September 15, 2009

Sheraton Maurya Krishna and Shashi T’aj’haroor

The saga of the new-age Krishna/Balaram pair is truly curious. In the age of mythologies, Balaram used to be the elder of the brothers, but now it’s Krishna who is playing elder brother to Balaram, a.k.a. Shashi.

The Full-bright Krishna is normally used to all the ‘amenities’ and creature comforts of his heavenly abode, so naturally he found his ‘respective’ State Bhavan not quite up to the mark — quite understandably.

Also, in his new role as India’s official globetrotter, he must be used to diverse locales and cuisines and peoples, etc. So, may be he was just choosing to stay in a place that has been home to many a world leaders including Bill Clinton and myriad others. Surely, that is part of his job-brief. This way, he could continue to sample a lot of ‘global’ offerings without burdening the meager taxpayer-funded resources of the Government of India with endless jaunts abroad.
But, alas politics is a strange profession and though sometimes it might seem that the game is bereft of any rules whatsoever, politicians discover to their chagrin at times that there are some rules that you can’t ignore. Even Madame Gandhi — from the land of pizzas and Milan fashion — has made the humble Indian sari her uniform.

So, the message to be learnt for future ministers: even if you are rich enough to be able to make it to a State-level 100 Richest People list, you have to maintain a pretense of poverty if you are a Minister of the Government of India.

This reminds me of a former Vice President of India — and a self-proclaimed Gandhian at that to boot — who renovated his official VP residence in New Delhi by spending a few crores of rupees out of his own pocket. Now, that might offer a possible solution to the vexing issue of Govt. issue Type VIII bungalows in New Delhi’s Lutyen’s Zone not being quite up to the mark by the exacting standards of the latter-day avatar of a once playful (and once youthful) God.

Meanwhile, his younger colleague — obviously inspired by his elder brother and minister — also took up residence in what is probably not luxurious accommodation for him but rather utilitarian … consider that this former globetrotter has been a United Nations mandarin for long and as such a long time resident of that throbbing heart of global living, New York City.

T’aj’haroor has even been a celebrated author — including of a rather mythically named book ‘The Great Indian Novel’ — himself and that might be the secret of his ‘personal’ wealth.

Again, the young MP discovered much to his chagrin that politics does have its shortcomings. You can’t operate in a bubble of sanitized cleanliness if you wish to be a politician in India. India is this messy, dirty, unorganized, unpredictable, illiterate, mythology-prone, God-crazy, cow-worshipping ancient land and a dapper, handsome, smart, educated, rational author/global diplomat is not going to be able to change that.

So, Krishna’s younger cousin has learnt some early and useful lessons from the old and wily Pranabda who has prospered so prodigiously by being such a longtime devoted servant at the court of the Almighty.

If you want to be a politician in India, you have to be able to take the grime with the grease paint, be able to maintain a wide grin when you’re surrounded by smelly cows and smellier cow dung — or, learn your lessons from the ‘master’ himself who is nowadays no longer running his fiefdom in Rail Bhawan.

Perhaps, both the ministers thought they could escape to the barricaded seclusions of multi-storied glass and concrete structures and thereby manage to avoid the hordes and throngs of inevitable hangers-on from the ‘heartland.’ But you can’t be an MP and choose to shut out the very people you claim to represent.

And the common folk of India would rather meet their representatives in the tree-lined environs of Ashoka Road/Akbar Road/Janpath/Shahjahan Road rather than the air-conditioned artificiality of exclusive hotels.

The open-air nature of the places where ministers of the Government of India live has its advantages. To detail just one — if you’re waiting for rather a long while to have a ‘darshan’ of your representative and nature calls, you can always use the next available tree or wall to answer it. The hoi polloi find the sanitized environs of a ‘washroom’ with fancy fittings rather forbidding which might in fact create unforeseen problems … such as stopping or preventing the flow.

And so, the junior minister also learns some important lessons … that appearances do matter, that gray hairs do matter, that longevity matters, at least in Indian politics and in the Indian psyche.

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