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Illustration by Sorit
The Secret Diary Of
Pranab Mukherjee
Mangoes? And why Alphonsos when everyone knows my weakness for Himsagar—ahh, that succulent king of fruits from Bengal!
There's much talk about how and why Pranabda wrote such a people-friendly budget. I am amused by the various theories. Why do people read so much between the lines when they should look beyond? Like Rahul baba says, before reading the second line one has to read the third one and the fourth. In fact, I understand these days Rahul reads policy papers from the end to the beginning so that there are no surprises. I went through the economic survey in similar fashion and I understood the conclusion even before looking at the beginning. The middle section I simply avoided since it was low on humour and high on definite articles. Anyway, coming to my writing the budget, there I was at home on a June morning with a scribble pad, drawing smileys and wondering about the thrust of my B-Day speech, when in walks Ahmed Patel with a box of Alphonso mangoes. "Madam has sent these so that you can come up with a bright budget," he says. Mangoes? And why Alphonsos when everyone knows my weakness for Himsagar—ahh, that succulent king of fruits from Bengal!

Anyway, I tried a few and I must admit they tasted quite good. But what did Soniaji mean, sending me fruit to pep up the budget? Was there a hidden message in this? I rung up the ever-resourceful Jairam Ramesh who is good at cryptic clues. "Pranabda, why don't we meet at Lodhi gardens at 8.30 tonight when I go for my daily walk. I can think clearly only when I'm on the move or when I'm in the shower." I agreed to the rendezvous. I caught up with Jairam speed-walking. He promptly ran his hand through his hair and then pointed to his feet. "I got these Reeboks at a sale. Buy the left shoe and you get the right one free," he said in a deadpan voice. Was this a poor joke or was he dealing in riddles? Meanwhile, I steered the conversation to mangoes. That sent Jairam into deep thought and after a good five minutes he uttered the word 'aam'. "But Jairam, that's mangoes in Hindi." He literally scoffed at me: "It's elementary, Pranabda," he said making a Dr Watson out of me. "Aam," he said a shade louder. "Can't you see, Soniaji wants you to present an aam aadmi budget. Give the aam aadmi some aam Pranabda." I was impressed. This Jairam is truly a genius!

The very next day, I sent Alphonsos to all the babus in my ministry. It was soon exploding 'aam' everywhere. Meanwhile, the big dilemma before me: should I announce any reforms in my budget. Jairam once again came to my rescue. "Pranabda, reform ko re-form kar do. Don't make any announcements we can implement it later. As for now, the message from 10 Janpath is loud and clear. This has to be a mango budget. Thank god Soniaji didn't send you lemons for inspiration...."

(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)

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