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.

In the city of Delhi, capital of the nation

Cars are aplenty, and the roads turn rations

You see when the space is not adequately provided

Everything you use can somehow be divided

We are now the India Story, all very ra-ra

We have hatchbacks, limos and sedans, we all go ga-ga

We have malls and multiplexes, ooh la-la

But no parking place! Hee hee, ha-ha!

So the government of Delhi, the one by AAP

Tries to play the role of a well-intentioned baap

It tells us (experimentally) that we shall go by dates

In a novel manner of ration, decided by the State.

So your odd-numbered car runs on odd-number days

On an even number dae, at home or garage it stays

Hey presto, the air must now be a little less polluted

Though our methods to achieve it is rather convoluted

There are some exceptions and exemptions decreed

VIPs and less-privileged are guided by their needs

The rest must take autos, the metro, cabs and ricks

Or go for a car pool, perfect new tricks

We are smart, intelligent and very, very clever

But can we run such schemes for ever and ever?

Clearly we need some sanity as we mark the Earth Day

We have to think anew, we have to find a way

More buses, more metros, more car pools perhaps

Fewer the cars on the roads, fewer the mishaps

We know we need to crack congestion and pollution

But this odd-odd, even-even stuff is no real solution

We could do with fewer loan defaults or taxpayer bailouts

Less money in bribes and less for political touts

Before we “Make In India” – let’s find some new approaches

A fighter jet less is fine, let’s find more buses and coaches

If you can’t make history, try some histrionics
Showbiz is to politics what software is to electronics
You can speak extempore, or make it well-rehearsed
Anything can work if properly disbursed
The world is but a stage, as Shakespeare observed
We are all but actors – thus we have truly heard
But not all can do it well, this business of theatrics
This has many advanced skills, and then some matching tricks

It might help you have done shows and got some due credits
You can go to parliament in style if you’ve done some cinematics
You need to wave your hands and move your eyes well
Cry, shout, pause and heave — every gesture can tell!
It should all be in outrage, one that will tug those hearts
There’s a story that you need to learn, and do its hero’s part
Who cares for facts? Or nuances or logic
When you can fake the right emotion, politics is purely magic

You can be crazy, weird and plain irrational
But you simply cannot be anti-national
The nation won’t tolerate this tolerance
You’ll go from your tuppence to comeuppance
If you raise an improper slogan
Be prepared to face Quick-gun Murugan
He’ll thrash you till you say “Ouch, Amma”
You’ll sound like that bullet in Ummagumma!

Now, who exactly decides on your chant?
When do they say your rage is not a rant?
Who is the witness and who is the judge?
This, dear reader, is where they go and fudge
There will be front liners and bystanders
One’s goose will be another’s gander
But decisions will not be left to the courts
Why bother them when you have goons and cohorts?

There are 50 shades of the nationalist grey
Though tricolour is what they say is at play
Your Nationalism is not my Nationalism
We stand united, but with our very strange schisms
The due process of law, as it is widely understood
ceases to matter for some as it should
They take the law into their self-righteous hands
They slap and punch like they had magic wands!

This is patriotism, worn on unseemly sleeves
Built on assumptions, half-truths and longstanding peeves
Justified by slogans and circular logic
They produce outcomes that seem truly tragic
Outrage is the new religion, and emotion the new reason
And anyone with sober views may be charged with high treason
This is no modern republic, but an ostrich’s desert sand
Democracy is the new Alice, and India the Wonderland!

Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape, now gone
Thinks India is better off not as king but pawn
Benign Colonialism, he suggests in a way
will make the natives’s lives better. Or may.

You see he is upset that Pope Zuckerberg’s gospel
Has not quite escaped the TRAI’s scalpel
For Free Basics, the Bible to convert the digitally unwashed
Has become a dud and veritably trashed.

Ah, such concern for the Digital Divide
Should move us to tears, but we turn snide
Because the said Andreessen, venture moneybags
Is not quite the saintly preacher in rags

Sitting on the board of the dollar-drenched Facebook
He is sad a billion-strong fish is now off the hook
The bait is not bitten, and the nation is far from smitten
Now it roars like a tiger (while they expected a kitten)

“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!