It’s early morning in Lutyens, Delhi. Chidu has just gotten up from his sleep and is sitting in the lawn in front of his bungalow, waiting for his attendant to bring him his cup of morning coffee and the business newspapers. The attendant soon arrives very excited by the fact that Chidu has been awarded an Oscar by The Economic Chimes.
“Sir, sir, sir,” the attendant came running with the day’s pink papers and a cup of strong kapi like the way Chidu liked it.
“What happened?” asked Chidu. “Did Madam say something?”
“Madam?” the attendant asked. “When does she ever say anything? Mr Patel does all the talking for her.”
“Oh. You got me worried on a Monday morning,” said Chidu, sipping his cup of filter coffee, and adjusting his Ariel white Mundu. “So why are you so excited then?”
“Sir, you have been awarded the Oscar!” exclaimed the attendant.
“Oscar?” wondered Chidu adjusting his pashmina shawl.
“Yes sir, Oscar!”
“They must have given it to me for lifetime achievement then,” said Chidu with a proud smile on his face and a ‘halo’ around his head.
“Lifetime achievement?” asked a surprised attendant.
“Yes. What is politics if not a performance?” stated Chidu. “We politicians are the best actors after all.”
“But sir you are not even 70!”
“So?” asked Chidu.
“So you cannot be given a lifetime achievement award,” explained the attendant.
“But why not?” quipped an irritated Chidu. “In some cases things happen a little faster.”
“Arre sir, you are not getting my point.”
“What is your point?”
“Sir, lifetime achievement awards are given to those who have already retired. Or to those who are not retiring, and are expected to retire after they accept the award,” the attendant said. “
“And, you are a young turk by Indian political standards,” the attendant said. “Your days in politics are just about to start.”
“Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I am only 67 now. My best days are clearly ahead of me. I am just a little over a year older to Madam, you see.”
“For a moment you had me worried sir,” the attendant remarked with a slightly worried look on his face. “In my mind I had almost started to look for a new job.”
“Don’t worry. Don’t worry. I still have at least two decades of politics left in me,” said Chidu trying to pacify his attendant. “So what is this Oscar thing then?”
“Sir, The Economic Chimes has given you an Oscar,” answered the attendant.
“The Economic Chimes?”
“Well, when I was at Harvard, one of my dorm mates told me the Oscar is awarded by the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences.”
“So how can The Economic Chimes give me an Oscar?” wondered Chidu.
“Maybe the promoters must have picked up a stake in the Academy also, like they do in other companies. You know they must have assured the Academy some publicity in lieu of a stake?” said the attendant.
“Maybe,” replied Chidu, picking up The Economic Chimes to check.
“Sir how is the kapi sir?” asked the attendant. “Got my wife to make it today.”
“Oh. Is that the case?” said Chidu, talking to himself.
“Yes sir. She makes good coffee no?”
“I am not talking about the coffee,” blurted Chidu, slightly irritated by now.
“I am talking about the Oscar,” said Chidu. “The Economic Chimes has given me a growth Oscar.”
“Oh. I saw Oscar and your name in the headline and got totally excited.”
“I don’t blame you. These pink papers are so boring that it is very difficult to read beyond the headline anyway,” said Chidu. “On most days they put me to sleep.”
“But what is a growth Oscar sir?” asked the attendant. “I thought an Oscar is an Oscar.”
“Well it is a figure of speech. What they are basically trying to say is that I will do a good job in the budget of creating economic growth.”
“Economic growth?” wondered the attendant. “But sir things are so bad. Inflation is almost at 10%. Our growth in imports is nearly 13 times our growth in exports. Our current account deficit is at an all time high. Our fiscal deficit is reaching monstrous proportions. Our external debt is huge. The industrial growth contracted by 0.6% in December. Interest rates continue to remain high. Another pink paper reported today that fresh orders of companies are at a four year low.”
“Yes, I know all that,” said Chidu, sipping his coffee.
“So, where is the question of economic growth?” asked the humble attendant.
“Well, do you work for me? Or the opposition?” quipped Chidu. “Have you joined the BJP?”
“No sir I am totally secular till now. I work for you sir,” replied the attendant. “But then if you can’t convince me about economic growth, how will you convince the world at large?”
“World at large? What is that?” replied Chidu. “I only need to convince Madam, her son and Mr Patel.”
“But the world at large?”
“Oh The Economic Chimes is already doing that. They are batting for me.”
“But how can they so positive in such dark times?” wondered the attendant, finding it very difficult to let go.
“I can see through their strategy,” said Chidu. “I went to Harvard after all.”
“Be Positive is their strategy.”
“But as far as I know that is a blood group?” remarked the attendant.
“Okay. I am in no mood for poor jokes right now. See the idea is that if the largest pink paper projects news positively, then people will soon start believing that things are actually positive and once people start believing that things are positive, things might actually turn out to be positive.”
“It’s a mind game my dear.”
“But what if people don’t feel positive?” asked the attendant.
“Yes that is indeed a possibility. But then what is the harm in trying? It is like the concept of Aal is Well from the movie 3 Idiots. If you keep repeating Aal is Well, Aal is Well, things turn out well.”
“Yes sir,” said the attendant. “But isn’t that only in the movies?”
“That is the challenge my dear, to turn reel life into real life,” said Chidu, rather philosophically. “And for that we all need to be actors, from the media to the politicians.”
“Yes sir,” replied the attendant, finally getting the gist of what his boss was trying to convey.
“Oh and your wife makes wonderful coffee!” said Chidu.
“Ha ha! So you are trying the B+ strategy on me!”
“Well if I can’t convince you, how will I convince the world at large?” said Chidu, trying to have the last laugh. “We politicians are brilliant actors after all and if not an Oscar, I at least deserve a Filmpair.”
Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org