(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
As the budget day approached, the nation got ready to celebrate this non-religious holiday very religiously. Students were assigned essays to be written on why budget day is their favourite holiday. Everyone in the workforce cancelled all their appointments. Restaurants were offering their patrons special deals on drinks and appetizers to induce consumers to do their budget watching with them. Television channels dusted off their annual glimpses-of-various-finance-ministers-showing-off-their-budget-briefcase video. Twitter users were remembering Bengali stereotypes to make terrible Pranab Mukherjee jokes. Economic experts were taking a break from giving a discourse on other issues and concentrating on second guessing the finance minister. A number of think-tanks even came up with alternate budget suggestions, which they released on the day before the budget presentation (because obviously the most important financial document of the world’s fourth largest economy is prepared the same way I used to study for all my exams: by pulling an all-nighter). India was ready to get fiscal.
I was watching news television the whole day so besides breaking into a terrible rash, my only take away from the budget broadcast was that somehow I would have to back-pay all my taxes again, going back to 1962, for some reason. I was so outraged that I joined a Facebook group protesting this blatant power grab. As I was about to sign a strongly worded online petition, I ended up using the ‘Google machine’ and found out that my object of outrage was only a clarification of an old law, something that is not a punch in the face of the constitution but a normal budgetary procedure.
Can you blame me for not cutting the UPA any slack? This government has fucked up so many times the country has fuck-up fatigue. It has less inertia than a 101-year old man pushing his own wheelchair. A government so rudderless it makes a sunken Italian cruise liner seem like it knows where it’s going. A government which meanders from crisis to crisis and yet has the temerity to act like a ‘mean girl’ towards anyone who suggests that they might not be the most awesome thing to happen to the country.
Things are not helped by the fact that our free press- the supposed vanguard of our democracy- has the attention span of a schizophrenic sociopath suffering from attention deficit syndrome. There is no sense of proportion. Even minor governance issues are trotted out as do or die situations. Mid-term elections have been just around the corner ever since this government has been elected. The media is so eager to badly analyze a horse race that they have no qualms in disingenuously engineering a crisis every other week.
They spend less time vetting the messiahs they force upon us than the amount of time the McCain campaign spent vetting Sarah Palin. Montek Singh Ahluwalia was supposed to be Manmohan Singh 2.0. He was everybody’s dream finance ministerial candidate, until it turned out that he had no idea where to draw the poverty line. Laloo Prasad Yadav was the best Railways minister in the history of the country until reports came out that he was pulling an Enron. Anna Hazare turned out to be less Ben Kingsley in Gandhi and more Ben Kingsley in Sweeny Todd. Rahul Gandhi was India’s ‘youth icon’ until he was unceremoniously dumped for India’s new boyfriend, Akhilesh Yadav.
Now, whatever you do, don’t blame me for being distracted by all these shiny objects. Blame stupid people for doing stupid things and those crass reporters for reporting every non-story as breaking news. The navel was already visible; all I did was gaze at it. Don’t shoot the recipient of the message! In fact, I get so angry at the media for reporting a non-story that I will punish them by continuously watching and/or reading every new non-development update about stories which don’t deserve to be extensively reported on. Don’t tell anyone, but, sometimes, I even go out looking for things to be outraged about. No, no, I don’t have any ulterior motives when I do that! I follow these stories ironically! Do you think I like feeling superior to stupid people? Don’t Simon Cowell me, bro.
A government which refuses to govern. An opposition which is even more incapable. A media which has a shorter attention span than an infant. A people who match the government’s sense of apathy.
At least the captain of the Costa Concordia had the decency to abandon ship.