I stood aghast, when the local Congress speaker, who
used to emit fire and brimstone, entered the portals
of 'Connaught,' my uncle's mansion. Times without number,
this speaker used to condemn, my uncle! 'Avaricious—Aggressive—Arrogant—Showy'—these
were the milder epithets; the Congress speaker used
to bang off uglier terms. And his fame rose because
of this vituperation.
Of course uncle had certain traits not worth emulating.
He was keen on making money and all means were the same
to him. "Fools would falter, not the wise"—
he used to say and like the man-eater, the moment he
spotted out his prey, he would pounce on him and tear
him to pieces.
When the whole town was up against White domination,
uncle stood aloof and even against the national movement—
and he requested the District Collector, to name his
mansion as 'Connaught' — just to insult those who organised
the boycott of the Duke of Connaught.
And naturally, I was mildly shocked when I found the
local 'fire-brand' entering 'Connaught', smiling.
I should inform you at once — I was allowed the luxury
of 'uncling' this rich, old man; but in life. I was
but a poor relative — a distant relative.
Uncle had his heir-apparent in Mr.Raj Bahadur— an irresponsible
young man — who knew how to enjoy life. He was an adept
in the very charming and profitable art of winning over
the weaker sex, and though Vaira Mani, my uncle's only
daughter, had a strong physic, she had such a soft mind,
that Mr.Raj had no difficulty at all in winning her.
Servants giggle and say, that he actually fell at her
feet and won the game!
Mr. Raj did not only net Vaira Mani, but by cajoling,
he even won the affection of this rich uncle of mine.
My uncle on seeing the Congress fire-brand entering
'Connaught' suppressed his smile, and greeted him rather
coldly. But the Congress speaker, bubbled with enthusiasm,
and began unfolding his plans.
The Municipal Elections were fast approaching — and
as an ex-chairman, my uncle was naturally interested
in that. Of course he refrained from election contests;
'I have had my day, and I have other fields to take
care of’—was his farewell speech.
Mr. Raj Bahadur evinced no interest at all in politics
or business. My uncle had a number of firms, well-organised
and profit-yielding. But Mr.Raj Bahadur used to merely
sniff at the very mention of the word, business, and
Vairam lent her support to that attitude.
"If only Raj takes to politics, well, he could
become a minister, one day—he has the necessary push"
my uncle used to confide in me, sometimes.
But I knew that no party with a principle could take
Raj in its fold! He derided all parties and denounced
all principles, and he was not willing to get the label
of an independent.
"If you are really independent" Raj used to
argue, "you should never enter a field where there
are set rules and regulations. You lose your Independence!"
So, his choicest friends gave up all hope of seeing
him become the chairman of the Municipality, and there
was this added reason, the local Congress speaker, was
vehemently opposing the 'clique at Connaught.'
"So long as the Congress hold on the people is
strong, this 'exploiter' cannot, and dare not, enter
the Municipality. These are days, when such places are
reserved for those who have served the public"—
the fire brand would thunder forth.
But, what is this— he enters 'Connaught' smiling. Uncle's
eyes were twinkling and my heart throbbing.
"He is your man—and our candidate—satisfied?"
asked the canvassing agent of the Congress camp. My
uncle was a bit dumb-founded— "Well" said
my uncle, "how is it that my man has become your
candidate? Does that mean that you have converted him
to your way of thinking?',
"Still, the same old cold logic!"— the canvassing
agent was jocular. "In politics, Sir, logic alone
is not enough. You have to be a bit practical. Not that
I decry theories. They are good in a sense — but one
ought not to be fettered, you know." The agent
thought, he was offering the explanation. My uncle refused
to munch that, and insisted on an explanation.
"It is like this. Here is a problem—on the face
of it, difficult—puzzling too. We want our party to
win, in the Municipal elections. And your man wants
to and is determined to win! And he has got a hold too
over the people. And you are of course here, ready to
offer your co-operation. Your man, then is the one who
is sure to win! Then what? We adopt him as our candidate!
Simple! May be, we are unmoral — but we have to register
a victory. If we want to be logical, moral and the like,
we have to choose, Mr. Gandhidoss — yes—the one who
spent some seven years in jail — yes! yes! — he was
beaten black and blue by the police during the Salt
Satyagraha. Heroic days! But, Mr. Gandhidoss, had no
chances at all. He is held in very high respect by Congressmen,
but their number is dwindling. More over Mr.Gandhidoss,
is a sort of person — a sort of simpleton. He knows
not the art of cajolery, never cringes, and above all,
he has no money. So he has absolutely no chance. What
to do? Well, cut the Gordian knot! I approached your
man and requested him to become 'my party man' and he
has accepted. So, victory is assured."
"But, what did Mr.Gandhidoss say? He will refuse
to be party to this sort of combination."
"Of course, he was against this combination. That
is but natural. But I sent word to the 'Higher-ups'
you know. And they have sent in their 'orders' — in
my favour. Mr.Gandhidoss dare not disobey— he has been
such a loyal Congress worker, all these long number
of years. He registered his protest, but promised to
obey the orders. Moreover, the 'higher ups' placed a
plan before him.
"Mr. Gandhidoss!" they wrote "for a sincere
and staunch Congress-worker, elections are not an important
affair at all. What is most important is, the 'Constructive
side'— the Gandhian path. Only men imbued with the Gandhian
philosophy can realise this truth and work towards that
path. Hence we would request you to leave these elections,
to be managed by the special committee constituted for
that purpose, and go to the villages, start Ambar Charka
classes." That was enough! Mr. Gandhidoss has gone
to the villages, with Ambar Charkas; so his objection
has become for all practical purposes, a dead-letter."
"So, my man has got a sure chance?"
"Yes, my party man is sure to win."
"No opposition, I suppose?"
"Can't say that. There is some opposition — from
"The D.M.K.? Oh! They would expose these combinations.
"They could—let them, but they cannot withstand
"But, pray, how can I answer their charges? The
public are bound to be vigilant — even angry."
"The public? Of this ward? What a thought! Only,
last month, your name was on the lips of everybody here,
they were all praise for your pious and generous act—the
'Kumbabishekam.' We have but to mention this one fact—
all opposition would melt away."
"You are a cunning chap! Cunning!"
"Another name for diplomacy!"
"But will not some of your own camp, object to
this kind of diplomacy?"
"Let them! My verdict is final in this issue. Those
who object can do nothing."
"They may resign as a protest."
"Let them—the whole lot of Congressmen in Kanyakumari
sector have resigned—including the Veteran Nesamani.
And there are ways of mending such cracks—and the 'higher-ups'
know that art. It is their job."
"So you here create 'cracks', leaving the 'mending'
business to those at the 'higher levels'"
"Yes! A sort of division of labour".
"But the D.M.K. is bound to place all these facts
before the public".
"What if? In your ward there are 1200 voters—your
relatives alone are some 400! Your intimate friends
are of an appreciable number. And the rest ... Oh! Need
I be plain, blunt .... you know them ...!"
"So votes are to be got!"
"That is the easiest and surest way!"
"But a bit costly .... "
"Should you be anxious about that? Your application
for the new route is pending, you remember."
"But the other applicant also has got similar influence,
I am told."
"True, to a certain extent—but this is your golden
opportunity; win this election and prove to the 'higher-ups'
your popularity, influence, and importance."
"That counts, you say."
"Why not! And what other measuring rods are there,
now-a-days. There were in those days, other kinds of
measuring rods. Jail-going, braving the bayonets and
the like. Those days are gone for ever."
"Those days are gone, you say—but men of Mr.Gandhidoss's
type still harp on the old tune."
"That is habit—and that is needed too some times."
"In short a sort of double-dealing... people would
call it as even hypocrisy."
"Hypocrisy! That is another name for diplomacy!"
And after sipping coffee, the Congress speaker, took
leave of my uncle.
"What do you say? Here is the fire-brand offering
of Congress ticket to my son-in-law" my uncle exclaimed.
"A sensational offer!" I had to play the second
"Fool! He still thinks that it is because of his
generosity that my man gets the Congress ticket."
"He said that. He wants the Congress to win—hence
has to choose our Raj Bahadur" I explained.
"I was giving a patient hearing. I lose nothing
by that you know. But the truth is something else. This
Khadi-wallah has not offered a seat; he was forced to
concede that seat."
"For what reason?" I asked.
"Guess, if you could! Young man, guess the reason"
challenged my uncle.
I thought over it for a pretty long time but could not
spot out the reason. And my uncle was happy at that.
"Oh! You simpleton; I may be an ex-Chairman, but
not ex-everything, you remember. You know the garden
party I arranged at 'Connaught' when the British Magnate
came here. It impressed him very much, and more than
that, 'Connaught', I told him the history behind the
Mansion, and the Minister who came along with the magnate,
endorsed my statement. Naturally the magnate was pleased.
"He seems to be happy—please speak to him about
our request for a loan; he could exert his influence
and get it from the Cabinet,' said the Minister.
“I am always at your service', I had to say.
“I will not forget this', the Minister promised.
“And he did keep his promise—by sending special instructions
to this fire brand! Do you understand, you fool!"
my uncle explained with pardonable pride.
The whole town spoke, in different, tunes of course,
about the sensational offer.
To perfect the arrangement, my uncle sent word to the
Congress fire-brand, of course, through me, that the
post of General Manager of Gajapathi Transport would
be his—an offer lucrative as everyone knows—provided
the application pending is attended to.
I am sure, both the happy events are sure to take place,
but I am not certain as to which will come first—Chairmanship
for Bahadur, or the inauguration of Gajapathi transports.