The Hungry Bird

Oye! I always knew it cost the nation a lot to keep Mahatma Gandhi poor during his lifetime. But what I did not know was that it would cost tax payers Rs Six crore to keep Narendra Modi hungry — for just three days in air-conditioned ‘discomfort’!

And hungry for what or who, pray? I thought the man was a billi who had already eaten some sau chuhays and now he thinks of going to Haj? Burp! Oops, sorry. That was so bad-mannered. But that’s because I have just had lunch, you see. Just about three chappattis, a katori full of dal, some palak paneer and a bowlful of curd. Cost me just Rs 40, add some Rs 10 here or there for the cooking gas and all that but that has made my stomach full and very appreciative. So full that I think I might have to skip dinner tonight.

And that already makes me feel like a good citizen. Why, you might wonder. Well, my maid who carried the left-overs with her tells me, round the corner near the neighbourhood temple, sits a man who never gets enough to eat. “No one cares about him, Madam. Your palak paneer will be a feast for him today.”

And, if I want to earn more punya, she says, I should visit the main temple in town. “You have to see their state of hunger to believe it!”

I am worried. How much will it cost me to feed a whole army of hungry mouths, I wonder. She looks at me pityingly. “Not as much as you earn in a day,” she says scathingly. “They don’t eat as much as you do. And they never burp!”

Now that is a real slap in my face but I thought if they were so hungry for so long, it might cost us at least Rs six crore to feed them for just three days? Given that that is what it is costing the Gujarat government to keep Modi hungry for just as long?

“You must be out of your mind,” says Sakubai. “A crore? Try a few thousands. May be just a couple of thousand rupees for three days. A crore will last you a lifetime or more!”

So if it costs me only a few thousand rupees to feed an army of hungry people for three days, why is it costing Modi six crore not to eat during the weekend?

Oh, I get it! This is not about going hungry. This is about one-upmanship. He wants to be remembered about something other than the 2002 Gujarat riots, just like LK Advani is remembered for being a rath yatri apart from contributing to bringing down the Babri Masjid! And, of course, he wants to be India’s next Prime Minister. And he is practising to see how all our millions of citizens below the poverty line feel when they go hungry. Like Adi Shankaracharya did, getting into the body of a king to know what it is to be worldly wise.

But Modi, methinks, is no wise man. Very, very foolish or thinks the rest of us are to be fooled. Becoming a prime minister requires more than just going hungry in air-conditioned comfort. He needs to wipe tears, as even my Sakubai knows. The tears of those who are still crying after the riots, wounds that no amount of development can heal.

And no hunger can assuage, six crore or otherwise.

Did anyone tell Narendra Modi that an apology, on the other hand, will cost him almost nothing – other than his pride and arrogance? But six crore, clearly, is a cheaper price to pay, for Modi.

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