Random Thoughts

New Star on Firmament; Tender Underbelly

New Star on Firmament 
Is It All in the Mind?
The More Things Change, the More ...
Tender Underbelly
Isn’t There Something in a Name?
Think it Through

New Star on Firmament

I’ve a serious suggestion for my countrymen to ponder over and accept, and that is to declare November 19 as a national holiday in addition, of course, to all the holidays we already have and may add to from time to time. Why November19, you may ask? That’s Indira Gandhi’s birthday. Let’s call it Dynastic Politics Day. There are many a national legacy that she bequeathed but none surpasses the great tradition she started, inspired by her father, of dynastic succession which no longer remained confined to the Centre but spread in all regions of the country.

Let’s take the latest star on the Bihar firmament. That’s Lalu Prasad Yadav’s illustrious son, Tejaswi Prasad Yadav. (You know – don’t you? – Tejaswi literally means illustrious.) Unlike others in the field he had a choice to make: either to become a great cricketer and thereby eclipse Tendulkar and Dhoni, or stand by the aam admi as his real saathi. And he chose the latter in wider national interests. He is committed to development and change. His target is Chacha Nitish and his misguided policies.

He’s, I learn, going in for an expensive well-fitted, air conditioned SUV to start his Bihar Yatra from Samastipur so that baap and beta i.e., Lalu and his son working in tandem – you know two is more than one – turn the state around, chasing Nitish out. His attack is frontal. Don’t forget Lalu trained his son. If you’ve any doubt, consider this.

Chacha Nitish Kumar khali futuristic baat karte hain. Ye karenge, wo karenge. Akhbaron me khali shilanyas ka photo chapta hai. Ab chacha ko bhuliye and hamen mauka dijiye. Jaise pitaji ne Railway chamka diya tha, baap beta milkar Bihar chamka denge

(Uncle Nitish only talks about the future. ‘We’ll do this, we’ll do that’. Newspapers only carry pictures of foundation stones. Now forget the uncle and give a chance to us. Like my father left the Railways shining, the father-son duo will do the same for Bihar)

The reported BJP-JD(U) rift over what secularism means, may be baap-and- beta’s godsend to dislodge Nitish.

Let Rahul Baba learn a lesson or two. First he shouldn’t fight single-handedly. His slogan should be Mein and Mummyji (Mummyji and I) and not just I. Stop getting himself described “yuvraj or yuva samrat”. Plain simple Saathi – friend and companion – is in today’s politics the real vote-winner.

Have you forgotten Jawaharlal used to say Friends and Comrades?

Is It All in the Mind?

I’m sure you’re familiar with Placebo. It is an inert substance which creates either a positive response or no response in a subject who takes it. The phenomenon in which a placebo creates a positive response in the subject to which it is administered is called the placebo effect. Have you tried it out on others or has someone tried it out on you.

How about Nocebo? I’m told it is the new name given to a harmless substance which creates –hold your breath – harmful effects in a patient who takes it. The nocebo effect is the negative reaction experienced by a patient who receives a nocebo. Conversely, a placebo is an inert substance that creates either a positive response or no response in a subject who takes it.

Both nocebo and placebo effects are, therefore, entirely psychogenic. Rather than being caused by a biologically active compound in the nocebo or placebo itself, these reactions result from a subject's expectations about how the substance will affect him or her. Though they originate exclusively from psychological sources, nocebo effects can be either psychological or physiological.

Now take Wi-Fi – the popular technology that allows an electronic device to exchange data wirelessly (using radio waves) over a computer network, including high-speed Internet connections. There are some – yours truly included – who are addicted to it and cannot really live without it. There are others who just cannot stand it. According to them, the radio waves used in mobile communication cause headaches, nausea, exhaustion, tingling, trouble concentrating, and gastrointestinal distress, among other symptoms. Scientists have given the syndrome a mouthful of a name: “idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields,” abbreviated as I.E.I.-E.M.F.

It has yet to be established conclusively if we are really at risk. Thank God I won’t be around when the debate is over.

Bye the way, you do remember that Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were actually the same person with two contrasting sets of attributes.

The More Things Change, the More….

It was almost at the same time that India and China started their journeys of development. We started, in fact, a little earlier. Theoretically, mid-August 1947 onwards. Practically, however, the launch of the First Five Year Plan in 1951 marks the beginning of a new journey on the highway of Nehruvian socialism.

People’s Republic of China came into being in 1949. Immediately thereafter Communist Party began to get rid of all the vestiges of the “feudal” past that had preceded it. The real launch was during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) with the campaign to “Destroy the Four Olds”: old thought, old culture, old customs and old habits. Cultural relics of the past must go along with old customs and traditions. No more celebrations like springtime Qingming (tomb sweeping), Dragon Boat Festivals and the like.

Nehru was more liberal. He was a firm believer in co-existence – co-existence of past and present, old temples to worship old gods and new temples like dams and plants.
Unfortunately, great leaders too are mortal. Nehru passed away in 1964. His halo had already vanished.

Comrade Mao outlived Nehru. However, after his death in 1976 and the onset of market reforms under Deng Xiaoping, the four olds, so long vilified, suddenly were revived and accorded the status of jewels of traditional culture. Customs and traditions that had been buried in shallow graves were exhumed. They acquired a new lease of life encouraged by Comrade Deng.

In our case the revival was delayed. Indira Gandhi had kept her father’s institutions on oxygen. It was left to poor old loyalist, Narasimha Rao to bury them with the launch of market mechanism.

The corruption, income inequality and environmental degradation that have accompanied China’s breakneck economic development over the last 30 years have provoked social unrest. In 2010, China had 180,000 “mass incidents,” the official euphemism for protests – a fourfold increase over the previous decade. We had our version of the same.

We lagged behind in no area other than economic development. In fact, we are neck and neck – if not really ahead – with China in breeding corruption.

Old timers like me who were, like some of you, mute witnesses to two steps forward and three steps backward march have nothing but profound admiration for the French proverb ... “Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose”. “'The more things change, the more they stay the same”'.

Perhaps we can, at least in our own case, modify it slightly: “The more things change, the worse they become.”

If Gandhi had the slightest hunch how things will change by the day for worse he would have left a one-line will of his: ‘No statues of mine after I’m gone nor my image on anything.’

Tender Underbelly

Who do you think delivered the following speech on global warming at that international talking shop called United Nations General Assembly in 1989? The speaker thundered —

“What we are now doing to the world, by degrading the land surfaces, by polluting the waters and by adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate – all this is new in the experience of the earth. It is mankind and his activities which are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways. . . . The environmental challenge which confronts the whole world demands an equivalent response from the whole world. . . . Those countries who are industrialized must contribute more to help those who are not.”

The then President of the United States? Certainly not. India’s prime Minister? No.

It was – you’ll be shocked to know – the Iron Lady whose passing away was much talked about of late. These must have been her rare velvet moments.

All said, Margaret Thatcher was a realist. It was she who told her ideological American cousin Ronald Reagan that he could talk turkey with Mikhail Gorbachev whom most of Reagan’s advisers thought was a hard-core commie and that glasnost and perestroika were old tricks in new garb to undermine the western alliance.

Her tender concern – genuine or for record! – notwithstanding the Iron Lady did everything possible to dismantle the Socialist edifice that Clement Attlee devoted his life to. I dare not comment. The Latin phrase has it “de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est”. No one can speak ill of the dead.

Isn’t there something in a name?

Offer red wine to a guest. The first question he may ask: where is it from? More significant than the quality is the geographic designation: Napa Valley, Australian, Chilean or one of the prized French brands: or simply from the Nasik vineyards.

Living in a town across the Hudson River, if you say “it’s from my neighborhood winery in New Jersey,” the quality, the aroma and dryness all go down simultaneously; and with them the acceptability of the vintage.

I’ve for instance discovered pretty good Port Wine. The name of the winery may put you off. It’s called Nirvana Biosys. Are you prepared to try out if I tell you it is located in Bawal, District Rewari, Haryana?

I reckon, the Bard was (for once) wrong – dead wrong. Do you really agree with Juliet?

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

For that matter, any sparkling wine – whether made in Chile or Haryana should be as acceptable as Moët & Chandon champagne. The world may accept it, but certainly not the French. It is not just a question of quality. Pure simple commercial interests are involved. If you any doubts, let me dispel them.

France was vehement that sparkling wine produced in the region called Champagne-Ardenne alone can be so-called. It is matter of territorial identity. And they made World Trade Organization endorse their claim. In the European Union and many other countries, the name Champagne is legally protected by the Treaty of Madrid (1891), which reserved it for the sparkling wine produced in the eponymous region and adhering to the standards defined for it. This protection, you’ll be amused to learn, was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

By the same token India staked the claim that any tea that contained at least 50 % of the tea from tea gardens of Darjeeling Valley alone can be called Darjeeling tea.

BBut then look at the clever French! As the world demand for champagne increased it outstripped production. So the French recently extended the boundaries of the region. Shouldn’t we assert that Darjeeling Valley begins where the boundary of Bagdogra Airport ends!

Think it Through

Steven Wright, the American comedian and writer once said: “Light travels faster than sound – isn’t that why some people appear bright until you hear them speak?”

Do you in real life wait for a pretty woman to speak her lines before feeling attracted or dazzled, depending how old are you?

Images (c) Gettyimages.com


More by :  Sakshi

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