“Napoleon’s Hemorrhoids …and other Small events that changed History” by Phil Mason makes an interesting reading about history. I am paraphrasing from the introduction along with a few examples to give you flavour of the book. It is a book about tiny events that have had big impacts that have changed the world or individuals lives. Dealing with history with a twist and leading the reader to wonder “if only’ and ‘ what if”. Of how small turns of chance, accident and fate had bigger impacts on the course of history that might have been expected. The book explodes the myth that big things happen for big reasons and seeks to establish that much of history turns out to be consequence of small acts of fortune, accident or luck, good or bad. Of how significant decisions that have had historic and lasting impact have turned on the smallest of matters.The 240 page book deals with several of instances across History, Sports, Science, Art, Crime & Politics. I am quoting below five examples from the book:
- Napoleon’s attack of piles on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo is said to have prevented him from his usual practice of riding around the battlefield. On the fateful morning, he was severely discomfited and delayed attacking the enemy by more that five hours. This delay allowed the Allied reinforcements to join the battle by early evening and eventually win over him. If he did not have the attack of piles, he would have been able to finish the enemy in the morning itself. The future of Europe would have turned out very differently.
- Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were not the intended conquerors and were only the back up pair. The lead pair encountered problem with their equipment just 300 feet before the summit and had to return down to the camp. Three days later Hillary and Norgay conquered the Everest.
- The Titanic disaster could have been averted if the Second officer Blair, who was removed from the roster in the last minute, did not forget to hand over the crow’s nest locker which held the binoculars vital for look outs. In a subsequent enquiry one of the surviving look outs Fed Fleet admitted that they did not have any binoculars during the voyage. Had they had one, the testimony states that the disaster could have been avoided.
- King Arthur had only 18 seats for his Round Table. He accidentally sent out invitations to 19 Knights and having realized his mistake asked one of the Knights to step out since there was already another Knight from the same County. The rejected Knight felt humiliated and subsequently raised a revolt against King Arthur seeking half of his kingdom. King Arthur had to finally relent, making it one of the most costly dinner invites ever.
- Empire magazine voted the famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Harrison Ford instead of combating an Arab swordsman, who is demonstrating his skills by swinging blades, casually pulls out his gun and shoots him. In the original script a long sword fight was planned, but since Ford had a stomach upset, the scene was drastically shortened !
One often hears Congress politicians talk about demand for Telangana being a 50 year old one. However Sri Krishna Committee report while tracing the genesis of the demand, break down the periods of agitation into 56-73 and 2000-2009.In fact the advent of NTR on the political scene with “Telugu pride” as his slogan actually went to deepen the bonds of Telugu’s across the regions. For Congress to take credit for this by generalizing it as a 50 year old demand would be unfair to the efforts of KCR. It may be better to refer to the Telangana demand as one that is actually 13 years old and credit KCR for this entirely. Independent of ones view on this separation, one must respect the fact that he single handedly achieved what he set out to do in 2000. Not many politicians that I know can lay claim to such an incredible achievement.
So why did KCR actually start TRS? This is the story going around in the TDP circles. It was in the year 1999 that Chandrababu Naidu invited the then just retired Director of CBI K. Vijaya Rama Rao to join TDP. Initially he promised him a Rajya Sabha seat, but finally persuaded him to stand for MLA elections against P.Janardhan Reddy. PJR was the CLP leader and a political heavy weight in Congress. Vijaya Rama Rao won the election and was immediatley hailed as a middle class hero coming from Govt service and vanquishing a political giant. Without so much as a second thought, Naidu offered him a cabinet post in the first list itself. Cabinet compositions as you are aware are caste and region based with the CM trying to strike a balance and make everyone happy. When the time to make the final list came, Naidu realized that Vijaya Rama Rao was a Velama and that he could not take more than two Ministers from this community. Vidhyadhar Rao from Andhra was a certainity having served as a Minister in his previous cabinet also. This left him in a quandary as KCR who also hailed from the Velama community was also a eligible candidate from the Telangana region. KCR had by that time established himself both as a strategic thinker as well as a implementor of many of Naidu’s pet schemes. So by no means was he ineligible when compared to Vijaya Rama Rao, whose only claim to being a minister was the fact that he had defeated PJR. Being a debutant, he was certainly less eligible a candidate than the experienced KCR. However Naidu painted himself in a corner by announcing Vijaya Rama Rao’s name in the first list and not wanting to have more than two Velamas in his cabinet as that would have other implications from members of other communities, did not invite KCR to be the Minister. Instead he offered him the post of Deputy Speaker. A rightfully miffed KCR worked for a few months and finally resigned to start his own party TRS with the sole mandate of realizing a separate state for Telangana. The rest is history that we are all aware of.
Several “what if” and ” if only” questions can be asked from this episode. If only Naidu was not in a hurry to announce Vijaya Rama Rao’s name as his minister in the first list itself. If only he waited till he had clarity on the composition of his entire cabinet. If only KCR or Vijaya Rama Rao were not Velamas? What if Vijaya Rama Rao got an extension or a sinecure position post his retirement as a CBI Director? What if Naidu had the courage to take three Velamas and one Kamma or Reddy less? If only Vijaya Rama Rao insisted on being a Rajya Sabha member and not stand for MLA elections as was the original promise made by Naidu?
What if. If only. What if. If only….several possibilities and outcomes ! Who knows? KCR may have chosen to stay back in TDP. Or he may have branched out to form his own party much later and not had the success that he has had now. May be somebody else may have come and tapped into the emotions of Telangana people but in an entirely different way. May be the State would not have been divided and only a Regional Council would have been set up. Whatever be the situation, but for the fact that both of them were from the same Velama community and Naidu could not take the correct decision. History would certainly have been different
Another irony is that NTR united all the regions by bringing out the Telugu pride in all of us. His successor Naidu played a role in separating the regions and in the process dimnishing the Telugu pride.
Even though I am against the division of the state, I have to give it to KCR for persevering with his cause and achieving what he set out to do. I have to say Jai Telangana !
One more tiny thing, the story on King Arthur was made up by me. The rest are from Phil Mason’s book !