DON'T PEEP INTO BEDROOMS.
Until then the only English speech I heard was that of the American missionary Stanley Jones who spoke for the masses, rather than the elites. Decades later, when I read Fali S. Nariman's autobiography "Before Memory Fades" and came across the following lines, I realised that I was not the only victim of your flowery language:
"I once heard him (Iyer) deliver a judgement in Court Room No. 3 (where he sat) an oral judgement, a judgement "off-the-cuff" where amongst several multi-syllable words he used one with six syllables: "Ratiocination". There were many litigants and some lawyers present in court on that day. Half of them, I am sure, could not pronounce the word and most of the others did not know what it meant". From that day onwards I have been reading all your columns and articles, especially in "The Hindu".
A few years later, I read your six-part article in "The Hindu" in which you argued that the main problem was not unemployment but "un-employability" of the so-called educated youth. I marvelled at your ability to coin words. But I also found an error in the article. You wrote, "This reminds me of Simpson's (you used another name which I forget) famous line, "Sound and fury, signifying nothing". I knew it was from Shakespeare's Macbeth.
Immediately, I shot off a letter to the editor pointing out the error. What surprised me was your clarification in response to another letter which appeared in the daily on the same subject that you had dictated the article and the error was made by the stenographer concerned. I wondered which stenographer in Kerala knew Simpson, a minor poet, and did not know Shakespeare. I wish you had not responded to the letter, for to err is human.
I was a journalist in Delhi when you, as the vacation judge of the Supreme Court, delivered the famous verdict on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's petition seeking a stay of the Allahabad High Court's decision setting aside her election from Rae Bareli on technical, rather than, legal grounds. As Nariman has pointed out, you "could have passed the buck granting an absolute stay till the reopening of the court when a Bench of three or five judges could have finally heard the application".
But you did not flinch. Sitting singly and so taking the entire odium on yourself, you passed an order granting only a limited stay "consistent with precedent". In practical terms, you allowed Mrs Gandhi to take part in Parliament's proceedings as Prime Minister but not take part in voting as a member of the House. The full text of your judgement appeared in all the newspapers and I read it "wholly, and with diligence and attention" as advised by Francis Bacon.
I do not know how you felt when a day after, on June 25, 1975, Mrs Gandhi imposed the Emergency on the nation. Even after retirement, you continued expressing your opinions through statements, speeches and articles. For you "law without politics is blind and politics without law is deaf". It was your stature in the profession that allowed you to get away with saying: "The myth is that courts of law administer justice, the truth is that they are agents of injustice".
I was taken aback when you contested for the Presidency as an Opposition candidate, because you did not have an iota of chance against the Congress nominee. The surprise was all the more as you had once described the President as a "boneless wonder" who resides in Rashtrapati Bhavan "an Indian Buckingham Palace, or a half-way house between Buckingham Palace and the White House".
When you visited Patna to deliver a lecture in the late-eighties, you were gracious enough to grant me a long interview at the State Guesthouse. You explained to me in detail how E.M.S. Namboodiripad of the CPM and N.E. Balaram of the CPI forced you to become a candidate and how the contest did not cost you even a single rupee. It was more a Bharat Darshan for you, at the cost of parties like the CPM and Chief Ministers like Karpoori Thakur.
What prompted me to interview you was a series of articles that appeared in the Malayala Manorama Sunday Supplement under your by line in which you dealt with the strange phenomenon of people being able to talk to their dead relatives. I always considered you as a "Communist", though you may never have been a member of the Communist Party. This was probably because you were a member of the first-ever Communist government in Kerala headed by EMS. For the record, you were elected to the Assembly as a Communist-supported Independent.
It was difficult for me to believe that a rationalist like you would believe in such occult practices. You told me instance after instance when friends, including the wife of a former Supreme Court judge, told you that your wife appeared to them in dreams and told them about things that happened to you and which you alone knew. You gave me names of several scholars and writers, including writer R.K. Narayan, who could talk to their dead relatives.
All that I could make out was that you missed your wife badly. I knew your attachment to her and how she complemented you. Otherwise, I would have concluded that you had gone bonkers. You also told me about the kind of impact your articles made and how the paper's Chief Editor, the late K.M. Mathew, wanted you to write regularly for the paper.
Whatever be the issue, you were able to offer a new perspective which I found irresistible, though I must admit that I could not admire your blind anti-Americanism. I did not know how you could reconcile yourself to the fact that one of your sons worked in the US while another worked in the UK, which you made fun of as Uncle Sam's Poodle. When President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, a bit prematurely, you alone could have written this letter:
"Mr Obama, as an Indian at the age of 95 who is committed to cosmic peace, I plead with providence to give you the creative verve to be the divine engineer to save our morally declining planet controlled by the whites into a society free from race, colour, caste, communalism and corruption so that all living creatures may feel a new biosphere where God is no myth but a live force that is materialist as the base and apparelled in a moral structure.
"You be the prince and make the United State a land where God trod. You are great and often misunderstood, but you are a beam of light and (have) harkened the dawn of an Advaita world. There may be critics, but truth is God and you will win at last.
"Emerson wrote: Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood".
After reading reports about the Kerala Women's Code, written by the 12-member Commission for the Rights and Welfare of Children and Women headed by you that was submitted to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on September 24, I wonder whether you were the same person who wrote a travelogue after visiting the erstwhile Soviet Union.
You wrote about a Russian woman walking confidently into the aircraft with a live chicken in a bag and occupying a seat next to you on a domestic flight. You wondered when an Indian village woman would ever be able to travel like that Russian woman. Years later, Capt Gopinath, who started the now-defunct Air Deccan, told me during an inaugural Bangalore-Kochi flight that he made such a dream possible to thousands of Indians.
You also wrote about how the Soviet Union honoured women who had more children. "The more the merrier" was the dictum that the country followed. You contrasted it with the two-child norm that India encouraged. I do not know what forced you to change your stance? If your code is accepted, the State will penalise every couple having more than two children.
Now imagine how the world would have been if your Code was implemented with retrospective effect. Mahatma Gandhi would not have taken birth, for he was the fourth child of his parents. Neither would Mother Teresa have taken birth for she was the fifth child of her parents. But Dictator Benito Mussolini would still have created havoc as he was the first progeny of his parents. Under the Code, the third and subsequent children would not be able to get any government benefits.
I do not know what great benefits the government confers on the children, when the Planning Commission submits an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that anyone who spends Rs 32 per day in a city like New Delhi or Rs 26 in a village like the one in Malabar where you were born is considered rich and, therefore, not entitled to certain benefits.
Nowadays, one cannot buy more than 300 grams of pulses for Rs 32. I wish the Supreme Court had asked the Planning Commission to reduce the salary of its members, who discovered these figures, to Rs 32 per day for a year so that they can demonstrate to the world that in India one can indeed live on such an income.
Now, one question: How can you penalise the child when he had no role at all in his own birth, which is often a biological accident? Under what jurisprudence can you justify such an abominable punishment? Another question: Since you do not want the third and subsequent children to receive any government benefits, can you exempt them from all taxations, direct and indirect, which in any case are pocketed by the likes of Dayanidhi Maran?
Developed countries like those in Europe and Japan do not produce enough children so much so that they have an ageing population. They are doing everything possible to encourage people to have more children. One of the greatest assets of India is its young population. You are, perhaps, one of the few who still believe in the Malthusian theory that population increases in a geometrical ratio, whereas food supply increases in an arithmetic ratio. If you ring up agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan and he will gladly tell you that Green Revolution had proved the theory wrong long ago.
No, I am not against family planning. People should have the freedom to choose the number of children they should have. You have no right to dictate that if a third child is conceived, the woman should go in for abortion. There are people who believe that abortion is tantamount to murder. Let us respect their right to believe so. Hitler believed in eugenics and he tried to enforce it. You know what disaster it caused.
In any case, it has been scientifically proved that the best contraceptive is education, particularly of women. Your own state is a prime example. The population growth has more or less stabilised in Kerala with many schools not getting enough students in the primary classes. This was not because of any code but because of the spread of literacy. In fact, economic progress and family planning go hand in hand.
I do not have to tell you that the family planning campaign in India suffered a major setback when during the Emergency, the government tried to compulsorily sterilize all those who had two children and more. You may point out that China has gone ahead and implemented a stricter family planning norm.
I would suggest that you read a new book "Unnatural Selection" by Mara Hvistendahl, who worked in China as a journalist, to realise how female foeticide has become rampant in Mao's country and the skewed male-female ratio will play havoc with Chinese society.
In states like Haryana and Punjab, men are not getting enough women to marry. Do you know that some Haryanvis go to Kannur district in Kerala to marry poor Malayali girls? They are in demand because the Haryanvis consider the Malayali girls good housewife-material. The 2011 census shows that even in Kerala, the only state where women outnumber men, there are only 954 girls for 1000 boys in the 0-6 age-group. It shows that female foeticide has become rampant in Kerala, despite laws that prevent sex determination tests.
As you are the tallest leader of Kerala, I would request you to start a campaign against this unhealthy practice, instead of wasting your energy on enforcing a code that will simply not work. It is better for you and the state not to peep into the bedrooms of married couples.
With all the best wishes for a happy Diwali
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