Do not wait for others to tell you the moral of the story.
Dear Citizens of Bharat (i.e. India),
As you celebrate my 66th birthday, allow me to narrate a story. I realize that in this era of 140 character updates, people do not have time for stories. But once you are 5,000 years old (India might be 66 years of age, but Bharat is around 5,000 years old, you see), you tend to become a nuisance and narrate stories which no one is interested in. Nevertheless, like an old hag, you carry on.
In circa 1 AD, there existed a kingdom known as Youngistan. Surrounded by mountains on one side and oceans on the other three, the kingdom was rich in natural resources. Numerous rivers originating in the glaciers in the mountains provided the kingdom with fertile land. The people were God loving and generally amiable in nature. God appeared to have blessed the land.
The citizens had evolved a mechanism to run the affairs of the kingdom. Although the kingdom was under the benign suzerainty of an Empress — aka the Queen Mother — it used to elect a leader known as the Pradhan Mantri to run the kingdom for a period of five years. Mantris were appointed to assist the Pradhan Mantri. It was a predecessor of modern day democracy.
Pradhan Mantri or no Pradhan Mantri, the Queen Mother’s family believed that it had an inalienable right to rule the kingdom.
In contrast, the neighboring kingdom of Confusedistan was bereft of any mode of governance. In fact, nobody knew the identity of the person in charge. Some believed in a king, some thought that the army or the secret service was in charge, and some paid obeisance to the religious leaders who were more political than religious. Some even believed that Long Beard, who lived in the caves, ran the show.
The founding fathers had named Confusedistan aptly. The common agenda which bound together the kingdom was its pathological animosity towards Youngistan. Everybody, since we do not know who ruled the place, utilized the services of Long Beard and his cohorts to surreptitiously send in armed criminals into Youngistan to kill and maim people.
Confusedistan was under the patronage of the rulers of a distant kingdom which could only be reached after traveling for months on horseback and ships. This kingdom known as Policestan, considered itself to be the world's policeman. Previously ruled by the great warrior Alexander Dubya, it was now under the rule of O’Ma. O’Ma had confused his people with his "Yes you can" war cry. The people of Policestan thought that it referred to their ability to rule the world. As if on cue, they started picking up fights with all and sundry. Long Beard could only rant and rave from his cave hideout.
Policestan had, however, recently been troubled by a canary. Vickyleaks, as this canary was named, had a proclivity to eavesdrop into conversations between the rulers of the kingdom. One fine day it suddenly decided to reveal all the overheard secrets. Since Vickyleaks had made a mammoth tree as its abode, it could not be brought to book and sung along merrily. With the passage of time this canary gave birth to the saying, "singing like a canary." O’Ma was indeed a worried man.
But since this is a story of Youngistan, we will stick to it.
The supporters of the Queen Mother had a slap as their symbol. Since this group was tightly knit around the royal family and adored partying, they were referred to as the "One Tight Slap Party."
The system of governance in Youngistan ensured that everyone apart from the Queen Mother, nurtured a desire to be the Pradhan Mantri. The Queen Mother was an epitome of renunciation and silence. A few nasty people talked about her renunciation as a pretense for self-preservation, since she could not govern anyway. They said that she believed in the dictum, “better stay silent and let people think that you are a fool, rather than open your mouth and confirm.” They also said that she wanted to ensure the anointment of her son, Yuvraj, as the Pradhan Mantri. Nobody, however, paid any heed to them.
Yuvraj was an enigma. His academic background was a secret unknown even to Vickyleaks. Some said that he had gone to Policestan to study, others would say that he had run away from the kingdom to avoid academics. But Yuvraj would not reveal anything. Like his mother, he too was pretty averse to putting pressure on his vocal chords.
There were some other groups of people who opposed the Queen Mother, and wanted to be Pradhan Mantri themselves.
The larger amongst the opposing groups was known as the "Saffrons."
There was another major opposition group known as the "Reds." They abhorred everything indigenous and worshipped foreign Gods who had been forgotten even in their land of origin. The "Reds" had, however, become peripheral after being abandoned by the Queen Mother who had once utilized them to prop up her rule. Not for nothing was she also known as the Queen Bee.
"To bee or not to bee" had, however, become a burning question for Yuvraj.
Queen Mother had anointed her loyalist, Silent Assassin, to keep the throne warm till Yuvraj became mature enough to become the Pradhan Mantri. Like a true loyalist, Silent Assassin never cast a covetous eye on the throne, although his opponents said that his unblinking eyes epitomized that he had an eye for the throne. They were perhaps ignorant of the fact that Silent Assassin was a world champion at staying physically inert and his eyes had been attuned accordingly.
But with the passage of time it became evident that maturity was as alien to Yuvraj as speaking or activity was to the Silent Assassin.
Yuvraj had developed a propensity to break into the poor people’s homes in the night and forcibly eat their dinner. The poor, frightened out of their wits at the sight of Yuvraj’s massive security contingent, would pretend that they had been blessed by the Lord’s silent visit. They would murmur, “better to sleep hungry than die hungry.”
The silence of the triumvirate of the "One Tight Slap Party" did, however, have positive side-effects. Scientists discovered the sign language to communicate with the triumvirate. Telepathy was also established as a science during this period. Dumb charades were declared the national sport.
God, however, has a nasty sense of humor.
Silent Assassin, apart from his unflinching loyalty to the Queen Mother, had another quality which had made him a prize asset for the "One Tight Slap Party." He was supposed to be excellent at bartering goods (remember, 1 AD!) to the benefit of the kingdom.
“He will bring prosperity to Youngistan,” the loyalists roared. “God bless the Queen Mother for this choice” as the sycophants had raised a cacophony during his appointment. True to their nature, the sycophants had once even worshipped the Queen Mother for forcing God to create the Universe.
Initially, the Silent Assassin did his job. Not only of keeping the throne warm but also of maintaining the bartering prices at a reasonable rate. You could barter a bag of wheat for one goat. You could exchange the prized Som Ras intoxicant from Policestan for ten cows (alcohol never had competition from milk, you see).
But then things started to go horribly wrong. The barter price of daily items started increasing — initially slowly, and then sharply. A bag of wheat now got two healthy cows. Vegetables were worth a large tract of land. And people had to cough up 60 cows for Som Ras.
A stage soon arrived where the poor established watch towers for prior warnings regarding the impending approach of Yuvraj during his nocturnal eating sojourns. In the age of inflation, as this malaise was called, they could not let Yuvraj take away their food, security contingent be damned!
Worried at the possibility of Yuvraj going hungry, the Queen Mother frowned at Pradhan Mantri, who in turn frowned at his flunkies (i.e. the Mantris). “We have to secure food for Yuvraj,” they roared in unison. “Then let’s issue the Food Security Code,” spoke the Pradhan Mantri for once. “Now not even the throne but even the belly of Yuvraj will be secure forever,” the sycophants said with tears in their eyes.
The Queen Mother smiled.
The people, however, were becoming disgruntled. They were exasperated with the silence of the Queen Mother and Pradhan Mantri. The silence, they believed, was a fig leaf to cover up their inadequacies.
The principal opponents, the Saffrons, smelt an opportunity. But they were themselves a disoriented lot.
Their principal leader had been a master charioteer during his halcyon days. But innumerable chariot rides around the kingdom had put his mind and body under a lot of strain. Though his mind was still willing, his body would not acquiesce. “One last chariot race and the throne will be mine,” he used to think.
But time and chariots wait for no one.
White Beard was gradually assuming charge of the Saffron group. A brave heart, he would ride a tiger whereas others rode on their bedecked chariots. Dismounting from the tiger was a problem, but then brave hearts perhaps find their way. White Beard had developed a massive following in the kingdom.
Witnessing White Beard riding a tiger raised the apprehensions of the Queen Mother. "The Apocalypse" was now the focal theme in the dumb charades in the party.
Troubles also seldom travel solitarily.
