Category: book review

Lizard News – Bill Clinton’s debut novel is “President Is Missing” – Missing what? Bimbos?

The Hilly-Billy Clintons should take a well-deserved break from politics.

Billy: “My new book’s title is ‘The President Is Missing.'”

Hillary: “Missing what, you moron? Bimbos like Monica Lewinsky?”

Bill Clinton’s new book “President Is Missing” gets a frosty reception from Hillary.


Hillary Clinton’s new book “Linux Mail Server Administration”

A must-read book for system administrators.

Hillary Clinton, who does not even know how to use a PC, was routing her official mail via a private mail server installed in her home.

Hillary Clinton teaches how to run a mail server.

Hillary Clinton teaches how to run a mail server.

Wren & Martin Grammar anyone? The state of textbook publishing in India

Oxford grammar has dropped interjections from parts of speech! Have Britons really become a nation of drunks in permanent stupor-hangover, as some news reports allege?

Cover of Wren and Martin's High School English Grammar & Composition

It all started with the question what a subject and a predicate were. That’s how state board books in India start with English grammar. My new Oxford grammar book was of no help. So, I went and bought a copy of the venerable-old Wren and Martin “High School English Grammar & Composition” today. This is a book that has been in use for several decades by students of English in India and other British colonies. It is like Dondo Moden French Course, which is a humble textbook published by Oxford University Press and used all over the world to learn/teach French for over a century.

When I was in school, I never owned one but my friends used it. Even though I was surprised they would spend actual money to buy a grammar book, I found the book worthwhile before exams as it had more grammar exercises than the one prescribed by our school syllabus. My friends also bought the key to the book and it was useful to cross-check our answers!

S Chand had made several revisions to the original text. There are now two editions – one illustrated and the other is not. I bought the illustrated one. The paper quality (recycled) is not as good as it was IN THOSE DAYS but the color illustrations were a surprise. I did not buy the Key to HSEG&C but it is available. (The Dondo book also has a “key” book for its exercises.)

Illustrated Wren & Martin's High School English Grammar & Composition

The Oxford grammar book bears no resemblance to the grammar used in Indian school textbooks. Oxford grammar seems to be an example of the control-freak mentality that has ruined several disciplines. The US Department of Defense would call a pencil as “portable handheld graphite communications inscriber”. They obtained a permanent place in management books by famously ordering toilet seats for $600 per piece. One of their studies revealed that 50% of their software projects were never delivered and one-third of delivered projects were never used. These inefficient and corrupt fools then bypassed the whole issue by asking Carnegie Mellon University for a solution. Those morons came out with SEI CMM (Software Engineering Institute Capability Maturity Model). This was adopted by industry without question and for years experienced project managers were denied jobs because they did not have training or experience in SEI-CMMM. It is only in recent times that people have realized that the whole thing was stupid and a waste of everyone’s time. Even before they got rid of this ghost, it was periodically harmed by hysteria such as agile, stack ranking, frameworks, and other common-sense alternatives.

In my CBSE high school grammar book, there were 9 parts of speech and they began with the articles a and an. In the W&M, (at least it seems to be now that) articles are part of adjectives. That’s fine because they also describe a noun just like other adjectives. In the Oxford grammar book, interjections have been eliminated, and articles and other forms of adjectives have subsumed in to what are called as determiners. Ouch! Why did they even bother? All of these so-called determiners are just adjectives!

There are no interjections in Oxford grammar. Articles have been folded into what are called 'determiners.'

Anyway, S Chand says it is the oldest and biggest publisher of educational books in India. (Textbooks in India are bigger than other forms of publishing.) I am not sure if S Chand is as big it once was. There are definitely a whole lot more publishers now.

The reason I went for W&M was the poor language and grammar that I found in the state board school textbooks. Using the Oxford grammar book was out of question. In India, W&M English rules. The Oxford book tried to be easy while being detailed but failed in both. W&M is simple and makes sense.

So, why are schools using these substandard textbooks? It is a long story. When I was in school, we had English reader and non-detailed books published by Orient Longman and Gulmohar. (After our school got affiliated with CBSE, we switched to several NCERT/CBSE books.) After Longman was purchased by Pearson, Orient Longman changed name to Orient Blackswan. Gulmohar is now an imprint of Orient Blackswan.

I was also looking for a maths textbook and found that prices from big publishers were way above what lower middle class people can afford. (The textbooks are mainly targeted at CBSE and ICSE students.) The substandard English textbook used by my kid’s school as part of Karnataka State board is priced at just 70-80 even though it is in full color. The Orient Blackswan textbooks are above 200 and I am not even sure if it was in color.

I did find a better quality maths textbook by one publisher Bharti Bhawan priced at 100 but their books are devoid of color. The authors have retained the copyright with them and the publisher has not even have left their website or email address in the book.

The problem with these publishers may be that they print the books in Delhi where costs could be high. There is only one place in India where you can publish high-quality books in full color at a very very low price and that is Sivakasi, the place in Tamil Nadu from where all the Diwali fireworks come.

So, my advice to all these Delhi publishers is to visit the factories in Sivakasi and ask Delhi printers to match the price.

Established big-name Indian textbook publishers should also focus on state board student textbook market. They need to first cut their price. Sivakasi can help with that.

Pearson has been buying up all independent textbook and educational publishers. There are very few independent educational publishers left. (Have you noticed beloved Camlin stationery company is now part-owned by Mitsubishi Pencil) They have also put their people in the United Nations and are imposing their coursework on all over the world. Bill Gates has also jumped on their bandwagon and want all school teaching to be transferred online (on Microsoft Azure cloud running Pearson e-learning, of course). It is a bad omen if the fox is licking the lambs, as Navjot Sidhu once said.

Pearson-Microsoft’s product is called Common Core and this is being imposed on schools all over the United States by the Obama government. The Common Core system is also being imposed on schools all over the world via the United Nations. People from Pearson-Microsoft meet the top officials of school boards and their Common Core curriculum gets imposed down the line without any consultation. Parents, teachers, students, and school administrators have all bitterly complained about the Pearson-Microsoft product but the relentless assault on the traditional form of school learning goes on unabated. The Common Core curriculum has been faulted for dumbing down education, overloading school administration with non-teaching staff while pushing more computer sales, software licenses and cloud contracts.

Pearson is so sure about its education market fortunes that their are shedding Financial Times newspaper and Economist magazine (Economist claims it is a newspaper on the cover) to focus on its core incompetency.

Don’t think India will not fall under their global sweep. Already, the former DMK government has taken the first steps in Tamil Nadu. They called it Samacheer Kalvi, which is the exact Tamil translation for Common Core Education.

Chaitanya’s Kanada-to-English pictorial dictionary snagged at Karnataka Pustakotsava 2014 at FreedomPark Bangalore

I went to Karnataka Pustakotsava 2014 today. This exhibition is on from 10 am to 8pm until September 14th.

Earlier, I used to avoid Kannada book fairs simply because I did not know Kannada. Recently, I started learning Kannada and was in dire need of a dictionary. There were countless English-to-Kannada dictionaries but none the other way around. Some years back, I bought a Collins Kannada-English Cobuild dictionary. After coming home, I realized my mistake. I wanted the meanings go from Kannada to English, not vice versa. Now, I expect both books combined to solve all my Kannada questions.

I guess in 2000, this Internet guide book was very useful.

I guess in 2000, this book was very useful.

There was a good collection of books. Several stalls selling English books were also there, many selling old books. I picked a historical atlas hoping to get a bargain but it was 1100 and I dropped it. I saw people gingerly veering around an illustrated Kama Sutra book. I also caught the glimpse of a book by soft-porn actress Shakeela. The real catch that I did not buy at the exhibition was Dorling Kindersley’s Essential Internet Guide published in year 2000. It seemed like new. I thought it might be expensive and did not buy it. I would have greatly liked to keep it in my book collection. It has pages and pages of step-by-step instruction and full-color screenshots on how to use, and other great portals of the late 90s’ World Wide Web. Internet software such as Outook Express 6 and Frontpage 2000 were also covered in great detail.

There was a moderate crowd. A presentation by several poets was also going on. Rain played spoilsport and a small crowd listened earnestly from the sidelines. I had my big bad grandfather umbrella, and went and sat in the middle of the empty chairs for quite some time with my kid. Yeah, I gloated.

Freedom Park seems to have been the Bangalore Central Jail earlier. Now, it is a park. When we left, there was a rainbow. My phone camera has a panaromic view feature but it was not able to capture details very much.

A rainbow was observed next to the watch tower at Freedom Park.

A rainbow was observed next to the watch tower at Freedom Park.

Good Books To Learn Tamil or South Indian Brahmin Cooking

Brahmins should go back to their roots and eat vegetarian

Brahmins should go back to their roots and eat vegetarian

A friend used to joke that after the Brahmins started taking eggs (for “health” reasons), the price of the commodity has gone through the roof. I hear that a lot of Brahmins today are no longer vegetarian. What a pity!

I am a non-vegetarian but the options before me are shrinking. I have never been fond of mutton. I used to like Chilli Chicken when I was in Bombay. I have stopped taking that after learning that chicken raised for meat are given growth hormones that make them grow to full size in a matter of days. Naturally, people who eat them become obese. Apart from meat tainted with hormones, there is the problem of antibiotics. Animals raised on an industrial scale are prone to diseases. They do not get to move out of their pens and cages. They have to be given huge quantities of antibiotics to keep them alive. As everyone should know, antibiotics are effective only when they are rarely used.

I have now switched to a mostly vegetarian diet. Once in a while, I go for seafood or eggs. That is all. Anyway, I bought these books so that my vegetarian cooking was 100% authentic.

The first book, Classic Tamil Brahmin Cuisine – Pure Vegetarian South Indian Samayal by Viji Varadarajan and Padmini Natarajan, carries a lot of history and drawings about traditional cooking. You also learn why some popular vegetable varieties are missing from Brahmin cooking – they were imported and hence not Indian. I used the second book, Iyengar Samayal by Ramamani Parthasarathy, mostly for its lemon rice or tamarind rice (puliyogare) recipe. I am still mystified why flour is used in items like sambhar in Iyengar cooking.

I also have a cook book from the Iskcon Bangalore (Hare Rama, Hare Krishna) people. It is heavy with ghee and butter. I don’t take milk products and I have left it in Madras.

Suzanna Arundhati Roy Threatens India’s Soveriegnity

Self-proclaimed “independent nation” (Total population: 1) interfering with our internal/external affairs. Ahem… Traditional cheerleaders of Bush are now engaging in a chorus of criticism, ostensibly to set the stage for the next Republican party presidential candidate. Bush is being thrown away like a used rag. So, I feel the need to give Bush some Moral support. We need more people like Ms. Roy.

George Bush is probably aiming to be the sweetest person in the world. Shortly after being accorded a grand ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the US President thanked his hosts for “arranging good weather.” How can anyone have the heart to organize protests against such a swell guy? Beats me!

George Bush was a state guest. He came to India after an invitation from Manmohan Singh.
If Indian people were against a Bush visit, then our protests should have been directed against Singh. After having invited Bush on our own, we have no right to protest. No matter who it was, we should be welcome our hosts with open arms.
Maybe in the U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s case we could use open firearms*. If we treat our guests like this, it reflects bad on us as hosts. India has always been known for its hospitality. We believe in Adhithi Devoh Bhavaah. Everyone from the Greeks, Afghans and Mongols to the British and later the Chinese met with no opposition when they entered India. Ghazni took our Peacock throne and the Kohinoor diamond and went to Persia. Indian government has decided not to claim it back in the interests of good friendly relations with Iran. On its part, the grateful Iranian government has published “history,” which claims that both articles were of Iranian origin, that Indians stole them, and it was Ghazni who bravely restored it back to Iran!

Arundhathi Roy, who claimed she had seceded from India and subsequently consituted a breakaway “independent nation,” has taken offence to Bush coming to India and laying flowers on Gandhi’s memorial in Rajghat. Actually, the event can only have a positive effect.
Bush is so away from reality that the irony of the situation might just wake him up. Bush is just a puppet in the hands of the so-called neocons lobby led by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Attacking Bush is just unreasonable. It only shows how uninformed people are about the U.S.

