Sunday, August 28, 2011

While...


While I wrote the love poem
I heard her fading footsteps –
Black ink on yellowing pages
Lasts longer with empty jokes;

While I fought for my friends
I saw them shifting company –
Sweat, blood, tears on fallen ground
Mix well with dirty slush;

While I wrote the last note
I prayed to them: ignore –
Or, battles and false verses and such
Wasteful ways will wear resolve;

While I fought for my life
I felt a gentle hand in mine –
Guiding me to new ways but
Without a heart, I let it slip.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where I died before I was born


I was a hero then.
In tattered fatigues,
Camouflaged blackened face
With mama’s eyeliner,
I dug trenches, built barricades
Around fanciful dreams,
Enacted the best
Of Commando comics –
I loved the Air force:
Vroom , swooosh…I somersaulted, I turned
Ta-ta-ta, dish-keow…my gunner killed, maimed.
 I always returned to a waiting family.
She was always there to place flowers on my grave
With that strange epitaph ‘he died before he was born’.


But then she died
And I decayed.
Nightmares kept me awake
With a lullaby about my brave deeds:
I smiled, rubbed my hands with glee
When I dropped Fat Man and Little Boy
My mustache nearly singed
While I watched flesh vapourizing below;
I was a glad voyeur
In those killing fields, in that nation called Tragedy,
I hooted and cheered, a spectator’s sport it was
While my friends raped and killed women with blank eyes;
I bombed the bunker at Amiriyah in Feb 1991
Man, it was a blast
Thousands, dude, thousands within
They lie when they say it was innocent parents, children.
Why am I there
In all those wars where I died before I was born?


And now, when I should be telling grandkids grand tales
I have to go for my real war
Well within the border, with my own lot.
I blasted my superior about keeping me inferior;
Do you know how he squealed and begged
When my fingers closed around his windpipe
And I pulled it out, blood-spattering good it was!
I watched paid-goons rule the street
Tormenting, dictating, calling me slave;
I waited, I promised, I conned masses
To follow me Spartacus to fight like animals.
Then, one night I heard them on my land
They said it is not mine no more
For the last fight, I unsheathed my sword, charged
Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Blinded, deafened by the roar of their blazing guns.
I have to go for my real war
Where I died before I was born.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Are you angry? Are you sad?


Are you angry? Are you sad?

1.      In a few weeks or months, we will have a new institution based on some version of the Lokpal Bill. That is a near certainty. Will it investigate, prosecute and judge? I do not know. Will it work? Do you know?

2.      I have downloaded most of the documents (Jan, Govt, the differences, etc.) from the website of ‘India Against Corruption’. To tell you the truth, it puts me to sleep. I am just a layman without any legal education and I am equally put off by ‘legal-speak’ and ‘gutter-speak’.

3.      But, before sleeping, I did notice that the two Bills did agree to have the same pay package for selected officers. The rest is quite irrelevant and negotiable, I feel. If they had disagreed on the pay package, then the Bill would have been doomed for sure.

  1. Before succumbing to the soporific effect, a small doubt crept into my mind. By now, everyone knows that one of the versions has ‘teeth’ and the other is ‘toothless’ against corruption. For me, with my layman’s eyes, one seems to hold the accused guilty till proven innocent and the other seems to hold the accused innocent till proven guilty. That is just my doubt about the middle-class anger raging across the country. Is civil society trying to be a lynch squad?

5.      Now, with regard to new institutions, I was reminded about that which used to happen in Academia. I know of at least three new institutes that were started to accommodate a retiring big-wig who had enough clout in the government to get at least partial funding. There, in those institutes, the big-wig and his cronies were allowed to vegetate and be Director or Director Emeritus or Professor Emeritus for life. I should also add that these new institutes were not bad at all, by any standards. (I should add in passing that such thoughts arise in my mind even when a State announces that they are going to start a new IIT rather than restructure existing Universities.)

6.      Is that going to be the case with the new institution based on the Lokpal Bill? From where are we going to get those ‘few good people’ who will have to investigate, prosecute and judge without a corrupted mind and without political affiliations, too? This elite force will have to understand a wide range of topics like legal issues, accounting and audit, international finance, highly technical engineering projects and the latest in infrastructure development just to name a few. That kind of ‘good men’ must be surely holding a reasonable and challenging position currently. What happens to that office or will a vacuum be created out there?

7.      By now, every Indian is in love with Anna Hazare. Isn’t he a cute old man? He reminds me of my grandfather. My grandfather was a darling but a man of fixed convictions and rigid positions. Even during Onam, my cousins and I were not encouraged to play all day; my cousins had to cut grass, feed and clean the cows, and do all the other daily stuff which would spoil a good Onam. I never did any work (even then, I confess) and I tried to argue my case with him but he never listened. He had a point, I agree; but so did I. Ah! Where was I? Oh yes, Anna Hazare…now, why did I think about all that?

8.      I used to admire one of Hazare’s team members – Kiran Bedi, of course. Haven’t we all, at some point of time, told our daughters and sisters to be like her? Of course, due to plain male chauvinism, I never advised my wife to be like her. But these days, I have been telling my wife, too, to be like Kiran Bedi. She is sounding less formidable.

9.      Do you know what I expected from people like Kiran Bedi? I wanted her to use her knowledge and experience to revamp the police force and units like the CBI (assuming that they are all corrupt and totally influenced by corrupt politicians). Maybe, she has her views on all that but I can only hear her views on this new institution based on the Lokpal Bill. Has she lost faith in her old institution?

10. It is the same with the Bhushans. Both are supposed to be eminent lawyers. I expected them to fight tooth and nail for reforms of legal process to make the judiciary really function in this country. It is stupid to expect to fight corruption with a judiciary that is bogged down by overload and highly objectionable practices like long delays, indefinite stays, frequent adjournments and other reasons like corruption and influence starting right from the low-level officers, even independent counselors. We have already got good laws and good judges, too. Can’t we do more to make the judiciary more user-friendly rather than being just lawyer-friendly? Maybe, the middle-class never enters the court for civil cases (definitely not for criminal cases, I hope). Maybe, the middle-class is not affected by property or divorce issues, by corruption or other framed charges, by not even being able to think of taking an employer to court for bad practices. I do not think so. Have the Bhushans also lost faith in their own institution or are they protecting their own turf? To tell you the truth, I am sad rather than angry with this loss of faith.

11. Finally, like Anna Hazare, I am really glad to see the young so involved in the Hazare movement against corruption. I think I saw on the webpage of the Times of India that IIT-IIMs are also supporting the fight against corruption. My generation (including me, of course) and the lot before mine are the corrupt idiots who reduced India to this pathetic, corrupt state. Forget those generations, put them and me in exile, we were just ‘old goofies’ (as my thesis supervisor used to describe). It gives me great pleasure to see these young people who promise not to be corrupt.

12. As part of my earlier professional life, I had to recruit, train and work with very smart (if not exceptional) young people. Most were from the IIT-IIM lot. They were like me and my blighted generation in lots of ways. They used to play the system, take the maximum by giving the minimum. They used the office phone to talk to wife or partner for hours. They used the internet for their personal needs during office time (the office did not allow access to social networking sites and external e-mail services, unfortunately). Most of the young ones had opted out of higher-education, research and development to be on the path to be managers and money-minters. They had a good grasp of shady finance deals and products, how to trade them without blinking an eye at the customer and to even cook the books, if required. Some were exceptional in six-sigma or supply-chain stuff. They could view a human workforce like an automated machine, stand behind workers with a stop-watch, time them and suggest drastic steps to restructure businesses.

13. But, that was that young lot who used to work and live during my time. I am glad that the young gathered in front of Hazare promise to lead us away from all that – to be ethical, non-corrupt and very angry with offenders.

14. I should be angry, I know. But, I am sad.

15. And, you? Are you angry? Or, are you sad?

  1. Anyway, I hope the actual law-makers are not really sad or angry. Laws need an understanding of human frailty, even that of the current good. Niti and nyaya have to keep in mind that a Raavan might try to appear as Ram. That is, of course, the Indian way of saying that one should be very careful about any new law – to make sure the monster created does not return to torment its creator Dr Frankenstein:

“You are my creator, but I am your master—obey!”



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A very dull, dreary affair...nearly...


Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it. Somerset Maugham

A friend of mine stopped smoking, drinking, overeating, and chasing women --all at the same time. It was a lovely funeral. – Unknown

According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. – Jerry Seinfeld


I treat deaths and weddings the same way, as a reluctant participant.

Last Sunday, around 2 pm, I got the call from Nalini Mutheymachi, ‘Kuttaa, Mutheychan is leaving us…’

After the brief call, I stuffed a change of clothes and toilet kit into my backpack and left home immediately. It took me 45 minutes to drive to my village. I concentrated on the road and the traffic rather than think about Mutheychan.

I parked the car outside Mutheychan’s 3-acre plot. People had started to gather. Standing near the compound wall, I observed his close relatives huddled together in the drawing room, following a rough queue to enter his bedroom situated on the left side of the house.

I looked around and found Nalini Mutheymachi standing alone a little away from the side-entrance on the right of the house. I went up to her. She held my hand tightly. I looked at her gentle delicately featured old face and realized that she had not allowed herself to cry.

She told me about the last moments, ‘He took bath at 11, shaved himself…we had lunch together…and as usual, he lay down to rest around quarter to one. I completed my tasks in the kitchen a little after one and joined him…I must have slept…he woke me up, he could barely shake my shoulder, he didn’t say anything, just smiled…his breathing seemed irregular…I called Dr Priya…do you remember her, she stays here now…thank God, she was at home…she is expecting, you know…she told me to inform everyone…’

‘What are they up to?’ I asked about the relatives trying to enter Mutheychan’s room.

‘Each one wants to give him a sip of water before he dies…he is still hanging on…why, I don’t know…don’t you want to see him?’ she asked.

‘No.’ I replied.

‘He would like it…’ she said.

‘Will he like to take anything from that lot? I hope he is beyond realization…’ I stated bitterly and then added softly, ‘You should be there…’

‘For what…?’ she sighed wistfully and then asked with a slight smile blinking back the tears, ‘Do you know what he might say…’

Kazhutha-pennu…’ I replied and she laughed softly, nodding, strands of grey hair escaping from the loose bun and straying onto her forehead. Mutheychan used to reach over and tuck those strands of hair behind her ear, I remembered.

We stood there together for a while before she went inside to help. I went to my position outside the compound waiting for Mutheychan to give up the fight.

I am not related to him, I mean, by way of blood. I can’t even recall how I got to know him. I visit my village at least twice a month and it became a habit or custom to visit him too. Maybe, I started visiting him because his place promised a clean bathroom or, a good meal and a place for siesta. I can’t recall. I do remember that our first meeting happened at least five years after he returned from abroad.

From the tales I heard about him, I have gathered that he was very well educated and that he went to London in his mid-twenties. Nobody knows what he did over there and he rarely visited our village during those twenty five years he was abroad. There was a lot of buzz when he returned. He was about fifty then. I heard rumours that he was mad and that he had to be locked up in his brother’s place. His wealth and ‘outside connections’ helped him scorch these rumours, they say regretfully, and he settled down in our village.

I have known him for more than twenty five years. I have tried to probe about his early life but he evades every question regarding that part of his personal life. He has told me about his travels in Britain and the rest of Europe. He talked about it with ease and without being in awe, quite matter-of-fact, as if he was very much at home there, too. He talked about Paris or Prague and the people there the same way he talked about our village, equal in curiosity and detachment.

