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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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AT A LOSS FOR WORDS

In the weekly syndicated column I write for The Hindustan Times, I had quoted some lines written by the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775-1862). Here, I have reproduced one more of his pieces translated by me:

Baat karnee mujhey mushkil kabhee

aisee to na thi

Jaisee ab hai teree mehfil kabhee

aisee to na thi

Ley gayaa chheen key kaun aaj teraa

sabr-o-qaraar

Beqararee tujhey ai dil kabhee aisee

to na thi

Chashm-e-qaatil meree dushman

thi hameshaa lekin

Jaise ab ho gayee qaatil kabhee aisee

to na thi

Unkee aankhon ney khuda jaaney

kiyaa kyaa jaadoo

Ki tabeeyat meree maa’il kabhee

aisee to na thi

Aks-e-rukh-e-yaar ney kissey hai

tujhey chamkaayaa

Taab tujh mein maah-e-kasmil

kabhee aisee to na thi

Kyaa sabab too jo bigadtaa hai Zafar

sey har baar

Khoo teree hoor-e-shamaa’il kabhee

aisee to na thi

I was never at a loss for words,

almost dumb

Your gatherings were never what

they’ve now become.

Who has robbed you of your

patience, your peace of

mind?

You were never this restless, dear

heart, as now I find.

The assassin’s eyes were always

my enemy

They have become even more

venomous I can see.

God alone knows what sorcery her

eyes contain

My spirits were never so low, as

everyone can tell.

The reflection of beloved’s face has

a new shine,

The full moon never lit the skies

with such lustre

divine.

Why is it that Zafar can do nothing

right in your

eyes?

You never behaved like the

heartless houris of

paradise.

The outsider

Sudhir Kumar Tyagi of Gurgaon sent me an account of his flight from Calcutta to Jammu which I find amusing enough to share with my readers:

It was one of those incidents that occur once in a lifetime. I was required to attend a business meeting in Jammu. Arriving in Delhi by a late evening flight from Calcutta, I got my Delhi-Jammu seat confirmed in an early morning flight on the following day at the Indian Airlines counter before going to the hotel.

However, next morning I found there was no check-in counter for the flight to Jammu. On enquiry I learnt that the flight had been cancelled due to operational reasons. Since I had an extremely important assignment — a meeting with the government of Jammu and Kashmir — that day, I barged into the office of the duty officer of the Indian Airlines and demanded an explanation for such a letdown. The duty officer turned out to be extremely well-behaved. He informed me that this was a special case: the Delhi-Chandigarh-Jammu-Srinagar flight was being operated that day by a bigger aircraft, Viscount, instead of the normal Fokker Friendship, and as a Viscount could not land in Jammu and Srinagar airports, it would fly upto Chandigarh only. They could send me to Chandigarh by that flight, and later accommodate me on another flight from Chandigarh to Jammu, since there might be another special Fokker Friendship flight later that day to meet certain special requirements. If this could not be done, they could either provide me a car to reach Jammu or give me a free stopover in Chandigarh so that I could fly to Jammu on the following day.

I realized that moving towards the destination was preferable. So the duty officer gave me a boarding pass and one of the IA officers was asked to escort me to the aeroplane. I was intrigued that I was the only passenger in a large aircraft, which was supposed to take me to Chandigarh. But soon, I found that almost the entire Union cabinet and several state chief ministers were entering the plane. As I had reached first, I had already occupied a front seat, numbered 1C. I found Jagjivan Ram in seat 1A and Y.B. Chavan in seat 1B. My companion in 1D was Kamalapati Tripathi. A number of dignitaries were to proceed to Chandigarh en route to Shimla for a party session there, and all of them could not be accommodated in a small aircraft. As the duty officer had anticipated, in case of a spillover they might need to arrange another special flight which could land in Jammu, and could take me, poor fellow, from Chandigarh to Jammu. I never enjoyed better service in any IA flight than the service provided in this chance flight. But little did I know that more wonderful things were yet to happen.

As we reached the Chandigarh airport, a large number of party workers were lined up to garland the leaders alighting from the plane. They did not leave me out either. The party workers put a heavy garland around my neck and greeted me by touching my feet. I had been pushed by then into a melee of India’s top leaders. I was very anxious about the whole scenario. Soon I saw an Indian airforce plane landing, and minutes later I saw a jeep bringing the prime minister, Indira Gandhi, towards us.

The chief commissioner of Chandigarh was standing by my side. Seeing the briefcase in my hand, he frowned and whispered to me, “Sir, you should not have brought this briefcase here when greeting the PM.” “But what could I do? I could not have left it in the plane and I have been pushed to stand in this queue. I am a passenger and not any leader,” I replied. He nearly fainted on hearing my reply. But by now, Mrs Gandhi was two persons away from us. She was shaking hands with some and greeting others with the usual namastey. When in front of me, she was visibly confused, as she could not recollect when she had inducted this young man into her cabinet or in any high party position. She shook hands with me as I had extended my hand, and moved ahead, still straining her memory to recollect this strange fellow. Then, all of them left in white ambassadors. I was standing alone on the tarmac holding a briefcase in my hand. I could see some airlines staff looking surprised that the fellow holding a marigold garland in one hand and a suitcase in the other was just an ordinary passenger in a crowd of India’s top leaders.

This incident was engraved in my memory. I wonder what would have happened if there really would have been an insurgent in my place. The lapse of security had already started setting in. This had led to big disasters in the years to follow.