Pashupati Nath Darshan
Smiles and Smiles
Long Live Inspector Raj
After Modi Sarkar
Pashupati Nath Darshan
The way he’s going, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is heading to build a reputation of a Footloose PM. Not that I’ve kept an account – I should have – Narendrabhai has spent more time travelling abroad than in India since he took over the reins of office. The countries covered by him since his Bhutan visit in two and half months include destination near and far. And now early in August he’ll be off to Nepal. Official chroniclers tell us that it will be the first by an Indian premier in 17 years since IK Gujral in 1997.
In Nepal Narendrabhai’s agenda cannot be bilateral much he would have liked. China will be the gorilla in the room during all of Modi’s one-to-one conversations with his Nepalese interlocutors. And much of what they talk, is unlikely to be shared with the media, now or ever. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has, already, done the preparatory work for Modi’s visit to Kathmandu in her just-concluded visit to Nepal.
It is indeed significant that Nepal is the second SAARC country Modi has selected for paying a bilateral visit to so early in his tenure after making Bhutan the destination of his first foreign visit. Both Bhutan and Nepal share border with China. 470 kms in case of Bhutan and 1111 kms respectively in case of Nepal. Both these SAARC countries are strategically crucial for India. However let’s not forget China has already done everything, through its infrastructural juggernaut, to enlarge its strategic footprints while we were largely dismissive over our immediate neighbors.
I wish PM Modi good luck in befriending all over again our Nepalese neighbors who have over the years got used to having the best of both the worlds. Modi may invoke the blessings of Pashupati Nath by visiting the temple – a gesture that indeed can endear him to the Nepalese.
A great deal is being talked in Delhi about the Capital’s favorite political trade called horse trading, to explore the possibility of forming a government.
The term horse trading is as American in origin as Coca Cola is. It came into usage around 1820 and owes its origin to the notorious shrewdness of horse traders who bought and sold horses. Metaphorically, it involves difficult and sometimes dishonest discussions between people who are trying to reach an agreement. In political parlance, it implies any long drawn-out negotiation characterized by hard bargaining and compromises. It frequently takes place in democratic institutions like legislative bodies to form a government or pass a bill in the legislature.
On account of the difficulties in evaluating the merits of a horse offered for sale, the selling of horses offered great opportunities for dishonesty. It was expected that horse sellers would capitalize on these opportunities and so those who dealt in horses gained a reputation for underhand business practices.
More especially, as standards for ethical business declined in the U.S. in what’s called the Gilded Age – that is the Reconstruction Era from 1870s to 1900 – the activities of horse traders came increasingly to be seen as symptoms of the moral depravity of horse traders. In an 1893 New York Times editorial criticizing a proposed law to make it illegal for a newspaper to falsely state its circulation figures, the author declared that “if the lying were stopped by law, the business of horse trading would come to an end, and the country taverns and groceries in the Winter season would be deprived even of the limited eventfulness which they now enjoy.”
Smiles and Smiles
Humans have communicated with each other from time immemorial – in fact much earlier than the origin of languages. As a consultant I developed special interest in non-verbal communication and have followed it up by watching people’s nonverbal behavior as they communicate with each other. A systematic study of non-verbal communication started with the 1872 publication of Charles Darwin's The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Since that time, there has been an abundance of research on the types, effects and expressions of unspoken communication and behavior. While these signals are often so subtle that we are not consciously aware of them, research has identified several different types of nonverbal communication.
Of the eight types of nonverbal communication the one that fascinates me the most is the study of how people smile and what do various types of smiles convey. I’m told when Walt Disney hires people one expert on the selection board who studies only how often the candidate smiled during the interview and what type of smile that was.
The most common smile you and I run into day in and day out is what’s popularly called Pan-Am smile. It is named after the airline Pan American World Airways, whose flight attendants were tutored to unfailingly flash every jet-setter. Other alternative terms for a “fake smile” are: Botox smile, a say-cheese smile!
A fake smile only involves the zygomatic major muscles which are forced by a person in order to give a polite smile. The smile is then limited only to the lips and there is no contraction in the eye area.
All of us in life are in search of a genuine smile. For that see and study a child smile. The scientific word for a “real smile” is “Duchenne Smile” which is named after the French physician Guillaume Duchenne who first identified the muscles involved with this smile. In a genuine smile the muscle around the eye contracts, raising the cheeks high. And this is uniquely associated with positive emotion.
Next time someone gives you smile watch out whether it is really a Duchenne Smile or a smile of the canned variety.
A friend of mine once a confirmed alcoholic gave up drinking when his doctor managed to convince him that he was heading for cirrhosis of liver. For years he was off liquor.
Recently, I saw him drinking once again and with renewed vigor. Surprised, I asked him the reason why he had started the drinking round all over again.
“Haven’t you heard of the good news”, he explained, “Japanese scientists have, for the first time, grown a functional human liver tissue from stem cells.”
I had the news authenticated by my knowledgeable friends. Indeed the breakthrough opens up the possibility of growing human organs in the lab, thus paving way for ending critical shortage of donor organs.
Through it could take a decade to actually grow organs on a large scale for transplants, the latest study by Japanese scientists using stem cells derived from skin and blood are being looked at as “proof of concept”.
So, possibly a couple of decades down the line confirmed alcoholics may look forward to the escape root of liver transplant. However, my friend is far too optimistic.
Long Live Inspector Raj
The socialist pattern of society that the Nehru family bequeathed us metamorphosed itself into an inspector raj. And it did more harm than good except for the class of babus who made plenty of hey when the socialist sun shone.
The list of inspectors created to oversee the system was impressive indeed: A labor inspector – to check the number of employees you had and to ensure payment of minimum wages to them; a factory inspector – under the Indian Factories Act, 1948 – to ensure compliance with provisions deemed necessary in 1948; a pollution control inspector; a fire inspector who invariably recommended where fire-fighting equipment was to be bought from so as to ensure his commission; a power (electricity) inspector; a health inspector; a DDA inspector on utilization of premises, and God bless you if you operated from a basement; a sales tax inspector; income tax inspector; an excise inspector; employees state insurance representative and finally a boiler inspector. Gujarat mercifully is the only state in India that has abolished the post of boiler inspector.
All 13 inspectorates had powers vested in them to stop your operations and have the premises sealed for violating the law of land.
Soon emerged the culture of hafta. The inspector concerned visited the premises once a week to have high tea and his collection. Comfortable arrangement indeed!
When in the Nineties we were forced to dismantle the socialist order none had the courage to repeal the laws that had created the above-cited dignitaries of the Raj. The system continued merrily. Everyone who came to power – and now the BJP – talked against it but didn’t do anything beyond that. You know the wise French have a phrase for it: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose i.e., the more things change, the more they stay the same.
After Modi Sarkar
An engineering student:
In the first half of May 2014
“Band karo ye exams ka atyachar,
daroo pine ko paise nahin hai yaar,
Sochta hoon le loon kisi se udhar,
Kyunki abhi hoon berozgaar,
Jab naukri milegi, to saare karze doonga utar,
Abki baar, Modi Sarkar”
At the end of July 2014:
Mein kya karon, yar
chahye ban gayee Modi sarkar,
main to hun abhi bhi berozgaar aur karazdar.