Round One To Tharoor !

Shashi Tharoor


There was so much to process this week but my vote goes to France’s new President, Emmanuel Macron. Not for dong the unthinkable and sweeping the polls, but for telling off the misogynists and homophobes. Political fortunes wax and wane but his stand about his personal life deserves an ovation especially considering the lack of attention given to Trump and Melania’s similar age gap, but with reversed genders.

Macron still takes second place to Canada’s bleeding heart, Justin Trudeau. Now if only all world leaders were as sensitive, erudite and endearing as these two.

Close to home, we do have an erudite politician in Shashi Tharoor but unlike Macron and Trudeau, his personal life has gone through the ringer.

India’s newly launched, Republic TV, last week did an expose on L’affaire Sunanda. Tharoor responded in his usual articulate manner using words that had me referring to my Oxford dictionary.Thanks to his command of the English language, I now know ‘farrago’ means a confused mixture.

His response made Republic’s coverage pale in comparison. Round one to Tharoor.

Talking about winning rounds and another victory with possible positive repercussions is the win of Moon Jae-in in South Korea. The world will watch with bated breath to see if he succeeds in his desire to initiate dialogue with North Korea and the US. I may still have the joy of playing with my grandchildren.

Trump decided against dialogue with former FBI director James Comey, who was fired in a shock move and only heard about his sacking on television. His minatory probe of Russian interference in the US elections is what seems to have unnerved the sententious US President. His Vice-President and White House scrambled to justify the sacking calling Trump a strong leader not averse to making bold moves. Apparently the firing was the advice of the US Attorney General and his newly appointed deputy. Another reason provided suggested Trump was unhappy with Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails. This despite Trump congratulating Comey over the Clinton emails. However, Trump has since contradicted his spokespersons and seems to indicate he was considering firing Comey regardless of any suggestion. It appears the Russian issue has been a factor.

It has been a triple whammy of firings by Trump.

What is interesting is the people fired; Preet Bharara, Sally Yates and James Comey, were all investigating his affairs with some Russia angle.

Talking about triple and the Indian Supreme court has begun a judicial exercise to decide on the legality of the triple talaq considering many Islamic countries have banned it. The move was triggered at the request of Shayaro Bano, who has questioned this defunct practice. Bano was abused during her marriage and was eventually divorced by a scribbled triple talaq declaration, on paper, that was mailed to her. For over a year now, she has been denied access to her children as a result of the talaq. While it is a landmark case, it is unfortunate she would still consider going back to a man who abused and tortured her. The Supreme court is wading into uncharted territory and it looks to be seen whether Muslim women in India will finally be given some dignity or if the court will decide it is a personal law and they have no jurisdiction.

Women’s issues brings to mind the Dove ‘real beauty’ campaign in support of empowerment but their latest campaign has backfired. They have designed a limited edition of Dove soap bottles in various shapes to emulate a woman’s body shapes. It is Dove’s way of telling women to embrace their body type.

The campaign has led to an angry outburst on social media with some people claiming it is about time women were not ensnared in the ‘beauty trap.’

Trapped is how I felt when I was stuck in the subway recently. The reason given was power outage in the area. I could not believe this was happening in New York City. I may as well have been in India. It was Sunday and I was joining friends for brunch. I had to wait twenty minutes before I got my train and it was packed like one of the Mumbai local trains. I pushed my way in because I was already late. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t got on that train. We were barely out of the station when the train stopped. Initially we were informed the train would resume momentarily and then they kept apologizing for the inconvenience citing power outage. It was cold outside but the train compartment got stuffy and eventually people started taking off jackets and requesting passengers for water. Fifty minutes later, we were shunted to the station we boarded from and I was back to square one. My brunch was a long lost cause. I was only grateful we did not have to get off in the tunnel and squeeze our way between wall and train, battling subway rats to make our way to a station. This was an experience I did not expect to have in this country.

Another experience I did not expect to have was at a recent off Broadway performance. Sleep no more was recommended by friends and I decided to go for the show along with a friend visiting from India. It was supposed to be a three -hour immersive experience of Macbeth but in just a couple of hours, two very bewildered ladies stumbled out of The McKittrick Hotel. I get noir and I understand the need for experiential and experimental theatre, but this was a bizarre production.

There was no explanation and we were left to blunder along between cavernous rooms, tiny spaces, up and down, in dim light and every once in a while we would catch a montage of a scene that meant nothing to us.

The idea seems to be to watch all these scenes and eventually put it together and construct the whole play.

It was deconstructed theatre that the viewer needs to reconstruct. But this is not explained to us at the outset. We spent the first forty-five minutes navigating rooms in the big warehouse and just marveling at the sets with no actor in view. The play is set over five floors and there is a bar and restaurant attached to the place. The tickets are not cheap and at $4 for the mandatory coat check, they make a pretty packet there too. After two hours, my friend and I decided to make a hasty exit and get some dinner instead. As we left the place, we were asked our opinion and confessed our confusion.

We were immediately offered a book for $20 that would give us clarity on our experience. The book is only available for purchase post the show and not before. If only it was the other way around, we would not have felt we were wasting our time wandering aimlessly. In any case, as much as I love experimental art, this is one show that is totally avoidable.

Not avoidable is this miserable cold and rainy weather. Next week seems to have sun on the radar. I cannot wait for summer to show its face.

Monique Patel

Monique Patel

Monika Patel – Monique to her friends – is now a permanent resident of New York City, but her heart is permanently in Pune, her home for 28 years.
Monique Patel

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