Random Thoughts

August 15 Rituals; Our Truculent Neighbor

August 15 Rituals
Have You Heard of Mr. Beef?
Our Truculent Neighbor
The Salt of the Earth
Think it Through

August 15 Rituals

We as a nation have a penchant for celebrating anniversaries. Does it matter which? First and foremost, it is a red-ringed holiday on the calendar with its entire take-it-easy ambience. August 15 is – or at least should be – different. It is supposedly our Independence Day.

It was Eric Berne who highlighted in developing the basic tenets of the truly normative tool of Transactional Analysis, that when, in social transactions, real substance is missing, rituals gain increasing prominence. And nothing illustrates it more tellingly than our yearly August 15 ceremonies beginning with the morning flag-hoisting and ending with Rashtrapati Bhavan reception in the evening.

It is on this day, way back in 1947 Jawaharlal stood to unfurl the tri-color on the ramparts of the Red Fort. Shortly before his address, were heard the mesmeric notes of shehnai played by the late Ustad Bismillah Khan. Nehru in his, now much-missed, spirit of idealism held out great promises to his countrymen. All those promises and pledges have been repeated year after year since then.

This year it was Sardar Manmohan Singh’s last turn – thank the good Lord for that – to blur out the much-used canned version of promises of great vistas which somehow recede farther away every year. Not one single promise doled out year after year over 66 times has been kept. This year Manmohan Singh might as well have picked up the text of Nehru’s address in 1950 and read out by changing a few dates.

As an adolescent, I heard Nehru’s address on radio living then in Rawalpindi -the would-be capital of the land of true believers which we were waiting to be driven out from.

Catharsis surrounded that day in 1947. Joy and pain, triumph and tragedy were both in the air, like grey and silver clouds combating for supremacy.

However, there’s a difference this time. Someone sounded the bugle of the 2014 election campaign from distant Baruch. He spoke extempore, and from the heart. That sounds like the last hope of the future of the Republic.

Have You Heard of Mr. Beef?

When it comes to naming the new born or adopting family names, Americans just take the cake. (If anyone else surpasses them in this – very unlikely indeed – in this, the cake is his.)

As per press reports, a family approached a Magistrate in an American town as they couldn’t agree upon the child’s family name. “What’s his first name?” asked the judge. “Messiah, “they told him.

“For heaven’s sake change that first,” thundered the judge, taken aghast by the choice. “Let only one person continue with that name and that’s Jesus Christ. Let your baby be called Martin instead of Messiah” ruled the judge.

The story isn’t fanciful. Messiah, I learn, is no 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in the US. Jesus must be a worried man in his Father’s mansion hearing of rising number of rivals on the earth.

Meanwhile, thank the Lord that this naming contagion hasn’t yet spread abroad, especially India where people are, after the rise and rise of Sonia, terribly fond of foreign names.

Now have a look at family names. I’m sure you haven’t yet forgotten the name of Lee Harvey Oswald. Yes, I’m talking of the mad cap who shot President Kennedy on November 21, 1963 in Texas. He was buried in Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery, Fort Worth, Texas. All this is no mystery. The mystery is the grave-stone next to it. The name inscribed on it Nick Beef. Nick for Nicolas is fine. Have you ever heard of the family name BEEF? Beefeaters, yes. That’s the quaint name given to the watchmen of the Tower of London. There’s a bit of a mystery behind that name too.

During times of starvation and pestilence in England, especially in London, the only people who were probably guaranteed a good meal and a safe place to sleep were the guards of the Tower. After all, the blokes had an arduous job to do i.e., to guard the Crown Jewels. Lest they change the real with fake to feed themselves they were assured a good meal.

The Londoners however didn’t take to these well-fed Guards kindly. How could they? Hence, they were taunted by the name Beefeater who unlike common people got a preferential treatment, namely, beef to eat while others starved.

My more learned friends tell me that the term Beefeaters is derived from the French word – buffetier. Buffetiers were guards in the palace of French kings. They protected the king’s food.

Now, Back to Mr. Beef. No such history to explain the queer name. According to New York Times the fellow had purchased the cemetery plot next to Oswald’s in 1975 and had the granite marker put up in 1997.

The esteemed daily tells us he lives in Manhattan and was born as Patric Abedin. He revealed himself just as the world was getting ready to celebrate 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. It is learnt that he has no intention of getting buried in the reserved spot. He wants to be cremated when he dies.

The cemetery officials were reluctant to accept the name till he showed them his credit card carrying the name Nick Beef. Some people do have a predilection for the morbid. Don’t they? Wait till you run into Harry Ham or Pat Pork.

Our Truculent Neighbor

That our enduring Defense Minister A.K. Antony hails from Kerala where VK Krishna Menon too came from is a mere coincidence. Antony’s chief qualification to head the all-important Ministry was his immaculately clean image – an attribute almost rare among politicians swearing loyalty to the Congress Party.

