Once upon a time a potentate

Except that this is not about once upon a time. This is about now. Time is cyclical. It has come back from once upon a time. And to the ruler. Remember how they used to be in those stories? “Ek atyachari raja thha… There was once a tyrant king.” That would set the story up just right. Now! Let’s see what this tyrant king got up to and what happened to him in the end. Delicious and delightful those horrors were that the tyrant king would wreak. What pleasure he would take in enacting his abhorrent monstrosities. How many nights did those stories keep you awake in violation of parentally prescribed hours, how many nights did they put you to sleep and resume themselves seamlessly in your dreaming? Be honest.

The good king was nowhere as attractive as the terrible one. Good? Insipid. Terrible? Well, just begin to smack your lips. Good makes no sense without the Bad and the Ugly. Imagine the absence from our consciousness of “Prem, Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra.” Or, “Saara sheher mujhe Loin ke naam se jaanta hai.” Or, “Yeh haath mujhe de dey, Thakur.” Imagine Dharmendra never having an opportunity to unveil his biceps. Or Amitabh Bachchan never being called upon to record the cinematic spectacle of unleashing the entire length of his legs on the privates of his tormentors. It’s the bad guys who gave us the best of our good guys. Life’s a bore without villainy. We need the scare to know the meaning of safe. Were there no chors, what was the need for sipahis, although you might have a case to argue there is often little to tell one from the other.

Beherhaal, this is not about storybooks. This is the truth of today. This is the story of your making. You finished one. Then you found the risks so seductive, you dove headlong into another round. Now enjoy. I know we all like horror stories. I am here. Where are you? Listen up! Would you need me to fire a shot to wake you up? To tell you I am here? At your service? To treat you? To myself?

You know my voice. Main hoon!! This is I! This is We!! It cannot be you don’t recognise Our voice. It has been dedicated to you. It is the voice that has come to you from everywhere, at everytime, on everything. It is the voice that will not let you escape its presence. Even when We are not letting Our voice out, there are others reminding you of it. Our voice is the voice that matters. Our loyal menagerie is mimicking Our voice. Our disloyal adversaries are mimicking Our voice. No matter. It is still Our voice. We are speaking — in original, or carbon copy, or photostat or cyclostyled. It remains Our voice. It prevails. Now listen. It is the voice you have been accustomed to paying attention to. Let me help you. But for that you must help me. Else how will I help you? I am who you made me. And for that I want to make you proud. I will wear the best clothes to the accompaniment of the most lavish accessories. I will ride gleaming limos. I will fly the fanciest planes. I will go places, many places. I will build myself a grand palace. All so you may feel proud of your choice. But your pride has a price. You must pay, no free thaalis. So pay up. Earn your keep, be proud of yourselves, pride is precious, pride is what you should possess foremost. Your pride is the nation’s pride. Embrace the nation and what it has to offer, I will take care of the world and what it has to offer. You paid, remember? Chest out. Chin up. Walk, it’s healthy. Enjoy the torture, I always knew it’s the whipping you like because it’s what you voted. I am the potentate with a difference: I am the Votentate.

Cry, my people, yet have no woes

In my realm this is how it goes

While I sit on my throne

You are all on your own.

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