Bhutan has four queens, and it has every right to have four queens. It was only when I read a recent issue of the Kuensel that I was alerted to the possibility of genuine mystification for the properly unsensitised. For, here is the lead story at the top, which starts off with, “Her Majesty the Queen, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, became the Honorary President of Sherubtse College”. Then, the second story of the week starts off with, “Addressing the 5th International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific as a keynote speaker, Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck made a strong plea to governments, communities and civil society to…” Given thus that there are two other Her Majesties not covered in that particular edition of Kuensel, Chhetria Patrakar is merely taking this opportunity to alert South Asia´s unknowing and unprepared to the Bhutanese situation. In the meantime, let me also share what I have heard from the ASEAN grapevine, that Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden wowed all those gathered at the Kuala Lumpur AIDS conference in late October, including Dr. Mahathir, with her graciousness and eloquence. Great going, queen!
Dilip D´souza is unhappy with Time magazine, he writes in from “Bombay” (Time´s spelling, not mine). They have done an India Executive Search and come up with his name as a plausible candidate to join the magazine´s “global network of professional subscribers”. What does D´Souza get in the bargain? As free gifts, a photo frame The TIME Photo Frame and Clock Set and a clock set, “uglier pieces of home decor (than) which would be hard to imagine”. He is also properly miffed that Time thinks it can get away with promising him “free home delivery” for having subscribed.
I have not see a film by Tanuja Chandra, one of the youngest Hindi film directors around (Dushman and Sangharsh). In an article in Graphiti, the magazine supplement of the Calcutta Telegraph, Ms Chandra gives me one quote which makes me a fan of hers for life, for here is an Indian who inadvertently reveals that she has not been bought over by the Kargil hoopla created by vacuous (mostly Delhi-based) media. She has apparently been prowling the lower stalls in the movie theatres to see what it is that the “masses” desire on the celluloid screen, what touches them and what does not. So, when the studiously- and the intellectually-oriented criticise the surfeit of blood, gore and violence on screen, and when the Dress Circle “yelps”, as the Graphiti writer puts it, this is how the young filmmaker responds: “These are the same lot of people who screamed kill-kill-kill at Kargil but are taken aback with violence on screen.” Hats off to you, Tanuja for saying so much with that one-liner!
Only the Grand Lama (check Jamyang Norbu´s recent book on Sherlock Holmes before you accuse me of wrong address) is allowed to tweak an 89-year-old´s nose and get away with it. That is what His Holiness Tenzing Gyatso did on 19 November when he affectionately greeted Elizabeth Brunner, a Hungarianborn painter who was receiving the Katha Chudamani Award. Once again, this one personal and expressive gesture indicates why the Grand Lama is really grand —it is his humanity, and a proper understanding of the real and the unreal. True karunamaya, is he.
Can´t say that the country which ´sabotaged´ the SAARC summit is helping regional matters any by maintaining a studied silence on the matter of Bangladesh´s former foreign secretary Farouk Sobhan´s bid to become the secretary-general of the Commonwealth. Sobhan´s competition is New Zealand´s former foreign minister Donald McKinnon, and India´s support would be critical for the race. So why would India cold-shoulder Sobhan? Has the suave and well-connected Bangladeshi, always pleasant to those who matter, inadvertently stepped on Indian toes somewhere along the line as foreign secretary, before that as Dhaka´s high commissioner to New Delhi, and before that as Dhaka´s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York? Can´t think of any reason why India would not want to push for an amenable South Asian to the post, particularly with the South Asian ranks at the roundtable being severely depleted with the ouster of post-coup Pakistan. In these matters diplomatique, as often happens, it will be probably some long-forgotten personal slight which rears its ugly head to ruin the chances of the worthy. Perhaps Sobhan had actually accidentally stepped on Brajesh Mishra´s toes, when the present Superboss of South Block was a UN functionary?
The united Nations can also be a source of good news, for here I have an Asian Age item which reports that the International Cricket Council and the United Nations want to bring players from India and Pakistan author Sashi Tharoor, who is UN SG Kofi Annan´s “director of communications and special projects”. This would be a special project all right!
The end of the world and Armageddon — not the overmuch touted millennium — is near when even magicians seek “official funding”. The All India Magic Academy maintains that, among other things, the heavy equipment that magicians need to ply their trade with would be easier to transport if the government gave them railway luggage concessions, and also if subsidised halls were provided for shows. A two-day national meet of Magicians in Panaji, Goa, bemoaned this lack of funding support.
If you missed the two-inch item in The Bangladesh Observer, the flag-carrier of the selfsame country, Bangla Biman, is being privatised. Its Managing Director Rafiqul Islam said as much at the Chartered Institute of Transport in Dhaka. Why? “For improved service and ignore profit.” This would be the second such act, after Air Lanka (sadly now converted to Sri Lankan, for I liked the earlier moniker). Now, shall we wait for Indian Airlines, Pakistan International, Druk Air, Air Maldives, Air India, and Royal Nepal, to follow suit, so that there will be improved services and more profits all around?
Kader sidduqui, known popularly as “Tiger Siddiqui” in his native Tangail constituency was an angry man as he went in for a by-election in Tangail-8 for the Jatiya Sangsad. He coveted the gamchha election symbol, that multi-use strip of cloth which hangs from many a shoulder in the Indo-Ganga-Brahmaputra plain. But he did not get the gamchha symbol, and instead was assigned the pin´, or wooden stool. As a result, at last reading, Tiger was livid with the Returning Officer. Reports The Bangladesh Observer: “I would go for next step if I am denied my desired symbol, he warned. However, he did not disclose what step he would take.”
Nepal has just completed Visit Nepal Year 1998. Now the Assistant Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Narayan Singh Pun, has announced that the government will celebrate 2002 as Destination Nepal Year. The minister announced that the plan was to attract one million tourists to Nepal in that year, though he conceded that Nepal receives less than half that number. According to The Kathmandu Post, the minister said that “correspondence regarding the event would be completed by the year 2000 so that global visitors could manage their time to visit Nepal during DNY 2002.” Oh well.
The Nightmare of film festival organisers is when the audience does not turn up, and invitee directors end up being the only audiences for their productions. This is what happened recently at the Colombo SAARC Film Festival, and more recently, according to The Hindu, at the International Children´s Film Festival in Hyderabad. Apparently, some 30 children´s films of fine quality had been gathered, but then the Children´s Film Society was not able to bring an audience. It cannot be, just cannot be, that children would not be interested, so why was this festival devoid of the target audience? As often happens with good ideas badly executed, obviously, the fault lies with the organisers alone. What a waste!
Three cheers for Chandrika Kumaratunga, president of Sri Lanka, for not only surviving an assassination bid, but also for handing over SLR 2.5 million worth of gifts which she received during state visits abroad to the national treasury. The president said that it was her duty to hand over those gifts, which she had received on behalf of “the Nation”. The items thus deposited include a gem-studded gold ring (Rs 26,250), a pendant and a gold chain (Rs 27,100), a diamond-studded ring (Rs 21,500), a gem-studded pair of git (Rs 10,750), a gem-studded sari clip (Rs 23,500), a pearlstudded necklace (Rs 120,000) and a Piaget ladies wristwatch (Rs 2 million). Lest you doubt the valuation, it was done by the Gem and Jewellery Authority of Sri Lanka.