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Of unhappy memories, a mad world and stray dogs

Recollection of happy events fade from memory in a few years; hurtful episodes rankle in the mind for ever. I can recall a few which continue to disturb my siestas. Khushwant Singh writes.

columns Updated: Mar 10, 2012 22:30 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh

Unhappy memories
Recollection of happy events fade from memory in a few years; hurtful episodes rankle in the mind for ever. I can recall a few which continue to disturb my siestas.

Two were during my years as practicing lawyer in Lahore. I was walking along a verandah, which ran along entrances of a few courtrooms. Ahead of me were four or five lawyers talking at the top of their voices, shouting and laughing. As a chaprasi came out of the courtroom, they fled out of sight. The chaprasi caught me by the arm and said, “Judge Sahib bula rahey hain — the honourable judges have summoned you.”

I followed him obediently. It was three-judge bench presided by a Muslim whose name escapes me. He was in a foul temper and roared at me: “I will convict you of contempt of court and ban you from practice. How dare you make noise outside a court room?” I was shaken and kept bowing my head as a gesture of repentance. I went back home and did not return to the Bar Association for a few days till gossip of the incident had died down. I did not divulge names of the noise-making lawyers. None of them had the decency to tell the judges that I was innocent.

A few years later, I happened to appear before chief justice Mehr Chand Mahajan to argue a case on behalf of the government. Before I could open my mouth, he started going for me. The gist of his diatribe was that it took more than a rich father and a good-looking wife to make a successful lawyer. The case on record was postponed for hearing on a later date. I never understood the reason for his dislike for me.

Even after partition when we had migrated to Delhi, he continued to belittle me. When retired justice Sir Dalip Singh, a Christian, proposed my name as editor of The Tribune, to be published from Chandigarh he turned it down with the remark: “Eh vee inhan dey havaaley kar dayo — you want to give away all this as well to these people (meaning the Sikhs).” I never got the editorship of The Tribune. His communal prejudices went beyond being anti-Muslim and extended to Sikhs as well. I never understood him as two of his sons were on amicable terms with me. He was a greater lawyer who rose to be Chief Justice, but he was also a narrow-minded bigot.

Crazy World
The latest issue of Private Eye has this as a sample of how mad the world can be: “Blindness is not one of the disqualifiers for getting a gun permit in New Jersey,” Catherine Broderick of the Morris County prosecutor’s office admitted at a press conference in Rockaway. NJ., “but alcoholism is. Despite having been totally blind for most of his adult life, Steven Hopler’s right to bear and use arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment and we do not dispute that; but he was provided himself unfit to own guns due to his drinking problem.

In 2003, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct while intoxicated in possession of firearms, in 2008 he shot himself in the shin while handling a .357 Magnum, and after a recent burglary at his house, police found a loaded pistol inside an oven mitt, and another tucked under a sofa cushion. His alcoholism makes him unfit to own guns, and we seek to revoke his permits.”

However, Hopler’s lawyer, Gregg D Trautmann, disputed the contention that his client had a chronic drinking problem. “Apart from an isolated incident in 2003, he has led a law-abiding life for 49 years. In 1993, a judge agreed that he had a constitutional right to own a gun, and gave him a permit, despite police objections. He’s legally permitted to keep guns at home, and to shoot them at a firing range, using a remote controlled bell to locate the target. After shooting himself in the leg, he compiled with a court order to complete a course on the safekeeping of weapons and to have his sobriety evaluated. He passed both tests, so why should the police seek to deny him his constitutional right to own a gun?”

Victims of Cruelty
I liked your column in Hindustan Times, (February 26). Please do write such pieces to persuade people to be kinder towards animals, especially stray dogs, which often become victims of cruelty.
I too have a dog at home brought from Friendicoes. It is very mischievous but I love it.

Love for Love
Two deprived souls // Are living together in love
One is dog // and another is its owner
The dog behaves// As if its sole aim in life
Is to love and be loved
Its master, though a human// is fortunately not human
In treating a dog like a dog // He too thinks
Love is everything in life // Poor soul doesn’t know
That love was buried deep // when the original race started,
A never ending marathon // For obvious goals, unattainable targets
Run…run…run // Run for this, run for that
But run one should// Blunting every other sensibility
So where would he seek // unalloyed and unconditional love
If not in a dog// which must have got a lion’s share when love was first distributed.

(Contributed by Dr J Bhagyalakshmi, New Delhi)

First Published: Mar 10, 2012 22:26 IST