2017, Column, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

To the gas chamber, you termite

Not everything can be about Mahadeb. Not when he has forsaken his calling, left his votaries forlorn and proceeded on furlough with no forwarding address or the faintest idea with anybody on when he may return. If that. Chaiwalas can’t do that. There are obligations that come with the job. Look at other chaiwalas, or The Chaiwala. Does he leave your side even when you might want him to? Never. He is there, at the throw of the television switch, harnessed live to cause and country, relentlessly serving chai. In the process, serving the nation.

Mahadeb has behaved badly. But while he is missing, we shan’t remain in unanimated suspension around the void he’s left behind. Attached to his bereft cart, after all, is a whole nation lumbering under the rank deficits of NothingHappened. The situation’s worse; we are beset by catastrophic prospects. Correction is required, we need to move. Nothing needs to be replaced with Something. NewIndia’s calling. And thank heavens there’s somebody heeding that call with all the urgency and innovation it requires, laying out the road ahead, picking out the pitfalls.

What would have become of us if we hadn’t been recently alerted to the rife and fatal perils of termites?

Nobody bothered warning us all this while what an apocalyptic end termites have been plotting. We are teetering on a hollowed out precipice and nobody told us. Such were the reckless botch-ups of the epoch justly called NothingHappened. All through NothingHappened, termites happened, and they were allowed to continue happening. As their nomenclature vaguely suggests, termites terminate. We were being voraciously had. But since we have given unto ourselves TheBossOfAllThings, he’s given unto us reason to feel secure. He’s let out the war cry: Exterminate before they terminate.

This is nothing to scoff at. We should feel indebted we are now sagaciously helmed. Examine the scholarship and thought, not to speak of the milk of national interest that began to flow Circa 2014, that has gone into raising this life-saver alarm. Examine termites. Their names are petrifying enough. Cratomastotermitidae. Mastotermitidae. Archotermopsidae. Hodotermitidae. Stolotermitidae. Kalotermitidae. Archeorhinotermitidae. Stylotermitidae. Rhinotermitidae. Serritermitidae. Termitidae. Imagine running into one or any in a dark alley. Plundered to the bone, Ram naam satya hai. It gets worse.

They come in 3,016 species. And that’s how far we know. A few hundred more termite varieties remain beyond our grasp. They are Jurassic or Triassic of origin, whatever that might mean; Hollywood tells us that can be unimaginably old and terrifying. We know social and anti-social behaviour. This lot conforms to an altogether alien behavioural tendency – they are eusocial, a matrix so arcane we have no understanding of it. It gets even worse.

Termites organise themselves into armies, male and female. Armies. And these armies are so resilient and invasive, so tough to control, the best zoos in the world have refused to host them. But that’s how they’ve come to colonise every landmass on our planet other than Antarctica. And the way science is exploding frontiers, it’s quite certain it will discover an Antarctic termite soon, genetically kitted out in white thermals, breathing brimstone to neutralise polar frost. Termites are not a hazard to us alone, they are a global jeopardy. And it was down to one man to flag this menace to humanity. Is there more proof required to confirm we are now blessed with a world-class leader?

Doubly blessed be his name, TheBossOfAllThings can do better than merely cry TERMITE! He has remedies at beck and call. Don’t we know how proficient NumberToo is at this business of exterminating? Give him a removal job and he removes without trace. When TheBossOfAll-Things commands, NumberToo complies. Exterminate! Extermination executed. This job can’t be entrusted to novices. The very superiority of our race is under threat from those irrepressibly multiplying zillions that wouldn’t even brook family planning. It’s now or never. It has to be our might or the termite. Exterminate, or be exterminated. In such a black and white world of choices has Mahadeb chosen to go grey of existence.

But I don’t care that I lie,
Or what offence I give;
I say just happily let die
So the superior we may live.

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