Saturday, August 9, 2003
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L

Khushwant Singh
The long and the short of it
Khushwant Singh

AN American research organisation has come to the conclusion that tall men get a better deal in life than their shorter cousins. Commenting on its findings, Natalie Angier of The New York Times writes: "Tall men give nearly all the orders, win most elections, monopolise girls and monopolies and disproportionately splay their elongated limbs across the cushy unconfines of the first-class cabins. By the simple act of striding into a room, taller than average men are accorded a host of positive attributes having little or nothing to do with height: a high IQ, talent, competence, trustworthiness, even kindness."

Another researcher has discovered that nearly 80 per cent of American senior executives are over six feet tall as were most heads of US government starting with Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, the Roosevelts and Kennedy. In every presidential election, it was the taller candidate who won. Although Jimmy Carter beat Ford in 1976, but lost to Ronald Reagan who was three inches taller.

It is not the same in Europe. In World War II, we had General De Gaulle of France who was nearly six feet six inches but we also had Churchill and Attlee who were shorter than average as was Adolf Hitler.

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A paradise on earth, that is Himachal
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When nothing but memory remains
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A strange way of healing
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Codes of conduct that received a royal ignore
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Fear is lifeís only real opponent
June 28, 2003
Gambling has religious sanction
June 21, 2003
What would you choose: security or freedom?
June 14, 2003
The hullabaloo over conversions
June 7, 2003
The treadmill of Indo-Pak relations
May, 31, 2003

When it comes to women, height becomes a handicap. Men prefer their women to be petite. In matrimonial ads, while men usually mention their heights, women prefer to give their bust and waist measurements. However, when it comes to senior jobs, taller and more masculine women make the grade, leaving their petite sisters to do secretarial jobs or domestic drudgery. Small women make poor bosses.

With height becoming a masculine obsession, shorter men become paranoid about their small size. They find it more difficult to date girls and drown their inferiority complex by hard drinking. The two professions they excel are as jockeys or comedians.

It is not surprising pharmaceutical firms producing human growth hormones are flourishing. The treatment is long and expensive. Regular shots of growth hormones in the bottom of a child who is likely to remain a midget guarantees at least 3`BD inches more to their stature.

How much of this applies to the Indian scene? All our Prime Ministers were men of average Indian height of around five feet six inches. Among the shortest was Lal Bahadur Shastri. Standing alongside President Ayub Khan of Pakistan, he looked like a puny David confronting a Goliath. Yet it was under Shastriís leadership that our army came to within stoneís throw of Lahore. Among Chief Ministers B.C. Roy (Bengal), Biju Patnaik (Orissa) and Siddhartha Shankar Ray (Bengal CM and later Punjab Governor ) were tall men. Ray towered above all the Akali leaders he had to deal with. Among women leaders, the Prime example was the petite Indira Gandhi. She struck terror in the hearts of her male colleagues. Jayalalithaa Jayaram is in the same mould. Though she has put on weight, she rules Tamil Nadu with an iron hand. Mayawati is a terror in her own rights. Of the women leaders of today, it is the soft-spoken Sheila Dikshit who is both gentle and firm. She has done a wonderful job as Chief Minister of Delhi. None of our men or women had their bottoms punctured with hormone shots. They were content to remain medium-sized and get on with their work.

Rock music

One summer afternoon I was strolling a less-frequented path round Kasauli Club. It was warm, the air heavy with fragrance of flowers which grew in wild profusion on the hillsides. I heard sounds of music and singing, the strumming of a banjo with three voices, two male and one female.

They stopped as they saw me come round the corner. We exchanged smiles and introduced ourselves. All three were from Kolkata. Amyt Datta, tall and light-eyed was a Bengali, Gyan-Nain Singh was a Sikh who ran Broadway Hotel and with him was his svelte Tamilian wife Jayashree. She was evidently the boss of the group they called Skinny Alley. They composed their own songs and put them to music. Apparently they came to Kasauli every summer to rehearse new numbers which they performed in Kolkataís night clubs. They said they had been eager to produce an album so that people in different parts of the world could hear them. At long last, Virgin Records had brought out their first album with the subtitle Escape the Roar. "It is serious rock music in English," asserts Jayashree. It is now available in music stores. The first to react were the Aussies. Skinny Alley has been invited to perform in different Australian cities.

Knowing next to nothing about rock music, I can only react to the verses composed by Jayashree for the group, I think they are good poetry. I give one sample:


Thereís an old man, sitting on a fence

You know he thinks of all the things he did

And all the things he didnít do,

Thinks of lost chances, lost opportunities

Now he feels like heís chained to this fence

To his memories.

Maybe, someday, someone will come

And heíll know just what it means

To be free, to be free (Repeat)

But for now...heís sitting on a fence

Thereís a big sky, like a bowl above his head

He can see so many stars like all the dreams he used to have

In his lonely bed

Now the dreams are gone, only stars remain

And he wonders, yes he wonders

If heíll have those dreams again

Maybe someday, someone... etc.

Na na na ... (what went wrong)

Maybe someday, someone will come ... etc.

American humour

Amir Tuteja of Washington introduced me to one American Steven Wright, author of many witty one-liners. I produce of few samples:

Iíd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Borrow money from pessimists ó they donít expect it back.

Ninetynine per cent of the lawyers give the rest a bad name.

A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.

Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

I intend to live forever ó so far, so good.

If at first you donít succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

A conclusion is the place where you get tired of thinking.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism! to steal from many is research.