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We need both the US nuclear know-how, as well as Iranian gas to meet our needs for power. We cannot go on wasting our Forex buying oil from other nations, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2007 15:43 IST

Has Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a good deal with President Bush of America? Most Indians think he has; most Americans think the same way. But in both countries we have vociferous minorities opposed to it.

In India we have the communists led by Prakash Karat and the saffronites led by BJPs L.K. Advani who for reasons of their own are strongly opposed to it. Karat reminds me of the Hindi saying: Saree khudaaee ek taraf, joroo kaa bhai ek taraf — the world on one side, my wife’s brother on the other.

However, his brother-in-law (sala) is a part of the ruling alliance, but when it comes to having anything to do with Uncle Sam, he loses his cool. After he has had his say, he calms down, sulks for a while, then nods his assent without saying a word.

The saffronites who regard Karat’s party as their worst enemies are quite willing to strike a deal with them in the expectation that together they may be able to topple the Sonia-Manmohan government. They hope that in the general election, that must ensue, they may be able to get back to power with Advani as Prime Minister. I hope Karat and kin don’t fall into Advani’s trap.

Does the deal compromise our independence in any way? There is bound to be pressure from the US to make us toe its foreign policy, cancel the deal we have made with Iran to buy gas from it. We can, and are, going to resist that pressure. We need both the US nuclear know-how, as well as Iranian gas to meet our domestic needs for power. We cannot go on wasting our foreign exchange reserves buying oil from other countries.

Does the deal inhibit us from developing nuclear weapons? To be honest I don’t think we should bother about that. Nuclear bombs are like suicide bombers, which destroy themselves in the process of destroying their enemies. If that is what we want, we already have the means to do so. So have China and Pakistan. Nothing could be more foolish.

Maharani of our Park

I know the editor of a magazine, he is the ablest of his breed and probably the highest paid in the country. I admired him, envied his success but did not warm towards him till one of his minions casually mentioned his daily routine.

He works long hours in office and is usually the last to leave. At the gate a dozen street urchins and stray dogs await him. His chaprasi fill pots with milk for the dogs; he hands over a hundred rupee note to the eldest boy to buy sweets or ice-creams.

When I learnt that he does this every evening, my heart melted. It does so towards anyone who makes this kind of activity a part of his daily life. That is the reason of my affection for my next-door neighbour Reeta Devi. While working with Mother Teresa, she married Rajkumar Bhim Varma of Cooch Bihar, nephew of Rajmata Gayatri Devi of Jaipur.

They moved from Kolkata to Sujan Singh Park, New Delhi. Every evening Bhim sets out from his flat, his car loaded with packets of buffalo meat cooked with rice and spends a couple of hours feeding street dogs. He did this without fail till the last day of his life.

His wife took on where her husband had left. And with redoubled zeal. She handed over the running of the hospital she built in Guwahati (she is Assamese) to the Missionaries of charity.

She set up the Ila Trust to render free medical services to the poor. She continued to feed dogs as well as cats in her neighbourhood. Four years ago Kapil Sibal gifted her a mobile clinic. She had two doctors, a nurse, X-Ray and other diagnostic implements to run it. It started going out to distant parts of the city. Kapil hoped she would give priority to his Parliamentary constituency. She bluntly refused to do so. Charity must not be selective or result-oriented. Kapil agreed and let her do things her own way.

The Prime Minister’s wife Gursharan Kaur periodically gives her shirts, sweaters, and mufflers to distribute among the needy.

Last year the famous singer Sir Elton John gifted Reeta Devi with a bigger mobile clinic. Now she operates two of them with a team of doctors and nurses. On average they treat around 300 patients per mobile clinic every morning. Ranbaxy and Cipla have donated medicines in the past. She needs much more: medicines, biscuits, blankets, clothes etc. She is desperately in need of money and medicines. She does not even have space to park her two mobile clinics.

My feelings towards Reeta Devi are a mixture of awe, admiration and affection. She has an imperious temper; everyone in the neighbourhood is scared of her. Everyone knows what she is doing; so everyone admires her. Whenever she steps out of her apartment, cats and dogs gather round her, rubbing their bodies against her legs or licking her hands. She looks like the Queen of Sheba with her retinue of slaves following her.

First Published: Aug 25, 2007 00:49 IST