Once upon a time many Christmases ago, Prime Minister Ebenezer Scrooge sat in his comfortable office, eating his Christmas pie. Apart from putting in his thumb and pulling out a plum and saying ‘What a good boy am I’, he did precious little, preferring to laze by the warm fire.
But his self-congratulatory plum-eating was interrupted by thunder, lightning and the appearance of a ghostly spectre. “Wh-who are y-you?” stammered Ebenezer, “You’re scaring me.” “Thanks,” said the ghost, “I had to work my behind off for the special effects, which isn’t easy, considering I’m a ghost and don’t have a behind. I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.” He then grabbed hold of Scrooge and whirled him back through time to the nineties.
“Thanks to finance minister Scrooge,” a renowned economist was saying, “India has been liberated from the shackles of the licence-permit raj.” “Ebenezer’s economic reforms have made the growth of the Indian economy the envy of the world,” gushed a businessman. “Bless Scrooge, thanks to him India is booming and jobs are plentiful,” said a man on the street. “Long live Scrooge,” was the slogan on everybody’s lips. Scrooge was moved to tears. “Why are you showing me this?” he asked. “Don’t ask me, I’m just the tour guide,” were the ghost’s last words before he disappeared.
Scrooge scarcely had time to rest before another spirit materialised. But he was more composed this time and merely asked, “Are you related to the ghoul who just left?” “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the wraith. He then caught hold of Scrooge and whirled him around the country.
“Ebenezer is such a pushover,” said a lady from Kolkata, “All I did was stamp my foot and throw a tantrum and he rushed to roll back reforms in the retailing business.” “The easiest way to make his government grovel is to go on a fast,” said a serial faster, adding “they even agreed that since politicians are corrupt, the civil service is corrupt, the police are corrupt, businessmen are corrupt, society is corrupt, we need another vast bureaucracy to keep them honest.” At the supermarket, a child prodded her mother, “Could I have that doll please Mommy, it even has a remote control like the PM.” “The Scrooge government holds the record for shooting itself in the foot,” chortled an opposition leader. Ebenezer was much distressed. “O spirit,” he asked plaintively, “Why am I so weak?” “I’m a spectre, not a shrink, thank God,” said the spook before vanishing into the dark.
Scrooge was so used to ghosts by now that when the next one came, he held out his hand, saying politely, “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, I presume?” The apparition silently unveiled a curtain, showing Ebenezer the future. “Didn’t the Scrooge administration ruin the Indian economy?” asked an aam aadmi. “Scrooge and Obama were the two great disappointments of the twenty first century,” said another. At a school in the future, a student was writing in her history paper, “Prime Minister Scrooge’s government was marked by paralysis, neurosis, sclerosis and possibly halitosis.” Scrooge looked wildly at the spirit. “Good spirit,” he implored, “pray tell me I can change all this.” “I’m a ghost, not an astrologer,” said the phantom before melting away. Does the story have a happy ending? It’s a Christmas tale, so it should. But to be honest, my memory isn’t what it used to be. Hell, I can’t even remember whether the prime minister’s name was Ebenezer Scrooge or something else.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal