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  Opinion   Oped  05 Mar 2020  When ‘Shakespeare’ speaks on Indian politics

When ‘Shakespeare’ speaks on Indian politics

Sriram Karri is the author of the bestselling, MAN Asian Literary Prize longlisted novel, Autobiography of a Mad Nation
Published : Mar 5, 2020, 1:58 am IST
Updated : Mar 5, 2020, 1:58 am IST

Rahul Gandhi has been missing from the anti-CAA protests, I posed. “Ambition should be made of sterner stuff,” he replied.

William Shakespeare
 William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, as all of the alumni of WhatsApp university know, was born in India. As per Wiki, he was born in Manpidimangalam in the Tiruchirappalli district as Shesha P. Iyer. Working as a financial journalist, covering the banking sector and its woes with non-performing assets, he wrote, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”.

They transferred him to the political beat, where while covering a rally of a now deceased political leader, he observed: “...hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” He had to run away from Tamil Nadu, changed his name and identity to Sheik Mohd. Peer, and settled in Hyderabad.


Sheik M. Peer, confronted by a GHMC official doing a routine survey with lots of suspicious questions, that after having just returned from an anti-CAA protest, famously hailed, “Touba, na-touba, touba-na-touba”, whose English translation “to be or not to be” would come later.

It was his piece for the Deccan Chronicle, in which he quipped: “We have seen better days”, and was misinterpreted by some, especially the acche din part, post which, financially exploiting the coronavirus scenario, he got cheap international airline tickets and made his way to London, where he took the name of William Shakespeare of course.

And all this, as we all know, is Unesco certified.


Before he left India, for a post-Brexit Britain, that “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns”, I tried to interview him, but given his state of mind, who knew what he was talking about, or if his responses were really about Indian politics.

At first, he said, a bit reflective and puzzled, “an ambitious couple in power? An indecisive young man brooding about his father’s murder in Opposition? I cannot handle that in one plot. It would take two plays, at least, but of course, but tragedies.”

Rahul Gandhi has been missing from the anti-CAA protests, I posed. “Ambition should be made of sterner stuff,” he replied.


To my question: “The second stint has been all action. Article 370, Ram Temple, CAA, NPR,” he said, “though this be madness, yet there is method in it”.

On fake news, he was confounded, “What! Can the devil speak true?”

Any message for Indian minorities feeling insecure currently?

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!”

When asked about 9 pm primetime TV debates, he said, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” and added, “The empty vessel makes the loudest sound”.

What about Indians who choose to be neutral and silent? He sadly mused: “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now”.


On the Delhi violence, he softly whispered, “Confusion now hath made his masterpiece”.

What about the youth of India still waiting for the promise of jobs, I asked the bard, to which he hollered back, “Lord, Lord, how subject we old men are to this vice of lying!”

On Indian secularism, he merely sighed, “What is done cannot be undone”.

And on the WhatsApp university, he observed, “There is no darkness but ignorance”.

On the politics of hate, he was direct: “In time we hate that which we often fear”.

On those who lead lynching mobs, he was contemplative, and finally spoke thus: “Lawless are they that make their wills their law”.


He sounded profound on the re-evaluation of deeds of icons of the past, unfairly, saying, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”.

Asked what should a common man do in times of collective madness engulfing society all round, he reminded me, “I dare do all that may become a man; who dares do more, is none”.

As his name was announced for boarding his flight, before he put on his mask, he screamed, “Farewell, fair cruelty. Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow”.

I had more to ask, but felt some inspirations turning into words for myself: “The rest is silence”.


Tags: rahul gandhi, william shakespeare