‘Your country’s leadership does seem to need younger and as focused guys as the young ‘old man’!’

A Conversation with Uncle Claus

As he does every Christmas, Santa Claus was again on his annual visit to our beautiful island. Once again TP Saran caught up with his familiar pal and sounded him about the goings on around us. As usual, Santa seems to know a lot and his memory is inexhaustible it would seem! And his insights compel us to think about what the future holds, in spite of his remarks made in a light vein, but they have dead serious implications for us…

* Hey, Uncle Santa! What a nice surprise!

Why surprise? You are surprised to see me at Christmas? But I am here every year my friend, ain’t I?

* Sure I do, but I thought that with all this business of climate change, the COP 21 at Paris recently. Were you there by the way?

You bet!

* How come nobody noticed you, that’s simply not possible!

Well, I made myself invisible, à la HG Wells’s The Invisible Man if you get what I mean, ‘cos I had no choice isn’t it? Can you imagine, me being there as ‘normal’ Santa? That would have sent more jitters among the big guys assembled there.

* Why? You think so?

They would have heaped all the blame on me for the snows melting at the North Pole for all you know and I might have been hooted, and booted out!

* Come on Santa, you are being too dramatic. Everybody loves you so much, no one would have dared to do that! But what made you go there in the first place?

I have my fears too, can’t you see? What’s going to happen to me once the glaciers are gone and there is no more snow? What about me ‘riding through the snow, in a white-horse open sleigh, jingle bells, jingle bells, laughing all the way’ ?

* Oh my! Now I get it, you’re right.

Of course I am! It’s my very existence that is in question, what with all the carbon dioxide that the 7 billion of you are causing to be added to the atmosphere everyday and increasing the earth’s temperature. Despite the optimism at the COP 21 after they signed their final document, I could sense that there was still uncertainty about being able to stop this trend of global warming, let alone reverse it.

* So what are you saying then Santa?

I’m cooked that’s what my friend! On the other hand…

* Yea, go on.

Perhaps I ought not to be worried, really.

* Oh, how come?

Well, I am a fabrication ain’t I? A tale that was born in the cold snowy north and has captured the imagination of the whole world. I am aware that today’s smart kids know that there is no Santa Claus that delivers gifts through the chimneys – which your local houses and so many hundreds of millions of others don’t have anyway — and that it’s parents who get them the gifts. Nevertheless I am real enough what do you say, at least I am not a lie: I make good, lovable fiction!

* I will grant you that Santa. I for one would like you to continue till kingdom come despite being fictional. How about that?

Here, that’s great, lemme give you a hug! I feel comforted now, never mind climate change!

* Yeah, indeed. After all, your jolly, rotund persona does sprinkle a little magic dust on childhood, and that’s what childhood is about. And never mind that many parents as well go with the tale and don’t spoil the magic for their kids.

Any way I can help to make you guys feel good even if for a short while, I am happy to do that. But what I can’t help you with is the kinds of horrors, lies and tales that have been seen down here during this past year, and these are for real!

* A different kind of climate change if you allow me to use this term! Indeed, we have had a pretty tumultuous year as you have pointed out yourself.

Certainly, and not all to the credit of the country. I do not know whether this is the kind of change that you people had expected after the December 2014 election, because there seems to be disenchantment settling in?

* You seem to know more than many of us Santa!

Well, you know I travel the world, and I do keep an eye at what’s happening all over. I am tired of wars and corruption and wars against corruption and financial scams and messy politics and terrorist attacks and …

* Wait, wait Santa! That’s too much for me to take in! You mean to say it’s a really rotten world?

I am sorry to sound pessimistic, but then you expect some decent people to behave decently, to lead by example but see what is happening in so many places, and there are examples of such misdemeanours, defaultings, daylight robberies, fooling of innocent people here too aren’t there?

* Could you clarify Santa? Like what?

Since I am from northern climes, let me start there. Have you been following the FIFA scandal? FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini ( who does not need any introduction) have just been found guilty of fraud and conflict of interest and have been suspended for a period of 8 years from the organization. What does this say for probity and honesty on the part of the high and the mighty? And yet these people are so wealthy that you wonder why they need more, and at their age! Of course they’re going to appeal the decision which is their right, but what signal does this send to others around the world, especially young people who are looking for role models?

* I couldn’t agree more with you there Santa.

You’d better, and your own country has its lot of muck flying about too haven’t you? Paradise lost? I love you guys so much I wouldn’t like to carry this impression with me but I cannot help it can I?

* You’re referring to the events during the year?

Of course I am. Again the high and mighty! The BAI Ponzi schemes that were exposed in Parliament by no less that your Finance Minister, the controversies and contradictions about the setting up of the National City Bank and the employment therein of cadres from the former Bramer Bank and even the BAI, the amounts of taxpayer’s money that have gone into the bailing out of various schemes and so on.

* Yea, but that’s part of what has been called cleaning up – le grand nettoyage — and it’s going to be good for the victims and for the country eventually isn’t that so?

Eventually. One year down the line, the Chairman of BAI is still ensconced in his Paris flat, whereas he was supposed to be brought back to face charges. And what about the charges that have still not been framed against the ex-Prime Minister, who seems of late to be on some sort of roller-coaster ride after his first big public sortie at Belle Rive on the occasion of the birth anniversary of his father late SSR in September last?

* You do really keep in touch with things don’t you, despite so many countries that you visit.

Tell you what, don’t tell the guys, but I flew to Hollywood recently and I got the ‘Star Wars’ team to fit me with a smarter memory chip! Not a fool me, you know!

* Of course not, we make two of a kind eh!!

Ok ok I will grant you that! I learnt that down here it’s getting from bad to worse, even unbearable…

* Because after a promising start, there is a perception that things seem to be stalling.

Yes, I have learnt that too. The people were intelligent enough to see through the ploy and the agenda of the MMM Supremo and his off-on partner – in line with what is like the MMM’s DNA – to keep themselves in power at all costs, with their machiavellian proposal for electoral reform and a tampering with the Constitution for a very dubious power-sharing formula. You could say the country had a lucky escape.

* Was saved?

Too soon to say, I am not in the game of predictions. After all, even the winning Alliance Lepep cobbled at the last minute was stunned by the overwhelming victory they won.

* And the defeat of the MMM-LP couple as astounding?

Everybody is agreed on that right? And equally astounding, but not surprising, was the immediate divorce announced publicly and unilaterally by the Supremo after the results were out, putting the blame absolutely and squarely on LP and its leader, especially the latter. Again, part of MMM’s DNA, I would think.

* Very astute Santa. Be careful you are not barred entry in future!

You know jolly well no one can stop me. Didn’t I say everybody simple lu…uuuves me, on both sides of the divide? After all, they keep jumping in and out of their political beds don’t they? But I am out of all this, I simply luv everyone, that’s why I can say what I say for their own good. If they don’t want to take heed, that’s not my problem.

* Sure.

Hadn’t I said so many times before don’t mix pleasure with politics, don’t bring money and women in? But who listened?

* So women and money are evil?

Never! It’s the one who wields power who has to know where to draw the line, to help and not to exploit. If you exploit women, you will get it.

* But the woman?

Like all business people, cunning and shrewd. They know how to manipulate politicians, overtly and covertly. Everywhere it’s the same story. Silvio Berlusconi’s escapades were there in the public domain: why were no lessons learnt?

* Dunno Santa, you tell me?

I guess you got the French influence, mistresses are part of the folklore, accepted.

* But the guy has made his mea culpa, in public, and says he has been forgiven?

Perhaps that’s what has pumped him into a buoyant and fighting mood, despite his protracted tangles with the law. And he has taken over the reins of his party again after a somewhat ugly episode.

* I did say you seemed to know so much!

Smart memory chip, didn’t I say! And I also know the ‘old man’ is back, firmly in the saddle, one year already, bidding his time for the lad. Pity he has to bear the burden at this age, if only his chosen successor could match some of his energy! Maybe this fellow could accompany the ‘old man’ on his next trip to Kerala is it, to be pepped up and be as clear-headed and determined. Grow younger, and be as ever ready as him to put up a good fight!

* You could say that again!

Indeed I will! The country’s leadership does seem to need younger and as focused guys as the young ‘old man’! The younger crowd have some lessons in pragmatism and focus to learn from him.

* But aren’t there some excesses that are being tolerated, like in relation to good governance?

Am no expert on this, but if there are such excesses then the people will sanction at the next election.

* But the damage is done to institutions and to reputations in the meantime Santa, what about that?

Well, people in the know must voice out fearlessly, let there be open discussions, true exchange of views on all these crucial matters. Call yourself a genuine democracy? Then let all winds blow, why fear any!

* Sounds sensible to me. Let’s hope that everyone concerned will, as you have wished, take heed Santa. Be seeing you next year again then, so off you go on your round of the world my dear friend. Remember, for me you really exist!

So nice of you to accept me! Cheers and here, take your gift, a nice little broom to keep sweeping clean! See you next year!


* Published in print edition on 25 December 2015

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