"Here's one more reason I could never have been a politician!" my friend said with a sigh, tossing the newspaper at me.
"Why? What is it now?" I replied, amused at the renewal of a long forgotten debate.
As it is, this particular friend of mine was quite well known in our college days for his leadership qualities and for his prowess as an orator.
'This fellow is a born leader. He has a great future in politics!' was a common opinion.
Gradually he too began toying with the idea of joining politics. Somebody introduced him to a well-known senior politician and after a couple of meetings my friend was convinced that he had found a godfather. For a couple of years, the great man made every possible use of my friend. Then, what with a failing eyesight, his stomach ulcers giving him a constant pain, his heart threatening to strike work at the slightest provocation, coupled with certain delicate domestic difficulties (an unfaithful third wife, a drug-addict son and a daughter's elopement!); the great man started getting bouts of piousness and an occasional awakening of his long dormant conscience.
It was during one such interlude that he advised my friend to forget about politics.
"I am sorry, son, for dashing your hopes but you just are not cut out for politics. I know, I know…" he cut through my friend's protestations. "I know I led you on all these years. That was just selfish of me. I made use of you like I have used people all my life. I am a weak and emotional old man now and have become somewhat attached to you… This is the truth, son, forget about politics. You don't have it in you…you are too honest and straightforward!"
A few days after this 'moment of truth', the great man's diseased heart finally ground to a halt, ceasing all covert and overt operations. My friend took his death (as well as his words) to his heart and buried whatever hopes he had of a career in politics along with his godfather. I had completely forgotten about my friend's brief dalliance with politics. That is till yesterday, when he threw the newspaper at me and said, "Here's one more reason I could never have been a politician!"
"Why? What is it now?" I replied, amused at the renewal of this debate.
"Arithmetic! Maths! You know I have never been good at numbers and figures!" he said.
"So what has that to do with politics?" I couldn't quite see the connection.
"Everything!" he said. "Politics has become a number game. Don't you watch all those live telecasts of proceedings in the Assembly (or the Parliament for that matter)?"
I shook my head. "I prefer to watch politicians only in hindi movies. At least there the good guy manages to get the better of them ultimately and, what is more even gets away with beating the hell out of them!"
"Don't you read the newspapers even?" he persisted.
"Well of course I do! What of it?" I still didn't quite get the thrust of his conversation.
"It's all about numbers! No politician worth his salt can be ignorant about what number constitutes majority, what constitutes minority and how many make a nuisance! Or anytime, any 'uncomfortable' issue come up for debate it is statistics that smother the life out of it. For instance, somebody brings up the electricity issue. The concerned public representative takes out a sheaf of papers and starts to reel out numbers. The electricity produced (numbers), used (numbers), pilfered (numbers), deficit (numbers), future plans (numbers) and on and on and on… By the time you add, subtract, divide, multiply, apply the square root and the logarithm, all those numbers make you quite numb, and anyway by then the question hour is over. Or take this debate about the Dal Lake. Again a mind-boggling series of numbers…the number of encroachments removed, subtract the number tolerated (you can't beat them all!), divide by the numbers planned for demolition; multiply by the ones likely to come up again… the figures stretch to infinity!"
He was really warming up to the issue! "The most amazing application of numbers is to life and deaths…say the number of killings during different regimes, no unsavory details just neat numbers! Only 21 killings as compared to the 35 of this previous time period…21 and 35… 35 minus 21, i.e., 14 less! No gory details but a definite statistical improvement and hence an achievement. How would it be without numbers?! Take these 21… no just take the 1 out of it. It is likely that this particular number had a name, had walked and talked, smiled and cried, had had dreams and aspirations. May be 'it' had an aging mother or a young wife dependant upon 'it'. Numbers are so precise! No unsavory details, as you can see, like whether 'its' old father buried 'it' or was it his toddler son who threw the dirt into 'its' grave. Numbers don't bleed and so don't create a mess either. Numbers don't stare at you with lifeless eyes either…"
His enthusiasm infected me as well. "What are these fractions here?" I asked.
"I don't know," he replied with a shrug. "Maybe they represent children who get killed?" he added as an afterthought.
"Numbers are so fascinating. And it requires a lot of genius to deal with them." He sighed and added wistfully, "No! I could never have made it in politics. I never had a head for numbers…"
Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at firstname.lastname@example.org)