Saturday, November 22, 2003
THIS ABOVE ALL
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.
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
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.
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:
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!
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!
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,