Exchanging pleasantries

“People will teach Congress, Aam Aadmi Party a lesson” said Meenakshi Lekhi, BJP candidate from New Delhi.

…which is what I base my objective assessment of victory on, apart, of course, from voodoo and black magic.

“Modi misleading people of Delhi” alleges AAP.

…that used to be our sole prerogative only a few months back.

“I’m in the fray only after proving my worth”, says Pravesh Verma, son of Sahib Singh Verma, fromer BJP CM of Delhi.

…including resisting all attempts to interact with the rank and file and encouraging cronyism.

Sonia accuses the opposition of dividing the nation.

…that her party could not despite two successive attempts.

“BJP giving up values for temporary gains”, says Jaswant Singh, co-founder of BJP. “It is putting petty whims of individuals above the greater good of people”.

…especially greater good of people like me.

“Narendra Modi a divisive leader”, said Mayawati

…since I just learnt this new word yesterday.

“Hooda, Modi, working for Ambani”, screams Kejriwal

…when will my turn come?

“We tamed inflation” Chidambaram

…so what if Rupee depreciated, Reserves fell, Stocks plummeted and we had to implement control measures on import of Gold.

Election season is here. If, like Rip Van Winkle, you had just woken from a deep sleep, you would just need to pick-up today’s newspaper to realise what the excitement is all about. All you would need to do is add the lines in italics above, to complete the sentences only half-reported by the media.

How lucky can one get? Having politicians of all hues outdoing themselves in pulling all others down with their selfless desire to win the election and serve the people. Their eagerness to serve is touching.

My blogging friend List of X said in one of his recent posts, “10 Reaction To Supreme Court Decision on Campaign Finance“, “I am absolutely, positively sure that whenever a wealthy job creator gives a few million dollars to a Republican candidate, he does so because he genuinely has my best interests in mind”.

But List of X is American. India is no America. We don’t let the rich ruin the country. In India we only permit politicians to ruin the country. Occasionally in cahoots with the rich.

To make his quote relevant to the Indian context, I will hasten to add, “I am absolutely, positively sure that whenever a candidate gives an assurance that he has no interest in power or money, and is contesting the election only for the betterment of the people of the country, he does so because he genuinely has the betterment of the people of the country in mind.”

Won’t you agree?

Today, 10th of April, is when the mind-numbing exercise that is the Indian general elections, where there are over 800 million registered voters, yes over 800 million, will begin in a phased manner.

If you are a registered voter, make your vote count. Our system may not be perfect, but is certainly better than many others. The many others where people do not have a choice.

 

Earth Hour

“It was a tough day. I was on pins and needles the whole day, in anticipation of that hour. I could hardly work. I so wanted to make a contribution.” Taking a swig of bottled water transported from five hundred miles away, he continued, with evident satisfaction of a job well done, “but, on the balance, the wait was worthwhile. In order to beat the stress I was experiencing, I drove around town aimlessly. I even played some Playstation games in the evening. It makes you feel good to be able to give back. The feeling you get when you contribute to something greater than yourself is incomparable.”

“That is the time of day I am usually on the road on my way back home after work. Not to miss out on this opportunity that comes once a year, I got my driver to drive back home and fetch my son’s bicycle. Then, after work, as the hour had come, I rode the bicycle home with the driver driving the car behind me. I even instructed the driver not to run the air-conditioning in the car”, he said, looking at the mirror on the wall, as if trying to locate the halo he expected should have sprouted around his head by now and tenderly touching a spot on his neck he believed would be the point at which it is tethered.

Let us call them Friend A and Friend B, in order of appearance in this story. The three of us, third being me in case you did not guess, were meeting over a cup of coffee to catch-up and discuss some business possibilities. It was a few days after the day the world had contributed towards saving the environment during Earth Hour. But the reverberations were still being felt.

“Couldn’t agree more. After all we have a responsibility towards the future generations. If we don’t discharge our responsibilities, who will?”, asked Friend A, rhetorically. “I had instructed one of my team-members to stay back in office and ensure all lights and ACs were kept on till 8 PM, the Earth Hour time, so that we could switch them off sharp at 8 and contribute. Normally they would be switched off at 6 PM, when most people leave office.”

“I had asked my wife, who was at home, to switch on the ACs in the house at least a couple of hours earlier than usual. Even the ones we don’t normally use,” said Friend B.

“That was very thoughtful of you”, complimented Friend A, while making a mental note of doing the same when Earth Hour came around the following year.

By now it seems they had realised something was amiss. I was not participating in the discussion. Perhaps seeing the blank look on my face, like a sensitive, concerned friend, Friend A slapped me on the back of my head and asked, “What’s biting you? The cat got your tongue?”

I was feeling smaller and smaller as the conversation had progressed. I had always felt out of place in such discussions. But, with the Earth Hour looming large, I was afraid my inability to participate in affairs of the world would finally be exposed.

“I could not switch off my ACs”, I said in a feeble voice.

There was a look of disgust on their faces which they tried to hide for the sake of old friendship. Unsuccessfully, as always. “What right does this fellow have to endanger our future generations?” was the question writ large on their faces.

“But why? I am sure you know how to”, Friend B asked in a reassuring voice.

I looked sheepishly from one to the other. Then said, “because I did not have them on.”

This statement confused them. But they quickly gathered themselves. “But why?” they asked in unison. “Why did you not have them on?”

I was trying to avert their piercing gaze. Looking down at the floor, I said, “I am sorry. But the weather has been quite pleasant. I have not felt the need to use ACs. Even today, a week after the Earth Hour, I am not using ACs.”

Friend B gave me a pitying look as if to say “you are beyond redemption.” He added, in a slightly exasperated tone, “Fine, you did not switch off your ACs. But at least you would have switched off your water-heater.”

I was hoping the earth would open up and swallow me. No words came from my mouth. I could only shake my head from side to side in denial.

There was a look of even greater disgust on their faces which they tried to hide for the sake of old friendship. Unsuccessfully, as usual. “Not only has he tried to endanger future generations through his actions, he is even trying to endanger the lifestyle of the present generation through his utterly responsible and unnecessary ways. Not only has he not been running ACs, he has even been bathing in unheated water”, was writ large on their faces.

After a few minutes they softened a little. We were old friends after all. Friend A tried to reason with me. “Don’t you see the problem? If you don’t sleep with the AC on, how will you be able to run the water-heater through the night and bathe in hot water in the morning? You will not feel the need.”

Seeing that the logic had not registered, he tried again. “Look, let me say this in a different manner. If you don’t bathe in hot water in the warmer months, how will you have the urge to emerge from the hot shower into an air-conditioned room?”, he asked, with irrefutable logic.

“So, guess what, we were able to contribute even more to the environment by switching off the water-heaters as well. Everyone knows they are second only to ACs in power consumption”, Friend B added helpfully.

I was having trouble meeting their eyes. I never knew they carried such a flame for the environment in their hearts. AC because it is too hot. And water-heater because it is too cold. Masterful. And then switching off both for Earth Hour.

“Look, I can understand some of this can be difficult to do. But you are a smart guy. I am sure you will do better next year. All it takes is a little practice. A big party has been arranged this weekend to celebrate the successful observance of Earth Hour. It is an all-night party, under lights, in an AC venue. People who made sacrifices for the Earth Hour need to relax and let their hair down. Join us there. You will be able to experience the joy felt by people who were able to contribute”, Friend A said reassuringly.

“I even carry the news-item in my pocket”, Friend B said, pulling out a crumpled piece of paper as proof of his commitment to the cause. I had read that piece a couple of days back. It called upon people to actively contribute to the Earth Hour by turning off unnecessary lights and electrical gadgets to show you care about the environment. It was a stirring call to action.

“Next year we are thinking of instituting a prize for the person who turned off the maximum number of unnecessary equipment that he had been keeping on for the rest of the year. And for creative ideas. Like the folks who have kept their back-up power generator running even though there is no need for back-up power, so that the Earth Hour savings can extend beyond electricity to fossil fuels.”

Yet another Earth Hour had come and gone.

Yet another opportunity I had missed of not contributing to the cause by switching off things that I had needlessly put on.

Auspicious day

“In our country can you even dream of doing anything without picking an auspicious day?”, the candidate rhetorically asked his supporters while filing his nomination for the forthcoming general elections, just a day prior to the deadline set for the same.

The supporters roared in approval as they had no idea what he was talking about. It was an auspicious day for them as well. They were getting money in return for supporting him for the day.

“The Gods are with me. If they were not, they would have ensured that the auspicious day fell after the deadline was over”, he said with irrefutable logic.

“I will ensure that all important decisions are taken on auspicious days only”, he said, coming out into the still-pleasant March sun from the darkness of the office of the Election Commission, after filing his nomination, referring to the tried and trusted management technique followed in the country. “Historically, while the private sector has used this technique to their advantage, enabling it to abdicate responsibility for wrong actions, the government, as usual, has dragged its feet on the issue.”

It was like a video in playback mode that he conjured up for his supporters who were left wondering about what might have been. Thousands of lives lost in the Uttarakhand floods last summer could have been saved if only the unauthorised construction on the riverbed had been done on an auspicious day. The repeated humiliation of the cricket team could have been avoided if only the team selection had been done on an auspicious day.

Still, the question uppermost in their mind was, “in a country of this size, how does one ensure that an auspicious day is chosen?”

He was nothing if not an understanding and sensitive leader. He smiled and chided them gently “don’t you even know how an auspicious day is chosen?”

Seeing the blank looks all around, he continued, “Look, first you pick a number, any number. Then you add the sum of its digits.”

There was a mad scramble for pen and paper as he spoke those words. They wanted to capture every nuance of the process. Some even turned on their phone video recorders.

“The sum of its digits will then be multiplied by two. Always remember that. If you multiply by any other number you will get a different result”, he helpfully and knowledgeably advised, nonchalantly giving them a Math lesson that they would remember lifelong. “The resultant number should be increased by one-fifth of its value after which the digits should be reversed. Then seven added to the number and the resultant divided by three.”

He had their attention. People were busy writing down the formula. Some of them were scared of Math. But the way he explained it made it easy even for them. You could hear a pin drop.

“And then”, the words came out like a cannon-shot in that silence, “if the resultant is a number less than a hundred, proceed to destroy it.”

The supporters busily wrote it down. They even checked with the neighbour is they had got the number right. It was bound to be a critical step in the process.

“And if, if”, he stressed on the word, “the number happens to be any other number”, he boomed, “a number that is not less than a hundred”,

Pause

More pause

“proceed to destroy it”.

The throng of supporters clapped. The suspense had been cleared. Pens started scribbling on paper once again. Phone videos were anyway rolling. They sensed a logical break in the explanation, and carefully tore off, folded and pocketed the paper on which it had been written, for use at an appropriate time in their lives.

“After that, you need to add the numbers in your date of birth or the digits assigned to each letter in your name.” Sensing the question in people’s eyes, he said, “Randomly of course. You will assign random values to each letter in your name.”

There was a sigh of relief. They could handle this. Assigning random values. It was clear now. They quickly made the required notes on a new piece of paper. The videos kept rolling.

“These numbers, as you might have guessed, will reveal a great deal about character, purpose in life, motivations, talents, etc. It may not be about the person doing the calculation, but someone in the world who has no idea about it will surely answer to the character, purpose in life, motivation, etc. revealed by the numbers.”

They could only marvel at this ingenious way of getting an insight into the character of someone they knew nothing about and were unlikely to, ever.

“After that you would need to add the digits of the number so obtained, divide by two and raise to the power of seven”.

The pens were slowing down. He could sense the growing unease. Despite his facility at explaining complex mathematical equations, there were limitations. He swiftly moved to a solution.

“I understand that all of us may not be able to do this on our own. We will need spiritual leaders to guide us. We will select a spiritual leader based on the most outrageous claims of healing body and soul being made and give him free land for building ashrams. In a crowded city like ours, we could either take land from school playgrounds or cut down some forests. After that we will make him richer and richer so that he can give us guidance.”

“But then, we all know that revered spiritual leaders are subject to occupational hazards. Hence, we will create a panel of spiritual leaders. As soon as the selected leader has sexual impropriety charges levelled against him, the next one on the panel will take his place. And so on.”

Who was this guy they wondered. A politician who even has a Plan B. Unheard of. This guy was likely to go far. And so, on that auspicious day, they mentally made a note to hitch their wagon to this guy in the forthcoming elections.

Common Sense From The Past

Ankur Mithal:

A list of eternal truisms…

This particular one seems menacing, almost Orwellian:

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

Unfortunately, many political leaders, on the one hand make out as if the largesse they are doling out is their own hard-earned money, on the other they start believing it is their right to take from others.

Originally posted on Grumpa Joe's Place:

A good friend sent me this list of quotes which are pretty interesting. Although these truisms have been published by many blogs and websites I thought them good enough to share again.

Aesop_pushkin01

Truisms
1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.– John Adams

2. If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.– Mark Twain

3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of  Congress. But then I repeat myself.– Mark Twain

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.– Winston Churchill

5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul…

View original 583 more words

Hurt sentiment

“I know it has been a long gap. Too long if you ask me.”

The minister was speaking at a function organised to mark the banning of a book for “denigrating Hindu traditions”.

“Look, we cannot change the past. If the previous governments did not find any books to ban for hurting religious or other sentiments, there isn’t much we can do. They may have been distracted by trying to address issues affecting the common man, but not us. As long as we are in power, I assure you we will continue to ban books and other artistic expressions, whether denigrating tradition or not, whether hurting religious sentiment or not.”

He waited for the thunderous applause to subside, and continued, “As you probably know, just three months back a Hindi film has been banned as it hurt the sentiments of Hindus not only by its name but even through other things portrayed in the film. Let the message be clear. We are not partial to any particular artistic or creative medium. Whatever medium you choose to express yourself in, we will be waiting.”

“If memory serves me right, the last such occasion of banning a book would have been that of Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’. More than twenty years back. Almost an entire generation has been deprived of the benefits of banning a book for denigrating tradition and sentiment. How can we ever recover these lost years of our youth?”

Pausing to take a sip from a glass, he continued, a little softly, “This is a glowing example of the democratic and secular fabric of our nation. Which nation, tell me which nation, can claim to have banned a book for hurting Muslim sentiment and then banned another book for hurting Hindu sentiment?”

People in the audience looked here and there. They could not, but, agree.

“Now what, you may well ask?”, he looked into their eyes as he spoke. People in the front rows averted his gaze. His eyes were burning with a missionary zeal.

“Well, for a start, we have several volunteer groups actively searching for hurt to religious sentiments of Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists. We don’t want the feelings of followers of these religions to be hurt because there was no book hurting their religious sentiments. And, each of these volunteer groups is even more unknown than the ones who initiated proceedings for banning this book.”

“If need be, we will start more religions so that we can protect their sentiments and traditions. I know I can count on your support for this initiative, my dear countrymen. After all, we need to protect our rich culture and tradition. A culture so rich that it gets threatened when an individual publishes her personal views and interpretations in a book.”

Now who can argue with that?

Magic Wand

“But this was not part of your promise”, she screeched, the volume knocking meandering satellites off their orbital path.

It was just yesterday that she had gone to the meeting. And gone with high hopes. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the new kid on the political block, had vowed to change corrupt practices and put political power back in the hands of the common man. And they had invited the common man to a public meeting where they could register their complaints. People passed over for promotion, youngsters feeling cheated in parental bequest, people charged ten rupees for a bank transaction, were all queuing up to join the party and serve the nation and the common man. Of course, in the rush, some other undeserving causes may have also slipped through.

Nobody had ever invited her before. But that was no hindrance. Cometh the hour cometh the man. Or woman. She was ready. Ready to do her bit for the country and the common man. There were worthy causes all around. Like the smooth, blemishless road in her colony. Roads in the nearby colonies had recently been relaid without needing the relay. Why should her colony not get the benefit of being relaid without needing the relay. It was an apt example of the corruption that had seeped into the previous government.

On her way to the complaint registration desk, she had jumped the queue several times and battered and bruised several complainants standing in the queue awaiting their turn. After all, every common man has a voice. Isn’t that what had been promised by AAP? Why should she not have one? She was happy that her complaint had been heard and registered.

On the ride back home, her face was all aglow with the knowledge that the common man was finally going to reap the fruits of independence and democracy. She parked her car on the pedestrian path in front of her house under the “No Parking” sign and went inside whistling. It was a momentous occasion.

She knew action would be quick. She had awoken early that day and was ready for the Vigilance department staff when they came calling. A pot of tea was on the stove and cookies were neatly laid out on a tray.

The Vigilance Officer held out a letter for her. She smiled, took the letter in one hand and held out the tray of cookies for him with the other.

“Bring the pot of tea, you idiot,” she said as she slapped her underage domestic help, illegally brought in from a nearby country, admonishing her for her tardiness.

Taking a moment to look at herself in the mirror, she carefully opened the letter. It did not take long for her face to turn from glowing to ashen.

The letter was a show cause notice for throwing garbage from her house in front of the neighbour’s house. It appeared that the neighbour was also fighting against injustice done to the common man. She was aghast. “What right does the neighbour have of fighting for the common man?” she wondered.

Struggling to maintain her external composure, she managed to ask, “Where does your manifesto say that you will take action against the common man?” In the same breath she added, “Show me where you have said that the common man has responsibilities. We have lived with other political parties for so long without any responsibilities. Nobody has ever bothered about it. Who are you to tell me where I should throw my garbage? Next you will tell me not to park my car under the “No Parking” sign”. Who are you to tell me that I need to behave responsibly? And who are you to take cognizance of my neighbour’s complaint against me? Even if she is common, I am more common than her.”

The Vigilance Officer tried to offer an explanation. She could only see his lips move. She could not hear anything he was saying. She could hold it no longer. “But this was not part of your promise”, she screeched, the volume knocking meandering satellites off their orbital path.

Meanwhile, outside the house, happiness was coursing through the streets like a pleasant breeze. There was expectation of magic once again in the air. To be performed by someone else.

O Captain! My Captain!

On the eve of the away Test series against South Africa, the captain of the national cricket team got into a freewheeling discussion with a leading daily. He was in a relaxed and expansive mood. He had every reason to be relaxed, as the team had just successfully suffered another rout in an away series in ODIs (One day internationals).

Produced below are extracts from this conversation.

Interviewer: You have achieved a lot at a very young age. What do you now look forward to when you play?

The captain broke into a half-smile. He said: When you play for the country, the job is never done. Each day brings a new challenge. I am looking forward to leaving behind a legacy that people will remember.

Interviewer: Does that mean you are looking at retirement soon?

Captain: One has to face retirement sooner or later. I have made contributions on the field. Now, I have come to that stage of my career where I will be selected to play without making any contribution, purely because of my past performances and the love people have for me, so that they can debate in offices and coffee-shops about my retirement and offer their advice. Such is the price one has to pay for fame and success in our country.

Interviewer: That will be quite a change. The paying public has got so used to seeing you in the middle, not having a clue about what to do, especially when playing on fast and bouncy pitches overseas, as in the ongoing series.

Captain: Well, things change.

Interviewer: Back to the question of legacy. Do you have any short-term goals for the team?

Captain: I would like to restore cricket in our country to its rightful position. We have made a start in the right direction by losing the last two away series’. And we did not leave things to chance. We lost both series by convincing margins of 0 – 4 so as to leave no room for doubt. After all, we claim to be the best team in the world. If we don’t lose in style, who will? The upcoming Test series against South Africa provides us with a golden opportunity to build on this success and make it three away series losses in a row. And, in between, we even managed to lose a series at home. Which team can beat that?

Interviewer, nodding his head: I can empathise with that. As you know very well, there was a period, a few years back, when there was a threat that the team will buck the trend and become a world-beating team. In fact, the influence was so strong that even when you became captain they continued to win matches.

The captain, with a deep sigh: You have seen the terrible times we have been through. There was a time when things were so bad that some of our teams had even started winning overseas. Such things will happen from time to time.

Interviewer: But how did things become so bad? Who do you think is responsible?

The Captain: Though different people will have different views, I think that we have to blame two batsmen who happened to play together in the same team. We could have handled one but with two of them together, backed by a bold captain, some victories could not be avoided. But that is providence. It is rare that two batsmen of this calibre happen to play for the same team at the same time. You can only try to minimise the impact. With both of them now retired, we are back in contention, as the ODI matches in the current series have shown.

Interviewer: Any advice to young cricketers?

Captain: What can one say? Youngsters these days have their own mind. They will not listen to advice. There is a young cricketer from UP who has hired a former player as personal trainer. Such dedication is uncalled for and unheard of. ‘This is not tennis’ I have told him, ‘where you need to keep running hard and hitting for hours at a stretch. This is cricket’. If he continues to practice and hone his skills even in the off season, when will he have time to do the ad shoots which all of us cricketers owe to our adoring fans. He says the sport pays him well enough to engage a personal trainer. Such dedication could shake the foundation of the sport in our country. It needs to be nipped in the bud. And if he gets paid well enough, he should open a restaurant like some of our illustrious predecessors have done. Or buy motorcycles without really needing them, as some others have done.

