Springingtiger's Blog


Love and Life and Death.

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Hari Mandir

I was at a funeral. The funeral of a very special lady, Mrs Kohli, and the Crematorium was full to bursting. There were people not only of the Indian community, but of the various communities of Glasgow. I cant help but think that if you’ve touched so many people’s lives so that they feel the need to see you off you must have been doing something right.

It is not for me to recount Mrs Kohli’s life as others know it far better and I have only known the Kohlis since I was a student, however that is nearly forty years. I do feel I can make a few observations from my experience. I encountered her husband SS Kohli through Stella Reekie’s International Flat and The Sharing of Faiths. I cannot think of Mr Kohli without Mrs Kohli and vice- versa, they were very much two people who belonged together. He was a very powerful man used to getting his own way, but she could tell him what to do and I have seen him comply meekly. What was apparent was the depth of love in their multifaceted relationship. Her son Harpreet in his eulogy drew attention to the love she had for her family and for life.

I think there is a love that some people have within them that cannot help but overflow into the world around them. One of my memories of being an undergraduate in Glasgow was the Indian Student’s Open Day in, as far as I remember, 1973. There were a range of entertainments including the film ‘Suhaag’, several stalls including the much missed ‘Books From India’ and the most wonderful snacks which Mrs Kohli later told me she had cooked herself. It was not long afterwards that I went and bought myself Jack Santa Maria’s ‘Indian Vegetarian Cookery’ so that I could eat Indian food whenever I wanted.

Harpreet Kohli when talking of his mother’s love of life talked of her love of dancing. I used to massage her knees every week in the Mel Milaap Centre and so many weeks I would accuse her of dancing despite her recent knee operations. She would look abashed for a moment and then admit that she could not help herself, besides everyone expected her to dance. I advised her to be moderate in her dancing, I think she tried, but I suspect the good dancing did to her spirits far outweighed any benefit from avoiding it.

I often think that were I ever to be compelled to espouse a religion it would be Sikhism because in my experience, however serious they may be about their obligations they do not take life too seriously and they know how to party…bhangra! Some years ago I was at a Pakistani wedding in Glasgow and was seated at a mixed table of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims, yet all very obviously Punjabi. As an outside observer (perhaps not too far outside as my wife is Punjabi) I cannot help but feel that a love of life and people is integral to the Punjabi nature. I was once at a Hindu wedding in the Punjab on one of the preceding days a group of performers came to sing bhajans (hindu religious songs) their soloist was a Punjabi Muslim. I suppose the culture of Indian and Pakistani Muslims is much more exuberant than the pursed-lipped Wahabism exported from Arabia. It is a culture of poetry and beautiful music brought together in ghazals and qawwalis that have the power to move the soul even if you understand scarcely a word. It is an expressive culture that sings and dances and expresses love. There are times when I suspect the only real difference between Punjabis is the way they wear their hair, they all seem to share the same robust love of life and generous personalities, but perhaps I am lucky to have just met the good ones…a lot of them.

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Lodhi Tombs

I had to pop into Asda on my way home from the funeral and as I walked along the aisles my eye was caught by a display of disposable nappies for newborn babies. And it occurred to me that as quickly as we leave this world others are coming in to take our places and what is it that keeps the process of death and life flowing? Love. A great-grandmother departs the world and the generations her love nurtured pass her inheritance into new generations because of their love. Life is short and fleeting but lived with wholehearted love it lifts us all and continues to inform successive generations. What in the end is the point of life? We can reduce the whole thing rationally to a biological process, but isn’t it more fun to dispense with sterile rationality and fill every moment with love? I think it is safe to say that while most of us at the funeral were expressing a sadness that Mrs Kohli had departed from our lives, we were more importantly celebrating and giving thanks that she had been a part of them, and that is love.

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