This is my translation of a humorous essay by Dr. B.G.L. Swamy. Some of you
may recall my previous postings "My Dog's Prejudice," "A Very Educational Tour,"
and "Bitten by the foreign bug." These were also translations of Kannada
essays by Dr. Swamy. Dr. Swamy was a renowned botanist and served as the
Departmental chairman at the Botany Department in Annamalai College, Madras.
A Forcible Handshake
Kannada Essay by: Dr. B.G.L. Swamy
English Translation by : C.P. Ravikumar
There was chaos in the DMK party. M.G. Ramachandran had
left DMK and formed his own independent party ADMK.
It was Gandhiji's birthday. The day can be equally well
described as the day of propaganda for many political parties.
Today, political leaders will garland the statue of Mahatma Gandhi
and make speeches about Gandhi. Many of them have little idea of
Gandhi's philosophy. Yet they will address large crowds of
people and boast that their party principles are Gandhian.
Crowds will cheer them and shout party slogans.
The leaders of the ruling DMK party were scheduled to garland
the statue of Gandhi at 8.00 AM. At 9.30 AM, the ADMK party
was scheduled for the same event. Other public figures
were scheduled from 10.30 AM onwards. The garlanding ceremony
tells us a little bit about how much the political parties
really care for Gandhi's philosophy -- when the members of
one party are assembled near the statue, the leaders of
the opposite party dare not go near!
Although it was a holiday, I decided to go to the college
since I had some experiments to finish in the laboratory.
I was returning home in a taxi, when I saw large crowds of
people taking out a procession. Apparently they would assemble
near the statue of Gandhi to witness the garlanding
ceremony. The taxi driver suddenly stopped the vehicle
and said, ``Sir, please get down! M.G.R. is here! Let's
go and get a peek!'' He literally dragged me out of the
taxi and pushed me towards the edge of the gangway. There
were many police officers there to control the crowd.
The taxi driver whispered into my ears, ``Sir, do you know
how old our M.G.R is? Seventy, Sir! But look at the
boyishness in his face! Look at the way he walks! Look
at the build of his body, Sir! I will get you a handshake
with our leader ... see for yourself how strong his hold
is!'' Meanwhile, Mr. Ramachandran was descending the
platform after having garlanded the statue. The crowd
broke up and ran towards him. We were positioned close
the the statue and got a good look at the popular leader.
The taxi driver dragged me towards Mr. Ramachandran
and shouted, ``Ayya ... please meet our Professor!''
Mr. Ramachandran held my hands and shook them vigorously.
The driver was right -- I felt I was shaking hands with
a young man!
I had forgotten about the incident until my director called
me into his office the following week. I greeted him
when I entered. He sprang up from his chair and greeted
back with a ``Who needs your greetings!'' I was puzzled.
I asked him what was the matter.
``What is the matter! I will tell you what is the matter!
Complete disaster, that is what is the matter!''
``Disaster for whom, Sir?''
He saw the smile on my lips and shouted some more. ``You
laugh! Let me tell you this is no laughing matter! Tell
me, did you shake hands with M.G.R ?''
``Why do you ask?''
``Don't ask why. Just answer yes or no.''
``Geez, looks like a cross examination in a court room!''
``Of course it is! I am making a cross examination! I
must report to the government!''
``In that case, a simple yes or no will not suffice.
Let me explain what happened.'' I related the whole
incident to him. He listened with his eye brows
knitted. When I was finished, he made a face and
said, ``How am I suppose to save you now?'' He
looked so pathetic that I felt more concerned about
him than myself.
``I will explain in writing precisely what happened.
You can send that to the government.''
The director gave me a look. I continued, ``Let the
government decide what action should be taken. There
is no rule that says one must not shake hands with
a rebel. Besides, I did not go after M.G.R. to
get his hand-shake. He did not come after me, eighter.''
``Oh, now you give me a lecture! When the government
had declared a holiday, why did you come to college?
Couldn't you just stay home?!''
``I had some work to do.''
``Work! Is that all you can think of ?''
``It was rather urgent work, Sir. If I had not finished
it then, one of my research programmes would have been
``Who asked you to do research in the first place!
I have told you umpteen times to keep your research
stuff in limits. Going beyond limits and getting
into trouble -- that's the story of your life!''
I kept mum. He went on. ``Why are you silent? Tell
me what I should do now?''
``I already told you, Sir. I will write an explanatory
note and you can send it to the government.''
``You have some nerve! What if you loose your job?''
``I am certain I will not loose my job. Even if I do,
I am confident of getting another one.''
``Oh you are, are you?! Hang on to that confidence,
you will need a lot of it!'' He grumbled some more
and finally calmed down and said, ``You may be ready
to quit your job and go. But will I let you go?
At the drop of a hat, you threaten to quit! Is
that fair? It's a couple of people like you who
maintain the prestige of this college. Will I let
you go so easily?'' He tried to pump me up. This
is typical of the director -- he always blows hot
and cold winds at the same time!
``Do you know how old I am?'' he asked me.
``I have no idea, Sir.''
``Well, how old are you?''
``I am forty five.''
``I am ten years older than you are.''
In an attempt to hide my laughter, I lifted my hands and
made a Namaste gesture. He thought I was bowing down to
him and said, ``That's better!'' and sat upright in his
chair. He ordered the peon to bring us two glasses of
cool drink. ``I will give you some advice, will you
``You see, we are on government's salary. You agree?''
``Yes, of course. But what's that got to do whit this?''
``I am coming to that. We are surviving on government's
money -- so it's up to us to follow government rules
and keep the government happy. That's our duty, what
do you say?''
``Now you see, the DMK party is in power. Some
members have resigned from the ruling party and formed
the ADMK. Our respect is due to the ruling party.
Won't it be wrong on our part to go and salute
I tried to interrupt him. He hushed me up. ``Let
me finish! Where are your manners?''
``I am sorry. Go ahead.''
``You say the taxi driver forced you into the crowd. Is
that a credible story? Where was your brain then? Just
own up that what you did was an unwise thing to do.
Someone saw you shaking hands with MGR and reported it
to the government. Now the government wants to know
if this is true.''
``You may write that it is true.''
``Don't tell me what to do! Of course I am not going to
lie to the government. But I will also write to them
that Professor Swamy is a man of no experience and
knows next to nothing in matters other than his research
topic. I will ask the government to overlook your
I have no clue what he wrote in his report. But through
propaganda, he did create a strong impression on people
that he was the one who saved Professor Swamy from going
under hot water.