Archive for August, 2010

France was a divided house where neither Labour nor the extreme Right felt at home with the Republic. Trade unionism was still bitterly resisted by the employers and the government trying to appease its radical or socialist wing failed to please any. No wonder six governments fell one after the other in two years!
In 1933 when Edouard Daladier rook reins the Third Republic there was some sigh of Relief. With a day after he assumed office across the border Hitler became the Chancellor. Thus in Europe still groggy from Post-Depression the Third Republic had to face another worry: rowdy and anti-parliamentary parties taking to streets imitating the Black Shirts in Fascist Italy and the Brown shirts in Germany. These loose cannons were to be used by the powerful business and financial groups for their own ends. There were those in the Army who were still Royalists at heart, General Weygand for example. He was the Commander -in-chief of the Army at odds with the constantly changing Republican governments. It took no stretch of imagination to find who were the backers for Marshal Petain, the hero of Verdun. He had lost faith in the Republic. So did other surviving marshals, Lyautey and Franchet d’Esperey who were affected by the intellectual revolt of the Right against Parliament. On January10th 1934 the Rightist La Victoire asked in bold letters in the first page:”Who is the leader who will emerge in France, as he emerged in Italy and Germany?”
Events were marching inexorably towards recalling Philippe Petain to head the War Office under a Radical Gaston Doumergue. Pierre Laval incidentally became the Minister of Colonies in the new government. How this ageing Marshal (78 year old) and the extreme Left-Wing pacifist could make a common cause cannot be explained but by the Vichy government that epitomized all the inherent faults in the public life of France. Moral force of a nation changes shapes with such disparate figures making their exits and entries, and no one may remain impervious to it. He who took advantages of opportunities presented shall never know what dealt him the unkindest blow when disaster strikes.


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Anyone not familiar with the place 150 Tandon Enclave in New Delhi is most likely to miss it. It was carved out of a vacant lot between the Aurangazeb Road and Prithiraj Road. A Government order put an end to centuries old dispute between two nawabs whose claims dating back to the Emperor Jahangir were simply resolved by the stroke of a pen. The Government doled out lots to whom it would. It was the days of nas bandhi and Emergency.
The move benefited some. The embassies which found Chanakyapuri limiting pushed their part of the establishment there. Private parties also benefited from the Government largesse. The business houses that could not operate from Janapath found the location ideal. The Tandon Enclave for one. The enclave fronted Raisina Heights head on and Claridges Hotel on one side.
Shri Sukh Ram occupied the ground floor and any one who strayed into the premises saw nothing than a blank wall lovingly sheathed in cut stones edges beveled and polished. Nothing other than the owner’s name with a cryptic description greeted him.
Shri Sukh Ram, exporters and importers, merely let the unwary go away none the wiser. Even so it cost a fortune to whoever occupied it and sought anonymity as though it were a virtue.
Along a row of prestigious addresses one can count five consulates each competing to catch the eye while some blue chip companies hold their own in the gleaming chrome-glass facades with roof gardens floating in a well manicured lawn. Somewhere among these a gate with sentry box let the mysterious Sukh Ram let in. The watch and ward were all in place on an evening a Jeep drove in. A curt wave of hand brought the sentry to attention and the wrought iron swung on their sockets.
Next morning a icy blue Mercedes of the latest vintage with tinted glass windows shut drive past the side gravel path silently to deposit the precious cargo past the high screen. The Sikh sentry never knew who really drove since he was sent by the employment agency some six months earlier. For him if the car was driven by a chauffeur or not, was as immaterial as the name of the owner.
But Sukh Ram was as real as those who drove in the evening before.

On that sultry May morning Delhi was not spared even by a swirling dust storm that blew across from Northwest. The flame red gul mohar petals swirled, ominous red splatters all across. The Benz drew up silently motor whirring along the driveway setting an alarm among the paid hands that did not expect it that morning.
The man in his first flush of maturity came out his firm steps not breaking the stride. As he entered through the side door he abruptly stopped. The housekeeper who kept the ménage in his absence was not to be seen. The door was ajar. Ominous was what he saw through the narrow passage at his sitting room. The jade green shard that lay on the carpet. It was his lalique fruit bowl. He hurried to check the extent of the damage. Horror of horrors! The house was ploughed through as though by an unseen bulldozer. His walls were splattered with ink, and the canvas that hung above faux fireplace was slashed across many times that made him stop breathless.
‘My Amrita Sher-Gil!’he bellowed as if in agony.
He heard footsteps. He suddenly took the brass inkstand a heavy ornate brass antique he had picked out from Old Delhi quarter.
‘Do not be silly, munna.’ Sukh Ram bristled at the word. Next his blood turned cold and he knew the voice.
There was the heavy Buddha-like figure of Babulal, the don who was the liquor baron who got salaams from all. He was the right hand man of the Minister for RUT. Resources Utilization and Tradeoffs, a portfolio that meant on paper nothing but carried power. Babulal at that moment represented the latter aspect of the Union minister.
‘Get out scum’, Sukh Ram screamed, ‘I told you I don’t ever want to see you?’
The heavy lidded man merely smiled. He shrugged and said, ‘My da sez the place and everything in it belongs to him. So when he sez ‘go put some sense into Sukh Ram’, I say well I may succeed or I may fail. But no harm in trying. Was there?’
Sukh Ram felt a sliver of fear. The man was telling the truth.
Yet his voice and intonation of a bootlegger never grown beyond the argot of a pimp made him grit his teeth in pain. The flabby mouth still larded with betel stained spittle around the corner struck him as obscene.
Before he could find words the don embraced him as to an erring child and he said, ‘you’ll see my da. Won’t you?’
Sukh Ram nodded.
Suddenly the fat man frowned and pointing to the brass inkstand he was still holding he asked, ‘You carry still these?’
Babulal snapped his fingers and from behind the curtains a goon who learned to dress up from the many Hindi films materialized. ‘Johnny, see the inkpot?’
Johnny grinned and he passed some of his good-will to the occupant showing his palm still dripping with ink. The don conversationally commented,’Yer finger painting leaves very moch to be desired,’ Johnny walked towards Sukh Ram still grinning. Sukh Ram was not amused and leaving the inkstand on the mahogany side table he stood scowling. The goon showed his hands and said, ‘If you used a ball pen like everyone else I would not dirty my fingers’.
Ruefully Sukh Ram thought his goon spoke better than the liquor baron.
Babulal curtly asked his outrider to fetch the present and he did pronto. Babulal with a grin smiled once again Buddha-like and said, My da must like you a lot to give this ‘chota something.’

Sukh Ram silently took it and tore off the wrappings. It was the latest I-pad and he laid it aside. He asked morosely, ‘What of my Sher-gil?’
‘It was present like this. Was it not?’
The fellow was enjoying his witticisms and he froze. ‘You called me ‘scum.’ Before Sukh Ram could think up an excuse the don giggled and his paunch rippling was irritating. On the whole he concluded that everything about him was obscene.

The don before departing said, ‘Pleez arrange a meeting with my da. He is a busy man but I know he waits patiently.’
He added, ‘If you must know, the one we tore up was a fake. My da hold it for your good behaviour.
Watching intently his expression the liquor baron droned,’Ah you love the painting and you get it back in good time.’ He nodded complacently for having his job well. He said ‘Think what we did to your office as a visiting card.’
Before closing the door behind them the don said with a smirk, ‘we shall put all in order. So give us a fortnight. Will you not?’
Only after the duo cleared off he realized the Minister held all the aces. Either he had to shape up and meet him at his terms. He knew the Minister merely swung his whip to tell him who was in control. If he did not he was back to gutter, a prospect that detested with all his heart.
Rohini Varma was the brigadier- general’s daughter. Having briskly moved through Oak Grove, Missouri and Jesus and St. Mary’s college she passed with a degree in Economics. She was waiting for her Prince Charming to sweep off her feet and she was not disappointed. Major Dev from 65th Artillery Regiment duly swept her off her feet. He showed ardour as any full blooded career officer and thrilled her with his panache and promises. Then came marriage and a rather dull existence of a married Army wife. She regretted at times her long drawn out dream of some twenty years ended so quickly. He indeed swept off her feet but it stopped with the bed.
The Army is a well oiled machine and it takes care of its own. The Army wives club and endless cocktail circuits were wheels that moved her. She learned to survive: changing beds merely broke the routine but not her dream. It was then she met Sukh Ram and their trysts added spice to her life. The sallow Army wife had her little diary filled with ecstatic observations of life sexed up.
She was surprised to receive the sms that May evening. Sukh Ram wanted to meet her urgently that evening. What made her curious was his insistence to meet her somewhere else than two places that gave the lovers complete privacy. ‘Something is afoot’, she could not help murmuring. She flushed. Each time he found ways to shortcircuit her circumspection with daring moves. He tried to improvise as a lover that always came as agreeable surprise. The first time it was sexting with his images that she lying on bed could relish. He was well hung and the secret that it was only meant her eyes thrilled her. The girl in her was quick to give him the shock he didn’t expect. She sent back her own. Her curves lovingly gone over by webcam made him squeal with pleasure. He eyed landscapes of desire from the sequences of her haunches, breasts and down to the dimpled navel all melded pixel by pixel with the dispassionate care,- as though the images were sent by Hubble Telescope of a planet on the last frontier of the Milky Way. At the end he texted her to check Venus and Adonis by Shakespeare. He didn’t give no further hint than that. She was well aroused to patiently look up the text to get his meaning. ‘Within this limit is relief enough,’ was her answer. It made her get out of the quarters with instructions to her maid to hold the fort till she got back…


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Subhas Chandra Bose (1897- 1945)
Patriot, freedom fighter

One of the brightest jewels of the Indian national Movement Subhas was fated to remain for long unrecognized for the simple reason that he didn’t kowtow the official position of Congress, which in effect was what Gandhi had in mind. Gandhi’s association with Motilal led him to push Nehru as the leader than Subhas. Owing to his stature in the eyes of the people Gandhi could get away with a serious error in judgment. As we shall see Gandhi’s meddling was to prove disastrous for emerging India. For one thing the dynastical rule of Gandhi family and corruption would take the mainstream. Subhas did provide a viable alternative to the leadership of Jawaharlal that was often wanting in decisiveness or vision. While Nehru took the Centrist position Bose took a Left position.
It is one of the ironies of history that Subhas Chandra Bose was out of the mainstream as events were inexorably marching towards an inevitable Partition, beginning with Khilafat movement of the 20s. Gandhiji fell in with the communal stream while ‘Desabandhu’ Chittaranjan Das resisted it (The Bengal Pact of 1923). Bose sided with Das. Had it been accepted by the Congress secularism would have had a chance in practice than in name to the Indian Congress politics. In 1947 Bose was away while Viceroy Mountbatten with a view to his place in history was ready to partition India and take Britain out of India. Nehru and Vallabhai Patel went along with the division as fait accompli. A patriot of Patriots as Gandhiji qualified him would not have accepted freedom as a gift from the British and instead would have fought as he did even allying with the devil in order to realize it. (Ack: The Hero who walked alone’ Nikhil Chakravarty-The Hindu, Nov16-1997)
During his visit to London he presented his views on India’s freedom struggle at several public meetings. At one he was told by an Englishman thus, ‘Remember, the sun never sets on the British Empire.’
‘Even God does not trust the British in the dark’ was his reply.
Note: there is a similar quote attributed to Duncan Spaeth. ‘I know why the sun never sets on the British empire: God would not trust an Englishman in the dark’.
A common epithet thrown at the English has been ‘perfidious Albion’.’ The English are…perfidious and cunning…’ (Leo de Rozmital-1456)
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)
Indian savant, monk

His visit to the US was to attend the Parliament of World Religions held at Chicago on September 1893. His noble presence and command of English and not to mention the beauty of his message electrified the audience. He helped build a bridge of understanding between India and the West.
At a dinner party Swami Vivekananda spoke as the spirit of Renaissance his hopes and dreams for resurgent India. A bore across the table kept of interrupting him and at one point he wanted to know the difference between a monk and a monkey.
With a grin the warrior monk finished him off saying, ‘Very slight, just being at different sides of the same table.’
John Mathai(1886-1959)who served as the Finance Minister in the Nehru cabinet had to face the ire of Ramanath Goenka who was a MP, over the budget he had presented in the House. He complained that it lacked the brains and Mr. Mathai retorted, ‘Brains, alas, are not sold in the black market.”
In 1937 Homi Modi(1881-1969) was speaking in the Central Assembly over the proposal to increase the excise duty on foreign liquor. He admitted he smoked and drank but he made it clear that he didn’t know what to do if the duties are further increased.
Satyamurthi commented, ‘Go in for toddy.’
Calmly Modi answered him, ‘No thank you, like everything swadeshi, toddy goes to my head.’
In the 30s while discussing Child Marriage Bill Baijnath Bajoria opposed the Bill which raised marriage of the girls to eighteen, Homi Modi wanted to know, ‘Would you prefer two girls of nine to one of eighteen?’
Once N.M Joshi a labor leader began his speech prefacing,’Mr. President, I don’t understand…’ Modi quipped, ‘That is the trouble with you.’
In a moment of prescience Homi Modi could see through the humbug of the World leaders who vowed at the end of WWI that peace would last forever. He observed, ‘Having fought a war to end all wars, they have created a peace to end all peace’. He was indeed proved right.

George Nathaniel Curzon
Viceroy of India (1899-1905)

Lord Curzon epitomized the British Empire at its heyday. Perhaps his career would explain precisely what was wrong with the British Raj. His contemporary and schoolfellow, Oscar Wilde, described him as one who was mediocre, ‘desperately pursuing a second class degree and then a second-class career.’ It was into his hand such immense power over 300 million Indians the British government had let, – and he created needless controversies one of which was the Partition of Bengal. It was a dry run for yet another Partition that would in 42 years recur with vengeance.
This anecdote concerns him at a time Lord Salisbury hosted a party in honor of Li Hung Chang (1823-1901) at Hatfield his family estate. Curzon was also present. The Chinese envoy asked him how old he was. Curzon replied that he was thirty-six.
‘Dear me,’ the visitor said, ’exactly the same age as the German Emperor.’
After a pause he continued, ‘The German Emperor, however has, six sons. How many have you?’
Curzon informed the Chinese that he was only recently got married and so far none.
In reply Li Hung Chang incredulously asked, ’Then what you have been doing all this time?’
Curzon later admitted that neither then nor subsequently could he find an appropriate answer.

U.N Dhebhar (1906-1977)
Indian politician

India politics is ever played with a Gandhi in mind. For old timers who were caught in the Pre-Independent freedom movement of course Gandhi would mean none other than the apostle of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi. Of the politicians who made Gandhian principles ring true by deeds UN Dhebhar is second to none. In 1947 he was the Chief Minister of Saurashtra and in 1955 he became the President of the Congress Party.
Mr. Dhebhar was compassionate and self disciplined to make Gandhian precepts fit for any occasion and an example of this may be seen during a tour through the drought-hit areas as the CM of Saurashtra. A senior officer, a scion of a princely family, accompanied him. Passing through the outskirts of a village he saw a young girl drawing water from a dirty pond. He stopped the car and asked the girl why she was filling her pitcher from it. She replied that water truck had not come around for a couple of days.
Dhebhar questioned the officer who blamed on the breakdown on the vehicle. The CM asked for a glass of water from the same pond and ordered the officer to drink it. The officer said, “How could one do this?”
“If you cannot do you expect the people to do so?” Dhebhar insisted that the officer to remain there till he fixed the problem. The CM rode off. Meanwhile the news got around that a senior officer was present in the village. The water truck soon arrived on the scene. (Ack: V. Gadgil-Commerce)
benny, Nehru’s father

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Jew-baiting in Europe was pervasive right from the time the powers- that- be found the Jews a convenient scapegoat. The rulers of principalities funded their wars with the money extorted from the Jews. Torquemada for example comes to mind. Jews were banished from the Catholic Spain. France was not free from this prejudice. That was then.
In the late 19th century France was rocked by a scandal. In its wake their deep seated fear of Jews came to the fore. I cite the collapse of the company that floated the Panama Canal project. In 1888 the company formed by Ferdinand de Lesseps went under with a loss to stockholders, most of them small bourgeois investors, of $300,000,000. From inquiries and trials that followed an endemic corruption in which several cabinet ministers, some 150 members of Parliament and nearly every important newspapers had been bribed off. The company wanted to avoid a crash and money spent at the right quarters allowed the company to stave off an immediate collapse. For the time being. Of these corrupt people only one was found guilty and prosecuted because his conscience prick made him confess! Now the question is how come anti-semitism suddenly became the news of the day? The politicians and corrupt law-givers wanted to save their hides,- and also face, one would think.
The Jews as a nation was a nation within the national life of Russia and as elsewhere, in France also.
There cannot be smoke without fire. In fact there were three Jews who on behalf of the company actually handled the bribing of influential people. In the mass hysteria surely l’affaire Dreyfus was waiting to happen. The man on the street as a result of corruption,divisions lost faith in the Third Republic and in those who ran the Republic. Of course politicians who used the Jews as smoke screen may have escaped immediate retribution but their actions would surely bring disaster. How else one can explain the utter fiasco under which France met the challenge of rising Nazism?
Within a span of six weeks during the balmy May-July days of 1940 the world’s second largest empire were utterly brought to their knees. France may have prided in her culture and civilized way of life but all these would give way to a Fascist dictatorship and an epitome of Totalitarian Political system. Who genuflected shamelessly before the Moloch but the father figure of the French Army, the one and only Philippe Petain?
It is poetic justice that Army caved in when the nation needed them most. The Army had long before their debacle lost their morale in the Dreyfus case.
In 1894 throwing Dreyfus to the wolves in order to protect the Army made the country split in the middle. The Left and Right veered to extreme positions. For the Army, the Catholic Church and the conservative majority it was not the question whether Dreyfus was guilty or not but that it were better that he suffered than sacrifice the prestige and honor of the French Army. With such persuasive argument France walked roughshod over the individual liberties of some individuals as though their lives didn’t count. On a flimsy charge that will never stand in a court of law Captain Dreyfus was publicly disgraced. La Libre Parole a paper noted for her anti-semitism commented next day: “It was not an individual who was degraded here for an individual crime. The shame of an entire race was bared in its nakedness.”
When a nation has sacrificed its moral force what morale can an army muster in case of emergency? When the House has developed a cleft down the middle what hope is left for the inmates? In the face of the national crisis the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris led the prayers and hoped as with the people for a miracle. It was of no use since the Army was sapped by dreams of glory and of the past than of the present.
Curtailing individual liberties of even one person do carry its measure of seeds of poison. If the nation could make short shrift of one it stands to reason there shall be many more cases similarly repeated elsewhere. The accumulated poison shall spread through wind, water, rivers and oceans that in the end will create catastrophe.

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It was Adolf Hitler who once posed the question: “What is life?” He himself answered it thus:”Life is the nation.The individual is the nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the life of the individual is the Nation.”( Shirer:The Rise and fall of the Third Reich. p.933) I owe this article to Wm. Shirer’s excellent analysis of the Collapse of the Third Republic.
Individuals make up the nation and a House divided itself cannot last. So individuals do matter. Which is more important? a chicken or the egg? Or the city or a citizen? There is nothing that can stand by itself as far as anything that is organized to serve a purpose. Man makes the city and is in turn changed by it. One need only visit a city like New York to see the frenetic pace that keeps her denizens moving about. Whereas if I were to set the same pace in a place like Perar, a village in the Hills, Tamil Nadu, India I would be viewed by the locals as one wanting in intelligence. Man exudes a certain energy level, call it his intrinsic worth and when it connected with another it raises him to an altogether level. One only needs to watch a young man trying to interest a young woman. Seen how their making out hits an altogether new patch when another young man appears in the scene?In short synergy of an individual is infectious and it makes all provide their own and lo, the rules of the game will be changed once and for all. A New Yorker if he were to go back to his roots say a hick town will he not feel out of place? He has given his energy for a common purpose and has benefited from the common pool so much that he is changed forever.
The Nation is set up by so many individuals who may be migrant workers, citizens and ethnic groups absorbed into the mainstream for the development,maintenance and support of the Nation. No matter a Nation is doomed in the long run if these bodies of individuals are divided and pressed down by laws that are aimed to protect a a particular group.

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Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington
One of Arthur’s school fellows by name Crosbie for a wager climbed the top of the ‘Yellow Steeple,” as the gaunt tower of St. Mary’s Abbey was called. While his schools fellows were watching with bated breath came Crosbie’s last will and the testament fluttering down. Arthur, the future Iron Duke burst into tears because nothing not even one game cock had been bequeathed to him.
The Iron Duke at the height of his fame was walking down Pall Mall when a minor official from a Government office came up, took of hat and said, “Mr. Jones, I believe?”
The duke’s answer was simple and direct: “Sir, if you believe that you’ll believe anything.”

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