Uncle Claus Is Back

‘A little bit of smile and cheer, even if it’s short-lived. Here friend, that’s your gift, and don’t worry, it’s not fake…’ — By TP Saran

As usual, our collaborator TP Saran managed to catch hold of Uncle Claus on his annual visit down below and prod him to share some of his wisdom on a number of issues that caused concern in 2017. Jolly old chap that he is, he was most willing to spare some time for us, and also take a break before he began to distribute his goodies. His is one of the few voices of sanity left. Read on…

Hi there, old mate, so glad to see you again!

You bet! I am the one who should be thankful to be here. Told you last year – or was it earlier? – that these guys up north want to boot me out of a job with their melting polar snows. Thank goodness there’s still enough left that I can at least make meself an igloo, but I do worry how long this will last though. Anyways, so how’s you guys doing down here, still good eh?

Not bad, but not as well as you do. Your proverbial happy gait is, as usual, an encouragement. And you really look as good as new… How do you do that, mate?

Tell you what, my little secret. Diet and yoga. We don’t grow any vegetables as you know, so it’s reindeer meat for breakfast, reindeer for lunch and reindeer for dinner! Lean meat, no fat, perfect according to the medicos. And when this dynamo called Narendra Modi called for an International Yoga Day at the UN, I was there listening. And then I got on to it. Tell you what, check on the latest Harvard Medical School experts’ An Introduction to Yoga, their latest manual on yoga and its wonderful healing powers and benefits. Tone and strengthen your body while you lower blood pressure… ease back pain… reduce the risk of heart disease … and improve your memory with YOGA – that’s what they recommend, and I’ve been at it for a couple of years. Try it out if you wanna feel like me!

But say, before I start my rounds, what’s the latest news down here?

The news? Well, the latest has been this game-changing electoral contest, which saw the election of Old Satcam’s son. You remember Old Satcam, don’t you? Nice bloke!

Of course I do, been around longer than him, haven’t I. Sure, he was a nice bloke, and his son has caught on too. He had a good pen too didn’t he? Remember the article he wrote about culling bats that were – and still are – ravaging your litchi and mango trees, and the furore that caused among the animal activists? Don’t forget to give me my share of litchis before I leave will you.

No problem Uncle and, yes, indeed, he was also the one who pulled out the old ‘people’s party’ from the dustbin of history… only to hand it over to the new chap on the block…

Perhaps he was hoping for a revival of Labour and he thought new blood could trigger that. It did happen for a while isn’t it, with the new chap, but somehow his energies seem to have got dissipated elsewhere down the line. Did power go to his head?

Well, he had been pretty restless for some time, but he now seems to be doing better…

Well, dare I say, he’d better be doing better, shouldn’t he? I mean, after what you have called this game-changing by-election on last Sunday at No. 18 constituency. It may not have been a tsunami, but however you look at it, you cannot deny that Satcam’s son has given a good account of himself, and he is the new chap on the block and the result of that bout has certainly set a new trend, call it revival or whatever you like. So his leader, the old-new chap on the block, if I may put it this way, should give him more breathing space and they should form a tandem for a true revival of their party, sustain the tempo, organise on the ground after revamping their internal workings, and come up with a concrete road map for their onward march towards 2019. But that demands a new mindset, a recalibrated focus, commitment and passion…

Commitment? Passion? Come on, mate, It’s a different world… you know that, don’t you?

Yes, commitment to finding genuine solutions to the people’s woes, not mere rhetoric. And passion too, but not passions! Have seen enough of the latter and its consequences, keep them private for heaven’s sake and out of the country’s affairs. Sorry to harp on the point, but a new sense of morality is needed, otherwise it’s the old ways again, and that will not do.

Wrong again, mate, you’ll see that only amongst the nameless folks, the proverbial silent majority doing their duty quietly and selflessly, without fanfare…

You could say that again! It’s the same all over the world, and thank goodness for that lot, who are the true pillars of society, the ones who sweat and endure the toil, although it’s the guys at the top who get the name and fame. That said, though, the other old guys on the block too seem to be on the slide, like the chronic opposition man.

Yes, he is equally in a tight spot, the old moustachioed chap, growing older. He’s increasingly being left in the lurch – the ‘carreau canne’ — for the past 12 years. And seems like it’s getting worse by the day!

Well, you wouldn’t like to be in his place would you, losing seven elections in a row? How cocksure he was, as always, affirming without batting an eyelid at his tiresome Saturday fest that his party the MMM was forging ahead for an assured victory. He miscalculated, just as he did in his choice of candidate.

You mean to say the people know better? Come on, mate, these guys have in one way or another contributed their bit. We know that, you don’t.

Sure, they have, but we always underestimate the people don’t we? But we are not the ones who invented the ‘peuple admirab’ line, they are the ones who did, So, vox populi vox dei, full stop!

I would say the people are as opportunistic as the men they choose to guide their destiny… until such time as they decide that their time is up. That’s all there’s to it, like everywhere else, isn’t it?

Up to a point yes, but there’s this new awareness that people won’t allow leaders to impose decisions on them. You may call it populism, but it is another way for people to say that they are no longer prepared to swallow every canard. Look at what’s happening to Angela Merkel, she may have won, but she’s having a hard time forming a new government, and there’s even the possibility of a new election. Could you have imagined that in Germany of all places? But there you are, there’s a new reality, and societies are yearning for more stability and less disruptions, although it’s disruptive – but not subversive – forces that will bring about the change.

Like what happened in our by-election to those other chaps? Anyway they have been given their marching orders, and the earlier they get going the better it’ll be for our serenity… and hopefully for the better.

They will not go away so easily, the lure of the goodies and spoils of power is too… powerful. They will try to make a comeback, and that’s where the talk of reinvention and reform must not remain just talk and must be not only acted upon but be seen to be acted upon. Therein only lies your ‘hopefully for the better’ – but will it come about? If it does not, the people will no longer be prepared to wait another five years before they speak their minds.

Well, these things happen… like everywhere else, in the US and Europe, which always pose as the example of everything good and beautiful . All the beautiful ladies there seem to be waking up to the very belated conscience prick of having kept mum to roving hands…

Ah, Harvey Weinstein demolished! This exposure of the muck behind the glowing facade of Hollywood has been a real eye-opener, I agree. And then the #MeToo tsunami that followed. You must accept that it has required tremendous courage on the part of these ladies to come out in the open.

What’s the big deal? That’s the fun of life…

I beg to differ. It’s a hard life out there, the glamour is superficial, it hides a lot of not only hard work but what all they have to undergo in terms of sexism and harassment.

Right. But pretty sure there’re lots of publicity stunts in there…

Agreed, that’s part of it I am afraid. I do feel much despair at times, at the state of the world. But it’s all man-made isn’t it, it’s you guys who cannot come to terms with each other, who are always on the lookout for cheap fame. You have elevated fake to real, what can I do? After all, didn’t you invent me!!

Well, talking of fakes, whatever you might say about King Trump, the guy is up and doing…

It will take some time to make out whether this is a case of populism gone wrong. He sure is a disruptor. Unfortunately he seems bent on upsetting everybody around in so doing. I don’t like to make predictions, too early to say. He’s being true to himself, and to the constituency that took him to where he is – see his latest tax bill, has been approved and passed, the only piece of legislation that he has managed to enact in one year. More tax breaks for the renters, the rich and superrich. But he is also sparring with the North Korean President, another one whose similar belligerence is keeping him in the news. And going after the formidable institutions that have been the bulwarks of the US – FBI, the Pentagon, the judiciary…

Yeah, true, he seems to believe that no news about him is bad news.

Are Kim Un Jong and he of a kind? Looks like that to me. But they are not the only ones though.

Yes, you’re right Santa, this thing called power that drives men’s brains and libido crazy. Remember old Mugabe kicking in when he was past 72 and falling for a 31 years old bird…

And she’s already left him! Too bad, between the two of them they have left their country in ruins. Real example of power gone to the head and foisted upon his people in its most extreme and violent form. Just don’t be too sure it cannot happen here either. But mind you, the top 1% are part of the game too! Aren’t they also accumulating at the expense of the people, the sacrificial lambs?

Otherwise, what will the world look like next year? We had been warned last year not to expect 2017 to be a year of restful stability. Rightly so.

True, it wasn’t. But it’s all in your hands, in the hands of the people and their leaders. Like it or not, it’s the leaders who must heighten their sense of responsibility and morality. No apologies if this sounds patronising, but it’s the fundamental. The people look up to them, and they must not betray the people through rhetoric and unrealistic promises that cannot be fulfilled. Sincerity and truthfulness must figure high on any agenda. Sadly, little chance though for this on the horizon in 2018.

Well, I won’t be around, but I fear for the kids. You know, these things they have been talking about: job market revolution and new types of occupations, artificial intelligence taking over… game-changing disruptions.

I must end on a cliché, since I am not an expert in those things: let’s wait and see. Meanwhile, I will concentrate on what I am best at – bring a little bit of smile and cheer, even if it’s short-lived. Here friend, that’s your gift, and don’t worry, it’s not fake. Ha ha! See you next year! Tata…


*  Published in print edition on 22 December 2017

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