Opinion

Slipping through the cracks

Updated on: Apr 21, 2011

In today's world, ruled by brain and mind, words from the heart can be risky. Better plastic than risk; so, most people leash in the obvious and voice the politically correct. Needless to say, politics is full of politically correct statements skirting the obvious and diving headlong into the dustbin of forgettable utterances. Once in a while, the human being breaks through like a cathartic release of heart over mind and the obvious gets firmly enshrined.

A baby, an old man

Both Mr Rahul Gandhi and Mr V. S. Achuthanandan said the obvious recently. Neither can be faulted for what they quipped — that one would be 93 years old if he completed another tenure as chief minister; the other, ostensibly as inheritor in these times of make-and-break-by-media images, reminds us of an untested, well-fed baby. I recall Mr Achuthanandan from one evening long ago, soon after he became Chief Minister. On holiday in Thiruvananthapuram, I had dropped in at the Bata showroom opposite the State secretariat. Looking up from a sandal I was inspecting, I was amazed to see the chief minister five feet away, a solitary policeman by his side for security and a shop assistant quizzing him of his need. He had casually walked in from the road like any of us.

My first reaction was to compare the scene with the money and power that typically characterised Congress regimes. This was quite a contrast. Under pressure, Mr Achuthanandan has since betrayed complex shades to his personality. But I suspect he is right when he talks of being tested in life and politics, which was the defence he adopted against the jibe at his age. Still, isn't one of life's tests, knowing how long to stay and when to leave?

With its working population largely out of the State, Kerala has for years been lost to a brand of young that has seen little and a brand of old that has seen a lot. It is a pincer grip on society spawning a vicious cycle of world explained by the old and explained world inherited by the young. Breaking free requires imagination and straight speaking that is neither Marx nor Manmohan nor Ayodhya in content. In the state of banks and remittance money, you need someone who will tell people why they are insecure despite well being as key to addressing Kerala's obsession with insecurity. Can somebody 93 years do that? I wonder.

Daily deceit breached

Can an Amul Baby — or as some have pointed out, Farex Baby — do it? If inheritance, being well looked after and being securely protected are its hallmarks, then a chunk of our politicians are Farex babies. They are merchants of security with no prior taste of the insecurity, senior citizens showcase as test. With rising prosperity, a number of them have also begun looking like veritable Farex babies on the many posters, advertising political and personal health, that greet us on the road. When was the last time an Indian politician was tested for his convictions and not sycophancy? When was the last time a young Indian politician stood up for what he/she believes in? Mr Achuthanandan may be old but he got the metaphor correct, bang on.

So while the aides on either side scurry to restore political appropriateness and, more important, diligently cultivated political images, we should probably celebrate the fragment of honesty that slipped through the daily deceit. One is a baby; the other is an old man — no disputing that.

Published on April 28, 2011

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