If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

“How many dead?”

“None.”

“Burned beyond recognition? At least seriously injured or maimed?”

“Hmmm…I don’t think any.”

“Any coverage in the media?”

“To the best of my knowledge, nil.”

Answering the Minister’s questions was a bright graduate of the elite Administrative Services College of the country, whose smile had been growing wider and wider as he responded to each question thinking about how effectively he had been managing his area of responsibility, and now went from one ear to the other.

“Is this an issue which the western world has expressed concerns about and which might lead to cancellation of overseas jaunts of senior ministers?”

“Not at all. We keep giving them other issues to express concerns about.”

The bright graduate was positively beaming, imagining his future prospects.

The Minister, so far looking down at a piece of paper on his desk, with a pen in his hand as if poised to sign, looked up. He took off his glasses, wiped them on his kurta sleeve, and put them down next to the offending piece of paper, which seemed to be triggering his questions.

The bright graduate quailed. The muffled sound of the glasses being placed on the desk sounded like a thunderclap.

Looking him squarely in the eye, the Minister asked, “Did you hear about the Elphinstone Road foot over-bridge stampede?”

Of course he did. It was the latest man-made disaster in a distinguished series of man-made disasters over many years and through tenures of multiple governments. On the 29th of September, till the time of writing of this article, twenty three people had died in a stampede on a foot over-bridge at the Elphinstone Road station of the inhumanly crowded Mumbai suburban rail network.

“Yes…yessir,” he stammered.

“Since when has the suburban rail network of Mumbai been inhumanly overcrowded?”, the Minister continued, even before his stammered phrase could be completed.

“I don’t know sir. I have known it to be overcrowded ever since I gained consciousness.” He was a Mumbai lad and was well versed with the history of his city.

The Minister was on a roll. He was not asking those questions to get answers. He was driving home some messages. He was fed-up of bright graduates coming out of elite colleges spouting theory at him and asking for approval for frivolous proposals. It was time they learnt some practical lessons. “How many times have safety concerns been expressed arising out of overcrowding of platforms, overcrowding of bridges, overcrowding of coaches?”, he shot back.

“Many times sir.” He was a bright student and was warming up to the format. He had excelled in quizzes in school and college and followed news and current events closely.

The Minister leaned back in his chair. A smile was playing at the corner of his lips.

“Now tell me, did you read about the forty people who did not die because the Corporation fixed the platform tiles so that people did not accidentally slip and fall in the path of an oncoming train?”

The graduate was flummoxed. He had not come across such a news item. His face expressed his lack of awareness.

“Or the seventy who did not get electrocuted when the Corporation fixed the live wires that had come loose and were hanging dangerously close to passers by?” the Minister continued without pausing.

“When did that happen sir?” he could not help asking, and displaying his ignorance.

The minister looked at him squarely in the eyes once again. He shifted uncomfortably. The Minister asked, “Tell me, what is the primary duty of a democratically elected government?”

“Why, to look after the people of course”, he brightened up, on getting a question he knew the answer to.

“Exactly. And such incidents, where nobody dies, and which nobody ever hears about, who would they give any comfort to? Would these incidents give a feeling to the common man that the government has his back?”

“Obviously no-one sir.” He was getting the drift he thought. He loosened up a little.

“What is a responsible government to do? With great power comes great responsibility. Spending the tax collections is an exercise of great responsibility and a hard-earned one. Why will a government, not just ours, any government, waste it on measures that do not give comfort to the common man?”

He was flummoxed again. ‘Twas the day for him to be flummoxed. “Then what does the government do, sir?” He could see the issue, but did not have the mental capacity to imagine the solution.

“The government does the only thing that a responsible government can do; wait for an accident to happen, as we did in the case of the Elphinstone Road foot overbridge stampede that killed several people. And now that it has happened, once again, like any responsible government, we have cancelled the leave of all officials and flown them in from various parts of the country for urgent consultations. After all, the taxpayer money has to be spent productively, isn’t it?”

“These officials, as we know, are from an elite corps, and have already hit the ground running. After analysing the situation they will reach a conclusion that everyone has known for many years. But these officials will reach the conclusion while lodged in expensive hotels and eating expensive food, hence their conclusion can be considered to be the final word on the event. Moreover, they will even absolve everyone concerned of any responsibility and attribute the accident to a freak confluence of events that everyone could have predicted.”

“But there will always be Doubting Thomases questioning the intent and effort of the government. Therefore, further analysis will be done by the high-powered group who will decide to spend more money on a review of all random things that can be thought of in such a high-pressure situation, like testing the strength of airport runways in the country, checking the depth of water in lakes and canals and installing traffic lights where not required. For the safety and security of the common man of course.”

He was beginning to see the real picture. He may have received his college degree many years back, but he was getting educated today. He could picture himself sitting in the minister’s chair in the not too distant future, serving the nation and the common man. Dreamily he asked, “Then what sir?”

“Then what? Then we will wait for the next stampede at an overcrowded Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. Or the next unplanned town to be washed away in a cloubburst in Uttarakhand. Or the next 8-year old to be murdered in a school in Gurgaon. Or the next unsafe building to catch fire in Delhi with tenders unable to access the site. And roll out the time-tested plan for ensuring the safety and security of the common man.”

“Tell me. Have you not heard of Nirbhaya?”

The bright graduate suddenly came to. After all, who had not heard of the gruesome rape in Delhi several years back that led to a slew of initiatives to prevent rapes, from pink coloured taxis to women-only banks.

“And have rapes stopped? Or slowed down?”

His eyes lit up. It was all clear to him now. With a touch of reverence in his voice, he asked, “But how do you handle all this, sir? After all, manmade disasters are such an innate part of the fabric of our great society.”

The Minister took a deep breath, and slowly released it as if trying to release the burden of his great responsibility to the common man. “It is a tightrope walk. Between running advertisements announcing great achievements of the government, security detail for ministers and self-appointed godmen (and women), money paid to consultants for coining new and imaginative names for government schemes, and providing safety and security to the common man. But, like I said earlier, with great power comes great responsibility. We have to take judicious decisions keeping all interests in mind.”

The Minister was floating on a cloud of his great responsibility towards the common man and did not notice the bright graduate quietly picking up the printed proposal he had taken to the Minister for his approval for the Corporation to fix platform tiles so that people did not accidentally slip and fall in the path of an oncoming train, the piece of paper that had started the interrogation, and walk out of the  office while crumpling the proposal into a ball and expertly tossing it into a basket placed strategically near the exit.

 

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Thank You For The Music

Dear Mr. Khattar,

(For the uninitiated, Mr. Manohar Lal Khattar is the Chief Minister of Haryana, the state where Gurgaon, where I live, lies)

Thank you for the music on the night of Friday, 18th August, extending into the wee hours of Saturday, 19th August. Yes last night.

Music that I neither asked for nor wanted.

Music that I understand is supposed to stop at 10 PM.

I realise the pains you have to go through to provide these little pleasures to your residents. Pleasures that residents of few leading cities in the world get to savour. Of free, unasked for music at unearthly hours. Not for nothing is Gurgaon known as the millennium city. After the destruction of overground vegetation and underground water reservoirs, this is perhaps a logical way forward for a modern, progressive city.

My last faint memory of the night is of purple lights blinking inside my head to the thumping of loud, remixed music. This must have been around 12.50 PM at night. But I could be mistaken. The only certain marker of time I have from last night is of the last call I received from the Sector 29 Police Station informing me that they will arrange for a Police Control Room (PCR) van to go to the establishment spreading the joy and ask them to switch off the music. That was around 12.40 AM.

My wife had initially called to complain (silly woman – complaining about a civic nuisance!) at about 11.25 PM. She had called the Sector 40 Police Station under whose jurisdiction our housing society falls.

Of course, till 12.30 AM nothing had been done. In fact, the music had grown louder and was belting out some foot-tapping scores.

Reluctantly I called the same Police Station again. After failing to connect with the PCR on “100”. The person answering the call expressed surprise that the music had not stopped despite him having done nothing about it. I offered that the music might be coming from across the road, from the eatery attached to the shiny new liquor vend that has come up near our building.

Though he might have expected the music to have stopped on its own, on hearing this he immediately said that that area is under the jurisdiction of the Sector 29 Police Station. The Doklam standoff between China and India may have nothing on this border dispute between the Police Stations of Sector 29 and Sector 40.

Notwithstanding the border dispute, he was kind enough to give me another number for reaching the PCR which, unfortunately, connected. The PCR might have conveyed the message to the Sector 29 Police Station which is perhaps why they called me.

I must stop here and apologise for my rudeness to the person who called. I asked him if they at the Police Station could not hear the music and why did they have to wait for a complaint. I also had the temerity to ask him about the punitive action that would be taken against the establishment. What was I thinking? If he gave a response I did not hear it. If you get a chance, please convey my sincere apologies to the person for asking inappropriate questions.

I am also extremely sorry I was not able to participate in the festivities longer than 12.50 AM. I have made a mental note to sleep through the day tomorrow so that I can enjoy the late night festivities you and your administration have arranged for unsuspecting and ungrateful residents like me.

I will also try to communicate the same to children who need to get up early for school and seniors living in our building to ensure that they also sleep through the day so that we can all enjoy this unexpected treat from the authorities together. It will hopefully bring us all together cutting across lines of age, gender, religion, occupation, etc. We cannot thank you enough.

Of course I understand. If we cannot stop rapes, molestations and murders in the city, what right do we have to expect such trifles to be prevented? How can the police be expected to know that an establishment in their vicinity is playing loud music beyond permitted hours and censure them? They can only know if a resident complains. Isn’t it?

On another note, I also thank you for the early practice, as the silly season begins in October when the weather turns for the better and outdoor merriment starts. It is good to get one’s ear accustomed to unauthorised late night music as HUDA Gymkhana Club and Kingdom of Dreams, both within a stone’s throw of our building, who have been the bellwethers of unauthorised late night music in our neck of the woods till last year, begin their respective acts.

Equally, it is wonderful to see that the administration, as behoves an administration in a market economy, is leaving no stone unturned to introduce greater competition in this area as well. After all, why should HUDA Gymkhana Club and Kingdom of Dreams have a free run on late night unauthorised music?

Would it be possible to publish a playlist for the night’s unauthorised music playing so that residents can be better prepared with the right accompaniments for the music being dished out? If not, can we introduce a system through which “requests” can be sent to the erring establishment so that the unauthorised music could be to the liking of the forced audience?

Even if the above requests cannot be entertained, please don’t fret. You are keeping us entertained, albeit against our wishes. Your good deeds will stand you well. Remind me again when the next elections are due.

If I sound distracted in writing this thank you note, I apologise. I am writing this at 2.30 AM, after waking from a fitful sleep with those purple lights still flashing inside my head. It seems the music has restarted. Thanks again. Apologies if my complaint caused the music to be shut down for a few minutes, or was it seconds. I realise that one should not look a gift horse in the mouth. Who knows, we may be condemned to live in a city with rule of law.

Sincerely,

An ungrateful resident.

Defanged

Eventually, the beauty of the solution lay in its simplicity and elegance.

But that is what leaders are for. To see what the common man cannot see. To do what the common man cannot do. To hear what the common man does not say. To take decisions where the common man needs none. And to dither and vacillate where the common man needs one to be taken.

Billions of rupees have gone down the drain in the search for solutions and cures. Numerous lives sacrificed. Decades lost.

Yet, year after year the scourge has kept coming back. Like the proverbial bad penny. Developing, evolving newer and hardier strains, mocking the advances made by society. Come monsoon, typically between June and September in most parts of the country, it bares its fangs once again and readies to strike.

Even a plethora of meticulously unresearched advice, blindly forwarded on WhatsApp groups, has had no impact. Like the one I received yesterday informing me that the mosquito responsible for dengue cannot fly above knee height, hence all that people need to do is take care to cover the body below the knees, and all will be well. In my 11th floor apartment, with the dreaded buzzing sound audible as soon as I step out onto the terrace, this message was like manna from heaven. It seems the little tyke can fly upto the 11th floor of a building, significantly higher than knee high to a person at ground level, but once it reaches that height, it loses the will to fly above knee height. I took my phone and read the message aloud to the creators of the buzzing sound on the terrace to tell them how they needed to behave. A follow-up session is scheduled today evening.

By now you might have guessed that I am talking about mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue, which have traditionally held sway during these months. If malaria was more lethal in one year, it would be dengue in the next. Last year, chikungunya, an unknown new mosquito-borne disease, became the flavour of the season, eclipsing malaria and dengue. Like an unheralded Boris Becker, all of seventeen years of age, coming into Wimbledon in 1985 and laying established stars low. Who knows which disease will rule the roost this year. Online bookies are doing roaring business.

Cities and governments around the country have been trying to solve the problem through planned, scientific means, with dismal results. Just when it seemed all was lost and that we were consigned to being forever held to ransom by mosquito-borne diseases every monsoon, came an inspired, swift, unilateral decision by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) which has put the spring back in the steps of the common man. What is even more inspiring is that it appears that the decision is based neither on logic nor any substance.

Not for nothing has Mumbai been the commercial capital of the nation.

Public Health Department (PHD) officials of the BMC have come to the rescue of the common man from the annual mosquito menace and slapped a notice on a popular Radio Jockey (RJ) in the city whose satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC has garnered over a million views on YouTube, for breeding mosquitoes in a clay bowl kept under the plant pot kept in front of the front door of her apartment.

Now who would have thought that mosquitoes would be bred by a popular RJ whose satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC has garnered over a million views on YouTube. That too in a clay bowl kept under the plant pot kept in front of the front door of her apartment.

PHD officials can clearly make out that a clay bowl kept under the plant pot kept in front of the front door of the popular RJ’s apartment, the RJ whose satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC has garnered over a million views on YouTube, is being used for breeding mosquitoes, but clay bowls kept under plant pots kept in front of the front doors of other apartments in her building, whose occupants have not put out a satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC that has garnered over a million views on YouTube, are not being used for breeding mosquitoes.

The world has changed. Clearly you can’t pull wool over the eyes of officials of the PHD of the BMC any more. They know.

“When the city has several agencies controlling roads, how can BMC be blamed for potholes, even though it is our responsibility?” the BMC has shot back at the RJ. “Problems with the railways and airlines are not because of us,” the BMC has added, bolstering their argument by citing examples of services they have nothing to do with. Even the RJ whose satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC has garnered over a million views on YouTube, will not be able to argue with that.

As the BMC is ruled by a political party whose founder built a reputation with scathing political cartoons before turning to politics, it is only logical that scathing humour at their expense is not to be tolerated. The party has identified that since they so enjoyed and identified with it, the video was an insult to every Mumbaikar (resident of Mumbai). It was apparently a unanimous decision taken by the leader of the party alone.

In order not to get left behind, Delhi has proactively decided to retrospectively issue mosquito breeding notices to organisers of the protest march “Not In My Name” last month, despite the monsoon becoming active over Delhi only in July, as a preventive measure.

To eradicate the menace of mosquitoes from the country, it has been decided to ban all forms of creative dissent.

A simple and elegant solution, wouldn’t you agree?

Responsibility

I used to worry about the ability of the younger generation to take responsibility. Even chiding my children occasionally, to the utter lack of amusement on my wife’s part, leading to more nights on the living-room couch.

But recent events have proved me wrong. Once again.

It seems that while I was busy worrying and chiding my children, and sleeping on the living-room couch, organisations that stand up and take responsibility have been growing and prospering, as I discovered from a friend’s recent post.

They even have a name.

They are called political parties. And governments. And they mostly do it (take responsibility) on other people’s money. And one of the key responsibilities of governments, as I have learned, is to take responsibility for what they have either done or not done, or what others have done or not done.

Were it not for the full page adverts in major national dailies, purchased with my money of course, I would not have known how responsible this government is.

For instance, I would not have known that the present government, that came to power three years back, is responsible for the unprecedented success of the space programme that has delivered unprecedented successes many times since its inception over sixty years back. Foolishly, I had assumed that it was the vision of the founding fathers that had created the space programme.

I would not have known that the present government is responsible for the surgical strikes that not only served as a strong warning to terrorists and resulted in spectacular lack of success on the Kashmir issue, but also introduced a new term to the vocabulary of most Indians. How many previous governments can rightfully claim to have expanded the common man’s vocabulary?

I would not have known that the present government is responsible for providing universal access to banking services. Not drinking water, not grid-supplied power, but banking services.

Even state governments have come to the party.

Kerala has claimed full responsibility for introducing the Fat Tax. Just imagine!

Chhattisgarh has claimed full responsibility for electrification of 98% villages. Without any responsibility for supplying power.

Bengal has claimed full responsibility for marching forward in its endeavour to make the vision of a golden Bengal come true. Not green. Not white. Not silver. Golden.

Each claiming its share of responsibility with its own paid advert in national dailies.

Even though we found out why Kattappa killed Bahubali, before the government could claim any responsibility for it, could it be possible that we have found an answer to some of the most enduring mysteries of the world?

In the seventies, a number of ships and planes are said to have vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. Could this government be responsible?

Would my childhood friend, who was disconsolate after losing his pet pooch when we were both children, get closure after all these years? Can we safely conclude that this government was responsible?

Quite a handful already, isn’t it?

But, as usual, the common man is never satisfied. He wants more. He has started expecting the government to take responsibility for even real day-to-day problems.

He now expects the government to take responsibility for the poor state of roads in Gurgaon.

He expects the government to take responsibility for the precipitous drop in water levels in rivers, ponds and lakes across the country?

He expects the government to take responsibility for the security of women.

Is that fair? After all, how much can a government do? Ourtax money can only buy so much advertising space.

But the government is game. To take on more responsibility.

Even though it expresses inability to take responsibility for real day-to-day issues, it has offered to take responsibility for having brought down the Ganga and other perennial rivers from their glacial abode in the Himalayans.

It has offered to take responsibility for designing and commissioning the annual system of monsoon rains.

It has offered to take responsibility for inventing the game of cricket and Bollywood.

It has even offered to take responsibility for the first man to be sent into space sent by Russia and for Chelsea Football Club winning the latest edition of the English Premier League football.

Can you ask for more?

With the government poised to take on so much more responsibility, the responsible common man can continue to provide proof of his nationalism on WhatsApp?

Boozos

The paying public deserves better.

They (the public) paid for their lavish lifestyles. They paid for their needless overseas study junkets to Europe during the summer months. They paid for the security detail to protect them from themselves (the public). They paid for their scams. They paid for their unaccounted money stashed away in tax havens. They paid for the infrastructure that mostly did not get built.

Just when they (the public) felt they could sit back and let political leaders pay some dividend on the investment by making a fool of themselves by making needless, irrational decisions that are likely to be scoffed at by all sections of society and may soon need to be reversed, the rug has rudely been pulled from under their feet.

Throwing caution to the winds, the Supreme Court has decided to take upon itself the mantle of making needless, irrational decisions that are likely to be scoffed at by all sections of society and may soon need to be reversed.

Political leaders are running scared. Never before has there been such an open challenge to their rights. This move of the Supreme Court strikes at their belief system and the core of their existence. Most of them have beaten a hasty path back to their constituencies to convince voters that they will continue to disappoint them with their unfulfilled promises and irrational decisions. The Supreme Court decision should be seen merely as a one-off, an aberration.

In a bold decision that appears to be in response to a petition from no part of society, the Supreme Court has decided that there should be no liquor vends within 500 metres of any national highway. This, apparently, was the missing piece of the jigsaw that will bring down accidents on national highways. Conducting driving tests and antecedent verification before issuance of licences was considered as an alternative solution but, since it appeared to hold promise of solving the problem, it eventually went where such alternatives need to go; the reject pile. Existing liquor vends should be moved a minimum distance of 500 metres from the highways. Moreover, since many of the existing vends appear to have been created after taking due approvals from authorities, they will need to be shifted overnight.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, they say.

In keeping with the “spirit” of the order, several states have moved to denotify national highways and classify them as “tiny local roads” instead. The Supreme Court has lauded the move and acknowledged that the threat of accidents owing to drivers consuming liquor from vends on roads called national highways does not exist from drivers consuming liquor from vends on roads called tiny local roads, which carry as much traffic as national highways.

Pubs and restaurants falling within the 500 metre zone have, “under the influence” of the order, also moved to shift their entrance gates to beyond the 500 metre line. It is common knowledge based upon detailed studies of human behaviour that once you have moved (or have been moved by someone) a distance of 500 metres after consumption of liquor, the inebriation vanishes and you become, strangely enough, “sober as a judge”.

Hotel Management schools across the country have introduced a new course on teaching students the metric measurement system. Especially for the purpose of measuring a distance of 500 metres. The humble metric measure is enjoying a revival amongst bar owners who have only known the inches to be poured down a glass. Catering students are being taught the difference between national highways and tiny local roads and how to identify each.

The sagacity of the decision can be judged from the fact that India remains one of the most densely populated large nations in the world with, among nations with 100 million plus populations, neighbouring Bangladesh being the only one more densely packed, leaving enough space to move anything upto 500 mm (millimetres; 1 metre = 1000 millimetres) in any direction. Hence, moving a vend 500 metres away can be considered a wise and reasonable decisions, taking liquor vends only closer to  schools, homes, religious places, etc. And we know our children and people not barrelling down national highways are mature enough to resist the lure of the drink. In fact, liquor vends can be setup at a distance of 100 metres from schools. QED.

In a strange coincidence, the day this order was announced, a small outlet started coming up close to our building, at a point visible from our terrace. Yesterday the signboards have been put-up. And, lo and behold, we now have a liquor vend right next to our building! But I exaggerate. It is not right next to our building. It is about 100 metres away. From the place in the compound where youngsters play football, a good kick could land the ball, and some chasing youngsters, into the vend. But so what? Are they grown-ups travelling down national highways who will be lured by liquor and cause damage to themselves and others?

It is mainly drivers of vehicles on the national highways that we worry about. Drivers who we have chosen to give licences to drive motorised vehicles ranging from two-wheelers to twenty ton trucks. How can we trust them to resist the lure of liquor.

The Supreme Court means business. It has also banned signboards which started mushrooming along remaining national highways (the ones not converted to tiny local roads), pointing to the nearest liquor vend 501 metres away. It is expected that demonstrating foresight and wisdom borrowed from political leaders, they will issue a pre-emptive order for banning signboards which point the way to the nearest signboard which points the way to the nearest liquor vend.

But the paying public is not happy. They have paid so much money to see politicians make of fool of themselves. They cannot countenance the Supreme Court denying them their fundamental rights.

The Supreme Court, cut to the quick by the spontaneous censure from all over the country, is trying to limit the damage.

They have clarified that liquor is good because it generates a huge amount of revenue for the government. Our fight is not against liquor. Do you not see the rapid expansion of liquor vends near schools, houses and religious places, at least in modern cities like Gurgaon? If we have our way, no citizen of the country will need to travel more than 100 metres in any direction to reach a liquor vend. 

But liquor drinking is bad. Our fight is only against drinking liquor. That too by mature adults who have been adjudged fit to be issued driving licences. That is why liquor advertising is banned on all media. We will soon issue orders to ensure that the government introduces a tax to uniformly collect liquor revenue from each citizen so that the state can continue to finance its charitable activities and development agenda, without anyone ever needing to consume it.

Guns N Roses

A restarted, and perhaps soon restopped, Delhi –  Lahore bus service could not do it.

The Samjhauta Express train service through the Wagah-Attari border crossing could not do it.

Shimla and Agra accords could not do it.

Handshakes at Davos and the UN could not do it.

Having a PM on one side and President on the other, born in territory on the “other” side, could not do it.

Yet, the unthinkable has happened. Catalysed by an unexpected event.

Extreme right-wing groups, that comprise most of the relevant population in each country, the ones supported by democratic governments, the ones who know what is good for everyone else and do not hesitate to intimidate others into agreeing with them, in antagonistic neighbours India and Pakistan, are now fighting for a common cause.

Can you believe it?

It is apparently a cause worth fighting for. After all, in a modern society, do you really have a cause, that will be supported by the democratic government of the day, if you do not intimidate others into agreeing with you, for their own good of course?

It passed this litmus test of worthiness.

No, it is not Kashmir that we are talking about.

Not even Baluchistan.

We are talking about Valentine’s Day celebrations.

The Islamabad (capital of Pakistan) High Court has banned Valentine’s Day celebrations at public places in Pakistan acting on a petition claiming it to be un-Islamic.

Apparently, it was important that it was banned because it was providing enjoyment for youngsters without throwing bombs or undertaking suicide missions while celebrating. Not even intimidating others into joining their celebrations.

It was important it was banned because businesses, without threatening or intimidating customers, were managing to sell everything from roses to cars to houses to salt to mobilephones to shoes to vegetables to floor tiles to butter to light-bulbs. This could only lead to greater economic activity and economic liberation. Who has it ever helped? 

It was important it was banned because in a modern society, often claiming to be democratic, only expressions of hate are to be allowed in public places, especially when backed by tactics of intimidation.

It was important it was banned because youngsters were spending their own time and money on the celebrations and letting others live. Who in a sane, modern society can call this a celebration? Especially if you are a leader of some sort who knows one can celebrate only when one gets to spend other people’s money.

Though initially stumped by the verdict as it took away the primary reason for their existence, of Pakistan-bashing, groups on the Indian side of the fence have displayed their maturity by applauding the decision and calling upon the Indian government to consider meritorious judges of the Pakistan High Courts for the many positions lying vacant in the Indian High Courts. As the request was backed by violent demonstrations and looting and arson, the government has agreed to consider the request sympathetically.

In deference to the secular nature of Indian society, these groups have refrained from calling Valentine’s Day celebrations un-Islamic or un-Hindu, plumping for a secular un-Indian instead. They have also identified it as an insidious western ploy to capture the minds and hearts of our responsible, intelligent, sensitive youngsters. Our responsible, sensitive and intelligent youngsters do not know what is good for them, one of the main reasons we allow them voting rights. We do. We will not let western culture corrupt our youngsters, debase our religions and denigrate our culture.

We know how. As do our political leaders.

We will shamelessly pander to rich companies in the West. We will change rules to make it possible for them to come and invest in our country and create opportunities for them to bribe decision-makers. We will raise a hue and cry when a western society seeks to reduce the number of Indian job-seekers and immigrants. So that our youngsters can get more jobs in western companies and promote Indian culture.

We will continue, year after year, to go to Davos and other destinations outside India that claim to be solving the world’s problems, on taxpayer money, to be clicked with the rich and famous and get our children admitted to Ivy League colleges. We will continue to send large delegations to western countries, especially in their pleasant summer months when it gets very hot in India, to learn about things that we will never implement here. 

We will not let our youngsters be corrupted by western influence.

We wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Fathers and Sons

There is no peace these days for satirists. Politicians in particular have taken it upon themselves to keep them busy. The dust has not even settled on the demonetisation issue and we already have daggers drawn between leaders in the Samajwadi Party (SP), the party in power in Uttar Pradesh (UP).

In a well thought out move, as we can confidently say with the benefit of hindsight, considering its longevity, MSY, the SP supremo, a constitutional and democratically self-nominated position, banished AY, the Chief Minister (CM) of UP, who happens to be his son, alongwith RGY, an office-bearer of the party, who happens to be his cousin, from the party for 6 years. For the good of the party and the common man.

Not 4, not 5, not 7. Not even a round 10.

6.

Clearly it came with a lot of thought and reasoning. Many sleepless nights would have gone into the decision and many an agonising moment spent deliberating its ramifications. One cannot but feel for MSY who has to take these unilateral decisions himself.

For perspective, UP, with a population of over 210 million, if it were a country, would be the fifth most populous in the world. State Assembly elections are due to be held in UP this month. For political parties, winning UP is the ultimate prize. The Holy Grail of Indian politics.

And since SP is a political party, which came to power claiming to represent the common man, and whose welfare is its responsibility, the party spokesperson has clarified to prying mediapersons that it was a personal matter of the family and none of their (mediapersons) business. It was a normal misunderstanding between father and son and outsiders should not read too much into it and leave them alone to sort it out. It is a personal matter because of which a father has disinherited his son from his personal fiefdom, the state of UP.

The following day, in another well thought out and deliberated move, MSY reinstated AY and RGY back in the party. For the good of the party and the common man.

Your ordinary politician may be satisfied with delivering a well thought out and deliberated decision once every few years, but two in a row, on successive days? It surely is a first in the annals of Indian politics.

But the best was yet to come. Just two days later, in yet another well thought out and deliberated move, MSY banned RGY, once again, from the party. For the good of the party and the common man. Displaying sagacity and wisdom well beyond his advanced age, this time without setting a time limit, lest the reinstatement a couple of days later cause any needless queries from the media.

In the meantime, AY and RGY had called a meeting of elected party members to demonstrate their support. MSY warned members against attending the national convention called by AY, asserting it was organised with the intention of harming the party. He also rejected the unanimous decisions taken at the meeting. He said the only unanimous decisions applicable to the party were the ones he takes unilaterally.

Both MSY and AY have beaten a path to the Election Commission to lobby to retain control of the party symbol, a bicycle. The Election Commission is understood to have asked both of them to equally divide the party symbol and henceforth use a unicycle as the symbol of their faction.

CEOs of corporations are beating a path to the door of MSY to learn how to take a well thought out decision for the good of the people and change it within 24 hours for the good of the people without assigning a reason.

We, the people, continue to be led by a party with strong democratic fundamentals.