I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. Alexander the Great.
The world is going through turbulent times. India is contributing its mite to the turbulence with a great show of truculence, with the Jammu and Kashmir saga being played out mutedly, thanks to the deafening silence of media censorship and blackout, only serving to fan the embers of wild speculation. Hong Kong is simmering and could reach boiling point. The United Nations’ expanded Security Council got together at Pakistan’s instance to discuss the fallout of the abrogation of Article 370, and the resultant dribs and drabs communication to the world, such as it was, from some of the 15 members of the Council was ambivalent. We always knew where China stood, but the United Kingdom’s too-clever-by-half chicanery is redolent of Mountbatten’s shenanigans at the time of India’s Independence and the painful partition. The Brits are backtracking with hasty denials, but they should tell that to the marines. And our dear friends Russia have not exactly been gushing in their support for India, more humming and hawing than clearly articulating their stand. Yes, yes, we all know it’s a bilateral issue, but which side of the bilateral divide are you morally supporting? Spit it out, man. As the Good Book says, ‘let your yea be yea and your nay be nay.’
Then again, typically, both India and Pakistan have been ‘celebrating’ the UN meeting outcome, each claiming the other has been sent to Coventry. Familiar strains! Donald Trump is, well, just being Donald Trump. Having dropped a brick once during his talks with Imran Khan and falsely dragging India into the equation, decided to keep his counsel. Which is a blessing. China has its hands full with the Hong Kong imbroglio to tackle, and to side with Pakistan in the latter’s never ending sabre-rattling with India. The bright new face in Parliament from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal has expressed immense joy at Ladakh being part of the conversation at the UN, when it hardly ever got a mention in the Indian political discourse over the past 70 years. Understandably, Namgyal (get used to that name) hails Prime Minister Modi for putting Ladakh on the map, quite literally. At least, someone is happy at the turn of events.
While everyone is waiting with bated breath to follow the unravelling drama in J&K, while 95% of India is fully behind the PM’s bold steps, while Home Minister Amit Shah refuses to rest on his laurels and is already exhorting his party members to action with crucial assembly polls in the offing, while Shah’s temporary hiatus from the mainstream provides the relatively low profile Defence Minister Rajnath Singh a chance to flex his muscles in chaste and stentorian, Vajpayee-ish Hindi and tell the Pakistanis where they get off, while a handful of Indian activists, who look good on television and speak the Queen’s English, are getting their knickers in a twist, trying to move the courts against the Government on the ubiquitous Kashmir issue (with friends like these….), while much loved former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley battles for his life at the AIIMS and not helped one bit by a raging fire breaking out in that very hospital, while smug-faced Chidambaram plays footsie with the cops in Delhi only to succumb, while all these earth shattering events are happening even as this missive is being word-processed, there are other things in our country to worry about. Very important things!
I am talking about sheep. Not the human kind, but genuine quadrupeds who provide us with wool, meat and when in a good mood, go baa baa. If they are black sheep, that is. En passant, let me add that no one seems to care two hoots if I conjoin the words ‘sheep’ and ‘meat’. But if I tried to attach the word ‘meat’ with ‘cows’, the whole country (nearly 85%) goes ballistic and starts beefing about it, if you’ll excuse the serendipitous pun. It’s a crying shame none of our epics records sheep worship as an integral part of the storyline. Shame for the sheep, that is. No wonder these animals look so sheepish, like so many lambs to the slaughter. But I digress. Let me get back to my sheep story.
The news item that caught my eye involved a separated couple, the woman running off to live with another man and his 71 sheep. Allow me to be more lucid. This happened in a remote hamlet not far from Gorakhpur in Eastern UP. On learning that the woman would prefer to enjoy conjugal bliss with her not-so-secret lover and not her legally married husband, the local panchayat was in sympatico with the runaway lass and told her that the arrangement will get its approving nod with one proviso. That the woman’s lover should return half the number of sheep he owed to her heel of a husband. The panchayat was silent on whether the eloping girl should marry her new lover, or if they can just ‘live in sin.’
Apparently the husband readily agreed to this arrangement. I am guessing he was not awfully sold on the idea of conjugal bliss with his wife either, and may have cast his glad eye on someone else’s wife. So he gains twice over – loses his recalcitrant wife with a clear conscience and gains a pen full of fat sheep. And a new wife, to boot! Everyone is happy. Or are they? There were more complications to this sheep story with more members of the respective families staking all manner of claims, but that is not germane to this piece. We can only bow in respect that problems in our rural belts are solved swiftly with such sagacity and wisdom. Even the wise King Solomon would have been proud. Watch and learn, you spoilt urbanites!
And hot off the presses, another gem of real life hilarity from UP (what is it with this state?) A man has sought divorce on the grounds that his wife has decided to feed him only laddoos for all meals, this on the sage advice of a local tantric, the better to help them achieve wedded nirvana! Paraphrasing the old ad jingle, ‘laddoos in the morning, laddoos in the evening, laddoos at supper time.’ Fat lot of good the laddoos did for their nirvana. The man was literally sick to his stomach. Far from sweetening the deal, this story is headed for a bitter end.
The limited point I wish to make is that in the general scheme of things in the world, India, Pakistan, Kashmir, POK, Hong Kong, Trump, Putin and some Chinese bigwigs whose names I cannot spell – these are not the only important issues and personages that people should be grappling with. The little people in remote Eastern UP with their lovers’ tiffs and sheep barters are equally important. Go and ask them their opinion on the Kashmir issue and they will stare blankly at you. Engage them in a discussion on sheep farming and they will be unstoppable. Or lovers’ tiffs and how to solve them, come to that. Mostly amicably, but if pushed to the edge, they won’t think twice about beheading you while you sleep. Justice is meted out swiftly in our remote parts.
Is there a lesson in this? Yes. Our television channels should spend more airtime on subjects like these. Imagine, sheep today, cows tomorrow, dogs the day after – our dumb chums from the animal kingdom can provide endless fodder for some pretty heated exchanges on one of Arnab’s interminable Sunday morning talk shows. What say you, Arnab? You can even consider bringing the animals to the studio to participate. Tether them to the feet of those pathetic Pakistani generals you invariably invite, merely to roundly insult them. And don’t fret yourself that they will dirty your studio (animals that is, not the generals) when nature calls or things get animated. It will at least be pure, honest, if a trifle smelly, excrement as opposed to some of the stuff your panelists spew out on a daily basis. Just make sure you have enough dry grass, hay and dog biscuits in the studio.
Postscript: I thought this article was concluded. However, it just occurred to me that one particular news channel has, over the past couple of months, been doing precisely what I am advocating. They have been loftily ignoring any news item of current interest. Let Chandrayaan 2 do its stuff, let J & K hit the headlines elsewhere, let Kohli hit another hundred, let Chidambaram sweat and squirm under the glare of his alleged misdeeds, this channel will remain supremely aloof, instead showing us an endless pre-recorded loop of India’s wildlife, its glorious temples and places of interest, interviews conducted many moons ago with people of no great significance – all this in an aesthetically wrought blurred and hazy offering. Dear reader, please join me in a smart salute to Tiranga TV, for showing us that life is not all about politics. Or cricket. That the big cats, if not the fat cats, and historical monuments are all that matter. Not to mention the bakras.