“My office and conference tables… had some foreign-looking substances”
-The finance minister to ET Now
Revenue Secretary: Net tax receipts so far have totalled around Rs200 billion, give or take a few billion.
Minister: Avoid the detail. Is the moolah flowing in?
Revenue Secretary: Oh, yes, of course.
Minister [to Expenditure Secretary]: And is it flowing out too?
Expenditure Secretary: Certainly, it’s flowing, flying, all those things.
Minister: Excellent. We can now have tea and samosas…EEEEK! th…there’s some fff…foreign-looking substance there! [He looks under the table to his left]
Babu on Minister’s left [blushing pink]: How clever of you to have noticed, sir, it’s Gucci.
Minister: No, no, it’s yucky.
Babu on left [Haughtily]: It’s certainly not yucky. I’ve never heard of a brand called Yucky. They’re Gucci shoes, I bought them in New York.
Babu on Minister’s right: Maybe Gucci is pronounced Yucky.
Minister: I’m not talking of your shoes, look at this stuff sticking under the table. [Everyone crowds around]
1st Secretary: It’s some sort of whitish deposit, a kind of blob.
Revenue Secretary: It isn’t revenue.
Panic-Stricken Babu: Oh my God, it could be a plastic explosive.
Lady Secretary [screams]: Ooo, look there’s another blob.
Lady Secretary: On the leg. [Everybody stares hard]
Lady Secretary: Not my legs, you idiots, on the leg of the table.
Minister [in sepulchral tone]: Could it be al-Qaeda?
At that moment, a sub-junior secretary, who had been examining the stuff, said, “All is well. It’s just chewing gum.” And he took a wad of gum out of his pocket and started chewing it.
Minister: You mean you ingest these foreign-looking substances?
Sub-Junior Secretary: It isn’t foreign, sir. Haven’t you heard of Happy Dent?
Revenue Secretary: I prefer Big Babol.
Sub-junior Secretary: That’s different, it’s bubble gum.
Minister: Why can’t you chew something normal, like paan?
Expenditure Secretary to Sub-Junior: I hope you aren’t making another mistake. Remember the time you added two zeros to the mid-day meal scheme expenses and schools in Mizoram feasted for months on biryani and kebabs instead of dal and rice?
Minister: If you look at this wad closely, you’ll find some grooves, or indentations. Could it be that this foreign-looking adhesive was used to support a bug?
1st Secretary: A cockroach? A louse?
Lady Secretary [Getting up on table]: Oooh! A cockroach, where?
Minister: I mean a listening device.
Senior Secretary: Hooray! We’re being tapped.
1st Secretary: Wow! We’re bugged.
2nd Secretary: Hah. We can now hold our heads high in front of Niira Radia.
Minister: The question is: who’s the bugger?
Lady Secretary: In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, they had this little ditty, “Dear friends, we surely all agree/ There’s almost nothing worse to see/ Than some repulsive little bum/ Who’s always chewing chewing gum.”
Revenue Secretary: Your point being?
Lady Secretary: That the bugger is a bum. Sub-Junior
Secretary: Relax, folks, I’ve been checking out these grooves on the gum and there’s no need to worry. These are the marks made by teeth while chewing gum.
Complete silence prevails, except for the Lady Secretary, who softly recites Roald Dahl: “So please believe us when we say/That chewing gum will never pay/This sticky habit’s bound to send/The chewer to a sticky end.”
email@example.com Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint The views expressed by the author are personal