India is a vast and wonderful country how can anyone doubt that? But it also seems to be a trifle odd these days. Probably because we now know much more about it than we should, or we used to in the days before we were so well connected. Like, do we need to know that Union minister Nitin Gadkari uses his own urine, stored in a 50-litre can, to water his orange trees? This is perhaps only significant to those who regularly get oranges as gifts from the ministerji or even to those who buy them. The rest of us could have been spared the image. Anyway, since I found out about it, I thought it’s best to spread it around and taint everyone’s morning with a good dose of wonderful waste matter.
Activists of BJP Mahila Morcha burn an effigy of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Kumar Vishwas (who is currently embroiled in a scandal over an alleged extra-marital affair) during a protest at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence in New Delhi on Tuesday. Pic/PTI
Then there’s the prime minister. If India is vast and wonderful, can he be far away? His latest gem of information is that the Lord Buddha died after someone hit a nail in his ear — and he still didn’t display any anger. It is unclear whether this information comes from the Dinanath Batra School of Unique Knowledge. However, some scholars had earlier claimed that Buddha died from food poisoning and it was Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, who was attacked by someone during his years of trial, with nails in his ears. Lord Mahavira, however, did not die from this and lived for many more years. Now you can pick your favourite from the vast and wonderful stories in front of you.
If in doubt of our greatness, you can always visit the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi. Having won an astounding 67 out of 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly elections, the AAP evidently decided that it was vital to keep the public entertained. So they started with throwing out some ideologue founder-members. No one really likes ideologues anyway because they’re so goody-goody. Once that dust had settled, during a party rally in Delhi, a farmer died and after a bit of mocking, party leader Ashutosh cried. Then someone said the law minister had a fake law degree. Then the chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the Indian media had taken out a “supari” against his party. In Mumbai gangster talk, that’s a contract to kill, of course.
And just when all this was bad enough for the AAP, what with fake degrees and angry former co-founders and a presumably sniper-wielding media watching, party leader Kumar Vishwas gets accused of all sorts of hanky-panky. More than wonderful, you’d have to admit that all this is very odd. Enough to make Mumbaikars happy that as far as they’re concerned, no matter who you vote for in elections in Maharashtra, the government always wins.
Talking of gangsters, suddenly the government of India doesn’t know where Dawood Ibrahim is. It is not clear whether the GoI doesn’t know where Ibrahim is at all ever, or only in the last 10 minutes or so. Anyway, the Hindi film industry and young crime reporters in Mumbai, born after Ibrahim left India, always seem to know when the news desk is short of stories, so the GOI can perhaps ask them. It is best not to ask the Mumbai or Maharashtra police where they think Ibrahim might be, because they keep sending lists of “Most Wanted” dead people or people in their own jails to Pakistan, asking for them back.
Some people accuse me of not saying that Rahul Gandhi is either wonderful or odd. This is true. He’s not. Or vast even.
I’ve saved the worst for the last. A young girl was molested on a bus in Punjab; she and her mother were thrown off the bus. The girl died. The bus company is owned by the ruling family of Punjab, the Badals, as it turned out and the perpetrators were the bus driver and conductor. A minister in the Punjab government has said the girl died because of “God’s will.” You know, in that sensitive way politicians talk about citizens unless an election is around the corner. This is the sort of story you don’t want to hear, but you must.
Vast, wonderful, odd and horrible: that’s the sort of week it was in India this week.
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona