In Blake Edwards’ hilarious 1968 film, The Party, a browned-up Peter Sellers plays the bit-role Indian actor Hrundi V Bakshi trying to make a break in Hollywood. We find him in the opening scene as an extra in a historical big-budget movie.
His job is to play a Gunga Din-type bugler who is shot dead by enemy fire as he tries to raise an alarm from the frontline. Bakshi, desperate to leave his mark in the film, keeps on playing the bugle even as he gets pumped by bullets. He convulses, gets up, convulses again and keeps refusing to make his character die a quick death as planned.
He keeps dying much after the exasperated director shouts ‘Cut!’
This year has been a Hrundi V Bakshi year. Which is a bit ironic, because ever since 2013 started, we have been really thinking of 2014. Not only does 2014 sound more wholesome than 2013, but it will be shorn of most of those silly ‘serious’ things that people fill a vacuous year like 2013 with.
You know it’s been a boring year when all everybody has been talking about for the last 365-odd days is the next year.
Take the 2014 general elections. For anyone who wanted to be taken seriously in 2013, not asking or responding to the query ‘So will Modi become PM?’ was construed as a mark of being frivolous — the biggest sin, I’m told, that anyone can commit these days.
Somehow, the option of replying, ‘I freakin’ don’t know!’ has been considered to be a sign of weakness, on par with not bombing Washington DC in retaliation to how America has treated jugaad-worshipping Indian diplomats.
This stupid exercise of asking how things will be will, thank the lord, come to an end in 2014 and we’ll simply know whether Modi will become PM or not, whether Rahul will become Sonia or not, whether Ranbir will marry Katrina or not, whether this column will last another month or not, and similar real issues that have been concerning the nation for a while now.
The Football World Cup in Brazil in summer may not be the top-of-the-mind event for the likes of Arvind Kejriwal, Mukesh Ambani or Deepika Padukone as it will be for me. But at least for a month starting June, we won’t have to wear the mournful white that we’ve been wearing since Sachin Tendulkar retired in true Hrundi style. If 2013 has been marked by a spate of retirements in the world of cricket, the biggest announcement of leaving the field came this week from pop wunder hair-style Justin Bieber.
Anyone who deems it fit to call one’s admirers by one’s own name frankly doesn’t deserve to ply his trade in 2014. Regard Bieber’s tweet, "My beloved beliebers I’m officially retiring... being a belieber is a lifestyle." Even Marx never called his beliebers Marxists — although sources told me in early 2011 that CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat did have plans to call young entrants into the party Karat-e Kids before such plans went kaput.
The last day of 2013 on Tuesday will also hopefully close the door on some Christ-like poses from some Christ-like messiahs. Former US National Security Agency contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who revealed details of electronic surveillance by American and British spy agencies, warned in a Christmas Day message of the dangers posed by a loss of privacy.
"A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all," he said in a two-minute video.
"They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves..." Clearly, he’s never met anyone who lives in a one-roomer chawl in Dharavi or in a wealthy Indian family nearby where a car or two chaperone you whenever you go on a drive. Like it is for Indian law enforcers (unless applicable to eavesdropping in on a woman ‘for her safety’ in a police state), Snowden and his beliebers beliebe CCTVs and phone taps to be instruments only meant for a Police State. As long as you’re not homosexual, you needn’t heed Snowden’s whining next year at least in this country.
It has been a particularly Hrundi year and one can expect Indians to answer the question, "Who do you think you are?" — whether from American prosecutors or non-Indian cricket boards — in 2014 with the Peter Sellers’ line from The Party which Indira Gandhi, of all people, loved to quote: "In India we don’t think who we are, we know who we are!"
So winos and beheno, wrapping 2013 in a black bag and getting it ready for the dustbin, here’s wishing you a very happy new year and good riddance to bad rubbish!