Saturday, 30 April 2011

A Big Fat Royal Wedding

On Friday the royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton was solemnised. One hopes that it will bring to an end the on-your-face coverage of an affair-proposal-engagement-wedding that the media, and this time its not just the Indian television media, has covered to the extent of regurgitating revulsion. The silliest and minutest of detail has been analysed threadbare that calling it ‘Wedding Trivia’ would be trivialising it — Where the couple first met, what was the colour of the skirt Kate was wearing then, what are Kate’s fears (this includes a wardrobe malfunction when she is the cynosure of more than two billion eyes at Abbey)... the list is long.

That having been said there are a few positives we can take from this jamboree which was telecast live around the world. Things have not been looking up for the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition from the time it came to office in May 2010. The economy is caught in a quicksand and rescuing it has pulled down every Briton’s spirit. So plagued is the country with cuts and reforms, add to that the wars it is fighting, that Blair-bashing and jokes on the Duke of Edinburgh have lost its edge. It is at this juncture that Prince William pops the question to which Kate blushes in response. And to adapt the infamous words of the ‘great princess’ in 18th Century France to today’s Britain, when it is hard to find bread, Qu’ils mangent de la brioche (Let them eat cake). And Britons are having that cake at a rumoured cost of around £50-80 million.

Another group that are benefiting are the bookies. Bets were placed right from the colour of the queen’s hat to the amount of time Kate would keep William waiting at the altar.

The economic slowdown caused by the sub-prime crisis has affected most countries in the world and if a wedding can lift the spirits of an emotionally and economically beaten Britain, it sure can be tested in other parts of the world. The royal families of other European countries are not as prominent as the British royalty and this space is taken by their illustrious politicians. In France, the latest news that has the nation excited is about whether First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is pregnant or not. The news has been overshadowed by the royal wedding but it is expected to soon gain prominence. To lift the spirits of Italians perhaps Silvio Berlusconi could marry. His current wife Veronica Lario has filed for divorce and once that’s through, the Italian prime minister can walk down the aisle for the third time. The only thing he would have to be weary of is that unlike his bunga-bunga exploits he should ensure that his bride is of marriageable age.

India can also do well with a wedding booster dose. And it is not sure if this will lift the morale of the aam aadmi plagued by a lack of governance, but the most eligible candidate for the wedding tamasha is the crown prince of the grand old party. The eligibility criteria here are the promptness at which the television media, especially the English media, is willing to pick up anything and everything done by the 40-year-old “amul baby”, to use the epitaph given by a veteran communist leader recently. I’m not sure about the intricacies of finding a bahu for him, but I’m placing my bet on the fact that the couple will go to a nondescript village in UP for their honeymoon.

Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as William and Kate will be known from now, can sigh in relief as the madness has just about begun.

Monday, 4 April 2011

I also did it. Finally! - Part Two

(From 'I also did it. Finally!')

After everything was over, I did not know what to do – ‘Should I say ‘thank you’? Do I shake hands?’ I thought. I had not rehearsed this part in my mind. I just walked away without giving or waiting for any pleasantries. I don’t think I turned back either.

I am not sure how many would have had such an experience, even remember when they did it first and how many would be open about mentioning it.

(To be continued…)

It happened on Saturday (March 26, 2011). It was about five-thirty in the evening. The Sun had lost its way in the midst of the many high-rise buildings in the city. Twilight was setting in. I was returning after an interview with two film chief technicians. The interview was at their office in Kodambakkam (yeah the place is notorious for certain nefarious activities and has a locally synonymous connotation) and I must confess that though I’ve been in Chennai for a long time my knowledge about the area is poor. The roads are not familiar and so the traffic arrangement appeared funny.

It happened at a one-way which was bifurcating to the left and right. I had to go to the right but was in the lane turning to the left. Thinking it was fine to turn to the right, I took a turn and there in front of me was a traffic constable. He was in a hurry and reached for my ignition keys. I gestured assuring him that I surrendered and pulled over to the side. (There was a sense of satisfaction on the face of the constable and his companions. It was as though they were a pack of wolves who were salivating at the sight of a trapped sheep).

I got off the vehicle and went to the constable who was resting his arm on the bonnet of his Bolero. “You know it was a mistake.” I was in no mood to argue – there were no traffic signs in the vicinity. “You know, you could have met with an accident.” I did not know how to feel. Should I be happy that the Tamil Nadu Police are so concerned about the safety of motorists? “The fine is Rs 1,350.”

‘No way, this guy should be kidding’, I thought. Here I was like a dog caught in the blaze of a headlight on the highway. I smiled at him. It was more like a please-don’t-screw-me smile. He repeated the ‘Rs 1,350’ part a few more times till he was sure it sank in. After a bit of haggling, in which I told him that the amount he had quoted was too harsh, he asked “You tell me how much should I write? You choose.” It was the month-end and I presume each police station had a certain number of traffic violation cases they had to book, and thereby fill the government coffers.

Maybe he felt sad for me. He would have realised that my purse was not fat enough for the time he was investing. From the initial quote he offered a 50 per cent cut. It was end-of-season-SALE for the police as well. ‘Up to 50 % OFF’.

He enquired about my employer. ‘This was my chance to be the topdog’. I told him that I was from the ‘Press’. On hearing this he was a bit surprised. The senior officer, who until then was busy on some paperwork, turned and looked at me.

There was a pause that didn’t last very long. The constable offered a revised quote. From 50 per cent he offered a discount of 80 per cent. Now that was not bad! The ‘Press’ worked.

Finally we settled for an amount. He took the money in the infamous underhand swift action. I’m not sure if he slipped it into his trouser pocket or into a compartment in his service cap. I asked him if there was a receipt or chellan for the transaction (I would have framed it). It was his turn to smile. It was a you-should-be-kidding-me smile.

I started my vehicle and zoomed away. I was feeling bad that I had settled to give a bribe. I did some thinking on the way (there was a lot of time for that as the traffic jams were real long). The more I thought about it, the more I like it. It was my first time and it was funny. Looking back, I’m telling myself that had I been a bit more prepared, I could have walked away paying nothing. And that’s the story of my first bribe to a police official.

(The End)