Between you and me

THE FIRST year of the new century (have it your way if you want to call it the second year) is slowly grinding to a halt. It is an unusual year for, though it had its quota of disasters, the quality of the disasters made the year unique. (I thought of saying `somewhat unique" but then I remembered all the sticklers for grammar who read this column). The Gujarat earthquake was horrendous - more than 19,000 people perished in it - and unique in numbers. The fire-death of the mentally insane at Erwadi was unique as most of us did not know of such arrangements, and were truly horrified when we learnt that the inmates were chained. There was a lot of outrage over the incident, but subsequent events had little or no publicity, including the suo motu action by the Supreme Court. Skipping a few months, we had the famous Agra meeting between our Prime Minister and the President of Pakistan (who had anointed himself in that position a day or so before he came to India). General Musharraf was received with the customary lavish Indian hospitality, but the hope for meeting of minds between the two countries never materialised, Pakistan insisting on discussing Kashmir while India roundly stood its ground on a discussion of cross-border terrorism.Then came the September 11 attacks on buildings in New York and Washington DC, in which thousands died. The world now knew that the U.S. could not be provoked, when that country in a three-week period decimated the Taliban and made Afghanistan a free country again. Terrorists are not to be put down easily though, and their next target was no less than the Indian Parliament itself. That is where we seem to stand now. India has declared itself against terrorism in any form and taken a number of steps including the massing of armed forces. Pakistan, which seems reluctant to reject the terrorists altogether, has called its armed forces to the Line Of Control. Now, neither country can defeat the other in case of a war, though India has a bit of an edge. One still hopes that diplomacy will take the place of war games, for neither country will benefit from an armed conflict. Let us see what the New Year has to offer, but I for one am watching developments fearfully - there seems to be too much smugness on both sides. The Prime Minister and the General may decide to talk, the Big Powers may try to pacify them - the U.S. President, Mr. George Bush, in particular seems caught between the two in an effort to be equitable.

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A DIFFERENT subject - several readers have asked me to comment on the acquittal of the AIADMK general secretary in two cases. Whatever private opinion I might have, I am a believer in the supremacy of the law, and do not wish to say anything on the judgments which might seem the least bit of contempt of court. The courts are still our only recourse to a civilised life, and let us not say or do anything which may spoil that faith.

ACTUALLY, CERTAIN things that go on in our State Government seem curious - the Police Commissioner, who was brought in with much fanfare, has been humiliated, being removed from that position with little or no information to the public. A similar fate met the newly posted Inspector General, though in his case there were murmurs of corruption and so forth. And our pro tem Chief Minister continues to make statements which fully reflect his predecessor's.

I wonder how many of our readers are addicts of TV quiz programmes that offer money prizes. Some of them are quite glossy, with a compere who probably charges heavily, knowing his worth in terms which draw the audience. And I have never been able to find where all the large amounts prize money come from. But what I want to say is that readers should occasionally watch them as they provide much amusement when the answers are wrong. Recently, I watched a Tamil programme, and had the joy of hearing a woman, who has an M.A. degree, say confidently in reply to the question (yes, that is the average question) who was Swami Vivekananda's Guru, `Swami Jayendra Saraswathi'.

IT IS that time of the year when music and dance are in the air. I am not going to talk about that but tell you a story told to me by two women readers. They went to a well-established old sabha to get tickets for a special performance. Tickets were highly priced at Rs. 500, 300, 200 and 100. They did not want to spend too much for the sake of nostalgia, and were about to turn and go away, when they were offered Rs. 200 tickets. They finally bought two Rs. 100 seats, and when they went in, found that most of the high price seats were vacant, and the hundred rupee ones were almost empty.

Well, I think that is about all one can take after a holiday week. So let me wind up wishing all readers (and others) a Happy New Year from Parthasarathy and myself.


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