Sunday, March 25, 2012

The ballad of the Pied Piper of India


(With sincere apologies to Robert Browning and one and all)

I come from a small town in which everyone is sick

We stay awake all night staring at the lantern wick

This is a story I heard from my grandmother's side

A woman with bigger bosoms you could never have spied

This is where begins my dramatic ditty

It could be TODAY or five hundred years ago

To see how my townsfolk suffered so

No one knows how

And that is the ultimate pity


Here is my town on this geographical map

Let me say this is in desi-rap

My town is in this country exotica

She is quite famous for its erotica

A naughtier town you won't find

If that is, the donkeys and dust you don't mind

So if you pass by, you must visit my township

Decades ago it was called something very hip

Nay - Names don't make a diff they say

This while everyone is joining the Angrez bandwagon or Rashtriya fray

Sangh Parivar v/s Singh Parivar

Anti-Gandhi and Pro-Dandi that's another war


Let me cease my tattle and talk

It's time for my parable to walk the walk


I can hear the murmurings of the poor folks

Who earn Rs 10 per day and accept it as fate

Cause our country has a double-digit growth rate

That's why they raise their voice

The world at large dismisses it as noise

(Problems, Problems, Problems)

(The Big Problem being there are just too many ephing Problems)

Corrupt Rats!

Wish someone could drive these

Corrupt vermins from our cities

It could be the Righties

Or it could even be the Lefties


As I was saying Corrupt Rats

They fought the dogs, and killed the cats

Soon no dog had its day; and no cat had nine lives

Though certain people could bribe and have many wives

The Corrupt Rats indoctrinated babies in the bed

They swallowed the bottomline, the RBI was in debt

They stole cereals and grains in the food godowns

That's how our PM inherited a permanent frown

They ruled the garbage, they roamed the lanes

They laid tiny eggs inside the human brain

They even spoiled the women's chats

By drowning their speaking

With shrieking and squeaking

In fifty different sharps and flats.

In another part of our rich and diverse country

Cheese and sparkling wine was totally free

The bureaucrats and babus were happy

They said: Hey If this goes on, our salaries will double day by day

To which every law abiding citizen should have filed complaints

But there were no such citizens - and therefore no complaints

The Government had installed a nice big Complaint Box

But if you looked carefully, it was sealed with a lock

Oh yes,

Everyone had their routine Nukkad Chit-Chats

None could defy the might of the Corrupt Rats

In fact one paan-wallah said

It would have been quite all right to have Corrupt Bats

But Corrupt Rats - Nyet, Nyet, Nyet

(Once in a way, this narrator, in other words I, shall remind you of our Socialistic Policies)

So, I said once before

Quite OK to have Corrupt Bats

But Corrupt Rats - Nyet, Nyet, Nyet

The Corrupt Rats had their wheeling and dealing

Sometimes with Pu-Ling, sometimes with Stree-Ling

With their methodology which was highly painful

Especially, if you were some kind of idealistic fool


Long lost some disgusted people formed a body

They had no place where they could gather a flocking

By this predicament, the rest of the world got totally turned on

Academic scholars and experts decided to thrust upon

They started to blame scapegoats and ideological turncoats

They mentioned David v/s Goliath plus other stereotypes by rote

To which Tabloid Headlines said: Arre Bhai, all this is rocking

And night after day, all we got was: verbalised ballocking

"Samasya Gambhir Hain," cried the people, "where's our Sarpanch?"

His PA said he is gone for afternoon siesta after a heavy lunch

People found all this quite shocking

They shouted slogans which were mocking

To think we pay taxes to the Panchayat

Who lived in bungalow - while we in huts

And are idiots that can't or won't determine

What's best to rid us of our CORRUPT RAT vermin!

Wake up Shri Sarpanch-ji!

Give your brains a racking

To find the remedy we're lacking,

Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!"

At this the Sarpanch and the Town Corporation

Quaked with democraticised consternation

They had seen how the People of the Nation Voted

And caused Political Partification

For hours and hours, they sat under a Parliamentarian Tree

The Sarpanch confabulated about how to change the course of history

Yet, except for the thought of their own bank accounts, no one cared

Yes, one or two good activists, had their souls bared

Some like Sharmila and Gaddar who really dared

But then the whole country knows how they have fared

Cause BASICALLY no one had heard of a Miracle Messiah who could really scare

Or make these Corrupt Rats vanish into thin air


Even I ladies and gentlemen

Here truth be told

Sat on my bathroom pot

And thought and thought

There was faint whisper, a discernible change

From the Himalayas to the Sayadhari Range


The Netas Betas and their chelas created pandemonium

They sent out notices in the name of jingoism and even religon

And soon our country was threatened with a new peril

- Not Corrupt Rats but National Dis-integration


I tried to rack my pea-sized brain—

All I got was migraines and head-aches again

I've scratched it so, and all in vain.

