Monthly Archives: June 2008

What crack-brained idiot dreamed up this one?

Can I say in advance that recent political developments in India have generally left me appalled? From the BJP’s victory in Karnataka (oh, for shame! Why couldn’t we have had Krishna again?) to the central government’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters and the lack of pressure on Burma following the cyclone, my boundless sense of optimism and faith in the human spirit has been somewhat dented. I still cling to a naive belief that somewhere, somehow, democracy will bring something valuable to the table; throw up a worthwhile politician or two who can take a stance on things. Come to think of it, we already have someone like that in Manmohan Singh. Unfortunately, he’s so hobbled by having to pander to the Left’s ill-conceived populism, combined with their apparent inability to see facts or engage in reasoned debate that his hands are tied. I don’t envy him his job, I can tell you.

I still retain something of that belief in the sense of democracy, even when I read the endless articles about the Yadavs and Mayawati dedicating statues to herself, or the MNS frothing at the mouth about north Indians.

However, the magnificent stupidity of this idea has me baffled, and makes me question (for a moment) the faith I had. Plans for a statue of Shivaji off the coast of Mumbai. $25 million on a ruddy statue? Honestly, that’s the most idiotic, hare-brained, ludicrous thing I’ve heard in a lifetime of hearing about idiotic patriotic projects. Rs. 1 billion, ten crores. That’s a lot of money that could go towards so many, so very many other worthwhile things.

Please. The problem with democracy, I fear, is that people get the leaders they elect, who then ensure re-election by schemes like this. The question that always confuses me is this: Why does this strategy work? Why do people apparently want a memorial like this before they want roads, education or health care? I am horrified that anyone should think this necessary, and that it should have support. It’s completely irrational, and there’s apparently nothing that can be done about it.

A strangely sensual encounter

She walked into the room and closed the door behind her, as I sat in the chair, slightly uneasy in the warm atmosphere, the fan lazily spiralling overhead. There was no one else in the room, and she looked at me, reaching behind her to flick the switch, plunging the room into near-darkness. The only light came from the panel on the far wall, muted, faint. She moved closer, touching my face, lifting my head up. She moved closer still, her face so close to mine that I could feel the heat of her cheeks as they nearly brushed against my own. I could smell the faint, clean fragrance of her hair, almost hidden by the stronger yet still subtle perfume she wore. She looked deep into my eyes, holding my gaze for minutes on end and as I looked back, I could see the lines of her face in the faint glow from the wall; her hair a delicate sweep along her cheek and throat. I had the strange feeling as I looked at her that I wasn’t looking into her eyes but rather into mine, through her. There were strange patterns, traceries of interlocking lines, a feeling of infinite depth in the darkness.

“Your retinas look very healthy”, she said. “However, there appears to have been a change in the prescription of your right eye from -5.5 to -5.0 diopters, and the angle of your astigmatism has shifted by almost 90 degrees. You’re going to have to get a new pair of glasses. Any questions?”