Living Dangerously

I opened the door leading out with trepidation. I did not know what to expect. It was not a situation I, or, for that matter, any other modern human, had been in, ever before.

I breathed in. Tentatively at first. Half expecting the atmospheric oxygen to have turned to chlorine, burning up the trachea even before the passage was traversed. And a painful death. Fists clenched and eyes shut, I braced for the burning sensation.

“Are you feeling OK?”, a passer-by enquired solicitously.

I could hear. I was alive. The air had not turned to noxious fumes while I had started that fateful journey almost an hour back. I gulped mouthfuls of air greedily.

I did not see the speaker as I was looking down. Even if I was looking up I would not have seen the speaker as my eyes were shut. But I managed a weak smile.

I was in the open now. I looked up, still cautiously, to see the setting sun, which was higher when I had gone inside. Evidently, the Earth had not stopped rotating during that hour.

I have never jumped into the cage of a tiger. With the tiger present. Or without.

I have never dived down to the Marianna Trench, stripped down to my shorts, just holding my breath.

I have never cartwheeled down Mt. Everest. Or Kanchenjunga and K2 for that matter.

I don’t know if others have, but I have not.

It is not that my life has been a series of predictable, boring events, bereft of those magical moments of human endeavour, flirting with danger and excitement, that give meaning to life. I have been brave, when the need for being brave has arisen.

‘Twas me who, once upon a time, in college, had answered “Present sir” on behalf of a classmate missing from an Accounting class.

‘Twas me again, chipping in from a point just off the green from where I could just as easily, and with better results, have putted.

I get goose pimples just thinking about these incidents and look forward to the time when I will recount stories of these extreme adventures to my grandchildren, with a fire crackling in the background.

It is the daring and adventurous spirit of motivated individuals that has made the human story that much richer. Individuals who sailed the deepest oceans, climbed the highest mountains, trekked through the densest jungles, with scarcely a thought for personal safety. In short, boldly went where no man had been before.

Mankind has often found itself at a crossroads, where selfless sacrifice and the daring spirit have lit up the way for future generations.

Another such crossroads had been reached by mankind.

Unanswered questions had been gathering. Dust. The thought that mankind might never know, had been disturbing me no end.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Not one to be cowed down in the face of danger, as readers would have realized by now, I made the ultimate sacrifice. So that future generations do not have to live in the dark. So that the human story can continue.

Throwing caution to the winds, I left my mobilephone in the locker when I went to the gym for resuming my losing battle with creeping unfitness. For an hour.

Yes. You read that right. I left my mobilephone in the locker when I went to the gym. For an hour.

To seek an answer to the question that had been disturbing humanity ever since the invention of mobilephones, and one that no human had dared to seek an answer to, “What disaster would befall humanity if I stopped peering into the mobilephone for a short while?”

As soon as I shut the locker door…Silence…More silence.

Imagine images, perhaps blurred, moving in circles in slow motion and incoherent sounds emanating from them. As happens at a momentous turn of events in real life, as we know from Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Like when Harry Potter went looking for the Horcruxes. Like when Ram unleashed the arrow that eventually felled Raavan.

By now we all know that I survived the ordeal. But only I know how long that hour was. Everywhere I turned, there was a caring human tightly clutching his mobile to ensure that atmospheric oxygen does not turn to chlorine; or one looking at his mobile screen every three seconds to ensure the Earth does not stop rotating; and yet another continuously talking on it to prevent an alien invasion. I felt like a total misfit there. I was surrounded by accusing eyes inside the gym. Right under the myriad signs pasted on the walls that said “Do not use mobiles inside the gym”.  

The effort, the moments of self-doubt, the hours of indecision, have taken their toll on me. My nerves are shattered. I don’t know how many more posts I can write.

How will posterity judge me? I hope as a person who made the ultimate sacrifice. Of staying away from his mobilephone for an hour to seek answers to questions important for mankind and light up the way for future generations. And not as one who put mankind in danger because of his cavalier attitude. After all, anything could have happened in that hour.

At least I will have another story to tell my grand-children. I stayed away from my mobile for an hour. Do you think they will believe me?

Before signing off, a note of caution for readers, who would do well to understand that the acts of bravery described in the article were performed by experts. Or, at least people claiming to be experts. Any attempt to perform them unsupervised could lead to grievous injury and harm.

