The fertility rate of idiots does matter

A country progresses in inverse proportion to the Total Fertility Rate of Idiots

An epic moment: PM Modi greeted by PM Marape with a ‘pranam’ on arrival in Papua New Guinea (Photo: YouTube)
An epic moment: PM Modi greeted by PM Marape with a ‘pranam’ on arrival in Papua New Guinea (Photo: YouTube)

Avay Shukla

I don’t get invited to many dinners these days, primarily because 80 per cent of the chaps I know are convinced that Mr Modi is the best thing that has happened to humankind since the discovery of penicillin. They are what somebody has termed ‘educated clapper boys’ of the Supreme Inaugurator.

I stopped clapping shortly after committing the original sin of voting for Him in 2014, and have ever since regretted not having read that wonderful short story The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs before casting my vote. Do read it, folks, for it is a warning against wishing for something without being aware of its consequences.

I’m paying for this gap in my education nowadays by dining alone with my Indie pooch while the good wife too, like Mrs Parakala, is also away at some mandali singing paeans to He Who Cannot Be Named.

On the rare occasion that I do manage to sidle past someone’s front door, the first thing I look out for is my host’s TV, and then his bookcase, and compare their sizes. Let me explain.

My dad, who was a man of few words, and neither accepted nor proffered any advice, once made an exception to this general rule and gave me this sage counsel: “Never argue with a person whose TV is bigger than his bookshelf.”

He went on to then floor me by giving me a second piece of advice. A country’s progress (he said) is not determined by the total fertility rate (TFR) of its general population but by the TFR of its idiots (TFRI)—the country’s progress is in inverse proportion to TFRI.

Papa passed away in 2017, without seeing his words being vindicated every single day in New India. The televisionjeevi have taken over the country and no longer even bother with a bookcase in their sitting room, having replaced it with a replica of the new Ram Mandir or a model of a bulldozer.

The TFRI has exploded, its spermatozoa occupying high positions in government, universities, media, defence forces, bureaucracy, the world of celluloid and the arts, even the RWAs and WhatsApp groups.

Just pause and consider what we are up against. Even as Manipur is burning, soldiers are dying in Kashmir and Olympians are being denied justice, our prime minister is forum shopping for accolades in the South Pacific, to the accompaniment of qawwali-type clapping by anchors on prime-time TV.

On the evening of 21 May, NDTV devoted one entire segment to a discussion on the Papua New Guinea prime minister touching our PM’s feet! They even had a panel of political analysts and diplomats to convince the viewer that this was the final endorsement of our vishwaguru status.

Never mind that Papua New Guinea’s population is less than that of Kolkata or that even Sambit Patra doesn’t know where it is located.

A joke by President Biden (asking for Mr Modi’s autograph) was converted to look like a major policy initiative by the USA, even as the European Union is contemplating action against India for undermining sanctions against Russia, and we have been accused for the fourth year in a row of suppressing religious freedom by the same USA.

Anchors in the throes of sacerdotal passion swoon when informing us that the Australian PM says that Mr Modi is “the Boss”, but fail to mention that the BBC’s documentary The Modi Question is being screened in the Australian Parliament the very next day.

We are by now accustomed to our ministers spouting nonsense like the Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park spouts steam; but even by these Mariana Trench standards, the Tripura chief minister hit a new low when in April 2018 he claimed that Hindus had invented the internet 9,000 years ago and that it was then known as Indraneta.

He, of course, did not bother to explain who supplied the electricity to power the Indraneta; presumably that information shall be supplied in due course by Mr Piyush Goyal, our commerce minister and an acknowledged authority on gravity, the theory of relativity and the trade deficit.

Not to be outdone in the loyalty sweepstakes, the chairman of ISRO announced that scientific concepts relating to time, metallurgy, the structure of the universe, aviation, etc., were first found in the Vedas. They found their way to the West much later, via the Arabs. So why doesn’t he publish them and assure a Nobel Prize for himself, instead of the Padma Shri which is now in the bag?

But let’s not be too harsh on our ministers. Our bureaucracy is no less inventive. No doubt inspired by our aspirational Net Zero goal, Madhya Pradesh decided that it would achieve this all by itself: the government has banned the use of tandoors in all major cities because they generate a lot of CO2. Now we know why it’s going to take us 50 years to reach the Net Zero target.

This astounding decision was almost in the same league as the RBI governor explaining that the Rs. 2,000 note is being demonetised because it has completed its life cycle. Surely that is even more true of all other denomination notes, which have been around for much longer—is he going to withdraw them too and take us back to the age of barter? (There is a strong rumour that in future all notes shall come with an expiry date embossed on them, so that the RBI does not have to do a press conference every seven years).

And does Mr Das realise that he is revealing his non-economics background when he says that the notes have to be returned by 30 September 2023, while at the same time maintaining that they will continue to be legal tender after that date? Come on, sir, make up your mind; as the hooker told the guy: “You can’t have it both ways, dearie.”

The TFRI among the RWA and WhatsApp groups, however, is the real cause of concern for me. Their members (or most of them) reside in a cloud cuckoo land where God handed out bile instead of brains. After years of committing all manner of sins, they have suddenly discovered God and find that He can only be a Hindu.

After growing up on Mughlai food, listening to ghazals and qawwallis, conversing in a language that has as many Urdu words as Hindustani, swooning over Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Waheeda Rehman, saying “Wah! Wah!” to the poems of Ghalib and Gulzar, they have now concluded that these are evil influences, they threaten our Hindu sanskars (mores) and girls must be banished from this cloud cuckoo land.

The Supreme Leader is the new God and he can do no wrong. He is pure as the driven snow, notwithstanding Adani, Rafale, the windfall private profits of cheap Russian oil; the Gandhis, Nehru and Mamata Banerjee are responsible for all the ills of this country, in that order. The Congress won in Karnataka only because of appeasement of Muslims.

The women wrestlers at Jantar Mantar are being funded by the Opposition. Uttar Pradesh is a model of law and order even though according to the NCRB data for 2022, it has the highest crime rate per capita (7.4) of all Indian states. We have taught China a lesson, even though it is sitting on thousands of square kilometres of our land in Ladakh.

Kashmir is a land of peace and prosperity even though it is one of the most militarised regions in the world. India is a world champion in the fight against climate change, even though we are the eighth most polluted country in the world and 39 out of the 50 most polluted cities are in India.

This list of delusions goes on and on, but our big TV types believe this is the gospel truth. Their minds are as open to reasoning as a government office on a weekend, and any persistence on my part always carries the risk of collateral violence. So, I don’t argue any more.

(Avay Shukla is a retired IAS officer. Views are personal)

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