So, 72-year old Pratibha Patil (or Pratibha Patti, as my daughter calls her) is the new President.
I can imagine the standard routine that dignitaries visiting India will be subjected to and their resulting plight. First, they will hold wide ranging discussions with Dr Manmohan Singh, who will keep that deadpan expression of his, right through. The humorist, P.G.Wodehouse used to describe how the strict rules of the Butler’s Guild prevented Jeeves from breaking out into a full smile; the maximum, upward movement of the lip allowed was only 1/8 of an inch. It is improbable and even inconceivable that Dr.Singh is a member of the Butler’s Guild, but I simply can’t fathom what stops him from smiling. Hell, the man is quite lifeless; I am sure that if an ECG were taken while he is talking, it would register a flat line. Whatever may be his other merits, this factor alone should get him banished into oblivion. We simply can’t have as PM a man , in whose ECG, the characteristic P-Q-R-S pattern is conspicuous by its absence. We ought to demand from our leaders, clinical evidence of life.
Anyway, let’s get back to our visiting dignitary. After this encounter with the lifeless Dr Singh, he or she will have to follow the protocol of meeting Sonia Gandhi. From the TV footages, it is clear that she is utterly clueless and humourless. Besides, I haven’t heard anything remotely intelligent escaping her mouth, though I admit I like the way she waves her hand as the dignitaries depart from her house. Good riddance, that’s the message that wave conveys.
Next, of course, the dignitary will be whisked away to the Rashtrapati Bhavan for a tea party (a British custom that has outlived the British), where the company of Pratibha Patil will have to be put up with for an hour or so. No doubt she take it upon herself to entertain and regale the guest with stories of Ouija boards and how she communicates with spirits of dead people.
I don’t know if a visit to the Raj Ghat is part of the regular itinerary these days. But, it is reasonable to assume that this ritual is also inflicted on the hapless soul- I mean the visiting dignitary’s, not Gandhi’s. But I will be fair and charitable to Gandhi and consider the extenuating circumstances that he is dead.
At the end of the day, the dignitary is in the severe grip of ennui and swears that he or she will never come back to this wretched country again. When there are far more exciting ways to die, why would they choose to be tortured to slow death through sheer boredom?
It would appear that the whole rigmarole is carried out for the sole purpose of making a documentary for Films Division, or for the news round up on Doordarshan, to be read out by a bearded, Tolstoyish character with a grim, solemn, melancholic voice.
In most other countries, leaders need to demonstrate youthfulness and energy, to stay at the top. Including China and Russia that used to venerate old politicians. Whereas here, we still mistake old age for wisdom and put up with ancient dodderers, who should have long been pensioned off.
Today, with the march of technology, one peaks at the age of 30 or 32, in whatever field one is in. Those of us in the corporate world have certainly realized this. In the sports arena, of course, it is much earlier. If you need to keep learning beyond this age, you don’t look up to people older than you, for distilled wisdom to flow down. You look down and get splashed by the fountain of youth.
It is amazing that a country whose demographics show a very high percentage of voters below 25 years of age would choose to nominate representatives, three times their age, in Parliament.