[the late Parrikar and Jaitley in healthier times]
Returned from a 3 week sojourn abroad. Picked up small but telling bits of information on the end-state of two leading political personalities and personal mascots of Prime Minister Narendra Modi — the former Defence Minister, the late Mahohar Parrikar, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, both afflicted with cancer.
According to a doctor at Sloan-Kettering in New York — a leading cancer treatment hospital, who attended on both Parrikar and Jaitley, the former was in a very bad way but insisted that he be moved to Goa in the terminal stage, which required some very elaborate arrangements to ensure he didn’t succumb to the rigours of the journey inherent in moving a very sick and weak man half way across the globe. What was unusual, according to this oncologist, was Parrikar’s emphatic insistence that he not die in a foreign land, far away from home.
Jaitley too suffers from an irremediable form of stomach cancer. Indeed, the disease is apparently so far advanced the Sloan-Kettering doctors do not give him more than a few more months. For all that, Jaitley has been in the electoral forefront, refuting Rahul Gandhi’s contentions on the Rafale acquisition controversy, etc.
The point to make here is that Modi’s government lost a lot of its sheen of rectitude when between his differences with the PM on the Rafale issue and his desire to return to his state, Parrikar was eased out of the Defence Ministry. Not listening to the considered views of Parrikar on the French combat aircraft led the PM into the inextricable political jam he is in now. Whether he returns to head the next government or not, Modi will ever be mindful of Parrikar’s ghost at the banquet, always rueing the fact that he did not heed the advice the good engineer-cum-politician gave him.
Should Modi have a 2nd term as prime minister, he will also not have the reliable Jaitley around him. Jaitley’s, in many respects, will be the greater loss because it is his mastery of political forensics and his lawyer’s erudition that time and again kept the political waters from bursting the dam, like on the demonetization and GST decisions, and the Modi regime’s head above water. It will be interesting to see who replaces Jaitley as Modi’s go-to man in the cabinet, and whether he will be half as effective. This despite Jaitley’s great fault as confidant that more often than not, and unlike Parrikar, he sought to be in Modi’s good books than say and do the right thing.
And then there’s the Indian Army’s emergence on the social media scene as supporter of the myth of the Yeti — an over-large man-like animal supposedly slinking around in the Himalayan uplands, whose big footprints (42″ x 15″ or some such dimensions) and vast stride a mountaineering Indian army team supposedly recorded with, what else, a conveniently available mobile telephone. There are two aspects about this curious little development. That the army really believes that its team comprising officers and ORs of sound mind has (1) recorded the presence of a Yeti, and (2) actually proved that such a creature exists — how else to explain the footprints in plain sight in the snow?
The Indian Army is, however, treading on ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not’-territory. Assuming this is not some elaborate hoax imaginatively staged by a bunch of fun-seeking army men, the Yeti recording raises a pertinent question: How is a modern armed service to respond when faced with evidence of the para-normal, of a completely alien phenomenon it did not set out to discover but rather sort of lucked out with tell-tale signs?
The main aim when facing such situations is to record the evidence in as thorough a fashion as the situation permits, wait around or stalk such a beast — assuming it is perambulating in the high mountains — in the expectation of finding other marks of its existence. In any case, did the army men in question not follow the track left by the giant footprints, and if they did, where did the footprints end, and where, or did they at some point simply disappear? And did the team officially record and document its findings and pass them on to the theatre command HQ. If the team members did not do this, but simply rushed to broadcast it on social media, should they be shielded from ridicule that is already beginning to pour in? And why did Army HQ not put a lid on this “evidence of Yeti” the army team seemed intent on putting out?
There may or may not be a Yeti. Just as the jury is out on whether strange spaceships from distant galaxies transiting our small and fairly insignificant solar system and have been sighted by combat fighter pilots and airline pilots, are for real. The US Air Force since the 1950s, for instance, has a cell that records all such chance sightings without ever publicly commenting on them. More and more, astronomers, astrophysicists and astrobiologists are convinced that life and civilizations far more technologically advanced than on earth exist, and that, with deep space travel on the anvil, we are on the doorstep of interacting with such alien life-forces. Nevertheless, all these agencies and scientists have been cautious in saying anything about such sporadic interactions with the other worlds.
Yeti is of the earth and therefore far greater skepticism should have been applied by the Indian Army before it publicized “footprint” photos as some sort of breakthrough event. It would have been better to open a small office in army HQ to file such recordings and evidence, and of debriefs of the army mountaineering team members. All science is cumulative. And this should have been treated as another scientific venture. Proving or disproving the existence of the Yeti will require more sightings and more substantive proof collected over years. And the army will need to draw up protocols based on the experience of this mountaineering team of just what army men should do when next they encounter, or think they have encountered, evidence of the primal snowman.
An interesting aside on this topic is that pilots and aviators in the US who have seen and experienced ‘flying saucers’ and the like pulling improbable aerial manuevers in close proximity, last week petitioned the US government to disclose the collected evidence of alien spacecraft in its official archives.