A Maoist Madeleine Moment

I suppose everyone has his madeleine moment—that experience, sensory or otherwise, that awakens in him a long train of memories. Actually, the longer one lives the more madeleine moments there are. The other day, for example, I had one while reading the newspaper.

The story was about an elderly couple who had managed somehow to keep three women in subjection in their home in London for thirty years. It was a very peculiar story and we have not heard the last of it. Much remains to be revealed.

A Mr. and Mrs. Balakrishnan, aged 73 and 67 respectively, allegedly kept a Malaysian woman aged 69, an Irish woman aged 57, and an English woman aged 30 locked in their flat in South London, using them as domestic “slaves.” One of them managed by stealth to telephone the outside world, and the police arrived to rescue them. Such, at any rate, was the story. One might wonder how the Balakrishnans prevailed over the other three for so long a period, but details will no doubt emerge in the coming weeks or months.

The madeleine effect was produced by reading that the Balakrishnans were members in the 1970s of a Marxist groupuscule called the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist). In those days, anything with the words Marxist-Leninist after it meant Maoist, and the Maoists of those days made the average communist seem staid and respectable.

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