Saturday, March 1, 2003

Which Party?

Which Party?
By Narendra Luther

Humans are social animals. They must live in groups to survive. Groups create
problems. In order to solve them they create parties. Parties are of two types. One is political.

Political parties come into being because man is a prejudiced being. Like-minded people get together and float a party. Once they join it, they see everything through a prism. Their objectivity, sense of fairness, and equity – become casualties. Political parties are popular because they relieve people of the necessity to think. That difficult task is handed over to some one else. How wonderful to have ready- made opinions handed over to you to pass them on as deep reflections of your own! Political parties have a problem for every solution. They will fight for finding other ways of reaching a place when a direct approach is available. God for them has one face, that of their own leader; truth, his utterance. Political parties often get into trouble when some men of conscience join them. A conscientious man suspects that the rival might be right. There is no place for such persons in a political party. Party men cannot afford to be in doubt. They must always assert that they are right. They should also be capable of saying the exact reverse of what their current opinion. That becomes necessary when they change parties. Abraham Lincoln as a young lawyer argued a case successfully in the morning. In the afternoon, he happened to have another case in the same court in which he gave arguments opposing what he had said in the morning. The judge asked him with a smile, ‘Mr. Lincoln, you are saying exactly the opposite of what you were saying in the morning’. Lincoln replied, ‘Your Honour, I might have been wrong in the morning, but I am definitely right in the afternoon’. He won that case too.

The other type of party is Cocktails. They have nothing to do with animals or birds as one might be led to imagine. They comprise humans of divers sexes—men women,
and people. They are held in the evenings and there is no saying how long they last. They are organized for various purposes – to willy-nilly welcome or to say farewell to some one, to celebrate an event, like marriage, birthday, or even a wedding anniversary. Strictly speaking, dinners should be given on such occasions, but cocktails parties are cheaper and more fun. Drinks of various types are served with snacks, which often make up for the lack of dinner. In a cocktail party, no one cares how bad your English is so long as your Scotch is good. After a while, a lot of bonhomie and good will is generated amongst the guests and every one tends to agree with the other. There are some spoil–sports or noveau- drinkers who will always disagree. Another drink is shoved into such hands and they are pushed to some equally garrulous person of the opposite sex. After a while either they both walk out or are too drunk to talk. So, one disagreement is resolved.

Cocktail party is designed to prevent concentration – either on a person or a topic. In a cocktail party, you are supposed to circulate. Some people complete their circulation too soon and come back to the same spot from where they started. That is bad manners. Your orbit is supposed to keep on varying unless the chief guest gets hold of you and wants to have a chat with you.

The host takes care to stay sober and to get the others sozzled, particularly those from whom he is trying to seek business or a favour. In non-business parties, the object is fun. But even there, you cannot prevent a discussion of politics or current events. As the spirits soar, the ability to solve intricate problems also improves. I have seen the Kashmir problem solved many times in such parties, the composition of the national cricket team decided upon, and alternatives offered to resolve the issue of Palestine, terrorism, and communalism. Iraq too has often been disposed of in a most harmonious way. There is generally consensus in such parties and everyone is fair to the other. Also, people are honest in the expression of their opinions about their friends. That sometime causes problems to sort out which another cocktail party becomes necessary. Even husbands are polite to their wives at such parties because nothing makes a woman look better than three cocktails inside a man. So, my advice to women is never to accept a compliment at a cocktail party at your face value. Men of my generation remember with envy the journalist who walked up to that stunner, Madeleine Dietrich and told her, ‘Madam you look as beautiful when sober, as any other woman would look when drunk’. Some over-drinkers are sad to get under the table. Mae West knew her limit. When offered another drink, she said coolly: ‘One more drink and I will be under the host’. But some men’s sense of truth is so strong that even cocktails can’t suppress it. Like when Churchill walked up to Lady Astor and told her bluntly: ‘You are ugly’. She retorted indignantly: ‘Winston, you are drunk’. Churchill slurred back: ‘Madam, I shall be sober when I wake up tomorrow morning, but you will still be ugly’.

I am a man of conscience. I can go astray temporarily. But I come back to the right track before too long. I am never cocksure; I am generally in doubt. That is why I have not joined any political party. For finding solutions to problems, I prefer to take a chance in a cocktail party.
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