Anna & my democratic family

Anna Hazare finally picked up a Chinese menu and ordered kung pao chicken with American chopsuey, not hot dog, and India breathed a collective sigh of relief. Truth be told, khow suey is what he really wanted but the Ramlila Grounds isn’t too big on South Asian culinary delights. In fact, with their market draining, most caterers in that general area had migrated in search of better prospects. However, the main point is Mr Hazare had shown the way to some sort of egalitarianism for our fledgling democracy. But as the old saying goes, “Democracy begins at home”. Now, “if we want democracy to prosper, we need to remove from it the poison of corruption.”
This, of course, is a direct translation from the Persian poet Rumi’s epic My Epiphany-Democracy. Bear in mind it sounds much better in the original Persian.
My wife, an avid Anna supporter, ordered a family meeting to discuss just this. “Corruption and us” or “How to kick start our democracy” read the notice to each family member. The meeting was held at 7 am. A time when, research has shown, human beings are least likely to be corrupt. Partly because they are just waking themselves up and have trouble with coherent thoughts or because they are far too busy with bathroom duties. Then too, the meeting was attended by all family members. My father, a man of 73, whose only known corrupt act was allowing our dog to urinate on the building’s most unpopular tenant, was the first to come. My mother, who collects receipts from even beggars, was next. Then came my uncle Jay who hasn’t left the house in 33 years and thus became the premier spokesperson for kinetic energy over dynamic energy in this part of the world. My two children — Mikhaail and Maya — came with the noble intent of getting this meeting to culminate in a large breakfast. I found myself at the table, entering in my usual way of kicking and screaming. Kicking because I didn’t want to be there and screaming because of the pain exerted by my wife’s hand pulling at my hair in a most severe fashion.
My wife kicked open the question hour with “Any questions?” Uncle Jay, often misunderstood and underrated, immediately took to the floor and kicked off the proceedings in a dangerous fashion. His exact lines were, and I quote, “What is for breakfast?” The response was as expected, pandemonium. Our family being largely democratic and mostly unexceptional, opinions went up and down and to and fro. Some of us were for eggs, some weren’t. Some were for white bread, some for brown. Soon the family was split down the middle. Split into the “have eggs” and the “have-nots”.
As usual, the wife and I were in the opposite camps, with my pro-egg stand not finding a supporter in her. Now as everyone knows, with democracy comes chaos and with chaos come people flinging plates at one another. Plates are powerful creatures that can really hurt you and have long memories of how rough you have been with them over the years. Two plates were enough for me to vacate the meeting. The second one, which seated itself in the back of my hand, was extremely persuasive.
The meeting soon disintegrated and our attempt at organised democracy to root out corruption had come to naught. I immediately shot off an email to Mr Hazare where, along with the list of South Mumbai’s top 10 eating joints, I enclosed this paragraph:
“Dear Annaji, I heard the good news. Congratulations on the 75 grams of body weight you’ve already slapped back on. Take it from me, the seven kilos will return before you can say Jan Lokpal. Just an extra thought and, please, this is not a critique, but I’ve been thinking corruption is not the biggest issue in our democracy. The biggest problem is too many opinions. I think we need to reduce the number of opinions before we tackle
corruption.”
Yesterday Annaji wrote back. He agreed wholeheartedly and asked if we could start with removing mine.

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