By Dushyant Shekhawat Apr. 17, 2017
What will India be like in 2027? A no-smoking country of teetotallers on a perpetual portion-control diet.
Last week, when the news that Madhya Pradesh will soon join the no-booze brigade broke, I lost heart. Gujarat and Bihar I had made my peace with, even alcohol ban on highways was understandable, and but why MP, the land of Mahua?
As I sipped my Old Monk, I knew it had begun. The powers that be had started by taking aim at the easy targets, beef and booze, but they wouldn’t stop. They’re thinning the herd. If you’re a cigarette smoker, they’ll kill you with taxes, not bans. If you like living life large, they’ll start regulating your food portions. What will India be like in 2027? A no-smoking country of teetotallers on a perpetual portion-control diet. A land with more cows than love. A land with more tridents than Taj.
With these dark thoughts swirling in my head, I drank myself to sleep. The AC made a futile attempt at combating the muggy summer heat, as I tossed and turned on the bed. The faces of politicians, the sounds of rallies, and the scent of gobar overloaded my senses as I drifted off into troubled somnolence. Under the heavy, saffron summer breeze, my sleeping position self-corrected to shavasana. I don’t know when the night turned into a nightmare.
I woke up the next morning, blinking blearily, as I took in my surroundings. This was my bedroom alright, but my Jimi Hendrix pop art had been replaced with a devotional poster of a Goddess Saraswati shredding a veena with a look of utter “I-eat-riffs-for-breakfast” type nonchalance. Just as I was acclimatising to my new wall art, a nasal voice on a loudspeaker shattered the morning calm.
I rushed to my balcony to find the source of this disturbance. I was greeted by the sight of my neighbours performing synchronised Surya Namaskars in their balconies, in response to the voice, that continued to call out, like a yogic muezzin. I clumsily did a downward dog but fell flat on my face
I gave up and decided to call a friend. A level-headed, forward-thinking guy, who might not post trending topics on Facebook, but who would give you the most incisive insights in person. We decided to meet at a local café.
I left the house and thought I had stepped through a time warp. The fancy German Volkswagens and Korean Hyundais that I had grown accustomed to on Mumbai’s roads had been replaced with sanskaari automobiles – self-driving Patanjali cars called Bhagwaan-Bharose.
I searched the all-Hindi menu for meat but it was replete with paneer. I stood up eight times before our order arrived.
I reached the café to find out that it had been replaced by an uber-chic cutting chai stall that played “Soldier, Soldier” on loop. I had to go through the uncomfortable ordeal of standing around like someone who has been stood up on a date, because I couldn’t see my friend anywhere. Then, I heard a familiar voice.
I turned around to see my friend, or rather, a version of him. This was definitely my friend, but it looked like he had been given a makeover by Alok Nath. His tattooed arms were demurely concealed under the sleeves of a khadi kurta. Instead of the usual baseball cap, he was sporting a long red teeka on his forehead. I extended my fist, expecting him to bump it, but instead, he backpedalled away from me, as if I was holding a grenade, and offered a namaste. By this point, I was bursting with questions.
“What the hell is going on man? Why is morning yoga mandatory? Why are cows the new national animal? You’ve got to help me man,” I pleaded.
“Where have you been for the last ten years?” he shot back.
“Finishing my education and trying to expand my work and life experience,” I offered weakly.
“That was 2017! We’re in 2027 now, Kumbhakarna!” And with that one reply, my world came crashing down.
I sat catatonic in my seat when the kitchen doors swung open and food for the table next to ours arrived. The tunes of the national anthem started playing through the chai stall and everyone stood up. Apparently, it was now mandatory to play the anthem before meals as well as movies.
I searched the all-Hindi menu for meat but it was replete with paneer. I stood up eight times before our order arrived. As we ate our paneer tikkas, my friend told me about how in 2027, only ideal Indians are allowed to live freely in the country. The rest had been sent to Pakistan on a Twitter scholarship. He offered to coach me in the ways of the ideal Indian, and I accepted.
“But can I have another plate of paneer tikka before we begin,” I asked.
The question angered the waiter, and even the chef stepped out of the kitchen, sharping his knives threateningly. My friend hissed “portion control” at me under his breath, and kicked my leg beneath the table. The waiter, after composing his emotions, explained that in 2027, repeat orders of dishes in restaurants were banned, after the state imposed austerity measures across the country.
This was too much.
“This is unconstitutional! You promised more governance and less government, but this is ridiculous. Is this achhe din? What are you going to do next, force shots of goumutra down my throat?!”
Pin-drop silence descended on the chai stall. Even my friend was shaking his head. By dragging the holy cow in the matter, I had awoken a demon within every ideal Indian at the scene. They started surrounding me with murder in their eyes, led by the same guy I thought was my friend. I made a run for it, but my feet carried me blindly toward a dead end. The mob’s shadows stretched ominously on the cobblestones before me and their hate was palpable. I knew the end was near.
I woke up with a distinct taste of ammonia in my mouth. I yanked my KISS T-shirt to check if it hadn’t turned into a Kumar Sanu poster. It hadn’t. Someday, we will have to drink gomutra for breakfast and smoke Cycle agarbattis to get high. But as I rose from my bed, I was filled with gratitude that today was not that day.