Mum's the word

I have been compiling a list of things that you are not allowed to talk about in these wonderful times, mainly because it might upset the powers-that-be and their millions of supporters.

One Rank One Pension has to be top of the list. You must at all times respect the Armed Forces. But you must not support, mention or sympathise with retired Armed Forces personnel who are on strike demanding the implementation of the One Rank One Pension scheme. All love for the Armed Forces must be restricted to weeping crocodile tears when someone dies. The rest of the time, they need to be discreetly ignored.

Ex-servicemen participate in a candlelight march for One Rank One Pension at India Gate, New Delhi on Sunday. Pic/PTI
Ex-servicemen participate in a candlelight march for One Rank One Pension at India Gate, New Delhi on Sunday. Pic/PTI

If you cannot ignore them, then you must come with financial arguments as to why this scheme cannot be implemented and how it costs too much. You must quote from IAS officers, none of whom complain when their monies are increased, about the dangers to the exchequer. Next one supposes the Niti Ayog will recommend privatising the Armed Forces completely.

And remember this: you must never ever mention that One Rank One Pension promises were made before an election was won. Never.

The Price of Onions. They may be rising but so what? There is no evidence that onions are vital to existence. Also, if you mention how onions reached R80 a kg then someone else might start talking about the price of pulses and lentils and people might think we are back with a UPA government. In fact, some horrible persons might start discussing inflation in general and start having hysterics before you can say WPI and stuff like that. Best keep mum.

However, if you are an onion trader then you can quite fairly claim that the good days, as promised, have arrived. It is always necessary to reward loyal voters.

The Falling Rupee. This is a very sore point, especially since a holy gentleman declared with saintly joy that once a certain person became prime minister the rupee would be Rs 40 per US dollar. The rupee however is devil spawn, hell-bent on proving saints and savants wrong. It plummets and plummets. The correct loyal riposte is that a falling rupee helps exporters enjoy some good days.

The Crashing Stock Market. If you mention this, then people will make the excuse that the international situation is to blame. If they say that, someone might remember that the last government offered the same reasoning. Then some unpatriotic person might recall that the last government was excoriated for making that co-relation.

All in all, a very tricky situation and deeply embarrassing for the government. It is best that you remain silent and weep quietly into your pillow over all the money you have notionally or really lost. Chant “good days, good days” to yourself a few million times and change your pillow if it gets too wet, to avoid a really uncomfortable night. Someone might mention buying shares when the market is down. See if that helps you. But buy or sell, just zip it.

Black Money Coming Home. Now this is the worst one of all. There is a higher chance of ET popping in for another visit than this Black Money ever coming back. And we have already been told by the esteemed party president that this black money promise was just an election lark. I mean, Rs 15 lakh in the bank account of every Indian in three months after government formation? If you believed that, you really are quite a dope.

The excuse, I mean strong defence, for the government here is to quote the finance minister and say that someone here has written a letter to someone there and one day something will happen. With any luck, some riot will break out somewhere and people will get distracted.

I knew you were going to ask me this next question, so I have my answers ready.

What are we allowed to talk about, you want to know.

You can give me a list of things you want me to discuss on radio with you. Like how you must wash your hands regularly. And do yoga. And be kind to senior citizens. And not throw garbage.

Or we can discuss how many countries there are in the world, which are dying for us to visit them.

Or, um, sorry, my flight’s ready to leave. Bye.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona

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