When these words appear in print, India’s new Prime Minister will have been sworn in, and after a good night’s sleep (those famous six hours), be readying for his first day in office, crackling with energy, and schooling himself to being brisk rather than brusque. He is scheduled to open his innings with a series of one-to-ones with fellow heads-of-government from the SAARC region, all but one of whom had requited the invitation to his gala swearing in.
Though these columns intend to dwell on a few inconsequential irrelevancies, a tangential reference must be made of some sartorial adjustments the former Gujarat strongman and India’s future ironman had been constrained to make in deference to the solemnity of the moment and also, perhaps, to the gravitas of high office. There is no predicting whether those flowing and flamboyant kurtas, often within the saffron spectrum of shades, will stage a comeback – sleeves rolled up to the elbows – but it would be churlish not to hand it to the individual, or rather the image-makers, for sheer sense of occasion. Besides, one is left wondering whether such things as male equivalents of deportment schools do not exist after all. But still, many would be inclined to put it down to a universal rule summed up by some poet: khuda jab husn deta hai, nazakat aa hi jaa tee hai
Gasps of horror notwithstanding at suggesting the Hand of Providence, it would be worthwhile to recall that that other pole of the sangh parivar, whom many describe as Nehruvian at heart, also became Prime Minister only when his party drenched much of the peninsula with communal blood. The successor has only applied the formula in its canonical form, and suffered no false starts in the process. Atal Behari Vajpayee did not have to put on a mask (despite mukhauta allusions) to maintain a straight face on meeting counterparts subjected only the other day to fire-and-brimstone speeches. In his younger days, he may have goaded Nehru in parliament to undertake the Chinese misadventure, but on his maturing, not even his worst critics would ever accuse him of wanting to nuke Pakistan.
The new incumbent, on the other hand, is not known to have minced words on this count, and has clearly spelt out what his government intends to do with the country’s nuclear doctrine put together by his predecessors. Whether or not this comes up on Tuesday during his meeting with Mian Nawaz Sharif, what the subcontinent would like to know is how the duo picks up the threads of its conversation. Agreed, hitherto it has only been a monologue, the last memorable words being Nawaz Sharif yeh tumhari kaun sii auqat hai, uttered in patriotic fervour over the disputed dehati auratdescriptions of a now-outvoted Prime Minister. Can the leader given to hurling Mian Musharraf taunts across the border even at the sound of a fire-cracker resist an innocuous slip of his tongue when face-to-face with a true-blue Mian Sahib?