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HindustanTimes Mon,28 Jul 2014

Khushwant Singh

The lost romance of the glow of candlelight
Khushwant Singh, Hindustan Times
April 14, 2012
First Published: 23:28 IST(14/4/2012)
Last Updated: 23:30 IST(14/4/2012)

Many years ago when I was in college in Lahore, Mian Sir Fazl Husain was a minister in the state cabinet. His eldest son was studying at Cambridge University. Apparently, one evening there was an electric failure. He wrote to his father, “I am studying under candlelight. It flickers. It’s gone.” The letter proved prophetic. He died a few days later. His letter was reproduced in the two English Dailies, published in Lahore, The Tribune and The Civil and Military Gazette.

For some reasons the words stayed in my mind. I quoted them to Asghari Qadir, the younger sister of the author of those words. She and her husband Manzur became my wife’s and my best friends. And for reasons I have not been able to decipher, candles became a fetish with me. Since I get up early in the morning while it is still dark, I light a candle in my bedroom. I switch on an electric light after the morning papers arrive. I find candlelight soothing for my nerves. I sit in my armchair brooding in the dim light. In the evenings, when visitors come, I have three candles burning in my sitting room — one above my head and two facing me. It is only when a good looking, young lady visits me I switch on the electric light to take a better look at her. I do this whenever Begum Dilshad Sheikh pays me a visit. She spends winters in Delhi. I recall the lines of an Urdu couplet:
Yahee hai meyree tamaanna
Yahee hai meyree arzoo;
Too saamney baitha karey
Aur main tujhey deykha karoon
(This is my desire
This is my request too
You keep sitting in front of me
And I keep looking at you)
I suggest my readers to try out the soothing influence of candlelight. Electric lights are garish; candlelight brings peace of mind and evokes memories of days past.

Blue films
I find the hue and cry made by our media over some members of a legislative assembly caught watching blue film in the assembly unnecessary. It is not a crime to watch dirty films; millions over the world watch them. In many five star hotels in Germany  they are shown on TV in bedrooms. In Hawaii, there in a locality with cinema houses devoted entirely to screening of such films which they show to their male guests at cocktail parties. It seems to be a fetish for repressed males. And even males soon get bored watching them. They descend to watching live sex shows in basements of many European airports.
Once while attending a writers conference at Hawaii the only participant I knew was RK Narayan. He was a saintly sort of person, not great company for the likes of me. He was a strict vegetarian. In the evening he would buy a carton of dahi and go from café to café looking for plain boiled rice. He insisted I keep him company. One evening I tried to shake him off with the excuse that I wanted to see a blue film.“I come along with you,” he announced. So we went to a locality where there were a few cinemas showing blue films. After an hour I got bored. So did he. We came out and resumed our search for dahi-chaawal and a place where I could also get a meal of fried fish.
 I have not been able to find out why sexy films are called blue films. Why not red, yellow or green? If any reader knows the answer I will be grateful if he or she enlightens me.
 
Political casino
Coalition dharma! What does it stand for?
Is it righteousness or mere camouflage
A tool of subterfuge to share spoils of power?
Era of one-party rule being well-nigh over,
Alliances are forged by myopic populists:
The ostensible intent to champion aam admi.
Allies come with their alluring manifestos,
Skewed priorities and cargo of liabilities, but
Face roadblocks, flounder on empty coffers.
Reforms for carrying out the national agenda
Result in confrontation, often capitulation, then
Policy freeze: the engine of change gridlocked.
Scurrying into manoeuvring behind the scenes
Saves the day-a pattern emerging with irony
For survival under threats of parting company
Centric forces weakening, regional satraps
Calling the shots, it’s the number that matters;
The roulette is surrounded by shadowy figures.
Yet, idealist politicos, pilloried, martyred,
Send out message of courage, placing country
Over Stalinist bulldozing diktat of the party.

(Contributed by AK Das, Lucknow)
The views expressed by the author are personal


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