There is a story about the young woman, who married a tanner’s son and found herself engulfed in the nauseous fumes of the type that usually pervade the atmosphere around leather tanneries. A month after her arrival in the new household, the girl noticed that the awful smell had ceased and hastened to call her mother with the news that her marriage had been propitious enough to clean up the atmosphere. A few days later she was visited by her father, who complained of the offensive odor, much to the amazement of his daughter. It turned out that the young woman had stopped registering the stench because, she had gotten used to it. It appears that the story about the tanner’s daughter in law was created with ‘The Land of the Pure’ in mind, where we the nation have stopped registering the foul odor that accompanies our politicians and legislators, simply because we have learnt to live with it.
I have had the opportunity to meet and talk to many practitioners of active politics and have never felt comfortable in their company. It may be a psychological reaction to their stereotyped image or perhaps I have seen and heard many lies being told and later justified as politicking. Many of my childhood friends – perfectly normal people with excellent moral standards, took up politics and began to morph into greed ridden corrupt individuals, proving the point that perhaps this activity is a virus that attacks human character and destroys it.
The other night I had a dream, which for a change wasn’t a nightmare. I dreamt that Pakistan was being managed by a huge corporate entity headed by a no-nonsense, competent CEO. Politics had met its demise as had all democratic notions, but people were happy because there was no more odor. Instead there was order, good governance, prosperity and in my sleep I heard a voice say ‘to hell with politics and democracy’. I woke up strangely happy with the thought that if it could happen in Singapore, it could very well happen here, provided we found someone like Dr. Li Kwan Yu to do it.
The other day I had an argument with a blue clad cop, wearing rubber shoulder pads and brandishing a stick. He was unshaven and disheveled with a mean look in his beady eyes. The argument began, when I found my car stopped by a stack of helmets and other riot gear placed in the middle of the road in Blue Area. The obstruction was causing a traffic snarl, but nobody was taking steps to sort the mess out. I asked my driver to pull up on the side of the road and walked up to the couple of policemen (including the one described earlier), who were without any doubts the creators of this work of art. In my most civilized manner (wherein I always use the term ‘beta’), I requested them to move the pile so that traffic could flow easily. What I got was a belligerent stare and the words, “hataa lenge jab hamari gaari ayegee” (we will move it when our vehicle arrives). Taken aback at the venom in the words, I told them to shift the things immediately as they were blocking traffic, adding that they had a responsibility to do it being law enforcers and not law breakers. For the next few seconds I became the target of language that is best not reproduced here. Engulfed in a blinding surge of anger, I could have thrashed them to size (at some acceptable cost to myself), but better sense prevailed as did an intervention by a white bearded cop (perhaps on the verge of retirement), who appeared from somewhere and began removing the equipment. I lingered a while to see if the two rascals in blue would lend a hand, but I was disappointed.
The Federal Capital is a city, which is desperately trying to emulate civilized population centers around the world, but failing miserably to achieve results. The reason is our enforcers and us. Take for example the new rule, wherein both the driver and the pillion rider on motorbikes are required to wear helmets. I watched in mute anger, when traveling to my work place, I saw three motorcycles ridden by nine (yes nine) bareheaded young men pass under the very nose of the traffic cop near the Seventh Avenue traffic light. What did the man in grey do – he merely put his cell phone to one ear and turned his back to the traffic, reflecting in one comprehensive movement, the overall state of the nation.