Wednesday, October 14, 2009

State gifts & Stately Gifts

Age old diplomatic precedents and protocols demand that a visiting Head of states are offered gifts befitting their world stature and strength of their nation's friendship. The US constitution abhorred such diplomatic gifts so much that a clause in their Constitution actually prohibits public officials from accepting gifts from foreign officials. In modern days, the trend is on full public disclosure rather than declining the gifts outright.

So every time a President/ PM or a King travels abroad, host nations scramble for a befitting gift. During Nehruvian era, India gifted our pedigree Tigers and elephants as state gifts. In course of time these gifts were rendered out dated ( perhaps this could have led to the phrase "white elephant" gifts?). Live animals have fallen out of fashion in Western diplomatic circles too. A rare pedigree breed dog presented to George Bush Jr. had a tough time to pass the country's quarantine standards, before being adopted. ( No it wasn't Bush who adopted the dog).

Then we had President Col Nasser of Egypt who presented a bride as a state gift to Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana (by the way Fathia Nkrumah was a Coptic Christian, so I guess Nasser had no qualms of gifting her).

Lately the Foreign Office of many nations have run out of ideas. US President Obama presented Queen Elizabeth an iPod with popular US tracks and a footage of her previous visits. (phew... I wonder who in the State Department proposed such an idea !!). The Queen had no trouble in reciprocating the same. She usually gives a standard silver framed photograph of herself and her hubby, with her autograph on it. Alas, they still think they are some sort a celebrity couple. Well at least you can excuse them.

Well it is time to revisit this age old diplomatic practice and put an end to these mindless protocols and trivialities.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Going down the drain...

We seldom value things that come free. Air and water are the first examples that comes to mind when I state this axiom. Water, the very essence of life, is being taken for granted by the affluent sections of the society. Is water that cheap, that you dont need to meter it?

After coming to US, I had to get use to bathing in a bathtub. But then I realised that I end up wasting more water , as it goes down the drain, rather than wetting any portion of my body. (also considering the fact the water is of drinking quality, I could not but help claculating the sheer waste). US Department of Energy estimates on average a person in US uses 200-300 liters of water everyday for domestic purposes !!. Man, this nation is one heck of a water gusher.

This led to a more insightful reflection as to why I need water to bathe? I could think of two salient reasons
  • First being the exfoliating effect of water. (removing dirt and dust from the pores of the skin).
  • Second, water being the viscous medium for the soap (including liquid based soaps) to act chemically as well as to ease the dabbing action. (imagine running a dry soap on a dry skin)

So I made a conscious decision on my part to use the age old Indian practice bathing with a water mug. I can easily guess that my water consumption has drastcially cut down. Plus, there is no water spliing outside the tub. (I wish my roomates could follow this simple rule!!!) But having said that its is wrong on my part to expect others to follow my example. Atleast let me practice first, before I start to preach.