|CURRENT ISSUE DECEMBER 01, 2003|
|indiascope SANS SERIF | RAVI SHANKAR|
I am a smoker. I like smoking. So I am fulfiling a social need by being one: the smoker as a pariah. I don't smoke to alleviate my stress, or be macho like a cowboy in an ad. Since clean air became politically correct, I have seen the warrior gleam come into many a gimlet eye when I take out my cigarettes in public. It reminds me of other fascists like vegans and feminists who live only on one end of the scale. For the fascist, the rainbow is just an illusion.
Tobacco has come a long way since Christopher Columbus discovered it on a Friday in October 1792. The Europeans then called it "smoke drinking". The Oracle of Delphi was a smoking zone, as was the Temple of Jerusalem. The Portugese cultivated tobacco first, followed by the French; Napolean III could watch battles only if he was chain smoking. By the end of the 16th century, tobacco was global, the peace pipe holding more brotherhood than vitamin shakes at the local oxygen bar.
But the persecution of smokers is ancient too. The first to ban tobacco was the Spanish church, which frowned upon converted Indians smoking in church, identifying it with paganism. Papal bulls followed, though it was a Pope from Italy who was the first holy smoker a few centuries ago. De Jerez, the first European to smoke, was condemned by the Inquisition and freed after years in prison only when the Inquisitors themselves had taken up smoking. Until the late 17th century, you could be put to death for smoking in Lunenberg. The Russians had a Tobacco Court where castration and slitting the lips were punishment for smoking, and the Swiss, a Calvinist Tobacco Chamber of Torture. The Ottoman sultan Murad is credited with tobacco genocide- 1,00,000 smokers in a few years. So the anti-smoking crusaders of today are heirs to a worthy legacy.
There have been many excuses against tobacco, ranging from anti-God to endangering public health. I follow the law and will not smoke in public places where it is banned, not in hospitals or around little babies. If all you want to feel is to be morally vitaminised by breathing clean air (which means an air free of factory smoke, air-conditioning carbon monoxide, automobile secretions), I suggest you find a place high in the Andalusian mountains and keep a cell phone so that you can log on and order Bisleri. Or, send smoke signals.
PATNA In Lalooland, caste is all pervasive. Even horses are classified along caste lines at the famous Sonepur cattle fair. White horses with wide foreheads are Brahmins; brown horses with keen ears and broad chests are Kshatriyas; the Vaishyas have thin legs and long necks; and a dark horse of inferior quality is a Shudra. "Horses behave as per their caste-the Brahmins are calm and well-behaved," said Jagdish Prasad, a horse rider. A Kshatriya horse is tough and angry; and a Shudra is considered ill-mannered.
But Laloo is staying away from the fair this year. The RJD chief's horses, Chetak and Pawan, did not run in the races but Raja, Land Reforms and Revenue Minister Ramai Ram's horse did.
By Sanjay Kumar Jha
APPOINTED: Shashank, secretary (Europe, Americas, Africa) in the mea, the foreign secretary. He replaces Kanwal Sibal.
NAMED: David C. Mulford, Credit Suisse International chairman, as the next US ambassador to India, by President George W. Bush.
DISMISSED: Runu Ghosh, former director and currently gm (Finance) at dot, after a departmental inquiry found her guilty in the 1996 telecom scam.
DIED: Surjit Singh Bindrakhya, 42, Punjabi singer, of cardiac arrest, in Chandigarh.
AWARDED: Narinder K. Mehra, immunogenetics expert, AIIMS, the Chevalier of the National Order of Merite, by French President Jacques Chirac.
REJOINED: Tarakant Jha, the Bihar BJP, after four years.
ARRESTED: Sunil Nagpal, businessman, and Prakash Nehra, computer expert, for sending a hoax SMS to the police about Al-Qaida threat to A.B. Vajpayee.