Category Archives: Why we are Potty about Politics

Raghuram Rajan’s Last Day At The Office

Raghuram Rajan“Beant Singh, aaj bhi late?” RR scolded his driver in his Chicago–accented Hindi. “Today is my last day in the office! Kam se kam aaj toh…” he let his reprimand trail off into feeble futility.

Beant Singh, the driver, belonged to the ICCS (Indian Chauffeur and Chaprasi Services), 1989 Punjab cadre. In his long and distinguished career driving Government of India officials around pillars and posts, he had learned that the only people who mattered in New Delhi were the Prime Minister and his top-three coterie, and anyone with the Gandhi surname. (Also, any politician from Uttar Pradesh, because those bastard could kill you even if all you did was protest at their spitting paan inside the car). RR meant dogshit to Beant Singh. Useless. Impotent. After all, anyone with the tag of ‘Governor’ was purposefully designed by the Indian Constitution to have even less power than a Maruti-800 trudging up to Mussoorie.

Beant Singh nonchalantly swung open the left rear door of RR’s white Ambassador with a big red bindi on its forehead, and said, “Sir, Modiji ke raj mey attendance ka half day hi to katega. Anyway, like you said, it’s your last day at work.” He slapped the door shut as soon as RR’s navy blue, pinstriped, impeccably tailored tush hit the white towelled cush of the car.

The drive from the official home of the RBI Governor near Khan Market to the office digs at Parliament Street took the usual twenty minutes. At the RBI entrance gate, and then inside the office building, the customary salaams were dispensed by uniformed staffers with oversized bellies. Not in his three year tenure as Governor had RR learned how to properly respond to these salutes, so he had settled on some quaint mix of Queen Elizabeth’s royal wave and Govinda’s wrist movements when he danced.

“Sir, the PM had called sharp at 9 am. But since you hadn’t reached office, I took a message,” announced Pratibha Kumari, RR’s PA (1999 Tripura cadre, IRS), once her boss had taken seat in his rather plush office. RR was concerned immediately. “What did he say?”

“Goodbye,” said Pratibha, referring to her notes, her forehead furrowed with concentration.
RR waited for more, but when the lady said nothing else, he asked, “That’s it? That’s the entire message?”

The PA lady nodded, and RR shook his head. “Still nothing about who I should handover to! Wait karte karte ab toh notice period ka last day aa gaya…

“Perhaps you should call the PM, Sir? I mean, speak with him directly to know his Mann ki Baat…?” Pratibha Kumari offered. “At your advice, I sat through the PM’s entire radio address last Saturday with my dictation notes copy ready, but he only talked about the new signature all-in-one ‘Lala Lajpat Rai Gram Shaheed Samvedansheel Kisaan Awaas Pragati Paryavaran Vikaas Khushhaali Yojna’. Oh, and India’s growing relations with Zimbabwe. But he spoke nothing about RBI,” she said morosely.

Pratibha Kumari’s advice made sense. After all, there were policy documents to be handed over, files to be secured, names to be couriered to Switzerland, interest and growth rates to be adjusted and re-adjusted…so much still to be done on the last day! But WHO to work with was the sixty four crore question.

“Yes, Pratibhaji,” RR said. “PMO ka number lagaiye.”

“Oh, sorry, Sir, the PM is not at the PMO. He was calling from Air India One. From somewhere above Romania and Estonia.”

Aargh…!’ mumbled RR under his breath. “Aur Jaitleyji?” he asked. “Woh bhi saath hain?

“Yes, Sir.”

Another dead end. RR gave up. It was his last day at the office. ‘Theek hai, then,’ he thought. ‘Why should I care? I will just complete all other formalities and be done with it. And if I still have time in the afternoon, I’ll look for some last minute deals on Amazon. Will buy stuff here than in the US…sasta padega.

“Sir, the IT department needs to complete your Full and Final,” Pratibha Kumari reminded him. “Should I send the fellow in?”

“Yes, yes, of course. Thank you.”

The IT department was really one lanky guy with a boy moustache. He was a Grade 4 2013-batch from Government of Uttarakhand on deputation to RBI for eighteen months. The chap’s name was Shabbir Kumar.

“Sir, aapne personal backup ley liya hai?” he asked politely. RR, who was leaning over the laptop while Shabbir Kumar fiddled with the keyboard, nodded.

“What will you do with my laptop now?” RR asked.

Hum haaddiss reformat kar denge,” the chap answered.

“What is ‘haaddiss’?

Haaddiss, maane, jismey aapka sara data storez hota hai,” the boy explained patiently.

“Oh, Hard Drive! But what do you mean ‘reformat kar denge?” RR said, a bit bewildered. “Hamare country ka saara economic data hai iss laptop mey!” he added, his voice rising to a squeak.

Toh reformat kab karen, Sir?” Shabbir Kumar asked. “Afternoon mey? Sir, woh compulsory policy hai F&F ki.

KABHI NAHI! This laptop will NEVER be reformatted!” RR shook his head in horror, and immediately summoned Pratibha Kumari back to the room. The lady assessed the situation and then turned to RR and said, “Sir, have you not taken back up on the pen drive I gave you? Are the files too large?”

Heavens, thought RR.

“Why don’t we finish the rest of the formalities in the meantime?” RR offered by way of moving things along. “Let’s delay reformatting the country’s economic future for the time being. What else do you need from me?”

“Sir, your laptop bag, mouse, cables and 3G dongle given by RBI.”

Clueless, RR looked at Pratibha Kumari. “What is he talking about? I have none of those things!” he lamented.

“But, Sir, this laptop bag…?” Pratibha Kumari said pointing to the soft leather, super expensive Bottega Veneta laptop bag RR had purchased when he still consulting as a financial adviser to the IMF in Europe.

“Does this even LOOK like a bag that Government of India might supply anyone?” RR answered, his eyes squinting with displeasure.

Tired now, RR hustled Shabbir Kumar out of his office. None of the items in the poor boy’s checklist had a tick mark against it. “Full and Final karne mey dikkat ho jayegi, Sir,” were the boy’s final words of warning as he left the room.

With the IT question still unresolved, Pratibha Kumari felt it best to close the formalities with the finance department instead. This was proving to be a stressful day for her. After all, these Full and Final formalities were not the only thing she had to look into. There was also the farewell to organize! A samosa, gulab jamun and soft drinks ‘get together’ had been organized in the cafeteria on the fifth floor. The one that RR had never visited in his entire three year tenure…

Akshay Patwardhan (Office of GBO, RBI Officer 1997 Batch, Mumbai) from the Finance department stopped by at noon. “Sir, aapne apne Provident Fund ke baare mey kya socha hai?” he asked.

“What about it?”

Matlab, aap apne new employer ke yahan transfer karenge? Ya withdrawal?

“I am moving to Chicago. Transferring PF will not be an option,” RR explained.

“But, Sir, transfer is a simpler option than withdrawal,” Patwardhan continued. “Withdraw karenge toh bada time lag jata hai. Paperwork soh alag.

“So what are you recommending? I take up another job in India instead of moving to Chicago so that it is easier for me to transfer my PF from RBI?”

Dekh leejiye, Sir, agar adjust kar paayen toh…

It was time to throw the Finance fool out of the office too. RR summoned Pratibha Kumari to the office again to do the needful.

The day was fast hurtling towards a close and nothing had been accomplished yet. If he couldn’t close all formalities and walk out of the RBI office today, the headlines in tomorrow’s newspapers were going to be relentless.
‘DELAYING TACTICS!’ SCREAMS SUBRAMANIUM SWAMY : The Times of India, was just one example. Arnab Goswami demanding answers on behalf of the nation, was another.

RR shuddered. It was approaching 4 pm. Time for the official farewell in the cafeteria that he had never visited. Bloody hell, he hadn’t even prepared a farewell speech! No handover. No Full and Final Settlement. And now, no Farewell Speech either!

“I will have to simply sneak out of here,” he mumbled to himself. “Without ANYONE finding out. It’s the only way!”

Reluctantly, RR fished out the mobile phone from his pocket. Then, looking around him furtively as if he was about to commit a major fraud, he scrolled the Contact List to the name he was looking for. When it came up, he pressed the green key. The number rang for around ten seconds before it was picked up at the other end.
“Oh, hello, hello, Mr. Mallya, sorry to bother you in London like this, Sir, but I need a BIG favour from you.”

 

Aam Aadmi Ki Maa

Karan Arjun ki Aunty

Vijay aur Jai ki Maa. Karan Arjun ki Maasi.

Arnab’s Vigilante Justice System, popularly known as The Newshour at 9, has spared no one when it comes to doling out reprimands – Politicians dimpled and bearded, Bureaucrats, Jurists, Journalists, Czars of the Sporting World, Social Scientists, Activists, and some Overweight Unknowns with Curly Mops and Loud Voices who duet in complete symphony with Arnab’s own tunes. Lately, however, Arnab was realizing that this constant aiming at the Stars in order to shoot them down, had started to distance him from the very Aam Aadmi (and Aam Naari) he was aiming to protect. After all, no one remembered the last time they had seen a Mango Fellow on his program. So, off went Arnab’s producers, looking hither and tither for the Perfect Common (Wo)Man to be paraded on Newhour, to obtain some answers straight from the featured equus’ snout. Sadly, all they found were Men in Mufflers and inverted paper boats being passed off as Aam Aadmi Caps.

“No more Muffler Men on my program!” yelled Arnab. “Go find me someone who actually looks like a real Aam Aadmi!”

Then, one of his producers suggested they look at Bollywood. After all, Art mimics Life in India, Dhoom and Joker notwithstanding. In fact, who could be more Aam than The Quintessential Hindi Film Mother?

And who better than SuperMa Nirupa Roy herself for the interview?

 

Arnab Goswami : We debated amongst ourselves who to talk to when it came to getting Aam Aadmi’s opinions.

Nirupa Roy : Thank you for having me on the show, Arnab. I am uniquely qualified to answer your questions on behalf of the Aam Aadmi. After all, the Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All P… (pauses)

AG : What were you going to say, Maaji? Problems?

NR : (cautiouslyErrm…no, Possibilities. I was going to say Possibilities. The Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All Possibilities. And I am…well, Aam Aadmi’s Maaji.

AG : How many children do you have, Maaji?

NR : (pontificating immediately) My children have grown up to become Model, Upright Citizens of Society. In fact, most have grown up to become successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Maaji, I have just started by asking you a very simple question, and you are avoiding it already.

NR : (presses on unheedingly) …and not just any silly, old, Police Inspectors, mind you…

AG : (persisting) Maaji

NR : (and on) …I am saying, very successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Maaji

NR : …the kind who are allotted no less than Type-VIII quarters by the government…

AG : (slowly losing patience) Maaji

NR : …with a spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms, and a giant piano in the drawing room…

AG : Maaji, you are avoiding my…

NR : …and a Puja Room made just for me…

AG : (shaking his head, patience ready to snap any minute) MaajiMaajiMaaji…!

NR : Oh, and they get their own official vehicles too. They all have Willy’s open-roof Jeeps.

AG : (angrily) Maaji, my simple question to you, which you have avoided for the past ten minutes, is this – how many children do you have?

NR : (as if suddenly snapping back to attention) I have several, Arnab. The exact count no one knows because I have lost a few over the years.

AG : (immediately chastised) Oh, lost? That is awful, I am so sorry, Maaji! Were they very young when they passed away?

NR : (mortified) Good Heavens, no, they are not dead, Arnab!

AG : Then?

NR : Arnab, you see, I have never failed to visit the Kumbh Melas and other Vishal Bhagwati Jagarans that millions of people in the Hindi belt attend on a regular basis. You know, the kind where stampedes are as common as trains running late in India.

AG : So?

NR : (surprised) What, so? Isn’t it a given that a mother would lose a few of her children at such large gatherings? After all, what else are Kumbh Melas famous for other than misplaced kids? And Naga Sadhus?

AG : Let me tell you, Maaji, that what you are saying is not normal. People don’t just ‘lose a few of their children’ while they are laundering their sins in the Ganges!

NR : (unapologetic) Frankly, I blame the arrangements made by the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh for my losses. No matter who has been in charge of managing the Kumbh Mela, for example, I have lost kids there. Under the Congress, the BJP, BSP, SP, you name it.

AG : (angrily) You are looking for a scapegoat for your own follies, Maaji. Why can people never accept their own fault!

NR : (taking offence) That’s not true, Arnab. Sometimes I have lost children because of other reasons, too.

AG : Like what? Maaji, please don’t give cryptic answers now. Remember, the nation wants straight answers.

NR : Arnab, there were times when I was physically incapacitated to mind my brood. Like, that one time when I fell and hit my head on a stone and had amnesia.

AG : (concerned) Oh dear!

NR : Yes, it took me many years to regain my memory. I didn’t even have any partial memory left. At least Aamir Khan recalled some of his every few minutes in Ghajini. No such luck in my case. I recovered mine only when I hit the same stone at the same spot again years later. I mean, had I known…

AG : I see.

NR : And, that other time, I fell and hit my head on a stone and became blind.

AG : (exasperated) What’s with all this frequent ‘hit my head on a stone’ business, Madam? This points to some other kind of malaise within you. Why can’t you walk straight? Why should you lose your balance so often? And to such catastrophic results! Have you gone for a full medical check-up?

NR : (helplessly) How can I? I am just a poor widow. Look at my simple white cotton saree! You think I can afford health care in this country? These hospitals are so expensive! In fact, the last time I had to go to one, I needed a blood transfusion but had no money to pay for it.

AG : Then?

NR : It was the kindness of the doctor there who caught hold of three young men named Akbar, Amar and Anthony and made them donate their blood for free, thus saving my life. The kind doctor just hooked all four of us to the same intravenous line and sucked out all the blood from them that I needed. I wish all our medical facilities worked this way!

AG : Holy Maaji of God! You do realize that was unsafe medical practice, don’t you? In fact, the doctor should probably be in jail for such gross medical incompetence!

NR : (surprised) Unsafe? Why? The boys looked healthy and seemed to be from decent families – one was a cop even. The Muslim fellow looked like a tailor, and the third was a Padre, I think.

AG : (a 1:3 mix of concerned and angry) But, Maaji, it is illegal to donate blood without testing! HIV, Hepatitis A, B-12, C, D, E, K, do you really have no worries? What if you had fallen sick? Or worse, died? Who would have taken care of your children?

NR : Oh, my children, yes, though sometimes, I feel that I am losing control over them anyway.

AG : Why do you say that, Maaji?

NR : What else should one make if it? You know, one of my sons just ran away from home after I scolded him?

AG : Young boys do have a rebellious streak…

NR : This one, I think his name was Vijay or Jai, went and got a tattoo without seeking my permission. I was so livid!

AG : (offering helpfully) Maybe the tattoo parlor had a discount scheme? There is just too much competition these days.

NR : No, he got into a tiff with his dad who wouldn’t take him to the T-20 game between Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians.

AG : So?

NR : So, he went to the tattoo parlor and asked the fellow to engrave “Mera Baap Bore Hai” on his arm.

AG : That sounds like a harmless little thing, Maaji.

NR : Arnab, but that was not even the half of it! The foolish tattoo fellow made a spelling mistake and tattooed “Mera Baap Chor Hai” instead.

AG : (nods his head) Ok, I do see why that might be a problem, yes.

NR : Doesn’t it? That’s why I yelled at the boy. And he ran away. Not only that, my husband left me and disappeared, too.

AG : (with a furrowed forehead) I am confused. Is your husband missing? Or dead? What about this white, cotton saree you are wearing? You can’t don the National Costume of Widowhood on just a whim, you know!

NR : (points to the saree, there is even a hole in it at the pallooOh, this? This is just to claim benefits from the government under the Rajiv Gandhi Muft ke Kapde Yojna. Frankly, I am positive that my husband is alive. See? I have full faith in my Mangalsutra (points to suhaag in a necklace). Meri woh zaroor aayenge (tears instantly)

AG : Maaji

NR : (wipes tears away) And I keep Karwa Chauth fasts also, but without telling anyone (triumphantly).

AG : (glaring angrily) Maaji, I am appalled, APPALLED at such devious trickery. YOU are the Mother of Aam Aadmi. At a time when India’s growth rate has hit catastrophic lows, Foreign Institutional Investments have dried up, job growth is an 2.2% and The Times of India print edition is surviving only because it replaced news with ads, it is people like you who are bleeding our nation dry. I say, despite such successful Police Inspector sons, you are pretending to live in penury? Why, Mrs. Roy? The nation wants to know!

NR : But I am like this only, Arnab! My sons seem think I have very high morals. In fact, just the other day, my rich son in “Import-Export” business (goes winky-wink at Arnab), got into an argument with one of my Police Inspector sons whom I live with, you know, the one who got me my own Puja Room?  The boy kept throwing his blazing success at my poorer son’s face – “I have DLF bungalows, Audi cars, servants, Husain’s artwork, Apple products, bank balance with HSBC! What do you have?” – he screamed!

AG : Well said! We all know there is more money to be made in the private sector!

NR : I know! But do you know what my Police boy said?

AG : What?

NR : He replied – “But I have Mother by my side”.

AG : (unimpressed) What shit does that mean?

NR : (excited) That’s exactly what I thought, too! I mean, what shit? So I took my Krishna and Radha idols from my Puja Room and moved into my rich son’s bungalow.

AG : Hey, wait, wasn’t your “Import-Export” son the one who died after a car accident at the Jai Santoshi Maa Mandir? The Police had arrested you for yelling at the temple idols and throwing your slippers at them like a demented person. India-TV did some exclusive breaking news coverage of that.

NR : (shakes her head) Much of what the media says is exaggerated. They will concoct anything for TRPs! It was just a simple protest, nothing more! But, yes, I was on psychotic meds, so…Thankfully, my son did leave me his estate in his well before he died.

AG : Ok, Maaji, now that we have established how strangely the Common Man of India lives these days, I wanted to know – What are your thoughts on the party that represents you?

NR : (happily) I am very glad that the Aam Aadmi Party is doing so well. I say, more power to the Common Man! They will finally bring down the Zamindaari system with the Jan Lokpal Bill! I have seen enough troubles with these Thakurs.

AG : (in a quiet, but seething voice) Maaji, this is national television so I will refrain from using harsher language than this, but you are a fool. Why the bloody hell are you talking about Thakurs? In 2014?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : In the era of computers and CNG low-floor buses, you are talking about something from the 1950s?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : It is because of people like you that progress in this country is difficult…

NR : Arnab…

AG : (relentlessly)…because you keep bringing up demons of the past! Have you not heard of all these government schemes that can save you from the Thakurs?

NR : Arnab…I…

AG : (mouth : frothing) MNREGA? Or Jawahar Jai-Jawan-Jai-Kisan Yogna? Or Indira Daridra, Dukhiya, Lachaar and still Jeevit Yojna, popularly known as DDLJ?

NR : Listen, Arnab…

AG : What do you have to say to explain yourself, Maaji?

NR : If you would only let me…

AG : (angrily) Speak? The nation wants straight answers, Maaji! For much too long, the people of the country have been taken for a ride by the likes of you.

NR : (offended) The likes of me? But I AM Aam Aadmi…or at least Aam Dharampatni and Maa.

AG : Then behave like one, Maaji!

NR : I wish I had access to all these schemes after my husband supposedly died! But the Thakur stole my farm plot in Gurgaon. And then my buffaloes also ran away. The police wouldn’t help me because I am not a VIP like some UP Minister. I had no place to go! I was on the street!

AG : But your own sons are Police Inspectors!

NR : But they are busy fighting Smugglers after Chidambaram changed gold import policies! They have no time for me now.

AG : Smugglers? You mean they work for Indian Customs Service?

NR : What’s that?

AG : (shaking his head) I am very concerned about your sanity, Maaji. I think the Aam Aadmi of the country has a serious mental condition. Ok, let’s change track. I’d like to know more about your family.

NR : (enthusiastically) Most of my sons are married and settled now.

AG : Oh, that’s good. So, there is at least something that is not completely demented in your life then.

NR : My Bahus are indeed very nice. They are reed slim, astonishingly fair and movie-star beautiful. They touch my feet every day and cook me kheer despite my diabetes.

AG : That’s nice, Mrs. Roy. In this day and age, it is hard to expect well-educated youngsters to still be so rooted to our old conservative customs.

NR : Err

AG : Did you choose working wives for your sons? Since most of them are Police Inspectors?

NR : (sheepishly) I didn’t choose the girls. The boys chose their own.

AG : (impressed) Very progressive! Have they continued working their old jobs after marriage?

NR : (horrifiedOh, heaven forbid, no! That would be disastrous!

AG : Why?

NR : Well, all my Police Inspector sons married Tawaifs and Cabaret Dancers, you see.

AG : (suddenly much contrite) Maaji. Can I say something?

NR : Yes, Arnab, it is your show.

AG : I think this will be my last Aam Aadmi interview.

NR : (surprised) Oh, why so, Arnab? Abhi toh picture baki hai, mere dost!

AG : (shakes his head) I am afraid to stay on until the end of this film.

 

 

Aam Aadmi Ki Maaji

 

Maaji, The Nation Wants To Know!

Maaji, The Nation Wants To Know!

Arnab Goswami. He is the TV ‘Cocktail’ that the nation guzzles every night at 9 pm to alleviate its existential headaches. Ok, so perhaps this spirited-bong was never meant to really address the underlying reasons for our despondency, but at least a temporary buzz of mellow it does bring. When we see Arnab lash at shiny people, much like how a headmaster smacks a truant student’s ass with a wooden ruler, it gives us hope that we might not be that close to the end of days just yet. That someone still exists who can beat some sense into nonsense. That the nation can still hope to recover from its triple heartbreaks of antipathy, mediocrity and decadence. That simply through the brute cyclonic power emanating from Arnab’s tonsils, we might somehow get torn off the messes of today and tossed into a better tomorrow.

If it is our national pastime to create real problems for ourselves, it is Arnab’s mission to chase after imaginary fixes for them. And, like Superman itching to tight-suit his way into every issue, Arnab wants  to fix everything and everyone, too. And he has a bunch of New-Killer Weapons he has perfected that help him do that, having target-practiced with them night-after-night over multiple chat windows, sometimes as many as ten of them open, barely fitting on a measly 32-inch screen. His arsenal, deployed along with his Booming B-52 Bomber Voice includes – The Hand Wave, The Flared Nostrils, The ‘Are-You-Serious?’ Glare Through Coke-bottle Lenses, The Reynold’s Pen Poke, The Repeat-Guest-Name Ad-Nauseam, The Look-away Dismissively Look, among others. The most recent addition to the kitty has been The Purring Prized-Cat Voice – the one in which he talks softly to his prey yet still making it pee its pants. Arnab perfected it while watching the Discovery Channel show about a tigress who licked her cubs and then gobbled them up. And then he deployed it on a poor chap whose last name does not rhyme with Pappu.

Arnab’s Vigilante Justice System, popularly known as The Newshour at 9, has spared no one when it comes to doling out reprimands – Politicians Young, Old and Very Old, Bureaucrats, Jurists, Journalists, Czars of the Sporting World, Social Scientists, Activists, and some Overweight Unknowns with Curly Mops and Loud Voices who duet in complete harmony with Arnab’s own tunes.

Lately, though, this constant aiming at the Stars in order to shoot them down, had started to exact a high price from Arnab, for it slowly began to distance him from the very Aam Aadmi (and Aam Naari) he aimed to protect. After all, when was the last time anyone saw a Mango Fellow on his program? So, off went Arnab’s team, looking hither and tither for the Perfect Common (Wo)Man to be paraded on Newhour, to obtain some answers straight from the featured equus’ snout. Sadly, what sounded like a simple search, seemed to always lead to people in mufflers, the common I-Card of The Common Man.

“No more Muffler Men on my program!” yelled Arnab. “Go find me a Real Aam Aadmi!”

Then, one of his producers suggested they look at Bollywood. After all, the Film Industry is replete with people tall and short, dimpled and bearded, dynastic legacies, old mores, slander and innuendos, questionable morality, an old order that Khan’t seem to give way to the younger lot, etc etc etc. In many ways, Art mimicking Life in India. Once the fertile farm called Bollywood had been zeroed into, it was easy-peasy to find The Representative Face of the Common (Wo)Man in the Film Industry, and haul her ass to his studio. Yes, who could be more Aam than The Quintessential Hindi Film Mother?

And who better than SuperMa Nirupa Roy herself for the interview?

 

Arnab Goswami : We debated amongst ourselves who to talk to when it came to getting Aam Aadmi’s opinions.

Nirupa Roy : Thank you for having me on the show, Arnab. I am uniquely qualified to answer your questions on behalf of the Aam Aadmi. After all, the Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All P… (pauses)

AG : What were you going to say, Mrs. Roy? Problems?

NR : (cautiously) Errm…no, Possibilities. I was going to say Possibilities. The Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All Possibilities. And I am…well, Aam Aadmi’s Maaji.

AG : How many children do you have, Maaji, I mean, Madam?

NR : (pontificating) My children have grown up to become Model, Upright Citizens of Society. In fact, most have grown up to become successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Madam, I have just started by asking you a very simple question, and you are avoiding it already.

NR : (presses on unheedingly) …and not just any silly, old, Police Inspectors, mind you…

AG : (persisting) Madam…

NR : (and on) …I am saying, very successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Mrs. Roy…

NR : …the kind who are allotted no less than Type-VIII quarters by the government…

AG : (slowly losing patience) Mrs. Roy…

NR : …with a spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms, and a giant piano in the drawing room…

AG : Mrs. Roy, you are avoiding my…

NR : …and a Puja Room made just for me…

AG : (shaking his head, patience ready to snap any minute) Mrs. Roy…Mrs. Roy…Mrs. Roy…

NR : Oh, and they get their own official vehicles too. They all have Willy’s open-roof Jeeps.

AG : (angrily) Mrs. Roy, my simple question to you, which you have avoided for the past ten minutes, is this – how many children do you have?

NR : (as if suddenly snapping back to attention) I have several, Arnab. The exact count no one knows because I have lost a few over the years.

AG : (immediately chastised) Oh, lost? That is awful, I am so sorry, Mrs. Roy! Were they very young when they passed away?

NR : (mortified) Good Heavens, no, they are not dead, Arnab!

AG : Then?

NR : Arnab, you see, I have never failed to visit the Kumbh Melas and other Vishal Bhagwati Jagarans that millions of people in the Hindi belt attend on a regular basis. You know, the kind where stampedes are as common as trains running late in India.

AG : So?

NR : (surprised) What, so? Isn’t it a given that a mother would lose a few of her children at such large gatherings? After all, what are Kumbh Melas famous for? Other than the Naga Sadhus, that is?

AG : Let me tell you, Mrs. Roy, that what you are saying is not normal. People don’t just ‘lose a few of their children’ while they are laundering their sins in the Ganges!

NR : (unapologetic) Frankly, I blame the arrangements made by the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh for my losses. No matter who has been in charge of managing the Kumbh Mela, for example, I have lost kids there. Under the Congress, the BJP, BSP, SP, you name it.

AG : (angrily) You are looking for a scapegoat for your own follies, Mrs. Roy. Why can people never accept their own fault!

NR : (taking offence) That’s not true, Arnab. Sometimes I have lost children because of other reasons, too.

AG : Like what? Maaji, I mean, Madam, please don’t give cryptic answers now. Remember, the nation wants straight answers.

NR : Arnab, there were times when I was physically incapacitated to mind my brood. Like, that one time when I fell on a stone and had amnesia.

AG : (concerned) Oh dear!

NR : Yes, it took me many years to regain my memory. I didn’t even have any partial memory left. At least Aamir Khan recalled some of his every few minutes in Ghajini. No such luck in my case. I recovered mine only when I hit the same stone at the same spot again years later. I mean, had I known…

AG : I see.

NR : And, that other time, I fell on a stone and became blind.

AG : (exasperated) What’s with all this frequent ‘fell on a stone’ business, Madam? This points to some other kind of malaise within you. Why can’t you walk straight? Why should you lose your balance so often? And to such catastrophic results! Have you gone for a full medical check-up?

NR : (helplessly) How can I? I am just a poor widow. Look at my simple white cotton saree! You think I can afford health care in this country? These hospitals are so expensive! In fact, the last time I had to go to one, I needed a blood transfusion but had no money to pay for it.

AG : Then?

NR : It was the kindness of the doctor there who caught hold of three young men named Akbar, Amar and Anthony and made them donate their blood for free, thus saving my life. The kind doctor just hooked all four of us to the same intravenous line and sucked out all the blood from them that I needed. I wish all our medical facilities worked this way!

AG : Holy Maaji! You do realize that was unsafe medical practice, don’t you? In fact, the doctor should probably be in jail for such gross medical incompetence!

NR : (surprised) Unsafe? Why? The boys looked healthy and seemed to be from decent families – one was a cop even. The Muslim fellow looked like a tailor, and the third was a Padre, I think.

AG : (a 1:3 mix of concerned and angry) But, Madam, it is illegal to donate blood without testing! HIV, Hepatitis A, B-12, C, D, E, K, do you really have no worries? What if you had fallen sick? Or worse, died? Who would have taken care of your children?

NR : Oh, my children, yes, though sometimes, I feel that I am losing control over them anyway.

AG : Why do you say that, Mrs. Roy?

NR : What else should one make if it? You know, one of my sons just ran away from home after I scolded him?

AG : Young boys do have a rebellious streak…

NR : This one, I think his name was Vijay or Jai, went and got a tattoo without seeking my permission. I was so livid!

AG : (offering helpfully) Maybe the tattoo parlor had a discount scheme?

NR : No, he got into a tiff with his dad who wouldn’t take him to the T-20 game between Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians.

AG : So?

NR : So, he went to the tattoo parlor and asked the fellow to engrave “Mera Baap Bore Hai” on his arm.

AG : That sounds like a harmless little thing, Mrs. Roy.

NR : Arnab, but that was not even the half of it! The foolish tattoo fellow made a spelling mistake and tattooed “Mera Baap Chor Hai” instead.

AG : (nods his head) Ok, I do see why that might be a problem, yes.

NR : Doesn’t it? That’s why I yelled at the boy. And he ran away. Not only that, my husband left me and disappeared, too.

AG : (with a furrowed forehead) I am confused. Is your husband missing? Or dead? What about this white, cotton saree you are wearing? You can’t don the National Costume of Widowhood on just a suspicion, you know!

NR : (points to the saree, there is even a hole in it at the palloo) Oh, this? This is just to claim benefits from the government under the Rajiv Gandhi Muft ke Kapde Yojna. Frankly, I am positive that my husband is alive. See? I have full faith in my Mangalsutra. Meri woh zaroor aayenge (tears instantly)

AG : Mrs. Roy…

NR : (wipes tears away) And I keep Karwa Chauth fasts also, but without telling anyone (triumphantly).

AG : (glaring angrily) Mrs. Roy, I am appalled, APPALLED at such devious trickery. YOU are the Mother of Aam Aadmi. At a time when India’s growth rate has hit catastrophic lows, Foreign Institutional Investments have dried up, job growth is an 2.2% and The Times of India print edition is surviving only because it replaced news with ads, it is people like you who are bleeding our nation dry. I say, despite such successful Police Inspector sons, you are pretending to live in penury? Why, Mrs. Roy? The nation wants to know!

NR : But I am like this only, Arnab! My sons seem think I have very high morals. In fact, just the other day, my rich son in “Import-Export” business (goes winky-wink at Arnab), got into an argument with one of my Police Inspector sons whom I live with, you know, the one who got me my own Puja Room?  The boy kept throwing his blazing success at my poorer son’s face – “I have DLF bungalows, Audi cars, servants, Husain’s artwork, Apple products, bank balance with HSBC! What do you have?” – he screamed!

AG : Well said! We all know there is more money to be made in the private sector!

NR : I know! But do you know what my Police boy said?

AG : What?

NR : He replied – “But I have Mother by my side”.

AG : (unimpressed) What shit does that mean?

NR : (excited) That’s exactly what I thought, too! I mean, what shit? So I took my Krishna and Radha idols from my Puja Room and moved into my rich son’s bungalow.

AG : Hey, wait, wasn’t your “Import-Export” son the one who died after a car accident at the Mata ka Mandir? The Police had arrested you for yelling at the temple idols and throwing your slippers at them like a demented person. India-TV did some exclusive breaking news coverage of that.

NR : (shakes her head) Much of what the media says is exaggerated. They will concoct anything for TRPs! It was just a simple protest, nothing more! But, yes, I was on psychotic meds, so…Thankfully, my son did leave me his estate in his well before he died.

AG : Ok, Mrs. Roy, now that we have established how strangely the Common Man of India lives these days, I wanted to know – What are your thoughts on the party that represents you?

NR : (happily) I am very glad that the Aam Aadmi Party is doing so well. I say, more power to the Common Man! They will finally bring down the Zamindaari system with the Jan Lokpal Bill! I have seen enough troubles with these Thakurs.

AG : (in a quiet, but seething voice) Madam, this is national television so I will refrain from using harsher language than this, but you are a fool. Why the bloody hell are you talking about Thakurs? In 2014?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : In the era of computers and CNG low-floor buses, you are talking about something from the 1950s?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : It is because of people like you that progress in this country is difficult…

NR : Arnab…

AG : (relentlessly)…because you keep bringing up demons of the past! Have you not heard of all these government schemes that can save you from the Thakurs?

NR : Arnab…I…

AG : (mouth : frothing) MNREGA? Or Jawahar Jai-Jawan-Jai-Kisan Yogna? Or Indira Daridra, Dukhiya, Lachaar yet Jeevit Yojna, popularly known as DDLJ?

NR : Listen, Arnab…

AG : What do you have to say to explain yourself, Mrs. Roy?

NR : If you would only let me…

AG : (angrily) Speak? The nation wants straight answers, Mrs. Roy! For much too long, the people of the country have been taken for a ride by the likes of you.

NR : (offended) The likes of me? But I AM Aam Aadmi…or at least Aam Dharampatni and Maa.

AG : Then behave like one, Mrs. Roy!

NR : I wish I had access to all these schemes after my husband supposedly died! But the Thakur stole my farm plot in Gurgaon. And then my buffaloes also ran away. The police wouldn’t help me because I am not a VIP. I had no place to go! I was on the street!

AG : But your own sons are Police Inspectors!

NR : But they are busy fighting Smugglers after Chidambaram changed gold import policies! They have no time for me now.

AG : Smugglers? You mean they work for Indian Customs Service?

NR : What’s that?

AG : (shaking his head) I am very concerned about your sanity, Madam. I think the Aam Aadmi of the country has a serious mental condition. Ok, let’s change track. I’d like to know more about your family.

NR : (enthusiastically) Most of my sons are married and settled now.

AG : Oh, that’s good. So, there is at least something that is not completely demented in your life then.

NR : My Bahus are indeed very nice. They are reed slim, astonishingly fair and movie-star beautiful. They touch my feet every day and call me Maaji.

AG : That’s nice, Mrs. Roy. In this day and age, it is hard to expect well-educated youngsters to still be so rooted to our old conservative customs.

NR : Err

AG : Did you choose working wives for your sons? Since most of them are Police Inspectors?

NR : (sheepishly) I didn’t choose the girls. The boys chose their own.

AG : (impressed) Very progressive! Have they continued working their old jobs after marriage?

NR : (horrified) Oh, heaven forbid, no! That would be disastrous!

AG : Why?

NR : Well, all my Police Inspector sons married Tawaifs and Cabaret Dancers, you see.

AG : (suddenly much contrite) Mrs. Roy. Can I say something?

NR : Yes, Arnab, it is your show.

AG : I think this will be my last Aam Aadmi interview.

NR : (surprised) Oh, why so, Arnab? Abhi toh picture baki hai, mere dost!

AG : (shakes his head) I am afraid to stay on until the end of this film.

 

 

Why India Needs Steve Jobs – Part II

 

To recount the story so far (read Part – I of this essay here), Steve Jobs started his remarkable professional life by forming his new company Apple over a bowl of Dilli Fruit Chat in Old Delhi. The company was construed as an innovative technology giant for the advanced world (basically everything west of Iraq, east of North Korea, and south of Burma). For the rest, meaning the remaining 3/4th of humanity, Apple was going to be a political consulting firm. Its aim was to make proudly-poor countries like India strong enough to be able to buy the iProducts that Jobs was going to unleash in the next decade or two.

That was the beginning of Jobs’ association with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Ab, aagey…

 

The Bharatiya Janata Party seemed like the only existing viable alternative to the monolithic dynastic rule of the Nehru-Gandhi family and its personal fiefdom, the Congress party. The Great Chanakya (or was it Voltaire?) had once said that the progress of a nation can be judged by the way it deals with the three realities of life – Death, Taxes, and Bowel Movement. In India, Life was still very cheap and Taxes way too high. Moreover, even after decades of rule, if more than three-quarters of the population still did not have any toilet access, and those who did still could not aim straight into the bowl, there was a clear case to be made for new leadership and fresh thinking. The Bharatiya Janata Party had leaders who were like a breath of fresh Hindi Heartland air – for starters, they were resolute nationalists and wore their patriotism on their sleeve (and also in the form of dhotis, kurtas or very, very loose shorts). Everyone in the Bharatiya Janata Party liked to make fiery speeches, and they all made them well. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s favourite colour was Saffron (so soothing!) and its favourite flower was the Lotus, naturally making the popular Lotus Root (or Kamal Kakdi in Hindi) their favourite vegetable. The Bharatiya Janata Party had everything going for them, including a name that was unpronounceable to only those who did not have an MA in Hindi or Sanskrit.

‘Why don’t you simply call yourself the BJP?’ Jobs had once guided Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had scoffed at the silly, though simple, suggestion. ‘You know, like the AIADMK?’

Hmpf,’ Atalji had declared, ‘if anything, we will call ourselves the Bhaa-Ja-Paa.’

‘Ok, well, suit yourself then. As long as it is simple. I love simplicity,’ was all Jobs had said.

Steve Jobs’s first successful product was designed keeping in mind India’s natural affinity to Sound and Fury. After all, nothing draws more attention in this country than something loud and blaring. So, to drown out the Congress completely, the Bhaa-Ja-Paa needed a human Boom Box – something that only spoke at levels 120 Decibels and higher. It was not important what sound came out of it, as long as it sounded like Heavy Metal and made you want to turn into a rebel without a cause. Thus was born the iPod, more popularly known in India as LK Advani. You could store a million sounds in it. The casing was strong and unbreakable, causing many to visualize a Loh Purush in its design language. But, perhaps, the most ingenious element about LK Advani was the Wheel – a round contraption that allowed control to be swung any which way the wind blew. The Hindi word for Wheel was the Rath and the iPod could yatra far and wide on it, winning hearts and minds, or causing mayhem and destruction, whatever was the political flavor of the day.

Calamity struck in 1992 when the iPod and its Wheel led to the annihilation of Babri Masjid, causing deep consternation in Steve Jobs mind. It was time to cut LK Advani down in size – and Jobs continued to do that relentlessly as he reduced the size of the iPod in avatar after avatar – from the Loh Purush iPod to the iPod Mini, iPod Micro, iPod Nano, and so on.

With the iPod experiment proving to be such a colossal disaster, Jobs realized that for the Bhaa-Ja-Paa to prosper, it needed to be calmer, inclusive, conversational. It needed to be seen as non-confrontational and reflective. It needed to be everything to everybody. Something that everyone would want to call their own. Like a mini-computer that you could talk into, or read poetic prose or witty anecdotes from. High in conservative intellect, yet progressive, dependable. Childlike, yet iconic. Like the iAtal Behari Vajpayee, later shortened to simply the iPhone.

Just like last time, Jobs had another massive hit on his hands. The iPhone ruled the hearts and minds of the country for a solid five years. It survived deep underground nuclear tests just as well it did falls from lofty heights such as the mountains of Kargil. Everyone was happy – it made them feel all glittery. ‘iNdia Shining’ was a slogan that best captured the mood of the population at the time.

However, all good things eventually come to an end. Over time, the iPhone started giving trouble. It would frequently be caught napping in public. Sometimes its speed in responding to your question or command would be so slow that you would subconsciously check if it still had a pulse. Clearly, iAtal Behari Vajpayee was approaching the end of its innovation life-cycle and no iOS update was going to be able to fix that.

Jobs was slow to recognize the massive gap in his product line as the iAtal failed. India paid a huge price for Jobs’ shortsightedness. Bhaa-Ja-Paa was swept aside by the nation by a mere push of a button and an inkspot on their forefinger.

Many worried about the future of the Bhaa-Ja-Paa, including its chief political strategist. But just as we were fast losing hope, mortified that the Italian Queen and her Dimpled Prince were going to run the country until the evening of your grandchild’s Ladies Sangeet, Jobs rolled out the latest proverbial rabbit out of his remarkably brimming digital fedora. He knew that the country was again craving for dependability and solid performance, but not of the monotone variety of the 1990s and the 2000s. The iPhone needed to come back, but it needed to project something brash. Something colorful. Something glitzy. Something that encapsulated the predictable-precision of perfection, but with a lot more pizazz. So Jobs readied the iPhone’s new avatar – the Narendra iModi, also known as the iPhone 5C. The heart of the new device was the same as the tried and tested chip of the old block, but this one came in bright colours – like neon saffron and neon green. And with exciting covers too, one could change them as often as one wanted – much like different types of headgear. The only thing that wasn’t compatible with the iPhone 5C was the Muslim Skull Cap.

Even though the new iModi is expected to go far, converting millions into new fans in the next few months, there remain skeptics who worry about its high price – which, they say, may eventually prove to be catastrophic for our secular democracy in the long run. Still, interest on Social Media remains especially strong partly owing to the new product’s brand new iOS – a less complicated, almost friendly user interface than before, with fresher styling, like its starched half-sleeved kurtas.

The Bhaa-Ja-Paa has staked its entire future on its succeeds.

Sadly, though, the new iPhone 5C is the last of Jobs’ contributions to Bhaa-Ja-Paa, or India, really, leaving many of us deeply disturbed and anguished. You see, we are worried because if this latest experiment fails, there is no more Steve Jobs to save our nation.

Steve Jobs, Bharat Ratna winner. (Image shamelessly pilfered from the internet)

Steve Jobs at his Bharat Ratna award distribution ceremony.
(Image shamelessly pilfered from the internet)

 

Why India Needs Steve Jobs – Part I

As usual, I have ended up writing a monstrously long blog post. But this time I am going to play it sensible. In order to get more eyeballs, I have split the essay into two. Here is Part I. I will release Part II in a couple of days but only if more than 3 people read this one.

 

The world was humming along nicely until one day, sadly, Steve Jobs, died. May God rest his soul.

Now, there have been plenty of eulogies written and scores of paeans sung for him around the world, but the real Steve Jobs still continues to be quite an enigma to many in India. You see, Indians judge a foreigner’s importance through our simple unitary assessment parameter, which is – What does the person think about us. If their impression about India is positive, like with Clinton, Ahmedinejad and Brett Lee, we love the person back unreservedly by, say, naming food dishes after him, or buying their crude oil despite the world’s sniggers, or offering them Horlicks sponsorship deals etc. If not, as in the case of Naipaul and Rushdie, we fucking don’t care – in fact we don’t even consider such people worthy of being called foreigners. Bloody half-twit wannabes they are – who are they to judge us anyway? Don’t they know that our great civilization has existed for 500000 years, that’s almost 5 years longer than the distant second-placed Chinese? Have they not seen pictures of the Taj? And had India not invented the Zero, well, it would have been curtains for the Lunar Module trying to find its way back to Houston, and then there r-e-a-l-l-y would have been a problem. And don’t even get me started on Slumdog Millionaire. ‘Heartfelt Ode to India’ my ass. Lies, all of it! You produce in front of me one person in this country who pronounces the word ‘millionaire’ as ‘Mill-A-Nair’ and I promise you that I will name my next baby boy as Oscar.

Anyway, I think I might be digressing a trifle, so let me get back to my subject. Steve Jobs. Sadly, there has always been much trepidation here about where to peg Jobs’ greatness at since little is known about the time he spent in Manoj Kumar’s favourite country. The only stories one hears of Jobs’ visit are the half-truths about the trip he made to Benaras, where he spent all his days fighting chikungunia and malaria instead of doing what young American backpackers really come to the holy city to do. That being, to learn yoga, smoke hashish, research the correct way to tie the langoti, smoke hashish, learn to pronounce ‘Oum’, train on how to use a lota instead of toilet paper, and to smoke hashish.

The fact is, India to Steve Jobs was way more than a mere survival guide in the absence of Laal and Kaala Hit, or the presence of diarrhea. It is so sad that everyone’s totally missed Jobs’ sublime India connection. There was none of it mentioned even in his recent biopic featuring Ashton Kutcher in and as ‘Jobs’ – the actor prudently chosen to play the World Best Innovator based on his only previous acting stint as the dimwitted Kelso in ‘Friends’.

Truth be told, Jobs was a genius for he had found the formula to not only conquer the western worlds of America and Europe by unleashing iNnovative products there, he was also going to stamp his greatness on proudly-penniless countries like India. No, not by selling his electronics here through EMI and Exchange offers, you fool! No, that vile sales ploy was best left to the Koreans. Jobs was going to be relevant here by being a political consultant.

To know more about that, one must dive deeper into the truth about the founding of Apple. Did you know that the initial idea of that company came to him while watching Salma Sultana on Doordar-sham?

So, decades ago, Steve Jobs was sitting and munching Dilli Fruit Chat in his half-star hotel room in Pahar Ganj in Old Delhi. The chat had been liberally sprinkled with delicious MDH Chunky Chat Masala (yes, this is a sponsored product placement, but the emotional sentiments described about it are my own) and it distinctively brought out the subtle flavor of apple from the fruity mélange. (Lo, and behold, Jobs had a corporate brand name!) As he sat and watched the sullen-faced, single-rose bedecked newsreader half-mumble every single word she spoke amidst visuals of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi cutting ribbons, lighting lamps and making speeches, he knew that our nation needed help. ‘One day, I will create something which I will call the iPad Mini…and by God, every upper-middle class teenager in this country shall own one!’ he prophesized. ‘But hell, not if they go on like this. This country’s in the shitter right now!

So, Jobs knew what he needed to do. Apple, his new company construed over a bowl of Dilli Fruit Chat, needed to not just be a technology giant. It also needed to be a Political Consulting Company that would make a country like India strong enough to be able to buy those iPad Minis that he knew he was going to produce in China one day. Jobs was already aware of the profoundness of the entity he had just conceptualized, and the indomitable excitement of the moment simply caused him to eat way too much chat that evening. (And that led to diarrhea and all that other mess that happened in Benaras later – you already know about all that.)

And that, my friends, was the beginning of Steve Jobs association with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Steve Jobs at an Indian Fancy Dress party (Image shamelessly pilfered from the internet)

Steve Jobs at an Indian Fancy Dress party
(Image shamelessly pilfered from the internet)

The rest of the story will happen in Part II in a couple of days. 

 

Now that the second part has been written and uploaded on the blog, lazy folks will want to proceed to it by clicking here. I am calling them lazy because they don’t seem to want to leave a comment below for the first part. Sigh. So disappointing!