BREAKING NEWS: There’s Nothing To Report Today

I know it is immature to make the following confession in a respectable newspaper column, which is why I’m going to do it in mine: I’m sick of the elections. I can’t go five minutes without being reminded by the radio, TV and the internet that soon, Modi will cure AIDS while doing dandiya around the sun, and that Rahul will go back to his real birthplace of Mordor to focus on Gollum Empowerment.

It can be difficult to keep up with all the idiocy being generated on an hourly basis, which is why I suggest you throw out your TV, because the following news report should fill you in on everything you need to know. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you… <drumrollll> 

EVERY ELECTION NEWS SHOW EVER

Anchor: Good evening and welcome to The Noise Hour, starring I, me, myself as Arnab Sardesai Stormborn Dutt, Bringer of Justice and Mother of Decibels. Tonight, we will spend 72853 minutes dissecting the latest instance of monkeys flinging faeces at each other and calling it a political debate.

The issue we’re discussing tonight is a shocking, stunning, repulsive, disgusting and life-changing issue, mostly because my scriptwriter has a Ph.D in Amazingly Good Adjectives. What we want to know is, how did Digvijay get attacked for his leaked pictures that show Modi referring to Priyanka as a daughter who should stay chaste because Abu Azmi still lives in 643 BC?

Joining us on the show is Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha Tewari, along with his BJP counterpart Meenakshi Lekhiraman –

Sanjay Jha Tewari: (interrupting) Arnab, this is clearly a flawed attempt by the BJP at destabilising the democratic fabric of the nation. This is fascism. Nazism. Exorcism. I LOVE RAJIV GANDHI AUTOMATIC RETORT YOJANA! Sorry, what was the question again?

Lekhiraman: As an immensely accomplished lawyer, let me just say that your face is a suxxx.

Arnab: It’s been six seconds since the audience heard my voice, so now I’m going to cite some facts and numbers while waving about a few sheets of paper that, for all you know, I use to play FLAMES. With myself. I complete me.

Sanjay Jha Tewari: I’m going to counter your facts with a digression. What is 2006 minus 4?

Lekhiraman: According to my party’s calculations, 2006 – 4 = 1979 + 5.

Arnab: Very classy. Now let’s go to an on-ground reporter who’s stuck in some Gaonpur village that we can all pretend to care about for three minutes.

CUT TO: A reporter standing near something that emphasizes the idea of rural life, like a bunch of naked toddlers running around next to a hut, or a man trying to marry his buffalo.

Reporter: I’m going to walk towards the camera while talking about this village, which is the kind of place that gets electricity about three times a year, and that too when it’s struck by lightning. Oh look, now I’m close enough to the camera, which means it’s time to ask the one question that villagers here have been asking for generations, i.e. when will Gaonpur get its own trending hashtag on Twitter?

CUT TO: More shots of rural life; a fly homing in on a snot bubble under a kid’s nose as he stares balefully at the camera, a woman walking while balancing six pots, two chickens and three helicopters on her head, Prakash Jha in a corner, taking notes for his next movie.

Reporter: Now I’m sitting next to an old man who is also wise, because he has a zen-like toothless smile that surely has nothing to do with the herb in his hookah.

Old man: (subtitles) It’s cute how you city folk are huffing and puffing about free speech and pub timings. I’d like to care, but the last meal I had was in 1963, so I’m going to vote for the guy who can change that. But only if he’s from my caste.

Reporter: I’m now going to end this capsule with some vague statement about the future of Gaonpur. Will 2014 bring it much-needed change? Only time will tell. Que sera sera. Bailamos.

BACK TO THE STUDIO:

Arnab: We have with us now expert psephologist, Stats McStatterson, who has some clear predictions about Gaonpur.

Statterson: In my expert opinion, the Congress will win, unless the BJP wins, in which case the Congress will lose. Or the AAP might just pull off an upset, in which case both the BJP and the Congress lose. I get paid to say this all day.

Arnab: There you have it, India. A definitive answer. On tomorrow’s show, we shall solve yet another mystery: Are there anti-national messages encoded in the frequency of Kejriwal’s cough?

Audience: *throws TV out of the window*

(Note: This is my HT column dated 4th May 2014.)    

Now He’s Crazy, Now He’s Not, Now He’s Crazy…

I’m not saying Arvind Kejriwal is honest, but every time he fights corruption, Akhilesh Yadav’s nose grows an inch.  But wait – six seconds have passed since that previous statement, which means that Kejriwal is now a clueless dharna fetishist who’s just one Che T-shirt away from hawking anarchy. This kind of flip-flop pretty much sums every discussion about the Aam Aadmi Party this week, as they stood accused of everything from racism and sexism to water-boarding old ladies for fun.

People aren’t being able to make up their minds about the AAP, as opposed to their rivals who are instantly described as <insert nasty spitting sound here> (Fun fact: When somebody spits in Modi’s Gujarat, the saliva gets recycled and diverted to the Rann of Kutch for rain dances.)

Here’s a quick rundown of the circus that sullied the AAP’s honeymoon period this week. For best results, imagine it being narrated in Yogendra Yadav’s dulcet tones:

The Delhi law minister, Somnath Batman, swooped down on a drug and prostitution racket in South Delhi, and recovered five kilos of incriminating video evidence against himself. Somnath Bharti was accused of leading a mob that allegedly harassed and assaulted four African women, one of whom later identified him in a court of law. In return, Bharti also identified the woman as being Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Will Smith and Vinod Kambli. (Bharti was last seen at a multiplex showing Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, wherein he tried to handcuff the screen whenever Idris Elba came on.)

Kejriwal then launched a dharna to bring the Delhi police under the ambit of the CM’s office, as opposed to its current boss which is a piece of paper with Gandhiji’s photo on it. The Congress and the BJP took the moral high ground by harping on about proper constitutional process. This was followed by a discourse on feminism by Professor Emeritus Yo Yo Honey Singh.

Kejriwal withdrew the protest after an overnight stay outside Rail Bhavan, which was disappointing, because I quite enjoyed that visual of him wrapped up in a blue-yellow blanket, looking like the world’s most colourful bhuna roll.

Senior AAP member and poet Kumar Vishwas also received major hate for some racist and sexist jokes about Malayali nurses that he’d made at a stand-up show in 2009. The jokes said something to the effect of, “Mallu nurses are so dark and cosmetically challenged that I’m happy to call them ‘sister’.” This is funny because it comes from Kumar Vishwas – a guy who looks like Raju Srivastava took a bath. More than offensive, it’s trite and unoriginal, which is really the worst crime a joke can commit. Vishwas did apologise later, and apparently said that he has nothing against dark women and that he’d totally sleep with them as a goodwill gesture.

Then Chetan Bhagat jumped into the fray, describing the AAP as the item girl of Indian politics, a title previously held by Rahul Baba. Ever since he made that comparison, I can’t help but imagine a bunch of swarthy guys showering Kejriwal with notes, and then he stops them and asks for cheques instead, complete with a PAN number and a proof of income attested by Raghuram Rajan.

Sensing that the level of political discourse was slipping, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde stepped in to describe Kejriwal as a “yeda mukhyamantri”. Yes, we’re calling each other ‘yeda’ now. What is this – a David Dhawan film? What next – referring to the telecom minister as Pappu Pager? Of course, David Dhawan films are way more logical than the Indian political scenario. For example, Haseena Maan Jaayegi makes more sense than a Manish Tiwari speech. (Haseena Maan Jaayegi is also the motto of the ruling party.)

But despite this fiasco of a week, there’s still hope for the AAP. All they have to do is uplift the poor, boost investments, support industry, revive the economy, foster communal harmony, root out corruption, usher in police reforms and most importantly,  get Whatsapp to drop the ‘Last Seen At’ feature. It doesn’t sound difficult at all, so let’s hound them about everything until it’s done. And then we can have a party. Just don’t invite Somnath Bharti.

No AAP Puns Were Used In The Making Of This Headline

I like this part of the year, when people have finally shut up about how “Dude I got so wasted on the 31st that I made out with the shoe rack it was epic bro”. It’s also when we’ve shrugged off the disappointments of the previous year so as to make room for new steaming piles of disappointment.

Having said that, one thing that I’m really looking forward to in 2014 is the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party. Let’s face it – everyone loves a good underdog story, unless their name is Sheila Dixit. Arvind Kejriwal is Daniel-san from Karate Kid (and now I’m picturing Anna as Mr. Miyagi in a corner going, “Fast on, fast off” before melting into a puddle of irrelevance.)

Kejriwal may have been criticised for his populist schemes but damn it all, because he has created history by becoming the first man from Ghaziabad to ever garner positive press. Otherwise all you get are headlines like “Ghaziabad man slits wrist after pet buffalo spurns his advances.” (In case you Bombay people are wondering, Ghaziabad is sort of like the Kurla of U.P – lots of murders, one mall.)

Now while Kejriwal may have an IIT-IRS background, his most important qualification is still ‘Did Not Preside Over A Scam Factory Or Mass Murder’. Another thing that everyone seems to have latched on to is the extreme middle-classness of the man. For example, everyone loves the fact that he still drives a WagonR, which is understandable because other politicians wouldn’t even let their dogs pee on a WagonR. These relatable traits make for great news, so you can expect to see more such middle-class headlines in the future. For example:

Kejriwal haggles with sabziwala, calls him chor; housewives scream in ecstasy.

Mrs. Kejriwal judges neighbour’s daughter for talking to boy, Khap Panchayat offers external support. 

Kejriwal gets new car sticker that looks like puppy peering out from boot, AAP fans say, “No bro, too much tacky.”

Kejriwal also resonates with the elites because now they get to feel good about themselves by outsourcing their humility to him. This is what people said when they found out about Kejriwal taking the metro:

“Wow, that is commendable. He is a man of the people. Such a nice, middle-class uncle type guy. I bet his hobby is telling every kid in his mohalla to stop playing and go study for IIT-JEE. If this were a film, he’d be the family friend played by Satish Shah. Jai Hind.”

And this is what people actually thought:

“Shoot me if I’m still taking public transport in my 40s.”

