By SHOBHAA DE

shobha1_660_073113083003_080113080939…AND OTHER LIFE LESSONS FROM SHE WHO KNOWS BETTER Perhaps that headline should be reworded to “Who’s next…?“ Whichever way one wants to look at it, the signs are pretty ominous.Having stated the obvious, I am consciously moving away from distressing developments of the week (cancelled concert, threatened play) and forcing myself to refocus on events that have a more important and positive impact on our lives.This evening (Friday), I have been invited to address global management students. The topic is ummm ­ thought provoking, but a bit too intense (“Education and the pursuit of humanism“). My initial reactions to this ponderous subject were pretty mixed. Do young, bright, restless, brilliant students really want gyaan from me on such a bhaari topic? Why me? They should have invited Amartya Sen. After putting my foot into it, I began thinking about that beautiful word ­ “Humanism“, and its special significance in the context of what we are living through in these deeply disturbing, violent, anarchic times. When did any of us stop to think about “humanism“ in a broader context? And having thought about it, what have we done to implement it in our own lives? The “pursuit“ of anything beyond material goals has become the norm. And each day provides a fresh example of anti-humanism in our midst ­ something we absorb, take in our stride, shrug off and carry on like nothing all that terrible has happened to shock or disturb the predictable rhythm of our daily lives.

After Indrani Mukerjea’s dramatic stint in a public hospital (we will never know whether it was an accidental overdose, suicide bid or murder attempt), she is back in prison doing yoga, and God knows which poor sucker is being forced to taste her food before she deigns to eat it. I want to congratulate the JJ Hospital doctors for challenging the diktat to sample Indrani’s meals, in case they were poisoned, and refusing to play guinea pigs in this dreadful, shabby case. Since this story is as good as dead (unless there is another stunt), one can only express some wonder that not a single family member bothered to visit the woman who was stated to be in a serious and very precarious condition, struggling for her life in the heavily fortified ICCU. That another patient lost his life, unable to access doctors because of the pumped up security, is a different matter. In any other country, that patient’s family would have sued for damages and won! Just as that saga came to an end, Maria Susairaj was back in the news for cheating Haj pilgrims of a couple of crores. Who can forget Susairaj ­ she was a deadly femme fatale accused of the grisly murder of TV executive Neeraj Grover, whose body was hacked into pieces, stuffed into a sack and burnt in the woods near Manor by Maria and her handsome naval boyfriend Lieutenant Emile Jerome. While Jerome is still serving time, Maria got off lightly with a three-year term for destruction of evidence and abetment. She is obviously born under very lucky stars.Like Indrani, Maria lied to the cops for days before she was nailed. This time she has been picked up by the Vadodara police for conning Zaid Ashfaq and his son after luring them to a local hotel and posing as a travel agent of sorts. Of course, this time too Maria is pleading innocence and insisting she has been “victimised“.Yup. Again! Interestingly, her partner in crime is one Paromita Chakraborty, who had shared jail space in Amboli with Susairaj in 2011.

The similarities between Indrani and Maria (both were dubbed Lady Macbeth by the press), intriguing as they are, also throw up a sinister pattern involving ambition, avarice and an apparent absence of any softer human emotions. Susairaj was a Mangalore girl who wanted to make it big in Mumbai. Indrani came from Guwahati to hit the big time in Maximum City. Both women were associated with the entertainment world via television. And of course there was a line up of influential, doting men in their lives, ready to err…kill for them.

In such a grim scenario, I will make a valiant effort to sound convincingly upbeat when I address the students. But I also know our students are much smarter than to fall for well-packaged platitudes. I will give it my best shot, but am mentally prepared to be hooted off the stage if I stick to a goody-goody script, laced with “inspiring“ quotes of great and good minds from a distant past.

Maybe I should just give the kids my uncensored views on anything and everything that’s happening in India today…including the sizzling saga of two deadly women who have a common agenda of sorts ­ a colourful, criminal past, a far-fromglamourous present and an uncertain future. It’s one lecture these students will never forget! Let’s see…I still have a couple of hours to prep. But kuch bhi ho sakta hai, on the way to the campus!