A week before the Indo-Pak hockey match, I started getting worked up. In the past, Pakistan had beaten India more often than India had beaten Pakistan. By all reckoning, hockey is now sport number one and for some years we were world champions.
Things changed after Pakistan broke away from India and became our most formidable challenger. Other nations like Australia, Malaysia, Korea, Spain, Holland, Germany and England became serious contenders for the top place. So, my anxiety over the outcome of the Indo-Pak clash in the first round of the Commonwealth Games was natural.
I tried to watch it on TV but failed to get the right channel. I spent a restless night wondering what had happened. I also feared that next day being Holi, there may be no papers and I may have to watch the morning news on TV or ring up someone to find out.
However, on Holi, Hindustan Times arrived at 6.30 a.m. And there it was: India had scored a convincing 4-1 victory over Pakistan. A huge shabaash, escaped my lips. My tension was gone. There could be no better way of celebrating the festival of colours.
I found myself counting the number of Singhs on the Indian side. And my heart filled with pride. Was I turning communal in the late years? Perish the thought. I am not even a good Sikh.
I recalled my reaction was the same with other games. I got more interested in cricket when Bishen Singh Bedi became captain. I went out of my way to befriend him. He turned out to be an excellent raconteur of bawdy jokes. When Harbhajan Singh bagged a lot of wickets, I said: “O shabaash putter (well-done, son)”. When he did not, I said: “Phitey moonh (Shame on you!)”.
It was the same when young Bindra won the first of Olympic gold medal for India. I told everyone: “You know he is a Sikh”. And golf: Jeev Milkha Singh, Atwal, Randhava, Gagan Bhullar — all Mona Sardars — are India’s top golfers.
Is community consciousness the same as being communal? By no means. Whenever the demand for a separate Sikh state was raised, I opposed it as strongly as I could. I told the Khalistanis: “Oye khoteo (you donkeys), you know you are meant to preserve this country not break it up ”.
I wonder what would be left of India if it had no Sikhs. It would even lose most of its sense of humour accumulated over the years. As for personal relations, I can count the number of my Sikh friends on my finger tips. I have many more Hindu and Christian friends. I feel closer to my Muslim friends who outnumber all other put together as I have more in common with them, chiefly the love for Urdu poetry. But I never hesitate from boasting “Where would India be without the Sikhs?”
Post Script: When India got thrashed by Australia and Spain, I said “Laanat hovey” — the same as phitey moonh.
A painter recluse
Some weeks ago I received a few cards with paintings on them. I found them very attractive and wondered who had made them. Two days later, a letter without address or phone number arrived. I gathered that they had been painted and sent by Amarjit, wife of my cousin Mohanjit who died a couple of years ago. I had known him since he was four as I had rented an annexe of his father’s house as an office when I was a practising lawyer in Lahore. After Partition, we drifted apart. And after the death of our respective parents we hardly saw anything of each other.
But I do remember Mohanjit’s wife telling me that when she felt sad, she wrote poetry. So sorrow became a constant companion. First her father whose
trust was betrayed by his business partner took his own life. Then two of her daughters died in the US; one murdered by her own husband and the other in a car accident.
Amarjit sought solace in religion, poetry and paintings. After her husband’s death she changed her name to Amar Mohanjit.
So far she has not bothered to hold an exhibition of her work which had been only published in some Punjabi journals. I hope to persuade her to organise an exhibition, as I am sure, she will be a sell-out. As the saying goes: One must not hide one’s light under a bushel.
The lightness of being Prem, an Osho disciple, turned up one evening without an appointment.
She sent in her visiting card. It had no name on it, only a picture of Osho.
With it was a New Year’s greeting card. It had a message which I failed to decipher. See if you can understand it. It reads: “The true nature is your eternal nature. You cannot have it and not have it, it is not something that comes and goes — it is you. How can it come and go? It is your being.
It is your very foundation. It cannot be sometimes and not be sometimes; it is always there. (Osho — And the flowers showered) ”.