It is always a pleasure to know that there are friends in the profession who have outlived the Biblical threescore and ten years of existence to enter into their nineties. Shri Khushwant Singh is in his nineties and going strong, but I have just heard of Lambert Mascarenhas, the grand daddy of Goan literature and a former joint-editor of the Dempo-owned Goan daily The Navhind Times, who has turned 95 and is presently engaged in completing a fictional work on the Partition of India, under the title Heartbreak Passage. Apparently he began working on the book three years ago and is due to complete it soon.
I knew Lambert many decades ago when I was serving in The Free Press Journal but lost touch with him while serving abroad. I remember reading his second novel set in Portuguese-ruled Goa called Sorrowing Lies My Land, which was published in the mid-50s. The Asian Age (October 15) has just discovered him and I send Lambert, an old friend, my very best wishes for a still longer life and a couple of more books. How does he write? The Asian Age report says that for Lambert “age is really no bar” and that “he writes running hand and later bangs out the manuscripts on an old typewriter”.
Most newspapers, alas, merely indulge like TV channels in “breaking news”. On October 6, The Indian Express reported that top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda has claimed responsibility for the murder of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four others, which led to a large-scale flare-up in Orissa’s Kandhamal district. That is old hat. Panda told the Oriya channels that the Maoists decided to eliminate the VHP leader as he was “spreading social unrest” in the Vanvasis-dominated district. “As Laxmanananda did not pay heed to our warnings, he was killed,” Panda told reporters, adding that similar warnings have also been issued to 14 other Sangh Parivar activists working among Vanvasis.
The charge against Swami Laxmanananda is not just totally false, but it is a brazen lie. In the first place, the Sangh Parivar has fulfilled over 10,000 projects in Vanvasi areas, which are the envy of Maoists. They just couldn’t compete with him in the task of Vanvasi uplift. Panda concedes that he was “pressurised” to “eliminate” Laxmanananda by Christians because the Swami was indulging in ‘anti-Christian’ activities. What is the truth? If only The Indian Express had read the full truth about Kandhamal written by an impartial outsider, Michael Parker, an American familiar with Orissa, it would have done some service to its readers. So many lies are unconsciously propagated by the media these days under the compulsion of “breaking news” that a brazen lie gets implanted in thousands of minds as the naked truth. To say the least, it is disgusting. Parker’s seminal work, incidentally, is published by the India Foundation, New Delhi.
What on earth is happening to the United States? The US weekly Newsweek (August 15) published an article from its correspondent Lisa Miller that said that Americans “are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, ourselves, each other and eternity”. According to Miller, 24 per cent of Americans say they believe in re-incarnation and more than a third of Americans now choose cremation, up form six per cent in 1975. Americans, says Miller, are “no longer” buying the claim apparently made by Jesus when he said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Miller quotes a 2008 Pew Forum Survey that said 65 per cent of Americans now believe that “many religions can lead to eternal life” that include 37 per cent White evangelicals, the groups most likely to believe that salvation is theirs alone. Wrote Miller: “A Hindu believes that there are many paths to God. Jesus is one way, the Quarn is another, yoga practice is a third. None is better than the other. All are equal. The most traditional, conservative Christians have not been thought to think like this.” Miller’s article comes under the headline: “We are all Hindus now”. And to think that the US President Barack Obama permitted celebration permitted celebration of Diwali right in the White House premises! He seems to have learnt how to fold his hands in a namaste. One report has it that he possesses an idol of Hanuman. Ram, Ram, Obama saheb. You are learning.
Then there is the news in The Hitavada (October 16) that the US Congress has passed a resolution congratulating the visionary leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, describing him as “a man of all times and places”. The resolution was introduced by Democrat Eni Faleomavaega in recognition of the Mahatma’s 140th birth anniversary. In introducing it, the Democrat has been quoted as saying: “While much has been said about the great works of Gandhi’s life, it is important that we never forget that without Gandhi, the fates of what is now the world’s largest democracy, India and the oldest democracy, the United States, would likely be far different.”
The United States is changing, slowly, how slowly. But few columnists seem to be aware of the changing scene. We are fully aware of political China which is irreligious, barbarian. But what do we know about the Chinese people at large? Recommended is a copy of the quarterly Dialogue ( July-September 2009), a journal published by Astha Bharati, which carries an excellent study of China by TCA Rangachari, a former member of the Indian Foreign Service. It is recommended reading.