Youngistan was now struck by a mysterious malady called "Sickularism." No medical practitioner could decipher the reasons behind this dreadful disease. The symptoms were, however, common. A person (mostly the leaders) suffering from Sickularism would prefer to remain idle and abhor work. Occasionally, he would praise the fighters sent by Long Beard from Confusedistan to kill and maim citizens of Youngistan. There was another telltale symptom of this disease. Anyone who asked a leader suffering from Sickularism to do some work for the people would be called "Komunal." Sickularism became a leitmotif for non-performance and non-accountability.
Even the Cockatoos, who had become the playthings for the leaders because of their natural ability for rumor mongering, were not spared from this malaise. The Cockatoos in those days did not have the harsh voice they have in the present times. Their sweet voice was known as Tweet.
The Cockatoos of leaders suffering from Sickularism also developed symptoms of the disease. Overhearing their masters harangue the "Komunalists" (usually the Saffrons), they would Tweet about Komunalists who were apparently hell bent on destroying the kingdom. The Tweets gradually started being referred to as the Tweeter.
One wasteful sycophant of the Queen Mother who ingratiated her by taking digs at White Beard and the Komunalists, became the most sought after Tweeter. Yuvraj lovingly referred to him as Digs because of his ability to take digs at the Saffrons. Digs would deny with alacrity any Tweet from his Cockatoos. “That is my Cockatoos' opinion, not mine” he would say. Then he would repeat the same Tweeter story next day.
Queen Mother would smile at the Tweeter gems from Digs and his Cockatoos.
People disparagingly said that she would display the same smile when her son-outlaw, Robber Bhagliya, would show her the gems and jewels he was pilfering from the royal treasury. But the gentlemen apart from the Komunalists did not believe in this gem of a story. Whoever did, was a Komunalist anyway. Silent Assassin did, however, notice the shrinking of gems and jewels in the treasury. But as was his wont, he preferred silence. “It ain’t my crown, so why should I bother about the Jewels in the crown,” he would think.
The "Sickularists," as people suffering from Sickularism came to be known, did not only depend on Tweeter to combat White Beard. They went to O’Ma with folded hands: "Sir, please, please, do something about the White Beard. He is more of a nuisance to us than Long Beard or Vickyleaks are to you." Digs’ Cockatoos even Tweeted: “Is O’Ma afraid of using his fire tipped arrows against White Beard?” “Dubya would have sent White Beard to the stone ages with his fire arrows,” was the next Tweet from Digs’ bird.
The common people were aghast, but were scared of voicing their concern, lest they be termed Komunal.
The din raised by Digs and Tweeter became so loud that people forgot the real issues. Nobody would ask questions as to why Youngistan did not have universities like Nalanda and Takshasila in Bharat (in 1 AD, remember, I was still Bharat). Nobody would ask why children were being fed poisoned food in schools; nobody would ask why the youth were jumping ship and scampering to Policestan to earn a living; nobody would ask why Youngistan could not put Confusedistan in its rightful place. Bloody hell, nobody would ask anything! For if they did, the Tweeter would start Tweeting, "Komunal, Komunal!"
The Queen Mother would only smile.
The citizens now had a sneaking suspicion that the Queen Mother was, in fact, smiling at their worsening condition. But even then they would not speak out. Being called Komunal was a slur they desperately wanted to avoid.
The barter prices kept rising. Long Beard’s criminals were having a field day. If even one of them was brought to task by the security forces, the Tweets would spew venom about the security forces being Komunal. With the security forces on the defensive, Confusedistan gained the psychological edge. Given the mental status of leaders like Yuvraj, that was not the most difficult of tasks in any case.
Youngistan was ablaze. Whoever survived the warriors of Long Beard, succumbed to the malaise of sky high bartering rates anyway.
Youngistan was breaking apart. Queen Mother was still smiling.
Moral of the story: Do not wait for others to tell you the moral of the story. If you remain silent when the ignorant speak, you could yourself become a story that no one likes to narrate.
Thank you for bearing with me, we the people of Bharat (i.e. India).
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.