No other general election in the years past has generated as much public interest as the one we are in the process of going through now: it is the main topic of conversation, our newspapers and magazines are full of it, it takes up most of the time on our TV channels. Why?
My answer to the question is that most people feel there is more at stake in this election than in any in the past. Which party wins more seats or who becomes our prime minister is of secondary importance; what matters most is whether or not India will continue to remain a secular state committed to socialism or become a Hindu Rashtra wearing a secular mask with an agenda of its own, including building a mammoth Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, preserving the Ram Setu and other relics associated with Hinduism. The choice is between an India of the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru on the one side (secular), and those of Vir Savarkar and Guru Golwalkar on the other (Hindutva). By no stretch of the imagination can it be called secular. We have to choose between remaining what we are or opt to become a Hindu Rashtra.
We will soon have to face serious challenges from across our borders. Pakistan seems to be crumbling faster than we feared. Its government has yielded its north-western territories to die hard mullahs, allowing them to impose barbaric anti-feminist codes of conduct. It will not be long before the rest of the country knuckles under their influence. India will be their next target.
On the other side, Bangladesh seems to be sitting on a time-bomb which may explode anytime. We have to be prepared for the eventuality and the influx of more unwelcome refugees.
With these possibilities in mind we should cast our votes and for a government we think will be the best to cope with these impending calamities.
Women have a change of life around their 40s, when they stop menstruating and are no longer able to bear children. Their menopause takes some months when they become edgy, lose interest in sex and put on weight.
The male menopause comes around when men are in their 60s. It is of very short duration — one day. It is more dramatic and unless they prepare themselves in advance, can play havoc in their later lives.
Visualise the plight of a man in government or private service. His life is time-bound. He gets up at a specified time, spends the day at work and returns home in the evening. That becomes his routine of life for 40 years or more. On his retirement, a farewell party is organised for him, laudatory speeches are made, his bosses give him a memento like a wrist watch and say goodbye to him. He is back home at his usual time. He gets up the following morning, but has nowhere to go and nothing to do, because he has been retired. He is still in good health. What is he to do all day long? How does he cope with time on his hand?
With the defence services, the day of retirement can be more brutal. Unless a soldier gets promotions, he is retired in the prime of his youth with a miserable pension he cannot live on. He has to find another job or an alternative way of livelihood.
Those who have not thought about what they will do after retirement have time weighing heavily on their hands. Many take to attending congregational prayers in temples or gurdwaras. Some descend on friends and relatives for gossip sessions. They murder time. And time is precious: there are hundreds of options open to retired people. If they are short of money, they can take up some trade which brings in cash. If they are comfortably placed, they can take to gardening or engage themselves in some activity in service of society, for example teach children of poor families, look after stray animals, volunteer to help the old and sickly. But doing nothing is to become a nothing and a sure way of hastening the end.
Shoe said it
More than a bomb or gun/ The footwear is a potent weapon,/ For, what years of shouting couldn’t do/ A momentary missile has done/ And, in the bargain, blackened/ A Journalist’s profession;/ Even if justice has won/ Even Bush to Chidambaram/ It is becoming a bit too common;/ Thank God, it is as yet with danger fraught/ Thank God, my wife has yet used it not.
(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)