As if the dipping mercury and the gathering chill in the air were not aggravating enough, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has now managed to pour cold water on whatever her ministers might have been planning to liven up the ringing in of the New Year. Ms Banerjee's list of dont's, meant to keep a lid on any excessive behaviour, forbids year-end holidays (barring illness), uninhibited and wild revelry at parties and acceptance of gifts from contractors and promoters. In this Santa season, Ms Banerjee's team has evidently got the 'bad boy-bad girl' punishment meted out to them and one must be prepared to see Trinamool ministers trudging to work, somewhat shaken but sombre, as the world around them erupts in gaiety and merriment.
On second thoughts, it is perhaps quite clever and far-sighted of Ms Banerjee to prepare her ministers for a life of austere self-control, where happiness does not flow freely from barrels and taps but is measured out in neat doses. Now that the age of the lokpal is almost upon us, shiny gift-wrapped boxes that used to be happily hauled home during the festive season will, like the proverbial chicken, come home to roost. Nor is any member of the government likely to escape public opprobrium if it becomes known that he/she was knocking down a drink too many when ideally the nose should have remained buried in government files on irrigation or illiteracy.
Does that mean that a life of eating, drinking and making merry becomes the stuff of dreams once someone decides to become a part of government? We can, of course, scratch our heads and come up with alternatives that, while not in the same league as these forbidden pleasures, can restore some of the joie de vivre otherwise lost. The turn of the year sees traditional harvest festivals in most parts of the country and honourable ministers can loosen up in those bucolic environs, without losing their credibility. Seen in the cold light of the day, that is perhaps the wisest course to adopt.