Rakesh Manchanda

A tribute to Sad demise of Dr.Laxmi Sehgal-Brig. of Azad Hind Fauz (1914-2012) 

Not too long ago, I found almost the entire nation caught up in a mood of vibrant celebration. Even my eight year old, frequently found glued to either Discovery channel or Cartoon Network, seemed to enjoy watching the movie several times over. Our favourite Bollywood product` Lagaan` was carefully prepared and lovingly polished, to win the Oscars. The common citizens patriotic aspirations were elevated to the highest degree of nationalism for months. The keenly anticipated contest at the Oscars held out high hopes of a feather in the cap for India, the fierce competition and the strong contenders notwithstanding.

The results however disappointed millions of Indian hearts, belying their hopes of an Oscar win. The tendrils of hope were given a hasty burial. In the current climate I would rather say that this was a hidden missile that torpedoed the carefully constructed structure of hopes and pride. This incident was a ruthless reminder to a novice writer like myself, to be extremely careful while applying the theory of relativity in unfolding and mindlessly comparing two great works of cinema, science, art and personalities. The conceptual gears were shifted from nationalism to the bigger domain of patriotism with universal brotherhood.

Hidden missiles and their accidental discovery is not an unusal phenomenon. The story unfolds interestingly in the joyful children’s` world.

With the arrival of Holi, a rainbow of desires was evoked, and translated into action. A brigade of children led by a few enthusiastic adults of the building, took up positions on the balcony of my top floor apartment. Perfectly positioned as they were, the missile like targeting with water balloons, of all the ground- floor occupants of our apartment building, was the source of great pride for the missile launchers.

However after a short while the ‘home’ team was shocked to find missile balloons bombarding them from above. The ground floor residents had decided to beat us at our own game, and had discovered the advantage of quietly climbing to the roof top.

The battle of watery missile exchanges went on for an hour or so, and looked set to become a game of one upmanship that was fast getting serious. Till some of the wise people of the society intervened and pacified the rivals, convincing them to dump their false pride, artifical height and superficial positions!

In the end everyone assembled happily in the park to deck up each other with the joyful (chemical free) colors of Holi. The day ended with lots of fun, dance, partying and some good natured ribbing. All in all the colourful impressions of Holi left behind a sweet taste of what life can be when we subdue our need to control one another and decide to co- exist in the modest and humble domain of peace. 

A tribute to Sad demise of Dr.Laxmi Sehgal-Brig. of Azad Hind Fauz (1914-2012)


The presidential race has brought on the national canvas new and fresh profiles, viz. those of Abdul Kalam and Capt (Dr.) Laxmi Sehgal. They replace other personalities that have been on the map for the children in our colony, like Kiran Bedi and our old and ailing Prime Minister.

During a discussion with the children on the most favourite national personality, a group of eight children with an average age of ten years shocked the adults present by electing Dr Laxmi Sahgal instead of the relatively well-known celebrity Abdul Kalam.

In order to re-check the consensus reached and the reasons therein, I got friendly with the children residing in the different apartments near my residence. The three older children in the group taught me about their choice through the analogy of the kitchen knife in the hands of a technology promoter (who they called a technology expert), a soldier, a surgeon, a housewife and a thief. The ‘nuclear arms’ association, was the simple reason for the children`s consensus, in contrast to the adult world of argument and counter argument. Oh to live in a world of black and white!

Two younger children, acknowledged having failed to correctly identify Shri Kalam on TV, as a male with locks of long parted hair.The third child recollected her school principal, demanding they sing in chorus and insisting to repeat (repeat what?). Almost the entire group of children were aware of the boy Kalam! selling newspapers and saving money for studies.They immediately unlocked the stored experiences of their own newspaper boy, corn-wala bhaiya and Choto who delivers milk in our society.

Surprisingly only two children out of eight were acquainted with the unique story of the little child Laxmi sacrificing her dolls and clothes. One child, spellbound with Laxmi`s story, correlated it with the scene from the movie where a ten or eleven year old Bhaghat Singh burns his foreign clothes in protest against foreign rule, under Bapu’s Civil Disobedience movement. The successful implementation of non-violence during the famous eighty one days hunger strike led by Sardar Bhagat Singh and other communist freedom fighters to protest against the inhuman and biased environment of the British jails had also left a long lasting impression on their young minds.

Near the fag-end of the meeting, I was bombarded with queries such as,”Why did the boy Kalam not participate in the freedom movement”? and “Why did thirty crore Indians fail for years to defeat only one
lakh British rulers?”

At that moment, I had to break off to attend an important meeting. Later however, I was informed by two parents acting as observers of the children group about the need articulated by the children to carefully keep alive the memory of the good works and united struggle of freedom fighters including Ashfaqullah Khan, Bhaghat Singh, Chandershekhar Azad, Subhash Chandra Bose,Capt (Dr) Laxmi Sahgal and Mahatma Gandhi.

Next evening was taken up by the parents, who reviewed the national values of the freedom fighters. Bhaghat Singh in the late 1920s had rightly identified both imperalism and communalism equally dangerous to the growth of a free nation. Subhash Chandra Bose, under whom Dr (Capt) Laxmi Sahgal served in the INA, saw freedom as a state where all Indians are to be treated as equals with no privileges to a person on the basis of caste, class and religion.

A difference of opinion got heated when Mr Sharma blamed the `two nation theory` of Jinnah and Congress role in 1947- partition. Two persons including me strongly objected to this old unchallenged classical version.According to us it was the BJP and their ancesters who actually kept the communal cauldron of `the two nation theory boiling` and they had no role in the freedom struggle of our country.After three years of the original `invention` by the BJP-RSS hero VD Savarkar, finally the `xerox` of this two nation theory was used by muslim league and Jinnah to complete the unfortunate hate cycle. Fortunately this version got reconfirmed and was reluctantly accepted by all after a careful analysis of Khuswant Singh`s  recent article in a leading newspaper. Finally everyone accepted that the joint efforts of communal forces led to the unfortunate partition of the country as desired by the Britishers.

Next week, few parents of children studying in the high school were concerned about the recent placement of an English grammer question in the Gujarat board examination- quoted, “If you don’t like people kill them (romove ‘if ‘ from this sentence)”-The times of India april 24th 2002 ,front page “exam board defends Nazi question”. The battle line this time was clearly visible with the ongoing media debate. The discussion was whether to guide a child to polish his own skills while experiencing grammer and history ? or shall we leave the child exposed to the evil designs of our government and RSS who are commited to follow the footsteps of Adolf Hitler and his experiments?The stay-in-alive childrens`world was silently igniting the elder minds.

Looking back into the artificial adult world,I find that war,missiles and a false feeling of pride promoted by the rulers has always cheated the citizens.Worst victims had been women and children who could seldom
smile.Can a military code called `Buddha Smiles` for nuclear tests hide the reality for long?A visit to the Hiroshima museum however may disqualify any chance to smile.Is it not a fact that nuclear tests by few countries and the painful cancer deaths due to sustained harmful radiations follow a parallel pattern near the nuclear test sites? War as some argue is indeed an unwilling product of civilisation- which may end up the inequality while opening the hidden door of economic prosperity. What people need to know is how many cruel battles can settle the `end` to war.Is it not possible to prioritise the neglected equality?

Post nuclear test argument of the ruling elite is loud and clear that strength respects strength and not weakness. Since nuclear weapons cannot beautify and strengthen the old conventional war they need to be delinked and seen seperately.Interestingly,Shri Kalam had argued in the past that he would like to provide nuclear missiles to every country to level the global strength and also once developed the weapons should be deployed and should not be kept for a show. Today there are no buyers of Kalam missile outside India and there are even lesser voices who may openly glorify this false`ornamental science`.Each country is aware of this sixty years old nuclear technology which refuses to be loyal even to its own master,the earth,the air,the water and the nature itself.If missiles continue to steal the sky then where will the sun rise?Where will the children enjoy while learning? To save childhood we need to boldly say no to war.A recent anti-war banner in delhi reads,”There is no way to peace,peace is the only way.”

Later one evening,I found two of those eight children playing hindu-muslim warriors aiming pistols as missiles safeguarding Indo-Pak borders.Before it is too late,the childrens`world needs to be protected from the strange pied piper like creations of the rulers.The young minds motivated by Kamal Hassan’s `Hindustani` always need a real model leader against their impressions controlled by jingoistic enviornment.Our ongoing feudal romance with brand leaders is truely reflected in childrens`world.Later,I learned from a friend that his child tells everyone the story of his school play “Jhansi ki Rani” staged last year at the Kamani auditorium. At times, you may find children enjoying and reciting an old memorable poem which reads in hindi: “Khoob ladi mardaani , yoh to Jhansi wali rani thi.”

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