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Posts Tagged ‘Mahatma Gandhi’

(Continued)

Of Civil Disobedience and Mutinies

Till the year 1947, India was under the British Raj. The period was marked by Indians struggling to gain independence through means which were peaceful as well as violent. From 1920 onwards, the self-rule struggle was characterized by Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of non-violence and civil disobedience, duly complemented by several other campaigns.  

  • When people are hungry, they become angry. They want to go out and fight. This could even be true of Mahatma Gandhi, who is given a singularly juicy mention in ‘The Juice of an Orange’ in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

While narrating the story of Wilmot Mulliner, Mr. Mulliner blames the modern dieting craze of women for all the unhappiness which afflicts the world.

‘Women, of course, are chiefly responsible. They go in for these slimming systems, their sunny natures become warped, and they work off the resultant venom on their men-folk. These, looking about them for someone they can take it out of, pick on the males of the neighbouring country, who themselves are spoiling for a fight because their own wives are on a diet, and before you know where you are war has broken out with all its attendant horrors.

‘This is what happened in the case of China and Japan. It is this that lies at the root of all the unpleasantness in the Polish Corridor. And look at India. Why is there unrest in India? Because its inhabitants eat only an occasional handful of rice. The day when Mahatma Gandhi sits down to a good juicy steak and follows it up with roly-poly pudding and a spot of Stilton you will see the end of all this nonsense of Civil Disobedience.

‘Till then we must expect Trouble, Disorder … in a word, Chaos.’

  • Those who are familiar with the Indian mutiny of 1857 may recall that the Siege of Cawnpore is one of its key episodes. The British forces and civilians in Cawnpore (now Kanpur) were unprepared for an extended siege and surrendered to rebel forces in return for a safe passage to Allahabad (now Prayagraj), another city nearby. As a rescue force approached Kanpur, an unfortunate massacre took place, leading even to a war cry ‘Remember Cawnpore’. On at least two occasions, Plum captures the sentiments of elation experienced by girls under siege in Kanpur when they hear the sound of the bagpipers of the British reinforcements.   

The Girl in Blue describes how an authoress feels when she finds that a horn-rimmed American is trying to locate a copy of her latest book Daffodil Days. Flannery and Martin’s book shop in Sloane Square in London does not stock her latest brain child but when a stranger walks in and asks for it, Vera Upshaw is thrilled beyond measure. 

She whips around, her lips part, her eyes widen and her lovely body experiences a tingling of sorts. Her sentiments get compared to the thrill a girl would have experienced when, in the midst of the Indian Mutiny, during the siege of Cawnpore (Kanpur, 1857), she would have heard the skirl of the bagpipes, heralding the arrival of British reinforcements.

In Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, similar uplifting sentiments are experienced by Monty when he suddenly finds a friend and sympathizer in Mr. Llewellyn.

Men in Uniform, the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and Hunting

Military men who had served in India as part of their duties tell us interesting anecdotes about that distant land, including about their time in the NFWP. The latter was a province of British India from 1901 to 1947, when it was ceded to Pakistan. Hunting was a common pastime. Some such references enrich many of Plum’s narratives.   

  • In Right Ho, Jeeves, while allying the fears of Gussie that his trousers will not split while delivering a speech at the Market Snodsbury Grammar School, an example is cited by Bertie Wooster – that of General Bosher, who was a D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order), ‘with a fine record of service on the north-western frontier of India, and his trousers split.’  
  • In ‘Ukridge and the Home from Home’, Lord Emsworth and Others, we find that Ukridge has turned his Aunt Julia’s house into a hotel. Amongst the six guests, we find one Lieutenant-Colonel B. B. Bagnew, late of the Fourth Loyal Lincolnshires. In Ukridge, we find a suave and genial host, presiding over the dinner-table on most nights. As and when the conversation in the group ‘touched a high level and feasts of Reason and flows of Soul occurred’, one of the major contributors was the Colonel. He narrated his anecdotes of India, where he had served his country faithfully and well.
  • In the same story, Ukridge tells Corky that Indian army men are not to be trusted.  He thinks that all of them believe themselves to be heroes. Hence, they get greatly disliked. He cites Lieutenant-Colonel B. B. Bagnew’s clear views on lesser mortals like burglars. Colonel is of the view that if he were to ‘show them a good old army revolver, they would run like rabbits.’
  • In ‘Trouble Down at Tudsleigh’, Young Men in Spats, Freddie Widgeon gets formally introduced by Lady Carroway to Captain Bradbury from the Indian Army. He is competing with Freddie for the affections of April. Freddie believes that the Captain might have such advantages as a natty moustache, a rich tan and deep-set eyes, but what bowls over a refined and poetical girl is a refined soul. He intends to devour Tennyson over the next few days and be equivalent to six souls so as to beat his rival hollow.

At the end of a get-together, Captain Bradbury draws him aside and gives him the sort of look he would have given a Pathan discovered pinching the old regiment’s rifles out on the North-Western Frontier. He also mentions to Freddie that he had won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of India earlier  

  • In the same narrative, one gets to learn that when one is up against one of the Indian Army strategists, one realizes how thoroughly they get trained from early youth to do the dirty on the lawless tribes of the North-Western Frontier. Captain Bradbury, when outfoxed at the door, is not one to beat a hasty retreat. Rather, he tries to outflank Freddie by trying to enter through the sitting-room window.

This is how Plum describes the aftermath:

‘But the interchange of glances did not last long. These Indian Army men do not look, they act. And it has been well said of them that, while you may sometimes lay them a temporary stymie, you cannot baffle them permanently. The Captain suddenly turned and began to gallop round the corner of the house. It was plainly his intention to resume the attack from another and a less well-guarded quarter. This, I believe, is a common manoeuvre on the North-West Frontier. You get your Afghan shading his eyes and looking out over the maidan (field), and then you sneak up the pahar (mountain/hillock) behind him and catch him bending.’

  • In the story ‘Bill the Bloodhound’ in Man with Two Left Feet, we find Henry, dressed up as an old Indian colonel one week, contentedly puffing away at a cigar provided by Walter Jelliffe while fondling his silver moustache. Only when Walter finds him comfortable enough does he pop the question.

‘And now tell me, old man, which of us is it you’re trailing?’

  • In Summer Moonshine, Colonel Tanner tells Mr. Waugh-Bonner about his life in Poona (now Pune), while Mr. Chinnery plays croquet with Mrs. Folsom. Throughout the narrative, he speaks enthusiastically of his life in the city, supplementing the spoken word with a display of photographic snapshots illustrating conditions in those parts. He also speaks of the Bengal Lancers, a regiment of the British Indian Army.
  • Captain Biggar, one of the several unique characters in Ring for Jeeves, loves hunting. One would never get surprised to run into him ‘in such hunting grounds as in Kenya or Malaya or Borneo or India’! It would be perfectly in order.

(Continued)

Notes:

The inspiration for this essay comes from the scholarly work done by Ms. Masha Lebedeva, who had earlier whipped up a research paper entitled The Russian Salad by P. G. Wodehouse.

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to an eminent expert on Plummy matters for having spared the time to go through a part of this composition and provide insightful suggestions. Some fans of P. G. Wodehouse have also suggested improvements in its contents.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Suvarna Sanyal for dishing out the main illustration in Part 1; also, to Ms. Sneha Shoney, who has edited the text.

Those of you who wish to cruise through this essay in its entirety may kindly write to akb_usha@rediffmail.com for a PDF version of the complete document to be mailed to them.

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(Non-statutory warning: Reading the article below could be injurious to readers’ mental health and leave them a wee bit depressed. Caution is advised.

The author is reasonably certain that this article is not an outcome of the kind of wholesome pessimism which is believed to envelope one in advancing age.)

There is a mood of despondency which descends upon my frail grey cells once in a while. Dark clouds which have gathered upon me are accompanied by sinister rumblings. Lightning streaks of a menacing kind keep lighting up the sky, duly followed by thunderous howls which pierce my ears. One peers into the future and one shudders to think of the kind of world one would leave behind for our progeny to live in. Tectonic plates of our society appear to be shifting, causing major upheavals.

No, one does not allude to the pandemic stalking us these days. Nor does one refer to such universal problems like global warming, economic disparities, widespread poverty and illiteracy etc. Instead, one refers here to tectonic plates of a different kind – the ones which impact our value systems, human values, social harmony, honesty, fairness and justice, norms of democracy, absence of truthful and factual information, materialistic progress, and the like.

Consider what is happening around us these days.

Some Ground Realities

The Lack of a Conscious Approach to Business Goals

Businesses continue to be driven by greed and avarice alone. Hapless CEOs have no other option but to keep delivering results from one quarter to the next.

There are no guarantees that Volkswagen will not soon come up with yet another technical trick to befool the regulators and its customers. Boeing may yet again secure approvals for launching a model which might put air passengers’ lives at risk. Financial scams will keep tumbling out of corporate closets at a standard frequency which might put an atomic clock to shame.

Think of rising inequalities. Consider a report presented by Oxfam at the January 2021 World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, titled ‘The Inequality Virus’. It says that the 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses within just nine months of 2020, whereas the world’s poorest could take up to a decade to recover from the pandemic induced setback. I am certain that philanthropic initiatives of the richest have not suddenly seen a proportionately higher uptick.

So, every crisis that humanity faces turns out to be an opportunity for the well endowed to amass greater wealth. Is this the kind of Materialistic and Unconscious Business model that we wish to continue following? Our answer would of course depend based on whether we are from the ‘haves’ side or the ‘have-nots’ side of the society.

The Monkey Business Called Politics

Probity and decency in the public life of our leaders is long since buried. Gone are the days when vibrant democracies needed a strong opposition to thrive. These days, even the President of a country can himself turn against the hallowed portals of democracy and send rampaging mobs braying for the blood of those out to declare him defeated in an election. In other words, it is one of those promotional offers – you vote in a President and get another one for free!

The aforesaid top boss’ term has revealed enormous gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. Even before he exhorted his followers to attack the Capitol and the legislative branch of government, he ignored watchdog rulings and constitutional safeguards, pressed to overturn the outcome of an election, and pardoned those who covered for him, all the while funneling taxpayer dollars to his family business.

In yet another country, the main adversary runs the risk of not only being poisoned but also getting imprisoned on some ground or the other, while those in power brutally suppress dissent marked by men’s underwear and gold-painted toilet cleaning brushes.

World over, there is no dearth of leaders who have dictatorial ambitions but mask these well with democratic credentials. Speak of transparent political funding and all one gets is the silence of a tomb.

In yet another country, lies, obfuscation of facts and clever data management seem to have become a norm. Photo-ops, positive optics and feel-good media feed by devout followers keep the entire nation in thrall. Attempts to stifle dissent and to paint anyone not toeing the rulers’ line as unpatriotic continue unchecked. Getting offended by comments made by those living thousands of miles away appears to have become a national pastime. When a stand-up comedian speaks up, our clairvoyant nature allows us to guess what offending remark he is yet to make. Prompt legal action gets taken, nipping the intended mischief in the bud.

Building physical infrastructure is simply great. So is the drive to embrace technology to make life of a common man simpler. But when this comes at the cost of demolishing social harmony and making a democratic country free of any kind of opposition worth its while, the long term price of a ‘progress’ of this kind is rather high. I am not an economist, but I wonder if an economy can grow while the society itself is getting fragmented.

World over, quite a few governments have even used the pandemic as a cover to suppress dissent and cut short processes to introduce laws of an unpopular kind. In the process, their soft power is bound to dive down.

The Rudderless Social (and Anti-Social) Media

During 2020, in India, when our northern neighbour had encroached upon our land, and when the media should have been doling out useful health tips for people to stay safe in the midst of a pandemic, the only ‘breaking news’ was the suspected suicide of a Bollywood actor and the activities of his girl friend.

Social media, duly backed by smart algorithms, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, keeps shaping our thought processes, our choices, our preferences, our perceptions and our beliefs. We are already living in a fish bowl where the law makers as well as the private players are hands in glove to sell detailed information about us to the highest bidder. Privacy concerns and personal liberties be damned. Pretty soon, it may happen that government support is available only to those who have a pro-government presence on various media platforms.

The whole idea is perhaps to help a lay person evolve into a dumb chum of the first order, unable to use his own judgement in matters of public importance; essentially, to numb the person’s grey cells. In other words, we all become zombies (or jack asses, if you prefer) of the first order.

Little do we realize that there are no free lunches in life. Any service available to us free of cost over the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves only means that ‘We, the People’ are the product on sale!

If our social media czars do not come up with a realistic code of conduct for themselves soon enough, governments, to salvage their public image, may soon have to start dishing out harsher laws.

Perhaps, one of the czars will soon set up an academy to groom many of our whizz kids into becoming ethical hackers and algorithm developers.

Neglecting Half of the Homo Sapiens

If they stay at home, their contribution to society is never even acknowledged. Rather, it is taken for granted. If they venture out of their home and hearth, lustful gazes disrobe them mentally. If they get violated, they only have to take the rap. In war zones, they are the instruments used to inflict deep wounds on the psyche of the other.

Yes, I refer to the tribe of the so-called delicately nurtured. They are the ones upon whom Mother Nature has conferred the unique capacity of keeping our civilization alive and ticking. They may be as tough as nails and proving themselves to be better than the so-called sterner sex in all fields of human endeavour. A fact which was reinforced yet again when a deadly pandemic arrived at our doorsteps. In public, they may get put on a pedestal and revered. But in private, they often get treated like a doormat, treated as mere objects, only to be used and abused.

Doting lover boys, upon metamorphosing into husbands, often shed their chivalrous masks and start behaving like dictators. If a family breaks up owing to mistreatment, ridicule, abuse and violence at the hands of their husbands, it is the lady of the house alone who gets the entire blame – for being obstinate and uncompromising. The general view is that she is a gold digger of sorts.

Such a patriarchal mindset is not an exclusive prerogative of the poor alone. Nor does it respect geographical boundaries. Education levels also do not make much of a difference. Take couples across different countries, economic status and education level and one is apt to find this to be a universal phenomenon. The Chivalry Quotient may vary across all these parameters, but a singular shortage of preux chevaliers is felt all over our planet. Religious beliefs and even some spiritual tenets reinforce such derogatory views.

In respect of the legal framework, our experience in India has been a mixed one. The females have learnt the art of terrorizing their husbands and their families by foisting cases of imagined harassment, with the sole aim of securing better settlements while seeking divorce. Surely, the training in chivalry truly begins at home – either in the kitchen or at the dining table. Laws can play only a limited role.

The tectonic shift taking place here is that of divorce rates going up and couples preferring to remain friends with perks. Upwardly mobile wives who can stand on their own feet detest drawing husbands who refuse to wear skirts and help out with domestic chores. Once the family structure crumbles, there is a higher probability of the value system of the next generation going for a toss.

The Silence of the Lambs

In many of the issues brought out above, are we ourselves not responsible for the mess that we are in? The silence of our intellectuals, the self-centredness and public apathy of the middle class which more or less upholds values in society and the mute surrender of the common man – are these not some of the factors which have enabled this situation to have come about?

Many years back, I vaguely recall having read a satirical story in Hindi, written by a well known humourist in the language, Hari Shankar Parsai. A herd of lambs is made to believe that few wily foxes alone can solve all their problems. Pretty soon, foxes get voted in. One fine day, a ruling comes that to save the ruling foxes, some sheep should voluntarily surrender to be sacrificed each day so the patriotic fervour is kept alive and the nation is run effectively!

I am not a political science buff. Thus, I am not qualified to say if democracy as a model of governance is failing us. But one of its enabling factors is the presence of conscious leaders who are not shameless and still have traces of humility, empathy, decency and a concern for genuine overall good.

With No Malice towards Anyone  

Educated youth who have no means of earning a living, will they not have a raw anger simmering within them? Will the poorer lot not take a jaundiced view of grand government schemes the benefits of which do not reach them?

Perhaps there is a feeling of helplessness within them. Perhaps they have dollops of patience.  May be they realize that they are too small to bring about any change and feel it is better to accept things as they are and continue wallowing in misery and self-pity, blaming God for all their troubles.

But is a meek acceptance of murkier developments in the world around us a better approach? Can we not dissipate the seething anger within by at least saying what we find to be reproachable? Can we not break our silence of the lambs and speak up?

With Whom Does the Buck Stop?!

Are we ourselves not a part of the problem? Why have we, reasonably educated and rather wise people, decided to outsource our thinking processes and have instead opted to become zombies?!

Do we not keep patronizing companies even we know they have been cheating in the past? Are we not the ones who get swayed by propaganda and cast a vote for a particular party or a particular leader? Do we ever boycott a media outlet which acts as a mouth piece of those in power?

If we are addicted to, say, WhatsApp or Facebook, can we really blame their inventors for the issues that we face? Don’t we find it convenient to remain in touch with our friends and family members through these platforms?

When we notice a female being harassed, are we not likely to look the other way? Is the onus of ‘adjusting’ not always put on the female? Can we take a pause before we make a victim the facilitator of a crime?

Overall, by remaining a mute spectator and witness to acts of corruption, misinformation, lies and half-truths, do we not become accomplices to such misdeeds?

It is not wise to altogether point a finger at others only. A knife kind of a tool is given to us. Let us use it to prepare a juicy dish and not to hurt someone. The choice of usage is with us.

Our endeavour therefore should be to stand up, be courageous and outspoken. This alone can get us counted. Even if there is one sane voice amongst all the noise and din, it would resonate with other like-minded individuals out there.

Our salute needs to reach out not only to those who are already raising their voices but also to the decision makers who might eventually get around to listening to us.

Some Silver Linings

All this is not to say that there are no silver linings in the dark clouds hovering above us. As P G Wodehouse puts it, even when the air is pregnant with V or W-shaped depressions, there are always silver linings on the clouds. We shall do well never to repine, never to despair, but to work upon our own selves and on others in our sphere of influence. It is good to remember that, no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun is shining somewhere and will eventually come smiling through.

There are business houses which keep following good values and ethics in their day to day operations. There are leaders who respond well to challenges like social disharmony and stalking pandemics with a dash of human values. They treat dissent as a valuable input for their decision making processes. We also have very few social media and gig economy barons who are being forced by their own employees to either shape up or ship out.

Lawmakers and pressure groups in USA are already reported to be thinking of ways to bring in a wide-ranging overhaul of ethics, laws, the likes of which have not been seen since the post-Watergate era.

Perhaps, eminent legal eagles in India can also take a leaf out of the USA experience. As a country, we had experienced suppression of dissent even during the 1970s, when an emergency was declared. Can some more constitutional safeguards be brought in so that a popular mandate does not give the executive the right to ride rough shod over other arms of the government, thereby increasing the probability of the country being taken in a direction which is not the same as what our founding fathers had envisioned?

Above all, it is the man on the street, busy keeping his body and soul together, eking out a living for his family and even helping others in distress. When the scales from his eyes fall and he wakes up to a life threatening situation at hand, he reacts. The farmers in India are already showing their resolve following the strategy of peaceful protests and civic disobedience used by Mahatma Gandhi many decades ago.

Then we have lone wolf professional bodies. World Without Corruption in Belgium gives businesses a voice in fighting corrupt practices. The Conscious Enterprises Network in UK speaks of conscious leaders leading their enterprises in a holistic value-based manner in all spheres of human enterprise. The Center for Business Ethics & Compliance in Russia is focused on best practices in the realm of ethics and compliance.

Likewise, in India, Spandan Foundation is passionate about human values in organizations and even plans to set up a centre dedicated to the cause. Shakti Leadership highlights the importance of using feminine traits like empathy and compassion in decision making and assists individuals and organizations in their quest for conscious evolution. The Association for Democratic Reforms keeps relevant political issues alive and kicking in public eye.

I am sure there are many others scattered over other continents. Their attempt is to bring like-minded people together and keep the embers of a pious fire aglow, focused on values and ethics.

The Mighty Churning

The society is always in a flux. These days, it appears to be undergoing a mightier churning which reminds one of the episode of Samudra Manthan (The Churning of the Sea) in Indian scriptures. The churning throws up poison as well as the nectar which grants immortality. Those who believe in following the path of righteousness end up securing the latter.

It is easy to see that we have a leadership crisis on our hands. Since a situation also produces a leader, one hopes that more and more conscious leaders keep emerging, nudging us in the right direction.

Admittedly, the silver linings appear to be like a pale parabola of joy, to borrow an expression from P G Wodehouse. This will remain so till the time a bevy of conscious leaders – whether in business or in politics – do not appear on the scene and convert this into a shimmering parabola of bliss.

The solution is not to keep sweeping issues like hunger, poverty, economic non-inclusion and prejudicial animosity under the carpet. Nor is it to raise the existing walls, whether political, commercial, attitudinal or religious. It lies instead in a truly global view based on the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukam: The World is One Family.

Being a born optimist who believes in having a chin-up attitude, I do hope that some of these tectonic shifts can at least get retarded, if not altogether reversed, in the years to come.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/why-the-wren-is-a-patriot-and-not-a-nationalist-guest-post-by-prof-badri-raina

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/11/23/jeeves-and-the-social-media-challenge

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/bertie-jeeves-and-the-internet-of-things

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/bertie-social-media-and-blogging-blues

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/jeeves-seeks-a-placement)

 

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Here is a juicy excerpt from Blandings Castle which fans of P G Wodehouse and Mahatma Gandhi may relish!

“It has sometimes seemed to me (said Mr Mulliner, thoughtfully sipping his
hot Scotch and lemon) that to the modern craze for dieting may be attributed
all the unhappiness which is afflicting the world to-day. Women, of course,
are chiefly responsible. They go in for these slimming systems, their sunny
natures become warped, and they work off the resultant venom on their menfolk.

“These, looking about them for someone they can take it out of, pick on
the males of the neighbouring country, who themselves are spoiling for a
fight because their own wives are on a diet, and before you know where you
are war has broken out with all its attendant horrors.

“This is what happened in the case of China and Japan. It is this that lies at
the root of all the unpleasantness in the Polish Corridor. And look at India.
Why is there unrest in India? Because its inhabitants eat only an occasional
handful of rice. The day when Mahatma Gandhi sits down to a good juicy
steak and follows it up with roly-poly pudding and a spot of Stilton you will
see the end of all this nonsense of Civil Disobedience.”

“Till then we must expect Trouble, Disorder … in a word, Chaos.”

 

(From the story ‘The Juice of an Orange’ by P G Wodehouse. Illustration of Mahatma Gandhi courtesy R K Laxman)

 

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Non-statutory warning

If you happen to have a pre-determined preference for any specific political outfit in India, you read this only at your own risk and peril. You may get miffed at some parts of this piece, albeit written with malice towards none.

 

Come election time, and the denizens of India forget all their miseries and have a rollicking time. With the biggest festival of democracy on its way, the pampering they receive makes them hopeful of their future yet again. Freebies, sackfuls of the green stuff and tissue restoratives of all kinds are made available in abundant measure. Dreams of the next round of good and secure days get dished out with much aplomb.

Politicos who have an eye on their power and pelf get busy computing their likely ‘returns on investment’ in a high risk game. The media barons enjoy supreme bliss at all the moolah they rake in, thanks to their TRP ratings reaching stratospheric levels. Almost all sectors of the economy experience a boom, what with hassled leaders nipping around all corners of the country.

One can readily spot a Roderick Spode who continues to hone his oratorical skills while peddling his deep commitment to the Cause. The gullible public dreads the day he invokes Shakespeare at the beginning of any of his speeches, addressing them as ‘Friends, countrymen….’ A team of devoted followers ensure that those in opposition keep getting hauled over coals over their acts of omission and commission, the latter term specifically alluding to some alleged scams in the past.

Aunt Dahlia can be seen quietly tucking into the lavish spreads of Anatole, while keeping an indulgent eye on the career moves of Bonzo. The latter, having learnt his lessons well from the Market Snodsbury Grammar School speech of Gussie, keeps pointing accusatory fingers at those of the other party. To boost his electoral prospects, his sister Angela Travers also pitches in. The jury is still out if she runs the risk of being bitten by any sharks – political or otherwise – on one of her river cruises.

The revolutionary pals who fail to recognize the new-age challenges facing their outdated ideology have their share of the fun by beating up policemen, burning buildings and vehicles, smashing shop-windows, and resorting to pressure tactics to get the clueless citizenry to cast their vote in favour of their party.

When the self-assured stuffed-frog charisma of an A B Filmer starts waning, his family members get deployed to keep the power closer to his saggy bosom. Likewise, the morally dubious character of several of the candidates can be seen to be built along the lines of either a Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe or an Edward Cootes. Many of them have criminal cases pending against them for crimes which exclude the pinching of an Empress of Blandings. The never-say-die spirit of several John Bickersdykes keeps the public guessing as to which political party they might end up joining next.

There is no dearth of aspirants who could beat Smooth Lizzie at her own game. Targeting the constituency of those who toil down the stairs – under-butlers, housekeepers, scullery maids, footmen, and the like – tall promises get dished out with much fervour.

Some of the candidates are cast in the mould of either a Ginger or a Stilton. They happen to be reluctant politicians, upon whom political ambition has been thrust by a no-nonsense family member.

Quite a few lion-tamers built along the lines of Rev Aubrey Upjohn can be seen carefully guarding their speeches, lest they get pinched by the opposition camp, leaving them literally speechless at public gatherings.

What boggles the mind of a lay voter is the kind of melange of politicos on the offer on the opposite side. If one were to devour the exploits of Bertie Wooster, Lord Emsworth, Rupert Psmith, Bingo Little, Madeline Bassett, Stiffy Byng and Aunt Agatha in rapid succession, one could be excused for experiencing a similar swimming sensation in the old cerebrum.

The not-so-pale parabola of joy

As the General Drama unfolds, the conduct of the country’s election watchdogs comes under the kind of severe scrutiny which would put a professional newt-fancier to shame. They keep burning the proverbial midnight oil to keep a track of the blatant violations of its Model Wooster Code, which is observed more in breach than in adherence. At times, where opposition parties are concerned, a Sam Goldwyn kind of aggressive approach is taken to address violations. As to the ruling dispensation, a Poppet like deferential approach often becomes the oportet actio.

Even the likes of Sir Watkyn Bassett, who might have by now risen to the highest echelons of judiciary, are not spared the trauma of being dragged into some controversy or the other, thereby distracting them from dishing out harsh sentences without the option.

Some specific shades of this parabola of joy are as under:

The Eulalie Effect

When the colours of an opponents’ underwear get mentioned as part of a political discourse.

The Angry Swan Syndrome

If the public is behaving like an irate swan, and it is raining accusations on several other fronts, it makes sense to climb to a safer roof top and take cover under the umbrella of a different issue altogether.

The Juice of an Orange Factor

Those who entertain thoughts of civil disobedience in any form routinely get pampered with patchwork incentives which are in the nature of the juice of an orange. These ensure that while fundamental issues do not get resolved, short-term solutions with a transient feel-good effect get worked upon. Rebellion is kept at bay.

Unfortunately, many Indians still survive only on a handful of rice and could indulge in acts of civil disobedience. However, since the Father of the Nation is no longer around, a leadership vacuum of his style – fans may recall that he never sat down to a good juicy steak and follow it up with roly-poly pudding and a spot of Stilton, as advised by one of the Hollywood producers – ensures that our political Dream Merchants may breathe easy.

The Peggy Rebuttal

If a voter cannot unnerve a speaker by simply staring and giggling at him, the option of watching the person land in a whirring helicopter, collecting one’s quota of freebies and leaving the place before the speech begins is always open.

The Gladys Spell

Empathizing with the vulnerable sections of the society and offering them protection from the Angus McAllisters of poverty, illness and unemployment just before the drum rolls start beating. This enables the Lord Emsworths of our times to make their ancestors singularly proud of them.

The Stiffy Byng Approach

In order to keep the opposition leaders on tenterhooks, central investigating agencies get unleashed upon them, much like a bunch of Bartholomews pouncing upon their next human prey. Supercilious gazes and raids apart, they keep sniffing with much alacrity at the latter, often making them climb up their cupboards storing some dark secrets , and then pull these up after them when they have done so.

The Psmith Skillset

In order to bring home the gravy in the form of political power, gangsters in the mould of Bat Jarvis get befriended. They even get encouraged to contest elections and romp home to the highest law-making body of the land.

The Schnellenhamer Track

Movie moghuls are encouraged to dish out flicks which support the ruling party’s agenda, leaving them relishing their place under the sun and also laughing all the way to their banks.

The Rosie M Banks Approach

Authors, editors, content creators and intellectual coves of all hues get hired to tom-tom the achievements of the political party sponsoring their outpourings.

Apparently apolitical interviews to adoring movie stars get used to showcase the softer side of political stars.

The Ashe Marson Effect

When politicos routinely display their exercising skills in prominent public spaces for the entire world to see, the cabmen, the waiters, the chambermaids, the proprietors of the fast food joints nearby, street cleaners, children and cats stop laughing after some time.

The Captain Bradbury Approach

Love for their motherland makes some of the candidates take this approach. It involves invoking the armed forces, the nuclear weapons and such other strong arm tactics which one would prefer to see in a street brawl instead.

The Chivalry Challenge

When the game of naming and shaming one of the female candidates starts, all notions of chivalry vanish. A competition as to who can stoop lower starts in right earnest. A wager on the outcome could remind one of the betting records set by The Great Sermon Handicap.

The Bobby Wickham Technique

Taking a leaf out of the conduct of Bobby Wickham who pitted John Hamilton Potter and Clifford Gandle against each other so as to secure her spinsterhood, politicos have already perfected the art of dividing the society along religion and caste fault lines, thereby securing their respective vote banks.

The Alfred Mulliner Magic Trick

When data becomes a liability, either suppress it, or hire some smart statisticians who might perform the magic of concocting another version which could be unleashed on the unsuspecting public.

If votes are getting recorded in some contraptions of an electronic kind, hire experts to find out the feasibility of tinkering with the same.

The Digital Sharks

These are the unsung digital warriors who have learnt their art of being conscientious from The Efficient Baxter. They keep churning out all kinds of stuff: The Flattering and Deceiving kind, as also the Outright Derogatory kind. Hundreds of millions of voters who are glued to their smart screens take these for gospel truths and unwittingly decide the destiny of the country, handing over the reins to a government they deserve!

The Amusement Quotient

Gullible denizens can be excused for believing that all politicians are as different as chalk and cheese. Nothing could be more misleading. Their means might appear to be different, but their goals are not. Irrespective of their affiliation, they chase the goal of grabbing and retaining power. If they cannot be kings, they aspire to be king-makers.

They live in a fish bowl. Whatever they say or do should appeal to their constituents. Their private lives have to bear the strictest investigation. Their sources of funds have to be kept under wraps. When it comes to their misdemeanours, the media has to be kept at an arm’s length.

With each election, the level of the political discourse keeps deteriorating. But the Amusement Quotient keeps improving, bringing much-needed succour to the Common Man facing the harsh slings and arrows of Life.

(Illustration on top courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired banker who has an eye and an ear for all there is to see, listen to and laugh at in this world.

Caricature of Mahatma Gandhi  by R K Laxman)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/how-about-promoting-election-tourism

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/politicos-in-plumsville-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/delightful-characters-of-the-canine-kind-in-plumsville)

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Psmith put his smart phone away. A sigh escaped him.

“Nothing makes sense”, he muttered.

For the space of about twenty-five seconds, Mike, sitting across a small table on a sunlit balcony in Mumbai, India, sat in silence.

“What is wrong with you?” asked Mike, with a concerned look on his face.

Some time back, Psmith and Mike had returned to the Mumbai branch of the New Asiatic Bank for a short audit spree. It had again taken them some time to get used to the hustle bustle of the metropolis, which they found much noisier than during their last stay, what with elections in India just round the corner.

They were put up in a guest house of the bank located at Worli in one of the high-rise buildings overlooking the Arabian Sea. Being a Sunday, both were in a relaxed state of mind.

“It is a pity to see the hapless denizens of most countries getting bombarded with all kinds of inane propaganda around election time. The level of allegations and counter-allegations leave them totally aghast, wondering if there is any sense of decency left in the world. I am sure they are clueless about being able to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when it comes to deciding who to vote for”, said Psmith, looking somber and grave.

“Yes. Perhaps, they would end up voting for those who have greater lung power, both in the physical and in the virtual world!” said Mike.

“Elections will come and go. But, frankly, I do not really see any hope for the millions who have put their faith in the concept of democracy without realizing the kind of chaos and confusion it so very often amounts to.”

Mike eyed Psmith with grave concern.

“What gives? I have never seen you so very pessimistic about things.”

“In general, I feel that politicians of all hues have failed the public at large. People should start using the None Of The Above option more aggressively!” said Psmith ruefully.

“Why do you think so?” asked Mike, picking up his cup of tea from the table separating the two.

“One, I do not see any party speaking of issues which really matter. Talk of global warming and the threat people face from rising sea levels is nowhere to be heard. We have come to a stage where we need kids like Greta Thunberg to remind us of our obligations to Mother Earth. World over, use of land is a question which never gets raised, even though instances of urban flooding keep popping up every once in a while. Another crisis which looms large is that of the acute shortage of potable water, but our politicos appear to be behaving like well-fed ostriches on all these counts.

“Two, the basic needs, like providing for affordable healthcare, an education which makes the young employable, and an ecosystem which enables the people to make a decent living, are only touched upon obliquely and never addressed in a meaningful way. We are already well into Industrial Revolution 4.0. Requirement of skill-sets is changing rapidly, creating a new set of haves and have-nots. But I do not see any politician talking about this grave challenge.

”Three, many of the founders of modern democracies had vowed to create a just society. They seem to be nowhere near the goal that their founding fathers had set. Not to talk of either Millennium Development Goals or a gradual shift to Gross National Happiness Index for measuring progress.”

Psmith paused and looked at the seagulls flapping their wings over the Arabian Sea.

“Yes, I understand your anguish”, said Mike. “But this is true for many of our politicians in many countries. They are essentially dream merchants, with an eye on their own seat of power. Lofty promises get made at election time, mostly to be forgotten thereafter. The execution part is left to poor mandarins who sit in their ivory towers and keep swaying like wild grass on a sea coast to the likes and dislikes of different political masters from time to time.

“We live in times of volatile politics and general insecurity. We are just getting used to some stunning and illogical triumphs. Over the past few years, we have seen it in France, Italy, USA, India and elsewhere. A wave of isolationism appears to be washing down upon us. So is a phase of de-globalization.”

“Let us not lose heart, Comrade Jackson. The world follows its own cycles. Pretty soon, the tide could turn again. The omissions and commissions of those who look invincible today may soon return to haunt them. But what amuses me is that rather than focusing on long term key issues, our politicians just keep goading the ordinary person into making a choice between a brand of hyper-nationalism and a secular and liberal outlook. They sound much like our corporate honchos who live from one quarter to the next, dishing out guideline values!”

“We are lucky that elections keep popping up every once in a while. Some work gets done, at least!” quipped Mike, a chuckle adorning his visage. “Also, you ignore the fact that poor politicians have a tough job on hand”, he added.

“Oh, and what makes you say that?” asked Psmith.

“You see, they have to cope with diametrically opposite demands from different sections of the public. They have to persevere. They have to be fleet-footed and switch sides when it suits them. You may recall the case of John Bickersdyke who switched over from being a Liberal to a Unionist!

“Much like the Hon’ble A B Filmer and Roderick Spode, they have to be a model of respectability; their past should bear the strictest investigation. Their misdemeanours – financial, social or entrepreneurial – have to be kept hidden from the public view. Their encounters with angry swans have to be kept under wraps. Hell hounds of media have to be kept off the scent of any Eulalie-type endeavours.

“At all times, when commenting on something, they have to be politically correct. Very frequently, they have to make speeches full of empty rhetoric, a task which could leave many in a befuddled state of mind. Often, they have to listen to addresses of welcome in stuffy halls through the better part of a night. They must kiss babies, even if they happen to be dribbling by the sides of their mouths.

“They even have to undertake arduous journeys to far off villages, sit on the ground and have meals with their sympathizers, and even sleep in cottages with minimal facilities. They have to keep smiling while hugging world leaders who are otherwise sworn enemies of the state. Surely, they are more to be pitied than to be censured, don’t you think?”

“Well, all professions come with their own perks and perils” remarked Psmith philosophically. “And what about political funding, Comrade Jackson, what do you think of it? Would that not be effective in reining in corruption and in keeping the parallel economy in better check?” enquired Psmith.

“Well, some countries have given it a respectable name like lobbying. But the fact remains that a quid pro quo exists between private players and politicos. Surely, private players know how to extract their pound of flesh from whosoever makes it to the seat of power.”

“Hmm. But if political funding is made transparent, the voters would know exactly who stands to eventually benefit from their votes, even if these be such obnoxious businesses as those dealing in arms.”

Mike frowned.

“Yes, but there are so many other subterfuges a government in power can resort to, so as to quietly favour the businesses of their choice!” he added.

“Such as….?” Psmith enquired, raising an eyebrow a fraction of an inch.

“A pliant central bank can come in handy and get treated like a cash cow. In emerging economies, it can simply tinker with the way Non Performing Assets get classified. It can use forward swaps to enable private players to dip into the forex reserves. May be, there are several other ways which lesser mortals like us would be blissfully unaware of!” said Mike.

“Spoken like a true banker, Comrade Jackson! And the tab gets picked up by the common man!!”

“But if the businesses are worried about adverse reprisals when and if the opposite party makes it to the seat of power, and if the politicos do not wish to go to the public in a transparent manner, what do you think can be done?”

“I think power has to be truly secured back by the people!”

“Oh, so you mean riots, civil disobedience and all that stuff? Or, are you saying people should return to a dictatorship model?” Mike said in a surprised tone.

“No, no. I am not a social scientist. I can’t say if the democratic model is at fault here. It fails when those in power do not engage with the dissenters. Dictatorship is not necessarily a solution. God forbid if someone like Roderick Spode ends up controlling the affairs of a nation!”

“On the contrary, he could be very popular with the masses. If he announces plans of giving each citizen at birth a bicycle and an umbrella, a swanky tablet to all students who enter an institution of higher learning, a cooking stove, a pressure cooker and a kitchen cabinet to all those getting married, building world-class infrastructure, and even compulsory, scientific measurement of all male knees, he would romp home with a thumping majority. People just love elections for the kind of freebies these bestow upon an otherwise deprived population.”

“Yes, I have vaguely heard of some politicians from the southern parts of India who have perfected this art”, said Psmith.

“Not to forget the hard cash, occasional meals and a sumptuous supply of tissue restoratives during elections. But we digress. You were mentioning civil disobedience.”

“In fact, days when most Indians were starving and could register their protest by resorting to civil disobedience are long since past. Hunger inevitably leads to a seething anger within, and someone like Mahatma Gandhi who is smart enough to channelize it properly brings home the bacon, so to say. This tactic can now only be used by those at the bottom of the pyramid.

“As to all the others, it might only yield results if the delicately nurtured in their families follow the example of Wilmot Mulliner and go on a crash slimming spree by shifting to a diet based only on the juice of an orange. Pretty soon, their natures would become warped, and they will start spewing off the resultant venom on the men around them. Gradually, the men would undergo a transformation in their characters. From being ewe lambs, they would become crouching tigers, ready to pounce upon anyone who they believe is dishing out injustice to them and their families.

“Or, something more imaginative has to be done in the case of the well-endowed classes.”

“Like what?” asked Mike.

“For one, I think we need professionals from the fine arts side to come up with a sustained campaign to keep the key issues alive and kicking. Not-For-Profit entities can pitch in and so can intellectuals. Above all, we need a band of committed comedians, the stand-up kind or otherwise, who can churn out shows over social media to convey the importance of such issues which are critical to the survival of our race. A silence would willy-nilly imply either a state of resignation and disinterest, or quiet acquiescence. The coming generations would never forgive us otherwise.”

“Interesting” said Mike. “Perhaps you take a leaf out of Ukraine where Vlodymyr Selenskiy, an anti-establishment comedian, has played a role in elections! But who will fund the kind of activities mentioned by you? One would not like this to remain an open-ended challenge,” said Mike.

“Crowd-funding could work. Also, there is no shortage of well meaning people who wish to do something good. But the real challenge is to identify a leader who would be committed to a cause of this nature and magnitude, despite opposition.”

“Opposition will of course be there. I read somewhere recently that eminent lion-tamers like Rev Aubrey Upjohn, Miss Mapleton and Miss Tomlinson have appealed to students the world over to give up their tirade regarding global warming and instead focus on their studies. On the contrary, I thought they would be feeling proud that they have tutored their pupils rather well.”

“Oh. One person who could possibly be consulted on the issue is Jacinda Ardern, the present Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities recently.”

“Perhaps you should then seek an audience with her. But wait, this merely goes on to show that a situation produces a leader. So, if the steps outlined by you are taken and sustained for a long time, one can hope for an enigmatic leader to emerge from such peaceful protests, right?”

“I do believe so.”

Mike rose from his chair and stretched his arms. His gaze drifted off to a couple of fishing boats bouncing up and down on the bluish-green waters of the Arabian Sea. The rays of a setting sun were waltzing over the waves.

“These are deep waters, indeed. I wonder why we are discussing such matters on a lazy Sunday evening! I rather think I’ll nip down to the beach at Santa Cruz and take some fresh air into my lungs,” said he. “You couldn’t come too, I suppose?”

“On the contrary,’ said Psmith, ‘I could, and will. A stroll will just restore those tissues which our intense discussion of the last half-hour has wasted away. It is a fearful strain, this political quagmire. Let us trickle towards the place mentioned by you. Comrade Jackson, lead me to this picturesque beach of yours of which I have heard so much.”

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/politicos-in-plumsville-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/politicos-in-plumsville-part-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/how-about-promoting-election-tourism)

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Gandhi by R K Laxman

Mahatma Gandhi, revered the world over as an apostle of peace and non-violence, led India’s freedom movement. His birth anniversary gets celebrated on the 2nd of October.

Are his teachings relevant to the world of commerce and business? Can CEOs of today learn a thing or two from his aphorisms?

Here are few of his thoughts which business owners, CEOs and managers might find of some interest.

The future depends on what you do today.

Managements who care for their brands re-engineer their business processes and ensure sustainable operations. They respect the environment and the aspirations of the local communities. They ensure compliance with local laws. Ethics and values are strictly adhered to.

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He…

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Gandhi by R K Laxman

Mahatma Gandhi, revered the world over as an apostle of peace and non-violence, led India’s freedom movement. His birth anniversary gets celebrated on the 2nd of October.

Are his teachings relevant to the world of commerce and business? Can CEOs of today learn a thing or two from his aphorisms?

Here are few of his thoughts which business owners, CEOs and managers might find of some interest.

The future depends on what you do today.

Managements who care for their brands re-engineer their business processes and ensure sustainable operations. They respect the environment and the aspirations of the local communities. They ensure compliance with local laws. Ethics and values are strictly adhered to.

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.

Smart CEOs already know this, thanks in part perhaps to Philip Kotler and others who have proclaimed that ‘Customer is King.’ A small time retailer practices this axiom even without having come across it. Managements of organized retail chains try to drill this message into their front-line staff, hoping to make shopping a pleasurable experience.

Marketing honchos these days are twiddling their thumbs trying to solemnize a holy matrimony between e-commerce outfits and brick-and-mortar stores.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

CEOs spend a lot of their time trying to reform others. But the trick perhaps lies in understanding oneself internally – one’s own motivations, value systems, strengths and weaknesses.

To be a true leader also means to lead by example. A business leader who cries hoarse over corruption but is seen as dishing out lucrative business deals to a family member would never get taken seriously. A company which projects a clean image but does not deliver good value for customer’s money, or sets aside funds for speedier navigating through the politico-bureaucratic maze of a country it operates in, succeeds only in the short run.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.

CEOs in the King Lion mode make good mentors when they take the mistakes of their cubs in their stride, coach them appropriately and do not indulge in demolishing their sense of self-worth.

It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

Great leaders are often humble. They learn from their failures as well as from their successes. CEOs and marketing heads of FMCG companies who are getting out of their silos and venturing into rural markets are learning this rather quickly.

Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self.

Gravitating towards an external profile which is a reflection of what one happens to be internally is one of the ingredients of success. This harmony leads to better degree of mental peace and equanimity, which in turn brings about better decision-making.

If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.

A clear sense of purpose and a strong self-belief alone are necessary but not sufficient for go-getter CEOs to realize their aims. A conscious effort to acquire the knowledge and the skills necessary to achieve one’s aim is a pre-requisite of success.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

A strong will power and a sense of conviction help CEOs in achieving their goals. Followers look up to them for strategic inputs and end up assisting them in execution.

Will it with all your heart, and see your vision taking a tangible shape.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.

Smart CEOs know when and how to say a ‘No’. They also understand the perils of being a ‘Yes’-person. Registering dissent is an art which they often learn the hard way.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Living in the present is an art which successful CEOs practice in a state of blissful ignorance. Ensuring that all customer queries get responded to on the very day these are raised is a matter of habit for them.

Going back to school is an option which many senior managers exercise these days. Organizations which encourage such endeavours keep topping the charts of the most-favourite-employers year after year.

Mahatma Gandhi was not a management consultant. What he said was not in the context of business management. But some of the principles he has left behind for us to munch upon are practical, hard-nosed and shrewd.

Business owners, CEOs and managers of all hues are sure to find that many of his ideas are worth emulating. Mere brooding over these gems of business could transform our attitudes and produce gratifying results. Bringing them in practice could help businesses burnish their brands and build a formidable competitive edge.

(Caricature by late Sh. R K Laxman)

(This post can also be found at http://www.mdaceoworld.com/blog)

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Quite a few amongst us are fed up with our daily dose of bad news. Wars – covert or overt. Disasters – natural or otherwise. Genocides. Murders. Rapes. Income inequalities. Social prejudices. Accidents. Every single day, the media keeps reminding us of what is wrong with our world.

During the last three weeks, we were fortunate to have come face to face with institutions and bodies which try to do something good for the world.

Here is a quick recap of such encounters of the pleasant kind.

THE UN OFFICE at Geneva

A guided tour of the Palais de Nations in Geneva makes us realize the way the UN functions and the organs through which it operates in fields as diverse as health, education and sustainable development, besides matters of political import.

Palais de Nations

Palais de Nations

Other than United Nations administration, the UN Office at Geneva also hosts the offices for a number of programmes and funds. As many as 23 organs of the UN are located at Geneva – such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the International Labour Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Health Organization.

The General Assembly hall at Geneva

The General Assembly hall at Geneva

We get to witness a Human Rights Council meeting where records of countries are getting reviewed and commented upon.

The compound has impressive artefacts, including a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi in the UN compound at Geneva

Mahatma Gandhi in the UN compound at Geneva

Where the League of Nations failed in 1939, the UN appears to have succeeded so far – keeping a global war at bay by a relentless effort to defuse tensions. However, several conflict zones remain active in various parts of the world, needing intervention.

The ICRC at Geneva

A visit to the global headquarters of the Red Cross brings us face to face with the kind of trauma, pain and suffering the denizens of our planet have undergone over the last 100 years.

The ICRC Headquarters at Geneva

The ICRC Headquarters at Geneva

The ICRC, established in 1863, works worldwide to provide humanitarian help for people affected by conflict and armed violence and to promote the laws that protect victims of war. An independent and neutral organization, its mandate stems essentially from the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

At the permanent exhibition, testimonies of witnesses and survivors can be heard. A section on children missing from strife-torn areas moves us deeply. Records of persons missing during both the World Wars and the attempts made to reunite families leave us wondering as to why wars are waged at all.

An exhibit at the permanent exhibition at ICRC

An exhibit at the permanent exhibition at ICRC

Havoc caused by natural disasters like earth quakes, tsunamis and global warming can be experienced by means of movies, working models and testimonies of witnesses.

A painting lauding the efforts of Nelson Mandela

A painting lauding the efforts of Nelson Mandela

For those made of sterner stuff, some details of the treatment meted out to prisoners of war can be realized through a temporary exhibition of paintings, sculptures and short movie clips.

The NOBEL PEACE CENTER at Oslo

In an ironical twist of faith, Alfred Nobel, in his sunset years, decided to do something to help society overcome the damage some of his inventions had done. Of the five prizes conceived by him, he decided to allot the Peace Prize to Norway in 1905.

The Nobel Peace Center at Oslo

The Nobel Peace Center at Oslo

The Centre at Oslo captures the spirit behind the prize, the process of its finalization and details of all its 123 recipients till now. An electronic book about Alfred Nobel provides interesting insights into his life.

Use of technology to display the details of all the Prize recipients

Use of technology to display the details of all the Prize recipients

Activities of the 2013 winner – Organization for Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – are on display. We get to understand how the OPCW inspectors monitor, locate and destroy chemical weapons. It is interesting for us to know that it was only in 1997 that the protocol for control of chemical weapons came into force.

In a temporary exhibition entitled ‘Be Democracy’, we learn the extent to which the democratic form of governance has become popular all across the world. In an interactive section, one can form a message supporting global peace and leave it behind.

An interactive exhibition

An interactive exhibition

Mahatma Gandhi appears at different places in the exhibition. It is a matter of deep regret that a person of his stature could never get a Nobel Peace Prize.

A quote from Mahatma Gandhi

A quote from Mahatma Gandhi

In a small room, we come across some paintings done by children of different countries. We are delighted to see three by Indian children.

A Churning and Cleansing

Global bodies which try to do something good face tremendous challenges. Better access to health and education continues to cause concern; so does the rise of terrorism, the sophistication in weaponry, the change of a bipolar world into a multi-polar one, economic predation, sustainable development and non-compliance with humanitarian laws, just to cite a few.

Stop Terrorism, Spread Peace - a painting by Sudarshan V, 12 years, India

Stop Terrorism, Spread Peace – a painting by Sudarshan V, 12 years, India

We live in times when the spread of internet has changed the way we experience and interact with the world. Use of armed drones and robots and cyber-attacks are newer challenges on the horizon.

One may scoff at the idea that peace prevails. There are conflicts all around us. Possibly these are part of a churning which takes place within the collective soul of humanity. Such churning appears to be a cleansing process, designed by nature to rid us of the poisons within our collective conscience.

Beacons of Hope for Mankind

When hatred grows with no end in sight, it generates its own momentum. That is where the role of organizations like the United Nations, the Red Cross and the Nobel Foundation assumes relevance. It is a role which earns more brickbats than bouquets and is never short of generating controversies.

Voodoo dolls depicting the problems affecting humanity (ICRC, Geneva)

Voodoo dolls depicting the problems affecting humanity (ICRC, Geneva)

The good news is that despite political pushes and pulls, they continue to discharge their obligations towards humanity. Going forward, a conscious drive to make them more inclusive – providing better role in decision-making to the emerging economies – would surely help.

The presence of dynamic institutions and bodies which stand up for righteousness and work for the collective good assures us that there is hope for mankind. May be, a day would dawn when ‘Vasudhaiv kutumbukam’ (let the whole earth be one family) would become a reality!

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