Saturday, October 15, 2011

Love our politicians

I absolutely love our politicians. I have to fall in worship and awe of their egos.
Who else but an Indian politician, a chief minister at that and therefore all-powerful, would build a massive, and I mean MASSIVE, statue of herself in a cathedral-like building that dwarfs the Chartres cathedral.
Of course Mayawati meant this monument to hers dalit self (and two dalit men standing behind her) to be a place of worship. It cost the state’s exchequer a mere 680 crore rupees. One moment while I convert that to US dollars – another mere 151 million USD, I think.
I’ve only seen the photographs of this Mayawati basilica. She stands in front of her edifice and just about reaches her own stone ankle. What I really love too is that her gigantic alter ego carries a huge handbag. It’s hard to get a perspective from a photograph but she looks, in real life, as the same height as her stone bag. What does she, in real life again, carry in this trademark handbag? Money? She needs cash to pay for the auto rickshaw, buy flowers from the roadside seller, a cup of chai too, and to tip the waiter in a dhabba. Or does it hold her makeup kit? Lipstick, powder, rouge, perfume, a comb?
Politicians never carry anything, their chamchas do. Indira didn’t, Sonia and Jayalalithaa don’t carry bags. They have black cats to do that. Besides, politicians never ever need to carry money. It’s a given that they’re LOADED with it, either in India or elsewhere. So why her handbag and what is in it, to return to my puzzlement? To prove her femininity, probably.
We love our statues of our politicians. They sprout, like some deity, in every street corner, square, maidan, traffic roundabout. They’re religious garlanded on their birth and death anniversaries, riots break out if they’re forgotten. At least for Mohandas Gandhi, the statues of him were built, and scattered like confetti all over India, long after he was dead. Now, being dead and statues after is out of fashion. They’re erected while the ‘great’ person is still alive so he or she can garland it, and admire it, while they’re still alive.
Mayawati should read Percy Byshee Shelley’s poem, Ozymandis:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hostile Witnesses

As there seems to be a countless number of ‘hostile witnesses’ wandering around our judicial system today, I thought I’d better find out a bit more about this tribe. One moment a case, years after the event took place, is about to start and the next day I read that someone has become a ‘hostile witness’. I must presume he was a friendly witness before the case started. The people belonging to this category range across from movie stars and accountants to bus drivers and government servants. Obviously, this ‘hostile witness’ disease isn’t a respecter of persons.
I figured a good murder case would be a start. There are enough murders going around to make a dozen good movies. Like a good detective, I tracked down the cop who investigated the murder and interviewed the witnesses. He was sitting at his desk in the Crime department looking very morose. At the same time he was emptying his desk drawers and packing a small case.
‘So you messed up again?’ I said. ‘You got the wrong witness.’
‘Wrong witness!’ he was very sour. ‘This person was sitting three feet away when the killer hacked the victim to death. My witness was so close that some drops of blood fell on his shirt. When I interviewed him three years ago at the time of the crime, he gave a detailed eye witness description of the killer and exactly what happened.’
‘Where did this murder take place?’
‘In a well-known tea kadai at ten o’clock in the morning. The kadai was crowded with tea drinkers, and they all witnessed the murder. After the hacking the killer paid for his tea and walked out. It was an open and shut case.’ He paused dramatically. ‘Except, for one small detail that I hadn’t taken into my investigation.’
‘What was that?’
‘The killer belonged to a political party. Of course then, the party was out of power. Until then, it was open and shut.’
‘Why should that make a difference? A dozen witnesses saw the murder in broad daylight. It was open and shut.’
‘Yes,’ he agreed mournfully. ‘The other problem began when his political party won the election and came to power. You see that changes the whole equation in our judicial system. As long as the party people who committed the crimes are out of power we have open and shut cases against the perpetrators. The moment the party returns to power the whole equation changes. We no longer have open and shut and no witnesses at all.’
‘Where can I find a hostile witness?’
‘Try the tea kadai. They all hang together, bureaucrats, movie stars, auditors, registrars, and bus drivers. It’s called the Hostile Witness tea kadai.’
He rose and picked up his case, giving the shabby office a last fond look around.
‘Are you retiring?’
‘No, I’ve been taken off the case and posted to the Andaman Islands. I’ll have to stay there until the next election, I suppose.’
The tea kadai was just a stone’s throw from our majestic High Court. It was a small, dark place, with barely enough light to illuminate your cup of tea. A dozen or so hostile witnesses shifted uneasily when I sat down among them.
‘Why have you all turned hostile? Once you were such friendly and co-operative witnesses and now you’re furtive as rats.’
‘It’s all very well for you to talk but what can we do,’ the murder witness, a small, worried said. ‘The murd…I mean the gentleman who allegedly killed this other person in this very kadai three years ago came to see me. He was now a ruling party member. He was most polite and asked if I recognised him. When I said ‘yes’, he and ten others came that night and threw stones at my house and threatened my wife and children. So when he came the next morning and asked the same question, I had to honestly reply that I’d never seen him ever in my life.’ He shrugged. ‘And that’s what I said in the witness box.’
‘But there must be some crooks out there who aren’t connected to any political party?’
‘Even if they weren’t connected at the start of their careers, they soon joined a political party. You cannot remain a criminal in this country without being a member of a political party. It’s mandatory now a days. It’s a smart career move for all criminal types. First commit the crime, then join the party, and then get elected. In this way, they can continue to commit crimes.’
‘But what about you movie stars and auditors and bureaucrats? You can call the police for protection, can’t you?’
‘You are an innocent. The police also belong to the ruling party, depending on which party. The ones who belong to the party in opposition don’t have the power to protect us at all. They’ve all been posted to the Andaman Islands.’


DO TERRORISTS make good rulers? I know they are good at terror but do they actually administer the country they have won over by terrorism? Do they feed and educate the people they rule? We know from their latest statements that they love dying while the Americans love living. It is much harder to live than to die.
I have yet to figure out how the Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. I have read countless articles on them but they remain veiled behind their beards and clerical garb. I know they issued edicts frequently. These edicts were terse and mainly had to do with their religious beliefs. Like the edicts that ordered the destruction of the giant statues of the Buddha. The Taliban spent a fair amount of money and ammunition on that exercise, despite the worlds protests. What did that achieve? Did it feed the starving people or give them employment? It was said to be destruction for the sake of the purity of Afghanistan.
Then the Taliban issued other edicts, equally terse but quite terrifying. Men had to grow beards to a certain length. I scanned the articles to discover what length, but they failed to give me the information. So a man could be walking down the street ith a four-inch beard and the Religious Police could whip out a scale, measure it and whip him if it was too short or too long.
Women had been driven behind the veil. They could not work, they could not get an education. They could not leave their homes without the Talibans written permission. According to an eyewitness report, a woman taking her dying child to the nearest hospital was stopped by a Taliban cop. When she pleaded with him that her child was dying and that she did not have a pass, he hit her and tried to drive her back home. She dodged past him and began running, with her child in her arms, to the hospital. The cop shot her in the back and walked away.
Having come to power through a brutal civil war, I have yet to figure out how the Taliban ruled their country. I have not read about a Finance Minister making any economic statements or planning for the future. Was there a Finance Ministry? The Taliban made a lot of their money out of drugs enough to pay for shells and bullets. I know there was a Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but it must have been one of the most under-employed ministries in the world. The only foreign affairs they deal with related to Pakistan.
I had noticed how extremely well-fed the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan was. He looked like he was fed well with naan, butter chicken, lamb kebabs and lassi. In contrast, his compatriots in Kabul looked undernourished and thin. I was surprised they still remained upright. Equally emaciated were the two million refugees in Pakistans various refugee camps. The Taliban, naturally, dened their existence.
Terror and religion have long been bedfellows. The Roman Catholic Church practised its brand of terror the Inquisition in the 13th century. If you were judged a heretic, you were burned at the stake. Such persecution arises out of a sense of deep insec urity and the fear that the prevailing beliefs will be diluted by mans progress. In those days, only the priests were educated and gave their own interpretations of the religious texts. Gradually, through education and the spread of information, they los t this monopoly over knowledge.
Today, Islam is also going through a period of insecurity. It wants to protect its followers from all the contamination of a more powerful culture. The Taliban clerics learn the Koran by heart and are prone to interpreting it whichever way they choose. In India, we have the saffron brigade that also wants to regress to the golden age of Hinduism. If they grab power (as it is attempting), we would have our own version of the Taliban dictating the way we dress and behave.
Change frightens people and our world is constantly changing. Although, at times, it looks as if it is for the worse, huge numbers of people have found a better life than their fathers and grandfathers. And with change they abandon the old ways and take up the new to fit into their increased economic freedom. It is possible that religion becomes less important in their lives.
As Karl Marx wrote: Religion is the opiate of the masses. For those religious fanatics everywhere, it still is.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I have to admit those Chinese are a lot smarter than we Indians are are. We may think we’re on the cutting edge of technology in the IT revolution and smarter than any one else in the world. Our NRIs may be the richest ethnic group in the US and we now have our first Indian dollar billionaire. However, when it comes to making money, the Chinese have us beat easily.
Here we are, doing our level best – within the restrictive parameters of our babus- to make a fast buck. We’re selling shoes, brains, spices, cloth and whatever else we can lay our hands on. We’re begging those rich foreign tourists to visit the Taj Mahal, stay in a Rajasthan Palace and sun bathe in Goa. All for what? It costs us money to advertise these attractions in Harper’s Bazaar and The New York Times.
What we don’t know is that we’re sitting on a gold mine. We have 400-odd million of our wonderful citizens living below the poverty level and we’re just not exploiting them properly. That’s where the Chinese are smarter than us. They’re now arranging guided tours for the rich tourists to visit and see how the poor live. Each tour costs $35 for a city slum and a lot more for a rural poverty tour.
Now don’t you think that’s clever? Sell the poor as a tourist attraction. We have worse slums than the Chinese can boast about. Just stroll through any Indian city and you’ll see slums that will make a Chinese tour guide’s mouth water with envy. We can boast of sewage water for drinking (that’s if they’re a rich slum), non-existent drainage, no sewage (apart from drinking), no schools, skinny people, no lighting, slush and garbage everywhere. At $30 a head (we should undercut the Chinese as this is a very competitive age) we could show them kids working in sweat shops – if they’re lucky- or in surroundings that make sweat shops look like paradise, men drunk in despair, women with too many children and all of them living on a diet of a handful of rice and kanji.
That’s only for openers. Just imagine how much money we could make off the tourists by guiding them around Bihar or Orissa or any one of our extremely poor states. Stop the air-conditioned bus. Jump off and see people eating boiled leaves, men women and children illiterate in this 21st century. See the Dalits. Now that’s something the Chinese don’t have. We could charge $75 a head for the rich tourist to see how Dalits are treated in some villages. In fact, I’m sure the Thakurs or others could put on a show of gunning them down.
I was wondering why the Chinese were having such success with their ‘See the poor’ tourist attraction. Of course, the rich have no idea how the poor live. Admittedly, most of the tourists were Americans but Americans do have a greater curiosity than other nationalities. So here they are in China, having flown business or first, staying in a five star, looking at the Great Wall and other sites. Then what? Back for a dumpling dinner? They want to know whether the poor eat dumplings, have American Express Gold cards, shop in Rodeo Drive and eat McDonalds or McChinese.
I know our slums appall tourists coming to India. But that’s because they don’t know them, haven’t lived in one, chatted to a starving man, drunk filthy water (or watch others drink as we don’t want to jeopardise their health and lose their money). We must copy the Chinese. Don’t let our tourists sink back into air-conditioned rooms in the Taj hotel, whip them out on a tour of the poor.
They’ll love our poor; it will be the last great adventure. They’ll take snaps, go back, and tell their friends in Ohio about how awful and ugly Indian poverty is. This is far better than hearsay and TV documentaries. On top of that, we coin money showing off our poor. Naturally, we won’t give the poor the tourist dollars, this would ruin them totally and might even uplift them. Just think what our politicians would do if they couldn’t spout ‘uplift the poor’ in every speech.
I believe we should test out our new tourist attraction as soon as possible so that we can start coining the money. What’s the point of showing foreigners hi-tech India? They have higher tech back home in his toilet.
No, our leaders should have him inaugurate our new ‘visit the poor’ tourists programme and charge them $35. And the rest of us will get rich quick.

Monday, May 9, 2011


From: The Lok Sabha.
