The other day I got this frantic call from the CIA’s India desk asking for help. “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants a bailout and only our outfit can help him out.” I wondered how we could be of assistance. “Frank,” I enquired of the gentleman at the other end of the line, “is there some investigation to be done? Or does Delhi need some phone-tapping equipment?” I was politely told that the requirement was far more complicated. “As you know, the Indian government is facing a lot of flak from the Opposition over its plan to allow 51 per cent FDI in retail and it wants a big favour from you.” Now, I found this request rather perplexing. As an investigating agency, we did not exactly transact any business in the commercial sense of the term. So where did the FBI come in?
“It’s elementary, Mr Mueller,” Frank said over the hotline. “In India, language and semantics count for a lot. It often changes perception. So after giving it much thought, my boys have come out with this masterplan to save the US-friendly Indian prime minister from much embarrassment. To put it in a nutshell, since there is very serious objection to FDI in retail, we have decided to repackage it as ‘FBI in retail’.” Well, to be honest, I was stumped by what was being suggested and was going to voice my apprehensions but Frank explained that an elaborate gameplan had been worked out by his team. Apparently, an NRI businessman from New Jersey (a certain Mr Aggarwal) had already been coopted and he would be the front for the FBI. Frank further elaborated, “In the Indian Parliament, they hate the very sound of Walmart. So we have decided to give them the Aggarwalmart chain in major cities. And instead of malls, we will set up what we will call ‘moles’ in small towns. By the way, as it is, we have quite a few of them moles in the government in Delhi!”
Frank sure had a sense of humour. But what would the FBI sell at these malls or moles? The chaps in the CIA had worked that one out too. “Everything from guns and roses to bullets and bread. In fact, we have got a very favourable feedback from Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh on the guns and ammo bit. Remember he’s the guy who has been making a case for citizens’ right to owning firearms. Well, let me tell you, he’s very excited about the prospect of FBI in retail,” Frank drawled on and on about Singh being the patron-in chief of the national association for gun rights.
Finally, before hanging up I had a little doubt I wanted to clear. What did the Indian side think of the CIA’s plan? Frank cleared his throat and said that New Delhi was very excited. “Why an official in the PMO told me, ‘Frank, let a thousand ‘moles’ and Aggarwalmarts bloom across the country. The future of the country will brighten with FBI in retail’.” I put the phone down and wondered if it was all true or was I hearing things....
(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)