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.

Continue reading “To the gas chamber, you termite”

2017, Column, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

The mimic has now gone missing

An anxiety beginning to mount, like the cash-machine lines of yester. A shiver having trespassed time and arrived out of turn, this nowhere season ahead of winter, this Dreiserene interregnum between glare and gloom. That shiver then having crept up the spine like poison ivy on wet ventrals and turned the insistent shape of a question: Where’s Mahadeb?

Mahadeb having been gone an inexplicably long while by now. So long his signature has become a void. The holes on his leftover lungi having turned imperially expansionist and claimed the whole of it, the tatters having turned to bare thread and dropped, like expiring worms, onto his cold forsaken hearth. The coals in it having turned to ash, the ash having been cajoled by kindred elements to become its destined part – ash unto ash, the final truth. Also known as the heartily consumed tip of my cigarette.

But that’s indulgence; it’s up to nothing. It’s no help to this untimely and uncontainable anxiety, beginning to mount, cold and forlorn as Fujiyama. Where’s Mahadeb, the long and inexplicably gone one? Where, more pertinently, is Mahadeb’s tea, Mahadeb be damned. The loyal votaries wondered long. They waited long. Then said so long. They forgot the taste of tea and took to coffee. Off mechanised vends; frothy on promise, watery on delivery. But how long were they to wait? Nobody waits upon another too long, they proceed to other things – the intermediate truth. Also known as the cigarette after this one’s turned to ash and been flicked.

Continue reading “The mimic has now gone missing”

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?

Continue reading “A lungi and a monogram of holes”

2017, Column, 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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