My colleague, an Indian-origin Brit, finds it hard to believe that India is Asia’s third-largest economy.
“But why can’t we see it out there?” he asks, pointing to the office windows offering a bird’s-eye view of Connaught Place.
I know what he means. It’s not the nattily dressed investment bankers or the endless stream of cars that snake in and out of the city’s business district that he sees. It’s the dozen piss-laden pillars that gave Barakhamba Road its name, the beggars and lepers at Hanuman Mandir a few blocks away and grimy heroin addicts who skulk in the subways.
India is an enigma that way — a poster boy both for poverty porn and economic success.
While there’s no stopping India from becoming a global superpower in the coming decades, it can’t just brush away its problems under a plush carpet. It’s time to change all that.
I wish I could borrow Harry Potter’s wand and place everyone under an Imperius Curse, forcing them to do my bidding.
Dear President, you will not take your son-in-law and grandchildren to foreign lands at the government’s expense. Send them a nice postcard from Seychelles instead.
Dear Prime Minister, you will not be meek and say yes to everything a mother’s love demands. Sometimes it is necessary to lose the battle in order to win a war but too many defeats can overshadow a solitary victory.
Dear Minister, you will not use your position to allot real estate or telecom licences to people you like. Offer them tea and Marie biscuits and bid them goodbye with a smile.
Dear MLA, sleep if you must but you will not watch pornographic clips to pass time in boring state assembly sessions. Play noughts and crosses instead.
Dear Army chief, it’s nice to have just one date of birth. Makes keeping track of Birthday Calendars on Facebook so much easier. As for army scandals, this is a good time to start work on a tell-all book.
Dear Government servant, you will try your best not to be bribed. We need a hundred Anna Hazares to weed out corruption, so we’ll just have to do all we can with the Hazare we have for now. And you know what? Going to jail is over-rated.
Dear Municipal worker, I know the pay isn’t all that great but who knows, if you polish those floors till they shine, you might just get promoted. And you wouldn’t want your peers in America to think they are the best.
Dear Mumbai Police, I know Ajmal Kasab relishes his chicken, but is that reason enough to shift six cooks to the prison? He’s not really a suitable judge for TV’s Masterchef.
Dear Corporates, you will forget petty rivalries and take Incredible India to the next level. It’s a win-win for you too — eventually. You can share the spoils of war later.
Dear Maoists, time to send that Italian tourist back home. The ministry of tourism needs good word-of-mouth publicity. Have you forgotten atithi devo bhava (the guest is God) already?
Dear Journalist, give us some good news; we’ve had too much of the other kind lately. We want more philanthropic IITians, Olympic medals and Nobel prizes.
Dear Driver, what’s with all that rage? I know it’s hot but you could always enjoy a cold drink. OK so the other guy put a dent in your Honda Civic, he didn’t do it deliberately. Certainly no reason to stab him. Remember — to err is human; to forgive, divine.
Dear Pedestrian, you will not go jaywalking in city streets. And of course, do not decorate pavements and walls with red paan stains. You wouldn’t want such a colour scheme in your house, would you?
Dear Conman, you will not tell people you lost your wallet and need to urgently buy train tickets for your pregnant wife and sick father. I believed you once; now do you want me to lose my faith in humankind?
Dear Autowallah, you will not fleece foreign tourists. Take an extra rupee or two from us Indians but don’t give them such a bad time. We need all the dollars we can get.
Dear Eve-teaser, you will not harass women. It’s an oft-quoted argument but you do respect you own mother and sisters, don’t you?
Dear Father, so what if Dear Mother gave birth to a girl? You shouldn’t punish her; it’s your chromosomes that decided the sex of the baby. Also, haven’t you seen enough TV serials to figure out that girls take more care of their parents in old age.
Dear Cricketer, do you really need all that money? Forget the benefits of spot-fixing and enjoy the game instead.
Dear Viewer, watch and cheer for hockey, boxing and badminton. Time to get us back some long-forgotten Olympics laurels.
Dear Common Man, I know you are worried about inflation and inadequate salaries. But do you really need to smoke that bidi, tear open that gutka pouch and drown your sorrows in alcohol?
Dear Housewife, you will not throw trash in the street. You wouldn’t like that to happen in your living room, would you? See if you can volunteer to keep your surrounding areas clean.
Dear Beggar, you will not be part of the begging mafia. I know being illiterate and unemployed wasn’t really your long-term career goal but please help us help you earn an honest living.
Dear Bollywood, make us more soppy films like “Hum Aapke Hain Koun”, where nobody is evil and everything is usually hunky-dory. Cheer us up so that we can forget our real-life troubles.
Dear Shaktimaan, if you existed, I wouldn’t need to write this blog in the first place. It’s time to change and you are the man for it. So please just fly down here and do your thing.
[Contest entry for Time to Change]