Sunday, December 31, 2017

Simple Living.... Honored

Simple Thinking-Simple Living has been selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 100 Simple Living Blogs on the web.

"I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Simple Thinking-Simple Living has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 100 Simple Living Blogs on the web.

I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 100 Simple Living Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!"

Anuj Agarwal
Founder Feedspot

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Riding The Tide

Poetry Book Review
bookThey say every cloud does have a silver lining. It is natural. It appears along darkest of passing clouds.
But Vancouver-based poet laureate Ashok Bhargava himself created that silver-lining by putting together his latest poetry while he braved through his fight against cancerous clouds hanging over his body and mind.
Riding The Tide” is his latest anthology, which was penned in between the painful and exhausting regimes of chemotherapy. In contemplative moods, thoughts were his genial companions and words were his ardent tools.
In his dreadful ordeal, Ashok survived the big C with often porous layers of infinite positivity. He promised himself to survive.
The victorious hero came out with the bouquet of his poetry as words, plenty of them, falling into their place in natural and divine order.
“…….showering of words
 Pour down
 I am drenched.
“Swaying the elation
 I forget the difference
 Between pain and healing
 Between light and dark
 Between faith and doubts
Between promises our bodies make
And the ones they keep.
During the lonely and dragging moments he spent in this tormented interlude of his life, Ashok sought and found that darkness has a light too. And that makes the “Riding the Tide” an inspiring and optimistic read with an abundance of hope.
“….Even waves lift me up
 When I am about to drown.”
-By Promod Puri

Monday, November 27, 2017


The personified God is worshipped as the centralized controlling authority influencing every moment of our lives. Moreover, the symbolic undertaking of God creates the fear factor that He is a punishing Being if not believed in His existence. This fear is one reason for His adoration and ceremonial development.

One can experience His eternal spirit through principled and righteous living, but not in His ritualistic perseverance. Morality does not descend just by believing in His existential image, but it does by knowing Him.
Merely believing that God exists is a ritual.
It is a practice based on our mindset image of His embodiment up there and everywhere. When we form an image of Him, then God gets personified. In this dominant perspective, most people believe in His existence. This devotion does not lead to His real study. The buzzword does not establish a logical understanding about Him or Her. Instead the image and ritual-based god is acknowledged without keen awareness.
And when this stereotyped expression of His existence gets invoked then the devotee does not go beyond that commitment, he or she mistakenly believes and asserts to be a “religious person.”
The formal acceptance of God only signifies His residential existence.
But God does not exist only. Instead, He is a functional institution through which His actuality can be better assessed. In His practical perception, God’s presence is more meaningful, offering rational and pragmatic awareness of Him.
The personified God is worshipped as the centralized controlling authority influencing every moment of our lives. Moreover, the symbolic undertaking of God creates the fear factor that He is a punishing Being if not believed in His existence. This fear is one reason for His adoration and ceremonial development.
The idolization and ceremonial culture motivate the buildup of rituals and customs which restrict God’s correct image and discernment. His personification causes the existential ritual.
But God is not a ritual.
Contrary to our psychic conviction, rituality is not imperative to religiosity.
One can experience His eternal spirit through principled and righteous living, but not in His ritualistic perseverance. Morality does not descend just by believing in His existential image, but it does by knowing Him.

The pathway to His residency through the maze of rituals, customs, and traditions is a wrong route where atheists get lost and disillusioned. The disappointment is perhaps their dominant logic to reject His existence altogether.
Those who are atheists are not born atheists. And those who believe in God are not inborn believers either. It is the ritual of the belief that He exists along with many other ingenerated customs and traditions which constitute the conviction and inference of His existence. Many of the rituals which are meaningless, vague, and disconnected are the basis of His non-existence for atheists.
However, for believers, existentialism does not institute the syllabus to study God which involves both rational and empirical approach as far as human faculty can go. It is a spiritual navigation to access and sense the reality of His vast world. It is here the dynamics of God resides which can be realized rather than instinctively or impulsively confirming that He exists.
In this age when there is an explosion of knowledge, and people seek rationality in any given thought, critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning make the right approach to revisit our mindset image of God. At the same time, we must admit to the fact that the human mind has a limitation in seeking truth beyond empirical evidence and rational ideations.
To revisit our mindset conception of God and to comprehend His existence, two perspectives can be acknowledged and studied. This binary aspect of God can offer reasonable cause, message, and the totality of His Being in this universe and beyond. In fact, the combination of these two approaches has the potential in logically revealing His existence and realization.
In this call, one approach is of astronomical nature of His universal and celestial existence beyond our observable scientific capabilities. And the second interest deals with the practicality of His spiritual presence along with our relationship with plants, animals, and our environment. In simple words, one aspect of God is Noun, and the other one is Verb.
God is a Noun, and that means He is an Entity which can be discerned thru His creations in this universe and rest of the macrocosm as far as our scientific advancements can take us, and our intellective imaginations can envision.
God’s true nature is beyond His relationship with humans, plants, or animals.  He is equally tied up with all His creations including stones, rocks, dust, water, air, light and other seen and unseen, known and unknown objects.
It is from this perspective that an overview of His astronomical creations both in the celestial world and in the tiniest of atoms is supportive in the study of God.
In a recent article in the academic online publication, The Conversation, Prof. Emily Thomas of Durham University, reveals that our “universe contains at least two trillion galaxies,” and that “the observable universe, the part of it we can see, is around 93 billion light-years across. The whole universe is at least 250 times as large as the observable universe”. Further, he says “our planet is 150m kilometers away from the sun. Earth’s nearest stars, the Alpha Centauri system, are four light years away (that’s around 40 trillion kilometers). Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains anywhere from 100 to 400 billion stars. The observable universe contains around 300 sextillion stars.”
These astronomical numbers in billions and trillions, supported by scientific configurations, merely suggest the unlimited vastness of God’s kingdom containing everything real and imaginable beyond stars, galaxies, and universes.
As we move down from the expanse of the celestial scene of His creations to the smallest sub-atomic field, we find the infrastructure, nature, and behavior of elementary particles which are the building blocks of the universe. Quantum theory deals with the contents and environment in this realm.
The question is: how we can perceive God’s existence in the spatial worlds as well as in the tiniest of atoms. Prof. Thomas admits in his article “the divine is, after all, mysterious.”
While the human quest is exploring His mysteries, the ontology of His existence needs to be expanded on rationally-based knowledge and astute imagination rather than as a cliché of His presence along with the tagged fear factor, miracles, and ceremonial gratitude.
His known or unknown, visible, or non-visible creations in this universe and the celestial worlds, are not enough in our knowledge-based search to accept His existence as an Entity. There is more than what we see, observe, perceive, and discern both thru empiricism and rationalism.
Behind the physical reality, there also is the psychic, metaphysical, and spiritual truth of His creations which completes His ontological profile.
The study we are undertaking gets us a comprehensive understanding of God as an Entity beyond the Noun creations of human beings, plants and animals, rivers and mountains, rocks, stones and dust, air and water, and everything else.
We are exploring God which may lead us to new frontiers, new explanations, and new definitions besides the astronomic, astrophysics and quantum probes confirming the complexities of His creations which are unlimited.
In this evolutionary study, the scientifically acclaimed Big Bang theory needs to be revisited to ascertain what happened before, and seconds after this explosive phenomenon. What caused that explosion, and who caused it to happen. Was there any numinous force managing the cause and the after-cause when things settled down to their respective shapes and positions.
Besides investigating the Big Bang theory, the role of philosophy and metaphysics is vital in this learning to add and review of our understanding of God which after all is man’s greatest asset since His realization.
In fact, when all the available sciences and faculties, not just astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, philosophy, and metaphysics, are put together, the Entity of God emerges through the challenging and scientific environment as an explicit Reality. In the fusion of metaphysical and scientific thought, we can discern the true nature of His Being for creditable acceptance.
In the faculty of divine learning, the knowledge explored and gained establishes the existence of God more in tune with the logical behavior of the educated and informed contemporary society. Here the God’s status changes from His personified image to a comprehended believability as a functional Head conducting the affairs of His universes.
We human beings believe those are the only living creatures who breathe, move, have some sound, can think and express feelings. The rest, rocks, stones, air, water, etc., we assume, are dead objects. And the space we and all the contents of the universe occupy, without which everything would appear clustered together, is not recognized as an entity.
Scientifically speaking, everything which exists, including “dead” objects are alive if we go into their microscopic depths. In the breakdown of the atom, its sub-parts are always in moving mode. The Superstring theory of Quantum Reality reveals that at the sub-atomic levels matter exists in small strings. In simple words, everything at its final microscopic grade is made up of tiny vibrating strands like in a musical instrument of the violin.
These strings have repeated oscillatory pattern of vibration. Each model presents the string its mass and force, and that confers it the appearance of a particle. And when the components of a particle are vibrant and produce sound, “dead” objects are not dead, but alive.
What is that energy which keeps the sub-atomic particles moving, the earth and many other planets spinning, and keep everything alive in one form or the other? Known physicist Stephen Hawkins says: “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”
The answers we seek in the “science of God” as Hawkins puts it, can reveal as well as change our whole concept and perception of God which can be more acceptable in our questioning society.
And once we start getting more answers we can realize that the concept of God moves from His residential existence to more logical and practical setting. Besides, this is where our second approach of God as a Verb appears, and which is the functional concept of Him in every moment of our lives.
When we say God is a Verb, our numinous gear shifts mentally and physically into action, initiated and inspired by Noun God. Here the existence of God can be realized not through sciences and philosophies, but only through moral actions.
Being a Verb and a Noun is a two-faced concept when God becomes action, and action becomes God. The famous statue of dancing Nataraj installed at the Centre for Research in Particle Physics, CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research), in Geneva, signifies the transcendental unifying entity of the dancer and the dance, or the Performer and the Performance.
In action lies the vibe of God. His feel, His recognition are the results of actions which we undertake. In this environment, our mindset actuality of God changes from image-based to action-based.
In action-based reality of God, the keyword is righteousness. And the latter is the place which transforms itself into the existence of His Being. In this context, He is not a physical entity, but He is there in the ambiance of the righteous performance of the act.
Here we are renouncing the residency of God from rituals and customs, and the structural places guarded, controlled and managed by the priest class since antiquity. Instead, His existence is caused by our pious and meditative actions where He resides.
And once we explore and practice God, meaning righteousness, in our logical thoughts and actions, the experience syncs well with the contemporary society seeking rationality and common sense while rejecting baseless and irrational rituals, miracles and fears.
In this prudent direction, our karmas play the crucial role in creating the environment where God is involved in His guiding role. We are seeking the Karma-based God through our righteous or spiritual thoughts and deeds. And when we are in that environment, we are like the Nataraj dancer where Karma is God, and God is Karma.
Karma is a very simple philosophy. It basically means action, deed, or work. It is an act of doing something.  But it is not fate. The latter is the product of Karma. Consciousness and karma together find a meaningful relationship in realizing the concept of God in His action-based reality.
In our ongoing study about the existence of God in rational and practical environments, including all of His visible and invisible, known and known creations across all the universes, as well as our righteous thoughts, imaginations and actions, the very realization of His presence is a prayer in itself. And this the invocation and worship of God which can find ready acceptance in the contemporary logic-based civic society we live in.
Related articles by the author:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


November 21, 2017

By Promod Puri
I don’t know if she belongs to the class of housemaid, aka “bai”. If so, then her status could be upgraded in India’s class and caste society.
She had a regular assignment at our home around 11 every morning and finishing her limited but reserved task in 15 to 20 minutes. It was the most needed part of daily cleaning.
She was a Christian Punjabi-speaking girl in her teen years. Most kids in her age group were in schools at that time studying and playing. But here she was punctual in her daily routine seven days a week.
Besides our house, she was duty-bound attending few other households in the neighborhood.
I remember when coming to our place she was often provided “breakfast”, which most of the times was some leftover food. She had a designated cup and a plate set aside for her exclusive use.
Her monthly income if I remember correctly, was about 50 rupees back in early ‘60s. And she often asked for raise. Her requests were quite legitimate when comparing the nature of her work with maids doing household chores including washing dirty dishes.
As her work was considered “contaminated” she was not supposed to enter kitchen or other rooms as a maid helper.
By nature, she usually was a quiet person with innocent lively expressions. But there occasionally were some disquiet and afflicted rebellious moods as well.
She was from the class of people from the lowest ring of the Indian caste system who converted themselves as Christians from the Hindu faith. Their “Basti” or settlement constituted a segregated community which was a few miles away from our neighborhood.
The place was called Bhangi Colony. And she belonged to the Bhangi caste. Her professional title was “Bhangan” doing the dirty occupation of “manual scavenging”. According to the Wikipedia “manual scavenging is a caste-based occupation involving the removal of human excreta from bucket toilets or pit latrines.
A few years back the profession by law was declared illegal.
However, the rebellion she felt in her teen years is still there among the people of her clan or community against the dehumanizing practices rooted in the social customs of India.
I don’t know if our “Bhangan” is still around. But the profession she was involved continues. And her upgrading for equality is still pending in India’s degrading social behavior which often defies the laws.
(The article above carries some fiction)
Promod Puri is a writer and author of “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions”. Read more of his articles in and

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Seeking Evolution In Religions

Rituals, customs, and traditions provide bulk and mostly false identity to a religion. If these are detached from all the religions, then we can see fundamentals of moral and righteous teachings are the same in each of them.
Pathways to divinity are infused with words of morality and ethics, principles, and noble deeds. Many meaningless and vague rituals and customs, while being overly dominating in the institution of religion, create potholes in these pathways. And followers of religions are often get holed up in the potholes.
From the mass availability of knowledge and independent learning thru Internet, Google, and other media, critical thinking can be gathered to review each of these ritualistic values in our individual religious orders. In this debut exercise, one can see the oneness of our religions in their philosophies and messages.
This could be a spiritually enlightened movement at the personal level which may catch up and impact the institutional practices. What we are seeking is a  logical objective which can get us to the sameness of all the world religions, but still with linguistically and culturally diverse names, like those of God.

Friday, November 3, 2017


Now that Halloween is over, I would say that the most abused and wasted vegetable of the season is the most gigantic and nutritive pumpkin. Left out in the chill of autumn nights, most pumpkins rot, and finally dumped. Is that his or her karma carved by custom and tradition.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Whereas rituals, customs and traditions furnish symbolic and distinctive identity to a religion, the pathways to divinity which are paved with morals and ethics, are often debased by its despicable ceremonial rites and practices.
It is in this context that the contemporary and progressive political ideologies disdain religion. Its nature is customarily interpreted thru inherent ritualistic practices rather than its doctrines of ethics and noble thoughts. Read more in my essay on this issue.
-Promod Puri

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Whereas, Rohingya Muslims refugees from Myanmar, over half a million in number, are battling terror, exhaustion, and hunger in Bangladesh, here in Canada Muslim-right women, with the support of so-called anti-racist progressive activists, and vote-hungry opportunist politicians, are battling to save their right to wear burqa and niqab as against the upcoming ban in Quebec.
 Humanism demands that women combating to retain their burqas and niqabs to protect their social or religious traditions and cultural identities, should move their curtains and look at the crisis and sufferings faced by fellow Muslims who are being kicked out from their homeland by Buddhist-dominated Myanmar government as part of its ethnic cleansing drive.
Promod Puri

