Malice in Wonderland | india | Hindustan Times
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Malice in Wonderland

After consuming innumerable cups of tea and turning the air-conditioner up by more than a few notches, the Mad Tea Party announced that it would fight the canards spread by the United Nations against the holy institution that is the Mad Tea Party.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2005 18:06 IST

After consuming innumerable cups of tea and turning the air-conditioner up by more than a few notches, the Mad Tea Party announced that it would fight the canards spread by the United Nations against the holy institution that is the Mad Tea Party. “Everyone knows that the Mad Tea Party is not in the business of buying or selling food,” exclaimed the Hatter to all the members of the media circus who had gathered outside the March Hare’s Office (MHO) where the late-night meeting had taken place.

Inside the MHO, the Hatter, who had mastered the art of being a spokesperson during the many previous embarrassing moments for the party, had already shouted out the words, “It’s laughable!”, a few times, trying out how it would sound outside in front of the television cameras. His colleagues at the table thought that leaving it at just that — “It’s laughable!” — would be laughable. Thus, the line, “Everyone knows that the Mad Tea Party...”

The UN’s food-for-thought programme, as everyone knows, was, since its inception, wide open to hera pheri. The world body relaxed trade sanctions against Iraq in 1996 and allowed that country to sell food and use the money made to buy

all kinds of thoughts for a thought-starved Iraqi population. The Iraqi government, however, introduced ‘hidden’ fees and made a neat pile in the process. A lot of people, including the son of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, allegedly piled up their piles through ‘commissions’, known in this country as ‘kickbacks’. Saddam said, “Let me make some money on the side, and you all can make some money on the side of the side.”

The tea hit the ceiling for the Mad Tea Party, of course, when an independent commission — comprising an American, a Swiss and a South African and commissioned by the beleaguered father Kofi Annan — came out with a report which charged the venerable Dormouse and his venerable Mad Tea Party with stashing away some food-for-thought money. Needless to say, these proper nouns were just two in a list of hundreds of others.

“Volcker is American. America illegally invaded Iraq. So isn’t it clear that the commission is out to destroy the reputation of the Dormouse, who has been quite vocal about his and the Mad Tea Party’s opposition to the war in Iraq?” said the Hatter, referring to Paul Volcker, the head of the inquiry committee.

“Well, it’s the UN which has commissioned the inquiry...” said the March Hare in his usual quiet manner.

“Aha! I knew it. The UN is a sham, a front for the Bush administration. If their findings are found to be unsubstantiated, they should issue a public apology and if that doesn’t come about, then we shall haul them to the court,” the Hatter said, with increasing gusto.

Adding to the trouble was the fact that the Dormouse was a respected-though-embarrassing member of the Mad Tea Party, who was always very prim and even more proper and who knew the classics well enough to quote lines from them never-failingly out of context. In other words, he wasn’t, say, the Cheshire Cat, the Mock Turtle or even the Knave (with a chargesheet against him for stealing tarts), whose complicity in a greasy international deal could be handled by the March Hare simply ordering an inquiry commission to look into the matter ad infinitum.

Alice, of course, not being a dyed-in-the-wool player in Wonderland realpolitik, kept a Sphinx-like silence throughout. It was the March Hare who had initially announced, “The facts in the UN inquiry into Iraq’s food-for-thought programme are insufficient to arrive at any adverse conclusion against him.” And he had a point. The Volcker report was just a conclusion. And in any case, those present at the MHO meeting realised that the name, Volcker, had its roots in the German word ‘volk’, which in turn formed the brandname, Volkswagen, which everyone knew was a car company launched by Adolf Hitler. Thus, the UN report was clearly fascist propaganda targeting the Dormouse and Wonderland.

But the earlier plan of claiming the charge against the Dormouse as “It’s laughable!” was amended after a generous round of tea-taking. The documentary evidence, now that it had been sought by the Mad Tea Party from the UN and was on its way to Wonderland, would, according to everyone around the table, clear up the whole mess.

At which point, the Dormouse, who had kept quiet as a dormouse all these days — barring one whiskers-munched-up announcement of “I am shocked and outraged by these allegations which are baseless and untrue” — stirred from his seat in between the March Hare and the Hatter and looked towards Alice who was seated at the head of the table staring into the tea pot. “I wasn’t asleep,” he said in a hoarse, feeble voice, “I heard every word you fellows were saying.” After which he started telling a story about three non-aligned sisters who lived at the bottom of a well and lived on treacle.

At this point, Alice, who had been trying her level best to understand matters through all the confusion that had befallen the Mad Tea Party since the food-for-thought ‘scandal’ had erupted, asked the Dormouse firmly but respectfully, “But if they lived at the bottom of a well, where did they draw the treacle from?”

Being terribly good about these supply-demand puzzles, one would have thought that the March Hare would speak up. But it’s not for no reason that spokespersons are called spokespersons. So the Hatter spoke up, “You can draw from a water-well, so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well.”

That seemed to satisfy everyone at the table. And over more hours of lengthy discussions, many more rounds of tea and a few statements made to the press waiting outside the MHO, it was decided that the Mad Tea Party would serve a legal notice to the UN and simultaneously trash the reputation of an organisation that was, after all, the idea of Western imperialist powers that had come out victorious after a shameful war some 60 years ago.

This would restore the Mad Tea Party its moral upper hand in the face of a smear campaign conducted by pretty much everyone barring, of course, the Mad Tea Party itself.

But there was just one tiny problem. Despite the Volcker report naming the Mad Tea Party along with the Dormouse, the weakest link on the table was the venerable Dormouse. Both the March Hare as well as the Hatter looked nervously at Alice, who was staring at the tea pot more fixedly than ever before. It took a few moments for the two to realise what she was saying (without saying, of course). And then they acted.

The Dormouse, who had dozed off a bit in the middle of his never-ending three-non-aligned-sisters-in-a-treacle-well story, was last seen being forcibly shoved into the tea pot on the table. And that was how l’affaire food-for-thought was most amicably resolved.