How G20 sprucing up left hundreds running for cover!

They were uprooted and shooed away from the streets and pavements of Delhi because the establishment did not want them to be seen or even spotted by the foreign delegates to the G20 meet!

I’m sitting, writing this column on 9 September…It’s well past sunset and it’s raining, in and around New Delhi. Heavy to very heavy downpour. Wondering rather aloud: what’s  been the  fate of the  hundreds of  our citizens who have  been uprooted and shifted and  shooed away  from the  streets and  parks and  pavements of  the capital city. Perhaps, because the establishment wanted it this way. That is, keep them away from the scene!

Yes, for the past many days sprucing has been on …make-up has been put on, inflicted on this capital city. Cover ups!  Removal of men and women and children who do not fit in the happening category!  Even cart pullers and rickshaw pullers and road side sellers pulled aside. None of them to be seen or even spotted by the foreign delegates to the G20 meet!

What’s all this? Let the foreign guests and the supposed who’s who of the world see our capital city with its ground realities, with its citizens in the varying surviving modes.

Also, let’s not overlook the fact that the foreign delegates would be well too aware of the ground realities of the day. They would be aware of the poverty and malnutrition and the tough living conditions of a large percentage of our population. They would also be aware of the dismal realities faced by the minority communities and groups in the country – Dalits, Christians and the Muslims. They would be more than aware of the civil strife in Manipur, the communal poisoning-cum-violence being made to spread out in the various states, and the tight-grim conditions  prevailing in the  Kashmir Valley.

‘Khyaal’ for the seniors!

With the World Senior Citizens’ Day 2023 just  passing by (August 21) and as the  World  Alzheimer’s  Day  ( 21  September) nears, I’m  focusing on the  platform –  Khyaal – for  the senior citizens of the country.

Last month at the  Bengaluru  Poetry  Festival, I’d  met  the  Mumbai-based Hemanshu  Jain, who started this forum  to try reach out to the  senior citizens of the country. He and his team members come from diverse fields and  professions; two of his team members were formerly crew members with a well-known airlines but  quit so as to reach out to the senior citizens!

What struck was their enthusiasm; earnestness cum sincerity rather writ large. And it’s not that they were focusing only on the ailments and setbacks related to the elderly but they were so very freely discussing the varying aspects to life and everyday living.

‘My work kept me going all these years’

Khushwant Singh

I ‘m reminded of  what  Khushwant  Singh  had told me when I’d asked  him what’s  kept  him going …He’d  passed away at 99 and all too intact! This when he suffered several upheavals, went through some very tough phases in life — both, on the personal and also on the  professional fronts yet he continued undeterred and strong…Reasons to his longevity? According to me, one of the reasons for his longevity was the fact that there was no contradiction between his head and the heart. He was straightforward and honest and had the grit to talk aloud the stark realities. Also, he never bypassed talking about his insecurities and challenges he’d faced. And also the regrets in his life.

On how he managed to live all intact all those long  years he’d said in that characteristic blunt way, “ Don’t  know  why and  how I  have  lived  so long!  This could be  because of the  fact that  I’m alone, by  myself, sitting  in silence  …after all, silence is meditation. I’m  fortunate  I can  spend  a  lot  of  time alone, by  myself …it  is  very  beneficial, as the  mind  gets  an  enormous   amount  of rest  and  a  day’s  silence  gives more energy.  Blank your  mind  for a  while  and  this  I suppose is  the sole  purpose of  meditation  …enjoy   solitude!”

 He’d  also detailed, “No, never, have  I sat  depressed  …even  when I  was sacked as editor  of the  Illustrated  Weekly  I didn’t   go  into  depression  but  took  up writing a novel and writing helped  me to  go ahead  …Even   when   my  wife   passed away  (after almost  62  years of  marriage) I sat alone  all night, going  over the  past. But  when   people  kept  dropping in,  it  got  tough to  cope and  I went  off  to  Goa. I wanted to be left alone. Today, my friends and contemporaries have all gone. I  feel  like a  solitary  traveler left  on the  road, when  others  have  fallen  by the roadside. I  have  gone through several setbacks, and each  time  it’s   work  and  more  work that  has  kept  me  going. I’m emotionally  strong. Even  as a child  I  have  been  known to  speak  my  mind. And have rarely ever lied.  And I rarely get angry. And I’m not short tempered nor vengeful so that also helps. Even  when a friend  has  been  rude  I  just  move  away. One thing I can’t stand is rudeness and making sure that I don’t ever meet that person again.”

But life couldn’t have been all too smooth? I had asked him

“No life hasn’t been smooth. I  have had  my quota  of  setbacks  and financial  insecurities in those  earlier  days but  what  actually  helped  me to go ahead  is writing. Yes, only and only my writing helped me .Writing  has  been  a   constant  factor. In fact, even to this day I ‘m  engrossed  in writing and would  do so  till the  very end. No, there’s nothing called retirement for me. In fact,  in  my  third  year  as   editor of the  Hindustan Times, when  my  contract  was due for  renewal, KK Birla  asked  me about  my  retirement  plans, whether  I’d like to  retire. I  told  him rather categorically that I’d only retire at the  Nigambodh  Ghat!”

 He’d also added, “I do  follow what  the  Quran and  Hadith  stresses on –  don’t  waste time, so  every single  moment is  to  be   used, to  be  well utilized and  one cannot  just  sit and   brood. Earlier, whenever tense I used to go and visit the cremation grounds. It does have a cleansing effect but now I go nowhere. Once in a while to the dentist’s otherwise for weeks or months I’m here, in my apartment.”

He would also say, “No matter how big the setback or irritant, don’t get hassled or worked up. Instead, try saying this one-liner to yourself whenever something has gone wrong: ‘It  doesn’t  matter…I don’t give a damn!’ Yes, say this sentence to yourself and you will surely feel lighter and less tense.”

Khushwant  would  often quote this verse of  Nathaniel Cotton (1721-1788):

 “If solid happiness we prize;

Within our breast this jewel lies;

And they are fools who roam;

The world has nothing to bestow;

From our own selves our joys must flow;

And that dear hut, our home.”