LIFE IN THE LAST CEN­TURY

India Today - - BY WORD - M. J. AK­BAR

SSachin could also see what the rest of us did. The pow­ers that be squirmed away from Bharat Ratna, leav­ing some sort of a thank you note be­hind. Mem­ber­ship of Par­lia­ment is a hand­some free­bie.

ome very short­sighted cyn­ics with cot­ton in their brain and dys­pep­sia in their dis­po­si­tion have been carp­ing that Sachin Ten­dulkar and Rekha took their time be­fore ap­pear­ing in the Ra­jya Sabha to be sworn in as nom­i­nated MPS. Delhi’s caste of pun­dits is so used to drool­ing as­pi­rants who rush into democ­racy’s gilded hall even be­fore All In­dia Ra­dio has fin­ished pro­nounc­ing their names that it tends to af­fix some mys­te­ri­ous the­ory to per­fectly com­pre­hen­si­ble rea­sons. Look at the sit­u­a­tion from Sachin’s point of view. I am not sug­gest­ing we write a con­do­lence let­ter, but sym­pa­thy is cer­tainly due to Sachin. Nom­i­na­tion to the Ra­jya Sabha is a pretty desul­tory sub­sti­tute for some­one who has been promised the Bharat Ratna. There are con­so­la­tion prizes which con­sole, and some which char the soul. Sachin did not ask for this hon­our. Delhi’s politi­cians, ever ea­ger to climb a band­wagon, led the clam­our for Sachin’s el­e­va­tion to jewel of In­dia af­ter he got his 99th in­ter­na­tional hun­dred.

Per­haps Lady Mac­beth’s in­sight­ful law for cri­sis man­age­ment, that if it were done ’ twas best ’ twere done quickly, works as much for as­sas­si­na­tion of Scot­tish kings as for the coro­na­tion of In­dian icons. If Sachin had got his 100th cen­tury in a Test in­nings against Eng­land at Lord’s or against Australia at Syd­ney, with style, and with­out dropped catches, the mo­men­tum for Bharat Ratna would have be­come ir­re­versible. It is not quite as glam­orous when you plod along till you fi­nally reach Bangladesh, and then dither so much dur­ing the cen­tury match that In­dia loses. The hero did not ar­rive on a flash­ing steed, laden with bat­tle hon­ours; he trot­ted in on a mule, the faint out­line of a hid­den crutch vis­i­ble from the bag­gage. By the time Sachin con­quered his Ever­est all that was left was grey above and fog be­low. You could hear a na­tion­wide snig­ger scrape against the ap­plause.

Sachin could also see what the rest of us did. The pow­ers that be squirmed away from Bharat Ratna, leav­ing some sort of a thank you note be­hind. Mem­ber­ship of Par­lia­ment is a hand­some free­bie. But joy or de­pres­sion is of­ten rel­a­tive; it de­pends on the start­ing point.

Sachin also had to con­sider the prac­ti­cal side. The daily al­lowance of an MP is “Rs 2,000 per day dur­ing any pe­riod of res­i­dence on duty”, with an ex­otic en­ti­tle­ment of “Rs 16 per kilome­tre” as road mileage bonus. Don’t bother to ask what Sachin’s daily al­lowance from IPL is, and what hap­pens to his bank ac­count when he burns a few miles on the road. I wouldn’t know how to cal­cu­late IPL re­mu­ner­a­tion, with or with­out the ex­tras you get for be­ing in the com­pany of lol­lipops. If Par­lia­ment had any sense it would not hold its ses­sions dur­ing an IPL sea­son, at least not if it wants Sachin Ten­dulkar to take an oath.

You will not, most re­gret­tably, get paid for ei­ther plea­sure, but where would you have rather been on Sun­day the 13th of May, the 60th an­niver­sary of In­dia’s Par­lia­ment? In the com­pany of Lalu Prasad Ya­dav as he bar­relled through in­creas­ingly tired and tir­ing jokes; or in the stands as David Hussey smashed the ball with a pi­rate’s swag­ger? There was live and free cov­er­age of both events. Which did you choose? If MPS want to find out the an­swer, they should sell ad­ver­tis­ing on Lok Sabha or Ra­jya Sabha TV. A spot on Sachin’s bat would cost more than SAIL’S ex­clu­sive spon­sor­ship of the Prime Min­is­ter’s speech. Why blame Sachin if he prefers be­ing in Ban­ga­lore to check out if King­fisher can still fly rather than in Delhi among birds in bor­rowed feathers.

Par­lia­men­tary fun­da­men­tal­ists are up­set that Sachin has not rushed to eat su­gared toast and drink semi- sipid cof­fee in Cen­tral Hall. But no one has an­swered a ba­sic ques­tion: What’s the hurry? His nom­i­na­tion did not come with a sell- by date. Nor is Sachin in any haste to shake the na­tion and wake the Gov­ern­ment with fiery or­a­tory on the im­pend­ing col­lapse of tele­com in­fra­struc­ture.

Svelte, buxom Rekha does not play cricket. That much is known. She took three weeks to ap­pear be­fore the deco­rous Hamid An­sari, chair­man of the Ra­jya Sabha, to re­cite the few sim­ple words that made her a dis­tin­guished mem­ber of In­dia’s most au­gust House. I dis­count to­tally nasty sug­ges­tions that this de­lay was prompted by dis­com­fort about the com­pany she would have to keep. Nor did she have any wor­ries about the script for the oc­ca­sion; an adaab be­fore Hamid An­sari is an easy glide for any­one who has opened the scene in Um­rao Jaan. Rekha is a big girl now. But do you have any idea how long it takes for a big girl to de­cide what to wear on her big day? Have a heart. And if you can­not have a heart for a heart­throb like Rekha, then you are ut­terly heart­less.

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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