9th June 2016, Dubai – Entebbe
The last weeks have been largely a media blitz, in preparation for the International Yoga Day, and as a sort of curtain raiser for the events at the UN on 20th and 21st June. It has been an interesting journey of facing media across the spectrum of states, languages, and genres. From brilliant to dim, from good-natured to mean, from well-intentioned to perverted – all sorts of them. Good to see that there are still some good journalists left, in spite of all the din that we hear. Had to be at the airport at 2 a.m. after a full day of bright lights and an endless litany of almost identical questions.
It is incredible how we have a way of making small things Big and truly big things insignificant. I have been striving to make the situation of children committing suicide in thousands in the last year a big issue in the media. But most of them were only interested in the one person killed in U.P. a year ago, or trying to make me subscribe to the ridiculous idea of India being intolerant. Those who are out to impress upon the world that we are indeed an intolerant nation should travel to other nations around the world. Not necessarily to Somalia or some other extreme nations, but to the most advanced and liberal by reputation, to have their “Trump” moment.
Yesterday, as I was driving through the maze of Dilli traffic, I saw a small group of very pious-looking Sikhs, very close to Aurangzeb Road. They were commemorating the martyrdom of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, a Sikh ascetic and military leader who fought against the Mughal Empire. He and many other Sikh warriors were captured by the Mughals. When they refused to convert, by order of emperor Farrukhsiyar, the Mughals gouged out Banda Singh’s eyes, skinned him alive, severed his limbs, and beheaded him. Hundreds of other Sikh warriors were tortured and killed along with him. It might have all happened at this very spot.
I was in the company of a Sikh gentle man and his not so gentle lady. Were they aware of this dastardly piece of history? Yes! Were they angry? No. But deeply pained. Were they resentful of those who dedicated a road to the tyrant who murdered their much revered Guru Tegh Bahadur? There were tears. Is this your idea of an intolerant country?
When I was seven years of age, my dear father was trying to explain to his four children, of whom I was the youngest, the virtues of being a non-allied nation. He was flummoxed by my question if that does not mean we are friendless. As Shashi (Tharoor) once lamented, India’s foreign policy has been a continuum of “moral commentary” on every other nation. For the first time, through the efforts of our Prime Minister, India is moving towards a partnership that could mean a position of strength for the nation, and salvation for the unfortunate levels of poverty. It’s time we don’t eulogize poverty as some sort of virtue. Simplicity yes, not poverty.
On a flight to Entebbe (Uganda) of hijack fame, for a nine-day buzz of three nations and ceaseless schedule, culminating in an Inner Engineering retreat in Kampala.
Burning my candle at both ends. Hope I am useful to all of you.