Got a flat tyre on your way to an important meeting? Most people would just curse, change it, curse some more and move on, after a few frantic calls to re-schedule. But heaven forbid if you’re a Russian diplomat called Yuri Popov. For, then, a flat tyre might just be the karmic blessing your country needs to go out and flatten a pesky neighbour.
If the British newspaper Sunday Telegraph is to be believed, it was this historic flat tyre that caused a Russian no-show at a crucial meeting, which punctured Georgian egos enough to launch a hasty offensive. So, while the world was busy watching the fireworks in Beijing, the eager Russians did what a hit Bollywood movie Jhankar Beats popularised as a “chance pe dance”, and unleashed some fireworks of their own. Just like the fate of the Roman Empire is believed to have been delicately balanced on the length of Cleopatra’s nose, the success or failure of many a military misadventure has hung on a delectable little thing called chance.
For chance is a dangerous thing. Ask the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Gavrilo Princip, the sickly Serb high school drop-out, was only the last in a line-up of seven assassins – six of whom missed, who would ‘chance upon’ the royal couple, after they had missed a turn, and hastily shoot his way into history books as the man who possibly triggered World War I. Alas! Had they only hit a pothole and flattened a tyre, the world might have looked a lot different than it does today.