While his personal life abroad remained private and a closed affair, his life here was an open book. Long back, in Nalini Mutheymachi’s presence, he told me about their first meeting. It happened two years after his return. Her house is a few plots away from his, a five-minute brisk walk. Every day, around half past ten, she used to walk past his gate to go to the market for the day’s fish and provisions. She could not trust her maid with the fish, Mutheymachi explained. One day, he stopped her near his gate and without any greeting told her abruptly, ‘I think you should read this book.’ Mutheychan gave her his copy of Hardy’s ‘Jude the Obscure’. She accepted it, muttered thanks and proceeded to the market. I asked him why he chose that book. ‘I did not mind losing it…’ he told me frankly. Four days later, she returned the book to him telling him, ‘It is morbid…I read only half.’ ‘Kazhutha-pennu, you should read the whole book…’ he remarked. ‘Why?’ she asked. ‘It gets even more morbid…helps you to laugh at everything else…other than the book, I mean…’ he replied earnestly. He admits that she looked at him as if he was a madman.

When she met Mutheychan, she must have been in her mid-forties and he must have been at least five or six years older. She had married at the age of 17. By twenty, she had two kids and a wastrel for a husband. At that time, her maternal uncle was looking after the affairs of her joint family. One fine day, a few months before her 21st birthday, when that uncle returned for lunch after toiling in the fields, he saw her lazy husband sleeping, snoring loudly, on the uncle’s armchair. The uncle grabbed her husband by the arm and pushed him out of the house, bellowing ‘Get out…till you work and earn on your own, stay away from this house…’ She never saw her husband after that day. With the share she inherited (she is richer than Mutheychan, I think) she did not face any major difficulty in taking care of the house, educating her kids well and getting them married.

So, when she looked at Mutheychan as if he was a madman, she admits that it was a very pleasant diversion or curiosity.

Nalini Mutheymachi told me that it was quite difficult for her in the beginning, especially because she had never experienced such interaction or attention and if she had ever thought about it earlier, it must have been when she was just an adolescent. Anyway, the curiosity slowly developed into companionship and they became partners in life. Each had their own house and land but they shared without inhibition, without being bound to do so. A few loose tongues tried to wag or protest but it was nothing really new.

‘He was such a peculiar character in the village…’ she used to recollect.

To say that he was peculiar was actually putting it mildly. Though he was capable of talking to me and others about any topic (including his travels) in a highly cultured way, I also knew that he was capable of being extremely abrasive.

Some time back, I went along with him for a relative’s wedding. That was the last time I went for a social function with him. During the wedding feast, the service was extremely slow and it tested the patience of most guests seated there in that dining hall. Mutheychan started criticizing loudly, even making casteist remarks like ‘That is what you get if you attend weddings of such people…kuravaru…’ I guess we escaped without getting hurt physically or verbally only because we belong to the same lowly caste as everyone there.

Of course, he went further than his own caste. Each time we used to walk past Ibrahimkutty’s provision store, he would tell me loudly, ‘Never buy stuff from there…maytharu…cut-throat rascals…he gets richer and I am poorer day by day…’ In the city where I live, he would have been lynched, I am sure. I guess everyone in the village knew that Ibrahimkutty was Mutheychan’s beedi-mate. Ibrahimkutty used to get these special beedis from Orissa, which he liked to describe as ‘pure tobacco…thick…long…what a kick…’ The stench was strong and overpowering. I used to go Nalini Mutheymachi’s place when those two used to sit on the verandah, sucking greedily at their beedis, exchanging village news or talking about the market.

I must have been recollecting all these memories when I heard the first wail.

Someone inside was crying, ‘Ayyo, Ammava…what will I do without you?’ I tried to recognize that voice. I did not know of a relative who was ever allowed to be ‘with’ Mutheychan when he was alive.

I watched people get into action quite fast, like well-oiled machinery. The ‘funeral-caterers’ took care of the arrangements for setting up the funeral pyre within the compound. ‘They are usually available within an hour…,’ said a young man standing near. An older man added, ‘Now, it is not like old days when we had to dig a six-by-four pit. They dig pits less than a foot deep these days.’ The young man explained ‘Just for a few thousand rupees…you don’t even have to cut a tree for the wood…they bring everything…’ The older man looked at me with a bit of regret and a lot of envy, ‘Of course, for you in the city, it is electric, isn’t it?’ Everyone seemed well-versed with the show – the bathing and dressing of the corpse; the bed, the right direction to place the corpse and the stage-setting for the final procession of people paying their last respect; a group of ladies were ready with prayer songs; and, there were other ladies who provided the mourning and the crying. I did not see Nalini Mutheymachi in that crowd. She must have been standing far from those near and dear ones. I remained outside the compound wall and moved further away from the crowd.

I was lost in reverie when I heard a woman say ‘Chetta…’ It was Dr Priya. Twenty or more years since I saw her last and she looked the same to me, of course, she was then minus the obvious pregnant state. Dark searching eyes, the deep dimple on the right cheek, wavy tangled hair…she was fourteen when I noticed all that for the first time.

She had worn a half-sari for the first time and came running to my room from her house next door. She modeled innocently, twirling on her toes slowly, striking poses and then she had asked, ‘How do I look, Chetta?’ I had adjusted her blouse a little, helped her with a hook and then I had told her truthfully, ‘You look great.’ She looked so glad. I realized that the girl I had treated like a kid sister or a childhood friend was becoming a young lady. Her folks also realized that and it was all fine till two years later when I decided to pursue an education outside mainstream professional courses. During my first year in that college far away from home, we exchanged letters twice or at times even thrice a week. Then, during the first summer holidays, she sent word through a friend that I should not contact her again. Her parents had given strict instructions, the mutual friend tried to explain. In the years that followed, she could have contacted me. She met other men and she married one of her new loves, I assumed. I had little to do other than to forget her.

I must have been staring blankly at her while I thought about all that. ‘How are you, Chetta?’ she asked. ‘Good…and you…second one? ’ I indicated her tummy. ‘Third…’ she replied. ‘Quite late, isn’t it?’ I enquired for want of something more sensible to ask. ‘Ten years gap since the last one…’ she said. ‘A mistake…?’ I probed tactlessly. She stared at me without saying anything. I decided to change topics, ‘Did Mutheychan go without pain?’ ‘Oh yes…a lovely death actually…it was so peaceful…’ I remained silent though I wanted to mutter, ‘Quite unlike him to go like that...’

‘I have to go…kids must be back from school…’ she said. I did not say anything. ‘Chetta…do you remember those times…’ she asked. ‘Hmm…’ I admitted. ‘Every now and then, I wonder about those special years…the intensity and attachment…why I haven’t had that since…’ she said. ‘Requires a lot of thought…and affection…’ I said blandly without looking at her. I did not want to see if she had tears in her eyes or whether she remained untouched. She stood with me for some more time before leaving. We did not even tell each other ‘See you…’

Half an hour after she left, it was time for the cremation. Shankaran-master, one of Mutheychan’s rare friends, came up to me and said, ‘He told me that you should do what a son should do…’ I walked inside, past the unwelcome glares of the near and dear. I realized that by choosing me, an outsider, Mutheychan managed to irritate his ‘near and dear’ even after his death. I suppressed my mirth. I changed and prepared for the last rites. Shankaran-master and another crony were the masters of ceremony and I followed their instructions with a blank expression. I did think of putting on an expression of sadness or humble respect but I felt nothing towards the corpse.

I had completed the first round around the pyre with the clay pot of water leaking on my shoulder when the silent crowd and I were surprised by a loud bawdy song. It was a mobile ringtone. We located the source. It seemed to come from the corpse lying within, covered with wood and flowers on the unlit pyre. One of the funeral-caterers came forward sheepishly, ‘I think my mobile fell out of my pocket while we were arranging the wood…’ It took some time to shift the wood and the corpse, to retrieve the errant mobile with the insistent caller and the ringtone still entertaining or irritating the gathered lot and then, to ‘repack’ everything. I was glad when that function got over.

I stayed with Nalini Muthemachi till the fifth day. For every meal, we went to Muthechan’s place and as per custom we shared food with the ‘near and dear’ and other mourners. With each passing day, our presence there met with less and less acceptance. There appeared to be a lot of resentment and chattering behind our backs. Once or twice, I heard some of the close relatives say stuff like ‘Why should these outsiders be here?’ ‘They will only leave after grabbing everything…’ I noticed that Mutheychan’s immediate neighbor ‘PaaRa’ Vaasu was also doing his bit goading the others and instigating trouble against us.

I told Nalini Mutheymachi about all this and how I felt like leaving immediately. She requested, ‘Stay till the fifth day…Shankaran-master told me that we should be there…’ ‘That Vaasu, I feel like giving him a thrashing…’ I protested. ‘Don’t mind that idiot…’ she tried to soothe my frayed nerves before adding ‘your Mutheychan felt the same way, too, you know…’

Vaasu is Mutheychan’s relative (a nephew once or twice removed) and he stays in a small hut next to Mutheychan’s plot. He is a drunken uncouth lout who works as manager in a quarry (hence the nickname, ‘PaaRa’). When he is not drinking and hanging around in the village, he abuses his wife Revathy and their two kids. Without income, savings or any source of support, she had no choice other than death or being her husband’s punching bag. Every one knew about the frequent loud and violent abuse. We could only watch or listen feeling disgusted and helpless. 

On the fifth day, we gathered at Mutheychan’s house. That morning, there was a small prayer and other religious stuff after which all the people, relatives and other well-wishers who had attended the funeral were invited and served a light breakfast. After the guests had left, Shankaran-master requested everyone else to gather in the front room.

He explained that he had been instructed by Mutheychan to inform the concerned people about the last and final will. He also explained how Mutheychan had taken extra pains to get certified that he was with sound mind while he prepared the will. The near and dear bristled at the last announcement anticipating bad news and to be without recourse to legal challenges. Mutheychan had spoiled their game even before it started.

The near and dear ones directed undisguised animosity at us, that is, Nalini Mutheymachi and me. We were seated safely away from them. ‘PaaRa’ Vaasu made some unpleasant comments about us to the others. I could only stare. Nalini Mutheymachi kept a gentle hand on my clenched fist.

Shankaran-master took his time. He cleaned his spectacles, asked for a glass of hot water to drink, and then explained that the will’s terms and conditions were quite simple. By then, one of the close relatives shouted angrily, ‘Just read it…and get it done, will you?’

Shankaran-master cleared his throat and explained that a trust has been created for the sake of the beneficiary. The trust will take care of the wealth and safeguard the interests of the beneficiary. The trust also had the added power to protect the beneficiary from external sources of threat and danger. After the death of the beneficiary, the trust would take care of the kids of the beneficiary.

Then, Shankaran-master told the gathering that the sole beneficiary of Mutheychan’s wealth is Revathy.

Someone in the crowd wailed, ‘Ayyo, Ammava…what will I do without…?’ I think it was the same voice as before. I looked at ‘PaaRa’ Vaasu. I watched him realize quickly that he was losing control over his wife. Revathy was standing near the doorway leading to the kitchen. Nalini Mutheymachi had brought her that morning to help with the cooking, serving and cleaning. I watched Revathy take in the news with a dead-pan expression, following the disappearing back of her husband with cold determined eyes. In the days to come, there will be new rumours and much chatter in the village about how she managed to get everything from Mutheychan. Even that will die one day.

I laughed loud, turned to Nalini Mutheymachi and gave her a hug. She was crying with joy. Her man must be laughing wherever he is.


Notes:

Mutheychan/Mutheymachi : Strictly, these apply to father’s elder brother and his wife; or mother’s elder sister and her husband. Here, the protagonist uses the same in a ‘foster’ relationship.

Kuttaa : An affectionate way to call a boy.

Kazhutha-pennu : Donkey-girl.

