Sep 23, 2023
Sep 23, 2023
Aura of Whodunit
The arrest of the Indian Deputy Consul General, Devyani Khobragade, reads like an Agatha Christie thriller. It has almost all the usual ingredients of a typical whodunit: a well-planned conspiracy, hidden agendas, duplicitous actors, air of mystery et al. However, till now it is an as-yet-unresolved mystery. Was it a case of some over-zealous State Department officials acting almost entirely on their own who created a Laurel & Hardy mess or a well-planned drama which had a purpose to serve, and served it well?
Perhaps the most horrid attribute of the sordid drama was the handcuffing of a diplomat, theoretically enjoying diplomatic immunity and going to the extent of cavity search as if they had nabbed a much-sought drug smuggler. Such mistreatment of a State representative isn’t a light matter. Wasn’t it gratifying that the notoriously ‘soft’ Indian State shed, for once, its timidity and responded like a roaring great power which knows what are its rights and knows how to assert to protect them. I don’t think the American Embassy in New Delhi and those manning it, ever thought that they will get back in the same coin.
The American should have been gracious enough to admit that their officials acted with insensitivity and rendered an unconditional apology. Well, you don’t associate, of all the people in the world. Americans with what’s called graces of life.
The most baffling issue is: who really is behind the crude diplomatic row to humiliate a lady diplomat? Some powerful lobby backed by Pakistan or China or both to show their clout? It cannot be just the State Department on its own? Are the American President and the Secretary of State just plain mute witnesses to powerful lobbies translating their hidden agendas?
Remember Babu Jagjivan Ram, the great leader of the Harijans. (The word Harijans was coined by Gandhi for the social outcasts of Hindu society. Now the term is no longer in vogue. Dalits has taken over.) Cynical observers of our political scene believe he was valuable to the Congress as a counterweight to B R Ambedkar.
Babu Jagjivan Ram was the longest serving Minister in the Union Cabinet. He was reasonably efficient and politically useful to encash the Party vote bank. He had a son who died before he could don the father’s political mantle. So his daughter Meira Kumar, the present Lok Sabha Speaker, stepped in.
She’s a firm believer that every Minister is entitled for life time to the official bungalow allotted to him/her by virtue of his/her office. And in case of Babu Jagjivan Ram who died in 1986, the entitlement accrues to his children which is she. She found one excuse after another to stay put in the bungalow his dear father lived to serve the nation i.e., at 6 Krishna Menon Marg in Lutyens Delhi. She has twisted the UPA Government’s arm to have access to the bungalow for at least another 25 years. Why 25? Well, your guess is as good as mine. By then, she believes, the revitalized Congress under Rahul Gandhi will be back in power. So further extension for another half a century should be no problem. It is her grand plan to house there, a foundation set up in 2008 in the name of her father.
Sometime I wish before becoming Ministers our politicians should compulsorily be asked to read Tolstoy’s great short story: How much Land Does a Man Need ? It depicts the futility of human greed. The protagonist in the story is to gain possession of all the land he can walk around in one day. His greed for land lures him into walking farther and farther in order to encompass desirable woods, pastures, and other attractive areas. His greed leads him too far away from the point that would represent the enclosure of all the land he was attempting to encircle in one day. His anxiety and exertion kill him. The last paragraph reads:
His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.
In fact, Hindus don’t need even that.
My friends in advertising tell me that after a life time in the profession backed by hundreds of surveys and studies they still don’t have the faintest clue as to what appeals to female buyers. Their buying decisions can’t just be explained by any rational norm. The good old industry maxim “sex sells” doesn’t really work on female consumers. Yes, men do get swayed by it.
The Independent mentions a study that indicates the use of sexually explicit imagery sometimes actually discourages women from buying certain products, except perhaps for the very high-end items. The study quotes how researchers at the University of Minnesota enlisted a group of men and women to watch TV ads for women’s watches — those tiny little things not meant to keep a track of time but enhance the attractiveness of the slim wrist that supports the contrivance.
The ads alternated between showing a sexually suggestive image or a mountain range — scenes of the Alps, for instance — and the prices for the watch varied between $10 and $1,250. Male viewers reacted similarly to both versions. It isn’t the watch that should be attractive but the cute little thing wearing it. Surprisingly, the women found the sexual imagery distasteful when it was used to sell the cheap watches, but less so with the really expensive ones.
What conclusion would you draw?
Recently, we had some guests at home for dinner. They stayed with us for about two and half hours. The newly married young lady spent nearly an hour taking snapshots of someone or the other. Blessed be the inbuilt devise in smart phones.
Lately, I talked to a psychologist friend of mine about this compulsive habit of the young who try to capture every moment on their digital camera or cell phone. He said such people may be at risk for memory impairment. Lately, I saw in the British press reports on a study from Connecticut’s Fairfield University that took a group of students to an art museum and told them to take photographs of certain objects while ignoring others. When researchers tested the group’s memory the next day, the students were less accurate in recognizing objects they had photographed than those they had only looked at. Moreover, their memory of detail for the objects they had photographed was weaker.
The author of the study concluded: “People so often whip out their cameras almost mindlessly to capture a moment, to the point that they are missing what is happening right in front of them.”
Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses or employers. Boxing Day is the bank holiday that falls on December 26. It is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malta and some other Commonwealth nations. In Australia, Boxing Day is a federal public holiday.
In South Africa they have a far better name for Boxing Day. It was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. In some counties, notably Germany, Poland, Scandinavia and the Netherlands, December 26 is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day.
It is, I believe, extremely wise to have the 26th as a holiday to wear off the hangover of Xmas binge drinking
Jacques Kallis is almost universally rated as the greatest all-rounder cricketer. And he has, all his life, been a quiet, composed performer. Suddenly he delivered a shocker by announcing that he was retiring from Test cricket. A most touching and dignified way to call it a day! No Tendulkar-style tom-tom and a month-in-advance announcement almost telling everyone: “come and see me play my last test innings.” And his fans duly obliged him for want of having anything else to do.
Jacques Kallis announcement came when almost all the South African newspapers were closed. Only a couple of home journalists were around to carry the news. He was the world’s fourth highest Test run-getter, next only to Tendulkar. He scored the highest number of centuries – these days called tons; had the second highest number of test catches and, above all, the only cricketer to have 10,000 runs, 200 wickets and 100 catches.
That’s the way one should live one’s life: do you very best and thereafter just call it a day without fanfare as if you had paid back fully and finally what you owed to your calling (whatever that may be.)
Lord Acton famously said that “power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” If you want a proof of that read about what Indira Gandhi and her darling son die during the eighteen months of the Emergency in 1975-76.
Remember the British historian and politician, Thomas Babington, the (in)famous author of the 1835 “Minute on Indian Education”. He is also the author of the following dictum: “The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it.”
Can you think of someone who lives up to this?
Images (c) Gettyimages.com
More by : Sakshi