A game of chess.

It was our sales meeting. The usual dinner, and the inevitable post-dinner wading-in-alcohol, were in full swing. We passionately discussed NFL, the cliffhanger Super Bowl still fresh in our minds. After that, our discussion seamlessly moved on to college football, then basketball, and so on. When we had exhausted sports, someone happily brought up his vacation in Costa Rica, and that triggered us all to brag about our much-cherished memories of other exotic locales. That was an easy launching pad to cuisine in all its glorious variety, and we even touched upon my favorite masala dosa.

All evening, I was sure our discussions would eventually meander into what the rest of the world was avidly watching unfold. But it didn’t.

Unable to control myself anymore, I decided to open the gate. “It’s a real pity, what’s happening in Ukraine.”

An awkward silence followed. Thankfully, my boss had the presence of mind to break it with, “How about one more round of beer before calling it a night?”

Spirited enthusiasm was restored after I almost brought it to the brink of doom. Later, when we were all dispersing back to our hotel rooms, I got one of my elderly colleagues alone and asked, “Jay, the whole world is talking about Putin invading Ukraine. How come we turn a blind eye to it?”

Pat comes to his response. “Is there anything that you or I can do about it, except feel depressed?”

I went to bed feeling depressed.

I am from Kerala, where we love talking politics and fighting over it, sometimes leading to stabbings, and in the northern districts, even the tossing of homemade grenades.

I remember a haircut experience in my tiny hamlet during one of my vacation visits to Kerala. The barber, who knew me from my youth, was emotionally charged up and kept on asking how the heck we could elect a moron like Trump. “Are you guys blind? I can clearly see his evil mind, even from here.”

Since he was handling old-fashioned sharp tools, I had to cool him down by offering pacifying words like “it won’t happen again.” But the incident stayed with me.

I wonder if the reason people talk so much about politics is because there is nothing else exciting or invigorating to talk about. It reminded me of my first visit to England, nearly a quarter-century back, for a Food Expo.

At the Earls Court Expo Center, the booth adjacent to ours was a British company. I made friends with one of them, and during our conversation, I happened to admire the high caliber of wit in their BBC TV shows like, “Mind your Language,” and “Yes, Minister.”

And when I pried how come they had developed such a highbrow sense of humor, he responded in jest, “Maybe it’s because real life is so miserable.”

History has seen many evil rulers who have brought misery to their own people and others over different periods of time. Some suffered at the end, but many went scot-free.

As good human beings, we all empathize with our fellow beings living in those unfortunate nations without realizing we, in the United States, can’t really do anything about it, in spite of being a powerful country. It hurts to watch helplessly as the massacre slowly rolls on with incoming armored tanks and fiery missiles. Seeing is far more visceral than listening to the news over the radio as our earlier generation did in WWII.

In those days, when the Luftwaffe was carpet-bombing England, Churchill approached FDR frantically, to bring in the might of America to stop the advance of a German monster who sported a comical Charlie Chaplin mustache.

At that time, the public sentiment here was against interference in a foreign war, although FDR was dying to jump in and help his buddy, Winston. And then luckily for the world, Emperor Hirohito made that blundering Hara-kiri move in Pearl Harbor, and we know how that story ends.

We are in a bit of an ethical pickle with Ukraine, what Shakespearean enthusiasts would term: To be or not to be.

Can we and our good NATO friends afford to be good Samaritans? Afford — that is the keyword. How long can the good-hearted stand on the sidelines as Putin’s gambit is played out on the European chessboard, as his juggernauts roll on towards the squares the bugger is hell-bent on usurping? Is there still righteousness in the Swiss fashioned neutrality? Well, India thinks there is.

E = MC^2: that is the crux.

Putin, the dark heart, is sitting on plenty of that noxious stuff, which makes the civilized world pause for deterrence. Mankind must be lamenting now for the wonderful progress that Einstein achieved in the field of physics, and maybe even secretly wishing we were still in the bow-and-arrow days when annihilation was not in our dictionary.

Perchance, if the US and our NATO allies were to let their foot slip off the current, sensible refrain brakes accidentally, and were to swerve in moral indignation suddenly, we could be collectively thrown back into a period of bows and arrows.

I pray a lot these days.

Jayant Kamicheril was born in East Africa and did his schooling in Kumarakom, Kerala. For the past 22 years, he has been working in technical sales for the food industry and lives in Reading, PA. 


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