Monthly Archives: MARCH 2017
Pearls as Harvest of Patience and Love - Scaling Political Walls To Reach Human Hearts
31.03.17 - harcharan bains
I am particularly happy for something I learned from my mother. Never confuse opinions with persons. Opinions are not people. They are not even the most important things about a person. You must meet opinion with opinion and a person with person. Never mistake a person's opinion as the whole person. The person behind the opinion is far, far, far more important and real than the opinion he holds and expresses. His opinion is based on the information he has access to and the analysis and conclusions he draws from it. All this can drastically change if the raw material that he put into the mixer changes. But the person behind the opinion will remain essentially the same - capable of transcending his thoughts, opinions, ideas and the like.
This lesson from my mother early on in my life helped me find some wonderful human beings among the ranks of those whose views on many things were opposed to those of mine - as in politics, for instance. I was able to befriend my rivals and opponents who otherwise remained my rivals and opponents. No quarters were given and none asked for by either side. And yet, I formed association and relationship grounded on the firm foundations of love and mutual respect for each other's attitudes and ideas on things."
Sometimes - often - one is hit by monstrous misunderstandings and misinterpretations, such as the one I was subjected to by a reporter of the Hindustan Times and a few others about my article on Captain Amarinder Singh. The scribe, a good hearted, well meaning and upright girl, seriously believed that just because I am with Sardar Parkash Singh Badal and the Akalis, everything about Captain Amarinder Singh must be nasty and negatively critical. If it is not, then I am trying to butter my access to those in power at the cost of my loyalty to the one man whom I have stood by for nearly four decades and with whom my attachment is profoundly personal, emotional and a subject which is extremely sensitive. However, the good, intelligent and honest girl journalist thought (believed) that I must blindly abuse everything that Captain Singh does, regardless of its merit. What surprised me was that the article in question was in fact an indictment of everything the new government had done except its choice of officers and the Chief Minister's non-confrontationist posturing.
However, I had to issue a clarification so that there is no confusion about my lifelong love for the man who in my opinion at least remains gentle giant and among the tallest statesmen in the world today - a world full of ugly icons, mutilated mindsets and hatred and bitterness which belittles human kind.
Everyone who knows me (including the journalist in question) knows also that my love for and equation with Sardar Parkash Singh Badal are entirely non-negotiable. Yet I know that in a world blinded to the entire spectrum of truth except for the bands of black and white, things like decorum and respect for merit will always get misunderstood, mistaken and misrepresented as signs of hypocrisy or of chameleon conduct.
Isn't it odd that in order to prove my love for one person, I must first prove my hatred for another. And I have always maintained that differences in opinions and ideologies or sometimes even of fundamental approach to issues must be accepted as the norm in human exchanges and must be taken in one's stride without letting these differences affect our fundamental beliefs and approach on life. Nothing must come in the way of our spreading the fragrance of love and goodwill which each one of us carries in his/her heart.
The priceless wealth I gained in earning someone’s goodwill is at least partly thanks to the teachings of my mother - and of course that someone’s own outstanding skills and other qualities as a person. At that time, a lot was being said to ridicule the Akalis and our government and me personally by some really good and intelligent people. The choice I had was either to lose the immense wealth I could gain through earning their goodwill and company by letting patience and love guide me, or of blowing it all up in stupid vanity, obstinacy and mulish hot headed-ness.
I decided to follow the echoes of my mother's footsteps to scale the walls of political differences and gain a direct access to the attics in their hearts.
An Unusual Encounter
26.03.17 - Harcharan Bains*
For the first time in my life today, I met a strong and handsome but aggressive dog who would have none of my love overtures or even offers. He would have nothing but a one on one duel -Russian style-and kept challenging me to it.
He left me with no alternatives to accepting his challenge. So finally I obliged.
