Muscat Daily - - NATION -

Ma­hesh has been in Oman since 1985. After hav­ing worked with Bank Mus­cat and Mer­rill Lynch, he started Trin­ity In­vest­ments, ap­par­ently named be­cause of the three women in his life...his wife and two daugh­ters. You can con­tact him at ma­hesh.verma@apex­me­

Adieu July…ahlan wasahlan Au­gust! “It is best to be born in April or Au­gust when the life-giv­ing Sun is in its ex­al­ta­tion sign Aries or Leo, its home, for then we en­ter the sea of life on the crest-wave and are backed in the bat­tle of ex­is­tence by an abun­dant fund of vim and en­ergy.” So wrote Max Hein­del. Be­ing an April born, who am I to ob­ject or even ques­tion him? He must have done his re­search and would have re­alised that the April and Au­gust born en­joy in equal quan­ti­ties, what Wode­house refers to as “the gall of an army mule and the calm in­sou­ciance of a fish on a slab of ice.”

I don’t know much about th­ese Au­gust born, but we the April born def­i­nitely dis­play a pen­chant to­wards the ele­phant and its mem­ory, apart from the char­ac­ter­is­tics bor­rowed from the mule and the fish. And hence re­mem­ber that Wood­stock hap­pened in the Au­gust of 1969, when one was still in board­ing school where we were re­peat­edly told by our Amer­i­can Je­suit teach­ers to “keep off the grass.” In def­er­ence to their wishes, we du­ti­fully skirted the lush lawns and kept off the grass and the weed till we grad­u­ated from school - al­though in those days of yore, we used to pass out from school!

As Richie Havens, who kicked off that jamboree, had men­tioned “Wood­stock hap­pened long be­fore the

In­ter­net and mo­bile phones made it pos­si­ble to com­mu­ni­cate in­stantly with any­one, any­where. It was a time when we weren’t able to wit­ness world events or the hor­rors of war live on 24-hour news chan­nels”. De­spite no so­cial me­dia to pro­mote the event, Wood­stock still wit­nessed an es­ti­mated 400,000 peo­ple dur­ing the fes­ti­val, which was seen as a vic­tory of peace and love. And to­day, with Face­book and In­sta­gram, What­sApp and Twit­ter, all we do is “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”…akin to what has been de­scribed in Shake­speare’s play Julius Cae­sar.

In the orig­i­nal Ro­man cal­en­dar, the month of Au­gust was called Sex­tilis, and when Julius Cae­sar cre­ated the Ju­lian cal­en­dar in 45 BC, two days were added to it, giv­ing the month 31 days and the month was sub­se­quently re­named Au­gus­tus - in hon­our of Cae­sar Au­gus­tus, the first em­peror of Rome. And per­haps to etch the mem­ory of Au­gus­tus in the minds of the world at large and to carve out this month of Au­gust into the hearts of the peo­ple of the sub-con­ti­nent (and carve a bit of their hearts too), a na­tion was di­vided into two on the night of Au­gust 14 in 1947. The par­ti­tion in­volved the di­vi­sion of two prov­inces, Ben­gal and the Pun­jab, based on district-wise Hindu or Mus­lim ma­jori­ties. The bound­ary de­mar­cat­ing In­dia and Pak­istan be­came known as the Rad­cliffe Line, named after its ar­chi­tect, Sir Cyril Rad­cliffe, who as chair­man of the Bor­der Com­mis­sions was charged with eq­ui­tably di­vid­ing 450,000sq km

of ter­ri­tory with 88mn peo­ple. The par­ti­tion re­sulted in the dis­so­lu­tion of the Bri­tish Raj and the two self-gov­ern­ing coun­tries of Pak­istan and In­dia legally came into ex­is­tence at mid­night on Au­gust 14-15, 1947.

W.H. Au­den’s poem Par­ti­tion prob­a­bly best de­scribes the carv­ing of the na­tion by Rad­cliffe:

“Un­bi­ased at least he was when he ar­rived on his mis­sion,

Hav­ing never set eyes on the land he was called to par­ti­tion

Be­tween two peo­ples fa­nat­i­cally at odds, With their dif­fer­ent di­ets and in­com­pat­i­ble gods… .”

“Shut up in a lonely man­sion, with po­lice night and day

Pa­trolling the gar­dens to keep the as­sas­sins away,

He got down to work, to the task of set­tling the fate

Of mil­lions. The maps at his dis­posal were out of date

And the Cen­sus Re­turns al­most cer­tainly in­cor­rect… .

But in seven weeks it was done, the fron­tiers de­cided,

A con­ti­nent for bet­ter or worse di­vided.

The next day he sailed for Eng­land, where he could quickly for­get

The case, as a good lawyer must. Re­turn he would not,

Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.”

As Nehru, the first Prime Min­is­ter of In­de­pen­dent In­dia said in his speech: “Long years ago we made a tryst with des­tiny, and now that time comes when we shall re­deem our pledge… . At the stroke of the mid­night hour, when the world sleeps, In­dia will awake to life and free­dom… . The ap­pointed day has come - the day ap­pointed by des­tiny - and In­dia stands forth again, after long slum­ber and strug­gle, awake, vi­tal, free and in­de­pen­dent… .”

At what cost this free­dom, at what cost this In­de­pen­dence, at what cost this Par­ti­tion?

And be­fore I sign off, a few ran­dom thoughts:

▶Do you know that next fort­night, the two sib­lings will cel­e­brate 70 years of In­de­pen­dence but myr­iad of fam­i­lies will rue 70 years of the Par­ti­tion?

▶Do you know that one re­ally hopes that Au­gust is the ‘sea­son fi­nale’ of bad news for 2017?

▶Do you know that some of them out there think that I have a way with words - but the wrong way?

Till next fort­night...happy 80th Ajitb­hai, happy 70th Shawqi and happy 21st Mrs Hen­nessey! And wel­come back to the world of col­umns, my “Gor­gon ed­i­tor” - it was get­ting lonely out here!


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