How many of you remember a movie called, “The Duchess & the Dirtwater Fox”, starring Goldie Hawn and George Segal? He plays the hustler, Charlie Malloy, who helps a gang of outlaws steal a cool $40,000 and then runs off with the cash. He then meets the Duchess, Goldie Hawn, a burlesque dancer and prostitute, who diddles him out of the loot. Obviously the double-crossed gang come looking to retrieve the money which predictably sets the stage for the pair to team up in some wild shenanigans, including having her pretend to be a real-life duchess, while gradually falling for each other. Why I brought up the movie is because we live in an era of super-specialisation where everyone from Smriti Irani to Paris Hilton is telling us to stick to our core competence. There is an iconic moment when the gang leader is giving the ‘Fox’ gyaan on how to steal the keys to the bank vault while seducing the bank manager’s wife. The Fox’s reply is classic, “Mr Bloodworth, I don’t tell you how to rob banks, so don’t tell me how t
o get keys…deal?”
The wisdom encapsulated in the Fox’s pithy retort is often overlooked even by the high and mighty in this land, be they politicians or cricketers. Take Mr Jaitley for instance: a crafty, astute lawyer but no great shakes when it comes to handling Finance. When accused by Rajdeep Sardesai of packing the RBI board with political activists and wannabe economists like Gurumurthy, Jaitley totally dropped the ball. He weakly responded that the Congress had done the same when appointing a Rajya Sabha member to the Board, an obvious reference to Dr Rajeev Gowda, former Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy at IIM, Bangalore. In a stinging rejoinder entitled, “Experiments with Untruth”, Gowda reminded Jaitley that he had resigned his RBI post months before being sworn in to the Upper House. Shades of Pinnocchio, Shri Jaitley, swap ministries with Ravishankar Prasad.
Some years ago, our former President Kalam decided to publish a slim book of verse. Whether he was influenced by Vajpayee’s “Musings at Kumarakom”, or by the guilt engendered at having paid insufficient attention during English Litt at Rameswaram High School, we will never know. What we do know is that our rocket scientist took up the lethal practice of poetry in his declining years. As someone who loves poetry, I have to say it wasn’t so bad when Vajpayee let himself go, given his abiding knowledge of Urdu and his Lucknowi background. There was form, imagery and substance in his shairis, even if the content was somewhat vapid. In comparison, Kalam’s poetic forays were as terrifying as discovering radioactive waste in one’s breakfast pongal. “I want to go where others have not gone,” he confided. One was tempted to quote Lady Macbeth who totally lost it when dealing with guests who had outstayed their welcome screeching, “Then stand not upon the order of your going, sire, but go.” Please go, Sir, but confine yourself to outer space…
Of Dr. Kalam’s sins when it comes to the nuances of syntax, grammar and metre, I will tread lightly: I would be equally uneasy if someone were to hand me an isotope of U 238 and say, “Put this in the cooling tower, there’s a good chap.” Pottering round in poetry is ill advised; innocuous hobbies such as gardening, bird watching or Swedish action movies are eminently more suited to a curd-rice eating, Gita-reading, retired rocket scientist who worked sixteen hour days. Give us Pokhran, spare us the poetry, Dr.K.
Which brings me to Virat Kohli: talented cricketer, great captain, handsome chap with a lovely wife, but somewhat lacking in common sense and tact. As part of the promo campaign for his app launch, he throws a hissy fit online about some unknown fan’s eminently reasonable preference for English and Australian batsmen. Praise, Lord Virat felt, should be restricted to his prowess with the willow. “Okay, I don’t think you should live in India then … you should go and live somewhere else, no? Why are you living in our country and loving other countries? I don’t mind you not liking me but I don’t think you should live in our country and like other things. Get your priorities straight,” he fumed.
This idiotic outburst conflating the right to residence with singing Kohli’s praises generated a wave of support for the recipient of his ire, but it just goes to show how ridiculous great talents can look when they stray from their core competence. Put him on a cricket pitch and the man is a genius but subject him to the mildest criticism and he mutates into a jingoistic imbecile. Ah well, I suppose one must be grateful that he hasn’t taken up poetry....