Top post on, the community of Indian Bloggers

Monday, February 27, 2012

The palace of illusions

I had heard a lot about the 2008 book by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 'The Palace of Illusions' , and kept agreeing that it seemed like a 'must buy' and that I must pick it up and read it but somehow the act of buying and reading seemed to be eluding me and I never seemed to get round to doing it. Till one day I reached home and saw the book lying, ever so casually, on the bedside table. It transpired that the daughter had , through one of the new age sites, ordered some books and 'The Palace ...' was one of them. The only thing required was now to sit down and read it, but I still never seemed to get the time to do it. I got the time to read Amitava Ghosh -Sea of Poppies; to read Mitch  Albom 'Tuesdays with Morrie'; Katherine Frank's 'Indira' but not Divakaruni. And then I realized that the inertia regarding 'The Palace..' actually went back to another book by the same author ,'The Conch Bearers'. The son had been gifted a signed  copy  by the author in a book reading session  organized by his school and had come home and flourished it  triumphantly. His sister and I had felt duty bound to point out to him that since he had , even as a 13 year old,not progressed beyond Raold Dahl and Enid Blyton the book was of no use to him. The boy, ofcourse to prove us wrong,  immediately sat down to read it. We laughed and went about our ways, sure that he would put it down soon. Not only did he not do so, but also read it with a look of increasing absorption and sadness.When I went to his room at night to say goodnight he just held me tight. Instead of the act reassuring me it troubled me enough to make me start reading 'The Conch Bearers' the very next day. The book is essentially aimed at the young reader and is the story of a boy ,Anand. The ending is , however ,so poignant that it haunted me for days and days on end.  Anand has to decide between staying on in the Order or returning to his family. He makes his decision and leaves the reader yearning for a different one. I felt shattered- for Anand, for his mother, for myself- a mother.

I am reading 'The Palace of Illusions' these days. The story is familiar to all of us - it is the epic tale of Mahabharat' told through the eyes of Draupadi.  The narrative is like re visiting a traumatic experience - it is as tragic as any poem by Homer.The recurring leit motif is of destruction .Draupadi's birth from a fire; her love for her brother; her marriage to five men with their own foibles;  a cold mother in law; her own home- Palace of Illusions- at last, and then the unbelievable traumas that follow -her home, freedom and honour gambled away; almost stripped in public; her life of hiding and servitude  and finally, the grim justice of war - Mahabharat.

A permanent stone seems to have settled at the bottom of my stomach. The only word reverberating in my mind is,'why'? Why did Panchali have to ask Karna the question she asked- even though she had been warned by Vyas? why did she not stop her maids from laughing at Duryodhan  in her palace? why did Yudhister love gambling ?why did he have to gamble his wife?

Why does there have to be war before peace?

Is peace , without the baggage of war,  unachievable?


Monday, February 13, 2012

the secret diary of nitin gadkari

There are very few times that I wish I was Rajnath Singh , though I know he all the time wishes he was me, but these past few days, o.k make it months, have been so tiresomely trying that I wish I was him  i.e a nonentity and that he was me- handling all my 'weighty 'problems . There I was ,sitting in my pawan hans helicopter ,cracking jokes with my team and with  the T.V reporter filming  '24 hours with Nitin Gadkari ' when the pilot announced that we were flying over the Saryu river. I looked down casually and then looked up again to carry on telling the joke ( about the  shenanigans of the son-in-law of the first lady of Indian politics) when I realized that all eyes were down and the reporter was excitedly telling her camera person to train the camera carefully at the scene below. Petulantly I looked down for the cause of the excitement and then almost fell off the chopper .Uma ji was being brought in a procession to the banks of the river. She seemed to be protesting and waving her hands through her saffron robes in a very agitated manner. Snatches of words , carried up to us by the easterly winds, conveyed that she seemed to be saying 'Nitin ji , Gadkariji..' I scanned the crowd for some familiar faces but the faces all looked unfamiliar, though in a very familiar way. I mean they looked familiarly unfamiliar. And then the penny dropped. Ofcourse, they were the congress karyakartas of U.P. I sat up in indignation and turned to the reporter to point out this latest congress scam when before my eyes she whipped out her mike and telling the pilot to bring the chopper as low as he could , jumped out , followed by her camera person. Unfortunately for me the chopper had come to within eye contact distance of the people on ground zero and Uma Bharti ji easily spotted me. All hell broke loose. Much to my chagrin Umaji started a one sided conversation with me. The long and short of which was that she literally ordered me to save her from the swirling waters of the Saryu river and at the same time reminded me that it was at my prodding that she had jumped in- not  the river- but into the politics of elections in UP's Bundelkhand and also made the grandoise statement of jumping into the river. Truth to tell , when I had asked Umaji to rejoin the party with a difference it was all because of Jaya Pradaji. Being a true blue Maharashtrian I was brought up on the staple diet of Srikhand, Vada pav and 'Sharabi '. Who can forget Jaya ji dancing to Amitabh's 'De De pyaar de...' in the movie ?  and also how  comely  she managed to look , sitting on a bullock cart, with flood waters swirling around her? Since then I had been searching for someone  within the BJP who could do  Jaya's  'Ram teri Ganga Maili' act. Many a times I thought of Sushmaji (  especially after her song and dance number at Rajghat   ) but the thought of Arun Jaitlyji's reaction kept me quiet. And then one day, while  presiding over a party meeting and munching on samosas and laddoos, I remembered Umaji and her 'sexy sanyasin'  sobriquet .Swallowing my third samosa hastily I dialled her number and...                 .

A sudden jerk of the chopper ,and a scream,  brought me back to the present. I realised that Umaji had catapulted up , leaving the karyakartas shouting'  Ooh ma   Ooh ma...', and latched on like a limpet to the chopper. The scream was of the pilot.The chopper was not built to carry two such heavyweights. It swung wildly from left to right for a good distance and then tangled into a flowing white tent of some inconsiderate idiot's election rally.

I believe the laddoos at today's BJP press briefing were on Rajnath Singh.

Friday, February 3, 2012

In Plato’s  ‘Republic’  Adeimantus points out that very often a good reputation is acquired by a ruler who merely appears to act in a just manner, regardless of whether he/she actually does so .By doing this the ruler  achieves the greatest possible advantage : act unjustly while preserving the outward appearance of being just. This as opposed to the option of acting justly while risking the outward appearance of injustice.  Dr Manmohan Singh has perfected the craft of appearing to be just and honest while returning debts owed ,and helping friends-all the  while hiding behind the skirts of ‘ the compulsions of a coalition government’.  A Prime Minister who makes the mistake of ruling in a manner that lessens the well-being of the ruled , is  not  a good prime minister , for a true ruler would never make such an error.
The remedy :
 He/She  must always be someone who knows how to rule, someone who understands ruling as a craft and  like  a good parent,  tries to do what is best for those who have been entrusted to him/her, rather than seeking his own ,and others, welfare. Furthermore , there should be  severe restrictions placed on the   guardians of the constitution , and of the country : they should have no need for wealth or other external rewards   and should earn no salary greater than necessary to supply their  basic needs. This will ensure that  no one will have any wrong motive for seeking a position of leadership, and those who are chosen to govern will govern solely from a concern to seek the welfare of the country and  what is best for all  its citizens.
 Any country is only as good as its people. A country becomes a mess  because its junta lets it become one . It is time for introspection for all of us who vote  the corrupt, the criminals, the ineffective , the  coquettish to power. We vote people to power who do not know the importance of the phrase ‘The buck stops here’.  Like the rats of the town of Hamelin we fall into the trap of the caste card played out by the Pied Pipers, sorry –politicos . It is also introspection time for those who do not go out to vote. The right to live in a country has to be earned –by ensuring that each vote is cast to bring  the right individuals to power –individuals who combine high competence with the highest ethical standards. 
No country is perfect. We  need to make it perfect. The answer,  as Plato believed, is to rely upon the value of a good education . We have today an educated ,young generation of  engineers , IT professionals ,managers  ,college students etc who can spearhead the crusade for probity in public life.. These young men and women  should come forward to fight corruption.They have a powerful tool ,the social networking sites ,to spread their message  and to galvanize opinion .
And when  this happens , just as the first showers bring in their rain drenched  mornings the smell of wet earth –the message  of the young will bring a purpose in the steps of the people .This is because I know the message will be the same as the one used by Jai Prakash Narain on that eventful day in Ramlila Maidan in the  draconian seventies of the original  Mrs G…
              “ Singhasan khali karo ki junta aati hai ……