Youngsters across the country have been inspired by Rahul Gandhi’s interview, with interesting results in schoolrooms. Here’s an example of what’s going on:
Teacher: Good morning, children.
Teacher: Take out your science books. I hope all of you have learnt yesterday’s lesson on the potato.
Teacher: Good. Neha, name one important characteristic of potatoes.
Neha: Ummm…..women’s empowerment?
Neha: Women’s empowerment, ma’am. It covers pretty much everything.
Teacher: What does it have to do with potatoes?
Neha: Well, when you were young, did you like potatoes?
Teacher: Not much. But I’m asking the questions here.
Neha: Yes, ma’am. But if you were empowered and didn’t like them, we wouldn’t be discussing potatoes.
Teacher: That is neither here nor there. Raju, let’s hear from you.
Raju: They’re elsewhere, ma’am.
Raju: The potatoes — if they aren’t here or there, they must be elsewhere.
Teacher: Rubbish. Name one important characteristic of potatoes.
Raju: They don’t have a voice, ma’am.
Raju: That’s probably why they get eaten.
Teacher: Utter nonsense. Rubina, I notice you are trying to avoid the question.
Rubina: Do you have any idea of the tremendous amount of pain I have suffered from potatoes? My father choked on a boiled potato, my grandmother was scared by a burnt one and my aunt was knocked down by a well-aimed potato. They were all destroyed by a predatory potato-eating system.
Ravi: Ma’am, I disagree. What’s important is not individual potatoes, but the idea of the potato.
Teacher: Hmmph. Let’s try another question. Vineet, how many calories does a potato have?
Vineet: It depends on the processes and the structure of the potato ma’am.
Teacher: What processes?
Vineet: Is it baked or boiled or grilled or fried?
Teacher: Fair enough. How many calories do we have in a 100 gm uncooked potato?
Vineet: Ah, but who chooses the potatoes? We must empower the youth of the country.
Raju: Ma’am, another important thing about potatoes is they weren’t mentioned in the Mahabharata.
Teacher: Very good, Raju. They weren’t mentioned then because they were imported from the New World, after America was discovered.
Raju: Oh, I thought it was because of the concentration of power. 500 kings may have decided, behind closed doors, to keep potatoes out of the Mahabharata. We need to open those doors.
Teacher: Garbage. None of you will pass.
Class: Ha, ha. We know you can’t fail us, thanks to Sibal uncle.
Johnny: And if you say rubbish once more, we’ll say you’re forcing us to commit suicide and you’ll be hauled off to jail.
Teacher: Calm down, no need to get antsy. Rima, could you tell us the scientific name for the potato?
Rima: Not even if you beat me to death. And women are the backbone of the country.
Teacher: Of course, of course. Perhaps Bablu can enlighten us?
Bablu: With due respect, ma’am, you can’t just say Abracadabra and answer questions about potatoes. We have to wage an ideological battle about them, we need concentrated thinking and long-term work, we must get to the core of the potato. We must release the energy trapped in them.
Neha: And if you want answers, why don’t you file an RTI application?
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal