Be my Valentine

Be my Valentine

 The first was Indian; the second Egyptian, the next two Pakistanis; and the 5th an Iranian. As if this was not enough to boast about, the more significant aspect of these unions was that besides initial reservations, parents of parties might have had, they accepted the couple with complete affection. There were no conversions from one faith to another as all of us were agreed that conversions are demeaning another’s beliefs. Saint Valentine’s Day celebrations were ample proof that inter-religious marriages are a healthy departure from rigid matrimonial rules of bygone a era.

As I said, the most recent addition to the family is an Iranian. She is a lady doctor, practicing in the United States. She arrived with her parents, members of her family and close friends a week before her nuptials. The six days of receptions hosted by the bridegroom’s grandmother, parents and cousins were meant to get them to know their new Sikh relations.

There was feasting, drinking and dancing and singing of Iranian and Punjabi wedding songs. There was a mehndi ceremony when all the girls had patterns of henna drawn on their palms. The next morning there was Anand Karad according to Sikh rites.
 The couple had to be put through a few rehearsals of how to conduct themselves as neither of them is Sikh. The bridegroom is my brother’s grandson whose father is a Bengali Hindu married to my niece. The bride, a Shia Muslim. They will have to go through Hindu rituals when they visit the father’s family in Kolkata and a Muslim Nikah or a civil marriage in the United States where they intend to live.

Shrinking world
All this may sound unrealistic to most of my readers who had arranged marriages and plan doing the same for their progeny. They are in for many surprises to come. The world is shrinking fast and people of different races, religions and languages are learning to live as one community. We have to shed the Khap panchayat mentality riddled with gotras, castes and religious differences, and face realities of life. When young people fall in love, they don’t give a damn for what other people may have to say: they simply get closer to each other, and if possible, get married. Love crosses all  barriers and always wins. St.Valentine’s Day is an annual reminder of Love’s supremacy.

Not many of the present generation would know very much about Hardit Singh Malik. He was the most distinguished Sikh of his time and had remarkable career as a sportsman, civil servant and diplomat. He was born into a well-to-do Sikh family of Rawalpindi in 1894. After schooling in Pindi for a few years, he proceeded to England for further studies. He was then only 14. When the First World War broke out in 1919 he volunteered for service in the French Redcross and ran an ambulance from the war front to different hospitals in France. After two years he returned to England and joined Royal Air Force, the first non-Brit with turban and beard to become a fighter pilot.

He took part in dog-fights with German War planes over Germany and France. His plane riddled with hundreds of bullets of which two pierced his legs crash-landed in France and while doing so broke his nost. After canvalescing for many months in England hospitals he was back in the battle field. When the war ended, he joined Balliol College Oxford. He played cricket and golf for the university. As soon as he finished college he was selected for the Indian Civil Service and posted to his home state. He returned home to India after 11 years abroad. He married the younger sister of his elder brother’s wife. Both girls came from a Hindu Arya Samaj family. Both turned devout Sikhs. In their homes the days began and ended with recitations from the Granth Sahib.

Malik served in many districts of Punjab before he was appointed Prime Minister of Patiala. He stayed in the post for three years till it was merged in Punjab in 1947. Pandit Nehru appointed him India’s first High Commissioner in Canada. He stayed in Ottawa for three years before taking over as Ambassador of India in France. After a life-time in service in India and abroad, he retired to his newly built home in New Delhi.

Passion for golf
Malik- had a passion for golf. He was seen at the Delhi Golf Club every afternoon till almost the end of his life. He  once expressed the will to die on the golf course. That was not to be. He had a massive heart attack in 1984. He recovered to resume playing golf. It did not last very long. A second attack in October 1985 proved fatal.
Malik had no intention of writing his autobiography. He was persuaded by his wife and children to do so. It lay untouched for many years till his daughter Harjis Malik took it upon herself to edit it and have it published. A Little Work, A Little Play: The autobiography of H S Malik (book wise) is now available in the market. It has an introduction by Pearson who he befriended in Oxford who later became prime minister of Canada. It will be a source of inspiration to the present generation specially to young Sardars who will learn how a person can be both devoutly religious and yet gain worldly success.

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