Friday, April 24, 2009

Untouchable Royals,Obamas & an Indian Saint

by Rajbir Deswal
I had never known that by standards of protocol, those who have blue blood flowing in their veins — so to say the royals, are “untouchables” too. President Obama’s wife Michelle’s hugging the Queen of England, in London at the G-20 meet, and the latter putting her hand around Michelle’s waist in a reciprocal manner, may be something to rejoice at, for the practitioners of the concept of “Equality for all”, but it reminds me of the healing qualities of a touch, or an embrace.
During a tour of Haryana, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi chose to drive an open Jonga. He stopped to greet the crowds in Rohtak, when an elderly woman finding herself enough close to Mr Clean, beseeched him saying, “Re Raju beta terai haath la kai dekh lyoon(May I feel you by touching you O’ son!)” Rajiv Gandhi is said to have gladly obliged her.. I can imagine the exuberance of the Haryanavi woman on being allowed a “touch and feel” of Rajiv’s cottony, pink cheeks.
The legendary saint Kabir was once accused of spreading hatred against Hindus and Muslims for what he preached was against the hardcore fundamentalist stance in both religions. A complaint was made to the then ruler Sikandar Lodhi.
On inquiry it was found that Kabir claimed to be a disciple of Saint Ramanand. Ramanand refused to own Kabir and informed the king that he didn’t even know as to who Kabir was.
Sikandar Lodhi is said to have summoned both. Since Kabir was a low caste weaver, a curtain was erected between Ramanand and Kabir as per tradition. Ramanand then asked Kabir as to when he received initiation at his hands.
Kabir replied from behind the curtain, “O’ Noble soul, do you remember when on your way to having a bath in the Ganga one day, unmindfully you hurt me on the steps leading on to holy waters, where I lay deliberately to have your blessings. You had then said to me-Ram ka naam le beta (Go son! Have faith in God Almighty!”
Kabir then informed Guru Ramanand that from that day onwards, he had beenpractising his “dhyan” and “bhakti”(meditative concentration and devotion) in the name of his Guru that was Ramanand himself. That was enough for Rama Nand to have himself torn off and pulled down the curtain between him and Kabir. He then rushed to embrace Kabir in the royal court and in the presence of the King to demonstrate his love and blessings for a true disciple.
Embraces are great levelers while bear hugs of course can be dangerous. I am also reminded of Munna Bhai’s “jadoo ki jhappi” and another scene from “Mere Mehboob”—a movie of yesteryear. Rajendra Kumar, feeling the sensation of a touch of Sadhna’s cushiony fingers, sings: Meri rug rug main koi burq si lehar aayee thi Jab tere marmari haathon ko chhua tha maine (I got a pleasant shock and sensation all over my nerves, when I touched your beautiful hands.)
While I hail the ease with which the First Lady of the US could advance to hug the Queen of England, I am also sanguine on the reciprocal gesture shown by the Queen who unlike her predecessors may drop that stiff upper lip to appear more human like.
I am also reminded of Kipling’s “IF”: “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch”