(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
We have sadly come to the end of our trilogy about the esteemed leaders running our country. Granted, they might be running it into the ground, but at least we can laugh at them while we drown our sorrows in alcohol and gallows humour. In this edition we also give an honorary shoutout to two former members of the cabinet who we will always remember with a smile on our faces, disgust in our hearts and a solitary tear in our eye.
Our seventh contestant is defence minister and the inspiration behind the Mr. Magoo cartoon character, AK Antony. Possessing the personality of a tetanus injection, Antony is proof that being clueless is considered a virtue in this country. His main qualification for one of the top four jobs in the union cabinet was that he is too stupid to be corrupt. He is so out of his depth in the defence ministry, even Manmohan Singh is able to bully him. Antony also has to visit the hospital very often because he keeps getting his foot embedded in his mouth and has to get it surgically removed. He once floated a 26/11 conspiracy theory that even an anonymous internet commentator would be ashamed to propagate. He continues to deny that any incursions take place on the India-China border even though Chinese soldiers regularly cross over into our side to satisfy their insatiable thirst for Chicken Manchurian while taking pictures of each other using the smartphones assembled in a factory by their own children. Yet, Antony’s employers keep him where he is, because honesty!
Our final contestant is Minister of State for Human Resource Development and human plate of scones, Shashi Tharoor. For the first few years after his election, he appeared to be out of place among his contemporaries in Parliament. He seemed like he would have been more comfortable arguing with Bertie Wooster about the ownership status of a cow creamer rather than explain the vagaries of international law to Sharad Yadav. Back when he was Minister for External Affairs, he was often found bringing a chippy attitude to his job. I say old chap, what’s all this rummy business with that old codger they call the Dalai Lama? He spent most of his first year clarifying and apologizing for some gaffe or the other. Being made a constant target fortified his credentials as a bonafide middle class icon. He became a real life hero. One of us, as they like to say. He could speak English with an indeterminate accent! He went to all the right schools! He was the type of politician who wouldn’t get his hands dirty by committing petty crimes! He was being bullied into silence by his own jealous colleagues and their surrogates in the media because he dared to speak the truth on twitter! He liked to pose for photographs which showed him thoughtfully staring into the future, the true mark of an intellectual.
So when it was revealed that the only thing Shashi Tharoor cared about was Shashi Tharoor and he had to resign, people were shocked. How could he betray us? If you can’t trust people who have spent their whole life believing that the world revolves around them, then whom can you trust? However, a few months later a newer, shinier, hungrier, middle class hope came along and everybody forgot about the former UN under-secretary general. So, last year, Tharoor was rehabilitated into the council of ministers, without any fanfare. He’s now become a fierce partisan warrior, even using his impressive articulation skills to tweet political arguments using a silly hashtag invented by a person with a negative IQ.
Our first honorary shoutout goes to former Home Minister and safari suit aficionado, Shivraj Patil. His greatest (and probably only) achievement was turning incompetence into high art. In fact, Shivraj Patil’s stint in government was such a catastrophe, Shivraj Patil promised that the perpetrators of this horrible incident will be caught and brought to justice. And then he wet his pants. These days, Patil is cooling his heels at the expensive senior citizen home known as the Punjab Governor’s mansion and is currently working on his memoirs, tentatively titled, 27 Dresses: The Shivraj Patil Story.
Let’s not forget about former Minister of Petroleum and Burra Sahib extraordinaire, Mani Shankar Aiyer. He left the union cabinet to spend more time being mean and distant to every guest on every NDTV show. But nothing encapsulates his personality like an article he wrote last year for Outlook magazine. In it, he whined about not being served champagne in first class while he was travelling in an American airline. He was also angry at being addressed by his name by people he thought were beneath him. His exact words were “Democracy in America apparently means the right of the lower orders to be rude to their social superiors.”
HOW DARE THEY ADDRESS HIM BY HIS FIRST NAME? HE HAS MORE MONEY THAN THEM FOR PETE’S SAKE! He gets invited to the best parties! He appears on teevee! Why didn’t they prostate in front of him? They treated him like a . . . . normal! Preposterous! It was very brave of Mr Aiyar to not have reported this incident to the American state department. As everybody knows, the state department’s only purpose of existence is to make sure all Indian VIPs visiting America are treated with the respect they deserve. Also, for future reference, the only acceptable salutations are: A) SIR DR MANI SHANKAR AIYAR SIR, B) HIS EXCELLENCY MANI SHANKAR AIYAR THE EIGHTH and C) MANI HONEY. Mani remembers a time when social superiors were not forced to mix with the rest. Everybody knew their place in the world. The rich would be treated with the importance they deserved and the rest would be . . . . well, who cares about the rest? That was a golden age! When sitting in premier class meant something. If you asked for champagne, you would get champagne. If you asked for caviar, by jove, you would get caviar. And now? First class just means that you have more leg space than those unfortunate masses forced to travel in economy.
So, who do you think is the winning contestant? Did we leave anyone out? Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.