New Delhi, March 23, 2006
By Khushwant Singh
As usual Sikhs of Delhi took out a procession
on Guru Gobind Singhs birthday. It was undoubtedly
as grand a spectacle as those in the years past: a
mile-long file of men and women walking ten to twenty
abreast, Punj Piyaras (the first five beloved converts
to the Khalsa Panth) with kirpans drawn, brass bands,
gatha groups, displaying their skills with lathis,
swords and whirlers; the decorated palki carrying
the Granth Sahib, followed by women singing hymns.
Traffic came to a halt, shops enroute pulled down
their shutters. It took the procession several hours
to cover the distance from one historic gurdwara to
another. Life in the city came to a standstill for
over six hours. Every such procession costs the community
several lakhs of rupees which could have been better
spent building more schools, hospitals etc. What takes
place in Delhi takes place in all big cities where
there is a sizeable population of Sikhs. It is repeated
at least thrice every year (Guru Nanaks birthday,
Guru Tegh Bahadurs martyrdom anniversary and
Guru Gobind Singhs birthday). These processions
have nothing whatsoever to do with Sikhism; they are
not even part of a maryada a religious tradition.
I had often toyed with the idea of writing against
our national habit of taking out processions which
deprive thousands of citizens of their daily earnings
and no doubt make people miss their appointments,
trains, flights and some in immediate need of urgent
medical relief deprived of their lives. I did not
do so earlier lest I be accused of being anti-religions
and deserving of punishment by people who look upon
themselves as guardians of the faith. They would ask
for my head on a platter.
I brought up the subject very discretely when a few
Sikhs happened to be in my home. They included Sukhdev
Singh Dhindsa (former Cabinet Minister and Akali member
of the Lok Sabha), Tarlochan Singh (Chairman, Minorities
Commission and MP, Rajya Sabha), Nanak Kohli (NRI
philanthropist) and Tavleen Singh (journalist). Tarlochan
Singh spoke out: All the goodwill we Sikhs earn
by sewa and the langar where we feed thousands free
of charge everyday is destroyed by these processions.
They should be banned. All the others agreed.
It would be foolish for any government to try and
ban religious processions. It has to be done by leaders
of the community. In the case of Sikhs the SGPC, Jathedars
of the Akal Takht and governing bodies of different
gurdwaras. I am sure Hindus and Muslims will be shamed
into doing the same. Then the Government can come
down heavily on political processions as well.
Yogi & Commissar
It would not be fair on my part to take sides in
the spat between Brinda Karat and Swami Ramdev. I
am biased in favour of fair ladies and Brinda is more
than passing fair whereas Swamiji with his shiny black
beard looks like what I could have been sixty years
ago. Besides external appearance weighing the scales
in favour of the lady commissar I having been a lefty
all my life cannot be expected to be impartial. I
am also allergic towards men who wear saffron as a
colour to proclaim their religiosity. Having confessed
my shortcomings to be an impartial arbiter, Id
like to take on Swamiji on two points, yoga and diet.
Yoga is not my idea of exercise. I concede it does
a lot of good for ones body; that is why millions
of people round the globe have taken to it. It needs
very little space: just as much on which you can stretch
yourself. But my idea of exercise is based on exertion.
It can be swimming, jogging, walking, cycling, tennis,
badminton, soccer, hockey, wrestling whatever.
The sweat it produces, the better for breath, body
and blood circulation. There is no basis to the claim
that yoga is best. And to cover yoga with a cloak
of religion is wholly unwarranted. No doubt it is
of Hindu origin, but no part of Hindu religion. During
my younger days when I could bend my knees, I tried
a few yoga asanas. I found them very boring.
The magistrate asked KPS Gill, Do you think
that, having had your fill, Youll get a Padmashree
for your bum-slapping spree, As if it was some supercop
(Courtesy: Prabhat Vaidya, Mumbai)