A figure—a luminous figure that was—moved through a swirling haze of blue steam, ambling on in a seamless slow motion through a passage created by a long but strong chain of policemen; a throng of agitated bodies swayed ceaselessly behind this chain.
He smiled a wide and generous smile like a Kathakali performer, and, after a brief pause in which he took a deep breath to ease his jetlag, he raised his white arm and slowly opened his fist, letting out a cascading stream of orangish luminescence from the middle of his palm.
“Babaji ki?” someone cried out.
“Jai!” pat came the response of the crowd. The uproarious and sweating and swaying crowd repeated the slogan several times, with such intense and blithe zealotry that a whole host of passing brown sparrows sank to the ground.
Baba smiled and nodded in approval, and, as a mark of gratitude and reward, he tapped the thin air with his open fist, thrice—ceremoniously.
With the last of the voices in the crowd trailing off, he said in his rich baritone, “Mitron, we all have one and only one master, and he is?”
“Modi, Modi, Modi, Modi, Modi!” The crowd went into a wild frenzy.
Astride a large hulking bull, the Baba waved at the crowd, leaving the place; people’s visages had turned glazing amber and their unceasing mouths had started to churn bubbling orangish froth now. The posse of cautious policemen followed the Baba on the bull, securing its wobbling stately march with their flashing orange lightsabers; they looked as awe-inspired and bemused as the crowd they were managing. This whole moment was transcendental in its nature and scope, from which everybody present there—from the common people to the uncommon ones—scooped a spoonful of lunacy.
Baba was taken to the home minister’s office where he sat on a large leather chair of the home minister.
“Baba, you know,” said the minister, “we are fighting seditious leftists in our universities, please give us some suggestion, an effective remedy against them”.
Baba closed his brown eye, while keeping the grey one open. He thought for a moment. When the moment was over, he pressed his mouth tight and opened it to say, “Don’t worry, mantriji, I will give you a wrought-iron remedy against these anti-nationals.”
The police commissioner, the solicitor general, the home secretary, the intelligence chief, the chief of chaddis, the chaddi general, the chaddi secretary, and a few more chaddis made up his rapt audience in the room. And they were all waiting patiently for the Baba’s remedy. Some of them, in their fleeting reveries, had already started building up Groß-Rosens, Auschwitz-Birkenaus, Vorkutlags and Kalapanis for the multitudes of deserving candidates—ideally clothed in kurtas and jeans.
“Ban their language,” said the Baba, suddenly.
“Language? But Baba, these lefties speak different languages, which language are you talking about?”
“Ban the seditious language.”
“Which language Baba? English, you mean?” The chief of chaddis was elated at the thought of such prospect. In his head, he imagined Macaulay as an ogre who danced with a cloven hoof at the menacing demand of a trident.
“No, Urdu. Ban the seditious Urdu language.”
A silence, a thoughtful silence followed. The audience looked at each other with a sly smile, and then, at the end of an apparently telepathic consensus, the home minister asked, “But for what particular reason, Baba?”
“Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Habib Jalib, Shakir Parveen, yes, these are the culprits, they are the ones on whom the anti-nationals feed on; it is these rabble-rousing versifiers who have turned these leftists into lunatics, into crazed radicals, into anti-nationals, into anti-development, into anti-Adaniji, into anti-Ambaniji, into anti-Vedanta and into anti-whatever you like.”
“Urdu hatao, Desh bachao!” the chaddi general, in a sudden burst of excitement, cried out.
Nobody knows what transpired inside their minds that suddenly everybody followed him and raised their clenched fists in the air and sing-songed: “Urdu hatao, desh bachao! Urdu hatao, desh bachao!” Up on the wall the portrait of Sir Herbert Baker, who, a century ago, had designed this room, trembled and his old face drooped like a painter whose most famous painting had been stolen by petty burglars.
The Baba addressed the audience in a passionate but measured tone of a wise sage: “Mahaguru Modiji has set out a noble mission for this country which he calls ‘Make in India’. It is a generous invitation to friendly foreign companies to have a grand feast with us in our rich courtyard. They will come, they will make things and everything will be Balle Balle!”
The audience chuckled on this humorous turn in Baba’s otherwise solemn speech, but he continued, “That does not mean we don’t know how to make things. We have been making a lot of things also, no? But given our ingrained predilection for not thinking beyond the confines of the lofty northern mountains and the expansive southern oceans, we couldn’t make anything exportable other than peppery samosas and half-hearted patriots called IIT graduates. So, as things stand now, I want to add my own humble contribution to this noble mission. I call it ‘Go Mad, India.’”
After an idiosyncratic brief pause in which he took a deep breath to ease his inner snuffling, Baba continued, “The idea is simple: we have to launch a full-fledged war and for that I will tell Madhumatiji—”
“Smriti,” one of the chaddis corrected him.
“Oh sorry, yes Manusmriti—”
“Smriti Irani, Babaji, Smriti Irani”, the chaddi general said, with subdued annoyance.
“Iraqi, Irani whatever, she should keep a significant budget for our cloning project.”
“Cloning project? For what, Babaji?”
“Moorakh, how else are you going to win this war? We need many more Arnabs in many more news channels.”
“That is a great idea, Babaji, really a great idea.” A swift current of exhilaration and thrill travelled through their bodies. “We will shut all those Lefty and Congressi mouths and if that Togadia didn’t stop badmouthing our Mahaguru Modi we will tell all our cloned Arnabs to declare him an anti-national as well, and then—bingo!” The chaddi secretary shot an imaginary fire with his two fingers and quite dramatically blew out the imaginary smoke curling out of his cuticles.
Babaji, Babaji, now please, please tell us how to deal with these bloody Dalits?” said the perked-up minister, almost pleadingly.
“That is quite easy. Just remove all the ceiling fans from the hostel rooms.”
“But why ceiling fans? Ours is a hot country and we need fans!”
“You see, you don’t understand how these Dalits illegally use these taxpayer-funded ceiling fans to commit suicide and provoke protests and trouble.”
“Oh I see!” said the minister. Others hummed in unison, their mouths lingeringly arrested by the gaping letter O in which one could easily insert a finger.
When all the points generously suggested by the Baba had been noted down, the minister took a long heavy breath, swiftly rubbed his hands, checked around the room and the faces and then cleared his throat to ask, in the guarded tone of a punk negotiating with a jeweller, “You know Babaji, we have this problem…Kashmir.” He took a cautious glance at the audience, who had ceased their humming the moment this word was uttered, and continued, “What to do about it, Babaji?”
“Hmmm.” The Baba heaved a strange sigh, closed his bi-coloured eyes for the first time in his life, and heaved it once more and then there was a silence. The audience that had pressed their clasped hands to their navels and become almost numb in their eagerness stayed motionless.
“Babaji?” The minister gently poked Baba’s belly to wake him up. The audience stirred to life and at once started to poke at his flabby body parts with their fingers.
The doctors declared him brought dead.
Soon after the secret meeting at the home minister’s office, the government went into swift and extensive action to purge the seditious Urdu language and its seditious poetry and cleanse the libraries and bookstores around India of its last traces. Even Lucknow mushairas and poetry competitions at AMU and other suspicious places were banned. Even Daryaganj’s old, gentle Urdu booksellers were forced to switch merchandise and sell—mandatorily—Chetan Bhagat novels and the autobiography of fire-eating news anchor Arnab Goswami, The Only Nationalist: The Story of I, Me and Myself.
And then one fine hour, when the city was quiet and slumbering in the wee hours of night, a voice came from the centre of the universe. When people raised their drowsy heads to listen to it carefully, Dhoomil was singing in the distance.
First published in Kindle Magazine on March 2, 2016: http://kindlemag.in/a-spoonful-of-lunacy/