Thursday, June 14, 2012


Hermann Hesse
It was a great experience of reading works of Hermann Hesse. It has its unexplainable beauty of craft and depths of spirituality which is not bordered by the established religions. 'Siddhartha' tried to make the image of Buddha intransient. Another noted work I have read more than 20 years ago is 'Wandering'. 'Trees' a poetic note which I found in that book held me spellbound and later the same I translated into Malayalam. The personification of trees in the work is really amazing and touching. Without much introduction it is served to you.   

          For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves.
Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail. A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why the opposition to use of Urdu in FIR's a problem?

From: The Times of India

Use of Urdu In FIRs Baffles Courts, commoners

Sukhbir Siwach & Hina Rohatki, TNN | Feb 5, 2012, 05.13PM IST

CHANDIGARH: Sounds like a line from a ghazal? It's something more prosaic-these lines are a part of an FIR at a police station in Panchkula district. It means: At this time, the police station's daily diary register number 2 records that the complainant was present at the police post, got his complaint registered, the details of which are as under..."

A heavy spattering of Urdu and Persian, remnant of the days of pre-Independence undivided Punjab, in FIRs and daily diary reports (DDRs) by the Haryana Police have left not only the common man but also judges baffled as they scurry to decipher the text.

The practice continues despite policemen being told way back in 2005 by the then DGP to use Hindi while writing FIRs, reports of cases, investigation and research reports on disputes. Even judges in various Haryana districts have time and again asked the police to use simple Hindi. Munshis, who pen reports in police stations, have not changed their ways over the years and sources say, even the young ones who join learn from their seniors and continue the practice.

"Over the years, policemen simply follow set precedents as they do not wish to make an effort at simplifying things. The words are picked up from earlier FIRs and they become a part of a munshi's vocabulary," said professor of linguistics at Panjan University, Mohammad Khalid.

Even judges have problems deciphering the meaning. During a judgment on November 21 last year, additional sessions judge, Bhiwani, M M Dhonchak had directed the superintendent of police, to ensure that the practice of using Urdu words should be abandoned and instead Hindi or English should be used.

"The reply to the bail application (of the case) contains several words of Urdu and other languages with which this court is not conversant and it was with great difficulty that this court could apprehend the contents ... time and again this court has expressed its displeasure over this irresponsible attitude of the police," the judge had said.

"Police have been writing words even without knowing their meaning. Even lawyers lawyers failed to understand what they meant during questioning in courts," then DGP had said in his communication in 2005.

The present Haryana DGP R S Dalal, however, feels use of such words can continue. "Many such words have become part of our daily conversation. Largely, open-minded people of the state welcome all languages and cultures," Dalal told TOI.

"We should not be too rigid on the use of pure Hindi in place of Urdu, which has become a part of common vocabulary in many cases. However, the language should not be overtly technical. Most policed stations now provide FIRs in computerised formats and in Hindi. This has been appreciated by many courts," said Haryana home secretary, Samir Mathur.

Hard Jargon

Tameel: Execution

Aala-e-katal: Murder weapon

Taftish: Investigation

Daryaft: Plea

Hasab jabta: As per law

Missal: File

Tarmeem: Amendment

Ishtgassa: Petition

(With inputs from Ajay Sura, Bhaskar Mukherjee and Pradeep Rai )

Tuesday, January 31, 2012



Reconciling Linguistic Diversity: 
The History and the Future of Language Policy in India
Jason Baldridge
University of Toledo Honors Thesis
Having explored the background of the language issue, it is possible now to explore what the current situation is and what it means to Indians today. Even though the issue is perhaps less of an issue now, it remains ever present in the background. The DMK recently declared that "Tamil is the natural expression of Tamil nationalism, and the Central Government should declare it an official language on par with Hindi and English, to protect the identity and individuality of the language" (The Hindu on Indiaserver, Jan. 30, 1996). In February, Tamil Nadu's Education Minister stated that "the State Government would stand by the two-language formula of having only Tamil and English and would defeat all efforts to impose Hindi in any form" (The Hindu on Indiaserver, Feb. 24, 1996). 
Even apart from such opinions and actions, the simple fact that most Indians still deal with a multiplicity of languages everyday ensures the continued importance of the language issue. Tensions may still rise when one uses the wrong language in some places. It is often recommended that one should not speak Hindi in south India, as N.G. reiterates, "If you try to communicate in Hindi, the people won't answer back, they'll be rude, or they'll say something. That's a common experience" (T13.E2). P.C. (unfortunately this was not taped) once had a problem on a bus in Tamil Nadu. He was unable to communicate with the bus driver in Tamil, so he tried Telugu. This failed, so he tried English. Again this did not work, so at last he tried Hindi, which angered the driver. He threatened to kick P.C. off the bus, but fortunately some people who knew both Tamil and Telugu were able talk to the driver and P.C. was able to remain on the bus.
However, the language need not be Hindi for problems to occur, as B.C. discovered in Tirupathi:
Like it happened once with me. I am not very familiar with my mother tongue (Telugu). So I'd been to this holy place of Tirupathi. I went there, and this was the time I went alone. And I didn't know how to converse with him properly. Basically, the thing out there is between Tamil and Telugu-it's a bit mixed up, you know, the dialect. So I was trying to converse with him and I wasn't successful, so I thought I'd do it in English. I started talking to him in English, and that fellow got really pissed. He was telling-like he was real mad. 'If you don't know, just get out,' or something like that. It was all for booking of a silly room. (T13.E3)
Subramanium ran into a similar problem in Bangalore (T13.E1). One should take care not to over generalize from these isolated incidents, but they do demonstrate that language conflict on a personal level is very real for Indians who are away from their own regions. It is also important not to assume that such occurrences only happen in the south, as Kota's reply, "Same thing in the north also," (T13.E2) to N.G.'s comment reminds us.
Before entering a discussion on the reasons why Hindi has thus far failed, the need for a national language, etc., I would like to address the distinction between a national language and an official language. Quite simply, a national language is that which enjoys use throughout an entire nation in the political, social, and cultural realms. It also functions as a national symbol. An official language is one which is used for the operations of the government. In a word, national languages are symbolic and official languages are pragmatic. It is not uncommon for a national language to also be an official language, but it is less likely that an official language will be a national one as well.
I have used these two terms somewhat interchangeably in reference to the status of Hindi thus far in the report. This is due to the ambiguity which India itself seems to have about whether Hindi is the national language or the official language, or both. Technically, according to the Constitution of India, Hindi is only the official language. In actuality, it seems that Indian leaders at the time of independence thought of Hindi more as the national language. According to Das Gupta (1970, p.36),
If the framers of the Constitution of India took care to choose one single "official language," the status of this category has not always come out clearly in the political and social deliberations in India. A good deal of semantic confusion has persisted from the very first demands for national language during the early phase of nationalist struggle. …A lack of appreciation of the complexity governing the question of a national language in a multilingual society can be discerned in the speeches and writing of the leaders and intellectuals during this phase of Indian nationalism. These leaders rarely drew a distinction between the categories of common language, national language, and official language. They tended to use these as interchangeable categories.
Indeed, this "semantic confusion" seems to persist to the present day, for even in books regarding the language issue, one finds Hindi being referred to as both the national language and the official language. Also, while the participants in the discussions for the most part understood the difference between national and official, they still characterized Hindi as one or the other or both. This certainly stems from the way Hindi was formally labeled an official language but was simultaneously forwarded in a nationalistic manner. If it must be defined, Hindi is an official language which aspires to be national.
Some might argue that even though it is not officially recognized as the national language, Hindi does enjoy that status. After all, it is the most widely spoken language in India with the most geographically diverse population of speakers. However, this cannot change the fact that vast regions of India have little or no knowledge of Hindi, and some are quite opposed to its dominance. As K.M.K. put it, "But south Indians, they don't know. From their point of view, they don't care how many people speak Hindi" (T4.E1). Francis Coulmas (1988, p. 11) quite aptly points out that, "if language can be employed as a symbol of national unity by a dominant group, dominated groups may, of course, exert the same logic and make political claims based on their linguistic identity. Thus, while the idea of a national language-ideology and its political enforcement may be said to function as a cohesive force, the reverse is also true." In many ways, the process of trying to make Hindi the national language has caused more division than cohesion. It may serve as a national symbol for some, but this certainly is not universally the case.
Why has this happened? Some are quick to point out Indian politicians and their infamous way of manipulating the uneducated masses. The entire DMK party was able to attain a prominent position by capitalizing on the language issue in the late 1960's. Other politicians used it at times when they knew it would get them votes. An interesting excerpt came out of Discussion Three regarding the influence of politicians:
K.M.K.: "Here we have so many diverse languages-each language in itself is so different from the other languages. Just for the sake of national feeling, if you try to enforce one language on all these people, they tend to revolt against it. And that creates more problem than any good it does."
N.G.: "The people who revolt are the politicians. They have the vested interests in revolting."
K.M.K.: "I agree that the politicians might be the reason. But the thing is when the politicians say that, the common masses tend to believe them. And if you are talking about real life, you have to forget who is starting the problem. I mean, just by knowing the politician is the sole reason, you cannot just strike out the fact that it is creating problems." (T8.E3)
Both K.M.K. and N.G. are absolutely right. When a politician can convince people that the dam up the river is removing the electricity from the stream and get them angered about it, he or she can easily woo them on issues of language. As N.G. says, the politicians are the instigators. However, K.M.K. is also correct in pointing out that once the people have internalized an issue, it can no longer be attributed only to political manipulations. And even though worrying about electricity being taken from the river is a ludicrous fear, concern for one's linguistic rights is certainly not. The politicians have simply pointed out something which would have become an issue sooner or later anyway.
Despite their fervor at various times, the population of uneducated and generally poor people is more pressed to take care of their basic needs when economic difficulties hit. K.K.P. says of the uneducated man: "He doesn't bother with what's happening in the world. Whatever he is doing, he is bothered about everyday food and everything. As long as he gets that he's fine-he doesn't bother about who the prime minister of India is" (T10.E2). On a side note, an accurate and cutting remark was made by one individual that the uneducated people in India are not unlike the general populace of the USA in that neither really know what is going on in the world. Sadly, I must agree.
This indifference does not allay the fact that India's uneducated population has made it possible for many inept and corrupt leaders to win political offices. They are unlikely to have acquired the analytical tools by which they can critically assess a politician's arguments, and thus they, and the rest of India with them, fall prey to the machinations of poorly chosen leaders. India celebrated the beginning of its fiftieth year of independence with some very sober reflections by its own newspapers. In the article "India looks back in despair at 50 years of self-rule" in The Times Internet Edition, Indian newspapers are quoted deriding the state of political affairs and the rampant corruption inherent in them (The Times Internet Edition, Aug. 17, 1996). Discussions about Indian politics consistently bring exasperated sighs from educated Indians who are frustrated that very few qualified individuals are elected, even to the highest offices.
Nonetheless, the language issue simply cannot be blamed on the politicians alone. Though much of the support was provided by the masses, the primary organizers of the protests in Madras were students who were concerned about students from Hindi areas gaining an undue advantage in the job market, particularly in government services. The fact that the issue exists simply cannot be a priori attributed to the blind masses following a false political cause. Many very intelligent and well-informed individuals, with good reason, are adamantly anti-Hindi.
Regarding language, one thing has caused greater division within India than vote-seeking politicians could ever have done: the fact that Hindi was imposed on regions which did not speak it. The only blame here lies with the brash promoters of Hindi who were more interested in forcing these areas to learn Hindi than with allowing them to gradually accept it first. Organized around the promotion of the Hindi language, influential associations such as the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan and the Nagari Pracharani Sabha continuously fought for the dominance of Hindi. Their prominent leaders, some of which held high political offices, tirelessly pushed for Hindi so that the decision in late 1964 was made to go ahead with the changeover to Hindi as sole official language in 1965. When various regions protested this imposition, these groups continued to apply pressure to enforce it without compromise. These overzealous people did not necessarily have ignoble intentions in mind. Actually, they had high hopes that their policies would help strengthen the nation and, through the decisive removal of English from official work, erase the stain of British rule. Nonetheless, it was agreed by almost all of the discussion participants that imposition was the fatal error which stopped Hindi from succeeding as an official language, much less a national language. Nehru himself declared in Parliament "that it was the overenthusiasm of the leaders of the Hindi groups which came in the way of the spread of Hindi" (Das Gupta 1970, p. 226). Perhaps if people had been simply encouraged to learn Hindi, it would be more widely spoken today.
Another thing which appears to have blocked Hindi was the decision after independence to organize the states of India according to linguistic boundaries. P.C. feels that, "If India were divided in such a way that different regions of people have intermingling of different languages, it would have created more harmony and understanding than what exists today. They should have divided India with state lines, which would have removed that national language problem today. If you have different languages spoken and intermixing of those languages among the population, it is much easier to propagate the national ideas" (T12.E1). S. Sood concurs with this in, bringing up the point that if state lines had been made more arbitrarily, people would have had more nationalistic rather than regionalistic sentiment (T12.E2). While this may be true, whether it could have ever been done is another matter-those infamous politicians probably would have found in it another lucrative issue to cash in upon. However, what this division along linguistic lines has undoubtedly done is foster a very regionalistic perspective in the majority of the people. Perhaps the few who escape it are those who live in the major metropolises and progressive cities.
Could another language have been chosen which would have been more acceptable? When asked what they would have chosen as the national language, most of the discussants picked Hindi. Regarding the choice of language, Ralph Fasold (1988, p. 185) states that, "The biggest problem is that there often simply is no language that a sufficiently large majority of the citizens will accept as a symbol of national identity." Hindi, despite its impressive statistics, cannot claim that majority. This means that it will always remain an imposition on a significant portion of the population.
The idea of Sanskrit as the national language came up in Discussion Three:
N.D.: "Sanskrit should have been chosen. There would have been less of all these things (problems) coming out."
K.M.K.: "If you choose Sanskrit, it is an imposition on the entire country. Now, no one would complain against that."
V.K.: "But no one could use it either."
A.: "That's a different question, whether we would use it or not. …Considering this issue, Sanskrit should have been chosen. We needn't have used it-we don't need to use it. From that could have sprung something through the passage of these years."
R.J.: "Why not choose Dutch?" (T4.E3)
Sanskrit could have very well met Fasold's challenge-as mentioned before, Sanskrit commands respect in almost every region of India. It would also be, as K.M.K. mentions, an imposition on everyone rather than on a large minority. Thus, no one could claim unfairness and no one would have an automatic advantage. Many Indians feel that the modern Indian languages, including those spoken in the south, are derived from Sanskrit (T19.E1;T19.E2). However, as V.K. notes, no one would really be able to use it-it's function would have been only as a symbol of national identity. Considering that no other language can do this, perhaps Sanskrit was and is the best choice for a national language. Rakesh's comment was meant jokingly, but it does bring up the point that when asked, every single one of the discussants who voiced their opinion agreed that the national language would have to be an Indian one. Sanskrit seems ideal provided that it is expected to serve as a symbol, not as a tool of communication.
Any other Indian language will inevitably be an imposition on one portion of the population and not the another, thus creating the imbalance of power that has become associated with Hindi as a national language. Of all of them, Hindi would be an imposition on the fewest number of people. Nonetheless, such dominance has no place in a democratic country like India. One must accept, as Das Gupta (1970, p. 269) points out, that "given the nature of the language situation in India, no single language community can overwhelm all the rest." S. Sood aptly states that "you can't just force people to do one thing. Because we have this great diverse background coming in, you have to provide a more flexible thing" (T8.E5). Any attempts to further enforce one language throughout India only threaten to push the nation towards greater state autonomy or possibly break it up (see T9.E1&E2). 

Hindi, not a national language: Court

THE HINDU, Ahmedabad, January 25, 2010
 Court has observed that though majority of people in India have accepted Hindi as a national language, there was nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.
The observation was made by division bench of Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and justice A.S. Dave recently while rejecting a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by one Suresh Kachhadia.
Mr. Kachhadia had filed the PIL last year seeking direction to Central and State government to make it mandatory for manufacturers to print details of goods like price, ingredients and date of manufacture in Hindi.
The court observed, “Normally, in India, majority of the people have accepted Hindi as a national language and many people speak Hindi and write in Devanagari script but there is nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.”
“No mandamus can be issued on any manufacturer or others for giving details or particulars of package in Hindi in Devanagari script,” it further said.
It was contended by Mr. Kachhadia’s lawyer that Hindi was the national language and was understood by a large number of persons in the country.
The Counsel representing central government submitted that specific provision has been made under the Standard of Weight and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules of 1977 that particulars of declaration should be in Hindi in Devanagari script or in English.
The court said that the Constituent Assembly while discussing the Language Formula noticed the recommendation of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights, which recommended the formula as per which, “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Persian script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union. English shall be the second official language for such period as the Union may, by law, determine.”
However, in the constitution, Hindi was declared as an official language and not a national language.
The court in its order said Part XVII of the Constitution deals with Official Language. Under Article 343, official language of the Union has been prescribed, which includes Hindi in Devanagari script and English.


There's no national language in India: Gujarat High Court

Jan 25, 2010, 12.34am
AHMEDABAD: Does India have a national language? No, says the Gujarat High Court. The court also observed that in India, a majority of people have accepted Hindi as a national language and many speak Hindi and write in Devanagari script, but it's not officially the national language.
With this observation, a bench headed by Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya refused to issue directions that packaged commodities must contain details about goods in Hindi.
Petitioner Suresh Kachhadia had, in 2009, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Gujarat HC seeking mandamus to the Centre as well as the state government to make it mandatory for manufacturers of goods to print in Hindi, all details of goods like price, ingredients and the date of manufacture. His contention was that the consumers are entitled to know what they are consuming.
It was argued that because Hindi is the national language and is understood by a large number of people in the country, directions should be given to publish all such details in Hindi. His counsel placed reliance on the deliberations in the Constituent Assembly in his arguments. Even the Centre's counsel referred to the Standard of Weights and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules and told the court that such declaration on packets should be either in English or in Hindi in Devanagari script.
But the court asked whether there was any notification saying Hindi is India's national language, for it's an ``official language'' of this country. No notification ever issued by the government could be produced before the court in this regard. This is because the Constitution has given Hindi the status of the official language and not the national language.
The court concluded that the rules have specific provisions for manufacturers that particulars of declaration should be in Hindi in Devanagari script or in English, and it's their prerogative to use English. Therefore, no mandamus can be issued on manufacturers or governments for giving details or particulars of package in Hindi.

Learning with the Times: India doesn't have any 'national language'
THE TIMES OF INDIA, Nov 16, 2009, 03.14 am
What does the Constitution say on languages?
Article 343 of the Constitution and the Official Languages Act say that the official language of the Union will be Hindi. However, the attempt to adopt Hindi as the official language was strongly opposed by several non-Hindi speaking states, especially Tamil Nadu, which erupted in violent protests leading to a compromise in allowing the use of English also for official purposes. Thus, the Constitution and the act allowed English to be used for transaction of business in Parliament, by Centre and states and for certain purposes in high courts for 15 years. Later, the act was amended in 1967 to allow continuation of English for official purposes. It is argued that while Hindi is the official language it was never given the status of national language, as India, being a multilingual country, has no single national language. Article 351, a directive, says it is the duty of the Union to promote the spread of Hindi language, so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India, never using the term national language to refer to Hindi.


343.  (1) The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script. The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union shall be the international form of Indian numerals.
(2) Notwithstanding anything in clause (1), for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of this Constitution, the English language shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used   immediately before such commencement:
Provided that the President may, during the said period, by order authorise the use of the Hindi language in addition to the English language and of the Devanagari form of numerals in addition to the international form of Indian numerals for any of the official purposes of the Union.
( 3 ) Notwithstanding anything in this article, Parliament may by law provide for the use, after the said period of fifteen years, of—
(a)    the English language, or
(b)   the Devanagari form of numerals, for such purposes as may be specified in the law.

Language Policy:
Our Constitution did not give the status of national language to any one language. Hindi was identified as the official language. (Federalism, Democratic Politics-II, NCERT, Grade X, First Edition: 2007)
More Links:
Hindi Nationalism- Alok Rai, Chapter 7, page 106... 

Language, Religion and Politics in North India- Paul R. Brass. Page 16...


Language in India:

Indian Constitution
Jason Baldridge
University of Toledo Honors Thesis
Democratic Politics-II, NCERT
The Times of India
The Hindu

Monday, May 16, 2011

Toba Tek Singh by Saadat Hasan Manto

Two or three years after Partition, the governments of India and Pakistan  decided that just as there had been a cordial exchange of prisoners, there should now also be a similar exchange of lunatics. That is to say Muslim lunatics housed in Indian asylums should be repatriated to Pakistan and Sikh and Hindu lunatics, in turn, handed over to India.
It’s hard to be sure of the wisdom of the idea. But in line with the wishes of intellectuals, a high level conference was held, and at length, a date for the transfer fixed. A thorough review was conducted. In India, it was decided that those Muslim lunatics who had family living there would be allowed to remain while the rest were moved up to the border. Here, in Pakistan, as practically the entire Sikh and Hindu population had departed, no question arose of allowing any to remain; each and every Sikh and Hindu lunatic was put under police custody and duly transported up to the border.
One cannot speak of the other side, but here in Lahore, a lively debate began at the lunatic asylum when news broke of the transfer. When one Muslim lunatic—for twelve years a regular reader of The Landowner/Zamindar (a newspaper of the time)—was asked, “Maulvi saab, what is this Pakistan?” he replied after careful deliberation, “an area in India where razor blades are manufactured.” This explanation seemed to satisfy his friend. Similarly, one Sikh lunatic said to another: “Sardarji, why are we being sent to India; we don’t even speak their language.” The other said with a smile, “I speak Hindustaneese. And let me tell you they’re very wicked people.” Then, doing an impression of their arrogant ways he added,  “they strut about bold upright like this.” In a separate section of the asylum, a Muslim lunatic, while bathing one morning, cried, “Long live Pakistan” so loudly that he slipped and fell on the bathroom floor, knocking himself unconscious.
Some lunatics were not in fact mad. The majority of these were murderers whose families had bribed the police to have them sent to the madhouse in order to save them from the gallows. They—to some extent— were able to grasp why India had been partitioned and what Pakistan was. But of the real facts, even they were in the dark: the newspapers explained little to nothing and their warden was ignorant and illiterate. They remained confused even after much discussion. They knew only that there was a man called Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who people called the Quaid-e-Azam, and that he had made a country for the Muslims called Pakistan. Where it was, what its shape and size were—of these, they knew nothing. And for this reason, those lunatics who were not entirely deranged, were forced to wonder they were at the present moment in India or in Pakistan. If India, then where was Pakistan? And if Pakistan, how was it that they had ended up here, despite never having moved and having been in India only a short while ago?
One lunatic, emerged from this confusion over India and Pakistan and Pakistan and India, madder still. Sweeping his way along the floor with a broom, he climbed a tree, and there, from one of its branches, delivered a speech which touched upon the problems of both countries. When the guards tried bringing him down, he climbed higher still. Surrounded and frightened, he yelled, “I neither want to live in India nor in Pakistan. I’m happy in this tree.” It was only with great difficulty, and only once his fit had cooled, that he was persuaded to come down at which point he fell weeping into the arms of his Hindu and Sikh brethren, his heart filled with sadness at the thought of them leaving him and going to India.
In the daily routine of one radio engineer, a master of sciences who kept largely to himself, spending the entire day pacing the garden’s trails in silence, one change occurred: he removed all his clothes, and handing them over to one of the wardens, resumed walking the garden trail stark naked. And one fat Muslim lunatic from Chaniot, who had in the past been a dedicated Muslim League worker, but had since taken to bathing fifteen to sixteen times a day, now suddenly gave up this habit. His name was Muhammad Ali. And so, one day, from the confines of his cell, he announced that he was in fact the Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Watching him, a Sikh lunatic instantly became Master Tara Singh. And there was nearly bloodshed in the cell until both men were declared dangerous lunatics and separated.
When a young Hindu lawyer from Lahore, whose romantic failures had driven him to madness, heard Amritsar had gone to India, he was filled with sorrow. It had been a Hindu girl from this town that he had fallen in love with. And though she had spurned him, he had, despite his madness, not been able to forget her. He hurled insults at all the leaders, Muslim and Hindu alike, who had come together to make two pieces of India, leaving his beloved in India and him in Pakistan. When talk of the exchange began, his fellow lunatics tried explaining to him that he should not lose heart; he would be sent to India where his beloved lived. But he didn’t want to leave Lahore for fear that in Amritsar his legal practice would suffer.
In the European ward, two Anglo-Indian lunatics despaired at hearing that the British had left and India was independent. They spoke for hours in secret, turning over the problem of what their status in the asylum would now be. Would the European ward remain or be abolished? Would they still get breakfast? And would they now in place of toast have to force bloody Indian chapattis down their throats?
There was in the asylum a Sikh lunatic, who had been committed for fifteen years. At any moment these strange words were ready on his lips: “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of the laltain.” He slept neither in the day nor at night. It was rumoured among the wardens that in fifteen long years, he had not slept, not even laid down, for a single moment. At most he would occasionally rest against a wall.
His feet and legs had swollen up from standing up for so long, but despite his discomfort, he refused to lie down. Whenever a discussion about India and Pakistan and the exchange of lunatics began in the asylum, he listened with keen interest. And, if ever, anybody asked his opinion, he gravely replied: “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of the Pakistani government.” However later, in place “of the Pakistani government,” he had begun to say, “of the Toba Tek Singh government” and would regularly ask the other inmates if they knew where Toba Tek Singh—to which he was native—was.
Nobody knew whether it was in India or in Pakistan. Whoever tried to explain would slide into confusing speculations that if Sialkot, which had once been in India, was now in Pakistan, who could say whether Lahore, which was in Pakistan, would not tomorrow be in India? Or that all of India become Pakistan? And who could say with any conviction that one day both Pakistan and India would not be wiped off the face of the earth?
This Sikh lunatic’s hair had thinned and little remained. Because he didn’t bathe much, the hair from his head had become entangled with the hair from his beard, and hardened, giving his face a frightening aspect. But he was harmless, and in fifteen years, he had not once been embroiled in a fight or incident of any kind. The asylum’s veteran employees were aware that he had vast holdings of land in Toba Tek Singh. He had apparently been a perfectly normal, bon vivant landlord until one day when his mind turned.
His relations had brought him to the asylum in heavy iron chains. After that, they came to visit him every month. Once they had inquired after his well-being, they would leave. For a period this arrangement had remained active, but since the trouble began between India and Pakistan, they had stopped coming.
Though his name was really Bishen Singh, he was known to all as Toba Tek Singh. He had no idea of the passage of time, neither what day or month it was nor how many years had passed. But every month when the time for his friends and relations to visit drew near, he would instinctively know and would inform the warden.
Then on that day, he was sure to bathe well. He would rub his body thoroughly with soap, brush and oil his hair and take out his own clothes, which he never usually wore. And dressed up like this, he would appear before his visitors. If ever they asked him something, he would either remain silent or on occasion burst out with: “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of the laltain.”
He had one daughter, who adding an inch to her height every year, had grown into a young woman of fifteen. Bishen Singh was unable to recognize her. As a girl, she had wept at seeing her father, and later, even as a grown-up girl, the sight of him brought tears to her eyes.
Whenever the subject of India and Pakistan was raised, Bishen Singh would start asking the other lunatics where Toba Tek Singh was. When he didn’t receive a satisfactory answer, his inquiries became more urgent. The visits had ceased as well. In the past he had known instinctively when his visitors were coming, but now that stopped too, as if the inner voice that had informed him of their arrival had fallen silent.
He wished very much that those people, who had shown him sympathy and brought him fruit, sweets and clothes, would return. He was sure that, they would tell him whether Toba Tek Singh was in India or Pakistan if only he could only ask them. He was certain that that was where they came from, Toba Tek Singh, where his lands lay.
The asylum also housed a lunatic who believed he was God. When one day Bishen Singh asked him if he knew whether Toba Tek Singh was in India or Pakistan, he replied characteristically with a cackle. “It is neither in India nor in Pakistan. For the simple reason that I haven’t given the order yet.” Bishen Singh implored him many times to give the order quickly so that this matter could be resolved, but he said he was very busy as he had many other orders yet to give. At length, Bishen Singh tired of him and exploded: “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of wahe Guruji da Khalsa and wahe Guruji di Fateh…jo bole so niha(stressed accent)l, sat sri akal.” The meaning of this perhaps was that ‘you are evidently a Muslim god, for if you were a Sikh god, you would assuredly hear my appeal.’
A few days before the exchange, a Muslim friend of Toba Tek Singh’s came to visit him. He had never come before, and when Bishen Singh saw him, he moved to one side and began retreating. The guards stopped him. “He’s your friend, Fazal Din,” they said, “he’s come to see you.”
Bishen Singh eyed the man with a sidelong glance and began mumbling indistinctly. Fazal Din took a step forward, and resting a hand on his shoulder, said, “I’ve been meaning to come for many days, but was never able to find the time. All your people have made it safely across to India. In whatever way I could help, I did. Your daughter Roop Kaur…”
He stopped mid-sentence. Bishen Singh had remembered something. “Daughter Roop Kaur.”
Fazaldin continued haltingly: “Yes, she…she is also fine. She went across with the others.”
Bishen Singh was silent. Fazal Din began to say, “They asked me to check up on you routinely. But I hear now that you are also to go to India. Do give my salaam to Bhai Balbir Singh and Bhai Vadhawa Singh. And to Bhen Amrit Kaur too. Tell Bhai Balbir Singh that I am well and happy. Of the two brown buffaloes he left behind, one has given birth to a calf. The other had too, but sadly hers died after six days. And…and if there’s anything I can do, I’m always at their service. Here, I brought you some sweets.” Bishen Singh took the cloth containing the sweets and handed it to the warden. Then turning back to Fazal Din, he asked, “Where is Toba Tek Singh?”
Fazal Din said with outright surprise: “Where is it? Why, it’s where it’s always been of course.”
Bishen Singh pressed him: “But in Pakistan or in India?”
Fazal Din gave a start. “In India,” he said, “No, no, in Pakistan.”
Bishen Singh mumbled, and jumping up, said, “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of the Pakistan and India dar fattey mun.”
The preparations for the exchange were complete. The lists of lunatics to be exchanged had arrived and a date for the transfer had been fixed.
It was bitter winter when lorry-loads of Hindu and Sikh lunatics, with police escorts and officers accompanying them, departed from Lahore’s lunatic asylum. At the Wagah border crossing, the superintendents of both sides met. After initiating proceedings, the exchange began and continued through the night.
Unloading the lunatics from the lorries and handing them over to the officers was no easy task. Some refused to get out. Those who were prepared to step out proved difficult to manage, running wildly in every direction. When an attempt was made to dress those who were naked, they tore the clothes from their body. Some became abusive, some sang songs, others wept and quarreled; the noise was deafening. The female lunatics, especially, made ear-splitting noise. It was bitingly cold and everyone’s teeth chattered.
Most of the lunatics were not in support of the exchange because they couldn’t understand why they were being uprooted from their place and forced to go somewhere else. The few who understood yelled slogans: “Long live Pakistan” and “Death to Pakistan.” On two or three occasions a  riot was narrowly avoided as the sentiments of a few Sikhs and Muslims became inflamed by the slogans.
When Bishen Singh’s turn came, and the official on the other side of the border began entering his name into a register, he asked, “Where is Toba Tek Singh? In India or in Pakistan?”
Laughing, the official said, “In Pakistan.”
Hearing this, Bishen Singh jumped to one side and ran to rejoin his remaining comrades.
The Pakistani soldiers caught hold of him and tried taking him to the other side, but he refused. “Toba Tek Singh is here,” he said, and began loudly to yell, “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of Toba Tek Singh and Pakistan.”
A great effort was made to explain to him that Toba Tek Singh was now in India. If he didn’t go himself, he would be sent, but he would not relent. When they tried forcibly to send him across, he dug in his swollen heels at a point in the middle of the border, such that it seemed no force was powerful enough to uproot him.
No excessive force was used as he was harmless. He was left to stand there while the rest of the exchange was completed.
Before the sun rose, a piercing scream broke from the throat of a rigid Bishen Singh, standing at attention. Several officers came to see the man, who had been on his legs day and night for fifteen years, lying facedown on the ground. There, behind barbed wire, was India. Here, behind barbed wires, was Pakistan. In the middle, on a nameless piece of earth, Toba Tek Singh lay.