As I grow older, crankier and calmer behind the vas deferens, I’ve started obsessing about one thing: survival.
I’m not only talking about the spectre of pink slips pattering gently on to window panes near me, but I mean the complete jing-bang — the whole business of continuing to exist in a world that insists that it is its way or the highway.
I can explain this recent unhealthy focus on my survival to three very disconnected events.
1. Last Tuesday marked the 40th marriage anniversary of my parents; that is, 40 years since the first socially acceptable public incident that would ultimately lead to my existence.
2. It will be exactly 200 years this Thursday since the birth of Charles Darwin, the bloke who not only went on to explain why slugs narrowly lost out to television producers in world domination, but also will help you to understand why the page you’re reading now has mutated since the last time you saw it.
3. I stumbled on to the story of Navdeep Tomar, a 25-year-old cricketer from Delhi’s Fatehpur Biri village. Tomar, on finding out that he had been left out of the Delhi Ranji Trophy team, flew off the handle, screamed at the chaps responsible for his exclusion, and deflated the tyres of a selector’s car before vowing never to play cricket again.
But Tomar’s story has a history. He was selected in 2006 even though he was apparently not good enough. It was only after Delhi Cricket Association president Arun Jaitley sacked the whole selection committee that Tomar, who had brought a truckload of goons to the National Stadium Ranji camp to get his name on the probables’ list, got the message that he wasn’t going to be padding up.
Darwin would have patiently explained to Tomar that he was just a victim of natural selection, where his shortcomings as a cricketer stopped him from making the Ranji Trophy grade. But Lovely — the name he gave himself to get rid of past baggage — had his own explanation. “It does not matter how well I perform. My goonda image is here to stay.” In other words, he made what we would call a ‘socio-political’ pitch for survival — ‘I’ve not been selected not because I’m not good enough, but because as a Gurjjar, I haven’t been able to wheedle, bribe and threaten my way in to the Delhi team like some others.’
The ‘uncared for’ Tomar even explained his violent outbursts against the selectors as a hereditary trait: “I am a Gurjjar. The way I speak may be considered as rude or threatening.” He hoped to be seen as a victim who’s been disallowed from entering an exclusive, meritocratic club and now will be pushed, thanks to an uncaring bunch of selectors, into a life of goonda-gardi.
A similar case of people being turned away from entering the gates of opportunity and forced to become enemies of the law and society are made quite regularly. So why not a similar explanation for poor Tomar’s forced but he-had-no-other-choice entry into a life of crime?
You, model citizen with the well-meaning furrowed brows, may well ask why there is no similar natural selection for our political leaders. Why aren’t the incapable, power’n’pelfwallahs simply kept out of the system? Isn’t evolution all about filtering out the bad and keeping the good, until we get the super-duper, long-grained variety of political leadership?
No, evolution — or in Darwin’s words, ‘descent with modification’ — isn’t about constant ‘betterment’. There’s nothing qualitative about who stays on and who goes. One survives by doing whatever it takes to survive — and that’s determined by whatever we allow as survival tactics.
But Navdeep Tomar’s exclusion from the Delhi Ranji team marks a turning point. Being a good player is suddenly a requirement to be a Ranji player. And the chances of Tomar being pushed to being a goonda now hasn’t scared selectors into giving him the nod. So will being a performing politician become a necessary requisite for politicians? Well, that’s purely up to us who’ll be doing the ‘selecting’ in the April elections. Ultimately, we’ll get the political leadership we’ll be allowing to survive down the years.
In the meantime, I need a new strategy to survive. Bull-shitting, I hear from those in front of the line, is no longer being accepted as currency at the counter.