A lively discussion in these corona times

Jatinder Sethi

Jatinder Sethi was born in Lyallpur, now Faisalabad, in pre-Independence India. He finished his M.A. (English) from Delhi University in 1956, and went off to London to study Advertising in 1958. He passed his Membership Exam of The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (M.I.P.A) in1965, and joined Rallis India in Bombay. Later, for over 20 years, he worked for the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. Now retired, he helps his son in his ad agency in Delhi.


Dr. Joginder Singh Anand, an unholy person born in 1932 in the holy town of Nankana Sahib, central Punjab. A lawyer father, a doctor mother. Peripatetic childhood - almost gypsy style. Many schools. Many friends, ranging from a cobbler's son (poorly shod as the proverb goes) to a judge's son. MB from Glancy (now Government) Medical College Amritsar, 1958. Comet 4 to Heathrow, 1960.

Widower. Two children and their families keep an eye on him. He lives alone in a small house with a small garden. Very fat pigeons, occasional sparrows, finches green and gold drop in to the garden, pick a seed or two and fly away.


Dr. Gurvinder Khaneja was born in the current India to parents who migrated from Lyallpur, Pakistan. She is proud to have inherited their culture and values. She was 7th of the 8 children in the family.

Gurvinder did her schooling from St. Thomas Girls High School, Delhi and her graduation from Lady Irwin College before earning Masters in Psychology and M.Phil from Delhi University. Thereafter, she joined the “Center for Policy Research” at Delhi.

Gurvinder has since shifted base to USA. She did her doctorate from Columbia University in Educational Psychology with specialization in Measurement Evaluation and Statistics. Presently, Gurvinder is Director of Institutional Research at Ramapo College at New Jersey.

Gurvinder enjoys her free time with the family and 7 year old twin nephews and a dog. She loves to travel and is interested in painting, music and crafts like tatting and crocheting.


Subodh Mathur was born in Alwar, and educated in Jaipur, Delhi, and Cambridge, USA. He taught economics for one year at Rajasthan University, Jaipur. He has been an independent consultant since 1988, occasionally teaching economics. He lives with his wife, Anuradha Deolalikar in a suburb of Washington, D.C. In his spare time, he is an avid gardener, and the editor of www.indiaofthepast.org.


Editor's Note: What follows is a lively discussion in times of the coronavirus between Jatinder, Joginder, Gurvinder and Subodh, with Subhash as anchor.

Jatinder Sethi initiates a general enquiry from his friends and well wishers:
What news about Corona from your side?
We are already in for 21 days, No morning walks allowed by Mrs.Sethi.
Any suggestions how to utilize time, besides gardening.
I was thinking of not shaving for this locked-in period.Family objects.
Subodh, how is the book going?
Do keep in touch--from a distance of 3 meters at least
Good Luck every one

Joginder Anand:
Greetings, all.
Here am I in a country ruled by a buffoon called Boris.
His brother across the Atlantic trumps him in antics worthy of a circus clown.
I shall not mention the name of their blood brother in the East. 
I am fine so far. Locked in my house. My daughter brings me food. Leaves by the door. I pick it up and bring it in.
Today is the fourteenth day. 
But I know Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew spent years incarcerated in the Bay of Bengal in island prison.
India knew of him. Bharat? 
No. After all he was not a Hindoooo.
[we shall meet again]
Khuda Hafiz
Sat Sri Akaal

Subodh Mathur
We are lonely here but not in bad shape because internet allows worldwide connections. I am very busy with my writing my eBook. The weather has turned pleasant here, and there are flowers everywhere. So, a walk is fine. No ban on going out. Very few people on the road, so we are OK.

On the other hand, my daughter's wedding plans for March 27 in New York collapsed. So, they went ahead alone to the court on March 17 and got married. No one in attendance.
Our plans for a dinner at our home in early May are also cancelled. But, we are OK with all this - her wedding was a legal formality, and we can celebrate later. Food stores are now Ok as the people who hoarded a lot at the beginning are no longer coming to the shops.

And, at night we binge-watch Netflix and other such services. Three hours every day. Enough to keep us entertained.


Gurvinder Khaneja
Hi all,

It seems so odd to be home. It is like going on a speed of 180 and screeching to stop at 0. On one hand the body needed rest but the daily routine of work and socializing is gone. 

It gets a little boring as I have decided not to step out and this is end of 2nd week of me being home. Oh, yes on Sunday we went to the Gurdwara Sahib and it was so quiet. Just a few sewadars and maybe 1 or 2 people. Came back right away after bowing to god.

I decided to take music classes with my son starting this year. So, my last class was virtual and with Zoom and it worked out very well. Another hobby of mine - sketching is coming in handy. Never had time for those activities.Bottomline - I am trying to keep myself busy.

Although with kids at home and so much home work given to them, we have taken a lot of the teacher’s load. Not to say we are totally not working. Well technology still makes us work. Using Zoom and Webex I am still attending meetings even at the cabinet level. 

Hope this will be over soon and then as a human I will grumble - Ah! Miss those days at home  Let me be happy with today and live in today. 
Praying for everyone’s health. 

Joginder Anand consoles Gurvinder:
Best wishes Gurvinder Ji
It will pass. 1947 passed. Somehow.

Subodh Mathur comes into play:
Joginder ji,

Yes, it will pass. As did the Bengal famine of 1943. However, in the modern age, people no longer accept such disasters. Inmost countries, the government has promised acche din - good days, with some bad days. So, the political leaders, including in dictatorships, are looking to come up solutions. The response of the world has changed - that's the difference.

Joginder Anand thanks Subodh:
Thank you Subodh Ji
I remember the Bengal famine. I think I related to you my memories - even though I was 800miles away, in Campbellpur, South of Attock Fort.

(Campbellpur, by the way, was named after a Brig Campbell. He was a bastard in thetrue sense of the word. 

Joginder adds a few words about Attock and Campbellpur:

Attock District
The original name of Attock District was Attock. It was changed to Campbellpur after the Commander-in-Chief of British forces Sir Colin Campbell who rebuilt the city of Campbellpur. The name of the district was changed to Attock as of 1978 again. Attock city is the district headquarters.

In Campbellpur, there used to be a Govt High School. To get there we (my younger brother and I used to take a short cut from our house - a government bungalow within the curtilage of the Civil Hospital.)Down an escarpment. Crossing the dry sandy stony bed of a rivulet that filled with angry rushing water when it rained upstream and within minutesof the rain clearing, the stream was dry again. Our headmaster was Sardar Chanan Singh Gill. He was a Mona Sikh. One of his sons was my class mate and an older son was a flight cadet at RIAF Chaklala.

One day at school we heard a low flying fast rumble which ended in seconds. Minutes later we learnt that a plane had crashed in the forest nearby. It was Flight Cadet Gill. Dead.
The famine. There were gauntBengalee women with babes at their dried breasts; begging us children to take their babies and feed them.
Have you seen such sights?
But I am angry with him. He defeated one of my ancestors who was a minor general of the Sikh forces. That happens in a war.
Sorry I am digressing. I had promised myself never to think of it.

Now back to the Bengal Famine. Shall we call it the Royal Bengal Famine? After all there is the Royal Bengal Tiger.
It has been suggested that it was Winston Spencer Churchill who caused the famine. India did have-enough grains. But these were diverted to,the forces in South East Asia.And when the famine broke out, and USA did have enough to spareand WSC refused to ask the Americans to send it to Bengal.
That is it,

Jatinder Sethi:
The problem in India with people like us, old and dependent on part time cook (ours is named Noor), and what we call “chhuttaa Bai," (only morning work of washing utensils and "jharoora pocha") are not coming to work. And my wife, old timer, does not allow me to enter kitchen. I do, however, water the garden and keep my room cleaned. Unlike Gurvinder, we have not started learning either another "bhasha" or Paint. Hope you all are following the instructions being given by WHO every second.
Subhash good stuff from our silly emails.
Like it Jatinder

Jatinder Sethi:
Very strange feeling I am having at about 9 pm on this Friday night that I never had before. After having been locked in home for a week almost doing nothing, the feeling of relief is so great that one is looking forward to the weekend
The relief seems so great that one never felt before. Thank God it's a weekend. Am I mad?

Joginder Anand
No, Sir. You are not mad. It is the World that has gone mad.

Editor's Note

This story is part of our series on the coronavirus pandemic of 2019-2020. Here is the complete series so far. Readers are welcome to keep contributing!


I must congratulate the gentleman who has culled out a wonderful dialogue story out of three way correspondence.And i am always wonderstruck with the prose style,wonderful gift of gab for childhood memories that are as fresh as the fresh strawberries.His memories of old North West Province(ruled by Pathans?) and all the places he lived while moving destination with pungent style that makes a :chatpatta" reading like the "Bombay BHAIL". or Nathus"Gloe Guppas" at Bengali Market(now all deserted)I think he needs to be needled to get him to write(which we will keep on)I am reffering to the amazing old man Joginder Anand.
Gurvinder,the wonder woman,and personality of many diverse interests always captivates ones interest. Hope she has not given up writing poetry?she says"Hope this will be over soon and then as a human I will grumble -" true we will look for those
Jee dhondta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din
baithe rahe tassavur-e-jaana kiye hue...e tothe net
ce again Congratulations to theMathur brotherrs for their great self less service
to the public

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