Ten minutes of him doing what he is best at - charging down in blind fury - and of my pulling what I thought were my best manoeuvres on the field of battle, I was still the one left standing -literally- and I am proud to announce that I survived, and am still alive and in one piece.
But I am embarrassed that those I love so much from the core of my heart and whose purity of heart, affection and innocence I have advocated all my life, reduced me to a public spectacle thus. Although I survived against his lethal ferocity and fearsome muscular strength and bloody teeth sharp as blades of steel, I was hugely disappointed that it took me all of ten minutes to escape with my clothes and flesh untorn.
He also appeared equally embarrassed for a different reason: this may have been the first time anyone got away from him without a scratch or gash. He sure was used to seeing blood and gore after every encounter. These, I reckon, were ten life changing moments of unfamiliar defeat for him.
During all of our duel lasting just over ten minutes, neither he nor I compromised on giving off the best each of us had in our respective repertoire.
But at the end of those tense ten minutes with a street-full of people watching the spectacle, he ended up in my lap, looking sheepishly into my eyes and giving me embarrassed looks of love. It all changed in the 9th minute. He had no option but to see reason. What people saw was what people's eyes couldn't believe. He lay on the floor legs up, tail tugged between his legs -now thrown wide open- his eyes moist with feelings he himself couldn't understand or be happy about and his tongue coming out and going in in sheer embarrassed gestures of reconciliation and apologies. Finally his cheeks pressed against mine and my cheek partly wet with amorous liquid, he walked up trembling on his legs and with head still digging into his own chest in expressions of regrets and apologies, he slumped himself in my lap, and lay there, a helpless little baby opening and closing his eyes in half minute intervals. He licked and kept licking my palm intermittently, and gave me a beseeching look asking to be forgiven and hugged. Of course that was something I wanted far more than he did. And we were lost in each other's being neck to neck now, cheek to cheek, chest to chest. He begged for a lip to lip and I looked around. There were people watching and although it was the purest form of PDA, they wouldn't permit this "vulgarity". So I hid his face in my arms, pulled him closer to my neck, covering his nose with my arms, I facilitated a fleeting stolen nearly lip to lip.
You would have to see to understand the look of gratitude on his face especially in his eyes.
Thus ended an unequal encounter. But I had to buy my departure by assuring him repeatedly that I will keep visiting him almost everyday. I told him that though no longer in government, I was still a busy man and he shouldn't mind or take to heart my failure to turn up on time regularly. Reluctantly, he promised me he will be more understanding than many of my friends who interpret my un-punctuality as laziness and unwillingness to work.
I thanked him in the end and requested him not to insist on formalities of seeing me off or, as he seemed now to want, accompanying me to my home. I told him I am a married man and he understood the rest. Men always do. At least this one did. Actually, I had to beg him to keep standing on this side of the road as I walked to my car parked on the other. It was a sentimental parting. He kept standing there with looks of sad longing as long as I was not gone out of his sight.
Even now, I have a heart heavy with the memory of the last glance I gave him as he kept standing where he was following my car with looks of strange complex emotions, dominated by love and sadness.
Was he an angry soul or a lonely and neglected lover who had put on this pretension of being furious only as a defence mechanism. I have not stopped thinking about his innocent and apologetic but extremely loving face. If you ask me, he seems to matter so much to me that if I had not been a married man, I would have loved to stay single all his life for his sake - and mine, although if I were to share this sentiment with my wife, she would see nothing in it except the usual male fear of commitment.
Never be misled by aggression you see in others. More often than not it is just a cover up or a camouflage for unfulfilled and unrequited love. Humans are cold cruel race. My heart is heavy with these thoughts as I am hiding a few loaves from my wife to share with my new love tomorrow.
*(The author, a freelance journalist, has served as Advisor on National Affairs to former CM Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal.)
Suresh Kumar – The Importance of Being Earnest
17.03.17 - kanwar manjit singh
Suresh Kumar, a retired IAS officer, is now the Chief Principal Secretary to CM, a move that political pundits say is a sign that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh wants an efficiently run CMO on which no mud sticks.
With the bespectacled razor-sharp man who ran the CMO during the second half of Amarinder Singh's last term – the one half that most have good memories about – back on the second floor of Punjab Civil Secretariat, next door to the chief minister's office, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has sent a clear message across the entire political spectrum that he means business and he understands his long term reputation will now depend on how well his office runs.
Suresh Kumar's acceptability is clear from the fact that while most people expected him to be appointed as Chief Secretary during Prakash Singh Badal's tenure, many said if AAP won, he could be a possible candidate for one of the topmost jobs and now Amarinder Singh has put him in his office to run the state as it ought to be run.
If political turf had reality TV style contests built around honesty and efficiency, Suresh Kumar, the just-appointed Chief Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, would win hands down everytime, with extra marks for not tolerating any non-sense.
’s will be an ex-cadre post created under Section 56 of All India Service Rules that allow for the appointment of a super-annuated officer. Kumar
's appointment has set a new precedent in Punjab.
Few bureaucrats have reputations so impeccable by the end of their careers. A 1983 batch officer, Suresh Kumar earned accolades for his efficiency and no-nonsense approach to decision making fairly early in his career. Whether it was as Deputy Commissioner of the border district of Ferozepur, or in sundry other positions, Suresh Kumar kept solidifying his reputation. As Registrar of Cooperative Societies (RCS), he infused a new vigour in the domain, and just when it seemed that stint will be the high point of his career, he saw himself being catapulted to the post of PS to CM.
These were difficult circumstances. Amarinder Singh was grappling with a full blown rebellion in his ranks. His arch rival Rajinder Kaur Bhattal had taken her loyalist MLAs and parked herself in Delhi while Amarinder loyalist MLAs were at Kapurthala House in the national capital. It took all the conciliation powers of Sonia Gandhi to bring about a compromise. How the CMO was being run was at the centre of the entire dirty no-holds-barred squabble.
This was the moment when Amarinder Singh brought in Suresh Kumar as his Principal Secretary to CM.
All of a sudden, it was an accessible, functional CMO. Kumar
's doors were always open to anyone who wanted to meet him. Allegations of favouritism stopped, journalists had easy access to information and officers across the state felt there was again room to breathe, act imaginatively, pitch their ideas and execute these.
Deputy Commissioners in districts across Punjab would no more receive calls to grant favours to xyz in the name of the CM. "It was a pleasure to work with someone who would go through a file, grasp the point, give the exact clear direction and appreciate the work. The culture of gossip and backbiting had gone," said an officer who had worked in close proximity to Suresh Kumar during his earlier stint at the CMO.
Many senior journalists fondly recall Kumar's habit of calling them a 'Ganda Bachha' (bad boy), an epithet he reserved only for scribes he particularly respected. When a journalist would do a story critical of him, but one that was factually correct, he would merely say, "I know he had a point, but we will make amends very soon."
While Amarinder Singh earned a lot of accolades with his Termination of Agreements Act 2004, the SYL-blocker bill, the efficiency with which his confidante officers, K R Lakhanpal (who later became the Chief Secretary in early 2006) and Suresh Kumar, pulled it off without making much noise is the kind of stuff that bureaucratic folklore is made of.
With a varied experience that also covers his stints as Secretary, Irrigation, Power, Local Government, Financial Commissioner Cooperatives, Financial Commissioner - Development besides his sterling work during stints while on central deputations, the man is equipped to deal with the smorgasbord of issues that a CMO is confronted with on a day to day basis.
But then each position brings its own challenges. Suresh Kumar has built a reputation for himself that is too formidable for someone to follow, but now that it is he himself who has to set new standards of excellence, many in Punjab will be watching closely.
"I have little doubt that this might turn out to be Amarinder Singh
's winning strategy - the choice of Karan Avtar Singh
as Chief Secretary, pulling out Suresh Kumar
from his retirement and making him Chief PS to CM, having Tejveer Singh
, also known for his Teflon persona and efficiency as PS to CM, and picking up MP Singh
as his confidante and problem-handler, besides retaining Suresh Arora
as DGP of the state. This is the classic ‘keep-the-steelframe-intact-and-nothing-much-can-go-wrong’ approach. Besides, it will free Amarinder Singh
for providing some real tough political direction and decision making, the actual task that a CM should be doing instead of running routine administration," said a senior BJP MLA who has good memories of dealing with the CMO in 2004.
In the little interregnum between his retirement in April 2016 and his new appointment, Kumar
had a few months that he spent attending seminars, planning to write a book, and writing articles on the crisis in agriculture. For someone who lives by work, retirement really is an alien notion.
At a recent seminar in Chandigarh on electoral reforms, where Suresh Kumar was among the speakers, senior journalist SP Singh, while introducing him, jokingly suggested that blood samples, tissue samples, brain cell samples and ramrod spine samples of Suresh Kumar should be collected and preserved for posterity since cloning technologies may progress further and it may become possible to clone great administrators. As the audience laughed, one thing was clear: They don't make officers like him too frequently. "But whatever you say, I will always wonder why he was not made the Chief Secretary when every sane person expected him to become one?" asked a senior officer. Well, there should always be something to wonder about.
The only thing people need not wonder is if he will speak his mind to the top political executive. The man has a spine that is too ramrod to bend, and the CM Royale knows it better than anyone.
The untold story of Kaur Singh – A forgotten Indian boxer who fought Muhammad Ali
16.03.17 - Shantanu Prasher*
Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer to have ever graced the ring. While Ali will be forever remembered, Kaur Singh, the only Indian boxer to have ever faced Ali in the ring, has remained completely unknown. This is the story of the Kaur Singh.
It was 1980; Ali was to have a stopover in Delhi. Upon learning about the same, Rajiv Gandhi, while still not an active politician, convinced Ali to showcase his legendary talent to the people of Delhi. The ring was set. Ali had put on his gloves and so had Kaur Singh. Fifty thousand people turned up to see the legend, not the fight. Kaur, at this time, was no amateur. He was the national heavy weight champion and couldn't believe that he was to share deuces with his idol. Kaur had a rather rough experience in the ring but for him, it was a memory that will go to his grave with him. Two years later, in 1982, Kaur Singh won gold at the Asian Games.
Twenty-six years later, in 2016, Ali died as an unforgettable legend while Kaur Singh woke up every morning to plough his fields. He was a ghost to ‘netizens' till a little while ago. Kaur Singh earned the Arjuna Award in 1982, the Padmashri in 1983 and the Vishisht Sewa Medal (VSM) in 1988 from the Indian Army. Today, he is a farmer in his native village of Khanal Khurd in Sangrur. He gave up on boxing as a career after participating in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 and never let his children pursue boxing professionally, thanks to our bastardly government. Kaur is still to receive Rs 1 lakh promised to him 35 years ago by the Punjab government after he clutched gold at the Asiad Games.
After retiring from the Indian army, Kaur took to farming for a living. He even developed a heart condition and a stent had to be installed in his heart. The state government never came forward to help the former star athlete. The Indian army paid for his treatment. Not only did he win six gold medals in international competitions but was also awarded a Sena Medal for bravery in the India-Pakistan war in Barmer sector in Rajasthan. It's sad to see how greats like Kaur are buried in history left for ruins because our government is busy talking about apparent development that we never actually witness.
It is tough to predict the future of sports like boxing considering what our sportsmen have been through.
Poli-tics: It is as simple as that
13.03.17 - harcharan bains*
When you lose in life, the first weakness you must --MUST -- resist is the temptation to blame it on everything except one's own mistakes or find excuses for one's own shortcomings. Every failure can always be traced back to something or the other we did wrong in life. There are no villains in failure except one's own inability to understand and deal with a challenge. This is the only way I know to be fair to life, to oneself and to one's rivals.
I have been sportsperson and in sports, you always respect your rival. If you lose, you must grant that you lost to a better player.
It saddens me these days to see some people blaming their failure in elections on the poor judgment of the people of Punjab. These are the very people for whom till yesterday we were claiming to fight, and the very people whom we were praising to the skies. I don't believe people are ever wrong . Its just that their judgement does not always tally with ours or it doesn't suit our personal prejudices and even interests. We must learn to respect the people in whose name we claim to be so fond of being in public life.
For us in the SAD, although we lost this election and lost it disgracefully, I would rather go back to the drawing board and look at where I was wrong and why we could not retain the confidence of the masses. Its certainly not fair - in fact, it is a sin - to blame our failure on the poor taste or mental caliber of the people as I see some friends doing these days on Facebook and elsewhere .
If people have rejected us, it is because they did not find us good for our job. And the only reason for that is that something was lacking in our effort. It is as simple as that.
I am satisfied that we did a lot of good work in the government and took Punjab to heights that no one had even imagined ten years ago. I am confident that this will be appreciated in retrospect. As Dr Manmohan Singh once said very beautifully," I hope history will be more kind to me than the present has been." He was right. And I think even we will be be vindicated. I am very confident that people will slowly begin to appreciate the good work we did. But that will not wash the stains of our failure to rise to their expectations. The causes of that failure lie in our own conduct and not in the judgement of the people.
Whatever the people have done is not only right but also perhaps the only thing that is good for Punjab in the long run. This is what Guru Gobind SIngh ji taughtus: the Sangat is always right and is always sovereign. He placed Sangat ( the people) above even the Gurus. This is a tough ideal to live up to. But the only period to test one's ability to do so is in times of failure. We in the SAD wish the new comers all success, and that what we must do if we love Punjab and not just our own opinions and interests. The new comers must be given time and chance to prove themselves. If they don't prove themselves good enough, then we can always trust the people to do the right thing towards them and bring somebody else in. If people find us good enough at that time, they will not hold this present failure against us. We in the opposition must prepare ourselves to be more worthy of the people's love and trust. I salute the decision of the people of Punjab even though at present it might hurt me or might seem very harsh to me. I think in the long run, its a good thing for everyone concerned.
I will continue to help the party in every possible way. There is a lot to recommend my party which a few mistakes will not be able to cloud forever. People may in their anger have punished the party but If we behave better, we will be treated better. As simple as that. People are never wrong.
My suggestion to my friends in all parties who have lost is: Love everyone, regardless of their opinion or political affiliation. We do not love Punjab if we are abusing the judgment and wisdom of Punjabis . The language which some of my NRI friends are using against Punjabis now is not in good taste at all. Please don't do it. Your opinion is valuable and we respect you for caring about us and about your state so much. But in the end, you must concede that only the people here know what is good for Punjab. Your opinion certainly cannot be wiser than the collective wisdom of the people of Punjab. Why must we think that it is not the people but we who know what is best for them. This is an arrogant and dictatorial mindset: my way or the highway. Please don't do this. We love you and we need you. We always will. You are so precious because you have seen better life, better culture, better everything. Have patience with us even when we are wrong. We are the Punjab which you love. Lets us keep working for a better tomorrow. Punjab will be the loser if Punjabis don't love and respect one another.
My sole justification for writing this seemingly political post is the large number of inboxes I have received, asking me to speak out my opinion on the current situation. Still , this is not a partisan post. This is not about Congress, AAP or Akalis. They are all Punjabis. In the end, if we love and respect Punjab, the only way to express it is through love for Punjabis and respect for their judgment and opinions. May Guru bless all of us with the light of wisdom that leads to happiness and peace.
* Advisor to Former Chief Minister Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal