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Pax Americana

By the time this appears in print, guns in Iraq should have fallen silent and tongues begun to wag more eloquently than before.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2003 17:25 IST

By the time this appears in print, guns in Iraq should have fallen silent and tongues begun to wag more eloquently than before.

Let’s have no illusions: America’s might prevailed over most of the member- States of the UN as well as the world opinion opposed to the war. It will now have to persuade all of us that it used its might for right.

It will take a lot of strenuous arguing on its part, since in its self-righteous use of force, it also reduced the UN to impotence. It will have the daunting task of rejuvenating it or reconstitute another international body in which the people can repose more faith. However, its immediate task will be to install an administration in Iraq that will be acceptable to the Iraqis who feel hurt and humiliated. This will not be easy.

It is hardly likely that they will accept a readymade regime patched of emigré Iraqis assembled in Kuwait and hail it as ‘liberators’. On the contrary, a US manufactured Iraqi government will be looked upon as puppets of a hostile power. Not many nations are likely to give it recognition and enter into diplomatic relation with it.

Let us not fool ourselves. America has assumed the role of the world’s policeman. It has been able to do so because the UN became a house divided against itself. Unlike past empires of the Chinese, the Romans, the Spaniards and the British, the American empire does not have to conquer and occupy foreign lands. It floods their markets with its products, Americanises their way of living, thinking and speaking. It also gives them money and job opportunities.

Today America is the country where young people of the world want to emigrate. If you don’t believe me just go to the consular sections of American embassies in any country. You’ll see the long queues of visa-seekers. Ask anyone of them why they want to leave their own countries and settle in the US. You will get the right answers.

Irritating fun

Most of us watch TV for information or amusement. A growing number do so to get spiritual solace from sermons (pravachans), bhajans and kirtans. There are plenty of channels that cater to the needs of the spiritually hungry. Now that I hardly ever go out of my home, I rely heavily on my TV to tell me what is going on in the world: the war in Iraq, song competitions, liaisons between film stars, sports, lies politicians tell, scams, murders, rapes — you name it. Recently, I have got hooked on to channels that forecast everyone’s future and publicise charity. I do so not because they inform or amuse me but because they irritate me. I get malicious pleasure in irritating myself.

To prophesy about the future you have to have the proper stage-setting and make-up. Our soothsayers have mastered both arts. The stage usually has signs of the zodiac flying around. Soothsayers must have benign smiles of sabjantawalas (know-it-alls), saffron robes, flowing beards and foreheads smeared with ash or appropriate caste-marks to lend an air of authenticity to their pronouncements.

The reigning champion of TV prophets is a middle-aged clean-shaven gentleman with a mop of silver-white hair, grey eyes, a fancy embroidered kurta and a couple of necklaces round his neck. Instead of astral signs floating behind him he has a halo of Oms behind his head and on his forehead a neatly drawn crescent moon and star — the very image of Lord Shiva on Mount Kailash. He speaks very shuddh Hindi with Sanskrit words thrown in. He calls jyotish the greatest of sciences. In short, a man after Murli Manohar Joshi’s heart.

This TV prophet reels off names of astral phenomena before he answers questions from readers. Most of them are about job prospects, matrimonial problems and health. He takes a quick look at their birth charts, tells them about Rahu, Ketu and Shani and assures them that their Mangals are in the ascendant — so all will come out right provided they break a coconut or two, sprinkle water, chant a simple mantra like ‘Om Namo Parameshwarah’ and feed a few dogs. At the end of the programme, he gives his telephone number and advises seekers of Truth to enclose money orders of Rs 1,100 with their questions. The wonderful thing about this programme is that it transports me back to ages past: I don’t know if I am in 2003 AD or 2003 BC. I have to remind myself that in 2003 BC there were no TVs or telephones.

The second programme in my list of irritants could be entitled, ‘Spiritual Solace through Seva (service)’. It starts with the build-up of the hero going round a hospital ward comforting the sick with kind words. He then seats himself cross-legged and beams the broadest of broad smiles into the camera and extols merit gained by serving the sick. His message comes through because he looks very pleased with himself.

Occasionally, he has his wife and they praise each other. They burst into a besura (out of tune) duet on the theme ‘Seva main anand hi anand hai’ (in service, there is bliss). They look blissfully happy, as they bow their heads to bid viewers farewell. They do not believe in the Biblical injunction: “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” On the contrary, they believe in telling the world by beat of drum how they are serving humanity.

Lady of illusions

I celebrated my birthday lavishly

And spent a crore over the show.

Manuvadis blame me for misusing public funds

For I am a Dalit, a caste classed as low.

Don’t they know I am Mayawati

Not less than Radakrishnan and Jawaharlal

I am a Dalit leader par excellence

Am I not equal to them all?

The SP has released my videotape

With a motive foul and sinister.

It charges me with corrupt practices

For I am a Dalit chief minister.

(Courtesy: G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)

One for the enemy

Posting some home-made sweets to brighten her husband’s Diwali at Kargil, the army officer’s wife wasn’t taking any chances with his health. A note on the outer wrapping read: “If this package arrives after November 10, give it to the enemy.”

(Contributed by Reeten Ganguly, Tezpur)