Sunday, April 03, 2016
The office worker does not claim to understand Economics. It is best left to the pundits who pontificate on television, speaking of inflation and the devaluation of currency. They talk of the Greek crisis. And the Asian markets. It makes no sense to the office worker. He only needs an answer to a very simple question. Where does all his money disappear off to at the end of every month?
The office worker, and fellow office workers in a similar state of penury, head to the closest bar to discuss their situation. Frugal living might be the solution to their problems but the office workers don't believe in Occam's Razor. The answer is not that simple, they say. Down the ages, peasants have always struggled to understand why they have remained peasants all their lives. A philosopher-peasant in the 14th century, who is said to have spent a lifetime pondering over this question, sadly succumbed to the pestilence before his findings could be denounced as heresy by the Church. No one has come closer to the answer since and it continues to elude even the brightest of peasants of the Modern Age.
"If I were a country, I'd be Zimbabwe," says one of the office workers, despondently.
The others nod. Theirs is a very Zimbabwean situation.
"That analogy makes no sense," says one of the office workers, who has a background in Economics.
The others blow raspberries in reply. If he understands Economics so well, why is he poor like the rest of us, they ask, laughing.
The Economist tries to explain that his is not a field of study on wealth acquisition. It is the study of resources. There are a multitude of factors that cause poverty: Class differences, privilege, a banking system that favours the rich, the midd-
He is cut short by a cry of revolution.
One of the office workers is standing on the table, glass in hand. The others rise from their chairs in a show of support.
"Revolution is the answer!"
The others applaud.
"Vive la révolution!"
The applause grows louder.
"Off with their heads!"
The room goes silent.
The leader is pulled down. He is clearly too drunk to lead a revolution.
"Revolution!" cries the office worker who takes his place.
The others applaud again.
"We will erase all debt. Our lives will begin afresh!"
There is a resounding huzzah in response.
"A capital idea," says one supporter to another, "I wonder where he got it from?"
"I, Robot? Isn't that a film about a robot revolution?"
"I think he means Mr. Robot," says a third supporter.
"Ah, I haven't seen that one."
A critical analysis of Mr. Robot commences as more supporters join the conversation. The leader and his revolution are forgotten.
At dawn, the office workers awake from their drunken slumber and head back to their homes. In a few hours they will begin their 9 to 5. They are one day closer to payday.
posted by foogarky @ 7:54 PM, ,
Thursday, February 25, 2016
posted by foogarky @ 8:49 AM, ,
Saturday, January 17, 2015
The story of how I discovered India’s shadow government will no doubt be fictionalized in film with scenes of the actor poring over old newspapers at the library, going to dimly-lit, seedy bars to speak to people who prefer to remain anonymous and finally piecing together the clues to uncover the shadowy organization. In truth, however, I discovered it quite by accident. It happened one day when I walked in through the wrong door and found myself in a room that was certainly not the lavatory.
The clickety-clack of a hundred typewriters stopped suddenly and a hundred faces looked up at me. Only the whirring of the Emergency-era ceiling fans could be heard. It was a tense situation.
A woman appeared at a distance and walked towards me. "Who are you?” she asked.
"I am a reporter," I replied.
"What are you doing here? Parliament is in session."
That was a good question. Beat reporters usually camped out at Parliament or at North Block or even South Block. This building was far outside my jurisdiction.
"I'm following up on a lead," I answered. It was a half-truth. A tip-off led me here. "The canteen at ______ Bhavan serves excellent vada pav," the source said, adding that it was subsidized by the Government of India.
She surveyed me for a moment with an expression of mild curiosity on her face. I wondered if I was going to get evicted. I looked around the room. The peons began to look menacing to me, possibly armed.
To my surprise, she asked me to follow her. As I walked behind her, I noticed a familiar face as I passed the sixth row of typewriters. I stopped and knelt down to tie my shoelaces.
"Who is she?” I whispered.
The steno, a distant cousin on my mother’s side, stopped typing. "Madam? She is called Kaikeiyi."
My jaw dropped. It was true. Kaikeiyi did exist after all.
Kaikeiyi. I had heard this name before. A rookie reporter is rarely privy to confidential information but it was perhaps a favourable alignment of celestial bodies that guided an email into my inbox instead of the Chief Editor's. I opened it. It contained documents titled the Kaikeiyi Files.
I set the email on the right course to the Chief Editor. He would never know if I had read it or not. Would he buy my silence, I wondered. Was I going to get a company car? Or perhaps even a promotion?
I was disappointed when the reply contained only a curt 'Thank you'. He evidently did not deem me important enough to be a threat. He was probably right too. My lack of enthusiasm in opening work emails was quite legendary.
I was initially shocked by the contents of the Kaikeiyi Files, but as I read further, it began to sound more and more like a conspiracy theory to me. The alleged existence of a woman who influenced government policy since Independence? A cover-up of Pokhran-III? Documented cases of UFO encounters by IAF pilots? It sounded like the plot of a Hindi potboiler.
Until now, that is. I finally had some concrete evidence that Kaikeiyi existed. There was one problem though. Kaikeiyi looked young, perhaps in her late 20s. How could she be the same person who appeared at different times in a conspiracy theory spanning almost 70 years?
Was Kaikeiyi a title rather than a name? The thought occurred to me one day as I watched a James Bond marathon. And why would a mother name her daughter after the mythological Kaikeiyi anyway? It had to be a title, like M, the head of the MI6.
Kaikeiyi, it turns out, wasn't a title but a code name. "Code name: Kaikeiyi," she said, in reply to my question.
I had quit my job and begun working for the shadow government. I could never remember what it was officially called. It was listed as a sub-department in the Ministry of Commerce. Or was it a sub-divisional office in the Ministry of Transport? Whatever it is was, it stayed hidden deep within the bloated bureaucracy.
It was also exceedingly hard to find us. Our office was located in a nondescript building close to Raisina Hill. It looked like a sarkari office from the outside. I was disappointed to find that it looked like a sarkari office on the inside too.
In my years of working for the shadow government, I duly recorded most of Kaikeiyi's successful campaigns. This is a story about her failure though. Or was it yet another success? Sadly, the world may never know.
I called it her Final Problem. Kaikeiyi was India's problem solver. A country like ours situated between two hostile neighbours, divided between proselytizing religions, and filled with a middle class that looks for the first opportunity to emigrate, has a lot of problems. It is a wonder that India manages to stay united instead of Balkanising into bickering pieces. The populace probably attributed this to a government that administrated the country against all odds. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Have you ever wondered how a barely-functioning Parliament which usually witnessed scenes with uprooted chairs flying across the hall managed to get work done? It didn't. The politicians seen yelling atop the benches and ducking down to avoid airborne furniture were merely actors putting on a show. The real work of statecraft was done by the shadow government.
So, what was Kaikeiyi's Final Problem? It began a few months ago, when the oddest results began appearing in the local elections. It seemed sporadic at first, a few underdog Independents winning seats. The council seats they won would have no effect on the larger political scene. And then it started happening in the Assembly elections. Independents were being elected as Chief Ministers. These Independents had no single agenda, no common manifesto. Their demands were as diverse as the cultures in this country. A candidate supporting green initiatives won in the Western region. A feminist won in one of the tiny Eastern states. The only common factor was the way in which the incumbents and the bigger opposition parties were thoroughly defeated. The Independents took absolute majorities.
Kaikeiyi tried in vain to find a pattern. It seemed to make no sense. These states were electing leaders who had no cultural connection with the people who voted for them. The results were a collection of random probabilities.
Kaikeiyi studied political movements and forms of government from the beginning of time. She mapped out the growth of ancient democracies in Greece and Rome. Built hypothetical models of a current-era Greek or Roman democracy that would have lasted a thousand years. She introduced obscure political movements and ideologies that barely existed for a few years into these models. Nothing seemed to explain the current situation. It was absurdist turn of events. Was this the end of democracy? Were we seeing the birth of a new form of government?
As more states headed to elections, the trend continued. Independents continued winning.
"This isn't a wave, it's a tsunami," she said, exasperated.
"What are you going to do?", I asked.
"I am going to wait as it heads to the shore. It's either going to wipe us all out or dissipate before it reaches us. There's nothing else we can do."
posted by foogarky @ 11:23 PM, ,
Street War III: An Unlikely Ally
Monday, February 03, 2014
In Street War I, a group of boys calling themselves Goonie, Sarge and the Commander band together to defend their street against an enemy with superior firepower. Under the cover of darkness, as explosions are heard in the distance, Goonie is dispatched on his bicycle to look for ammunition. Can he make it back in time to save the day?
In Street War II, the Street Defence Force find themselves deep within hostile territory. Trapped by an enemy armed with long-range missiles, they barely escape from a barrage of Holi water balloons. They find themselves forced to resort to a guerrilla tactic called the Cowadunga Manoeuver. Will it work?
Street War 3: An Unlikely Ally
October 31, 2030 hours
"A sulphurous fog has descended upon us, sir," whispered Goonie, as we lay huddled in the trenches. I climbed out of the ditch, tripping over wires left behind by an unscrupulous telephone company, and looked out for Sarge. I could not see very far; the fog had limited our vision.
Where was Sarge? I had sent him out hours ago on a covert operation to cripple the enemy's transport. Why hadn't he reported back yet?
"I wonder if Sarge managed to puncture their tires, sir."
That question was on my mind too. Reducing the mobility of your enemy by puncturing their bicycle tires might seem like a dastardly thing to do, but we were a ragtag army of three fighting against a superior force. Outnumbered, we were driven far back into our own territory. If they advanced any further, they would take our Street HQ. Thus, it was of paramount importance that Sarge complete his mission and make it back unharmed.
The prospects of such an occurrence seemed to be growing dimmer by the minute though. He was most likely captured by the enemy. With a heavy heart, I reached into my pockets to pull out the white flag and head to the enemy base, when-
"Look! It's Sarge!," yelled Goonie.
I looked in the direction of Goonie's pointed finger and could make out two figures walking slowly towards us through the fog. I recognized one as Sarge, his head slumped forward and an arm around the shoulders of the other person. I squinted, trying to see who the second person was, and my eyes widened in surprise. He seemed vaguely familiar.
I looked at Goonie. His jaw had dropped too. So, this wasn't a battlefield hallucination after all. Relieved, I went towards them and helped Sarge climb down into the trench. He smiled as he lay down, amused by the look on our faces. "Friend or foe," I asked, looking at the foreigner.
"Friend," he replied.
I turned around to look at our friend. He was a diminutive Rambo, about five feet tall and wearing a wig made of long, curly black hair. He tied a black strip of cloth around his head to keep the wig in place. Dressed only in camouflage pants and bare chested, he looked the part.
"How did you manage to escape?"
"Thank the American," replied Sarge, "He saved my life."
October 31, 1930 hours
Location: Railway Quarters
In hindsight, it wasn't surprising that Sarge took ballet classes. He was nimble on his feet, making him the perfect man for stealth missions of the tiptoey sort. Claiming to have mastered the Way of the Ninja while growing up in Japan, Sarge realized that his cover was blown when he was spotted in a tutu outside Bernard's School of Ballet, Belly Dancing and Bharatnatyam. A weaker man might have moved cities after an embarrassing revelation such as this, but Sarge was made of sterner stuff. He embraced his new identity as a classically trained ballet dancer/soldier and went on covert operations in a specially designed combat tutu. The Commander found no cause for complaint after he saw his operational success rate go up by 200%. They never spoke of it, as all men do when confronted with the sillier quirks of their brethren, but Goonie still giggled at the sight of Sarge preparing himself for a mission.
On this night however, it would take more than just his ballet skills to complete the mission. He was sent out to the Railway Quarters, a previously peaceful neighbourhood that had been recently occupied by a gang of foul-mouthed boys who called themselves the Naga. They were aptly named, Sarge thought to himself, remembering their wanton destruction of the park and the swimming pool and the subsequent framing of the Commander for the vandalism. The glorious name of the Commander had been besmirched and he had been forbidden by the Elders to enter the Railway Quarters again. Sarge swore to take revenge on the Naga, calling them a group of slimy snakes. But the Commander held him back and reminded him of the principles of Sun Tzu's Art of War. We will lay low and strike at an opportune moment, he said. And for that to happen, we have to weaken them by destroying their defenses and cripple them. Sarge agreed. The Commander was a veteran of two Street Wars. But still, this was a foe more fearsome than any they had ever seen before. The thought worried Sarge as he darted through the shadows. He could see the bicycle stand at the far end of the compound.
Knifing the tires was easy enough. And there were no guard dogs around. Perhaps this was a trap, Sarge wondered. The momentary lapse in concentration cost him dear. He bumped into a bicycle, knocking it down, setting off a domino effect. Within minutes, a row of bicycles crashed to the ground. He had barely exited the stand before he found himself surrounded by a group of boys in pajamas. It was the Naga.
"What has the night brought usss?," asked the leader of the group, who added a theatrical hiss after the end of every sentence. He called himself the King Cobra.
"Looksss like a ballet dancer in a black tutu, Bosss. Must be the Black Sssswan," replied his right-hand man, the Viper, who might have been imitating his Boss or simply suffering from a speech defect.
Sarge growled, realizing that he couldn't do anything. He was outnumbered. As they drew closer, he called in for help. There was only static. Making a mental note to never buy any gear from Burma Bazaar again, he flung the walkie-talkie away and stood with his head held high. He would not be taken like a coward, begging for his life.
"We are going to teach you a lesssson," hissed the Viper, pulling out a string of firecrackers. "Now you shall think twice before you messs with usssss."
Sarge closed his eyes.
October 31, 2000 hours
Mordecai looked around. He could hear loud blasts in the vicinity. That's strange, he thought to himself, didn't Dad say this was a peaceful country?
Perhaps war had broken out here too. It wasn't the first time it happened during a posting. That would mean a quick evacuation along with the other families. Again.
He remembered Lebanon. He had to leave Balto behind. Dogs were given low priority during evacuations. He wondered if he would ever find a friend like that again.
The blasts were getting louder. It could be heard over the music now. Shouldn't they be heading back to the embassy, he wondered, looking for his father.
Not finding him among the crowd of dressed-up people, he stepped out of the hotel. And that's when he saw it. Fireworks. Of a different kind.
"Don't go knocking on doors tonight," his father had said earlier, laughing, "Indians don't follow the same traditions as us." That made sense now. They were celebrating something. He should have paid more attention during the briefing session on cultural differences.
However, even the most comprehensive of briefing sessions could not have prepared him for what he was about to see next. A boy dressed in what seemed to be a black tutu ran past him followed by a group of boys in their pajamas. Were they hissing?
"Screw Halloween, this is way more interesting," he said to himself, and ran after them.
October 31, 2100 hours
Location: The Trenches
"We made a last stand," said Sarge, continuing the American's story, "Rambo and I. It was glorious."
"Did you fight the Naga all by yourselves?" asked Goonie, incredulously.
"We did. Until backup arrived."
"Yes. Mordecai's friends. They were in costume too."
"That must have been devastating," I said, "The sight of Rambo and a ballet dancer aided by the forces of darkness."
"Indeed. Dracula, the Headless Horseman and Clint Eastwood. They fled."
"And we live to fight another day," said Goonie, solemnly.
posted by foogarky @ 1:56 AM, ,
The forgotten history of Vypin Island
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
I could not have foreseen that the last telegram that I would ever receive would turn out to be the bearer of bad tidings. It was a month before India announced that it was shutting down its telegraph service, and I found myself answering the door to receive this relic from an earlier era. I opened it, pleasantly surprised, but the message within filled me with dismay.
I nodded. It was ready for active duty.
posted by foogarky @ 2:40 AM, ,
The battle for the sovereignty of North Sentinel Island
Monday, July 22, 2013
It remains a mystery why the Kaiju would attack North Sentinel Island, which lay in the waters off the coast of southern India. The tiny island was populated by an ancient people called the Sentinelese, who were hunter-gatherers with a way of life that was unchanged by modern civilisation. Why would the Kaiju choose to attack this group of people with only spears to defend themselves with instead of attacking Calcutta and making their way to Delhi?
Perhaps the answer lay in a theory propounded by an administrative clerk employed by the Survey of India, a government agency tasked with mapping the country. In a letter to the Editor of The Telegraph, he explained that the island was studied in great detail by an English naturalist whose work was unfortunately discredited completely when he claimed that the giant creatures described in the oral legends of the Sentinelese might be the same dragons that appear so frequently in European and Oriental myths. The naturalist was laughed off the stage at the The Royal Society of London and was never heard from again, presumably dying eventually in abject poverty. Could these creatures be the Kaiju, the clerk asked, instead of the mythical dragons? It is unknown if the Editor published the letter merely out of amusement, but it went by largely ignored by the readers.
Regardless of the reason, the first Kaiju attack in India happened on North Sentinel Island. The country was almost taken by surprise, as it was only a year after K-Day, and the construction of our first Jaeger, Juggernaut, was not yet complete. In many ways, that fateful day marked the beginning of the rule of Ray, who would go down in history as possibly India's greatest leader of the modern era.
Every schoolboy learns about the man who would cause political upheaval and lead a country during its time of need. Not everyone knew his story though. For he had no story. He was an orphan of no religion or ethnicity. The Indian Army adopted him in its scheme to train urchins to become soldiers. They called him Ray.
Ray would rise up the ranks quickly, eventually qualifying for the Jaeger program. He joined three other promising candidates selected to pilot Juggernaut. If he wondered which of the shortlisted four would eventually qualify to become the pilot pair, he needn't have worried. All four of them were the pilots, for Juggernaut was not a biped Jaeger like the others before him. He was a four legged colossus.
Remembering his history lessons which described medieval battles with war elephants, Ray looked up in awe at Juggernaut. He stood as tall, or perhaps taller than the American Jaeger, Gipsy Danger. Ray's eyes would widen more in surprise later, when he would realize that Juggernaut could stand up on his hind legs and raise his forelegs in the air, towering over every other Jaeger in the world. He smiled as he realized that the Asian giants, as China and India were often referred to, would use the Kaiju attacks to prove to the world how powerful they really were. If India had spent so much on building its Jaeger, he shuddered to think of what China was capable of.
The Kaiju that made its way to North Sentinel Island was spotted on the radar by the Coast Guard. The government made its decision. The island was far too insignificant to defend. Its destruction would buy them time to finish Juggernaut's construction before the Kaiju attacks began on the mainland. That was the story that was fed to the press anyway. In truth though, Juggernaut was a white elephant project designed to use the fears of the people to spend their taxes on a colossal venture from which billions of rupees would be siphoned off by the government. Was Juggernaut actually intended to serve in active duty? Ray didn't wait to find out. Frustrated with the rampant corruption, he commandeered the public address system at the defence research headquarters, where the pilots and Jaeger crew were housed, and spoke:
"The Sentinelese might be uncivilised tribesmen, but remember this. They have never been invaded since the dawn of time. Let's keep it that way.
It's time for Juggernaut to defend his country."
It must have been a rousing speech, as the Action Stations! alarm went off across the base. Crewmen rushed to their positions, and in an hour, Juggernaut was powering up. Ray rushed to the command console where he found his co-pilots waiting. They saluted him as he entered. It was time to take charge, he realized. No elephant rode well under four mahouts. It needed a commander.
The Kaiju lay in wait near the waters of North Sentinel Island, almost as if in anticipation for a battle with a Jaeger. It took almost a day for Juggernaut to reach the island, after being airlifted from the Madras Harbour. It must have been a spectacular sight for the Sentinelese to witness a colossal machine rise out of the water and make its way to the shore, but they did not run back into the forest screaming in terror. It was at that moment that Ray realized that this was not the first time that these ancient people had encountered something that big.
Juggernaut battled with the Kaiju, creating waves of tsunamis that crashed into the shore. The Sentinelese were brave people; they watched from treetops as the water swept everything away underneath. It was when another Kaiju suddenly appeared and Juggernaut was forced into a defensive position, that the tribesmen decided to join the fight. Apparently unafraid of the behemoths around them, they climbed down to the ground, pulled out their bows, dipped their arrow tips into bowls containing an unidentified liquid, and took aim. As the Kaiju leaned on its hind legs, exposing its skin beneath the scales, they fired. Most of them found their mark. The Kaiju convulsed, apparently affected by whatever poisoned it. It lurched forward, seemingly losing consciousness. Juggernaut went in for the kill. After the death of the first one, the second was dispatched rather quickly.
Ray returned a hero, armed with knowledge that would give humanity a fighting chance against the Kaiju onslaught. He wondered if the Sentinelese had fought off these creatures before, when they might have been attacked some time in prehistory. As we now know, the Kaiju were not interested in our lush prehistoric world and decided to attack later when we reached the Industrial Age. Did they come back to North Sentinel Island to kill off the only people who knew how to kill them?
The Sentinelese compound, as we referred to the poison that we equipped our Jaeger weapons with, saved millions of lives in Kaiju attacks. Until the Kaiju evolved an immunity to it. By then, we had Indus Omega and Asura Alpha to defend us and Ray as our leader.
posted by foogarky @ 3:02 AM, ,
The untold story of the Indian Jaegers
Monday, July 15, 2013
It was quite fitting that we would call our first Jaeger the Juggernaut. It was a word of an Indian origin, invented by the English to refer to a destructive and unstoppable force that crushed whatever stood before it. The Juggernaut we built towered over our people and even though they stared at him in awe, they were not unfamiliar with the idea of giant beasts used in warfare. This was the land of war elephants after all.
It was on K-Day, when the world first witnessed the terrifying sight of those behemoths we now call the Kaiju, that India began its Jaeger program, realizing that if it needed to be taken seriously as a force to be reckoned with, then it would need to defend itself against this common enemy on its own. The defence research organisations, long crippled by a lack of funds, quite remarkably stepped up to the challenge. It had taken the threat of an apocalypse to jolt a nation out of its self-destructive slumber.
Juggernaut was soon joined by his brothers-in-arms, Asura Alpha and Indus Omega. Indus Omega was a Mark-3 Jaeger, but Asura Alpha had no rank. He was a beast of a different making. It was after successive defeats suffered by humanity against the hitherto unseen Category 4 Kaiju that India decided to try something that no one else would. It was an idea born out of desperation, yet somehow we managed to pull it off. A battered, dying Kaiju was brought back to life, equipped with prosthetic Jaeger weapons in place of its missing limbs, and a command console with a human pilot installed in its brain to mind-meld with its native consciousness. We had created the unholy spawn of a Kaiju-Jaeger coupling. Against incredible odds, it worked. It was alive. It was the alpha among Asuras.
Unfortunately though, it was India that bore the brunt of most Kaiju attacks. The abundance of ports on the coastline must have made easy targets. The Juggernaut was the first to fall, heroically defending Calcutta. He took the Kaiju down with him, detonating in mid-sea.
Indus Omega was next, tragically succumbing to a Category 4 Kaiju that attacked Pakistan, our neighbour with no Jaegers to defend itself. In times of distress, old feuds were forgotten. We had offered our help and sent in Indus Omega. He was out of his league though. Category 4 Kaiju are fearsome beasts. Indus Omega defended Karachi in a losing battle, buying time for Asura Alpha.
After Indus Omega went down, the Kaiju had barely set its sights on the harbour before Asura Alpha appeared, blocking its path. It did not stand a chance. That was the moment when we realized that we might not be able to control this monster of our own making. Asura Alpha savagely attacked the Kaiju and tore it apart, flooding the seawaters of Karachi with toxic blood.
He has not been heard from since, though we received reports that he was seen headed towards the Breach. We don't know if he made it through. Was it an attempt to go to wherever these infernal creatures came from and destroy them all, right at the source? We might never know. For now, India is safe. We have rebuilt Indus Omega. We will continue our fight.
posted by foogarky @ 1:34 PM, ,
About This Blog
The Loony Lampoonist serves to parody, spoof and satirize everything that needs to be parodied, spoofed and satirized. Due to the fictional nature of this electronic journal, any anecdotes appearing here ever so often that seem to be personal in nature, would suffer from the effects of conflicting personalities, the creation of fictional events and the inclusion of non existent characters who did not make it to the big league in the author's literary works. Thus, the Loony Lampoonist is also a purgatory for characters and ideas that have missed the limelight.