In this age of 24x7 news, anything and everything makes news. And, if you happen to be someone famous, God help you because the public and the media won’t flinch one bit from pulling you down from that pedestal. Ask Czech President Vaclav Klaus who has been accused of “stealing” a pen during an official signing ceremony last week in Chile. At the ceremony, Mr Klaus nimbly took out the pen embedded with Chilean lapis lazuli stones from the pen box and slipped it into his pocket. This act was enough to set the Amazon on fire: thousands are protesting on Facebook and the video is a rage on YouTube.
We are a bit amazed at this over-the-top reaction. Anyone in his place would have thought that the pen was his for keeps. Don’t we all indulge in a little bit of memento-hunting on our travels? From a bottle of shampoo, a fridge magnet or that headphone meant for in-flight entertainment, everything is for keeps. Of course, the more adventurous among us will even nonchalantly pocket airline cutlery or an extra bottle of wine. Then there was the wife of a former president of India who, the story goes, almost carted half of the Raj silverware from
Rashtrapati Bhawan till someone politely told her that those were not return gifts after the end of her husband’s tenure.
For those who are trying to interpret Mr Klaus’ act as an extension of his politics or attitude, here is a caveat: don’t read too much into the episode. If you witness what else leaders steal in countries like ours, a pen — even though jewel encrusted — is really small potatoes, at best hot potatoes.