2008 has been a terrible year. Where investment bankers have become housewives; where politicians have had to arm themselves against the public; where a confused surname will now be the next President of the United States; where television channels broke so much of news that one felt like breaking their skulls; where Communists became capitalists and communalists supped with the secularists; where Prakash turned from 24 Karat to zero; where Manmohan Singh was finally the man we never thought him to be; where people like Abhinav Bindra could shoot well despite the fact that no one from IOA even understood the event that he was participating in; where Bigg Boss was Bigg Bore thanks to the son of a slain politician; where L.K. Advani became the next Prime Ministerial candidate much like Al Gore has been the next President that the United States will never ever have; where climate change was more a reference to the movement of global stock markets rather than the environment.
In all this turmoil, there were some who stood out. Taller than the rest for their dumbness and their retardedness. People who made the word dumb sound stupid and who through their behaviour made 2008 memorable and forgettable depending on which way you saw their deeds. These are the heroes that 2008 could have avoided like the plague. People who we would have been happy without but I guess we have had to suffer.
This article is an ode to stupidity. To buffoonery. To their innate irrationality and their wayward ways. They have been a pernicious influence on humanity and it is time we capture them for immortality on the pages of Graphiti so that when our children grow up, they wont wonder why we ever made simple, silly mistakes. Only because we had such rank idiots amidst us. They are mentioned neither in any order of ranking or stupidity.
# 1: Mamata Banerjee
You have to give it to this woman for being an interventionist who almost always backfires. I cannot imagine what drives Mamata (certainly not a Nano): she is the archetype woman who you are taught to begin hating at birth. The one who comes to your house and pinches you hard; the one that your father always curses the moment she leaves; the one that is forever shouting at the servant; stealing the neighbours plants and so on. Except this woman is in politics. But her politics is inverse Gandhian. She fasts to put on weight. Political weight that is. She shouts so that people can appreciate how calm she is. She disrupts ordinary life only so that you remember never to vote her. She is the kind of woman who has a problem for every solution. The kind you would never take your girlfriend to because you never know when shell snap. 2008 was the year of the anti-Mamata. Except of course in the minds of sundry quizmasters and her shouting brigade comprising the articulate Saugata Roy and Partha Chatterjee. Mamata once again is the pinnacle of dudship in 2008. But like good wine she will only age well. So expect more trouble from her in 2009. Ear plugs and a fast getaway car would be very useful.
# 2: Vilasrao Deshmukh
He is the tragic hero of dudship. He is such a fool that to qualify him as a dud for only 2008 would be disres-pectful to the word dud. Deshmukh, the former chief minister of Maharashtra and the current father of the B-grade actor Riteish Deshmukh is flawed from birth. I have never heard one intelligent utterance from him. Ever. He suits the part of the perfect dud. The reason why he made it only to this years list is this is the first time we are publishing this list or else he would have featured in one from both his and the lists birth. I dont even want to go into his famed walk of the Taj with Ram Gopal Varma and what happened subsequently. It is far too well-documented to be repeated here. He is perhaps the only dolt who thought terrorists are a tourist attraction. At times, I wish Kasab had befriended him on November 26. But then we have a rule. Dead people dont make it to this list.
# 3: Shivraj Patil
This man is an enigma on a clothes hanger. He is the only dud in a safari suit anywhere in the world. This is the man we trusted our country with. This is the man we thought would make us safe. He was the one who was supposed to keep our country free of terrorists. But then take one look at him and then try and think: do you at all wonder why the terrorists came to India? We have had the stupidest home minister for the last four years. Even the terrorists knew that as did Patils staff. The man has made so many gaffes that we could run a TV show which would be funnier than both Jay Leno and Navjot Sidhu!
# 4: Subhash Ghai
He is a very dear friend of mine but then he just had to make it to the list. Never has one man punished himself and his audiences with as much determination and vigour, not to mention money, as Ghai has. He still believes he can deliver hits. The only hits he does deliver is the ones on our fragile heads whenever we watch his films. Taal was his last hit. After that, each film of his has been an advertisement for Anacin. I sometimes wonder why he doesnt start teaching. After all, Shaw rightly said, those who can, do; those who cant teach and he obviously falls into the latter silo.
# 5: Arundhati Roy
This is one woman who can quote you out of context; write a tome which means nothing but instead resembles a book and then take up causes which are either dead or dud! Never has one Booker Prize winner inflicted so much literary torture as Arundhati Roy has after writing that God book. I am pained that a leading weekly magazine every third week sends its editorial team on a long break only so that they can devote an entire issue to doddering duddery! Roy would be better suited as a member of an international think tank based somewhere in the Fiji Islands so that at least she will have a few people who will agree with her! 2008 was yet another year of the Boring Booker!
# 6: Suresh Kalmadi
The evergreen Dev Anand like character of the sports movement in India. Everytime I look at the five rings of the Olympics movement, I think of Kalmadi and how ever farther India is from winning a medal. From mispronouncing the name of Abhinav Bindra (at the Olympics itself) to walking away from Rashtrapati Bhavan at the felicitation ceremony of our athletes, Kalmadi has done it all. In Beijing, there were more pretty socialites from Delhi and Mumbai than athletes, all on Indian Olympics Association (IOA) money only so that Kalmadi could have an Indian evening where liquor flowed even though our medal tally was pretty dry. So when you look at the sports movement in India, are you surprised we fare so poorly?
# 7: Naresh Goyal
The man runs a superb airline; the women are well-groomed; the staff is extremely well-mannered; the airline is always so slick and their communi-cation is almost always flawless but then when you take a look at Goyal, you wonder who died and left him boss? This man has invoked his mother to seek fuel subsidies; to sack and then re-instate his staff; to tell people how his airline is bleeding and how upset his dead mother must be. From bringing dead subjects alive to invoking his mother to hugging Vijay Mallya this man has done it all in 2008 but then hes done it with such an overdose of duddery, that we just had to place him on the list. I am certain his dead mother will approve!
# 8: Raj Thackeray
Bihars favourite son has been in his rat-hole in Mumbai ever since 26/11. But then 2008 was the year of Thackeray. He charmed the media with his rants. He scared every Bihari in Mumbai including Shatrughan Sinha. He made mincemeat of every noble intention of Vilasrao Deshmukh. Got arrested as if he was Gandhi during the Quit India movement. Showed the world, that rank stupidity can actually make you a mass leader. In fact, George W. Bushs stupidity looked like kindergarten stuff when compared to Raj Thackeray!
So then these were some of the stellar duds of 2008. There are many who shall go unmentioned because they are very dear friends of mine and I am allowed a bit of reverse-nepotism. Also, the editors tell me they will publish such a list every year so I also have to budget for losing friends just like the BJP is losing popularity: slowly and surely. Have a splendid 2009 and remember whenever times are tough, more duds are born and they are easier to spot. Please do write in with your dud favourites so that we can start both a protection and restoration movement for duds.
(Suhel Seth is Managing Partner of Counselage: firstname.lastname@example.org)