<%-- Page Title--%> Chintito <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 143 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

February 27 2004

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So you want to be a Minister! Or, are Grapes Sour?


So the dreaded phone call came last Saturday. An intellectual cadre (yup! there are all sorts -- political, cultural, sports, filmi, TV...) of the ruling party rang to inform that my dreams had caught the imagination of the powers that be, and inquired whether I would accept an invitation to join 66 or so others. They were all queuing up to fill up the vacant posts after the imminent downsizing of the much-criticised colossal cabinet that will remain colossal.

At that precise moment I was in bed (these cadres do make it a habit to get up early), the receiver hooked to the crook of my neck. I was reading a newspaper; I won't tell you which one. For if it is John-o-kantha; I would probably be 'charged' as a freedom fighter. Sadly it has come to that. If it were In-ki-love, I could be labelled as a Razakar. If I perused Bore-er kagaj, surely the tag of AL would be befitting. If it is The Ink Al one could perhaps not complain if I was dubbed a BNP-ite. It could be New Edge, but I could be accused of being a copycat. Meeoow! If you leaf through Man of Joe Mean you are dubbed a colourful party interested in the saucy bits of the society. And by naming any of those, who wants to upset the DS editor?

Anyway, I was reading about murder, extortion, kidnapping, ransom, extra-marital stuff ... no! this was not a Masud Rana (or 007, if you are Eengrez) thriller, but a normal daily newspaper narrating our routine life. With my cat Spot on my lap, the steam from the tea cup was disappearing into the warmth of the room. I thought... naaahhh! It's not my cup of tea!

The gentleman on the other side, however, insisted that I should give it a thought. There you go! He got me to exercise my favourite pastime, not that I get to do much, and that is why it is what it is -- a much sought for luxury.

Minister, uh? My thoughts got drowsy as the boredom of reading the failures of the present government as blamed on a Ministry and the promising picture of the future, as painted by Ministers overtook my common senses. Reading the same news day in and day out slackens your brain nerves, and puts you to sleep.

As the fazed picture of a 20-feet long limo, black, auto, and the filled-up flag-stand in the fore, boggled by chinta, I was rudely awakened by the claws of a jumpy Spot. They say a cat can sense much more than us mere mortals. I believe he foresaw some prowling perils in the proposal. Most likely he did not want to lose his favourite lap.

One of the things that must have registered with Spot is that as Minister I would have to get up the earliest in the house, perhaps at five, and book a place in my favourite toilet before any of the scores of relatives, relatives of relatives, supporters, and supporters of supporters got up to invade the seven bathrooms, okay public toilets, in the official residence that has now become their home. As minister I would have to bear with friends and relatives I never knew existed. But they must have, seeing that they are all grown up. It's not easy to consistently wear a smile to mask a bleeding mind, body and soul.

My only solace would be that I could enter the only private place left in the world with yesterday's newspapers, and read about what people had to say about us day before yesterday. No wonder a government always lags behind. My friends and relatives would have the prerogative to read today's newspapers second. The sentry at the gate has the first.

Don't forget the manoniyo mantri also gets to sleep very late. He may have had to keep awake till 3 AM trying to stem off a possible strike. Two hours is enough for a minister. When he dies people will sigh and openly say, 'He was a great man, he slept for two hours'. Under their breath the words would be: 'He was stupid. He became a minister.'

Breakfast would have to be in the bedroom, thankfully because it could have been worse, as those lucky to find a place on the dining table would still be in deep slumber.

Then I would have to start the long journey to my secretariat office. It's actually three minutes drive but the walk down to the car porch takes one hour, as I would have to touch eight sitting areas. Visitors, actually they all claim to be persons, who voted for me, would throng my house since six. Wonder when they had to get up. Some would actually have slept (dare I say) in my house. Come to think of it, if they all voted for the minister, how come he won by only 682 votes in a constituency of four lakh?

There too the middle class are the losers. If one wins an election by a huge margin, he is a potential ministerial candidate, as too are the ones that emerge victorious after a close fight. A normal, even impressive, margin always passes off as average.

Accompanied by my escort bahini of two dozen people (PS1/ PS2/ APS/ cadre/ tailor/ barber/ medicine man ...), I would have to tell people at each of the half-a-dozen sitting areas that some others are waiting in some other area while walking through. It need not have to be the truth. That's why I would be a minister.

I would have to waggle my head in the affirmative once and negative thrice, and again affirmative and so on, as they would all talk at the same time. I heard some ministers actually use ear plugs. Clever, uh! Some would come with incredulous tadbirs, others with frivolous complaints, miraculous ambitions, ridiculous invitations, one even to the marriage of his daughter's putul...they all want a minister.

On the road, people eye a minister's car with a mixture of envy, anger and curiosity, respectively because of the quick passage of the VVVVVIP car, unsolved problems of the country and to see the chiria still holding on to his post.

At the office a minister is inundated with files and phone calls besides the usual requests, grievances, projects and provocations. The only privilege he enjoys is that he can be at a meeting while enjoying a cuppa with his friends and friends of his friends.

In the parliament he is accused of everything rising price, spiralling crime and the defeat of the cricket team. He has to draw a make-believe rosy picture about the smooth functioning of his department with truths, half truths, half lies and full lies.

At party meetings, those who could not become minister are after his kalla. He also has to maintain liaise with his constituency, otherwise come the next elections he could be on the side writing the press release protesting massive rigging.

It did not take me much time to weigh the perks that come with being in the cabinet against the odds that the poor chap has to fight. Becoming a minister is easier than being one. All I had to say was a simple 'yes'.

Suddenly my cosy bedroom seemed heavenly, Spot a lot warmer. All I said was a simple 'no, thank you!'



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