“Your hope is that the judiciary flings the beast against the hard wall. That’s your last call…”

A Conversation with Uncle Claus

* ‘Don’t forget that what goes round comes round. The wheel of fortune keeps turning… What goes up must come down”

* ‘Greed over need is the ruling impulse today. Mahatma Gandhi was right’

By TP Saran

Once again this year we have contacted our chubby friend Uncle Claus who has not been deterred by Mr Covid-19 to go on his Christmas peregrinations. In fact, as he tells us, he felt that ours is a safe destination! Coming from him, this is indeed a compliment. But mind you, he’s a sharp and smart grandpa – as he calls himself – and the happenings on the local scene haven’t escaped his sparkling eyes. He comes to cheer us up with his expansive love for all, but given what we have been going through recently, he had no choice but to make his magic wand a bit stiffer when applied to those who are messing up as he says. And he promises to come again in 2021 – for men may come and men may go, but he will go on beyond them…

* Miracle of miracles, here you are again, my dear Uncle. So glad to see you back after these past depressing months!

Well, I’m sure glad to be here too! You guys have done rather well in keeping the bug at bay haven’t you? Not quite Taiwan, which has just recorded one case of local transmission of Covid-19 after being free of it for so long. But as I was going around from on high in the skies I could see you people going about without the kind of fear that has grounded so many countries up north, which have been battling with wave after wave of the pandemic.

So I told myself that down here is the place to be for some sun and shine! Pity though that others are not as lucky as me – I have my sledge, they have to depend on airline passenger flights which have been stopped again!

* Please don’t get me wrong. But I thought they would cancel Christmas this year and did not expect you down here. You must have heard what Boris was saying to the Britons last Saturday about the latest havoc there…

Yes, I did, and his folks are not at all pleased, all Christmas plans having had to be effectively cancelled. But what can the poor guy do? He’s got a double whammy: negotiating the Brexit conundrum with the EU and dealing with the serious threat posed by the newly recognised mutant coronavirus: and here there’s no question of a Brexit-like no-deal, which is looking more and more likely. But that does not seem to be ruffling Boris, for I must say he’s pretty cool during his press conferences.

Anyway, not his fault that the corona has decided to morph isn’t it? Well, that’s what these invisible denizens of planet Earth keep doing all the time, nothing unusual for them. After all, if you deprive them of their normal habitat, then try to get at them with your vaccines or medicines they will do anything to get you too, normal isn’t it? They also want to have a life, too bad it’s by taking a ride inside your lungs!

So yea, Christmas is practically cancelled there. That is really hard on English folks, for whom Christmas is the most awaited moment in the calendar. Even Boris must be feeling bad, but he has no choice. Let’s hope that at least their turkey is Covid-free!

* Hopefully, though, they will be able celebrate their Xmas to some degree? 

Yes, I learnt that across parts of England, the mixing of households in Christmas “bubbles” will be restricted to just a single day on 25 December itself…

B.1.1.7 – that’s the code for the mutant – oblige! Seeing as I am here, thought I’ll show off a bit of my French… What to do, something’s better than nothing isn’t it, since there seems to be no other way to prevent the transmission of the disease from getting out of control. Too bad for grandparents in particular, most of whom are in assisted care homes anyway. Their grandchildren will sure miss them lots. Pray for better luck next year.

* Shows how much we value personal contacts isn’t it?

Indeed, what an irony that at a time when you really want to hug your loved ones and there’s so much expectation of catching up on the human warmth we have missed since the year’s beginning, we have had to be to be telling each other let’s not stay in touch in the literal sense

There’s real pandemic fatigue out there, that’s why I say you people are really much luckier here that families and friends will be able to be together, share meals, enjoy banter and make a lot of happy noise that has been absent for all these months! Why, I spied on some dinner-do’s in hotels on the coast, and who would say there’s Covid here! Still, that’s my advice, you have to be careful.

* Not to sound disrespectful, but you travel all over the world during the course of one night. I mean, in the context of a global pandemic, doesn’t that sound like the makings of a massive super-spreader event?

Ah, but you forget my friend. Haven’t I told you umpteen times before that I am a made-up fellow, what you would nowadays call virtual? Mind you, not fake – like fake news – but kind of real-unreal. Somewhat like corona itself, which needs humans to thrive and spread – unlike me since I am not one though I may look like one. Ergo, I cannot be a spreader let alone a super-spreader!

* Now I understand why you are not wearing a mask!

You’re crazy! With my flowing beard where would I have found a size that fits assuming i had to wear one! My trade-mark is laughter and cheer – I cannot afford to disappoint my faithful children by covering my face, you must agree! Poor little fellows, must bring the big smiles on their faces again.

* As you said yourself, we have been safe enough here as far as the pandemic goes, but I am sure you must be keeping a tab on what’s been going on, as you do anyway for all places you visit. So what have you been seeing and hearing?

You bet I have! Lots! You people have been keeping – or been kept! – quite busy I must say! Literally – with Covid-related side businesses generating much interest eh? Even if I don’t want to poke my nose into others’ affairs, can I escape being bombarded by the overload of information that spreads at the speed of thought all over the world in these days of the internet and the worldwide web, not to mention the ever present 24/7 social media buzzes and posts that spring from all over, hydra-headed?

And indeed the winds brought into my ken the juicy news of the goings-on down here. Like I said, I give you good marks for keeping the disease under control, but you did mess up in the nitty-gritty, didn’t you? I mean, why did you guys have to spoil your record by not following the proper procedures for sourcing your needed supplies of masks, medicines, ventilators and other paraphernalia? And the mind-boggling costs for, among others, ventilators that are not working from obscure companies that had nothing to do with medical supplies ever from what I gather.

That, I must say, is a sure goof-up that cannot be accepted anywhere in the world that I know of. Even when it is a matter of emergency – ‘cos everything has a limit. Remember Abe Lincoln’s ‘You can fool some of the people all the time,…’ ? I’ll leave the pleasure of completing the rest to those who ought to have known better. Maybe they’ll learn a lesson that is badly needed.

* But it’s got worse, and nastier, by the day. Surely you know about the latest and hottest news that has been in the forefront of the public domain?

Indeed I do, if it’s all over the place… how can I miss that! I am sure you are referring to what is being described as the dark series of serial suicides! Of people jumping off cliffs, hanging themselves from trees, of the young lady found dead in her apartment, or the body lying burnt in a sugarcane field which is the discovery that has triggered the series.

At least in the latter case it has been more or less established in court that this was not suicide but most likely murder. If this same conclusion is reached as regards the other cases too as the investigations and legal proceedings continue, then I am indeed very, very afraid for your country and people.

* How do you mean Uncle, you’re giving me the jitters now.

I genuinely hope I am very wrong, because I always come to bring good news and goodies for my kids. By the way when I say kids I do not mean only the youngsters, I mean everybody, ‘cos who doesn’t like a present? Even the big guys do!! Expensive ones like Gucci and Rolex that I cannot afford.

I have been around for a couple of hundred years, grandpa to all who live today. It is my nature to love all, big and small, and to spread love. That’s my job. I do not expect anything in return, I am only here to give gifts and go back with my big bag empty – except for all the love that I receive. Imagine how much that has added up to all these years. And that is why I am a jolly fellow, without any baggage.

* Uncle, this is going over my head. What are you getting at?

Let me be blunt, since I am grandpa: it’s like, we’ll do whatever we like with your money. That was initially. Now it’s like, with your body, too. Got me?

* But why?

Heard this sometime from one of your wiser police guys, who belonged to another era: ‘The lust for money is the bane of humankind’.

Mammon rules. There is a complete breakdown of the moral order. It’s grab, grab, grab. Any means will do. That is the state of affairs, because of the state of mind of those who couldn’t care less for the people, though they loudly shout that’s what they do!

Sometimes I begin to believe what I hear, that, for example, democracy is a system which allows the electorate to choose its dictators. And you are not unique. Look at what is happening in so many countries around the world and you will see that the observation is quite pertinent. It’s circles within circles of the privileged, the blue-eyed, those with occult connections. It’s better not to get trapped into such vortices which can lead to deadly consequences.

Greed over need is the ruling impulse today. Mahatma Gandhi was right.

* Where will all this lead to Uncle? Is our future doomed?

Well, you seem to have a vibrant civil society, many voices and opinions are heard. You have some very smart lawyers who have taken the bull by its horns. Your hope is that the judiciary gets on to the tail and flings the beast against the hard wall. The judiciary is your last call.

Don’t forget that what goes round comes round. The wheel of fortune keeps turning. The law of nature says that what goes up must come down.

* And what about the coronavirus then? By the way, did you manage to bring us some vaccines?

Sorry, I am not a magician! But you will surely get your own in due course, and from what the guys who are in the thick of the fight are saying the vaccine will help countries to see an end to their miseries. But billions of doses of vaccines will be needed, and that’s where the catch is. So how long for normal or near normal to return is your guess as well as mine. What is certain is that I’ll be back again next year same time, whatever the bug does.

For now, lemme go complete my round of the imaginary chimneys!

* OK Uncle, been nice seeing you cheery as always. Have a good sledge ride back to the melting snows! And merry Christmas too!

Sure, you too and thanks. See you Christmas 2021!

* Published in print edition on 25 December 2020

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