Dear Constituent,
As your elected representative to the Lok Sabha, I am aware that you do not have a high opinion of us politicians. We may give the impression that we’re in this political business only to disagree, sometimes violently by throwing chairs and microphones and storming the well, with the ruling party. As members of the opposition, our job is to oppose whatever the ruling party proposes, whether the proposal is good for the nation or not is beside the point. Otherwise, there would be no need for an opposition party. When the ruling party is in opposition, they will perform the same role when we’re the ruling party.
However, I am delighted to inform you that for once in our long history of political conflicts, all the political parties are in total agreement. I wish to point out that such harmony has never been witnessed before in the Lok Sabha and I am certain you will be proud of your parliament and the smooth functioning of the democratic process.
I write only to explain to you why we – all the members of the Lok Sabha – so strongly oppose any electoral reforms. First of all , to be frank as I know you will understand such things being an Indian voter, I am not in this political business to serve you or the nation. I might give that impression during an election but I know that you do not believe a word I speak and you are there only to support my ambitions. Politics is about making money, even as business – an industrialist or a shopkeeper is also about making money. If it weren’t for the vast amounts of money there for the taking, why would any sane human being enter the political arena? I ask you.
My sole purpose, as you well know, is to make money swiftly as possible. Five years is a very short time to make enough money for me, my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. I cannot leave so many generations destitute and I will be long remembered by my descendants and given thanks for great foresight that they can lead lives of luxury and comfort.
You are very aware, having read the lies in the newspapers, that I have a 150 criminal cases pending against me in various courts. Among my colleagues in the Lok Sabha I am known as the ‘King of Courts’, while they’re mere princelings and petty zamindars in our courts. Some of them have only four or five criminal cases pending against them, which shows how they lack ambition to greatness.
I began my political career as a petty criminal – theft and extortion . While in prison, I was recruited into politics by my party leader who was also in prison on politically motivated charges for corruption. He was my guru who pointed out that there was more money to be made in politics than in owning an oil well. He needed my criminal mind and contacts to build up the party, so we became partners in politics. And through sheer will power, I rose up the ranks, committing murders and performing corrupt deed to magnificent proportions.
I am truly the embodiment of the Indian Dream – to amass as much wealth and power without performing any creditable deeds. But that’s why so many are eager to enter politics. Believe me, it’s not cheap getting a ticket to a ruling or major opposition party. It costs lakhs, sometimes a crore or two, and then we have to spend on our elections. By the time we reach the Lok Sabha or a State Assembly, we’re in deep debt. How else to pay off this debt? And then, further, how else to accrue as much as possible as, no doubt, in five years time, you will throw me out of my lucrative office.
You must understand now why all the political parties in the Lok Sabha oppose any electoral reforms. I began with nothing except a petty criminal record and lived in a hovel. Today I am worth crores and crores. Tell me, is it your business how much money I have? Making money is all luck and it was my luck to enter politics. Why should I reveal my bank accounts, properties, stocks, shares, benami properties. Now, I pay no income tax. What will happen, I ask, once all these acquired assets are revealed to everyone’s gaze? Income tax will demand their share of my hard-earned wealth. I don’t ask you how much money you have or how you got it. I firmly believe – as the American people do too – that this is an invasion of privacy.
I trust you will, like us all, strong oppose any electoral reforms. We know, at the end of the day, they will be easily subverted (our Indian minds are experts at this) and this process is just a waste of our time. We have better things to do – like making money.
Yours Sincerely, Gulabjaman-ji, Member of the Lok Sabha.

Friday, April 29, 2011


As you may have heard Prince William waited for the my arrival in London to announce his engagement to Kate Middleton. They had a nine year relationship, and when William called me for advice, I told him ‘Go for it. England needs a big tamasha.’ When I got to London I called to congratulate William on his decision, as we knew he was doing it for the flag, The Queen and the British economy. Kate, or the future Queen Kate as she is now known, is a beautiful woman and the media just can’t get enough of her. We’re told she is middle class, whatever that may mean in the British class system.