Moreover, in order that mankind is not put to any more undue risks, people should ensure that the following guidelines are religiously adhered to: 

  • Do not, ever, attempt to walk across a busy road without being glued to a mobile screen.
  • Do not, ever, go without your, or anyone else’s, mobile, to the gym where signs of “Do not use a mobile” are plastered on the walls around you.
  • If your mobile does not ring noisily inside the cinema hall, make sure you let other viewers feel safe by making a call every few minutes and talking loudly so that they know you are “on the watch for mankind”.
  • Drive a car only when you have text messages to type on your mobile. Even better, drive a two-wheeler while typing text messages.

Is a little bit of individual sacrifice for the greater good of mankind too much to ask for?

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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.

Black and White

“Is it not clear? By asking for explanations, you are wasting the precious time of senior government officials that can be put to use for issuing more confusing and unnecessary rules.”

A senior government functionary made his displeasure evident when cornered by a section of the media on the burning issue of demonitisation of currency notes of the two largest denominations, 500 and 1000, that contribute 86% to the currency in circulation in India, for dealing a body blow to “black money” in national interest, that subsequently changed to “move towards digital transactions” in national interest, that have anyway been growing rapidly on their own, and the latest decision of the government in this regard, of asking people, who seek to deposit the old notes even within the originally declared deadline, to provide a satisfactory explanation of why they did not deposit earlier.

“Let me explain for one last time. On 8th November, and several times thereafter, we have said that people should not be in a hurry and can deposit their stock of old, demonetised currency notes in their bank account till 30th December. Hence, anyone who tries to deposit these notes on the 20th of December or anytime after, till 30th December, is obviously flouting that rule and now needs to explain why he has delayed depositing this money. These people have brought it upon themselves.

The rule-book says stop at a red light, people don’t follow.

The rule-book says form a queue at the ticket counter, people don’t follow.

The rule-book says don’t throw trash in the open, people don’t follow.

Are you telling me that our countrymen have suddenly chosen to become rule-book followers? This is obviously an attempt of the Opposition parties to get people to follow the rule-book and embarrass the government. These people will be punished for their faith in the government’s assurances. Their actions are against national interest. If all the old notes come back to banks, how will the government make any money on this initiative and spend it on unnecessary projects?

Our hand has been forced. This is why it has been decided that people who seek to deposit the old notes need to provide a satisfactory explanation of why they did not deposit them earlier despite the government’s assurance that the deposits could be made till the 30th of December. What’s more, this explanation needs to be recorded in the presence of two bank officials, because bank employees have no guidance or authority on which explanation to accept as suitable and which to not.

As elected representatives of the people, if we don’t call upon commercial entities like banks to sacrifice their business interests, who will?

As you might know, apart from accepting deposits, issuing advances, managing operations and risk, opening and closing accounts, selling financial instruments like mutual funds and insurance, transferring money, handling trade transactions, dispensing and accepting cash, our bankers have really very little to do. We successfully employed them in fruitless activities like repeated exchanges of discontinued currency notes from 8th November. As the exchange scheme was withdrawn randomly one fine day, we have now involved bankers to witness recording of statements from mostly honest account holders as to why they did not deposit money earlier, despite the deadline still being ten days away. Think of the millions of youngsters graduating from college every year, many of them aspiring to work for banks, especially the engineering graduates. We have to protect their future as well. If the situation starts improving anytime soon, we may increase the number of bank officials required to witness depositor explanations to three, or even four.

And this decision has not been taken in isolation. We have gradually built up to this by issuing false promises and assurances from time to time, like this is a short-term pain, like it will take only three weeks for the situation to improve, like there is enough stock of new currency, like the government is closely monitoring the situation, and many more. Even today, the common man seems to be expecting that he will soon be able to withdraw and deposit his own money from and into his bank account.

Meanwhile, as you may have heard, the Finance Minister has clarified that RBI has enough stock of new currency to fulfil the need of all banks and account holders. They are just not releasing them to banks. Just like that.

This is necessary for patriotism. If we had not brought the banking system, and all business, to a grinding halt, would you feel that you are undergoing this pain in the national interest? Tell me honestly, would you ever?

Some of you might even want to know the logic behind the introduction of the Rs. 2000- note. Do you?

Well, just like that.

Yes, just like that.

Because there is no logic.

Tell me, what better way to thwart potential black-money hoarders, the objective initially put out, than by creating utter confusion?

Since we ourselves have no idea why we have introduced a Rs. 2000 note, how do you expect anyone to, be it the common man, the politician or the black-money hoarder?

And since they have no idea, how do you expect them to indulge in their corrupt practices?

The common man, on the other hand, has tasted blood. He wants to contribute to the national interest. He wants more. More de-monetisation. More pain. More suffering. He is willing to live in perpetual penury so that black money can be eliminated for his good. May his tribe increase.

Where do we go from here?

First, we prevented people from using their own money that they had in cash. Then, we successfully prevented people from using their own money lying in bank accounts by creating unending queues for withdrawal. Now, we have prevented people from depositing the cash they held. I think the virtuous circle is complete.

But, for an elected representative of the people, the work is never complete. Since people have elected us and reposed their faith in us, it is left to us to decide what constitutes national interest and patriotism. The battle is far from over. People are clever. They have deposited all the money we had called “black”, back in bank accounts. In such a situation what can a well-meaning government do? Launch a witch-hunt of course against citizens.

Further, in order to promote the patriotic spirit and national interest further, we plan to soon bring out rules that prevent people from living in their own houses, wearing their own jewellery and driving their own cars and bikes.

We are geared for the challenge. By the time you go to press with this interview tomorrow, we would have already rolled back, though only partially, the rule introduced with great fanfare yesterday, requiring people depositing old notes to explain reasons for the delay. We will also ensure that only a small section of the impacted banks are advised of the change. We will then partially roll back the roll back announced.

I don’t want to reveal the hand, but you should soon start seeing a removal of the curbs on withdrawal of cash from accounts. However, since banks will not be given any cash, they will not be able to pay any to customers. It will be the problem created by the inefficiency of banks, despite the best intentions of the government.

As you may have overheard the common man say confidently, ‘only the execution is faulty’ :-).”

National Anthem

Taking its role of acting as executive, that has not been granted to it by the Constitution, that needs to issue unilateral and unprovoked orders, normally the sacred duty of the elected government as per the Constitution, and not merely being the arbiter of disputes, its duty as enshrined in the Constitution, with an earnestness  unseen in bureaucratic circles of the country,  the Supreme Court has ordered that “all cinema halls in India shall play the national anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the national anthem” as a part of their “sacred obligation”.

As is expected of democratic institution in a republic, they have provided a logical explanation for their action, “And this is how it is because we say so.”

The bench added that doors of the halls will remain shut during the anthem so that no disturbance is caused and so that patriotism, and love and affection for the country, can be voluntarily and spontaneously displayed by people. It further decreed that natural calamities like fire and earthquakes be prohibited from striking during the time the doors are shut because of the national anthem being played.

In issuing a statement that cannot be fathomed by anyone, the bench has displayed enviable command over the language, “Time has come for people to realise that the national anthem is a symbol of constitutional patriotism…people must feel they live in a nation and this wallowing individually perceived notion of freedom must go…people must feel this is my country, my motherland. The directions are issued, for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag. That apart, it would instil the feeling within one, a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.”

“And if you don’t feel, we will make you feel”, the bench has clarified.

The court order, in order to ensure complete transparency in implementation and resolution of disputes, does not entail any penalty or punishment for not standing when the national anthem is played and hence everyone will know exactly what is to be done in cases of non-compliance.

During the hearing, the bench observed: “Universalism is alright but little still Bharat is the epitome of culture, knowledge… gyaan and vigyaan…people must feel this is my country…who are you? You are an Indian first. In other countries, you respect their restrictions. In India, why can you not have restrictions in larger good.”

“Moreover, our university education in law and subsequent practice as advocates and judges uniquely positions us to issue unilateral and random directions and decide who is showing love and respect for the motherland and who is not. Besides, it also gives us the right to make a judgment about other countries without any responsibility for its veracity.”

The Opposition is up in arms and has contended that this move is for the benefit of one individual, the popular movie producer Karan Johar, whose latest offering, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) barely managed to hold the audience for 15 seconds. By introducing the national anthem, the audience will stay in the hall for at least a minute.

The Delhi Chief Minister has asked for evidence from the judges of them having sung the national anthem when they were in school.

Taking a cue from the Supreme Court order, a district court in Maharashtra has decreed that the Supreme Court ruling will apply not only to in-cinema screenings but to any movie being watched anywhere by an Indian. Hence, as an example, all airlines carrying Indian passengers must ensure that the Indian national anthem is played each time a passenger starts an in-flight movie. Moreover, the “seat belt” sign should not be switched on so that people can stand when the national anthem is playing. After all, one cannot allow them to stop being Indian wherever they are. This court, like the Supreme Court, has issued these directions out of love and respect for the motherland.

In another court in Allahabad, the honourable judges have mutually decided that the time has come to screen the footage of the final of the 1983 ICC Cricket World Cup before every movie, to instil a deeper sense of pride and patriotism. Moreover, all present for the movie would be obliged to stand during the 7-hour footage to show their patriotism.

Patriots who do not watch movies are up in arms.

A letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi echoes the sentiments of many similarly disenfranchised:

“Dear Sir, I am thoroughly disheartened by the judgment of the Supreme Court. I do not watch movies. How will I display my love and affection for my country? I have faithfully been urinating on the roadside, jumping queues especially where seniors and children were in line, and using vulgar language in public places. Clearly, in the new world order, that does not cut mustard anymore. I need to do more. I don’t watch movies. Please restore my right to display my patriotism.”

Being a responsive government that works for the common man, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a meeting of the senior cabinet ministers that included Home Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Narendra Modi, at his house late at night to address the situation.

In a remarkable display of having their ear close to the ground, the high-powered team issued a note late at night that requires all banks to play the national anthem in a perpetual “loop”.

Home Minister Narendra Modi, in response to a media query, has clarified, “We have decided this in the interest of the nation. After all, from 9th November, the entire nation has been standing in a line outside banks, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. What better place to promote patriotism than at banks?”

To ensure that no individual is left behind in patriotism, the legislative council of the state of Madhya Pradesh has decided that henceforth the national anthem will be played each time a shopper enters a grocery store. “If you are not standing in a bank queue, you perhaps already have money some of which will surely be spent at a grocery store”, they have rightfully surmised.

A body blow has been dealt to the terrorism industry with the Supreme Court mandating the singing of the National Anthem before every movie. In the latest episode of Mann Ki Baat, the PM has shared, “It is widely known that Hindi movies are popular with terrorists. Not being patriots, they will not stand up when the national anthem is being played and can easily be nabbed. He asked patriots to not share this plan with non-patriots.”

Jan, Gan, Man…

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

“Advertisements are a society in microcosm”, it is often said, mostly be me.

It is either plain bad luck or an involuntary reaction against the gaining of knowledge that, despite it always having turned out to be an educational experience, I have not indulged in watching TV often enough.

My recent experience of watching the Hindi movie “PK” on TV was no different. Lady luck also seemed to be smiling on me that night. The movie was frequently interrupted by commercial breaks.

They were eye-opening.

Efforts made by our leaders with their frequent lip-service and seat-of-the-pant implementations for upliftment of women in society, through initiatives like for-women-only pink autos driven by males and rented mostly by male passengers, a still-to-be-launched-as-it-might-not-make-sense women-only bank run by males and efforts at the integration of the two genders such as a coach exclusively for women in the Delhi metro train, are bearing fruit. And how.

In the first commercial break, we came across a lady who has to feed a husband who multi-tasks. And, if that was not enough to handle, she even has to feed her son who also multi-tasks. It may be difficult for youngsters to imagine, but, being the age I am, I can tell you that the housewife of an earlier generation would have struggled.

But not the housewife of today. Faced with the situation, what does she do? In order to feed her multi-tasking husband and multi-tasking son, the woman of the house feeds them chapatis made of multi-grain atta.

Thankfully she is a single-tasker, focussed on the task of making sure her multi-tasking husband and son get adequate nutrition to go about their multi-tasking ways. And she is dressed smart. In a salwar and kurta. Not in a scruffy sari as the struggling housewife of yore would have been.

Barely had we got the chance to digest the monumental change this represented, the second commercial break came on. And brought with it a big car with 4-wheel drive. Of an American brand. With a man at the wheel and a woman in the seat next to the driver’s. Driving to a magical destination with lots of hot-air balloons going up in the air, chosen by the man, it seems. The man, as usual, in full control of the situation, as his smile indicated. As soon as he turns the power-steering with all his might by lunging left, the woman covers her face in wonder and amazement at the sight. And this woman is smartly dressed in western attire. And, what’s more, she seems willing to undertake the hot-air balloon ride. Tell me honestly how many of us can visualise a woman, say thirty years back, in a commercial, willing to go for a hot-air balloon ride.

When children come home dirty after being children, she cleans their clothes.

“So, what’s new?”, you might be tempted to ask.

Gone are the days when you would see a mother handwashing clothes, wiping sweat from her brow,  and advertising for bars of soap which clothes had to be scrubbed clean with. Today, nothing less than a washing machine will do. And they are not stopping there. Some mothers in commercials even have a choice of electric dryers instead of hanging the washed clothes out to dry on a line. Even brands of detergent are par for the course for these mothers of today. No mother ever advertised either a washing machine or dryer or detergent before these devices were invented.

Women are no longer confined to the house. They are mostly engaged in staring enviously at other women whose clothes are whiter than theirs. When pushed to the wall, they even engage in streetside speed-washing contests. Can we ever inmagine a woman of an earlier generation doing a street-side washing test to prove her soap or detergent is better?

