9 April 2008
No Holds Barred
By Ashali Varma
Once upon a time we had a leader who fasted for our independence and for peace. He was not into birthday bashes and cakes; rather he was concerned about poverty and lived like the poor. And in France there was a Queen, whose famous words, “Let them eat cake,” when she was told there was no bread for the starving millions, eventually led to her head being chopped off.
Going by present day media reports we now have leaders who want their cake and eat it too. Mayawati and now Sheila Dikshit seem to like big birthday bashes where sycophants and party colleagues arrive with lots of cake and presents, while farmers in another part of India commit suicide because they are in debt and millions of children all over this vast land are mal-nourished.
What impression does this give to the public at large who voted them in? Is conspicuous consumption something our leaders want to highlight at birthday bashes? It is difficult to understand what makes them tick. Mayawati’s birthday bash does not surprise one, after all it is in character of someone who can openly say that the crores she has accumulated were presents by people who love her. But one really thought Madam Dikshit was of another caliber altogether.
One would have thought she would tell all her friends and colleagues, “Look folks the best way you can celebrate my birthday is not with cakes and gifts but give cheques made out to a deserving women’s shelter or a poor school or a hospital. I will even tell you which ones.” We have so many of those in Delhi and some are so run down and in need of money. Surely, our leaders can set a precedence by some good gestures even if in their heart of hearts they feel “Charity begins at home.”
And instead of a photo in the Times of India showing an obscenely big cake being cut at a birthday bash, the media would write feel good stories about the charities that were funded. Now what a vote getter that would be!