Paul Wolfowitz, who was the real architecht of the Iraq war, visited India recently in his new assignment as World Bank president. No protests were organised. He hit the same spots as Bush but met with no protests. Interestingly, it seems that the U.S. aid goes to certain showcase projects just so that visiting dignitaries will have something in the way of photo-ops (photo oppurtunities). Mother Teresa’s charity homes follow a similar strategy. Not every poor or needy person can get from help from them. Most of the people who ask help are simply redirected to government facilities and other charity institutions. But the worst cases, the kinds that look soon-to-be dead or unbelievably depressing ones, are taken in. So, when rich visitors come to visit, the gloomy atmosphere moves them so much that they have no trouble whipping out their cheque books. Had there been a happy atmosphere inside Mother Teresa’s home, donations would be hard to come by and people like Princess Diana will have nothing to show.

And, are Indian people really against Bush visit? Going by the Letters to the Editor column in The Hindu, people working in the software industry are perturbed by Roy’s article, particularly when scores of Indians wait outside U.S. consulates to get a visa to the U.S.
However, there is no logic in their reasoning. Bush is just an incumbent President. Nobody has to love Bush if they have to love America.
Not even Americans. Just as American citizens and companies do business in India, Indians and Indian companies find work in the U.S.
In any case, globalization was their idea. If they don’t like it, they can withdraw from the world and we can withdraw from theirs.

If the protests prevented Bush from coming to India, ordinary Americans will take it personally. In any country, the average voter is a moron. And, the U.S. is no exception. In particular, Americans think attacks on Americans assets are motivated by feelings of jealousy. It never reaches them that it is the presence of their troops and their actions that causes so much disaffection. Israel is a financially insolvent state.
Its economy is being propped with aid money from the U.S, much of which remains unaccountable. When Israeli military launches attacks on Palestinians homes, it is the U.S., which is held responsible.

* – Twisted Tales of Shakespeare

† – Baby Bush go home (Guardian, UK)


  1. Shyam Kashyap: Couldn’t agree more!
  2. Moral Volcano: I liked this in your articleMany networks in the US prepared programs about India as part of their coverage of the Bush tour. The way the media put it, “Before call centers came to India, Indians were dying on the streets. Their economy sucked. … Suddenly, call centers came. Outsourced projects started… Today their markets are bustling with activity….” The American view of the world always seems to veer in the direction of self-congratulation. Everything in the world is thanks to them, except the bad stuff for which someone else has take the blame. Nobody had any brains until Americans came and told them how to do things.

Wings Of Fire

In the early 60s, he successfully developed a hovercraft in the early 60s called Nandi, which moved on an air cushion of about 40 mm with a load of 550 kg. Kalam notes ruefully that India continues to import hovercrafts even today.

Thanks to President Abdul Kalam’s immense popularity, a book of non-fiction has found a place in several Indian homes. His autobiography Wings Of Fire is a bestseller for years. I got to reading it only now.

The book has an anecdote about Werner von Braun.* von Braun visited in India and Kalam had the opportunity to meet him. von Braun was impressed with the efforts of the Indian scientists in developing indigenous technology and the enormouse challenges they faced in the process. At that time, Indian efforts in the fields of space and nuclear science were looked with suspicion by developed countries and few came forward to help the country. von Braun told Kalam:

America is a country of great possibilities but they look upon everything un-American with suspicion and contempt. They suffer from a deep-rooted NIH (Not Invented Here) complex and look down on alien technologies. If you want to do anything in rocketry, do it yourself… SLV-3 is a genuine design and you may be having your own troubles. But, you should always remember that we don’t just build on success; we also build on failures.

Events that followed proved that von Braun was right. After the successful flight of the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3), the world reacted with shock. Kalam says:

Gary Milholin, a so-called specialist in missiles and warhead technologies, had made a claim in The Wall Street Journal that India had made Agni with the help of West Germany. I had a hearty laugh reading that German Aerospace Research Establishment (DLR) had developed Agni’s guidance system, the first stage rocket, and a composite nose cone, and that the aerodynamic model of Agni was tested in the DLR wind tunnel. An immediate denial came from the DLR, who in turn speculated that France had supplied the Agni guidance electronics. American Senator Jeff Bingaman even went to the extent of suggesting that I picked up everything needed for Agni during my four-month stay at Wallop’s Island in 1962. The fact that at that time the technology was not in existence was not mentioned.

In May 1998, India conducted a series of nuclear tests in Pokhran. The biggest surprise was that the tests were conducted in total secrecy. A missile test was scheduled on the same day in Chandipur (Orissa) and American spy satellites were busy observing the missile test and missed the action in the Rajastan desert. But, the Newsweek magazine claimed that American intelligence had indeed spotted the activity. They suggested the spooks were on their way to inform their President but by then the Indian government had already made the announcement to the world. Contrary to this, the U.S. News & World Report quoted an unnamed intelligence official who claimed that spies in the US government had betrayed the locations of American spy satellites to the Indian government. Of course, when it came to doubting the Indian government’s claims on the yeilds from the nuclear tests, the American media spoke in one voice. There were even doubts that a thermonuclear test was even conducted! That fact that India had been engaged nuclear research since the 50s, had already tested a nuclear device in 1975 and had been reprocessing fissile material for several decades had no meaning to them. Foreign media crews however roamed the streets to cover protests but were treated to wild celebrations of joy. The irrepressible BBC later made a documentary that showed an unidentified Bishnoi villager (his face was not shown) who claimed that he actually saw a big mushroom cloud after the tests! Again, the fact that it was an underground test escaped them.

Kalam also mentions Tipu Sultan who pioneered the use of rockets in India. After Tipu Sultan was killed in 1799, the British captured 700 rockets and subsystems of 900 rockets. These were then taken to England for reverse engineering. Despite his humble beginnings, Tipu Sultan was way ahead of his time. It is no wonder that he was much maligned by British Company historians.

Abdul Kalam did have his detractors. In the early 60s, he successfully developed a hovercraft in the early 60s called Nandi, which moved on an air cushion of about 40 mm with a load of 550 kg. The project’s principal backer was Krishna Menon, the defence minister in Nehru’s cabinet. After Menon’s resignation, the hovercraft development stopped. Kalam notes ruefully that India continues to import hovercrafts even today.

This kind of waste is not limited to hovercrafts. We keep buying all kinds of weapons from Western countries when they could have been developed in India. Why do we do this? A proper answer to this question can be found if one has read the transcripts from the Tehelka scandal. Buying from Russia or from Indian makers such as HAL offers no thrills to the babus in the Ministry of Defence and to the officers in the military. There are no middlemen involved. There is no party, no kickbacks and no fun. This is also the reason why Indian defence projects like the Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT) and Advanced Technology Vessel¤ (nuclear-powered submarine) fail to take off.

India has the licence to produce a limited number of Sukhoi-30 aircraft in India. The Russian MAPO-MiG company has also offered to sell top-class fighters to India at prices that are a fraction of similar Western aircraft. Would India buy them? No, they want the American F-16, at least 126 of them. Even the American air force is not buying these outdated aircraft anymore. Several former service chiefs have written to the government protesting the planned purchase. The way United States has behaved in the past should have offered little comfort to the planners. Remember that the U.S. prevented India from acquiring Cray supercomputers. (It is of course a different story that the guys at C-DAC Pune took this as a challenge built more powerful machines.) The United States had also prevented the Russian space agency Glavkosmos from transfering cyrogenic rocket engine technology. The sanctions on Glavkosmos are still in place.

The case with Britain is not much different. British-built Sea King helicopters were grounded because of a lack of spares, which were covered by US sanctions. Yet, India had signed a contract to buy 66 British Aerospace Hawk Advance Jet Trainers. As in the case of F-16s, the Royal Air Force has refused to buy these planes.

Also, when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister, he bought several helicopters from Britain in a deal that was pushed by Margaret Thatcher. The helicopters had numerous safety problems and the entire fleet was grounded. The uselesss hardware started rusting away in a military depot. When the Indian Air Force tried to sell it off as scrap, it made a few embarrassing headlines. Britain put a lot of pressure on the government to stop the sale.

One can never be really sure if weapons bought from these countries will be working for our benefit or for someone else. When India received an aircraft carrier from the Soviet Union, long-range maritime surveillance aircraft from several NATO countries followed the warship, as it sailed from Russian shores to India. Besides this vessel, India had a British-built aircraft carrier. Was the NATO anxiousness about it? No, they always knew exactly where the warship was and did not care much.

When Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, India installed a civilian radar system in the capital built by the American defence major Lockheed Martin. All aircraft flying in and out of the capital would be visible on the radar, giving the US unprecedented access to real-time military data. During the previous BJP regime, George Fernades fitted several Indian warships with Israeli Barak missiles. Worse still, India is planning to buy their AWACS system, an airborn radar that can track enemy and friendly aircraft. Now, they will know what we do see and what we don’t see. In a war, the U.S. can pass on this information to Pakistan if it wants to. Talks are also on with the U.S. to buy Patriot anti-missile complexes, which if deployed will be tracking targets in our airspace.

Already, stringers in the media are passing off salesmen literature as stragic affairs reading. Quoted below is a The Economic Times piece titled Strategic Paradigm Shift by “security expert” K. Subrahmanyam. Content inside brackets are mine.

we have the ability today to translate defence equipment purchases into a larger technology relationship that would cover high-end outsourcing. As a result, even in a short time span, we can foster a reverse dependency by the US…
[American arms industry could really become dependent on India! Hurray!]

No US president can give an assurance that Congress would not interrupt sales in the future…
[Not so much of a problem with the Russians or even the French]

if our purchases and collaborations turn substantial, the stakes for the US companies and legislators dependent on them would be too high to invoke sanctions lightly…
[In other words, India should greatly increase its weapons import bill with the U.S.]

The growing trade gap with the US is likely to lead to pressures on outsourcing…
[Are the Americans really talking about their TRADE GAP with India? Wow!]

The debate over data privacy could easily assume a protectionist colouring.
[Americans are stupid. You can get away with huge arms purchases alone. New Indian laws on data protection? Nah, they are not needed.]

Sometime in the 90s, a gadget maker in Britain released a mobile phone that did not feature a receive-call button or a ring tone. The phone automatically picks up the call when its is dialled. Who would buy such phones? Jealous spouses, for example. Suppose a guy suspects his wife is having an affair and entertaining him in the house. The husband could buy this phone and hide it in the bedroom. From his office, the husband can dial the phone, listen to the sounds in the phone’s vicinity and thereby keep tabs on his wife. Now, the question is what if the United States uses this technology with the military hardware that they are planning to sell us? Worse, what if the United States is using this technology with the military hardware that have been already sold to us?

* – von Bruan was the famous German rocket scientist who made the infamous V-2 missiles. Thousands of these rockets were manufactured by the Nazis and caused a great deal of damage in London during the Second World War. After Germany’s defeat, like many of her scientists, von Braun was taken to the United States. In the States, von Braun was given the top position in the rocketry programme by the NASA. Working for the US Army, von Braun developed the Jupiter missile, the first IRBM (Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile) with a range of 3000 km. In short, there was none bigger than von Braun in the field of rocket science at that time.

† – Kalam went to the US to get trained on sounding rockets. These rockets do not have the capacity to escape into space. They are primarily used for measuring atmospheric phenomenon.

‡ – Breaking all rules of defence research, Kalam employed scientists and researchers from civilian institutions like the IISc and CSIR. For example, it was a team of students who developed computer-based modelling programs for the Agni.

¤ – Officially, Indian government denies the existence of the project. But, a military scientist and Dr. Raja Ramanna clashed openly in a series of articles about the project in the Open Page of The Hindu.

Peter Sellers’ Being There

As Mark Twain said, fact is stranger than fiction because fiction needs to stick with possibilities.

Gobbledegook! All the time he talked gobbledegook! An’ it’s for sure a White man’s world in America, hell, I raised that boy since he was the size of a pissant an’ I’ll say right now he never learned to read an’ write – no sir! Had no brains at all, was stuffed with rice puddin’ between the ears! Short-changed by the Lord and dumb as a jackass an’ look at him now! Yes, sir –
all you gotta be is white in America an’ you get whatever you want! Just listen to that boy – gobbledegook!

The quote above is not about Bush (but it could very well be). Actually, it is from the Peter Seller’s film Being There. It is one of my favorite black comedies.

The film is about Chance, a mentally stunted gardner, who is suddenly rendered homeless after his employer dies. He had lived all his life within the confines of his employer’s house. His knowledge of outside world is limited by what he had gained from his childlike fascination for television. After he leaves the home, the outside world becomes a giant television for him. In an
encounter with a hostile street gang, he pulls out the remote to change the channel! Because he was cared for by a black maid at his previous home, he goes to an elderly black woman on the street and says I’m very hungry now. Would you please bring my lunch? Unfortunately, it is a seedy part of Washington D.C. and on a street selling adult material, and so the woman takes to her heels. Chance then meets with an accident involving a limousine belonging to Eve Rand
(Shirley MacLaine). She mistakes him for someone big, a Mr. Gardiner, and takes him to her mansion. Once there, his childishly simple answers and calm demeanour is mistaken for genius. His words I like to watch are about television but are mistaken for things more profound.

The President of the United States comes to visit the Rands and he gets to meet Chance. The President asks for his opinion about the economy, Chance being a gardner says, As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well in the garden. In a garden, growth has its season. There is spring and summer, but there is also fall and winter. And then spring and summer
. Rand re-interprets this as, I think what my most insightfult friend is building up to, Mr. President, is that we welcome the inevitable
seasons of nature, yet we are upset by the seasons of our economy
. And Chance concludes, There will be growth in the spring. The President then says, Well, Mr. Gardiner, I must admit, that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time. He then reiterates this to the media and speaks highly of Mr. Gardiner. Chance then becomes a media celebrity. The CIA and the FBI are secretely asked to check out Mr. Gardiner but they draw a blank. Having lived in the same place all his life, Chance left no paper trail. This leaves the President in a quandry. The only intelligence they can provide is:

Suits hand-made by a tailor in Chicago in 1928. The tailor went out of business in 1933, then took his own life. His shoes were hand-made in 1936. The cobbler has long since been dead. Underwear, all of the finest cloth, factory destroyed by fire in 1948. The man carries no indentification; no wallet, no driver’s license, no credit cards. He carries one item along with
him, a fine Swiss Patek-Phillipe watch, made in 1887, but there is no record of where or when it was purchased. Computers have analyzed Gardiner’s vocal characteristics; it is impossible to determine his ethnic back-ground, they feel
his accent may be northeastern, but they will not commit to that. Fingerprint check proved negative, no identification possible. That’s it, Mr. President.

When a lady TV reporter asks him about his opinion about a The Washington Post editorial, he flatly says, I do not read any newspapers. I watch TV. The reports persists, Do you mean, Mr. Gardiner, that you find television’s coverage of the news superior to that of the
. To this, he replies with a deadpan expression, I like to watch TV. Then, the TV reporter faces the camera and says, Well, that is probably the most honest admission to come from a public figure in years. Few men in public life have the courage not to read newspapers. None, that this reporter has met, have the guts to admit it. She finishes off this with a priceless sombre squinting look in her face that only TV reporters can make and which words cannot describe.

When the film ends, the President had died of a heart attack and Chance is seriously being considered as a Presidential candidate. The outburst quoted above is by the black maid. The maid was the only person who knew Chance’s true identity.

The film tries to show that in politics, if you have powerful friends, you can can be anything you want. Or else, how can you explain George Bush? His solo press conferences look like adult versions of Bill Cosby’s Kids Say The Darndest Things.

His father George Bush Sr. was also a President. Before that he was Vice President under Reagan. He was also the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) before that. In the 50-50 Gore-Bush election, a large number of
votes in Florida (a state ruled by George W. Bush’s brother Jeb Bush) were subject of a controversy. The matter was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court and a judge who was originally appointed by George Bush Sr. picked George W. Bush as the winner.

If this had happened in some Third World country, then the US would have been the first one to make allegations of electoral fraud. I guess that in vibrant democracies like the U.S. or India, such things are bound to happen. As Mark Twain said, fact is stranger than fiction because fiction needs to stick with possibilities.