The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It is foolish to ascribe precise dates to the births of languages and their literatures. Languages are not born, they evolve over the centuries. It is the same with their literatures. At first they evolve as oral traditions, which have no documentary proof of their existence till writing material becomes commonly available and a corpus of literature begins to build up. The first person whose works gain recognition is often described as the founding father of that language and literature.

As far as Punjabi is concerned that honour is usually given to Baba Shaikh Farid (1173-1265) of Pak Pattan. He was a disciple of the Sufi saint, Qutabuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, who lived in Mehrauli. Over 130 of his compositions were incorporated into the Adi Granth by its compiler, Guru Arjun Dev, and he was thus accorded a status equal to that of the Sikh’s ten gurus. However, there has been some controversy among scholars that the Farid in the Adi Granth is not Farid Shakarganj but his successor many generations removed, named Shaikh Ibrahim Farid, who was a contemporary of Guru Nanak.

The controversy has been revived by the recent publication of The Mystic Melodies of Shaikh Farid by Pritipal Singh. The author rubbishes the claims of the second Farid and firmly states that what is in the Sikh’s sacred scriptures is undoubtedly from the pen of Farid Senior. Pritipal Singh, who has many books on Punjabi literature and Sikh religion to his credit, has translated Farid’s compositions with admirable skill. Meanwhile he has given me an excuse to re-air some of my own renderings of the Sufi saint.

The first time I was attracted to Farid’s poetry was on hearing Ragi Santa Singh’s rendering of Jal Jasee Dhola hatth na laeen Kusumrey (Beloved, do not touch the Kusum Flower, it will burn your hands). It is a somewhat obscure poem warning people against wasting their lives in futile pastimes.

When it was time to build your bark

You did not try.

When you see the ocean angry and

the waves lash,

For help you cry.

Touch not the kusum flower, Beloved,

It will burn your fingers.

You are tender

And the Master’s words are


As milk taken returns not to

the udder,

So a wasted life is without

meeting with the Master.

Says Farid: Sisters, when our Husbands sends for us, go we


Our souls like swans fly away, our

bodies come to dust.

A great favourite of Farid’s is admonishing those who hold back from their tryst with the beloved on flimsy grounds:

O Farid, the lane is slushy with mud

The house of the one thou loves is far


If thou goest, it will soak thy cloak

If thou stayest, it will sunder thy love.

I’ll let my cloak be soaked,

’Tis Allah who makes the rain come

down in torrents.

I will go forth to seek my beloved

The bonds of our love will not sever.

We are not the only ones afflicted with sorrow, Farid reminds us:

Farid believed he alone was

stricken with sorrow

But sorrow is spread over the

entire world;

I climbed my roof and

whichever way I turned

I saw that every home is sorrow


Not all in a day’s work

One morning when I woke up it was broad daylight. I looked at my bedside clock and saw it was after 7 am, nearly three hours after my usual schedule. Instead of six or seven hours I was accustomed to, I had slept for ten hours. I should have had a sense of guilt; I had none. I felt more rested and relaxed. Perhaps my body needed these extra hours of rest. Then I worked out that if I added an hour or more I slept in the afternoon to the ten at night, it would mean that half my life would be spent in doing nothing besides snoring; some more time spent on bathing, eating, reading the papers, answering my mail, watching TV and idle gup-shup , playing or taking some exercise: it would leave barely three to four hours of what can be described as “creative work”. What a criminal waste of time!

It got me thinking. We work to earn our bread, butter and creature comforts. We work harder to outsmart others, live better than they do or gain recognition hoping that something we have done in life will live after us. Is all work vanity' I don’t think so. There are many things one can do which give one a feeling of fulfilment in one’s life time. The one element in all these things we can do is doing things not designed to give oneself or one’s kith and kin more comfortable living but which are meant to better the lot of those less privileged.

Such is the kind of work which men and women like Mother Teresa, Bhagat Puran Singh of Amritsar, Ila Bhatt of Ahmedabad, Abdul Sattar Idhi of Karachi and thousands of others across the globe did and are doing. Whatever self-satisfaction comes out of this kind of work comes from the feeling that if it is done for others — whether it be taking care of the poor or the destitute, looking after stray animals, planting and taking care of trees, its effect will be ever-lasting: its essence is to give without expecting to be rewarded, nishkam karma.

When I look back on my life, I realize to my dismay I have very little reason to feel that I did anything for which anyone was grateful to me or will live after me.

Witness a family drama

Praveen Togadia tells the BJP

“VHP garnered for you the Hindu vote.

We are your real saviours

Follow our agenda or lose our support.”

The BJP chief strongly differs with him

Says Venkaiah Naidu, “Let us be frank.

Key issues are governance and


Hindutva is not our poll plank.”

What an artful shadow-boxing!

Don’t think they are at war.

Can you separate flesh from nails'

Aren’t they members of the

same parivar'

(Contributed by G. C. Bhandari, Meerut)

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