Tag Archives: Great Leaders

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!

 

The Seventh Wonder Of The World

When I first learned about the Seven Wonders of the World in school, I went, “Hein, Ma’am are you sure?” After all, except for the Pyramids of Giza, none of the items on the hottest-places-to-see-in-the-world itinerary even existed anymore. Clearly, the Travel & Lifestyle folks of yore had been quite sluggish in updating their Best-Of lists. Anyway, I discovered quite recently that a new Top-7 list has been produced, and this one does have places that one can actually go to and click a suitable Facebook profile picture at.

Mayawatiji with halo

Mayawatiji with halo

I was also joyously happy to see my favourite politician Mayawatiji’s property making the cut. No small feat for a person who started her journey to greatness as a humble school teacher. By the way, Happy Teachers Day, Mayawatiji! Except for the Yadavs, everyone loves you!

Which brings me to the property itself. Mahamaya Taj Mahal, or simply Taj Mahal as it is known among the plebs, is a glorious monument built by Shah Jahan centuries ago (use Google if you really want to know exactly when – must I spoon-feed you?) when his beloved wife died bearing him his fourteenth child at the ripe old age of 29. It was a fitting tribute to erect such a huge building in her honour considering it was most likely the man’s perpetual erection that did her in.

Anyway, back to the Taj. I am certain that it wasn’t quite smooth-sailing to construct a building of that complexity. I suspect some of the conversations during its design and construction might have gone like this –

 

A’la Azad Abul Muzaffar Shahab ud-Din Mohammad Khurram, or simply Shah Jahan for short : (with thundering anger and blazing eyes) What the hell is wrong with you, you bloody nincompoop? Didn’t I say that I wanted taller minarets? What is wrong with you architects these days? Don’t you ever listen?

Taufeeq Contractor, Chief Architect : (trembling with fear) But, Sir, that was what I was trying to explain to you the other day. Any taller than this and we will not be able to get the blueprints approved by the Housing Board!

Shah Jahan : Who cares what the Housing Board says! I will just stuff their mouths with 1-Rupiya coins! Have those minions even seen what a 1-Rupiya coin looks like in their entire life?

Taufeeq Contractor : (sheepishly) I am sorry, Sir, but…

Shah Jahan : But what?

Taufeeq Contractor : They have declined to accept any bribes in the shape of Paisas or Rupiyas.

Shah Jahan : (spitting angrily) What?

Taufeeq Contractor : They say that they will only accept Dollars.

Shah Jahan : Dollar? What in Allah’s name is that?

Taufeeq Contractor : It’s what our cousins on the other side of the world, the NRIs, are using these days.

Shah Jahan : (ferociously) These blasted Native Red Indians! I hope someone from Europe goes to the New World and fixes those bloody rats once and for all!

Taufeeq Contractor : (almost whispers) : And there is one more thing, Sir.

Shah Jahan : What’s that?

Taufeeq Contractor : They can’t approve 8 minarets. They say that so many minarets are an earthquake hazard.

Shah Jahan : (angrily shakes fist) La haul vila kuvat! I hope they rot in hell!

Taufeeq Contractor : I am negotiating with them for six. Hopefully they will agree, otherwise we may have to settle for four. Or two. But it will cost extra.

Shah Jahan : And to think we already had to grease quite a few palms to get the riverside plot assigned to us.

 

So, as you can see, even in 16-hundred whatever AD, obtaining the right site, and getting a floor plan passed by the Municipal Corporation was like pulling teeth. And this man was the bloody King, for Christ’s sakes! Then, a few days later…

 

Shah Jahan : (annoyed as usual) Just make sure all the paperwork is pakka. I don’t want anyone in the future trying to take over this whole Taj Corridor and passing it off as their property!

Hukum Nawaz, Wazeer-e-Daftar (Chief Secretary) : As you command, Jahan-Panaah.

Shah Jahan : Any news on the Underground Parking?

Hukum Nawaz : Sorry Sir, but that plan has been rejected.

Shah Jahan : (with nostrils starting to flare dangerously) What the hell! Why?

Hukum Nawaz : We are too close to the river. It will cause seepage problems.

Shah Jahan : Damn it! Now where are we going to park all the horse- and bullock-carts? We needed at least two floors of underground parking!

Hukum Nawaz : Sir, we will have to use the area in front.

Shah Jahan : And have those four-legged monsters eat all my imported grass and dunk their heads into my expensive fountains? Use your brains, Hukum Nawaz!

Hukum Nawaz : Sorry Sir!

Shah Jahan : What sorry-shorry! You just have to come up with an alternative plan for the traffic.

Meanwhile, the Emperor has to still manage his personal life, and the fourteen sons his loving departed wife left him with. The most obnoxious one is the eldest.

