| V for vendetta
In a recent opinion poll on the greatest Englishman of all times, Winston Churchill was voted a clear winner. Undoubtedly he had great qualities of leadership and rallied his countrymen to fight and defeat Hitlerite Germany; he was also a great creator, gifted with a malicious wit. But none of his positive qualities can erase the negative aspect of his character: he was a narrow-minded bigot, a racist, an anti-Semite, and a shameless imperialist. A research student, Amy Iggulden, ferreted out statements made by Churchill at different times in his life to substantiate charges of racist bigotry against him. They were published in The Guardian.
Churchill had a very low opinion of Indian leaders, particularly Mahatma Gandhi. In a letter to his mother written on his first visit to India in 1896, he described India as “a godless land of snobs and bores”. (I suspect he was referring to the sahibs and not Indians). In 1931, Lord Irwin’s invitation to Gandhiji to discuss terms of a settlement was condemned by Churchill in the British parliament in the following words: “It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a solicitous Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well-known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the Emperor-King.”
He justified the exploitation of blacks and Red Indians by white slave dealers: “I do not admit…that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia…by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race…has come in and taken its place.”
Although Churchill fought Adolf Hitler, he had a sneaky admiration for the dictator. Two years before England declared war on Nazi Germany, Churchill said: “One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as admirable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.”
What seems unworthy of an educated, thinking man was Churchill’s naïve and heavily biased view of world Jewry. In 1920, he wrote of Zionism: “This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky, Bela Kun, Rosa Luxembourg, and Emma Goldman…this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the 19th century: and at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America has gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire.”
Cultivating a travel bug
The stereotype of an Aggarwal Bania is that he can do everything which brings in money — money-lending, shopkeeping, trade and commerce, medicine, engineering and service. Except soldiering and farming. This is not true of Arjan Das Aggarwal of Kaithal, Haryana. Along with the family business, he inherited a sizeable tract of agricultural land. Instead of leasing it to Jat farmers as his forefathers had done, he decided to try his hand at growing high quality bers (zizyphus). With the first crop, he was able to prove that there is more money in growing this poor man’s grape than in growing mangoes and oranges. Then he turned to growing flowers: orchids, gladioli and roses which had a ready market in Delhi. Among the variety of roses, his special favourite was an intensely fragrant Indian variety, chaiti, which was highly prized by vaids and hakeems. He made gulkand and extracted Otto Rose Water out of them, and put it in the market. His Arjuna Gardens and Nursery at Kalayat now caters to a large clientele in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi. He published Udyan Patrika to disseminate information and runs the Indian Nurserymen’s Association. Now he is more into producing Ayurvedic medicines; his Arjuna Herbal Pharmaceuticals at Kalayat is managed by his grandson and grand daughter-in-law.
Aggarwal is 80, without the slightest trace of being an octogenarian. He has the travel bug in him. He has been to Europe and west Asia and is constantly exploring his own country. His interests are not places of pilgrimage, ancient monuments or scenery, but people — only interesting people.
Crooked and stupid
Leland Gregory has compiled some anecdotes of criminals who were as crooked as they were stupid. I quote a couple of stories from his The Stupid Crook Book:
Ninety-Proof Moron: Before the cashier knew what was happening, a man with a shotgun appeared at the counter and demanded all the cash in the register. The cashier quickly filled a paper bag with the register’s contents and handed it over to the shotgun-wielding robber. Before he made his escape, the robber saw a bottle of Scotch on the shelf behind the counter — and it looked pretty good to him. He stuck the barrel of the gun in the clerk’s face and told him to put the Scotch in the bag with the cash. The cashier said he wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t that it was a particularly aged or valuable bottle of Scotch, he told the robber; he simply didn’t think the man was old enough to drink.
The robber claimed he was, but the cashier still refused to give him the liquor. To prove he was over twenty-one, the robber produced a valid driver’s licence and showed it to the conscientious clerk. The clerk looked it over, realized that the man was over twenty-one, and gave him the bottle of Scotch. The robber then dashed out of the store, ready to celebrate his newly acquired cash with a shot or two of fine single-malt Scotch.
The cashier celebrated the man’s stupidity by calling the police and giving them the robber’s name and address, which he had memorized from the driver’s licence. The door to the thief’s prison cell closed before he could even open his bottle of Scotch.
The First Sign of Stupidity: A young entrepreneur in Baltimore, Maryland, looking to generate more sales, put up a sign announcing his wares on the side of a newspaper box. Two plainclothes police officers saw the unlawful advertisement and approached the man, asking if he had posted the sign. “Sure”, he said, “It’s the only way I can get people to stop.” The sign in question offered the sale of $ 10 bags of marijuana.