The whole media rejoiced when they heard the news and bells rang out across the length and breadth of this emerald Isle. The British PM interrupted a discussion on the ailing economy to let allow three cheers in the cabinet room. In print, television and the radio, every pundit who could be hauled out of the pub, discussed the engagement and the coming marriage today. They all agreed that the wedding, like the one between Prince Charles and Diana, will bring in millions of tourists to witness this splendid spectacle. And millions of tourists mean many more million pounds spent on hotels, hot dogs, flags, souvenir mugs and quaff beer. The sagging economy and the sagging spirits of the British empire, or what’s left of it, will be uplifted by the sight of the young handsome couple sitting in a golden carriage and accompanied by the horseguards with their golden helmets and breast plates. The last royal wedding also took place when the British spirits and the economy was on a low, and we all know what happened to tha marriage.
I have to admit the British are very good at mounting spectacles. They have that down to a fine art – colourful horsemen, soldiers with bearskin hats and marching bands. We learned from them on how to mount colourful spectacles but we only do that on Republic Day. I do believe we have the untapped potential to make better use of our splendid army uniforms, bands, camel corps, elephant parades and our natural love of a big tamasha.
Now, what we need to bring this together is a royal wedding. I know there was one recently when a Rajasthan royal married another royal and it was covered by the world media as Mick Jagger and Bono were in the guest list. I doubt those two spent the millions that the British hope their royal wedding will generate.
We do have a much more important royal family – an Indo-Italian one – and what we need is a grand wedding for the young, or not so young, prince who still remains single. Prince William found his Kate and I am praying that Rahul will find his mate soon. Once he does, we can then learn from the Brits how to stage a royal wedding. They have Westminister Abbey and BuckinghamPalace we have the Raj Bhavan and that awe inspiring sweep up to it. We too have carriages, now only used for the President to travel in, and it can be the wedding carriage. So the couple start their regal drive from there and end up in the Red Fort which now is wasted with boring speeches by a PM on Indpendence Day. They’ll wave from the rampants to the adoring masses. I am certain once the wedding is announced, our media, especially TV, will make it an event that will put President Obama’s visit in the shade. There will be hysteria and second by second updates of the happy couple.
And, ofcourse, millions of tourists will line the drive to wave Indian flags, spend millions of rupees, buy souvernirs of the happy couple on lotas, and drink as much Black Label as they can.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Influence distorts our daily lives. It demeans and belittles our efforts. It’s not insidious but blatant. The laws are bent and twisted so as to allow our polticians to get away with murder, rape and extortion; our industrialists to scamming thousands of crores out of our pockets, with the connivance of the concerned ministries.
Influence gets you what you do not deserve. It gravitates, like water down a hill, to the rich. Political influence is of course the most powerful and the most coveted of all influences. We see it at work daily. It distorts, twists and mangles all the laws of our land, making them meaningless. Influence helps the politicians to escape retribution for their, to put it mildly, misdeeds. We see it at work in the Prime Ministers office and all the way down to the Panchayat level. Ministers, with FIRs against them and court judgements hanging over them are forgiven and embraced like naughty children. No matter that men have died in the course of the minister’s transgression and the nation’s future placed in jeopardy.
We all know that the guilty minister will threaten to resign. This is to impress his gullible public that he is a man or honour and high morality. Of course he knows, and we know, that if he has the right influence with those in power, his resignation will not be accepted. In Japan, when a minister is disgraced, being honourable men, they may occasionally commit hara-kiri. It’s fortunate that such an extreme form of self punishment does not exist in our country. If it did, most of our politicians would dead and gone.
Some ministers commit murder and that it’s just by sheer chance, because their party lost power, they are investigated. We’re fortunate they have reached the investigation stage at all. We all know, without any doubt, there will not be a prosecution, a trail and a guilty verdict. The course of justice doesn’t flow that smoothly if you have influence, it gets lost somewhere in the alleys and by-ways of lethargy. It’s only a matter of time before his party wins back power, the case is closed and the minister reinstated with all his pomp and glory. If his party had not lost power there wouldn’t have even be this minor hiccup in his life.
Of course, we’re all guilty of trying to use our influence with those who hold such influence in our lives. We actively conspire with them to change the course of our social and legal system for our benefit. We believe our laws are elastic; they can be stretched for our special sakes. If we drive through a red light and the police book us, we try to intimidate him through our influence with the local MLA, an assistant commissioner of police or the Chief Minister. If the names fail to impress him we always resort to the bribe, which usually does. We use influence to get our child into school or university, we use influence to get a job, and we use influence to evade taxes. We also use influence in a court of law to get a judgement that was against us over-turned. That’s if we’re fortunate enough to be in the position to influence the right people.
