Saturday, 21 January 2017

Opinions - On a Delhi winter evening: A dinner conversation that ought to happen over daal and pasta (but probably won’t)

Opinions - On a Delhi winter evening: A dinner conversation that ought to happen over daal and pasta (but probably won’t)


On a cold winter evening, in one of the large sprawling bungalows of Lutyens’ Delhi, three people sat around a dinner table. A distinguished lady in her 70s, sat across her son and son-in-law. Well-trained waiters served a simple home-style meal, comprising of yellow daal, vegetables and pasta. The lady spoke first.
“I can’t believe it. Almost all the old notes have come back. The economy has tanked. Business has suffered. Yet, people love him.”
The son nodded his head vigorously and spoke next. “Demonetisation hasn’t worked. Yet, they are hailing him for the move. They even ignored the huge earthquake evidence I had against him.” The son-in-law smirked, even as he continued to eat.
“I know that smirk. You don’t believe me do you?” the son said. “See mom, this is what he does. He doesn’t take me seriously.”
“The whole country doesn’t,” the son-in-law mumbled.
“What?” the son said out loud, “well maybe if you hadn’t done those shady land deals we wouldn’t be as tarnished.”
“I was only doing business. Found some sweet deals. So what?” the son-in-law said.
“Easy now,” the mother said in a firm voice, placing her fork and knife on the table. The son and son-in-law both sat up straight. She sighed.
“We do have a problem. A big problem. You,” the lady said, looking at her son.
“What? Why does everyone blame me? What have I done mom?”
“Exactly,” mom said, “you haven’t done anything. Or when you do, it only messes things up more.” The son’s white face turned a shocked pink.
“Mom!” he screamed, “how can you say that about me? In front of your son-in-law? Don’t you love me?”
“That’s the problem. I love you too much. That is why, I haven’t said what needs to be said,” mom said.
“Me neither,” the son-in-law said.
“Relax son-in-law ji. I can handle this,” the lady said.
“Of course. Sorry,” the son-in-law said.
The mother turned to her son. “Tell me son, honestly. Do you really want to do politics?”
“What are you saying mom? Politics is what we do. You, dad, grandmom, great grandpa, did I miss anyone?”
“No you didn’t. But just because that’s what the family has been doing doesn’t mean you also have to do this. Or that you are any good at this.”
“Good at this? Are you questioning me mom? Do you know the time I have spent learning about India? I have stayed in Dalit houses, done hundreds of rallies.”
“Son, what’s the point even if you did all that? People are still not warming up to you. They like the tea seller. They like how he talks. They like how he is strict. They like how he takes decisions.”
“They like me too. Don’t they?” the son said. Everyone on the table fell silent.
“They don’t?” the son said, his voice soft.
“No,” the mother said. Tears welled up in the son’s eyes.
“Arey beta, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person …” the mother said. “The thing about democracy is you have to become people’s choice. You have to connect with them. It’s just not happening.”
The room fell silent for a full five minutes. The son looked up from his plate. “So what do we do?” he said, “ask sis to take over?”
“She doesn’t want to do it,” the son-in-law said, “and trust me. I have tried. A lot.”
“So what do we do mom?” the son said.
“We find someone else within the party, someone capable. And then we mentor, groom and position him as the new leader of the party,” the mom said.
“What? Like a power coup? You want me to be humiliated,” the son said.
“No. No battle for power. We choose and endorse our new young leader. The family stays behind him until he or she is established.”
“And what if the new leader becomes strong and forgets us?” the son said.
“So be it. Maybe the family loses power, but at least the party is saved.”
“It’s like, let’s change the captain if we need to, instead of sinking the whole ship,” the son-in-law said, and smiled, amazed at his perfect analogy.
“Well, you spoke out of turn again son-in-law ji, but yes. You are right.”
“But what will I do then?” the son said.
“You can join my business,” the son-in-law said. Mother and son both gave son-in-law a dirty look.
“I was just giving an option,” the son-in-law said, “up to you really. Maybe you can make an app or something.”
“You can do something good in the party. If you are okay with not being at the top,” the mother said. The son exhaled and nodded.
“So who do we have in mind for the new leader?” the son-in-law said.
The mother-in-law took out a list. “Here are some shortlisted names.”
“Mom, but before that, what app should I make?” the son said.
“Whatever you make, go cashless bro. It’s the in-thing these days,” the son-in-law said.
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