Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Vaulting Ambition and a Classroom Brawl?

Published on Jul 30, 2022 12:49 AM IST

Ambition is a fascinating thing, especially if it happens to be what Shakespeare described as the ‘vaulting kind

Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Vaulting Ambition and a Classroom Brawl?
Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Vaulting Ambition and a Classroom Brawl?
ByMalavika Sangghvi

Ambition is a fascinating thing, especially if it happens to be what Shakespeare described as the ‘vaulting kind.’ Take the case of the UK’s current mano a mano battle between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak for the nation’s top job.

Given the country’s precarious economic position, it is not a secret that there will be no teddy bear’s picnic for the next resident of 10 Downing Street. With inflation reaching 9.1% and experts forecasting a figure as high as 11% by October and Britain experiencing its biggest fall in GDP since the early 18th century, the incoming Prime Minister will certainly have his work cut out for him. And yet, both Truss and Sunak have demonstrated an unequivocal desire to take on the challenge, leaving no stone unturned (or even un-thrown when given a chance) to pip each other for the post.

The battle for power in Sri Lanka is no different. The country is reeling from a series of crises; it owes more than $51bn to foreign lenders, (including $6.5bn to China,) and is experiencing a severe shortage of essential goods, including food, fuel and medicines. And yet in the face of countrywide protests from ordinary people and his political opponents, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has hung on to power by the skin of his teeth and withstood all pressures and opposition to get himself elected as president of the beleaguered nation. What’s more, this week’s reports say that disgraced former President Gotabaya Rajapakse is also expected to return to Colombo and stake his claim in the power structure.

Whether he does so, or remains in continuous exile, fleeing from one country to another is yet to be seen, but the fact remains that however desperate a situation is, there will always be those who view it as an opportunity to advance their own ambition.

Is it a case of their exemplary, altruistic commitment to their people and their confidence in their ability to turn things around, that makes them rush into situations where angels fear to tread, or just a case of runaway ambition that propels them so forcefully to take a stab at the top job, I often wonder? And what kind of Herculean confidence in themselves do they possess that assures them that such desperate things will get better once they’re in command?

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Confidence in any case, despite what the self-help book industry and sundry motivational speakers might tell you is of arguable value. ‘The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid is cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt’, said Bertrand Russell. He also said ‘I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong’ offering further proof of his towering intelligence.

Doubt is after all a great step to learning, after all, how will one learn anything if one feels one knows everything already?

But how much doubt is a good thing and how much of it is detrimental to the human spirit? According to me, the most poignant scene in Baz Luhrmann’s brilliant Elvis biopic has the singer at the height of his success sharing with his wife Pricilla that he fears he will die unknown, having achieved nothing. Interestingly, in Netflix’s new documentary- The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes, we see the celebrated actress at the pinnacle of her fame and fortune, tormented by the fact that she is not good enough and has yet to achieve something of lasting value. This, a few weeks before her alleged suicide when she was said to be the most famous and desired woman on the planet.

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Suicide has been in the headlines and on top of people’s minds this past week with five students in Tamil Nadu tragically ending their lives in a span of two weeks due to unbearable levels of stress and pressure. Authorities are worried that the incidents can trigger a fresh spate of suicidal thoughts in other students too.

“Schoolchildren tend to connect themselves with the student who ended her life. And students might be under similar pressure and once you reveal the reason and once the other person comes to know about it, it is easy for them to relate with the one who died. The probability of similar incidents is higher and it is the responsibility of the media and people around the students to be more cautious,” says Dr NS Moni, a consultant psychiatrist in Tamil Nadu, while coordinators of the state’s suicide prevention helpline inform that the number of calls for help, they receive has considerably increased in the past few days.

Something of a toxic classroom atmosphere appears to have manifested in India’s Parliament too this week, where, depending on who you believe, Sonia Gandhi was ‘encircled and heckled pack-wolf style’ (TMC’s Mahua Moitra) or had ‘wagged her finger at and spoken sharply to Smriti Irani’ ( BJP MP, Rama Devi).

Whatever the truth is, the ensuing bitter words that followed between the two women (“Don’t talk to me.” And “How dare you behave like this?”) are more reminiscent of a classroom brawl than a parliamentary exchange between two leaders and makes one wonder if the old practice of the guilty being made to stand outside the room in silence for a period of time might not bring some much-needed calm.

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Calm is also needed as far as Ranveer Singh’s recent nude photo shoot goes. The actor, a true bright spark and one of the most talented of his generation, could have never imagined that his sultry baring it all would drive women to the point of…court cases.

I watched bemused as one of the objectors to his skin show justified her legal proceedings by sputtering “But we can see his bum!’’ on prime-time TV. How soon before a case of offending morals for mentioning the B word on national televisions be brought against her now? And where will this nonsense end? In a country where price rise, hate crimes, unemployment divisiveness and looming recession are a daily struggle, the fact that the national discourse wastes even a nanosecond on Singh’s lack of attire is a travesty.

But yes, as the popular memes go, whereas not a single woman I know has said that she felt her modesty had been violated by Singh’s bare act, everyone agreed that the actor has now made his point and Deepika should allow him full access to her wardrobe once again…

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