Mahavir suppressed a yawn as he hurried towards the minister’s office. Being called in this early in the morning was never a good sign.It could mean only one of two things, either the minister had said something incredibly stupid at some public conference. Like last time he had said having too many windmills was not a good idea as it would slow down the wind. The media had gone berserk about it like an infant having its first case of protracted diarrhea and mahavir had been left to deal with the mess.
Or it meant that the minister had just had one of his brilliant ideas for another policy or program to be implemented. Last time he had been one of the masterminds behind the porn ban. Mahavir had had to convince the minister how ridiculous the ban was and had to show him hundreds of videos of how the ban had become fodder for comedians and satire shows all over the world. Only then did the minister relent and the ban was lifted. And of course the list of all the banned sites had to be made public. Mahavir had added a few sites to the list of his favorites. That was the only only good thing that had come out of that fiasco. Dreading what the day had in store for him Mahavir entered the minister’s office.
“Ah, Mahavir, come in, come in…” the minister sounded excited. His face glowed like an old incandescent bulb that uses up more energy than the light it emits. Mahavir’s worst suspicions had been right the minister had had an idea.
“Mahavir…I have been thinking…” he said
Why God, just why? was all Mahavir could think.
The minister walked around his office with a prance in his step. In his starched and ironed kurta pyjamas he looked like a scarecrow that had been stuffed with extra hay in its belly just so it did not topple over.
“As you know Mahavir the season of Hindu festivals is coming up, it will be time for Ganesh Chaturthi soon, then Durga Puja, followed by Diwali. We should do something for our constituents to show them how we care for them, that we thank them for their support, and we are here to protect them. Some policy that will show them we haven’t forgotten them. Do you have any ideas?”
Mahavir sighed and pulled out some policy ideas he carried with him that he was sure would be shot down.
“Sir, we could organise workshops all over the state teaching people how to make eco friendly Ganesh idols for the festival. We could also put regulations in place to prevent sound pollution and water pollution during the festival. I have a complete policy plan here…” he held out a folder for the minister.
“Mahavir…Mahavir…see this is why you are not a politician…” the minister smirked, “have you seen an eco friendly Ganesh idol? It looks like a blob of clay. Where is the glitz, the glamour, the sparkle? Who wants to worship a blob of clay, you tell me that. It is the noise, the color the fervor that is what the festival is all about. Eco friendly festival…what a scam!”
“Sorry sir,” Mahavir sighed, “what do you suggest we do?”
“Hmmm…”the minister mused. Mahavir could see the bulky cogs of his brain move like the rusty parts of some pre-industrial automaton.
“We should do something that will show solidarity with all our brothers and sisters…something that will add festive flavor to the season. Something that will ensure their continued support…I know, let us ban meat…” the minister glowed with pride at his brilliant suggestion.
“Sir, you know that would be illegal…:”Mahavir sighed.
“What? Why would it be illegal?” the minister scorned.
“Sir, we had this exact same conversation when you decided to ban porn…” Mahavir replied feeling more daring than he should have.
“Hmm…that is a nuisance…:” the minister frowned at the memory of his last unsuccessful ban.
Mahavir wished that the topic would be dropped at that, but knew that was asking for too much.
“Ok,” the minister said, “Ok, let us not ban it forever, let us ban it for a few days.”
Right and what would that achieve you nitwit? Mahavir wanted to say but checked himself.
The minister put his hands on his hips, “Now, don’t tell me we cannot ban it even for a few days…we should be able to do that…we are the ruling party!” he stomped his foot like a kid throwing a tantrum.
“Ok, Sir,” Mahavir said playing along with the minister’s tantrum, “how many days would we ban meat for?”
“I donno…”an idiot grin was back on the minister’s face, “hmm…let’s say one week? Yes, one week should be fine…”
“Very well sir…and what reason would we give for the ban?”
“What?Now there has to be a reason for a ban? How tedious…Let’s say because most Indians do not eat meat and meat is not good for you…”the minister nodded happy with himself.
“Sir, actually more than seventy percent of Indians are non-vegetarians…so we can’t say that.”
“What nonsense! So many Indians do not eat meat! Where do you get these stupid statistics from?” the minister eyed Mahavir suspiciously, “tell me, Mahavir do you also eat meat?”
For the first time in his life Mahavir wished he had been a non-vegetarian, “No sir, I do not actually, I am a Jain…”
“Ah…Mahavir. Of course…good…good…”the minister sounded reassured that his office had not been tainted by a meat eater. “Say, you Jains’ are also having some holy festival in a few days, right?”
Mahavir sighed, Yes sir, we are…?”
“And you people do not eat meat…so let us say, we are banning meat in solidarity with the Jain community!” the minister glowed.
Mahavir schooled his disgust, “Sir, actually we Jains’ do not eat onions, garlics, potatoes or peanuts, Sir, should we ban those too?”
“What? You guys don’t eat onions and potatoes. How outrageous…why not?”
“Sir, we consider it wrong to eat anything that is dug out of the ground.”
“That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard,” the minister laughed, “so you are telling me you have never had a vadapav before?”
“No sir,” Mahavir said, “I have not. So should we ban onions and potatoes too, sir?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Mahavir. Who eats food without onions and garlic? No, just draw up the paperwork for the meat ban. This will assure me the Jain vote for the next election! And Mahavir…” the minister winked at him, “I will treat you to some authentic vada pav later!”
Mahavir hit his palm on his forehead as he exited the office.