I am lucky I survived a month of fog and chilly winds. I can’t recall another January when the sun was blotted out by dense mist and the only warmth available was by the fireside or under a quilt hugging a hot-water bottle. Lohri came and went but the cold did not relent. So did Basant but the paalaa (cold) didn’t udant (fly away).
Bhartrihari took a more philosophical view of the winter season:
The cycle recurrence of sunset and dawn
Daily serves to measure life’s decay.
But burdened in his mundane tasks,
Man does not grasp time’s fugitive flight.
Seeing old age, pain and death
He is not aroused to anxiety
Drinks in delicious heady wine
The world is made in oblivion.
I warm my insides by copious helpings of single malt whisky. Then my mind turns to the plight of thousands of my countrymen who spend nights on footpaths in the cold, their children hugging them to share the warmth — no blankets, nothing to cover their bodies, no roofs to protect them from fog or drizzle. And I feel very small. In the year 2010 we are unable to provide them shelter from the elements. We only read in the next morning’s papers how many succumbed to the cold. What right have we to exult and shout Mera Bharat Mahan!
My Honours List
Being one of the thousands of Padma awardees, every year I receive a circular letter from the Home Ministry inviting me to suggest names with qualifications for the Republic Day honours list. For the last three years, I recommended one name. She did not get it. So, I decided not to forward any name in the future.
Instead, I drew up my own list of those I think deserved to be honoured. I do this despite the fact that with the exception of one person, I endorse this year’s list as the best so far. I believe there are a few individuals who deserve the Bharat Ratna. If a reluctant Morarji Desai grudgingly accepted it, so should the silent Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was our Prime Minister for a much longer period than Morarji Desai. Also, if Lata Mangeshkar and Pandit Ravi Shankar were considered suitable for the highest honour, so are MF Husain and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.
For the three categories of Padmas my list is long and may erroneously include some who have in fact been honoured earlier. However, I do think preference should be given to social workers, scientists, artists and writers. Among social workers’ names that come to mind immediately are Reeta Devi Varma, who runs two mobile clinics armed with doctors, nurses and medicines and treats over 500 men, women and children free of charge in different parts of Delhi every day. There is also Binayak Sen, working among tribals in Chattisgarh who, instead of being honoured, was locked up in jail on suspicion of being a Maoist.
Another name that comes to mind is Ajit Cour who, besides running Asian Writers’ Conferences, runs a school and workshop for unemployed women. Among artists, I include Satish Gujral, Krishen Khanna, Jehangir Sabawala and Arpana Caur. There are eminent Bengali painters whose names escape me.
Among singers are Vidya Rao, Anita Singhvi, Shubha Mudgal and Misra brothers and Wadali brothers. My writers list is limited to Indians writing in English. They include Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, William Dalrymple, Arvind Mehrotra, Anita Nair, Arundhati Roy, Geeta Hariharan and Pradip Krishen. My scholars’ list is borrowed as I am not into scholarship. It includes Upinder Singh, Irfan Habib, Indiver Kamtekar, Sumit Sarkar, Shahid Amin, BD Chattopadhyaya, R Gopala Krishnan and Jayati Ghosh.
Having made this rough and ready list, I would like to add that no one with the slightest taint of corruption or double-dealing should ever be honoured. Also, any one canvassing for any of the awards should be black-listed for ever. It has become the standard practice, which must be put down with an iron hand.
Pakistan and IPL
Because of the work done by Vajpayee and Dr Singh
Indo-Pak ties had seen an upswing
People-to-people contact was on the rise
And because this was a course sane and wise
It was a bad omen,
So some thing had to be done
Twenty six/Eleven was therefore necessary,
Equally necessary was to see
That L-e-T Chie Saeed roamed free
Ana if still peace had a chance
We organised our greatest human mandi
That glorious IPL,
Boycotted all Pakistani players in unison
And saw to it that the work so painstakingly done
Was, in one go, undone –
Like Pakistan, we are also a peace loving nation.
(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)
The views expressed are personal.