We have been robbed. The thief of our life and time is politics. This is no exaggeration. Count all the hours wasted engrossed in telly trite or drawing-room chatter fixated all the while on the one who calls the shots. Decades of democracy and dictatorship have turned Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Altaf Hussain and dictators Zia and Musharraf into mythological figures, nay cults.
Stealing our living space too are generals and judges. They have stealthily made their presence felt, albeit from behind the scenes. Some are good, others not so. Who rates them? Do the rag-tags sitting like dummies at rallies (the current fad) or whoever shouts the loudest in the mike or wags his finger the best comes out the winner? Does their grandiloquence or bravura ante our comfort level, making us dream big?
Dreaming big has damaged our sense of reality. It has worsened our identity crisis. We don’t know where we and our homeland are anchored. Unless we detox our addiction to politics and purge our psyche of toxins that continually take us on a ‘trip’ to Neverland, we cannot look life in the eye as sober, mature, practical people.
Recently a columnist of New York Times asked his readers to send him stories of their lives; their achievements and failures. What a super idea, except columnist David Brooks put an age bar nly people over 70 can share their stories with him. Bad idea, I thought. How about opening up the discussion board to anyone upwards of 20s? While a 25-year-old can weigh in, so can an 85 or even older person. The stories pouring in from most of the 70-plus were sad. Sickness, death and disappointment covered their life report. They craved for a formula of happiness.
On the other hand, developing countries crave for a formula for corruption that robs the masses of a good lifestyle. America craves for a formula to cure cancer that robs families of valuable lives. America may not have found a cure for cancer, but according to Hugo Chavez, it is exporting cancer to South American leaders. “It would not be strange if they (Americans) had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it until now... I don't know. I'm just reflecting,” said Chavez in a televised speech to troops at a military base. “I call on the armed forces to be alert, on the Venezuelan people to be alert. Because we are not going to let the Imperial Yankee destabilise Venezuela again like they did in the past.”
Chavez sports a close crew cut showing he recently underwent chemotherapy for cancer. Other Latin American leaders suddenly stricken by cancer are: Argentina's Cristina Fernandez, Paraguay's Fernando Lugo, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff and former Brazilian leader Lula da Silva. “All of them are leftists,” reports Reuters. Chavez’s jaw-dropping comment is a first! A cancer attack instead of a drone attack by the Americans?
On the flip side, who says that the young rule the world? Not at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, the world’s premier cancer hospital. Sonia Gandhi attended by a caravan of family members and Congress stalwarts underwent treatment for an undisclosed surgery this past summer. And the man who operated upon Gandhi and thousands of other cancer victims is an unassuming Sikh, Dr Manjit Bains. Maureen Dowd of New York Times calls him “mystically serene”, when writing recently about her brother Kevin whose kidney tumor was removed by the Sloan-Kettering surgical team.
It was the spring of 1979, as we stood with hearts pounding in the waiting lounge of the cancer hospital. We hoped Dr Bains would walk out any moment bearing good news about the patient he had just examined. I still remember his look as he rushed towards us with an air of urgency. “How long has the tumor been there? Why didn’t you bring her earlier? Anyway I’ll operate upon her. But her chances of recovery are slim. The tumor of our patient had been removed by Bains earlier declaring her cancer free. What he didn’t emphasise enough was that she needed to get checked up regularly back in Pakistan. When the cancer recurred two years later, he was shocked. He didn’t charge us a dime for the 8-hour surgery.
I bring up Bains for two reasons: first, even after 32 years, the doctor reigns supreme in his field of cancer surgery, second, he is not only a doctor but one with a heart. American research and development in medicine over the last three decades is phenomenal. “People in the 80s are young who know that with proper medical care and well-being they can hope to enjoy many more years of the good life,” says a pharmaceutical pundit. “We are coming up with new research all the time to increase life expectancy.”
A good life report is one that mentions people who save lives; not their own political hides.