The tragic and sudden deaths of
Princess Diana, Emad ( Dodi) al Fayed and the driver of the ill-fated Mercedes, Henri Paul
have had an overwhelming effect upon the media in the USA, the UK and the Western world
generally. Huge chunks of Time on TV and many square miles of Space on newsprint have been
taken up by details of the tragedy and the opportunity has been exploited to delve in
great detail into all events of significance and some quite trivial ones in the past.
Opinion has been sought from all and sundry and response abounding has found expression
without any sign of restraint.
accident is attributed to the desperate flight of the couple from intrusive cameramen.
This lot are called Papparazi after a sidewalk or pavement photographer with
the name Papparazo who was a character in Le Dolce Vita, a 1960s
film of Fellini. The pressure exerted by the obnoxiously nosy cameramen while their quarry
were at dinner at the Ritz caused such distress that a ruse was employed to draw them
away. The regular driver and the armoured-for-safety vehicle were sent off ahead without
the Princess and Dodi to act as decoy and draw the papparazi away. This forced the couple
to use a lighter vehicle and a driver untrained and unprepared for the onerous duty of
dodging snooping stalking cameramen astride fast motorcycles. This unpreparedness became
apparent at the autopsy when the alcohol level in the bloodstream of Henri Paul was
measured and found to be 400% above the legal limit.
While some of the responsibility for the accident must lie
with the drivers drunkenness, the reason why he was forced to take over at the last
moment were obviously the papparazi. A loud and abusive cacophony of mutual recrimination
has broken out in the media. The heavies like the mainline newspapers blame and TV
channels blame the tabloids for their role as people who pay half a million dollars or
more for a picture while the tabloids point out that the Holier than thou
accusers themselves batten off the same cadavers as themselves, albeit, in a more refined
and seemingly restrained manner. In some writing and interviews the prurient interest of
the public is found to be the root cause of the activity and media is absolved
of all responsibility.
To return to the Princess Diana-Dodi al Fayed tragedy it is
noteworthy that little sympathy has been shown to the lover, Dodi al Fayed, who also died
with the Princess. But his death and condolence for his bereaved family were hardly shared
by anyone of consequence outside his family. Except the Church at the funeral service and
an indirect reference to the new found happiness of the Princess by her brother Charles,
9th Earl Spencer.
The tone was set by the President of the USA, Bill Clinton
while reacting to the news on Television on Sunday morning (31/8/97). He mentioned the
Princess by name and dismissed the rest as and her companions. This bracketed
Dodi with the dead driver and the seriously injured bodyguard. More importantly it
distanced him from the close proximity of the greatest glamour girl of the West, Princess
There have been hundreds of articles and TV interviews but
nowhere has there been any expression of sorrow or sympathy for the death of a man in the
prime of his life. A man who set up many businesses to enrich the Western world and
himself, and gave generously to charity as a sensitive citizen and a true Muslim. Did the
Spencers or the Royal family send a wreath for his cortege? Or for that of Henri Paul.
But, this last is another philosophic problem, that of equality and we shall return to it
after attending to the neglect of Dodi.
Why are the powerful so callous even in the dark moments of
their own sorrow?
It is easy to say that there are two great chasms between
Dodi Al Fayed and the aristocracy of England. There is colour and there is class. To send
a wreath would be to recognize the existence of the other. Would this really be some kind
of dignity or status loss ?
Indians however can hardly afford to be judgemental. Remember
the death of Sanjay Gandhi. He had managed to import a stunt plane and wanted to fly it
without knowing how. On his way to the Flying Club he picked up a more experienced pilot,
a Captain Mathur. In the crash that followed both Sanjay and Capt. Mathur were killed.
Mathur was found wearing chappals (casual footwear) he had hurriedly donned when summoned
by Sanjay to accompany him.
Despite his loyalty and the fact that they had died together
as a result of the folly of Sanjay and through no fault of his own no consideration was
shown to him.
In contrast, Sanjay who singlehandedly destroyed so much of
value in Indian public life was kept lying in state to receive the homage of the captains
of industry, of politicians and the goons he cultivated in his quest for power without
responsibility. He was then cremated with full State honours at Shanti Vana, a site
hallowed and made sacred by the last obsequies of Jawaharlal Nehru. Indira and Rajiv were
to follow Sanjay to Shanti Vana and Shakti Sthala.
Maybe colour is less important than class.
Perhaps it is time to return to Henri Paul, the driver of the
ill-fated Mercedes. Which killed him along with his employer Emad ( Dodi) Al Fayed and the
Princess Diana. All they say of him is that he had taken excessive quantities of alcohol.
The fact that he was a security person and shanghaied into
driving at the last moment because of change in plan earns him little sympathy. Here again
Indians should remember Hari Pillai who was crucified after the assassination of Mrs
Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.
Everyone chose to ignore the reality, the power equations of
the time. No one could stand up to Mrs Gandhi and she insisted on having Sikhs to guard
her. In particular Beant Singh who had the same blood group and had been on duty with her
for many years in India and abroad.
When new techniques for bodyguarding were introduced and a
fresh, younger group trained in them got ready, Pillai tried to change the old guards with
new ones. Mrs Gandhi refused to agree and insisted on retaining the old ones with whom she
On the day of the assassination,October 13, 1984, Peter
Ustinov was scheduled to make a documentary on Mrs Gandhi and was setting up his equipment
in the bungalow next door to her residence. She became impatient and despatched one
bodyguard to make inquiries. Then she started for the venue and handed her
purse to one guard and her parasol to the other. Thus, when she came to the spot where the
assassins were waiting to ambush and kill her there was no bodyguard in readiness to ward
off any threat and protect her from harm. The rule that bodyguards be men trained in the
latest techniques and have their hands free had been broken. No one put up a fight to save
Indias Prime Minister. She was killed by her own bodyguards because she would not
heed the advice of her security officers. After her death Hari Pillai was savaged by
people who should have known better. As the Rule of Law still works he was reinstated but
he never could make up for the ground lost.
Thus death does not necessarily bring out the best in people
The idea that Death is the Great Leveller can be given up. This idea is older
than the Liberty / Fraternity / Equality slogans preached during the French
The above instances show that equality remains just or merely
an idea and is nowhere near becoming a reality.