PERSPECTIVE
GHUMMAKAD & DARVESH
Footloose sage Satyarthi, the man who walked, talked, gathered, wrote our stories
28.05.20 - S Pal
Footloose sage Satyarthi, the man who walked, talked, gathered, wrote our stories



This May 28th was the 112th birth anniversary of footloose sage, Devinder Satyarthi. People have prefixed Ghumakkad to his name, and lived to replace it with Darvesh. Author of classics such as 'ਗਿੱਧਾ' (1936), 'ਦੀਵਾ ਬਲੇ ਸਾਰੀ ਰਾਤ' (1941), 'ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਲੋਕ ਗੀਤ' (1960), 'ਸੂਈ ਬਜਾਰ', 'ਸੋਨਾ ਗਾਚੀ', 'ਕੁੰਗ ਪੋਸ਼', 'ਘੋੜਾ ਬਾਦਸ਼ਾਹ' and 'ਲਕ ਟੁਣੂੰ ਟੁਣੂੰ', Satyarthi wore his awards and rewards like Padma Shri, Shiromani Puraskar etc rather lightly. We bring you from our archives an obituary published the same evening when Satyarthi left for his last journey.      - Editor

FOR DECADES, that incomparable collector of folk songs and folk lore, polyglot Devendra Satyarthi's black pen scribbled relentlessly, recording for posterity the folk heritage which would necessarily have been lost otherwise. And for years, his wife's sewing machine rattled incessantly, making sure the family had enough to at least survive. 

Satyarthi's pen stopped writing finally; the sewing machine was still working. 

"I confess that it was the sewing machine which saved the family, I just scribbled on paper," Satyarthi had said some four years before his death, summing up his life. Entire literary world however has been much more kind, prefixing forever the epithet of darvesh (saintly) with his name. 

They made a perfect couple: Satyarthi spent most years loafing about, measuring the country's length and breadth and recording its cultural diversity, his wife bringing up children, then grand children, and great grand children. 

Born in the summer of 1908 in Sangrur's Bhadaur, Satyarthi was the quintessential roamer, leaving his education midway to take to the road in 1927, meeting the humblest of Indians, middle-class people, traders, farmers, tribals and the mightiest too in various fields. Among the people he ended up befriending was Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. 

And along went the work of collecting folk songs. In 1935, Giddha was published, and remains a seminal work even today. 

Recalls Panjab University professor and folk lore expert Nahar Singh, who himself has spent a lifetime in the same field: "Many were foresighted in those times of the Raj and talked about importance of recording the country's cultural diversity, but few had the courage to step out of the cushioned life and do it. It required a life time, and Satyarthi dedicated his." 

Of his 95 years, Satyarthi gave too little to his family, sparing most of his time for the written word. Aloofness was his hallmark, and the Spartan lifestyle came naturally. 

He was hardly able to speak in his last two-three years. When Balbir Parwana, that relentless pen pusher wedded to the strange addiction of keeping adulterating dullheaded journalism with meaningful literature, convinced a couple of scribes just a few months before his death to try and get one last interview of Satyarthi in Delhi, there was little coherent that he could say. Ironical for a man who had spent a lifetime building up a reputation for being a loquacious raconteur. 

Nirmal Arpan, who wrote the racy but enriching Satyarthi – Ik Dant-katha, recalled what a wonderfully pestering guest he could be, and fashioned enough material from his interaction with the great man to write an entire volume of anecdotes about Satyarthi. 

Satyarthi initially wrote in Urdu, Hindi and English, but after Tagore advised him to preferably write in his mother tongue, he started using devnagri script to write in Punjabi. ``My first 
essay in Punjabi was published in Preetlarri and since then, I have been considered a Punjabi writer," Satyarthi once said. 

His books kept appearing with an unfailing regularity: Murrka Te Kanak, Dharti Diyan Vaajan, Paris Da Aadmi, Kung Posh, Devta Dig Piya, Tinna Buhiyan Wala Ghar. 

Many a litterateur recalled that he was perhaps the only man who got a recommendation for a job – editorship for Hindi literary journal Aaj Kal – from none other than Mahatma Gandhi. Okay fine, Nehru too was his nominee, but that is disputed. 

He prided himself for being ghumakkar (a roamer, loafer), but in his later years had a regret for not being responsible towards his family. "I wasn't there when my daughter Kavita was born, and I wasn't there when she died. It is a burden that will lighten only with my death, but when you are afflicted with a junoon, this is what happens,'' he once told litterateur Prakash Mannu. 

It was in the writing of novel Ghorra Baadshah that Satyarthi said he was able to forget some of his lifetime pain. But the fact is that with his death, one of the last links between the pre-Independence Punjab and now has snapped. Satyarthi belonged to the generation of, and was friends with, Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishna Sobti, Gurbaksh Singh Preetlari, Mohan Singh, Ismat Chugtai, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Nanak Singh. 

When AIR wanted to pay him royalty for folk songs, Satyarthi refused saying copyrights were vested in Bharat Mata, just as Satyarthi's memories will always be vested in the lovers of the written word, and the country's folk heritage. Who can forget Lak Tunnu Tu?
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

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JUSTICE & COURTS
My ideal Judge
09.05.20 - Markandey Katju
My ideal Judge



In today’s situation in India when the faith of the Indian people in our judiciary has been rudely shaken due to certain events, I would like to mention about a judge, Qazi Sirajuddin, the Qazi-e-Subah of Bengal, as an inspiration and beacon of hope for many upright judges who still exist in the Indian judiciary.

Having been a Judge myself for 20 years (from 1991 to 2011) I have studied the lives and works of numerous judges in the world, many of whom are my heroes for their uprightness, refusal to succumb to pressure or temptation, and learning, e.g. Lord Coke, Chief Justice of England, who refused to surrender his independence before King James 1, Lord Atkin, who in his famous dissent in Liversidge vs Anderson (1941) criticised the majority judges for being ‘more executive minded than the executive‘, Justices Holmes, Brandeis and Cardozo, Judges of the US Supreme Court, who advocated judicial restraint instead of adventurism, and nearer home, Justice H R Khanna, who willingly lost his chance of becoming Chief Justice of India but refused to join the majority in the shameful ADM Jabalpur verdict.
However, in my opinion, Qazi Sirajuddin, the Qazi-e-Subah of Bengal, stands a shade above all other Judges in the world.

In his 'History of Bengal' Prof. Charles Stewart mentions an interesting case of 1490 which came before Qazi Sirajuddin.

One day while the Sultan of Bengal was practising archery, one of his arrows accidentally wounded a boy, the son of a widow. The widow immediately came before the Qazi and demanded justice.

The Judge (the Qazi) was in a dilemma. He said to himself " If I summon the Sultan to my court, I may be punished by the Sultan for impertinence, but if I overlook the Sultan's act, I shall one day certainly be summoned before the Court of God to answer for my neglect of duty."

After much reflection, fear of God prevailed over fear of the Sultan, and the Qazi ordered one of his officers to go and summon the Sultan to his Court.

On receiving the summons, the Sultan instantly rose, and concealing a short sword under his garments, went before the Qazi, who far from rising from his seat or showing the Sultan any mark of respect said to him "You have wounded the son of this poor widow. You must therefore immediately pay her adequate compensation, or suffer the sentence of the law."

The Sultan made a bow, and turning to the widow gave her a sum of money which satisfied her. After doing so he said to the Qazi "Worthy Judge, the complainant has forgiven me."
 
The Qazi then asked the woman if she was satisfied, to which she assented, and the case was then dismissed.

The Qazi then came down from his seat and made obeisance before the King, who, drawing the sword from beneath his garment, said
"O Qazi, in obedience to your command I came instantly to your Court, but if you had not done your duty i swear that with this sword I would have taken off your head. Thanks to God I have in my dominion a Judge who acknowledges no authority superior to the law." 

The Qazi then took out a whip which he had concealed under his robes, and said to the King "I also swear by Almighty God that if you had not complied with the injunction of the law this whip would have made your back black and blue. It has been a trial for both of us".

Thus, fear of God prevailed over fear of the Sultan in the mind of the Qazi. 

In today’s context, God should be understood by judges to mean loyalty to their oath to uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of the people, and the Sultan should be understood as the political and executive authorities, before whom judges must never surrender.
 

 

Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.

  
 
 
Watch Video:

 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT





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SCIENCE AND RELIGION
All religions are superstitions and false
29.04.20 - Markandey Katju
All religions are superstitions and false



I read Umer Farooq's article 'Will Pakistan's Mullahs ever stop opposing modernity' online. The writer has referred to the opposition by Mullahs to womens' empowerment, minority rights, and modern political ideas. Perhaps what was in Farooq's mind was the recent statement of Maulvi Tariq Jameel blaming women dressed 'immodestly' for the spread of Covid-19 in  Pakistan.

Farooq's question creates the impression that according to him Mullahs, if they so wish, or if they can be so persuaded, can stop opposing and start supporting modernity. With respect to him I submit he is labouring under an illusion. So I may present my own views.

Religion and Science are diametrically opposed to each other. They are poles apart, and it is nonsense to say ( as some people contend ) that they complement each other. Since a Mullah is a man of religion, he can obviously not support modernity, which is the product of science, and will always be a reactionary, as long as he is a Mullah.

Religion says that there is a supernatural entity called God, which is immortal, permanent, all powerful, merciful, all good, etc.

Science does not believe in supernatural entities. It does not believe that anything in the Universe is permanent. Everything in nature is changing and in flux, in accordance with some laws, which can be discovered by scientific research.

Science holds that there are no supernatural entities like God, angels, fairies, demons,witches or soul (and therefore there is no such thing as transmigration of the soul, or resurrection on Judgment Day), and that nothing is permanent, everything is changing.

Science holds that the only reality is matter, which is in different forms, and is in motion according to certain laws.
 
Some people ask: who created matter?
 
The answer is: there is no creator of matter. Matter came from matter, though the form keeps changing.

With every step science advances, religion recedes. Thus, people at one time thought that small pox is due to the anger of a goddess (mata), but now we know it is because of a virus, and can be prevented by innoculation.
 
People at one time thought that rains are caused by a rain god, Indra, and so if there is drought we have to propitiate that god in some way (many people in India still believe that).
 
Today we know that rains are caused by the build up of low pressure areas over a heated land.
 ------------
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At one time people believed the sun is a god, but now we know it is a huge furnace in which nuclear reactions are taking place by the fusion process, emitting radiation energy.
 
People at one time believed that Adam and Eve were created by God. Later Darwin, in his book 'Origin of the Species' proved that men evolved from the apes.
 
Religion relies on faith and divine revelation. 

Science relies on observation, experiment and reason.
 
Religion claims to say the final word, and cannot be changed. Thus, the Vedas, the Quran, the Bible, etc cannot be changed.

In science there is no final word, and scientific theories can, and have been, regularly tested and changed. 

For example, Newton said in 1666 that light travelled as particles (the corpuscular theory). But in 1678 the Dutch scientist Huygens' propunded his Fresnel principle that light travelled as waves.
 
Much later Max Planck propounded his Quantum theory which said that light travelled as discrete particles. Still later, Quantum mechanics, as propounded by De Broglie, and as developed by Heisenberg, Schrodinger, etc, said that particles can be conceived of as waves (and vice versa)

Religion says that the Universe was created at a particular time by God, with all living beings. But Darwin proved by his theory of evolution, that creatures have evolved.

Religion says that there has to be a Creator of the Universe, which is God (the Creationist theory).

Science says that there is no such Creator (the Evolutionist theory). The only reality in the Universe is matter (or rather matter-energy, since matter and energy are two forms of the same substance, as Einstein proved by his formula e=mc2), and matter is in motion, in accordance with certain laws, which can be discovered by scientific research. If it is asked where did matter come from, the answer is matter came from matter.

If it is said that every thing must have a creator, then that creator too must have a creator. i.e. a super creator, and that super creator too must have a creator, i.e. a super super creator, and so on. This is known as the fallacy of the infinite regress.

Religion says that God is all powerful, merciful and all good. If that is so, then why do millions of children in the world suffer from hunger, cold, etc, as the great Russian writer Dostoevsky asked in his famous novel 'Brothers Karamazov'? Why does God, who is said to be merciful, not have mercy on them and give them food, clothes, shelter, etc ?

Why is there so much poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, sickness etc in the world? If God is powerful and merciful, why does He not abolish these and give everyone a decent life? Why does He not abolish novel corona virus which has spread today throughout the world and is killing so many people?  

It is true that some scientists believed in God. But that only proves that scientific and unscientific ideas can co-exist in the same head, and it will take a long time, probably several generations, before unscientific ideas are altogether eliminated.

All religions are superstitions and false. The truth lies in science, which is constantly developing.

If we are to progress, we must give up religion and go over to science. No doubt science does not have the answers to all problems today, e.g. the cure of many kinds of cancers, but by scientific research the answers can be found in future.
 
At one time TB was regarded an incurable disease. Later, streptomycin and other antibiotics were found which could cure it. So science never claims to be final, but is always developing.

The answer to Mr Farooq's question is in the negative. Either one can be a Mullah, or one can be modern, one cant be both.
 

 

Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.

  
 
 
Watch Video:
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

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MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT




 





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Comment by: Amit Patel

This is the best Article/Truth I ever read on Science vs. Religion. It's an eye opening effort by the most Respectful person Justice M. Katju. Many Congratulations, Sir...

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Comment by: Riya

Hi

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The Pandemic Panic
A wildly exaggerated threat
20.04.20 - Nalamotu Chakravarthy
A wildly exaggerated threat



India has adopted one of the world's most draconian responses to fight the spread of Covid-19. The University of Oxford’s ‘Coronavirus Government Response Tracker’ gave India the worst possible ‘Stringency Index’ of 100.

The lockdown in India is having far reaching consequences, particularly bringing economic ruin to the poor and the downtrodden. Acuite Ratings estimated that the 21-day lockdown uptil April 14 would cost the Indian economy $4.64 billion per day, in other words, a loss of over Rs 35,000 crore every day, or $98 billion in three weeks.
 
The recent extension of the lockdown to May 3 will only make these numbers worse. The weekly unemployment rate reported by CMIE was 6.74% on March 15, and it dramatically spiked to 24% on April 12.

So, is the coronavirus pandemic as deadly as we were all led to believe? Is the harsh clampdown imposed by the government justified?

A good case study to gauge the severity of this pandemic is the Diamond Princess cruise ship. On January 20, an 80-year-old passenger embarked this cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan. He later tested positive for Covid-19. The ship was quarantined by Japan on Feb 4 in the port of Yokohama.

The ship had 3,711 people on board -- 1,045 crew and 2,666 passengers. While the average age of the crew was 36, the average age of the passengers was 69. The ship was like a mini-city whose borders were sealed. Everyone on the ship were living in close quarters. A vast majority of passengers on the ship were elderly. Also, the contagion on the ship was totally mismanaged.

So, what was the final outcome of this nightmare scenario? Out of the 3,711 souls on board, a total of 696 were infected. Of those infected, 12 passengers died. There was not a single fatality among the 1,045 crew. Why has the entire crew survived? They were all young, with an average age of 36. The epic failure called Diamond Princess, with practically all elderly passengers, resulted in a mere 0.3% deaths.

Covid-19, no doubt, is highly contagious, but it is not as deadly as people were originally led to believe.

The total number of Covid-19 deaths in India as of April 16 were about 414. As per the WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2019, TB alone takes the lives of 440,000 Indians annually. TB, like Covid-19, spreads when people who are sick with it expel bacteria into the air. Has India ever locked the country down to stop the spread of TB?

The New York Times on March 16, 2020, citing a British scientific report, wrote: "Without action by the government and individuals to slow the spread of coronavirus and suppress new cases, 2.2 million people in the United States could die." This kind of media sensationalism generated unprecedented panic among people and the politicians. 

Now, let us take a look at Covid-19 fatalities across the globe.

Since China's Covid-19 data is not deemed trustworthy, let us look at Italy. Italy has reported 21,645 Covid-19 deaths so far. In a comprehensive study done by Italy's national health authority, it was found that 99% of the coronavirus patients who died had pre-existing medical conditions. Has anybody noticed that 24,981 people died of flu in Italy during the 2016-17 season as per the International Journal of Infectious Diseases? Given these numbers, was Italy's stringent response to the pandemic justified?

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported 24,582 Covid-19 deaths as of April 14. Out of the 6,589 who lost their lives to coronavirus in New York City as of April 14, only 133 were identified as having no pre-existing conditions. This, in a city of over eight million people. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an organisation on which the White House relies for projections, is estimating 68,841 Covid-19 deaths in the US by August 4, 2020. Now, compare that with a total of 2.8 million deaths in the US in 2017 reported by the CDC; especially relevant is the Influenza virus, which killed 55,672. Now, given these numbers, is the US government's response to Covid-19 justified?

The UK is another country that is hit hard by coronavirus, taking the lives of 12,868 so far. Despite all the hue and cry about coronavirus, the UK government, while quietly downgrading the pandemic status of Covid-19, wrote: "As of 19th March 2020, Covid-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID)...public health bodies…have determined that…more information is available about mortality rates (low overall)”. Looks like even the UK Prime Minister is going to make a full recovery.

As per worldometers.info, which is compiling comprehensive coronavirus data, 99.8% of the infected people under 40 years of age will recover fully. Similarly, 99.6% under 50 will recover fully. Even among those over 80 years old, 85% are recovering from the infection. These numbers will be much lower once the pace of testing picks up.

A total economic lockdown, like the one the Modi government has imposed, will destroy the livelihoods of millions of poor and under-privileged. It will cripple the economy. Instead, there is a more prudent approach to tackle this pandemic.

All those who are over 70 must quarantine themselves. Similarly, those with pre-existing conditions should also quarantine themselves. Certainly, all infected by Covid-19 should be quarantined. Then, to the best abilities of the state governments, those who came in close contact with a known Covid-19 patient must be identified and asked to quarantine.

Once this is done, the rest of the population may resume their normal daily activities. The general population should be educated to take precautions like wearing masks and gloves, regular handwashing and practicing social distancing to the extent practical.

Sweden, Belarus, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong are able to tackle Covid-19 without destroying their economies. India must end this economic self-destruction and learn from these countries.

The writer is Founder-Director, Centre for Individual Liberty, Hyderabad. Courtesy: deccanherald.com 

 
--------------
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Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:

 

Amarinder govt’s nefarious plan to steal Shamlat Lands will spell death knell of Punjab

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties  

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE         

 OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION         

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL       

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

BAD, BAD WOMAN!

 


 

_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


    






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My Quarantine Diary
How everything changed in a month!
15.04.20 - CHETNA GILL
How everything changed in a month!



IT IS A few minutes before midnight on 13th April and I am immediately reminded that it has been a month since I boarded the fateful flight from Australia to India. As I sit to write my diary, I flip through the pages and look at how life has changed in the past month. Not just my life but also the life around me.

11th March

I saw the beautiful full moon outside my inner-suburban house in Australia.
 
I clicked a picture of the moon with my phone and posted that picture on my Facebook. Then, as usual, I started scrolling through the news on internet. A lot had happened in the past month in In-dia: The anti-CAA protests, the Delhi elections, Trump's visit and then the Delhi riots. I had also been following the international news about the coronavirus but until then, in Australia, there was more humour about the toilet paper hoarding than any real danger.

By now it was past midnight. I read that WHO had declared Covid-19 a pandemic. A little after that I read that India has announced some travel restrictions which will come into ef-fect on 13-March. As per the restrictions, we would not be able to go home for our planned trip in the end of March. I called up my mother and we both wondered what would happen.

12th March 

I knew, if I wanted to reach India, I had to act soon! My moment of truth lay in this one question: If I were to get stuck inside the house for months, where would that be? Here in Australia where I had an unstable part-time job, my children were to school and I had a sibling in a neighbouring town; or in India, where I have my parents, a permanent home and a larger community of friends and relatives? It is a question I had been struggling to answer last few months.
 
I knew that I probably had better access to healthcare if I stayed put in Australia. But at a time like this, I wanted to be home. Over a phone call, my psychiatrist brother seemed to agree that the months to come might bring unknown challenges and it makes sense for me to be home with my parents.

The rest of the day is a blur. I had a meeting with the deputy principal in my children's school. I changed my tickets to take the morning flight the very next day from Sydney. We packed bare minimum clothes, books and documents and left for Sydney. My brother drove for 2 hours after work to see us off. When I waved ‘Bye’ to my brother, it hit me that I had no idea when I will see him again. We spent the night at a hotel close to Sydney International Airport.

13th March

When we checked-in for our flight, it seemed like a regular day at the Sydney airport.
 
Not many people wore masks. The lady at the check-in counter struggled to put three of us to-gether in adjacent seats as this was a full flight. She did mention that the flight had to take off on time (10.15 am) because the travel restrictions come into effect after 11.00 am local time. The 12-hour flight was relatively quiet. Everyone wore masks. There wasn't much of a chit chat. Even the air-hostess served very quickly without the regular gestures.

Upon landing at the Delhi airport, we filled a travel history form which asked if in the last 14 days, we had travelled to any of 7 countries including China, Italy, Iran (where there was a wider spread of coronavirus). We had not travelled to any of those countries. We went through thermal screening where airport staff checks your temperature with a distant ther-mometer. After that we were let go to get our immigration clearance and baggage. I won-dered how useful the thermal screening is given the virus has a 14-day incubation period. No instructions were provided to us to home quarantine. Maybe some instructions were being given to people travelling from those 7 countries as there was a separate queue based on travel history forms. 

14th March

We arrived from Delhi to Mohali in a taxi and it just seemed best to stay in self-isolation for a few days just in case we caught the virus during travel. This was the first time in many years when we didn't hug my parents upon arrival. We had tea at a separate table in an adjoining area and moved to our rooms upstairs. Luckily my parents live in a two-storey house and we always sleep upstairs so we could self-isolate. 

15th March

My maternal grandfather Sh S N Sethi (in pic) expired. Nanaji was 100 years old. He was born in 1919 amidst the Spanish flu and left during the current pandemic. My parents left for Punjab for the last rites. I could not go because of our self-imposed 14-days home quarantine. I do not know how my mother felt about it. We are grateful to my mother’s house-help who cooked food for us every morning and left it in the kitchen. Each day, we would pick it up after she left and eat. 

My son managed to activate internet and tv channels. The hardest part of the home qua-rantine was to isolate from each other within the house. (I have an autoimmune condition so had to be extra cautious). I spent much of my time in my room or my balcony while children stayed in their room or the living area. We divided the space within the house. 

24th March

My parents were able to rush back to Mohali before the lockdown. Nanaji’s ashes were immersed in Beas river near Goindwal Sahib. Nanaji was a Hindu Arya Samaji. My father is a Sikh. Within both the families, none of this ever mattered. In 1984, I realised for the first time that my mother and father were from different castes and religions.

27th March

While our home quarantine has ended, India is already under a lockdown. So we just have to stay put. But the self-isolation within the house has now ended.
 
We now eat together and sit down with my parents to chit chat. We feel free and connected. On another plane, we were much more isolated when we were overseas.Waking up to the sabziwala's familiar voice or hearing the neighbour's children playing in their backyard is music to the ears. The mornings and evenings have a ritual, with the characteristic sounds from various houses in the neighbourhood. I never knew I would enjoy these.

Due to the looming uncertainty, my rental house has been vacated in Australia in my ab-sence with the help of my brother and a Nepali student. I had soaked Rajmah (Red beans) overnight to cook a month ago. I never knew I wouldn't cook those the next day. I didn't even know that I will never cook in that kitchen again. 

But this is too small in comparison to the pain of the people who couldn't reach home in the midst of the sudden lockdown in India. There are thousands of migrant workers either walking hundreds of kilometers to reach home, or living in temporary shelters or even worse just living on the roadside. On a certain level, I connect with them and see myself as a migrant  worker who just returned home from another country.

—————

Today: 14th April 

Unlike all other times, living in India is a very different experience this time. We can't say we live here, however we don't know if we will go back. We are not on a holiday. It's not a time like any other. 

The news stories range from a middle class talk of practising social distancing to thou-sands of stranded poor families huddled together next to each other.  There were news stories of people escaping quarantine facilities. There were parallel news stories of the condition of government run quarantines. 

Some stories claimed NRI's are hiding, I wonder why anyone would hide if the information would be clear. If it is known who should self-isolate, who should get tested, without the fear-mongering and stigmatisation. Some of the victims were blamed for spreading the disease. A 70-year old man who died of the virus without having known he was infected was cursed widely after his death. He was blamed for ignoring the self-quarantine guide-lines while the factual information states that no such information was provided when he travelled back into India from Italy.
 
The first travel advisory was issued on 10th March as per the website. An aged woman who retuned from UK and later found positive was blamed for resenting treatment but upon watching the full video being circulated, one can see she is asking to be taken to a better hospital, as many local government hospitals lack facilities. The fear, stigma and the drama is in abundance. The information is staggered. 

The doctors and nurses are working hard. (I am trying to avoid the military terminology like frontline workers). The non-profits and good citizens relentlessly offer food to the poor and at the same time someone attacks doctors or policemen. The virus has had its own journey from being called a Chinese virus to Muslims now being blamed for its spread.  Some have formed this view based on the incidental timing of a religious gathering. The distraction politics seems to work well. The virus is less pathological and more psychological.

Most of my middle-class friends in India are working from the comfort of their home. They have food and shelter and are enjoying family time. Some are out on their duties in banks, hospitals, media-houses, NGO's. Some engage in intellectual conversations. Some of them post pictures in Sarees and play online games. Some are bored. I feel that boredom is also a privilege. A starving child doesn't know what is boredom, he or she only knows hunger.

I feel privileged to have a comfortable home and enough to eat. But living with a generation above and a generation below you, all coping with sudden change can get over-whelming sometimes. Our challenges are fairly small. As the summer arrives and mosquitos started humming around, I am struggling to get ceiling fans installed amidst the lockdown. Some friends are out there distributing rations. We try to do our tiny bit by helping those in our contact. The rest of the time, the privilege weighs heavy enough to make me feel guilty. We spend a part of the day cooking or cleaning. 

My mother's house-help hasn't been around since the lockdown but she had collected money a few times and is doing fine with her family. My teenage sons have learnt to broom and mop the house. They help my parents order online groceries and get online mobile recharge.

The other day a friend asked what I missed of Australia and I think it's the way information is presented, as mere facts, not as twisted tales. She asked me if anything makes me an-xious here in India and I must admit I am a bit jittery about two things: the readiness of medical facilities and the worry for the homeless. 

A doctor friend from New York shares every day the scale of the disaster from the emer-gency room. Can we rely on the government hospitals for the adequate facilities like venti-lators if the numbers of hospital admissions suddenly increase? Are the CARE funds being utilised where they should be? Will the homeless get fed if the situation continues for months? Are we asking the right questions or getting distracted by the grand spectacle?  

As the country goes into second stage of the lockdown, there is conversation on planning how to come out of the lockdown, I keep pondering what prevented us from planning the lockdown itself say over a week, giving time to people to reach home, keeping dhabas open as take away only so thousands on highways could get cheap food, letting delivery trucks reach their destinations, giving farm labour some incentive to stay put for harvesting, giving time to the local bodies to organise shelters for the homeless. I wonder how much of it can still be worked out. 

As I finish a month at home, I see new reports that hundreds of migrant labourers are out on the streets again in Mumbai and Surat, demanding transport to go home. Trains and buses remain suspended during extension of lockdown and the the government continues to flash ‘Stay Home’ messages through the media. 

Some among us feel lighting Diyas will take care of it all and I am learning to deal with the intellectual diversity along with the economic disparity around me. I am also wary of the fact that until a month ago, I was content with a picture of the moon from my suburban Australian house. A lot has changed since then.
 

Chetna Gill is an IT professional who likes to write.

 
 

 --------------
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Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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_______________________________________________________________

Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


    






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