Purveyors of prime-time wisdom

A nation gets the leaders (and judges) it deserves, but what have we done to deserve this?


Suresh Menon | October 17, 2012

In Kolkata, that well-known doctor, Mamata Banerjee, has staked a claim for immortality by her latest medical discovery: dengue is caused by dieting. Fat ladies and overweight men are presumably immune; on the other hand if they do succumb to dengue it is because the virus has not read Dr Mamata Banerjee’s latest paper on the subject. Across the country, in Gujarat, the chief minister there declares that there is no malnourishment in his state – it is not that people have little to eat, but it’s all those figure-conscious Gujarati women giving the state a bad name by cutting down on the calories.

Dieting is the new malaria – a raging epidemic that is destroying the country from Kolkata to Ahmedabad.

This is the new-age mantra – eat well (whether there is food available or not), and get married. This last is necessary if you want to be a successful lawyer. For in the words of a philosopher-judge in Bangalore, only married women can argue divorce cases.

“You are unfit to argue this case,” this worthy told a startled lawyer. “You do not know real life. Family matters should be argued only by married people, not spinsters. You should only watch,” he ruled.

The implication – that only murderers can argue a murder case or rapists even enter a court where a trial for rape is in progress – might mean a rewriting of our law books. Perhaps by overweight women from Bengal who will keep the dengue virus at bay.

The judge, clearly inspired by the Bollywood films of the past, also earned notoriety by advising a woman to go back to her husband disregarding all harassment because women are meant to suffer and she ought to be used to it by now. The victim is always at fault, as our law books (those rewritten) say, and it seems to be the duty of the judge to point this out.

What next? Will Mamata claim that chicken pox is caused by non-vegetarianism and a fondness for butter chicken masala? Or that typhoid is caused by women wearing skirts rather than sarees or men who grow their hair long? Will Narendra Modi declare that couples having more than two children cause drought in his state? Or that too much salt in the diet of Gujaratis causes India to lose Test matches in England and Australia? Will the judge tell an accident victim that she deserved to be hit by a bus because she was wearing lipstick?

A nation gets the leaders (and judges) it deserves, but what have we done to deserve this?

We have become used to spokesmen of our political parties giving a positive twist to every scam, every departure from the straight and narrow. Every night on national television, these worthies appear to mouth the same inanities – it doesn’t matter what party, what incident, what the effect on our population.

The BJP thinks its garbage smells of perfume, and the Congress likewise.

In fact, the BJP probably thinks the city of Bangalore smells like perfume – which explains why it has not cleared the garbage in recent weeks. Or perhaps it is waiting for all that garbage on the streets to turn into coal so that it can allot mining rights to friends and relatives. One man’s garbage is another man’s gold, as the poet nearly said.

Still, we are used to our politicians and their spokesmen justifying everything. There might be a perfectly logical explanation to keep the garbage alive – perhaps it is part of some gigantic scientific experiment to see how long before a plague actually hits a city. Perhaps Dr Mamata Banerjee has invented a new medicine for the bubonic plague and we are all unwary, involuntary subjects for her medical trials.

Perhaps they are all in the right – the Mamatas, the Modis, the judges, the government of Karnataka – and it is we who are in the wrong. Maybe dengue fever is caused by the fashion industry’s requirements. And we have to prepare for coal allotments a few million years hence by leaving our garbage out in the open now. It is called foresight. And – as our pot-bellied politicians have shown over generations - you don’t get foresight by dieting.



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