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Molehill to Mt Everest

The legend of Ram is still embedded in the minds of a vast majority of Indians. We celebrate his birthdays, recall his deeds during Dusshera but we still do not know the year he was born, writes Khushwant Singh.
None | By Khushwant Singh
UPDATED ON OCT 13, 2007 04:05 AM IST

We Indians have a genius formaking the most trivial of issues into matters of utmost national importance. The latest example of this mania for exaggeration is the hoo-ha created over the Ram Sethu project. The issue is simple: Is it feasible to dredge a few miles of the sea separating India from Sri Lanka to allow ships plying between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea to go through rather than go round Sri Lanka?

It would cost a lot of money to do so; it would have been wiser to balance the pros and cons of the project without raking up historical data with religious overtones.

However, officials concerned committed that blunder. In all probability millions of years ago India and Sri Lanka were connected by a narrow strip of land which was later submerged. It may have been used by Shri Ram’s army to cross over to rescue Sita. Why take up the issue now?

The statement issued by the Archeological Survey of India questioning the existence of Shri Ram was totally unwarranted and unnecessary. Poor Ambika Soni probably never read it before it was issued and is taking the rap for it.

The legend of Shri Ram is deeply embedded in the minds of a vast majority of Indians: We celebrate his birthdays; we recall his deeds during Dusshera; we celebrate his triumphant return from exile on Diwali and meeting his brother during Bharat Milap. However, we still do not know the year he was born. His name is synonymous with that of God in the Sikhs’ Granth Sahib.

Next to Hari, it is Ram’s name that occurs most frequently as the God-head. Anyone who does not know that is either ignorant or trying to be deliberately provocative. The Opposition, which is starved of ideas to take on the government, has been presented with a plateful of laddoos to celebrate the government’s discomfiture. It will eventually cash in on it at the elections to come.

Nevertheless, it is not something we should be breaking each other’s heads about: What we have to decide is whether or not the Ram Sethu project is worth pursuing.

Dreaming of Paradise

Belief in the Day of Judgement with heaven or hell to follow according to one’s conduct in life is one of the basic tenets of Islam. Nevertheless, many otherwise devout its validity. I asked former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who is a renowned secularist, how he combined his scientific approach to life with Youmiddeen —the Day of Judgement. He gave me an evasive answer: “It is all in the mind.” I did not think it polite to press him further.

Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib did not mince his words: “We know the truth about paradise but it is not a bad idea to beguile the mind,” he wrote. But he never claimed to be a devout Muslim. He did not fast during Ramadaan and he loved his Scotch Whisky in the evening.

What came as a surprise to me was poet Sir Mohammad Iqbal: He was a devout Muslim and never questioned Islamic beliefs. How do you explain these lines?

“Koi ab tak na yeh samjha keh insaan, kahaan jaata hai, aataa hai kahaan say?” (No one has yet understood where man goes to after he dies and from where he comes). Will some knowledgeable reader please enlighten me?

Three Poisons

“There are three poisons that will destroy humanity: Greed, anger and ignorance,” said the Buddha. Islam provides three antidotes to these poisons: Adl (Justice), ehsaan (compassion) and Ilm (knowledge). To counteract greed, be fair to others; anger can be overcome by compassion; ignorance by learning. Prophet Mohammed who was himself unable to read or write, lauded knowledge above all things. He proclaimed: “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr.”

BJP’s Monsoon Session

We are opposed to the nuclear deal and we sincerely feel that until the deal is done or undone, Parliament must not function. Not that we are opposed to the deal as such. In fact, we were doing one very much worse than what the government has done.

But, because we are the principal Opposition, we must see to it that Parliament does not function, so that our duplicity doesn’t come out into the open and there is no discussion on the Sachchar Commission Report.

The country, instead is focussed on the Ram Sethu agitation? What is the top priority of the nation?

Contributed by Kuldio Salil (Delhi)

Ode to Bapu:

Wah ray Bapu Gandhi//Kya chalee teyree aandhee//Aaya ttha langote mein//Aur ghus gaayaa das, pachhas, sau and panch sau key notein mein. (Bravo Bapu Gandhi//You raised a stormy breeze// You came in a loin cloth//You made to the ten, fifty, hundred and five-hundred rupees note.)

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