Warning: If you plan to go through this column today, attach it to a helium balloon, set it adrift, and read it through a telescope. Or, if you don’t have a helium balloon and telescope, hold it at arm’s distance and stick a surgical mask over your face before you peer into it. Because if you don’t, you’ll become – as I have – a statistic.
Not that I’m dead. (Responsible columnist though I am, as Ye Ed will testify when I hold a gun to his head, I draw the line at hauling my soul out of my mortal remains to slave over a hot keyboard even if it is for your edification.) It’s just that I’ve become one of the 20 to 30 per cent more people in Mumbai reporting to doctors with coughs, sniffles, sneezes, blocked noses and disgusting throat-clearing noises, all of which add up to one thing: germs. Or, as they say in advertising, kitanoo. And, as a responsible columnist, I have to inform you that this piece was written in the middle of a coughing fit, so there are kitanoo all over the place.
Oddly, I’m not miserable because of my affliction. In fact, even though a hundred thousand kitanoos in hobnailed boots are galumphing about my windpipe, I’m pleased. Because this is a legitimate excuse to stop doing the theorems, algorithms, base conversions, Boolean operations, coaxial circles, unit fractions and other complicated mathematical calculations that, as a journalist, I’m forced to do so I can pretend to you, dear reader, that I have even the faintest idea of what will happen at the trust vote in Parliament today.
True, I’m far from being a mathematical genius (in fact, at school, my maths teachers got a hardship allowance whenever I walked into class). But even Aryabhatta wouldn’t be able to put the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party together to save his life (or the government), let alone account for all the MPs who see the trust vote as a kind of Make A Wish Foundation: “Give me an airport and gold in a Swiss bank and I may give you my vote.”
So, no. The kitanoos aren’t responsible for my misery. It’s the fact that, much as I hate to admit it, Pavan K. Varma in his books, Being Indian and The Great Indian Middle Class, has analysed the Indian character only too well.
However bright and energetic we are as a people, however many positive qualities we possess (and we do have many), at heart we are power-hungry and greedy. And the only things we stand up for — when we do stand up for things — are the things we think our communities (whether social or economic) require. Otherwise, we just don’t care.
Just as I’ve ceased to care about counting MPs and calculating the monetary value of their votes, and am counting kitanoos instead.