The Braveheart, alas, is gone. She leaves behind a shamed and a mourning nation. The death of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student, who was gang-raped and brutalized on a moving bus in the capital of India, finally passed away in Singapore.
She died of what’s called in medical jargon, cerebral edema. The truth, however, is she was a victim of polity which is irredeemably flawed in every respect. The entire State apparatus (euphemistically called the system) has collapsed. What more telling proof do you want when your sister or daughter deems it dangerous to travel in a bus; those supposed to protect and serve you (which is the function of the police) are dreaded as oppressors; you’ve to bribe petty Government functionaries to do something they’re paid for by the tax-payer; and when the country’s notional Prime Minister and the de facto ruler go in the cover of darkness to receive a dead body of a victim of ghastly rape and have it cremated at the break of dawn to keep the whole act shrouded in secrecy.
It is the relentless exposure of 24x7 electronic media that brought to lime light what happens to thousands others like Abhaya every day of the year all over the county. Let Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, and Mrs. Sheila Dikshit travel one day unescorted and incognito in a local bus to know what happens in the capital of India, and day after day.
When would my compatriots awaken from their long slumber and resolve to end this chaotic drift?
Calling It A Day
In the good old days people worked all through the day. And when the shadows lengthened and the sky turned crimson to say the sun goodbye, and it started becoming dark, they knew it was time to call it a day and get ready for the night. That’s how the idiom originated. It is based on instinctive realization that everything comes to an end, and wisdom demands getting ready for that.
This is applicable to all walks of life: mundane as much as spiritual.
I’m making a study of the crucially important theme of leadership, which unfortunately, has been the Achilles heel of this society. The one aspect of this vital role that I find most intriguing of all is the profound reluctance of practically all leaders to call it a day even when well past their usefulness. Most of them – our own greats like Gandhi and Nehru included – linger on and on till the benign hand of death ensures their departure.
Take cricket – our latest national obsession. There are loud demands for MS Dhoni to relinquish his captaincy in all the three incarnations of the game – the still lingering imperial legacy of five-day test match, dating back to days when you had nothing to do to earn your living, the 50-over variety and its latest – the half-day tamasha – called T20. Should the Cricket Control Board firmly tell him to go or will Dhoni call it a day on his own?
Let’s, meanwhile, recall April 2, 2011. A muggy day in Mumbai. Yet 33,000 people gather in Wankhede Stadium for the 10th ICC Cricket World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka. Imagine the tense audience in Wenkhade stadium and a whole nation peering over the TV screens in nail-biting suspense in the last moments of the game.
Bowling started in the last but one over of the match. Yuvraj Singh drove the first delivery over for a single. Just five more runs to score for victory in a game of glorious uncertainties. Anything can happen any moment. The batsman facing the attack was Dhoni who already had scored 93. The next ball – a fast delivery – was dealt with by an iconic strike that sailed into the stands for a mighty six. And that heralded the end of the match. A whole nation stood up cheering the men in blue who made their county proud among cricket-loving world.
Had Dhoni – an obscure travelling ticket collector from Kharagpur railway station, coming from a lower middle class family who worked his way by sheer merit to the pinnacle of cricketing glory – announced his retirement he would ever have been remembered as cricket legend who made India No 1 in all the three formats of the game. He didn’t. Why?
I guess two factors egg leaders to go on and on. These are ego and greed. Both force leaders to stick on to their positions till either they die or get thrown overboard.
The one, who conceived of the idea of bureaucrats compulsorily retiring at a certain age, was, I think, a great benefactor of mankind.
KBC: Kaise Bano Crorepati?
Ever since its debut years ago on national TV, Kaun Banega Crorepati, anchored by Amitabh Bachchan, has, in all its incarnations, been a hugely popular programme. Who among us does mind becoming a crorepati?
Now suppose the programme was renamed Kaise Banoun Crorepati (How do I Become a Crorepati?) and it deals with the career choice that ensures accumulating your first crore as quickly as possible.
