By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
Famed actor Arnold Schwarzenegger posted a photo of himself sleeping on the street under his famous bronze statue and wrote, “How times have changed.” He was trying to make a point that how the hotel which he had inaugurated as a Governor of California had gone back on their promise of a free stay as soon as he lost his post.
He bought a sleeping bag and stood underneath the statue and slept. Trying to teach everyone that when you are “important” in the people’s eyes, everyone is your friend. But once you do not benefit their interests you won’t matter. You are not always who you think you will be always. “Nothing lasts forever.”
What an important lesson on life. This is so true for all of us in our life. Arnold could easily afford to stay in the hotel but he wanted to prove a point that how people make promises when dealing with person in power and conveniently forgets about it when out of power.
In the seventies, post-Aradhana days, Rajesh Khanna, the first superstar of Indian cinema, visited Bangalore and stayed in Ashoka, the first five-star hotel of Karnataka.
He was the darling of the masses. About 500 girls from the nearby Mount Carmel College landed in the hotel and literally gheraoed him. You would not believe, he was chased all over the lobby, hugged, kissed and literally molested. Shirt torn, he literally ran for his life. The same actor ten years later was walking up and down the lobby of the hotel and not one soul approached him even for an autograph ! By that time the Rishi Kapoor phenomena with Bobby had taken over. Nothing lasts forever.
Take the example of our own Bhishma of the Indian politics, L.K. Advani. BJP had just two seats in the Lok Sabha in the year 1984 and would have been in the “extinct” category but for the organisational skill of Advani. Through sheer hard work, he and Vajpayee brought up the party and lo what happened. His own chela, Modi took over the mantle of power, dumped him from active politics and conveniently made him a “margdarshak” — a ceremonial post without any power. Advani’s dream of becoming a Prime Minister never materialised. After a few years, someone else would make our Modi a margdarshak. Nothing lasts forever.
What do these politicians miss? Not the money but the power. Power is an intoxicant, “nasha” as we call it in Hindi. That is the reason no politician wants to retire. If they do, they conveniently hand over the power to their own son or daughter to ensure that the power remains within the family. Sonia Gandhi to son Rahul, Sharad Pawar to his daughter Supriya, Uddhav Thackeray to son Aditya, all very convenient. This phenomena is not restricted to India alone. Poor Prince Charles has become an old man waiting in the wings for his mother the queen to retire or abdicate the throne so that he can become the king. The queen in her nineties is going strong and is in no mood to give up the throne yet.
Even business houses, owned by families follow this system. The eldest in the family never gives up his hold over the empire. Some make the cardinal mistake of giving up power very early like Vijaypat Singhania of Raymond Group and what happened? He is now living in a rented flat, thrown out from his own house! Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
One class of people who suffer the most after retirement are the bureaucrats. Specially the IPS officers. These officers have Policemen doing all duties in their bungalows — from gardening, laundry to cooking and when they retire, they miss them the most. I know several retired Police Heads and their wives who literally go into depression because of this.
Have you ever heard of Master Chefs retiring ? No, reason very simple. They follow the dictum of the management gurus. “If you want to be number one always, never train a number two. These chefs always have a secret ingredient, which they never reveal. They always carry it in their person and add it in the last moment to the signature dishes. Into their seventies and eighties they still enjoy the status of a “Master Chef.” That is the reason some top class recipes of the past have vanished.
A recent video of Michelle Obama was an eye-opener. The President of the richest country in the world had to pay for tea and coffee offered to his guests at the White House! Post retirement too they have to work hard to make a living unlike Presidents in India. Of course, our own Dr. Kalam made sure that he paid in full for all the meals offered to his relatives at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. A modern day Kamaraj.
All the politicians never bother to feed hundreds of chelas who come from far to meet them. An exception was the late MGR of Tamil Nadu. Whenever he used to come to Madurai and stay in Ashoka Hotel, MGR would inform us in advance to arrange a simple buffet to ensure that each and every “thonder” [as they are called in Tamil Nadu] was taken care and fed. The bill used to be paid by cash by him and not passed on to the Government.
To conclude, the eternal truth is that “nothing lasts forever” in this world except your deeds. So when in power, be kind, fair, courteous and gracious. It is not possible to please all. If you do that, even after you are gone, your memory does last for some time. Do you agree?
The author should have done some google search before putting in the time frame. Rishi Kapoor’s Bobby was released in 1973 at which point of time Rajesh Khanna was still a super star. Aradhana was released in the year of 1969. 10 years from that point is 1979 when Amitabh Bachan was the reigning super star. Rishi Kapoor never attained the star status but survived the Amitabh phase since the movies he used to do were not in the same genre of Bachan.