Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to be the Best Goddamn Democracy in the Whole Wide World

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)  

As we head into dystopian times at warp speed, it seems refreshing to hear news about a country trying to make its government a little more democratic. Who wouldn’t like to see the human race take another small step in the right direction? But when we heard that our old friend Nepal was trying to elect a constituent assembly, we were very disappointed. If they needed something, they could’ve asked us. We’re always been eager to help our neighbours. In fact, we go out of our way and do things that inconvenience us just to take care of them. So if the good people of Nepal needed a constitution, they could’ve just borrowed ours. We aren’t using ours much these days anyway! And if some people have their way, we won’t need it at all after next year. But, okay. We get it. They needed to do this for themselves. Find out who they are. Even though they tried it on their own without our guidance a few years ago and it didn’t work. Maybe this time it will?

Although, in our humble opinion the smart thing to do would be to wait for a few months and vote in the upcoming elections in India, but, for some reason, the people of Nepal don’t want to subscribe to the Indian democracy project. Their snub is not going to ruin our buzz! We have nothing to say to them. They should know that we didn’t grow all this grey hair standing in the sun all day. It came from experience as well as a botched up dye job.

For your information, people of Nepal, our country has had at least the pretence of democracy for about sixty seven years now. We’re the leading democracy in South Asia! Sure, that’s like being the fourth musketeer or the vanilla extract in chocolate cake. Maybe some of us like vanilla! It might not have the flash of strawberry or posses the good fortune of tasting better than its individual ingredients like pistachio, but it does its job, even though it tastes like something an old, efficient Soviet-era bureaucrat might come up with. If you think so badly of our favourite flavour, then we probably did the right thing by not bringing over the generous helping we had earmarked for you. You can thank your harsh attitude for missing out on such a delicious treat. We’re going to mix your former share of our home made vanilla ice-cream with bourbon, sit by the fireplace and talk amongst ourselves about how you betrayed us. I hope you realize what you’ve lost! In fact, we had imagined that we’d even try to help you with tricks and life hacks on how to run things. Now, however, we’re just going to gloat about why we’re much better at democracy than you ever will be.

For starters, most of your political parties don’t even have a high command. You amateurs are hilarious! You see, it doesn’t matter who the people elect. The most important vote belongs to the undisputed leader of the party. We should have known how bad at this you were when you jettisoned the dynasty that has ruled you for so many decades. Who does that? Not someone who’s good at democracy! No siree, Bob!

The majority of the candidates standing in your elections don’t even have criminal cases against them. You didn’t even allow criminals to contest the elections. What sort of screwed up operation are you guys running? It’s important to elect murderers, rapists, psychopaths, conmen, busybodies, kidnappers, drug dealers, tax dodgers, smugglers of illicit materials and other valued members of society to various legislative bodies so that you know where they are all the time, in case you want to arrest and/or felicitate them.

Which is why it is also important to have a criminal investigative agency whose primary purpose is to be used as political leverage. Do any of you even know what clean chits are? This is why none of your coalition governments are stable. As you must have gathered by now, voting in an election is choosing the option that would do the least harm to the country. You should have a whole smorgasbord of bad choices! As a matter of fact, in most cases, if you’re stuck, you’re supposed to just vote for the person who belongs to the community you most identify with. So what if they’re an incompetent thief? They’re your thief! Even if they don’t do anything for you, at least they’re keeping those people away from the spoils of power.

How dare you involve your maoists in the constitution writing process? That’s not the right way to solve your insurgency problems. Let them stay in the forest so that you can keep bombing them. And what sort of maoists willingly participate in the electoral process? Have they no shame? I thought their lot in life was to overthrow the state, not play a role in strengthening fledging democratic institutions. Has palling around with China taught them nothing? Though them being bitter about losing the elections and threatening to take their ball and go home might just save your infant democracy.

The people in your country also need to get a hobby because approximately seventy percent of them showed up to vote in the elections. Just because you care enough about the future of your country to engage in one of your most important civic duties doesn’t mean you’re so special. No matter what your politicians promise you, nothing is ever going to change. Things are only going to get worse. Therefore, why even bother voting? Plus, voting day is a great time to catch up on other things. It is basically an extra day off! You can use it to finish all your pending errands, catch up with people you haven’t met in ten years, go for a picnic with your family, get your accident prone child a tetanus shot, update your status on Facebook to show your disillusionment with the electoral process, file your taxes. There is so much to do!

