A son’s painful search for his father and an identity

While writing about the cold-blooded murder of Salman Taseer I overlooked the problem of identity his son Aatish has had to solve. He was born in London. Khushwant Singh writes.
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Updated on Jul 23, 2011 07:52 PM IST
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None | ByKhushwant Singh

While writing about the cold-blooded murder of Salman Taseer I overlooked the problem of identity his son Aatish has had to solve. He was born in London. His father had him circumcised and given a Muslim name Aatish (flame). After he ditched him and his Sikh mother Tavleen Singh, both came to live in New Delhi with her Sikh family. One day Aatish and his Sikh cousins were urinating against some bushes, one of them noticed his penis looked different from theirs and remarked: “Aatish da soo soo nanga hai”. It was as classic a summary of the difference between Muslims and others barring Jews from whom Muslims had taken the practice. Thereafter Aatish had the problem of identity — who was he? He wrote about it in his first book Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands. It makes fascinating reading of the varieties of Islamic practices. He decided to make his home in England and periodically came to Delhi to be with his mother.

Aatish has inherited his parents’ good looks. Among his many admirers was a young lady belonging to British Royal family. She described him as the handsomest young man she had ever met. They were together for a couple of years and it was rumoured that they were contemplating marriage. Only they know whether or not they will tie the knot.

Road Rage

The other day two cars scraped each other in Khan market and their drivers came to blows. One who was manager of a Italian restaurant was run over by the car driven by a Jet Airways pilot. The incident made first page headlines news in all the newspapers and TV channels. All of them called it road rage, as if it was man slaughter without malice aforethought. I live across the road to the khan market. I have noticed the changes that have taken place till a few years ago it was like any other market with enough space to park cars and go round window-gazing and buy anything you needed: vegetables, flowers, meat, books, magazines, paan-beedi and liquor. If two cars scraped each other; the matter was amicably settled by exchange of abuse. Now Khan Market has become the elitist shopping centre and has a dozen eateries of different nationalities. It is jammed-full of parked cars at all hours till past midnight. The cars scrapping each other has become a routine. There is no such thing as a road; it is like a large parking lot.

A true instance of road rage which occurred some years ago remains in my mind because a celebrity was involved. The cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, now a BJP member of Parliament had a scrap with the driver of another car at a rail crossing. Sidhu punched the fellow on his face. The poor fellow died. I don't remember what followed but Sidhu won the Lok Sabha seat from Amritsar. He has not made much of mark as an MP but is quite a character on TV channels as a Joker. He is a born joker and often a judge of other jokers. He giggles all the time and often goes into hysterics of laughter, slapping his thighs and doubling up with laughter. He will go down in history as the official jester of the Bhajpa.

Life and Death

Your leaving makes me wonder why,

For what purpose, we live and die.

Long ago your father left you,

Then your pious mother bid adieu.

When shall this curious relay end?

What purpose did its start intend?

We linger about, then are gone.

All we do is pass the baton.

We’re here but to argue and fight

And then to go into the night.

(Courtesy: Sanjay Yadav, Bhopal)

Modern Ramayana

Ram: My father owned the whole of Ayodhya. They are giving me 500 square metres and expect me to be satisfied.

Sita: If that is all we are getting, and with food prices hitting the roof, how will we survive. I think I’ll open a travel agency to earn some money.

Laxman: I’ve spent years facing high speed missiles, thrown by foreign demons, in order to defend the country. I think I can face them for few more years.

Shatrughan: Royalty is defunct, so I am going to become a politician. I hear that it is a lucrative profession.

Ravan: I seem to have become unpopular. People just didn’t come to see my latest public appearance.

(Contributed by Rajeshwari Singh, New Delhi)

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