Abul Muzaffar Muhi-ud-Din Mohammad Aurangzeb, or simply Aurangzeb : Papa, come play Emperor-Slave with me! I want to pump you with arrows.

Shah Jahan : (irritated) Go away, boy, can’t you see that your father is busy?

Aurangzeb : (angrily) But, Pops, you always keep saying that! Why do you never listen to me? Come! These arrows won’t hurt much. Look, they are Made-in-China.

Shah Jahan : (equally angrily) I said go away. Don’t you make me angry, boy!

Aurangzeb : (even more angrily) You wait till I grow up, Papa. When I am the King, I will lock you up in prison and throw away the key!

Shah Jahan : (dismissively) Yeah, yeah, yeah, we will see about that, you Dumbass!

Shah Jahan yells to the maid who comes scurrying.

Shah Jahan : (authoritatively) Kaneez, take this juvenile delinquent away. And make sure he doesn’t manage to sneak into my chambers again, ok?

The maid bows. Then, Shah Jahan calls her close to him to pass on covert instructions.

Shah Jahan : (whispering) He likes to butcher people. Just provide him a few slaves so he can play with. Who are we to curtail his natural instincts? At some point in the future, people like him will be very famous. There may even be books and plays about serial killers!

 

The boy is taken away screaming and yelling egregious threats at his father. Meanwhile, the Emperor has another visitor who has been stopped at the door.

 

Hukum Nawaz : Sir, it’s Anarkali. She says she must see you. It’s urgent.

The concubine. Alas, there is no hope of getting any serious work done today. The Emperor caves in.

Shah Jahan : (mildly irritated) What is it, Anarkali? Just speak quickly, I don’t have any patience with your slow, husky, whispered tone today.

Anarkali : (in a huff at being scolded in front of everyone) Ok, I will make it quick. You promised me a new Sheesh Mahal where I could do my dance performances, and where the walls and ceilings would mirror a million reflections of my swirling Anarkali suit and dupatta. What the hell happened to that plan?

Shah Jahan : We will get to that by and by.

Anarkali : (still annoyed) Delaying tactics! Why are you focused on that dead woman’s mausoleum when you should be focused on me!

These damned women, the Emperor says to himself.

Anarkali : (starting to cry) Do you really not care that at some point someone will want to make a biopic on my life? What good it will be if there is no item song featuring me in my own grand Sheesh Mahal?

Aaaaaand she begins to cry.

Anarkali : (for extra effect) Have you no heart?

Shah Jahan : (sighing loudly) Ok, ok, my dear, let me see what we can do.

Anarkali : (immediately back in control of her tear ducts) Yes, and you had better do it quickly.

Suddenly his father’s original idea of entombing the whining woman doesn’t seem like that bad an idea to the Emperor.

Anarkali leaves happily. The Chief Secretary and the Emperor are back to discussing the monument.

 

Shah Jahan : Ok, what’s the plan about Labour? Do we have 20,000 labourers ready for the show?

Hukum Nawaz : (excitedly) Yes, Sir, we are working on that. We are getting some from Bihar and Jharkhand. Others are being summoned back from the Middle East.

Shah Jahan : What about their contracts? Remember it is imperative that they don’t stay on in the construction business after building my property. We can’t have them copying our style elsewhere! And we certainly don’t want them building Casinos in the New World that look like our monument!

Hukum Nawaz : Exactly, Sir. That is why we are making them sign a Confidentiality Agreement.

Shah Jahan : Sign?

Hukum Nawaz : Yes, Sir.

Shah Jahan : (blowing his top yet again) Naa muraad! Do you think they can read or write? Sign, he says! You bloody IAS-type idiots! Do you not know anything?

Hukum Nawaz : (extremely mortified) Sorry, Sir! We will come up with an alternate plan.

Shah Jahan : What alternate plan! Can’t you just cut off their arms after the job is done? Isn’t that simple?

Hukum Nawaz : Oh, absolutely, Sir. That can be managed.

Shah Jahan : Ok, good. What about all the raw material? I am warning you again – I want only the best quality marble!

Hukum Nawaz : Yes, Sir. Absolutely, Sir! We are sourcing it from Rajasthan via NOIDA. The only hitch is hauling it all the way to Agra.

Shah Jahan : So what are we going to do about that?

Hukum Nawaz : Sir, can I ask you to fast track an Expressway from there? From NOIDA to Agra? That way, our bullock carts can just zip through at double-digit speeds.

Shah Jahan : So fast! But is it safe? To drive so fast on the Expressway? What is this – some kind of Formula 1?

Hukum Nawaz : Oh, totally safe, Sir. In fact some of our spies in Europe claim that the highways there are so smooth that horses and oxen practically slide on them. And there is no speed limit on those roads either!

Shah Jahan : No way!

Hukum Nawaz : Yes way, Sir.

Shah Jahan : So how can we get this Expressway done quickly?

Hukum Nawaz : We should really go ahead and give the approvals for it. In fact, (coughs) some of the interested builders are willing to (cough), you know, write ‘ghazals’ for Jahanpanaah.

Shah Jahan : I see. How many ‘ghazals’ are they willing to give…errm, write?

Hukum Nawaz : Sir, the going rate is 200 ‘ghazals’. You know, pure gold ‘ghazals’.

Shah Jahan : What shit! Tell them nothing less than 500 ‘ghazals’ will do! 200 ‘ghazals’ my fat ass!

Hukum Nawaz : I shall let them know, Sir.

Shah Jahan : And warn them that if they don’t write me the right number of ‘ghazals’, I will sit on their file forever.

Hukum Nawaz : Absolutely, Sir. Yes, Sir.

 

Well, Taj Mahal supposedly took 20 years to build. It used the best marble from Rajasthan and the best stones from wherever else (just Google it, for Heaven’s sake). Quite a handful of a project for the great Shah Jahan who later died in captivity. (That bloody Aurangzeb locked him up, you see!)

But, in the end, we all got our Taj Mahal, the only Indian thing that features in Hollywood disaster films when they have to show worldwide destruction of the planet.  

Meanwhile, one assumes that the right amount of ‘ghazals’ never passed hands between the builders and the government for centuries. The Yamuna Expressway wasn’t inaugurated until 2012. It cuts down journey time between Delhi to Agra from over 6 hours to under 2, possibly the smoothest road in the country where zipping at 160 kmph is a-ok. But will it ever be featured in any Wonder Of The World list? Unlikely.    

 

 

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013. The theme is SEVEN. This post features a person and a monument, both are among the Seven Wonders of the World as far as I am concerned. 

 

The Day Gandhi Died

January 30, 1948 is an important date in modern Indian history. Who’s to say what the course of this nation might have been had that day gone differently. Here is a short story I wrote with that historic incident as the backdrop.

I don’t do serious fiction often, so your critique on the story, especially if you don’t like it, will be greatly appreciated!  

 

***

The Young Man pats the inside pocket of his waistcoat to make sure that the package is still secure. He feels comforted by the touch.

It is a late-January morning in Delhi. The air is crisp, clean and cold. The sun has been up for a couple of hours, pushing forth its ample light yet feeble warmth around the dew drenched verdure. The birds have been at play all morning, noisily shouting cryptic and repetitive instructions at each other. The sky is a freshly minted blue, almost speckless, except for a large spillage of three shades of white towards the west.

The Prayer Meeting is about to commence momentarily.

The two uniformed sentries at the Birla House gate keep a lazy eye on the human mass that is unhurriedly making its way to the prayer hall. One of them makes eye contact with The Young Man as he passes him by. The Young Man folds his hands in greeting which the turbaned guard acknowledges with a quick nod followed by a head gesture as if to say, ‘Please keep moving’.

Amid the sounds of slow shuffling feet, The Young Man looks around him. The ambience is of solemn but affected reverence, the kind that usually manifests on its own in the presence of inordinate greatness close by. He sees men and women of disparate breeding and faiths. Most are wearing white, the universally endorsed colour of deference. And also, purity, especially the kind that is shaped from homespun yarn. To him, it seems that for these people, Khadi is not merely a token of sentimental remembrance or exhibited gratitude, it is more a representation of their inner conscience of humility and simplicity. He looks down at his own kurta. It is light brown, mill produced. He feels a sudden flush of annoyance, of not having picked a garment that would have allowed him greater congruity with his surroundings. But what am I to do, he thinks to himself. This is a special day, and he wants to look his best regardless of the testimony that his vêtements might affirm.

A couple of people behind The Young Man are overheard talking about not going straight to the prayer hall. They discuss staying outside in the garden itself. “You see, he will come through this path on his way to the hall,” says one. “We will get a better view if we just wait here then. I might even be able to touch his feet!” surmises his partner excitedly.

It is clear to The Young Man what he must do.

A few more minutes pass. The arriving crowds keep making their way from the outside gate to the prayer hall, eventually thinning to a trickle. Ever so often, a few, mainly enthusiastic young bucks, break from convention and congregate around The Young Man and the two others who started this satellite assembly. There is a now a reasonable number clustered around The Young Man.

“Are you certain that he is going to come this way?” asks The Young Man to a grim looking fellow standing next to him.

“Yes. He is going to emerge from there,” the man replies, turning his head and pointing to the large building with an arched entrance flanking the left side of the garden. “He always follows the same route.”

It appears that the grim fellow has been here before. He sounds quite certain.

“I have been coming here every day for the past several days,” the grim man confirms voluntarily. “It’s the same walk, the same time. Every morning.”

The grim man seems a trifle lost in thought. Pre-occupied. Conflicted, almost.

“It is my first time here,” The Young Man says to continue their dialogue. “I hope I have the fortitude to accomplish what I have come here to do today.”

The Young Man’s words seem to shake the grim looking fellow out of his thoughts.

“We all wish we have the fortitude to accomplish what we have set ourselves out to do, don’t we?” he says. “Unfortunately, not all of us are as strong as we think we are.”

“I think we are all strong,” retorts The Young Man. “It’s just that some find their strength sooner than others.”

“Then I guess if you have the conviction, your time will come,” the grim fellow responds. “Perhaps today.”

Then adding wistfully, “Or perhaps tomorrow. Maybe even next year.”

The Young Man looks at his grim companion who seems lost in thought again.

Several more minutes pass. These ones in silence.

The sudden sounds of commotion on the left flank are unmistakable. A group of people, centered by the dhoti clad man everyone has come to see, emerges from the arched entrance, causing an immediate stir among the crowd waiting in the garden. A few break away and run towards the prayer hall, wanting to be the ones to herald the imminent news to those waiting inside. Most others, including The Young Man and his new acquaintance, stay put and peer at the emerging party expectantly.

“Here he comes!” The Young Man says, stating the obvious. The grim fellow is stiff and says nothing.

The Young Man again notices his new acquaintance’s face. It appears to be a picture of tumult, as if a million conflicting emotions are waging an unruly battle – one whose outcome is far from certain.

As the emerging party strides purposefully towards the prayer hall, the animated assembly in its path parts to either side making way. The worn, elderly man in the middle folds his hands in greeting as he flashes his warm toothless smile – a smile that has not infrequently brought the mightiest to their knees. His mesmerized audience can do little more than mirror the old man’s greeting and bow its head in obeisance. Many eyes moisten. A few tremulous hands lurch forward to touch the coarse homespun shawl covering the frail man.

Now only a few steps away, The Young Man, who has prepped for this moment in his mind a dozen times, freezes with anxiety. His leaden arms wouldn’t move and the words in his head splinter into pieces at the tip of his tongue. His skin goes sallow. The biggest moment of his young life is upon him, and yet, his body and soul seem to abandon him, leaving him bereft of action or thought.

The dhoti clad man and his troop are merely a breath away now. The moment is about to be lost.

Right at that instant, as if in slow motion, The Young Man notices his grim companion break away from his side and walk directly on to the path of the old man’s pack. He falls to his knees, drops his head and folds his hands, bringing the group to an abrupt stop.

“Brother, Bapu is already late,” says a kindly voice.

Two frail arms start to bend forward to coax the man in their path back to his feet. It is perhaps just the nudge The Young Man needs to rediscover his voice.

Rediscover his Conviction.

As his grim faced partner rises and steps away, The Young Man assumes his place.

“Bapu, I have travelled for several days and nights from Champaran to meet you. You may not remember this now but many years ago, when you launched your first satyagraha from our village Motihari, you stayed at my grandparents’ hut. And despite our caste and our poverty, there was only one person in that entire village that you would accept water from. It was from a little child. Do you remember her? That was my Mai.”

“Today, I am the first Harijan in my state to clear the Indian Administrative Services exam. And my Mai felt that the first person to solemnize my achievement with a piece of sweet should be you.”

The Young Man quickly fumbles into the inner pocket of his waistcoat and brings out a small package. His nervous fingers tear open the modest newspaper wrapping.

“No one in our village will bless my success before you do. Bapu, won’t you accept some gur from our house?”

The frail old man, his eyes now wet, extends his bent fingers towards the offering and takes a piece of jaggery. He places his other hand on The Young Man’s bowed head. The Young Man closes his eyes as if silently partaking unspoken blessings.

“Hey Ram.”

Time appears to be still for several moments.

“Bapu?” repeats the kindly voice of Bapu’s companion.

With polite folded hands, the human impediment in the old man’s path withdraws, and the troop resumes its brisk pace towards the prayer hall.

The assembly around The Young Man starts to break up, too. Most follow the departing group, quickly falling in brisk step behind them. A few remain, unsure of what to do next. One of them stares hard at The Young Man.

“You froze,” the grim fellow says finally. “I figured I had to stop Bapu so you could do what you had to. After all, you had come a long way for this.”

The Young Man merely nods his head. The two men stare at each other for another moment, instantly reliving perhaps the singular experience of their lifetime. Then, both smile.

“Isn’t it strange that we have not yet introduced ourselves to each other? I am Nathu Ram Godse from Poona. What’s your name?”

 

Mahatma Gandhi

 

If you liked this, you might also enjoy another short story I wrote a while ago. That also had a historical backdrop and was titled – The Littered Sky. Click this link : http://reekycoleslaw.com/?p=382