It was too good to be true. I had been allowed to sleep on till 10am, an oh-so-rare luxury despite my mind-numbing graveyard shift. The maid, who punctually disturbed me at 7 by turning off the bedroom fan (and often forgetting to turn it on later), had not turned up to sweep the floor. What's more, my wife and daughter had quietly left for college and school, respectively, without bothering me at all. What had I done to deserve such VVIP treatment?
I was soaking in the solitude and the pin-drop silence when it caught my eye. Propped up against the wall was a brand-new broom -- with a saffron-coloured silk ribbon tied around its handle. Wondering whether my eyes were playing tricks on me, I reached out for my specs. What my hand picked up was not my own pair -- instead, it was a Gandhian specimen with the words 'Swachh' and 'Bharat' printed on the glasses. Enough was enough. It was time to call up my bitter-better half.
"What am I supposed to do with this broom?" I asked. "Ride it like the witches and fly over the neighbourhood?"
"Very funny," she shot back. "From today, I'm formally launching the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in our home. I've dismissed the maid, since now you will take charge of her duties."
"What? You sacked the poor thing? Just when I had managed to establish eye contact with her," I lamented.
"Forget about her and get on with it. You have the whole house to clean up," she thundered.
"But my cleanliness skills are no better than Katrina Kaif's acting skills," I pleaded. "I can't even throw a toffee wrapper into the dustbin. No matter how hard I try, it always falls outside."
"It's never too late to change oneself for a national cause," Her Highness lectured. "And remember that I want my house to be adjudged the cleanest in the entire locality."
"But where are the cameras, the spectators?" I enquired. "I can't do all this without an audience."
"Are you suggesting that the others did it just to grab eyeballs? Shame on you for mocking those who put service before self. You unhygienic cynic, I won't even give you the liberty of taking a selfie," my wife snapped. Then she cut off the call, as curtly as ever.
So, there was no escaping the Clean India campaign. Willy-nilly, I picked up the broom and started from my own bedroom. By the time it was half done, two parallel streams of salty sweat were trickling down my face, as if I was in tears. Exhausted, I called her up again: "Hey, can't we simply bribe the judges to win the contest rather than make me toil so hard?"
"What do you think this is -- the Asian Games boxing competition?" she asked. "I'm no Sarita Devi who will leave her fate in the judges' hands. I'll simply knock out all my rivals."
"The first person to get knocked out would be your own solitary spouse," I warned. "And if that happens, you as well as Narendra Modi would be equally responsible. He should have launched his mega campaign from Mars. The Swachh Mangal Abhiyan would have elevated NaMo's glory to the interplanetary level."
"Wow!" she gushed. "For once, you have come up with a good idea. I'll promptly pass it on to the PM's PR guys."
As the missus entered a whole new orbit, I hoped and prayed for a filth-free Mars, which seemed a far more achievable dream than a filth-free India.