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Spelling for peace

I have done my very best to understand what the word Hindutva means. LK Advani calls it “a noble concept” without spelling out what is so noble about it, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2009 00:16 IST
Khushwant Singh

I have done my very best to understand what the word Hindutva means. LK Advani calls it “a noble concept” without spelling out what is so noble about it. Govindacharya who is regarded as the top brain of Hindu fundamentalists gave a longish explanation of what it really means – fair dealing with everyone, rule of law and justice etc. That could apply to just about every political party’s verbal agenda. Now Rajnath Singh, President of the BJP, tells us that there is a softer alternative to Hindutva to be known as Bandhutva — brotherhood of mankind embracing all communities. It can be inferred that Rajnath Singh admits that the original concept of Hindutva was harsh and needed softening. Why not drop first letter ‘H’ which gives it a distinct communal connotation and call it Indutva (Indianness)?

Instead of being caught up in meaningless wrangle over words, allow me to put a few questions to Advani, Rajnath Singh and Govindacharya. Their answers should be either yes or no. I ask them simple questions because most people think they are integral to their not-so-hidden agenda.
Slow coach: The 15 minute journey from Khan Market to Vasant Vihar took us over 45 minutes. Sanjeev Verma/HT

One, does your Hindutva or Bandhutva include building of a Ram Mandir on the very site on which the Babri Masjid once stood ?

Two, are there other mosques still on your agenda for demolition? At one time they were at least two more, one in Varanasi and another in Mathura on your hit list.

Three, will you ban conversion from Hinduism to Islam or Christianity but allow conversions from Islam and Christianity to Hinduism ?

Last Lingering Look
After many months of isolation in my little apartment I went out to have a look at the city in which I have lived most of my 94 years. And for no better reason than to see my dentist Dr. Siddharth Mehta who has shifted from Khan Market across the road to half-way down the metropolis to Vasant Vihar. I have no car or a driver. I had to tag along with my niece Geeta who has an apartment with him. She agreed to fit me in between other appointments.

We reckoned it would take us between 15 and 20 minutes to get to Vasant Vihar. It took us over 45 minutes through roads clogged with slow-moving traffic coming to a stand-still every few minutes. It gave me time to look at the changes that had taken place. There was a lot more greenery. Though there were not many trees in flower—only a second blossoming of Laburnums (Amaltas) and remains of Jeruls (Queen Flower). Many walls were covered with purple Bougainvilleas in full leafy blossom. All the houses along the route had a look of clean prosperity. No hawkers, no garbage, no street dogs. I felt proud of my city and blessed Sheila Dikshit for making a good job of it. The only negative point was the chaotic state of traffic: too many cows on roads which cannot be widened. Flyovers have failed to reduce the congestion.

Something has to be done about it or the city will choke to death. What that something is, I have no idea.

I also wondered if in the near future we can have polyclinics with doctors, dentists, opticians and medical practitioners in every locality within easy reach of people who have no cars and are too old to use public transport. That perhaps is a pipedream.

Dr. Mehta’s clinic has black marble steps leading to the reception room. It is as spic and span and with the latest dental equipment. I was surprised to see it was as crowded as the one he had in Khan Market. I had to await my turn and sit a long time in the dental chair before he found time to attend to me. And all the time I kept thinking how I would be able to go down the marble stairs without stumbling. I was in for a pleasant surprise. Having finished with me, Dr. Mehta escorted me to the staircase and went down the steps ahead of me. He passed a pedal and a small platform rose from the ground to the level of the reception room. He came up and joined me on the platform. He pressed a button and the platform slowly lowered itself to road level. That’s the 21st Century New Delhi for me.

My friend was teaching his four-year old grandson. There was the word ‘hardship’ in the book. So my friend with all earnest efforts tried to explain the exact meaning. “You know Sonny,” he said, “hardship means severe suffering, trouble etc.” The little boy listened carefully. After a minute, he calmly asked, “Grandpa, is there any word called softship?”

(Contributed by Reeten Ganguly, Tezpur)