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For Whom the Bell Tolls…


By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

In our beautiful little Himalayan state, the elections are over. It is now for the Election Commission to announce the results.

We were very impressed by the meticulous detail the EC had gone into when their officials arrived at our cottage to collect our votes. They answered every question we asked with a clarity not normally associated with the bureaucracy.

This is very reassuring because the present political climate is the foulest which we have experienced since the very first elections held 70 years ago. At that time idealism was still the driving force. Nehru, and others of his incredible stature, could still plunge into crowds without fear of being harmed. Politicians were not for sale like so much livestock to be bought and sold to the highest bidder, sequestered in five-star corrals and then made to dance to the bidding of mysterious High Commands. In those days ‘Rent a Crowd ‘ political rallies were unheard of and the current crop of electronic Spin Doctors were not even a gleam in their mothers’ eyes because their mothers had, probably, not been born!

Fascism had been tested, and rejected, along with Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and their mistresses. Democrats all over the world thought that this evil political system had been cauterised, once and for all. But the fascist snake is a Hydra-headed monster. It grows out of the darkest yearnings of the human soul to dominate its fellow creatures.

Today’s Fascists follow the same hateful agenda and attribute all failures to the labelled OTHERS and persecute them to divert attention for one’s own failures. We have not come to the stage of smelling Belsen’s barbecued smoke but given the tolerance that our state officials have shown for public pontifical speeches promoting genocide, there seems to be an under-current of bureaucratic tolerance for the prospect of such Final Solutions!

But do we really believe that India will ever reach these dystopian depths? No, we don’t. We are, effectively, the most diverse nation in the world. The US is a melting pot where, for many generations, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) was the ideal. Then Mahatma Gandhi (remember him?) inspired the non-violent ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement.

Incidentally, it is interesting to see that the bride-hunt columns seldom mention “fair’ as an essential qualification. Is that because people have realised that we are not the descendants of Scandinavians? Then ladies and gentlemen of the Political Establishment should ask their photo-shop and touch-up artists not to make appearance appear as pale as if their clients had turned pale with fright!! And if you are not scared, then what is the big fuss about Singapore’s PM commenting on our media reports about the criminal cases against our legislators? If it is not true, contradict it; if it is true, tell the world why and how it happened, and what we are doing to correct it.

The fact of the matter is that if you use ‘winability” as a prime quality in the selection of candidates as legislators, then you are throwing principles to the winds and relying on twisted cynicism. That not only says much about your party but it says a great amount about you. A person is judged by the friends he keeps like, for instance, the Big Don. Incidentally, do you agree with him when he says that every soldier who died for his country was “a loser”? And is that what you really think about our own martyrs?

To change gears a bit, old-time politicians basked in press-conferences and Town Hall discussions. It gave them a wonderful opportunity to reach out to the common people, the voters, in free-for-all public encounter. So, why are some of our modern netas so scared to face such free-wheeling discussions now? The obvious answer is that people who depend on speeches scripted by others depend on their tele-prompters. Their, so called, oratory is just a carefully scripted, well-rehearsed, performance conforming to the diktats of their off-stage handlers! How many of our famed netas are only puppets responding to the string pullers of the High Command? A ‘criminal record’ is a very effective way to make a neta front-in-line: conform or be jugged! Does this explain why such voters always vote-by-diktat?

There are many more questions but we shall stick to these. Do, however, remember the end of John Donne’s insightful poem. When talking of the funeral bell tolling, it says

Send not to know for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)