Modi and Assam Tea
Wart and All
Eyeball to Eyeball
Matter of Concern
Talk of Town
Modi and Assam Tea
Electioneering in Assam, Prime Minister Modi pulled a real fast one on his credulous audience. In his childhood, he said, he used to sell only Assam tea.
It really comes down to what you like about tea. If you like your tea with milk then Assam is the right choice for you. I think Assam is the best tea with milk; better than Ceylon. It is a complete waste of Darjeeling tea to put milk in it.
If you like a hearty tea with a good strong flavor, then Assam is for you again. Note that does not mean bitter. If your tea is bitter (no matter what kind) then the fault is all yours, you brewed it too long.
If, however, you like to relax with your tea and enjoy the delicate perfume wafting up from the steaming cup, and appreciate the pale golden color where you can see the color of the cup through it, then you should be exploring the Darjeeling family of teas to see which one of those you might prefer. Pretty cups with floral decorations on the inside are designed for this kind of tea.
With Darjeeling there are further choices. Some prefer first flush which is delicate to the point of hardly being there at all. I like second flush better because it is a little more intense.
The brownish brew that tea-hawkers pour out of aluminum kettles is a hotchpotch of tea dust and leaves boiled over and over again more to give a mild kick to the drinkers. It’s, in fact, more a hot dilutor of milk and sugar than a cup of stimulating drink called tea.
Wart and All
When Oliver Cromwell (the only military dictator in British history) sat down for a portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger , he told the painter: “Paint me wart and all”, implying thereby ‘paint my face as it is rather than what I and you wish it should be like’.
Biographers of great statesman – long dead and gone — cannot be given the instruction in person, but let them keep the instruction in mind to carry credibility with readers.
The authors of Most Blessed of the Patriarchs, a new biography of Thomas Jefferson, America’s third President, kept the above eminently sane advice in mind in giving us a new assessment of a public figure so opaque as to be almost unknowable. Through their painstaking analysis, meticulous research, and vivid prose ? they create a portrait of Jefferson, as he might have painted himself, one “comprised of equal parts sun and shadow”.
Can we, for instance, attempt such a biography of Jawaharlal Nehru? I’m afraid, not. Most of the private papers of the man, including the long correspondence between him and his sweetheart, Lady Mountbatten are in the custody of Sonia Gandhi who selectively allows access to hagiographers, not biographers. The same, regrettably, is true in case of Indira Gandhi. You’ve to a white-skinned foreigner favorably disposed to the Family to even selectively read them.
Eyeball to Eyeball
One of my pastimes is to trace the origin of words and phrases. I had been fascinated of late by the Americanism eyeball to eyeball. I discovered that it entered the English lexicon and became an iconic expression of the Cold War during the much-debated 1962 Cuban crisis. Its first use was by the then US Secretary of State Dean Rusk. And that was on October 24, 1962 when the world came dangerously close to a nuclear showdown between the two superpowers – the US and then USSR. Many a sensitive soul didn’t sleep that night expecting a nuclear holocaust. I kept awake to herald the pralaya.
That day, American destroyers and Soviet ships carrying nuclear missiles to Cuba almost came to a confrontation. At the eleventh hour, however, the lead Soviet ship, the Kimovsk, turned away from the blockade line set up by the Americans, thereby avoiding a war. It was then that Rusk made the most memorable statement of the crisis to National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”
The above, of course, is the American version. And as usual suitable doctored one. Actually, all military historians know that the “Kimovsk”, the Russian destroyer was at least 750 miles away from the blockade line already heading back to its home port at the time of the supposed ‘eyeball to eyeball’ incident.
I once spent days researching the Cuban crisis and can certify that both the combatants winked simultaneously. The deal on the American side was brokered by Robert Kennedy, the then President’s younger brother. He specially requested the Soviet side for a face saver by allowing him to say the Soviets winked first, namely, the Soviets agreed to take the nuclear devices away from Cuba with the Americans simultaneously removing nuclear warheads from Turkey.
Forget the debate. The world was saved and a new phrase was born. Isn’t foreign relations brinkmanship a frightfully expensive way to coin a new phrase?.
Matter of Concern
“April is the cruelest month.” This is the first line of T. S. Eliot’s much-celebrated poem “The Waste Land.” Had Eliot been writing in New Delhi this year with its unprecedented hot weather the line would have been eminently understandable.
However, record-breaking temperatures are occurring with alarming frequency all over the world, and that includes the United States too. While the world is deeply concerned with the problem, Americans are reacting with a collective shrug. In a poll in January – polls in America are conducted at the drop of a hat - after the country’s warmest December on record, the Pew Research Center found that climate change ranked close to last on a list of the public’s policy priorities.
Why? The reason is simple. American like their winters to be warm (just as they prefer their steaks to be tender). The tropical world wants it milder summers. So, how can the twain meet?
I’m, unabashedly, a Modi-supporter. At long last the Indian polity has discovered a leader with vision who knows which way to steer the Ship of the State. Of course he has no dearth of critics, some of whom are absolutely purblind. The much-talked Ishrat Exposé — dealt below - shows how the UPA government aided and abetted all attempts to bump the man off before he won the 2014 elections with a handsomely convincing margin. And now he’s there to stay till at least 2019.
Nearly for most part of the last two years Prime Minister Modi and his government were pulled in two different directions by those who supported him in the 2014 elections since they had different expectations from him. On the political right were those who wanted him to pursue their vision of what is loosely defined sanskratik rashtravad (cultural nationalism) with roots in what’s again, loosely termed as Hindutva. On the other side — can I call it the left? - were those who had voted him to power with the belief that Modi will rapidly develop India and transmogrify it into a country set out to be one day an equivalent of a first-world country.
There are people who believe these two sets of expectations are incompatible. I don’t, personally, see any dichotomy in Modi’s support bases.
Go back, dear readers, to what the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow called Hierarchy of Needs. The needs and motivations of these two groups may appear to be different, but they are by no means exclusive. How is it that my wanting a job and better infrastructure in the country is averse to my feeling proud about my country’s cultural heritage?
With slippery political mentors like Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, P. Chidambaram need not have enemies to land him in the deep mess the poor chap is in. And the BJP, as any other political party under circumstances like these would do, is all out to milk the controversy for their own political advantage. This is the long-standing custom in competitive politics.
It all started with the popular TV channel, Times Now, taking the RTI route, getting hold of the controversial Ishrat Jahan file. Chidambaram’s notings therein in black and white helped the channel showcase how malicious the Congress could become in its intent and purpose to finish their emerging political challenger from Gujarat.
The file notings for the two affidavits filed by the UPA government on the Ishrat case, within a span of two months between second half of July to September end 2009, prove that the controversy on the subject was largely of his, and the Congress leadership’s making.
Anyone with rudimentary understanding of how the government works, particularly in such sensitive matters, would know that Chidambaram’s change of mind within a span of about 50 days from - declaring Ishrat as a Lashkar-e-Taiba’s indoctrinated fidayeen operative to virtually an aspiring, young innocent Mumbai girl - couldn’t only have come from his end.
It was indeed a high-stakes political decision, thought through and cleared at the highest level of the Congress party and the UPA government. And now nobody wants to stick his neck out and the unwanted baby is crying in Chidambaram’s lap.
Would you be shocked if the beleaguered Chidambaram names the baby’s real parents? Yes, you’ve guessed it?
Talk of Town
Stephen Hawking has filed a petition for Voluntary euthanasia after hearing Rahul Gandhi speak about #EscapeVelocity.
And this is not a joke.
RaGa lists himself as a “strategy consultant” in his declaration to the Lok Sabha website. Reason? After eminently succeeding in strategizing to sink the Congress he found it apt to put it as his profession.