A Bystander’s Diary
I’m a fervent admirer of those who have the courage to call a spade by its more picturesque names, including shovel, especially preceded by the spicy adjective beginning with b. Sounds inelegant but forthright. Hence, my admiration for UP politicians of all clans and tribes for their really honest profession of what they practice by the day. Isn’t it a blessing to be endowed with limited vocabulary so that there’s no scope of mincing words?
And the Yadavs are leagues ahead of others in this endearing trait. No, I’m not right now talking of that trail-blazing couple Laloo Prasad and his illustrious wife, Rabri. Their hey-days, alas, are over. Also, they belong to the Bihar branch of the clan. I am thinking, instead, of his UP counterparts: the great Mulayam Singh clan, who’ve taken their turn, after Mayawati, to loot the State treasury.
Mulayam’s dear brother Shivpal Singh, a veteran of longstanding, is in the UP cabinet to guide his young inexperienced nephew Akhilesh who is trying his hand at the till for the first time. He summoned his PWD pals in the Yadav fortress in Etah for a "tête à tête" to update them with the latest tricks of the trade. And he plunged straight to the point: “Maine to ... PWD walon se ... keh diya tha agar mehnat karoge to thodi bahut chori kar sakte ho, dakaiti nahi daloge. (I already told PWD people .... that if you work hard, you can steal a little, but don’t behave like dacoits”.
Now mark the profound wisdom: “Agar mehnat karoge, jee lagaoge, agar inhe meetha paani de doge to chori kar sakte ho (If you work hard, if you give them sweet water then you can steal),” he had stated. It is just the contrast of Behnji who never talked of mehnat karoge, jee lagaoge, agar inhe meetha paani de doge....In other words chori doesn’t come gratis in politics; you’ve to put in hard work and also share part of the loot.
What a pity that in what was a closed door meeting some shameless presswalas sneaked in and video-taped the proceedings. Isn’t it a case of blatant intrusion of privacy? And to cap it all, these shameless fellows chose, as is their dreadful custom, to quote the Hon’ble Minister “out of context.”
Politician of All Seasons
We’re a sentimental people. So it is understandable how the whole country was plunged in grief at what they say the irreparable loss the nation suffered by the sad demise of Vilasrao Deshmukh. The two time ex-Chief Minister of Maharashtra was a Union Cabinet Minister at the time of his death. Since he died in harness, the State I believe paid for both the prolonged medical treatment as well as his funeral. (Is there a study, I wonder, what we the tax payers had in the last 65 years to shell out for the treatment of our leaders and their funerals for dubious services rendered to the State.)
My admiration for Vilasrao is for another reason. He was (if there was any) the quintessential politician who summed up all endearing traits of his much-sought profession reputed for its potential to line the pockets of its practitioners by resorting to unabashed opportunism. Remember, how Deshmukh contested the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections as a rebel with the support of Shiv Sena and when elected, he returned to the cozy Congress fold to be received with open arms. He again defied the Party and was expelled from the Congress for six years only to stage a comeback in just a year.
More than anything else, Vilasrao perfected the art of political warfare invented by the Irish admiral who famously said: “Damn the torpedo, full speed ahead.” Bombay High Court and Supreme Court passed strictures against him. So what? Deshmukh always forged forward. One scam after another dogged his political footsteps. But he was not the one to be daunted by such small matters. He wasn’t the one to allow anything to stand between him and public service. For instance, on the last day of his first tenure as Chief Minster he cleared the Adarsh file.
My most memorable recollection of the great Congress leader was his much publicized November 2008 visit to the bombed-out Taj Mahal Hotel in the affable company of filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma. Were they examining the possibility of using the gruesome tragedy in one the forthcoming films of his film actor son. The illustrious father and son duo regarded the world as a film scene. Unfortunately, he had to pay a small price for this little lapse. He lost his Chief Ministership. But never mind. Soniaji compensated him by asking him to join Manmohan Singh Cabinet. And that’s not all. Despite all her frightfully busy schedule she found time to pay her respects by joining the funeral of the great departed Maratha.
