The Journey Of Life – Weaving A Garland of Relationships and Their Sweet Memories for Coming To Terms with the Inevitability of Partings and Death.

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“Zindagi ke Safar me Guzar Jaate Hain Jo Makaam , Phir Kabhi Nahi Aate, Phir Kabhi Nahi Aate !”

Thus go the words of the famous song sung by Kishore Kumar for the Rajesh Khanna starred film ‘Aap Ki Kasam’ (1977), which are relevant to everyone of us in respect of the persons who come into our lives and go like co-passengers in a train or bus, but not without leaving their sweet and lasting memories. (Not in airplanes though, where people are more interested in reaching their destinations at the earliest than in ‘reaching out ‘ to fellow travellers for making acquaintances and friends)!

Many people come into our lives by chance, leaving sweet (or sometimes bitter) memories. Years ago, a friend of mine married a slightly elderly widower whom she loved. Unfortunately, the man expired soon after their first marriage anniversary, leaving her heartbroken. At that time, when I had gone to offer her my condolences, I asked her whether she felt that it would have been better if she had not got married to him, as it made her a widow after hardly a year of marriage. She said, ” No. You feel as if I made a mistake in wedding him because you think that I forfeited my unentangled, carefree maiden’s life for just a year of married happiness; that is, I made a bad bargain. However, if you see that in this one year, I got all the love and bliss that my wonderful husband could give me, which I could never have got if I had refrained from the marriage, looking at his age, you would not feel so sorry for me.

After all, there is a risk in every marriage or relationship. Does it mean one should steer away from marriage or close relationships because of the fear of pain of losing the person/s? Are the lasting, gratifying memories the person/s leave behind not worth anything?

A lady known to me lost her only grown up 38 years old son of sudden and unexpected cardiac attack . She had already lost her husband some years ago, and her son was her immediate pillar of strength thereafter. So someone made a remark that rather than having and raising a child with much love and care, and losing it in one ‘s old age that is heartbreaking, one feels that perhaps it would have been better not to have had a child at all. To that, the bereaved Mother gave the same reply as the Widowed woman had said in respect of the loss of her husband, -“Why, was the delight and pleasure of bringing up my son from a baby to the smart and accomplished young man that he had become, not of any value? He has left so many sweet memories of the affection and support that he gave me through the difficult years after his father’s demise, that are enough to provide me with sentimental satisfaction for my lifetime.And after all, he too has left me with a wonderful memory of his, My Grandson, just as his father had left him behind, for me to cope with the sorrow of his loss.”

I too still remember with fondness all the fulfilling moments spent with the people who have come into my life from time to time, from my grandparents who lived in Bombay (as it was called then), my parents, my two younger sisters (who also graduated in Medicine, of whom the elder one retired as Prof and Head of Dept. of Medicine from Nair Hospital in Mumbai, and the other, worked as Pediatric Physician in a US Hospital), my cousins, our jolly and helpful neighbors at 21 Pratap Ganj, Baroda(who gave us company and support through thick and thin e.g.Climatic excesses like floods, death etc.), my school/ college mates and friends in my early life, down to my colleagues at the working place, and my present family. Unfortunately, my husband and some close relatives too have left this world one by one, of whom one was very special. So the actually living, closely related persons left in my life at present, have been reduced to a very small group including a niece, which my youngest sister is most grieved about.

“Our family has become empty, almost empty”, she always laments. I too miss all the foregone persons and our life with them. However, Death is an inevitable part of life, and there is no alternative but to accept the departure of the dear ones from our lives, and move ahead with composure, which I try to make her understand and take life as it is in her stride, as I myself learned to do with great difficulty.

” Yes dear, it is a sad truth that our parents, spouses, as also many of our family members and close friends have LEFT this World, some at a premature age”, I tell her, “But every Cloud has a Silver Lining. Look at the persons who have been BORN and COME amidst us to fill up the Void, for example, my grandson, who is your grand-nephew.”

Several decades back, when I was10, a paternal cousin and a favourite and lovely childhood friend of mine, with whom I remember having played pranks like throwing pillows at her and her younger sister in bed as nursery school kids, and accompanied them for sight- seeing rides later, died tragically at a very young age in her twelfth year of Rheumatic Heart Disease. As she was a very pretty and intelligent girl and their eldest child, her parents were crestfallen at the loss. But, instead of spending their life moaning over her loss, they planned and had another child, a son, the next year, and reconciled themselves to their daughter’s demise. They had two more daughters who have also accomplished themselves very well, the elder lotus-eyed one who graduated in Fine Arts, viz.Painting from the Maharajah Sayajirao University of Baroda, and the younger one in Pediatric Medicine from KEM Hospital, Mumbai. The Son too bas no mean achieve- ments to bis credit. Years later, in our adulthood, the Artist sister too passed away. Another loss for our family. However, I take solace in seeing how well her sons and grandchildren are doing.

For Life is always Rising at the horizon to make up for the Sunset at the other end. Hence We should take comfort from that, and also learn to get gratification by ruminating over and emotionally reliving the pleasant times we spent with the ones we miss now, who had added unforgettable happiness to our life in their lifetime during the past years. Most special among our parents’ generation whom I miss the most, was a maternal aunt who used to take us for strolls along the Marine Drive in Mumbai, to films, for swimming and was very enjoyable company. I love to think of her and go down the memory lane through the times I spent with her with relish.

I also remember the days in 1945 during the World War II, when there used to be total blackouts at night and one had to manage with candles and lanterns to do anything. I still recall hearing in the pindrop silence of those nights the menacing siren sounds of Fighter planes going overhead the roofs of the houses opposite Girgaum Chowpati in Bombay, where I used to stay with my grandparents during my school vacations. At that time, I was only 4&1/2 years and did not understand the dangers of War, so I used to feel thrilled at that unusual experience of living in candlelight with our entire family together, as my parents had also come to Bombay along with my younger second sister who was a baby of 1 year, to stay with their parents, that is, my grandparents. My youngest sister had not arrived then.

Our extended family, including the grandparents of both sides, had moved to Belgaum to our ancestral house for some days for safety sake. What a Journey it was, with our whole family going by train to Belgaum in a single compartment booked specially for our family. It was like going for a Picnic with the whole family, taking home cooked food as there was no pantry service on trains in those days.

Besides cherishing memories, I often dream of going for walks with my parents and for shopping with my mother, so that when I wake up, I feel as fresh as if I had just met them in real life.

There are some people who believe in Occult Sciences who try to call back the departed near and dear ones to communicate with them by the use of Occult Media and gadgets like Planchette, through which they claim that they can request or summon any soul whom they wish to talk with. However, my parents and husband all disapproved of such practices, as they felt that the exercise is painful to the soul of the demised one who is already struggling to break free of his or her earthly attachment to close relatives, dependents and worldly possessions. So they used to tell me that one should accept the fatality of anyone’s death, and never try to call the person back through Occult Experiments or even by wailing hard, but leave the Soul of the Dead person free to move on unhindered to the Life After Death.

It is upto us whether we see a half-filled glass as half- full or half empty! Therefore, I would like to modify the words of the foregoing song as follows –

“Zindagi ke Safar me Guzar Jaate Hain Jo Makaam, Phir Kabhi Nahi Aate, Par Mahek Chhod Jaate!”

(“In The Journey of Life, The Stations That Pass By, Never Come Back, But Leave Their Fragrance Behind!”)

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My Journey of Life – Realisation of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’(The Earth is One Family).

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My journey of Life started from the Bombay state before it got divided into Gujarat, Maharashtra and North Kanara. My father was serving as Professor of Mathematics in the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, but our extended joint family house was in Mumbai (then Bombay) Central, just opposite the Girgaum Chaupati. Being a person with an unconventional outlook, my father enrolled me in the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Baroda in 1945 instead of a Marathi medium school. Those were the days of the pre- Independence times. As such, my school had nuns and students from a large variety of nationalities, including Europeans like British, German, French, Italians, as well as Indians of all states from Punjabis and Bengalis to Tamilians and Malayalis besides Maharashtrians, and of different religions.

Nevertheless, during my vacations, I used to also attend occasional classes with my friends studying in Marathi and Gujarati medium to know how they taught different subjects in the regional languages, with the permission of their teachers who first demanded to know why I was there, but were pleased and allowed me to attend the period when my friends told them that I was studying in English medium but was also interested in experiencing how it felt to learn in my mother tongue Marathi, as well as in the regional language of Gujarat, namely Gujarati. It was a very amusing and homely experience, indeed; particularly hearing Indian History and Social Studies being taught in Marathi and Gujarati. The various personages and social rules seemed so much more homely and connected to us personally when introduced to us the language of the historical figures being discussed, as for example the Rani of Jhansi, Laxmibai in Marathi, or Gandhiji and his ‘Dandi March’ for seizing the freedom to take the salt from the Sea waters of India, as a part of the Swarajya Movement in Gujarati, a feel one cannot get from the English books on the History of India!

This was another and different sort of lesson of life for me, that while it is true that ‘The Earth is One Family ‘, it does not mean that one has to dissolve or lose one’s original identity as the member of a particular social milieu in the general stream of humanity totally!

After my schooling in Baroda, my father sent me for Medical Education to the erstwhile Madras State, to study at the Christian Medical College and Hospital, Vellore, affiliated to the Madras University. As it is open to All India Entrance, I had college mates hailing from all the South Indian States, as also some North Indians, Bengalis and Oriya, as also of different Religious groups- Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Parsis and Sikhs. There were also students who had come on Foreign exchange quota as well as Overseas staff members including Americans, British, Australians, Chinese etc.

It was the first time that I was staying among such a wide variety of people. Yet, it was a very heart warming experience. We stayed and worked together like sisters and brothers of one family. We all knew and addressed one another by name, and became so familiar and at ease with everyone including our teaching staff, that by the end of the course, we had grown not only more enlightened academically, but also become alive to the fact that the differences of race, religion, language and colour were immaterial, once one became affiliated to people from other backgrounds and faiths cordially.

During my Housemanship, I also came into contact with the doctors who had come to Vellore for experience from the other Colleges in Tamil Nadu, like Madras Medical College, Madurai, Tanjore etc. and made friends with many Tamilians. They included Brahmins as also non-Brahmins, who told me that they were Shudras (Upper Caste Shudras, not Untouchable). I was pleasantly surprised to observe how they declared themselves to be Shudras without any complex, unlike in the North, where the equivalent castes refer to themselves as ‘Other Backward Castes’ than as Shudras, as if it is a stigma(which it is, sadly, till the present times. [Earlier, that is, before the advantage of Reservation of Sears/jobs for Backward Castes became sizeable, the OBC took pride in introducing themselves as ‘Unreserved(Bakshi Panch)’ citizens to feel closer to the Upper castes of Hindus than to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes].

A further turn came into my life when I got married into a family of my caste but settled in South Karnataka. Again, it was a period of flux and adjustment with people speaking a different tongue, that is Konkani and Kannada, having different food habits and following somewhat unfamiliar customs. However, I must say to the credit of my husband and inlaws that they accepted me warmly in their midst and helped me to become one of them.

Many years back, thereafter, I happened to go for a seminar to Hyderabad. There I met a volunteer who introduced himself to me as Mr. Pandya. Pandya is a typical Gujarati surname, so I asked him if he was a Gujarati. To that he said, “In Hyderabad, we all identify ourselves as Hyderabadis, not as Gujaratis, Maharashtrians or whatever, nor as Hindus, Muslims or Christians. Here we all live and interact as members of one unique culture- Hyderabadi!” On hearing that, I was so impressed that I wished all Indians would think of themselves as Indians first, and then as members of different states, languages and religions, on the model of Hyderabad. (I hope it still keeps up to that image till today).

Four years ago, in April 2014, I had the opportunity to visit Bhutan, ‘ The Land of The Thunder Dragon’, well known for its organic state and government. It was a very refreshing experience, quite different from what I had gone through before. The entire landscape with its mountains, valleys, rivers and fields was a feast to my eyes, not to mention the lovely, cosy fairy tale type buildings of wood and stone present in scattered clusters which were in delightful contrast to the stereotype structures of concrete and cement we see in the common metropolitan cities of India today. It was like a visit to Shangri- la, the mythical Land of Bliss in the Himalayas. So also their temples known as Jhongs and the tall and stately Buddha statues. However, what I noticed and relished about the place was the interpersonal bond between the different communities there, mostly, Buddhist, Hindu,Christian. One could hardly tell one from the other. I learnt that they even intermarry among themselves!

These experiences have led me to the realisation that the human heart throbs equally benevolently in all humankind regardless of the superficial man-made distinctions, if only one listens to it without racial or religious bias!

This Eternal Truth is experienced by all communities at the time of natural calamities like earthquakes, massive floods, tsunamis, as also mass epidemics or pandemics when a large section of a population is threatened to be destroyed by Nature’s or some communicable disease’s fury. On such occasions, humanity rises as a whole to counter the danger of mass annihilation, without narrow considerations of race, caste or creed. BUT, Mankind endowed with superior intelligence should not wait for such major catastrophes to jolt it into coming together as a race, should it?

(HOWEVER, it needs to be clarified that the ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbaka does not mean that one has to accept or imbibe the faulty beliefs of some misguided sects, for example the Aghori sects who practice offensive rituals like human sacrifice, cannibalism, sex orgies with corpses and black magic etc. to invoke and appease evil spirits for malafide gains. Likewise, Terrorism of whichever form, whether Islamic Jihad or Saffron Terror should be taboo.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbaka means having a benevolent attitude towards all humans regardless of their race or religion, in the sense of consideration for their welfare as people, and not going out of the way to harm some of them just because they are of different communities. All the same, it also does not mean that no efforts should be done to enlighten or bring them out of their blind, superstitious beliefs and practices).

Would Abolishing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir lead to a greater Demographic imbalance than it can correct?

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Yes, I am afraid it would. It would be like throwing the Jammu and Kashmir state ‘From the Frying Pan into the Fire’. For it would open a Pandora ‘s Box of confusion and turmoil.

Those Indians who support the idea of Abolishing the Articles 370 of the Constitution of India, and demand its immediate implementation, think that just because India is a nation with Hindu majority, the opening of the doors of the State of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh for all will be followed by a rush of mostly Hindus into all the Provinces, that will ‘correct’ the demographic balance towards making it a Hindu majority State, as the Kingdom of Jammu was, Once Upon A Time, before it came under the British rule and got possession of the Muslim majority Kashmir Valley in 1846 AD through them, which has become a ” ‘Chhachhundar’ stuck in the throat” of the earlier Jammu state and now of India too.

It would have been better if Raja Gulab Singh who was the Maharajah of Jammu then, had kept Kashmir as the separate princely state, as it was earlier, simply annexed to Jammu, instead of merging it with Jammu and making Srinagar its winter capital whereby his Hindu majority state got subverted into a Muslim majority one forever. A deplorable example of ‘Penny wise, Pound fooolish’, For the Muslim population in the Kashmir Valley in 1846 AD was 94-95% of the total population in the Valley, and overwhelmingly more than the Hindus in Jammu and Ladakh put together, as a result of which the combined state became an overall(2/3) Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir State, with only the Jammu province left with Hindu majority. Thus, in the long run, the Dogras of Jammu and Kashmir themselves got strangled by the same noose that they had laid for maintaining a fast hold on Kashmir , not realising that their power over it during the British rule was due to the British Sovereignty than their own strength.

The Indian dream of retrieving Pak Occupied Kashmir sooner or later is also a futile and unprofitable exercise. For POK is 100% Muslim populated. So it will only add further to the number of Muslims in India, IF IT IS REGAINED AT ALL . It may raise the strength of Muslims to such a level that, together with the Pakistani terrorist -backed separatists of the Kashmir Valley of the Indian Administered Jammu-Kashmir, they can take away the part of the state that is with India. At present itself, the Indian Army loses almost as many soldiers as the number of terrorists killed in each encounter. How many more will be lost in the effort to get back POK? Also, how will that help to resettle the Kashmiri Pundits in Kashmir?

What Raja Gulab Singh, who thus became the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir (generally addressed as the Maharajah of Kashmir) should have done then was (1) to merge only the part on the East and North of the Jhelum river in the Kashmir valley, including Srinagar district, housing the religious and pilgrimage sites of importance to Hindus, that is being demanded now by the Kashmiri Pandits for the formation of an enclave for their resettlement, namely ‘Panun Kashmir’; and the KPs and other residents of the area alone should have been made the citizens of the Princely State. (2) The rest of the valley of Kashmir should have been maintained and ruled as an Annexure of the State of Jammu without merger.

This would have facilitated the division of the state into (1) a Hindu majority state of Jammu and Panun Kashmir with Ladakh, which could have been merged later without dispute with India, after Independence, While (2) the Muslim majority remainder of the valley could have logically gone to Pakistan without war or plebiscite after the Independence of Jammu and Kashmir at the same time as India and Pakistan, in August 1947, wherefrom the dispute over the right over Kashmir started.

However, Kashmir was a prime property that Raja Gulab Singh did not want to keep as a separate property that could break loose anytime, so He merged it with Jammu to make it an integral part of His State despite the protests of the Kashmiri Muslims who wanted it to remain their ‘Independent Kashmir’, and free of Jammu. The other motive of the merger was also to dilute the absolute majority of Muslims in the Kashmir valley. Also, in 1846, when the Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was under the powerful British sovereignty, He may not have imagined the subsequent events and problems that were to occur a century later that his descendent Raja Hari Singh would have to face as a consequence .

The attempt to correct the distorted demography of the State of Jammu and Kashmir at this stage by abolition of the Article 370 could backfire on India, especially on Jammu and Ladakh. Because it can happen, contrary to the beliefs of Hindu Indians, that people of other religious communities (not ruling out even more Muslims in addition to the Rohingyas already in Jammu, outnumbering the Kashmiri Pundits, Dogras and other Hindus as always Buddhists of Tibetan origin) may storm into the State, which will be impossible to prevent, once the ‘Lock’ of the Special Status of the State is opened by scrapping the Article 370 from the Indian Constitution.

Things were different during the strict and powerful British Sovereign Rule, who could quash all rebellion from the Kashmiri Muslims and their supporters or other insurgent groups with an iron hand; but we know the mettle of our post Freedom politicians and their parties who are unrealistically and exasperatingly committed to the ideology of pacification of their enemy nations even in the face of attacks.

Even in the case of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri, who is regarded by many Indians as the Best PM India has had so far, it is said that he made the Indian Forces retreat and return to India after they had reached as far as Lahore during the Indo Pak War over Kashmir in 1965, because it was violative of India’s policy of Peace and Non-aggression (not meaning absolute nonviolence or passive resistance like Satyagraha in the event of actual wars initiated by the enemy) but not to transgress into or invade the enemy’s territory, though it may have been done by our Army for defence purpose. That is, wage war only to save our country’s territory from invasion and illegal occupation, just to make the enemy nation realise that we cannot be conquered easily. That’s all. Not to ‘Crush the Enemy’s Head in His Burrow’ for good, so that it may not raise its ugly head again!

[I call this policy set by Jawaharlal Nehru the ‘Dharmaraj Yudhishthira’ Policy, or the ‘Policy of Yama’ (said to be his father or presiding deity) in the sense of rigid Self- Restraint(संयम) even at the cost of victory, which subdued the valiant spirit of our first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and thereafter stifles the Indian Army, representing Arjun, the brave warrior of the Pandavas (who was supposed to be the son of Indra, the Commander in Chief of the Gods).

Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar was the Bhim of the first Independent Indian Government Cabinet, and Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was Karna, their dissident brother who, like Ambedkar, was against the addition of the Article 370 to the Indian Constitution, which was one of the reasons for his resignation from Nehru’s government and from the Indian National Congress. (Nehru accepted that demand of SheikhAbdullah and the Maharajah of Kashmir because he wanted them to accede Kashmir to India with any terms and conditions). As to Nakul and Sahadev, they were just the followers of the elder four Pandavas.

Deplorably, there has been No wise Guide like Sri Krishna in Free India till now, due to which there is no end in sight for this Kashmir ‘Mahabharata’ in ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’. Perhaps, Subramanian Swamy who has joined BJP to be its MP, without becoming a minister can be compared to Sri Krishna, as the ‘Parthasarathy’ to Narendra Modi, but unfortunately, his advice is not taken seriously or followed by the Modi Government until it is very late!

In short, the result of the revocation of Article 370 may well turn out to be an irreversible ‘ANTICLIMAX ‘, or a disgraceful ‘Fall On The Face’ for Hindus. For Hindus(barring exceptions like Punjabis, Jats, Rajputs and some others like the Marathas and Kshatriyas of Coorg as well as certain tribes of North East), particularly Kashmiri Pundits are really no match in pugnacity and aggressiveness to the ferocious Muslims and fiery Sikhs! Already, there are signs of re-upsurgence of the Khalistan movement being re-ignited by some Sikh groups in India and abroad.

Hence, the BEST OPTION to my mind under the present circumstances, is to let the Article 370 remain(at least in the KASHMIR valley and LADAKH to retain their ethnic and cultural identity but with the two provinces kept as separate units under different Chief Ministers to avoid clashes), and the two provinces or at least Ladakh should be placed under Central Rule as Union Territory with Special Status, but with strong and wise Governor posted there with full powers for Rule and military help (to be taken as and when, and where required- until the law and order situation in the provinces is fully under control).

Regarding the question of desirability and feasibility of maintenance of Article 370 in JAMMU province, or making it a full fledged State or Union Territory under the Indian Union as its people desire, much discussion and deliberation is required between the people of Jammu, the Governor of J+K and the Central Government, in consultation with the Ministry of Law and Legislature and Dr. Subramanian Swamy, as also the President of India and the Parliament for taking the right decision. It is personally felt that it is IMPERATIVE that at least Raja Gulab Singh’s original JAMMU STATE with the KASHMIRI PANDITS, and if possible, Leh-Ladakh and the Zanskar tehsil of Kargil dist. with Buddhist majority also, SHOULD BE FREED or EXTRICATED FROM the trappings of ARTICLE 370 and MADE a REGULAR STATE or Union Territory of India at earliest – preferably before the elections of 2019. For though it appears that the BJP led National Democratic Alliance will get another term to govern, there is no surety about whether it will win with absolute majority in the Lok Sabha again as it did in 2014.

Once the Law and Order situation is under control in the Kashmir Valley however, an effort should be made to find out how many Kashmiri Muslims are in league with the separatists, and how many are not; then talk with those who are not, to understand their needs, and with the separatists too about why they are dissatisfied with the Indian government, and what the Govt. can do for them(except grant separation from India). As for those who wish to separate to be Independent or become the citizens of Pakistan, they should be told that they can be transferred to ‘Azad Jammu-Kashmir’ if they want, and if the Pakistan Government is willing to accept them.

All said and done, THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN MARRIED TO MEN OUTSIDE JAMMU and KASHMIR STATE and the MINORITIES of the state, viz. KASHMIRI PANDITS and SIKHS WHO HAVE BEEN FORCED TO FLEE (LEAVING THEIR HOMES and PROPERTY) FROM THE KASHMIR VALLEY IN 1990 and THEREAFTER, and living elsewhere as refugees since then, SHOULD BE PROTECTED, WITH OR WITHOUT THE ARTICLE 35-A, under the Indian Constitution.