When children come home hungry after being children they feed them. With healthy choices like instant noodles and frozen fries. Can you imagine a mother in the seventies doing that?

The time for reaping the dividend from this change has also arrived. In an FM commercial the same day, I heard two children talking animatedly as they came back home hungry.

Does your mother allow you to eat French Fries?

Of course. In fact, the frozen fries my mom uses have 50% less calories.

But I am so hungry. I cannot wait for the fries to be made.

Don’t worry. These fries take 70% less time to cook.

Wow! Such knowledgeable 8-year olds could only be the progeny of the modern, empowered woman.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, it used to be said. Husbands and fathers are rarely to be seen in these commercials, except occasionally replacing children as the cared-for subjects.

It has seeped into the consciousness of society. This change is irreversible. So engrossed was I in the commercials and their messages, I forgot that they were the side story. Each time the movie came back, I would wait eagerly to the next break for more educational commercials.

The times, they a changing, as the latest Nobel prize winner for literature once said.

Leave Us Kids Alone

In your leisure time, what do you like to do most?

  • Š  Play cricket
  • Š  Perform scientific experiments
  • Š  Read and write

To the casual reader this might appear to be a random question with some random answer choices provided.

We would urge the casual reader to look closely. As we are now about to tread the untrodden path. Boldly go where no man has been before. Once again.

What we are looking at is a sample question from an Aptitude Test being introduced by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), designed to enable youngsters make informed career choices.

It is designed in a way that it will assess in three hours what continuous involvement of parents and teachers over ten to fifteen years does not reveal.

It has become necessary because parents and teachers are so closely involved with youngsters that they have no idea what they like or dislike, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what their desires and fears are. They, being parents and teachers, are also naturally in no position to either take responsibility for the children’s future, or guide them.

Moreover, without an Aptitude Test, how would the government play nanny and make the common man believe that it is his welfare they work for, without having to deliver any improvement? As it is expected to by the common man in a free, democratic society. Otherwise, he might even have to start taking responsibility for the upbringing of his own children and, perhaps, their welfare in adult life.

We don’t know if you could, but we could not guess the implication of the answer choices.

It is learnt from reliable sources that if a youngster chooses “Play cricket” as the answer, the test results would tell him that he should take up cricket as a career.

Amazing, isn’t it? There is really no limit to what human beings can do once they set their mind to it.

How could the youngster have known otherwise? Or, how could his parents have, having spent only about fifteen years with him? Educators, having spent ten years on an average, never really stood a chance.

It gets even more bizarre. If the student chose the second option, “Perform scientific experiments” as the answer, the test results would tell him that he should target to become a scientist.

Even if a youngster cannot articulate his thoughts and feelings, he will need to choose one option and hence get a career allotted. From no career to a career. How much more good can a test do?

Doubters be warned.

Never has a test been run so scientifically. After all, it has inputs from reputed academics and psychologists. Not to mention private enterprises who will eventually run it.

It is designed to ensure the youngster faces no challenges in his adult life. If, on account of some freak occurrence, he faces an issue of poor performance at work, all he would need to do is whip out the results of the Aptitude Test taken many years back, read them out aloud to himself, and all will be well.

Grown-up youngsters worried about facing issues of marital discord need not fear. The government has directed the development of another Aptitude Test whose results will be used for deciding who marries whom.

He will not face financial woes either.

Most importantly, youngsters will learn how not to engage with the world around them and how not to take responsibility for their decisions and actions; in fact, how not to take decisions.

The utopia earlier generations may have dreamed about is nigh.

Doubters be doubly warned.

There is a good chance these Aptitude Tests will work because we have been very successful in designing Aptitude Tests that have helped us stamp out murder, rape, child abuse and other heinous crimes.

It will obviously be compulsory as the government and CBSE have a responsibility to ensure that the private enterprise selected to run the test makes money.

Friends of parents, parents themselves, grown-ups in the neighbourhood, parents of friends, aunts and uncles, occasionally older cousins and siblings, doctors, pilots, army personnel, bureaucrats, lawyers, business-people, sportspeople, musicians, actors, in fact everyone who could be accused of being an inspirational figure for a youngster, have heaved a collective sigh of relief. They are off the hook. No longer will they need to shoulder responsibility for inspiring a youngster, through their deeds, demeanour and deportment, to a choice of career.

Pink Floyd has retrospectively changed the lyrics of their 1969 anthem to:

We don’t need no Aptitude Testing

We don’t need no career control

No dark sarcasm about our future

CBSE leave us kids alone