It seems He won’t stop making me feel guilty as hell. It’s like facing one’s beer belly in the mirror. But let’s begin from the beginning. Last year, soon after the saffron tsunami swept the country, I was having chhole with sinfully oily bhature at a low-end eatery in Sector 17. Lo and behold, I spotted Him staring at me from a sticker pasted on a pillar. No idea whom I’m talking about? You must be living under a Himalayan rock. Ask Manjhi the Mountain Man to demolish it with his hammer-n-chisel. Then you’ll know that He’s none other than our honourable PM, Modi the Mighty Man.
So, this sticker had His message: “Na khaoonga, na khaane doonga.” I wondered why He would have a problem with me enjoying a popular dish, unless He was worried about my health or had a low opinion of Punjabi food. The fine print revealed that His goal was to root out corruption and bribery, but for me His slogan was about getting my gastronomic habits right. Or to go on a fast-unto-death now and then, in solidarity with India’s starving millions.
That was the first time when guilt gripped my DNA. Now, His NDA has done it again, thanks to the GiveItUp campaign. They want me to forego my precious LPG subsidy, so that “an underprivileged household can enjoy clean cooking conditions”. His Highness surely hasn’t felt the orgasmic delight when an SMS announces the return of 200-odd bucks back into one’s bank account. Countless are the ways I dream up to spend that princely sum, right from the down payment of a swanky car to the earnest money of a multi-kanal plot. But His government is not only trying to rob me of that pleasure but is also out to make me look anti-poor.
Like any middle-class mortal, I’m easy prey for all kinds of discounts, rebates, concessions and cashbacks. I don’t mind if a shopping mall doubles the price of an item and then offers it at 50% discount (VAT extra, of course). SALE is my second favourite four-letter word (the first one’s unprintable). But here too I’m put in a tight spot by the guys at the sales counter. They politely ask me if I would like to donate a rupee or two to charity (so that they won’t have to return the balance). There’s also on display a glass box with notes inside, tempting me to act like Mother Teresa or Bhagat Puran Singh. But I simply end up Being Human, not by mowing down these slimy fellows, but by asking them to be charitable first. Why expect a donation from me when you yourself can’t even give a carry bag for free, I ask them bluntly. All I get in return is a sheepish grin and a fake have-a-nice-day.
The mallwallahs are small fry. It’s the big fish I’m bothered about. In the Parliament canteen, our selfless MPs pay a hefty Rs 25 for fried fish with chips and a whopping Rs 18 for a mutton cutlet. No wonder they fail to do anything fruitful in the House. It’s the high-priced meals that are always weighing on their minds and pockets. I’m ready to GiveItUp, but only on one condition: my entire el-pee-gee subsidy should be used to make food free for our cash-strapped representatives. Once their canteen bills are waived, the parliamentarians will be free to focus on the Bills to be passed. Indebted to me, they’ll one day install my portrait in the Central Hall. Minus the beer belly, I hope.