2018, Essay, Telegraph Calcutta

A puppet in torment

Shakespearean tragedy has a canny kinship with Kashmir

When you’ve decided to dig in, it might be advisable to ensure you don’t burrow so deep that scrambling out is no longer an option. The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, is darting, helplessly but consciously, towards making a political grave of her power dugout. Her serial capitulations to the provincial shenanigans and the national worldview of her chosen partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, are as astonishing as they are unsurprising.

Unsurprising because a dark, and yet unstated though frightfully abject, compromise was written into her decision to fall in step with the BJP after prolonged prevarication. Astonishing because no Kashmiri chief minister in living memory has been so sublime in submitting to routine rebuff and remonstration at the hands of an ally – the kind of heckling and humiliation that cannot be going down terribly well with the constituency she so painstakingly built over the years.

The latest of many snubs that Mehbooba has taken is her government’s declaration, doubtless extracted by some backroom arm-twisting, to the Supreme Court that Major Aditya Kumar of the 10th Garhwal Rifles was not named in an FIR by her police as one of those responsible for opening fire on a mob near Shopian that resulted in the deaths of two civilians in late January. If this isn’t a patent lie, it most certainly is a deferent volte-face few will fail to notice, not least her unquiet south Kashmiri citizenry. Mehbooba’s police and her party – the Peoples Democratic Party – had openly rowed with the army over the incident; Major Kumar’s father, himself a serving army officer, had gone to the Supreme Court protesting that his son was sought to be unfairly prosecuted. But Mehbooba sounded firm about addressing the killings, “Anguished over the tragic loss of lives in Shopian,” she had tweeted soon after the incident, “… have ordered a magisterial probe into the unfortunate incident and asked the enquiry to be completed within 20 days… We will take the probe to its logical conclusion. Justice and peace are two sides of the same coin.” Her counsel’s submission to the Supreme Court on Monday – my lords we have not named a Major Aditya Kumar – clarified to us yet again that Mehbooba is allowed neither magistracy over a probe she’s ordered nor her promised logical conclusions.

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2018, Column, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

Hum pill de chuke sanam

Holy shit! Now, before you start to make erroneous assumptions about my upbringing being uncultured, or lighting into me for being poorly spoken, think again. What else can this shit be but holy. I do not even wish to so much as append that sentence with a question mark; that’s merely, and as any intelligent person would instantly recognise, rhetorical. It is cow shit. Or bull shit. In any or either event, it is shit off bovine orifices. This shit must be holy. Gau. Mata. Saandh. Pita . Okay, forget the saandh and the pita, let’s not be patriarchal for once. Just think Gau. Then the natural thought is Mata. (And very often, then, the natural thought is also Bharat, for Bharat too has a Mata, but let’s focus on immediate concerns for the moment, let’s not get ahead of the script.) Then think shit. Plop, plop!! Holy. Shit. Holyshit! Do not blame me for being poorly brought up. Or for being poorly spoken. If that does not constitute holy shit, you are either fit to be labelled anti-national or I am so much an intoxicated Bhakt, I no longer understand the consequences of being drunk upon what’s dripping down those udders.









Look at them, just look at the state of them. Gau and what the Gau begot. Just for a moment behold them and the plenty around them. Behold the sheer pride and richness of being Gau in these times. They shat, and they created a beauteous plenty about them. Just look at them. It’s like they shat jewels, priceless jewels. One of them, if you were to carefully observe the accompanying illustration, has already shat and is proudly saluting with its tail all there is to be saluted, and the other is in the process of shitting more of the richness that this kind of shit has already conjured. Holy shit. Holy shit! Just look at the pair of them at work, one just done, the other in the process. Begetting holy shit in surrounds already and instantly and visibly enriched by holy shit. It’s all lush, the topography seeded with holy shit, can you not bring yourself to see?

Sometimes you so deeply wish Mahadeb were here, around his life’s chosen station, to see what his ilk can also achieve; what makes the critical cut between a chaiwala and The Chaiwala. It’s all down to him, all of this holy shit. It is he who inspired them, these cows, to shit so copiously they came to be counted as national treasures: Mothers of Holy Shit. He fed them the magic pill, you see, the pill that made them shit and shit and shit so voluminously a jungle sprung around them. Just look. Just look at the abundance around them, it’s all down to the pill The Chaiwala fed them in singular pursuit of his keen sense of national duty. The more the shit, the greater the service to the nation. Shit and serve. Or rather, induce shit and serve. Mahadeb, and sundry chaiwalas, do take note. This is how national duty is done.

We underestimate TheBossOfAllThings, criminally so. We assumed last week that he shall enlighten us on DhanKiBaat. Trust him to spring a surprise. He went further and spoke to us of GobarDhanKiBaat. GobarDhan, the sheer richness of it. It goes down, plop, and turns a many-splendoured thing, from manure to medicine for the most arcane ailment. It flies up, pfffffft, and turns a piece of art beginning with an F. You get the drift. It’s tremendously powerful, the drift of GobarGas. And there’s entire armadas of it scudding about. It has been scientifically established, after all, that one bovine entity is able to expel as much as 100 kilos of pfffft every year. And we have a population of those running into several millions; and now that the WowVigilante’s have taken it upon themselves to zealously, even murderously, protect and preserve, the count is going up, As is pffffft! It’s one of the things that’s able to effortlessly blow holes in the ozone layer. Now many people think that’s not such a good thing, this business of excreted methane and what it does to the atmosphere, but them folks are reduced, mundane folks, they cannot see beyond. It’s when you blow holes in the ozone that you get a peek at the heavens, and it’s through them holes that real wisdoms come to drop upon us. Now where would we be without GobarDhan, or the man who as recently as last Sunday took time off to inform the nation of its earthly and unearthly richness.

Be not ashamed should some one sayYour brains are full of dungTell them the truth, Oh, but heyShit is what had the nation swung.

2018, Column, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

Our national dish: Pakoda!

You may have no excuses, you were told a full week ago: India has been done dana done, done dana done, Done. NothingHappened has finally been banished, thank you and GodBless, things are happening, they are getting DONE. Bakoda has said it is getting done, and Bakoda can say no wrong. Bakoda has proclaimed all it requires is Pakoda.

Make a Pakoda and all shall be done dana done done, so Bakoda says and so all patriotic folks should believe, for the good reason that Bakoda says so… Make a Pakoda, and all thereafter shall be well.








Bakoda knows, trust me, he has been making Pakodas all his life. He may call himself a chaiwala, but that’s just him being humble. Bakoda is a terribly humble man, we know that, so humble he was willing to call himself a chaiwala when he was to the monogrammed suit born, each suit worth tens of lakhs. And yet he said he was a mere chaiwala! Such is his sublime humility. At the first hint of criticism he cast that monogrammed suit away, auctioned it off. What’s a suit for such a man as Bakoda, he gave it the boot. And so was born that insidious allegation that his is a suit-boot ki sarkar. All because he booted the suit.

What has the world come to? Maa-kasam, Bakoda shall never don that suit again. (Psst, he never does wear a suit, or anything that he wears, a second time, but we aren’t telling anyone that, are we? Boot the suit is such a fabulous riposte to suit-boot, we just can’t get over how clever we are, but hush!)

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2018, Column, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

Haven’t you ever heard UnKiBaat?

Mahadeb hasn’t done a spot of work these past months. Or if he has, he’s proffered no evidence of it. He’s not God that he works in invisible ways; he’s merely called Mahadeb, he’s proffered no evidence he may also be God. But then God does work in invisible ways if not also ineffable, so perhaps it is wise to not press the point. Please God, no offence meant. #JustSaying.













But hashtags apart, what has Mahadeb been up to? He has probably become part of this country where people were subjected to NothingHappened for so long that they got so used to it that they do nothing. Wherever you go in this country, people are doing nothing. They are sitting on their haunches and looking left then right as if they were seated ringside on a tennis Grand Slam clash. They do not even sit there and shoot the air, for had they all together shot the air they’d have expelled all pollution. Imagine the national service of our billions seated on their haunches, shooting air. Flights and trains landing on time. Children not wheezing at school. Adults not having to measure SPM levels before they let their children out into the dreadful outdoors. The KaamAadmiParty boss not having to tear himself away from kaam and enrol in a breathing class. Honourable members of the HouseOfBabel not having to stoop to taunting the nobility of MakeInIndia by peddling NotMadeInIndia air purifiers. One of them is so patently anti-national that she advertises some county in a country which is actually a little island that kept our whole humongous subcontinent enslaved for centuries before we struggled and struggled and gave ourselves NothingHappened. Oh, if only all among us who sit on our haunches just shot the air in unison! But we are such ingrates, we have no sense of national pride; what will become of us, Maaaaa! Which cry should also remind us, if we are at all patriots, of Mooooo! Excuse me? Anyhow. Whatever.

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2018, Essay, Telegraph Calcutta

Narendra Modi and Our Derelictions as Media

The Press seems happy to be co-opted by the government

Just a thought, if only as hors d’oeuvre: Sanjaya was arguably the first television reporter known to us, relaying the great battle live from a far distance. Imagine the consequences of Sanjaya telling Dhritarashtra what would please his ears rather than what transpired as the Kauravas and Pandavas had it off. All it would have taken for an epic subversion of the truth was one obsequious reporter willing to compromise with his craft to curry favour with his master.

After a prime minister lavishly lambasted for never speaking – “Maun Mohan Singh” – we elected a prime minister who never seems to tire of speaking. Some of that, we have been told by his own, amounts to no more than jumlas. But there is a more disturbing aspect to Narendra Modi’s mode of speaking. It’s one-sided.

Modi is into the final lap of his term and he is yet to open himself to questioning in a way that has been the assumed norm for all his predecessors. Our prime minister has his say and he would have no more. On Twitter. On diverse social-media platforms and dedicated web portals. On Mann ki Baat. To commissioned cameras from government-aided or government-allied operations that can be trusted to obey command, pack off and promote the puff. He does not grant interviews, not in the way we should understand them. The complicit silence over how interviews with the prime minister are conducted must be broken. Because people need to know. Here is how it’s done – you may mail a set of questions to one of the prime minister’s aides; they, or the prime minister himself, will examine them and pick which ones are convenient. Of those that the Prime Minister’s Office rejects or refuses to answer, there shall be no mention, or even a record. Subsequently, answers will be formulated and mailed back.

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2018, Column, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

Outsiders on the inside of the Hill

There is the CapitolHill and then there is the CapitalHill. Similar men look down the two hills, men who seem to get along like a house on fire, as they say, and since they came to assume their respective positions of vantage, they’ve caused enough fire around them, not that they mind. You get the drift, though you should be careful about keeping that drift away from fire’s way. We are talking about TheTossOfAllThings and TheBossOfAllThings, both brassy Outsider-Insiders upending their respective hills, alpha males both, one Genghis, the other Khan, although neither would take kindly to being called either name. They make that clear, unpretty clear – names, or any other thing, from that stable are unacceptable, anathema.










And so it is that they have softer, more likeable monikers – BlondieDuck and BeardieLuck, so called because he once bragged to an assembly of poll-bound people that all the luck was on his side. It came to happen that all the votes that election gathered up on the opposite end. But BeardieLuck remains a lucky man. The jury is out on how long it will take to run out on him. We are a democracy and democracies are fickle systems, picky, choosy, re-electy, rejecty. Unreasonable. Capricious. Wise men are aware of that sort of thing, or (psst) they should be for their own good. BeardieLuck knows because nobody can disagree that for all his numerous frailties, he is a wise man. He was just treated to a close shave at home. He got away pretending he’d only got himself a cut he’d desired, close-shaven, almost too close to the skin. Luck stayed, it trimmed him but it spared him any bloodshed. He’s safe on top of CapitalHill.

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2018, Bihar, Column, Telegraph Calcutta

Laloo Yadav, Burnished and Tarnished

The thing about Lalu Prasad is that he is a man of more parts than most others on display possess. One of those parts has been convicted and may well be ordered to prison, the part that got greedy and fell to fodder felony. Some of the other parts remain more happily located – as preponderant colour on the floor of the Bihar assembly; as irreplaceable boss of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the state’s largest single banker of votes; as essential exhibit in the gallery of the most compelling and durable of our public entities. Nobody is taking Lalu out of there in a long time; popular imagination is a sovereignty membered by the unlikeliest heroes.

Bihar has never been at a loss for those who set out to make something of it. In the narrow firmament of Bihar’s consciousness, they make a clotted constellation of visionaries and builders, reformists and revolutionaries, samaritans and messiahs. Sri Krishna Sinha, Anugrah Narain Singh, Krishna Ballabh Sahay. Jayaprakash Narayan and Karpoori Thakur. Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav and Jagannath Mishra. They have either been forgotten, some mercifully, or live on in dust-ridden memorial halls and annually enacted rent-a-crowd commemorations. Or survive as disregarded busts routinely s**t upon by birds in chaotic town squares. For all the retrospective repute they have come to acquire, the gifts of Bihar’s league of legends don’t add up to much.

Eighty per cent of Biharis still have no access to toilets, partly also because those meant to be making those toilets have been busier making money over them. What passes in the name of education is nothing short of scandalous; Bihar’s premier university cannot fill out basic criteria for an upgrade. Its most reputed medical facilities often lack for rudiments – a saline drip, a sterilized bandage, a functional X-ray device, an urgently required LSD. No more than 20 and few decimal per cent receive regular electricity at home. A mere seven per cent live in concrete homes. Sixty five per cent possess mobile phones. That is how lopsided Bihar’s lurch towards development has been. You could be talking about Haiti where, in 2012, only ten per cent had bank accounts and 80 per cent used hand-held telephones.

For the last quarter of a century, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar have presided over those spoils, briefly in league but for the better part at loggerheads. Bihar is still out adorned in its badge of deficits, brandishing that begging bowl for special category status. Nobody has bothered looking in the direction of that bowl. Meantime, careers have flourished and reputations built, foundation stone by derelict foundation stone. Some years ago, the state government sponsored a listing of Bihar’s leading lights and luminaries, such as they are. Bihar Vibhuti, the compendium was christened, and last heard, it had run into two volumes, each thick as a brick. There is fair evidence to suggest that the collective achievement of Bihar’s countless vibhutis has been that they came to drop; Bihar is a bonfire of those vanities.

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