Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Could Narendra Modi learn from Lee Kuan Yew?
I was always an admirer of Harry Lee, as he was known in my younger days. His passing away, though at the ripe old age of 91on 23rd March made me sad still. There are a few people who see the makings of a Lee in our own Prime Minister, more in the form of authoritarianism. There are others, like me, who ask the question whether the 'Singapore strong man' would be a model for Narendra Modi as a visionary administrator. The following are my thoughts on the issue.
With the possible exception of Cuba under Fidel Castro, it's hard to think of another country where one leader left such a firm, almost indelible imprint. But see where both took their countries! One man stuck to an idiotic ideology which refused to produce results. The other had no ideological anchor. “If it works, let’s try it, "If it’s fine, let’s continue it. If it doesn’t work, toss it out, try another one", are words of a man seeking results that would take his people to prosperity and make the once poor malarial port into a prosperous island nation having a seat at the table of great nations!
His view that India was “ not a real country,” but “32 separate nations that happen to be arrayed along the British rail line,” and his scathing criticism of its leadership and bureaucracy that were in his words “feudal” made many see him as anti-India. To call India “a nation of unfulfilled greatness” he must have been very fond of India because we have everything Singapore didn’t have, not even the elementary ingredients of a nation: a homogeneous population, common language, common culture and common destiny, when he took it over.
Closest parallel India had with Singapore was when it could be said about IndiraG’s leadership also “a unique combination of charisma and fear” as was said about Harry Lee; but unfortunately she, like her father earlier was happy about the India she could rule by birthright, just repeating often the banal blather about her family's sacrifices!(in The brown sahib (revisited) Varindra Tarzie Vittachi, Sri Lankan writer says Nehru was found comfortable with the system he inherited from the British though he criticised it!) Lee, if a despot, was a benevolent one.
To remove the temptation for corruption, Lee linked the salaries of ministers, judges and top civil servants to those of leading professionals in the private sector, making them some of the highest-paid government officials in the world. That worked too!
“Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless” Lee said openly, confessing also that “I’m not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honourable purpose.” He said he didn’t care about being politically correct; but was always correct. According to him freedom of the news media had to be subordinated to the overriding needs of Singapore, and to the primacy of purpose of an elected government. He was unapologetic about the repressive measures he used to impose order, and unapologetic about believing his prescriptions alone were the right ones. Being politically correct is the most important thing in India, not being correct! India is not a tiny Singapore and a “nanny state” at that, but a dysfunctional democracy of over a billion people and (Lee called India a “Soft State” once!) Modi cannot do anything much about a hostile media, except refusing to feed/fertilize them as he does!
A key strategy of Lee to give people a sense of belonging as stakeholders in society was to provide affordable homes and therefore today home- ownership stands at 90% of Singaporeans. “Citizenship is essentially a question of loyalty,” Lee believed. This is something Modi has to do. Ensure “roti, kapda, and makaan”, band-width too! But loyalty, the scorning of national pride, the decline of patriotism in the public space, multiculturalism and its ethnic separatism, divisive identity politics etc.are territories Lee never had to travel!
Saturday, March 14, 2015
After 4 years I had the misfortune today (14th March 2015 at 11.55AM), again to bury one of my four-legged children, Moti, an adopted one! The last time it was November 4th morning, 2010 Jackie Menon, a black Labrador passed away in his sleep. I cannot give Moti my surname because he belonged to all the good people living and working in that wonderful residential colony, The Woods. He came into my life or as I would wish to state, I became a part of his life by happenstance. I was new in Pune, in 2011 residing in The Woods, from the 1st of October. On the 3rd day of life in F-202, Crescent-2 my one-year old black Labrador Jackie Menon-III and I were, coming back after his walk for the morning constitutional outside the colony. As I enter, I find this medium-sized dog, creamy-brown in colour, coming towards us without anyone in control, no leash, not even a belt around his neck. I was scared because the chap with me is already a confused one and as undisciplined as only he could be under the Sun, raring to go for a fight. He was brought up in Kerala, in a two-acre plot walled all around with the contact of his like rare when we took him to a Vet. I brought him to Pune in the backseat of an air-conditioned Honda City. I held his leash tight as he lunged forward at every passing animal, stopping every 2 hours as per learned advice. I could see his anxiety about the loss of the house, the compound, and even the landscape around him. And later he was living in two 3metre square balconies: in the western one in the sunny mornings and the eastern one when the Sun beats down in the other. Out in the open he was looking around obviously for the house he lost after a happy life there for a whole year. So I was worried about the possible quarrel between Jackie and the free stranger, when one of the security men at the front gate sensed the mischief-potential of the situation and the fear on my face, told the other dog in a normal voice: “Moti, ja!” Moti walked back without even any curiosity to size-up the new guy in the colony. I was impressed by Moti’s dignified behaviour.
That’s how our relationship begins. I started giving Moti a packet of glucose biscuits (10 or so) in the morning. He would at times come with me as I took a walk in the colony. If he joined me half-way through my walk, I would complete a round at the Om Super Market and buy the biscuits and give them to him before completing my 4-5 rounds. One day he was following me as I reached the end of the Vista blocks, I see him suddenly go the lawn of a bungalow. I thought he would say hello and come back. He didn’t. I heard the owner of the house tell him “baidt” and he sat there! I waited for another minute or so and went on walking. I went to Raju, the owner of Om and told him about Moti leaving me, a flat-resident (not even an owner then) for the august company of the owner of a bungalow. Raju told me that was Bafna Seth, who used to give him milk everyday when he was a pup. Moti went another notch up in my esteem for him.
I thought why not feed Moti the food we were making for our Jackie? We buy fresh mutton/buffalo meat or chicken and cook with rice and a little turmeric powder. 200-250gm meat was our daily feed for Jackie; and a little ghee once or twice a week. I made a little extra one day and took it to Moti. He rejected it. I bought Pedigree, the chicken-flavoured one and gave him and he ate it with relish. Somebody would have fed Pedigree to him for some time and he recognised the stuff. I started adding Pedigree to what we cook for Jackie and he started eating it. That was how I introduced non-vegetarian food to Moti. My wife at times would ask me why I seemed to be giving Moti extra-chunks of meat, and I would tell her that our chap anyway was getting ghee-dosa extra from mama!
When my wife and I happen to go to Kerala for a few days for some important function, my daughter would feed Jackie and Moti. My granddaughter Trisha found she could fondle Moti without Moti trying to reciprocate. And my daughter observed that Moti who never had a bath ever, didn’t have any foul smell emanating from his body. That could not be said about our Jackie who gets a good shampoo-bath once every month! Moti,I am told has never defecated inside The Woods! On rare occasions when all of us had to go out of Pune, the maid and Sandesh, the walker for Jackie together took care of both our furry children. And when we come back, what a rousing reception they gave us. Moti would start drooling from a distance "ahh rooo uuu!" or whatever! But he meant he missed me (us) and was so happy to see us! Of course, he can’t use his tongue and lips very well, which makes it difficult for him to match many of the sounds I would like/expect him to say to me! He greeted, me his tail wagging more forcefully from side to side or at times even moving in a circular pattern if I was away for a few days. Or after eating his meal tail wagging he did the downward stretch, paws forward like doing a namskar! We call him ‘son’ and tell him about us as ‘dada’ ‘mama’ and ‘checchi’(‘deedi’ = elder sister, that’s my daughter) and little Trisha arrogated herself to the role of Moti’s ‘deedi’ too!
I tried to de-worm Moti several times masking the powdered tablets with milk sweetened with honey, sugar, etc. or food with more minced meat, and even mixed with cooked liver which the Vet said was a fantastic idea because the blood smell would trick the dogs. But not Moti! I was astonished to find I could cheat my Jackie, a Labrador known for his “sniffing abilities” in many ways to have powdered Praziquantel+Pyrantel Pamoate+Febendazole for de-worming but Moti a mongrel by all signs could catch the smell of Plozin tablets a few inches away!
