The boffins at Volvo are inventing a gizmo to let cars latch onto each other and form convoys. The guy in the first car does all the driving, the other drivers curl up with a good book and it’s all held together by wireless, lasers and magic. Cars peel off and drive away on their own when they near their destination. And in the end, Volvo will perhaps demand a bailout for it all. Wonderful, but I wonder why they’re inventing this, since the concept already exists. It’s called a train. In the city, it’s called a car pool. When it goes to sea, it’s called a ferry.
This project also incenses the little green man in me. Not the space alien I occasionally see in the mirror, but the guy who wants to breathe clean air and so on. I am reliably informed that the current purpose of civilisation is to slash our carbon footprint by reducing the number of wheels and internal combustion engines per passenger, and not to line them up end to end in a convoy. I suspect Volvo is missing the plot here.
They are not unique. People are losing the plot right in our backyard. In the last 10 days, the losers of the 2009 election have been inspecting their navels, probing to see where it hurts and shrieking out loud when it does. Their diagnosis: reinventing the wheel will set everything right.
At the BJP’s national executive meeting, LK Advani responded to the epistolary clamour in the top brass with reinvented Hindutva. No one outside the charmed circle of the Sangh parivar ever understood the invention, and now they will have to tax their brains over this reinvention. This new-old-fangled Hindutva, which draws its strength from Balasaheb Deoras, is an “inclusive, tolerant philosophy which is not averse to change”. It will never “uphold the interests of one religion at the cost of others”. Good God, this is secularism! We had to mug it up in school. Why did Advani have to reinvent it?
Elsewhere, it is learnt that Advani will reinvent the spirit of the rath yatra in a more inclusive and tolerant avatar, and go walkabout. No problem, except that there’s a world of difference between Rahul Gandhi doing some political tourism and a great old war-horse following suit. Maybe this role would have sat better on the shoulders of a young partyman. But then, the only young talent available is the execrable Varun Gandhi, so maybe not.
Meanwhile, over at the politburo, Advani’s opposite number continues his relentless series of self-goals. In the old commie tradition of not distinguishing between state, government and party, Prakash Karat is politically defending Pinarayi Vijayan against a criminal charge in Kerala, in a government matter totally unrelated to the party. In Bengal, instead of offering political solutions to Lalgarh, he has been splitting hairs about how the Centre and not the party — read the state government — banned the Maoists.
Only Volvo-like magic can keep the left convoy together if Karat remains in the driver’s seat. Can’t they reduce his footprint for a while? But the left’s party structure is so rigid that it can never reinvent itself and move on. Like the BJP, it can only reinvent the wheel.
Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine