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Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Sinners and their Sins

What’s with the rich and the powerful? Have they or haven’t they heard of the seven deadly sins ? those transgressions which are supposed to be fatal to spiritual progress. They are committing these sins every day without thinking about the rich tradition of eternal damnation in which they are participating. And what’s with us ? the junta, the reader, the onlooker- do we remember their transgressions till kingdom come- or do we move on to fresher pasteurs and to yet another sin exploding in a ‘breaking news’ ticker?

Let us take the case of the turbaned commentator, Navjyot Singh Sidhu. Sidhu is many things to many people- ‘stuffed shirt’,’ monarch of the mixed metaphor’, ‘loudmouth’, ‘overrated’- to name a few. The comments, like Sidhu’s own, are both ad infinitum and ad nauseum. But almost all of them take him on as a commentator and as the laughing jackass of reality television. How many of us remember that Sidhu has got blood on his hands : that in a fit of rage he clobbered a man to death in a parking lot, and in his inimitable style bounced back to win an election and spout some more sidhuisms?

But why pick on poor Sidhu alone? Whatever happened to ‘Dabangg’ Khan’s midnight tryst with drunken driving which resulted in the mowing down of some underdogs sleeping on the pavements of alpha city, Mumbai? The box office collections of his movies more than  prove  that a few deaths here and there have done nothing to dent his popularity and his swagger.

The grand old man of Indian journalism, Khushwant Singh, once wrote that public memory is short and the media memory even shorter. He highlighted this in an article in which he gave many instances of ‘wrong doings’ by the famous, the infamous, the almost there and the wannabes. “ Stories break out but seldom come to a conclusion. Some instances come to my mind. What happened to the crores recovered from the house of Pandit Sukh Ram, Congress minister and a part of the Cabinet; or to the case against former Foreign Minister  Natwar Singh, his son, Jagat, and the latter’;s buddy, Sehgal, in the Oil-for-Food scam worth thousands of crores? “

Where is yesterday’s news? Whatever happens to the stories that the media pursues like a pack of hounds for a while and then- suddenly, mysteriously, inexplicably and uniformally falls silent ? One explanation for this lies in the truth that the public is a fickle mistress- and just as a mistress needs new temptations to be reined in , so does the public. So, Shiney Ahuja, all fresh faced, oozing innocence, charm and softness, with wife tucked by his side, was served to prime time television viewers. Here was a man who was supposed to have done to his maid what Prem Chopra was famous for doing on celluloid. By the time Ahuja’s interview had ended one was left feeling, not only skeptical about the veracity of the charges , but also sympathy at the plight of the actor.The maid, fresh faced or otherwise, was nowhere on the scene and so no feelings registered for her in the collective psyche of  the audience.

 If we are speaking of maids , can the ex IMF chief , Dominique Strauss Kahn and Arnold Schwarzneggar, former Governor of California, be far behind? The IMF has repositioned itself many times since its inception post World War II. It has been receptive to the changes in the economic environment of the world and adapted accordingly. This leads us to the question- is the IMF also adapting to the changing societal structure-where it is no longer moribund that the man at the helm of affairs be above any ‘affairs’, consensual or otherwise? Or , as our very own Prime Minister , at the helm of the  extremely sorry state of affairs in the country , intones,”be above suspicion-like Ceasers wife ?”

 Tossing many pre-conceived  east vs west notions out of the window ,comes the finding that the West takes its errant sons and daughters more seriously to task than we , in the East ,do. Whether it is Winona Ryder who was found guilty of shoplifting, Hugh Grant who was caught with his pants down with a prostitute, Martha Stewart who was jailed on charges of insider trading, or Mel Gibson who spouted anti Semitic abuse at a cop when he was pulled over for drunken driving, everyone has to show contrition and beg forgiveness before they can reclaim their place in public life. And not everyone gets a second chance either. OJ Simpson is still a social pariah even though he has been acquitted of the charge of double murder; Kahn’s race to French Presidentship was over the day he stood exposed and Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s troubles were manifold, with public sympathy and a hefty alimony –all going to the wife.

We, in India, seem to be taking the sinner and his sin, with a pinch of salt. So, whether it is Sidhu ( anger ), Shiney ( lust), most of the politicos ( greed and sloth) or the remaining three deadly sins we carry on being pretty gung ho. Or is it really so ?  The idea of sin may be dying in the land of the holy rivers- and so also public anger and angst at the sinner- but do we forget , and forgive, what and who hurts us where it pinches the most?
Ask Chetan Sharma. The days of cricket being played in the Sheikhdom of Sharjah ended many moons ago- but do we still remember a certain six? Yes, we remember Sharjah, we remember  the six that was hit off the last ball, and we will never forget Chetan Sharma.“Yes, it haunts me even now and it will haunt me till the end of my life,” fifty year old Sharma said in an interview.

Does anyone still doubt that , for us, God is in our cricket and anyone who violates that God is a sinner. The one who will never be forgiven or forgotten.

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