Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee | 30.6.19



June 21 was celebrated as International Yoga day. People did Yoga in public places in over 136 countries of the world. Yoga, a synchronized set of exercises for body and mind emerged in ancient India and has been practiced in several countries in different forms for ages. It is an inexpensive self-care system. My wife suffers from lower back pain. She has been advised some exercises by both allopathic and homeopathic doctors which are akin to some yoga asanas. But some people, unfortunately, see religion in everything. All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) opposed the celebration of the International Yoga day. The Board has described Yoga as  religious symbol, which it is not.


AIMPLB specifically cited the Surya Namaskar which is nothing but a common sequence of asanas. See the sculpture at T-3 terminal of Delhi International Airport.


As journalist Mohan Guruswamy writes, “Most Hindus revere the Sun as it is the giver of life and sustenance.  Because of this some of  Hindus set aside a portion of their daily worship for making salutations to the Sun by prostrations. This method of adoration affords them so much muscular activity that it takes to some extent the place of physical exercise.  Muslims can practice these very same asanas without worshipping the Sun. But before they reject the Sun salutation they will do well to recall Allama Iqbal who wrote: “Ai aaftaab! Hum ko zia-e-shaoor de/ Chasm-e-khird ko apni tajjali se noor de.” (O radiant one! Grant us the grace of wisdom/Let our eyes see reason in your resplendent glow.)


One can only hope that some of the “grace of wisdom” would penetrate the dark recesses of minds in the AIMPLB.   Muslims as whole will do well to listen to saner voices in the community like Prof. Mohammed Abbas Niazi of AMU who said: “Yoga is an exercise and no religion can be against a healthy life style.”


Yoga’s only association with Hinduism is that it evolved in India. By this standard one can oppose many mathematical principles that evolved in ancient India and think of Algebra is an exclusive Islamic discipline. Yoga is a nonsectarian physical and mental health oriented set of exercises. If Yoga is Hindu then Karate and Taekwondo are Buddhist and Kung Fu is Confucian. This idea of associating a set of exercise with religion is ridiculous at one level and dangerous at the other.


George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), who was born 116 years ago (25 June 1903) in Motihari,  India and died over half a century ago, still speaks to us in 2019 with a recognisably modern voice. He knew the horrors of the twentieth century: the rants of the dictators, the totalitarian societies they unleashed, the wars of unparalleled bloodshed. He also took pains to be an uncompromisingly honest man and writer, whether or not his political interests were served by speaking the truth.

Orwell wrote some of the most brilliant literature of the twentieth century. No wonder the dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and the satirical novella “Animal Farm” ― they have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author.

1984, a dystopian novel was published in June 1949. It has been seventy years. But the themes dealt in the novel- the risks of government overreach, totalitarianism and repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviours within society- are still relevant.
The novel is set in an imagined future, the year 1984, (the writer just reversed the year- 48 in which he began to write it) when much of the world has fallen victim to perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, historical negationism and propaganda.

The book merits a re-read now.

My artist friend Gorbachove says, “I think everyone should read 1984 not because it explores entirely new aspects of human nature, and nor even because of the breathtaking imagination of George Orwell, but because of the simple fact that if we want to survive, it can be crucial for our survival and of our world as we know it.
Tailpiece 1: Ahmedabad Model of Traffic Control

Anybody who has been to Ahmedabad will vouch that traffic movement in this city is unique. So is traffic control or lack of it.

Car manufacturers can sell cars for up to Rs 20, 000 less in Ahmedabad if they removed the turning indicators, the dipper bulbs, rear view mirrors and the brakes. Nobody uses them here anyways… Actually they should not paint the car. Call it the denim and acid wash finish. All scratches and dents need not be repaired. In fact like the torn jeans that up-market young men and women are wearing now- this could be the latest car-fashion. Or, one can cover the scratches and dents with cow dung- like some wise lady actually did. Traffic police can also save by removing traffic light which neither works nor followed.

Like Gujarat model of development, this could be Ahmedabad model of traffic control.


Tailpiece 2: Expert Comments!


After morning walk, a group of doctors was standing at a road-side teashop enjoying a cup of tea. Then they saw a man limping towards them.

One doctor said he has Arthritis in his Left Knee.

The second said he has Plantar Faciitis

The third said, just an Ankle Sprain.

The fourth said, see that man cannot lift his knee, he looks to have Lower Motor Neurons.

But to me he seems a Hemiplegia Scissors Gait, said the fifth.

Before the sixth could proclaim his diagnosis… the man reached the group and asked, “Is there a cobbler  nearby  who  can  repair  my  slipper?”

This is exactly  how the  experts  talk  on social  Media  and television  these  days…


The author, a journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. An anthology of his weekly column Window Seat, published in 2018 has been published as a book. Write to him to get a free e-copy.


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