In this life I’m a woman. In my next life, I’d like to come back as a bear. When you’re a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months. I could deal with that.
Before you hibernate, you’re supposed to eat yourself stupid. I could deal with that, too.
When you’re a girl bear, you give birth to your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you’re sleeping and wake up to partially grown, cute cuddly cubs. I could definitely deal with that.
If you’re a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too. I could deal with that.
If you’re a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up growling and not glowing. He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat.
Yup… I’m gonna be a bear.
The Panama leak connected Nawaz Sharif with two objectionable properties in London.
When the case went to Pakistani supreme court, Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz submitted two documents in the court. The documents were dated back to 2006 and were supposed to prove that Sharif’s family had nothing to do with the properties in London.
It may be worth mentioning that while the documents submitted dated back to 2006, they were written in Calibri, a font that was not commercially available before January 31, 2007.
Microsoft Word used Times New Roman (font) as its default font before 2007. From Office 2007 and onwards Calibri was made the default font for Microsoft Word.
This proved that the documents submitted by Sharif’s family were fake and forged.
There were also other evidences against Sharif, but the font blunder significantly weakened his case in Pakistan Supreme Court.
(Sharif’s family lost the case and on 28 July 2017, Sharif was disqualified from public office by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Sharif submitted his resignation on the following day.)
How a simple Microsoft Word font could surrogate a government!
Last year, I was at the Heathrow International Airport in London about to board a flight. Usually, I wear a sari even when I am abroad, but I prefer wearing a salwar kameez while travelling. So there I was—a senior citizen dressed in typical Indian apparel at the terminal gate.Since the boarding hadn’t started, I sat down and began to observe my surroundings. The flight was bound for Bengaluru and so I could hear people around me chatting in Kannada. I saw many old married couples of my age—they were most likely coming back from the US or UK after helping their children either through childbirth or a new home. I saw some British business executives talking to each other about India’s progress. Some teenagers were busy with the gadgets in their hands while the younger children were crying or running about the gate.
After a few minutes, the boarding announcement was made and I joined the queue. The woman in front of me was a well-groomed lady in an Indo-Western silk outfit, a Gucci handbag and high heels. Every single strand of her hair was in place and a friend stood next to her in an expensive silk sari, pearl necklace, matching earrings and delicate diamond bangles.I looked at the vending machine nearby and wondered if I should leave the queue to get some water.
Suddenly, the woman in front of me turned sideways and looked at me with what seemed like pity in her eyes. Extending her hand, she asked, ‘May I see your boarding pass, please?’ I was about to hand over my pass to her, but since she didn’t seem like an airline employee, I asked, ‘Why?’
‘Well, this line is meant for business class travellers only,’ she said confidently and pointed her finger towards the economy class queue. ‘You should go and stand there,’ she said.
I was about to tell her that I had a business class ticket but on second thoughts, held back. I wanted to know why she had thought that I wasn’t worthy of being in the business class. So I repeated, ‘Why should I stand there?’
She sighed. ‘Let me explain. There is a big difference in the price of an economy and a business class ticket. The latter costs almost two and a half times more than . . .’I think it is three times more,’ her friend interrupted.‘Exactly,’ said the woman. ‘So there are certain privileges that are associated with a business class ticket.’
‘Really?’ I decided to be mischievous and pretended not to know. ‘What kind of privileges are you talking about?’
She seemed annoyed. ‘We are allowed to bring two bags but you can only take one. We can board the flight from another, less-crowded queue. We are given better meals and seats. We can extend the seats and lie down flat on them. We always have television screens and there are four washrooms for a small number of passengers.’
Her friend added, ‘A priority check-in facility is available for our bags, which means they will come first upon arrival and we get more frequent flyer miles for the same flight.’
‘Now that you know the difference, you can go to the economy line,’ insisted the woman.
‘But I don’t want to go there.’ I was firm.
The lady turned to her friend. ‘It is hard to argue with these cattle-class people. Let the staff come and instruct her where to go. She isn’t going to listen to us.’
I didn’t get angry. The word ‘cattle class’ was like a blast from the past and reminded me of another incident.
One day, I had gone to an upscale dinner party in my home city of Bengaluru. Plenty of local celebrities and socialites were in attendance. I was speaking to some guests in Kannada, when a man came to me and said very slowly and clearly in English, ‘May I introduce myself ? I am . . .’
It was obvious that he thought that I might have a problem understanding the language.
I smiled. ‘You can speak to me in English.’
‘Oh,’ he said, slightly flabbergasted. ‘I’m sorry. I thought you weren’t comfortable with English because I heard you speaking in Kannada.’
‘There’s nothing shameful in knowing one’s native language. It is, in fact, my right and my privilege. I only speak in English when somebody can’t understand Kannada.’
The line in front of me at the airport began moving forward and I came out of my reverie. The two women ahead were whispering among themselves, ‘Now she will be sent to the other line. It is so long now! We tried to tell her but she refused to listen to us.’
When it was my turn to show my boarding pass to the attendant, I saw them stop and wait a short distance away, waiting to see what would happen.
The attendant took my boarding pass and said brightly, ‘Welcome back! We met last week, didn’t we?’
‘Yes,’ I replied.She smiled and moved on to the next traveller.
I walked a few steps ahead of the women intending to let this go, but then I changed my mind and came back.
‘Please tell me—what made you think that I couldn’t afford a business class ticket? Even if I didn’t have one, was it really your prerogative to tell me where I should stand? Did I ask you for help?’
The women stared at me in silence.
‘You refer to the term “cattle class”. Class does not mean possession of a huge amount of money,’ I continued, unable to stop myself from giving them a piece of my mind.
‘There are plenty of wrong ways to earn money in this world. You may be rich enough to buy comfort and luxuries, but the same money doesn’t define class or give you the ability to purchase it. Mother Teresa was a classy woman. So is Manjul Bhargava, a great mathematician of Indian origin. The concept that you automatically gain class by acquiring money is an outdated thought process.’
I left without waiting for a reply.
– ‘Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives’
The wind and the sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.”
So the sun retired behind a cloud, and the wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew, the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the… wind had to give up in despair.
Then the sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on and took it off all by himself.
Kindness effects more than severity.
– Aesop’s Fables
Given that one of my posts made mention of a number of tennis tournaments as well as player names, some of my friends considered it as some sort of a sports commentary, whereas it wasn’t. So I thought of editing it to include an intro! The “names” at the most were “salad dressing” and nothing more. The excerpt from the ghost written biography was a confession and at the same time an admission of insecurity from the “woman in red”. It took several years for Dr Han Suyin (19…52) to realize that ‘love is a many splendored thing’. How many life times is it going to take for Sharapova?
End of a Sporting Love Story
He recently told me—we were talking on the phone after he’d reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open—that one of the worst things in life is when you have the right thing at the wrong time.
It made me think of an evening we spent before the 2015 Wimbledon tournament. He had reached the semi-finals the previous year by beating Andy Murray; he lost to Novak Djokovic in four sets in that round. He pulled out a book that Wimbledon puts together of previous championships.
He quietly flipped through the pages of the book until he found a picture of me, in his box, watching his match. He looked at me, sad—I thought I saw tears in his eyes—“Did you see this? This means everything to me. Seeing you in my box next to my mother.” It was then, at that moment, that the emotional pull I had been fighting came to an end. I knew, and so did he, that I couldn’t be that person at this time of my life. I was supposed to be focused, getting prepared for my own matches, my own triumphs and defeats, on the largest stage of my career.
I had been watching his match that day only because I’d lost early at those championships. So his good memory was my bad memory. What meant everything to him happened only because I had lost. Like he said, you can have the right thing, but it might come at the wrong time.’
– Unstoppable: my life so far
October 8: Tomorrow, October 9, marks the 50th death anniversary of Argentina-born revolutionary Che Guevara.
After a failed expedition to the Congo in 1965, Guevara alighted on Bolivia as the launchpad for regional, then global, revolution. “In retrospect you can perceive a certain naivety; an almost crass idealism,” says Jon Lee Anderson, author of the definitive 1997 biography Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life.
But in the febrile atmosphere of the 1960s, anything seemed possible. “If there was ever a time in the modern era to pull something like that off, it was then,” adds Anderson.
Yet things went wrong soon after Che and his column of 47 men arrived in the arid, thorny Ñancahuazú region. They lost radio contact with Cuba, supplies ran low. They were plagued by illness and vicious insects.
The United States soon got wind of Guevara’s whereabouts and sent CIA agents and military advisers to assist the regime in the hunt for the revolutionery.
On 31 August an army ambush wiped out half of Che’s forces. The remainder trudged towards the mountains in a desperate attempt to break out of the trap.
Che, prostrated by asthma, rode on a mule towards the remote village of La Higuera. A local farmer informed on them – and amid a frantic gunfight, a bullet destroyed the barrel of Guevara’s carbine. Wounded, he was captured by a battalion of rangers – trained by US Green Berets – under the command of a 28-year-old captain, Gary Prado.
“Don’t shoot – I’m Che. I’m worth more to you alive,” Guevara reportedly said.
Guevara and his captured comrade, Simeón “Willy” Cuba Sarabia, were escorted to La Higuera and held in separate rooms of the schoolhouse. Prado had several conversations with Guevara, and says he brought him food, coffee and cigarettes. “We always treated him with respect. We had nothing against him, but only respect,” Prado said.
Initial plans were to court martial Che in the city of Santa Cruz. However, the trial never happened. According to Prado, orders came the next day to “get rid of him”.
A 27-year-old army sergeant, Mario Terán, volunteered for the job, and ended Guevara’s life with two bursts of machine-gun fire. After being flown by helicopter to nearby Vallegrande and displayed for the world’s press, the bodies of Che’s and his companions were buried in unmarked graves. They wouldn’t be found for 30 years.
Today, bullet marks score the rocks where most of Guevara’s Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) comrades were gunned down. The boulder behind which Che sheltered is daubed with graffiti.
Farming tools rust among the overgrown foliage. The hut of an old woman mentioned by Che in his diary (today kept in a vault in the Central Bank of Bolivia) is in ruins.
Gonzalo Gúzman, a local guide, was part of the team who discovered Che’s remains, during a search sparked by Anderson’s biography. “At the time I didn’t know who Che was. The Cuban investigators told us, ‘you’re now part of history,’” Gúzman says, inside the new mausoleum built over the gravesites.
This dribble of international tourism will turn into a flood in the days leading up to 9 October. Some 10,000 people are expected to descend on La Higuera and Vallegrande, among them social activists, regional leaders, Cuban functionaries – and Che’s children.
“You can’t put Che down,” Gúzman said, walking among the ripe citrus, avocado and custard apple trees that now fill the ravine where the Argentinian revolutionary fought his last battle. “For us, he’s a hero.”
The song of the road: Liverpool, New South Wales.