Oh for a Mahatma, a Mahatma, a Mahatma!

Years and decades, it seemed to pass by

To reason and sanity I said goodbye

"Oh Lord in Heaven, Please send us a saviour

I as your devotee ask this favour"

Nowise, the cynics and skeptics jeered

And downed their arrack and warm glasses of beer

Their indifference gave vent to indifferent slogans

Which will be around, as long as we are governed

Just as I said this, what should hap

At the door of the Sarpanch's door there was a gentle tap?

"Bless us," cried the grandson of the Sarpanch, "what's that?"

With the Corporation the great-grandson sat,

Looking through his wondrous fat

He was a carbon copy of his father's father

Most people preferred his great-grandfather, rather

He jotted all sessions in a log book type muster

This ensured his rivals could not make him fluster

He ate from a plate full of paalak along with curd

This prevented indigestion and eased his turd

"Just then we heard the scraping of shoes on the mat?

It sounded like the sound of a rat

Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!



"Come in!"—the Sarpanch's great grandson cried, looking bigger:

And in did come the strangest figure!

Knock, knock, knock -

Come in -

And the strangest figure sauntered, he looked like a crook

His body it resembled the pages in a well-known book

His face it lit up like a halo

Or may be it was the noose at the gallows

Was this The Mahatma sans deathly sins

Oh, his eyes they darted and pricked like pins

Surveying the scene like a time-bound prejudicator

For the first time, the silence of 1.2 billion people overwhelmed the din

For one hour he stood on his head

Till everyone thought he was totally dead

His queer khadi robe from heel to head

Was half of saffron and half of red

And he himself was tall and thin

No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin

But lips where smiles went out and in—

There was no guessing his kith and kin!

And nobody could enough admire

The tall man and his ancient attire

Said one: "It's as though Bapu is here,

Now we have none to fear

Another said: He looks like Subaash Chandra Bose

He will vanquish all our CORRUPT foes

Another said, he has Ambedkar's tone

Our enemies will drown in the seas like a heavy stone!

He advanced to the Sarpanch-table:




I'm not from the North

I'm not from the South

I'm not from Kanchenjunga

I'm not from the Sind

This PROBLEM you have to solve from the grass-roots

And if I fail, you can give me the royal boot

I'll charge a million

Swiss Francs as my fees

But this does not mean I'm ummm not patriotic

A Rupee isn’t good equity these days

It's hedge funds and foreign cap that speaks

And although you can pay me in any other currency you prefer

If you pay me in Rupees my work ethics I think will suffer

With this money, I don't intend to do anything funny

Except buy back the era of milk and honey

For which I'll starve till my dream is served

So no food, no water, not even a micron of dust



He continued:

"Please your honours," said he, "I'm able

By means of a secret mantra, to draw

All creatures living beneath the sun

That creep or swim or fly or run

After me so as you never saw!

And I chiefly use my charm

On creatures that do people harm,

The mole and toad and newt and viper;

And people call me the Pied Piper."

Hear Hear Hear

Hip Hip Hip Hurrah

Vande Matram

Lets celebrate with coke and rum

So went a cheer

Now the nation had none to fear

Let's give this chap, some lime with gin

Perhaps as President, vote him in

Cheers to his Marathi village in the remote distance

His village can be shifted to

A Duplex residence on Peddar Road

Let’s unburden his shoulders of all the load

Uff. Uff. Uff.

In between there will be a reformist cry against sclerotic socialism to indicate the helplessness at red tape, graft and lack of infra

Uff. Uff. Uff.


Some people who had a gripe

Here they noticed round his neck

A pen drive which determined his life

(Recommendations by Marwaris and Banias)

Honoured by DDs and hefty cheques

And then everyone noticed the pipe

And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying

As if impatient to be playing

Upon this pipe, as low it dangled

Over his vesture so old-fangled

"Yet," said he, "poor piper as I am,

Dhirubhai I made more than a petrol pump-wallah

For Adani I got a coal mine deal from Australia

Ratan, I introduced to Corus and the Jaguar Land Rover

Sunil, I eased into Zain Africa before bandwidth was over

And, as for what your brain bewilders

If I can rid your country of these symbolic rats

Will you give me one percent of your country’s GDP?

