Silent Movie is a wonderful Hollywood comedy which released in 1976. The movie has no audible lines spoken by its characters, except one. Marcel Marceau, who was a noted mime artist of that era has the only speaking line in the movie: “Non!”.
Due to this the movie is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records and holds the record for having the fewest spoken lines of any movie which has sound. The irony of course was that the only character in the movie who spoke was the one who was not expected to speak at all, given that he was a mime artist.
In India, the Congress party works in exactly the opposite way as the Silent Movie. Its top two functionaries, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, rarely open their mouths, whereas the other leaders of the party speak all the time, speaking much more than they should, more often than not.
Rahul Gandhi ended his Silent Movie yesterday when he addressed the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), a lobby for big business in India, and spoke for 75 minutes straight. And from the various accounts that have appeared in the media today, he had them floored.
As far as first major stage performances go it wasn’t a bad act. While he wasn’t in the same league as Amjad Khan was in the 1975 mega hit Sholay he was not as bad as Armaan Kohli was in the 1992 mega dud Virodhi. He was somewhere in between. While he might have got his audience to laugh and clap, there wasn’t much substance or vision for that matter, in what he said.
His speech had a a holier than thou attitude, blamed everybody except the Congress party for the mess that India is today and had a very simplistic way of looking at things. Let me to elaborate.
At the beginning of his speech Rahul baba talked about the journey he made a few years back on the Lokmanya Tilak express from Gorakhpur to Mumbai (Lokmanya Tilak is a station in Mumbai at which many long distance trains coming from the Eastern part of the country terminate). “I spent a large part of the Thirty Six hour journey moving across the train and talking to travellers – youngsters, weary families, and migrants moving from the dust of Gorakhpur to the glitter of Mumbai. Took us Thirty Six hours. It is called an Express!”
Yes, the train takes 36 hours and is still called an Express. But the question is who is to be blamed for this? Between 1947 and 2013, the Congress Party has ruled India uninterrupted, for long periods of time. Gandhi’s great grandfather, grandmother and father were Prime Ministers of this country. His mother came close to being one, and still is the defacto prime minister of this country. So if an express takes 36 hours to complete a journey, I am sure we cannot blame Kapil Dev for it.
The fault lies with the Congress party, of which Rahul Gandhi is now the Vice President.
On a slightly different note, The Deccan Queen, a train that runs between Mumbai and Pune, now takes more time to complete the journey, than when it started in 1929.
Rahul baba’s blame game did not stop at this. Some time later in the speech he said: “I am a pilot. I learnt to fly in the United States, I came back. I wanted to convert my license. So I went to the DGCA and I asked what do I have to do. They gave me the curriculum, I opened the book. A large section in the book talks about how to drop mail from aero-planes. How many of you are getting your mail dropped from airplanes in the sky?…And it’s not only in pilot training, it’s everywhere. Look at our text books, open them out. Most of the stuff is not really relevant to what they are going to do.”
This is very true. Our education system sucks. It doesn’t encourage people to think. It encourages them to ratta maar (i.e. mug up) and go vomit it in the exams. It doesn’t make them employable. But the question, as earlier is, who is to be blamed for this? In case of Railways one can at least partly excuse the Congress party that given the compulsion of coalition politics the ministry has not been with the party for a while now. But what about the human resources development ministry which overlooks the education scenario in this country. That has always been with the Congress.
So was Rahul effectively trying to tell us that various human resources development ministers that the Congress has had over the years have been sitting on their asses doing nothing?
Rahul baba then went onto to dismiss China as a simplistic place. This was a very stupid thing to say. China has a history and a culture which is as old as India’s. Paper, ink, printing and paper money, things we take for granted now, where all invented in China. And such a country can be anything but simplistic.
He cited the example of a Chinese bus driver who ran over a pedestrian and then drove away immediately. The idea was to show the lack of accountability that prevails in China. I guess he has a very selective memory to say the least. Incidents like this happen regularly in India. And since he has chosen to forget let me remind him about what happened on December 16, 2012, in the city of New Delhi, where he lives. A twenty three year old woman was trying to get home but since the autorickshaw drivers of Delhi wouldn’t drop her, she along with a friend chose to take a bus. We all know what happened after that.
Since Rahul baba will be performing more and more in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections it is important he remembers a line written by Akhtar-Ul-Iman and spoken by Raj Kumar in the 1965 superhit Waqt, which goes like this: “Chinoi Seth…jinke apne ghar sheeshe ke hon, wo dusron par pathar nahi feka karte(Chinoi Seth…those who live in glass houses don’t throw stones at others).”
Rahul baba did not stop at this and he went onto further criticise China. China applies power in a blunt, obvious way, he said. On the other hand India applies power in a gentle, soft and supportive way, which works better in the long run.
But what he forgot to tell his esteemed audience was that since 1978, over the last 35 years, China has pulled out millions of its people out of poverty. This has been done at a very fast rate which has never been seen before in the history of mankind. As The Economist put it “In all it was Mr Gandhi who sounded rather simplistic about China. Anyone in the room might have pointed out China’s stunning successes in cutting poverty, improving health, promoting manufacturing and jobs, building infrastructure, and so on.” Also, it is important to remind Rahul baba here of a statement that John Maynard Keynes, the greatest economist of all time, once made: “In the long run we are all dead”. And that includes Rahul Gandhi as well.
And if all this wasn’t enough he assured Indian businessmen who had gathered in droves to listen to him speak that if a person could succeed in doing business in India, he could run a business “even on the moon”. Isn’t that a matter of shame that it is so difficult to do business in India? The Rahul Gandhi led Congress party has presided over the total loss of governance in this country.
Even with all this, lets give Rahul baba the benefit of doubt and believe that he is ready to cut himself out from the misdeeds of his ancestors and his party. He is ready to make a fresh start. So given that what are his ideas for India?
It is one thing hiring a good speech writer and making motherhood and apple-pie kind of statements like “A rising tide doesn’t raise people who don’t have a boat. We have to help build the boat for them.” It is another thing spelling out specifically how does he plan to go around building boats for people, so that they can use that and flow with the tide. And if he can’t do that in a speech and performance which lasted all of 75 minutes when else will he do it?
As The Economist puts it “Mr Gandhi could have spelled out two or three specific measures, ideally in some detail, that he would support—for example, getting an Indian-wide goods-and-services tax accepted; promoting investment in retail or other industries; or devising a means by which infrastructure could be built much quicker. If he were really brave, he might have set out thoughts on ending bureaucratic uncertainty over corruption, or on land reform.”
Rahul Baba was very emphatic in saying that “one man on a horse” cannot save India. That is definitely true. And even if one man on a horse could have saved India, Rahul baba wouldn’t have been riding it. That is for sure.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on April 5, 2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)