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Sunday, September 28, 2008


This amazing scene was photographed at Bangalore, by my brother.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Black-Out and Other Short Stories

A few days ago, I had gone to New Delhi by local train. The train took about 45 minutes to reach the Shivaji Bridge (formerly known as Minto Bridge) station. From there, I walked to the middle circle of Connaught Place, where I had to deliver some papers at an office, on my father's behalf. After that, I walked on to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, where I spent a few minutes, before walking back to the station. Usually, it takes me about 25 minutes, either way, to perambulate to Bangla Sahib and back and the Connaught Place errand was only a slight detour.

On the return journey, there were no vacant seats in sight, so I stood with my back against a wooden partition, surrounded by other travellers. Though the fans installed in the compartment were of little help against the heat and humidity, the wind coming through the wide open doors offered relief, at least when the train was in motion. At one of the many stops on the way, I began to feel somewhat dizzy and held on to an overhead rail to steady myself. Then, it happened. It was as if my brain had switched off for a few moments, almost like a computer that gets restarted on its own. When the lights came back on, my knees were bent forward slightly, because I had slid down a bit along the wooden partition. My turban was slightly disturbed, on account of having rubbed against the partition. I tried to stand up straight and to reach once again for the overhead rail, but could do neither. Some one suggested that I should squat on the floor, which I did. Some one else offered me a drink of water. By the time the train reached the station where I had to get off, I had regained my strength and walked back home from there.

Those who have seen me might imagine that I have a black-out every other day, if not every day, on account of my ultra-slim physique. However, it came as a huge surprise to me, since anything of the kind had never happened to me before. Intense physical exercise in the past had caused weight-loss, but not a black-out. For instance, when I covered more than 100 kilometres of hilly terrain on foot, during a trek organised by the Youth Hostels Association of India in the Melghat Tiger Reserve in the state of Maharashtra, over a period of 5 days, I lost a few kilograms and probably looked even more skeletal at the end of it, but never did my brain shut down even for a single second.

The family-doctor has attributed the episode to low blood-pressure and a consequent shut-down of oxygen supply to the brain for a few seconds. According to him, my liver and intestines are not functioning at full-capacity. So, all the nutrients from the food that I eat do not reach my blood-stream. He has prescribed iron and calcium supplements along with some tablets and capsules to help the malfunctioning organs regain a healthy state and has also told me to try and protect myself, as far as possible, against infections, since any anti-biotics prescribed to cure those could harm my liver even further.

If my body were an automobile, I could have just gone and got the carburettor and air-filter cleaned, I suppose, or perhaps even the engine flushed clean of any carbon deposits, in addition to a change of engine oil, so as to restore the fuel efficiency.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Proud Punjabi

The following article appeared recently in The Tribune, Chandigarh, India.

He proudly wears Punjabi attire

Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 31
In every society, there are only a handful of people who dare to tread uncommon paths. Balkaur Singh, who retired today as excise and taxation officer of the Punjab government, after putting in 33 years of service, is one such person. Of the nearly 6 lakh employees of the Punjab government, he maintained a distinct identity.

He did not wear pants and shirt unlike most senior and junior babus in Punjab and many other parts of the country, even once during the entire tenure of service. And he did not even wear a kurta and pyjama while on duty. Without bothering about self-imposed protocol by babus, Balkaur Singh wore the traditional Punjabi dress, chadar, kurta and tilledar jutti during the period of his entire service. He was the only employee of the state government who attended top-level official meetings in the traditional attire.

Before joining service as an inspector in 1975, Balkaur did his post graduation in English and Punjabi as a regular student from Panjab University in the early 1970s. He sat in the class room in the traditional Punjabi dress without bothering about what other students and teachers felt about his dress. “My colleagues and other students in the university and during service in the excise department used to taunt me, but I did not bother as I always feel proud of my Punjabi identity,” said Balkaur Singh.

A brief comment made by an English couple in 1966 changed his life forever. He was so hurt by the comment that he decided not to wear “pants and shirt” ever again. “The British couple was sitting in front of our college at Sirsa. Out of curiosity, I along with other students went to see them as we had never seen such people,” said Balkaur Singh. “As far as language and dress is concerned we are still ruling India,” said the Englishman. “Listening to that remark I felt so humiliated that I decided not to wear the attire given to us by Englishmen,” said Balkaur, who also holds post graduation degrees in philosophy, sociology and psychology.

He says public life is dominated by thugs, corrupt and dishonest people. Bureaucrats and other government officials take pleasure in harassing common people. Hypocrisy has become way of life. Ruling classes of all hues are dishonest to people to whom they pretend to serve, he says. “As I had the guts to confront dishonest people, no one asked me to do anything illegal. I tried my best to serve small traders and businessmen honestly and never harassed them. In fact, I tried to help them. I spared those who committed mistakes inadvertently, but never spared those who have been dodging the government by using influence and their status”, he adds.

Balkaur says, “I will now promote Punjabi culture and expose hypocrites, who in the name of serving and promoting Punjabi culture are playing their own politics”.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Monday, September 01, 2008

Non-Verbal Communication

The sound of my mother's voice woke me from a rather extended afternoon nap.

"TuuN B***y (my nick-name) nu milan aaya aiN, ke dudh peen?"

(Have you come to see Sidhusaaheb or have you come to drink milk?)

Shortly, my friend Zakhmi appeared at the door of my room. I beckoned him over and he sauntered up to where I sat. After getting his ears scratched and his head patted for a while, he turned around and trotted away.

A few seconds later, he stood in the dining room, facing the kitchen, where my mother was, watching her with rapt attention. (He never enters the kitchen, because the old lady has told him not to.) Off and on, he would wag his tail a bit and then lick his lips as well, very expectantly. He appeared downcast, though, when my mother declared, "Hun tainu kujh nahi milna khaan-peen nu!" (You are not going to get anything to eat or drink now!)

He went off and parked himself on the the living-room floor, from where he had a clear view of the refridgerator. When I walked up to him, he turned himself upside down and offered me one of his fore-paws, which I shook vigorously. He seemed happy and even more so when I scratched his stomach. Although he was quite engrossed in playing with me, he stopped to watch carefully and to lick his lips, whenever my mother opened the refridgerator.

After a while, my mother changed her mind and offered him a slice of bread. He sniffed at it briefly and then settled down even more comfortably. A biscuit was met with a similar response, but as soon as she cut open a poly-pack of milk with a pair of scissors, he jumped up and then followed her outside, where his feeding bowl was.