Saturday, November 6, 2004



Khushwant SinghTHIS ABOVE ALL
Fine art of party hopping
Khushwant Singh

EARLIER COLUMNS
Kiss and kismet
October 30, 2004
Food fads and filmi gods
October 23, 2004
Yesterday once more
October 16, 2004
Bose smart, Nehru smarter
October 9, 2004
Exploding myths
October 2, 2004
Candid confessions
September 19, 2004
Return to the hills for verse
September 18, 2004
The power of doubt
September 4, 2004
Trouble with the truth
August 28, 2004
What makes a perfect evening
August 21, 2004
Kasi yatra
August 14, 2004
Eat, drink and be merry
July 24, 2004

THE best time to watch antics of politicians on the make are elections: before names of candidates are announced by the parties, during the campaign and after results are announced. To start with, aspirants swear by their undying loyalty to the party: I am a disciplined soldier and will abide by my partyís decision etc." If he or she does not get the ticket, he or she will go into a sulk, do his or her best to get the party nominee defeated, or join another one. If the party nominee wins, in all probability, he or she will return to it. The following couplet by T.N. Raz of Panchkula sums it up neatly:

Party todeeyey, phir jodeeyay, phir todeeyey

Rang lay hee aayegee mauka-parastee ek din

Break up the party, rejoin it, break it up again, I say I am sure your opportunism will bear fruit one day.

Go down the length and breadth of the country and you will find party hoppers in every state of the Union who made it good: Amarinder Singh, Bhajan Lal, Bansi Lal, Kalyan Singh, Ajit Singh ó I could go on and on with my list but will end with Sharad Pawar, the rolemodel for Aaya Rams-Gaya Rams, the paradigm of party-hoppers who has made it better than any of his kind. The reason behind the success of party-hoppers is that the two major political parties of the country, the Congress and the BJP, have a lot in common. So changing loyalties when the situation is favourable does not cause much soul-searching or bad conscience. The one exception is the communists. Though split into two, they have definite commitments to their ideals which leave less scope for bargaining. To the best of my recollections, the only two card-holding communists who switched over to the Congress when the opportune moment came were Mohan Kumarmangalam to become a Minister of the Central Cabinet and Rajni Patel to become head of the Congress party in Maharashtra.

 

Loss of hearing

I am not quite deaf but getting more hard of hearing by the day. Friends are too polite to draw my attention to my growing infirmity but members of my family are more outspoken. My wife who has been dead over three years never spared me when I asked her to repeat what she had said with a question hain? She would snap back and exclaim: Dora! Why donít you have your ears examined?" Now everytime a stranger calls on me, my son, if he is around, tells him or her" "Speak a little loudly. My pop is hard of hearing." And the other day my daughter asked me, "Arenít you thinking of getting a hearing aid?"

There are pros and cons about hearing aids. I had a Canadian friend, a well-known art critic who had one connected to battery tucked into his front pocket. I asked him if it wasnít a nuisance. "No" he replied firmly. I have it switched on when I am out on the road; so that I can hear cars hoot to get out of their way. I also have it on when attending musical concerts. Its only in parties when people begin to bore me I switch it off and switch on a smile on my face to appear as if I am all ears."

Satish Gujral had lost his hearing as a child but he taught himself to speak
Satish Gujral had lost his hearing as a child but he taught himself to speak

Two of my friends have acquired hearing aids: Prem Kirpal, now 96, got one from Paris at the enormous price of Rs 1.5 lakh. He hardly ever uses it. When I asked him why, he replies naively: "the battery will run out and Iíll have to get another one from Paris." Bharat Ram who is the same age as myself also uses a hearing aid but has to cup his ears to catch what anyone is saying. The artist Satish Gujaral lost his hearing as a child and was more than able to cope with life: he was able to teach himself to speak in English without being able to hear what he was saying. Then he found a living hearing-aid in his comely wife, Kiran, who has taught him to read her lips and hand gestures. He gets over his handicap by doing most of the talking and reducing what he has to hear to the minimum. Some years ago he went to Australia for ear surgery which would restore his hearing to normal.

For some months he kept up the pretence that he could hear sounds he hadnít heard before. Actually the surgery did nothing for him. He is back to his more reliable hearing aid ó his wife.

I am not yet a gone case. I can hear people sitting close to me without much difficulty. I have problems hearing people who speak too softly, go on at the speed of machine-gun fire or go on interminably mimi, mim, mimi. Then I assume the mien of the smiling Buddha and occasionally grunt to indicate I am following what is being said. My only fear is that the person might ask me a question. I answer it with a benign smile. I also have problem answering telephone calls. Young people, mainly girls, get awed as if they were talking to an ogre and say what they have to at a breathless speed. I have to admonish them "Please speak slowly and clearly as I am hard of hearing. It would be better if you spelt out what you have to say on paper. I can see better than I can hear."

So far I have got away with it. I still enjoy classical music on my satellite radio, follow news and comments on TV channels. If I am hard of hearing, itís other peoplesí problem, not mine. But use hearing aid to help them out? No, I often wonder if deaf people are cremated or buried with ear-plugs and batteries or sent to the other world as deaf, as they were on the day they died.

 

Tehelka revisited

Curbed and crushed, maimed and slammed,

Go against the system and get damned,

Go against the greed and the misdeeds of the great

And live, if you do, to curse your fate

Touch their saintliness, their piety, their polished face

Their noble grace, their public weal

Call them to account, question their deal

And see their personal pique, their energy and zeal.

And if they are caught in the act

Then the camera has a defect

If right it is, what you have seen

Then the motives are mean,

So, why prosecute the people caught

Prosecute those who have to your notice brought

And now if the CBI takes up the case

Itís witch-hunt vile, national disgrace.

And then comes the final clarification

That if you are against the corrupt, you are against the nation.

(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

 

Cure for insomnia

"Doctor, my wife has acute insomnia. She very often remains awake until two oí clock in the morning. What shall I do for her?"

Doctor: "Go home earlier."

(Contributed by Reeten Ganguly, Tezpur)

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