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United we stand, divided we fall

We should be unanimous in our response to the Mumbai attack. It has dealt a heavy body blow to those who have been trying to build bridges between the people of India and Pakistan. This process must continue, writes Khushwant Singh.Special Coverage

india Updated: Dec 13, 2008 14:04 IST

My son Rahul who lives in Colaba rang up at 9.30 pm on November 26 to tell us of the bomb blasts and assure us that he was safe. I switched on my TV. I saw flames billowing out of windows of the Taj hotel and its dome enveloped in smoke. I had lived close by for many years and was a daily visitor to its health club. I saw the Oberoi, where I had stayed a few times, surrounded by Indian commandos and guests looking out of windows. I saw the devastation caused to the Jewish enclave, Victoria Terminus, Cama Hospital and the airport. I was numb with disbelief. I had spent many happy years in the city. My first reaction was of impotent rage: ‘Hang the bloody bastards on Marine Drive and let the world see how we deal with murderers of innocent people.’

I cooled down and watched scenes repeated over and over again. They had no leads about the perpetrators. All I could gather was that they knew their ways about Mumbai very well, had been fully trained and equipped with the most lethal weapons. They must have also known there was little chance of their ever getting back to their homes. By the time I switched off the TV, the death toll was over 90, including two police officers investigating the Malegaon blast case. They also reported that one of the culprits had been shot dead. I hoped and prayed that the examination of his body did not reveal he was a Muslim.

Alas. He was a Muslim. So also were the rest of the gang. All Pakistanis. From the meticulous way the operation was carried out, it was evident that they had been rehearsing it in minute detail for many weeks, if not months, on Pakistani soil. Pakistan’s rulers have a great deal to explain to the world as the victims include many foreign nationals.

We should be unanimous in our response to the Mumbai attack. It has dealt a heavy body blow to those who have been trying to build bridges between the people of India and Pakistan. This process must continue. At the same time we must do our very best to put down those who are likely to exploit the murderous assault in Mumbai to spread Islamophobia. Many Indian Muslims were killed; all of them condemn it, as do other Indians – Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis. If we do not stand united in our reactions to what had happened in Mumbai, the murderers will have achieved what they wanted to achieve. We must not allow this to happen. We are one nation. We must give them one answer: to hell with you! You will never succeed in dividing us.

Do we need god?
Bageeshwari Devi is a disciple of Kripaluji Maharaj and principal spokesperson entrusted to spread his message abroad. Born in Mysore, she graduated from Mumbai and got a doctorate from Agra University. She was recently in Delhi to deliver a lecture at the India Habitat Centre on ‘Do We Need God’. She also dealt with related subjects: Whether god exists; Does he matter; what difference does his existence or non-existence make to us.

Since I am no longer able to go out, I’ll try and get the text of what she said. Though I am not a disciple of Kripaluji Maharaj, I listen to his programmes on TV. Also, though I do not understand his ecstatic chanting of ‘Radhey,Radhey,’ what he has to say makes a lot of sense even to an agnostic like me. I also believe that everyone should find his or her own answers to the questions that Bageeshwari Devi deals with.

Do we need god? Most people feel they do, as he fills a vacuum in their lives. I am not sure whether or not I need him. At times I feel I am missing out on something other people have and I do not. Most times I do not miss him.

Does god really exist ? The vast majority of people insist he does; a growing minority do not believe in his existence. I belong to the minority — with the addition that I do not accept what is attributed to him. I am not sure if he is the creator, preserver or destroyer of life. If he is almighty, he is certainly neither just nor merciful because there is so much injustice and cruelty in life.

I think the only honest answer to this question is to admit that we do not know. Nor do we know what happens to us after we die. All the theories about heaven, hell, re-birth etc. are pure conjectures without an iota of evidence to support them. I reject all of them and add that no one has the foggiest idea where we go after we breathe our last.

You may well ask after rejecting our cherished beliefs what is the purpose of life? Once again I crave forgiveness for my inability to reply in the positive. We live on because we were given life and have no choice but to go on living. Osho Rajneesh put it succinctly:
Kal bhee jeeyey thhey, aaj bhee jee rahey hain
Jeeney kee aadat see par gayee hai, Jeeyey ja rahey hain
(We were alive yesterday; we’re still living today. It’s become a habit to be alive; we keep on living)

Getting under Yankee Hindi
An NRI lady returns from the US to India and is window-shopping in Delhi. Suddenly, she realises she is late for an appointment. She isn’t wearing a watch. So she asks the owner of a nearby shop in an American accent: “Wot’s the tyme?”
The shopkeeper hates desis who put on foreign accents. He replies in an American accent: “Bra-panties” Confused, the lady asks again, “No, no. Wot’s da tyme?” The shopkeeper repeats his answer. Seeing the confusion between the two, a Sardarji comes to the rescue of the lady and says “O paaji, tusi samajh nahin paaye. Kudi twade ton puuchh rahii hai, kinna time hua: The shopkeeper answers back ‘Oye’ paji, main bhi tan ohnoo hee das rahan: ‘Barah-payntis — (12.35).
(Contributed by Paramjit S.Kochar, New Delhi)