The Hari Putar Dialogues - 28
(The Hindu; October 22: Florida: Barack Obama is cancelling nearly all his campaign events on Tuesday and Friday to visit his suddenly gravely ill grandmother in Hawaii, said a spokesman. He said Madelyn Payne Dunham (85), who helped raise Mr. Obama, was released from the hospital late last week. But he said her health had deteriorated 'to the point where her situation is very serious.')
Putar: According to a report in the Hindu today, Barack Obama has left campaigning to go and visit his ailing grandmother.
Hari: That's a touching story, putar.
Putar: It's the last two weeks of campaigning and each day is important.
Hari: That's true but some things are more important than politics. So, is his grandmother still in hospital?
Putar: No. A news report says that Madelyn Dunham, 85, was released from the hospital late last week and returned to her home in Honolulu with a health condition the aide described as "very serious."
Hari: Well, its good he's going home.
Putar: Apparently Obama has a big regret in his life that he was not able to be with his mother at the time of her death. He never realized it was as serious as it turned out to be.
Hari: It's natural that he doesn't want to have a second regret.
Putar: Exactly. After Obama's mother's death in 1995, his grandmother Dunham was left as the maternal figure in his life. He and his family visited Dunham repeatedly in August during a vacation to Hawaii. Obama is reported to have said: "I am going to see my grandma, who I haven't seen in almost 18, 19 months, and who's getting to the age that I want to make sure I am spending time with her on a consistent basis and so she can see her great-grandchildren."
Hari: Parents often make sacrifices for their children, but apparently his grandmother made sacrifices for him as well.
Putar: That's true. Obama often speaks fondly of "Toot" ' his version of the Hawaiian word "Tutu," or grandparent. In his memoir, "Dreams From My Father," he wrote of how she took the secretarial job at Bank of Hawaii "to help defray the costs of my unexpected birth."
Hari: The house will be full of memories for Obama about his growing-up years.
Putar: That's true. Aside from a four-year interlude during which he lived in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather, Obama spent his childhood in Honolulu ' most of it in the two-bedroom, high-rise apartment where his grandmother still lives.
Hari: This is a crucial period in the election with less than two weeks to go. At this stage, each day of campaigning matters.
Putar: That's true. At the same time, Obama's visit to his grandmother might actually benefit him politically. Don't forget that the media will take photos of him with his white grandmother. This may help some white people to overcome racial prejudice and vote for Obama.
Hari: For others it will also show the human, caring side to him. Obama as a dutiful and loving grandchild.
Putar: While this may not help him in any particular state where campaigning might have been needed, except for Hawai, it will have a generally positive impact at the national level.
Hari: Very possible.
Putar: Have you heard of a book called 'The Secret', Papaji?
Hari: Can't say that I have, putar.
Putar: It's a recently published book by Rhonda Bryne, which talks of the power of desires and good wishes. Among other things it speaks of how if we experience a strong wish or desire, and try to internalize and focus on it, this can then unleash forces in the universe that will help us to realize that wish.
Hari: That's an interesting idea, but a bit fantastic.
Putar: Many people have dismissed the book as pseudo science, and as preying on the fears and superstitions of people. At the same time it hasn't stopped it from becoming a bestseller.
Hari: What about if other people wish good things for you?
Putar: I don't know if she writes anything about that, but I guess logically even if someone else desires something for you it should help you attain your desire.
Hari: In India we have always believed in the power of blessings given by older people.
Putar: Obama's is going off to see his grandmother. What about John McCain?
Hari: Well, he's too old to have a grandmother to visit, but I believe his mother is still living. The media reported that his mother is still alive and kicking at 96 years. He could go and see her.
Putar: But there is no reason to, if she is not unwell, and it may not play out so well in the media even if she was sick. I guess though he can refute the arguments of those who say he is too old by pointing to how long his mother has lived.
Hari: I'm told McCain has four children and seven grandchildren.
Putar: That's a large family. Would you agree that McCain's grandchildren would love to have their granddad become President of the US?
Hari: I'm sure they would.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: If McCain's grandchildren prayed for their grandfather to become President, would that help?
Hari: Prayers always help, putar.
Putar: The American elections are just over a week away. We don't know what the results will be, but in this particular case, I can't help feeling that the good wishes and blessings of a single grandmother will be more effective than the prayers of six grandchildren. What do you think,Papaji?
Hari: I don't know, putar.