TRIVIAL TRAVAILS Mahesh Verma
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 email@example.com
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!
ADIEU JULY, WELCOME AUGUST