Monthly Archives: August 2008

What am I missing today?




What am I missing today is the celebration of Janamshtami. I come from Delhi; a city, which for most people who is not from Delhi, is known to be a loud city and I don’t deny that. Delhi is loud and that is why all the festivals are celebrated with full fervor.


Markets are lit 15 days ahead of Diwali; you get to see colors on people’s faces at least 2 weeks before its Holi. New Year celebration starts from 1st December, Valentines day means red heart shaped balloons every where, Santa Clauses distributing goodies from the 20th of December, big boards of festival discounts, colorful e-mails carrying good wishes, children coming every now and then to collect money to celebrate either Ram Lila, Bhagwati Jagran or Janmashtami.


As a child I also celebrated Janmashtami inspired by my dad who also celebrated the festival the way it had been celebrated for so many years. Friends would gather, they would go from one house to the other in the neighborhood, collect money. Some people will give money and some will just send you back. The amount would vary from Rs.2 to Rs.10.


This money will then be used to buy the small clay toys, which are sold especially for Janmashtami. Small cows, Krishna’s father Vasu Dev, Devaki, Shiva’s Head and other similar artifacts. A place in the colony is selected where a pit is dug. This pit is then filled with water because that’s how the river Yamuna is shown in Delhi. Then the river is decorated with colorful chalks, lights. False mount Kailash is created and Shiva is placed on top. If you have a generous aunty and a  plumber savvy neighborhood “Bhaiyya” then you also get a Ganga and Yamuna flowing from Mount Kailash. The prasad is usually “Boondi” and 2 most important things other than all this are placed. These are a jhoola or a cradle where Bal Gopal or little Krishna is placed so that people can come and rock the cradle with the help of a thread, which is tied to that cradle and the other important thing being the jail in which Krishna’s parents where captured.


In the water pit, Vasu Dev is kept because that is how he crossed the river to save Krishna.


The entire area is then lit up with long wires and bulbs and electricity taken from some other generous uncle. Small kids are made to dress up like Radha and Krishna.


This is how Janmashtami has been celebrated in Delhi for so many years. I am not sure if children find the time and motivation from there parents to celebrate these festival these days and if the modern society, apartment managers allow the kids to celebrate the festival in the traditional style.


These festivals are more of a learning experience for a child rather than a religious practice. It teaches a child the essence of teamwork, leadership, organizing and management.


I remember the 1st time when I celebrated Janmashtami, I celebrated it with a Muslim friend of mine and even asked her to get an idol of Krishna. She went and asked her mom if they had any Krishna idol and Mrs. Ali said, “No.” That’s how innocent childhood is.


Once I grew up the responsibility of celebration passed on to the next generation of kids and they did a good job. We would go out and check out every colony’s Janmashtami decoration and pass our verdict. Its as similar as going to different Durga Puja pandals and see the decorations.


Delhi in many ways is a very lively city. Every year 15th Aug is celebrated as a National festival with people in patriotic mood, playing patriotic songs, in the evening kite flying is a must do followed by how many kites one could steal. On Rakshabandhan you would see men with huge Rakhis on their wrist. Sleepy husbands taking their decked up wives to their brother’s homes. Aunties looking for young girls for Kanchak, children collecting wood for Lohri, Ram Lila convoys passing by with small, thin boys dressed up as monkeys, huge effigies of Ravan, women in shimmering dresses on Id and Karwachaut. It’s a different experience all together if you are in Delhi during festivals.


The city that I live in these days is completely opposite. It’s all that what Delhi is not. It’s quite yet chaotic, cold and a weather and life so uniform throughout the year, 365 days that unless you read it in the Newspaper you would not even come to know that yesterday was 15th Aug.


Today also passed like any other Sunday. Today was Janmashtami but without any celebration. I made some halwa at home and we were done.





A lethal cocktail of religion & politics-HT Article

Came accross a very interesting article by Sanjeev Nayyar on HT dated 27-Jul-07.

With the  contro-versy over the Dera Sacha Sauda leader’s apparent imitation of the 10th Sikh Guru having died down, it is useful to know why a prosperous state like Punjab continues to erupt like this. After terrorism in the 1980-1990s, the last thing it needed was a fresh outbreak of violence. This article recaps the history of Punjab from the 1860s to date, and includes a series of key events that have brought about the present situation. 


Guru Gobind Singh started the Khalsa in 1699. According to tradition, its followers had to sport the five Ks i.e. Kesh-long hair, Kangha-comb, Kirpan-sword, Kara-steel bracelet, and Kachcha-knickers. Long hair and turbans were supposed to protect faces and heads from sword cuts and lathi blows. The Kada was a reminder that the Sikh spirit was strong and unbending. The Kacha was more suitable for fighting the Mughals in than the dhotis and loose trousers of the Muslims. The maximum number of the Khalsa’s followers were Jats. Though others considered themselves Sikhs, they held back since they were not followers of the Khalsa.

Having experienced the strength of Sikh opposition during the Anglo-Sikh wars and grateful for the assistance received from Sikh princes during the Mutiny of 1857, the British realised the Sikhs could be an effective buffer between Afghanistan and India.

Therefore, the British reduced the number of Bengali soldiers (involved in the 1857 Mutiny) and replaced them with loyal Sikhs and Punjabi Muslims. As Veena Talwar wrote: “To prevent the sort of mutiny they experienced from sepoys in 1857, the British organised religiously segregated regimental units from the alleged martial races, i.e. Sikhs, Pathans, Rajputs etc. This severely restricted Hindus of other castes, particularly the Khatris (Punjabi form of Kshatriya), who had served in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s forces. The Khatris (all Sikh Gurus were Khatris) were arbitrarily lumped together by the British as trading castes. Many families got around this artificially imposed caste barrier by raising one or more son as a Sikh, chiefly by having him adopt the name Singh and grow hair or beard to match”. (Dowry Murder, the Imperial origins of a Cultural Crime).

Thus, the enlistment of Sikhs increased steeply. Joining the army was remunerative. Soldiers were well paid, given agricultural land and pension.

Around this time there was a fall in Sikh morale, stemmed by the Singh Sabha movement. Founded in 1873, it soon split into two. The first group was the Sanatani Sikhs who regarded the Panth as a special form of Hindu tradition. The second was the Tat (true) Khalsa, which believed Sikhism was a different religion.

The British supported the Tat Khalsa movement by insisting only Khalsa Sikhs (those who sported the five Ks) could join the Army. A move to say Sikhs were not Hindus received an impetus in 1898 with Khan Singh Nabha’s book Ham Hindu Nahin, the passing of the Anand Marriage Act in 1909 as the only approved order for Sikh marriage, and the insistence on the five Ks to distinguish Sikhs from Hindus.

It did not matter to the Tat Khalsa that the real name of the Golden Temple is Hari Mandir and, “Of the 15,028 names of Gods that appear in the Adi Granth, Hari occurs over 8,000 times, Ram 2,533 times followed by Prabhu, Gopal, Govind and other Hindu names for the Divine. The popular Sikh coinage Wahe Guru appears only 16 times”. (Khushwant Singh).

After several decades, the Tat Khalsa emerged victorious. According to W. H. Mcleod, it ensured that “in 1905, idols were removed from the Hari Mandir”. (Historical Dictionary of Sikhism). Modern Sikhism is a creation of this movement.

By about 1920, it was overtaken by the Akali Dal, a new political party that gave expression to the revived sense of Sikh identity. The Akalis entered into a dispute with the British for the control of Sikh Gurudwaras. The passing of the Sikh Gurudwaras Act in 1925 signalled their complete victory. The Act’s definition of a Sikh leant strongly towards the exclusivists’ Khalsa view.

To retain effective control over Punjab, the British drove a wedge between the Jats and Khatris. They passed the Punjab Land Alienation Act of 1900, which created a favoured, dominant, agriculturist class and a non-agriculturist class. The former included Hindu and Sikh Jats and Muslim tribes, and the latter, Hindu Brahmins, Khatris and Banias. The Act made tribe and caste the basis for land ownership. The British sought to anchor itself in Punjab by playing up the distinctions between Hindus and Muslims, while nurturing Muslim and Sikh Jats as loyal subjects.

In this manner, the British supported the Jat Sikhs who were the prime movers of the Tat Khalsa movement.

The consequences were many. One, the birth of the Akali Dal and its control over gurudwaras heralded the tradition of mixing religion and politics. Control of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee is key to political power in Punjab. Two, it made Jats a powerful community. Three, it started a tradition of Khatris and Aroras raising their first son as a Sikh. Children of the Sikh son became Sikh and so on. Today, future generations of the same family having similar surnames, say Kohli, are known to the outside world as followers of two religions, Sikhism and Hinduism. Four, it created a divide between Jat and Khatri Sikhs, such that the latter are called “Bhapa”, a term dismissively used by Jats to describe Khatris and Aroras. Five, “since Jat Sikhs consider themselves superior to others, non-Jat Sikhs in the Indian Army never reveal their surnames for fear of being ridiculed in the Sikh community”. Instead they suffix their first names with Singh.

Notwithstanding the fact that an Akali leader (1940-1960 period), Master Tara Singh was co-founder of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in 1964, Punjab was quite successfully divided between Sikhs and Hindus. During the agitation for Punjab, the divide widened.Those areas (inhabited mostly by Hindus), which had a Hindi-speaking majority, were included in the state of Haryana.

Religion and politics got irrevocably intertwined in Punjab. Adept at using religion, the Akalis ensured the Congress was at the receiving end in the 1980s. Indira Gandhi believed, if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them. So the Congress propped Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale up to counter the Akalis, creating a monster. What followed was the killing of innocent Hindus and Sikhs.

 Just like the Congress party’s propping up of Bhindranwale eventually resulted in Operation Blue Star and Indira Gandhi’s death, so also Pakistan’s support for terrorism in India and Afghanistan resulted in the attack on Lal Masjid.

Today, the Jat Sikhs are a powerful community. Such is their clout that the UPA government is yet to implement an August 2004 Supreme Court ruling, which orders the construction of the Punjab portion of the Sutlej Yamuna Canal.

Whenever the supremacy of the Jat Sikhs is threatened, there could be violence. After the latest Apex Court order, Amarinder Singh said terrorism would return to Punjab if the order was implemented.

Mixing religion with politics was the British strategy. Has anything changed?

Sanjeev Nayyar is founder of

Coffee Cup Conversation

 This is a story of 2 friends talking over cup of coffee. Nothing particularly interesting but they talk never the less becuase they love to talk. Lets call them Sally and Mary. So here is the conversation between Sally and Mary over cups of coffee, a story of, “Coffee cup conversation”.


Sally, “The coffee here is good.”

Mary, “Yeah and the waiter ever better.”

Sally, “Hmm! May be. My taste in men is different from yours. Ok tell me what kind of man do you like? I mean suppose you were married or living-in, what kind of man would you picturise yourself with?”

Mary, “Well, my man has to be my boss. I will be everyone’s boss but my man will be my boss.”

Sally, “interesting. Even I want to look at my man as a figure of authority. I dont like those mama’s pet or hen pecked husbands.”

Mary, “Neither do I. But even if I get a man like that it is not necessary that I would end up being with that man. I mean I belive in the concept of soul mates but your soul mate may not be the man you would end up falling in love with.”

Sally, “Interesting. But what do you mean?”

Mary, “See a man is not just an individual. He will come with his own sets of social, personal baggage which I might not be able to handle. So even if he is my soul mate I may not end up being with him. He may have a wife already, or may have an old widowed mother who would turn out to be a terrible mother in law. Knowing myself I wont get into all that.”

Sally, “Yes, I get your point. If God made soul mates. He surely did not make the social conditioning which acts as a repellent. God proposes and man disposes.”

Mary, “Yeah! Kind of. Hey there he comes again. Look at him, he is cute.”

Sally, “Stop staring at him. Hey did you see this NEWS before?”

Mary, “What NEWS?”

Sally, “This woman is seeking abortion rights because she is going to have a sick baby. She already is 7 months pregnant.”

Mary, “Really. I think she should be given abortion rights. After all its her body, her pregnancy.”

Sally, “I don’t think its about her anymore. The pregnancy is 7 months old which means its a live, moving, breathing baby, But I think she should be given abortion rights because knowing well in advance that she is going to give birth to a sick baby and then see the child die or suffer or not being able to live a normal life will be a bigger trauma for her and for the child. I am sure it must have been a difficult choice to make, afterall all their dreams, plans were surrounded by this pregnancy until they came to know about the medical condition of the unborn baby.”

Mary, “Yes, may be.”

Sally, “I think euthanasia should also be legalised in our country.”

Mary, “But it might be mis-used for property related issues.”

Sally, “Ya we also need stringent law enforcement agencies.”

Mary, “Ya and we also need to change so many redundant laws. I mean just look at the legal definition of rape. It is so sick. Only penile vaginal penetration is rape. Object insertion, anal sex, oral sex is not rape.”

Sally, “How sick and prudish is that. But what surprises me more is the reluctance on the government’s part. They will fight for quota, reservation, ram mandir, Amarnath shrine, religion, caste, community, they will fight for everything on earth but the grass root issues. Take the farmers suicide for example. Dr. Singh said, loans will be waived off and new loans will be disbursed. Arrey Bhai, the loans taken from the nationalised banks will be waived off what about the money taken from private lenders. And the old loans have still not been disbursed and they are talking about new loans now. How ridiculous?”

Mary, “Seriously, pass me the light.”

Sally, “You should try those ultra milds. They are really cool.”

Mary, “Hmm! When did you try those? You don’t even smoke.”

Sally, “I tried them at a restaurant. Just like that. Loved the sexy look of it.”

Mary, “Sexy looks does matter. I want a sexy man.”

Sally, “Yeah! But the waiter isn’t sexy at all.”

Mary, “I like Tom Cruise…”

Sally, “…and Aamir Khan too. But this movie Jaane Tu was a total bakwas.”

Mary, “Yeah, in fact I liked Ugli aur Pagli more. The way Ugli loved Pagli is so sweet and that is what I call true love.”

Sally, “So you want someone who would love you like crazy with all your faults.”

Mary, “I guess so.”

Sally, “OK, In that case try writing a mail to that film maker friend of yours. He is matured, looks decent, is interesting, will not be too much of a botheration, just what you want.  Ask him out, ask him to come to your city.”

Mary, “Good idea. I will write a mail to him.”

Sally, “When?”

Mary, “I will, I will.”

Sally, “Today?”

Mary, “OK. Today.”

Sally, “Right away.”

Mary, “OK. Right away.”

They open the laptop to write a mail to this guy, one more coffee follows and some more conversation.