Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UPA Ministers Say The Darnest Things (Part 3)

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

(Click Here for Part 1 & Click Here for Part 2)

We have sadly come to the end of our trilogy about the esteemed leaders running our country. Granted, they might be running it into the ground, but at least we can laugh at them while we drown our sorrows in alcohol and gallows humour. In this edition we also give an honorary shoutout to two former members of the cabinet who we will always remember with a smile on our faces, disgust in our hearts and a solitary tear in our eye.

Our seventh contestant is defence minister and the inspiration behind the Mr. Magoo cartoon character, AK Antony. Possessing the personality of a tetanus injection, Antony is proof that being clueless is considered a virtue in this country. His main qualification for one of the top four jobs in the union cabinet was that he is too stupid to be corrupt. He is so out of his depth in the defence ministry, even Manmohan Singh is able to bully him. Antony also has to visit the hospital very often because he keeps getting his foot embedded in his mouth and has to get it surgically removed. He once floated a 26/11 conspiracy theory that even an anonymous internet commentator would be ashamed to propagate. He continues to deny that any incursions take place on the India-China border even though Chinese soldiers regularly cross over into our side to satisfy their insatiable thirst for Chicken Manchurian while taking pictures of each other using the smartphones assembled in a factory by their own children. Yet, Antony’s employers keep him where he is, because honesty!

Our final contestant is Minister of State for Human Resource Development and human plate of scones, Shashi Tharoor. For the first few years after his election, he appeared to be out of place among his contemporaries in Parliament. He seemed like he would have been more comfortable arguing with Bertie Wooster about the ownership status of a cow creamer rather than explain the vagaries of international law to Sharad Yadav. Back when he was Minister for External Affairs, he was often found bringing a chippy attitude to his job. I say old chap, what’s all this rummy business with that old codger they call the Dalai Lama? He spent most of his first year clarifying and apologizing for some Mmm, they don't make them like me anymore! gaffe or the other. Being made a constant target fortified his credentials as a bonafide middle class icon. He became a real life hero. One of us, as they like to say. He could speak English with an indeterminate accent! He went to all the right schools! He was the type of politician who wouldn’t get his hands dirty by committing petty crimes! He was being bullied into silence by his own jealous colleagues and their  surrogates in the media because he dared to speak the truth on twitter! He liked to pose for photographs which showed him thoughtfully staring into the future, the true mark of an intellectual.

So when it was revealed that the only thing Shashi Tharoor cared about was Shashi Tharoor and he had to resign, people were shocked. How could he betray us? If you can’t trust people who have spent their whole life believing that the world revolves around them, then whom can you trust? However, a few months later a newer, shinier, hungrier, middle class hope came along and everybody forgot about the former UN under-secretary general. So, last year, Tharoor was rehabilitated into the council of ministers, without any fanfare. He’s now become a fierce partisan warrior, even using his impressive articulation skills to tweet political arguments using a silly hashtag invented by a person with a negative IQ.

Our first honorary shoutout goes to former Home Minister and safari suit aficionado, Shivraj Patil. His greatest (and probably only) achievement was turning incompetence into high art. In fact, Shivraj Patil’s stint in government was such a catastrophe, Shivraj Patil promised that the perpetrators of this horrible incident will be caught and brought to justice. And then he wet his pants. These days, Patil is cooling his heels at the expensive senior citizen home known as the Punjab Governor’s mansion and is currently working on his memoirs, tentatively titled, 27 Dresses: The Shivraj Patil Story.

Let’s not forget about former Minister of Petroleum and Burra Sahib extraordinaire, Mani Shankar Aiyer. He left the union cabinet to spend Mani Shankar Aiyar's default expression more time being mean and distant to every guest on every NDTV show. But nothing encapsulates his personality like an article he wrote last year for Outlook magazine. In it, he whined about not being served champagne in first class while he was travelling in an American airline. He was also angry at being addressed by his name by people he thought were beneath him. His exact words were “Democracy in America apparently means the right of the lower orders to be rude to their social superiors.”

HOW DARE THEY ADDRESS HIM BY HIS FIRST NAME? HE HAS MORE MONEY THAN THEM FOR PETE’S SAKE! He gets invited to the best parties! He appears on teevee! Why didn’t they prostate in front of him? They treated him like a . . . . normal! Preposterous! It was very brave of Mr Aiyar to not have reported this incident to the American state department. As everybody knows, the state department’s only purpose of existence is to make sure all Indian VIPs visiting America are treated with the respect they deserve. Also, for future reference, the only acceptable salutations are: A) SIR DR MANI SHANKAR AIYAR SIR, B) HIS EXCELLENCY MANI SHANKAR AIYAR THE EIGHTH and C) MANI HONEY. Mani remembers a time when social superiors were not forced to mix with the rest. Everybody knew their place in the world. The rich would be treated with the importance they deserved and the rest would be . . . . well, who cares about the rest? That was a golden age! When sitting in premier class meant something. If you asked for champagne, you would get champagne. If you asked for caviar, by jove, you would get caviar. And now? First class just means that you have more leg space than those unfortunate masses forced to travel in economy.

So, who do you think is the winning contestant? Did we leave anyone out? Send your answers to

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

UPA Ministers Say The Darndest Things (Part 2)

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

(Click Here for Part 1)

As we were discussing last week, the members of our federal council of ministers are a barrel of laughs. It’s not that they aim to be such a rich source of hilarity. It’s the only positive outcome of their actions! In fact, the biggest threat to the UPA isn’t any political opponent; it’s dementia and osteoporosis. So let’s go back to reminding ourselves of their greatest hits:

Our fourth contestant is none other than our Law Minister and a man who hasn’t met a sentence on the internet that he didn’t want to censor, Kapil Sibal. Mr Sibal is man of many talents. He showed us his epic skills as a magician when, as the then Telecom minister, he made the notional loss on the allotment of spectrum disappear. It was all a misunderstanding, he declared. A simple mathematical error. All you had to do was carry the one, subtract a trillion and voila, everything would make sense again. What many people don’t know about Mr Sibal is that he is also a writer of science fiction! In fact, last year, he read out an extract out of one of his fantastical stories on the floor of the Rajya Sabha. In his story, he imagined an India which is more liberal than Europe and America. An India in which the government doesn’t act like a nanny and tells its citizens what they cannot watch, read or think. An India in which the government doesn’t spend a significant amount of its resources clumsily trying to stifle dissent. If only Mr Sibal was in a position to make this possible! Anyway, let’s not forget that Mr. Sibal is also an amateur poet. In fact, his poetry is so moving, it inspired us to write a small ditty of our own about this master of many trades:

                                             There was once an old minister,
                                      Whose every intention was sinister,
                                                               His need to censor,
                                          Made his eyebrows grow denser,
And he liked to silence protestors using a tear gas canister.

Our next contestant is Home Minister and the first person ever to ask for a red pen of any colour, Sushil Kumar Shinde. Until recently, Shinde was so unknown outside his home state, even his wife thought he was Vilasrao Deshmukh. Shinde took a big dive into public consciousness last year when under his watch, the northern grid failed and cut power from half of the country for almost three days. A more self-aware person would’ve been humbled and might have voluntarily decided to lower his profile for a few months. But this is the UPA council of ministers. There is no rock bottom here! So, naturally, Shinde called a press conference to announce that he would rate his stint as power minister as ‘excellent.’ And as a reward for his belligerence in the face of reality, he was promoted to the Ministry of Home, because, what could go wrong? Turns out, a lot! But Shinde faced every obstacle with the humility of an IIM graduate who just got hired by Goldman Sachs and the grace of an arctic penguin participating in a hurdle race. Shinde’s stint in the home ministry has been so disastrous, his name is now a verb. For eg: “The look of relief on her face when I dropped her off at her house made me realize that I had totally Shinde’d our date.”

Now, there are men who are born to a life of mediocrity. Men who are born to work, eat and wither away. Men who spend their whole lives without being noticed at all. Men who fall by the wayside, never to be heard from again. Then there are those men who are born into greatness. Men who have destinies to fulfil. Men who by the sheer force of their willpower end up changing the world. Men who are the true heroes of our time. Our sixth contestant – the Minister of Rural Development and ‘cousin Itt’ from the Addams family – Jairam Ramesh, is one such hero. Whenever he has been called upon to shower the less knowledgeable with his golden stream of wisdom, he has always delivered. In fact, he has done that even when he hasn’t been called upon to offer his opinion. Hair Force One – as his friends fondly call him – is kind like that. You know what they say – If opinions are like assholes, then Jairam Ramesh has one for every occasion! No matter what the problem, Jairam Ramesh is always on it! Like when he first denied the existence of global warming and then suggested solving it by getting people to stop eating beef. That’s classic Jairam Ramesh! See, now you don’t have to do anything concrete like closing factories or cutting down on carbon emissions. Doesn’t matter that a vegetarian asking other people to not eat beef is like an Eskimo asking people living in tropical climates to not use air conditioners. Once, Jairam even dared to take on a crazy, cultish breed of human beings who believe that a certain bespectacled boy wizard would be their saviour. No, not the Congress party, silly! He took on fans of Harry Potter. He blamed them for the decreasing population of owls, despite their being no actual evidence to support his claim. Look, he doesn’t really need your “comprehensive” research to know things. If he thinks something is true, then it is. This is what separates him from the less knowledgeable. That, and the dense rainforest on his head.

(. . . To be continued)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

UPA Ministers Say the Darndest Things (Part 1)

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

In these modern times, there are not a lot of activities that can be classified as a ‘sure thing.’ Heroes have turned into villains. Villains have turned into heroes. Nothing is permanent anymore. Even death and taxes aren’t the pillars of surety that they used to be. However, in this darkness there is one tiny speck of light that is always shining. A small aberration that fills you with hope. Whether it is day or night, rain or shine, you can be confident of one thing: That somewhere in this vast land of ours, there is a minister belonging to the central government who is publicly saying something unintentionally hilarious. This is a bet that comes with its own money-back guarantee. Never before have so many incompetent people been part of the same body. They might have made things worse than they found them and choked the Indian dream even before it began, but when it comes to saying stupid things, they provide us with an embarrassment of riches! Now, as the General Election from Hell creeps upon us, let us take a gander at some of these great men that history will not have kind words for.

Our first contestant is the Minister of Petroleum and the generic south Indian villain from every Ram Gopal Varma movie, Veerapa Moily. He recently took over the news cycle by storm when he declared that the best way to save petrol is to close down petrol pumps at eight p.m. every night. Apparently, that will make sure people will use less petrol because as we all know, when the government makes something illegal in India, there is no way anyone can get access to it! That is why there is no alcohol sold for more than three times the price on dry days. Even though a better way to save petrol would be to try to cut at least one vehicle from every government cavalcade, or, I don’t know, encouraging investment in alternate forms of fuel. But hey, none of these are out-of-the-box non-solutions masquerading as a reasonable idea.

So, after saying something so ridiculous that even Manmohan Singh was pissed off enough to deny that any such proposal existed, Moily said that the suggestion didn’t come from him, it came from the people. Yeah, someone hacked into his brain and made him say things. Previously, when he was law minister, he said that the government was finally closing down the ‘Bofors’ case file since ‘nothing’ turned up after twenty years of investigations and no one wanted to celebrate the golden jubilee of the case. This made lady justice cry like a regular Nirupa Roy.

Our second contestant is our Minister of External Affairs and human bobble-head, Salman Khurshid. He recently dismissed the NSA’s spying on Indian citizens and our embassies as ‘a study of computer patterns.’ All the US is doing is monitoring every activity of every internet user! Nothing to see here! Invading the privacy of citizens of a sovereign nation is not as important as, say, detaining a movie star for questioning for a couple of hours. He also burnished his credentials as a civilized member of society when he threatened Arvind Kejriwal with bodily harm. Back when he was Minister of Corporate Affairs, he warned corporate India against 'vulgar salaries & perks.’ Because if anyone knows about not indulging in vulgar salaries & perks, it’s a professional politician. Maybe he should bring this up the next time his colleagues in Parliament pass another resolution to triple their salaries and benefits?

Our next contestant is Health Minister and the poor man’s Avtar Gill, Ghulam Nabi Azad. This great scholar once suggested that the best form of birth control would be to provide villages with enough electricity so that they can watch late night teevee and stop worrying about making babies. To be fair, watching Indian teevee at any time of the day kills everything from brain activity to hunger. So who needs condoms and birth control pills and education when you can just scare people into limiting their sexual activity to platonic hugging?

However, his pièce de résistance was his ignorant statements calling homosexuality unnatural. Before you get angry at him, remember, it’s not his choice to be daft. He was born this way! He’s just trying very hard not to contemplate what homosexuality means. They told him that it’s wrong. It has to be! Otherwise, his whole life has been a waste. Whenever he sees a happy gay couple, it stirs up certain feelings in his heart. He is reminded of what his life is really missing. He wasn’t always this dead on the inside. Back when he was in school, his heart used to fill with starburst whenever he laid his eyes on Pershad, his best friend. Pershad was the boy who made him a man. All he wanted to do was spend his life staring into those deep blue eyes and caressing that innocent face. But that wasn’t to be! One day Pershad’s Dad caught both Ghulam and Pershad physically expressing their love for each other on the banks of the lake. Instead of trying to understand them and letting them be who they are, Pershad’s dad thrashed both the teenagers. And then he took Pershad and moved to another city. The next time Ghulam saw Pershad, twenty years had passed. That innocent face had all but disappeared, replaced with a constant expression of sadness and despair. They didn’t have to say anything to each other. The look of longing they exchanged said it all. So, no. Homosexuality isn’t natural. If it was, it wouldn’t have caused the most precious gift in his life to be taken away from him. Forever.

(. . . . To be continued)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who Is The Wisest Of Them All?

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

As they keep telling us, India is the land of diversity. We’re united in our differences! In fact, the only thing keeping us together is cricket, our inexplicable hatred for people who are even slightly different from us, and the inherent wisdom that’s embedded into each child that is born on this blessed land. Not that we’ve ever lacked wisdom. We’ve always been the land where lost souls arrive from other countries to find their enlightened selves. Foreign tourists have been treating our country like a global yoga retreat for centuries. But some of these ungrateful people also stole our secrets and used them for their own personal benefit. As any real patriot will tell you, the secret to everything was written in the puranas. Yet, we’ve never taken advantage of our own ancient wisdom, because we’ve been too busy following the self-destructive path Macaulay laid out for us.

However, all this is set to change. Recently, self-proclaimed avatar of Vallabhai Patel and the wisest man in the world, Narendra Modi, gathered some future disciples and explained some facts of life to them. He said that in 1947, when India awoke to freedom and being condescended to by our own elected leaders, the dollar and the rupee were at par. And now, thanks to the retirement community running our central government, the Rupee has fallen on hard times. In fact, the rupee is so destitute, it’s like an unemployed college graduate in a Raj Kapoor movie. The only way it can buy itself a few measly meals is to turn to a life of crime. We can’t let that happen!

Now, even though the assertion is completely false, it feels like the truth. So what if the Rupee was pegged against the pound until 1966? It doesn’t matter that in terms of real value, a dollar in 1947 was equivalent to four rupees. Let us ignore the fact that if the dollar and the rupee would be at par right now then we’d actually be in the middle of an economic disaster. We wouldn’t be able to continue to be the ‘outsourcing haven’ that we are. Neither would we be able to become the ‘economic powerhouse’ that is our god-given destiny.  The point is that if one rupee is not equal to one dollar, then a great insult has been perpetuated on our people. It’s not economics deciding the value of the rupee, it’s racism! And this government won’t do anything about it because it’s so effete. Real men avenge imaginary insults. So we’re going to have our revenge by seducing more British directors into making movies about poverty so that another rejected AR Rahman song takes over the Oscars.

Not to be outdone, Modi’s opponent, Congress Vice President and ‘Boy Wonder’ without a Batman, Rahul Gandhi, enthusiastically declared The only computer the "Congress OS" will run on . . . that if India was a computer then the Congress party was its default operating system. Which explains why every file in the computer’s memory is corrupted, no programs work as intended and the computer only works for five minutes every morning. So this is why all of the computer’s software applications ignore the user and only take instructions from the motherboard.  Maybe the makers of India’s operating system should look into why there is no sound emanating from the speaker? I’m no expert, but I think the problem lies in the sound card. It was a popular brand in its heyday, but now it is just a shell of its former self, doing nothing but waiting for the time when a younger, much more subservient sound card puts it out of its misery. 

Following in the footsteps of his dear leader, real life Shakespearian tragedy and Minister in-charge of the government’s propaganda department, Manish Tewari, gave a speech too. Among other equally brilliant ideas, he proposed that journalists should be issued a license before being allowed to practice journalism (or its local equivalent). This is a great idea because that worked out so well for other similar democracies like China and North Korea. Not many people know this, but we already have a pilot program in place. If any expat journalist reports on things that the government doesn’t really like talking about, they don’t renew their visa under some flimsy pretext or the other. This project has been a huge success! There are no negative stories about India in the foreign press. What works in our favour is that there is no other way people in the world can know what is going on in our country besides reading reports by foreign journalists. After his speech, Manish Tewari got into his time-travelling Premier Padmini, stopped at Connaught Place in 1989 for a Wimpy’s burger and a Campa Cola. Then he headed back to whence he came.

However, the award for the most intelligent activity of the week goes to all those people who were protesting the movie Madras Cafe because it portrayed the LTTE in a negative light. Heaven forbid someone think unfavourably about the LTTE! They assassinated a former Prime Minister and committed various atrocities on the very people they pretended to protect; yet, appearing in a John Abraham movie is going to give them a bad reputation! All I’m saying is that if you want to protest a movie exploiting Tamil stereotypes to make a huge amount of money, then you’re probably confusing Madras Cafe with the other recent movie which uses the capital of Tamil Nadu in its title.

If only there were some place where we could go and seek the truth.