Toxic political flu
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Toxic political flu

The swine flu pandemic may be sweeping the world, but here in India large sections of our population have been gripped by an even more destructive virus that has assumed epidemic proportions, writes Manas Chakravarty.

india Updated: May 09, 2009 23:23 IST

The swine flu pandemic may be sweeping the world, but here in India large sections of our population have been gripped by an even more destructive virus that has assumed epidemic proportions. This terrible disease, technically termed by the World Health Organisation as TPS (Toxic Politician Syndrome), is more commonly called ‘Political Flu’.

Symptoms: Gas is the most common indicator of TPS. Persons afflicted with the disease emit large quantities of hot air particularly at public meetings, where the atmosphere often becomes foul and noxious because of their emissions. The gas discharge becomes especially violent once every five years, when it affects the brain. This is seen from several indications, one of which is dashing madly about the country, releasing huge amounts of hot air at every location. This is known in medical terminology as loco-motion. Loco is the medical term for crazy.

Other symptoms include delusions and hallucinations. TPS sufferers often believe themselves to be very important persons. They have the delusional fantasy that they have a right to live in the best bungalows, hog roads and run around in cars with flashing red lights. A sure sign of TPS is taking credit for the strangest things. For example, a TPS-afflicted person may say that he is responsible for the growth in the economy, or the eradication of poverty, or for preserving a country’s culture. The technical term for this bizarre phenomenon is ‘inflammation of the ego’. Unsurprisingly, many of them have a tendency to tamper with history books. Sometimes, patients are gripped by a longing to save the world, with many of them confusing themselves with Mother Teresa.

Doctors say that the most common physical feature of the disease is the progressive disappearance of the heart, which is replaced by the stomach in the patient, because TPS-afflicted persons have a prodigious appetite. That is why they very often appear to be all puffed-up. Itchy fingers, sometimes with a tendency to be found in the till, are yet another physical manifestation.

In the most virulent cases, the symptoms appear very early. For instance, everybody knows the first word that babies say is a variant of ‘ma’, such as mamma, mummy etc. During the Cultural Revolution in China, however, babies afflicted with TPS often uttered ‘Ma-o’ as their first word. Reports have come in of CPM activists trying their best to ensure their kids say ‘Marx’ before they say ‘Mamma’, though they have met with little success. But a rumour from Kanpur indicates that a diseased baby born there uttered ‘Mayawati’ as her first word.

Who is at risk? TPS usually afflicts older people, with the disease erupting in full flower when a person is more than 70 years old. Recently, however, there have been quite a few examples of younger persons being stricken with the virus. There are also signs that it’s genetic, since it is often seen in several generations of a family.

Anyone can become a victim of the disease, but recent trends show that those with a criminal background are most at risk. The truly worrying thing, however, is that ordinary people too are infected once in five years, when they undertake a weird ritual of making trips en masse to a room in their neighbourhood to push a button and ink their fingers.

The cure: There is no known cure for political flu, although some say they were cured after listening to Pranab Mukherjee making a speech in Hindi. They point out, though, that this therapy is excruciatingly painful, akin to having all your teeth extracted very slowly.

The good news is that those afflicted can often be quarantined in certain parts of New Delhi and in the state capitals, where they hibernate before becoming infectious once in five years. But the best news is that recent voting patterns show that around half the country’s voting population is immune to the virus, with Mumbai being the safest city.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint

First Published: May 09, 2009 23:16 IST