What are the possibilities open to you? Operate in the stock market? The chances are bright that you may hit the jack pot. There is, unfortunately, also the possibility of your going bust. Join the ongoing race to become a big time realtor! But to begin with, it needs significant capital base. How about joining politics? You need patience and perseverance. Study the career graph of Sita Ram Kesri. But the poor fellow didn’t make much. That way he was a simpleton. The way to go about is the following:
There was a Zardari-type 10% operator. He as a junior minister who awarded a Rs. 500 crore contract. 10% kick-back was settled. The moment the deal was signed and sealed, the Minister spoke to the contractor asking for Rs. 100 crore as his share.
Shell-shocked the businessman very politely reminded the minister that the deal was settled for only 10% which of 500 is only 50, and not 100.
“What sort of business man are you?” asked the Hon’ble Minister.
“What mistake have I made, Sir?” he meekly enquired.
“Who on earth has asked you to complete the project on time and not go on delaying it and invoking the escalation clause to inflate the cost in a couple of years to Rs. 1000 crore. Send the file for my signature every time you need an extension.”
“You’re, Sir, great. You shouldn’t spend time in politics. You should have been in business,” submitted the contractor.
“Indeed. Tell me if there’s a business better than politics. I’ll seriously consider joining it,” retorted the Minister.
Do you, now, agree the best way to assuredly become a crorepati, is to join politics. Narasimha Rao was wise enough to throw open the profession to bright prospective men and women by introduction of MP Local Area Development Fund that ensures the representative of people a few crores to get launched on the green path for which no previous experience is required nor any educational qualification. Even a couple of previous convictions and a few ongoing murder cases are no disqualification.
Physician, Heal Thyself
In October 2011, Great Britain’s Tory P M Cameron announced in a major speech on immigration that his Government was revising the citizenship test to “put British history and culture at the heart of it”. Indeed I must, should I opt to live in Britain, be acquainted with British history and culture. I must know who on earth were the Tudors and whom were they succeeded by.
Unfortunately, in a later TV quiz program Cameron himself could not answer questions about the Magna Carta, which the illiterate King John is supposed to have signed in 1215. He also didn’t know who composed Rule Britannia, the poem written by James Thomson and set to music by Thomas Arne.
After fumbling with questions about British history and culture, Cameron, shifting awkwardly in his seat, told the host: “You have found me out. That is bad; I have ended my career on your show tonight”.
What do they now plan to do with Cameron? Ask him to take a course in British history and culture.
Nearer home would Sonia Gandhi dare to take a test in Indian history and culture? After all she’s the life-President of Indian National Congress.
The Plague of our Time
Every age has its own plague. Europe was afflicted by bubonic plague in the Middle Ages. The Black Death struck the continent in 1347 and claimed nearly a third of its population. Thereafter it came back almost every ten years or so for the next couple of centuries. Perhaps the most horrible visitation was the 1665-66 Great Plague of London which only the Great Fire of London alone helped to bring under control.
The plague of our time, medicos tell us, including Lancelot, is obesity. Where did it originate? Most medical authorities trace its origin in the United States from where it spread in the baggage of globalization. Many an expert identifies the Golden Arch as the epicenter of the epidemic. It’s there that both the so-far-identified strands of the virus are found in ample measure: junk food and Aunt Nora’s beloved black concoction – the soda called Coke. (Its twin sister Pepsi has set up shop across the street called Pizza Hut.)
There’s an interesting contrast in the spread of obesity between the US and India. In America it is the poorer sections of society that live on fat-rich junk food that leads to their becoming excessively fat. In our case it is the middle-income group which goes for the imported and indigenous junk which is – at least so far – beyond the reach of the low income groups.
Chips Off the Same Block
Last week I quoted under the caption Cry, The Beloved Country! The following: “Here is a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. . .” Anybody who cares to look around will say this about India. Indeed, he would.
But the author of this quotation is Ninoy Aquino, the Filipino Senator who became a bitter critic of the Marcos regime in the years leading to the imposition of martial law in the Philippines. He was arrested in 1973 and jailed for seven years. He was allowed to visit USA for medical treatment and shot dead on his arrival back home in 1983. His martyrdom catapulted his widow Corazon Aquino to lead the opposition. Manila International Airport has been renamed Ninoy Aquino International Airport in his honor.
The quotation highlights the great irony of our time how the middle class leadership that took over from the departing imperial powers after 1945, usurped it only to ensure their welfare, leaving the working classes to their fate.