Sets of plain-clothes policemen visited me three times during the day and told me: “Advani Sahib is coming to see you in the evening. Can we inspect your residence?” I replied, ‘Go ahead’. And so they did. The police have to keep an eye on Advaniji as there are many around who would like to hurt him. After he led his Rath Yatra from Somnath temple to Ayodhya and watched the Babri Masjid being pulled down,I have been one of his severest critics. I used harsh words for him on his face at a public meeting he was to address. I continue to hold that what he did widened the Hindi-Muslim divide and jeo-pardised India’s ambition to become a truly secular democracy. I had reason to fear that he wanted to tick me off and tell me to go to hell. There was enough evidence for me to believe that men like him wanted to settle scores with the Muslims for what they had done in the past:
Tit for Tat // Remember that
You killed my dog // I’ll kill your cat.
In other words, if Muslims broke Hindu temples in the past, Hindus were justified in knocking down their mosques today. He did precisely that and widened the gulf between Hindus and Muslims. Secular-minded, peace-loving Indians will never forgive him.
Instead of ticking me off, as I expected, he brought a bouquet of roses for me and my daughter. I had to concede he was better Sikh than I am. He is an Amil Sindhi who subscribe to Sikh tenets. We spent an hour talking about different things but did not refer to his rath yatra and the destruction of Babri Masjid. It was entirely a courtesy call to re-affirm that despite differences we were on amicable talking terms. He is a bigger man that I thought he was.
Being an agnostic, I am very allergic towards religious bigots. I came across a poem by Zehra Nigah which I translated from Urdu to English for my anthology: Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry (Penguin Books). It is pertinent to our time:
Kahanee Gul Badshah Kee
Naam mera hai Gul Badshah
Umr meree hai terah baras
Aur kahani meree umr kee tarah sey
Muntashir muntashir mukhtasar mukhtasar
Meree benaam bey chehra maan
Be-davaa mar gayee
Baap ney usko burqey mein dafnaa diya
Usko dar thha ki munkar nakeer uska chehra na dekhen
Vaisey zinda thhee jab bhee madfoon thee
Baap ka naam Zartaaj Gul
Umr battees baras
Vo mujahid shahaadat ka taalib
Raah-e-haq ka mussaafir hua
Aur jaam-e-shahaadat bhee usney pee
Gul Badshanh is my name
I am thirteen years of age
My story like my age, you’ll see
Is in bits and pieces and as short as it can be:
My mother had no face nor name that I could say
Nor money to buy medicines,
One day she simply faded away.
My father buried her in burqa in case
The Angels of Death ogle at her face –
Anyway, even when alive she was like one dead one could say.
My father’s name was Zartaj Gul
He was thirty-two
He had just one ambition to fulfil
He was a holy warrior and wanted to die a martyr
So he took the path of righteousness.
Ode to Antony
What shall I do with his integrity, honesty, parsimony
I shall like to be A.K. Antony,
I will not like to head the lucrative Defence Ministry
And lead a life of near-poverty, much simplicity
In this age when only power and pelf is seen
What shall I do with being merely Mr Clean
The unilateral zeal
With which he seeks to cancel the Chopper Deal
Makes him a cog in the wheel,
For how can you be a politician
Without being a worshipper of goddess corruption
Wake up Mr Antony, our dear defence minister
Take a cue from your namesake the legendry orator
The great Mark Antony of Rome, the greatest liar
Learn to cheat the masses, loot the state
And become a popular leader, wealthy and great.
(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)
Mona: What is it about men that is soft during the day and hard at night?
Sona: I refuse to answer much a vulgar question.
Mona: What is vulgar about it? I was referring to the drinks that men take.
(Contributed by Rajeshwari Singh, Delhi)