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Losing their heads

india Updated: Jul 30, 2011 22:28 IST
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Suresh Kalmadi may or may not have dementia, but if what his lawyer says is true and he has had the disease for years, then it’s very worrying. If Kalmadi could have been appointed head of the Commonwealth Games committee while suffering from dementia, who knows which other big shot is suffering from God knows what mental disease.

What if, for example, some schizoid minister got it into his head that he was Rakhi Sawant? That might not do too much damage, unless he, like her, wants to marry Baba Ramdev, but suppose he believes he is Voldemort, or Darth Vader? Or, to take another example, what if a political leader suffers from the delusion he’s a vampire and bites the prime minister in the neck? To ward off such contingencies, I had asked the doctors at AIIMS (All-India Institute of Mental Symptoms) to carry out a survey on the psychological diseases affecting our leaders. What they found is mind-boggling.

The survey report shows that most of our leaders, ranging from politicians to top businessmen to civil society activists and professionals, suffer from megalomania. Many politicians are under the impression they are God. One civil society guy who suffers from a Messiah complex thinks he is Gandhi, while several of them imagine they are Mother Teresa.

One chief minister seems to labour under the misapprehension she is Rabindranath Tagore. The survey also says a southern political leader thinks he is Stalin, but I think there’s a mistake here, he actually is Stalin.

Another very widespread mental disease is paranoia. Several political bosses told the surveyors that their partymen were out to knife them at the first opportunity. Many businessmen suffer from a persecution complex. “I can scarcely sleep at night,” said a couple of them from the south, “because I know the moment I close my eyes they’ll come and take away my mining licences.”

Several public figures also suffer from hysteria, with television anchors being the worst affected. The malady is highly contagious, as many of their guests seem also to be similarly afflicted. Some doctors, however, think the disease affecting TV anchors is not really hysteria, but Munchausen’s syndrome, which is a deep-seated psychological neurosis in which those affected feign diseases in order to draw attention to themselves. A related disease is pathologically excessive talking, also known as logorrhoea.

Schizophrenia is very common, with multiple personalities being the norm. When our leaders contradict themselves, it is their different personalities who are saying different things.

The report says the disease has assumed epidemic proportions in Pakistan, where Asif Ali Zardari is actually three different people — Asif works for the ISI, Ali is a non-State actor and Zardari thinks he is the president.

Another widely prevalent disease, of course, is kleptomania. “Imagine my surprise when I came home from work and found R1,76,000 crore in my pocket,” said one of those surveyed, adding that he had a compulsive desire to pocket things. Members of Parliament, especially back-benchers, also suffer from narcolepsy, which leads to frequent daytime sleepy spells.

Other mental illnesses detected by our survey include narcissism, sadism, obsessive-compulsive disorders, attention deficit disorders, amnesia, pathological lying and plain old-fashioned lunacy.

Given this terrible state of affairs, should we make mental health check-ups mandatory? The surveyors say we should look on the bright side — after all, no leader of ours has yet been affected by the psychological disease called piblokto, which is common among Eskimos and involves attacks of screaming and running naked through the snow.

( Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint )

The views expressed by the author are personal