Sunday, July 22, 2018

An Autobiography of Global-Warrior-Poet

Professor Doctor Ved Prakash ‘Vatuk’ (वेदप्रकाश 'वटुक'), an amazingly gifted poet and a multi-disciplinary scholar, has presented-on his 87th birth day, on April 13, 2018 - the fullest autobiographical account of his life and time to his global circle of readers and comrades. He has solemnly stated, "Dedicated with reverence to the pious memory of my ancestors and love to my descendants."  He quotes lines from Atharava Veda to emphasize and eulogize the dire necessity - like Oxygen - of ‘Freedom from Fear’ for all living species - humans above all - during their limited sojourn on this planet. A meticulously disciplined and deeply devoted artist of ‘penning words of beauty and wisdom’, he had started this magnum opus on 11th October, 2016 - the birth day of his late scholarly brother Ramniwas Vidyarthi - and completed it on 21st November, 2017 - the date of the anniversary of death of both Ram and a sister, Shanti. The reader will have to be a brave hearted and a determined seeker to complete the ‘Paath - study with reverence’ of this epochal saga of Ved’s multi-challenged early life and a continuously active participation in the struggles for justice and human dignity waged by the marginalized and discriminated people in all the countries of the world. This unique literary creation requires to be studied and meditated upon as an epic of poet’s marathon run of life in his soulful lifelong search and ceaseless struggle in quest of Freedom, Equality and Justice for the human race.  

We have to embark upon poet Vatuk’s ‘Meri Saar Gujashat-Aap-‘hadd’ (bones) Beeti i.e. An Account of my Life’ accepting an ugly and harsh truth that the entire history of humanity can be studied, analyzed and understood as an endless chronology of personal and collective travails of bloody conflicts and violence premised and disguised in the utterly false pretexts like race and religion but plainly paraphrased as crude and naked barbarity, loot and plunder. The wise philosophers of earlier civilizations; learned political thinkers of later centuries;  the modern socio-biologists and the latest breed of behavior scientists have all made ceaseless and sincere endeavors to decode deeper underlying impulses behind the mass elimination of one group of ‘naked apes’ by another of the same species - audaciously still calling itself 'homo sapiens'! The colonial imperialism created and practiced by the various European countries during the last five centuries of the world history - in the wake of the era of discoveries of the new oceanic routes - characteristically differed from the earlier versions of the empires patched up via the tough terrains of the land routes. The subjugated countries were, in the new deal of dehumanizing discrimination amounting to enslavement, to be systematically exploited for enriching the distantly lying conquering countries. The tiny tribe from the British Isles was, perhaps, to turn out to be the cleverest of all to put together the most splendid example of this model by adopting ‘nashtam-pushtam i.e. destroy and nourish’ policy in the ‘legendary ancient land of glory that was India’. 

The historic background of the emergence of the brand new nation named the United States of America was, however, peculiarly unprecedented: the consequence of the sectarian persecution in Europe - majority of them  being Anglo Saxons - creating a vast new state. The process had been preceded by a brutal decimation of the local people and their cultures. The newly contrived state then proclaimed itself to be the first in the world to craft a Constitution adopting the high and lofty ideals of governance which were, however, adroitly confined to the few people of the Caucasian race. The inspiration for the participatory democracy had surely come from the intoxicating slogans of the French Revolution of July 1789 - Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The Iberian colonial powers - Spain and Portugal - outsmarted others in resorting to ruthless genocidal oppression in eliminating the local populace - but having no compunctions in ‘cultivating’ their women and ‘pro-creating’ a new racial dimension; and then resorting to oppression against their own blood-product!

The dawn of the twentieth century witnessed the beginning of the determined efforts by the natives in many countries to regain their freedom from the colonial powers. The long drawn - faithfully claimed to be based on 'Ahimsa - Nonviolence' - struggle in India waged by the Indian National Congress under the leadership of MK Gandhi - indeed set unimagined high moral standards for its followers to attain their political goals. It is in this overarched frame of reference that we have to study and examine the epochal autobiography of Ved Prakash ‘Vatuk’, a many splendored man - a versatile scholar-academic; a lifelong activist for equality and justice and above all a Mahankavi - a gifted prolific poet. 

This essay is an attempt at a difficult literary task - a reader friendly lucid review of the mighty work of a poet-thinker, published in Four Parts of Paper Back - running into a total 1231 pages - written in masterly Hindi of the soil of Tulsi and Rahim, aptly hailed as a ‘Historic Document disguised as an Autobiography’. The life of Ved Prakash, born on April 13, 1932 in a Gaud Brahmin family, living in a small village called Fazal Pur - meaning, ‘Full of Blessing’, located 32 km from historic city of Meerut, in its North West, indeed embraces the heart and soul of the pulsating and evolving India as well as the tumultuous and technology driven new world of the Europe, UK and the USA. How simple boy from a small place belonging to a ‘Swatantarata Senani - Soldiers of Freedom’ family of very modest means managed to beg and borrow money here and there from friends and relations for the sea fare and mustered enough courage to take the plunge - at the age of 23 - into the vast unknown to cross oceans and face all the unimagined challenges of living, learning and protesting - all indeed constitute the spinal-cord of the story of our unusual hero. He had sought to brave it all with just the inherited integrity and nobility of his personal character - and the only craft he had known: to compose poetry! 

Book 1 - भटकाव ही पथ बन गए
To get an introduction and broader understanding of this most truthful literary testament chronicling ‘toil, tears and triumph’ of our self-effacing hero, let us begin with a summarized over view of the Aatam Katha - literally, Story of the soul - I am even tempted call it ‘Vatukayan’, after the immortal Indian epic! The First Part - 67 chapters, without any headings and list of contents in the beginning, spanning 384 pages - is interestingly titled, ‘Getting Stranded: It also paved Path Ways’ describes, in the minutest details, the early life of Ved, son of Krishan Lal (b. 1886) and Kripi Devi who had been married, as per tradition, in their early teens. Ved - their 13th and the last issue, born on April 13, 1931 - had been preceded by the 1st born eldest brother, Sundar Lal (b. in 1906) and then the three sisters; the next seven male issues had not survived more than a couple of years. Most memorably, the saintly son, Sunder, is quoted consoling his mother, “Don’t worry, my dear Mom; like my three sisters, we will be three brothers too!” - P. 22. And Ved, most  memorably, records, "As if to prove this pious prediction by the noble - in the scriptural echo - son to be correct, younger brother Ram Niwas was born, 21 years later after  Sunder’s own birth and I followed four years later!" - P. 23. So deeply sadly, writes Ved with a courage of his conviction, “mother became blind after the birth of Ram - may be - because of lack of proper nursing care and had to live with the disability from age 41 till her death at 85 in 1971” - P. 30. He, however, states that lack of sight did not inhibit her life style of active routine and a fuller participation in all the affairs of the family. Ved, the Shravan son, proudly refers to her phenomenal memory - which the youngest son would seem to have inherited in equally ample measure! Vatuk’s love and devotion towards the two elder brothers - father had died in 1941, at the age of 55 - and the three sisters might seem to have been, as if, inspired straight from pages of Hindu scriptures. 

The dedicated patriot and social servant of the strictly Gandhian creed, Sunder Lal, was arrested and imprisoned six times between 1921-42, for a longer spell during the ‘Quit India Movement’ in 1942. A son, named Onkar Dutt, was born to his wife Balwanti Devi in Oct. 1942. Ved was deeply inculcating the values of self-denial, patriotism and sacrifice for the society in the rapidly expanding joint family and in the company of many elders around who were all self-sacrificing freedom fighters. He braved with the crowd - as a child of eight - to walk a distance of 10 km on a cold day of January in 1940 to have glimpse of Neta Ji Subhas Chandra Bose. The 54th Session of the Congress in Meerut on November 23-26, 1946 was indeed the most memorable - a dream come true - a life time opportunity for ‘boy-Ved’ to have,’paavan Darshan - holy sight’ of the top leaders of the freedom struggle. The witty Acharya JB Kriplani impressed him. Jawaharlal was the perfect picture of grace and people simply adored him. Ved passed his Matriculation Examination in 1948 obtaining the first position in his school. He went on to complete M.A. in Sanskrit in 1954; he had obtained special distinctions in the earlier Intermediate and B.A. Examinations, displaying a distinct aptitude and high proficiency for languages. A few sadder experiences in seeking some suitable employment and increasing disappointment with the steep decline in the Gandhian-values based politics and creeping ‘hera-pheris - unfair practices’ in the government of the Congress Party confused him-more of it is authentically detailed in later Parts. It was, however, the sudden strong urge to go abroad and the attraction ‘to see the wide world’ overpowered his mind with the idea to go abroad. An old friend Narayan’s example of doing well in London was an added inspiration. Managing to obtain the passport after several hiccups - a tough task in those days if you could not pull some high official string - and borrowing small sums from several friends and relations to purchase the ticket for journey by sea to London, Ved has given hilarious accounts of situations because of his not having lack of basic necessities like proper clothing for such a travel and ignorance about food and other amenities in the ship - he was even uncomfortable using the flush system! Anyway, braving all the odds of all kinds, he reached London (P. 296) in the morning of November 4, 1954 - a brighter day of soft sun shine; he had in his pocket 10 shillings-equivalent to Rupees Six and a half! 

Ved was guided by his friend Narayan to find his feet in the quite different life of London. He could manage to get various type of manual jobs including a stint in the mortuary to ‘care and carry’ dead bodies. He was able to find company of Indian students and enrolled himself in School of Oriental and African Studies. Soon the doors of many other eminent institutions and organizations opened for him. A chance meeting with Sylvia, an American student of Hindi, in December 1956 developed into intimacy and culminated in marriage in July 1957. They were blessed with a son, who was named Sanjay, on January 23, 1958 (To the immense delight of Ved, it was Neta Ji Subhas’s birth Day). The couple then decided to move to the USA in December 1958.  The reader will be amply rewarded to study the First Part as an authentic socio-cultural documentation of the life of that period in the region of Western Uttar Pradesh. Ved’s descriptions of the various friends in London - some of them, including Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, RS Sharma and SC Dubey, later became iconic academicians in India - and the prestigious British institutions during his four years of stay in London are indeed deeply instructive and most enjoyable.

Book 2 - पंचवटी के खोज में
The Second Part of the Autobiography titled, 'In Search Of Panchvati' (The mythological Woodland in Ramayana) comprises of 40 Chapters covering 319 pages. The mingling with Silvia’s larger family - including her three married sisters, parents and grandparents - was full of interesting experiences for Ved in understanding the life styles and cultural contours in the USA. He could initially get job in a mental hospital as a nursing assistant. He also joined Boston University to learn Russian language where he also met Amiya Chakravarty - one time secretary to RN Tagore. A daughter Aruna, named after the Indian revolutionary in the Quit India Movement, was born in March, 1959. During this period, the American political scene was witnessing new developments surcharged with a different atmosphere in the wake of the Presidential election. Ved had felt drawn towards the comparatively liberal Democratic Party and the emergence of the candidature of youthful John F. Kennedy and his victory surely gladdened him. The movement for the Civil Rights of the Black people in the USA certainly attracted the Gandhian Ved. He was delighted on receiving the offer, in January 1962, to join University of Colorado as an Assistant Professor to train the Peace Corps Volunteers to be sent to India and Pakistan. He had an enjoyable and purposeful time in the job. The year 1963 brought many happy tidings for him - including birth of the fourth and the last child - named Jaidev; Sanjay’s finishing nursery class - and purchase of the First car! (P. 99). Then in September 1963, Ved was offered the position of Professor of Hindi by the University of California, Berkley. He accepted the appointment with a great enthusiasm. He was impressed by the cosmopolitan character of the larger place though he also missed the intimate intensity of life in smaller Colorado. The most shocking assassination of President John Kennedy and several policies of President Johnson - particularly the escalation of war in Vietnam - deeply disappointed Ved. He was inspired to join the various protest movements in the USA for Civil Right and world Peace. He had felt impressed by the struggle waged by Caesar Chavez for the rights of the farm laborers (Chapter 29). He had also to undertake intense personal struggle against the authorities of the University for their biased and racially discriminatory decisions. Meanwhile, Ved’s two major proposals for funding - to the Department of Education for - Text to Learn Hindi and to the American Institute for Indian Studies for a research Project in India - were approved. He resigned his position in the University of California. The stay in Berkeley had made him deeply involved as a lifelong crusader to highlight the sacrifices of the patriots of the Ghadar Movement - with the 19 year martyr Kartar Singh Sarabha in the forefront - operating from there in the Second decade of the Twentieth century. 

Book 3 - देश-परदेश सब बिराना है  
The Third Part of the Autobiography, evocatively titled, 'Home-land or Distant-land: All are Desert-Waste-Lands', is slightly shorter than the other three - it comprises of 24 chapters covering 272 pages. It opens with an interesting observation by Ved: "I had thought that my time in India would be spent in peace and comfort but it appears that I have not been born to lead such a life. My circumstances and ‘sanskaar - inherited instincts’, as if, would never permit that such a situation should ever occur." He narrates the course of events triggered by the movement started by Jai Prakash Narayan which culminated into the imposition of Emergency by PM Indira Gandhi on June 25, 1975. Ved‘s dearest brother ‘Poojya Agrej - His Worship, the eldest’ Master Sunder Lal Ji, a pious Gandhian and a dedicated social reforms activist had also to suffer imprisonment for 19 months under inhuman conditions. Ved felt disgusted and disappointed with many of his eminent friends and he has not felt shy to name - and shame - those who had felt too timid to stand up against the suppression of fundamental rights of the people in India. The 19 month old Emergency was over and-to the utter disbelief of the world - the Congress led by Mrs. Gandhi was routed. The JP blessed newly formed Janata Party Government, however, failed miserably to come up to the expectations of the people. It collapsed under its own dead weight of quarrels, false egos and mutual back-stabbings among its degenerated old leadership - paving the path for a roaring return to power by Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1980. Ved had, however, been shaken completely, on the eve of the 19th anniversary of his wedding on 20th July, 1976 - by a totally unexpected ‘seismic’ personal shock.  Sylvia had written to him, “You will be as grievously sad to read this letter as I have been in writing it... we have reached a stage when we cannot live together...”, adding that he should  speak to her lawyer on the given telephone number. Ved felt shattered; children were dazed and confused; but he did not want to fight an ugly legal case. He did not make any counter legal claims in the case and divorce was legalized on December 15, 1976. 

Ved had come to India for a few months in 1977 to ‘recover’ from the shattering shock of his life. He utilized various opportunities for an extensive interaction with many top politicians in the government of the Janata Party and had deeper discussions with several eminent literary figures. He was a prominent participant in early 1980 in a Conference in Mysore on ‘Indo-American Folk Lore’. This occasion provided him a very useful opportunity to explain how the western methodologies and frame work of reference unduly dominated the approaches in India to the studies of all the social sciences. He also undertook extensive study tours of the various other southern states. Meanwhile, most mysteriously, many of Ved’s friends and relations became hyper active to propose a second marriage to him with some suitable Indian lady - ‘an American Daamad - son-in-law’ was indeed considered a prize catch; the harbinger of an, ‘American - synonymous with Heaven - Dream come true!’ How a close old friend proposed an ‘ideal match for our broken-hearted poet’ - with an amazingly appropriate name, Kalpana! She was a very pretty woman, in her 31st year; it was mentioned that she had recently become a widow, and had two daughters. Ved’s quicker paced narration details how he was tricked to marry in an indecent haste. She turned out to a personification of all the oddities and so many intrigues and dark secrets - he mentions even her ‘big appetite for sex’!

Their roller-coast time together for eighteen month could be termed an inflammable stuff with so many deceptions on the part of the lady and even her two smaller children. The short part of Ved’s life can certainly be described as the stuff fit for producing ‘heroine-vamp-double-role’ box office hit Bollywood masala film, with location shootings in the USA! This most mysterious chapter in the life of our poet-hero still awaits the formal-final-closure - she was known to have even given birth to Ved’s son!!  The third Part further extensively deals with several events in India - like the World Hindi Conference in 1983; strange twists in the lives of so many talented friends; activities of the Khalistanis and major developments in the USA including the War with Iraq over Kuwait in January 1990. He was deeply disturbed with the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992 and organized protests against growing communalism in India. The graduation of younger daughter Sunita with Physics and Math was a great comfort and pride for Ved, who celebrated his 60th birth day in April, 1991. Meanwhile Ved had got deeply immersed in high lighting the heritage of the Ghadar Movement by organizing regular activities not only in America and Canada but also promoting the memories of the Ghadarites in India. Incidentally, I had also got the pleasant opportunity to know him during the Ghadr Centenary Seminar organized by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar in November, 2013.  

Book 4 - घर ही कारागार बन गया 
Coming to the Fourth - not yet formally called the Final - part of Autobiography, titled 'Home itself Turned into a Prison', deals with Ved’s thoughtful account of various personal, national and world events during 1995-2015. The project of bringing a group of students from the USA for a study tour in India proved a successful experience. The birth centenary of Kartar Sarabha was celebrated in 1996 with several functions in the USA. The participants included Prof. Harish Puri of the GND University Amritsar and Prof. Jagmohan Singh (son of Shahid Bhagat Singh’s sister) of the PAU, Ludhiana - Sarabha village is situated in the neighborhood of this beloved city of Sahir. Jagmohan is a prominent human rights activist (P. 18). Ved organizes a forceful front against efforts by the Khalistanis to distort its ideals and history. He had felt outraged over the increasing divisions among Indian community into the narrow sectarian and caste based groups. He was conferred, in August 1996, the award by the Hindi Institute of the Govt. of Uttar Pradesh, for his contribution to Hindi Literature as a ‘Pravasi - Non-Resident-Indian author’-his friends celebrated this recognition, more than him! Ved does not mince words to express his views against the policies of the AB Vajpayee led government. He was particularly upset and dismayed over the conduct of the Nuclear Tests by the nation calling Gandhi Ji its Father. Ved has been, personally, no admirer of Atal Bihari’s oratory and considers him a hypocrite and communalist - not a statesman but a salesman. He even campaigned against him in Lucknow in the general election in 2004. He was, however, utterly disappointed by the poor organization, political strategy and the total lack of will among the opposition parties to win the confidence of the voters. 

Meanwhile, the ‘terrorist’ attack - on September 11, 2001 - on the World Trade Centre, the iconic symbols of ‘America-God’s own country’ had changed overnight the entire global political atmosphere. Ved’s indignation over the series of bloodiest wars waged by the USA against innocent citizens in so many countries, Afghanistan and Iraq in particular - has found thoughtful expression in several of his poems - P.85-91. On the level of his personal life, the circumstances enabled Ved to spend more time with his younger children Jaidev and Sunita. Meanwhile, his larger and extended family in India with the grown up new generation was developing strains with signs of inevitable disintegration. His large circle of friends in the USA were keen to offer him any assistance in the eighth decade of his life. He shares many touching tales of friends and his sense of deep loss with passing away of several of them, "the vacuum in my heart had been growing bigger since the dawn of 21st century (P. 128)... sometimes I felt as if my heart was a huge graveyard and I have been cremating the memories of the soulmates in it since the age of nine years...” - P.163. Ved quotes a memorable shae’r, "Meri Qismat mein gham ‘gar itne thhe / dil bhi ya Rabb kaee diye hote!" He, however, also records that 20th of May, 2009 was one of the happiest days of his life - P.181. I was the day when the Centre for South Asian Studies, in the University of California, organized a function, 'Celebration of Life and Work of a Poet' to honor and felicitate him. Ved recalls with pride how, he had started a grim struggle against the policies of racial discriminatory and intellectual imperialism in the University, ‘The white supremacy of the intellectual empire lasting half a century had been decimated. I was proud that I had a hand in this transformation and that the first crucial move in that direction was mine.’ The year 2010 had brought various tensions for Ved emanating from the evolving relations among the grown up children of his clan in Meerut. He had, however, decided to return permanently to India, much against the advice of well-meaning friends both in Meerut and in the USA, 'you will get devalued the moment you return.' They pointed out that ‘not to be an American citizen’ was also a folly. But he expressed confidence that he would be able establish himself as an independent author and academician. After making suitable arrangements for his papers and books, he undertook the long travels by rail for ‘Farewell Round of the USA.’ Ved describes in memorable words how he returned for good into the lap of ‘Bharat Mata’ on March 29, 2011 - having departed from Meerut on October 13, 1954 (P. 211). The last Five chapters in this fourth part make an uncomfortable and painful reading with Ved getting deeply disgusted and disillusioned over the soul scorching quarrels in his clan - a la descendants of Lord Krishna - and atmosphere of increasing intolerance in the country! The Epilogue - two poems of exquisite beauty about the tragic juxtaposition of character and destiny - provide us ‘virat roopa - multiversal form’ of the tormented soul of our Maha Kavi.

Ved Ji - the name itself indeed invokes the mythological master creator of Mahabharata - has honestly - often deeply painfully and quite bluntly chronicled the vicissitudes in the lives of several generation of his clan - and would seem consequently suffering the fate of Bhishama in Mahabharata. The reader of today might judge him harshly for his scriptural emotional attachments and failures in striking a harmony in competing relationships. He has been very fair in assessing and accepting the changing sexual and family mores in the post-2nd World War USA. The long running commentaries on the post-Independence politics in India could be adjudged more ‘poetical’ than perceptive analysis of the complex socio-economic forces. It is to his great credit that he has not been timid to spare likes of Chaudhary Charan Singh with their ‘feudal, murderous and caste prejudiced’ mind sets. He has been careful in pointing out fault lines of electoral politics since the First General elections in 1952. He has courageously underlined the all-pervasive oppression of Dalits / Adivasis by the unscrupulous upper castes. A reader more seriously interested in this uniquely Indian societal disease to go to Vatuk’s epic poetry in ‘Uttar Ram-katha’ and ‘Abhishapat Dwapar’  for profound references to the cancerous civilizational wounds inflicted by the caste divides on the destiny of India. The solitary reference to Dr B.R. Ambedkar in the Autobiography - Part1, P. 252 - might, however, appear more to be based on some hearsay - and, factually, Dr Ambedkar had resigned as Law Minister before the 1952 General Elections and he had been himself defeated, according to some accounts, by adopting unfair practices. It would seem rather paradoxical that that the authorship of both the Mahabharata and Ramayana is attributed to so called ‘Shudras’ - Ved Vyas and Valmik! One might imagine that Ved’s next poetic epic would celebrate the titanic struggle of an ‘Untouchable icon’ relevant to Today’s India. Ved has been a shrewd and intimate witness to all the amazing - alarming too - changes in human life during his own life: it has been pointed out that that the speed of changes, with the information technology in the forefront, during the last five decades has been, perhaps, more than the last five centuries, or even more! We await and pray for more sublime poetry during the days ahead from Dr. Ved Prakash Vatuk’s mighty, beautiful and justice-loving mind!           

To sum up, I may earnestly state that it has been a deep delight and great instruction for me - and my wife, Aradhana - to study this land mark Autobiography of a heroic-poet - with his character reminding us of the many of Shakespeare’s heroes - suffering with their subtle tragic flaws - hamartia - but emanating that rare ennobling fragrance of the soul. The Four Part ‘precious life blood’ of Dr Ved Prakash ‘Vatuk’ would seem to be calling for equally heroic readers to read this major work of Indian Literature to be published in 2018.        

More about Prof. Ved Prakash 'Vatuk':
  • Kira Hall's Preface to Dr VP Vatuk writings (PDF file)
  • Book Review: Studies in Indian Folk Tradition by Dr VP Vatuk (PDF file)
  • Videos: Poet's Justice... Vatuk reciting poetry!

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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

A Tribute to a Teachers' Teacher

Prof. Pritam Singh Ji
As a life long industrious student of the various disciplines of humanities with particular focus on world literature as my post graduation; spirituality in humanity as family heritage and International Relations as my profession, I have always deemed myself as one of the most privileged disciples of Professor Pritam Singh Ji (Jan. 11, 1918 - Nov. 25, 2008), without ever attending his formal class! He had indeed become the tall human tower - a light house in Patiala - as an  eminent teacher and an extraordinary, an encyclopedic, scholar of not only Punjabi language and literature but the entire range of the composite cultural and literary heritage of humanity.

Prof. Pritam Singh had been an inspiration for generations of students of Punjabi literature till he breathed his last. He was one of the stalwarts among teachers who had been a witness, as a bright student with the most meager means, to the best of the 'un-partitioned' - of the Five Rivers - Punjab. For me, he signified an era - that is no more - of the most enlightening literary pursuits in Punjabi. He had come to personify a rare dedication to bring alive the glory of Punjabi, cutting across all the narrow divides of the dangerous mix of religion and politics with the mother tongue of the brave Punjabis. I was indeed  singularly fortunate to be in his close contact-in the ancient Guru-Shishya tradition. He remained a 'Pole Star' of guidance for me in the matters of our deeply shared mutual interests in the global contexts of languages, literature and all the myriad faiths of the people.

I vividly recall how, as a student of B.A. in the D.A.V. College Jalandhar - some time around November, 1962 - I had the first Darshan - a face to face glimps - of Professor Pritam Singh. He was presiding over an important meeting of the Kendriya Punjabi Lekhak Sabha. The meeting had soon degenerated into an uproar of noisy shouts with even the signs of clenched fists for physical fighting- between the dominant progressive writers led by the veteran Marxist S.S. Sekhon and the silver-tongued orator Comrade Jagjit Singh Anand on the one side and the promising upcoming exponents of the new-wave-experimental Poetry including Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia and Sukhpalvir Singh Hasrat. Professor Pritam Singh, impressively attired in black achkan and chooridar, reprimanded them all in chaste Punjabi, using even typically strong phrases like 'Kanwarauli, kanjarkhana, kuttekhani', etc.  The eloquence, tactfulness and firmness displayed by the Professor from Patiala had the desired effect and it turned out to be a memorable session of lively discussions interspersed with sparkling and learned interventions of wit and humour by the Chair. I, an undergraduate student, had become an anonymous life long admirer of this Professor from Patiala for his radiant charm, scholarship and unshakeable belief in order and discipline.

It was, however,  as a student of M.A. (English) in the Government College - with no needless S.C.D. prefix then - Ludhiana, perhaps, in October 1964, that I read Balwant Gargi's pen-portrait of Professor Pritam Singh in Aarsi, then a popular Punjabi monthly, alas, has ceased publication since May, 2000. Gargi, in his inimitable style laced with subtle satire and humour, had referred to the rare qualities of Professor Pritam Singh as an 'obsessed' researcher of the old manuscripts of the Punjabi language and the evolution of the Gurmukhi script. Around the same time; Professor Pritam Singh had been transferred to the College as Head of the Punjabi Department.

Prof. Pritam had been assigned by Principal K.S. Thapar, interestingly, to deliver lectures for all the students of the College, in the main lecture hall now named after old student Sahir, on the themes of National Integration, introduced under a scheme of Government of India in the wake of war with China. Again, Professor Pritam Singh was at his best both in oration and the subject matter. One day, I gathered enough courage to speak to him requesting him to visit my home to meet my father and have a look at various hand written old books in Gurmukhi in our family.  He indeed gracefully agreed and visited our home in Ahmedgarh on Jan. 24, 1964. He had an engaging exchange of views with my father, an Ayurved practitioner and a scholar of Sanskrit and classical literature. I also arranged his meeting with my school teacher Shri Ashni Kumar, a Lahore educated reputed learned man. Professor Pritam Singh wrote to me a post-card, in English, thanking me for arranging the visit and praised my teacher as a person of, 'deep scholarship and disarming courtesy' - the last phrase was indeed an ever lasting lesson for me and made me his dedicated disciple for life.

The time rolled on, I passed my M.A. in English and was delighted to achieve my dream of becoming a lecturer, first in DAV College, Jalandhar and later on Govt. College, Bathinda. It was as a lecturer in Bathinda that my contact was re-established with Professor Pritam Singh. I had to accompany another respected scholarly personality, Professor Harmandar Singh, an eminent teacher of Political Science, who had also been transferred to Bathinda, for his meeting with Professor Pritam Singh, then Principal of Government College, Faridkot. It was in November, 1968 and the time of elections to the Punjab University Senate / Syndicate. Professor Harmander Singh was upset that Principal Pritam Singh had switched to the constituency of Registered Graduates instead of the Principals, making a clash between the two great old friends inevitable. It was a mix of tension and learning for me to be a listener to the arguments between the two of my most respected Professors. After lengthy discussions, Professor Pritam Singh appeared to have convinced Professor Harmander Singh that there was sufficient space for victory for both of them in the larger constituency of the Registered Graduates. While walking with us to the Railway Station to see us off, in the 'rush of the continued arguments', he also decided to accompany us to Bathinda. We had to speak to the Guard that, in a hurry, we could not buy the tickets. Reaching Bathinda, I went to the guard to pay him the amount of tickets. Professor Pritam Singh, with a twinkle of an eye and a trade mark smile, said to the guard, "Badshaho, Eh Jhoote Tan Hoon Tohadi Bakshish 'ch hi aouon dio – let this swing-ride be under your kingly generosity!" The guard also laughed heartily and we came out thanking him. Around the time of the dinner, I requested Professor Pritam Singh that we should go to the nearby restaurant. He replied that he had his dinner in train when he was eating the 'Chholia', i.e., the green-peas of grams, taken directly from the plants!

There was again a long interruption in our correspondence after I joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1971 and moved to Delhi and many postings abroad. It was during my posting as the Deputy High Commissioner in the neighbouring Pakistan (September, 1992 - November, 1994) that we could resume our intense interaction, particularly in the context of the preparation Punjabi Lekhak Kosh – Directory of Punjabi Writers. I could contact several Punjabi writers and activists in Lahore and Islamabad to collate information for inclusion in the Directory. Prof. Pritam Singh was gracious to mention my name in the list of the persons who helped him in compiling the book which was published in 2003. Prof. Pritam Singh always replied at length to my letters regarding my observations on the shared heritage of the Punjabis and how the bond of language could be strengthened in the face of evolving complex and challenging circumstances. He had a large circle of friends and admirers in Pakistan and his deep knowledge of Persian and Urdu languages proved an immense asset as a bridge between the two Punjabs and the national and international forums..

It was after reading my long letter, in Punjabi, 'Battan Beete Vareh dian - Matters of the Year that is past', circulated in December, 1995 to my close circle of friends that he specifically directed me that I should seriously plan to write about my experiences, in Punjabi, when I am free from the burden and worries of the Service. In view of his failing eye sight, the correspondence got restricted and confined to brief and urgent e-mails. After my retirement in 2004, I availed the privilege of speaking to him more often  whenever there was some matter of mutual interest. He would again remind me of the promise I had made with him to write in Punjabi. I once said, 'Sir, there is so of much high quality writings available to read, it becomes difficult to discipline oneself and find a time to write'. He smiled and retorted, 'that is the tragedy of Punjabi, Bal Anand Ji... those who should be writing, say they have no time from reading; but those who should be reading more, go on writing more and more!'

Meeting on Jan. 11, 1999 - 81st Birthday of Prof. Pritam Singh

My last meeting with Professor Pritam Singh took place in the late evening of 1st October, 2008. He appeared some what frail and time - worn but his profundity of expression, smile and laughter were indeed as intact as ever. I had presented to him 'Diwan-e-Hafiz' brought from Iran - the 'Blue book' in the picture and my write-up in Punjabi on the popular 'Chhapar Fair of Punjab' and my recent columns on Urdu poets and scholar A.J. Zaidi and Ahmad Faraz. We touched upon the current educational and cultural scene in Punjab and in the country. When I took leave of him, he persisted in walking with me the up to the main gate. I mentioned to him - at the door step - that Panth must think of establishing a museum of letters, with name, 'Zafar Namah Sahib Bhawan', inviting Punjabis all over the world to donate letters on the themes of literature and culture of Punjab - to be scientifically preserved there.

I penned my last letter to Professor Pritam Singh, on 24th of October, a day before his joining the company of the immortals, sending it care of his daughter Doctor Harshinder Kaur so that she might read it out to him. The Destiny of this letter was fated  to be different - reaching him on the address far, far beyond his earthly abode! I salute this angel of a Teacher on his birth centenary - he indeed radiated knowledge and nobility with every word spoken by him!

*     *     *

Friday, March 24, 2017

Ek Sham - Ahmedgarh ke Naam

Dear Friends,

As you know, Ahmedgarh has been my beloved place of school education - May 1951-March 1959 and my home town upto July  1971...

It was Master Ashni Kumar Ji (1916-1999) - my unique Guru-teacher - who was my anchor of life in Ahmedgarh till he breathed his last - on Saturday, Feb 16, 1999.

I had been myself so stressed and always short of time till I setlled down in retirement in 2004... after spending more than 26 years abroad - 21 of them were consecutive, from 1982-2003!

I have tried to make the best of the sun set years of life by returning - full time - to my books, rediscovering good old friends - and my love for pen and paper - rather the modern age wonder, Shriman computer-Ji!

I know how the dear friends in the tri-city beautiful have been dreaming of an evening devoted to the golden memories of childhood in our beloved Mandi... a brand new town which had sprung up from no where - in the wake Rail Revolution of India in the early twentieth century.

I am heartily grateful to the dream team of friends - Jawahar ji & Janak in particular - who conceptualized the event of the evening of Friday, 24th March to recreate the genuine spirit of love, innocence and affection dedicated to our beloved town. The inimitable Mootki - Rakesh Bhai - is indeed blessed with an abundant artistic talent and the most infectious joy in bringing to pulsating life all the beautiful memories of the sweet past...

Prof. Anu Jain was the perfect compere of the event ... the memories of his most wonderful Tayas - Amrit ji  Madan Faryadi ji - have been my most precious wealth.

I was so glad to meet many new friends and younger friends of the new generation - nasal nau - who all swear by the love of Ahmedgarh!

Brig JJ Singh Jagdev's family - we met after more than fifty years - is closely related to mine for four generations - it was his grandfather who was instrumental in persuading my family to shift to Ahmedgarh.

Sh Gobind Thukral ji has been a dear friend, philosopher and guide since we met in my retirement... 13 years ago; Dear Ashwani Gupta put in a lot of effort in managing the event in Western Court...

My sincerest thanks to all the ladies who had graced the occasion as equal & active participants... I promise to be accompanied by my 'better half' when the next such get together happens.

With my greetings & best wishes to all the dear friends,

Bal Anand

PS - I am sharing three photos of the event..
Hope you would share more photos/visuals of the most joyful evening

Friday, July 01, 2016

My Lessons of History in School

I consider myself singularly lucky and blessed that the lessons in history - and poetry- started for me much earlier in life than for most people. I was myself, however, innocently unaware about all this at that time.

To begin with, take the case of the date of my birth. It was determined as 15th November, 1943 - perhaps, a year less - at the time of my admission, in October 1949, in the District Board (soon changed to be ‘Government') Primary School of the neighboring village, located in what was still called the Angrezi Ilaqa (British Territory). It was a school with one kutcha (made of mud) room; a small court yard which had low (less than three feet high) mud wall around it; two teachers and four classes. The school had about forty students from the surrounding villages.

The name of the village is Sohian, near the old town of Malaudh, about 30 Km from Ludhiana. I do recollect that the senior teacher Pandit Lachhman Dass Ji had asked my father whether he had thought for me a plan of higher education or putting me in some job soon after my matriculation. My father had replied, in a very polite but deeply determined voice, that he would like me to go for the highest possible education.

I was to come to know 55 years later - a few years after my own retirement at age of 60 - that this popular but strict disciplinarian teacher who had commanded deep respect among generations of students had served in the same school for his entire teaching career!

It was in this school, I had heard the couplets of the first folk poem by a senior student, Jagga Singh, praising Mahatma Gandhi to be clever enough to ‘outwit' the foxy white rulers!

The white Kothi (mini-palace) with high walls and surrounded by the thick lines of tall trees of a Sardar (petty chief, feudal lord) called Kaka Ji of Sohian was visible from the school. It was, however, more a like a mysterious fort for us, the young students- something like the complex buildings I was to see later in the horror films. I had, however, come to know that the Young Sardar-Kaka Ji has been recruited as a Poolas Kaptan (Police Superintendent) by the Government of Independent India. Later in life, my efforts to meet the then octogenarian, Sardar Narinder Singh Phulka, IPS (Retd.), could not bear fruit, in spite of the fact that one of his sons-in-laws, now retired in anonymity from the IAS, had been a friend from my college days.

The next historic turning point for me came in May 1951 when I was admitted in the third grade in the High School in Ahmedgarh, the nearby town. The family took some more time to shift there from the village. I felt quite at ease being exposed to a refreshing atmosphere of freedom, patriotism and nationalism surcharging this school named, soon after Independence, from Public High School to 'Mahatma Gandhi Memorial National (MGMN) High School'.

The eight years of the continuous studies in the school provided me with ample opportunities to look all around far beyond the lessons in the class rooms. I must thank Master Ashni Kumar, a senior teacher of English and Social Studies who had started mentoring me right from my sixth class.

The town of Ahmedgarh (named after Nawab Ahmed Ali of the tiny state of Malerkotla (1881-1947) had been founded in 1905 in the wake of the construction of the revolutionizing rail link connecting Ludhiana to the southern-eastern belt of Dhuri-Jakhal and beyond. The new look town regularly witnessed, as if it were a typical Greek city state, debates and dramas in the school which were often joined by the chaudhris (elders) of the town too.

The local wings of political parties - Congress, Socialists and Jan Sangh in particular - seemed to be vigorously competing to bring their national leaders to address the people in the Gandhi Chowk, in the miniature Connaught Place of the town, proclaimed to have been planned after Montgomery! The location of the town on the cross-borders of adjacent Riyasati (Princely) and Angrezi (British) pockets of territories had made it a favorite and strategic meeting place for freedom fighters playing grim games of hide and seek after daring protests and acts of defiance including an act of loot - at gun point - of the government funds in a train robbery between Ahmedgarh and Malerkotla!

In terms of history, I must refer to the tragically maddening times in the wake of Partition. My great grandfather Param Sant Vaid Bhushan Pramatma Nand Ji had passed away on October 19, 1947, a day after the death of Nawab Ahmad Ali of Malerkotla. I can vividly recall how the mourners at the Bhog ­- the last prayer - were cursing the kaliyuga (Evil Epoch) for the calamities befalling the nation and her noble people. I could later notice that many houses had been burnt down in my mother's village - apparently belonging to Muslims. The mosque had been quickly converted into a Gurdwara!

I was luckier as a child to be spared the trauma of witnessing the scenes of murders and violence. But what about the feelings of a ten-year-old boy who was witness to his father getting critically wounded when he fell down trying to board an over packed vehicle leaving Sialkot for India? He had been left behind as dead on the road. The boy turned out to be a brilliant student and rose to the highest professional position for an engineer in India. But how would the pain of losing a father in that cruelest way ever go away - even though in retirement, he became Director of Gandhi Museum, opposite the Raj Ghat!

I do remember that I was able to broadly read, when I was in the fifth class, the Golden History of India by Vishva Nath, M. A., B.T., and Jagan Nath Grover B.A., B.T., senior teachers of History, Arya High School, Ludhiana. It was a popular text book for high classes and belonged to my uncle appearing for matriculation.

I remember vividly how among brief sketches of the contemporary historical personalities: Winston Churchill was described as the plain and blunt speaker; Joseph Stalin was the son of a cobbler of Georgia; De Valera was a great revolutionary freedom fighter, and so on.

Among the teachers of history at school, Master Ram Kishore - in his typical Poadhi dialect of Punjabi - would become deeply emotional in praising Chanakaya, the great teacher and his gifted disciple Chandra Gupta Maurya. Then, he would blame all the current ills of the country on the lack of respect for the teachers! Kishori Lal Sahir would quote couplets of Persian and would turn the lesson into play - assigning the students roles of characters of history, e.g., showing Hemu getting wounded with an arrow in the eye by covering the eye of a student with the corner piece of his turban!

Giani Romesh, known for punishing students with Bhrind - painful pinches, would often use the idiom, Dushmanan de Dand Khatte kar Ditte (leave a sour taste in your enemy's mouth).  It was not by making them eat tamarind, but putting up a brave fight.

The most reputed teacher of history / Geography and English in our school was, however, Master Ashni Kumar, a skeleton-thin person known for his razor sharp intellect and sharp satirical remarks. I was destined to be his favorite student and remain so for more than four decades till he breathed his last at a ripe old age in 1999.

In the tranquility of the years of my retirement, I have endeavored to reinvigorate my interest in the history of the select historical personalities and places-particularly in the more intimate region of the Punjab. My childhood interest in Sirhind was strongly reinforced when, during my posting to Pakistan in 1993, I had to facilitate the visit for a pilgrimage to the city by Prof. S Mojaddid, a former President of the Interim Govt. of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal - the family claims 14 generations to have been buried there! The city with a significant strategic location has the most fascinating and absorbing history of the rise and fall of its rulers. The Ambala-Ludhiana-Sirhind section of the Delhi-Lahore railway line was opened on Oct.1, 1869.

Sirhind has turned a new page in its history with the recent establishment of excellent institutions of higher education including the Shri Guru Granth Sahib World University. A sort of personal history was made for me when, on 8th of November, 2011, the Acting Vice Chancellor, Dr Gurnek Singh, welcomed me to the University with a very special personal warmth and affection. He surprised me by telling me that he was my student in 1968 when I was a lecturer in the Govt. Rajindra College, Bhatinda. After the privilege of crisscrossing the continents representing India in distant alien lands, it is a very special soulful delight to rediscover the deeper eternal roots of friendship and love in the soils nearer home!

The learning - and teaching - of the History of India with a balanced and dispassionate approach is a great challenge. The average individual in society rightly seems to consider the past dead and gone; and the future all day dreaming! It is, therefore, all in the present and near future which is relevant for thought and action. But our battles in the present are often fought over the different versions the past and visions of the future. When I remember the school books and the teachers, so many live images flash before my mind's eye. Alexander, the great, impressed us as students as the most mesmerizing figure of the earlier era. Ashok and Akbar seemed to define the essence of India. Whatever may his later day critics say, for most of my generation Jawaharlal Nehru certainly qualifies to be called the architect of modern India.


The history is continuously in the process of being re-evaluated; the state-craft is such a gigantic entity ­- the search for the total and un-alloyed truth in the affairs of the state would remain a noble pursuit. The pursuit of power and the greed for riches would seem to know no limits - the truth for the cash loads for votes in the Parliament House gets more and more mysterious! The Right to Information has been emerging as an interesting search-light to illuminate deeply hidden dark spots in the files of current history.

Let us hope for better times ahead in terms of truthful history.

References to this article

  • This article was included in the collection "India of the Past, Preserving memories of India and Indians"

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Megha Rajdootam - December 2002

The following magazine, Megha Rajdootam - मेघ राजदूतम् - The Cloud Envoy, Vol. 1 No. 2, was published for the High Commission of India in New Zealand in December 2002.

Cover Page of Megha Rajdootam, December 2002
Cover Page of Megha Rajdootam, December 2002

Message from the High Commissioner

Opening Lines ... 'Runs' of Memories

If someone is asked, 'What is the connection between cricket and a High Commissioner?', the answer would be, 'Ambassadors are called High Commissioners in the countries where cricket is a popular sport.' A similarly intriguing question for an Indian cricket fan would be, 'Who was the English cricketer to be the High Commissioner of India to Australia and New Zealand in 1950-53?' Well, the gentleman was Prince K.S. Dilipsinhji, the nephew of legendary cricketer Ranjitsinhji of Nawanagar, who had played for England against Australia.

Looking back to my early years at school, I vividly recall how the climbing of the Everest by Sherpa Tenzing and Edmund Hillary on 29th May, 1953 had been one of the most impressionable event for me. Again, it was the visit of the New Zealand cricket team to India in 1955 which opened vistas of the great game for me. I can exactly recall the tall scores made by the legendary New Zealand opener Bert Sutcliffe and the brilliant all-rounder John Reid. The headlines in the sports columns of English and Hindi dailies flash before my eyes. I do remember how the young and old in my town used to be glued to the radio sets - the running commentary was almost inaudible due to the continuously disturbing sound similar to the thunders of the monsoon clouds! The interest in the game continued to multiply, thanks to the brilliant coverage of international cricket in the Indian press.

Cricket has been sought to be explained as a sport which is played much more intensely in the minds of the spectators and also its remarkable resemblance to human life. The five-day tests were indeed perceived to represent the whole range of agonies and ecstasies of a lifetime. There could always be a chance of a positive turn; one had to grab all the possible chances; the batsman had to treat every ball on its merit; the bowler had to be brave hearted and tactful enough to tempt the batsman to mistime a shot. Above all, it was always the team effort which brought victory. In the typical context in India, cricket proved a great social equalizer.

The one-day version of the game has imparted a new vigour, dynamism and an explosive character to cricket. The slogan, 'Hit out or get out!', by the fatigued and bored spectators of the five-day rituals has been finally accepted. Cricket has blossomed in the deserts of Dubai and more nations across the continents seem to be falling a prey to a game earlier described as, 'the British disease'.

It is indeed significant that India, with its formidable batting strength, arrives in New Zealand in time for the much needed practice before the World Cup championship in South Africa. The Indian 'tigers' have been notorious roaring more on the home turf - hope they maintain their recent form of displaying a highly competitive game. The two teams are expected to ensure the triumph of the game.

I and my family have decided to herald the New Year, 2003, watching the 3rd ODI in Christchurch. Let us hope, pray and dream that this match would be the pre-play of the World Cup final!

I may confess that it was the interest in Cricket ignited by the visit of the first ever Kiwi team to India that put a shy lad from a tiny town of India on a path that has taken him to the position of the High Commissioner of India to New Zealand.

The list of those to be thanked for their generous support for this publication is a tall score - NZ Cricket Inc. and NZ Museum for providing rare photographs; contributors of special messages; Prof. R. Guha and the prestigious Indian weeklies - India Today and Outlook - for authorising utilisation of the invaluable material/photos published earlier. M/s Thames have indeed experienced the pressure of an ODI in timely bringing out this issue of Megha Rajdootam.

Bal Anand
High Commissioner of India to New Zealand
Concurrently accredited to Samoa, Nauru and Kiribati

Table of Contents

Opening Lines... 'Runs' of Memory2
My Cricket 'Affairs' with IndiaJohn R. Reid, O.B.E.3
Cricket Encounters of the Indian KindR. Guha4-5
Maharajas of CricketR. Guha6
J.L. Nehru - A 'Complete' Cricketer7
The Spirit of CricketMartin Snedden8
The Square RectangleTimeri N. Murari9
Dev... Devil... DivinitySyed Kirmani10-11
India - New Zealand Cricket - An Overview12-13
John Wright - A 'Kiwi Dronacharya'...Don Neely, M.B.E.14-15
Tales and Travails of a Cricketer's WifeSukhi Turner16
An 'Indian-Kiwi' RemembersDipak Patel17
A Famous Kiwi VictoryAmit Paliwal18
India's Best of the Century19
India in New Zealand, 2002-0320

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bharat Sandesh - January 2002

The following magazine, भारत सन्देश - The Indian HeraldԱԶԴԱՐԱՐ ՀՆԴԿԱՍՏԱՆԻ Vol. III No. 1, was published for the new Embassy of India in Armenia in January 2002.

Cover Page of Bharat Sandesh, January 2002
Cover Page of Bharat Sandesh, January 2002

Ambassador's Page

It is with great pleasure and satisfaction that the Embassy of India in Armenia releases the third issue of its Journal, Azdarar Handkastani, i.e. Bharat Sandesh. We have been immensely encouraged by the deep interest in and appreciative obervations on the contents and layout of the first two issues by the dignitaries and distinguished readers in Armenia and India. I may particularly quote H. H. Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of  All Armenians who, in his inspiring message of blessings for the last issue, pointed out that, "The word Azdarar transports us to the close of the 18th century when one of the devotees of the Armenian Church, Priest Harutiun Shmavonian, published the first ever Armenian journal with the same title in India from 1794 to 1796. We are confident that the magazine, 'Azdarar Handkastani' will become the herald of centuries-old friendship and cultural interaction between the people of two countries".

It may be stated that the first issue released in December, 2000 underlined the various parameters of the historical friendship between India and Armenia culminating in the new epoch with the establishment of the resident diplomatic Missions in Yerevan and New Delhi. The second issue celebrated the silver jubilee of the memorable visit of friendship to Armenia in June '76 by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and also the release of Armenian edition of epic Mahabharat. The present issue, while further elaborating on the landmarks of historical relations of friendship between the two countries, particularly dwells upon the various significant events of the recent past.

As regards, various manifestations of India-Armenia relations, the second session of India-Armenia Inter-Governmental Commission Meeting/Foreign Office Consultations held in Yerevan on July 25-27, 2001 has been prominently covered. A comprehensive protocol identifying specific projects of various sectors of mutual interest including information technology, seismology, pharmaceuticals, micro-enterprises, health and biomedical research, etc. while signed during this institutionalised meeting. An Agreement on Standardisation and Metrology was also  concluded.

I am glad to mention that the scheme of Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) has proved a great success with 18 Armenian nominees attending various training courses in India during 2001. The Reception Function of the 10th anniversary of Independence of Armenia was celebrated was celebrated as an important event in New Delhi with the prescence of the Vice President of India and other high dignitaries. Armenian troupe of dance and music, 'Akounk' was in India in November and presented highly successful performances in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.

Lastly, I would take this opportunity to mention that in March this year, the resident Embassy of India in Armenia will complete three years of its functioning. Looking back, the period has been full of such a satisfaction and pleasure for myself and the First team of my colleagues. Our tasks in Armenia have indeed been made so easier and pleasant by the deep feelings of friendship, warmth and admiration for India at all levels of the Government and people in Armenia.

Bal Anand
Ambassador of India to Armenia

Table of Contents

MessageH.E. Mr Vartan Oskanian4
Ambassador's Page5
Civilisations Never ClashPresident K.R. Narayanan6-7
A Vision for South AsiaP.M. A.B. Vajpayee8-9
Sarmad - an Armenian Sufi Poet of IndiaS.S. Hameed10-11
India-Armenia Relations: MilestonesManish Prabhat12
Events and Activities14
Highest Astronomical ObervatoryR. Rao15
Milk Miracle in IndiaDr. V. Kurien16-17
Nobel for NaipaulMadhu R. Sekher18
Land of AncestorsV.S. Naipaul19
Modern Indian AgricultureT.M. Chishti20-21
In Tune with Father's MelodyN.K. Sareen22-23
Indian Review24
Events and Activities25
India-Armenia Meeting in Yerevan26
India in 1700th Anniversary of Christianity in Armenia27
Events of Armenia in India28
Armenian Section
A Vision of Armenia in Madras; ԵՐԱԶԱՆՔՆԵՐՆ ԻՐԱԿԱՆԱՆՈՒՆ ԵՆ.David Zenian30-31
Armenians at Home in India; «ՀՆԴԿԱՍՏԱՆԸ ՄԻՇՏ ԷԼ ՀԱՅԵՐԻՍ ՀԱՄԱՐ ԲԱՐԵԿԱՄ ԵՎ ՀԱՐԱՁԱՏ ԵՐԿՒՐ Ւ»Sergei Yeritsian, MP32-33
Nutan - a Complete Actress; ՆՈԻՏԱՆԸ - ԱՆԶՈՒԳԱԿԱՆ ԴԵՐԱՍԱՆՈՒՀԻB.M. Malhotra34-35
India-Armenia Meeting in Yerevan36
When Dreams Dance; ԵՐԲ ՑԱՆԿՈՒԹՅՈՒՆՆ ԻՐԱԿԱՆԱՆՈՒՄ Է...Naira Shovgaryan37
Events and Activities39
An Evening of India in Yerevan40
Release of Mahabharat in Armenian; ՀԱՅԱՍՏԱՆԻ ՄԷՋ ԼՈՅՍ ՏԵՍԱՒ «ՄԱՀԱՊՀԱՐԱՏԱ» ԷՊՈՍԸ41
Gauhar Jan - Armenian Legend in India; ԻՄ ԱՆՈՒՆՆ Է ԳՈՀԱՐ ՋԱՆPran Neville44
Hindi Section
Ambassador's Page; राजदूत का पृष्ठ45
Gurudutt - A Talented Film Maker; गुरूदत्त - समर्पित और अतिसंवेदनशील फिल्मकारB.M. Malhotra46-47
Urdu - A Language of Love and Tolerance; उर्दू - प्रेम और सहिष्णुता की भाषाK.K. Khullar48
Gems of Urdu Poetry; उर्दू शायरी के रत्न49
Review - A Remarkable Repository of Ancient Texts; समीक्षा - प्राचीन ग्रंथों का एक उल्लेखनीय कोशHargulaal50

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Megha Rajdootham - August 2003

The following magazine, Megha Rajdootam - मेघ राजदूतम् - The Cloud Envoy, Vol. 2 No. 1, was published for the High Commission of India in New Zealand in August 2003.

Cover Page of Megha Rajdootam, August 2003
Cover Page of Megha Rajdootam, August 2003

Message from the High Commissioner

On Anniversary of Megha Rajdootam (August 2003)

It was with so much of circumspection verging on trepidation that this High Commission had ventured, on the last Independence Day Function, to bring out its maiden publication, Megha Rajdootam. The appreciative responses of esteemed readers have convinced us that the effort was worth undertaking.

The issue in your hands further dwells on the 'high' theme of the Himalaya to mark the Golden Jubilee of the First Ascent to Everest. The official visit of friendship to India by Sir Edmund and Lady June Hillary from May 20-22, 2003 indeed occasioned a festival of Himalayas.

The First Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi on January 9-11, 2003 dealt with all aspects of the linkages of Indians abroad with Mother India. The material on this seminal subject would be of great interest to the Indian community, in the context of the institutionalization of the Divas as an annual event.

Recalling the activities of India-New Zealand friendship, I am glad to mention that Te Papa, National Museum of New Zealand, with fulsome involvement of the Indian Community, has put up a high quality exhibition, 'Indian Wedding'. We are privileged to devote a page in colour to this special event. Similarly, the Asia 2000 Foundation has adopted the festival of Diwali to be celebrated on a national scale. As if in a logical sequence, Ram Lila troupe of Shri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, New Delhi is performing the epic drama in New Zealand this August/September.

A delegation of 23 members of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council/Assembly, led by Hon'ble K.N. Tripathi, Speaker visited New Zealand in October 2002. Admiral Madhavendra Singh, Chief of Indian Navy, was in New Zealand in November 2002. Hon'ble K.R. Rana, Minister of Textiles paid official visit to New Zealand in April 2003. There have been important visits from New Zealand also including that of Hon'ble Peter Hodgson, Minister of Energy and Forestry. Though the performance of the Indian cricket team in New Zealand turned out to be grossly below expectations, the Indian Tigers fought back and roared in the World Cup of this game of glorious uncertainties.

New Zealand has become a popular destination for location shooting by Bollywood film makers. Christchurch, Queenstown and the scenic places of South Island have become familiar to millions of Indian cine-goers. We are sure to hear soon about possible joint ventures among the global dream merchants like Peter Jackson and Sanjay Leela Bhansali!

To quote figures, India and New Zealand interestingly settled on a balanced trade figure for the first time ever at $192 million each between July 2001 and June 2002. India has emerged as an important resource country of skilled professionals for New Zealand. The sector of Information Technology holds promise for both sides. More Indian students are choosing New Zealand for quality education.

I have enjoyed my innings of 64 'over-weeks' to contribute to the scoreboard of India-New Zealand cooperation. I thank my colleagues for their valuable support towards realizing the goals of the High Commission.

Finally, in the context of this issue, I place on record my gratefulness to my distinguished friends - Judge Anand Satyanand, Prof. W.H. McLeod and Prof. Theo Roy - for their contribution of articles. The High Commission is grateful to the prestigious Indian weeklies 'India Today' and 'Outlook' for the permission to utilize their material and photographs. Similarly, thanks are due to the Hindi monthly 'Aajkal'. To Sir Edmund Hillary, words would not suffice to fathom our deepest gratitude, 'highest' inspiration and fullest access to photos from 'A View from the Summit'. I thank Indian Mountaineering Foundation for photos of Sir Edmund Hillary's latest visit to India. Thanks are, of course, due to M/s Thames Publications Ltd,. for quality and timely printing of this third issue of Megha Rajdootam, under the usual stresses and strains that go with the realization of such a creative endeavour.

Bal Anand
High Commissioner of India to New Zealand
Concurrently accredited to Samoa, Nauru and Kiribati

Megha Rajdootam, August 2003 - Table of Contents

More on Megha Rajdootam2
Vision for 2020Dr A.P.J. Kalam3-4
Ever-Evolving Canvas of IndiaA.B. Vajpayee6-7
India and the DiasporaYashwant Sinha8-9
Kailash - the Ultimate Himalayan PilgrimageT.S. Tirumurti10-11
First Ascent of Mt. EverestA.B. Vajpayee12
Welcome to India, Sir Edmund!13
Celebrating Indian Marriage14
At 'Home' among Friends15
India, More I Seek, More I FindVinod Khanna16-17
Truth - a Tangled WebShiv K. Kumar18-19
Punjab - Discovering Faith in HistoryW.H. McLeod, D.Litt.20-21
Garden of Delights - LucknowProf. Theo Roy22-23
Reflections on India's IndependenceAnand Satyanand24
Independence Day, 200225
Events in Pictures26
Glimpses of Indian Cricket Stars27
Meetings - Exploring more Co-operation with India28
In the Shadow of a SuperpowerManu Joseph & Sandipan Deb29-30
Devdas - Mystique of Tragic LoveB.M. Malhotra31-33
Esteemed Readers Write34-35
Books in a Nut-Shell36-37
Twinning of ArtHemant Sareen38
The Pathfinders39
Institutions of the Community40
Export-Import Policy 2003-4Arun Jaitley41-42
New Zealand Seismic Technology for India43
Tender NotesChild Poets44
Hindi Section
Indians Abroad; प्राक्कथनJ.C. Sharma; जे.सी. शर्मा45
Everest - An Eternal Challenge; कई ग्लेशियरों से उभरता विशाल पिरामिडीय आकार एवरेस्ट को अव्दितीय भव्यता प्रदान करता हैSuman Dubey; सुमन दुबे46
Let's Lit the Lamps Again; अटल जी की काव्य वानगीA.B. Vajpayee; अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी47
The Buddhist Heritage of Indian Art; भारतीय कला के प्रेरणा पुरुषJ. Chandrikesh; जगदीश चंद्रिकेश48-49
Earth, How Beautiful! इतनी तो प्यारी लगती है धरतीR.S. Prajapati; रविंद्र स्वप्निल प्रजापति50
Epitome of a Folk Song; एक लोकगीत का उपसंहारPrakash Manu; प्रकाश मनु51
A Distant Dawn - Poetry of Sahir Ludhianvi; सुबह का इंतजार कौन करे - साहिर लुधयानवी की शायरीR.S. Tiwari; राधेश्याम तिवारी 52