26th May 1996

India will remain India

By Rajpal Abeynayake

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. No power corrupts and absolutely and absolutely no power corrupts absolutely as well.

Such dissolute thoughts are inevitable during the languid hours of the power outage. Next week the Sri Lankan condition will be moving from the penumbra to absolute darkness, the economic and social equivalent of a total eclipse. The concept of electricity as we knew it will probably never come back. Its like the petrol prices. Go up , and they never come down....

Did the light have to go out of our lives? Having said all this however, it will be anti climactic to say that the light will never go out totally. Anuruddha Ratwatte has already blamed the UNP for the power cut. He said the previous regime made no plans, so thanks to them, it will be into the darkness. Fair warning was given that only fourteen more days of power exists.....

So what more of a glorious victory than to come back two weeks later and say that the government somehow saved the nation from the darkness to which the UNP had condemned it? What glorious political elan to announce, just four hours away from the total darkness, that the PA has saved the nation from the brink of total absolute dark?

If you ask me how it will be done, don't ask. But come another fourteen days, and no rain, if power is not imported from the moon if not from Japan, Ill eat my hat. Of course you are going to have your regular languid hours of Sri Lankan power outage. what's life without a little sweat no air conditioning and no daytime TV? Pizza? Pissuda?

When a previous President began the grand gold hunt for the holy golden plate, he already knew where it was, and with whom it was. But was he telling? Nope. The nation was told about the great hunt for the holy golden plate. It had the religion - political importance of two hundred Dutugemunu campaigns. The nation was all psyched and keyed up, and the hunt for the gold plate reached the proportions of a toffee wrapper treasure hunt for jaded fifth graders. ( Send in two Golden Gooey toffee wrappers and solve the great treasure hunt, and you will win two tee-shirts to Timbuktu.) Finally, when a weary nation was about to get wearied of the grand gold plate hunt, it was announced. Presto! The government had found it. The powers that be had found it, intact, in toto. It was to say the least, like winning the world cup. Devo vassatu kalena.

But what's a little power cut in the third world. Its never like losing power, or going out of power, ask Mr. Rao who has the looks of a matinee ticket seller.

The convulsions in India are they say going to have severe repercussions here. For one, there will be power galore. When AB Vajpayee explodes that nuclear bomb over Pakistan, we are going to get some fallout as well. Maybe it can be rigged to the national power grid.

When Anita Pratap came on CNN to announce the fall of Rao, it looked as if the whole Indian thing had come a full circle. Here was Anita Pratap, who previously looked like a Thelungu Desam flunky, now all starry eyed on CNN announcing quite nonchalantly that India's loveliest girl on the beach status has gone .

She seemed to be all agog as well. One can't blame her. In India, elections are meant to change governments. Come sun they change governments. Come rain they change governments. Come Gandhi they change governments. They are hungry, and Anita Pratap is hungry for the news.

So India has finally changed Rao, the man with the perpetual look of the sacred bulldog who saved India and sent it spiralling towards most favoured girl on the beach status. We Sri Lanka, who began the torrid love affair with the market economy began looking like the scrawny guy on the beach who gets the sand kicked in his eyes.. India. It helps to be big. But before Rao, being big for India was like having a bad case of elephantiasis.

Rao changed all that. The funny thing about India is that the whole of India does not realise the import of that which they had just done. The reason is - everyone knew they were going to do it anyway. In India they change governments. Come sun come rain come Gandhi... yah yah yahh you said it, what you expect India to be China?

But we Sri Lankans and Indians are twins. We usually do not grasp the import of what we do to ourselves either.. We changed governments. India changed governments. But in these parts, we change governments, so what's the fuss?

But, Rao in retirement will never fit the image. After all, here is a man who fixes his main political enemies just before the elections in the manner they idly swat a fly in a Calcutta side- walk.

India has to remain India. Its character changed, it will never be the India we knew. The problem with Rao was that India was becoming like an Indonesia. Thank god India was never going to look like a Singapore, even with a hundred Rao's, but even India; looking like Indonesia was bad enough.

Look at Indonesia now, and you see a country that the Club Med the Hilton and United Airlines all like to fawn on./ Indonesians wear the Sarong kebaya like an advertisement for five days of debauchery to be spent in Jakarta. Its a cross between Singapore and the Philippines, petro dollars flowing, the tourists all wanting to rush there to gain a nugget of paradise which can be shown on VCR.

Why on earth now should India go down this beaten track? Because most Indians are hungry. what's India if people are not hungry? what's India if people are not Indian, they change governments, and treat Rao like the national saviour that he is? What is India if it is not a functioning anarchy?

So, to make a long story short, the day Anita Pratap came on CNN, she had a lot to smile about. She knew India had been saved. She was not going to have to write copy for Club Med ads to make a living.

Go to the Guest Column

Return to the Editorial/Opinion contents page

Go to Rajpal's Column Archive