Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Zoo of Democracy

Please help me welcome Amit of Mashed Musings as my guest writer. He is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Take one of his recent posts – he started off by talking about the lijjat papad ad. I haven’t seen the ad but apparently a family of bunnies promoted the papads and urged the nation to eat them as they were very karrram-kurrram. Wife bunny wore a bindi and ended up reproducing a baby bunny. A very young Amit thought for a long time after, that babies were created by eating papads and watched his parents at the dinner table with horror as they merrily crunched through a plateful every night. 

Amit has another talent - one that I really appreciate not only in him but also in one or two other bloggers. Even as he makes us laugh he feeds us the scary and unpalatable truth about his beloved India. 

Delighted to have you as my guest, Amit.

It is a zoo of wonders, the first of its kind. It is a necessity too. Where else can we keep all those dangerous, carnivorous animals we have caught? The funding is clandestine but everyone knows where it comes from. There are enough madmen in the country with a lot of money.

It is named – The Zoo of Democracy.

One fine morning, I decided to pay a visit. Everyone was going cacophonously gaga over it and hurting my eardrums. My wife seemed happy with the idea of a picnic.

We reached the elaborate main gate done in the style of Buland Darwaza, radiating a mysterious aura. It took me some time to get the tickets as the crowd was overwhelming.

Then I saw him – a giant of a man, moustached and wearing a saffron shirt, white trousers and green shoes. He was huge but not scary for he was smiling benevolently at the crowd at the entrance. His appearance was striking. His right forehead seemed to be a bit flattened as if someone had lobbed off a chunk. His arms were uneven, the right one slightly thicker than the left. His legs gave the impression of being tapered at the feet, giving his lower body a triangular appearance. 

No one wanted a Guide but I thought it would be a good idea to have someone show me around. Surprisingly, he was the only guide available.

A few minutes and pleasantries later, we were trailing the human flag.

We reached the first circular cage which had huge red horns coming out of its iron dome and a red tail coming out of the base. Inside it we spotted our first dangerous animal.

“Behold the beast, dear Sir and Madam. This beast is called Salman Rushdie. This unique cage was especially designed for him. He is one of our most prized possessions,” the guide chirruped. A couple asked us to take their picture with Salman reading ‘The Satanic Verses’ calmly in the cage, raising a singular, amused eyebrow at the act.

We moved to the next cage which was partially covered with an enormous white drape. Only the front was visible.

“This animal here is called Taslima Nasreen; very dangerous and viperous. She wrote a book about Hindus being killed in Bangladesh and had to be instantly caged. Photo, dear sir?” the guide asked with a smile.

We declined politely and moved ahead as Taslima looked at us curiously with an uninterested yawn.
We came across a rectangular cage. No human was visible but there was a huge painting of prancing horses in the middle.

“This animal died a few weeks back but we thought of keeping his memory alive. He was a big catch. God! How much publicity we gained when we caught him!” the Guide said.

“Hussain’s cage,” I whispered to my wife. She nodded and took pictures.

“I’ve heard there are cages for common animals,” wifey said.

“Of course, Madam! This initiative was started some time back and is gaining popularity,” the guide beamed. He took us to a large rectangular cage where a lot of animals sat and stared listlessly.

“Why are they not kept in separate cages?” I asked.

“They are common animals. Separate cages are for celebrities, our most coveted catches,” the Guide explained.

“Who are they?” my Mrs. asked.

“These three female animals sitting in a corner tried to form a girl band. And those two animals wrote a Facebook comment. And that male animal sitting there helped release video tapes of moral policing. That animal sitting over there made a cartoon and that one asked an uncomfortable question to a Chief Minister,” the guide added.

I took pictures of the sullen animals.

“Why do you call them animals?” I asked.

The Guide studied me for a moment.

“Because that is what they are. Why will we keep humans in cages? They are examples of what’s wrong with our society. They are detrimental to the progress of our great nation. They have to be separated from humans before the rot spreads,” he said, softly.

“Who is in that cage?” my wife asked pointing at a shiny cage glittering with disco lights. There was a huge crowd around it. People were frivolously taking pictures of the latest attraction.

“We acquired this animal a few days back. He is very popular,” the guide said.

We moved closer and jostled our way in to see the animal. He was staring at the crowd, lost in his own thoughts, seeing everyone and not seeing anyone.

“Kamal Hassan!” my wife jumped with joy.

“We have Deepa Mehta, Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi in the adjacent cages. The one surrounded with water is Deepa’s and the one surrounded with fire on all sides contains the other two,” the guide said pointing to two cages nearby.

It took us the whole day to cover the zoo. It was spread over a huge area and our Guide was very patient. He entertained us with his jokes while he showed us hundreds of cages containing film makers, painters, writers, artists and other common animals. Then he took us to the canteen where we had snacks with him.

“Who funds the zoo?” I asked him in-between sips of tea.

“Our funds are overflowing, Sir. There are so many religious people in this country who understand the need for this unique zoo and who graciously help us. Of course we have secret political funding too,” the Guide said.

How long have you been working here?” my wife asked.

“Haha! I own this place. I created it. This guide job was just a fancy of mine,” the guide laughed and said.

I choked on my tea.

I was not sure how I felt about my visit to the zoo. If everyone was saying those animals were dangerous, then they must be, right? All I had to do was live my life in the prescribed way and ask no questions. How difficult could that be?

As the day ended, the guide took us to the main gate and bid us goodbye. It was then that I realized that I hadn’t asked his name.

“Sir!” I turned around and screamed. The Guide looked at me.

“What is your name?”

“India,” he said and smiled.

[image from here]


  1. Thank you for having me here KayEm. It was a pleasure writing a guest post for you.
    And I finally came out to my parents with the Lijjat Papad thingy. They weren't surprised because they already think that I am weird.

    1. I can imagine them laughing their hearts out. Great to have you write a guest post for my blog.

      Sad that our politicians question the merit of all that is best in us. A friend on fb had this very telling comment after reading your post - that we crush individuals whose ideas make us question our self-image.

  2. As usual a delight to read you Amit. Well India has indeed given you perfect zoo to stare at and then move on in life without raising your head. Do they have enough land because I am seeing these animals are on rise?

    1. Thanks Jas.
      I think they have enough land. I have heard they are acquiring new lands around the zoo at a fast pace.
      It is a cultural heritage. I am sure the families will be ready to relocate for this. It is either that or live in the zoo.

  3. It sure is a very interesting zoo -- our country and in more ways than one we are animals!

    1. We are more of a culturally rich country. Anything that goes beyond that boundary ends up in that zoo.
      I am sometimes really amazed that we allowed the British to abolished Sati. That is so not like us.

  4. I am laughing at the post as well as my fate for having to laugh at the zoo my nation has become. Hell of a writing. Any one who tries to think different and dares to question is fit for cage only.

    1. Thanks Meenakshi. :)
      Well, yeah, we have two choices. Enjoy the show or end up in the zoo.

  5. Did you notice Ashis Nandy too...poor guy was shunned inside the zoo unnecessarily.

    Loved it.

    1. Thanks Alka.
      Nandy is an escaped animal. I am sure we will catch him in good time.

  6. Brilliant as usual Amit!

    All the intellectual are in this zoo!

  7. That was a very fine concept.Please tell India to have another cage ready for accountability !!!

    1. Indu,
      All the animals in the zoo have been held accountable for their sins. It won't happen the other way round. :)

  8. Thank your stars that the guide didn't cage you for asking his name. But I am sure India would be annoyed by this post and the guide might be coming to take you to the zoo!
    Sad state of affairs :(

    1. I think he was very happy that I asked his name. He was the owner after all. And I am sure he will be happy by all this publicity.

  9. What a fantastic imagination and a witty representation of reality!

  10. Breath-stopping satire. As usual, you have reserved the best for the punchline.

  11. This is democrassy, where the corrupt live with their heads held high and the honest struggle to survive.

    Loved it!

    1. And it is getting worse as the days pass.
      Thanks Purba.

  12. amazingly creative and a fantastic read too...

  13. kick ass ending.the moment I read 'India' I had a goosebump.

    1. Thanks Bhavia. I also left hints in the description of the Guide. :)

  14. Loved it! Brilliant, as usual, Amit! :)

  15. fascinating imagination....loved the post!

    Padmapriya T S