Page 352. " ‘on the day the Chinese armies came down over the Himalayas to humiliate the Indian fauj’ "

The Hindi word fauj means army, or forces. It is also the name given to the Indian National Army, which is called the Azad Hind Fauj.

From 1951 the People’s Republic of China, itself a relatively new nation having been founded in 1949, entered into a dispute with India over occupation of the region of Tibet (Xizang).

 

 

 

After much mounting tension the Tibetan Revolt occurred in the capital Lhasa in 1959, during which the 14th Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan refugees were granted asylum by India. This resulted in a number of military incidences between The  People’s Liberation Army and the Indian fauj at the Aksai Chin Himalayan border and eventually led to the Sino-Indian war of 1962.

The now declassified official CIA report on the Sino-Indian conflict.

Page 353. " ‘Brahmins began to feel uneasy at permitting even their thoughts to touch the thoughts of untouchables’ "

A Brahmin is considered the highest of the four varnas or classes in the traditional Hindu caste system, a form of social stratification in which residents were defined by their social status.

Traditionally, the full four varnas are:

  • Brahmins- Scholars, teachers and priests
  • Kshatriyas - Soldiers and warriors
  • Vaishyas - Agricultural workers and merchants
  • Shudras - Service providers and artisans

The Harijans or Untouchables formed a fifth group, who were not allowed to interact with those of a higher caste. This group was largely made up of those outside of the social structure, such as nomadic, tribal people and Candala, those who had to deal with the disposable of the dead.

According to traditional scholars, groups of lower-caste individuals could seek to elevate the status of their caste by attempting to emulate the practices of higher castes.

While a contemporary version of the caste system still exists in India it has been largely criticised by a number of different scholars and organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Patriotic Society), as a form of racial discrimination.  In 2001 a United Nations conference against racism attempted to pass a resolution declaring the caste system an oppressive form of apartheid – although no formal bill was ever passed.

Page 359. " ‘Once upon a time there were Radha and Krishna, and Rama and Sita, and Laila and Majnu and also Romeo and Juliet’ "

Krishna is the supreme Deity in the Hindu faith (see bookmark page 137). Radha, a gopi, or goat-herd girl, appears in the sacred script the Bhagavad Gita alongside Krishna as his supreme beloved. She is also acknowledged as the Supreme Goddess, for her ability to control Krishna with her love.

 

Rama and Sita are also principal characters in the Hindu faith, whose marriage is recounted in the epic religious text Ramayana. During their marriage Sita is kidnapped by Ravana the demon king and held hostage on his island, Lanka. Her husband, Lord Rama, searches for her, eventually engaging in battle in order to rescue her. Following the battle, the people of the kingdom lit their path home with rows of oil lamps, to celebrate their return after 14 years in exile. This legend is now one of the reasons for the celebrations of the five day Hindu festival of Diwali, popularly known as the "festival of lights".

 

Laila and Majnu, are a couple in an classical Arabic and Urdu folk tale based on the life of Qays ibn al-Mulawwah ibn Muzahim, a Bedouin poet. After meeting Laila Muzahim falls passionatly in love with her, only to be driven mad when her father refuses to allow them to marry. From then on he came to be known as Majnu, meaning ‘madman’.

 

Poetry attributed to Muzahim on his love Laila, includes the verse:

“I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla

And I kiss this wall and that wall

It’s not love of the houses that has taken my heart

But of the One who dwells in those houses”