We have done it again : apart from winning the under-19 Cricket World Cup for the third time ( Great !! ) & carrying parliamentary debates to TV studios & street corners ( not so great !! ) , we have made it to the top of yet another global listing of the wrong kind. This time around we share top honours with Turkey in a study undertaken by a Norwegian agency , of Internally Displaced persons ( IDPs ) , or Domestic Refugees , for ease of understanding, amongst nations which are not torn by war nor any man -made turmoil nor by Mother Nature’s fury . Over 400,000 Indians have been classified by this listing as Internally Displaced Persons . That is a staggering 334 persons in every 1 million Indians !!
The aforesaid news brought back memories of a very nice painting of Guru Nanak that has adorned the walls of my parental home over the past several decades : in fact for as long as I can remember , as a symbol of my late mother’s faith in “being human”. The uniqueness of this painting , apart from the fact that this was amongst her most prized possessions , is that Guru Nanak’s compassion filled eyes appear to follow your movements to every corner of the room . As a kid , I often used to run around the room & test out the accuracy or otherwise of my mother’s faith that one was always in the Guru’s direct & compassionate gaze. The result was always a resounding yup !! The right palm , symbolising “Ek Aunkar ” or “There is only one GOD ” in all five elements , often kept me off mischief as a kid , as though Guru Nanak , with a direct look-see on me , had raised his right palm in a ” You just watch it kid !! ” admonition .
What , one might wonder , is the connection between a Guru Nanak painting & Internally Displaced Persons or IDPs. The connection lies in that the painting with the 360 degree benevolent vision has in fact been an Internally Displaced Painting or IDP , each such displacement being closely associated with Events & Non Events in the Kanuga clan.
In Bungalow 43 in Digboi it had the pride of place in the Dining room , primarily because the Drawing Room was a circle ( we called it “Gol Kamra” or ” Round room ” ) & had no straight walls to hang any pictures , leave alone the painting of the presiding deity.
The move to Bungalow F-1 in Duliajan ( # 1 denoted my late Dad’s hierarchical position in the fiefdom but I never did figure out what F denoted ) saw the painting occupying a pride of place in the finally straight-walled drawing room ( we continued to refer to this also as the “Gol Kamra ” or the ” Round Room ” primarily because old habits die hard !! ) .
Post Dad’s retirement , we moved from one accomodation to another ( # 303 Mayfair Gardens , # 901 Mayfair Gardens : both in Kolkata , followed by # 6/4 Lajpat Nagar New-Delhi ) & were ourselves Internally Displaced Persons or IDPs in a manner of speaking , living out of suitcases. Throughout this period , the painting was safely crated with other family jewels , awaiting a final resting place in Dad’s retirement home then under construction.
And then , almost a year later , in the fall of 1970 , the Kanuga IDPs moved to their final destination in New Delhi , an address I oft quoted as my Permanent Address till subsequent events decreed otherwise ( in India it was customary then to have a Current & a Permanent address to qualify for a Ration Card or LPG cylinder , or a Telephone connection !! ) .
I vividly remember the animated discussion between my late parents about where the Guru Nanak painting should be displayed in the new Kanuga home . The arguments for & against each proposed location can be the subject of a nice long & wholesome post some day. Suffice it to say , for the present, that the decision finally arrived at was to have Guru Nanak’s benevolence on the main wall of the front balcony , keeping a roving eye on the comings & goings about the front entrance & blessing those within, every time they ventured out, specially to enjoy the winter sun. The benevolent Guru Nanak seemed not in the least perturbed & continued to bless our “permanent” address as He had done over the years during our IDP days .
But then , as the old saying goes , nothing is permanent : everything is transient with a facade of stability !! And we were soon to discover this when the post- Indira Gandhi assasination civil disorder of October / November 1984 happened. Guru Nanak’s painting was once again in discussion & prudence warranted not displaying one’s Sikh faith on the front balcony for all to see lest a Sajju or a Jaggu or a Bhaggu should lurk in the wings quietly marking his next game. In the Alibaba & 40 thieves tale , the solution lay in chalk-marking each door so as to neutralise & confuse the marauding gang . The prospect of adorning each neighbourhood balcony with a Guru Nanak painting was so bizzare that it never really merited a discussion. Prudence prevailed over bravado & the benevolence of Guru Nanak was quietly shifted from the front balcony to the Drawing Room , which is where, in my late mother’s opinion, it rightfully belonged from way back in 1970.
And that is where the Guru Nanak painting rested , for several years , watching over the events & non-events of the clan . My mother passed away soon after , her Chautha rites presided over by the benevolence of the Nanak painting , & years later , my father , in his sunset years , was often seen looking at it , as though engaged in a private tete-a-tete on the years that had rolled by.
On one of my infrequent visits to my once “permanent” address , about a year after my Dad’s demise , I discovered that Guru Nanak had been replaced by Mother Teresa on the drawing room wall : Mother Teresa , with compassion in her eyes , I was told & could not but agree , & a palm extended in the aft direction , as though symbolising a ” you are free to leave if you do not approve of the change ” gesture : a thought I diplomatically contained within myself !! . I figured out the reason for this change , without ascertaining the cause & made my way to the Pooja Room to pay respects to my old friend , the much displaced IDP , in His final resting place. He seemed pleased to see me ( but then His eyes always denoted utmost compassion for all ) & had the right palm up , not so much in admonishment as in an embalming gesture , as though to tell me , as a fellow IDP , that a person or a painting can get physically displaced by the force of circumstances , but internal displacement can be neutralised by directing one’s focus away from so called permanence of addresses towards faith in the Five Elements symbolising Ek Aunkar.
I have been a displaced person all these years , living out of suitcases , but the feeling of being internally displaced is kept at bay very successfully. As I approach retirement in 4 to 5 years from now , the search is on for a retirement home ( the apartment in Mumbai was always a stop-gap & given the unplanned chaos that the area has witnessed in the name of development it can not possibly be a peaceful retreat post- retirement ). If I do finally find a good retirement home for myself , I will for sure lay claim to the Guru Nanak painting & take my old pal in as a benevolent companion in my sunset years , with the pride of place in the “Gol Kamra ” .
Cheers & ATB