I sat down to write this piece as I watched some of the well-known faces of the mainstream media (MSM) erupt in an orgasmic frenzy because Tunde ke kabab in Lucknow closed on Thursday for a few hours as they ran out of beef. They couldn’t get the meat for their original shop in Chowk where they serve kabab of buffalo meat and had to make other arrangements. They are an 112-year old kabab joint, so they obviously hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Did someone force them to shut down? No one did. Were there any grievous injuries to the people in Lucknow because of that? No. Did someone die? Nothing of that sort happened, but some journalists from the ecosystem called Lutyen’s Delhi living roughly 488kms away began beating their chests and breaking their bangles as if someone really had expired. And with that, the Indian mainstream media dug another hole in the ground to bury itself another few feet into an early grave.

After 31 years in the media I look around me and wonder – Is this the same profession that I slogged in, putting everything – family, money and personal life – on the backburner for? Now that I am a work-from-home editor I can sit back and watch all this in a detached kind of way, as some elements of the mainstream media (MSM), among who are people who I once respected, go around behaving like a bunch of complete jerkoffs. Was this the biggest story around that sent them into a freaking frenzy, especially on the social media? I have no wish to take names but some of them tripped over their own feet to wail about the kabab joint closing as if someone had died in their family.

I have a lot of good friends in the media, they are all hardworking, almost invisible to the world outside. They do their jobs well, and I know they are damn good journalists because I have seen them at work. These are the journalists you won’t see on your TV screens. They shy away from the limelight, do their jobs, and go home to their families. We disagree on a lot of things, but I respect them and their views, and they mine. Because I know deep down, they are honest to their profession, just like so many doctors who take the Hippocratic Oath. Whenever I have called them for information on a subject I want to write about they have willingly given it to me. I respect them for that. I spoke to a couple of them when I started to write this blog, so a lot of the information here is from them. They will remain anonymous because that is how they would want it.

When I asked one of them (N) last night, what he thought of the over-the-top reaction of the media to the incident, he said. “I have stopped watching the news and reading their columns. I do my job honestly, go home and play with my daughter instead.”

Here is what another Muslim journalist from Lucknow, who I’ll call K, said to me over twitter, “Most people here including my learned journalist friends in the media do not know the difference between beef and cow meat. Beef is not necessarily cow meat, and I have never ever in my life seen a cow being slaughtered in Lucknow although we did get to hear about the occasional story of it being slaughtered in some remote Muslim dominated village purely to spark off communal tension.”

The problem, however, goes deeper. It is about do-gooder first-time chief minister doing what he promised and a bureaucracy which, in an effort to please its master, is going over the top, just like some journalists. The anti-romeo squad is another example of a good thing being messed up by over-enthusiastic volunteers.

“The new chief minister could have handled it better, but the bureaucracy went into overdrive to please him and undid things. There has been no meat available for the people in the last 48 hours, and butchers are scared they will be harassed. They have also been told by the police not to open their shops,” said N. “If the new CM really wants to save cows, he will have to.close the mechanised slaughter houses. Nothing else can save cows in the State not even this vigilantism,” he added.

The various town administrations should have created the right perception but instead, they went about indulging in populist measures to please the CM, which could backfire. They could have asked the civic bodies to determine how licenced meat shops have been functioning this long and could have passed an order that only the licenced ones operate within the prescribed limits. Instead, they have gone after all and sundry and that has created a huge shortage in the market and a lot of unhappiness among the locals.

Anyway, that is the problem of shortage at a kakab joint and meat in UP. What happened to the dumbasses in the media? Of course, this isn’t anything new. It’s been happening over the course of the past two years for very obvious reasons. It began soon after Narendra Modi forced his way into the Lutyen’s Delhi in May 2014 and hasn’t stopped. Every few months, be it an award wapasi, a protest at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, (JNU), or the uproar that erupts over the mindless incidents of some minister or MP shooting his or her mouth off, these incidents happen just around the time of an election and disappear once the results are declared depending on whether the objectives of the MSM and their masters ensconced in Lutyens Delhi have been achieved. There is, however, one common link to all these eruptions. They occur only in BJP-ruled states. Murders, assaults and riots are happening elsewhere in places such as Kerala and Bengal with monotonous regularity, but the MSM is oblivious to those. So, like all those earlier incidents of manufactured outrage, this too looks like just another award wapasi farce, only this time it was wrapped around a kabab.


People getting the vicious satisfaction of seeing so many “presstitutes” (their words, not mine) lose their jobs have very little understanding of how newsrooms and media houses are run. All media houses have editorial policies and every employee – no matter how high or low – has to follow that policy. It’s either that or his/her job.

All those who lost their jobs in the latest round of retrenchments were lower and middle-level employees who were simply making a living. They were workers in the printing departments, district correspondents, mofussil reporters and photographers. None of them were the decision-makers.

How many of those who were perched on the top of the industry ladder or were decision-makers were handed out pink. slips? For that matter, how many highly paid editors lost their jobs? I am pretty sure, NONE.

Like a lot of other lower and middle class people around the country who take the bus or the train to work every morning these people too slog to put food on the table, pay for their kids’ education through school and college, look after their aged parents, and wonder every day what will happen to their families if something were to happen to them. What is the fault of a photographer in a small town who rides on his scooter every day looking for the perfect photograph that will fetch him a pittance? And if the editor of the newspaper tells him he cannot supply that photograph to anyone else. he will have to scour the city for another perfect picture to supply to his next client. All this, just so that he can make a living. I know of stringers living in villages who are still paid per word. Imagine being paid Rs 300 or Rs 500 per article and have just two pieces appear every month. And for many, that is their only source of income.

I’ll give you my own example. I began working in a newspaper in 1985 and today I am embarrassed to say that if it hadn’t been an ancestral property from my maternal side, which we sold to buy a 3BHK, I wouldn’t be able to afford my own home on my salary.

Honestly, there is no such thing as a free press. As an Assistant Editor did I have the right to decide what stories we should use in the newspaper? No I didn’t. Yes, I could make a judgement call on a story that came in late at night, but even there the editorial policy was sacrosanct. I couldn’t just take a story that praised Rajiv Gandhi just because I liked him. I had to keep in mind that my newspaper didn’t believe in praising anyone.

Between 2000 and 2005, I worked for a newspaper that was going national with a vengeance. Did I have the right to decide on the kind of stories I could take? No, again. In neither of the two cities where I headed the news desk, could we carry anything that could hurt the ruling dispensation. Instructions were handed down to us on the kind of stories we could use. We couldn’t speak against the State government because it could hurt the business interests of the media house. Any stories that were against the State or the CM had to be vetted by the editorial department in Delhi.

Resident Editors at most of these mofussil editions are nothing but glorified bureau chiefs. Do they have the authority to take decisions on any stories that were inimical to the State government? Your guess is as good as mine.

There are stifling restrictions vis-à-vis reporting on stories that were inimical to the interests of the owners, various individuals or groups. Time and again, stories are killed or watered down for one reason or another. One cannot do a story about the corrupt practices of politicians…One cannot report on a fraudulent scheme run by a big business house… There were so many such instances.

I remember one story that we had in our pocket. It could have shaken the particular state government. The reporters put their heart into the story. It was a perfect story with not one fact missing, including the names of the big-time politicians involved in a huge scam. It went to HQ for approval. That was the last we saw of the story. When it finally appeared you wouldn’t have known if it was from some state of the Indian Union, or Timbuctoo. Why was the story watered down? Because the management was worried that publication of the story would have jeopardised its business interests. Would you blame the reporter for this? Of course not, but when it comes to cost-cutting that poor kid will be the first to go.

A former editor who I had worked with for a short while, lost his job because he wrote something against a chief minister. The chief minister wasn’t satisfied with the fact that the editor in question had been removed from his post, and wanted him out of the organisation, and he was hounded out. And it wasn’t as if the CM in question was clean as a whistle.

Some years ago a senior editor of a well-known newspaper, during another such retrenchment drive, told me that many of the senior staff who were being laid off by a media house had, in fact, been hired on fat salaries only to ensure they would not write stories that harmed the group’s business interests. Now that keeping these people on board was proving costly they were being shown the door!

While I agree that running a newspaper is big business and not social service anymore, someone in the higher echelons of power has to take a stand. That is something a lot of newspaper establishments never do. And that is where the lower- and middle-level employees suffer. And not just the journalists.

It’s sad, really, because journalists, photographers, DTP operators, designers, and all those involved with the business of publishing a newspaper have nothing to do with the policies formulated by the management. They are just small cogs in the big wheel, but they are the first to be sacrificed when it is time for the management to cut its losses. Think of the poor machine operator in the printing press. All he does is run the machinery that prints the newspaper. Is he a “presstitute”? Can he be blamed for the editorial policies of a newspaper? For all you know, the guy is a Modi supporter.

When The Telegraph announced there would be retrenchments I called a former colleague now working in that newspaper. He was just one of the senior editors, a family man, with wife, aged parents, and a teenaged daughter, doing his job to the best of his abilities. He was understandably worried that he might lose his job. I could feel the worry in his voice and I felt sorry for him. I haven’t had the courage since that day to call him to ask if he still has a job.

After three decades in the media I can honestly say that I have seen many of those in my profession give their blood, sweat and tears for a job which at the end of the day, gave back very little in terms of monetary recompense. None of these people were presstitutes. They just followed orders handed down to them by people who decided on how a story should be done, why, and who to target. Those guys are still around and prospering.


The other day, I was in the bank queue and standing behind me was a gentleman from Bihar, so we got chatting and he said “Bahut kathin hain, Modi jo koshish kar rahein” (It is very difficult, what Modiji is trying to achieve). I asked him to explain, and he said he had returned from his village in Bihar where no one wants Narendra Modi’s anti-corruption drive to succeed because they are happy with the corrupt way of life.

When you hear such things you know Narendra Modi is facing an impossible, nay herculean task, in ending corruption. His own party is neck-deep in it. It is ingrained in the system and some people don’t want to get rid of it. They will fight it to their last breath because for them, it’s a question of their very existence.

The Bihari gent said that in his village, dozens of fictitious Jan Dhan accounts have been opened by crooked bank officials in which money is being credited and withdrawn every month by nameless persons. The account holders, thekedars and bank officials take a cut and everyone is happy. Why should they want to change a system that fetches such returns without an honest day’s work?

When I told him about the cash being recovered from all over the country, he laughed. He said that schemes such as MNREGA were the biggest financial scams in independent India and even Mr Modi with all his good intentions can do nothing, because the rot has gone too deep.  And this is happening in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar, when he is backing the campaign against black money.

Like me, he too was despondent. “Chor hain sab. Is desh ka kabhi bhala nahin hoga.” (They are all thieves. The country will never improve).

The day before on Twitter I had an argument on the very subject with a journalist who said I could not base my example on one instance. Well, here’s another.

I am no economist, but as a middle-class Indian I see around me the willingness to change but there are three other groups of people who are fighting change. The first is the corrupt lot for whom demonetisation has been an avoidable disaster, and if they can’t save their money they definitely don’t want a system which won’t let them make anymore. Look at the way the bankers and lawyers have circumvented the system to issue trunks full of new currencies to all kinds of dubious people, while the common Indian frets and fumes in a queue.

The second lot is the so-called ‘left-liberals’, who share a visceral hatred for Modi. Irrespective of what he or anyone from his government proposes, they will close their eyes and oppose it. The gates are closed for any debate on the issue, and if there is one, it’s a monologue in which they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

For example. I hear people on TV channels trotting out the most bizarre reasons for not going digital. Some of the more absurd reasons I’ve heard by idiots in the garb of journalists, on why poor people can’t open bank accounts is, that poor people haven’t been inside a bank. Haven’t they been inside a post office or dak ghar as it is called in the villages? In a village in Uttar Pradesh, one man says no one in government told him he could open a bank account. In the past so many years if no one in government told villagers that they could open accounts even in post offices, who is to blame? If there are so few banks in villages, then who is to take the blame?

Then there is the absolutely bizarre justification from people against demonetisation. It would make me laugh if it weren’t so tragic. They will say that daily wagers have been the worst-hit because the small factory owner has been forced to shut down. Why the “small factory owner” was running a cash-and-carry business for decades, is something none of them have cared to ask that guy. And it’s not like he just started it. He’s been doing it for years and his father before him. Has he tried to open accounts for his workers in these last 30 days to solve their problem? No he hasn’t. He has preferred to shut down instead. It’s pretty obvious why.

Just go to some of the busy chowks in a city like Pune on any given day. Among the milling crowds are dozens of labourers. They aren’t all waiting for public transport. They, men, and women with babies, are waiting for a contractor to land up there and pick them out like cattle to herd them into a truck and take them to a construction site. Here they will work in the blazing sun and at the end of the day, they will get paid for a day’s work, from which they have to pay the contractor. You can guess what they end up with after paying that. That is, of course, not a concern of journalists churning out reports about the negative impacts of demonetisation. That’s not the angle they’re looking for in that story.

And finally, there is a fourth group – journalists – who are happy sitting in their air conditioned offices churning out stories from twitter feeds and Facebook updates and calling them ‘exclusives’. I remember joking years ago that some journalists could turn a press release into a byline story, but I never realised it would get so bad! They’ve gotten so used to sucking up to ministers and drinking subsidised booze at the Press Club that they’ve forgotten their primary responsibility – to question those in power, and keep questioning them, until they answer.

Not one journalist is asking this simple question of the politicians in and out of power – What was your party doing all these years?” Not one journalist is throwing up facts and figures in the faces of these politicians and asking them to explain the discrepancies. Some of the politicians have become millionaires and billionaires in five years. Not one journalist asks them how they made so much without any legal source of income, except their MP’s salaries. That is left to the analysts and opinion writers, who very few read anyway. So after a few hours of being stonewalled by the politicians, the journalists go back to the Press Club and order another drink, and move on to their next desktop exclusive.

I am sorry for being such a cynic, but I completely understand what the Bihari gentleman meant when he said, “Chor hain sab….”


Frankly, I am getting tired of people droning on about standing in bank queues and the time they have to waste, and all the wonderful or terrible people they meet. What the fuck were you doing when there were no ATMs? Did God come down on Earth to dole out cash to you? I think one of the biggest crimes any government committed in the last 70 years was the launching of ATMs. It made us lazy, it made us impatient, and most of all it made us forget the pain of standing in queues.

In the last three weeks I have been reading about people allegedly dropping dead in bank queues because they’ve forgotten what it was like to stand in a queue. And I use the world ‘allegedly’ deliberately. I am sure there are genuine cases too, and it’s sad, but I am sure by the time things are back to normal the number of deaths will come down to single digits, and many of those too, this sexed up media will realise, were unrelated to standing in a queue. Maybe, we should shut down ATMs every few months to let people live a more realistic life of the 1970s and 1980s where they stood in bank queues that sometimes stretched to the street outside. I know there are problems. It is a mind-boggling exercise which could not have been done any other way. There have been problems many un-anticipated. I am sure, in hindsight, even the government realises the process could have been better planned. I am sure villagers are the hardest hit, but to make it a doomsday scenario is stretching the truth a lot. And in this one has to blame sections of the media who are deliberately misreporting to create a panic. If the villagers are having problems the state and district administration should approach the centre and make arrangements to disburse funds. The problem is when bankers, government officials and politicians are themselves are corrupt, who do you trust? I know of labourers who have bank accounts opened in their name all of a sudden, with funds being deposited in them. Since when did one need to deposit Rs 50,000 in a savings bank account, when one can maintain a zero balance?

And I’ll be honest, my family too felt the sudden shortage of cash with banks running short, and wondering how we spend the old denominations. Fortunately, all three of use debit cards and wire transfers. Maybe it’s called being smart. I also connected to Paytm and have never been more relieved, because I have to carry even less cash around now.  I too had problems with my account in a co-operative bank. I waited for the problem to ease, and when it didn’t because they were giving only Rs 2,000, I wired money from there into the nationalised bank account I have and withdrew Rs 20,000. We cut down our expenses, saved enough last month to ensure we could pay the maids on December 1. So stop cribbing so much, and move on. I did.

I also know that the entire country cannot go cashless and neither is the government forcing you to. But can those who want to, do so, instead of having to read planted reports by a subjective media demonising the plan? Indians are so gullible that they believe anything and that is what the media is hoping it can achieve in its efforts to ensure this plan fails. This country is littered with stories of idiotic Indians falling for a con. Look at the way people fall for the dumbest trick around – the spam mail telling you that you have won millions of dollars. Or someone claiming to be from a bank asking for your ATM card and pin. The fact that the government has to release commercials on TV channels telling people not to fall for it should tell us what a bunch of idiots we are.

Which brings me to this whole engineered controversy about demonetisation being a waste of time, money and energy, because black money will not go away. It is bizarre. No, black money won’t go away. If it did, we would all be living in Utopia. Let’s face it, a thief will remain a thief. He will find new ways to break the law. Years ago, when we moved to Gurgaon, I went to buy a lock. I told the shopkeeper I wanted a big lock for the front door and he smiled and said “Taala sharifon ke liye hota hain, choron ke liye nahin” (Locks are meant for the honest (to tell them you’re not home), not for thieves). I mean, the police put up traffic lights, road dividers and lanes, in the hope that we will follow traffic rules. But some people think they are above the law. We can only make laws tougher. And it’s not like all the people who had black money got away. We are reading about sacks full of money being discovered and the arrest of bank officials who have been helping the unscrupulous change their currency.

As for the opposition politicians who are protesting the loudest, it’s obvious they’ve been hit the hardest. Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stolen their ideas, reinvented them to suit his party, and put paid to their plans, they are hell-bent on getting rid of him. That is why people like Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh, Arvind Kejriwal, and now Mamata Banerjee, are indulging in hysterics. In which country did you hear of a state being taken over by the army, when there is a civilian government at the centre in power? You have to be a complete imbecile to come up with such an absurd fantasy. Rahul Gandhi accuses Modi of TRP politics, conveniently forgetting that he too was doing just that with his khat sabhas and the farce of standing in a bank queue to withdraw Rs 4,000. Doesn’t he know there is a bank and an ATM in Parliament House? Oh, but how would he, he is hardly there.

If this is the way Rahul, Kejriwal, Mamata and the rest intend to push forward their candidacy to replace Modi in 2019, then Modi can be sure of another two terms as prime minister. Also, we don’t need comedy shows on TV channels anymore, these political stand-up comics will do just fine as replacements.

As a tax payer I am happy even if 2 per cent of the crooks in this country are nailed. I would consider it worth every minute I spend in a bank queue.


I am happy that I was proved wrong, at least on one count. I had said to my friends that India would not carry out surgical strikes against Pakistan because of US and Chinese pressure.

What happened today across the Line of Control (LoC) may not have been war, but to Indians, at least those who believe in the Indian nation, and not those who think Pakistan is their homeland, it has been a cathartic experience and as good as a victory in war. It was virtually a case of crossing the Laxman Rekha to avenge the deaths of the countless soldiers and innocent civilians who had lost their lives in Jammu and Kashmir and around the country in terrorist attacks, bomb blasts. The imaginary line was finally breached, all thanks to this government and our brave soldiers.

Even in 1999 during the Kargil war, Indians seethed when Atal Bihari Vajpayee told then US president Bill Clinton that the Indian forces would not cross the LoC. Since then, Indians have lived with a sense of helplessness as Pakistan continued to send in terrorists, weapons, fake currency and drugs with impunity and the Indian Army could not cross the LoC and could not target terrorist training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), because of ‘international’ (read USA) pressure. Worse, our hands were tied by some countries who were worried about their interests in Pakistan, and a fear that things could spiral out of control because Pakistan was as good as a rogue nuclear state. The question they need to ask is “who made them a rogue state?” Not India definitely.

But in the last couple of years even the Americans were fed up with the Pakistanis, who they believed was an ally in their so-called war on terror. The Pakistanis had started to behave as if they were now a law unto themselves. Secondly, every terror attack anywhere in the world somehow had a Pakistani link. I guess even in the US the mood against the Pakistanis was turning and they were now being viewed as a global terror hub and a nation of double-crossers, who were taking the money the Americans were giving them and using it to fund acts of terror against its neighbours, especially India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

But coming to this surgical strike itself, the elation and relief one feels cannot be explained. The Loc that stood like some foreboding hoodoo that we were afraid to cross holds no fears for the Indian forces anymore. The message India has sent out is that if the need arises the army will do it again.

What is interesting is that the two countries India was worried about have so far been completely silent on the surgical strikes. The Americans have said nothing and the Chinese have asked India and Pakistan to scale down the tension. But after this incident even they will be forced to accept that after the Uri killings the Indian establishment had finally lost its patience. That lack of confidence of the Chinese in the Pakistani establishment in this incident must have shaken the latter the most, and now they are busy falling over each other to contradict themselves. Have fun, people.

Which begs the question, why didn’t the earlier Indian governments have the courage to do what Narendra Modi’s government did today? I think, besides Indira Gandhi, the rest were stuck in some sort of time warp, a desire to avoid war at all costs, and a psychological fear that a desperate Pakistan could use their nuclear weapons. There is another reason much bigger than all these that politicians feared – losing the next election and losing their vote bank.

Well, I am glad Mr Modi had no such compulsions. Some of the voters and liberals, with their misplaced sense of self-righteousness and outrage (over something that happened 16 years, and for which no court in the land has held Mr Modi responsible) would anyway not vote for him, but he was confident that a huge number of Indians were backing him, and they were looking to him to act against the Pakistanis in every and any way possible – militarily and diplomatically. And he did.


From the day he became prime minister over two years ago, Narendra Modi has been saying, whether in India or anywhere else in the world, “We want peace with Pakistan”. He gave the Pakistanis a really long rope. I think this week the rope just reached its end. And I, for one, am thrilled to bits.

I am delighted to see that finally some Indian prime minister, instead of worrying about whether his actions will jeopardise his prime ministership or his Lok Sabha seat, has had the courage to bring the issue of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir out in the open. I am also glad he has told Pakistan, “Enough about talks on Kashmir, from now on we only discuss Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Ladakh.”

All these years, thanks to the stupidity and pusillanimity of our politicians, we have been letting those murderous Pakistanis gloat in this belief that they can dictate terms on Kashmir. Some of our politicians have given the Pakistanis the impression that we are scared of their supposed nuclear capabilities and fear a war, which, of course, the Pakistanis gleefully continue to dangle over our heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles. And other politicians and their peacenik friends, who are feted when they go across the border, have made things worse by their confused and dovish rhetoric. Well, I am glad Mr Modi called the Pakistani bluff. He finally told them and their friends on this side of the border that they had no role in Kashmir, so the ride was over and it was time to get off.

I know a retired colonel of the Indian army, who in 1971, as a young lieutenant, rode triumphantly on the first truck into Dhaka to liberate East Pakistan. He once told me “Don’t ever expect the army or any army man to talk peace with those butchers. Those mother f*****s killed so many of my boys in cold blood in the wars. Every time we have fought them, it has been with one arm tied behind our backs. They only know one way and that is to knife you in the back”

So when I read what Maj Gen (retd). G.D. Bakshi http://http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/gd-bakshis-iit-madras-speech-was-filled-with-hatred-alleges-student-2970742/spoke at IIT Madras I can understand where he is coming from.

Peace is a two-way process. You can’t talk peace to someone who has an AK-47 in his hands. You have to be either mentally deficient or living with your head shoved really far up sone place where the light doesn’t reach to know that Pakistan does not ever want peace with India. They want India’s total destruction. So can we ask those sympathisers of the Pakistani establishment in this country to extricate their heads from that warm, fuzzy place so that they can see daylight?


This blog is a bit about crap – literally. The other day I read that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a failure. Why? I have no clue. Is it because Indians, in general, hate being told to maintain cleanliness? Or is it because, those believe that wallowing in filth and dirt is a way of life, just find it too much of an effort to change?

Let me give you example. I once lived in a housing society where my neighbour who lived directly above me had a leaking toilet which was messing up my ceiling. I asked him to repair it, but he refused saying it was my problem since it was my ceiling that was being messed up! I even offered to fund half the repairs but his answer remained unchanged. Finally after years of waiting and watching my ceiling deteriorate, I went up to his flat with a plumber. What I saw made my bile rise. I come from Bhagalpur, a small town in Bihar, where in the days when I was a kid, you squatted on a toilet seat which had a hole you defecated into. Your crap fell into a pot a few feet below which was cleaned daily by a woman who pulled out the pot and emptied it into a bigger pot to be taken away and emptied into some drain. Does reading this make you throw up? Well, that is how I felt when I saw the neighbour’s toilet.

My first thought was, how does he or others in his family even step into the place first thing in the morning, and every time after that? In utter disgust, I paid to get a new toilet bowl for him and also paid for all the repairs and waterproofing. But the dirty truth is he preferred to wallow in the filth rather than repair his toilet bowl – just for a few thousand rupees. This is why I say we Indians are dirty.

Take the way we spit anywhere and everywhere. Does it take the prime minister of the country to tell us that we should not spit in public places? And this has nothing to do with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Sometime in the 1980s I was seeing off a female friend at the Pune railway station. She was travelling home to Hyderabad. As we waited for the Secunderabad Express to arrive she watched very impassively as a couple of men standing a few feet away kept spitting on the tracks every few seconds. It wasn’t as if they were chewing paan or tobacco. They were just spitting for no rhyme or reason. When she couldn’t control herself any longer, she walked up to them and said, “Can you stop spitting? And if you can’t, please move away?”

I wasn’t surprised, because I knew she was one of those who didn’t believe in keeping quiet if she felt strongly about something. When she returned she said exasperatedly, “I come from Hyderabad, so people spitting around me isn’t anything new, but you guys in Pune take it to an altogether different level.”

So when I read that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has failed I am not surprised at all. We just don’t like being told that we should maintain cleanliness. We come out with a whole host of reasons why it is wrong and when that fails we ridicule the prime minister and his request. We ridicule him for spending public money without asking ourselves the one fundamental question. Would he be spending this money if we just took the effort to maintain cleanliness? I mean, people have a problem with the fact that the government is building toilets. This is so typically Indian. It’s just like the crash helmet rule or any other rule we are asked to follow. We’ll dredge out of the muck a hundred reasons on why they cannot follow it. Of course, there is also the point that previous governments have not bothered about ensuring basic sanitation in the villages, building adequate toilets and ensuring water supply to these toilets. But let’s leave that for another day.

Presently, I live in a supposedly upmarket locality where people throw garbage over the walls of the housing societies. Well-meaning groups have been advising residents of the area not to dump their garbage anywhere but does that help? The civic body asked people to segregate their garbage but even their people have a problem. Have they given a thought to the conservancy staff that carries that garbage to the dump yard? Well, that’s not their problem. So we’ll criticise civic body for not sending the truck that does now show up to pick up the rubbish, but have no problem throwing it out of our balconies to keep our homes clean.

So, why is the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan failing? I think it is because the people of India are a filthy lot who expect the prime minister to ensure cleanliness for them, while they party and dirty the place.