In The Hindu

Author Roopinder Singh

A song for the times

Published in THE HINDU

LEADING JOURNALIST Roopinder Singh’s “Guru Nanak – His Life and Teachings” published by Rupa makes one wonder why we don’t, as a people, focus on Nanak’s teachings and his simple words of great wisdom. It would seem these days Nanak’s words are a much needed therapy that could hold us together. For his teachings are direct. They talk of the human being, respect for the woman, doing away of rituals and focus on the uncomplicated and basic. The writer has written all this and much more in a clear and precise way. Each chapter deals with a special aspect. There is an entire chapter on women. It is remarkable that even in that century Nanak spoke in such strong terms for women. As Roopinder writes, “He attacked the very notion of women being inferior because of physiological differences. He took the notion of equality of women far beyond what had been done before him … .”

This segment on women is a must-read for those crying hoarse for women’s liberation in this century, for Nanak’s vision was far and beyond that. Then there are chapters on Nanak’s journeys, his message, his outreach, his great vision, his philosophy, his words – “There is no Hindu / No Mussalman / All are creatures /of God and / His creation.”

This book cites plenty of instances where Nanak had the courage to expose the shallowness attached to rituals. “At Hardwar, Guru Nanak saw pilgrims who were ritualistically offering water to the East so that it would reach their ancestors in heaven. Seeing this age-old Hindu custom, Guru Nanak started offering water to the West. When asked what was he doing, he said he was sending water to his fields, a few hundred kilometres away. If the water they offered could reach the heavens, why could it not reach fields, he asked.”

There’s this one too: “At Mecca Guru Nanak lay down to rest. He fell asleep and at some point
his feet happened to point in the direction of the Kaaba. A qazi admonished Guru Nanak: `Who is this sleeping infidel? Why have you, O sinner, turned your feet towards God ?’ he said. To this Guru Nanak retorted – `Turn my feet in the direction where God may not be.'”

The author starts the book with this line: “Any reader who picks up a copy of this book is entitled to ask – Why another book on Guru Nanak?”

It’s a simple question with an equally uncomplicated answer, in the form of this book.