It’s hugely entertaining to watch AAP navigate the political arena. The festivities kicked off with the swearing-in ceremony at Ramleela Maidan, where Kejriwal actually started singing about honesty in the middle of his speech, much to the delight of Delhiites who responded with “OYE DJ HONEY SINGH BAJA AUNTY PULLSS BULA LEGI!”

Then we saw the emergence of poet and AAP right-hand man, Kumar Vishwas. (Fun Fact: His romantic poetry is widely used to console North Indian engineering students after they get dumped for being, well, North Indian engineering students.)

Vishwas announced his candidature for 2014 from Amethi, and dared both the Gandhi scion and Narendra Modi to take him on. I like this sudden burst of zing that’s come in after the Delhi victory. The AAP is like a Yashraj heroine who is quiet and demure at first, but then has her first ever drink and transforms into a wild and whimsical beast that fears nothing, not even pre-marital sex. This challenge is basically the AAP’s version of “Dum hai toh bahar nikal!” It’s as if their campaign is sponsored by Maa ka Doodh. (Apparently they hired Dharmendra to help spread this message, but he kept referring to Kumar Vishwas as “Chhotu, drink bana.”)

Kejriwal finally zeroed in on his official residence this week, choosing to forego the bungalow he’s entitled to, for a duplex flat on Bhagwan Das Road, which has to be the most middle-class sounding address in the world. The only way it could be more middle-class is if he bought the flat at Big Bazaar.

But even this wasn’t enough for the BJP, who said that a duplex apartment goes against the principles of austerity. And who better to tell you about fiscal prudence than the party that promises to spend millions on a house for an imaginary being?

So that’s the situation just five days into 2014, and it’s only going to get more chaotic. It’s a long road ahead for the AAP, but I’m optimistic, because those Maruti cars are known to go on for ages.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 5th Jan 2014.)

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Jobless Politician

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you.” – Women.

I have been accused of many things in life, but being sexist isn’t one of them. That’s because the women I know are too busy getting me food and drinks to form an opinion. However, this wasn’t the case with Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, who was at the receiving end of much female hatred and anger this week after cracking a joke at a kavi sammelan, whose punchline was that wives are no fun after they get old.

Before I comment on this, I should admit that I know nothing about wives, old or otherwise. My longest relationship lasted only a year, because that’s how long Savita Bhabhi was a free site for.

What made matters worse for Jaiswal was that he delivered his line in Hindi, i.e. “mazaa nahin aata“, which made it sound like he was reviewing a Playstation. (Not that I’m equating women to video game consoles – I’ve never seen a PS3 get fat.)

In response, women politicians (belonging to the Opposition, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence) charged at Jaiswal in full feminist mode, fangs bared, nostrils flaring and armpit hair swaying in sync to the Braveheart OST. Their war cries were ferocious: “Jaiswal has denigrated the women of India!” “Off with his head!” “I can’t believe that hussy’s wearing the same Fabindia kurta as mine!”

The BJP women’s wing in Kanpur actually went about burning effigies of Jaiswal, because, y’know, they’ve had so much free time ever since they finished emancipating all the oppressed women in U.P. In fact, the number of female protesters would have been much higher, had it not been for that little foeticide habit of ours.

Protesters also carried out the whole deface-the-poster routine, which comes across as a really juvenile form of dissent. It reminds me of school, when we drew moustaches on the faces in our history textbooks and thought it to be the pinnacle of humour. And there would always be that one kid who’d go the extra mile with the drawing, resulting in an unholy scene involving Lady Mountbatten, a horse and a strategically placed rose. (That kid now writes humour columns, in case you were wondering.)

Now, if you remember, we recently had this coal scam thing, worth about 1.86 lakh crores, or an average North Indian dowry. One of the ministers facing the heat in the case was – yup, you guessed it – Savita Bhabhi. OK no, it was Jaiswal, whose entire defence was, “The CAG report is all wrong. Looks like a chick wrote it.” It’s nice how we completely forgot about all that, and chose to focus on a silly joke. And honestly, the BJP has no business calling the Congress anti-women. Like it or not, you have to admit that throughout history, the Congress has left no stone unturned in empowering women named Gandhi.

This isn’t the first time a minister has said something stupid about women. A couple of years ago, Mulayam ‘They Named Me After A Baby’s Bottom’ Singh said that if the Women’s Reservation Bill were passed, a lot of rich women would come in to Parliament – the kind of women that young men would want to whistle at. Much criticism followed, with I&B Minister Ambika Soni calling him a sexist. To which Mulayam blushed and said, “Thank you ji. Waise aaj aap bhi badi sexist lag rahi ho. Wink wink.”

As for the Jaiswal protests, I’d say that the women are overreacting, but that might sound sexist, so I’ll just quote Descartes who once stated, “Item log yedi hai.” Anybody with half a brain cell can tell that these agitations aren’t really about an issue, but about whipping up sentiment and scoring political brownie points, thus proving that when it comes to shirking work, women are just as capable as men. And if that isn’t a slap in the face of sexism, I don’t know what is.

(NOTE: This is my HT column dated 7th Oct, 2012.)