Mr Shatrughan Sinha is at the cutting edge of a sort of “New Age” Hindutva. It was the ancient Indian wisdom of vaastu shastra which inspired the protracted and expensive palaver about the renovation of his rooms in Nirman Bhavan when he started his job at the health ministry. Now, it is feng shui which engages the minister and his men. The movement from India to China is indicative, perhaps, of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s expanding horizons. It also shows the pan-Asiatic character of Mr Sinha’s spiritual universe. Or it could be, simply, superstitious dread. Mr Sinha has much to dread, of course. Metaphysically speaking, when the stuff of one’s portfolio is something as nasty as HIV/AIDS or polio, then disturbing reflections on human mortality must often cloud the ministerial brow. Politically, there is that niggling trouble with basic discipline — the bother of having to attend Parliament, to be punctual with official appointments, birthday parties, the watchful eye of the prime minister’s office, the malice of other parliamentarians, and other banal irritations of a minister’s life. All this must cause a constant drain of positive chi, and a particular vulnerability to the evil eye. Hence, his office must be moved from the first to the ground floor, its colour scheme changed, the furniture moved around, the nameplate repainted and a little fountain installed in the middle of the room, together with a bamboo branch in a vase.
But all this ceases to be entertaining the moment one is reminded of Mr Sinha’s portfolio. A poor nation heading towards a demographic catastrophe and in the midst of a HIV/AIDS crisis of frightening proportions cannot afford to waste time and public money on the personal whims of a clueless, prodigal and irresponsible minister who has been put in charge of nothing less than health and family welfare. The physical well-being of more than a billion Indians ought to be more important than the conservation of chi in the health minister’s office.