Telegraph Calcutta

Workman’s Secret Diary


I swear on whatever book it is that you have yanked my palm onto that I shall speak the truth and the truth alone and nothing but the truth. Some folks say the moment they see me they begin to be convinced all over again that I would. I cannot vouch for 62 or so per cent of the people; they never voted for me, so they do not even count. I swear in the name of those who swore by me. Wajib?

I have this to say for a start. I work 18 hours each day, 365 days a year. No chhutti. Thirty eight per cent or so made me TheChaiwala with a capital T and a capital C, and the 62 or so, well they got what they got, who cares. These are numbers, abstract things, a bit here and a bit there does not really matter.

So those are my work hours. And you know I do not take a Sunday off; you would know, you see me on the idiot box doing some idiot thing each Sunday. Mondays you never notice what I do, but that is all your fault. Mondays I may bunk, and you never notice because you say to yourself a man who labours for us Sundays must be labouring even harder for us Mondays. Bewakoofon!

As I said, on oath to that fat book you forced my palm onto, I speak the truth, and nothing but. And here are a few things that I do while I labour for you each day. I wake up thinking: what next? What should I wear? How many times should I change what I wear today? Where should I go? What should I scream about? Who should I target and abuse? Who should I blame for what I have not been able to do? All of these and many such other things. But before I wake up, I sleep. I do sleep, don’t take me for some nishaachar raakshas, although many have told me I have a canny likeness. I do sleep. A few hours. But those are also hours slept in the service of the nation; I sleep the sleep of a Sewak. I sleep like a Chowkidar. Which means I sleep dreaming the tasks ahead, imagining what the nation requires of me. I am working at things in my sleep. Like what new poses should I strike for the next round of posters? And where should I have those posters installed? Then I have to think about which ones should be vinyl only and which ones should be backlit. And agencies have to be located and assigned to do one kind and another kind. Not everybody is able to do every job. Has anybody been able to do the kind of job I have done? Then there is the matter of content. Like what wisdom should I next download on you. You know my talent for devising acronyms. They come from hard work. Like I thought of APNA — All People’s National Agreement. APNA for me, your one and only beloved leedaah! Or then, there is AAPKA — Association of Alliances of People who Know Apna. Hai naa? You get the drift. My brain is always ticking. Then I have to decide who to follow on teetar; I like the wild ones, the ones that squawk noxious nonsense. Because if they do not do that, how will I appear better by contrast? Like Bapuji and Panditji? They looked better by contrast. Cunning fellas. I must course correct. I must think out how to disabuse you of the curse of Bapuji and Panditji. I must neutralise them. The problem is they were neutralised long ago — one by a Godsend, another by whatever, how should I care — but their memory obdurately lives on. I must terminate it. It takes time, and effort. It’s hard. And then I have to invent what next to tell you. That’s hardest, because how much can you go on telling without any doing? Takes talent. How do you live with the refusal of achchhe din to arrive? So I have to get into kachchhe din, and begin to devise what to say next about why achchhe din never came. And then,

Late night I lie and drink

A mugful of hot latte

And smirk and quietly wink

Jhooth boley kauwwa kaate.


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