Tales of desire, passion and love

Syed Badrul Ahsan
Thursday, May 11th, 2017


French President-elect Emmanuel Macron is a passionate man. In high school, he told his literature teacher he would one day marry her. She was twenty four years older than him. She was a happily married woman. Her daughter was Macron’s classmate. Macron, a proper cerebral young man, bided his time. Today the teacher, Brigitte Marie-Claude, sixty four years old, stands ready to step into the Elysee as the spouse of the thirty nine-year old Emmanuel Macron. If that is not love, what is? If that is not passion, what can it be?


Let us not forget that even presidents have passion. That is what Leo Sayer informed us when he belted out a song on passion years ago. And he was right. Presidents, or expand that term to mean heads of state or government or plain politicians, are people like the rest of us. And what are we? We are men and women who, besides going about our quotidian lives, indulge in that most pristine of desires, the sensuality which draws us to the opposite sex. Love is something you cannot put a lid on. No law or decree can put up impediments to love or that certain awakening of physical desire in individuals.


That truth was proved not many years ago by the outgoing President of France. Francois Hollande, a man who does not appear to have ever been drawn to the idea of marriage and family, has nevertheless been a man in whom passion has consistently boiled over. He sired four children with the beautiful Segolene Royal, herself a politician and once a candidate for the presidency. Once their love for each other waned, he went straight to the journalist Valerie Trierweiler. They did not marry. Even so, in the early years of Hollande’s presidency, Trierweiler was officially acknowledged as France’s first lady. That was soon to come to an end, thanks to intrusive journalism. The president was spotted entering an apartment in disguise in the nocturnal hours. He was soon followed into it by the actress Julie Gayet. All hell broke loose.


There have been other incidents of men in public life falling head over heels in love with women, caring little about the ramifications of such linkages. In Bangladesh, a young academic who subsequently became a leading politician once fell passionately in love with a prominent and beautiful movie star in the country. The passion was clearly a one-sided affair, for the lady paid little heed to it. In the early 1970s, rumours flew all over the country about the reasons behind the sacking of a minister by the prime minister. The whisper was that the minister had become involved with a well-known cinema artiste. The relationship came to nothing.


Stories of passion, or infidelity if you will, have always been staple food for the general public in the West. John F. Kennedy’s obsession with sex, with a whole brood of women, is now the stuff of unsavoury legend. Every time wife Jacqueline was away from the White House, he made sure women from a variety of backgrounds graced his bed and swam with him in the pool. Years later, it was the turn of Bill Clinton, an avid admirer of JFK’s youth and politics, to emulate his idol before and after he became president of the United States. Names such as Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky will never be forgotten every time Clinton is remembered.


One does not quite know of the extent to which Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten went with their fascination for each other. There is good reason to believe that it was all platonic, that they enjoyed each other’s company more for the intellectuality that linked them than for any sexual attraction. Pakistan’s Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a handsome man, always pursued by women and always pursuing women. There are instances of his making passes at women when he was a member of the Ayub Khan government. As prime minister, he was passionately in love with a dark Bengali beauty named Husna Sheikh. It is said that Bhutto, a glass of wine in his hand, beside a fireplace, played with the long tresses of the lady, who had her head resting on the prime ministerial thigh. We have no information of what happened to Husna Sheikh eventually, especially after Bhutto’s overthrow and execution. But we do know that Yahya Khan and Melody Queen Noor Jehan enjoyed a relationship that was raw, that was driven more by carnal urge than pure love.


Speaking of French politicians again, you cannot ignore the fact of a number of French presidents demonstrating their libido before women not their wives. Only Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou appear to have stayed clear of extra-marital liaisons. The others — Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy — have strayed from convention. Why then did we have to censure Hollande for his tempestuous explorations in the valley of uninhibited desire?


Ahmed Sukarno had his escapades. Silvio Berlusconi is notorious for his unbridled sexual proclivities. John Profumo was destroyed over his links to Christine Keeler. Dominique Strauss-Kahn saw his presidential dreams crash after that animalistic encounter with a maid in a New York hotel. Thomas Jefferson made regular love to a slave woman, fathering children with her.


The list could go on and on. Shall we pick up the discussion some other day?

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