Random Thoughts

Godfathers in Disguise;

after a Decade and a Half

Godfathers in Disguise
“Viva il Papa”
Shortchanging has Many Names
After a Decade and a Half
Think it Through

Godfathers in Disguise

When did you last visit Italy? (Doesn’t matter, north or south, on a holiday or a business trip!) Do you recall what you paid for the lunch you had? Indeed not what was printed on the menu card. The rates went up and so did the taxes between the ante pasta course and post-pasta dish. Mysterious indeed are the ways of Italy and Italians.

And we innocents abroad: naïve and gullible besides being in turn-thy-second-cheek-if slapped- on-one! Or else how on earth are we being made a fool by the Italian Government refusing to return two marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast? Which Government in the world except the one ruled by Regent Manmohan Singh, would allow the accused to go home to make love and cast vote and then return to stand trial?

That’s not all. Italy is now emphatic in its stand that the killing of Indian fishermen was in international waters. The incidence therefore does not come under New Delhi’s jurisdiction. Soon they may file a case against India for illegally arresting and harassing their brave sailors.
Our Government has made suitable noises for purposes of record. They know from long experience that such protests fade away from public memory after a few days just as you have forgotten for being short-changed by the proprietario di ristorante when you lunched in Pisa after visiting the Leaning Tower.

If you are still skeptical how the Italians so effortlessly played the sleight of hand, read the following and forewarn you friends:

A Mafia Godfather finds out that his bookkeeper, Guido, has cheated him out of $10,000,000. His bookkeeper is deaf. That was the reason he got the job in the first place. It was assumed that Guido would hear nothing so he would not have to testify in court.

When the Godfather goes to confront Guido about his missing $10 million, he takes along his lawyer who knows sign language. The Godfather tells the lawyer, “Ask him forcefully where's the money?” The lawyer, using sign language, asks Guido, “Where's the money?” Guido signs back, “I don't know what you are talking about.” The lawyer tells the Godfather, “He says he doesn't know what you are talking about”.

The Godfather pulls out a pistol, puts it to Guido's temple and says, “Ask him again!”
The lawyer signs to Guido, “He’ll kill you if you don’t tell him.”
Guido signs back, “OK! You win! The money is in a brown briefcase, buried behind the shed at my cousin Bruno's house.”
The Godfather asks the lawyer, “What did he say?”
The lawyer replies, “He says you don't have the balls to pull the trigger.”

You can well imagine what happened thereafter. Do you have any doubts how horribly credulous have been our custodians of law to trust the Italian version of assurances dished out on behalf of the marines that after casting their vote and kissing goodbye to their latest sweet hearts, they’ll back. Remember

Columbus sailed the ocean blue
In fourteen-hundred-ninety-two.

Didn’t he, that Great Sailor from Italy, get back to his India after killing as many natives as he could in trip after trip? If you’re still unconvinced read the novel The Ballad of the Flim-Flam Man by Guy Owen.

Admittedly, there are Italians and Italians. Silvio Berlusconi is an Italian; so was Leonardo de Vinci. And above all, the one notable (and noble) exception to all this is the Maino family one of whose most illustrious members has done us the honor of settling down in India and creating a new yet-unknown form of governance – allow me to name it – Government by the Invisible Hand.

“Viva il Papa”

Whether it’s black or white, smoke is always suffocating. But certainly not the white variety when it emanates from the much-watched chimney of the Sistine Chapel when the cardinals are busy choosing the next Pontiff. Thank the Good Lord that after waiting only for a day the divine hand intervened on the fifth ballot and the cardinals cast their vote to elect Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, a member of the Society of Jesus as the 266th Pope.

A great transformation seems to have occurred. Two great departures: first a Pope (of all the places in the world) from Buenos Aires and secondly, the secret is out, namely, how the black smoke when ballots are burned is converted into white smoke.

Do you, dear readers want to be privy to the secret? Just add potassium chlorate, milk sugar, and pine rosin to the papers you’re setting a fire.

It is very unlikely that the new Pope will, in any way, depart from the well-entrenched core doctrinal positions of his predecessor. No women should expect to be appointed priest or gays to have their marriages solemnized.

The name Francis inevitably reminds one (including lay men like me) of St. Francis of Assisi, the true friend of the poor and the uncared for in society. May I pay my homage to His Holiness by repeating the famously edifying prayer of St. Francis:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.


Shortchanging has Many Names

As fish takes to water, traders and merchants, (and now, increasingly, multinationals) resort to making a fast buck. Nothing illustrates it better than the Horsemeat Scandal in (where else?) England. To be factually correct, it started in Rumania. In a fit of madness they abolished the use of horse carriages. (Unfortunately, few countries in the world have learned from us a most useful technique of governance: abolish something by law but allow it to continue by overlooking. Examples are aplenty: sale of Paan Bahaar, compulsory use of helmet while driving two-wheelers.) Rumanians chose to enforce the law. Now the problem was what to do with the equestrian population. Most of the horses were sent to abattoirs.

It is there that the meat-packers took over. In ready-to-use meals, horsemeat was liberally mixed with beef – after all meat is meat – and palmed it off as beef.

The case of horsemeat masquerading as beef is an old, old story of what you would have heard many times, studying the history of English idioms. Take, for instance, mutton-dressed as lamb. Allow me to transcend from animal to human level. Since I see it so often in Delhi, I’m tempted to cite it. Mutton dressed as lamb refers to older women in late fifties and early sixties posing to be in mid-twenties with their hair dyed jet black and face painted with several layers of make-up hiding the wrinkles on the face. They strike all possible postures to possibly manage a romantic relationship with young but well-to-do men.

The phrase mutton dressed as lamb has many a variant. Have you heard of “cat out of the bag”? That means divulging a secret. There’s a colorful history behind the term. The phrase is often used to refer to divulging a secret that many are often unaware of. The origins of the phrase are interesting, and they provide an intriguing insight into the lives of historical people.

The phrase helps to understand how medieval markets worked. Markets still work that way. During the Middle Ages, markets or fairs were held to sell everything, like our haats, including livestock, and all that was produced in a region. Most of the livestock was sold alive, usually in sacks so that the purchaser could take it home relatively neatly. Theoretically, someone would inspect the pigs, chickens, and so forth before sale and pick one out, and then the farmer would bag the animal so that it could be carried.

Unscrupulous merchants might replace the livestock with a cat, since cats were always readily available, and free. The unknowing customer would carry the bag home, open it, and realize that he or she had been swindled. However, the plot relied on not letting the cat out of the bag too early. If the bag was opened in the marketplace, the customer could demand reparations from the seller. Of course, the scheme would also rely on a quiet cat, since most people know the difference between an oink and a meow.

Incidentally, this practice is also related to the common term “pig in a poke.” A “poke” means a bag in some dialects. The full idiom has it: “don't buy a pig in a poke,” meaning that buyers should inspect goods before purchasing them and taking them home. Otherwise, they may discover at home the cat escaping from the bag to their huge disappointment.

Cash transfer” to the very needy in villages where there’s no bank within fifty kilometers is the name or the game in our day.

After a Decade and a Half

The court jester had been making all the well-rehearsed noises in the ongoing political circus. His name was Sita Ram Kesri who was once the band-master in all Congress receptions. In 1998 he was the Congress President and invited Sonia Gandhi every day to take over the chair he had kept warm for her to sit on whenever she felt like.

Fifteen years ago, one cool March evening, Soniaji landed at his residence and informed him that she had finally made up her mind to take over. A shell-shocked Kesri, faced with being thrown out unceremoniously, protested, describing such abrupt take-over as unconstitutional. Thereafter it is, as they say, history.

It was like the absentee landlady giving the estate manager marching orders. Sonia with consummate skill completed the process started by Indira Gandhi, namely, make the 127- year- old party into a full-fledged family fief.

And in the last decade and a half the family estate which the Indian National Congress is now, under Soniaji’s stewardship is like a decrepit building with crumbling interior, camouflaged by coats of paint.

Think it Through

The American writer Mary Catherwood famously said two persons may talk for years and years living under the same roof and yet may not know each other. There could be another two who are like old friends after speaking to each other for the first time.

In which category do you think our younger generation comes – spending hours and hours on their mobiles blabbering to each other?


More by :  Sakshi

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Views: 3317      Comments: 1

Comment After every session at the CLUB the redoubtable Dr. Johnson used to say, 'We had a good talk.' And this one was a good talk indeed.

18-Mar-2013 07:13 AM

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