India That Is Bharat
“Words are like leaves, and where they most abound, much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.” At least that is what a poet would have us believe. But in the prosaic, no-nonsense world in which we live, a word has a sense, and the sense has to be sensible. That being so, how sensible or otherwise would it be to call a prisoner an inmate of a prison? Well, it would depend. Depend on what? On whether you are in an English prison or an American prison. For the English and the Americans are divided by the same language, so in England it would be alright, but in America it could be illegal. Take this recent report. A convicted murderer lodged in a New York prison has filed a suit against the State for 50 million dollars on the ground that he is being “stigmatised” by being called an “inmate” of the prison, as “inmate” implied that he was “mating with other men” in the prison, and this has caused him mental anguish. The murderer’s sister, who is a lawyer, argued, the term “implies that our brother is locked up for the purpose of mating with other men. The suggested nature of this word is disgraceful. This cruel psychological programming has weighed heavily on our emotional and psychological well-being.”
Well, now, what do you know? Satiricus quite agrees that Mr Murderer must not be subjected to such psychological cruelty and his reputation must not be tarnished with such disgraceful implications. In fact Satiricus would even say an abject apology is in order. At the most the State may plead in defence that the dons of Oxford had misled the Department of Prisons by declaring in their dictionary that “inmate” meant an occupant of a prison or hospital. But of course this would be a weak defence, for Oxford is in England, not America, so the English English meaning and the American English meaning of the same word can be as different as chalk is from cheese. So the basic point of law in this complex case could be: Is Mr Murderer’s reputation brittle like chalk or does it smell like cheese?
Taxing witches’ income
There are professions and professions, vocations and vocations, occupations and occupations. Some are pen-pushers (like Satiricus), some are plumbers. Some are wordsmiths (again like Satiricus), some are blacksmiths. Whatever the means of livelihood, one thing is sure as taxes. It is taxes. Still Satiricus was not a little taken aback to learn the other day that there is a tax even on the profession of witchcraft. Should Satiricus be surprised? Actually he shouldn’t. For if it takes all kinds to make the world, why can’t those kinds include witches? At least the Government of Romania thinks they can. For in the recent past the government of that European country, where witchcraft has been traditionally practised for centuries, officially recognised witches as professionals and imposed a 16 per cent tax on their income. Naturally the witches vigorously protested. But did that mean their union went on a strike, as Satiricus expected? No. Rather, the Queen Witch, by name Bratara Buzea, did something much more terrible—she cast a spell on the government, using cat excrement and a dead dog!
But that was not the end of the spell-binding story. For not content with taxing witches’ income, the Romanian government has even gone to the extent of proposing a new law saying witches can be fined and even sent to jail if their predictions did not come true. This, of course, was too much official interference with a time-honoured practice. So Satiricus was not surprised to see that the government’s move angered the witches so much that they dumped poisonous mandrake plants in the river Danube in order to put a curse on the government.
Whether the cursed government met with a fatal accident during a vote in Parliament Satiricus does not know. What he knows is that witches seem to be up in arms against officialdom not only in the west but even in the Far East. For news comes from Melbourne in Australia that when a woman driver was convicted for dangerous driving and causing injury to a traffic policeman she asserted she was not subject to earthly laws because she was a witch. That her unearthly freedom could not save her from two months in jail and a fine of a thousand dollars is neither here nor there. And if things are bad in Australia, they are worse in Britain. For the Metropolitan Police of London have actually prepared a “how to arrest a witch” guidebook for policemen. So the next time a constable confronts a law-breaking witch he can look up the 300-page text to determine under which clause her broom-stick can be confiscated. But if the police can have their book, witches can have their book too. And if they don’t know how to write, they can go to school and learn at least in the Netherlands. For in that country it is legal for witches to write off the cost of learning witchcraft from tax-deductible income.