Hey Bhagwan… what does one do with schoolboy netas who refuse to wear big boy boots?
Mumbai is in the throes of Ganpati Utsav, the city’s most popular festival, with every road leading to an elaborately-decorated pandal. This year, our beloved Bappa is shaking his head in disapproval as he surveys the shenanigans, while ardent devotees rent the air with joyous cries of “Ganpati Bappa Morya!” So much unnecessary gadbad. Where are the wise men and women to lead us out of this mess? Here we are with a Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, the 128th Constitution (Amendment) Bill, yaaney ke Women’s Reservation Bill, which was passed aaram se, given the timing. The “timing” refers to just one timing, theek hai… Elections 2024. Every single political move, chhota ya bada, has to do with vote-catching. And that’s what happened. Hold on… the crucial implementation is likely to take a while. Sure, Dr Manmohan Singh was the original mover of the bill (authored by the Congress) in the Rajya Sabha (2010) and got it passed. Thirteen years later, we are still standing at the same spot and in Sagarika Ghose’s succinct summing-up, we have been issued a “post-dated cheque for the future for instant political gratification today”. Are women weeping in the streets? Naah… They are too busy for tears: someone’s got to work! Why wait for fake promises to materialise? Seize the future, dream big, push ahead and succeed… It was never going to be an easy ride. Women don’t need subsidies. Just a level playing field.
Ganpati Bappa is the God who removes obstacles. And destroys evil. He’s chuckling away after removing an obstacle from Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was packed off unceremoniously after being scolded like a disobedient schoolboy by Bharat’s PM Narendra Modi. Hey Bhagwan… what does one do with schoolboy netas who refuse to wear big boy boots? We have Rahul Baba in India and Justin Baba in Canada. Both cute kiddos who forgot to grow up. While Rahul Baba has taken a few major steps into adulthood with the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Justin seems to be regressing rapidly with his jejune conduct that has made him an international joke. After getting snubbed by most political leaders at the G-20, Canada’s PM went home to lick his wounds and face local taunts about his shabby treatment at the important global summit. But, instead of indulging in damage control and looking ahead to better relations, Justin Baba screwed up big time and further antagonised his hosts by making wild and unsubstantiated allegations in Parliament claiming he had “credible reasons” to believe “agents of the Government of India” were responsible for the assassination of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil. Huh? Sounds like the blockbuster plot. When the PM of a large country (3.82 crores) accuses another large country (us!) of assassinating one of his citizens on home soil, it can’t be dismissed as a childish expression of pique. Was Justin severely jet-lagged? Or on something more than what he’d consumed in a Delhi restaurant, oddly named after a Japanese volcano?
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Sikh separatist leader, was killed in Vancouver this June. Instead of immediately spearheading a probe into the crime, Justin Baba waited till September before launching his frontal attack on India. In a sharp, balanced and shrewd interview with Karan Thapar, a former head of India’s intelligence agency RAW, Amarjit Singh Dulat, stylishly threw out the charge, stating: “It is absolutely bizarre… we have never assassinated people.’’ He stuck to this single argument, laconically brushing off pointed questions. Assassinating people, whether at home or abroad, is not something India’s intelligence or security agencies have ever contemplated, leave aside carried out, he repeated.
I have met Dulat with his gracious wife at a couple of lit-fests where he was promoting his latest book A Life in the Shadows. He has written two other books based on his adventures in spyland: The Spy Chronicles and Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years. His latest book attracted a great deal of attention, since people know zilch about this shadowy world. He does say emphatically “we are not the ISI”, and the memoir uncovers “deep policy fractures” in Pakistan. His views on terrorism are well-known. This is an insider’s view of how intelligence agencies function. He laments India has no official history of RAW… no archives, like the ones maintained by the CIA. I so wish I had the time to hang out at the improvised bar on the lawns in Thiruvananthapuram with Dulat and biwi… but we were constantly interrupted by very thirsty young authors asking for refills. However, I did introduce him to someone as India’s number one spook, and he sportingly chuckled at my cheek. It’s not often that one gets to clink glasses with individuals like A.S. Dulat. I believe he has another sizzling book in the pipeline… with his experience and knowledge base, it’s bound to be a cracker. It takes guts. But I half-suspect the only person Dulat fears in his life is his formidable wife. Sensible chap!
Till Dulat and I meet again, I’m chewing on Arundhati Roy’s words: “The state of India is very precarious, very contested…”, describing India as a “flawed democracy”. She lamented the “beauty and grandeur of India” was under threat and emphasised India has been converted into a “small, petty, snarling and violent” nation. Roy recently received the 45th European Essay prize. In her acceptance speech, Roy mocked detractors who thought she was a pen for hire (“Darling, I loved that piece you wrote on dams, could you do one for me on child abuse?”), and ended by saying: “However grim the situation is, please know there is a tremendous fightback.”
I’m now looking forward to a great Ganeshji darshan, being in the exalted presence of “India’s richest Ganpati” at GSB Seva Mandal, celebrating its 69th year. With an insurance cover of Rs 360.40 crores, adorned with 66 kg of gold, 295 kg of silver, the interesting part of this particular mandal is the introduction of a QR code and digital live mechanisms, plus installation of facial recognition cameras as part of the security arrangements. There’s a lot I want to whisper into Lord Ganesh’s ear about the golmal going on. With his wisdom and power to hatao obstacles, we can enjoy our modaks peacefully as we bid him a reluctant adieu next week.
I hope to grab a copy of the newly-printed Constitution, distributed to MPs on September 19. Adhir Roy Chowdhury has claimed two crucial words, “socialist” and “secular”, have been dropped. Arundhati Roy’s prediction that India is likely to “fall into chaos” are ringing in my ears. I am counting on Bappa’s blessings to keep us safe.