As elites worry on Bhushan's jail, what about “contempt” for us ordinary folks?

19th August 2020

19th August 2020

Illustration, courtesy

(Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan could be jailed for six months tomorrow. He has been found guilty of contempt of court. While elites have picked up their cudgels, does it ever cross their mind that we ordinary Indians have all along been a subject of contempt and nobody has bothered?).  

Early this morning a very good friend who lives in the jungle and by the sea, has a life in industry, media and wildlife, works on water and on land, called me up from a location where he had gone to check out how some cave art going back many, many centuries was doing in the time of monsoons and climate change. I am giving you his keyboard portrait so that you can try to understand that like me, he learnt many things decades ago, because he was also a seafarer with the world below his belt and the stars above his head.

"What is all this contempt-contempt stuff in Delhi", he asked me, "you guys have no other work in Delhi or what?"

I did not know what to tell him, because it is well-known in his forests, that when the larger animals clash, then the smaller animals should not stand around trying to pass judgement or intervene, and the plants must resign themselves to being trampled. So I wrote a short dirge on the spot for him and it went like this -

On Contempt.

I don't know why you think we have contempt for you,

Because they sit on pedestal high with a view.

But the fact that contempt for us is not in review,
Makes me wonder, cry and often go very blue.

Every time I cross their huge palaces that grew,
Like mushrooms, in rain, multiply, on cue.

And then I told him a short story about what I knew about contempt. 

As a raw teenager, working on ships trading worldwide, some of us were exposed to the realities of life way, way more than anybody else could have imagined. The first ship I worked on was loading iron ore at Vizag, and I was on deck, as assistant to the external Surveyor who represented the Japanese buyers. The Indian Surveyor at Vizag Port was a batchmate of my Captain's, from the same Training Ship heritage (Dufferin/Rajendra) that most of us were from, and in my case also from the same Top (like House in school). I was a cadet with about 15 days service but working as uncertified 3rd Mate, and he was 20+ years my senior - these bonds are deep. 

So he told me - do you know, the iron ore from Kirandul mines that you are carrying to Japan on your ship is sold to the Japanese at about 20% of the price that it is sold to the Indian steel manufacturers? Contempt lesson No. 1 in my life on how we would sell ourselves cheap.

At the discharge port in Japan, along with the receivers, was a representative of the sellers. The Indian company which was Government owned that controlled all our exports. The Japanese officials on duty, including the buyers and other senior-most ones, would come from the dock gate to the ship on foot or on bicycle, without any fuss. And they would always greet everyone top to bottom with their bowing and namaste. The Indian seller's rep, who was a minor babu, would insist on ensuring that his taxi came right up to the gangway of the ship, and that there was somebody from the ship to receive him at the dock gates. And he would always snarl as he walked around arrogantly. Taxis cost a lot of money in Japan, and making them wait, even more. The look on the faces of the Japanese people around at the behaviour of the Baboon gave me Contempt lesson No. 2 in my life. 

On our way from Japan to West Coast America, across the Pacific Wastelands, rolling in ballast as empty bulk-carriers will, and as 8-12 cadet, I asked the Captain what this meant. 8-12pm is a watch where the Captain keeps a parallel watch with the Duty Officer/trainee in my case and teaches/observes. I learnt from him then how and what corruption in international trade kind courtesy STC and MMTC meant. Sharp guy.

In 1975, there was this pipeline of ships bringing wheat to India, remember? I was on one of them. where we loaded wheat under PL480 for India. Every dumb guard on the jetty at the Port of Longview knew that what we were loading was (a) free for a Nation of people who had the Atom Bomb but did not have food and (b) the quality of the wheat was not fit in their own country for animals. Contempt lesson No. 3. As a country, even the aid we accepted, was fiddled with in quality.

To the best of my knowledge and experience, no other "free" country in the whole World treats its own Citizens with more contempt than mine, and that is my observation - not opinion.

My friend from the ocean, the brotherhood of salt water, who lives in the jungle and by the sea, has a life in industry, media and wildlife, works on water and on land, told me, "yaar, leave your Delhi, this contempt stuff doesn't really make any difference to those of us who are nowhere near or connected with 110201.


(Pin code - 110201. Chief Justice of India (CJI) P Sathasivam lauded the allotment of customised dedicated pin code. New Delhi: With the Supreme Court today getting a dedicated customised pin code, the delivery of petitions and other urgent mails would be faster.Sep 26, 2013)


I now take your leave with this wonderful song, “I wouldn’t want to be like you”.  Make whatever you could of it.

Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.

A survivor of two brain-strokes, triggered by a ship explosion in the 70s, Veeresh moved beyond fear decades ago.

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