An Absolutely Unreliable History of India

Sixty four years ago, our countrymen awoke to unbridled joy and hope, which was quickly followed by anger and despair when they found out that it was a dry day. But we’ve made some great strides since then. We’ve gone from being a nation ruled by parasitic tyrants, to a nation that offers its people the freedom to elect their own parasitic tyrants.

So on this special day, let’s relive some of the key events that shaped Independent India, beginning with the partition.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Partition. Various versions exist and various entities have been blamed, including the British, the Congress and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had perhaps foreseen Coke Studio India and wanted nothing to do with it.

According to the Indian version, Jinnah, having realised that he would never become Prime Minister here, stormed off and took a country with him. This is like the snotty cricket buddy every kid had, who, upon getting out, would leave in a huff, taking the only bat with him.

Another landmark event was the setting up of the first IIT, at Kharagpur in 1951. This was followed by six other IITs, which provided generations of Indian men with the ultimate pick-up line: “Hey baby, I’m an IIT-ian. Wanna take me home to your parents?”

In 1961, India became one of the first members of the Non-Aligned movement, which was like the peace-loving hippie of political organisations. We were being wooed by the biggest superpowers in the world, and this is how it went:

USA: Join us, and we’ll defeat Russia together! Then we’ll get rich selling our stories to the History Channel!

USSR: Join us, and we’ll defeat America together! Plus we’ve got vodka!

India: Uhhh, y’know what, I think I’ll just chill with my buds Yugoslavia and Ghana. Maybe do some farming, be groovy and just like, peace out man. Anyway, capitalism’s gonna be dead soon, so like, yeah.

This was all part of our affair with what is now derided as “Nehruvian socialism”, and unlike most affairs, it had all the excitement and passion of a post-lunch PWD office in Saharanpur. From the 50s to the 80s, our growth stagnated at about 3.5%. On the bright side, socialism worked wonders for the kajal, jhola and ethnic jewellery industries.

Then we had the 1971 Indo-Pak war, which led to the liberation of East Pakistan and East Bengal, or as it’s called now, “that place where the bai comes from.”

A few years later, in 1975, we had to contend with the draconian Emergency. Civil liberties were suspended, dissenters were locked up and free speech was shot down with a vengeance. Overenthusiastic patriots should note that this is the closest we’ll ever come to being like China.

Let’s move on to the ’80s, which are important because that’s when my generation arrived into a world where babies did not have Facebook pages. We are the last generation to know that phones could actually make for great bludgeoning devices. We are the last generation to have manually rewound audio cassettes and thankfully, we are the last generation to have seen what grown women look like in frocks.

The transformation began in 1991, when India’s reserves had dipped to 1.2 billion dollars, or about one Mayawati Garland. Dr. Manmohan Singh, then free from the responsibility of managing a scam factory, swooped in with reforms and saved the day. If there was ever a Roadies for economists, Manmohan Singh would win hands down.

Cut to now, when India is a great brand ambassador for dichotomy. We’ve got broadband, but most people online are astoundingly idiotic. We’ve got supermodels flaunting the starving-farmer look. We’ve discovered water on the moon, but we’re still arguing about whose God put it there.

So clearly, there’s a lot to be done. As Indians, we owe it to ourselves to go out there and do it. Really, it’s time we stop complaining, get off our butts and buy booze before the wine shops shut. Jai Hind.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 14th August 2011)


42 responses to “An Absolutely Unreliable History of India

  1. I loved. How funny ARE you.

  2. wonderful as ever. You are great, hats off.

  3. Enjoyed thoroughly….Hilarious and philosophical both at one go…while buying yourself a booze don’t forget to pack an extra Kingfisher for me too..really busy and don’t know whether i would make it before the dry day begins….A great Piece Sirji …all said and done..

  4. r u tryin to copr ‘history of india Vwritten’ by Veer Das..?? with obviously diff presentation…it was funny n nice btw.

  5. Just brilliant. Have been reading all your work for the past month. Quite astonishing. And thanks for reminding bout the dry day tomorrow 🙂

  6. Dammit…need to run…tomo is a dry day

  7. Sign my shirt.

  8. Brilliant stuff, I just hope INDIATV doesn’t accuse you of spreading falsifying facts about Indian history. And Facebook baby pages.

  9. Well written! I think you hit several things spot on, humorously and (un)reliably so! 🙂

  10. Subhanallah!
    May you win a lifetime supply of conditioner! Also, may your woman-to-be have all the characteristics of a bubble-wrap… Yes.

  11. Awesome. You should write for Rediff.

  12. Nice write up.
    You could’ve expanded a bit. Wrote about numerous other things. This is more like wanted-to-write-more-but-theresa-400-words-limit

  13. Incredible Stuff on Incredible India

  14. Very well written. Now only if Sonia was more like Raghu, we will hv another great season.

    Keep writing. Cheers

  15. And thus started the culture of Jamaakhori 2.0, ie, stocking booze an evening before! 😀

  16. another good one from you…. !!!
    Keep it up !!! 🙂

  17. “…which was quickly followed by anger and despair when they found out that it was a dry day.”
    Probably my favorite line in the article 🙂 Great stuff.

  18. Absolutely hilarious 😀

  19. HAHA. I just love your blog, wonder why you’ve gotten so infrequent ;).
    I like the ” like a PWD office post lunch in Saharanpur”. Spot on!

  20. It can’t get better than this 😛 .. Hilarious yet close to reality…

    Best line of your post for me goes here –
    “We’ve discovered water on the moon, but we’re still arguing about whose God put it there.”

  21. Had fun reading this. As always. You’re really good at what you’re doing. God bless and keep writing. Cheers! (no pun intended)

  22. Nice! Haven’t read a more accurate and hillarious account of our Independence and year thereafter 😀

  23. I was in Goa for the weekend and realised that 15 aug is “supposed to be” dry day only after we were drunk. Whatta place! I always wait for your column on Sunday HT. Funny as ever. Keep writing Ashish. Love your articles

  24. Loved it – like your SOH (sense of humor). Want to use this and other blogs for my Club News Letter – private circulation to around 50 people in Pune who dont read HT – of course mentioning the source. Hope you agree !!

  25. Ashish,
    You have written the final true history of India. It is so sad that it had to be written in jest. “According to the Indian version, Jinnah, having realised that he would never become Prime Minister here, stormed off and took a country with him. This is like the snotty cricket buddy every kid had, who, upon getting out, would leave in a huff, taking the only bat with him.” So true, so true. Cheers, buddy!!! Tell it like it was. Oh yeah, Jinnah was a sore loser!
    In Morarji Desai’s Bombay, booze was a no-no, so Morarji drank his own urine, and he lived to tell it. ManMohan Singh got up one morning and realized that he had been doing everything all wrong, so he made amends, told the government to go take some booze, while he signed import licenses and gave them to businessmen, not to the government. America is right now copying India’s early history, and we are doing worse than the Indians did then. With all the free-bees buzzing around, its difficult to hear any words of sanity. Don’t make the mistake of coming to the U.S. They no longer have any sense of humor here.

  26. supermodels who look like starving farmers.. rofl.. more women shud read this

  27. Interesting. You care too much about our country. Good. Keep it up.

  28. Funny as always, I see 🙂

    Aside: I always find it weird how NONE of us are taught about what happened between 1950 and 1990. It’s like what happened in the Emergency, stays in the Emergency.

  29. really interesting, an excellent summary too….i appreciate your prespective

  30. Late to the party. Hilarious. Part of the generation that saw grown women in frocks.

  31. Really enjoy your writing … you’re a true humourist — as opposed to the loud slapstick that passes for humour on ‘Laughter Challenge’ !

  32. omg i have such a crush on you

  33. As a student of history, I’ll go on to say that this is one of the best short versions of the history of India I have come across yet 😀

    I disagree with the Jinnah line though – although I suppose you do say it is the Indian version.

    Keep writing!

  34. I’m reading this 2 years too late, but i have to comment! This piece is fabulously funny and so, so true. Love your writing 🙂

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