Thursday, 23 October 2014

Julian Gardner
When I was admitted in the Boys' High School, Allahabad in January 1951 there were about 200 students in the entire school ( now there over 5000 ), about one third of whom were Anglo-Indians ( most of them migrated later with their parents to England, Australia, or Canada) . Many of these Anglo-Indians had the surname Gardner.
 One of these was my class mate Julian Gardner, whose son-in-law, David Luke, is now Principal of the school.
 After I had passed out of Boys High School on completing my Senior Cambridge school examination in 1961, I lost touch with Julian.
 It was much later.when I was a Judge of Allahabad High Court ( from 1991-2004) that I again came into contact with him when one day he came to my house in Allahabad.
  We exchanged old memories of our time in the school. Julian told me all that he had done after leaving the school. He had been in the railways in some capacity, and later left the railways and had been doing farming in Kasganj, in U.P.
 The Gardners in India all come from Kasganj. Their ancestor was a British lord, William Gardner, who had been a general in the British army in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, had fought in India, and had been granted an estate in Kasganj as a reward for his services. I am informed that a Gardner's House still stands in Kasganj.
 Lord Gardner had raised a British regiment known as the Gardner's Horse in 1809. The regiment still exists in the Indian army, but is now known as the Second Lancers. It is the oldest and most highly decorated armoured regiment in the Indian army.
  When Julian met me in my house in Allahabad he told me a fascinating story.
Lord Gardner had been a hereditary peer, not a life peer. Hereditary peers are those belonging to old aristocratic families in England, and the eldest son of the father inherits the title, the castle, etc. Life peers are those appointed only lords for their lifetime, because of some accomplishment in some field, e.g. business, science, art, etc, and their sons do not inherit the title. The peers, whether hereditary or lifetime, have the right to sit in the House of Lords, which is the upper House in the British Parliament.
 The British Government had appointed a well known historian to do research about the hereditary peers. That historian found out, after painstaking research, that Julian was the seniormost, direct descendant in the male line of descent from Lord Gardner, and hence had the right to inherit the title, the castle, etc. However, Julian had to submit certain documents to prove his claim, and so he had come to me for help.
 I immediately instructed the District Judge of Kasganj to help in the matter and obtain the relevant documents and give them to Julian.
 I started dreaming of the day my friend Julian would become Lord Gardner and sit in the House of Lords in England, and I would be a guest in his castle and enjoy his hospitality.
 However, this dream was shattered when later Julian informed me that the Labour Government of Tony Blair had changed the policy, and now Julian could not become a Lord.
That was really cheating my friend !
Peer into the past
He ekes out a living as a peasant farmer in a remote part of north India. His only link to Britain would seem to be his short-wave radio. But despite his humble lot, Julian Gardner is heir to an English barony. William Dalrymple tracks him down deep in Uttar Pradesh

William Dalrymple
The Guardian, Monday 8 December 2003
The village of Khasgunge ( Kasgunj ) lies on the edge of bandit territory in the increasingly anarchic north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Here on the banks of the Ganges, in the badlands to the north west of Lucknow, it is the police who are the highwaymen and the local politicians who run the mafia. It is a place where you do well to keep off the roads after the fall of darkness.
The nearest town of any size to Khasgunge is the old Mughal capital of Agra, three hours' drive away, so I set off in the pre-dawn glimmer of a chill winter's morning, hoping to get safely back by nightfall. As we set off, the great white dome of the Taj Mahal was just visible above the early morning mist, and the bazaars were full of muffled figures wobbling along on rickety bikes. Passing the crumbling cupolas of the old ruined Mughal gardens, we drove out into the foggy fields of yellow winter mustard beyond. Trucks and camel carts headed slowly in the opposite direction, as monkeys lolloped across the road.

The tale I was chasing was an unlikely one. During the research for my book White Mughals - all about the forgotten period of multicultural "chutnification" during the late 18th century - I had heard about a princely Anglo-Mughal dynasty living in strained circumstances in Khasgunge. The Gardners mixed in their veins the blood of British barons, Mughal Emperors and Indian Nawabs, and were said to be still clinging on to their ancestral acres where their mixed Muslim and Christian ancestors still lay buried in large domed Mughal tombs. More intriguing still, it was said that Julian Gardner, the small-holding peasant farmer who was now the head of the dynasty, was in fact the rightful heir to the Barony of Gardner, historically linked to Uttoxeter, and so eligible - at least until recently - for a seat in the House of Lords.

I had asked around and learned a little about Julian before setting off in search of him. Some said that the putative Lord Gardner had never been to England and spoke only faltering English, contenting himself with farming his Indian acres and enjoying the prestige of being the village wrestling champion. Others told me of the strained circumstances in which the current Baron Gardner now lived. A distant cousin of his described how Julian, having invited her to stay to lunch, had picked up his shotgun and promptly shot a green parakeet sitting in the tree outside his house, then handed it to his wife to be plucked and cooked.

It certainly sounded intriguing, especially when a quick call to the royal College of Arms confirmed that the story of Julian's peerage was indeed true. According to Patric Dickinson, the Richmond Herald, who has spent some time researching the claim, had Julian Gardner had the money and the inclination to fight his case through the committee of privileges at Westminster, he would have had no trouble in spending much of his adult life not in a dusty Indian farm, but instead on the soft leather benches of the Lords. "I personally have no doubt that Julian should be Lord Gardner," said Dickinson. "It's not going to be much use to him now that the government wishes to abolish the hereditaries, although I suppose there is the consolation of an invitation to the next coronation. But I don't think there is any doubt that Julian is the rightful heir."

Three hours' drive later, Khasgunge turned out to be a scrappy bazaar town, alive with the smell of ginger tea, frying parathas and the sound of blaring film music. The sun was now up and I was directed from chai stall to chai stall as people pointed out the way to the Angrez Kothi (the Englishman's estate) as they called it. We found our way through the maze of canals and rutted bullock tracks that criss-crossed the country, past saras cranes preening on the edge of irrigation runnels, finding our way towards the high-pointed hemisphere of the vast-domed Mughal tomb of the American-born founder of the dynasty, William Linnaeus Gardner. The tomb dominated the flat country for miles around, and it was only when you drew nearer that you could see that to one side lay the ruined remains of a once very grand residential complex: a hamam [Turkish bath] and a stable block, a roofless ballroom with glassless Georgian fan windows, and a bibi khana or women's house with crumbling lattices set in cusped Mughal arches.

There is a wonderful description of life in these buildings in the journals of a travel writer named Fanny Parkes who visited Khasgunge in February 1835. She gives a detailed picture of how William Gardner lived in a culturally hybrid house with Mughal customs and mixed European and Mughal cuisine.

At the wedding of the colonel's granddaughter, Parkes describes how the European guests, like their host, were all in Mughal dress. Later, "two English gentlemen, who were fond of native life, and fascinated with Khasgunge, requested me to mention to Colonel Gardner their wish to become of his family". But little was now left of this hybrid world: goats lay tethered in the ballroom, and Yadav peasant women stacked their sheaves of winter wheat in the remains of the hamam . Before long the village headman appeared and gave me direction to Julian's farmhouse, which lay, he said, along a narrow dirt track, a couple of villages away.

The house was indistinguishable from any other north Indian farmstead. Outside was the usual disordered Indian scene: chickens perching on charpoys, buffaloes chewing the cud amid mountain of dung chapatis, drying for the winter cooking fires, the gush of water from an ill-oiled hand pump. There was certainly no indication that this was the residence of a man with an excellent claim to a British title.

The strange story of the Indian Gardners begins approximately 200 years ago, with the arrival in Madras of a young refugee from the patriot victory in the American war of independence. William Linnaeus Gardner was born into a prominent American loyalist family on the banks of the Hudson. After the British defeat at Yorktown, the Gardners fled America for Britain, and William sailed to India to seek his fortune. There he married a beautiful Mughal princess, and seems to have converted to Islam to marry her. It was a long, happy marriage. Years later, living with his Anglo-Indian family on his wife's estates at Khasgunge, with his son James married to a niece of the Mughal emperor, Gardner wrote proudly of his multi-racial family: "My having been married some 30 years and never having taken another wife surprises the Musselmans very much," he informed a cousin. "The begum and I, from years of constant contact, have smoothed off each other's asperities and roll on peaceably and contentedly. My house is filled with brats, and the very thinking of them, from blue eyes and fair hair to ebony and wool makes me anxious to get back again. I have more relish in playing with my little brats than for the First Society of the World."

The "brats" and their children grew in time into a remarkable Anglo-Mughal dynasty, half of whose members were Muslim and half Christian; indeed some of them, such as James Jehangir Shikoh Gardner, seem to have been both at the same time. Even those Gardners who were straightforwardly Christian had alternative Muslim names: thus the Rev Bartholomew Gardner could also be addressed as Sabr, under which name he was a notable Urdu and Persian poet.

William Gardner died on his Khasgunge estate on July 29 1835, at the age of 65. His begum, whose eyes he had first glimpsed 38 years earlier, could not live without him. According to Parkes: "My beloved friend Colonel Gardner was buried, according to his desire, near the [Mughal] tomb of his son. From the time of his death the poor begum pined and sank daily; just as he said, she complained not, but she took his death to heart; she died one month and two days after his decease."

The family never recovered the position they held under William. Despite possessing the right to a pukka peerage, over time they lost their wealth, became poorer and poorer, gradually losing touch with both their aristocratic Mughal and English relations. Their old porous multiculturalism gave way to a more conventional pigeon-holing in the firm social stratification of the Raj, and like many other Anglo-Indians, the Gardners found employment on the railways. The penultimate vicereine, Lady Halifax, had Gardner blood and records in her memoirs that she was a little surprised when alighting from the viceregal train on her way up to Simla, to see the station master break through the ceremonial guard and fight his way up to the red carpet. Shouldering his way through the ranks of aides, he addressed the vicereine:

"Your excellency," he said, "my name is Gardner."

"Of course," replied Lady Halifax, somewhat to the surprise of the viceregal entourage. "We are therefore cousins."

I sit on a charpoy in the winter sunshine of Julian's farm as he lays out his file full of family papers. Letters from Burke's Peerage and Debrett's blew about the yard as we eat not parrot, rather disappointingly, but one of the chickens who has been picking about the letters from Burke's only minutes earlier. "The papers are all there and no one disputes my claim," says Julian, through a mouthful of chickpeas. "But I simply don't have the cash to fight the case through the courts: when the bank at Farrukhabad failed during my grandfather's time we lost nearly everything. We're living all right - God has been good to us - but we can't afford to employ lawyers or anything like that."

He is a thin, wiry, intelligent man in his late 60s. He has dark sunburned skin and a lilting Anglo-Indian accent. Contrary to reports I had heard, he is neither a village wrestling champion, nor illiterate; but it is true that he has never been to Britain, and his only link to the country of his ancestors is the short-wave radio inside, permanently tuned to the BBC World Service.

"Anyway," he continues, "what would I do in the English parliament? My life is here: getting up at 5.30 to put the cattle out, check the herdsmen are giving the right food to the buffaloes, that the maize and barley are being watered properly ... It's true we Gardners feel more English than Indian: our behaviour, our way of dressing and living - it's all English and we bring up our children to learn the English scriptures. All the people here call us Angrez. But my home is not London - it's here in Khasgunge."

"Do the people here know about your history?" I ask.

"Oh, yes: if ever the bandits come, the people only have to say Angrezi Sahib aa rehe hai - the English sahib is coming - and the dacoits run off: they have heard I am handy with my rifle. But now hardly any Gardners are left. When I was young there were hundreds of us: we could dance and sing and create our own English atmosphere in this village. We knew all the old songs. Now most of us have emigrated, to Australia mainly. There are a few in Allahabad and Delhi, including my children. But I don't think they will ever come back to live here. My wife and I are the last Gardners left here.

"The end is coming very fast," he says. "It's sad. My family have been here for centuries and now it's the end of the chapter. I just hope the title will come through before I die. My grandfather's soul will rest in peace and my children can go back home as English lords. That's what I pray for at night.

"At my age its too late for me to emigrate. But my children would definitely go if they got the title. I'd like my children to have what belonged to their ancestors. At the moment," he added, "they can't even get a British passport."

· Fanny Parkes's travelogue Begums, Thugs and White Mughals has just been reprinted by Sickle Moon. William Dalrymple's book on 18th-century multiculturalism, White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth Century India, recently won the Wolfson Prize for History and the Scottish Book of the Year.
The Death Penalty
Many persons want abolition of the death penalty. While I agree that ordinarily the death penalty should not be imposed, I am of the view that in exceptional case it should be awarded.
 Our society is in transition from feudal society to a modern industrial one. Whatever helps in this advance should be supported, while whatever obstructs it it should be opposed.
 For example, 'honour killing' is a barbaric,feudal practice, and so must be stamped out, and to do that terror must be created in the minds of those who indulge in it by awarding death penalty in such cases. I said this in a judgment I gave in the Supreme Court, Bhagwan Das vs. State ( NCT ) of Delhi, 2001.
 Similarly, dowry death,  fake encounter killing by the cops, serial killing ,and particulary gruesome murders should be awarded death penalty.
 I am not a blood thirsty person. But I agree with Bheeshma Pitamah in his upadesh to Yudhishthir after the Mahabharata war in the Shantiparva.
 Bheeshma Pitamah told Yudhishthir :
" O Yudhishthir, I know that you are merciful and forgiving by nature, but the government cannot be conducted in this manner. You must sometimes be firm, and award punishment in appropriate cases "
About Myself
 I am a purely theoretical person.
I got the reading habit very early in life, maybe when I was about 10 years old ( I have crossed 68 now ). Even now I read several hours every day ( though the internet is of great help now in getting a lot of knowlege).
 I was very good in games in my youth. I played a lot of football ( my favourite game ), hockey, cricket, tennis, badminton, table tennis,  swimming, and even boxing, in school, college and University.
   But what I really enjoyed, and still enjoy most is reading, for which I have a passion.
 I am a loner in life, not a very social person, and books became my greatest companions. While reading I am transported to a different world.
 I started going to libraries very early in life. In Allahabad, while I was in the University ( 1963-1967) I used to spend several hours reading in the Public Library in Alfred Park, and I also visited other libraries. In Chennai, where I went as the Chief Justice of Madras High Court in 2004, I regularly went to the Madras University library, and borrowed books to read from there. In Delhi, where I came in 2005, and where I have been since then, I regularly visit the India International Centre and Delhi Gymkhana Club libraries and borrow books to read from there.
 My favourite subjects in reading are history, literature, biography, and, of course, law ( which was my profession ).  I have read a lot of literature  of several countries, and of several Indian languages. I have also read a lot of philosophy, economics, science, political science, etc
  I had been admitted in an English medium school in Allahabad in January 1951 ( The Boys High School, Allahabad). At that time about one third of my school mates were Andlo- Indians ( later many migrated with their parents to England, Australia and Canada), and these boys all spoke in English. So I became fluent in English at a very early age, and this opened up the door for me to much knowledge in the world, because most of the books on various subjects are in English.
 Indian intellectuals are broadly of two kinds, the traditional ones who have a good grip over Indian culture, and the Westernised ones, who have a good grip over Western culture. I have a good grip over both, and am equally comfortable and familiar with both. Thus, for example, I am well conversant with both Western philosophy, literature and history, as well as Indian philosophy, literature and history.
 I am not a practical person, and it is because I have a very practical wife, who looks after all the practical affairs in my life, that I have survived so far. I am a purely theoretical man, and this is where I am highly specialized.
 What is the use of theoretical knowledge ? The answer is that without theoretical knowledge we cannot understand the world, we cannot understand what is going on in it, and we cannot know how to solve the country's problems. Intellectuals are the eyes of society, and without intellectuals society is blind.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Naanum Oru Tamilar
I do not believe in rebirth. But if there were rebirths, I was certainly a Tamilian in one of my previous births. Whenever I go to Tamilnadu I feel I am going home, and feel at home there. I have lots of friends in Tamilnadu, and Tamilians have always given me a lot of love and respect, which is because of the kindness and generosity of their hearts. When meeting a Tamilian I often say :" naanum oru Tamilar " ( I, too, am a Tamilian ). and I mean it ( though I am also a Kashmiri, an M.P.ite, a U.P.ite, a Bengali, a Rajasthani, an Oriya, and a Punjabi, because of the association of my ancestors with those places ).
  While studying in Allahabad University, where I was from 1963-1967, I got this idea of learning Tamil, probably because I thought I should know my country, and Tamilnadu was furthest away in the south. So I joined a Tamil diploma course in the Allahabad University ( apart from pursuing my regular studies). My Tamil teacher was one Prof. Ranganathan, and he always wore a white turban and put on a tilak ( naamam) on his forehead. I remember the first words in Tamil which were in my Tamil book : " Tamilar Veeram " i.e. the bravery of the Tamil people.
 After I finished my studies in Allahabad University, I decided I needed to know more about Tamilnadu. So in !967 I went to Annamalai University in Tamilnadu, and joined a one year spoken Tamil diploma course there  ( I was told it was discontinued some years after I had left ).
   I remember that on approaching the University, there were vast stretches of water on both sides of the approach road, and many cocoanut trees.
  My Tamil teachers were Mr. Raja, and Mr. Shanmugam Pillai. When I went to Annamalai University after I became a Supreme Court Judge in 2006 I was told there that Mr. Raja had disappeared somewhere while he was alive, but I met members of his family.
  I was in Kambar Hostel. One of my room mates there was Venkat Subbu Reddy, about whom I had put up a previous post on facebook. He was from Pondicherry, and he later became a teacher, but has now retired, and looks after his farm. He had met me when I was leaving Tamilnadu to take over as Chief Justice of Delhi High Court in October 2005, and again when he came to meet me in Chennai this year.
 When I went to Annamalai University after becoming a Supreme Court Judge, I went to Kambar Hostel. The news of my coming had obviously reached the hostellers, who greeted me with loud cheering when I arrived.
  At Annamalai University I often used to go to the Chidambaram Temple , which is about 2 kms. from the University,on foot with some friends. I played a lot of football, my favourite game, in the University.
  Much later, I became the Chief Justice of Madras High Court in November 2004. At that time the High Court was in a very bad shape, for reasons which need not be mentioned, and I determined to set it right.
 My flight from Delhi was reaching Chennai at about 2 p.m. on a working day,and I telephoned the then Acting Chief Justice to request all the Hon'ble Judges of the High Court not to come to the airport to receive me because it would not be proper for Judges to leave their Courts during working hours. However, a large number of lawyers received me at Chennai airport. The Hon'ble Judges called on me in the evening after Court hours.
  I was given a warm welcome in the High Court, and in my speech I quoted from the Tirukkural, some verses I had learnt in my Tamil diploma course in Allahabad.
 On the very first day of my joining the Madras High Court, after the Court hours, the Registrar General of the High Court brought an old lady with white hair into my chamber. She could not speak English, and kept moving her hands indicating that there were small children in her house. The Registrar General told me that she was an employee of the High Court who had just retired after about 35 years service, and her son, who had small children was unemployed. I immediately told the Registrar General to give her son a job in the High Court
 When I went to Madurai, where a bench of the High Court had been set up a few months earlier, I was again given a warm welcome in the High Court. In my speech I referred to the famous Tamil epic Silappathihaaram of the poet Ilango, about which also I had read in my Tamil diploma course in Allahabad and  Annamalai University. I said that Kannagi had burnt the entire city of Madurai because injustice had been done to her husband, and therefore if you want to have peace and prosperity justice must always be done.
  During the lunch interval on the very first day at Madurai, two lawyers brought a young woman to my chamber, who was crying. The lawyers told me that her husband, who was employed as a class 4 employee in Tirunelveli district court, had recently been killed in a bus accident, and she had two small children with no means of financial support. She was an M.Ed. and so I called the Registrar of the Madurai bench and told him to give her a class 3 ( clerical ) job in the High Court. Her name is Kalavathi, and whenever I go to Madurai she meets me.
 I have already said a lot about certain matters relating to the Madras High Court in my previous posts ( one of which created a lot of controversy ) and so I need not repeat it. I may only make a passing reference to the Madras High Court Museum and the Tamilnadu Mediation and Conciliation Centre which I got set up, as well, as the Madras High Court Guest House, which I initiated, and which was completed after I had left.
 Even after coming to Delhi my association with Tamilnadu, and particularly Tamilian Judges and lawyers, has remained strong. Many of my recommendees are now very senior Judges of the Madras High Court, and I  am told they are keeping the flag of the High Court flying high. Even now I am always concerned about the welfare of the judiciary in Tamilnadu.
 In the Supreme Court my knowledge of some Tamil was helpful, and I often used it when a Tamilian lawyer was arguing before my bench.. Once, Mr. K. Parasaran, a very senior lawyer, and former Attorney General of India, was arguing before my bench. There was nothing in his case, so I told him in Tamil " Okaarung " ( which means, please sit down ). Had I said that in English he may have felt offended, but since I said it in his own mother tongue he smiled and sat down.
 In the Supreme Court I found one Tamil word very useful, and which I sometimes used after a Tamilian lawyer had finished his argument, " Tallupadi ", which means " Dismissed ".

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Rajputs
 The Rajputs are the warrior race, the Samurais, of India, and Rajasthan is renowned in Indian history as the land of the warriors.
 Rajputs are divided into several clans---Sisodias, Rathors, Chauhans, Parmars, Tanwars ( Tomars ), Pratihars, Solankis, Baghels, Chandels, Gahlots, Kachwahas, Bhatis, etc.
 Traditionally, Rajputs are both endogamous as well as exogamous. Endogamous means marrying within the community. Rajputs are traditionally endogamous because a Rajput boy only marries a Rajput girl. Exogamous means marrying outside the community. Rajputs are exogamous because a boy from one clan of Rajputs cannot not marry a girl from the same clan. Thus, a Rathor boy cannot not marry a Rathor girl, a Chauhan boy cannot not marry a Chauhan girl, etc.
 The highest among the Rajputs are the Sisodias of Udaipur ( the capital of Mewar ). Other Rajput princes were known as Maharajas or Rajas, but there was only one Maharana in India, and he was the Maharana of Udaipur, and he was regarded as the highest among the Rajputs. This was because of the fame and renown acquired by Maharana Pratap who never surrendered before the Mughals ( incidentally, both the Mughal Emperor Akbar and Maharana Pratap are my heroes, though they were enemies ).
  Udaipur, a lake city, is the capital of Mewar, which is in southern Rajasthan. Mewar is a hilly land, unlike western Rajasthan ( Marwar ) which is desert. So Mewar is ideal for guerilla war, which Maharana Pratap waged when the Mughal forces invaded Mewar, realizing that a head on collision with the Mughals would be disastrous. The Rajput soldiers  of Mewar went to the famous Ekalinga temple ( a few kms. from Udaipur, which I visited ), the family temple of the Maharana, and took a solemn oath that they will not sleep on a bed but on the open ground, and would eat chapatis made of grass until they liberated Mewar. For 25 years Maharana Pratap led his forces ( which included tribals, and even some Muslims ) but did not surrender. Ultimately, after the death of Maharana Pratap and Akbar, their sons Maharana Amar Singh and Emperor Jahangir entered into a treaty guaranteeing the independence of Mewar, and peace was restored.
 For this bravery the Maharanas of Mewar are regarded as the highest among the Rajputs.
  When I went to Udaipur a few years back, I met an old Rajput with a white beard and white whiskers at the Udaipur palace. I said to him " You Rajputs are brave people ". He replied " No, only the Rajputs of Mewar are brave ".
 A durbar was held in Delhi in 1911 attended by King George the Fifth and Queen Mary , on the occasion of the coronation of the King a few months earlier. It was the only one a King of England attended in person in India. All the Indian princes attended it. Maharana Fateh Singh of Mewar ( born 1849, and King from 1884-1930 ) was at first reluctant to attend, but after great persuasion agreed.
 While all the other princes of India were dressed in colourful clothes, golden, purple, red, blue, yellow, etc. Maharana Fateh Singh and his men were dressed in plain white. The Maharajas and Rajas wanted to meet him, but he refused, and met only King George the Fifth.
  It is said that if one wrote a letter to the Maharana of Udaipur it would be returned undelivered if it was addressed  to ' His Royal Highness the Maharana of Mewar, K.C.S.I. ' or with some other such words. But if one wrote ' Himself ' ( Svayam ), Udaipur, as the name of the addressee it would be delivered.
 Before concluding I wish to mention an interesting story.  It was told to me by a relative who was in the Indian Foreign Service, and was posted as Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan. This relative of mine had a Pakistani friend, a Muslim gentleman with the surname Chauhan ( some ancestor of his may have been a Hindu Chauhan who converted and became a Muslim ). This Pakistani friend had a son who was in love with a Muslim girl and wanted to marry her, but her parents, for some reason, refused. The father then told his son " We are Chauhans. We do not take the consent of a girl's father to marry her, but just carry her off. You do the same ".
 This was obviously a reference to the Chauhan King, Prithviraj Chauhan who fell in love with Sanyogita, the daughter of a Rathor king, Jaychand. Sanyogita was also in love with Prithviraj, but her father,Jaychand was an enemy of Prithviraj, and refused to marry her to Prithviraj.
 Jayachand held a swayamvar for his daughter's wedding. In a swayamvar many princes are invited, and the girl goes around a hall and selects her husband to be, and places a garland on his neck. Prithviraj was deliberately not invited, and only his statue, dressed as a doorman ( to insult him ), was kept in the swayamvar hall. However, dressed as a doorman he entered the hall and hid behind his statue. Sanyogita went around, and ultimately placed her garland on the neck of the statue. At this moment Prithviraj came out of his hiding place, grabbed Sanyogita, and carried her away on his horse. The story is recounted in the epic poem  'Prithviraj Raso '

Monday, 20 October 2014

Mahatma Gandhi as a lawyer
People know Mahatma Gandhi as a political leader, but few people know about his law practice in South Africa for 20 years.
 I may mention about one of his earliest cases in Pretoria,when he had just started law practice, as a young man in his early 20s.
 The case was a civil dispute between two businessmen of Indian origin settled in South Africa and doing business there, Dada Abdullah and Tyeb Seth. Gandhiji was the lawyer for Dada Abdullah.
 I may now continue this narrative in Gandhiji's own words, in his book ' The Story of my Experiments with Truth ' :
" I saw that the facts of Dada Abdullah's case made it very strong indeed. But I also saw that the litigation, if persisted, would financially ruin both sides, who were relatives, and belonged to the same city. No one knew how long the case might go on.
 I approached Tyeb Seth, and advised him to go for arbitration. I recommended him to see his counsel, and suggested that if an arbitrator enjoying the confidence of both parties were appointed, the case would quickly finish. The lawyers' fees were so rapidly mounting that they would devour the financial resources of both litigants, even though they were big merchants. Moreover, the case occupied so much of their time that they had no time left for any other work. In the meantime, mutual ill will was steadily increasing
 I became disgusted with the legal profession. I felt that my duty was to befriend both parties, and bring them together. I strained every nerve to bring about a compromise. At last Tyeb Seth agreed. An arbitrator was appointed, the case was argued before him, and Dada Abdullah won.
  But that did not satisfy me. If my client were to seek immediate execution of the award, it would be impossible for Tyeb Seth to pay the whole of the awarded amount, and there was an unwritten law among the Porbander Memons living in South Africa that death should be preferred to bankruptcy.
 It was impossible for Tyeb Seth to immediately pay the whole sum awarded, but he meant to pay not a pie less, and he did not want to be declared bankrupt.
 There was only one way. Dada Abdullah ( Gandhiji's client ) should allow him to pay in moderate instalments. He was equal to the occasion, and granted Tyeb Seth instalments spread over a very long period. It was more difficult for me to secure this concession ( from Dada Abdullah ) than to get the parties to agree to arbitration. But both were happy over the result, and both rose in the public esteem.
  My joy was boundless. I had learnt the true practice of law. I realized that the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder.
  The lesson was so indelibly burnt into me that a large part of my time during the twenty years of my practice as a lawyer was occupied in bringing about private compromises in hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby, not even money, certainly not my soul. "
William Penn ( 1644--1718 )
One of my heroes is the British Quaker, preacher, and founder of the state of Pennsylvania, William Penn.
 He was a remarkable man. He was an early advocate of democracy and religious freedom, at a time in England when these were dangerous ideas, and he was imprisoned several times because of his views, writings and teachings.
 He was the son of an English Admiral, a very rich man, who had great ambitions for his son. At the age of 16, in 1660, William Penn was sent to Oxford by his father. There he became associated with a dissident Christian religious sect called the Quakers.
 The Quakers were a sect founded by one George Fox, who, after the English Civil War ( 1642-1651 ) was dissatisfied with the Church of England ( Anglican Church ). He claimed that it was possible to have direct experience of Christ without an intervening clergy, and was critical of organized religion.
 The sect founded by George Fox became known as 'Quakers' ( though they called themselves ' The Religious Society of Friends ' ), because they 'quaked' or trembled before God.
 The Quakers had several distinguishing features, which marked them off from other Christians :
(1) They never used the pronoun ' you ' when addressing someone, and only used the term ' thou'.
 Nowadays the word ' thou ' is not used in English for addressing anyone, and only ' you ' is used.
 In Hindi, for addressing someone there are 3 pronouns which are used. ' Aap ' is used for elders or persons whom one wishes to give respect. ' Tum ' is used for equals. And 'tu' is used for inferiors or younger people ( it is often also used as a word of affection between two close friends ). In English, however, ' you ' is used for all 3 categories, and 'thou' is out of vogue.  ' Thou ' is equivalent to 'tu' in Hindi.
 The Quakers used ' you ' only for addressing God.
(2) They never took off their hats before anyone, and took it off only while praying, because they thought only God deserved that honour.
(3) They refused to bow before anyone, not even the King of England, believing all men to be equal
(4) They refused to participate in wars
(5) They wore plain clothes at all times.
(6) They refused to swear oaths, or oath of loyalty to the king
(7) They were strict teetotallers
(8) They opposed slavery
 (9) There were no rituals , and no professional clergy, among them
( 10) They did silent meditation in a meeting hall.
(11) They regarded Catholics and Puritans as hypocrites
 While at Oxford, William Penn became a Quaker. In those days ( the reign  of King Charles the Second ) this was dangerous, since Parliament had outlawed Quakers, and declared their activities criminal. Despite this, William Penn attended Quaker meetings regularly.
 When he came home from Oxford for his holidays he refused to take off his hat before his father, as was expected to be done before elders or superiors, and he addressed his father as 'thou' ( like the Hindi 'tu' ). His father thought that his son had gone mad.
 In those days there was a custom that high dignitaries would present their sons to the King. William Penn's father told his son that he would like to present him before the King. However, he told his son, even if he did not take off his hat before his father, and addressed him as ' thou', he should take off his hat before the King, and address him properly as 'Your Majesty'. William refused, saying that that would be against his religious principles. This made his father so angry that he turned his son out of the house. Probably he feared for his own position at Court if he allowed such a dangerous rebel to remain in his home.
 William Penn then became homeless, and started living with poor Quaker families. He refused to compromise with his principles, and started preaching to people on the streets, for which he was often imprisoned in the Tower of London. There he declared " My prison shall be my grave before I will budge a jot, for I owe my conscience to no mortal man ".
 In 1668 Penn was put in solitary confinement in the Tower of London for writing a tract ' The Sandy Foundation Shaken '. While in prison he was given pen and paper, in the hope that he would write an apology. Instead he wrote another inflammatory tract ' No Cross No Crown '.
 In 1670 in what became famous as 'The Bushel's Case', William Penn was accused of preaching the principles of Quakerism on the streets. When he asked to be shown the charges against him, and the law he had supposedly broken, the Judge angrily refused, though that was a right guaranteed by English law. Furthermore, the Judge directed the jury to return a verdict of guilty against Penn, without even hearing him.
 Despite heavy pressure by the Judge, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The Judge then asked the jury to reconsider their verdict, but they refused. This so infuriated the Judge that he said "  You shall go and bring a verdict of guilty, or you will starve ", and he ordered the jury to be imprisoned in a cold cell, where they were kept for several days without food or water. Penn and the jury were in addition fined the equivalent of one year's wages each.
 The members of the jury and Penn fought their appeal before the High Court from jail. They ultimately won their case, the High Court holding that all English juries can give their verdicts free of the Judge's control, and that the verdict of the lower Court was a travesty of justice.
 Penn was imprisoned several times for asserting his right of religious freedom. His father, though initially hostile to him,later  started respecting his son in his old age for his integrity and courage, and said to him " Let nothing in this world tempt you to wrong your conscience ".
 Penn later migrated to America, and founded the state of Pennsylvania on the democratic principles of John Locke. He was one of the earliest supporters of unification of the American colonies, a vision which was realized only after the American War of Independence ( 1775-1781 ).
Great Injustice to India
Great Britain and France have populations of about 64 million each, and have a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council.
India, with a population of about 1250 million, does not.
 Thus India is about 20 times bigger in population than Grat Britain and France each.
India's land area is 3, 287, 590 Great Britain's land area is 229, 848, while that of France is 640, 679
 Thus India is about 14 times bigger than Great Britain, and about 5 times bigger than France, in land area.
 Despite this, India is denied a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council.
 This is great injustice to India

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Verses from Tirukkural, Chapter 22

" Kaimmaru venda kadappadu maarimattu
  En Aarrum kollo ulagu " ( Verse 221 )

  " The benevolent man should serve society seeking no return
     How can the earth recompense the bounty of the rain clouds ? "

" Puttel ulagattum eendum peral aaridey
  Oppuravin nalla pira " ( Verse 213 )

" There is no pleasure in this or the other world
   Equal to the joy of being helpful to others "

" Otta tarivaan uyirvaalvaan
  Marraiyaan settaarul vaikkap padum " ( Verse 214 )

" Only those who help others are living
  The others are as good as corpses "