Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nightmare, With Angels

I made this picture to go with the poem.

Nightmare, With Angels

By Stephen Vincent Benét
An angel came to me and stood by my bedside,
Remarking in a professorial-historical-economic and
irritated voice,
"If the Romans had only invented a decent explosion-
Not even the best, not even a Ford V-8
But, say, a Model T or even an early Napier,
They’d have built good enough roads for it (they
knew how to build roads)
From Cape Wrath to Cape St. Vincent, Susa, Babylon
and Moscow,
And the motorized legions never would have fallen,
And peace, in the shape of a giant eagle, would brood
over the entire Western World!"
He changed his expression, looking now like
a combination of Gilbert Murray, Hilaire Belloc and
a dozen other scientists, writers, and prophets,
And continued, in angelic tones,
"If the Greeks had known how to Cooperate, if there'd
never been a Reformation,
If Sparta had not been Sparta, and the Church had been
the Church of the saints,
The Argive peace like a free-blooming olive-tree, the
peace of Christ (who loved peace) like a great,
beautiful vine enwrapping the spinning earth!
Take it nearer home," he said.
"Take these Mayans and their star-clocks, their
carvings and their great cities.
Who sacked them out of their cities, drowned the cities
with a green jungle?
A plague? A change of climate? A queer migration?
Certainly they were skilful, certainly they created.
And, in Tenochtitlan, the dark obsidian knife and the
smoking heart on the stone but a fair city,
And the Incas had it worked out beautifully till Pizarro
smashed them
The collectivist state was there, and the ladies very
They lacked steel, alphabet and gunpowder and they had
to get married when the government said so.
They also lacked unemployment and overproduction.
For that matter," he said, "take the Cro-Magnons,
The fellows with the big skulls, the handsome folk, the
excellent scribers of mammoths,
Physical gods and yet with the sensitive brain (they
drew the running reindeer) .
What stopped them? What kept us all from being Apollos
and Aphrodites
Only with a new taste to the nectar,
The laughing gods, not the cruel, the gods of song, not of
Supposing Aurelius, Confucius, Napoleon, Plato, Gautama,
Just to take half a dozen--
Had ever realized and stabilized the full dream?
How long, O Lord God in the highest? How long, what now,
perturbed spirit? "
He turned blue at the wingtips and disappeared as another
angel approached me. -
This one was quietly but appropriately dressed in
cellophane, synthetic rubber and stainless steel,
But his mask was the blind mask of Ares, snouted for
He was neither soldier, sailor, farmer, dictator nor
Nor did he have much conversation, except to say,
"You will not be saved by General Motors or the pre-
fabricated house.
You will not be saved by dialectic materialism or the
Lambeth Conference.
You will not be saved by Vitamin D or the expanding
In fact, you will not be saved."
Then he showed his hand:
In his hand was a woven, wire basket, full of seeds, small
metallic and shining like the seeds of portulaca;
Where he sowed them, the green vine withered, and the smoke
and the armies sprang up.

Picture credits: I believe all pictures used in this are in the public domain except for the gas mask, which is one recommended for civilian use by the Israeli army

Saturday, December 11, 2010


For the last few months, my creative endeavours have been mostly concerned with visual arts instead of writing. I’ve been working with Photoshop and gif and, most recently, with Windows Movie Maker. I have also been teaching myself to knit Estonian lace, an accomplishment for those with two usable hands. 

My writing has kind of fallen into the bin of things I just don’t make the time for. A couple of dear friends have really been pestering me to write something, anything. Today, there is a heavy rain and I feel like a change, so I will write about an incident on our lovely little farm many, many years ago when life was simple and generally a lot of fun.

I’m not sure I can write this. It’s about the funniest thing that ever happened to me and even thinking about it I can’t stop laughing. It concerns a grumpy, cantankerous nanny goat – they are all grumpy and cantankerous, but this one seemed to have some special chip on her goat shoulders – and a strong, dignified, self-possessed Khalsa lion who was always in control of himself and never let anything discombobulate him.

A lovely Saturday summer’s day on the farm. Mani had decided that I needed a break from my usual routine and that he would milk the goats. I admit I wasn’t too sure that that was a good idea. Mani was a great doctor and very good at doing almost everything, but he was a city boy right down to his cellular structure and the farm was an alien environment to him. I was, of course, raised in the city, but parts of our summers in India had been spent on the family farm, always a welcome relief from the filth of the city. I sort of caught the farming bug then and felt at home on our little farm.

Back to milking the goats. Mani, of course, looked perfect. He had decided to play nihang, I guess, and was wearing a blue chola and a perfectly tied turban. I knew the goats wouldn’t be impressed, but, to be honest, I was. He always – almost always – impressed me. So he took the milking bucket and all 6’ 3” (191 cm) of himself out to the barn.
I sat down in the kitchen to work on my knitting and enjoy a cup of tea and some homemade bread and jam.

For a time all was peaceful. I could hear the happy little birds chirping and the sound of Sandeep and Rosa’s kids playing happily in the back ground when—

Mani came running full speed into the kitchen, screaming as I had never heard him scream before, in a complete panic – (Sorry, I have to stop for a laugh time) – “Shut the door! Shut the door!”

[Freeze frame] Before I continue with the action, I must describe my thoroughly discombobulated husband. His chola had somehow come completely open, his turban was loose and disheveled and goat milk – my wonderful goat milk – my dribbling from his drenched beard. What milk had managed to make it into the bucket was slopping and spilling all over the floor.

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t shut the door. All I could do was laugh helplessly. Normally I am a kind person who wouldn’t just laugh at someone in such panicked distress, but this was my imperturbable Mani, the always calm, always perfect Mani Singh with goat milk dribbling down his beard onto his naked hairy chest.

[Resume action] Immediately behind him ran one very determined nanny goat. Determined to catch him and do God-only-knows-what to him. Needless to say, I could not close the door. I was laughing too hard. I think ROFL had not yet been invented, but I was laughing so hard that I was bent over double, unable even to breathe, and actually fell out of the chair onto the floor. ROFL. So there I was, helplessly laughing on the floor – which by now was slippery with goat milk, my husband first glaring down at me and then at the goat and one nanny goat standing, smiling triumphantly at the whole scene.

Goats Don't Belong In the Kitchen!

“If you can stop laughing long enough, get that damned beast out of our kitchen!” Poor Mani just didn’t see the humour of the situation yet. (He would later, of course.) I struggled to my feet and slid over to the goat while Mani made his way to one of the chairs. He was almost there to safety when he slipped and that whole big body crashed to the floor. He grabbed at the table and managed just to catch the end of the tablecloth, pulling jam and bread and tea onto his prostrate body. I am sure that someday, in some remote corner of hell, I will pay for this, but I couldn’t resist saying, “Lo, how the mighty are fallen,” as I picked myself up. The goat meanwhile had started nibbling at a flower pot on the counter and had pooped on the floor. I managed to get her out of the kitchen and back to the barn. She liked me well enough and I suppose that she was content to return home, having had her triumph. 

Still barely in control of myself, I quickly ran back to our house, to the kitchen, hoping to get to a camera before Mani regained his senses. I was too late. He had already run off to the shower. Not before disposing of the goat poop, though.

I started to clean up the mess, leaving him to nurse his wounded pride. After a time, he returned, looking again like Mani, calm, self-possessed and all that, although he was very, very red from blushing embarrassment. Rather sheepishly, he insisted on finishing cleaning up the kitchen, which was very sweet of him. I made another pot of tea and ate my jam and bread and knitted and burst out laughing every time I even glanced at him.

Two things I learned from this:

  1. Bana is not appropriate attire for milking goats.
  2. Goats do not belong in my kitchen.

Mani never offered to milk the goats again. 


Picture credits can be found at:    Goats Don't Belong In the Kitchen

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Walk On The Beach

President Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni stroll on the French Riviera.

The real Reason...that the niqab was outlawed in France

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Actually, this was from Buzz earlier today, but I can't find it now.

Rodent Sammich, Animated

Well, if you found yourself as the meat portion of a sandwich, wouldn't you try to get out, too?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY - walking down the winding roads

Love doesn't make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.
Franklin P. Jones

Photograph:  courtesy of Angad Singh
Copyright All rights reserved by Angad Singh

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day Lilies and Frogs by Anne Norma

These beautiful photos are by Anne Norman who generously publishes under a Creative Commons license. 

Daylilies and Frogs by Anne Norman

These beautiful photos are by Anne Norman who generously publishes under a Creative Commons license. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Of Parrots and Ego

I am annoyed.  My ego is bruised.  For what reason could I possibly be denied membership in a Yahoo group about...parrots.  That's right, a parrot group.  I understand that Indian Patriotic Groups might not want me as a member.  Certainly, Hinduvta groups wouldn't want and, in America, probably the Teabaggers, as well.  No doubt the John Birch Society would look askance at my membership application, as would the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan.  As a raceless mongrel, the National Socialist White Workers' Party (Nazis) would reject me out of hand.  Certainly, Christian Identity wants nothing to do with such as I.  These all make perfect sense.

But a group about parrots?  I do share my life with a bad-tempered, biting, squawking, megalomaniac spectacled (or white-fronted) Amazon parrot, Amazona albifrons albifrons,   I think she is called. Has Thuki herself put in a bad word for me?  I know that she is quite resentful that I haven't gotten her a royal consort, but black-balling me from parrot groups seems a bit extreme, even for her.

So what exactly does this rejection notice say.  Is there some clue contained therein?

Dear Mai Harinder Kaur,

Unfortunately your registration at A fun place for parrot and other bird enthusiasts to learn, chat, and discuss bird care, feeding, behavior, health, ornithology, breeding, and more! did not meet our membership requirements. Therefore your registration was deleted.


Sorry, indeed.  I sent back a reply:

Oh, well, I suppose I shall dust off my bruised ego, dry my copious tears and move on.   Still, I wonder...

Thursday, July 15, 2010


It took me a while to figure out while this made me laugh so hard.  Finally I figured it out.

This new symbol of the Indian rupee is an "R" without a backbone with an equal sign superimposed on it.  I leave it to my reader to discern why that gave me a fit of the giggles.

Indian Rupee Gets a Distinct Symbol
New Delhi | Jul 15, 2010
The Indian rupee will soon have a unique symbol - a blend of the Devanagri 'Ra' and Roman 'R' - joining elite currencies like the US dollar, euro, British pound and Japanese yen in having a distinct identity.

The new symbol, designed by Bombay IIT post-graduate D Udaya Kumar, was approved by the cabinet today -- reflecting that the Indian currency, backed by an over-trillion dollar economy, was finally making its presence felt on the international scene.

"It's a big statement on the Indian currency. The symbol would lend a distinctive character and identity to the currency and further highlight the strength and global face of the Indian economy," Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

Though the symbol will not be printed or embossed on currency notes or coins, it would be included in the 'Unicode Standard' and major scripts of the world to ensure that it is easily displayed and printed in the electronic and print media.

Unicode is an international standard that allows text data to be interchanged globally without conflict. After incorporation in the global and Indian codes, the symbol would be used by all individuals and entities within and outside the country.

The symbol will be adopted in a span of six months in the country, and within 18 to 24 months globally, Soni said, adding that it will feature on computer keyboards and softwares for worldwide use.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said that the rupee symbol approved by the Cabinet needs to be incorporated into typewriters and computer keyboards to enable its better day-to-day usage.

"It's quite a nice symbol. This thing (the rupee symbol) has to be brought into current usage. The most important thing is to make sure that in typewriters the symbol is somewhere there," he said here after a meeting with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Ahluwalia said changes should be made in both hardware and software systems of computers "so that when I want the symbol in, it should be there".

Among currencies with distinctive identities, only the pound sterling has its symbol printed on the notes.

Soni said that the symbol, which reflects the Indian ethos and culture, would help distinguish the currency from the rupee or rupiah of other countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Besides this, state governments would be asked to proactively promote the use of the new symbol, she added.

Kumar's entry was chosen from 3,000 designs competing for the currency symbol. He will get an award of Rs 2.5 lakh.

"It is a perfect blend of Indian and Roman letters -- capital 'R' and Devanagri 'Ra' which represents rupaiah, to appeal to international and Indian audiences... My design is based on the tricolour, with two lines at the top and white space in between," a visibly-happy Kumar said.

The jury, which had sent the five short-listed entries for the cabinet's approval, was headed by a Reserve Bank Deputy Governor.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Not With A Bang...

This is a post I hoped I would never write.  As you, my readers, know, I practice the virtue of chardi kala, translated in many different ways, but all having the meaning of eternal optimism and never giving up.  I am still practicing, but it is hard.

No doubt by now you have heard about the massive oil spill by British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico in the Caribbean Sea, truly a paradise on earth.  Or at least it was until 20 April 2010.  On that day the Deepwater Horizon oil rig - owned and run by British Petroleum - exploded, caught fire and began gushing massive amounts of crude oil into the pristine waters around it.  Eleven were killed and 17 injured.  That was tragic, but it is just the beginning.

The amount of oil gushing into the Gulf is estimated at somewhere between 1,475,000 and 4,200,000 gallons per day ( 5,583,432 and 15,828,729 liters/day).  No one knows how much oil is in this well, how long it can keep gushing.  Years or decades, if it is not somehow stopped.  So far nothing has worked.  In fact, efforts have actually made it worse. 

Here's a nice little widget to help you calculate.

Those are pretty dry figures for most people, so here's a more graphic look.  This is what the spill looks like right now (30 June 2010): 

I realise that most of my readers really can't relate to southern Louisiana, so here is the spill in other locations where I have readers:

If I happened to miss your locale, go to Ifitwasmyhome to move the spill to wherever you live.

Perhaps you'd like to see it as it happens.

If that's not enough to bring it home to you, here are a few oil-soaked pelicans.  I find this horribly painful to look at.

In addition, massive amounts of methane gas has been released into the water.  This may well turn out to be even more dangerous than the oil.  The methane depletes the water of oxygen, leaving all the sea life devoid of the element that is necessary to all life on earth. It is feared that the methane will cause a dead zone where nothing can live, possibly for decades.  Also, scientists believe that a huge methane bubble is forming under the water.  When it bursts, it could release a tsunami of 20-60 ft (6.1-18.3 m), certainly enough to engulf most of the Caribbean islands.  For more information on the gas leak, go here: 
Gas Leak 3000 Times Worse Than Oil

And, by the way, with our current technology we have no way to cap or contain the methane.  

I guess that's not enough bad news.  It is now hurricane season.  (For those of you in Asia, those are typhoons.) There will be hurricanes. In fact, the first one is blowing right now.  Hurricane Alex did not move close to the spill, but there will be another hurricane and another and another.

The next thing to consider is the ocean currents.  The Gulf Stream is an ocean river that runs from the Caribbean to Europe.

Eventually this oil and methane and all their problems will reach Europe.  They will also travel up the Atlantic coast of North America all the way to Canada and all points north. No one knows how much of the ocean will die.  Certainly a large part of the Caribbean Sea will and it will take decades to recover.  In the meantime the many people who make their livings along the Gulf, either fishing or in the tourist trade, have lost their means of livelihood.  It is even possible that the land they live on will become uninhabitable.  Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana has been alerted that a mass evacuation may become necessary, if a hurricane again hits the state.  It is likely that once gone, the people will not be allowed to return due to the toxic oil and gas along the coast.

The earth is one big ecosystem, based primarily on our oceans.  If a large part of one ocean dies, that will have a cascade effect on the rest of the planet.  How far could this go? Worst case scenario:  Bye-bye.  "Not with a bang, but a whimper."  If you don't recognise those lines, they are the conclusion of T. S Eliot's poem, The Hollow Men. To hear the whimper go to Power Without Petroleum and listen hard at 0:25. 

Best case scenario:  the southern coast of the United States becomes uninhabitable for a period of time and much of the sea life in the Gulf of Mexico dies, with devastating consequences to the people who now live there.  As it is impossible that there be no hurricanes in the season, we can be sure that the winds will carry the oil throughout the region,  damaging all it touches.  That damage cannot be estimated at this time, except to say it will be extensive.

This morning (1 July 2010), going through my inbox, I found this article in the daily UN bulletin:  

Biologists find 'dead zones' around BP oil spill in Gulf

Methane at 100,000 times normal levels have been creating oxygen-depleted areas devoid of life near BP's Deepwater Horizon spill, according to two independent scientists

As long as I can remember, the scientists have been screaming "Wolf!" alerting us to this or that which they claim is going to wipe us out.  As I child I grew up with "nuclear annihilation."  That was the biggie.  There have been others:  the hole in the ozone layer, swine flu (twice), bird flu, global climate change and I'm sure others that I have forgotten. And it seems, life causes cancer.  There is truth in all  these scientific assertions, but there was also something we could do to stop or at least alleviate the disaster. As I see it, this is different because we are helpless to do anything except pray.  Of course, I am not a scientist, and the only way I see out of this is divine intervention.  Even if the spill can somehow be stopped, we can do nothing about the methane.  This is the time more than ever before that we need to dig deep within ourselves and find the high spirits, the chardi kala, that is a part of us.   It takes courage to look tragedy in the face and carry on without panic or depression.  

And what caused all this?  Of course it was British Petroleum cutting corners on safety to save money and increase profit.  It was Pres. Clinton who authorised the deep sea drilling.  It was Pres. George W. Bush who so favoured the oil interests and permitted a lack of oversight to allow BP not to follow the safety measures.  It was Pres. Obama who did not immediately step in to correct this corruption from the previous administration.  But it was also all of us who are dependent on petroleum, who refuse to cut back on our usage, we who demand more and more.  In the end, if we had not demanded this oil, if we had lost our lust  it, BP wouldn't have been able to make the profit that drove them to build this rickety structure upon the rickety structure of our economy.  So what now?  We have learned why greed is such an evil thing.  Whither our good, green beautiful earth?

I keep thinking about the ending of Dr. Strangelove.  (A great movie.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you see it while you still can.)

Remain in chardi kala, my dear brothers and sisters! 


the fire - United States Coast Guard (via Wikipedia)
dead fish - Sean Gardner (Reuters)
the pelicans - Charlie Riedel (AP)
the earth - courtesy of NASA

Friday, June 25, 2010


The blobfish lives in deep water and is grows to about 2 feet (60 cm).  It is gelatinous and eats whatever swims into its mouth.  I do not know if s/he can eat BP crude.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mai? Mai. Mai!

Another post for my Buzz friends.

This one is a break from blood and gore.  It also introduces my parents and my seven brothers.

A very dear friend of mine is impatiently waiting for me to explain how I came up with this strange, unSikh sounding name of Mai Laya. Since I haven't told this story online before, I decided to put it here, in case anyone has ever wondered. Actually, it ties together two of the great events in my life, my birth and my marriage.

First I'll dispose of 'Laya.' Blame that on Google. I was always Mai, just Mai, but when I registered for an account, they wanted, no, they insisted on a second name. I could have - probably should have - used Kaur, but at that time, I had not yet returned to the Sangat and all things Sikh and I felt I had no right to use that name. I almost randomly chose Laya from Himalaya. It does sound euphonious with Mai, eh?

"Mai", however, has a real story.

Chapter One
I Am Born
(That reminds me of Melanie reading David Copperfield from the movie Gone With The Wind.)

When it was time for my birth, my mother went to stay with her family. I'm not sure why. I think that she and Dad were not getting along and she didn't want him around. She waited and waited, getting angrier and more impatient by the day. It seems I was in no hurry to get into this world and arrived two weeks after the projected due date.

In being born, though, I made up for lost time. There was no time to call the doctor, much less get her to the hospital. It must have been the shortest labour in history.

After all that, I was a girl.

No, not that silly Punjabi prejudice against the girlchild. Dad had enough sons anyway. In his family, there is a genetic condition that affects all the girls born. Usually, they die as babies or very young children. My mother said, "They live just long enough to break your heart." She had three girls, all of whom died, before me and was not at all willing to go through that heartbreak again. She hadn't wanted another child to begin with and now she had as little to do with me as was possible. Beyond feeding me, she paid little attention to me.

Of course, Dad was called and he and my brothers, all seven of them, came running, along with a friend of the youngest. He arrived in a few minutes, bellowing "Waheguru!" partly from joy and partly he wanted that to be the first word I ever heard. (It wasn't, of course, my mother was cursing in furious anger the whole time.)

In those days, doctors were more willing to make housecalls and her ob/gyn came to the house. I don't know all the details, but she stayed home and didn't go to the hospital until going to be checked up a few days later. I guess there weren't as many malpractice suits then as now. After a time, all the medical details were taken care of - it was not true that Dad cut my umbilical cord with his kirpan, I'm not sure who started that story - I was cleaned up, wrapped up in a baby blanket and my mother gave me my first meal and then went to sleep.

Dad and eight boys were left in charge of a tiny baby girl. (My mother's family never accepted our father and brothers. They were/are not nice people. They didn't like me either.) According to my Dad, I was the most beautiful baby ever born, with a full head of hair - after all, they had an extra two weeks to grow - and huge blue eyes and I gurgled nicely.

He whispered "Waheguru" in my ears a few more times and slipped a tiny kara on my wrist.

So what to do with me? Dad was very comfortable with young babies, but my brothers weren't. Dad teased them all a bit and I was passed from brother to brother until I came to my brother's ten year old friend. He was terrified to hold this new, little life, but finally Dad shamed him into taking me. I was laid in his waiting arms - and promptly threw up all over him! The boy and the new-born baby just stared into each other's eyes.

Dad threw back his head and laughed and laughed and laughed. Finally he bellowed, "This one won't put up with cowards. I see we have another Mai Bhago on our hands!" I have been Mai ever since.

So, you see, I was actually Mai before I was Harinder.

Mai is, after all, a Sikh name. At least my Mai is. I was always brought with that lady as my ideal, a true warrior princess and servant of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

In Punjabi, Mai also means a very old woman, which certainly gave a comical air to using it for a newborn baby.

How does the marriage come in?

That ten year old boy was Mani. We were married 18 years later to the day.

None of these pictures are actually of me. I chose that particular painting of Mai Bhago (Mata Bhag Kaur) because I used to ride a white horse, as well. Not that I am much like this great Singhni!).

TURNING POINTS - 2 - Details of the Battle

Another post for my Buzz friends.  Originally written in 2008.

NOTE:  I am Mai, age 34 in 1984,  Mani was my husband, age 44, Sandeep was our son, 13, Suni, 34,  is Mani's cousin.

Warning, this post does get a little bit graphic.
Suni's story is in blue, Mai's in red.I have labeled them since colour doesn't translate into Buzz.

Mai:Someone suggested in an e-mail that we really should include more details of what happened in November 1984 to our family group. I am not sure what that person really meant, but we think it is about the actual fight. We, Mai and Suni, are here together on this anniversary and will make an attempt to tell in more detail, what happened.

We think it was 3 November. Everything had been very quiet all morning. We, of course, were on edge, but had done our prayers and a lot of singing, some kirtan, but mostly popular stuff. About 1:30 PM, we heard a commotion outside and knew that this was it.

Suni: A few minutes before, I saw a party of shaheeds enter the house. There were about quite a few of them, I didn't count, but I think maybe 40 or 45.  Mai:  None of the rest of us saw the shaheeds.

Mai:  Mani shouted, 'Bole so nihal!' We responded, "Sat Shri Akaal!" and took up our positions. Suni was seated in the big chair, holding Guru Ji. I was on the stairs leading to the second floor balcony. My brothers were to the left and right of the front door. Sandeep, my son, was in the kitchen doorway. Mohan and Balbir, Suni's husband and son, as the least experienced fighters (Suni: totally inexperienced) were upstairs on the balcony. (I had argued with Mani that I should be in Sandeep's position, since I was a strong fighter, but he refused because of my pregnancy.) Mani, as our commander, was across the room, but directly in front of the door.

What none of us had expected was that they entered from the front and back simultaneously. That one came so fast behind Sandeep that I don't think he ever knew he was hit. I saw it, though, and felt the blood rush to my head in an anger and fury indescribable. He went down with the first blow of the iron bar across the back of his neck, his head at that bizarre angle that I'll never forget.

I remember then Mani shouted, 'Guru Gobind Singh! Waheguru!' and lunged forward. I ran from my position toward the bastard that had killed my son, intending to kill him. Something happened, time seemed to stop. Suddenly there was no noise and no one was moving except me and him. I approached him with my kirtan/dagger (it was now a weapon) drawn and ready. He was terrified. If I live forever, I will never see such fear in anyone's eyes again. His eyes were wide open, as was his mouth - although I heard no sound from it - as I slit his throat from ear to ear. I think I nearly decapitated him. Blood spurted out all over me, my face was wet with it. He stared at me for a moment and then fell at my feet, mouth still gaping open, eyes staring wide. I felt a great satisfaction, as I licked the blood from my lips. Is that enough detail for everyone?

Suni: When I sat down with Guru Ji, two Singhnis took up positions on either side of me. Both were tall and strong-looking and heavily armed. The one on my right smiled at me and gently patted my stomach. I could feel her hand.

When Mai went toward that [person]. I also saw everything stop and it happened as Mai has described it, but she could not see herself. The person [he] confronted looked nothing like my cousin/sister Mai. She was huge and tall and black. Her eyes were red and she was the very embodiment of the outraged mother. In short she looked like a most terrifying depiction of Ma Kali. I think that is what that person saw that scared him so much. Of course, I do not believe in Ma Kali, but he did and that's what matters. All the shaheeds just stood and watched.

Mai: Normal time resumed. Mohan and Balbir were side by side on the main floor, doing their best to strike with drawn swords, but I saw Balbir get hit in the stomach with an iron bar and drop his sword. I saw my brothers moving, but I couldn't see clearly what was going on. Two [males] had converged on me and I was busy with them. They kept hitting my body, but I was able to protect my head and kept going. I felt no pain. I could not see Mani, at all.

Suni: They never seemed to notice me sitting there Somehow the shaheeds were able to make me invisible to our enemies, I think. I saw my son drop his sword and get hit in the head with one of their bars. My husband foolishly went to his aid and forgot to protect himself. The two fell in a heap together. The Hindus beat them and beat them with their iron bars.

Mai's brothers were expert fighters, but each was fighting off three opponents and fell. Someone picked up their kirpans and stabbed them over and over in the chest. There was a lot of blood. By this time, the smell became overwhelming. Not just blood, but also urine and feces. I could barely breathe.

Mani was in control of himself. I could see his mouth moving. 'Vaheguru, vaheguru, vaheguru...' He sword was swinging in rhythm to his words. There were just too many of them and eventually he went down. Mai was a fury. She looked like something out of a Chinese martial arts movie. Eventually, though, she went down, too. They beat everyone after they were down, over and over, with their bars until all of them were bloody all over. I am sure many bones were broken, too. I could tell when someone died because shaheeds would gather around that person, I think to act as an escort and honour guard. I knew that Mani and Mai were still alive, but all the others were dead.

When they finished beating the bodies, for some reason, they left. I'm not sure why. I just sat and clutched Guru Ji. My two lady shaheeds were still with me, so I knew it wasn't over.

We have already described how Mai regained consciousness and got to Mani and their talk, his death and then cleaning the faces. We are not going to retell that now.  (Note to Buzzers:  That is another post that I will send, if you like.)

Eventually, the mob returned with cans of petrol. They looted the house, then drenched all the bodies with the petrol. Just at that moment, by Guru's grace, a loud voice shouted 'Naamaste!' They stopped dead in their tracks. It was our neighbours, the Brahmins. They ordered the mob out and came and rescued me. I knew Mai was still alive and they carried her, bleeding profusely - she was in premature labour by that time, in addition to her other injuries - to their house. The shaheeds followed her and, I think also acted as an escort to her two daughters.

They wanted to relieve me of the burden of carrying Guru Ji, but I wouldn't surrender him to them for anything. As we left the house, the mob, waiting impatiently outside, entered and torched the house. I really didn't know that brahmins had that much power still, but the mob was willing to let us two live. I don't think they ever knew that Mai was a woman.

Picture: We do not know who these women are, just our sisters, survivors like ourselves.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


This is for my Buzz friends who cannot access blogs.  Next will come my description of the battle, left out here.

My next topic, having disposed of the BB and Dad, would have to be Mani (Mandeep) Singh Khalsa, 42 in 1984, my husband. How can I write about him, knowing some other man will read it? He was, possibly, the only perfect human being of our generation. I married him in 1970, lived our whole life together, every single day, until he achieved shaheedi in November 1984. I have absolutely no complaints about him as a person or as a husband. I knew him literally from the day I was born, when I threw up on him, until that day. I had never had any interest in any other man. I knew him to be intelligent, self-disciplined and a bit fastidious. I knew he would never be interested in any woman who didn't live up to the standard he held himself to. Dad was always afraid I'd get involved with some idiot boy at school. He had nothing to worry about. How could a boy interest me, when I had always intended to marry this man? He was ten years older than me, so he was settled and grown up by the time I was expected to start to notice boys. One day, when I was 17, I went to Dad, and said, 'I want to get married.' He looked at me a minute and said, 'Aren't you a little young?'

No, I know what I want. After all, you taught me.'

'When a young lady comes to her father and says she wants to get married, I would assume she has someone in mind.'

I nodded.

He looked at me for a minute. I said nothing.

'Not one of those little boy fools you go to school with, I hope.'

I shook my head. 'I don't want to marry a child, damn it. I have a little more sense than that.'

'Anyone I know?'

I felt suddenly shy. I nodded again.

"Dare I ask who?'

A third time, I nodded.

'Princess, you're driving me mad. Who?'

In an uncharacteristically tiny voice. 'Mani.'

Booming, 'MANI??? You've got to be kidding. Why him?'

'I never thought of anyone else. I always wanted to marry him.'

Dad gave me the strangest look. 'Really?'

'Didn't you notice I never wanted to date or anything?'

'I just counted my blessings. I'm an old traditional Punjabi Sikh. I wouldn't have any idea how to handle a dating daughter.'

I giggled at the thought. 'You'd scare the poor boy half to death.'

'I'd try, I'm sure.' He kept looking at me with that weird look.

'Why are you looking at me like that. Is he secretly my brother or something?'

Laughing, 'No, no, no. Nothing like that. Are you 100% sure?'


'I have absolutely no objections. In fact, if you'd let me find you a husband which is, after all, my responsibility, I would have chosen him.' In an uncharacteristically small voice, a bit sheepishly, 'In fact, his parents and I did choose him. We've been trying to figure out how to get you two stubborn, modern kids together for years.'

'Daddy!' I was appalled.

'Are you still serious? Do you really want to marry him?' He was staring at me.


'OK, I'll call his parents. How much have you discussed with him?'

'Not a word, but he's always wanted to marry me, too. I know you think I'm young and inexperienced, but I have always known. Especially after he sang at my sixteenth birthday party.' I mimicked him singing. 'Since you've grown up your future is sewn up. From now on you're gonna be mine.'

By that night we were informally engaged.

His family and ours had always been close. Dad had been the business partner of Mani's grandfather and of his dad. He was his parents' only child and also my youngest brother's best friend, so he had always been around. In fact, he was the first nonfamily member to meet me when I was born. The way the ten-year-old boy and new-born baby looked into each others' eyes and then she threw up on him had become a favourite family legend.

By the time we got engaged, he had been to medical school and was a fully certified oncologist. He was also a devout Khalsa, which he would put before being a doctor or a husband or a father. It was the only thing, in fact, that he put ahead of me, which was fine. That came before everything, even wife, even child, even country, everything.

I think I can describe him in that one word: Khalsa. Pure. A true son of Guru Gobind Singh ji, if I can sound a bit cheesy, from the moment we woke up before dawn and took those horrible cold showers to when he fell asleep at night. He never tried to force me to do as he did, like those pre-dawn cold showers but in a true marriage, it's natural to stand together. He admitted to me after some years, that he didn't like those cold showers any more than I did, but the Guru asked it of us, and he did it out of love and also as self-discipline.

I would like to say something about him that doesn't involve being Sikh, but that is so much of him that there is nothing to say. Maybe a physical description. Tall, athletic, kind of light brown skin in winter, darker, of course, in summer, as we spent a lot of time outdoors, rather bushy eyebrows, thick, curly black eyelashes (why do the men always have those?), steel grey eyes, courtesy of his Kashmiri mother, and all that hair. He wouldn't even let me see it until after we were married. I told him he was as bad as a Muslim virgin, but he just laughed at me. It was thick and straight and longer than waist length and was as black and shiny as obsidian. I felt almost naked with my dark brown, rather thin hair. At least I could match him for length in those days. His beard did have just a touch of red in it, maybe again from his Kashmiri side. I enjoyed looking at him, and he could hardly take his eyes off me. We were the most perfectly matched couple I could ever imagine. We had fourteen incredible years together, and would have had many more, if he hadn't been killed.

I don't feel like describing that day again, so let me jump to immediately after the mob had left and I had regained consciousness. As it turned out, at that time he was also still alive.

Whatever kind forces exist in the universe, whether Waheguru or Guru Nanak Dev or some other benevolent being or just the universe itself, we had a few peaceful minutes talking together before he died. Most of that conversation was so intensely personal that I can't write it down. I will only mention three things.

First, I pulled lightly on his beard and asked him, 'Has it all really been worth it?'

He said softly,'Yeah.' Then he breathed in deeply, and said in his strongest voice, 'Yes. Hell, yes! People don't even dream of living the kind of life we've lived because they could never believe it's possible. Too short, I guess, but better too short and too good, than longer in the hell most people seem to live in. And, you know, for me there's really no better way to die.'

Then he insisted on a promise from me that I would remarry, so as not to spend the rest of my life in useless grieving for him. As if marrying another man would end my grief! But I have done as I promised, and my current husband treats me like a queen, and I have come to love him deeply, too.

Then he asked me to sing the last verse of How Can I keep from Singing?, an old Quaker song. My singing voice is between a crow and a foghorn, and I can't carry a tune, but I complied.

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,

And hear their death knells ringing,
When friends rejoice, both far and near,

How can I keep from singing?

On gallows high or dungeons vile,

Our thoughts to them go winging.
When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

As Mani lay in my lap dying, he looked into my eyes and said, 'Good-bye for now, love.' Then he closed his eyes and, holding onto my hand said his final pronouncement, in a loud, clear voice, slowly, syllable by syllable, a battle cry and an affirmation:


I have never known who he was greeting.  As the final sounds came out of his mouth, he opened his eyes and looked, first at me, then beyond me. An expression of astonishment and pure joy (ananda?) came over his features. 'A glimpse of gold in the steel, the proof of all you never dared to believe.' His hand went limp in mine, but I held it for I don't have any idea how long, until I dropped it, closed his eyes and gave him a last kiss. It all sounds so romantic now, the fallen martyr soldier-saint, the grieving, loving pregnant widow, herself nearly fatally injured, the lull in the battle. At the time, with the signs of violence all around us, I, paradoxially, felt a peace I had never felt before and have never felt since. I lay down beside his body and passed out/went to sleep. That is the end of his story.

Do not seek Death. Death will find you. But rather seek the road that makes Death a fulfillment. Dag Hammarskjold

Friday, June 18, 2010


A wonderful bird is the pelican
His beak can hold more than his bellycan.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

There's More To Fish Than You Think.

Big Coloured Fishie Snippy

Fish.  I like fish a lot.  And there's a lot more to pet fish than you might realise.

I use to have a nice, rather ordinary smallish freshwater aquarium.  (I saw the same one on Star Trek - The Next Generation, although I think it was sans fish.)  Mostly I kept small goldfish or, if you're going to be fancy, tiny koi.  Cute little things and quite friendly. Whenever I would walk over to the aquarium, they all swim over to the side and say, in their fish way, "Hi. Glad to see you!"

My favourite was a black bug-eyed fish named Alaska.  (Don't ask.)  He was especially friendly and seemed always happy to see me.  One day when I went to greet my fish, he was missing.  My heart sank as I saw him floating upside down, dead.  I do not easily accept the unnecessary death of a friend.  I gently lifted him out and took him to the bathroom sink.  I ran cool water over him while gently stroking his gills.  Ridiculous, I know.  Still...Wait, are the gills moving? Is that a tiny heartbeat?  They were and it was.    Just to be sure, I kept him in his own little white bowl for a few days, feeding him sparingly - Goldfish should always be fed sparingly.  Most people overfeed them and then wonder why they die - and then returned him to his friends.  They were all happy to see him and he lived for several more years.


I no longer have my aquarium and my dear fish.  I lost them through a great tragedy.  Once in a while my husband gets the grand idea of adding to the aquarium.  I didn't like this, but he's stubborn and knows everything.  One day he brought some fish home and dumped them in the tank before I could intercept him.  Immediately, my very innocent little goldfish were under attack and before I could get the net to pull them out, they were all dead, in pieces.  You can imagine how upset I was.  "Simon, what were those fish."

"Well, the guy at the pet store said they shouldn't be put in with other fish, but I thought..."

I glared at him.

"I wasn't thinking."

I continued glaring.  "Did you ask what they are called."

"Perennials , I think, something like that."

"Piranhas,"  I gasped.

"Yeah, that was it."

So my fish were dead and I was left to care for piranhas.  I dutifully fed them, but I didn't make friends with them and I wasn't too unhappy when they died off one by one.  (No, no, of course, I didn't kill them. I would guess that the water was too cold for them, something like that.)

I gave away the aquarium and haven't had the heart to keep fish since.

Now I just look after pixels in FishWorld.

And my beloved readers, please refrain from putting barbed hooks in those delicate mouths and do not, I repeat, DO NOT drown them in the air.

Remember, fish are people, too!

Giving credit where credit's due  (all from the the Creative Commons):

Snippy the gold golfish is courtesy of the renowned Rubyblossom

Alaska the black goldfish is played by Concerto of Katie@!

The piranha is from marcelometal