Playing This or That

Within a group, decide on two captains. Then divide yourselves into teams of two, and place any object in the centre of a level playing field. Then, in groups of two, vie for that object – and once obtained, run back to base camp. The team which does this the maximum times wins. Here, I might be talking about playing our childhood game ‘dog-and-the-bone’ or playing the adult game of politics.

One needs to choose his or her teammates carefully. After all, the object holds more importance than anything else. It is all pervasive, and one must obtain it by all means.

The next question which arises is how these teammates should be chosen. Sometimes mere loyalty to the captain is enough. If your families share a connection for decades, you are obligated to be a part of the team, in a rather Rahul-esque manner. The captain however, cannot expect the same loyalty from all the members in the group. This is where the captain needs to use his skills the most. Manipulation, false promises, readiness to change the prevalent style of functioning, unnecessary interference in various affairs if need be – are all in order. Ask any of our politicians, they ace this game.

Some prospective teammates are always in two minds. These are the ones to be extra careful about. They might change their loyalties overnight, and are sometimes notorious for doing so. The captain has to be extra cautious, because, in essence – the reputation of the entire team depends upon its teammates. These future teammates say different things at different times, and disappoint the spectators of this game. Even if they appear loyal to the captain for a certain period, they have no qualms about shifting loyalties in a short span of time, even if the other group does not share the same goal. The goal is more often than not, related to power in a twisted manner and both groups are always trying to grab it, even if they have to make use of their vile selves.

Most prospective teammates however, move together, and are classic examples of herd mentality. Here, the importance of the shepherd comes into play. He can even demand the moon, and it will be presented to him on a silver platter. These shepherds are often seen nursing old wounds, and see the opportunity to take revenge from the captain. Or they could also be bribed into taking charge of a ministry for a certain trust.

Some teammates claim to be independent, but demand the same amount of attention. Even if they are not meritorious, and the object has no broad relation to them, their presence in the side is important. So, they too need to be wooed, and manipulated.

The captain can often be seen in a state of disarray, trying to convince the prospective teammates to join his team. He has to be swashbuckling, and an expert at mind games. He has to convince the spectators of his worth, because, his power and fame depends upon their support. He can’t afford to look out of place or scared. He has to always look alert and in control, lest he be heckled by the fourth estate. After all, with such high stakes, the players are always in the limelight.

It doesn’t matter whether the players are uneducated, have no knowledge of the game, or are certified criminals. All that matters is their support for the captain.

The referee stands in a pitiable position. He can choose to support a side, but what if the group he was once loyal to changes loyalties? Will he be thrown out of the game?

The impending trust vote is a classic example of dog and the bone, with Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi acting as captains of one side, LK Advani, the leader of the opposition, on the other side, and Somnath Chatterjee playing the role of the referee.

This will the most decisive game of dog and the bone in the history of our young republic. Be sure to keep track of the developments, and you may even choose your side well in advance.

Devika Menon

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