Of the many analogies that bonsai and encapsulate events and situations, particularly the firm tongue-in-cheek kinds, I’ve never seen anything approximate Indian reality more than the one going around the net. It is the old Aesop’s fable of the humble – yet hardworking – Ant, and the lazy – yet bumptious – Grasshopper, that typifies our Dharmic India Bharat Mahaan.
The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer, building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.
This is the well-known universal story. But the Indian one is different, even nuanced – and not exactly malicious, if anything only a touch moralistic; and though we all know the parts, we rarely string them together into a kind of montage. So here it goes…
The Ant works hard in the withering heat and sweltering humidity all summer, building its house and stashing supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a damned bloody fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the shivering Grasshopper promptly calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving. The media is in full attendance.
NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. The World is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can it be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer?
Promptly, Arundhati Roy (Bless her spirit!), the doyenne of crusading spirits, stages a demonstration in front of the Ant's house.
Simultaneously, Medha Patkar (Salute her lifelong profession!) goes on a fast in company with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climes during winter.
Without ado, Mayawati calls this “Maha-Injustice” perpetrated on hapless Minorities and the destitute.
And without batting an eyelid, Amnesty International and Kofi Annan pitch in, criticizing India for not upholding the fundamental animate rights of the Grasshopper.
Pronto, the Internet – bless the netterati and twitteratti! – is awash with online petitions seeking support for the Grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the Wrath of God for non-compliance).
Never the ones to miss out on such godsends, the Opposition MPs stage a walkout, while Left parties call for “Bangla Bandh” in West Bengal, and Kerala demands a Judicial Enquiry. In tune with past performance, the CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality and equal distribution of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers.
Always at the ready to steal the thunder, Mamata Banerjee allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly christened the “Grasshopper Rath”.
Not to be outdone, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issues directives to its state carrier to reserve all middle seats in aircrafts for Grasshoppers to travel gratis to escape the harsh northern Indian winters, if they so chose.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare loses no time to direct all government hospitals in the country to treat Grasshoppers free of charge when they present themselves for any treatment – largely arising out of lack of work and movement of limbs – and not necessarily connected with the cold and the blight.
Not to be left behind, the HRD ministry loses no time in sculpting out “Special Leg-Ups” for Grasshoppers in Educational Institutions and in Government Services.
Finally, the trigger-happy Ministry of Law quickly drafts the “Prevention of Terrorist and Anti-National Activities Against Grasshoppers Act” (POTANAGA) and the Parliament in a rare convergence of interest betraying a Good Samaritan passes the same unanimously in a jiffy without debate through a voice vote, and the Act comes into effect a month before the advent of the winter season.
The Ant is fined for failing to comply with POTANAGA and with nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, its home is confiscated by the Government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV, CNN, BBC courtesy their OB vans.
Arundhati Roy smirks and calls it “A Triumph of Ultimate Justice”.
Lalu, smug and grinning, calls it “Socialistic Justice” from the grass banks bounding his cowshed.
CPM calls it the “Revolutionary Resurgence of the Downtrodden and Upstaging of the Illusion of Thrift and Saving in Utopia”.
Not to be outsmarted, Kofi Annan invites the Grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.
And many years later...
The Ant has since migrated to the US of A and set up a multi-billion dollar company in Silicon Valley while hundreds of Grasshoppers continue to die of starvation despite the wide array of support, and leg-ups granted them everywhere, even through such scams as Adarsh (see the delicious irony!) Kargilgate at every turn in India;
Consequent to losing all the hardworking Ants and patronizing the freeloading and state-protected and state-propped lazy, laidback Grasshoppers, India still snails along as a developing country, notwithstanding what Barack Obama had to say to pamper our uncertain ego and uneasy vanity. From time to time, to affirm its rightful place in the comity of nations and to get a ravishing feel-good factor going and flaunting itself as a resplendent emerging (even emerged!) economy, it covets to host such mega events as the Commonwealth Games that – despite its intrepid athletes – alas boomerangs and lands egg on its face, and paradoxically shows how much travelled it is in crony capitalism and as the last, living testimony of mercantilism in the 21st century.