Life in the last century

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Some very shortsighted cynics with cotton in their brain and dyspepsia in their disposition have been carping that Sachin Tendulkar and Rekha took their time before appearing in the Rajya Sabha to be sworn in as nominated MPs. Delhi's caste of pundits is so used to drooling aspirants who rush into democracy's gilded hall even before All India Radio has finished pronouncing their names that it tends to affix some mysterious theory to perfectly comprehensible reasons.

Look at the situation from Sachin's point of view.

I am not suggesting we write a condolence letter, but sympathy is certainly due to Sachin. Nomination to the Rajya Sabha is a pretty desultory substitute for someone who has been promised the Bharat Ratna. There are consolation prizes which console, and some which char the soul. Sachin did not ask for this honour. Delhi's politicians, ever eager to climb a bandwagon, led the clamour for Sachin's elevation to jewel of India after he got his 99th international hundred.

Perhaps Lady Macbeth's insightful law for crisis management, that if it were done 'twas best 'twere done quickly, works as much for assassination of Scottish kings as for the coronation of Indian icons. If Sachin had got his 100th century in a Test innings against England at Lord's or against Australia at Sydney, with style, and without dropped catches, the momentum for Bharat Ratna would have become irreversible. It is not quite as glamorous when you plod along till you finally reach Bangladesh, and then dither so much during the century match that India loses. The hero did not arrive on a flashing steed, laden with battle honours; he trotted in on a mule, the faint outline of a hidden crutch visible from the baggage. By the time Sachin conquered his Everest all that was left was grey above and fog below. You could hear a nationwide snigger scrape against the applause.

Sachin could also see what the rest of us did. The powers that be squirmed away from Bharat Ratna, leaving some sort of a thank you note behind. Membership of Parliament is a handsome freebie. But joy or depression is often relative; it depends on the starting point.

Sachin also had to consider the practical side. The daily allowance of an MP is "Rs 2,000 per day during any period of residence on duty", with an exotic entitlement of "Rs 16 per kilometre" as road mileage bonus. Don't bother to ask what Sachin's daily allowance from IPL is, and what happens to his bank account when he burns a few miles on the road. I wouldn't know how to calculate IPL remuneration, with or without the extras you get for being in the company of lollipops. If Parliament had any sense it would not hold its sessions during an IPL season, at least not if it wants Sachin Tendulkar to take an oath.

You will not, most regrettably, get paid for either pleasure, but where would you have rather been on Sunday the 13th of May, the 60th anniversary of India's Parliament? In the company of Lalu Prasad Yadav as he barrelled through increasingly tired and tiring jokes; or in the stands as David Hussey smashed the ball with a pirate's swagger? There was live and free coverage of both events. Which did you choose? If MPs want to find out the answer, they should sell advertising on Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha TV. A spot on Sachin's bat would cost more than SAIL's exclusive sponsorship of the Prime Minister's speech. Why blame Sachin if he prefers being in Bangalore to check out if Kingfisher can still fly rather than in Delhi among birds in borrowed feathers.

Parliamentary fundamentalists are upset that Sachin has not rushed to eat sugared toast and drink semi-sipid coffee in Central Hall. But no one has answered a basic question: What's the hurry? His nomination did not come with a sell-by date. Nor is Sachin in any haste to shake the nation and wake the Government with fiery oratory on the impending collapse of telecom infrastructure.

Svelte, buxom Rekha does not play cricket. That much is known. She took three weeks to appear before the decorous Hamid Ansari, chairman of the Rajya Sabha, to recite the few simple words that made her a distinguished member of India's most august House. I discount totally nasty suggestions that this delay was prompted by discomfort about the company she would have to keep. Nor did she have any worries about the script for the occasion; an adaab before Hamid Ansari is an easy glide for anyone who has opened the scene in Umrao Jaan. Rekha is a big girl now. But do you have any idea how long it takes for a big girl to decide what to wear on her big day? Have a heart. And if you cannot have a heart for a heartthrob like Rekha, then you are utterly heartless.

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