Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Maggie T

To Asha and Enoch - "Maggi" is a quick meal of instant noodles which gets cooked in our home when there is no time for anything else (confession: the big yellow packet of 8 gets purchased rather often by the Eichers).

For us growing up in Mrs. Gandhi's India, long before the consumer revolution, the only 'Maggie' we knew was the formidable woman who bulldozed her way into the global spotlight as the Iron Lady prime minister of the UK (shhh... I almost said... 'England'... just like I used to when I was a kid to the horror of the only Scot I knew then - John Wigglesworth).

Margaret Thatcher died yesterday.  I told the news to Asha and Enoch and they looked at me blankly.  Who was that?

How do you summarize an era in a few words?  I fumbled around a bit, ending up with a cartoon sketch of the Falklands war.  We do after-all have a 10 year-old boy in the home.  But the radical changes in Brit society.  All I could say was something about miners and a strike, and then the conversation drifted to other matters.

How the world turns.  We talked about how I used to stay up at night listening through the squalks and scratches of static - to my beloved East German short-wave radio.  A humble beast, but it got Radio Australia and VOA and BBC.  Radio Moscow came in loud and clear, but that was always quickly moved away from.

Asha and Enoch get their information from the net.  Enoch is a sports statastician.  Always wants to know if there is a cricket match on.  What happened last night in the English Premier League football.   They skim the papers too.  But beyond that its mainly books.

I think we need to talk history more. 

Maggie Thatcher was such an object of hatred by so many.  And such a worshipped figure by others.  Perhaps unsurprisingly - she and Indira Gandhi never hit it off.  Just being the first woman prime minister of your country does not seem to be enough to become chums.  Other than a fierce desire for power - and an otherworldly confidence in themselves - these two did not go far down the road of sisterhood.

Reagan.  Thatcher.  Breznyev and then Gorbachov.  Indira Gandhi.  Zia al Haque.   Lee Kwan Yew.

These were leaders who had character.   The common man and woman on the street 'knew' them to some extent from what we read in the papers.  We weighed in on one side or the other.  But somehow our current set of world leaders seem so identikit.  Now who is 'ruling' in Pakistan again?   Our dear Prime Minister seems a good man - but the struggles of running a coalition within his own party - let alone with the other parties both in and outside his government seem to be keeping him pretty thin.   A look around the world seems to throw up similar greyness - other than perhaps Italy - but then their PMs seem to hold the a Wharholian 15 minutes before they get booted.  And of course North Korea's Kim takes the cake.

But then again, our world is not just shaped by the big people at the top.  We do like 'larger than life' folks - and history tells us that we often have to pay the price.  Its no accident that years of propaganda about the need for 'a strong leader' brought about der Fuehrer - after Germany had been ruled by a rapidly changing set of milquetoasts during the Weimar Republic.  Hmmm, maybe we need discuss this also with Asha and Enoch.

More history to talk about around the table in the Eicher home.  In the mean time.....  Maggie - at least with an 'e' on the end of her name - is not just instant noodles.

No comments:

Post a Comment