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Road to Happiness -‘Human Rights of the Human’

‘Human Rights of the Human’ explained in the article, ‘Road to Happiness’ by KHUSHWANT SINGH

I never found so better explained ‘Human Rights of the Human’ having lived a reasonably contented life like Khushwant Singh ji and that what a person should strive for to achieve happiness.

Balbir Singh Sooch

Saturday, September 12, 2009
This Above all
Road to happiness

Having lived a reasonably contented life, I was musing over what a person should strive for to achieve happiness. I drew a list of a few essential points, which I put forward for readers’ appraisal. First and foremost is good health. If you do not enjoy good health, you can never be happy. Any ailment, however trivial, will deduct something from your happiness. Second, a healthy bank balance. It need not run into crores, but should be enough to provide for comforts, and something to spare for recreations — eating out, going to the pictures, travel and holidays in the hills, or by the sea.

Shortage of money can be only demoralising. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning, and lowers one in one’s own eyes. Third, your home. Rented premises can never give you the smug feeling of a nest which is yours for keeps that a home provides. If it has garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and flowers, see them grow and blossom, and cultivate a sense of kinship with them. Fourth, an understanding companion, be it your spouse or a friend. If there are too many misunderstandings, they will rob you of your peace of mind. It is better to be divorced than to be quarrelling all the time.

Fifth, stop envying those who have done better than you in life — risen higher, made more money, or earned more fame. Envy can be very corroding; avoid comparing yourself with others. Sixth, do not allow people to descend on you for gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering.

Seventh, cultivate some hobbies which fulfil you — gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music. Going to clubs or parties to get free drinks, or to meet celebrities is a criminal waste of time. Eighth, every morning and evening devote 15 minutes to introspection. In the mornings 10 minutes should be spent in stilling the mind, and five in listing things you have to do that day. In the evenings, five minutes to still the mind again, and 10 to go over what you had undertaken to do.

Nathaniel Cotton (1721-1788) sums up my views on the subject in one verse:

If solid happiness we prize;
Within our breast this jewel lies;
And they are fools who roam;
The world has nothing to bestow;
From our own selves our joys must flow;
And that dear hut, our home.


I am not a humble man. I am not cowed by men in powerful positions, or of great wealth. But I do feel humble when I meet people who dedicate their lives to looking after sick or needy humans and animals. On her death anniversary (August 31), I recalled the three days I spent with Mother Teresa in Calcutta over 40 years ago. We walked through crowded streets, rode in trams to visit her various hospitals, creches and abandoned children and homes for the dying.

I wrote a humble tribute to her for The New York Times, and put her picture on the cover of The Illustrated Weekly of India. Till then she was little known outside Calcutta; after that more people got to know about her work. She sent me a short note of thanks. I have it in a silver frame in my home in Kasauli.

It was the same with Bhagat Puran Singh. I heard of his pingalwara in Amritsar, and persuaded members of my family charitable trust to donate some money for the patients staying there. Dr Manmohan Singh, then Finance Minister, inaugurated it. Whenever I think of Bhagat Puran Singh, I feel humble.

Though I have no respect for Maneka Gandhi as a politician, I give her full credit for being the first Indian to make her countrymen aware of their duty to protect animals. She has done more for them than anyone else I know. There are quite a few people living near me who do their bit for animals and humans. There was Bheem Varma of Cooch Behar (nephew of Maharani Gayatri Devi), who spent his evenings going around feeding stray dogs. After he died, his wife Reeta Devi took on the job.

In addition, she now runs two mobile clinics — one donated by Kapil Sibal, the other by Sir Elton John — which go around different parts of the city with doctors, nurses and medicines to treat sick people free of charge. She has been promised more mobile clinics by the Poddars and the Ansals. In a couple of months she will be running four mobile hospitals treating over 2,000 people a day.

There is my niece Veena Balwant Singh, who now spends her entire day taking packets of food and medicines around many parts of New Delhi to feed and medicate stray dogs. That costs a lot of money. A friend of her has pitched in to share half the expenses. In the evenings she runs into Parveen Talha of the Union Public Service Commission, who also feeds stray dogs in Lodhi Gardens before she goes home for the night.

I have known her for over 20 years, but never knew of her love for animals. There must be thousands of such kindly men and women for whom taking care of sick and hungry humans and animals is a sacred duty. I don’t do any such thing, only write about them. But I do feel humble in their presence.

This Above all
Freeloaders, all

I get six papers every morning. I go through their contents, absorb a few items which I think are important, and dump their supplements into the wastepaper basket without opening them. Nothing in papers riles me more than the number of government ads, all of which, if they are from Congress-ruled states, carry pictures of chief ministers and ministers along with those of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh with claims of achievements in agriculture, industry, education etc.

We know that these claims are vastly exaggerated. States ruled by Opposition parties do not lag behind in self-aggrandisement, and also publish pictures of their chief ministers, ministers, deputy ministers etc. Only Sonia and Manmohan are missing. Their claims of having made advances in every field are no more credit-worthy than those ruled by the Congress. Since every page ad in any of our national dailies costs Rs 1 lakh or more, the total amount spent on governmental self-publicity runs into crores of rupees every day — enough to set up dozens of schools and clinics.

Who pays for this extravagant waste of money? The tax payer — you and I — because all governmental public relations departments are integral parts of our bureaucracy maintained by taxpayers’ money. Newspapers are not in any position to object to this practice as their sustenance comes from advertising, and the government is the single-largest advertiser in the country. But surely, something has to be done by somebody to rectify this sorry state of affairs.

The only thing that occurs to me is setting up a regulatory body which will define limits beyond which government departments cannot go to advertise themselves, and check their claims of achievements before they are published. The Indian Standards Institute (ISI) does this in the case of products put in the market, and verifies their claims before it issues them permits. A body like the ISI could be instituted with similar powers regarding government advertisements.

Come to think of it, talking about oneself is regarded as bad manners; praising oneself as an extreme form of vulgarity. Mayawati erecting her own statues at public expense has been castigated by everyone. She has made a laughing stock of herself. Why spare netas who impose their pictures on us everyday and make us pay for them?

In the same league

Pranab Mukherjee’s advice to Foreign Minister SM Krishna and his deputy Shashi Tharoor to get out of five- star hotels and occupy bungalows allotted to them shows all concerned to be a bunch of humbugs. The two were paying for their board and lodging out of their own pockets, and not out of public exchequer. If taken to its logical conclusion, no minister of government should be eating at a five-star hotel or restaurant because that all appears to be a vulgar display of opulence.

Neither Pranab nor any of his ministerial colleagues are known to refuse being lavishly entertained. A gourmet meal with drinks costs upwards of Rs 5,000 per head. No one cares if somebody else is paying for it. However, both the ministers looked very shame-faced when they quit their hotels. They have a few awkward questions to answer. Why did they not move into the bungalows allotted to them? All the tale of their being renovated to their needs is humbug.

They are well maintained by the PWD and habitable. If they wanted some changes, they could have been made while they were in residence. Unless, of course, their vastu experts advised them to change entrances, doors and directions of their toilet seats. We can assume that neither minister is a believer in vastu. And who has the right to tell another how he or she should be spending money? Most certainly, not media persons.

Journalists are the biggest freeloaders in our society today. Have you ever seen the editor of a national daily pay for his meal in a five-star hotel? Not even the self-righteous editor of The Indian Express, which carried the "news" of Krishna staying at Maurya Sheraton and Tharoor at Taj Man Singh, as if the two had been caught red-handed committing a crime. Baby-faced Tharoor looked suitably guilty as if his mom had nabbed him stealing a carton of icecream from the family fridge.

Will meet in Hardwar

A few years ago my sister’s son Tanuj Leekha married Abhilasha at New Delhi. I saw her only once during the marriage festivity, but was charmed by her looks, and looked forward to seeing her again. A few days ago, she died in New York, and her parents, husband and father-in-law brought her ashes to be immersed in the holy Ganga. While we were taking her ashes to Hardwar, I read a couplet on the rear of a truck: Zindagi rahi to baar baar milengey; nahin to Hardwar milengey.

Remembering My Teacher - Harbhajan Singh 'Halwarvi
"Dear Balbir! Mind it, Newspapers are commercial managements, never meant for News."
The Pew study, released Sunday, finds that two-thirds of Americans believe news stories are often inaccurate, and three-quarters of Americans think they're biased.

Media Bias Obvious to a Growing Number of Americans
More bad news for journalists: The percentage of people who believe their work is inaccurate and biased continues to grow.

Be cautious of the Press

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