I was back in frenetic Mumbai after a trip out of the country. I got off the flight and took in a breath of the city’s familiar, polluted air. I mean how much fresh air can one man inhale in a foreign country, na? I had barely exhaled when suddenly, out of nowhere, a mask was slapped around my mouth.
“There is a ban on breathing”, a voice behind me barked, “You are not allowed to take breaths in the country anymore. There is a nationwide diktat by the organisation KHAASI — which stands for, ‘Kyuki Hindustaan Mein Saas Lena Illegal.”
“But, this is crazy,” I began, struggling to talk through my swine flu mask. How can you stop citizens from breathing? We’ll all have to go to Mars at this rate?
“Also, talking is banned. Be quiet,” I was instructed. “You cannot speak, there is a ban by a Bihar-based group called CHUP. They do not want anyone to speak unless it praises Nitish Kumar and Laloo Prasad Yadav.”
I was dumbfounded. There I was banned from breathing and speaking, so as a desperate last resort, and out of sheer nervousness, I began to laugh.
“You are disallowed from laughing,” the voice said to me. This one by an anti- humour outfit called AIDMK — All-India Destruction Of Mirth and Komedy. You are banned from expressing humour — laughing, chuckling, chortling, or giggling. Even smiling. And, just like the porn ban, you are banned from reading or watching any humorous material. That includes movies by Charlie Chaplin, David Dhavan and all DVDs of Arnab Goswami. You will also be banned from listening to the soundbytes of any Indian politician.”
“Am I allowed to cry?” I asked tentatively.
“We have received no intimation on this yet, but it is in the pipeline, we believe.”
This was getting difficult, I needed to sit down to digest all this info. As I tried to lower myself into a chair, I was told, “Sorry there is a ban on sitting. You cannot sit, that has been banned too…and there is a ban also on standing, and walking.”
I had been banned from breathing, speaking, laughing, walking, sitting or standing. So I decided that eating was the best course of action.
“Am I allowed to eat? Surely you can’t stop a man from eating?”
“Of course, you can eat, sir. How can we prevent you from consuming ‘khana.’? But no mutton, chicken, veal, fish, prawns, noodles, eggs, onions or any other organism or condiment that grows beneath the earth. Also, you cannot eat during Paryushan, Eid and Lent. Also, Diwali, Ganesh Chathurti and Ram Navami. Apart from these dates and the listed food items, you are allowed to eat anything.”
“What about beef? May I eat beef?”
“Arre sir, what are you saying? Of course, you can eat beef — beef cutlets, beef stroganoff or beef carpaccio; all yours to gorge on.
But first you get right back on that flight. And leave India. Bon voyage.”
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org