsible for reinforcing ego and weakening the link between our souls and the primordial ‘spirit force’, which we call ‘God’ in the spiritual sense. This has subsequently sent us into a life of dazed mechanical sleep. There are however, ways to train our minds into maintaining a childlike wonder and joyfulness towards our external surroundings.

The book describes many unorthodox and unconventional methods used by indigenous tribes and literary, historical and religious figures to reach ‘awakening experiences’. Drawing on his knowledge in the field of psychology, he gives some interesting examples. The part about how Rimbaud’s life affected his poetry is particularly noteworthy. As  masochistic techniques such as fasting, sleep deprivation or hedonistic elements like alcohol and drugs bring results, they ultimately disrupt the homoestasis, or body’s internal equilibrium, and only last until the body’s natural rhythm is restored.  He categorizes them as ‘high-arousal experiences.’

He then moves on to what he considers to be positive techniques. The most effective way to train our mind into maintaining awakening experiences, he states, is through the practice of meditation, as it intensifies our ‘life-energy’, our chi or prana. He states: “Meditation closes down our normal energy outflow and intensifies our life-energy, inducing ‘low arousal-experiences.’ Eventually, a devoted practice will lead us to become our ‘real self’, eradicating the ‘I’ from our reality. Spiritual development is the only way to maintain a permanent ‘isle’ state, which intensifies our life-energy on a permanent basis and would not be possible without moderation, mindfulness, solitude and self-discipline.”

The author, a tutor at the University of Manchester, backs up his points with quotes by famous psychologists, philosophers and poets. He also uses real-life personal accounts, and provides scientific theories to support them.

My impression was that with some of its traditional ‘report’ formula, the book has a strong academic feel. Yet, Taylor steers clear from religious and moral clichés, giving an objective representation of events in a clear language devoid of jargon.

As it is not one of those highly sectarian book, it makes for an enjoyable read, especially for those seeking to start yoga or meditation practice and I too, like my friend, would recommend it to like-minded people.

Yes, We Need A Women’s Day!

Today is International Women’s Day. The existence of such a day irks some people. It makes them uncomfortable and annoyed. Many dismiss it as irrelevant, and even unwarranted. They often ask the question with a smirk: “What about International Men’s Day?”

My answer to them is, International Men’s Day is perhaps not marked on the calendar because every day of every year is already Men’s Day.

The feeling of empowerment...

The feeling of empowerment… freedom!!!

A common misconception is that all the battles for women have already been won. We’ve got the right to vote, to work outside the home, to own property – after all, what else can a woman expect!

Is that All? Ask yourself the question… Are we able to walk down the street at night without fear of being followed, grabbed, or worse. According to WHO, more than a third of all women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Every year millions of girls are assaulted on their way to school, raped, murdered… Violence against women and girls is a global epidemic. Many of these cases are never even reported.

For these and many more, we need International Women’s Day to remind ourselves that hundreds of millions of boys and girls are growing up in a world where violence against women is acceptable, and where female subjugation is the norm – AND THIS MUST CHANGE…

Women’s Day, Women’s rights, Feminist movement – these terms often used loosely, are absolutely not about hating or excluding men. They are just about loving women more by including men and women in the process. Women’s rights- education, health and safety – is not just a women’s issue, it’s very much a men’s issue as well. The burden for change is however often placed on the woman but what is needed is men standing up and fighting for their sisters, mothers, wives, lovers, friends, to challenge current definitions of masculinity.

To those who can’t see the point of International Women’s Day, I tell them, “You are the very reason it’s there.” International Women’s Day is remembered because gender inequality continues – in every aspect of our lives – knowingly or unknowingly. however, the day it ceases to exist, we can erase it from our calendars.