I have been left shaken by a ghastly nightmare I had recently. A few nights ago, I had just turned in after a couple of glasses of feni and was drifting comfortably off to sleep, when it all started.
I dreamt that I was in Parliament, sitting quietly, perfecting the art of snoozing with my eyes open. I had just let out a gentle snore, when a guy who looked a lot like Arun Jaitley strode past me to the prime minister and warmly congratulated him on selecting a fine economist like Raghuram Rajan to head the Reserve Bank of India. “Oh rubbish, you guys would have done the same,” said a lady who, in the dim light, resembled Sonia Gandhi. I watched the bonhomie with a gnawing sense of dread.
“By the way, I really think Antony was an idiot to have reacted the way he did to the Pak intrusion,” continued the Sonia look-alike. “No, no, we all make mistakes,” said an old guy I took to be Advani. “Just look at my silly resignation drama,” he added.
Where was the mud-slinging, the mutual recrimination? “Hey,” said a person who reminded me of Yashwant Sinha, “shouldn’t we do something to help Durga Shakti Nagpal?” “Do you have any idea of the number of honest officers we’ve transferred?” said a chap who looked like Kapil Sibal. “Can’t be more than the number we suspended,” chortled a BSP lawmaker. “We too have done our bit,” interjected a BJP MP. That was the cue for a chap who looked like Mulayam. “That’s absolutely no excuse,” he said apologetically, “this time we’ve gone too far.” I couldn’t take this level-headed moderation any more, my hands had become cold and clammy and I was shrouded by a sense of doom.
“Yes, but what can you do, we all need goons,” sighed a Congress MP. “Not to forget the political funding,” lamented a BJP honcho. “Oh, talking about politics,” said a Kamal Nath look-alike, “we really need to pass the food Bill.” “Of course, it’s not anti-farmer at all, I just say that for effect,” laughed a Samajwadi Party legislator. “But the public distribution system does leak like a sieve,” protested a guy who resembled Chidambaram. “Heck, some of the states that have done the most for food security are run by us,” said the Yashwant Sinha clone, “we’ve just been opposing the Bill because you guys get a political advantage.” “Entirely understandable,” said a sardar who resembled the prime minister. I broke out in a cold sweat at the brotherly love.
A chap who looked leftist piped up, “I’m so sorry, we should have supported foreign investment in insurance, it’ll bring in much-needed dollars.” “No, no, we’ve really let the economy slide. And look how high inflation is,” said the Chidambaram clone. My knees buckled in terror. Faced with such disarming candour, how would we blow things up out of all proportion? What would happen to our shouting matches on television? All the fun would go out of politics. If everything was sweet reasonableness, what on earth would I write about? All I could do was whisper, “The horror! The horror!”
I woke up bathed in sweat. The first thing I did was switch on the TV news. As I watched our leaders rant and rave, stage dramatic walk-outs and preen for the cameras, relief flooded through me. Never again, I promised, would I have feni for a nightcap.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal