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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

A time and place to worship

Preachers of religion tell us that God?s presence is not restricted by time or place, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2007 01:49 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh

Preachers of religion tell us that God’s presence is not restricted by time or place. He is eternal and omnipresent. However, when it comes to practice, all religions endorse pilgrimages at particular times and places. Thus, Muslims have Haj when they assemble in millions to pray at Mecca and Madina: visiting these holy cities on other times is called Umra and accorded lesser importance.

Hindus, who are particular than Muslims about time, fix the trysting hour with precision as well as the exact place for it to take place. So, we have Kumbh Melas, where they gather in the millions on the banks of the Sangam of the Ganga, Yamuna and the imagined Sarswati at Allahabad to take what is known as the holy dip. Sikhs have a more relaxed attitude towards times and places for communion with the divine: all the gurus’ birth and martyrdom anniversaries are observed by visiting Gurdwaras and taking out huge processions through crowded thoroughfares.

Do such gatherings or processions have any impact on a person’s character? I am not sure but those who believe in participating in such events assure me that they create bonding between the like-minded and give a feeling of fulfilment. That may be so. But, count the cost in lives and cash. Two years ago a stampede during Haj took the lives of over 350 people at Mecca. There is hardly a Kumbh when such incidents do not take place. This year was a lucky exception. Every pilgrimage requires special air, train and bus services: the cost runs into thousands of crores of rupees. Every procession causes damage to business and for people living along its route, the loss is incalculable. One could well ask: have these massive demonstrations of religiosity any bearing on any religion?

Of course, mammoth gatherings make a grand spectacle. Seeing thousands of Muslims go through their genuflection with military precision is awe-inspiring. So are the vast assemblages of Naga Sadhus, dressed in nothing but ashes against the biting cold walking in unending lines to enter the icy cold waters of the Sangam. A lady journalist who went to cover it for her journal gave a glowing account of the city of tents that was erected along the riverbanks. Tents were lit with chandeliers. Processions had elephants, horses, limousines and bands. Smoking ganja was the done thing. She expected to see thousands of males stark-naked. All of them wore langotis.

Litigation in the Blood

You must know people who have litigation in their blood. They are forever on the look out to take somebody or the other to court for some imaginary wrong done to them. Somebody spits or urinates in their garden, they run to the police station to lodge an FIR (First Information Report). If the police refuse to take cognisance, they hire lawyers and file a suit. It has nothing to do with their gender: both women and men are prone to this disease which may be labelled malignant litigious.

I know from experience because quite a few women and men (I will not honour them as lady or gentleman) have dragged me to the courts. There were no aera-ghaira (hoi-polloi) : they included ministers, governors of states, leaders of different political parties, judges of the High Courts, architects, doctors, writers etc. I wasted many days hanging around law courts waiting for my cases to be heard. I wondered why court complexes which provide Bar rooms for lawyers do not have similar facilities for litigants where victims of the litigants club could while away the hours. Another suggestion I have is for the police. They maintain a list of names of local badmashs (bad characters) in register number 10 (hence dus numbari). They should also have a separate register listing names of men and women who are compulsive litigants and whose complaints could be ignored.

I am itching to divulge the names of people who have pestered me by filling frivolous cases against me for fear of their repeating the same exercise to harass me. They can make another's life miserable. One who was offended by my inability to write about her achievements in my column filed a suit wanting one of my books banned for obscenity. In a sworn affidavit she denied ever having met or approached me. As a matter of fact, she had dined with me and accompanied me to dinner at a friend’s home. Fortunately, her case was dismissed. It was common knowledge that she had been doing this kind of thing for many years. She has not given up: she is a case of congenital malignant litigious.

Black & White

When I born, I Black
When I grow up, I Black
When I go in Sun, I Black
When I scared, I Black
When I sick, I Black
And when I die, I still Black.
And you white fella,
When you born, You Pink
When you grow up, you White,
When you in Sun, You Red,
When you cold, You Blue,
When you scared, You Yellow
When you sick, You Green,
And when you die, You Gray…
And you calling me coloured?

(Contributed by Vipin Bucksey, New Delhi)

First Published: Jan 27, 2007 00:56 IST