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Tuesday / July 16.
HomemitwocentsOptom In Sight of bin Laden

Optom In Sight of bin Laden

World history is never dull, just sometimes it is a tad more crowded with ‘sensational’ events.

The concept of ‘time’ itself is a confused and misinterpreted one , the old Chinese proverb “may you live in interesting times” was originally delivered as a curse, a warning of conflict and chaos, as many see the contemporary world.

My life has been fortunate if only a little interesting, I’ve lived in a safe and far away land that since the mid 1940’s has not been fighting/defending its shores. National service was in vogue during the last years of the Menzies Imperial Liberal government in the 1970’s until Gough and Labor made an ‘It’s Time’ breakthrough. The troops were called back from Vietnam and national service abolished – a time for celebration.

My older cousins had their birthdates drawn from the lottery to don khaki and fight in the countries where we now take our holidays and marvel at the cuisine. I was only a year or two younger. Time, or rather timing, was on my side. I hope my son enjoys such relatively peaceful times and his son after that.

…our accommodation was in sight of bin Laden’s sanctuary when he was reportedly in residence

In life, timing is everything.

The Timing of History

It seems that humans have the capacity to find some joy or some sorrow in most daily events. The Royal wedding was universally viewed as a happy day. The bride was gushing and so too the groom (I only watched two minutes worth, honestly). Republicans and Royalists alike found cause to celebrate. The British Royal family were looking less and less aloof with every marriage to a ‘commoner’ (however demeaning). The nation, the former empire and even the Yanks rejoiced. Everyone loves a party!

Over in Rome the Catholics were fast tracking John Paul toward Sainthood. There’s nothing like a rapid beatification to keep the faithful, faithful.

In India there was another joyous event. The world renowned spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba died at the age of 85, his many miracles of healing could not come to his own rescue. “Joyous” because the death was seen simply the end of his physical form, his spirit would live on in another form. Almost a million people turned up to give Baba ‘darshan’ as he lay in his glass covered coffin. Bollywood stars, peasants from the Andra Pradesh fields, government leaders and Hollywood glitterati.

His wealth is estimated at 40,000 crore rupees. A crore is 10,000,000, divide by 45 and you get Aussie dollars give or take the daily exchange rate. Baba built 30 public hospitals, where treatment is free, provided water purification systems for over 5,000 villages. He was known as ‘godman’ but didn’t have a religion, all faiths follow him. His mantra was peace, trust and humanity. He left no written will but a Trust that will require a hell of a lot of trust to keep ‘his’ fortune benefitting the less fortunate.

The death of an immensely respected Guru in northern India was mirrored by the assassination of a prophet to some and a monster to many in northern Pakistan, just a few hours flight away.

Osama Bin Laden was hunted to northern Pakistan and summarily executed to the street filled cheers of Americans. The Indian press found a reason to blame Pakistan for harbouring the king of terrorist, The Pakistanis were outraged that the US would carry out an unauthorised operation on their turf, the fundamentalists mourned and vowed revenge for a martyr.

My personal reaction was one of relief. Not so much at the demise of a designer of death and the brazen triumphalism that accompanied it but more pointedly at the location of Bin Laden within a few hundred metres of the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul in the higher suburbs of Abbottabad.

I’ve been to the Army School of Physical training with the Pakistan cricket team, our accommodation was in sight of Bin Laden’s sanctuary when he was reportedly in residence!!! Literally 200 metres distant.

It is a scary thought that an American drone aircraft may have been designated to bomb the Bin Laden safe house, as this apparently was one of the options considered by President Obama. The collateral damage might easily have scattered (as it has done so many times on the Afghan – Pak border) even marginally down the dusty road to a sleeping Pakistan cricket team and its Australian staff. A slice of good fortunate or perhaps, just lucky timing again.

Back to the Basics

While the big picture of our planet constantly evolves with civil wars, the demise of dictators and the death of leaders, sectarian or secular, the man on the street still seeks the basics of living — peace, education and good health. The growing industry in India, and especially southern India, is that of “Health Tourism”.

The cost of heart surgery, cancer treatment and vision correction is a tenth of the price of the western world. Eye hospitals abound, Optoms are present in every shopping precinct much as they are in the malls of Australia. “Computerised Eye Testing” and cheap frames are available to the average punter. If you want the designer stuff, that too is available at the premiums expected at any self respecting outlet.

Whatever history is served up by our leaders, they can’t do anything without good health and vision.