Hands in The Cookie Jar
When caught with hands in the cookie jar, pull on a straight face.
Bikram Choudhury, the yoga guru of Madonna and Michael Jackson among other celebrities living in California’s Beverly Hills, had a brilliant reply when someone confronted him with his alleged sexual indiscretions. He claimed that his students blackmail him into having sex with them. “What happens when they say they will commit suicide unless you sleep with them?” he asked rhetorically.”Sometimes, yielding to pressures is the only way to save somebody’s life.”
Yes, indeed. Nearer home, my mom, who regularly attends a religious leader’s katha-kalakshepams (musical discourses) defends her master, who has more than one wife. The leader tied the “three knots” of the thali – or the sacred thread that signifies matrimony – on these devotee-women because of similar threats. Of course, he says he maintains only platonic relationships with them. Ah, sannyasis (renunciates), who have vowed celibacy, marry and claim they remain celibate! The nice thing they have going for them is that they don’t have to defend themselves – their students do it fiercely.
I am fascinated by how well they extricate themselves out of impossible situations and yet maintain a straight face. And now when I read stories about all the exciting political scams around the world in newspapers, I can’t help admiring these swindlers, who come out of every situation unscathed, their reputation intact.
All you need to excel in this art is to have the presence of mind of the young man, a thief, who was caught climbing a coconut tree. The owner confronts the man, so the story goes, demanding to know what he was doing up on the tree. “Picking grass,” replied the young man, nonchalantly.
“And pray, how would you find grass on the coconut tree?” the owner was baffled.
“Precisely. I realized that, and that’s why I got down!!” replied the man, unfazed.
I did develop a presence of mind, thanks to my abiding love for sweets. Those were my childhood days in Allahabad; my mother would prepare sweets like ‘laddoos’ and ‘gulab nds jamuns’ and keep them in stainless steel containers in the loft. My elder sister, a self-appointed ringleader, would conspire with our cousin on how to steal the cookies, but would have none of me, the ‘buddhu’ – or, the nincompoop. How could they forget the way I stood, transfixed, eyes and mouth agape, when the gardener caught me gathering the raw mangoes thrown down by my brother and sister perched on the tree? The duo managed to run away and there I was, absolutely defenseless. But for a child, it is horrible to be ignored by her peers. So I convinced them that I would do better this time around. My sister, being the eldest of us all, climbed the stool and reached for the steel box.