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Morality, power and a discovery

india Updated: May 22, 2009 23:37 IST
Khushwant Singh

All political parties have manifestos which spell out what they intend to do if they come into power: uplift the poor, ensure adequate supply of clean drinking water, eradicate illiteracy, provide roofs over every head, improve relations with other nations etc. But once published, manifestos are put away in party archives to gather dust. They are taken out near the next election time, brought up-to-date and put back again.

In actual politics, as it is practised in our country, they mean very little. As election time comes close, leaders of different parties start negotiating alliances to see which one will suit them best. No one bothers about political morality. That is why even the shrewdest observers go wrong in their forecasts of outcomes of

A convincing example of the political immorality in our national politics was provided by the massive assemblage of leaders of different parties at Ludhiana in mid-May. The NDA meeting had netas of over a dozen parties with different manifestos assembled on the same platform provided by the ruling Akali Dal, a brazenly Sikh communal set-up fighting a losing battle in Punjab. We saw people like Nitish Kumar of Bihar who till the other day, was strongly critical of Narendra Modi and the Shiv Sena, embracing them like long-lost brothers. The presence of others was equally baffling. The only thing they had in common was lust for power.

Not to be outdone, the UPA led by the Congress party’s stalwarts like Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Captain Amarinder Singh went looking for allies, old and new, in the hope of retaining power in the centre. When it comes to political morality, there is little to choose between any of them.

What is the simple-minded (aam aadmi) to make of this confusion of claims being do-gooders when what they are all after are their gaddis?

Fake learning

I am not a learned man; I am as removed from being a scholar a anyone could be. I was a poor
student, a briefless barrister, a tactless diplomat and ended up as an ill-informed journalist. So I was amazed when some pressmen in Bangalore once pronounced me as the Dronacharya of Indian journalism.

All I have on the credit side is a reasonably good memory for poetry coming out with couplets, and at times, an entire verse, by rote. People around me get impressed and get deluded that I am a man of learning — which I repeat, I know I am not.

So what occasioned this outburst of confession of ignorance? Simple: I was going through A Collection of Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett (The Wisdom Library) which I had picked over 30 years ago in Honolulu when I was on a teaching assignment at the University of Hawaii. It is heavily marked as I have gone over it many times.

On two blank pages I had noted down names of people like Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Krishna Menon, Chandraswami, Dhiredendra Brahmachari and others for whom I could use some apt lines. I had not bothered to mark any which could equally apply to me till the other day I came across two lines by Edward Young (1681-1756) under the title Love of Fame.

They read:

Some, for renown, on scraps of learning dote,
And think they grow immortal as they quote.

That made me wince.

Adha Soda - Adha Pani

Keh gaye sab sant aur gyani, zindagi ki yehi kahani,
Adha soda-adha pani.
Kal raat mujhe mili ek ladki dewani, jiski ankhen thi mastani,
Boli Raja janni,
beeti jaye hai jawani,
kar le thodi si beimani
Kya anni, kya jaani,
zindigi ki yehi kahani
Adha soda-adha pani
Jab meine uski ek na mani,
gussa uska huya toofani
Boli, jail ko kara dungi ravani, daroga mere abbajaani
Darke meine socha,
kya aani kya janni,
Kar lete hain thodi si beimani
Zindagi ki yehi kahani,
adha soda-adha pani
Biwi ko jab pata chali kahani, phaard di usne meri sherwani
Yaad dila di meri nani
aur ho gayee maike ko ravani
Subha jab neend se jaaga,
uppar mere thi machardani
Bahar baras raha tha pani, maine biwi se kaha bhagyawani,
Jaldi se bana do neebu-pani,
kal raat ho gayee thi pareshani
(Courtesy: Sakesh Gangahar, New Delhi)

Through a lover’s eye

A couple of lovers were sitting in a quiet corner of a park. The young man looking ardently at his sweetheart’s face declared loudly “In your beautiful eyes I can see the entire world.”

A dhobi passing by overheard him and approached him with folded hands and prayed “Maalik, if you can see the entire world, please help me locate my donkey. It strayed away while I was washing clothes. I have been looking for it everywhere.”
(Contributed by Harjit Kaur, New Delhi)