Monday, October 23, 2017

Hinduism Thrives In Its Open Structure


Hinduism is a wide-open structure. It is an abode where believers in God, atheists, and ethicists can comfortably reside together and share their knowledge, beliefs, and experiences for the betterment of humanity and its environments.
Hinduism evolves by itself in its conflicting, contradicting, and controversial framework. In its spacious design and architecture, Hinduism is open for questioning, debate, and discussion
Hinduism has never been run by any centralized religious authority. As such it has evolved its own flexible, resilient, and even firm dynamics along with rationales, metaphysical and mystical beliefs which are not binding.
From rituals to idol worship, mantra and metaphysics, karma, and moksha, to meditation and yoga, and all its recreational aspects like music, dance, and drama, Hinduism is disciplinary as well as a comprehensive experience of spiritual development in liberal and progressive regime.
Hinduism is not merely “a way of life”, but much more than that.
(Read more about Hinduism in “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions”).

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Dear Hon. Prime Minister Trudeau:
In celebration of the popular Indian festival of lights, I also wish you, Diwali Mubarak.
Your selection of Diwali Mubarak expression in your tweet is my choice as well.
I noticed that some people tweeted and objected to your use of the word ‘Mubarak’, asserting that it is not a Hindu expression, but a Muslim one as being Arabic in its origin. Please ignore these scant individuals.
Diwali is not only the festival of Hindus but Sikhs also. And ‘Mubarak’, meaning congratulations, is the most common word by the people, including Punjabis, from the northern part of India. Other expressions of Diwali greetings are in pure Hindi language, whereas Mubarak is the word of choice in Hindusthani which is the language of the common folks.
‘Mubarak’ is a secular word which fits very well with the liberal philosophies of Hinduism and Sikhism.
In that spirit of being secular and progressive, your participation in Diwali celebrations is indeed an honor for all us in the Indo-Canadian communities. You represent the true nature of Canada’s multicultural society.
By the way, Mr. Trudeau I like your ‘sherwani’ dress which you put on at the Diwali celebration event in Ottawa early this week.
Best wishes, and once again Diwali Mubarak.
Promod Puri

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


One of my Facebook friends’ last name is Jammu. It intrigues me little as that is the name of the city in the state of Jammu and Kashmir known for its beauty as well as the still unresolved Kashmir Problem”.
My FB friend, in fact, belongs to Patiala in Punjab, and now he seems to be settled in Canada. In his introduction, he told me he had never been to Jammu, the city to which I belong. In our brief communication, he said the family name Jammu is very rare among the numerous last names in the Sikh community.
An interesting fact he disclosed me that one of Punjab’s great martyrs Sardar Udham Singh’s family name was also Jammu, but he did not carry it as part of the dictum by Guru Gobind Singh to use only Singh as last name.
My quest is how the few Sikh families acquired their last name Jammu!
Perhaps their ancestors had roots in Jammu. Or someone in the ancestral lineage was inspired by the valor of the Dogra community dominating the Jammu region, that Jammu was acquired as part of their last name to identify with the Punjabi spirit of courage to fight against slavery and injustice.
Udham Singh was among those India’s independence movement revolutionary heroes who sacrificed their lives to seek justice and freedom. He avenged the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy by assassinating Lt. governor of Punjab Michael O’Dwyer who supported the massacre in 1919 under the command of General Reginald Dyer. He shot dead O’Dwyer in 1940 in a London hall where the governor was about to address two Indian associations.
The great martyr Udham Singh was charged with “murder”, and sentenced to death. These are his final words at the trial:
“I did it because I had a grudge against him. He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For full 21 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. I have seen my people starving in India under the British rule. I have protested, against this, it was my duty. What a greater honor could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland”. Source: Wikipedia
Well, while having some nostalgic feelings about the city of my childhood, I salute the revolutionary spirit of Shaheed Udham Singh “Jammu”.
(Read Promod Puri’s articles and essays on a range of subjects in his websites: and

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


By Promod Puri
All our thoughts and actions are influenced and regulated by the consciousness of the landscape of reality around us. In this landscape one makes a selection of his or her own space in life’s play field.
And the game starts. It is a collective game, a team game. There is no absolute independence. Our individual likes and dislikes, thoughts and behaviors, actions and reactions, morals and rules, all are parts of the game. Social and environmental structures around us are the team’s norms shaping and steering the game.
Stamina, discipline and coordination in these environments help in scoring our goals. Individual performance determines the scale of awards. Based on our skills, hard work and a bit of luck some collect millions while others make less in this life’s game of soccer.
Environments seldom offer a level play. Speeding race toward the goal is unexpectedly blocked.  We are tripped by those who get yellow and red cards. We fall and are bruised. We get up and join the bout again. New strategies kick in. Still challenges are a constant. We keep on running toward the goal while being pushed back and forth. And the participation goes on.
The Referee blows the final whistle. And the game is over.


In our civilised and progressive world, the call of humanity seeks re-evaluating each of our religions, rituals, customs, traditions, social and political institutions, including Left and Right isms, which impart values and behaviours impacting our environments.
This resolution is part of the evolution and management of civil society we live in. Evolution of civilisation is natural as well as essential for rational and intelligent creation of environments which influence our thoughts. Read more: Thoughts On Thought

Sunday, August 20, 2017


by Ramchandra Guha
(The Telegraph, August 19,2017)19edittop4
Balraj Puri (1928-2014)
I have been thinking a great deal recently about the difference between patriotism and jingoism. The provocation – or inspiration rather – was a visit to Jammu to speak in memory of Balraj Puri – writer, social reformer and political activist – who embodied Indian democracy at its best.
There are a great many hyper-patriots active in India today who spend their days and nights abusing either Pakistan or China, and, sometimes, both. Balraj Puri expressed his love for his country in an altogether different manner. Over the course of a long life, he fought for independence from the British, for freedom from the autocratic rule of the Kashmir maharaja, for the human rights of Kashmiris and for regional autonomy for Jammu and Ladakh as well.
Balraj Puri’s life as an Indian patriot started early, at the age of fourteen, when he started an Urdu weekly inspired by the Quit India movement. He was an active journalist for many decades thereafter, and also wrote many books in English, among them an important study of Indian Muslims, an analysis of the complicated relations between Jammu province and the Kashmir Valley, and an authoritative analysis of the origins of the insurgency in Kashmir.
Balraj Puri was admired for his writings, and for his probity and personal courage. In the 1980s and 1990s, Jammu was prone to bouts of communal violence, provoked on the one side by Hindu militants of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and on the other by the persecution of the Pandits by Islamists in the Valley. Contemporaries carry vivid memories of Puri, then well into his sixties, moving around his home town on a battered old scooter, seeking to calm tempers and prevent anger being converted into violence.
In a state riven by suspicion and discord, Balraj Puri was trusted in all regions and by all communities. When he died in August 2014, one obituarist wrote that “Jammu has lost the champion of its regional identity, Kashmir has lost a crusader for democracy and human rights, the State as a whole has lost a peace activist, and the nation has lost a liberal and progressive voice.” Another compared Puri to India’s second prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri; both men whose small and slight frame “concealed a human dynamo with boundless energy for all constructive causes…”
A large crowd of mourners accompanied Balraj Puri’s body to the crematorium in Jammu. Among them was an elderly man crying loudly while muttering, ‘This person was not up for sale,’ ‘This person was not up for sale.’ Puri’s family and friends had never before seen this grieving Jammu-ite, whose spontaneous tribute was as moving, and as just, as any offered later in print.
Within Jammu and Kashmir, Balraj Puri remains a greatly respected figure. However, outside his home state, his work remains less known than it should be. That is a pity. For now, more than ever, India needs patriots like Balraj Puri. It needs men and women whose patriotism is expressed not in the continuous vilification of some other country, but in words and actions aimed at making our own country more tolerant, more prosperous, less unhappy, and less conflict-ridden. For perhaps the most important form of patriotism is that which seeks to give dignity to oppressed groups such as Dalits and women while simultaneously seeking to promote tolerance and mutual respect among citizens otherwise divided by language, caste or religion.
Unlike the hyper-ventilating hyper-patriots of the present time, Balraj Puri was not consumed by the desire to make India more powerful than its neighbours. Rather, he wanted to make India itself a better and safer place for its citizens. That was the first lesson of Puri’s life. A second lesson is that there is no one singular patriotism; rather, there are multiple and overlapping forms of patriotism.
There is a famous saying, ‘Charity begins at home.’ Patriotism also begins at home. Balraj Puri loved his town and his district, but he loved his state and his country too. He was a Jammu city patriot, a Jammu province patriot, a Jammu and Kashmir patriot and an Indian patriot – all at the same time. He demonstrated by example that love for your locality and for your province could be perfectly consistent with love for your country.
Notably, Balraj Puri devoted a great deal of energy to promoting peace and self-respect in the neighbouring state of Punjab. Among the half-a-dozen languages he himself spoke fluently was Punjabi. He urged the Hindus of Punjab to honour the mother tongue they shared with the Sikhs, rather than succumb to sangh parivar chauvinists who wanted them to promote Hindi instead. At the same time, he unequivocally opposed Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his band of gun-toting Sikh extremists. He was one of the first from outside the state to visit Punjab after Operation Bluestar, speaking out against violence and in favour of reconciliation.
Some would like to reduce patriotism to the worshipping of symbols. However, offering puja to the tiranga jhanda ten times a day may or may not make you a better patriot. A more lasting, more constructive, form of patriotism is to endeavour to make your locality, your town, your district, your province and country a more tolerant, inclusive and democratic place.
Balraj Puri’s own patriotism was substantive rather than symbolic. He did not exhibit his love for the motherland by shouting ‘ Mera Bharat Mahan‘ every now and then, interspersing this with shouts of ‘Pakistan murdabad’. Rather, in how he behaved, what he wrote, and what he struggled about, he tried to make our country more worthy of the ideals of the Indian Constitution by promoting respect, honour, dignity, equality and justice in everyday life.
Balraj Puri was admirable and exemplary, but not, of course, unique. There are many such patriots active in our land, who promote the values of the Constitution while working in village, town, district, state or country. Some of these patriots are written about occasionally in the press. Others remain unknown. Not that they mind. For publicity, or at least an excess of it, can be antithetical to true patriotism and nation-building. The more you crave publicity, the less time you can actually devote to social reform or constructive work.
Balraj Puri was a patriot, not a jingoist. Making his own country a better place was far more important to him than demonizing other countries. He recognized that patriotism begins at home, with the place one is in, yet also understood that one must have a wider view of how one’s locality related to one’s state and one’s nation. In presenting his views, he never resorted to violence, not even to violence in language. And he worked out of passion and conviction, not for honour or reward.
There is one last aspect of Balraj Puri’s life that I would like to recall. Seventy years after Independence, India remains a deeply divided society, this divisiveness stoked and encouraged by power-obsessed politicians and by a TRP-obsessed media. In this atmosphere, one of the hardest jobs in India is reconciliation. But also perhaps one of the most necessary. For India can stay united and democratic only when respect and recognition replace suspicion and animosity in relations among castes, regions, languages and religions. This reconciliation is what Balraj Puri strove for all his life, admirably following in the footsteps of that other great patriot and reconciler, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.