Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"KARAN SINGH AUTOBIOGRAPHY " A WONDERFUL BOOK BY YUVRAJ DR. KARAN SINGH


                                                                                    

                                                                         
                             
                                                                         

 (  Child Yuvraj Karan Singh  with his parents  along with  Nawab of Palanpur and Nawabzaada of Palanpur )   



KARAN SINGH AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
(  Published by OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, India  .)
Paper back Edition Price Rs395/=

Reading a very interesting Book written by Yuvraj Dr. Karan Singh  . The book  appears to be a “ MUST  READ   ”for people with some interest in kashmiri’s    history  especially the  events  relating  to  the  turbulent and tense 1947 down upto the rule  of Bakshi Ghulam Mohd with developments of 1953 covered in detail.  With this Book in the market , I believe some  earlier authors  on Kashmir shall have to either modify their passages or add corrigendum  in subsequent   prints  of their already published  work. I have personally seen many such Books  wherein facts have been distorted  knowingly or unknowingly.  We now have a book from a person of established integrity  who  himself has been privy to almost all the developments on Kashmir ‘s political front.  Pandit jawahar lal Nehru Called " Tiger ".  About him ,Pandit ji is once  said 


" In him , I find a man who has no feudal traits and who thinks in tune with our vision for INDIA. He is sharp , much ahead of his age and a patriot. I also observe that he is neither partisan nor biased . He always comes with a purpose that is equally dear to us ."

The book opens with a wonderful  Sloka  from Rigveda

Let your aims be common
Let your hearts of one accord ,
Let  all of you be of one mind ,
so that you may live well together ..
( Rigveda X.191.4 )
I leave it to the readers to see the merits of this wonderful Book only after reading it themselves. Till then I add some excerpts from the book .



(1)
“When my wife was in advanced stage of pregnancy , I got an attack of Para Typhoid .I was bed ridden . I was in Bombay with my father and wife . Dr Shirodakar and Beryl were attending to my wife .Father had made all the arrangements for her delivery. My father , though extremely fond of my wife , was a moody and a difficult person . It was only Beryl’s presence that helped to relieve the strain. Father also started making meticulous arrangements like buying all that was needed for the baby , hiring a nurse , Booking two rooms on the Breach Candy Nursing Home on the sea , one for my wife and the Baby and the other for the visitors including himself. Father wanted to make celebrations if a son was born.

on 24th morning , a baby girl was born. Though she was to become an apple of our eyes , I am constrained to record that my father was deeply disappointed . Beryl reported that when the nurse came out of the delivery room , father had muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like “DAMN ”. My mother’s reaction , when a telegram reached her at Kasauli , I am informed , was more Dramatic. She fainted and had refused to take her normal food for almost a week.

This curious reaction brought home to me again the strangeness of some of our responses . If baby girls were not born , the human race would soon disappear ; yet in these responses , the reason often takes the backseat.

It was a first girl born in our family for almost a century . We called her , an appropriately enough , JYOTI , a Lamp bright and Cheer .”. 

(2)
“My father  had both hindu and muslim courtiers . He had Nawab Khushru Jung as his Military secretary . Sahibzada Nur Mohd Khan from Balauchistan was on my father's personal staff.We had sardar Abdul Rehman Effindi . He had been provided a house at Gupkar Road .Nizam of Hyderbad , Nawab of Palanpur and Maharaja of jind would come with families in summer to kashmir and stay as father's Royal guests .Nawab Taley Mohd Khan was My father 's close friend . That is why he named our srinagar cottage as Tale Manzil. Victor Rosenthal, a french jeweller was father's personal friend. Mrs Wyndham was my guardian who was followed by Mrs Ritchie.”
(3)

“My father  was impulsive and shared traits common to the feudal order. Any small setback in polo , shooting or fishing or horse racing ( later ) would throw him into a dark mood that lasted for days Mother would say " Your father never meets people .That is the trouble . He is just surrounded by fawning courtiers and favourites and never really gets to know what is going on outside ."
(4)
" Gandhi ji visited us at Ghulab Bhawan palace in srinagar ( Presently Hotel ). My father went to recieve him at the porch while i and my mother waited inside the garden . special arrangements were made for Goat's milk and fruits for him.He walked into the garden and sat under a chinar tree.I will never forget how moved i was to see a frail figure walking towards us , tiny alongside a tall figure of my father . Here is a man who had beome a living legend , who by sheer moral courage had shaken the very foundation of the greatest empire the world had ever seen."
(5)
" Ram Chand kak , the one man who had the intellectual capacity to make coherent eforts towards an acceptable settlement , had resigned after being humiliated by my father "
(6)
" In 1947 my mother created a history by worshipping Harijan / Dalit Girls on the concluding day of sacred Navratras .She would keep fasts and perform Durga Puja during NAVARATRAS. "

(7)" Reading Pandit Nehru's Book DISCOVERY OF INDIA gave me a new awareness and strengthened my aversion towards Feudalism that had been growing within me. I realized that My father's life style was not for me. What was the alternative , i did not know , But inwardly i was ready for the change . "

(8)
"Once my father asked Ghulam Ahmed , a jeweller and a carpet dealer from srinagar , to take me round the city .This he did and i remember my astonishment at seeing all those dilapidated buildings on the jhelum , looking as if they would topple any moment into the river.' These are your people " Ahmed joo had said some what dramatically.This visit had rather a disturbing effect on me....And for days thereafter ,the recollection would flash back upon me , their squalor in such a glaring contrast to the orderly elegance of the palace ."

(9)
" I had acquired the nickname TIGER .Apprently one day i crawled into the room where my father and his close friend Maharaja Umaid singhji of of Jodhpur were seated . Looking at me , Umaid singhji said that on all fours , i looked like a Tiger and the name stuck. My father and his friends referred to me as TIGER. and years later Jawahar  Lal Nehru and  others of his generation did the same "

(10)

“ My father had married thrice earlier before marrying my mother .All the marriages were childless. People feared that the almighty Viceroy would apply the notorious doctrine of lapse and administer the kingdom if this marriage also turned childless. I was born in the resort town of Cannes on the Mediterranean and our family had checked into Hotel MARTINEZ for my delivery .I was taken away from my mother when I was three years old and an independent establishment was set up for my care at jammu and sringar . I was allowed to see my mother everyday for about one hour . This was not an ideal family environment . And it flowed from a deep incompatibility between my parents .My mother was a poor village girl while my father was a ruler of about 500 native states . My mother was a deply religious lady while father remained an agnostic till the end .Mother was warm ,gregarious and loved children while father was stern , severe and moved only in a carefully chosen circle. Mother was strong on conversation while father was so formidable that normal conversation was virtually impossible .Mother was demonstrative , emotional and superstitious while father was Neat , Meticulous and ALOOF. This psychological and emotional imbalance led to a good deal of tension and mutual conflict .
Understandably , my early sympathy lay entirely with my mother . When I was brought to her , she would first take me to her prayer room. She would light Earthen lamps and walk round the Tulsi plant singing devotional songs . She had a powerful voice . I would eagerly wait for my meetings with my mother . Meeting my father was a source of awe. He was affectionate but not demonstrative although he  carried my photograph in his golden Cigarette case .”

(11)


 “ in June 1949, My father reluctantly  agreed to appoint me as regent and  leave the State for Mumbai . My mother was reluctant to leave but agreed finally . She said that she would go to kasauli instead as she  was unable to stand the heat of Mumbai. My mother  felt bad about separation from me . A devout Hindu , she insisted that I should go for thread ceremony  before my parents leave in two directions. Pandits  were summoned at the residence of Mehar Chand Mahajan( Ex PM J&K) in New Delhi where at my Yagneopavit ceremony was performed . Father sat in the ceremony along with me .we all got in Dhoties.Though the Raj pandit insisted upon shaving my head  completely , I pleaded that I had to take over as Regent of the state and accordingly some tuft of hair be cut symbolically. I never wanted to look like a Monk in my new assignment .
After that father left for Mumbai  .My  mother  along with her brother and maidservants  left for kasauli.  I was   left alone in the Hotel  poised between weight of the past  and burdens of the future .Even for emotional support , I had no one to rely upon except Pandit jawahar lal Nehru .
Physically an impressive man. Sheikh Abdullah was at the height of his powers at that time. Pandit ji had specially asked me to work in harmony with him. He would come over from time to time and give long lectures to me on Political situation. He never mentioned my father directly , And I found that he displayed some genuine friendliness towards me .My position was precarious . Father had reluctantly agreed on my becoming Regent . People in Jammu too disapproved this assignment .I had to try to steer a middle path between appearing subservient to sheikh on one hand and offending him and Pandit ji on the other .


The annual festival of Mata Kheer Bhawani   was immediately approaching . Kashmiri Pandits led by Pandit  Parmanand , who had retired as Accountant General ,approached me to join them  at  kheer Bhawani shrine on this auspicious day . Pandit Parmanand was an able officer with  clear integrity .  I readily agreed.  Later i also  got a message from Sheikh Abdullah that I should not go to Kheer Bhawani  on that particular day .  It placed me in an awkward dilemma  But I firmly decided that I should not let the Pandits feel my not joining. I went ahead .  At Kheer Bhawani shrine ,Pandits  gave me a grand reception  .People crowded around me. Elderly ladies   embraced me  and kissed my forehead .It took me three hours to perform my Puja .Although sheikh never mentioned this incident  to me later , but I was told that he was very upset at my going to  Kheer Bhawani  .How could the lion of Kashmir tolerate any rival , even though he was yet only  a Tiger cub.”

(12)


“ The manner in which my father was exiled from the state in 1949  , was a deep felt insult  for him and all the more unfair when compared with the treatment accorded to Nizam of Hyderbad , whose forces had actually fought against those of Indian Union. My father was also angry with my elder maternal uncle Thakur Nachint Chand , and had convinced himself that he would exploit our family. The fact that I did not have a son for 11 years of my marriage was an additional source of disappointment for him.
I was very Careful to maintain all the respect he deserved  .I would spend a fortnight or so with him each winter in Bombay. Whenever I met him or departed , I would touch his feet .He suffered  from Diabetes for many years but refused to take insulin injections . He had also developed a painful carbuncle on his neck which he kept away from us. We came to know about it from Shanti Seth his jeweler . I was deeply worried .  He was sixty six.

On my visit to England ,  I went via Bombay and stayed with him.  I was  shocked to  see that he had grown very thin and could not  walk . He would use wheel chair. He asked me to bring two Manchester Terries bred in Scotland  and  a Binocular  for him. When I left for Airport ,I bent myself  to touch his feet ; I can recall the texture of his smooth skin and hear his semi Jocular farewell
“ Be good and look after Asha ( My wife ) “
From London I decided to go to Rome .  I had just checked into a Hotel  when Shri S N Haksar , our ambassador in Rome  suddenly appeared and gave me the news that Father was no more. The words hung in the air. I broke the news to Asha who was very much attached to him and she burst into tears . I rushed back to Mumbai .By strange coincidence , the Manchester Terries were in the same flight , But my father was not there to see them.
In accordance with his will, my father was cremated with Arya samaj rites. Despite my father’s will that no other religious ceremonies be performed , I considered it my duty to go for the traditional 13 day mourning  as laid down in shastras . This involved a variety of prayers , sleeping on the floor , eating vegetarian food and not shaving. My mother , despite estrangement and virtual separation for over a decade , took his passing very badly. She observed strict regulations prescribed for  a hindu widow for full  year  as a result of which her health was severely affected. "


(13 )

“ The Subsequent events are a jumble in my mind . The servants frantically rushing round with petromax lamps , My father’s precipitate return from the DARBAR ashen faced and grim, V P Menon’s dramatic air Dash to Srinagar to persuade my father to move to jammu ,My father ‘s reluctance but final agreement in view of Menon’s insistence , and then the long , Nightmarish exodus from Srinagar late at night on 25th October .
My mother showed tremendous composure and presence of mind in that hour of peril. My mother collected ladies of staff , organized their feeding and put them up for the night , aided by My Australian nurse , Mrs Stewart , Finally the convoy began to move .My father drove his own car with Victor Rosenthal on his side..
My mother followed with ladies in several cars . I was not in a position to get into any car in view of the heavy plaster cast so I was put on a wheel chair in a station wagon. It was bitterly cold and the convoy pulled out of the Palace .The raiders were pouring across the border , Pillaging , looting and raping .There was a rumour that road to Jammu had been cut off and we were likely to get ambushed on way to Jammu. We drove slowly , Haltingly reluctant to leave the beautiful valley . Our convoy crawled 9000 feet high Banihal pass Just as the first light was beginning to Break. When we stopped at Kud , a small settlement near Jammu , I saw that a cream coloured Car had joined our grim procession. It was swami Sant Dev whose miraculous powers did not include the capacity to face the raiders . Victor later told me that throughout the journey , father did not speak a word .
This swami Sant Dev had lived in the state decades earlier during the rule of Maharaja Partap singh and was actually banished by my father when he took over the affairs of the state .He came to the scene around 1944 and by 1946 had firmly ensconced himself as Rajguru . I believe his influence on my father’s personal life was good . Father cut down on his smoking and drinking .He also tempered his rather aggressive nature with some sort of religious commitment , however superficial . My mother’s brother , Tahkur Nachint Chand who had been a Deohri Officer , grew in importance at the court as an Intermediary between my father and swami ji.There is also some reason to believe that swami ji was in touch with some congress leaders , and that Acharya kriplani ‘s visit to the state early in 1947 was a direct result of his intervention.

It was in the political sphere that Swami Ji’s influence proved disastrous. A feudal ambition that swami ji astutely played , planting in my father’s mind visions of an extended kingdom sweeping down to Lahore itself where our ancestors Maharaja Ghulab singh and his brother Raja Dhyan singh had played a crucial role a century earlier .My father seemed to be blissfully unaware of the tremendous forces that were on the move in the subcontinent .It has always seemed to me tragic that a man as intelligent as my father , and in many ways as constitutional and progressive , should have in those last days misjudged the political situation in the country "



READING AND ENJOYING EVERY PAGE OF THE BOOK

( Autar Mota 03.06.2014 )


Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.

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