(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
Somedays, it feels like we’re all living in a soap opera. No, not because we have a non-identical evil twin bent upon spending its whole life trying to destroy us –Hi Pakistan!–but because whoever is writing the story of our lives keeps using the same tropes and storylines. I’m guessing that the ‘god’ in charge of determining the direction of all our lives wrote one good thing – which he stole from a more deserving candidate anyway – and got promoted to Head of Operations (Asia Pacific) and now keeps making the same things happen again and again because that’s all he knows. Which suits us fine because we hate change anyway. We avoid it like we avoid the bubonic plague. We like to see movies with the same script. We prefer to elect politicians who make the same promises. We give our money to people who have cheated us before. We even cheer for the same team repeatedly hoping that this time they won’t disappoint us and will finally win the match, giving us the validation that comes from cheering for a bunch of people we have no personal connection to achieving an arbitrary goal. As they say: the millionth time is the charm!
A familiar trope that has been recycled more times than a gay joke at a bollywood awards show is the suppression of free speech. This is one storyline which brings with it a lot of ‘buzz.’ All you have to do is get one viewer to post a tweet and voila, you’re all over the newscycle. No publicity is bad publicity, right? Currently, this storyline is being used for the ponytail loving cult leader called Arindham Chaudhari. This character suffers from what people in the medical profession call a classic case of ‘being an Indian whose orders must be compulsorily followed by a few minions due to unavoidable circumstances.’ He’s paranoid (the IIM mafia is out to get me), narcissistic (refers to himself in third person), misstates facts (free laptop!) and suffers from delusions of grandeur (gives himself grandiose titles which don’t mean anything outside the confines of his diploma shop). Like so many other characters on the show, Chaudhari misused the law put in by the government to make it easier for people who have something to hide to censor all criticism. What else can you expect from a character whose megalomania even outdoes last year’s breakout star, Mamta Banerjee. Not to be outdone, Ms. Banerjee has begun to bring back the focus on herself by ramping up the craziness quotient of her antics from ‘this is terrible but hilarious’ to ‘can we airlift everyone but her from West Bengal?’ In fiction, usually, things don’t end well for such characters who are on a trajectory of a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. But in our world, the only people who suffer from consequences are those who are trying to do the right thing.
This week’s ‘bharat bandh ’ special episode would have been a flop if at the last minute goons from various political parties hadn’t bullied people into enacting a ‘spontaneous protest.’ It’s the thought that counts, even if the thought appeared in your brain once you saw someone else not thinking the same thing getting punched in the face.
For the next fortnight, we will have to also sit through the reruns of ‘Parliament Adjourned.’ These are broadcast so frequently because they are the easiest to produce. All they have to do is record a bunch of people rushing to the ‘well of the house’ while shouting indiscriminate slogans for ten minutes while the speaker tries to silence them with her vulcan death stare failing which she rolls her eyes and ends the session. They get this footage on the first day of every term and put it on loop for the next five years.
But the storyline I can’t bear to follow anymore is the one in which they declare a curfew in Kashmir and cut off their access to the rest of the world. I am so bored of that! Just because we keep treating them like they’re our colony doesn’t mean we have to keep hearing about how we’re denying them their fundamental rights. Why can’t they stop crowding the streets and turn their angst at being treated like prisoners in their own home into art? Hell, I know I’d be more sympathetic to their cause if one of them made a nifty graphic novel which showed the day to day indignities they have to suffer through. They need to realize that if it wasn’t for our stabilising influence, they’d descend into chaos.
Now, where have I heard that one before?