Look, I know all this talk about how awesome our democracy is must make all of you very jealous, so I’ll put you out of your misery and stop talking about it now.

But if you ever need any pointers, you know where to find us.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Untold History of Hindustan

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

(For far too long, thanks to the influence of our cowardly, Nehru worshipping, pinko commie historians, our collective past has been whitewashed to fit the narrative preferred by the elitist left-liberal scum. Therefore, it is imperative upon all patriotic Indians to fight this menace. As we all know, the only person in our country today with cojones big enough to take on the liberal establishment is none other than Shri Dr. Prof. Narendra Modi TBH IDK. So, to aid him in this noble enterprise, we bring you an extract from his forthcoming non-fiction book about the real history of India, called ‘India Before Modi.’)

Preface: Friends, in this chapter, I would like to talk about India’s fight for independence. As always has been the case in our country, the whole predicament began because of bad leadership. We would’ve successfully driven the British out in 1857 itself if only we had a strong leader, preferably from Gujarat, who knew exactly how to bring the mighty British empire down to its knees. We all know that there are no problems strong leadership cannot solve!

A long, long time ago, in a city that very much resembles today’s New Delhi, there was a king called Bahadur Shah Zafar. He had a palace, a few hundred servants willing to obey all his commands and service his every whim. He was a quiet, non-imposing man, who couldn’t hurt a fly even if he tried. He was old, tired and had no knowledge of statecraft. However, none of this mattered because in essence, he was king in name only. No one really cared about his opinion, except maybe his wife, a few bureaucrats and some misguided leaders of foreign countries. In fact, the real ruler of the city and the rest of the country was a European. The king was simply a puppet, allowed to exist so as to lend a friendly face to the brutal, corrupt dictatorship of foreign rule. We would never let someone like that lead us during the present day, right?

Once the atrocities against the people of the country began to reach unprecedented levels, various Hindu leaders revolted against the foreign hand. These leaders even managed to convince their Muslim brethren to not fall for the pseudo-secularism of the occupying power and made them join in the righteous fight to take back the country. They all got together to drive out the British and even succeeded in removing them from the capital city. The one mistake those bold men (and one token woman nominated by the sleepy town of Jhansi. Can you imagine woman warriors? Ha! What was this, the 15th century? Actually it was the 19th. But I digress!) made was proclaiming Bahadur Shah Zafar as their king. You cannot enjoy the fruits of war without the resultant government having a strong leader at its helm. You need a uniter, not a divider! So, thanks to the rudderless leadership of the self-proclaimed poet king, the British won back and occupied Delhi. Now, usually I don’t agree with the British because that would involve putting myself in someone else’s shoes and strong leaders don’t do that, but even I agree with their action of sending Zafar to live in Bhutan or Nepal or wherever he ended up going. No one really knows where and we have never honestly tried to find out because we really don’t care, you know?

The independence movement didn’t have a strong leader until the emergence of ICONIC BJP STATESMAN Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Fondly referred to as ‘the Narendra Modi of the freedom movement,’ Vallabhbhai was the real reason India got independence when it did. He single handedly drove the British away from India. He was provided help in this endeavour by Mahatma Gandhi, who was another patriotic Gujarati. Gandhiji went all over the world but he came back because he once again wanted to breathe in a little bit of Gujarat. On the sidelines, a Roshan Seth lookalike gave some good speeches and wrote some popular books which helped him inflate his role in the freedom struggle. There were also a few minority leaders who contributed to the freedom movement in their unique way but I don’t want to mention any of their names so as to not appear like I’m favouring any particular community. Strong leaders don’t do that!  

However, I’d like to give a dishonourable mention to the biggest villain of the freedom struggle, retroactive ISI agent M.A. Jinnah. He was the sort of man who believed that only he was the right person to lead his people onto the light. A man who had no compunction in rewriting history to suit his purpose.  A man without empathy whose conscience wasn’t bothered that his actions tore the country apart. A man who was ready to sacrifice as many human lives as it took at the altar of his ambition.

We would never let someone like that lead us during the present day, right?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stuff the Congress Wants the UPA Government to Ban

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

(We were going to write another long screed about how everything is just the absolute worst, but minutes before we were about to begin, an anonymous party insider sent us the following Congress Working Committee Memo which enumerates all the things the party wants the government to ban. So we immediately decided to send this in instead because this scoop is so exclusive that even most of the people it was intended for haven’t seen it yet.)

Dear cherished members of the Gandhi family, honourable prime minister, honourable prime ministerial aspirants, respected elders, treasured friends, esteemed colleagues, and Digvijay Singh,

I write this letter to you in anguish. There has been an onslaught of negativity towards the UPA government. We have been treated very unfairly. Everybody talks about all of the bad things we have done, and not the good thing everyone thought we did but found out later that it was a bad thing too. Since the assembly elections are sort of a semi-final for next year’s general election, we have to take some preventive steps to stop the misinformation campaign against us. Due to this bombardment of dubious information, people are getting the impression that we are corrupt, old, out of our depth and not prepared for the challenges of the 21st century. These untruths about us are probably being spread at the behest of a foreign hand by mischievous elements for the benefit of our political opponents. Clearly, getting bad information is the only reason the people of this country have expressed their desire to vote against us. There is no other possible explanation of why anyone would not think that we’re the greatest thing to happen to the human race since the invention of the ‘Reply All’ button.

So, in the spirit of upholding democracy and freedom, we ask that the central government ban the following:

Opinion polls: Clearly, these unscientific measures of groupthink are biased. And damaging! Look, one of the most important things in this country is other people’s opinion. A large percentage of our population base their lives on projecting the sort of image that everyone around them approves of. People are ready to spend their whole lives living in an unhappy squalor as long as they don’t become the topic of gossip among their friends, relatives and neighbours. People are even peer-pressured into killing their loved ones. Don’t you think they can easily be persuaded to vote for someone on the basis of bogus polls?

Election Symbols of other political parties: I, for one, see no need for any political party that is not led by a member of the Gandhi family. However, thanks to a glaring oversight by our founding fathers, the constitution allows for as many political parties as the people want. The only thing we can do to make people forget that other options exist is to remove or hide anything that reminds them of political parties opposed to us. As they say, absence makes the heart grow amnesic! So, for the next six months, say goodbye to aeroplanes, arrows, bells, bicycles, books, bows, brooms, bulbs, bungalows, corn, chairs, clocks, combs, drums, elephants, flowers, grass, hammers, hand pumps, ink pots, ladders, lady farmers, leaves, lions, lotuses, mangoes, pens, sickles, spades, spectacles, stars, the sun, tractors, and umbrellas.

The News: This is the ground zero of the misinformation campaign. Some so called reporters keep damaging our chances in the election by trying to inform the public. The ‘Modi media’ is quite disrespectful to some of our esteemed leaders. These propagandists show our leaders in a bad light by reporting what they said, verbatim. We will not let them get away with that anymore! So we should get rid of all political news, at least for the next six months. Also, why does the public need to hear about politics anyway? It’s such a complicated business! It probably depresses them, anyway. In my opinion, we should ‘humbly suggest’ to all the news channels they’d be better off by reporting on bollywood shenanigans than making a mountain out of a political molehill.

The Internet: We live in the information age. There is so much information for everyone to process! Something is always blaring at us, demanding our attention. A smorgasbord of things that we absolutely cannot miss! So much to must watch! and do read! that being on the internet can feel like a full time job. Therefore, it is only fair that we limit the number of websites that internet users in India can access. It is just like banning the consumption of illicit drugs or local hooch. It’s doing the people a favour they didn’t ask for! Tough love, etc. As someone suggested in our meeting the other day, printing out the whole internet so we can determine what is or isn’t allowed seems like a good idea. In the interim, we can limit people’s access just to websites that display cricket match scorecards and Sanjay Jha’s Rahul Gandhi slash fiction livejournal.

Remember, we need to convince the people of this country that all these steps have been taken because of legitimate concerns and are not the last gasp of air before the final demise of a craven government.

Jai Hind!



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Welcome to Incredible India!

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

I tried looking out the dusty window to get a look at–what I assumed–was a beautiful scenery, and not just a row of terribly made houses of various proportions. I shifted the weight of the bag to my other leg. There wasn’t any available space for me to put my luggage in the overhead compartment because by the time I reached the train all the empty slots had been occupied by bags belonging to my fellow passengers. Not one to cause any trouble or let such small incidents ruin my adventurous mood, I busied myself with trying to breathe in the atmosphere. It smelt like a communal toilet at an all-male college hostel, but, that is part of the charm of travelling by a train in India.

My mouth watered as I saw the steward distributing trays with packed goodies. The food was here! Finally, some relief for my famished stomach. As he threw the tray at my wobbly, make-shift table with the grace of an orphanage warden from a Charles Dickens novel distributing grub to his most hated wards, I shook my head at this endearing show of familiarity. I took one bite of the unrivalled delicacies placed in front of me and let out a contented sigh. It tasted like it came from home. Specifically, an old people’s home. Because it didn’t have any salt, grain, texture, flavour, or any other qualities that would let us classify it as an item fit for consumption by a living being of any species. As they say, that’s how the cookie crumbles. Or at least I thought that was a cookie?

* * *

Once upon a time, around the early aughts of the current century, the ancients used to share their thoughts with the rest of the world by what a majority of people referred to as ‘a blog.’ Short for weblog, this was quite a popular enterprise for a lot of people: parents wanting to share their experience with other parents, those with a lot of proverbial skeletons in their cupboard looking for an outlet, writers wanting to practice their craft, bar drunks looking for an audience to rant to, people willing to rally against conventional wisdom and those who felt that a certain point of view was being ignored by the mainstream media. The best way to identify a blog run by a person of Indian origin was to look at its title. If it contained either “random” or “confessions” or a Vedic reference, then there was a very high probability of that blog having at least some connection to the subcontinent. 

One of the most frequent occurrences on these blogs (and a meme that is still strangely popular on twitter) was nostalgic posts romanticizing the travel industry in the country. The beautiful sights! The amazing journey! The awkward moment when you realize that you’ve been had!

Travelling to our country is not for those who give up easily. We like to make everything much more difficult to accomplish! Trying to book a train ticket using the Indian Railways website is harder than trying to master bullfighting. The government sites that are supposed to provide information look like their developer hired a time travelling teenager visiting us from the 90’s who is colour blind and has only read the first chapter of ‘The World Wide Web for Dummies’ instruction manual to make them.

Not that privatising everything solves any problem. Most popular destinations now have more food courts than actual visitors. Private resorts think that adding a fancy Urdu word to the end of each menu item raises its value by at least a thousand percent. Try our Singaporean Fried Rice Zafarani, a bowel moment stopping exotic blend of two unique food cultures. Our Chicken Khwabgah has been marinated with flavoured yogurt and slowly roasted over a pit heated by the burning embers of the hopes and dreams that you had for your first born which disappeared the minute you realized that you spent all the money that you had been saving for their college education to pay your bill at our hotel. The mineral water being served with your meal was extracted from the bladder of a unicorn then injected with the weird liquid that turns even those sugar pills homeopathic quacks hand out bitter and then sprinkled with the bacteria living in the hands of your designated server.

Safety isn’t really an issue in our country in that most people don’t have any. Flying with our ‘national airline’ is like playing Russian roulette with five bullets instead of one. Our highways are like storage units for potholes. Most of our public facilities are so unclean that some of them probably still have strains of the smallpox virus embedded in them.

We’re also quite friendly to folks who are not like us. The majority of the people of this country are very accepting of those who are different. That is why they don’t stare and make the visitors feel uncomfortable at all. They don’t even treat them like exotic objects flown in for us to admire or treat with disdain depending on the pigmentation of their skin.

The whole tourism industry seems to be built on fleecing people. From the service providers responsible for transportation, to the officials who deliberately misguide those whom they are supposed to be providing help to, everyone is in on the take. Hey, this person is naive enough to trust us. Let’s stiff them for all they’ve got! In fact, getting fleeced is one of the most essential parts of your experience. Your vacation in India isn’t a success unless you’ve been overcharged, cheated, duped, misled, or taken for a ride at least once.

Now, please excuse me as I try to convince this American billionaire I ran into that he can legally lease the Taj Mahal.