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All in a (hot) day’s work

In modern parlance dog days is used for hot summer days when nothing very exciting happens and people take a long snooze. So stay indoors and mull over the state of the nation, writes Khushwant Singh.

columns Updated: May 23, 2010 20:56 IST
Khushwant Singh

Dog days: literally they mean the hottest days of the year associated with the rising of Sirius the dog star. In modern parlance the term is also used for hot summer days when nothing very exciting happens and people take a long snooze. We seem to be passing through that kind of period now. We are living through the hottest summer in 50 years. The best way to preserve oneself in good health is to stay indoors and take long siestas, (the over-weight Shri Gadkari learnt that lesson leading a procession in the afternoon and collapsing), and catch up with the latest news on TV after sunset. Nothing exceptionally exciting is taking place. We are used to hearing about the confrontations between tribal Naxalites and the police. We are used to seeing our law-makers wasting time in the Parliament by shouting slogans, marching into the well of the House, forcing adjournments, and marching out to enjoy tea or coffee. And yet ask for increases in their emoluments. We are used to ministers of the government make foolish statements concerning fellow ministers. We are used to politicians shooting their mouths just to get noticed by the media. All this has become our daily diet. Why not ponder over more important issues like asking ourself: “Has the government done whatever was expected of it? Is it pursuing the right path to abolish wide-spread poverty and hunger?

I believe Manmohan Singh has done as good a job as anyone could whose party did not have a clear majority in Parliament. On more than one occasion when opposition parties got together, they almost succeeded in toppling his government. He was bailed out by Jharkhand MPs ever willing to help anyone who pays the price asked for. That may not work everytime and we may have to go in for mid-term polls. I also believe that while the Congress Party has steadily gained ground under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, the main opposition party has lost ground because it has nothing concrete to offer and have kept harping on religious and caste loyalties. I may be wrong.

What bothers me most are the enormous delays in bringing criminals to justice. Why have the men and women, proven to be involved in destroying the Babri Masjid not been arrested and brought to trial? Why are the perpetrators of the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002 in Gujarat allowed to roam free? I can cite dozens of similar instances of failure to bring criminals to justice and find it vastly depressing because it shakes peoples’ faith in our judicial system. I’m sure if our government had been stronger and not dependant on outside support, it would have acted more decisively.

Of wine and Kindred Souls

Raj Chatterjee, who writes middles for papers across the country, and I have much in common: We are the same age, went to the same school and college and found ourselves together again in England. He is born a Christian free-thinker; I born a Sikh, am an agnostic. Both of us are shameless wine-bibbers who mock at puritans and teetotallers. The older generation disapprove of us because they believe we are bad influences on present day youngsters.

A couple of weeks ago Raj sent me a post-card. (It is another thing we have in common.) with a quote from Baron Van Carvo (I have never heard of him.) in support of my praise for Omar Khayyam. It reads as follows:

Though that drinkest no wine
Blame not the drinkers for drinking;
For if God forbade us wine
Him, not it, we would renounce.

******

Boast not thyself for thy sobriety
For boasting ill-becometh a man stained with sins
And hundred times more blame-worthy
Than mine.
So I raise my glass to Raj Chatterjee, a kindred soul.
The Queen and the President

Late ‘breaking news’ from London, scene of President Obama’s recent visit:

Barack and the Queen are proceeding towards Buckingham Palace in the Queen’s carriage, waving to the thousands of cheering Britons; all is going well. Suddenly the right rear horse lets fly with the most horrendous earth shattering fart ever heard in the British Empire. The smell is atrocious and both passengers in the carriage must use handkerchiefs to cover their noses.

The Queen turns to Obama, ‘Mr President, please accept my regrets…I’m sure you understand there are some things that even a Queen cannot control!

Obama, in his best Presidential style replies: “Your Majesty, please don’t give the matter another thought... Until you mentioned it, I thought it was one of the horses.”

(Contributed by Paramjit S. Kochar, Delhi)