The last few months have been wonderful, with a succession of scandals keeping us thrilled and happy. Scarcely had we got bored of the antics of Kalmadi & Co and their Commonwealth Games than the spectrum scam erupted in all its glory. And then there was Radiagate with those titillating conversations with hacks and fixers. "It's even better than phone sex," said one of the many sleazy chaps I know.
"I was dreading doing those mind-numbingly boring year-end wrap up stories. But now we have so many scams to fill the pages," said a newspaper editor. TV news channels have seen their TRPs soar. "Nobody watches family soaps any more these days," said a news anchor, "real news is much more exciting." He added he felt vastly relieved.
"A few weeks ago I had to work really hard to drum up fake indignation over something or the other that Pakistan did," he confessed, "but now I don't even have to pretend outrage. Whenever my righteous anger flags a bit, I have only to think of how easily these scamsters made all that money while I have to sweat for my living in front of TV cameras and the rage flares up again."
"In this cold winter," said a senior citizen, "I had reconciled myself to pass the time watching cricket, but now I really look forward to the scams." His wife said the old man shouldn't say such awful things. "Who knows, he might be branded anti-national and his phone tapped and then those poor Enforcement Directorate wallahs will have to listen to my interminable conversations about my gout and my recipes."
Not everybody has welcomed the scandals. "My trust has been shattered," said a wide-eyed young lady. "Before the scams, I used to think that our politicians were innocent lambs who spent their time gambolling on the Parliament lawns, occasionally sneaking off to the library to study the bills they needed to pass." She also said she believed our policemen were honest and helpful, our judges fountains of wisdom, our bureaucrats incorruptible, our businessmen never attempted to influence policy, that ministers were selected on merit, that journalists were revolutionaries and that elections were funded out of pocket money.
Strangely, she omitted the belief about a baby being born every time an angel sneezed. She added that all her convictions crumbled after the tapes.
A staunch nationalist said he felt India's image had taken a beating after the scandals. "Earlier, we only had to be ashamed of our countrymen going hungry, selling their babies, committing suicide out of desperation and living like animals in fetid slums, while their children died of malnutrition. Now we also have other things to be ashamed of," he said sadly.
Meanwhile unreliable sources say Lalit Modi feels completely left out, with Raja and others hogging the limelight. "How come they didn't tap my phones?" was apparently his rather petulant reaction.
And finally, the spectrum scam is now being imitated by international Nigerian swindlers. Their letters now read as follows: "Esteemed sir, this is to bring to your notice a great investment opportunity. Our government will be distributing telecom licences on a first come first served basis shortly. We have been able to make all the arrangements for the licence, but we are short by R10 lakh. If you are able to remit that token amount, your license is assured. The potential gains from the transaction could be as high as R176,000 crore."
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal.