HOW ASSOCIATION WITH RSS HAS GIVEN MEANING TO MY LIFE

February 9, 2014

Last week, on February 2nd, Khushwant Singhji completed ninety nine years of his very active life. That day, I called on him at his Sujan Singh Park residence and presented to him the second compilation of my blogs, released by Sar Sangh Chalak Shri Mohan Rao Bhagwat with the title “MY TAKE”. The Book-Release function held at the FICCI Auditorium was presided over by Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Pujya Baba Ramdevji also addressed the gathering. Inscribed on the book over my signature were my respectful Pranams to the great writer in these words: “Salutations to Sardar Khushwant Singh on his Entry into his Centenary Year”

book-release1 

There was no formal function at the house that evening. It was a very informal get-together of a small group of Khushwantji’s family members and friends. One of them was an artist from Gujarat, named Vrindavan Solanki. With a few pencil strokes of his on a pad he was carrying, in a few minutes he drew a neat sketch of the evening’s Star Guest.  Khushwantji’s impressive sketch tempted my associate Deepak Chopra to ask Solanki if he could do a similar one of mine. The artist readily obliged.  Both the sketches are being depicted with this blog.

      sketch-khushwant  sketch-advani                    

When in 1942, I became a member of the RSS, and that too in Sind, not many in that province had even heard the name of this organization.

 

In my autobiography, titled My Country, My Life, Chapter 3, of Phase I, is captioned “My First Twenty years in Sindh”. The portion referring to my entry into the RSS reads :

 

“There is always one moment in childhood, it is said, ‘when the door opens and lets the future in’. In my case, that moment of stepping into the future came, unexpectedly at a playful moment. When I joined the RSS, I was only fourteen years and a few months old then. After I completed my matriculation, my father shifted base from Karachi to Hyderabad (Sindh). During my vacation and before joining college, I started playing tennis. One of my regular partners on the tennis court was a friend, Murli Mukhi. One day, right in the middle of the game, he said, ‘I am going’. Utterly surprised, I asked him, ‘How can you go like this, without even completing the set?’ He replied, ‘I have joined the RSS a few days ago. I cannot be late for the shakha because punctuality is very important in that organisation’.

 

Some reviews of my book have described the last chapter of my memoirs (Chapter 18, just before the Epilogue) as the best one. The Chapter carries the title “In pursuit of Meaning and Happiness in Life”. The context for this chapter is provided by an acclaimed thriller, “The Interpretation of Murder”, written by Jed Rubenfeld, a law professor at Yale University, U.S.A. The author writes: “There is no mystery to happiness. Unhappy men are all alike, some wound they suffered long ago, some wish  denied, some blow to pride, some kindling spark of love put out by scorn – or worse, indifference – cleaves to them, or they do to it, and so they live each day within a shroud  of yesterdays. The happy man does not look back. He doesn’t look ahead. He lives in the present.  But there’s the rub.

 

“The present can never deliver one thing: meaning. The ways of happiness and meaning are not the same. To find happiness, a man need only live in the present: he need only live for the moment. But if he wants meaning – the meaning of his dreams, his secrets, his life – a man must reinhabit the past, however dark, and live for the future, however uncertain. Thus, nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them.”

 

            For myself, I have chosen meaning.

 

Although the novel claims that a man can either have meaning or happiness in life, I have had the good fortune of experiencing both, and in abundance.

khushwant-solanki

Artist Solanki is seen above with Khushwantji and me

 

When I look back at my life of over eight decades, I remind myself that I found my calling in life when, on a tennis court in Hyderabad (Sindh), I first heard the name of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and became a swayamsevak in 1942. I found meaning when I started attending Sunday evening discourses on the Bhagvad Gita by Swami Ranganathananda in Karachi. I found meaning when I left my home and family to work as a pracharak of the RSS, first in Karachi and later, after being uprooted by Partition, in Rajasthan. That meaning got further enriched when I embarked on a political journey fifty-five years ago, first as a worker of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and later of the Bharatiya Janata Party.  It is a journey that has not yet ended. From the age of fourteen and a half years till now, only one duty has defined the purpose of my life: to serve my Motherland.

 

I have often quoted an interview I gave to a Mumbai-based newspaper, Afternoon Despatch and Courier, in which the paper would ask the interviewee 20 standard questions and on that basis publish an extremely interesting and lively write-up. One question was “Mr. Advani, what is your greatest weakness?” My prompt reply was “Books; at a grosser level, chocolates”.

 

It is this interview that has been prompting people who come to greet me on my birthday or any such happy occasion to keep adding to my personal library, which is now sizable.

 

Indeed, it was a book titled Khushwantnama by Khushwant Singh, received by me in February, 2013 which reminded me of the fact that this highly readable book of his on which I had written a blog titled “Amazing Author: Thought provoking book” had been written by him when he was aged ninety eight years. I called on him to compliment him on his book when he had entered his ninety ninth year. In my blog I wrote, “I have not read any other author who could write as well, and with such lucidity, at such an advanced age.”

 

Khushwant Singh has been writing a column for the Hindustan Times for many years.  After I called on him in February, 2013, he wrote about me in the H.T. dated March 17: “After he (Advani) led his Rath Yatra from Somnath Temple to Ayodha and watched the Babri Masjid being pulled down I have been one of his severest critics. I used harsh words for him on his face at a public meeting he was to address.” So, about my visit to his residence, he wrote: “I had reason to fear that he wanted to tick me off and tell me to go to hell… Instead of ticking me off, as I expected, he brought a bouquet of roses for me and my daughter. I had to concede he was better Sikh than I am.  He is an Amil Sindhi, a community that subscribes to Sikh tenets. We spent an hour talking about different things but did not refer to his rath yatra and the destruction of Babri Masjid. It was entirely a courtesy call to reaffirm that despite differences we were on amicable talking terms. He is a bigger man that I thought he was.”    

 

Only a liberal and generous and earnestly large hearted person can so readily shed his aversion to another, one of whose actions he had so strongly disapproved earlier as he did mine (rath yatra).

 

TAIL PIECE

 

Today’s blog is about the RSS, and about Khushwant Singh. It reminds me about an interview Khushwant Singh, as Editor of the prestigious Illustrated Weekly of India did with the RSS Chief Shri M.S. Golwalkar (Shri Guruji) way back in November 1972.

 

This was a very positive interview. But Khushwant opened his write up that day with the following words:

 

“There are some individuals whom we start to hate without even bothering to know about them. Guru Golwalkar comes first on my list of such persons.”

 

Khushwant Singh asked the RSS Chief : What are your thoughts on Muslim issues?

 

Shri Guruji replied : “I have not the slightest doubt that historical factors alone are responsible for the divided loyalty that Muslims have towards India and Pakistan. Moreover both Muslims and Hindus are equally to blame for this:

 

Nevertheless it is not right to hold the entire community responsible for the guilt of some people. We have to win over the loyalty of Muslims with love. I am optimistic and I believe that Hindutva and Islam will learn to co-exist with one another.”

 

 

 

L.K. Advani

New Delhi

09 February, 2014

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