Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Golden Virtue what I intend to divert my thoughts at. It really never ceases to amaze me how phrases like 'Silence is golden', 'Pin drop silence', and 'Your silence is wonderful', either lose their relevance as soon as we are out of school or they never attain any significance to start with. By and large, after a phase in life, they are seen jailed in 'specialized confinements' hospitals, office corridors, libraries and the like. Why does this happen?

I am a strong protagonist of 'Silence', and deeply feel that this virtue needs some respect. My views have obviously been shaped by my limited experience and naturally, they have resulted or formed from my interactions with my relatives, friends’ colleagues, acquaintances and the sundry. Hence the subtle references which I might make in this article are not fictitious...neither incidental : ).

'Day to day conversation’…just how many people we come across everyday appreciate the importance of what they say? A few, I bet! Friends and relatives get together and they enjoy...freak out--they should. They talk sensible and nonsensical things and pour their heart out--they should...after all, thoughts are meant to be shared with near and dear ones. But is it necessary for all the thoughts to find a verbal expression? Is it not the height of hypocrisy to claim that they are a close family or they are close buddies on one hand and say nasty things to each other on the other hand, specially when they know that it might hurt him or her? People claim themselves to be like an open book. They pompously herald that they always speak out whatever is in their hearts and that they do not think twice before 'defining' the other person. The idea, I think, is worth being pooh poohed! It does an irreparable damage to a relation. Thus, it does not deserve a blind application.

‘Griping and gossiping’…’present’ has always been grief stricken; just as past is always better and future always rosy. There are bound to be problems in life…always. Instead of going blah blah blah about them, try saving and perhaps diverting your energies towards solving the matter at hand…introspect in silence. The other day I casually asked a friend how she was and for the next half an hour sat listening to how she actually was…this is taking the question a bit too seriously, don’t you think!

About gossiping…suffice to say that the one who gossips to you would gossip about you: remaining silent is a good option.

It is good to be honest and render an honest opinion about a person. But is it necessary to be crude, sarcastic and rude? No, it is not always necessary. (though 'sometimes' it is). Believe me, every person is hungry of appreciation, admiration, importance and encouragement. Elders opine that being hearty in one's approbation and lavish in one's praise always works wonders. I am not saying that one should resort to sycophancy or flattery. All I intend to say is that if one 'must' render an opinion, one must do it subtly. 'Tactical diplomacy' is not a bad thing you see....neither should it be seen as the weapon of the weak. Great people like Kabir and Kautilya have churned out a whole literature on the importance of 'madhur vachana's'. You may go ahead and smirk at the example...but all I intend to say is that some things/feelings are better left unsaid. If you must express...choose a decent medium appropriate for the occasion. Otherwise, let Silence rule.

The readers must be thinking that while trying to write about silence I have ended up writing about the importance of appreciation and good conversation. The diversion is deliberate. There is a essential one for that matter. The link is ....'If you cannot utter a good word....don't utter any'. Remain silent. Sew up your mouth. This ofcourse is not a general is only meant for delicate situations which do tend to develop in family get togethers or amongst friends. It is meant to save valued relations from going awry. It is good to have an opinion…not always necessary to blurt it out however.

You might think of such behavior as a 'formality'. I consider it as an essential part of one's personality. Decency of demeanor is too precious to be abandoned at any stage. Being oneself and letting your hair down amongst friends and relatives is one thing; being frank to the extent of hurting or demeaning the other person is totally different. Observing silence at the right time can make a difference.

Here I must also mention arguments or rather discussions which often erupt between friends, relatives....cousins, elders and so on. While some of them are enjoyable to the end, some enjoyable to a point....and some others not enjoyable at all. The latter types result from peoples inability to stop their verbal flow. They either do not have the common sense to detect when a discussion/argument has gone ugly and indecent, or they obstinately refuse to let go! It must be kept in mind that conversation....especially when it is amongst near and dear ones, is not always about winning a debating point. An argument can never be won. It only gives an illusion of victory.

Again when you are not a part of a not butt in. Earth would not stop its movement if you keep mum. Just listen and keep on doing that until you are asked to participate. It is my experience that you will be asked to....'He who speaks less is really heard more'. Your timely silence can enable you to put forth your thoughts more forcefully.

Habitual braggers…these are the people who are so excited about their small and big achievements that they consider it their birthright to keep any body to everybody apprised of their laurels. It is good to share your experiences, your thoughts, your successes but there is a limit to everything. The other person might not say anything for the fear of hurting you. It is for you to have the good sense to stop. Emily Bronte, an author, has said something beautiful in this regard. She says..."If I could, I would always work in silence and obscurity and let my efforts be known by their results".

When I was still in school my 'moral science' teacher told me that God is a friend of silence. I was amazed. "How can she claim that?", I thought. Much later in life, I came across a quote by Mother Teresa. It said...."God is a friend of silence; trees, flowers, grass grow in silence. See how the Stars, the Moon and the Sun-all move in silence" What a profound thought!

No, I am not advocating to the reader to observe a 'maunvrat'. Speech is necessary… freedom of speech is even more important. However, break your silence for something worthwhile. It is a lot better than breaking hearts…it is better than saying a 'hollow' sorry later.

Try giving blah-blah-blah some space to shhhhhhhhhh.

**Coming to the other aspect....there are times when silence is not necessary at all! Like when someone is talking to you, and expects an answer, it is improper to remain silent. It might offend the other person no end. Similarly, silence of people who are good entertainers....people possessing the gift of the gab; is tormenting. One of my friend is a virtual chatterbox. Whenever I get to see him, I wish that he should never stop!

Friday, November 24, 2006


Vain as I am, I thought I should share some of my zodiacs traits with you...I found this narration to be quite near perfection...: )

Taurus is the bull. Like Gibraltar, he is solid and steady and nothing disturbs his tranquility. The most fertile places to look for him would be a farm, a bank or a real estate office, but you’ll also find him grazing in other pastures. You can always tell the bull by his strong, silent attitude. But the typical Taurean prefers to move deliberately and speak sparingly.

The bull seldom rushes forward to stomp on your toes. He simply wants to be left alone. Don’t disturb him and he’ll remain contented. Press him and he becomes obstinate. The female Taurean will move gracefully, indolently, but with a suggestion of hidden strength.

Taurus prefers to attract people to him. Passivity is the typical behaviour. Taureans would rather entertain hospitably at home than go to the trouble of visiting. Taurus seldom worries, frets or chews his nails. He can pout and brood when things don’t suit his fancy, but he’s not the nervous, twitchy type. Its his nature to be stoic, and take things in his stride. Taurus people are home folks. There’s scarcely a bull who doesn’t love to luxuriate under his own roof and stretch out amid comfortable, and familiar surroundings. Taurus is close to the earth, and the love of the land will come to him eventually, one way or the other. The average bull is superbly healthy, with a strong constitution.

The bull is as stubborn as a human can be and not actually turn into solid stone. Taurean men and women seem glued to both their seats and their opinions. Taurus humour is warm and earthy, playful and reminiscent of Falstaff. These people are seldom, if ever, really cruel or vindictive. Every Taurean owns some evidence of the Venus love for art and music. Many Taurus men and women have beautiful voices. Music will always touch their lives in some way, and drawing or painting are often either hobbies or careers.

A Taurean bears emotional and physical burdens in silence for years without complaint. The higher the troubles pile up, the more strength Taurus finds to bear them. His loyalty and devotion to family and friends often surpass all understanding. The bull is tranquilised by the colour of the sky. Shades of blue bathe his emotions with peace; also rose and pink. The greens and browns of nature calm and sooth him too. There’s nothing small about Taurus including his capacity for lasting love and his potential for wealth. His home is his castle- and let no man disturb the peace of the bull. Taurus is as patient as time itself, as deep as the forest, with a dependable strength that can move mountains.



Bloggers note: The following story is what I consider a superp piece of writing by sister who is a doctor by profession. She wrote it ages ago and now it is here for you all to enjoy...

I am Vidyutgati, a mere tortoise by body but more my namesake by virtue of my imaginative prowess. I am four hundred and sixty years old and middle age agrees with me. I now have more time to dwell into the past and dig out some important facts about many kings and dynasties. Much to my astonishment they are presented in a distorted way in the manuscripts today. One should not tamper with history but learn from it. It still is not too late, for I, Vidyutgati have wowed to set it right.

Do you remember Shakuntala, the daughter of Menaka and Vishwamitra? A rare beauty, even in that age, when all the womenfolk were good looking. A salad diet and herbal make-up was her secret. A cock alarm for early rising, one-hour workout with pet deer followed by a glass full skimmed cow’s milk, a fresh fruit salad for breakfast, a healthy low calorie lunch, a game of play-ball with friends in the evenings and vegetable soup for dinner and, lo and behold; Shakuntala, the ravishing!

One glorious morning, I was basking in the sun near the pond. What I saw was more amusing than alarming. Shakuntala was trying to hit a black wasp’s nest with a pebble. Her friend Priyamvada was keeping watch quietly. Then curiousity got the better of her and she finally asked, “ What are you doing Shaku? Don’t you remember the thrashing that you got the last time you tried something equally idiotic?” “Oh shut up! Will you? How can I concentrate with you constantly babbling over my head? And how will father come to know anyhow, until of course, you decide to squeal on me!” Shakuntala shot back irritated. “Well, all right! I am leaving. I want to have no part of this affair, if I can’t know what’s going on. Bye! (May that wasp sting you!),” said her friend and started off. “Hey! Come back here. I didn’t mean that. Of course I’ll tell you. Let me catch this wretched thing first. Can’t you wait patiently till then?” Shakuntala chided.

She finally managed to get that wasp and put it in a wooden box. Then she revealed her plan. “You know Pakshiraja?” Shakuntala asked Priyamvada, “Who? That pest of a parrot?” Priyamvada queried. “Yes,” Shakuntala replied. “What about him? Did he again sing love songs in a male voice to Guru Ma? Did he run away with Anusuya’s under clothes? Just what did that worm do this time?” asked Priyamvada. “He did nothing of the sort. This time he got me a great piece of news! After befriending King Dushyanta’s pet mynah, he got to know that the king is going on a hunting expedition in a few days. He will be hunting in the woods neighbouring our ashrama! Isn’t that great news?” Shakuntala gushed. “Finally, you have lost your last marble! What has the king’s hunting trip got to do with you? (God help her!)” asked Priyamvada. “You are the one who is stupid! Don’t you see? This is my chance to befriend the king!” answered Shakuntala. “So what are you going to disguise yourself as, a bear, a warthog or a hippo? That’s the only way you can get the attention of the king in the hunt!” mused Priyamvada. “Who said anything about my going to the king? I mean to bring the king to our ashrama. And Pakshiraja is going to help in that!” said Shakuntala.

“Anything for you, my lovely!” a deep male voice replied from a nearby tree. Slightly shocked, both women looked up. It was Pakshiraja, Shakuntala’s pet parrot, much to Priyamvada’s dislike. “Oh no! Not you again! Why don’t you play your lewd pranks on someone your own size!” shouted Priyamvada. “ The lovely maiden is jealous of my love to you, Shakuntala. My my! She is getting purple all over, not only in face! Tut tut! I really feel sorry for you, Priyamvada,” said Pakshiraja. Exasperated, Priyamvada said, “I have a definite urge to wring your neck, you dirty feathered, pea brained, squeaky voiced, good for nothing, worm of a parrot. Wait till I lay my hands on you! Come in my way, if you dare! Are you telling me your plan Shaku or should I leave?”

“All right, listen,” whispered Shakuntala, “Pakshiraja is going to go in the woods, and hide in the bushes, right in the king’s path. He then will imitate a lion or a tiger. I am sure the king will follow this bait, and Pakshiraja will lead him to our doorstep. By then the king will be lost in the woods and will be glad to find this place. Then, my dear friend, will be the wasp’s turn to play its role,” Shakuntala said patting the wooden box, “I plan to irritate it to such an extent that’s it comes right after me, as soon as I set it free. Our gallant and chivalrous king will surely help a damsel in distress, don’t you think! I will take care of the rest.” “You surely are a clever and manipulating one, Shaku. Aren’t you afraid of anyone?” questioned a stupefied Priyamvada. “The future queen should be fearless. After all she has to guide and rule the king,” replied Shakuntala with an air of a queen.

My head started to spin and I decided to take a dip in the cool waters of the pond. By the time I finished, they had already left. A few days later I heard that Dushayanta had married Shakuntala in a Gandharva ceremony. So finally Shakuntala had her dreams realised. The rest, as they say, is history!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Just a passing thought...

Yesterday, I read a quote on the status of animals in India...which I thought I should share with you all...It goes like this --" I would rather be a cow in the USA--well fed but slaughtered, than be a cow in India--worshipped and starved"

I could not help but draw a simile...the condition of women (exclude those urban elites) is much the same...Women in India are glorified and hailed as Devi's, worshipped as the Mother Goddess...and at the very first instant of adversity, branded as 'witches' and hunted as game. I find the situation amusingly ironical. Is it not?!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Exploring your Surroundings...Part Two

As I proceed towards the entrance of Qudsia Garden, near ISBT, a place of historical significance, I stumble upon an information tablet put by INTACH and the Delhi Administration...all these years, I had never known its existence...these are the joys of taking a walk...

The stone tablet (pic above) states that for a period of around 20 years, from 1911, when the National capital was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, till the time Lutyen and his bandwagon could complete the construction of New Delhi, Civil Lines operated as the capital of India. All British officials were housed here ...many buildings, believe me are still there, intact or in ruins. Will definitely try and upload some snaps...later. For the time being, let's proceed with the story of the seige of Delhi...year being 1857.

The story and ofcourse this article can be understood only with the help of this map. Use it as a reference throughout...

Advise: Do a right click on the map and open it in a new tab/window...this way the map would be larger.

The Key to reading the above map:

Color Coding:

  • The green area is the Northern Ridge (now known as the Kamala Nehru Ridge), the greenest portion of Aravali’s left in the city.
  • Blue area is the River Yamuna
  • Yellow area is the Red Fort (Lal Quila)
  • The red outline is roughly the area of what was known as Shahjehanabad, the Seventh city or the ‘Walled City’. It was Dilli’, the city during the mid-later 19th century. Later, it seems, even the outskirts were included and the entire area was branded as Old Delhi, just to contrast it with Lutyen’s Delhi, which was being built down South. Note how the Red Fort comes within the folds of Old Delhi and how it touches the banks of River Yamuna. Before the river was forced to recede, it must have been much closer to the fort.
  • The black squarish dots are various places of historical importance.
  • The colored and numbered dots (11 in all) are the important places associated with the 1857 mutiny.

Number/Name of the place

1. Kashmere Gate

2. Nigambodh Gate

3. Delhi Gate

4. Turkman Gate

5. Ajmeri Gate

These are/were, it seems, the 5 existing gates of the city being defended by the mutineers (during 1857), who had barricaded themselves within the city walls. In all, there were 10 gates into Shahjehanabad . The British attack came primarily from Ludlow Castle (10) and Qudsia Bagh (11), just outside the city walls and very near to Kashmere Gate (1), which was finally breached by the British.

6. Red Fort

7. Delhi University/Viceregal Lodge

8. Flagstaff Tower

9. Chowburzi Masjid (pics later)

10. Ludlow Castle

11. Qudsia Bagh

Now to proceed with the story…it is believed that baffled by the fall of Delhi into rebel hands, Lord Canning, the then Governor General, stationed at Calcutta took some severe measures. One was to deploy army units at all possible places on the outskirts of Dilli. This was somewhere in May 1857. The Baadli area was under the occupation of the rebel sepoys …the British unit coming from the north of Baadli confronted the rebels and pursued them till the northern ridge (yellow area on the map). Thereafter, the ridge became an important territory for the British because of it’s strategic location. Delhi (Dilli) lies (lay) on the west bank of the river Yamuna. There were ten gates leading into the city out of which three were near the ridge. The ridge thus afforded an ideal defensive position for the British. Also the northern half of the ridge was outside the range of the guns mounted on the walls of Dilli. The area to the ridge's west was protected by the Najafgarh Drain which was a complete water obstacle.

While in the ridge they constructed a number of structures…the Flagstaff Tower (pics below) and two guard gates (at least that is what they seem to be) on the north and south of the Flagstaff Tower. The records say that unable to take the Baadli defeat, the rebel sepoys launched a number of attacks and counter attacks on the British army units stationed on the ridge, but every attempt was thwarted primarily because the sepoys inside Dilli were a highly disorganised and unruly mob. They had no unified leadership. Bahadur Shah Zafar, their forced titular head was just an ailing 85 year old who had no intention or inclination to lead the sepoys…infact history says that given a choice, he would have sided with the British who were giving him some pension atleast!

Old Viceregal Lodge (see map for location), presently the office of the Vice Chancellor of the Delhi University…early morning fog beginning to lift.

During the British times, the moment Viceroy used to move out of the place, a bugle sounded at the Flagstaff Tower (see map)…’Laat Saheb’, as he was popularly called, used to then proceed towards the civil lines area on an official routine inspection. Civil Lines, as already mentioned, served as the makeshift capital of Delhi till the time Lutyen was ready with his version, that is, from 1912-1931.

The Flagstaff Tower …now all renovated by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Union Jack used to add colour to the flag pole that is still there (see picture closely). I suggest that we should have the Indian Tricolour now…any penny for my thoughts?! ; )

As mentioned in the earlier narrative, when the British occupied this place during the revolt of 1857, due to its strategic location, they constructed many structures. One of such structures you can see in the picture is the Guard House…there are two such buildings in the Northern Ridge—on the north and south of the Flagstaff Tower. The Guard Houses were obviously to keep an eye on the Sepoy activity below and to forewarn the British army of any danger. During the revolt, the British women and children gathered on the ridge to have a safe passage to Karnal through the greens (see map).

Northern Guard House (same as above) from a different angle...

Southern Guard House...different vantage points

After the Northern Ridge, slowly, the sepoys also lost Ludlow Castle, which they had earlier occupied, to the British. Ludlow Castle then became an additional post for the Brtish army. In quick succession, they occupied the neighboring Qudsia Gardens as well. Ludlow Castle and Qudsia Gardens were two very strategic positions as they were/are very near to the Kashmiri gate of Dilli (see map).

Now for some pictures of the Qudsia Bagh...

Entrance to Qudsia Gardens (see location on the map)…the place is as green as it must have been in the 1700’s and very tranquil. It is said that Qudsia Begum, the patroness of these gardens and after whom the garden has been named, was born Udham Bai, and was an 18th century dancing girl.

Huge trees still surround the pathways. The place was built by one Begum Qudsia, the Mistress of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah ‘
Rangeelay’, one of the later Mughals who ascended to the throne of Delhi when the Mughal rule was in its twilight phase. He died in 1748.

Bagh as it is known as, was originally near the river Yamuna, and was more a camping ground than a formal garden. The Emperor, it is believed, came here on extended picnics that included jackal-hunting.

The mutiny of 1857 marred the beauty of the place. The Indian rebels barricaded themselves inside the Walled City (Dilli) to which the nearby Kashmere Gate was an entrance; the British, therefore, occupied Qudsia Bagh and made it their battery. In the subsequent shelling, hundreds died and Qudsia Bagh, not surprisingly, was more or less ruined (see map to get a better idea). Today, only three monuments remain in Qudsia Bagh: the entrance gate (as seen in the picture above... a very simple structure of cement and lakhauri bricks), the mosque, and the Baradari.

Entrance Gate from different vantage points...the structure clearly requires maintenance…plaster coming off at various places.

The inside walls of the gate…

This was the Baaradari once (an open airy pavilion—an archeological structure typical of the Mughal architecture…) caused to be built by Begum Qudsia. Later when the British occupied the gardens during the revolt, many functional changes were made to the original building. Consequently, the building, as it is now, appears to be a very amusing blend of the two styles. This side of the building is typically British.

It is even rented out as cottages it seems...

As you may see, the lakhuri brick part of the structure is old Baaradari and the remaining additions…stairs etc were added by the British.

The place has a Mosque as well…built again by Qudsia Begum.

Lush greens…singing/twittering of birds…total serenity take you to another world.

A brief mention of the Ludlow Castle, which was opposite the Qudsia Gardens. Now, the castle is no longer there…a government school by the same name runs on the very spot. Below is an archival photograph of Ludlow Castle, outside the walls of Delhi, India, taken by Felice Beato in 1858 during the Indian Mutiny. In September 1857, the British forces stormed Delhi from the area of Qudsia Gardens as well as Ludlow Castle, launching an attack on the nearby Kashmere Gate (see map for a better understanding).

Ludlow castle was a British residence built by a Dr Ludlow. Felice (Felix) Beato, a Venetian by birth, initially worked as a photographer in England. He can easily be branded as the official photographer of the Indian Mutiny (1857-1858).

The picture has been taken from the following website:

Now that the reader knows what all places were occupied by the British to breach the walls of Dilli, the Kashmere gate in specific, it's time for the remaining story...

In the first week of September, records say that the last Mughal issued a proclamation that he would personally lead an assault on the British position at the ridge. On 12 September, in response to this call, some 10,000 soldiers and civilians gathered near the Kashmere Gate and awaited their leader (Bahadur Shah Zafar)…who never came!

Anyways, prior to that in August itself John Nicholson, about whom I have already written in the earlier post, had been commissioned to Delhi…Contrary to the Indian position, Nicholson led an able and organized attack against the Sepoys via the Kashmere Gate, which was finally breached after a bloody battle. The Sepoy camp was not only disorganized and infested with stoolies; it had almost run out of gunpowder/ammunition and food and hence was in dire straits.

Nicholson died in the encounter but British had gained entrance into the city…they marched till the Red Fort, hunted for the Emperor (and found him hiding in the Humayun’s tomb), and his sons ...imprisoned the former in
Rangoon (Burma) and murdered the latter in cold blood. The route that Bahadur Shah Zafar took while fleeing is presently known the same name…yes: the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. The bodies of his unfortunate sons were dumped just outside the ‘Kotwaali’ near the Delhi Gate , as bringing the mutilated remains into the city had the risk of sparking off another rebellion (BTW, the Darya Ganj Police Thaana, just opposite the Delhi Gate is exactly the place where the Kotwaali existed during 1857. Yes, that is precisely why the station is still known as Puraani Kotwaali, Darya Ganj!)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Exploring your surroundings...Nicholson Cemetery

There is nothing so rejuvenating like a simple walk to explore your surroundings. If the place is culturally rich like the Civil Lines and the weather not cruel, it is exhilarating.

This Saturday, I headed to the Nicholson Cemetery. Long had been my desire to have a good look at what lies beyond that red brick wall adjacent to the Morigate bus stand. The thought of those hefty and mean looking monkeys that dwell there in huge numbers, however had thwarted my plans many times. This week, when I read about the cemetery been renovated by the British High Commission and a security firm and also the British High Commissioner Sir Michael Arthur inaugurating the renovated cemetery, curiosity took over

Before the snaps, a brief about John Nicholson…

The cemetery, claimed to be the oldest and second largest cemetery in Delhi, is named after Brigadier General John Nicholson, a key figure in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Nicholson was an officer in the Bengal Army under the East India Company. During the revolt of 1857 when the mutineers, coming all the way from Meerut, besieged Delhi, the city was defended (from the British side, naturally) by young Nicholson. The, Magazine Gate (for firing canons at the mutineers), opposite GPO and the Kashmiri Gate (yes, the old gate is a protected monument though people hardly know of its existence…pics later) also bear testimony to the battle that was fought. Well, Nicholson and his band of men met the mutineers at the Kashmiri Gate…it is said that he was mortally wounded during the bloody battle that ensued and finally succumbed on September 23, 1857, nine days after the battle. His grave says, he was 35. However, historians dispute it to be 34 only.

Now for the snaps that were taken clandestinely. I did not know that permission was required for it; neither does the instruction board carry a warning/notice to that effect…anyways, somehow managed to fool the caretaker. That does not make me a criminal now…does it!

The Cemetery Gate…frontal view. All polished and presentable now…

The information hoarding put by the government gives us one interesting fact…the walls/boundary of the Cemetery was the same in 1860’s. Amazing…BTW, the covered area of the place is around 9 acres.

Yes, two Hanuman Langurs have been posted there along with an official staff of four Homo sapiens and a couple of Canines to drive away the Macaques and other unwanted elements…phew! Sounds like some war of species! :)

Information by the Delhi Cemeteries Committee

The renovated pathways make it easy to move around and locate the graves which are all of the 19th century. Some of the epitaphs are true pearls of wisdom…could have clicked those but fear of that Chowkidaar prevented me : (

Some graves are very elaborate...perhaps of important men from Nicholson's cavalry...

New portion of the Cemetery...

Some graves have been shabbily restored…some others are nameless.

Finally, the grave of John Nicholson…the snap could have been much better, I know, but it was difficult to hide the camera and click a good profile at the same time…so…

I guess the tombstone says it all…

Better view from above the iron grill…

In all, another unique experience... : )

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Santosh Singh's Trial: Is death sentence too harsh?

One thing that many people have been seen pondering/introspecting and arguing is whether death sentence was necessary to meet the ends of justice. I have something to say here…

True that all of us, at one point of time or the other, tend to think along these lines. Our conscience is rattled whenever we picture the dependents of Santosh, who are no doubt innocent. But then, this would always be…there would always…ALWAYS…be two sides of the same coin. So, if the verdict in Santosh Singh’s trial has some benefits, it would inevitably and invariably have some adverse aftermaths as well (the most immediate one befalling the hapless family). The former however, in my opinion, far outweigh the latter. Just because the legal and administrative machinery did not/could not deliver at the right time or in a just fashion, and because of which the culprit managed to spread his wings, does not mean that Law should not be given an opportunity to do some damage-control now…now, that things are crystal clear.

True that some innocents would suffer…but is it not true that the social consequences would be far grave if an example is not set at this very moment? What message would it give the perpetrators of such crimes?—that they can evade the death penalty and continue living at State expense as a prisoner undergoing LI? Would that not be a mockery of Law?

Reformatory exercises for culprits and convicts is good; it sounds good at least…yes, one should explore the possibility of reforming a criminal, no matter how hardened one is…but as any general rule, this too has exceptions. And, in my opinion, if giving another chance to the criminal means risking social safety or sending a wrong signal to the society or denigrating the dignity of law or putting the social conscience on the wrong path etc, I do not think that the reformative effort is worth even a try.

The verdict in Santosh Singh’s case is a very specific one. By delivering it, I do not think that the court intends to purge the society of such evils in one go…no…but there is no denying that it would go a long way in disturbing the conscience of potential perpetrators. Fear of Law is not a bad thing, especially not if it has good consequences…it does has its own unique role in reforming the society, though insidiously. And, this is what the verdict would do.

JRR Tolkein, in his famous work, Lord of the Rings says in one episode, “Many who live deserve to die and many who die deserve life…can we give it to them? No. Then, we should not be too eager to dole out death in judgment.” It is a personal favorite…a cogent argument against capital punishment, no doubt! Having a stand point is wonderful…it shows that you are not a rudderless boat or a spineless person. However, I believe that adhering to any particular mindset in the absolute is never a healthy sign…to say that death penalty is wrong always and in all circumstances tantamount to falling prey to an opiniated mindset. Sometimes, I believe, it makes more sense to have the flexibility to be able reshape and reformulate the opinion…and this case fits that category.