FLAP-JAW

Such people are no longer there to see how the House of wisdom they had built with years of hard work has fallen brick by brick.
 
House of wisdom

Illustration By Hasan Zaidi

Arup Chakraborty

House of Wisdom

Once the Indian Parliament used to be a house of wisdom, when the opposition’s criticism of the ruling party sparkled with a subtle blend of wit and charm.  On those days, there was no TV. Ergo everyone had to count on newspapers to know what had happened in Parliament. Many students, preparing for competitive examinations, used to read attentively what the Parliamentarians were saying. As well as being well-documented, their speeches consisted of such words as were beneficial to improve one’s writing skill. Other than Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru from the Treasury Bench, there were speakers from the opposition like Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jyotirmoy Basu, Hiren Mukherjee and many more to count. Today’s generation may contest their political views, but they have to think twice to question their wisdom. Those were the days when a good speaker was given extra time to put up his points before the House, and Vajpayee always scored over others on this count. Vajpayee was in opposition and Jagjivan Ram was the railway minister. A few accidents had taken place, and Ram had to face a lot of criticism in Parliament. One day, Vajpayee said, “Hum Bharat ke log jab Bharat ke train mein baith te hain to aapna Jiwan Ram ko saup dete hai… (We the people of India surrender our life (Jiwan) to Lord Ram (God) whenever we travel by trains).”  The speech had contained so much pun that everyone, including Babu Jagjivan Ram himself, burst out into laughter. There was absolutely no bitterness between the opposition and the Treasury Bench. Such people are no longer there to see how the House of wisdom they had built with years of hard work has fallen brick by brick. Though a new building of the august House is coming up, its soul is writhing in pain.

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Lack of reasons

Lack of reasons
Illustration By Hasan Zaidi

The Central Government has kept away from honouring the Booker Prize winner author Geetanjali Shree. Nor has any Union Minister ever spoken to the author to congratulate her for the laurels she has brought to the country. The story does not end there. A socio-cultural organisation Rangeela and Agra Theatre Club planned to organise a function to honour the author on July 30, but the event had to be cancelled, for, a resident of Hathras had complained against the book “Ret Samadhi (Tomb of Sand)” for which she won the Booker Prize. The function was to be held at a well-known hotel in Agra city, but a group of people gave a political tinge to the event, forcing the organisation to call it off. Nearly 400 people were to be present on the occasion. Many youngsters longed to meet Geetanjali Shree who is from Mainpuri district of Uttar Pradesh. The person concerned, who raised the objection to the book Ret Samadhi, said that a portion of it is against Hindu religious sentiments. Likewise, a group of anti-social elements tried to disrupt the function at Jawahar  Lal Nehru University in Delhi where Geetanjali Shree was being honoured. Reacting to the unruly behaviour of such people, a teacher of English literature at a degree college in Lucknow said, “What will such people say about Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Raat Bhor Brishti (Rain Throughout the Night) by Samresh Bose or Kalidas’s Kumarasambhava?”  They disrupt such functions, since they fail to appreciate a piece of artwork, he said.

Deprived of rations

To feed the poor, the elderly and the physically challenged is the responsibility of a welfare state. This has, however, assumed a political dye these days, because providing rations to the poor has become a way of creating vote banks for the ruling party, as well as for the opposition. For that reason, the ruling party and the opposition criticise each other’s welfare schemes. However critical they may be of each other on this issue, that does not deter them from announcing schemes for the poor. Yet the poor are deprived of food. A case, in which an elderly physically challenged woman has been deprived of rations for three months, recently cropped up in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Because the woman has been without fingers since birth and as she cannot earn a living, she has all the reasons to get rations, but the government’s tall claim, that it provides rations to each poor household, has fallen flat in her case. Perhaps, the woman does not have enough clout, at any fair price shop in her locality, to get rations.

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Tailpiece

Tailpiece
Illustration By Hasan Zaidi

A youth goes to a well-known ice-cream manufacturing company in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, for an interview. The manager of the firm asks him, “What do you call a piece of ice when it is taken out of a box in the Love Lane of your city?”

He replies, “Sir, a melt.”