Until very recently, my idea of a toolkit was a somewhat rusty old metal box in my late father-in-law’s workshop consisting of a variety of implements like hammer, chisel, pliers, screws, rawlplugs, drill bits, industrial glue, sandpaper, lengths of wire and a few sundry items, names of which I cannot readily recall. He was very good with his hands, my father-in-law. Whether it was the undersole of your shoe that had come undone and gaped embarrassingly, or your watch strap that had detached itself from its parent chronometer or even your precious blackened, oxidized silver medal you won at school for excelling at elocution which needed polishing, the old man could attend to these tasks with great expertise and pride. Dexterity was his middle name. All he needed was his magic box of tricks containing his toolkit. Take his toolkit away from him and he was a spent force – Samson without his locks. By locks, I mean Samson’s curly hair and not the kind of locks you might have chanced upon in my father-in-law’s toolkit. Come to think of it, good old Samson wouldn’t have known what to do with a Yale lock if you handed it to him on a silver platter. And Delilah wouldn’t have been of much use either.
So much for locks, my father-in-law and Samson. My current preoccupation with the term ‘toolkit’ is from an entirely different connotation ascribed to this everyday item. At first it just passed me by. The word toolkit was being uttered on television news channels and referred to in newspapers so frequently that I paid scant attention to it. If anything, without my being aware of it, the word was being embedded into the recesses of my brain. The advertising gurus have a word for it – subliminal. Then there were references being made to pop star Rihanna’s toolkit (the mind boggles) and teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s toolkit, all of which were apparently proving extremely helpful to farmer Rakesh Tikait’s toolkit. A billionaire pop diva, a teenage Swedish activist and a battle-hardened agriculturist – all coming together under one toolkit roof to find common cause. A more unlikely trio you will be hard pressed to find. Incidentally, Greta Thunberg’s Twitter account claims 4.9 million followers. That’s a lot of twits. Guess you can double or treble that for Rihanna. Bit much, I thought. Here was a simple, common or garden, quotidian word, ‘toolkit,’ which brought to mind my father-in-law’s hammer and chisel, and all of a sudden, before you can say MSP it takes on a completely new, political dimension. From Arnab Goswami and Rahul Srivastava to Rahul Gandhi and Amit Shah, they were all talking about toolkits. The bombastic Shashi Tharoor does not appear to be in the mix, possibly because the term toolkit has just two syllables!
At which point I felt it was time to ferret around a couple of search engines to arrive at the modern definition of a toolkit, and this is what I unearthed – ‘A toolkit is a collection of authoritative and adaptable resources for frontline staff that enables them to learn about an issue and identify approaches for addressing them. Toolkits can help translate theory into practice, and typically target one issue or one audience.’ So, there we have it. A toolkit explained lucidly and graspable to the meanest intelligence. Not the faintest mention of rawlplugs, drill bits or screw drivers. It was then the work of a moment for me to get my teeth into that involved definition, parse every sentence down to its component parts and describe their syntactic roles. After all that, if I still cannot make any sense out of it, I will simply have to hurl the blasted toolkit, drill bits and all, out of the window. As Rihanna and Greta Thunberg were not readily available for a quick online interview, my emails to them eliciting an ‘address unknown’ response, I had no option but to seek out their agents, who promised to take my questions and revert with their replies as soon as feasible. Lo and behold, I received email responses from both of them. I cannot swear to the veracity of these mails and their contents. They may or may not be fake, but I thought it would be interesting and instructive to share them with my readers. For the record, I posed one identical question to both these luminaries.
‘Can you explain precisely why you have put out tweets condemning India’s new farm laws, and while you are about it, what is your understanding of MSP and APMC?’
Rihanna – ‘See Bro, I was born in Barbados in the West Indies. I am guessing my ancestors were farmers in sugarcane plantations which that region was famous for. So, I have a lot of time and sympathy for farmers. I love cricket. Sir Garry Sobers, a Barbadian, is like God to me. I also love reggae music, Bob Marley being another God. Also, Harry Belafonte who sang about banana farms. Let me sing a snatch. Work all night on a drink of rum / Daylight come and we want go home / Stack banana ’til the morning come / Daylight come and we want go home / Day-o, day-o.’
‘That is why I know so much about farming. I owe all these millions I now earn to these inspirational characters. Some people say I am being paid a few million smackeroos to put out this tweet that has created a big controversy, but I don’t know nothin’ about that. Whenever I want a new luxury yacht, I just ask for it. So you see, I have great sympathy for these farmers from Ceylon, Burma, Indiana or wherever. MSP, APMC? I don’t need to know all that. It’s the farmers my heart bleeds for. I can also sing that old Lead Belly song my Gramps used to sing. I’ll sing it for you. When I was a little bitty baby / My mama would rock me in the cradle / In them old cotton fields back home. I know that was in Louisiana, but you get the sense of our closeness to the farming community. You can also check out my hit song videos on YouTube, Bitch Better Have My Money and Loveeeeeee Song. I would recommend parental guidance and even they might need guidance.’
Greta Thunberg – ‘You know, just because I am barely 18 years old people think they can treat me like a child. It’s freezing cold right now in Sweden but I am still fighting against global warming, though here in Stockholm and other cities, we could all do with a bit of warming. Just shows, I don’t just think about myself. Climate change is my favourite topic. I got 98% for my thesis on this subject, and my Mom gave me two helpings of Kladdkaka, our yummy Swedish sticky chocolate cake as a reward. My Dad joined the party and said since I am 18, technically an adult and eligible to drive our Saab, I could have a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon red wine. I thought it tasted like cough mixture, but they say it’s always like that the first time. Sorry, I am digressing. About this farmers’ agitation in India, I am very upset at all these pictures I am seeing. Tractors running over people, others climbing poles at some big fort to escape tear gas firing and the government insisting they will not repeal the farm laws. Do I know what MSP is? Does that matter? I am told if the new laws are repealed all the problems will be solved, so what’s all the fuss about? Why should these shivering farmers sit on the streets, get foot massages, cook their food and do all their other business there? Very bad for the climate. I am sending them a toolkit which should be strictly followed. By the way, did I hear that farmers are in favour of stubble burning? That’s a tricky one as I have been rooting for clean air. Stubble means trouble. I have to give it some thought. Oops, its 6 pm already. It gets very dark here in Sweden. Time for beddy-byes, or Mom will scold. Good night.’
Finally, I posed this question to the man of the hour, the never-say-die farmer who is looking to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for spearheading the longest protest movement known to man, the irrepressible Rakesh Tikait from Uttar Pradesh. This English translation loses a bit of the bite from Rakeshji’s down-to-earth Hindi.
‘Rakeshji, the Government is willing to consider all your demands and settle matters amicably. You have already met Tomarji and Goyalji 11 times. There has to be some give and take, but you are only saying ‘Repeal, Repeal, Repeal.’ How will this end?’
‘Arre Bhai, please understand. Modiji may cry in Rajya Sabha, but I also cried. Many times. Nobody is listening. And now they are accusing me of this toolkit tamasha. Who is this Rehana Shehana and Geeta Tungabhadra? Why are they sending toolkits and confusing every one? We have our own toolkits in India. I can screw anything or anyone with our own screwdrivers. Government can put nails on roads, but I will remove them with my pliers and plant flowers instead. I am a man of peace. I have only this to say to the Government, ‘Repeal, Repeal, Repeal.’
Moral of the story – You can take a toolkit to a Tikait, but you cannot make him use it.