Vilasrao Deshmukh will always be remembered as a flamboyant politician of spotless appearance supported by film star hairstyle, ever ready to bend backwards to help influential friends who too never let him down.
My last thought were the recollection of a Farsi proverb: khas kam jahan pak. (The lesser the straws, the purer the atmosphere.)
What’s in a Name?
What’s your guess, if I ask you to name the most common surname in India? Sharma, Gupta, Agarwal, Jain? And which is the most familiar South Indian name: Sundram or Ramaswamy or Venkat?
However when it comes to first names the guessing game is much easier. Ram among the Hindus (before Rajiv and Rahul gained their current popularity) and Mohammed among Muslims, are the likely winners. And among girls, who doesn’t wish to be called Sonia? What a pity there’s no study to corroborate my answers. But I hear Punjabis are planning to rename their famous poetic ballad ‘Sohni Mahiwal’ as ‘Sonia Mahiwal’.
Once in an interesting dispatch, Pallavi Aiyer, then the Hindu’s versatile correspondent in Beijing, told us that as much as 85 per cent of China’s 1.3 billion people share only 100 family names. No wonder there are over 93 million Wang’s and 92 million Li’s. She tells us—heavens forbid the prospect–if all the Wangs in China decide to form an independent nation—call it Wangistan - they would constitute the world’s 12th most populous country. Were that to materialize we might as well be prepared for the demand of a separate states for our Sharmas and Guptas.
God Saved the Queen
I prayed every day of the London Olympics that the evil designs of those bent on killing Her Majesty the Queen of England shouldn’t fructify. And in all His benign mercy He did listen to me. She is alive and kicking.
Now is the time to recount the schemers’ evil designs. It all started with celebrations of her sixty years on the throne. The first plan was to put an 86-year-old through the ordeal of an interminably long rain-soaked pageant-on-the-Thames. The defining attribute of the three score years that Eliazbeth II’s reign has, unfailingly, been duty first and duty last. Always. So this time too, the old girl rose to the occasion and stood as erect as her age-induced stoop allowed. Don’t forget she isn’t a spring chicken. And her only protections were the pashmina shawl she had wisely brought along and the flimsy canopy they provided. No wonder as the rain lashed and wind blew, the Queen shivered and shriveled. What really saved her must have been the liberal dose of Johnny Walker she wisely fortified herself with before setting out on the venture. A rare combination of English pluck and Scotch whisky!
The man who organized such Diamond Jubilee celebrations for an octogenarian should be hanged forthwith.
In the heels of such a grueling experience came the inauguration of Olympics. And that Ian Fleming character, James Bond thinks that he has the license not just to kill enemies of the State but literally make an audacious attempt even to bump off the Queen of England and head of the Commonwealth. The current 007 (Daniel Craig) cockily walks into Buckingham Palace in a dinner jacket—I’m sure uninvited. He jauntily strides past corgis to pick up the Queen. She was sitting at her writing desk. She turns her head and mutters "Good evening, Mr. Bond". And the pair walked off through the palace on to awaiting helicopter. No ceremony. No guard of honor.
The pair flew across London to the stadium, hovering above as they parachuted down to the ground. Wasn’t it was an attempt to dump her off? The awe-struck audience in the Olympic stadium burst into a loud applause at the spectacular safe landing of their dear old Queen. This is how the latest attempt to bump her off failed. (Need I mention all this happened to the great chagrin of Prince Charles who was waiting for his last chance to ascend the throne.)
Pray for the speedy recovery of Prince Philip and wait till for the day she turns 100.
One for Ten Crore
India won six medals in the London Olympics. Should Maken be considered for an honor in the Republic Day list? What a vast improvement over the Beijing performance.
I find someone pointing out an interesting correlation. Accordingly to him we won six medals because we’ve 60 crore cell phone users. So one medal for every ten crore cellular phones sold. Should we aim at 20 medals—as Maken plans to—in the 2020 Olympics, would we have among us 200 crore cellphone usres? Fortunately, I won’t be around to see the ghastly sight.