Thursday, April 21, 2005

Your friendly next door dictator

Pakistan Prez Gen Pervez Musharraf visits India; Watches Cricket and talks peace

He has been called many things. Dictator, Chameleon, Coup-leader, Straight-forward military man, Disciplinarian. You can love this man or loathe him but you simply cannot afford to ignore General Musharraf. He is one of the few modern day Pakistani leaders I like. The man, despite all his shortcomings, sounds sincere. I have my own means of assessing people. There is a gentle ring of frankness about this commando that glosses over his many capers. Of all the Pakistani politicains and most of their Indian counterparts, he scores a distinctive edge. Or may be because he is not a dyed-in real politician. And thats works to his sole benefit.

The General, whip smart as he is, discreetly asked India to invite him. Caught on a wrong footing by the Gen's sudden and keen desire to watch an India-Pakistan Cricket match, India promptly sent an invitation. And that was the begining of it -- a media frenzy, security nightmare, logistics challenge and of course the famed sub-continental hospitality. Once dates were worked out for the Gen's visit, Delhi roads got a much needed scrubbing, the railings got fresh double coats of paint and the Kotla groud -- venue of the match -- came up in record time. Delhi never looked any better. Finally the Gen arrived, along with his charming wife, Begum Sebha and guess what, like always he wowed all!

Much has already been said and realms of newsprint spent about what the man-in-those-countless suits did in India. I don't want to tire my tips. I'll scribble what I noticed has missed many experts. The Gen changed his clothes and changed and changed. Tirelessly. I reckon he is a very fashionable man. Upscale, flashy, modern, well-cut suits for all occassions. He got into his Plane in Pakistan in one suit. Came out in Jaipur in a Pathani-dress. Later in the evening at Delhi airport, the General had a new Jacket and matching pants. Impeccable. If Mush wanted to make a fashion statement he sure did. That he dresses a lot better than a host of Indian politicos goes without saying. In India only Montek Singh Ahluwalia, PM's confidant and deputy chairman planning commission, ties his turban with more e'lan.

Musharraf ran his fingers in his greying hairs a hell lot of times. Everytime he came in his hotel foyer or accompanied Dr. Manmohan singh the Gen kept pushing his silky strands abaft towards the rear of his head. This partcular fidgeting perhaps holds him in good stead and reminds him of his old hairy days. Many of his detractors admit that he has a split-hair personality. His admirers can only grin. One of the wittest things that came out the dialogue process he re-started with India was his remark, " I have come with a new heart". You should have read the next day's newspapers to believe the excitement. Heart transplant, screamed one major daily. A completely New Heart...they went on and on. TV echoed in. He is Media's darling, this man.

Out-of-box is another major expression he popularised in India. Now everyone and his mother thinks out-of-the-box. The auto-driver I bargained with in the morning said, " I won't start the meter and won't quote any fare as well, lets strike a deal; you suggest the fare but mind you, magnanimity must come from the passanger". Talk out-of-the-box, simply lifted from the Gen's assertion that the bigger party-- read India -- must condescend. Last heard the Bollywood beauty Rani Mukerji has got an open-ended invitation to visit Pakistan and shoot there from none other than the Pakistani President himself. What better ways to better ties, cultural and informal. Team-Pakistan beat India hollow at the Kotla grounds. Their Prez was scoring on a different pitch.

The India-Pakistan relations are back on track. Thanks to an impulse felt by my fav dictator!

No comments: