Look Back in Anger

I AM ANGRY. THERE IS NO other way to say it except to amplify and to admit I am actually fuming. It is of considerable help to me to remember that I have, in these pages, spoken of anger arising in the field as it were, and in time I will discuss the angry men of spiritual discourse (Nisargadatta Maharaj and U.G. Krishnamurti come to immediate mind), and how we can differentiate between the rage, rudeness and unpleasantness and their spiritual gifts and insights. U.G. was a thoroughly cantankerous, arrogant and unpleasant fellow and he is somebody I will gladly elaborate upon in the future.

The cause of my flare-up was a chance description of my father’s birthplace on one of the ancestry sites. I am researching the time of Indian Independence for a new book about him called, The Boy from Bengal. I come from that time just 9 years after India became free and I have to say, looking at old footage and the paperwork of my father’s and his diaries give me, with no disrespect to God, the deepest sense of spiritual home and profound depth into understanding what this incarnation – I should say last incarnation – was all about. All the vibrancy of that time I see on video, in the books of the era about Jawarharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Muslim leader, and V.K. Krishna Menon, the brilliant orator and statesman who became Nehru’s Minister of Defence in 1956, not only fascinate me beyond words can say, they fuel my work here on EmW as I recall my early life listening to my father speaking to me about this momentous time in Indian and world history.

My father knew Krishna Menon very well because he  joined the India League (for Independence) in London in 1944 when he arrived on his scholarship to University College to read Maths, Economics and Politics. Krishna Menon, who had been living and working in London as the co-founder of Penguin books, and also as a Labour cum possible Marxist MP, had set up the League to rally for Indian Independence in Britain and the two men must have spent many a noisy and highly inflammatory hour together raging for the liberation of India. So noisy was my father, he was kicked out of university and lost his scholarship in 1945.

He told me he had met Nehru too, It must have been on the PM’s visits in 1949, 1953 or 1955. Krishna Menon was made India’s High Commissioner to the UK in 1948 straight after partition and that must be why my father was offered the diplomatic post of Secretary to the High Commissioner of Pakistan in London in the early  1960s – through those diplomatic connections forged during the fight for Independence.  He turned the post down saying he drank too much whisky to be politically discreet and it might permanently endanger international relations because he could not keep his mouth shut. Such insight and generosity indeed from the orphan boy from the jungles of East Bengal.

I will remember to tell the full story of my discussion with a Sri Lankan tea-planter in Colombo last year about the Singhalese family who used to visit us in the 1960s in London. I recall he almost choked on his tea as he looked at me dumbfounded and said, “That was the ruling political family of Ceylon.” My mother used to oblige the scene by putting on a sari before she served roast lamb, trimmings and apple-pie for this assembly of dignitaries, for sure, not knowing who they were.

The reason I became incandescent was because some member of my mother’s side of the family (British) has created my family’s  tree and stated my father was born in Bangladesh. I am reacting on behalf of my father for this staggering and insular sloppy ignorance. It was this side of the family who employed a private detective to follow my father when he was seeing my mother in 1953. To all subcontinentals, this is a highly touchy subject and once again, I can hear my father roar with rage. If my mother’s cousin were not such an old boy who knows no better, there would have been a sharp telephone call demanding a cease and resist (sic), in other words, get your God-damned facts right.

He was born in undivided India or British India. West and East Pakistan were delineated just after Independence on the 15th August 1947 to separate the Muslims from the Hindus. Pa was actually born in West Bengal which was, and remains today, in India. It was East Bengal that became East Pakistan where my father’s family moved before partition. As they were Muslims, that is where they remained and that is why Pa was offered the Secretary to the High Commissioner’s position of Pakistan and not India. The bloody genocide in 1971 that occurred when East Pakistan achieved liberation from West Pakistan claimed 3 million East Pakistani lives, and this was the impetus for George Harrison to give the first ever rock concert for charity with his Concert for Bangladesh. My first cousin was a passionate freed0m-fighter at the age of 16 and escaped beheading four times.

I remember Pa was asked to write the national anthem for the newly-emerged Bangladesh republic, battered and bruised with exhaustion, but exhilarated by such dramatic victory into liberation. To choose him for such a task can only have been out of great respect for the self-made Bengali orphan who wore Savile Row suits and drove a Mercedes, because he was musically tone deaf. The memory of his obsessive droning onto his tape-recorder and banging the replay button for hours on end has me weeping with apoplectic laughter at the memory. Clearly, the new republic must have dropped the idea and handed it to a local musician because that project died a quiet death.

So, you ask, “How does it feel when anger arises today?” Consider this: when an animal perceives a threat it rises to the challenge. I watched 3 geese last week having a mother-of-all set-to around a female. Two ganders and goose. It was unbelievable to witness – a blazing fight ensued with tremendous verbal backbiting and murderous flapping of wings, invasion of territory and chasing to the bloody death  – something I seem to have described earlier. This went on for 15 minutes, deposing the goose from her nest as she visibly decided the boys were getting rough, and then joined in the fracas with the equivalent of a large avian rolling-pin. I was mesmerised.

When anger arises with me today, my entire body becomes warm and there is a sensation of reaction to a threat. The threat is a  thought, of course, not an invading goose. There is nothing to grip onto this sensation of threat as it will rise and fall back into consciousness as the energy representing the thought dissipates back into the field of awareness, as it did with the two ganders when they finally settled down. Forgotten.

This is entirely different when there is the illusion of a separate self – we battle, figure-out revenge, strategically plan what to say or do; the intellect will launch into some great story to protect itself and the machinations of mind will move into overdrive. None of this happens in the free state – that which controls the mind is gone – provocations are dealt with without a governing body. It is  bodily or physiological reaction NOT governed by the mind. I suppose, we have to say, there is an entire absence of complexity. It is as simple as that.

Tagore, the great Bengali poet and writer, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 and whose books I have in my library, wrote the following:

“And when my work shall be done in this world,
O King of kings, alone and speechless
shall I stand before thee face to face.”

I have this engraved on my father’s headstone, and this afternoon I shall pay a visit with a beautiful bouquet and have a quiet word about Bangladesh and subcontinental history. I may even him sing a little song. He is 96 today.

With love,

Selima

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