Saturday, February 5, 2005

Khushwant Singh
Gossip is what gossip does
Khushwant Singh

Some weeks ago one of our leading weekly magazines made an oblique reference to a sex scandal against a Cabinet Minister which was causing acute embarrassment to the government; who could this Minister be? I racked my brains going over the ones I knew to see on whom the cap fitted. I knew one who had been involved with a maid servant and had been badly beaten up by the latter’s husband. But that was long before he had been elected to Parliament and the tabloid Blitz had published the story. He was not likely to risk making a fool of himself again.

I went over the others in turn; some were known to be compulsive womanisers but were careful enough not to take chances of being found out. I consulted my friends in the media. All of them named one man. I could not believe them as I was under the impression that he was so pre-occupied with his work that he had little time to spare nor the appetite for dalliance. However, it did not effect my high opinion of him: it only made him more human because of his weakness for women.

Kingdom of God
   January 29, 2005
Abandoned innocents
   January 22, 2005
Gem of a man
   January 15, 2005
Osho calling
   January 8, 2005
All that passed by
   January 1, 2005
Tomorrow yet to come
December 25, 2004
The truth about lies
   December 18, 2004
From Aryana to Afghanistan
   December 11, 2004
Goings-on in the name of god
   December 4, 2004
Of matters religious and erotic
   November 27, 2004
Faith should unite
   November 20, 2004
Fine art of party hopping
   November 6, 2004


Am I indulging in gossip? My late wife used to say she hated gossip and was only interested in people. To emphasise her point she would put on her glasses and look seriously concerned about the person being gossiped about. I, in contrast, relish gossip. When someone tells me of the sleazy life of anyone in the public eye, I try to cross-check the facts by asking others.

All of us know of the private and not-so-private lives of our film stars. They are more open about themselves and enjoy being talked about. Politicians, industrialists and Pressmen dislike having their peccadilloes become public property. It reduces their credibility in their own circles. Since most gossip is about money they make or about their sex escapades, they are more concerned about the latter. They are never short of money, but some hanker for more. However, the upper crust of the media, though not so flushed with money as politicians or industrialists are, make up by extorting fringe benefits like upper class travel facilities, free stay in the best of hotels, free food in the most expensive of restaurants. Their progeny enjoy similar privileges. A friend told me that a few evenings ago when he was dining in a Five Star hotel, a group of youngsters, boys and girls, entered the dining room and ordered bottles of the most expensive French champagne, blue label scotch and snacks. Out of curiosity, he asked the manager what their bill was. It came to over Rs 1 lakh. And that was only for starters.

The latest addition to my fund of gossip which is now over two years old is of a Press baron whose pro-tem mistress got pregnant. She refused to have the foetus aborted and had his child. To get rid of her, the fellow had to shell out over a crore and provide substantial maintenance for the child he sired. He was lucky he was Indian. If this had happened in Europe or America, both he and his lady friend would have found their pictures on the front pages of all tabloids.


Old age excesses

A man of 94 is standing trial in a Delhi court on charges of raping a 17-year-old girl. He has denied the charge and claims he has been falsely implicated because of a dispute with the girl’s family.

Although I am only 90, if I was in the shoes of the 94-year-old, even though innocent, I would cheerfully plead guilty and accept the sentence of imprisonment imposed on me with one request — that I be given 24 hours to set my affairs in order, celebrate my exploit and meet anyone I wanted to.

If conceded, I would first call a press conference and tell the media what a man in his 90s can and cannot do with a girl young enough to be his great grand-daughter. I would dodge direct questions fired at me and leave them guessing about how far I got with the girl. Next, I would invite representatives of pharmaceutical concerns and tell them that I was willing to reveal the secret of my ability to do what I had been convicted for doing and invite bids to get the highest offer. I know there is a big demand for harmless potency pill like Viagra. I would take in plenty of dough to be able to live in comfort in any Indian jail, where you can get everything you want if you have the money to bribe the jail staff. And finally I would write an application to the Guinness Book of World Records for considering me as the world’s champion lecher of my age. That will ensure my name going down to posterity.

Come to think of it there are records of men who sired children after they had passed the century mark through women who we today consider to be well past the child-bearing age. There are several instances mentioned in the Bible and, I am told, in our epics as well. In those days they did not maintain records of births and deaths; so we cannot be certain if they are correct. Nor do we know what they took to remain sexually active and fertile in their old age. Besides, they had frequent droughts and famines and managed to survive eating locusts and wild honey. Perhaps in this combination of insects and bee secretions in their diet lies the secret of their longevity and fertility.


Bribe advice

Going over the selection of T.N. Raz’s favourite couplets of Urdu poetry Rangaa-Rang Shaaeree, I came across two amusing examples on rishwat khori (living on bribes) by Dilawar Figar. The first is an advice by a father to his son of the sort of government service he should opt for:

Sunaa hai baap nay beytey ko apney yeh naseehat kee

Nahin service mein ‘A’ kee sharat, ‘B’ yaa ‘C’ bun jaanaa

Jagah kaisee ho, yeh deykhna hai, mahikmaa kaisaa

Jagah Custom mein mil jaaye, to chaprasi bhee
ban jaanaa

(I have heard a father advise his son "Beta jee

If you don’t qualify for Grade A or B, accept C;

But make sure you get into the right department

If it is Customs, accept the job of a chaprasi.)

The second is on what to do if you are arrested for taking a bribe:

Haakim-e-rishwat sitaam fikr-e-giriftaaree na kar.

Kar rihaaee kee koee aasaan soorat, chhoot jaa.

Main bataaoon tujhko, tadbeer-e- rihaaee, mujh say pooch.

Ley kay rishwat phas gayaa hai, dey kay rishwat chhoot jaa

(You bribe-taker if caught do not bother one bit.

Find some easy way to get out of it;

Let me tell you the way out, if you ask me.

If you are caught taking a bribe, give a bribe and go free).

Shark effect

Overheard on the beach of Digha in West Bengal; A young girl wearing a swimming trunk asked her mother,

"May I go swimming, mummy?"

"No, dear, you may not, there are sharks here."

"But Daddy’s swimming!"

"He’s insured."

(Contributed by Reeten Ganguly, Tezpur)