Listening to a headless chicken flapping about inside an upside-down metal bucket can be disconcerting. Strangely, it’s more disconcerting than witnessing its head being lopped off with a chopper on a wooden board that precedes the storm in a bucket.
But here’s the thing. Barring Maneka Gandhi and those never-ever-but-pretty PETA activists who I end up remembering more than recalling what they are exactly protesting, all well-meaning, normal non-vegetarian folks with decent families and firm consciences have no qualms eating chicken. Even most vegetarians don’t mind others eating chicken — “as long as they don’t force me to eat it,” says one of my vegetarian friends confirming my belief that secularism remains healthy in this multi-dietary country of ours.
I suspect that many of us are able to relish our tandoori chicken, chicken dopiaza, chicken curry, Kentucky Fried Chicken etc primarily because we don’t get to encounter the process of neck-wringing and decapitation that precedes the headless-chicken dance in the privacy of a bucket. Through a magical process an animal changes into food.
Desensitisation is mandatory for people to enjoy their chicken meals. Get too het up about the fate that befell the chicken and you’ll lose your taste. Which is where as practitioners of pragmatic democracy, we Indians do desensitisation like no other people can.
Regardless of what you may think about convoluted animal metaphors, the government flapping about inside the bucket over the last so many months too will settle down into a lovely meal that we will all love again. No one wants dinners to be disrupted by talk of chopping and flapping and plucking. We just want a fine, final chicken dish.
You don’t have to be someone tapping out messages from the PMO to take umbrage at what a Washington Post journalist wrote about the prime minister-in-a-flap being a “dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government”. We all know that — that Manmohan Singh is a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government the arrogance of which is breathtaking to behold.
But who wants to be reminded of that while they want their kids to get into good schools, expand their businesses, buy another car even while expecting fuel prices to never change? All this business of people shuffling in and out of the durbars of central and state governments making money, facilitating money, transforming money in dodgy, dubious ways is the equivalent of the chicken thrashing about in the bucket. It’s messy and unpalatable and shouldn’t be brought up at the dinner table. But how else will ma-baap GoI make chicken lababdar that you so love if it doesn’t wring the necks of the birds from which those lovely bits in the gravy are ‘sourced’ from?
The way in which this government survives despite all the odds stacked up against it, however, lies not in a chicken story but in a mutton parable.
The two asura brothers Vathapi and Ilvala — one in governance, the other in opposition — had formed a tag team. Vathapi was able to take the form of a goat that would be slaughtered and fed to unsuspecting Brahmins; Ilvala would invoke the Sanjivani mantra that could bring the dead back to life so that Vathapi could tear out of stomachs, Ridley Scott’s Alien-style, after the mutton had been eaten by the guests.
When the rishi Agastya was invited for a meal by a disguised Ilvala, Vathapi-as-a-goat was once again killed and cooked as a delicious mutton dish that Agastya ate with relish. But unlike the others before him, the great Agastya chewed all the bones and digested his meal with an invocation — and, I presume, a burp. This made it impossible for Vathapi to make a comeback.
Indian democracy’s much-celebrated, much-feted citizenry always stops short of chewing the bones of a diabolical, shape-shifting government that spends more time and energy covering its tracks than laying them out. Chewing bones, it turns out, is bad manners, especially when it’s the bones of GoI mata. So while we do our rounds of flinching, wincing and eew!-ing after every mega-scam comes to light, before too long we’re hungry and are sitting at the dining table.
The head of a government, the body of which is still in a bucket, has promised us a special chicken dish. Let’s please not spoil our appetite.