the-south-asian Life & Times                 January - March 2011




 Editor's Note


 Cover Story
 Kashmiri Pandits

 Eminent Pandits
 Neel Kashkari

 Veer Munshi

 Pradman Kaul

 Pandit Bhajan Sopori

 Photo Feature
 The Obamas in India


 100 years of aviation
 in India

 Mt. Kailash
 Stairway to Heaven

 In the footsteps of
 Smythe in Garhwal


 The Wild Ass

 By O P Dutta









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By O. P. Dutta


Bombay (now Mumbai) was a very noisy place even then. But on the evening of January 30, 1948, as I walked from Dadar railway station to Shivaji Park, where I lived, I was greeted by complete silence - silence that was eerie yet deafening. No vehicle was plying on the road; people were huddled in groups of four and five on street corners without making any conversation.

Reason? That afternoon as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi) came out of the Birla House for a daily prayer meeting and walked through the congregation, three bullets from Nathuram Godse`s pistol pierced his chest. And the light went out of our lives.

Thousands of miles away in a small hamlet of Texas (U.S.A.), a boy of eight, the grandson of the celebrated writer Pearl Buck, innocently asked his grandmother ` "Why was a gun invented at all?"


One urgent call from my employer and I was on the Frontier Mail – a train going from Delhi to Bombay.

In a four berth first class compartment, the only co-passenger was a gentleman - well dressed, well groomed and well immersed in reading a book so intensely that he hardly acknowledged my presence.

As the train moved along, I realized that I did not have a book or a magazine to while away my time. My only option to avoid boredom was to engage my fellow passenger in conversation. After all, man is a social animal.

I mustered enough courage and addressed him `"Mahashae Ji." He did not even stir. I repeated, "Excuse me sir, I was talking to you."

He raised his head, turned his stare at me and signaled me with his left hand to be patient.

He meticulously put the marker in the page that he was reading, kept the book aside, removed his gold rimmed reading glasses and turned to me.

"Look here," he said, and rattled off without a pause not allowing me to react or say anything.

"My name is Yadavnandan Prasad Shrivastava. I am fifty five years old, live in Delhi, and have a small family. I am happily married, my wife is very much alive. We have three children – two boys and a girl."

"The girl is already married and is well settled with her in-laws, the elder son is an engineer working with Kirloskars - is paid well and he is happy. The other son is a doctor, an idealist at heart, and has opted for a service stint in rural India. I support him morally and financially. By the way both my sons are married. I have been and am in paper business, paper that is used for newspapers and magazines, even for books. My office is in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, and the go-down in Daryaganj. I am going to Bombay to receive a consignment through my shipping agents. I will stay in Bombay for four days at the Taj Mahal hotel. My room is already booked. This is not my first trip to Bombay. I travel to the metro twice every year. And the book that I am reading is Mother by Maxim Gorky. I am sure you have never heard of him. Even if I tell you about him you wouldn’t understand."

"I am sure you wouldn`t like know anything more about me. And if you please allow me, I would like to go to back to my book."

He promptly picked up his book. Fortunately I couldn`t see my own face, it must have turned red, crimson, green and purple. I tried to control my emotions telling myself `I should better move to another compartment at the next halt. I may not be able to resist the temptation to pick him up bodily and throw him out of the running train."




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