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The Great Indian Nautanki

If there are no national issues to raise, create some, and second -- raise cadres of unemployed people and train them as actors, writes Khushwant Singh

india Updated: Jul 01, 2006 00:08 IST

The think tanks of our political parties have run out of gas. They cannot come up with real issues to confront the government. So they use gobar gas as fuel in the hope that it will keep their raths on the move.

Two lessons they have learnt is that if there are no national issues to raise, create some, however frivolous they sound, and second -- raise cadres of unemployed people and train them as actors. They are available for hire as daily-wage earners and they don’t have to be sent to the National Film Institute in Pune. Our politicians who are born jokers and actors can teach them the three Gs -- how to look grave, how to look gussa (angry) and how to look grateful. On days required for agitation, order them to assemble at Jantar Mantar, pay them half the daily wage promised for chai-pani and teach them a few slogans: zindabads  and murdabads are passe; now slogans should be two rhyming liners. However light-hearted they sound, they must be chanted with gravity and gussa.

Meanwhile, make sure that the press have also been given chai-pani. Call a few leaders and put garlands around their necks. On the signal ‘Chhoo Mantar’, start the march towards Parliament House chanting: Whisky, soda, barf do/Nahin to gaddi chhor do.

Sometimes it helps to put slogans in form of questions and answers eg “Kaunhain sacchey Hindustani/Kiss say rakhein huqqa paani? Uma, Sushma, Modi ya Advani?”

The procession will be stopped at barricades put up by the police near the roundabout. The garlanded leaders will be courteously asked to get into police vans and driven to Tughlak Road police station. They will be served refreshments while their names are entered in FIRs. That will end their period of arrest. They will be driven to their homes in their air-conditioned cars, welcomed with tilaks on their foreheads, pedas popped in their mouths and more garlands placed around their necks. That will end part one of the nautanki. If you ever feel like joining the protest marches, you are advised to leave your belongings at home. Both politicians and pickpockets are nimble-fingered.

There are other forms of nautankis like ‘fast-unto-death’ which begins with breakfast and ends before dinner. Stopping traffic by rail roko, sarak roko, chakka jam, hartal and dharam yudh morchas are entirely designed to draw attention of the media by causing inconvenience to the general public. I will write about them later. For the time being bear in mind that nautankis are also known as tamaasha.

Deadly Sins

An Indian’s list of sins adds up to five. Christians believe there are seven. My list ends with one. The Indian list has kaam (lust), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (love or attachment) and ahankaar (arrogance). The seven Christian deadlies are pride, lechery, envy, anger, covetousness, gluttony and sloth. I will come to mine after I have had my say about these.

I don’t think lust or lechery deserve to be condemned as sinful. Lust is an asset when engaged in making love; the more the better. It is the impotent or those whose libidos are on the decline who run down others. Lechery is much the same spread over more than one partner; we can make fun of people who have a glad eye but to call them sinful is not justified.

Anger is a human failing. Those who cannot control their temper, suffer; those who express it also suffer by losing friends. In either case one pays but there is no reason to call it a sin. 

Greed (lobh) is also a failing. Greedy people grab whatever they can get and hug it close to their bosom without sharing. But you have to concede that they can also be God fearing. Unless greed extends to grabbing something that does not belong to you, it cannot be a sin. 

I put moh (love or attachment) in the same category as lust. It cements relationships. Detachment from the world is a noble ideal for yogis and sanyasis. But unless one remains attached to one’s parents, sisters and children, families would disintegrate; there would be no home life. It is wrong to call it a sin.

The last on the Indian list is ahankaar (pride or arrogance). Most people suffer from this shortcoming. Behind their backs everyone mocks at their pretensions (akroo khan). The Gurbani calls it haumain (the disease of I am-ness) and exhorts people to rid themselves of it by their inner strength; “Haumaindeerag rog hai -- daavaa bhee iss mehein  (haumain is a foul disease, it is also its medicine).”

That leaves envy, covetousness, gluttony and sloth. All make a person a lesser human being. A glutton eats more than is good for him and becomes fat and unhealthy. If a person is slothful, does little work, takes no exercise and becomes slovenly in his habits, who suffers? 

So then what are deadly sins, those that hurt people other than oneself? Violence in any form is a sin. So is lying, cheating, thieving -- acts which deprive others of their life or limb or honestly-earned property. Defamation casts a slur on another’s reputation. The only one word I can think of which should not be done is himsa (violence) -- hurt no one. One who does is a sinner.

The lines of Ella Wheeler Wilcox are not great poetry but fairly sum what I believe: So many people/so many creeds. So many paths that wind and wind. While just the art of being kind. Is all the sad world needs.

PM or AM

A man asked a sardarji: Why does Manmohan Singh go for walks in the evening and not in the morning?

Sardarji:“Arey bhai he is PM not AM.”

(Contributed by Vipin Bucksey, New Delhi)