"One per cent!"—was the exclamation

Of the astonished Sarpanch and his corporation


Into the street the Piper stepped,

Smiling first a little smile,

As if he knew what magic slept

In his quiet pipe the while;

Then, like a musical adept,

To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,

And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled

Like a candle flame where salt is sprinkled

And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered

You heard as if an army muttered

And the muttering grew to a grumbling

And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling

And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.

Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats

Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats

The rats who jeep scammed

The rats who food scammed

The rats who stock-market scammed

The rats who Satyam scammed

The rats who CWG scammed

The rats who 2G scammed

Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins

All committing malafide sins

Families by tens and dozens

Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives

— All these rats followed the Piper for their lives

From gulley to gulley he piped advancing

And step for step they followed dancing

Until they came to the Indian Ocean

Wherein all plunged and perished – just for fun!

- Save one who, stout as Uncle Shikandi,

Swam across to Mauritius in a little hundi

(Carrying all the debentures and balance sheets he cherished)

From his offshore-land office he sent this eMail

To the Supreme Court: It said a merry tale:

"At the first shrill notes of the pipe

I heard a sound of the passing of a People’s Bill

It had me in shivers, it gave me a deep chill

What will happen to Exim Policies

And CIF and below-the-table fees?

What about the skeletons in North Block cup-boards,

Plus the AGMs rigged by the corporate boards

Will there be a rollback of Government rulings

Are all bureaucrats playing the fooling

Just because they hear the people’s voice

(Discordant and from the Ram Lila Maidan)

Calling out to children, behenjis and bhaijans

'Oh, rats, time for you to stop your rejoice!

Uff. Uff. Uff.

Time for an interlude.
Uff. Uff. Uff..

The world is growing and the country needs goods!

In spite of which there is a shortage of edible food

And so, we procured a license to smuggle and import

To munch on, to crunch on, take your nuncheon

Breakfast, supper, dinner, and a five-star luncheon!'

The trick was to over-invoice

Show a really inflated price

Become entitled to a greater value of import license

The differential paid through hawala, in a sense

And so, black money sent out to an international destination

While the people were starving in most parts of the nation

The only way to fight for the right of man!'

- Was to expose all transactions from the Isle of Man."

Uff. Uff. Uff.

In between there will be a reformist cry to indicate the helplessness at corruption, cronyism and fake stamp papers.

Uff. Uff. Uff.

You should have heard the billion and one people

Ringing temple bells, cheering from domes and steeples

"Go," cried the Sarpanch, "and get long poles!

Poke out the nests and block up the holes!

Consult with carpenters and builders,

And leave in our town not even a trace

Of the rats!"—when suddenly, up the face

Of the Piper perked in the market-place

With a, "First, if you please, my one per cent of GDP!"

One per cent! The Sarpanch looked blue

So did the Panchayat too.

They started to consult every single Finance Minister

Starting with Liaquat Ali Khan to Nehru to Mrs Gandhi, by the way

From Chintamanrao to YB and SB Chavan to even Madhu Dandvate

From Mukherjee to Morarji to Chidambaram to Y and J Sinha

To Mukherjee, who was FM, and was invited for dinner

If the money is replenished, it will result in fiscal deficit

Our exchequer’s cellar would become a pile of shit

To pay this sum to a wandering low-class fellow

With an ideology that’s unbecoming and quite un-mellow!

"Beside," quoth the Sarpanch with a knowing wink

"Our dirty business was done at the Ocean’s brink

We saw with our eyes the vermin sink

And what's dead can't come to life, I think.

So, friend, we're not the folks to shrink

From the duty of giving you lassi to drink

And a matter of money to put in your poke

But, as for the one per cent, what we spoke

Of them, as you very well know, was in joke.

Beside, our losses have made us smart.

One per cent! Instead you can become a dealer in a retail mart!"


The Piper's face fell, and he cried

"No trifling! I can't wait, beside!

I would have thought I would be honoured with a Bharat Ratna

A proper ceremony not in Delhi but at the very least in Patna

You awarded it to a foreigner

You awarded it posthumously

You gave it Subhash Chandra Bose and withdrew the honour

You gave it Abdul Kalam Azad and he refused the honour

You awarded it to a political survivor—

Surely you can gift it to me, even if I’m a bargain-driver

And if you don’t – then you will escalate my passion

May find me pipe to another fashion

"How?" cried the Sarpanch, "d'ye think I'll tolerate

When you’re unwilling to re-negotiate the rate?

Insulted by this – this lazy chap

With idle pipe and talks in Hindustani rap?

You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,

Blow your pipe there till you burst!"

Nyet, Nyet, Nyet – The Sarpanch shouldn’t have said so

Said the socialist newspapers, tomorrow

(Once in a way, this narrator, in other words I, shall remind you of our Socialistic Policies and prevalent democracy)

Once more the Piper stepped into the street;

And to his lips again

Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane

And ere he blew three notes

(Such sweet notes as yet musician's cunning

Never gave the enraptured air)

There was a rustling, that seemed like a bustling

Of currencies jostling at pitching and hustling

Small change were pattering, paisas clattering

The coins in all four mints were blanking and doddering

Commemorative coins, and certificates and bonds were scattering

Out came the money running

Be it black, be it white

Be it illegal, be it right,

Tripping and skipping, the Indian Rupee ran merrily after

The wonderful music with shouting and laughter

The Sarpanch was dumb, and his Panchayat stood

As if they were changed into blocks of wood

Unable to move a step, or cry

To the money merrily skipping by—

And could only follow with the eye

That joyous currency flew behind the Piper's back

By now

The Sarpanch was on the rack,

And the wretched Sarpanch’s bosoms beat,

As the Piper turned from Dalal Street

Money stopped at RBI to sip some water

Planning money's future for its sons and daughters!

The Piper turned from South to West,

And to Sansad Bhavan his steps addressed

And after him the money pressed

Great was the joy in every breast

"He never can cross that mighty top!

He's forced to let the piping drop,

And we shall see our money stop!"

When, lo, as they reached the mountain's side

A wondrous portal opened wide

As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;

And the Piper advanced and the currency followed

And when all were in to the very last

The door in the mountain-side shut fast

Did I say, all?


One was lame,

And could not dance the whole of the way

And in after years, if you would blame

His sadness, he was used to say,—

"It's dull in our town since all the other cash left!

I can't forget that I'm bereft

Of all the conglomerate sights they see,

Which the Piper also promised me:

For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,

Joining the town with finance at hand

Where turnover gushed and profits grew

And ROI put forth a fairer hue

And balance sheets was strange and new

The designs were brighter than peacocks here,

And their machines outran ours without fear,

And their cargo never lost any time in travel,

And their foreign exchange deals were always well:

And just as I became assured

My aggregate would be speedily cured,

The music stopped and I stood still,

And found myself outside the Hill,

Left alone against my will,

To go now limping as before,

And never hear of that world more!

Alas, alas for our country!

It was all too late

None could change our country’s fate

There came many reformers who were sane

From Raja Ramohan Roy to Jyotiba Phule

From C V Raman to Amartya Sen

But none could alter

The country’s fate

As the needle's eye takes a camel in!

The Sarpanch sent East, West, North, and South

To offer the Piper, by word of mouth

Wherever it was men's lot to find him

Bollywood and IPL to his heart's content

If he'd only return the way he went

And bring the money behind him

But when they saw 'twas a lost endeavour

And Piper and the Indian currency were gone for ever

They made a decree that lawyers never

Should think their records dated duly

If, after the day of the month and year

These words did not as well appear,

"And so long after what happened here

On the 15th of August

The fiscal turned to dust

The place of the money’s last retreat,

They called it, the Pied Piper's Street—

Today any one playing on pipe or singing a song

We must pay heed even if the lyrics are all wrong

For we cannot lose all our equity in the stocks

And the bulls and bears will once again place a lock

We need money to buy a few things

Like bijli, sadak, paani and hing

Or else we will become like Papua New Guinea

Sans money we shall beg for alms on our knee


Please memorise this story in your brain,

Even if it causes a great deal of pain

And on the great Parliament building let it be painted

In order to, to make the next-gen better acquainted

How our money was stolen away;

And how it hasn’t returned to this very day.

And I must not omit to say

That in Switzerland there's a tribe

Of foreign people that ascribe

The outlandish ways and dress

Which their neighbours say is a mess,

These people we don’t know what’s their use

Except they have money for every single JV or MOU

Governments come, governments go

Financed by this mighty band

Out of a small town in a distant land

How or why, we will never understand.


Let you and me remember this

Money is of no use without its fizz:

And, when someone pipes us free, from rats or from mice

If we've promised them aught, let us keep our promise



(To conclude, this narrator, that is I, chooses to remind you (our reader) of our Gandhian past)