The other day, at the local club, I ran into an old friend of mine. Old friend, meaning we have known each other for a very long time, also that we are both pretty long in the tooth. Not that I wish to compare ourselves with the equine species, but you know, just saying. All right, enough of all this shilly-shallying. Let me place the cards squarely on the table. We are both in our early 70s, which means we are perfectly at liberty to provide a red-carpet welcome to the creeping onset of senility. Not that we are completely gone-case, non-compos mentis or anything like that, but our conversations can be somewhat trying to those who may be giving us a handicap of around 15 to 20 years, age-wise. A tendency to repeat oneself is a marked symptom. Nevertheless, here we are at our friendly club, with a tall mug of the frothy stuff and ready to bend our elbows for as long as it takes. The conversation was, as is to be expected, when two old rogues get together, sparkling. So, if you are a human fly on the wall, pin your ears back and soak in the feast of reason and flow of soul, as someone whose name momentarily escapes me, once described it.
I decided to open the batting. ‘I say, I hear these Khalistani terrorists are revolting in London?’
My friend took a long, contemplative draft of the chilled stuff and said, ‘The Khalistani terrorists are revolting period. They are revolting, be they in London or in Montreal or even here in Delhi.’
I had to quickly butt in. ‘Yes, yes, I get that. They are revolting, but what I meant was that they are revolting about or against something or the other at our Indian Embassy in London. You know, destroying property and climbing the walls to bring down the Indian flag from the top of the Embassy building in Old Blighty.’
‘Didn’t they try some such trick a couple of years ago in Delhi at the Red Fort? I recall there was a major humgama about it on all our television news channels. Perfectly revolting.’ His memory was in pretty good shape, the old codger’s.
I was patient. ‘Yes, my friend. I fully get your point that these Khalistanis are revolting per se and they are revolting about something. Question is, what is it that they are revolting about?’
‘Ah, there you have me,’ he sighed. ‘Even our television anchors and reporters are so caught up with all this stuff about pulling down India’s national flag from turrets of forts and buildings that the reason for doing so has been given a by-your-leave. And to cap it all, the British Government, with an Indian at the helm and another Indian as Home Secretary, have decided to keep mum. Not a yip out of them. And here we were, drinking to Sunak’s health and sending flowers to his in-laws in Bangalore. Makes you want to throw up.’
‘They should be outlawed. The British, I mean, not the in-laws. Look, I can understand your chagrin, if that’s the right word. However, please understand Sunak and Suella are no more Indians than Modi and Shah are British. I feel sorry for Sunak’s wife though. Caught between a rock and a hard place.’
I felt it was time to move on to some other subject. We had come to a dead end with the Khalistani terrorists. Market was going distinctly bearish on the subject. Pausing only to snap my fingers at the bartender for another round, I carefully steered the topic in another direction. Before I could start, my friend gave speech.
‘I say, what about this Khalistani Amritpal chap? Some say he is on the run and the cops in Punjab are unable to trace him. Others think he is in custody but carefully preserved in mothballs. A third opinion has it that he has been bumped off in a staged encounter. Which one are we to believe?’
Meanwhile, the bartender placed two more overflowing mugs, with a nice head of froth, in front of us. I took over the narrative. ‘Look, we more-or-less agreed to put a lid on this Khalistan business, so let’s just forget about Amritpal and taking down of flags and so on. Unpleasant subject. One final thought on Amritpal. I think they should grill the barber who gave him such a smart haircut. Moving on, did you hear about this 30-year-old woman somewhere in Telangana and a 55-year-old man in Bhopal, both dropping dead while dancing?’
My friend was impressed. ‘What, you mean they were both dancing with each other and died at the same time? Talk about dying in each other’s arms! Extraordinary. Guinness Book of Records stuff.’
‘No, no. The woman was dancing in Telangana at some wedding function. The man, evidently a government official snuffed it while shaking a leg at some other do in Madhya Pradesh. The two incidents were unrelated, but the newspapers reported it under one headline.’
My friend was taken aback. ‘That is the problem with our media. They conflate two different incidents and give us a totally false impression. What a let-down. By the way, conflate is the right word, is it not?’
‘Spot on, my friend. You are on top of your game. Have another one.’ A nod at the bartender and the third round duly arrived. ‘Let’s just say, it was one of those weird, if tragic, coincidences. However, for the papers, it makes for good copy. T’gana woman and Bhopal Govt official die while dancing. I cannot blame you for thinking they were doing the Naatu Naatu together. Enough to give anyone a cardiac.’
It was time to change the subject again. Also, I could see that my friend’s speech was beginning to slur. I daresay he felt the same way about me. We were on our fourth. I bashed on regardless.
‘Why is the government so hell-bent on giving poor Rahul Gandhi the third degree? Not a day passes when he is not in the news. If you ask me, he is getting more media coverage than the PM. If that is possible.’
My friend laughed. A hollow laugh, spilling some beer in the process. ‘Surely, you exaggerate. The PM stands alone. He is nonpareil, but I see your point. Rahul Baba does let fly, often without thinking. The words fly out, and its too late to push them back in. Which lands him in a right, royal pickle.’
‘Absolutely. This time he is really in the soup, and for something he said in 2019. That anyone with the name of Modi must be a cheat, or words to that effect. Maybe it was the other way round. That is surely asking for trouble. He is looking at a possible two-year jail sentence. Although Lalit and Nirav spring to mind right away, I think he had a much bigger Modi in mind. What has our public discourse come to?’
My friend was beginning to get maudlin. The bartender came round and looked expectantly at me, but I shook my head, indicating that enough was enough. ‘The tragedy of all this is that we may not see Rahul in parliament if he gets disqualified which, for the moment, is a done deal.’
‘He could get a reprieve from the Supreme Court, but yes, that will be a great loss. Where will we get our entertainment from if Rahul is not there to regale us with his intended or unintended faux pas? Tell you what though, the last word on this subject has not been spoken. The Congress and other opposition parties are sharpening their knives. He may not attend parliament, but Rahul will hold forth outside the precincts, along with his Bharat Jodo walkathoners. We saw the Sadhu Gandhi with his flowing beard, then we saw the Cambridge Gandhi with his trimmed beard, impeccably suited and booted, smart as a whip. And now, it is time for Martyr Gandhi, created entirely by the ruling party. And in the fullness of time, who knows? Mahatma Gandhi 2.0?’
I heard a gentle snore emanating from my friend, who was by now in dreamland. I signed off and escorted him out towards the car park. His driver was on hand. On days like this, when the libation is generously sloshing about in our innards, I too hire a driver. As we tooled along the congested Bangalore roads, homeward bound, I was left to thinking about what we had in store over the coming months. Elections in several states, parliament proceedings just short of fisticuffs, the ruling party counting on Adani becoming a fading, distant nightmare, the opposition scrambling to unite behind Rahul but still conflicted over who becomes the adversarial face to The Modi. As for The Modi himself, He will continue to traipse the globe, holding forth (and fifth) on global issues, the environment and the universality of man (and woman). The heavy lifting on ground will be undertaken by all the heavies He has at His disposal.
All the while, I metaphorically toss and turn, fret and fume, restless at the thought that Rahul Gandhi may not be among those present. Then again, with appeals and counter-appeals in the offing, hope springs eternal. Fate might yet hand the young scion an iron fist in a velvet glove.
There will be joy in the morning.
God-head indicated 🙂
Excellent piece, Suresh!
Forgive me for asking whether “equine” is more appropriate than “canine” in the opening paragraph?
Thanks JB. The age of horses is usually determined by examining their teeth. Hence equine.
Whatever may happen old soul in the coming months is a reincarnation of Dante’s Inferno.
Heavens will be rent asunder accusations counter accusations will volley and thunder and will die down as soon as the elections are done and dusted and we return to the more mundane things in life.
Fortify youself old sport with more of the frothy stuff and doze off.
By the time you are awake you will be fresh enough to write another entertaining article.
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Well said Surya. My thoughts, exactly.
Thanks cheers pal
Love your style, as well as the content. The ruling dispensation has willy-nilly given its Chief Crticising Officer a fresh lease of life.
By the way, ‘the feast of reason and flow of soul’ is a phrase which P G Wodehouse has used in many of his narratives!
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