Towards the middle of 2014 Moti started getting unwell and refuse food except some milk and at times a few biscuits for several days at a time. He would lie where he used to wait for his food next to the stairs and lift at the ‘F’ clock, and lift the legs apart to show me where it hurt- around the penis. Bloody serum would be seen to ooze from that area. I would apply some pain/ant-septic balm, and once when I used a spray he ran away, perhaps in his genetic code was the fear of the hissing reptile, snake! I used to have a Vet come for Jackies inoculation/treatment etc, and always wondered how I could get him treated too. But never had an anti-rabbies shot in his life, no belt or leash. How would I call a doctor when I don’t know where the patient would at any given time. It never occurred to me to consult the security staff about their possible involvement. That is the saddest part of this story! Moti used to get alright after a few days of abstinence of food, and that I have heard from my childhood, was their ‘traditional’ naturopathy-like treatment.
In August I moved into my own flat in Park Street. The only worry was about continuing to feed Moti. In those days I used to give him a lunch and dinner. Park Street was just walking distance and I could meet my friends for our regular chat session in the evening and carry Moti’s food as I came! I tried to serve him lunch for almost a month, walking down in the hot Sun which my wife didn’t like. And her scientific argument that dogs needed to be fed only once, worked when I had to go to Kerala for a few days. It was in January 2015 that my daughter received a Whatsapp message from a friend in the Woods that Moti had some terminal disease. When I enquired with The Woods security Chief, he told me a bungalow-owner had called a Vet from Baner and some injections were given and a few tablets and capsules had to be given to Moti. Would I mix the medicines in the food I had brought for him? I said he would not touch the food if medicines are mixed with it. They could take a portion of the food and try, but if I went to assist the process, he would boycott the entire food. It happened the same way. After a few minutes I went to him with the food, and his first reaction was “isn't this the stuff they were trying to trick me into eating?” I cajoled him with some endearing words of appeal and thanks to his hunger and the lack of medicinal smell in the utensil I held before him, he ate.
It was then that I volunteered to do everything to save Moti. My Vet lived close to Kaspade Vasti and Dr. Ingle was, in my experience, accurate in diagnosis and very effective in treatment. On January 13th Dr. Ingle came to The Woods and the security staff found Moti, and put a belt in his neck and a leash on him.It came off and Moti walked away. Debashish brought him back. (This kindly young man offered any help for Moti any time!) My friend Mathur also helped Moti not to get upset.Dr. Ingle said it was a type of cancer, curable by treatment. He gave a shot of Vincrystin-Vinblastin combination intra-venus and several other injections, including anti-rabies vaccine. After a week one more dose of anti-cancer drug was given. Dr. Ingle found very positive change in Moti and assured me 100% cure. But for next one whole week Moti went hiding, wouldn't eat the food I brought, and would walk fast and away from me. I was pained by this behaviour. At times he came wagging his tail, but smelling the food would go away in a hurry, as if telling me “I won’t trust you anymore after all those injections you made me suffer those pokes and pricks.” I brought food regularly, thinking that when he was okay, and hungry, food must be around. I had arranged Sandesh and our maid Vyjantha to pour milk into his bowl after cleaning it, just in case he didn't want to have it from me. One day they reported Moti was missing. I was not well, and it was my wife who went with milk. I had her look under the Kalewadi over-bridge for him. Then Sandesh said he spotted Moti inside The Woods and he consumed some quantity of milk given by him. After 8 days, Moti comes drooling and wagging his tail a he saw me. I had brought some food and some milk too. He ate some food, and had the entire milk. For the next one week he polished milk and chicken&rise I gave him. Then the Front-gate security men told me some youngster living in Vista was providing milk in a steel-bowl kept at the gate. Moti came to say hello to all of us sitting and chatting, and on my request sat amidst us with a smile on his face. (I should have clicked a photograph then!) I thought he looked very well, the furry coat giving a shine! Shortly thereafter, on 12th March Moti stopped eating once again. On 13th also he didn’t eat. Nor was he drinking milk. 13th was the day he was to get anti-rabies booster shot. Under the circumstances I didn't know whether we could get that done. This morning, walking on the treadmill in our gym, I was thinking of asking Dr. Ingle whether it was advisable to give the anti-rabies shot now or later, would the lapse require the procedure to be repeated all over again, etc and request him to have a look as well. As I was coming back from the gym, near the lift was my wife holding my mobile phone and the car key. “Don’t get upset. There was a call from The Woods. Moti is no more. Come home, drink some water. Don’t get upset. Or there is water in the car. Drive carefully. Trisha is alone, so I can’t drive you to The Woods.”
I reached The Woods completely devastated. My pet was lying in the ‘E’ Block corridor, a little away from the D Soft Communications office, towards the lift. He appeared to have died in his sleep. Apart from my friends, he was the most intimate contact I had in the colony. In fact I loved him more dearly than others because he needed me. When my son Dileep asked me once half-in-jest-half–seriously, whether I loved Jackie more, I said the same thing. A pet-passionate persons like me, my son understood. Moti could not talk to me. But I talked to him softly. Son, dada misses you. Not just me, the entire colony would miss Moti. He was a happy, secure, submissive dog. Never heard him growl, bark angrily or snap, except when Jackie arrived on the scene, with more curiosity than aggression on his mind in my view, as he walked past for his outing with Sandesh. Children pulled his tail, sat on him and misbehaved without malice in their weekend/vacation-induced mischievousness. My daughter told me one day she scolded an over-weight 10/12-year old who was sitting atop Moti, who meanwhile bore the heavy discomfort without even whining!
The Woods management graciously agreed to have Moti buried in a corner of the nursery of plants. We gave him an almost human send-off. I put vaikkari (the ceremony putting some grains of rice in the mouth) to my dear four-legged son, and after lowering his body into the pit, all of us, Mr. Khatri and administrative colleagues, the security chief, staff, Maheswariji and I put hands full of soil and flowers on his body we used to stroke once with so much affection, concern and love. As I laid a garland of flowers on the mound of earth, I couldn't control myself anymore. I burst out crying unashamedly. Everybody consoled me saying it was time for him to go. Maheswariji told me "you are a little too sentimental!"The security guards told me the story of Mr.Patil, a retired old security man who took care of Moti as a pup coming to The Woods two days back and Moti hugging him with both paws and giving the"ahh rooo uuu!"drool! They said Moti was perhaps waiting to see him before leaving this world!
As I returned home, I thought of my whole family believing that our Tony was reborn as my daughter Neelu; our Jackie-1 coming to us as our granddaughter Diya, and Jackie-2 as Trisha, Neelu’s daughter. Her father wouldn't like to hear it and we changed it. Jackie-III is Jackie-II reborn. I am asking God to Keep Moti with him either to be my companion when I too go, or till the time my daughter decides to have another child!
In the evening I went to The Woods, empty-handed for the first time. As I entered I held back a sob. I used to turn to ‘F’ block, to give Moti his food. I turned to the left and realising my mistake, corrected the course. I suddenly realised that I had lost a part of myself; I had lost a purpose in my life too. Moti has become a memory, a memory that would shine like a moti, pearl in Hindi. I cannot end this piece without admitting a mistake I made this evening. I suggested some rock-salt had to be purchased to ensure the mortal remains of Moti digested in the soil faster. Raju, owner of Om Super Market brought 10Kg salt and left for some urgent work. After our chat session outside the Club House, I went to Om, and found Raju was not there. His wife came and I reluctantly, and with some embarrassment raised the issue of making payment for the salt. Raju’s wife gave me an amused look and asked me tauntingly, with a smile ”why can’t we also make some contribution?”Well I was wrong, foolish too. I should have seen a common humanity that transcends education, profession, position, money etc. working in the case of Moti, if not everywhere else. We always tend to see the gloomy inventory of cruelty, dishonesty etc. and tend to ignore pearls of wisdom, kindness, love and so on. Moti, my dear son, adieu.