The poor, of course, have no such influence. For them, the law is the law, no matter how twisted out of shape it has become for them. They don’t even have the influence to get their daily necessities of food and clean water. They don’t have the influence to escape their poverty, they don’t have the influence to free themselves from the humiliation of bonded labour, and they don’t have the influence to squeeze justice out of a system far from their reach.
We all hear our politicians pronounce that ‘the law will take its course’. They don’t tell us which course. That depends on their influence.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

GADDAFI and Company

I am seriously considering applying for a job as a dictator. The pay is pretty good, you chose your own working hours, you get any number of freebees and you do not pay income tax. Of course the downside, and there is always a downside to any good job, is that you have people gunning for you. I could live with that. It could not be any worse than driving in India where the gods dice with your fate every moment you are on the road.
Fortune magazine publishes its list of the world’s richest people annually. Naturally, Gates and Buffet tops it again, legitimately, with mere $40 billions. I figure this must make him richer than many nations. I skipped the names lower down, as they were loose change to Bill Gates. Fortune also publishes a list of the richest dictators. I am not certain how accurate their figures are but they certainly made interesting reading.
I wondered whether Fortune sends out a form to the dictators, like the ones you get from credit card companies soliciting your patronage. There is always a column ‘Tell us about your profession and income’. Are dictators self-employed or are they employed by the State? I guess they will tick the CEO box, as it is tough getting a platinum credit card if you are self-employed. I am sure they must ponder a long time over the income box. How will they tick those boxes? Real Estate? – the whole country. That is not chump change. Other assets? – everything in the country, dams, power stations, roads, railways, tanks, fighter jets. They would have to add an extra sheet to complete the list. Number of people employed in your company? – the whole population, including the ones in prison. How many four wheelers? – lost count. The name of your bank and account number? Now, I wonder how they answer that. They must use, again, a separate sheet of paper to name all the banks and total up how much each bank holds. What about the ‘last income tax filed’ question. At this point, I figure they send in their Gestapo to deal with the stupid questioner and sling him into their private prisons.
According to Fortune, President Fidel Castro is worth $110 millions. My admiration for the man only increases at his moderation. He had been in power in Cuba for nearly 50 years. This works out to an annual salary of $2.2 millions a year! You could not hire any CEO for that kind of small change. The big guys in GE, GM pull in forty to fifty million dollars a year, and that is not including stock options and other perks. And all they have to do is run a corporation and not a complex nation that has been living under the guns and missiles and blockades of the United States.
Now you may say Cuba is not exactly the richest nation in the world. However, compare Castro’s fortune against the ex-President Hosni Mubarak who has stashed away 70 billion dollars during his 30-year-old rule of the country. Did you know that his pin stripped suits cost around $25,000 dollars because the stripes are his name ‘Hosni Mubarak’. Now, that’s an admirable ego.
There are other dictators in the Fortune list. They include the embattled Gaddafi, whose worth is around 300 billion dollars.
However, what I am waiting for is for the Fortune investigation team to descend on India. They would have a field day. Mubarak’s 70 billion and Gaddafi’s 300 billion would look like peanuts compared to what our democratically elected leaders have stashed away in bank vaults across the world. Every Chief Minister of his or her State lives like a dictator. They have the same style of functioning – the armed guards, the fawning acolytes, the motorcades, the gangsters imposing the dictator’s will, a compliant police force, a rubber stamp bureaucracy. Every five years they have to stand for elections and, in many states, it is a mere formality for them to continue their rule. In some States, a new Dictator is formally elected and he or she quickly falls into the same pattern of rule as their predecessor.
The only difference between India and those other nations is that we elect our dictators and allow them to rule for five years and loot our treasury. Unfortunately, our leaders do not have the same sense of moderation as a Fidel Castro.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I love the sayings of brain dead politicians and demented dictators. The statements that they give to the press are a camaflouge for what they really mean. So, having an insatiable curiosity to discover the meaning behind those mis-leading words, I had to ask them what they thought. I flew into Cairo, after I heard President Hosni Mubarak, tell his people that he would not stand for elections again and that he was needed for the stability of Egypt.
‘What did you want to say exactly?’ I asked him in a private interview.
‘Over my dead body. I’m not going to give up all this juicy power just because people are fed up of my 30 year rule. I will stay another 30 years and I will outlive all those protesters. They can return to their grinding poverty as it’s no business of mine how they live as long as my family and I can make our billions. In the next election, my party will win 99 per cent of the seats and my thugs will beat up everyone who doesn’t vote for me.’
From Cairo, I took a flight over to Harare where President Mugabe had announced that Zimbabwe will soon be holding fresh elections. The present-shared-power-deal with Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara was not working and for the sake of upholding the democratic ideals of Zimbabwe and for stability of the country a new election will ensure a prosperous Zimbabwe.
‘I have been in power over 30 years,’ he told me in private. ‘I will not share my power with anyone else as they won’t let me do what I want to do. So it’s best to get rid of them. And I’m not about to walk out just because the people are suffering and Zimbabwe is flat broke. I have my palaces and wives to keep up. In the new elections I’ll have the whole opposition in jail and my party will party will win 99 per cent of the seats. I’ll make damn sure of that this time.’
From there I flew directly to Naypydaw (try saying that after a couple of drinks and jet lag), the new capital of Myanmar. The Generals had just held democratic elections in the country but to become a member of parliament, you need not to win any election. The government announced that the new president is a civilian, the first one in 50 years. ‘This proves we’re a democratic country now with civilian rule,’ a statement said.
‘Of course nothing has changed,’ President Thein Sein said, wearing his suit and tie. ‘I was a general and will always be a general and we have no intention of ever giving up power and all our perks just because the rest of the world wants us to be democratic. I wear a suit in the office but at home I relax in my military uniform with all its medals.’
In Delhi, the city which holds the Guinness book of Records for ‘100 scams a minute’, I met the PM who had announced that on all these scams, ‘The Law will take its course.’ You will notice that this is an incomplete sentence; it stops short of explaining what it means.
‘What I mean is that the law will take its course and by then the people will have forgotten which course and which scam,’ the PM told me.
In Tamilnadu the CM also stated. ‘The law will take its course.’
‘What I mean is that the law will take its course and avoid prosecuting anyone involved in the 2G scam and every other scam here,’ the CM said to me.
In Maharashtra the CM told me: ‘What I mean is that the law will take its course in about 100 years.’
See how lucky we are living in a democratic country. I didn’t really need to tell you what they meant, did I?. You already knew.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Dear Congress Party,
I don’t know whether you’ve been following the international news recently. Probably not as you’ve enough problems with domestic politics and your multi-scams. Just to bring you up to speed, a couple of weeks ago the Tunisians, who had had enough of their president, Zine al-Abidin Ben Ali, revolted against his 30-odd year rule. Apart from rising prices and repression, they were also fed up with his corruption. Now, something like this had never happened before and old Ben Ali was in a state of shock. His police shot a few people to keep them quiet and when that didn’t work, he took the hint and skipped the country. His wife too skipped away, taking along with her about 30 billion dollars worth of gold bars in her private ‘shopping’ jet.
Every dictator in the Middle East held their collective, corrupt breaths. They were sure that this sort of disruptive behaviour by the people against their leader would not cross the borders into their countries. Unfortunately, anger is contagious. No one ever expected the Egyptians, a most placid people, would also revolt against their president Hosni Mubarak. He too has been in power for 30 years and is as corrupt as Ben Ali. The Egyptians, to everyone’s surprise, took to the streets, demanding the end of the 82-year-old President’s repressive rule. Posters of Mubarak and his son, Gamel, the heir apparent, were burned. Every corner of Egypt, it seems, has risen up to cast off their iron chains.
No doubt, this contagious idea of overthrowing dictatorships will soon spread to the other Middle East nations. We’re going to soon see many leaders skipping their countries in their private jets for safer locations, along with as much gold as they can carry, and their Swiss Bank accounts as a cushion against future hardship.
Now, you may think what have all these revolutions in foreign countries to do with us here in India? There are very close similarities. One family ruled those countries for 30 years; one family has ruled your party for over 60 years. Isn’t it about time that the peasants in the Congress Party rebelled against this one family’s rule? For a party that preaches democracy, you certainly don’t practice it within the party and have allowed one family to dictate who rules it. And through your obedience to this family, they rule a nation. A good revolution within will purge your party of the family and open it up for younger, hopefully not so corrupt, brighter minds than those in power at this time. You will be rejuvenated as a party by getting rid of all those ancient, brain-dead people and their chamchas, and find a new, exciting role for yourself in the country.
You will worry that, with this revolution, what will happen to your ruling family if it has to skip the country, like Ben Ali and his. Believe me, they’ll be just fine. I read recently that a serious Swiss magazine reported back in 1991 that your crown prince, Rahul, had 2.5 billion dollars in his bank account there. With interest over the last 20 years, he’ll be worth about nine or ten billion dollars. I know this doesn’t match the Ben Ali’s fortune but the family will still live very comfortably for a few generations on this amount. And, the best part, they won’t have to find shelter in Saudi or any of these other Gulf States. They could buy a villa on Lake Como, next to the American movie Star, George Clooney, and his pals. Or even a palazzo in Venice, if they prefer a sea facing palace or an apartment on Park Avenue. Maybe, they already own such real estates but I’m not aware of this.
Once you free yourself from this one family rule, this internal revolution will inspire the Indian people to take your party more seriously. We may even vote for you again.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Old Rajah

Old Rajah
Once upon a time (this means it isn’t true) there was a Rajah who wanted to live happily ever after. He had been ruler of his state for decades, but not continuously. Every few years a usurper would attack his kingdom, wrestle him off the gadi and send him into exile. Then, he girded his loins, gathered his army and marched back into the capital to reclaim his gadi, sending the usurper into exile. This happened quite frequently and confused his subjects who only wanted to get on with their lives without these constant wars for the gadi. However, they knew that whichever person sat on the gadi, their lives would not change. They would be thrown a few scraps (called sops) to keep them quiet, while the one on the gadi enjoyed life to the fullest, along with their many courtiers.
As it was the custom in those days, the Rajah had a few wives. No one knew how many exactly as this was a palace secret. Of course, the wives had children as wives are bound to do. So he had a few sons and daughters to look after, apart from the wives and his courtiers. But the Rajah was getting older and older, and he began to worry about how he was going to care for his progeny who were demanding that they too rule the state.
The Rajah loved power very much and was reluctant to share it with anyone, even his kids. When they grew more insistent, as they knew that one day the old Rajah could again lose the gadi, he agreed to divide up his kingdom. He appointed one son as the Prince Regent who sat on his right side wherever he went so that the citizens could see whom he favoured to take his place, should he die. He didn’t believe this would happen to him for, as he grew older, he felt stronger and stronger. To another son, he granted a portion of his kingdom far from the capital. The sons were half brothers and their mothers were very possessive and jealous ladies. Each one wanted their child to have the whole kingdom to himself instead of sharing.
The Rajah, being a wise man, knew half a kingdom was better than no kingdom at all. This made sure that the two sons had a goodly income to support them in the lifestyles they had grown accustomed to when their father was on the gadi. The Rajah also had a daughter whom he loved very much and seeing her half brothers getting halves of the kingdom, she wanted her share too. His favourite cousins also wanted a piece of the half. But there were no halves left to give them so the Rajah sent them all as his ambassador to the Maharajah’s court very far away in the hope they would be happy. And keep quiet.
In the Maharajah’s court there would be even more pomp, ceremony and riches for any ambassador. Having disposed of his quarrelsome progeny the Rajah thought he could now live a quiet and peaceful life on his gadi. So, for a while, the family was at peace too. The kids enjoyed their bounty to the fullest and so did their courtiers. The son who was Crown Prince went everywhere with his father in his chariot and the citizens saw how devoted he was to the old Rajah.
However, sons being sons and daughters being daughters the children were not happy with their presents. They were like any family’s typical kids. They were greedy and they wanted what the other one had. They began to quarrel among themselves first and then with the old Rajah, demanding he get rid of the other kids. And so the old Rajah’s peace and quiet was shattered and he couldn’t live happily ever after.