Early in the 1980s I received an invitation to participate in a three-day seminar on The Green Book written by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, ruler of Libya. I was then Editor of the Hindustan Times. Gaddafi was then the Muslim world's hero number one.
Pakistan had named the main sports arena in Lahore after him - Gaddafi Stadium. He sold his country's oil with as much enthusiasm as he did his faith in Islam. He had his own way of doing so. Whenever and wherever he was invited to a foreign country, he would take a hundred beautiful Arab girls and thousands of copies of the Koran with him. He invited beautiful girls of the host country to his gatherings. There he would read out extracts from his Green Book on how to convert barren land into lush green producing fruits and vegetables.
I promptly accepted the invitation and took the morning Air India flight to Rome (ND Tiwari, then Minister of Cabinet, was in the same flight). From Rome I took the Lufthansa flight to Tripoli. We arrived at our destination in the early afternoon.
The Indian ambassador to Libya was gracious enough to receive me. We had to waste a couple of hours in the lounge as it happened to be a Friday and all the porters had gone to different mosques to offer Jumma prayers. They returned two hours later and off-loaded our luggage and cleared it from customs without bothering to examine its contents.
The ambassador drove me to a college hostel where I was to stay. Fortunately, I had brought small bottles of Scotch which Air India gave free to first class passengers. I consumed a couple with tap water. I was served an Indian meal in my room.
Early next morning I rose to the melodious, sing-song call of the muezzin for Fajr prayers. I stepped out of the hostel to take a look at the city. It was bleak without any character.
I returned in time for breakfast and glanced through The Green Book. There was nothing worth reading in it. I then found the other seminarists in the main hall of the college. They were all from Arab countries. The proceedings were in Arabic of which I did not understand a word. For my benefit my hosts got a pretty girl who translated speeches into English as they were delivered. I had something to look forward to.
The seminar was extremely boring. Apart from gaping at the seminarists' translations, I kept solving crossword puzzles. There was strict prohibition in the country. Our ambassador gave me whiskey when he invited me over one evening but refused to give me a bottle to take to my hostel.
The Narulas, Serena and Surinder, who lived in a high-walled home, invited me to join them in the evening. They had made a tidy fortune, building roads, which they invested in England buying a chain of hotels and Delhi's real estate including the biggest book store, Ebony. They had one Rolls in England and another in Delhi. They financed the Jaipur Writers Festival every January.
It seems that in every Muslim country ruled by a dictator, half the population worships him, the other half loathes him.
So it was in Libya: half the populace admired him as they do their Prophet, the other half hated him as if he was an incarnation of Satan. So on the morning of Thursday, October 20, he was shot dead, like a rat in its hole. There were celebrations in the streets of Muslim countries. What has gone wrong with them? They keep telling the world that Islam means peace and goodwill towards everyone.
You too Kiran? We regarded you as a model of rectitude. You were given the Magsaysay Award for efficiency and integrity when you were Director of Tihar jail, the largest prison in the world holding over 12,000 prisoners. You invited me to inspect it. I gave you fulsome praise.
And now you have been caught cheating on air fares. Your explanation is not acceptable to anyone. No one believes your word any more. You have to explain why you did so. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Amar, Raja, Kanimozhi and Kalmadi Together they can play kho-kho as well as Kabaddi
They have put India on the world map
Passing the baton of perfection in their respective lap.
Amar Singh has been an unconquered kingmaker,
Raja has been a spectrum shaker,
Kanimozhi, a new-age broadcaster
And Kalmadi, the undisputed games master.
They can give Team Anna a run for their money
For they as Team Kalmadi, are all crooked and phoney.
Never did they do any cheating, lying or doping
Then why has it become difficult
meeting, vying and coping?
With life's various transgressions
And these unending court sessions
Tihar for them has been a boulevard of broken dreams
As it entraps them with their political sheen and cream.
(Contributed by Sandeep Dewan, New Delhi)