About N Madhavan

Narayanan Madhavan is a columnist and editor with HT Business, who has covered everything from economic reform, technology, politics and the Kargil war to Bollywood and cricket in a long journalistic career.

“The wheels of justice,” Sun Tzu said, “grind slow but grind fine”
He was Chinese you see, on the other side of the McMahon Line
He had not quite seen, it seems, Indian courts in motion
With their own brand of justice, with their own strange notions

All are equal before the law, but some, you see, are more equal
Their cases run like soaps, or movies with endless sequels
The trials go on and on and then further on and on
Sometimes for a Sanjay, sometimes for a Salman

The accused go a shady grey or they go very, very bald
Be it movie stars or politicians who seemed tall
The courts change, judges change or the evidence takes twists
The details go all foggy, or get lost in bureaucratic mist

Lawyers come, lawyers go, police get pulled up or transferred
Judges speak fine words, but the trials get closed or deferred
The media banters, the government saunters; none is truly wise
But the verdict gets fuzzy as truth gets mixed with lies

Between the truth and justice falls the long shadow of evidence
Witnesses die, turn hostile, and the accused get a feel of Providence
Years go by, papers pile up and one day they call for the judgment
Memories fail, proofs lapse and witnesses wither into fragments

If you are rich the money helps; if you are a star, there’s fame
You just nudge here and wink there, and gently drop some names
The lawyers will do the rest for you, so very educated they are
They convince some, confuse some and goad some – in general they go far

The victims meanwhile wait and hope; can they do anything else?
What can they do, these folks of the street, after they ring their bells?
They sigh in sadness, seethe in anger, reporters look for sound bites
As for activists who rage and rant away: They better go and fly a kite!

In the land of Kamasutra, something is amiss
They are trying hard to decide on the length of a kiss
The Censor Board, the daddy who knows it all
Is out to take for us a family viewing call

Is it all right if it lasts a few seconds or so?
How far do you think Bollywood can go?
Dial Mr. Nihalani, the chief of the scissors
On the liplock dilemma, or the length of the knickers!

We are witnessing a new Spectre with Mr. Bond
Whose drinks and babes we have envied for long
There’s a New Order that Mr. Craig must abide by
We are Indians please, we are a little shy!

It is a different matter that thrust of the hips
goes much further than the lock of the lips
We have gyrations and sighs and very pelvic thrusts
We have cleavages and thighs and plenty of busts!

Padmini, Hasthini and the fabled Gajagamini
Songs on cholis, ghagras like ultra minis
tower in comparison in front of the long-long smooch
(not to speak of double meanings that go koochi-koochi-kooch!)

Vatsyayana, our ancient sage, going beyond the missionary
Must chuckle in his grave at these developments extraordinary
You see the Brits left this land and departed from our shores
But they left behind a baggage of Victorian mores!

What’s your religion, may I ask?
You see I have to perform this onerous task
I must find out your patriotic credentials
This matter of faith (they say) is utterly essential

Don’t confuse me by saying things spiritual:
I have to perform this exalted ritual
In the grand interest of national unity
I most proceed to test your political fidelity

I am told if you are H, you can make the grade
If you are M, you’ll be examined by the brigade
They’ll run a stethoscope on your cosmopolitan soul
Will molest your heart to find a black hole

If you are indeed an H, but spiritual or agnostic
Your faith will be questioned and declared plastic
You will be called names, and dubbed a darned lib
If you articulate your logic, you’ll be called glib

It’s all simple really: they are the ones to test
They will conduct their exams, proceed to attest
If you made that big missile for the nation, and was the President
A junior minister will tell others you are a good precedent!

No one knows who gave him this enchanting authority
Or the smug tone that reeks of dubious clarity
He will reduce the tricolour to just one shady shade
And declare who’s right—and of what he’s made

Historians and scientists, artists and playwrights
Writers of many hues, and film-makers who delight
Will all be presumed guilty of things nasty
And somehow linked to that overarching dynasty

They see just two colours, one of them is green
They make binary choices to vent their little spleens
Voices of dissent shall be linked to ambition
Your molecular fusion will be taken as nuclear fission

They whirl and swirl in a patriotic dance
Mesmerised by folk tales , an ancestral trance
Diversity? The Republic? Did you use a modern word?
How can you even think of a thing so absurd?

You see they want to restore an ancient glory
Part myth, part fantasy, part grandpa’s story
They chase that elusive Golden Sparrow
They live in the past, like there’s no tomorrow!

Sachin was for wins and national pride,
worldwide glory for the Indian side
Bradman’s successor, batsman par excellence
To score tons and tons and still more tons

But there’s something else called a true folk hero
Something beyond those ones with two zeros
This is not about centuries, though they are well there
This is about flamboyance, style and dare

Such was the spirit of Virender Sehwag
That you could tell his elegance amid a big-time slog:
a delectable cocktail of the classic and the streetsmart
he batted with a science that looked like art!

Comparisons are odious in age of titans
When India’s Fab Five showered runs and more runs:
Tendulkar and Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman–
But it was our dear Virender whose shots went like guns!

A rural lad brought up in suburban Delhi
His heart full of passion, and fire in his belly,
his strokes drenched in rustic power:
enough to make those bowlers cower

Look at the stats, they speak for themselves,
the more one gets as the more one delves
A Test average of forty nine —with 23 tons
Thirty-five in ODIs, between them 17K runs!

Ninety-one sixes in Tests, 136 in one-dayers
His big hits answered the spectator’s prayers
Two triple tons in Tests that made bowlers weary!
If Sachin was our Bradman, this was our Sir Gary!

Religion, we thought, concerned matters divine
But we see things have taken a turn for the bovine
In the ancient land that we call spiritual
There’s more said now on habits and rituals
Pray how, we might ask, we lost our scientific temper
Is our modern state just whitewash and distemper?
What we want to ask  is a question in brief:
Why is there so much fuss about eating beef?
Ah, cow slaughter is a subject in the nation’s Constitution
But beef -eating is not banned – and that causes confusion
You can’t kill it, but you can eat it – and some just don’t like it
Even on rumours  they can kill you — and throw a big fit!
Historians argue on our ancestral ways
Did the Aryans eat the stuff? Were they a vegetarian race?
There are experts  to the Right, and experts to the Left
One makes a sharp jab — gets a rebuttal deft.
We can never know for sure, we were not quite there
Why should such matters give ordinary folks a scare?
But such is our democracy, and its ancient stature
That we get moored in the past and forget our future
Battles to be won and wars to be fought
Much to be learned and much to be taught
All forgotten and taken to the backseat;
we cross swords on the nuances of things that we eat.
The cows belch methane,  beef isn’t  good for the heart
There are two sides to the story – each does its part
Climate change and ecology seems a better way to discuss
the topic that has landed us in a right-royal mess.
Then there’s the small matter of give and take
Of separating the scientific from the political fake
We are proud to be secular, and celebrate things Hindu
But there are smarter ways surely,  to be a nation on the moo.