What was your feeling when you heard that Benazir Bhutto had been shot on 27th December 2007? Politicians are the only types who are adored and hated in equal proportions, often in gigantic proportions at that. The killings of politicians have this unique expression, ‘assassination’ that does not apply to others. The very word simmers in blood and violence. Shakespeare is believed to have invented the word. He uses the word 'assassination' first in end of Act I of Macbeth, where Lady Macbeth is convincing Macbeth to kill Banquo. The etymology is a mutation of the Arabic "haššāšīn" (حشّاشين). However, there are those who dispute this etymology, arguing that it originates from Marco Polo's account of his visit to Alamut in 1273. , in which he describes a drug whose effects are more like those of alcohol than of hashish. Latin switched the 'sh' sound for the’s’ sound. Whatever be the origin of the word, it leaves a bloody trail consuming one after another in the same family.
Of the times after 1960, John F Kennedy’s death brings the most chilling memory. On Friday, November 22, 1963, he and Jacqueline Kennedy were in an open limousine riding slowly in a motorcade through downtown Dallas. At 12:30 PM the president was struck by two rifle bullets, one at the base of his neck and one in the head. He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Almost simultaneously, one would remember his 3 year old son’s poignant salute at his father’s funeral and it was a cruel fate that the kid grew to be a handsome man to get killed in a tragic plane accident. Robert F Kennedy, U.S. attorney general and adviser during the administration of his brother John F. Kennedy was himself assassinated while campaigning for the presidential nomination a few years later. In this part of the world, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who became Ceylon’s prime minister in 1956, was assassinated in 1959. His wife Sirimavo soon became the party leader of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and went on to become the prime minister herself. Her daughter Chandrika had been active in the SLFP and married the film actor Vijaya Kumaratunga in 1978. He was assassinated in 1988. At home in India, Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31st October 1984 and on the same day Rajiv Gandhi was made the Prime Minister. He was decimated, in what followed a global pattern to several such episodes, by a suicide bomber on 21st May 1991. Benazir’s family had a fair share of unnatural deaths due to their life in politics and the enemies that their profession earned for them. Before her, her father and her brother had been eliminated as politically inconvenient by the ruling establishments.
It all proves one thing: politicians are the softest target to be eliminated in cold blood. Is it that power is the most coveted attribute to human attainment and jealousy is the strongest motive for pulling the trigger or sticking the dagger? Maybe so, in the days of monarchy. Not anymore. They need not even be hankering after power. The sheer presence in the arena of politics is sufficient to win as many enemies as followers. If it were not so, how could you explain the Mahatma Gandhi’s killing? The later Gandhis also lost their lives not to political aspirants but to killers who purported to avenge their own hurt caused by the policies pursued by their human targets.
A macabre incident happens at the end of the year that eclipses every other worthy event in the same year. The electronic media capture every detail of killing that you smell blood in your own drawing room. If you have been fortunate not to have watched the video footage, the morning newspapers carry colorful photographs taken by high resolution maxi pixel cameras. What has been your way of beating this morbid feeling of revulsion caused by such mindless killings? Margazhi offers delightful escapades in Chennai and other major towns in Tamil Nadu. Were you a part of the crowd of listeners to music concerts? Did you not go to religious discourses of eminent men of learning of Tiruppavai or Thiruvenbavai?
There is a life beyond law. Denning, the most quoted and quotable person writes delightfully on ‘Leaves from my Library’, where he declares proudly that he managed to write another book, even at the age of eighty-six. The anthology contains the war rhetoric of Winston Churchill, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, fine prose of Somerset Maugham, moving tale of Thomas Hardy, John Bunyan’s Seeking Salvation, Chaucer’s narration of history with a deft touch of humor and 14 more topics. You do not need to pick up the trail by the same choice of reading material. It tells you that men of law were not men merely of law. They had interests beyond law. Cast away law books, newspapers and TV shows for a while and do what you now know what!