2017, Essay, Telegraph Calcutta

I, PROMISCUOUS Power and the Improbable Amorality of Nitish Kumar

My take on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s turncoat vault back into the lap of the BJP

Nitish Kumar on top of the Taxila ruins in Pakistan in 2012. Photo by Sankarshan Thakur.

His first chosen partner was, believe you me, the CPI(ML). His current chosen partner is a BJP as approximate to the RSS as it can get. Between them, Nitish Kumar has run the entire political spectrum, picking this one, ditching that one, in the pursuit and possession of power – from the provincial rogue called the Bihar People’s Party to national players like the Congress and the Left, each seduced at one time or another to afford him his embrace of the chair.

Nitish’s record of serial dalliance and ditchery springs from good reason, though. For, if power has been the central theme of Nitish’s career, the inability to secure it on his own is its central truth. Astounding as it may sound, the man who is in his third successive term as chief minister and who for a good while fancied himself as prime minister in waiting, has never won his home state singly. At his best he never had enough to propel him anywhere close to office; 17 per cent, never more. He needed booster feeds, he always needed an ally. Not a fanciful token as the CPI(ML) in 1995 – that effort fetched him the princely Assembly tally of seven of 324 seats in pre-Jharkhand Bihar – but a significant, bankable one.

He found not one but two.

Both would be handed good reason, at different junctures, to believe our chosen headline sits aptly on the man. For he has, at different junctures, found reason to kiss, then kick both.

It’s fair to reckon he’s not done with them yet; nor they with him. The guillotine-drop on Lalu Prasad mid-week and the immediate garlanding of Narendra Modi is by no means the last that’s been heard of Nitish Kumar in their annals. Not too far ago in the past, it was Modi under Nitish’s guillotine-drop, and Lalu the one getting the garland. There are scores here that await settlement.

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2017, Column, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

A lungi and a monogram of holes

Not everyone reports to work each day of the week. The sun does, and sundry others do. Mistake. Hold yourselves, trolls, wait a moment before you slay me on your keyboards and earn your daily pay. It wasn’t me, just cussed auto-correct. That should read The SundryOther, there’s only one that reports to work each day other than the sun. And that’s not a brag, Ramkasam no; it’s a fact notarised each day on the national register, previously known as television. There is the odd day the screen falls silent and bereft and you begin to fear the world’s going upside up again, but then there’s also the odd day of eclipse caused by cloud or lunatic concatenation. Doesn’t mean the sun isn’t there. So fear not that dull day on television, SundryOther is somewhere or other at work and the world remains assuredly upside down.

It just won’t do, not reporting to work each day, after decade upon disastrous decade of NothingHappened. Lights! Action! And please keep the cameras at ready. NewIndia has deep deficits to overcome. But Mahadeb won’t listen. Now and again, taken by bouts nothing short of anti-national, he vanishes. He jolts NewIndia. He triggers punishable lapses into NothingHappened. It’s unpardonable recklessness on his part to believe he’ll be gone from station and it will still be business as usual. Agreed, Mahadeb is not the only chaiwalaaround, but he is a chaiwala who still serves chai. Sundry others have stopped and moved on to serving entire nations. Now nations don’t come in bhaanrs; even if they did that would be a terribly impolite thing to try to achieve, you wouldn’t tell the nation ” bhaanr mein jaao“, would you?

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2017, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

My chaiwala and Our Chaiwala

Every once in a way I feel the need for a little bit of Mahadeb. Just a little bit, no more than what, if we are still allowed the use of imagination without violating the law (or the sanctioned lawless), could have been at a certain hour a vodka shot. But for the hours that he has it on offer, Mahadeb’s stuff can be no less stimulating. It helps that he hasn’t yet banished puffs of nicotine from floating about him.

Wellbeing tyrants would better know what that does to the body, but what my soul wants I want to know best: it needs, every once in a way, a Mahadeb break.

Mahadeb serves out off-the-coals tea in bhaanrs, which in other geographies some may recognise as tiny earthen tumblers; he’s a chaiwala. That can be a famed and fortunate thing to be. Chaiwalas go far. Or some do. Or one did. That one isn’t Mahadeb.

Mahadeb made critical career errors, not that he appears to terribly care. He never wrestled alligators as a child. He didn’t climb three-fourths of the way up Mt Everest’s torso wearing slippers. He didn’t feed soldiers departing to blow the Chinese off our frozen frontiers. The 56-inch claim that is Mahadeb’s to make is that he is probably that high sans shoes that he doesn’t anyway possess. He didn’t lead the Indepen-dence struggle of NewIndia after sixty years of NothingHappened. He never did his mentors the necessary pupil duty of relieving them of the burdens of such nettle-ridden things as crowns; or of easing them into protectively mothballed duvet-comforts so their late life turned a calm and restful place, unvisited by the exhausting demands of office, or the ambition of someday having to achieve it. He can’t be bothered inventing new charms – or dares – to seduce television each day. Mahadeb has never ever been on television. You ought to understand you are nobody if you are not on television. Mahadeb is less than a nobody. He’s not on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Periscope, SnapChat, Telegram, LinkedIn, nowhere. Is Orkut still around? Mahadeb was never on Orkut either. The only platform he is on is a knocked-up tin and timber kiosk grouted into the pavement. Chaiwalas have gone far but Mahadeb isn’t going anywhere; he’s a goner.

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