India rightfully boasts of being the world's largest democracy. But not in one of its elected institutions, right from the Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabhas and Municipalities, does it function as it should. In all of them a sizeable number of members have criminal records. Hence it is not surprising that after they have won battles of ballos, they continue to argue with their fists rather their tongues. Allama Iqbal (1873-1938), one of the founding fathers of Pakistan, put it very tersely :
Iss raaz ko to mard-e-firangee ney kiya faash;
Har Chand ki daanaa usey khola naheen kartey
Jamhooriyat ik tarz-e-hukoomat hai ki jis mein;
Bandon ko gina kartey hain, tola naheen kartey.
One myth, at least, the firangee exploded,
A secret wise men have never betrayed:
Democracy is a form of government in which
Heads and counted, but men never weighed.
In love with Lucknow
There are many firsts in the life of Parveen Talha who after retiring from Government service returned to her ancestral home in Lucknow. She was the first Muslim girl to make it to the Indian Revenue Service. She was also the first to hold the post of Deputy Narcotic Commissioner of Uttar Pradesh. Nobody had known of her till she seized a hefty quantity of heroin and arrested men trafficking is narcotics. She was elevated to the post of Commissioner of Customs and Central Excise. She was asked to train others as Head of the National Academy of Customs and Narcotic (NACEN) for the Asia-Pacific Region.
Then she was co-opted as a Member of the Union Public Service Commission. She is the only Muslim woman to have had this distinction. Despite a busy schedule, she wrote short stories and dialogues for Indian literati. Her latest offering is Fida-e-Lucknow : Tales of the city and its people (Niyogi Books). It is a true insider's account of the city in which she lives.
She quotes: Kya hai taaqat asman ki jo chhude Lucknow;
Lucknow hum pe fida, hum fida-e-Lucknow.
Even Heaven does not have the strength
To take me away from Lucknow
For Lucknow loves me with the same passion
As I love Lucknow.
It is an insider's account as it comes from the heart.
I have a personal reason to be grateful to Parveen.
I was returning from Singapore loaded with dutiable goods like a camera and transistor-radio and dreaded having to pay heavy customs duty. Unknown to me Parveen's parents were on the same flight. I came out ahead of them and was warmly received by Parveen. The customs officers looked the other way as I was hugging their boss.
My refusal to meet strangers is overcome when my beautiful neighbor Dilshad grants them visas. The last one was Kavita, a Pakistani who migrated to the United States with her husband M S Javed (Muradabadi) and took American citizenship. Her father S Tayyab was a Lucknavi who migrated to England in the 1980s.
Kavita and her husband are now settled in Delhi. Last year Kavita started drawing large paintings on canvas without using a paint brush. All her paintings are done using index finger. They remind one of Amrita Shergill. I asked her if she had exhibited or sold any. "No," she replied candidly. "I will do so after what you write about me appear in the papers."
Now I await her first exhibition in New Delhi.
There was a father who gave 100 rupees each to his three sons and asked them to buy things and fill up a room completely. First son brought wood for R100 but could not fill up the room entirely. Second son bought cotton for R100 but could not fill the room entirely. The third son bought a candle for R1 and lit it up and the room was filled with light completely.
Kapil Sibal said, "Rahul Gandhi is like the third son. Since the day he has taken charge of his office, our country is filled with the bright light of prosperity."
Narendra Modi asked : This is really great… but, where is the remaining Rs 99 ?
(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, New Delhi)