Finger on the button

 Hey now, baby / Get into my big black car / I want to just show you / What my politics are. Cream.

As a responsible and civic-minded resident of the tech-city of Bangalore, or Bengaluru if you are so disposed to pronounce it, in the state of Karnataka, and not Karnatak as many of our television news-readers, as well as non-local politicians are apt to mangle it, now where was I? Ah yes, pardon me, I do get carried away at times with my needlessly orotund sentence construction, and tend to lose my way in the thicket. Right, pull yourself together, man.

What I am working my way around to is that the all-important assembly elections, which come around once every five years, have just taken place in my state of residence, Karnataka. More particularly in my once garden, now garbage city of Bangalore. And as I was inarticulately endeavouring to explain at the top of this essay, to convey to you that I was happy to exercise my franchise, which is my God-given right. Left forefinger has been indelibly smudged, though some have claimed on social media that the royal blue mark vanished as soon as the they left the voting booth. Vanishing ink? And why on earth do so many people insist on taking a selfie of said ink-stained forefinger and posting it on social media? Since I do not know the precise contours of any of my acquaintance’s fingers, leave alone forefingers, frankly it could be anybody’s finger. When you have seen one besmudged forefinger, the second and third fail to grip and arrest. And yet, we are being fore-fingered on all sides. It is one of those life’s great mysteries.

As I need hardly elaborate, the subject of politics over the past decade or two has become acrimonious, to say the least. Even when close friends congregate, they need to mind their Ps and Qs, or more to the point, their BJPs and their Congresses. We have also witnessed many an unholy congress between those two political parties, floor crossing a habitual pastime. Warm friendships have been ruined overnight on X discovering, to his or her great shock, that Y is a closet BJP sympathiser, and the former was kept in the dark all these years. You could have been secretly harbouring a mistress in some nook, for all the furore! Which is why I think it extremely poor form to ask someone who he or she voted for.

The same situation can be expressed the other way round, in case the Congress is your chosen flavour. The betrayal is invariably too much to bear. Et tu, Brute? about sums it up. The world of Indian politics has been clearly polarised. In a sense, if you will excuse the iffy pun, we have all become polar bears, freezingly cold towards one another. For all I know, polar bears are extremely warm, friendly and cuddly towards their own kith and kin, though I would strongly advise against cuddling up with one of these Arctic, hypercarnivorous creatures, if you place any value on your life. At least, as far as national politics is concerned, a certain chill amongst opposing views exists. A common refrain when people get together over lunch, tea or dinner is, ‘all subjects can be discussed barring politics.’ What does that leave us with? Hmmm.

Which brings me nicely to the question of whether the physical act of casting your ballot during elections can be considered political or apolitical. For the purposes of a discussion, I mean. Frankly, the situation was getting a bit desperate. There we were, three couples meeting after a long hiatus, over a convivial dinner preceded by a glass or three of liquid libation. Bear in mind that this was a day after the state election voting. Being close friends, we sensibly decided to eschew this self-imposed restriction on the subject of politics. We will play it by ear and take it as it comes. And even if one or two of our number gets a bit hot under the collar, we could always douse the embers with a chilled glass of beer or white wine. Well, iced lemonade, if you insist. The unsaid party rule, therefore, was no holds barred but we will err on the side of civility. Friends do not brawl. Ho hum.

With all these complex psychological issues playing around in our minds, we had to tip-toe on eggshells as the conversation commenced on a neutral tone. It does not really matter who said what, as I present the feast of reason and flow of soul in a stream-of-consciousness manner, without attributing remarks to any particular individual. Better safe than sorry.

‘Fabulous game yesterday, between CSK and Mumbai Indians. What a finish!’

‘Yeah, it was all right. Honestly, what was it? Game number 51? After a point, unless you are a die-hard supporter of any one particular franchise, the scores, the highlights, the points table, they all tend to merge into one unrecognizable blur. Even the interminable number of sixes start tending to pall. Does it really matter if Dhoni is playing his 200th game as captain or that Andre Russell has just hit his 250th sixer? Whatever happened to the forward defensive push, bat and pad locked together?’

‘You have a point. We have had a surfeit of IPL. Let us talk about something else.’

‘Well said. Anyone seen The Kerala Story? I am told it is pretty grim, rather like The Kashmir Files. The movie is creating quite a storm in various parts of the country. Some states want it banned, others are issuing incentives for people to go and see it. Some have gone to court, seeking a ban or to lift same. At times one’s heart goes out to our judiciary. It’s all politics.’

‘I say, would discussing The Kerala Story come under the broad ambit of politics? Just asking, in case things get a little out of hand.’

‘Don’t be silly. We are discussing a movie here. We can discuss direction, acting, screenplay, cinematography, background score and that sort of thing. Nobody is asking you to get into a tizzy over the rights and wrongs of the political stance taken by the film, if at all there is such a stance. ’

‘Boy, are we naïve. The film is political to the core, so kindly don’t pull the wool over our eyes.’

‘All right, let us forget about this film. Will someone kindly recharge my glass? Thanks.’

As your narrator, at this point I shall briefly take over the reins to merely inform you that a longish and uncomfortable silence ensued. The kind of silence often described as pregnant, presumably because it promises much but the time it takes to deliver can be painful. Who knows. In case you are tut-tutting, wondering why no interrogation mark after ‘who knows,’ it was said rhetorically and not to elicit an answer. So there.  As your chronicler, I am just filling in the time before one of our band of merry folks looks up from his or her glass to utter some pearls of wisdom. Or not. The thing is, when these uncomfortable silences occur, three people decide at the same time to break the deadlock. Like so.

‘Why don’t we….’

‘Who made up these rules…’

‘Anyone for tennis…’

Those three unfinished sentences, possibly questions uttered simultaneously, were cut off in their prime. ‘One at a time, please,’ as our English teacher in school was wont to say. The awkward silence was quickly followed by cries of ‘you go first,’ ‘no, no, après vous and ‘I think I’ve said enough already.’ Finally, one of the ladies, who was not part of the insistent threesome, decided to have a go.

‘I am sorry, gentlemen and ladies, but with elections, voting and counting happening at our very doorstep, not discussing politics is akin to ignoring the proverbial elephas maximus in the room.’

‘Must you be so pretentious? Elephas maximus indeed! Why can’t you just say, er, whatever it is that elephas maximus means?’

‘How about pachyderms? Or better still, Haathi mere saathi would be more to your liking?’

‘Now you are just being insufferably pompous. Anyhow, how the hell did the subject of elephants crop up. What is more, I am totally confused. Did we agree to discuss politics or not?’

It was now beginning to dawn on me that this get-together was not such a great idea after all. In making a strenuous effort not to discuss politics, we kept reverting, even without our own volition, to that very subject. We tended to behave not very differently from the way junior politicians, their spokespersons and television anchors conducted themselves on the small screen. It’s all very well to say, ‘I shall steer clear of politics,’ but when push comes to shove, politics will rear its not very pretty head and ruin the whole evening for everyone concerned.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan went close to the bone and hit the nail on the head when he said, ‘Politics I supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.’

Published by sureshsubrahmanyan

A long time advertising professional, now retired, and taken up writing as a hobby. Deeply interested in music of various genres, notably Carnatic and 60's and 70's pop/rock. An avid tennis and cricket fan. Voracious reader of British humour and satire. P.G. Wodehouse a perennial favourite.

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  1. One idea could be to steer the discussion towards politics of some distant country: USA, UK, Turkey, or the like. Or, even better, to some of our OTT releases which capture the challenges the leaders in those countries face, as depicted in such releases as Scandal, Designated Survivor, The Night Agent, and The Diplomat.


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