Affairs of the heart

Affairs of the heart

Vijay Singh

Paris: Will supermodel-singer Carla Bruni accompany French President Nicolas Sarkozy to India, was the question doing the rounds when one left Delhi a few days ago. I was surprised to be confronted with the same question upon landing in Paris. Sarkozy-Carla’s visit to India, with the prospect of their nascent romance being blessed by the Taj Mahal, was beginning to become a riddle, when a former colleague from the French daily Liberation called to inform that Carla herself had phoned the newspaper to clarify that neither are they yet married nor will she be accompanying the French president to India. “Oh no! How disappointing!” lamented an Indian journalist on learning the news. “We were all set for her. She’d have taken the press by storm. You know whose fault this is — this wretched protocol!”
    I’m not quite sure if protocol is the only factor behind Carla’s decision not to accompany Sarkozy to India, but if it is, it is truly regrettable. In this world of rapidly changing behavioural patterns, shouldn’t we be reading the protocol manuals with some personal discernment? In the case of Sarkozy and Carla, the bottom line is that she is his companion and that they are in the process of formalising a legal bond. So what is all this fuss about? Shouldn’t a president’s companion be accorded the right to sit wherever such people are seated, particularly when we say that a “Guest is God” in India? At a slightly deeper level, is a magistrate’s stamp the only legal instrument left on this planet to confer legitimacy to personal desire or love? Protocol manuals will soon have to be revised in keeping with the times.
Today, almost every Frenchman sounds quite taken up by the Sarkozy-Carla affair, which is rare in this country. In contrast to the Anglo-Saxon countries, politicians here enjoy a much greater freedom in their personal lives, and nobody really goes prying into the dark corners of their libidinal lives. Joie de vivre and an epicurean sensuality are part and parcel of everyday French life. Not very
long ago, former President Francois Mitterrand was known to go around with his mistress, and nobody batted an eyelid.
Since one was a bit intrigued about the Sarkozy-Carla excitement in France, one decided to do a random check by calling a few friends and acquaintances. A ministry of national education officer was quick to react: “Sarkozy wants to be president in the day and a rock-n-roll star at night. We can’t accept this. A president is a president”. Another friend, a foreign editor with a respected French daily, remarked: “You must respect the limit between personal and state matters. My mother, for instance, feels that by behaving like a star and a tycoon he
has compromised the dignity of his office”.
A high school teacher, however, asserted that far too much was being made out of the whole thing, an opinion substantiated by a recent opinion poll in La Croix
where 93 per cent of the people polled felt that the French press had gone overboard about the affair. My plumber, for instance, said with a joyous smile: “Isn’t it good to have a beautiful face in Elysee after all those wrinkled oldies there?”
The Sarkozy-Carla affair might have marginally contributed to the decline in the president’s popularity ratings, but the real reason lies elsewhere: it’s the common man’s preoccupation with his economic condition. One of the major strands of Sarkozy’s election campaign nine months ago had been purchasing power. Ce soir ou jamais, a TV programme, telecast two speeches of the French president the other night. In the first, made nine months ago, Sarkozy-thecandidate was promising his electorate more purchasing power.
In the second, delivered two weeks ago, he was arguing that purchasing power was just one amongst many issues. “What do you expect of me?” he asked exasperatedly. “I empty out coffers which are already empty?” Perhaps it was a faux pas or an overstatement or just the plain truth. But the common man felt that a promise had been broken.
The writer is a film-maker.


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