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New Year resolutions for my countrymen

There was a time when I looked forward to celebrating New Year eves by drinking, dancing and flirting to usher in the New Year singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight. I spent many first of Januarys nursing hangovers with cups of black coffee and aspirin pills. Khushwant Singh writes.

columns Updated: Jan 09, 2011 00:48 IST
Khushwant Singh

There was a time when I looked forward to celebrating New Year eves by drinking, dancing and flirting to usher in the New Year singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight. I spent many first of Januarys nursing hangovers with cups of black coffee and aspirin pills.

I have not done this for many years and go to bed by 10 PM, the latest and barely hear my neighbours bursting crackers at midnight.

All our calendars are man-made. The only one that is celebrated round the world is the Roman. This New Year day was the 17 of Poh, Samwat 2067, 25th Moharrem Hijri, 1432 of Poh 542 of the Nanak Shahi.

No one celebrates New Year’s eves or the first day of January but joins in the celebrations of the Roman calendar. And making resolutions is also the monopoly of the Roman Calendar.

There was a time when I used to make resolution to better myself. Year after year I swore I would not malign people I hated. The resolution barely lasted a month before malice in me re-asserted itself and I resumed saying or writing malicious things about people I did not like. It is too late for me to become a better human being.

However, nothing stops me from making New year Resolutions for my countrymen. I’ll mention a few. First, have no more than one child. If China can do so, why can't we? Otherwise we will be chronically short of food and jobs.

Second, stop cremating the dead with wood; they must be cremated in electric crematoria or buried and the ground under which they are buried returned to agriculture every five years. Cutting down trees should be made a criminal offence. I can think of many others, but will be happy if these are carried out in 2011.

Literary mid-wifery
Some weeks ago I wrote about my fathering books written by some ladies. All I did was to sow the seed in their minds and nag them to have it published. I can cite many examples. My latest achievement is to act as mid-wife to Govind Mishra's novel written in Hindi being translated into English by Masooma Ali, retired Professor of English in Miranda House. It is entitled Paanch Aangno Wala Ghar (published in 1995); its English version The House with Five Courtyards was recently published by Penguin Books.

I got to know Govind Mishra many years ago. We played tennis every morning at the Gymkhana Club. I used to pick him up on my way to the Club and drop him home after we had played a couple of sets. He played a very Hindi style of tennis. You'll know what I mean if you saw him at the game.

All I know of Govind was that he was in the Indian Revenue Service and retired as Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes.

He enjoyed the reputation of impeccable honesty. Also, that he was known as a top-ranking celebrity in the Hindi world of literature.

After retirement he decided to leave Delhi which was getting more unliveable by the day and make him home in Bhopal which was a salubrious climate, a large lake, surrounded by Sal forests, close to Sanchi and Bhimbetka caves, one of the oldest human habitation in the world.

Mishra is a product of Allahabad University from where he did his MA in English in 1959. For two years he was Assistant Professor of English. But he chose to write in Hindi. He is a prolific writer. To date he has nearly 50 books to his credit — novels, collections of short stories, travelogues and literary essays.

The number of literary awards is almost as long as the list of books he has written including Subramaniya Bharti Samman (2001) and Sahitya Academy Award in 2008. House With Five Courtyards (Hindi version) won the Vyas Samman in 1998. Those who cannot read Devnagri will enjoy reading it in English. Hindi publishers now descend on him in Bhopal to give them publishing rights for books yet to be written.

Climate Change
The world were told is growing old,
But more than old its getting cold
They say its caused by climate changing
On our lives the effect's wide ranging!
Progress we have thru industrialization
But that needs greater power generation
On this rests blame for climate changing
For use of fossil fuels is wide ranging!
(Contributed by Wg. Commander S.J. Nazarak, Nagpur)

Senility Prayer
Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked. The good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference
(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, New Delhi)