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Loving one’s neighbours

india Updated: Apr 06, 2007 23:45 IST
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I have an uneasy feeling that in the very near future we may have to redefine our relations with our two closest and most important neighbours — Pakistan and Bangladesh. Besides reading of the growing turmoil in both countries, I have a stream of friends from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Dhaka who visit me and express their apprehensions over the turn of events in their homelands.

Of Pakistan, it could be said that President Musharraf’s detractors now outnumber his supporters. The political scene in Bangladesh is more confused and the Army has virtually taken over the administration. In both countries though the liberal-minded and the forward-looking outnumber the narrow-minded followers of bigoted Mullahs, the latter being more vociferous and violence-prone appear to count more than
they deserve.

These fanatical elements in both countries draw strength by spreading hatred towards India. There are Pakistanis who won’t accept a non-Muslim as acting Chief Justice and Bangladeshis who refuse to acknowledge that India had anything to do with their gaining freedom. It can be maintained that despite General Musharraf’s record as a principal player of the Kargil misadventure, he has done his best to keep mischief created by Mullahs under control. It has to be conceded that during his regime as Head of State, relations between Pakistan and India have vastly improved. Unfortunately, he now plays on a very sticky wicket and may be bowled out by his own people. We should be prepared to deal with the leader who takes his place and keep up the process of normalising Indo-Pak relations, including the thorny problem of Kashmir with his successor.

The situation in Bangladesh is more confused than in Pakistan. Though the Mullah element there is as intolerant towards its Hindu minority, it is less aggressive than in Pakistan but keeps up stoking fires of distrust against India. At the moment it does not have a democratically elected government and is under military dictatorship. Military dictators have a habit of delaying elections and hanging on to power as long as they can. We do not like dictators but have no option but to deal with them for the simple reason they are our neighbours, and we have many problems to resolve between us. We have to be prepared for this contingency as well.

‘I’ and my body

I and the body in which it lives, though usually regarded as one and the same thing, are in fact two different entities. Though they co-exist, they are often at variance with each other. Nevertheless, it is a life-long relationship. When the body perishes then ‘I’ perishes with it. The body is eaten up by earth-borns or reduced to ashes. No one knows where the ‘I’ goes. Despite what scriptures say and our holy men and women tell us about the atma (soul) being imperishable, you can take it from me there is no truth in their assertion, because there is no proof to sustain it. They state them with smug sanctimonious sabjantawala expressions on their faces that many people take them to be gospel truth. You may well ask, “how are you certain that the ‘I’ and the body which contains it are two different things?”

My explanation may sound simple and naïve. I rise very early in the morning. The first thing I think of is state of my body — mainly functioning of my bowels and bladder. I try to make them function properly as I know if they do not do so, it will keep weighing on my mind (that is the ‘I’) and I will not be able to work properly. I try my will-power. I try breathing exercises. I try to inhale long breaths silently chanting ‘Aum’ as I inhale and Arogyam as I exhale. I recite the Gayatri Mantra and its Sikh counterpart, Taatee Vau na laggaee.

There is nothing spiritual in my “prayers”. All I want is conquest over my body. If mantras don’t work, I take artificial aids like drinking a glass of orange juice and a mug of tea. If my body responds by cleansing itself, peace is restored between my ‘I’ and my body. I relax and get down to work. If it does not, I become fretful, irritable and unable to focus my mind on anything.

The battle between ‘I’ and my body is resumed at meal times. I consume bland food full of roughage; it is usually tasteless but I eat it because it helps me in my battle against sluggish bowels. When my bowels and bladder work in clock-wise order, I enjoy my evening libation and the only tasty meal I take in the day. If they do not, I enjoy neither the drink nor the gourmet dinner. My night’s sleep also depends on the harmonious relationship between my ‘I’ and my body. If I sleep fitfully and keep tossing about in my bed, I curse my sluggish digestive system; if I get six to seven hours of undisturbed sleep, I get up refreshed and feel grateful to my body for letting me enjoy life in my 90s and exhort my ‘I’ to put out its best. I hope this does not sound too complicated or clever.

The Poor Big B

Our beloved Big B
must be living in poverty
Feted alike at home
and abroad.
The poor man has
to work very hard
Sell Reid and Taylor,
sell for Dabur
Making their product
look like gold
Making for them
claims most bold.
A true workman
without any qualms
he sells his name because
his name is sold.
Our icon supreme
is praising oil,
promoting cream
And is now for U.P.
going full steam.
Claiming that U.P.
mein hai dum
kyunke jurm
yahan hai kum —
U.P. is great
because it has
a low crime rate —
and Meerut and Nithari
fall outside the state.

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)