Saturday, December 17, 2005

Uma erupts again
Khushwant Singh

Khushwant SinghThe incidence of eccentricity is noticeably higher among women politicians than their male counterparts. Though I can name quite a few chief ministers and ministers of the Central Cabinet who, if examined by psychiatrists, would have been certified as psychopaths needing to be institutionalised, the percentage of women in the same category is provably higher.

One does not have to go far to see how badly some men behave in Parliament and state legislature (a few yell slogans oftener than make coherent speeches) but rarely have I seen one hurl papers at the Speaker before stamping out, threaten to cut off his hair or beard, or commit suicide if things don’t go his way.

More women politicians are known to have indulged in such shenanigans. Their behaviour is also more unpredictable. Mamata Banerjee is notable for her chronic ill-temper and for exploding into incomprehensible speech. Uma Bharti, equally unpredictable in her behaviour, goes many steps further than Mamata. There is nothing of a sanyasin about her except the saffron clothes she displays: she is full of worldly ambitions. She has the gift of the gab and can rouse illiterate mobs by her frenzied oratory. She can win elections anywhere in the Hindi belt where the unlettered poor outnumber the literate. She talks of love for humanity: she did so in eloquent English after Asa Ram Bapu had ended one of his sermons. But she excludes Muslims and Christians being worthy of her love. She is among the principal instigators of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and has been charged for the crime along with Murli Manohar Joshi who she embraced exultantly when the mosque dome came down. She cannot make up her mind whether she wants to devote her life to meditation and prayer as a sanyasin should or again become Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. All the feeding and kissing cows and calves is calculated to win the hearts of the superstitious masses. I am glad BJP leaders have expelled her from the party. I hope they will stick to their resolve.

How does anyone deal with the likes of Uma Bharti? I know precisely what needs to be done to them but cannot spell it out. No editor will publish it. And I will be condemned as a male chauvinist pig.

Bonding humans and beasts

During the last couple of years when I was still with the Indian High Commission in London, among my close English friends was Tristan-Jones, business manager of Sunday Observer. My wife and I were among the five invited to the Registry where he married a German girl Annalie. They made their home in a distant village St Nicholas-At-Wade on the Kentish coast. We were often invited to spend weekends there. It was a two-storeyed cottage named Street Acre, with a large uncultivated patch of green growing thorn bushes, bramble and wild grass. On our first visit, I discovered why the Jones had not grown flowers or planted fruit trees. As soon as Tristan drove into the garage of Street Acre, he was welcomed by the loud braying of a donkey and bleating of a goat. The donkey went galloping around the patch hee-hawing and kicking its hind legs in sheer joy.

The goat kept pace along its side crying baa-baa. It took some time for them to calm down. Tristan hugged and kissed them in turn and asked them "How are you old boy?". The donkey was named Mumbo Jumbo Jones, the goat Seth Parker Jones. The patch of grass and weeds was their territory. They had their own shed. No flowers or fruit-bearing trees could have survived their hunger. They had the shed to shelter them from rain and snow. It had a manger and trough of water.

The Joneses’ dining room had a large bay window. At meal times, the donkey and the goat put their heads through the window and were given carrots, radishes and cubes of sugar. The bonding between the Jones’ growing family continued for many years. They named one of their daughters after mine: Mala Tristan Jones. We kept in touch. Tristan died some years ago — followed by Mumbo Jones and Seth Parker Jones. Annalie writes to us periodically and tells us about her children and the goings-on at Street Acre.

Human, beast and bird relationships can be more rewarding than bonding between humans of the two sexes. And more varied. Besides dogs and cats, humans have befriended pigs, llamas, dog-sized breed of monkeys, ponies, tigers, lions, bears, parrots, mynahs, ostriches, partridges, squirrels, rats — you name them and you will find people who dote on them to distraction. They ask for nothing besides food, and affection. They return it in full measure. Without pets, human life is barren. I pity those who have never known the love animals and birds can give to humans.

Two cheers for Greg Chappell

Eight victories in eleven outings,

Victories against the ‘second best’ teams of the world,

Had you ever imagined or heard!

Lamenting, lacerating despairing, debunking,

The usual welcome to the Men in Blue,

That was, and would have been the story of Indian cricket,

But for the great tango of the great two,

Dravid and Greg, but Greg is the one,

Who has a near-miracle done.

The feisty Aussie, a man of cunning and of imagination,

A feisty Australian with his eye on World Cup 2007,

A man who gave hope to young India and threw out the dead wood old,

A cold professional, a man of iron discipline,

Whose ‘perform or perish’ mantra, but for Kolkata chauvinists,

Might as well have for us the South African series won.

But the job is half, or less than half done,

For, he is only an Aussie, and a ‘fingering’ one,

Who knows not the depth of our nepotism and corruption,

And our politics’ curious turn,

Which might even risk a rout, and throw him out.

(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

Mistaken identity

The judge looked angrily down at the prisoner in the dock, "‘Why’, he asked, ‘did you kick and punch this man so brutally"?’ ‘Sure, and it was all a terrible mistake, your honour. I had taken alcohol and was a little confused. I thought it was my wife."

(Contributed by Judson Cornelius, Hyderabad)