The official business of recalling Guru Nanak in Britain this year ended at the grandly picked Guildhall in London. The Nanak name certainly came to London in ways not seen before. It was flashed across the facade of Stratford shopping centre in east London. A Guru Nanak chair was launched at Birmingham University; Hans Raj Hans turned up to sing at another event in Birmingham later. The list of Nanak events is a long one, hosted both officially and by those angry with the official. Was all this the way Nanak would have liked to be remembered? Who’re we to say, but going by what we know of Nanak’s life and the thoughts he expressed, the confessedly speculative question is at the least worth an ask.
Nanak appeared, in name, more feted than followed. The Nanak sound-bytes delivered plentifully had some keywords missing. Take two: Music, and the Environment. If you can allow a moment of personal indulgence, sitting through many of these events reminded me of a few evenings spent with Dr Gopal Singh Puri at his home in Liverpool hearing him speak on the Guru Granth Sahib. Perhaps it was because he was a professor of botany, but he believed the entire holy book could be read at one level as a work on the environment. And I recalled conversations between my mother who taught history at Delhi University and her friend Dr Mohinder Kaur Gill, who was principal of Mata Sundri College and who specialised in Gurbani. They had much to say, but none mentioned a need to go to Kartrapur to get it right by Nanak.
Music and the environment, they all agreed, come together in the Granth Sahib. That coming together is at the heart of the Granth Sahib call to create inner harmony that is in harmony with music and nature. I do suspect the fine gentleman in Liverpool, and the two gentle ladies in Delhi were closer to Nanak than managers of the flashy spectacles around Nanak we’ve had this year. Unless all that was meant to remind us loudly that we ought to remember Nanak more.
The 551st year since the birth of Nanak would seem to offer a far better chance of remembering Nanak as we ought to. It’s an auspicious number for a start that we failed to make this year. And, it should be easier for the taxpayer. For now, the calendar has turned, the budget is exhausted, The Great Nanak Show is over. About time now for thought for Nanak Himself.
No Parting From the Partition
An odd case that came to a close in London this week reminds us just how close we live to the fallout of the Partition. Back in 1948 a Nizam of Hyderabad still undecided between joining India or Pakistan deposited a million pounds (plus a guinea) in a London bank with the Pakistani high commissioner appointed safe keeper. The Nizam later opted for India but Pakistan kept the money. The Nizam could not touch the money for decades because Pakistan claimed diplomatic immunity. In a curious self-goal, Pakistan gave up that immunity in 2013, opening the doors of London courts for a move for the Nizam’s descendants and the Indian government, acting together, to get that money back.
That order came in October and was topped this week by an award of costs to the Nizam and to the Indian government for legal fees paid over fighting the case. Pakistan’s costs will add up to upwards of five million pounds that will include a fee of close to 400,000 pounds to Natwest Bank for holding on to that wealth all these years. That’s enough fee to be paid to persuade Pakistan not to add to that bill by contesting the order. All this besides losing out on that one million pounds of 1948 that’s turned into 35 million today. A tidy sum for the Old Nawab’s present descendants, their "exalted highnesses" Prince Mukarram Jah and his brother Muffakham to inherit a substantial portion of (the rest goes to the Indian government).
Why did Pakistan surrender the diplomatic immunity that kept that wealth in its hands? The move has lawyers baffled. One suggestion is that Pakistan wanted its hands on the money, rather than just have the money in its hands. It has now washed its hands of it and paid to do so.
London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which gives a peek at business-as-unusual from London and around. Read his columns