Whom could Lady Macbeth have referred to while describing
It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness;
other than our leaders full of unalloyed love and sympathy for those who vote them to power? How touching to hear that both Mummyji and Rahul Baba landed up unannounced to assure the family of brutal gang-rape victim that their welfare was uppermost in the mind of India’s self-declared First Family. Both mother and son spent almost an hour of their invaluable time away from Party machinations, with the family. Rahul went – hold your breath – to the extent of sharing his phone number with the brother of the rape victim. Who else has this privilege? Sonia also spent time reading the books – don’t forget she has a Cambridge certificate to support her linguistic proficiency – that the rape victim used to read. How endearingly solicitous!
I wonder, however, do we have to suffer misfortunes to get from our leaders show of solicitude rather than security under rule of law, which as citizens of the Republic we’re entitled to?
The Times They Are a-Changin'
Our generation has been a witness to more changes (and of all sorts) than ever before. Earlier it took decades to just dent hide-bound customs and traditions. Now you can expect to change – yes, just not just modify, but actually change – social customs and traditions in a few years. Years ago, boys and girls weren’t allowed to meet socially till they got engaged. And now? Don’t ask me how far have things advanced? Sometimes I look back and repent why were you and I not born a few decades later?
Changes are discernible in all walks of life. However I’m told the world of protocol is slow – very slow – to change. And it is understandable. Diplomats are, traditionally, reticent beings who know how to suppress their urge to be honest and frank. Imperatives of tradition sit heavy on their shoulders.
In 2008, we had invited the French president Nicolas Sarkozy on a State visit. He was – if you still remember – the honored guest at our Republic Day celebrations. Before he came there was a little problem to be resolved. The French are an extremely tolerant people in matter of sexual mores. They spend more time doing things worthwhile in life than waste it getting married and having marriages registered. Sarkozy too – true to the Gallic tradition – had Carla Bruni as mistress-cum-friend-cum-companion. Unfortunately, the hopelessly antiquated protocol didn’t recognize this otherwise very convenient arrangement. So, poor Carla so very anxious to visit Taj Mahal – how much is Indian tourism indebted to Shah Jahan! – had to stay back. Infuriated by Indian protocol she did something very un-French: she married Sarkozy and accompanied him in the 2010 official visit to see Taj bathed in moonshine.
In mid-February the incumbent French President, Francois Hollande is visiting India. He too like a good Frenchman hasn’t wasted his time marrying his partner, Valerie Trierweiler. In a few years the protocol division under the remote guidance of Sonia has matured and learnt to be liberal in such matters. Wisely has it decided to accord to Valerie the status of the lawfully wedded wife to the French President. They must both be looking forward to visiting Taj together, standing hand in hand to admire the monument.
I hope you do know that the celebration of birthdays is rewarding practice. Statistics establish conclusively that those people who celebrate the most birthdays become the oldest.
If you’ve any misgiving in the above profound wisdom of statistics, look at the record of Hillary Clinton who, to the delight of president Obama, has announced her retirement. Everyone concerned, especially the gentlemen of the media reporting on VIPs, have been reminded that while she held the august office of the Secretary of State in past four years, she’s traveled 956,733 miles to 112 different countries in order to conduct 1,700 meetings with world leaders. She consumed, we’re told, 570 – I’m sure elaborately prepared – airplane meals.
You should have been ready to hear such details. Remember she finished her term as a US senator telling her admirers – and she has many – how many parades she attended and how many countries she had been to.
It is matter of regret that she didn’t keep count of the number of minutes spent in pressing flesh and switching on smiles. Of course she couldn’t do that herself; someone else should have.
John Kerry, I suggest, should keep from day one in office a log of how he spends his time over the four years he stays as Secretary of State –getting briefed, exploring options, eating lunches on board aircrafts, supping with his counterparts elsewhere, and exercising on the treadmill to shed weight put on attending high-calorie official banquets.
Wait for his memoirs if you want a record of Amritsari phirni served at official banquets hosted by Manmohan Singh. May be he also reveals if the wine served was French or Italian.
January 30 Crocodile Tears
My zoologist friends tell me that crocodiles are queer beings. They spend their night in water and day upon land. They eat men slain by other animals but devour them weeping. And most strangely, when they eat they move their upper jaw and not the lower one because they have no tongue.
The most baffling part of their anatomy is that they lack tear ducts. Therefore, they cannot really cry. Hence, perhaps the phrase shedding crocodile tears. Obviously, therefore, their tears cannot be genuine.
Isn’t most of the above applicable to our leaders. Come January 30, they rush to Raj Ghat to remember the Father of the Nation who incidentally was fortunate enough to fall victim to the bullet of a well-meaning fanatic than to live on to see the macabre drama of betraying everything that he stood for. Driving back home escorted by battalions of security men they tell each other: Let’s forget the man till next January 30.
It indeed pains me to read reports that our society is getting fragile by the day. It gets ruffled with frightening regularity. Any event threatens to tear it apart.
Take two very recent examples. Salman Rushdie wanted to visit Kolkata with the producer of the celluloid version of his celebrated novel, Midnight’s Children. Some Muslim organizations in the town threatened to take action against the man who had the temerity to insult the Prophet in Satanic Verses. The West Bengal Government thought – all governments are alike – that discretion is the better part of valour. Rushdie wasn’t allowed to visit the city,
Do you know how many people in India, especially among those who are vehemently opposed to the novel, have read it? My personal guess is the total number is certainly in four digits. The issue is: should those who haven’t even read it – and that most certainly included Ayatollah Khomeini when he issued the fatwa to kill Rushdie – decide what should be done about the book and the man who penned it?
Similarly, some obscure groups of Muslims in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh objected to the screening of Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam. The screening of the film was delayed till they were pacified which meant deleting whatever they objected to.
What has happened to our society – a society which has, over centuries, seen many ups and down and has been a witness to many vicissitudes and yet retained its equilibrium? How come in a few decades it has lost all its cohesiveness. Any strain threatens to pull it apart.
My guess is that the fault is not with our society but our Government which both at the Centre and in the States is far too week-kneed to govern. Any government of the day has to know how to deal with dissent. And the way to do is not to concede to the demands – howsoever absurd – of the lunatic fringe. The Government has to learn to be firm. Should, for instance, twenty per cent of Indians decide how this county has to be ruled? Has our democracy achieved the unique distinction of acquiring this new attribute – a form of government where minority rules majority?
Habitual Shooter from the Hip
I’m not too sure but most probably the phrase “Shoot from the Hip” originated during the Wild West days in – where else? – the United States of America. Its common figurative meaning is to react to a situation extremely quickly and with a lot of force, but without sparing a moment’s thought as to its possible consequences.
The Congress Party I learn specializes in choosing for its leadership slots who are specialists in shooting from the hip. Sushil Kumar Shinde, our Hon’ble Home Minister is one such illustrious example. He acquired considerable experience in this area in service of Maharashtra police, from where he graduated to politics. Since then, if and when challenged, he immediately shoots from the hip and then look innocently bewildered at the commotion that inevitably follows.
Remember the panicky student exodus back to the north-east. The need of the hour was to say or preferably do something to cool the passions. But not for Shinde. He offered to run more trains to take the frightened crowds home rather than persuading them to stay back. But what he did of late just takes the cake. He claimed that that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been kept out of the loop on Ajmal Kasab’s secret execution.
Mr. Shinde didn’t cover himself with glory at the Party’s Jaipur conclave when he lectured on “Hindu” terrorism and “Hindu” terrorist training camps. This would indeed gladden the heart of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, who would declare: Didn’t I tell you?
There must be some compulsions at work for Soniaji to retain the services of a sharp shooter specializing in the dying art of shooting from the hip.
Think it Through
A wise friend of mine gave me sound advice: live every day as if it is the last day of your life.
I agreed to give it a try. It has helped me to achieve a certain degree of detachment that has given me that priceless commodity called peace of mind. It is also fortified by the thought that one day it would prove dead right.