The Sunday Times of India carried this front page headline:
Babus next in line to make assets public.
For a moment my brain became numb with horror. I just couldn’t believe my eyes, though they have faithfully served me for so many years. The newspaper slipped from my hands and fell to the floor (evoking immediate reprimand from my wife for making a mess) as I pictured the gruesome sight of our corpulent, flatulent, pendulous-bellied bureaucrats revealing their ponderous assets to a petrified nation, which would shield its scandalized eyes and scream “EEK!”
So this was how babudom wished to revenge itself on the public which has for a long time relished in calling it names such as corrupt, blood-suckers, leeches, parasites, lazy fat bums and the like – by a mass revealing of their considerable assets. Just the way Sherlyn Chopra, Rakhi Sawant and Kashmira Shah wield their assets like clubs over the public, or missiles thrust into its face, for questioning their acting abilities and calling them names like bimbo.
The word assets, it may be recalled, is etymologically derived from a combination of two distinct words ‘ass’ and ‘etc.’ The former, my gentle readers will probably know, used to refer to a mammal of questionable intelligence and long ears, but with the evolution of language, presently refers to a shady portion of the human anatomy (the possible though tenuous link is that the mammal used to be kicked often in the course of the discharge of its duties, and a similar fate often visits the anatomical namesake). The latter word of course is an abbreviation of the word etcetera (which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as meaning – and similar things).
Two other animals who have suffered considerable loss of reputation as a result of the unpredictable evolution of human language have been the cat and the rooster (which strictly speaking is a bird, not an animal as biologists would point out), both of which have had to surrender their previous names to rather disreputable portions of the human anatomy. For example, to complement a lady by telling her that she has a lovely cat was pretty likely to win you a radiant smile and possibly a cup of tea and a piece of cake in the pre-first world war era, but in the post-second world war era it is more likely to earn you a kick on that part of you which used to refer to a donkey. Similarly, telling a group of your acquaintances that you have always found roosters good to taste would have made them murmur in appreciation and smack their chops in the medieval ages, but in the modern era is more likely to earn you gasps of horror and looks of loathing.
But leaving aside this erudite discussion and returning to the present topic of the threat by babus to lay bare their assets, I was as I have said, transfixed with horror. Picking up my courage however, and the newspaper off the floor, I looked for the date for which this catastrophe was planned. The date it seems wasn’t decided as yet, but by all indications it seemed to be periliously near at hand. I decided that I must take immediate measures. Though it was impossible for me to protect my fellow countrymen from this impending disaster, I was at least capable of protecting my family.
The television channels I was sure would give complete coverage to this mega-event. In the past too, they have tended to give extensive coverage to the ass etc assets of the belligerent bimbos I have previously mentioned. Though on previous such occasions the channels have tended to blur the essentials by various creative means, I wasn’t sure at all whether they would be able to blur out such a profusion of assets as would be displayed by the immense numbers of our bureaucrats. So I decided that until the gruesome event happened and was over with for good, there will be a complete ban on television in our house.
I told my wife of my decision and the irrevocability of the diktat.
She politely asked me the reason for it, much like the way a nursery school teacher asks the toddler in her class why he did not wish to recite the nursery rhyme.
I told her the reason.
If she had been a medieval woman, she would have called me an ass. She used the modern equivalent however, which also means an animal of exceptionally long ears and unusually low intelligence.