Both Menon and Antony have another common trait. Both turn a blind eye when all others see an obvious threat. Everyone other than Menon saw the looming Chinese threat in 1962.

He, like his mentor, Nehru was obsessed with Pakistan.

And today, when Pakistan is bent on creating problems for India, Antony’s sights are fixed heavenwards.

Come to think of it the leitmotif of Pakistani polity is deep-rooted hatred of India. The Pakistani army knows it cannot take India head-on in one go. However, the “war of a thousand cuts” is the sole goal of Pakistan which will not at all go away whether the country is ruled by Zia-ul-Haq or Pervez Musharraf or Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif. Yes, by glib talk every now and then, when circumstances so demand, Pakistani leaders do succeed making a fool of our rulers. Do you remember the devious Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto making as ass of Indira Gandhi by his beguiling promise: “Aap muj par bharosa kegejiye.” That was at the inglorious Shimla Conference in 1973.

Now pursuant to the “war of a thousand cuts” strategy with a most indecisive leadership in Delhi, Pakistan Army kills five Indian soldiers across the LOC in the Poonch sector. Antony wants to brush the matter under the carpet by telling us it were not Pakistan Army regulars but some “men in Pakistani army uniform” who killed our men. Who on earth is that gullible to buy this story? Only the time servers of the Party, but not the aam admi who can turn back and tell Antony: Sir, you know what déjà vu means?

The Salt of the Earth

Amidst all the dismal scenario what holds out some hope for the future of the polity is that every now and then some intrepid civil servant rises to the occasion and proves that things can improve if – a formidable if indeed – someone refuses to acquiesce into the acceptance of the rotting system, and does what’s he expected to do.

Durga Shakti Nagpal’s suspension has brought into the limelight the clash between corrupt politicians and upright civil servants. My friends in the IAS tell me that she isn’t the first nor the last, to stand up to doing the right irrespective of personal risk. Here are a few more similar examples.

Uday Veer Singh, now CEO of Medicinal Plants Authority, Karnataka, took on illegal mining in Karnataka. He helped the former Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde to unearth Rs 36,000 crore illegal mining scam. He got life threats from mafia for his actions and also faced humiliations from the top politicians and bureaucrats.

I was transferred as Registrar of Tumkur University and also as CEO of Zilla Panchayat of North Kanara district during illegal mining investigation,” said Singh.

U Sagayam, currently Managing Director, Co-Optex, took on illegal Granite miners and money game in Tamil Nadu assembly elections. Sagayam said, “I am only doing my duty to the best of my ability. I have been charged with holding free and fair elections and this is what I will do.” Are you surprised that Sagayam has been transferred 18 times in his career of 20 years?

Of course you have heard of Ashok Khemka, currently Secretary, Haryana Archives. He has the distinction of being transferred 44 times in 22 years of his service due to his actions. He says, “I am no whistleblower. I am doing my duty conscientiously.”

And lastly, a very young Yunus Khan, Sub-divisional magistrate, Nalagarh, Himachal Pradesh. He too, like Durga Shakti, initiated action against sand mining mafia just a week after joining as SDM and fined violators Rupees one crore in a span of six months, even though the mafia lodged complaints against him. Are you shocked to know while conducting a raid against illegal sand miners in the morning hours only recently the driver of a tractor with illegal sand tried to run him down?

Pray for them.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?

Think it Through

The following dictum of Abraham Lincoln could be the sheet-anchor of anyone’s life:

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.

How many in your life lime have you met living up to it?

Image (c) Gettyimages.com


More by :  Sakshi

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Views: 3492      Comments: 2

Comment "How many in your life time have you met living up to it? "

The question you raised, after Lincoln's "I must stand with anybody that stands right" is worth pondering.

At the very minimum, if we are not in position to or do not have the courage to participate directly in the fight against corruption, we can support, encourage and offer whatever assistance possible for those who stand up against it. This will be a very simple way to pay back the debt to our country.

If our newspapers offered only one tiny column each day to honor an honest bureaucrat, citizen or for that matter a politician, they would be worth reading. Are there any left worth reading? It is ironical that out of all people, Manish Tiwari, the man charged with the responsibility to manipulate the media, has the audacity to suggest reforming the system. The fox is suggesting how dedicated it is to guard the chicken!

19-Aug-2013 18:23 PM

Comment May the bugle call from Baruch reverberate throughout the nation in coming days.

Beef is a comparatively better name than Savage or Cannibal. A Google search reveals many things interesting about these family names. Many of us Indians are unabashed beef-eaters and Beefeater drinkers too. Incidentally, there are people with family name Pork -


There are Ham families too!

19-Aug-2013 06:57 AM

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