| Political heavyweight
For a few months, I basked in the sunny smiles of J. Jayalalithaa and was granted the privilege of addressing her as Amu. She came over to my flat many times, talked at length, loaded my grand-daughter with idols to worship (my grand-daughter is Hindu), and gave her jewellery to adorn herself when dancing Bharatanatyam. For a while, we also wrote to each other; I sent her one of my books when she was in Chennai central jail. I had reason to believe that I knew her well. Suddenly she dropped me, as they say, like a hot potato. I have no idea how or when I had offended her.
I was wrong in assuming that I knew Jayalalithaa well. She was always unpredictable, an enigma which grew more enigmatic with the passage of years. She had great faith in astrology. Even before she became chief minister, she told me that she was destined to be the ruler of Tamil Nadu. That prophecy came true. She told me of other astrological predictions (which I will not divulge) which did not.
On my first visit to Chennai after she had become ruler of Tamil Nadu, I was dismayed to see huge cut-outs of her in different parts of the city and to hear reports of people worshipping her images as if she were a goddess. Tamilians indulge in this form of idolatry more than other Indians. In the case of Jayalalithaa, there was more reason to treat her as a deity as she proved to be a strong ruler — a combination of a wealthy Lakshmi (she gifted an elephant to a temple) and a powerful Durga — if anyone crossed her path, it was off with his head.
If she wanted to, she could have put down this kind of silly human worship as did Bapu Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. She seemed to revel in it. I wish somebody, whom she listened to, would tell her that hubris (excessive pride) is a sin and can be as terminal a disease as blood cancer. No one did. Or she turned a deaf ear to it.
I fear her nemesis will come at the hands of The Hindu. It is the most prestigious and responsible daily newspaper in the country. I have no reason to believe that the speaker of the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly acted at her behest. But she must have known what he was up to. He has done her a great disservice by getting the entire media and democratic elements of the country to support the stand taken by The Hindu against her regime. She makes no secret of her lofty disdain for the press; but if she wants to stay in power, she cannot afford to ignore public sentiment. By now she must have learnt from experience that people who flatter you in your face laugh at you when your face is turned the other way. Politicians need to be taken seriously and not be treated as a laughing stock.
Some say it with pictures
In the highly competitive world of publishing, Pramod Kapoor and his wife Kiran, owners of Roli Books, have made a niche for themselves as the producers of the country’s best coffee-tablers. I know them because they published three of mine, which might have found few takers and gone unnoticed — The Sikhs (with Raghu Rai), Nature Watch (Illustrated by Shudhasatva Badu) and Among the Sikhs, written by Surjit Kaur of Washington. They have much more to their credit: a most explicit production of Kama Sutra, pictures of the Everest and the latest on India’s maharajas.
The 51-year-old Pramod Kapoor was a topper in school and college, got a degree in business management before he joined Macmillan and then McCraw Hill. In 1985, he started publishing, Sunday Mail (which he sold at considerable profit) and launched his publishing house. Though now middle-aged and somewhat paunchy, he has an eye for beautiful women. His bevy of attractive young assistants would be the envy of any nawab or maharaja.
Nature lovers united
A couple of years ago, Anuradha Paul of Nagpur wrote to me in some anguish about a local bara babu who had ordered the cutting down of many trees on the pretext of widening roads. I think felling healthy trees is akin to murder and wrote angrily about it in my column which is picked up by a Nagpur paper. The bara babu desisted from carrying out his nefarious plan.
And a desultory correspondence started between Paul and me on subjects like forests, wild life and the birds in our gardens. In her last letter, she included some poems and limericks composed by her, which I would like to share with my readers:
A dog with or without a pedigree
Will always be caught watering a tree!
What it likes to do the most
Is taking care of a dry lamp-post!
If it finds no better loo —
Any sort of car tyre will do!
Man to answer nature’s call —
Only need espy a wall!
Religion as today it is construed
Is techno-savvy and pretty much lewd
Fusion’s the word
Ask any Kumbh nerd —
Sadhu and foreigner bathe in the nude!
Shoot the god-damned corrupt, that’s
For whom service to self is the lure
But, thick-skinned they are,
And too numerous by far.
We’ll run out of bullets for sure.
Poll-rigging has long been above sin
All’s fair in the ballot, to win.
Crooks become CM —
Nothing shorter mayhem —
We idiots bear it with a grin.
Many uses of a shoe
Banta; What is the price of this necktie'
Shopkeeper: Rs 500
Banta: That is very high. I could buy a new pair of shoes for Rs 500
Shopkeeper: Then tie a pair of shoes round your neck instead of a tie.
(Contributed by J.P. Singh Kaka, Bhopal)