Start-ups and screw-ups (or, from IAS pensioner to divorce consultant)

Retired IAS officers prone to 'grave misconducts' such as flying kisses must pay their dues by doing their kartavya in other ways—such as to divide and not unite

A petition for divorce, from Italy In 1967, is apt study for good students of history among former IAS cadres, for it is their New Indian duty to divide and not unite (photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
A petition for divorce, from Italy In 1967, is apt study for good students of history among former IAS cadres, for it is their New Indian duty to divide and not unite (photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Avay Shukla

These are challenging times for government pensioners, of which horde I am one. One suspects that the government resents the fact that we now live much longer, notwithstanding the tender care dished out by the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS).

Pensions, or at least parts of them, are denied to us on the grounds that we have not submitted timely proof of being alive, or that we are brain dead (most unfair, since being brain dead was a condition of our service and an essential requirement for being promoted to the apex scale), or that Covid merits a cut in our pensions in the unfortunate event of our surviving it.

And now the government has armed itself with another reason— misconduct. It has amended the rules to authorise itself to withhold/cut our pensions if we commit any grave misconduct.

Misconduct has not been defined in the rules, so it can extend from any criticism of Mr. Modi's suits to asking Mrs. Sitharaman why she doesn't eat onions to blowing a flying kiss to any of our population of 140 crore, especially large ladies in colourful saris.

Now, this last one is an issue for pensioners specifically. Our days of French kisses, butterfly kisses and even Eskimo kisses are now mere memories, with the wives having moved on to bhajans and discourses by Sadhguru; flying kisses, therefore, are our only fall-back option (though a risky one, since it involves a hand-eye-lip coordination which may be a Kate-walk for Rahul Gandhi but stretches our Alzheimer-affected faculties to the limit).

And yet, it may lead to a loss of pension.

Take me. I subsist on my pension, and whatever I can cadge from the good wife between visits to her kitty parties.

It's not that I have not tried to supplement my income after retirement. I tried for a good two years to get the government to offer me some re-employment as a consultant, advisor, side-kick or one of assorted kinds of hacks. Getting a ticket to fight elections was also explored through some Shuklas in UP currently out on bail in various cases.

None of it worked, not even the last one, and for a good reason: Why should any political party offer a ticket to a retired joker when there are so many serving ones lining up for the lottery? Can't argue with that impeccable logic, folks.

So now, on the off-chance that one of my flying kisses lands on the wrong tarmac, I have decided to start a consultancy of my own—as a divorce consultant.

The idea occurred to me last week when I was reading Anurag Mathur's book The Department of Denials, where the protagonist considers it briefly as a career option but rejects it for journalism, as offering more potential since divorces in India were few and far between.

But that book was written in 1998, and times have changed. Thanks to Facebook, Instagram and Beti Padhao (we'll forget that bit about Beti Bachao for the nonce), divorce rates in India are now showing a healthy increase, for which the NDA government has yet to take credit.

Doubtless, Mrs. Smriti Irani will do so as soon as she gets over her obsession with Rahul Gandhi, silly soul.

Meanwhile, I've done my research on the subject.

Divorce rates in India are about 1 per cent of marriages, which is of course a cause for worry for Niti Aayog: the USA is at 50 per cent, which is what we must aspire to if we wish to become the world's third-largest economy by 2040, or whenever Mr. Piyush Goyal decrees.

But things are looking up of late: nowadays Gen Next is marrying young so that they can get divorced early and live happily thereafter. 

Why divorce counselling, you may well ask; why not marriage counselling?

Well, I've tried my hand at the latter, but soon discovered that I needed some serious marriage counselling myself: in other words, the devil can hardly go around preaching scripture, what?

Secondly, as a responsible citizen of Kartavaya Kaal (Amrit Kaal is now history), it is my duty—kartavya—to divide rather than to unite.

The government is doing this efficiently at the macro level but we citizens have to do our bit too at the micro level, and what better way to do so than to divide families?

Since families are the bedrock of societies, begin by dividing families, and very soon we will have attained the ideal Kartavya Kaal. And what better way to split families than to hasten them to a speedy divorce?

I do feel that I am supremely qualified to offer consultancy on divorce matters. After 46 years of wedded bliss, I have realised that though marriages are made in heaven, so are thunder and lightning, and every marriage needs a lightning rod.

Secondly, the IAS has taught me that when you have dug yourself into a hole and hit rock bottom, you should stop digging and haul yourself out by the scruff of your pants. Invaluable knowledge that should be the basis for a successful post-pension career.

Sceptics may say that, given the existing abysmal divorce rate in India, there is no scope for a divorce consultant. To them I cite the case of BATA entering India in 1932.

At the time, Tomas Bata from Czechoslovakia sent an officer to explore the potential for setting up a shoe manufacturing company in India.

This chappie went around the towns and villages and reported that there was absolutely no scope for a shoe company in India as no one here wore shoes.

Excellent, said Tomas, this means we have an unlimited market for shoes in India, and no competitor! The rest, as they say, is history with a capital H, and I'm a good student of history.

The current rate of divorce in India may be 1.1 per cent but it's going up by 50 per cent per annum, thanks to Netflix, Zomato, flavoured condoms and the Supreme Court ruling that adultery is no longer a crime.

I believe that incompatibility (he wants to watch Arnab Goswami while she wants to watch Anjana Om Kashyap) is now adequate grounds for a divorce, as is denial of sex, which is now a fundamental right. More and more people are now discovering that their gender at birth had been wrongly classified and that they are married to the wrong sex! Therefore, as long as the institution of marriage exists, divorces will flourish, for as Groucho Marx noted, "the main cause of divorce is marriage".

I'm on to a good thing and have already started looking for a domain name for my start-up (which should more appropriately be called a "screw-up", given the nature of the business).

I applied for <> on the lines of <> but that's been taken up by Larry King, who fully deserves it with his eight divorces and counting. Maybe I'll settle for <> in honour of the dentist/manicurist couple who fought tooth and nail to get a divorce.

As Confucius said to the director of Star Wars: "May di vorce be with you."

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