April 05, 2020
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New Year Diary

It took a battered woman’s gasps for life in the final fortnight to hold a mirror to the serial offences the Republic has quietly endured.

New Year Diary
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Gee, The Tweeple

If in 2011 the government revealed its disconnect with democracy’s undercurrent, those it governed began switching off from the mains—the processes, procedures and pivots that have kept the tableau afloat—in 2012. All year long, the BJP behaved as if it had met its oppositional obligations by slipping in sound bites through a tiny window on TV screens. From Ram Jethmalani to Prashant Bhushan, legal eagles were convinced that the judicial system they had built their fortunes on had become too much of a drag on everybody’s time. So a former irs officer happily conducted trials of the crooked and the corrupt in the court of public opinion (when not clambering up an electricity pole and cutting off the power supply).

It took a battered woman’s gasps for life in the final fortnight to hold a mirror to the serial offences the Republic has quietly endured. And, in some sort of poetic justice, it was Facebook and Twitter and BBM, which the high-IQ geniuses from Oxford, Stanford and Harvard had tried to fiddle with, that brought the hordes who tried to storm the president’s house. As the capital’s 0.1 per cent barricaded themselves from the 99.9 per cent of the country through a brazen shutdown of roads and trains—and an Emergency-style “advisory” to TV stations to fall in line—it was time to wonder if, on its 50th anniversary, we had not added “non” to Galbraith’s benign description of India as a “functioning anarchy”.

Looking at images of the tearful farewell for Kalanagar’s unelected supremo and the joyful reappraisal of Maninagar’s thrice-elected, it’s tempting to ask if we are tiring of the namby-pamby and pining to embrace the tough and muscular. Then again, looking at Egypt a year after Tahrir, you thank your tsars.


Steamed Zero

Choosing people who bore the pants off you can be a safe exercise in these anarchic times; it’s picking a dish you want to run away from that can result in the knives coming out. As far as your correspondent is concerned, it’s a no-contest: the rice idli. Whether you eat a three-rupees-a-piece off a plantain leaf on the roadside or a 500-rupees-a-plate at a five-star, the anodyne blob remains the most overrated South Indian item adorning our tables: colourless, odourless, tasteless—and utterly characterless.

Unlike its peers, the idli is nothing on its own. It is inedible without the chutney or gunpowder, just about manageable with the sambar, and only a dollop of ghee and a piece of vada give it some respectability. But, shining in the reflected glory of its accoutrements, the reputation of the sad little thing has assumed mythical proportions, because it is fair and good-looking, has carbs and proteins—and has bite-me written all over it. What Carnatic music is to the devout, the idli has become to dieters: an orb of blind, unquestioning reverence.

From Bidadi to Kanchipuram, enough worthy souls have tried to salvage the poor thing. They have seasoned it, they have stuffed it, they have changed its size, but all in vain. At the Bangalore Club, a neurologist once painfully explained why we tend to fall asleep 20 minutes after we eat idlis. Apparently, it releases some chemicals, which even caffeine fails to negate. In other words, a sleep-inducing bore.

How about the rava idli? Now, there’s a hero, an idli that’s rescued an idli.


Well-Bowled

If there is anything Sachin Tendulkar’s sudden retirement from the 50-over game tells us, it is this: even a genius with 34,000 international runs cannot get his ‘timing’ right all the time. Coming on the day ‘Young India’ was making its voice heard near Parliament, the news of the Rajya Sabha member hanging up his boots quickly dissolved, as if he were just another player.

Twenty-five years ago, a kindly coach gave a journalist a chance to test his fast-disintegrating fingers against SRT, who had burst on the scene. Sachin clean smote the legspinner thrice out of the stadium. When the next couple of balls, both googlies, trapped him plumb in front, the master-to-be walked up midway and hissed the most musical words ever heard by a hack from a hero.

Not for nothing did the Indian team hang up a poster outside the dressing room in Bangalore during the first T20: “Master blaster, we love you and miss you. But at least we can listen to our own music”.


Glass Half-Empty

The mood of despair is affecting Indians globally. At the Edinburgh festival, 3,000 comedy fans and a panel of 30 judges chose standup comic Nish Kumar for the tenth funniest joke: “My mum’s so pessimistic, that if there was an Olympics for pessimism she wouldn’t fancy her chances.”

Last year’s winner: “I needed a password eight characters long. So I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”.

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