Saturday, November 22, 2003

Jayalalithaa has grown more enigmatic with time
Khushwant Singh

For a few months I basked in the sunny smiles of Jayalalithaa Jayaram and was granted the privilege of addressing her as Amu. She came over to my flat many times, talked at length, loaded my grand-daughter with idols to worship (my grand-daughter is a Hindu) and gave her jewellery to adorn herself when dancing Bharatanatyam. For a while we also wrote to each other; I sent her one of my books when she was in Chennai Central Jail. I had reason to believe that I knew her well. Suddenly she dropped me, as they say, like a hot brick. I have no idea how or when I had offended her.

Jayalalithaa I was wrong in assuming I knew Jayalalithaa well. She was always unpredictable, an enigma which grew more enigmatic with the passage of years. She had great faith in astrology. Even before she became Chief Minister, she told me that she was destined to be ruler of Tamil Nadu. That prophecy came true. She told me of other astrological predictions (which I will not divulge) which did not.

On my first visit to Chennai after she had become ruler of Tamil Nadu, I was dismayed to see huge cut-outs of her in different parts of the city and heard reports of people worshipping her images as if she was a goddess. Tamilians indulge in this form of idolatory more than other Indians. In the case of Jayalalithaa there was more reason to treat her as a deity as she proved to be a strong ruler — combination of a wealthy Lakshmi (she gifted an elephant to a temple) with a powerful Durga: if anyone crossed her path, it was off with his head. If she wanted to, she could have put down this kind of silly human worship as did Bapu Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. She seemed to revel in it. I wish somebody who she listened to would tell her that hubris (excessive pride) is a sin and can be as terminable a disease as blood cancer. No one did. Or she turned a deaf ear to it.

I fear her nemesis will come at the hands of The Hindu. It is the most prestigious and responsible daily newspaper in the country.

I have no reason to believe that the Speaker of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly acted at her behest. But she must have known what he was up to. He has done her a great disservice by getting the entire media and democratic elements of the country support the stand taken by The Hindu against her regime. She makes no secret of her lofty disdain of the Press; but if she wants to stay in power, she cannot afford to ignore public sentiment. By now she must have learnt from experience that people who flatter you in your face laugh at you when your face is turned the other way. Politicians need to be taken seriously and not treated as laughing stock.

Kapoor of Roli Books

Pramod Kapoor In the highly competitive world of book publishing, Pramod Kapoor and his wife Kiran, owners of Roli Books, have made a niche for themselves as the producers of the country’s best coffee-tablers. I know them because they published three of mine which might have found few takers and gone unnoticed: The Sikhs (with Raghu Rai), Nature Watch (illustrated by Shudhasatya Basu) and Among the Sikhs, written by Surjit Kaur of Washington. They have much more to their credit: a most explicit production of Kama Sutra, pictures of the Everest and the latest on India’s maharajas.

Fiftyone-year-old Pramod Kapoor was a topper in school and college, got a degree in business management before he joined Macmillan and then McGraw Hill. In 1985, he started publishing Sunday Mail (which he sold at considerable profit) and launched his publishing house..

Tree lovers’ lobby

A couple of years ago Anuradha Paul of Nagpur wrote to me in some anguish about a local bara babu who had ordered the cutting down of many trees on the pretext of widening roads. I look upon felling healthy trees akin to murder and wrote angrily about it in my column which is picked up by a Nagpur paper. The bara babu desisted from carrying out his nefarious plan. And a desultory correspondence started between Anuradha Paul and me on subjects like forests, wildlife and birds in our gardens. In her letter she included some poems and limericks composed by her which I like to share with my readers:

Relief work

A dog with or without a pedigree

Will always be caught watering a tree!

What it likes to do the most

Is taking care of a dry lamp-post!

If it finds no better loo —

Any sort of car tyre will do!

Man to answer nature’s call —

Only need espy a wall!

On religion

Religion as today it is construed

Is techno-savvy and pretty much lewd

Fusion’s the word

Ask any kumbh nerd —

Sadhu and foreigner bathe in the nude!


On corruption

Shoot the god-damned corrupt, that’s the cure

For whom service to self is the lure

But, thick-skinned they are,

And too numerous by far,

We’ll run out of bullets for sure.

Poll-rigging has long been above sin

All’s fair in the ballot, to win.

Crooks become CM —

Nothing short of mayhem —

We idiots bear it with a grin



Banta: What is the price of this necktie?

Shopkeeper: Rs 500.

Banta: That is very high. I could buy a new pair of shoes for Rs 500.

Shopkeeper: Then tie a pair of shoes round your neck instead of a tie.

(Contributed by J.P. Singh Kaka, Bhopal.)