Millennium Post

Tejpal’s Bill Clinton moment

As someone who knows Latin, when asked how the passing year went, had replied. ‘Annus Horribilis.’ In plain English, it meant a ‘horrible year.’ The quote was that of the Queen of England on the year 1992, after a series of reputation damaging incidents and revelations. This was the year when the Queen Elizabeth and the  tradition of royalty she upheld withstood some severe plebian body blows. First, her second son, Prince Edward, the Duke of York and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, separated; the latter only to be photographed top-less on a beach being kissed on her toes by her post-marital beau, a John Bryan. Obviously, the (in)famous tabloid press of Britain went overboard with the pictures and the stories.

Second, this was also the year, the estranged Princess Diana had her book, My Story, published talking about her own terrible years in the Buckingham Palace and the relationship between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles etc. In the same year, the queen also saw the divorce of Princess Royal, Margaret, from wedlock with Captain Mark Phillips. The last blow was the fire that ruined the queen’s favourite vacation home, Windsor Castle. But there was still more to come. While then Prime Minister John Major, of the Conservative Party, advised the Queen that the cost of rebuilding of the Castle would be borne by the government, i.e. with public money. But there was such an outrage of the common people of Britain against this that the government eventually had to open the gates of Queen Elizabeth’s many country homes to the public just to raise the cost of the rebuilding and repair.

For the Indian middle class, year 2013, is also the Annus Horribilis moment. First, they confronted a major spike in prices of their daily victuals; then they were faced with the prospect of a lower economic growth rate (companies like once cash-rich real estates builders, Unitech falling behind in paying employees’ salaries), a distinct cooling off of the recruitment process; and finally a probability of a sharply divisive electoral process.

The middle class of the country thought that they would willy-nilly find another icon in place of discredited Manmohan Singh; someone though named ‘Feku’ in the cyber-world, was getting the eyeballs and studious listeners, Narendra Modi. Nattily dressed in colourful kurta-churidar and haughtily speaking, Modi seemed a TV watchers ‘wet’ dream. But beknownst to them, Modi apparently had more skeletons besides that about 1,000 Muslims in his cupboard. He proved to have such an obsessive-compulsive desire to know each and every muscle movement of a 29 year old young Hindu girl, who is also an architect, that he put her on round-the-clock, all pervasive surveillance.

Of course, there were no written orders to the effect. Of course, he had his personal hatchet-man, Amit Shah, who was also in his council of ministers speaking to his accomplices in the police force, with great precision about how the watchers should act for his saheb. While most of the news organisations of the country reported the call details rather coyly, not speculating who this saheb is/was, it left enough to human imagination just to titillate. It was only this Friday that a suspended Gujarat cadre IAS officer who revealed that Modi thought he was the possessor of a video CD that had him cavorting with the girl, who was one-third his age. Now, considering this statement has been made by the IAS officer in front of the venerable judges of the Supreme Court, it could not be easily falsified that Modi did need ‘stress-busters’.

In fact, in legal terms the assignation cannot be a subject of its scrutiny. But the fact that the surveillance on her was by state and central government public functionaries should be a matter of the Court’s deep concern. And of course, there is the case of middle-class morality! When stung, this rather dormant sentiment gets roused when the neighbour’s house is on fire. While that could easily seem a plateful for the already engulfed middle-class, now comes the revelation about a media personality who, once was the news consuming classes hero of something called the ‘sting’ operation, got caught with his hand and fingers all entwined in some Kama Sutra mudra.

The victim of this ‘rapist’ behaviour was a girl who was not just his friend and colleague’s daughter but also of his own daughter’s age. For Tarun Tejpal, the spinmeister, this could be a Bill Clinton moment. Soon by a long stretch he would ask when ‘is’ is. As a much-retweeted tweet on Friday puts it, ‘Forced sexual liaison’ means rape. Literature can not save Tarun Tejpal. No matter how well worded his letters on incident, they stink!’

The author is a senior journalist

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