I have this terrible habit of listening to conversations conducted loudly in public places. Of late an issue which figures prominently in such conversations is the US elections. Everybody seems to be talking of Obama and Palin and Mc Cain these days – and all the time. I think after Kerala’s newly discovered terror links, this is the most talked about issue.
Biden rarely appears in these dialogues of the all knowing Malayalee. The few times I‘ve heard his name mentioned are when similarity is pointed out between the orthographic form and sound of Obama-Biden and Osama Bin- Laden. A meaningless similarity, I know, but a strange one. Some people go off tangent, and launch into a laboured explanation of that strange but true similarity, even suggesting that Obama deliberately chose Biden for his name, for evoking that association through the sound! That’s the clever and complex thinking process of the mallus for you!
Guess we mallus down here have only a very very superficial understanding of the campaign issues. And it is shaped by what the media chooses to feed us with. Here are some excerpts from the commonly heard remarks on the US elections:
Overheard in the train – a heterogeneous group:
“Obama win? No chance? Once these yanks get into the polling booths, who knows where they’ll put the INTO(x) mark?”(Agathu kayriyaal pinney, aarudey pallakkitaanu kuthunnadhennu aaru ariyunnu?). He spoke in that typical unrefined tone, bringing down his clenched fist emphatically on his open palm, mimicking the act of actually casting the vote.
”Yes. Yes. You are right. The Bradley effect”. A little embarrassed by the belligerent language and body language of his travel companion, this person was trying to redeem his dignity with his high sounding words and a somber demeanor.
Another group’s discussion. They are youngsters – not the IT types, but the conventional addicts of Malayala Manorama and Week and Outlook and Vanitha and Deshabimani and Mathrubumi weekly and and - - “Wish Obama would win. Then I’d call America a true melting pot culture”. That was a young girl among them, on the way to the office.
“It’s like Mayawathi becoming the Prime Minister” Her male friend and colleague, I think. He was a youngman with a buji bag. And then the conversation got diverted to Mayawathy’s prime ministerial aspirations, and the issue was discussed with considerable heat, with the focus on the impossibility of her dreams coming true in India with its caste equations.
“McCain stood a good chance – till he chose that political novice as his running mate. He was trying to win the women’s vote. Velukkaan thechathu paandaayi, poor chap”.
“So what? If Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi, who knew nothing other than how to make chappathis, can rule Bihar, why not Palin? She’s the governor of a State, at least”.
“Ugh! Of Alaska! What sort of governance is needed in that deep freezer? It’s like being the governor of a refrigerator. If Rabri was the queen of the kitchen, Saramma is the queen of the refrigerator. That’s all the difference. Ha!”
WE happened to sit near a bunch of IT youngsters in a restaurant and overheard this: “If Obama wins, we’ll be hit. He’s going to stop outsourcing”.
“Oh, Bullshit. He can’t. American Corporates will have to shut down if he does that. He says such things to get white votes. Nobody really believes him.”
“Hope you are right”
“Of course I am right”. And he plunges into a harangue on the world being a global village and the interdependency of the economies, and how the Asian youth make the world go round, while all his companions listened to him in all earnestness.
Then, in the lobby of a hospital, I overheard this conversation among an academic looking group. They spoke as though they had spent all their lives researching on the Obama-McCain tussle, and each of them spoke with finality, but in well modulated tone. “Obama’s lineage –parambaryam- is suspect. Don’t think he is the right person for the most powerful seat in the world”.
“Oh. I don’t think that matters. After all he is a product of the Ivy League”.
“Athilonnum Kaaryamilla (That’s nothing)”. and then that awful adage”Attayey pidichu methayil kidathiyaal kidakkumo?” (An untranslatable idiom but goes something like this. If you put a leech on the mattress, will it adjust to its soft comfort?)
But the person who had the last say was an aloofish looking person with a long thin face. “Obama or McCain”, he said with supreme contempt. “It makes no difference. That country is run by certain lobbies and institutions. If either of them goes against their interests, they’ll b knocked off”.
A gloomy silence fell and I was called into the doctor’s room before it was broken.