As a citizen of the world’s largest democracy, I am proud of some of our great institutions — in particular our Parliament, our judiciary and our media.
The other day I waxed eloquence on them at a little get-together of friends. Many of them looked impressed, but a visiting American professor remarked politely: “Yes, these are great institutions and you are justly proud of them; but your media are full of reports of scams at all levels of life.”
He sounded very knowledgeable and talked of the CWG scam, the 2G spectrum scam, the mining scam, the coal scam and money-laundering scams of various kinds. Then he referred to the aam-aadmi groups levelling allegations of corruption against the high and mighty and the way one of the latter, obviously fond of quibbles like Shakespeare, dismissing the aam aadmi as mango people in a banana republic, forgetting for a moment that he belonged to a powerful family virtually running this republic.
It was a little embarrassing when the American spoke like that and I pointed out with hurt pride that the crime rate was high in his country, and he retorted that it was high in India. He and cited incidents of eve-teasing and girl-stalking involving acid and knife attacks on helpless girls for rejecting the aggressive overtures of over-enthusiastic lovers, apart from village panchayats and elders ordering or approving honour-killings.
He also referred to two outrageous recent incidents where a police officer was shot dead by a criminal politician and a brother beheaded his sister and walked into a police station with her head in one hand and a sword in the other like a male version of Goddess Kali. I was left speechless and beat a hasty retreat wondering how our poor judiciary or a pathetic Lokpal, struggling to be born, can cope with all these scams and horrifying crimes.
Then it occurred to me that our large democracy was like a stained-glass palace in which nothing was untainted, including some parts of the judiciary and the media.
It is common knowledge now that some judges have been arrested for accepting bribes and some editors are being probed for demanding a huge bribe from an industrial house. The rupee is losing its value in relation to the dollar and the price of gold, so precious to the Indian psyche and ethos, is flying higher and higher.
Still, undeterred by the incredibly high prices, people throng gold and jewellery shops as they love to see their women decked in gold.
Devotees want to see the deities in temples wearing gem-studded crowns and ornaments. Gold plays an important role in Indian life and India has been shining in gold since time immemorial.
Once upon a time, diabetes was not as widespread in India as it is today. Even if there were a few cases here and there, they were cured in 40 days with an ayurvedic wonder drug known as Vasanta Kusumakaram, an ingredient of which was 24 carat gold. Now, with all the gold in the country being grabbed both by women and deities in temples, the manufacturers of ayurvedic medicines, in many of which gold is an ingredient, are forced to make them with inferior gold or no gold. Nowadays, diabetes is endemic in the country and doctors say it is incurable and can only be checked by a daily dose of insulin.
I could not stand the stress of these depressing thoughts and sat down on the nearest chair when my mind’s eye caught sight of a lean, tall man, dressed in sleek formals, looking like a 21st century edition of Lord Krishna. I looked a little more attentively at the monitor of my mind and identified him as Barack Hussein Obama, an African American Christian with a Muslim middle name, who has been elected President of the USA for a second term with the support of women and the minorities including the large Indian community.
He professes a love and respect and an abiding friendship for India. He could accomplish what his predecessor had not been able to do — the elimination of the most dreaded demonic killer — Osama Bin Laden, who had looked almost immortal for several years like one of those evil demons in Hindu mythology.
President Obama might as well be the latest incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who could achieve the impossible and save mankind. I have no doubt in my mind that it is his power that paved the way for the passing of the FDI in retail bill in Parliament.
Even those, who were opposed to it, either voted for it or abstained. That is Vishnu maya, the magic of Lord Vishnu.
Now the “mango people in the Banana Republic” can give up the outdated mangoes and bananas and eat the more fashionable strawberries, pears and plums and use for communication Blackberry, bluetooth, i-pad and their more up-to-date versions.
Thanks to our forward-looking government and its enlightened Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who, as finance minister, had opened the doors and windows of our economy two decades ago, and let in the flavour of the dollar, India need not make any effort now to shine and get tired.
FDI in retail may eventually lead to FDI in wholesale, which can make the sun shine day and night on India, which will then become the land of perpetual sunshine with solar energy harnessed to the fullest extent and, with FDI in retail already on in full swing then, it will become the land of milk and honey.
Since public memory is short-lived, all the scams of today will disappear into the bottomless bin of oblivion.