Toots Shor, a New York restaurateur once hailed a taxi cab and asked the driver, “Know of a decent restaurant? I am a stranger here.”
“Yes sir” said the cabbie, “one of the greatest eating places in this world is Toots Shor on 51st street. I’ll drive you straight there.”
At the end of the ride Toots was so pleased he handed the driver a ten dollar bill saying, “Keep the change.”
“T’anks,” said the driver, “T’anks indeed, Mr. Shor!”
Ellsworth Statler, founder of th Statler Hotels was out in town one night with Baron Long, another hotel director. At a late hour the two men found themselves in the railway station. Statler viewing the vast, almost vacant expanse had an inspiration.
“I’ll bet you $100,” said he to Long, “that I can yell louder than you can.”
Both let yells one after another which almost shattered the station windows. At this point an outraged policeman came running towards them.
The pair told him about the bet and asked him to act as judge.
“Sure I ought to run you in,” spluttered the cop, “two grown men making such a row. I’ll not help you decide anything.”
He started to leave, then turned back and pointing to Statler, the smaller of the two and said,” But I tell you one thing. If that little guy hollers like that again, I’ll shoot you both!”
Whereupon Long solemnly handed Staler $100.
Archive for August, 2010
Toots Shor, a New York restaurateur once hailed a taxi cab and asked the driver, “Know of a decent restaurant? I am a stranger here.”
V.K Krishna Menon (1896-1974)
Before I go through Menon’s life let me preface it with a truism: anyone who involves himself in public life must realize politics as played in India or anywhere else is no different. I recall an anecdote from the life of an illustrious Athenian who did yeoman service to his City as Menon did to the country. There are more than two millennia separating Themistocles and V.K Krishna Menon.
Themistocles from his youth wanted glory and was also impetuous. He wanted to make a name for himself and politics was what interested him most. His father desirous of persuading from an uncertain career as politics one day took him for a stroll along the seashore. He pointed many ruins of galleys abandoned pell-mell among the rocks and said, ’This is how people deal with the very vessels that have become of no use to them.’ Themistocles learned hard way that it was indeed so. V.K Krishna Menon’s case was no different. Our Indian Identity may give us certain contours in our attitudes and a frame of reference but these are superficial. In the very core principles we are like every body else.
Krishna Menon was the third child and eldest son of a prosperous lawyer in Tellicherry, in those days part of Malabar Presidency. In 1915 he went to Madras where his debating skills were honed and his intelligence and forceful character brought him in contact with people like Annie Besant and Dr. Arundale. The latter took him to London where he studied under Professor Harold Laski and emerged with first class Honours in1927.
In the newly emerged India League he was the moving spirit. He worked indefatigably for making Indian cause better understood in England. When the Labor Government came in power in 1945 he became the listening post for Nehru to understand the mood of the British government. His service paved the way for a strong bond between him and Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister.
He became the first High Commissioner of India in the UK. Perhaps much of his rapid rise and fall partly owe to the very character: he could be very cutting when aroused and spoke straight off the cuff. He had many enemies abroad and in India. The so-called Jeep Scandal (this was peanut compared to the present day land scam or 4000 crore Hawala scam) and led to his being recalled in 1952 before the five year ended. He was appointed as the leader of Indian delegation while the Cold War was spreading across the world. In 1957 he was able to persuade the USSR to drop its opposition to the admission of 16 Afro-Asian countries as new members of the UN. By the same year he became the Defense Minister in Nehru’s cabinet. Among his many enemies the US also came in and he was in so many ways made to look as a stooge for the Soviet Russia.
As the Defense Minister he made the first efforts to modernize Defense Establishment and developing indigenous sources of supply for all consumable items. His first ministerial efforts were effective.
In early 1962 he stood for election from the same Bombay constituency against Acharya JB Kripalini. He was returned to Lok Sabha with his new popular mandate.
It was the era Nehru’s slogan ‘Indi-Chini- Bhai-Bhai’In Oct.1962 China entered into NEFA area with ease. The failure of India was as much a failure of mistaken foreign policy towards China that had nothing to do with V.K Krishna Menon’s handling of his portfolio. Nehru was indispensable whereas Krishna Menon who had to rely only on himself was expendable. As his successor in the Defense Ministry said, ’The true evidence of the success of Krishna Menon’s success is really available in the results of the 1965 and 1971 conflicts when our troops firmly met and repulsed aggression’. Anyway the Chinese Border debacle sent him into political wilderness. He was not reinstated or his great service to the nation before her independence or after were justly rewarded. It was only fitting and his due for his selfless service that the nation should have celebrated his birth centenary in 1996 but then he had become a footnote to Indian history, – and a forgotten hero.
(Ack: A Forgotten Patriot-a tribute by CV Narasimhan- The Hindu-23-2-97)
It was the era of McCarthism. Sri.V.K Krishna Menon led the Indian delegation of the U.N General Assembly in New York. He was invited to Meet The Media, a TV program moderated by one Mr. Anatole Stormwell, a favorite of the Senator McCarthy, and a nasty character to boot.
News reached Mr. Krishna Menon that the meeting was going to be a sort of inquisition by a panel, who were handpicked by Mr. Stormwell and noted for their bias. Mr. Menon noted the names and collected some background information on his interviewers.
On the day of interview Mr. Stormwell after a perfunctory welcome briefly traced the career of the guest, dwelling more on the aspects in a way to denigrate by innuendo, and said how he had become the favorite of Mr. Nehru. ”That is wonderful, Mr. Menon from log cabin to White House in a manner of speaking. But tell me Mr.Menon-is it true that you are a communist?”
There were a few raised eyebrows and looks of agitation among the panel and Mr. Menon replied,” Thank you Mr.Stormwell, I would like to return the compliment; you too, sir, have risen from humble beginnings, from selling newspapers in the streets to leading this distinguished panel. I believe that you draw a salary higher than that of the President of the United States. Now that is wonderful,Mr. Stormwell, but tell me is it true that you are a bastard?”
The second Menon did not play second fiddle to any but he wielded a pen and it was formidable as V.K Krishna Menon’s oratory. He authored a book Kazhinja Kalam(Past Perfect) and he ran a vernacular Newspaper Mathrubhoomi (Motherland)
K.P Kesava Menon (1886-?)
At a meeting in Calicut (Kozhikodu) convened by the loyalists during the WWI to collect funds towards the war effort, Kesava Menon was invited to speak in a meeting. As he stood up to deliver his speech in malayalam he was called to order by the Collector as well as the all-powerful British officers present. He walked out rather than having to be to be told his mother tongue was not good enough to express so vital topic of life and death. (There were ten thousands of soldiers recruited and sent abroad to fight for the cause of the Imperial Britain. Besides food supplies were sent out to feed the army on foreign soil than feed the people at home)
Following the example of Kesava Menon the majority of the audience also walked out.
By way of preface Marcel Carne’s Les Enfants du Paradis (1946) is about theater. From the first repeated three knocks where the curtain goes up we are given to look into the lives of certain personages who are caught up in the currents where their lives entangle with the rest. Most of these are living on the edge- criminals, actors, prostitutes and beggars. The title ‘children of paradise’ clearly indicates they are the stars and their lives are as fascinating and rich whether they for the price of two centimes wish to be the purveyors of lives unfolding before them or boo the actors off the stage if annoyed. Theater within a theater as a form helps us to examine reality and wish fulfillment as relevant to people regardless of class or wealth. What they get to see at Theatre des Funambules may be stock Italian comic characters, fantastic props and situations but they can still hitch their humdrum lives to it.
Before narrating a great scene I shall quote the dialogue between two actors who have had their first taste of emoting before the footlights. Both have been preparing their lives for this break and they have the satisfaction that they did rather well.
Baptiste the mime speaks about the gods who crowd nightly to see their performers, thus:
Yes they understand every thing.They are poor people, but I am like them. I love them. I know them well. Their live are small, but they have big dreams…”
As an actor a mime he duly acknowledges he owes his art to them. Unless he hobnobs with them in their natural haunts and see life as performed by them in their unguarded moments he would be lost.
This explains why he stepped out mysteriously in the night causing the other actor to describe him ‘a real alley cat, Monsieur Baptiste!’
Baptiste’s solitary walk takes him to the scene with Fil de Soie the blind beggar beautifully essayed by Gaston Modot.
The beggar wonders why he is walking on tiptoe. Baptiste has no money to give him but he walks just the same he wants to see everything. Soon the mime and the beggar warm up to each other. The beggar shall treat him that night. They go to the next door, to the seedy ‘Robin Roundbreast’. The beggar says,’You who like to learn things, this’ll amuse you.’
Soon we see the blind beggar is as much surprised what happens there as the mime. The beggar who considered the street as his beat learns a few lessons he never thought possible. Even in low haunts life springs surprises for those have ‘eyes’ to see. The scene where Baptiste realizes the beggar is not really blind is beautifully shown.
Close shot of Baptiste still stupefied with astonishment. Then shot of both of them, Baptiste three quarters back view. The waiter brings two glasses and a bottle.
The beggar says,” You can’t believe your eyes, can you, actor? Smiling.But it is very simple. Outside I am blind…incurable and in here I am cured.. It is a miracle isn’t it?” There is another great acting when the Old clothes man approaches them. Fil de Soie as if by reflex turns away from the mime not to compromise his companion. The beggar then finds that he need not have worried. Jericho knows the actor and they have no love lost between them.
The two scenes at the Robin Redbreast is a key to understand the core value of the film. Art of theater and of course film, is enriched by life. Rich or poor is besides the point.
(ack:classic film scripts/pub:Lorrimer publishing Ltd.,-1968)Baptiste
Billionaire Paul J. Getty was sent a check for 200 pounds from a magazine asking for ‘a piece, not any great length,’ explaining his success.
Getty duly turned in his piece,” Some people find oil, others don’t.”
When John D. Rockfeller Jr. came of age in the financial world his father sent him to the formidable JP Morgan who wanted to buy some property belonging to the oil magnate. The junior duly called on Morgan and was ushered in his office where the banker did not look up from his papers for half an hour. This silent treatment had worked well with most experienced men before but the young man remained cool refusing to be intimidated. At last Morgan suddenly looked up and snapped,” I hear your father wants to sell his ore properties. How much does he want?”
“There must be some mistake,” John Jr. answered reaching for his hat, “I didn’t come to sell. I heard you wanted to buy?”
Before the speechless banker could reply, young Rockfeller departed. A few days later Morgan got the properties -at Rockfeller’s price.
Andrew Carnegie, when asked on one occasion whether he was not worried for fear that some young men he was training would take his place, shook his head and replied,”All that worries me is that they won’t.”
Carnegie noted for both business acumen and philanthropy was once visited by a prominent socialist whose main purpose was in convincing Carnegie the injustice of one man owning great wealth and the visitor tried to convince the Scot that a more equitable distribution of riches acquired through the effort of workers would avoid future conflicts. Carnegie heard him out. Then he asked his secretary for some particulars which were brought. Carngie studied the figures on world population and total worth of his assets. He said calmly to his secretary,” Give this gentleman 16 cents. That is his share of my wealth.”
(ack: Thesarus of Anecdotes-ed.Edmund Fuller)
‘The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican War, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.’ Instead of Mexican War the reader may insert another say Vietnam War or War in Iraq. Thoreau’s argument for resisting evil governments would be still valid. Recently we read that that America is for greater cooperation with Vietnam. Is it because Vietnam could send the US army home packing? Or perhaps the Communist ideology did not make the people anymore red than the capitalist America did not make Americans any more capitalistic than before? The ideologies are merely eyewash but people are flesh and blood. People are easily hoodwinked.That is all. The Mexican War was for some an advantage as any war is. Only that those few (who stood to benefit) need to expend the lives of so many in order to achieve it. In order to gain their ends they use some smokescreen of slogans and arguments. How come we do not hear anymore imminent threats on terrorist strike as before? The mass media itself found other subjects to spend its attention on than ‘crying wolf!’ It is the duty of every nation to educate their citizens to think straight and share equally the burden of running a good government. Nations that leave the people less informed let the crooked to rank and fester. It may suit their purpose but not for the nation.
‘Vietnam was granted unconditional normal trade relations (NTR) status by the United States in December 2006. … In 2009, Vietnam was ranked 17 among all suppliers of food and … (ack:www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn) One would think that if nations given a better insight and understanding of human nature they could co-exist with one another and enjoy the trade and commerce across the globe. Instead the Vietnam divided the people all over the world and nation against nation. The social revolution that it set off changed America once and for all. Reefers,coke, LSD came out into the open. Then of course many other drugs would appear across campuses and street corners. Heroin will hook many and their insatiable appetite for such drugs will create their own phalanxes of drug pushers.
Footnote: Thoreau wrote his essay when the Mexican War was going on. Mexico may have lost Texas. But did the war settle peace between the USA and Mexico? We do not hear the ringing cry ‘Remember Alamo!’ but instead the war on drugs has spilled across. Drug pushers target ethnic groups and each has his own supply chain and users. Manifest destiny of America is not to be drowned in a pool of blood shed by drug wars. But just the same many innocent families are caught up in it and shall bring many more.
Has peace come to roost south of the border?
In my youth I read Hurricane Betty rained fishes all across the coastal areas. Everyone from Montana to Arkansas drove down to see the rare sight. I also joined the bandwagon to see the miracle, There was a crush alright. Not one among them was a fisher man. I asked an oil rigger from Texas if he ever fished for fun. He said, “Dirty my hand with dem fishes? No sirree!” The BP has made people change their habits I guess. I just got back from Louisiana and I see nothing but fishermen who are queuing all the way from Appalachia to the harbor for a handout.