Interviewer: Do you have a message for your fans?

Captain: Our countrymen have made us proud and have contributed their mite towards our achievements. The more we lose, the more they love us.

We (cricketers) love you too. Please turn up in large numbers for my last match which will be held in Ranchi. I guarantee we will bring the weakest team to play that match against.

Interviewer: Any suggestions for the future of cricket in this country?

Captain: We are lucky to have an engaged and proactive Cricket Board guiding the fortunes of the game. They have been quite busy looking for countries to teach cricket to so that we can beat them. Being financially strong, they might even start their own countries. I understand the country’s maiden Mars mission has been partially funded by the Cricket Board. In case any organisms are found to exist on Mars, we will teach them cricket and organise a series. I don’t think the paying public will notice.

Interviewer: Finally, back to the question of legacy. Is this how you would like to be known as? The guy who managed to lose three away series in a row and restored cricket to its rightful position in our country?

The captain looks up at the ceiling, then in the distance. You could see a smile coming to his lips. He knew what he had to work towards. He finally spoke: I think more can be done. We lost the last two by 0 – 4 margins. Unfortunately the present series only has two matches. But, perhaps, we can try to lose a two match series by a 0 – 3 margin. That will surely be difficult to beat.

With that, he got up, shook hands, and went away.

What do you think?

“What do you think of the verdict?”, the old gentleman in the changing room asked me.

We were in the changing-room of a gym I occasionally visit in my losing battle against creeping unfitness. He had been watching the news on the TV in the changing-room, shaking his head all the while. This was in the early part of last week.

The news was about a verdict announced just a short while earlier, pronouncing a doctor couple guilty of killing their only daughter and a domestic help. This was a case that had received a lot of attention a few years back when the event happened. The accused were not someone living on the margins of society. They were, as doctors mostly are, a well-respected doctor couple, and likely to have been part of the affluent set of society.

Caught off-guard by a stranger, I paused before replying, “I do not consider myself competent to say whether the verdict is right or wrong. But what I do feel is happy that there are processes in the country that permit cases to be taken to their logical conclusion; even when there is no individual who has an interest in pursuing the case to its logical conclusion. In the case of a teenage girl, it would be her parents who would have the most interest in bringing the guilty to book. Here, the parents were the accused.”

He was silent for a while. Then he spoke again, “This verdict is incorrect. I know these people. They have come to my charitable school. They are a very pious couple…” and his voice trailed off.

“Pious? What has that gotta do with it?” I thought, but said, “I don’t know on what grounds that can happen? I assume due process of law has been followed and the accused provided reasonable opportunity to present their case.”

Just then the attendant came to talk to him and he got distracted. In the meantime, I went on into the shower.

In the shower, my mind was full of the event and the brief conversation I had just had.

“What has pious got to do with it?” I wondered.

Another case that has been in the public eye came to my mind. Of a sage (or self-styled godman as he is called in the media), who apparently had a following in the hundreds of thousands, accused of raping a girl in his ‘ashram’.

“Would he not have been considered a pious man?”, I again wondered.

So what happened to him?

Once the matter came to light, he was apprehended. Apparently a prima facie case has been found against him and he has been incarcerated. To stand trial as per the law of the land. He will, equally, have the right to defend himself. With the help of the wealth he has seemingly accumulated on account of his pious activities, he can certainly afford to hire the best and the brightest. And I am sure he will not be denied that right. I am also sure he will not be tried by a kangaroo court. He will have the right to appeal at various levels should initial verdicts be inimical.

So what is the point?

The point I am making is that in case of the doctor couple also, while their supporters would no doubt be aggrieved at the verdict pronouncing them guilty, I have confidence that the law of the land has been applied.

In my view, a verdict which does not either have an admission of guilt or video evidence will always have scope for doubt. Should such cases be abandoned? Supporters of a person at the receiving end will never find such a verdict fair.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying they are guilty. All I am saying is that I have reasonable confidence that over the last few years this case has been going on, due processes have been followed. And there are multiple agencies involved. Not a single gun-toting marshal in a lawless western frontier town of yore who “is the law”.

I can only say that I grieve for them and sympathise with their supporters. I wonder what nature of provocation can lead one human being to kill another. I also hope that no-one has to go through an experience like this.

The point I am making is that while we find reason to complain about the smallest things, and I have no doubt there are many irritants, we do not bother to appreciate the privileges we possess.

We could be living under a despotic regime claiming to be benevolent while amassing wealth and power.

We could be living in a nation where decisions pertaining to someone’s life and death are taken based on the whims of whoever is in power.

We could be living in a state where clerics have arrogated to themselves the right to decide how others should behave and what scripture should be applied to what situation.

We could be living in a place where the path to justice passes through the barrel of a gun.

We could be living in an environment where any sort of dissent is treated as treason.

We could be living in a society where public servants blindly toe the party-line and have neither the courage or vision to make sensible decisions based on law and their own conscience.

We do not appreciate enough living in a free country. We do not appreciate enough living in a place where generally there is rule of law. We do not appreciate living in a place where the common man can raise his voice when the need arises and the powerful are brought down when the situation demands.

This is what I wish to do through this post.

Human battles will continue. We now have the case of the managing editor of a leading publication who has been accused by a young journalist of rape. Again, he apparently has the resources to buy whatever kind of help he wants. At the same time, I am confident that we have the institutions to handle the case on its merit.

We also have the case of a charismatic Chief Minister, feted by leading business schools of the world for the apparent turnaround implemented in his State, who is now in jail for a scam. Again, I am confident justice will be done.

What do you think?

That’s what friends are for

“We have beaten back the spirited challenge from other BRICS nations.”

It was evening. As per long-established tradition, during the days Parliament is in session, daytime adversaries met informally in the evening. Their concern for the common man had led to the daytime debate being continued in the evening, normally a time for conciliation. The Minister for IT and Telecom was the star of the show, after having ably quelled what had, at first, appeared to be a logical and well-meaning challenge, mounted to protect the interests of the common man. He was holding forth once again.

(see post: Only snooping around)

“In the secret surveillance programme carried out by NSA (National Security Agency) of the US, we are now the most spied upon BRICS nation. India stands fifth overall, only after Iran, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but with active connivance of the government we will inch towards the top spot. Let nobody say that India is no.1 only in corruption and population growth”, the Minister said to the sound of clapping.

“What do you think will come out of all this anyway? Without meaning any disrespect, till the time Americans run this, we have nothing to worry about. Poring through tonnes of data this exercise generates is painstaking work. Who do you think has the stomach for it? You guessed it; only our countrymen. Especially when they are in a foreign country, and paid in dollars. This will create job opportunities for scores of graduates from our well-known educational institutions. Have you any idea how many peoples’ dreams of going to America this project will fulfil?”

Opposition members knew. They had already calculated. They could see new job avenues opening up for their near and dear ones. The ones not cut out for a career in politics; the educated ones that is.

The Minister continued, “We will need to start worrying about the data when Indians start running the show. We know how effective Indians are in pulling down other Indians. The real benefits of this system will be felt only when Indians start running it, while the Americans are busy lobbying government to enact laws to get innocent taxpayers to pay for being spied upon.”

Opposition members had to grudgingly agree.

“And have you given a thought to the common man?” the Minister asked.

Opposition members looked at him blankly. They did not understand the question. None of their training and years of experience had ever required them to think of the common man.

“The common man is happy being spied upon by the US. He can proudly say he is being spied upon by the US and not by any local government. I can already see people starting to change their Resumes to reflect this accomplishment. Can you imagine the social advancement opportunity this creates? Can you imagine what this will do to the marriage market of the young men and women who can demonstrate being spied upon by the US?”

After the dressing down during the day, the opposition had been a tame lot, slinking in corners, keeping to themselves. With each revelation they were getting more and more animated. Even tame politicians can identify a sensible argument even if they cannot understand it. Their ears perked up at the question even though it was rhetorical.

“And it is really not so bad. Why, even John Kerry, during his recent tour of UAE, has said that Barack Obama ‘didn’t order all NSA snooping’. He has also said, in no uncertain terms, that the administration was close to finding out who issues orders in the country”, the Minister said with some finality.

“By the way, do you know who John Kerry is?”, he asked.

Noticing the blank look on the faces of Opposition members, he continued, “I don’t, either. They say he is an American. By the way, do you know who an American is?”

He could see their faces brighten up. They nodded vigorously. Each one of them knew who an American was. In fact most of them had an American in their immediate family who they were proud of. They knew that an American was an Indian who loudly said he did not understand Hindi, and conducted his conversations in English mainly with the help of three words, ‘gonna’, ‘wanna’ and ‘like’. They all agreed that John Kerry did not look like an American one bit. Besides, and this was damning evidence, he used more than three different words.

“And, like respectable Opposition parties, you may choose to disregard what I say, but surely you cannot disregard what John Kerry has to say about this issue. You know Americans believe everyone believes them when they say something.”

“Besides, one has to help friends, is it not?”, posed the Minister, a little softly. “What can we do? Our hands our tied. US laws allow for snooping on other countries even though US law does not apply to other countries.”

Opposition members could empathise. They knew what it was like to help a friend. On numerous occasions they had helped friends get out of jail, or escape the clutches of the law by tampering with evidence or threatening witnesses. Their friends had done the same for them on numerous occasions. There could not be a more convincing argument.

Redemption

He was on the run. But he had no place to hide. As is normally the case when one is running from oneself.

He was the butt of crude innuendos and cruel jokes; in fact, had been throughout his adult life. Everywhere he went people would laugh at him; on his face.

His ability to assume higher responsibilities, when the time came, had been questioned. He had lived a life on the margins.

Would he be responsible for destroying the legacy his illustrious father had assiduously built through so many years of persistence and hard work? In the face of adversity. In the face of questioning and investigation by law enforcement agencies of the country.

He had borne it all with great fortitude, devoting himself selflessly to the cause.

But matters had now come to a head. His, father, on the wrong side of seventy, had been accused of sexual assault by a minor girl.

He could bear it no more. He had bolted.

He had lived a charmed life.

His upbringing, and training, in the ways of the ashram run by his father, had been personally supervised by a doting father. He had been the chosen one. Expected to build on the legacy.

He had been a keen student. And had always tried hard.

Despite his upbringing and training and hard work, results had been singularly remarkable in their absence. No accusation of sexual assault! No case of land-grabbing!! No instance of even petty thievery or rabble-rousing!!!

His father, on the other hand, had gone from strength to strength. This was not the first time such accusations had been made against him. He had periodically been accused of land-grabbing, amassing wealth disproportionate to means, and various other crimes. The difference this time was that he had been arrested and put behind bars. He had even successfully passed a potency test while incarcerated. Was there anything he could not do? The self-styled Godman had a following of millions for good reason.

Dove-cotes of the faithful are aflutter. Faced with the prospect of being led by an unaccomplished son, they are troubled and in a militant mood. They see it as a let-down and have started openly questioning the Godman’s decision of grooming his son to take-on the mantle. Why had the Godman wasted resources in training such an imbecile? They wanted answers to their questions.

Is this the person they will abdicate personal responsibilities for, and rush to in search of the cheap, alluring alternative of ready answers, outcomes of which can be blamed on fate and karma?

Is this the person who will lead and guide them to never take responsibility for their actions, nay, their whole lives?

Is this the person whose drug-laced dancing steps they will witness and cheer in the hope of reaching closer to the state of nirvana through blind faith?

Is this the person who will sprinkle coloured water on them from a garden hose powered by a portable motor riding on a battery-powered golf-cart made to look like a chariot, to deliver them from their sins?

Is this the person who will ask them to surrender logic and reason and embrace superstition and stupidity?

Is this the person who will give them a false sense of security and pander to their desire and craving for being led?

Is this the person who will enrich himself at their cost and make them feel good about it?

All these days, he had no answer. And when matters came to a head, he had bolted.

But you cannot keep a good man down forever.

His honour has been retrieved. Recently, as if by divine intervention, he has been accused of molestation and rape by two inmates of another ashram run by his father.

He can walk tall once more. He can again look his father in the eye. He has not wasted his life in doing moral deeds. The years of training have not been in vain. He has earned the right to lead blind followers.

Even though the matter is with the courts, the accusation is proof that he is on the right track.

Devoted followers can heave a sigh of relief.

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