Kuravaru : Low-caste people.

Maytharu : These days, that is also a politically incorrect way to refer to Muslims, I think.

Beedi : Indian cheroot.

‘Ayyo, Ammava…’ : An anguished cry meaning ‘Oh, Uncle…’

Chetta : It is derived from ‘jeshtan’ meaning elder brother. This mode of reference or endearment is also commonly used by women with older unrelated but affectionate men (wife and husband, too).

PaaRa : Rock.

Village scene : The stereotype of an Indian village is a place with large landowners and nearly landless bonded labourers in abject poverty. Such a stereotype might be truly representing the majority. But, there are also villages where the divide is less between the rich and the poor. Here, in this account, we have one such village. In such villages, it is also not uncommon for the lady of the house to do the daily shopping at the market, especially for fish. Well, it used to be the case during my grandmother’s and mother’s era. I am not too sure if my generation and those that followed enjoy such activity.

Weddings and deaths : The rituals vary a lot depending on the community. For some, it continues for days; for others, it is just a ten minute affair.

Disclaimer : The characters and events described here might bear some resemblance to real ones. It could be a coincidence. Or, it could be as considered to be as false as history; or, as true as a priest’s confession. Blame it on my limited imagination.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo : August 6, 2011


Do you understand economics or politics? I don’t. So, help me.

US debt ceiling fiasco: Why did Obama allow the Opposition (the Republicans) to dictate terms? Till a few days back, I did think that they have a mature political system which allows for bipartisan deals. I do not know the finer details of the plan but a deficit reduction plan during a global crisis/recession which asks for cuts in spending without revenue generation via taxes or job creation seems like a stupid plan. The only silver lining for that dark cloud seems to be that the rich might escape taxes but the same might face wealth erosion via tanking stock markets and S&P’s downgrade of US from AAA to AA+. Obama could have used the power of his office to do much more. Why did he choose not to do so? For a layman like me, it seems to be that he has elections in mind, rather than economics. I bet he is going to use some version of “Mommy, those guys made me do it…”


PM and the Lokpal Bill: I am waiting for August 16. Most probably, Anna Hazare (and, hopefully, his supporters, too) will start a fast-unto-death-or-whatever on that day. I will be studying how the story develops or fades in the media. Day one – front page, few columns; day two – front page, one column; day three onwards – inside pages, I suppose…I am not really interested in the views of the political parties. There are three types of political opinions, I think. One, the government (and some other parties with a PM-hopeful) will try to keep the PM out of the Bill (I do not trust this select group of people in the Lokpal with such an easy way to destabilize a government or, at least, an easy way to help the media create confusion and instability; and, I am quite satisfied with the existing ways to go after the PM). Two, there are political parties (who never did anything regarding the Bill when they were in power) that claim that they want the PM to be included in the Bill but they know that the government will not call their bluff. Three, there are political parties who will climb onto some moral high horse knowing that they will never have a PM from their ranks. Have I understood the politics correctly?


I would love to think more about these topics. But, this weekend, there is a bigger crisis in my life: I have to visit my mother-in-law. I think Oscar Wilde claimed that a man’s failure is that he wants his wife to be like his mother and his wife’s failure is that she turns out to be like her mother. I do not agree and I do think that that is Wilde’s feminine side doing the claiming. The last thing any man wants is for his wife to be like his mother – that is his wife’s assumption about what he wants; he obviously wants much more than that. And thankfully, in my wife’s case, genes mutated sufficiently and she is not like her mother either. I know that I will be fighting with my mother-in-law this weekend. She will poke at my many failures. I have already chosen my mode of attack. She was a Chief-something in the government before retirement. A few months before her retirement, she was sent abroad for training or to study new methods or whatever. Why did the government waste the money on her since she was close to retirement? Why did she accept that wasteful perk? See, I have my questions ready for her. Some guys (like those two-dimensional fools in ZNMD) go to Spain to experience danger via bulls. Some guys (like me) go to their mother-in-law’s house.