February 21, 2020
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M.J. Akbar

I wish I had stayed in journalism. I would have blasted the saffronwalas who managed the Delhi polls.

M.J. Akbar
Illustration by Saahil
M.J. Akbar

Life is full of surprises and, of late, most of them quite unpleasant. Like, for instance, the three-seat drubbing for the BJP in the Delhi assembly  elections. I wish I had stayed in journalism where, if I’d still been editing the Telegraph, I would have blasted the saffronwalas who managed the Delhi polls. Particularly, the ex-cop who knows everything except to win elections.

So what? I ask myself. Today I feel like Jawaharlal Nehru the day he finished his Discovery of India. Well, now I have finished my own discovery of India and everyone is talking about it. Do you know that India is the only country where you can get up in the morning, hear the azan, followed by temple bells nearby, the paath from the gurudwara, and the sound of church bells (provided  the church was not vandalised by you-know-who). No other country in the world allows this kind of freedom, which should be protected with a sense of responsibility. The problem is that when we latch on to something we never let it go. So did the recent Tollygunj debate on ‘Should freedom of expression be an absolute right’.  Why not? Even in Calcutta, there is no Left to speak of. The enlightened audience and the more enlightened speakers spoke of Charlie Hebdo cartoons, Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, and the woman editor forced to go underground. The debate ‘Converse’ (why wasn’t it called ‘Shout’?) from which I emerged the hero will be remembered by Calcuttans, World Cup or not.

Did the city’s best and brightest turn up at the blah-blah? I have my doubts, it was the usual menagerie repeating the same arguments, cracking the same old jokes.... Lawyer Prashant Bhushan argued how section 66 A of the IT Act was used to harangue two Thane girls for an FB post which raised questions on the late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s funeral procession. The ‘alleged’ humour in the debate was rather forced too. We seem to invite all kinds of stand-up comics, why not try a couple of the ‘sit-down’ specimens for a change? Sad to say, the debate touched a new low when a former colleague from my Illustrated Weekly of India days cracked a PJ about Modi’s ‘infamous suit’ as a “pinstriped selfie”. Even Alec Smart would not have liked that. Everyone talked of ‘thin lines’ and ‘thick heads’ (shouldn’t they be ‘thick lines’). When I pointed out that “there was an elephant in the hall, there was a stampede towards the exits”. My friend P. Chidambaram telephoned to say that my comments about the tongue being capable of inflicting wounds which went straight to the heart was a lift from something called Tirukkural. Had Jayalalitha been CM of Tamil Nadu, she would have taken me to court for copyright violation.

The Mumbai-based satirist is the creator of ‘Trishanku’; E-mail your secret diarist: vgangadhar70 [AT] gmail [DOT] com

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