Reality bites: Playing the fool is the new national pastime for us

It seems to me as though the economic package announcement was mainly to fool the world into thinking that India is rolling in money, and that the Supreme Leader has a heart

Illustration by Surendra
Illustration by Surendra
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Rupa Gulab

I have never turned the television on when the Supreme Leader addresses the nation. Not even once because I have better things to do with my time than listen to bombastic lies—counting strands of hair on my husband’s legs is a far more engaging activity, as far as I’m concerned.

If his speeches had been mandatory, I would have fallen back on the old school ploy: a letter from my parents requesting the authorities to excuse me from activities I find particularly unpleasant.

Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t listen to the announcement of the Twenty Lakh Crore package because it wasn’t that big a deal. Part of that amount included money the government had already taken from the RBI, part of it was our tax refunds that should have come to us anyway, and as for the rest, well, we’ll soon find out that it already was in the system under different headings. It seems to me as though this announcement was mainly to fool the world into thinking that India is rolling in money, and that the Supreme Leader has a heart.

Reality bites: Playing the fool is the new national pastime for us
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I do follow feedback of his speeches on Twitter though, and that’s always amusing. Particularly gushing comments from his supporters in big business, corporate India, Bollywood, and the media. The most hilarious response to his latest speech was from a “captain of industry” who squealed with joy like a piggy wig at the thought of being selfreliant, and likened it to the 1991 economic reforms. Someone really has to sit him down and gently explain over a heady cocktail of Som Ras and Ganne ka Ras that 1991 was about breezy liberalisation, and the current package is about stifling swadeshi. Tut.

Superstitious people enjoyed the announcement the most. Cheers broke out when BL Santosh, the National General Secretary of the BJP, proudly tweeted “Exactly 20 mnts into the address......20L Cr package for 2020...Wonderful @ narendramodiji...”. Clearly, the package was designed with numerology and not economics in mind, and now I’m sure that astrologers have replaced bureaucrats in the Finance Ministry.

The response of courageous friends who watched the Supreme Leader hold forth was mainly, “Huh?” Many did not understand the words he used with the “atma” prefix. One challengingly threw a few of those strange words at me, and I understood one, hooray! “Atma Bal” means Self Hair. The Supreme Leader probably wants us to stop tearing out our hair in clumps over the economic disaster, and suggests that we preserve it with local ayurvedic products manufactured by his cronies, instead of buying cheap wigs from China.

I have to confess that while I do not watch the Supreme Leader’s speeches, I do watch his Show-and-Tell PR activities with his mummy, like the fantastic Demonetisation film in which he made Mummy show the nation how to hire an auto rickshaw to go to the bank and hand over ₹ 500 and ₹ 1000 notes. It looked nice and easy to me, though I was stunned that Mummy didn’t have to line up for over five hours and faint like the rest of us. Lucky Mummy!

I even mustered the courage to watch an episode of him lunching with Mummy on someone’s birthday because a journalist friend insisted that he never eats in public. The cameras never showed him eating at all. They just showed Mummy looking bewildered, while he playacted the devoted son by gazing at her with intense concentration—the sort of look you see on the faces of passengers when the seat belt sign comes on and the poor things try hard to ignore Mother Nature’s urgent calls.

Back to the present: I was deeply disappointed that he didn’t shoot a video of Mummy demonstrating to the nation how to write out a hefty cheque to his precious PM CARES Fund. To make up for that lapse, I hoped that he would celebrate Mother’s Day on national television this year, but he let us down. He could easily have flown to Gujarat to be with her on that special day—come on, he doesn’t need permission from anyone and he so loves travelling! Or, hey, since he fools us all the time anyway, he could well have gazed with intense concentration at any slim lady wearing a mask—as if we’d know the difference!