One of the stories which found a place in our school books, while we were yet in school, was the encounter between ULYSSES and POLYPHEMUS. Ulysses was the wise & courageous warrior who on his way back to Ithaca, had to encounter many hazards for which he was inadvertently responsible. Ulysses had hurt the cattle holy to Neptune or of Polyphemus, who was the son of the sea god Neptune (I stick to the Roman version, even though the Greek name was Poseidon). So Neptune, troubled Ulysses throughout his journey back to Ithaca in Greece.
Thus Ulysses and his men find a way to a cave in an island, while Polyphemus – the ONE EYED GIANT- was out grazing his cattle. One way in, same way out, that was the way to the cave. Ulysses and his men enjoyed the cheese, butter and other dairy products which were available in the den of Polyphemus. Upon arrival of Polyphemus, Ulysses and his men were frightened by the sheer size of the giant and Polyphemus, killed one of Ulysses’ men and ate him. However, to inveigle himself with the giant, Ulysses gave the giant a flask of wine and Polyphemus, who had not been introduced to intoxicants, felt good and drank till he could drink no more and dozed off. As a mark of gratitude, Polyphemus promised that HE WOULD KILL ULYSSES LAST!
Ulysses, was not a man like some of our political leaders who inveigle themselves with the powerful for the crumbs and betray the trust reposed by their followers. Ulysses gets back to SAVE THE LIFE OF HIS COMRADES. His assurance from Polyphemus did not lull him into lethargy, instead he devised ways to outwit the giant and obtain the release of all his other surviving seamen through a safe passage. THAT IS LEADERSHIP. I wonder whether Ulysses told his comrades about the promise made by Polyphemus to kill him last – that would probably have aroused the suspicion of his comrades! Probably he told them and sensitized them that each one should redouble his efforts to find a scheme to get out of the den, as none could be sure that the giant would NOT pick him for the next meal!
I believe that Ulysses would have asked his men to put their heads together and devise a scheme and bring it to fruition, instead of playing for time for merely securing his life. This is logical as in ODYSSEY, there is a shipwreck and Ulysses, loses most of his men and the way Homer describes the scene of Ulysses wailing and falling asleep on the shore, it appears that Ulysses cared more for the life of his men than any leader would care for.
The issue is not the story of POLYPHEMUS and ULYSSES, but to highlight how leaders of a group of persons or organization or institution with lesser resources and power should not merely obtain for themselves PERSONAL CONCESSIONS at the cost of the group, but ensure that the WHOLE GROUP GETS THE BENEFIT. It is for this reason that the guardian goddess of Ulysses was Minerva (Athena in Greek)- the goddess of Wisdom.
But the way politics – especially the politics of handling the religious, linguistic and cultural minorities is concerned, the POLYPHEMUS like institutions or political leaders target the LEADERS of minorities and as an appeasement tell them that :THEY SHALL BE THE LAST TO BE KILLED! Just as Polyphemus promised Ulysses. But unlike Ulysses, these leaders of minority interests, do not devise ways to obtain legislative concessions which are already enshrined in the constitution of India, but enjoy the perks of some sinecure, show of importance and miss an opportunity to uphold the linguistic or religious or cultural values which have actually propelled them in the first place to represent such interests.
There have been many riots in our country, have the leaders representing the interests staged a dharna like ANNA HAZARE for passing of a legislation? Nay. Let us get the legislation passed, so that the next generation could get the LETTER OF THE LAW to bloom and get their rights unmolested by mere numbers!
Long live multicultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religious mosaic of INDIA.