This is a political satire. If you are offended by political satire – please don’t read any further. The action takes place in a fictitious country somewhere in Asia. All the characters and events are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real characters is purely coincidental.
Read ACT 1, Scene 1 for background information.
Read ACT 1, Scene 2 & 3 before reading Act II below, Act III (the final) follows
Five years later. Year 2009. The Hall in the President’s Office.
New President, a lady in a saree is seated in her chair.
Enter Lady Maindhi, Mumble Singh.
Lady Maindhi: Greetings Madam President. As you must know, our coalition has again swept the elections. We have come to you for the formality of your permission to form the next government at the centre.
President: Yes, my dear Lady Maindhi. I was quite sure of these results. After all didn’t we have our own man as the Election Commissioner? How we stuck to our guns and appointed him in spite of the combined assaults of the opposition? I am glad you didn’t give that silly kalam-pusher another term in the office. One never knew what was happening under that mop of his. If that Nevla had not become the Election Commissioner, you may not have been able to get enough seats. You saw how at the last minute your candidates were declared victors even though they were trailing in the beginning. Even that cocky Chewing Gum had to be rescued by Nevlaji. Now you see how important money becomes and its control? Why do you think we have such an interest in cooperative banks?
Is it true that you have decided to continue with Mumble Singhji as the Prime Minister till our Baabaa is fully ready to take on this onerous responsibility from his aging shoulders? What a day that will be? Once anointed, he will rule till the people completely forget the names of opposition parties and their leaders.
By the way, Lady Maindhi, I hope you have considered my name for the next term. Unfortunately our constitution does not permit more than two terms for the President. Else I would have requested you to keep me here in perpetuity to guide and help Baabaa. Mumble Singhji, maybe you should think of the possibility of amending the constitution in this respect.
Mumble Singh: Sure Madam President. I will instruct the next law minister to seriously look into it.
President: (signing the letter): Here you are Lady Maindhi. Please go ahead and announce your new cabinet. I shall be pleased to swear them in at an auspicious hour of your choice.
Lady Maindhi: Thank you madam President.
(Aside): You really believe I will nominate you once more? Let your term finish and then you go back to the village from where we plucked you. We need this office for Mumble Singh and Plumberji when my Baabaa becomes the Prime Minister.
(Loud): All right Mumble, let us go. We have a lot of work to do.
Mumble Singh: Yes madam.
Lady Maindhi’s residence at 10 Lokpath
Enter Lady Maindhi with Mumble Singh in tow.
Lady Maindhi: Mumble Singhji please sit down. Now let us finalize the cabinet. You, of course, will continue to warm the seat for Baabaa. By the way, have that sheepskin replaced. By now it must be stinking to high heavens. I don’t know when Baabaa will be ready and it may happen anytime; so I suggest you change the covering every week.
Mumble Singh: As you please Lady Maindhi. I will give an order for a new sheepskin to be put on the chair every week.
Lady Maindhi: Good. Now let me see. During the last term of five years we have not served the nation too well. You know, we allowed that Sugar Daddy and his sidekick Playful Petal to skim the cream and now see where they have reached. The first one is controlling the richest sport in the country and the second one has brought our Maharaja in the sky to utter ruin while enriching toddy tappers and elfin upstarts.
Mumble Singh: True madam. I am also learning that Sugar Daddy has become the richest man in the world, owning, I believe huge amounts of land in America and God knows where else.
Lady Maindhi: Even I have heard that. Can’t understand what he needs all that money for. After all he has only one daughter and she too is well settled. Now look at me, two children. My girl had to select that scrap merchant without any means, and how hard I have to work to make him respectable. Why, I had to literally twist the arms of that land-baron near our capital to give my son-in-law a small share in his business. And look at Baabaa. He has found this floozy from some drugland and he won’t let go of her. Here I am working my bones off to make both ends meet, and he is gallivanting with her from an American lock-up to god knows where.
Mumble, this time we must not allow these interlopers to do all the service. We must replace them and show the nation who their true well wishers are.
Mumble Singh: Yes madam. May I suggest we keep Sugar Daddy in his ministry of Food & Agriculture? I will make such policies that will send inflation almost vertically up. That will cook his goose for sure. After all I have been with the World Bank for so many years. That is all we do in the Bank anyway. Our policies are designed to make nation’s bankrupt and whole populations destitute. We have a special expertise in this area. By the way I will advise Monty Spudseller to immediately implement the plan to ensure double-digit inflation in fifteen days’ time.
Lady Maindhi: Good. Let Plumberji continue to hold Finance. He cannot read one Balance Sheet from another and his budgets are as confusing as his pronunciation. But he is useful as the oldest member of our party and can be trusted to keep stray sheep in the pen. Also keep Chewing Gum in his Home portfolio. He is a meddlesome fellow and thinks he knows everything. Even as a lawyer he has nothing much to show. I would rather trust his wife more at any time. But he is verbose and uses long, dramatic sentences to say nothing. His put-on accent also helps in keeping news editors amused. Besides, he was too cunning in his previous job where he allowed his son to manipulate the stock market and we have heard that the rogue has made a tidy pile of a few billions through his father’s P Note and other leaks. We will sort that little brat when the time comes, but let us ensure that Chewing Gum does no further damage in this area.
Mumble Singh: Right madam.
(Aside) Fortunately our friendly neighbours from across the border came in with their timely help and sent that Kasai and his team to clean up a bit of our Big City. As Home minister he was a complete mess, though I believe he would spend hours in front of the mirror to try new clothes and hair gels. I don’t know what you saw in him, neither brains nor personality?
(Loud) And madam, may I suggest we give the education portfolio to Kapti Sybil. You know how many split personalities he carries! Every time he raises his eyebrow, like that screen-villain of many movies, he looks so different. Madam he also has a great ability with numbers. He can make any number disappear and make it look like a round figure. He will raise our standards so high that in no time we will have zero illiteracy and zero absenteeism from schools and colleges.
Lady Maindhi: All right. I don’t much like him myself, but he is dangerous and should be kept in good humour.
Mumble Singh: Madam there is a lot of pressure from our ally in the south. His party is our largest partner and he is demanding a number of cabinet posts. Especially he wants cabinet ranks for his son, nephew, and one more that I am not sure if he is his son from a wife we know nothing about.
Lady Maindhi: What is his name?
Mumble Singh: He is called a raja but I am not sure if that is also his name. Maybe he is a prince of some little estate in the hills.
Lady Maindhi: Oh that raja. Don’t worry. He is not the old man’s son. My sources tell me that he is actually his son-in-law on the sly. I believe there is something between this raja and the old man’s daughter who has taken to writing poetry. Anyway, give him the Telecom portfolio. I am sure he will make a very useful contribution in that post.
And tell the old man we cannot accommodate his son, that good-for-nothing Hara-kiri. In fact he should suggest that course for him. The fool cannot speak one word of English or Hindi. What will he do here in Delhi? Even the south Indian stenographers have become extinct in this computer age.
Mumble Singh: But madam we cannot afford to displease the blind, old man. Why don’t we give Hara-kiri Chemicals & Fertilizers? As it is these industries are frowned upon by the green activists and we may soon have to shut them down and outsource our requirements from the poor countries of Africa. If he resists shutting these industries the public will be angry with him, thereby saving us any embarrassment. His lack of communication will also annoy the people and I am sure he will ask us to relieve him of this burden.
Lady Maindhi: Good thinking, Mumble Singh. I didn’t know you had this ability.
Mumble Singh: (Aside) there is a lot you don’t know about me. Just wait and see how I twist you around my little finger. Changing the sheepskin every week! Wait and see how I will keep that yuppie puppy of yours cooling his dandy heels in the party office.
Loud: (ingratiatingly) Madam is too kind. Otherwise what is my worth?
And madam, to keep the old man happy we will give his nephew the Textile ministry. I have heard from my sources that the young man used to run a small garment unit before his father cemented his place in the government. So, he has first-hand experience of the industry. Further, there is not much money to be made there. Recession in the west and Chinese domination of the market will ensure the industry remains in the doldrums. We will upgrade him to cabinet rank so he will be able to flaunt his suits and ties. Quite a dandy isn’t he!
Lady Maindhi: Fine. So I think all the problem people have been taken care of.
Mumble Singh: Yes, almost madam. There remains the matter of that cantankerous woman from Banga-Banga. She buys new sarees and then deliberately crumples them up in order to look woeful and poor. I understand she never repeats a saree. Have you seen how her hair is also deliberately unkempt to go with the image? Actually she is an ambitious little person and will do anything to be able to rule the state. However, we will have assembly elections there soon. Till then let us give her the Railways. This department has been doing without a minister for some time now, and the babus there are actually running it well. The last minister, that mumbling, bumpkin of a fodder-thief found himself completely off his tracks in this ministry and allowed it to run on its own, as he understood nothing of the technology or the logistics. The babus have found the arrangement very useful and have not troubled the minister at all. They would do the same with this Ditty from Banga-Banga and we will reap the benefit of trains actually running on time. She will spend all her time and energy in Banga-Banga trying to destabilize the incumbent party who have anyway done enough and more to destroy that state. Anybody can win an election against them this time. So, the chances are that Ditty will win and form the next govt. there. We should keep her in good humour and latch on to her sari palloo for some seats in the elections. Once she goes there, she is out of our hair for good.
Lady Maindhi: Smart thinking Mumbleji. Now we must hurry and finish the formation of the cabinet. Swearing-in has to happen tomorrow as it is the most auspicious day in the calendar. The Cardinal himself called me from the Vatican and told me the day and the time that would be most suitable for such a great event to take place.
They start poring over the list of names and filling the posts.
Prime Minister’s Office at 7, Ratrace Road
Enter Mumble Singh, addressing the audience
Mumble Singh: Oh! What a relief! Swearing-in is over and all the lip-smacking vultures have got their pounds of flesh. How easily I have manoeuvred the whole lot to my advantage! Another five years! Could anyone have imagined that I would be the Prime Minister of this country for ten years? TEN YEARS. And that too without having to win an election! Yes. Can you imagine me getting my feet dirty in the hustle-bustle of election rallies, running from one dirty village to another, picking up snotty little brats and wiping their bottoms? No, thank Wahi Guru for these mercies. Nobody can remove me from here now. Not that Plumberji, nor that chhokra who would like to be king. Change the sheepskins every week, my foot! What does she think? I am just a windbag farting around all the time? No, I am not a fool. Not for nothing have I been plotting ever since that Submarine Sammy told me about the reciprocity clause. It was destined that I should be in this chair today. Otherwise why would Plumberji have contrived to fall out of favour? No sir, your man of destiny is standing before you today. Be sure you watch his rise and continuous rise!!!
Enter Monty Spudseller
Monty Spudseller: Congratulations Boss! What a brilliant performance! Now what are my orders?
Mumble Singh: Monty, we have known each other for a long time now, even though you are so many years junior to me. After all we have worked for the same great organization that is the foremost expert in making healthy nations sick and completely ruining the sick ones. Now, we have retained Sugar Daddy in the Food & Agriculture ministry. He thinks he is the kingmaker because he has amassed all this enormous wealth. We want to put him in his place so that he never ever dares to glance at the Prime Minister’s chair, which, we know, he covets so much. Let your planning department create a situation where the country has galloping inflation in food products. As a matter of fact, I have promised Lady Maindhi that you will have a double digit rate of inflation within two weeks. So get along with the job.
Monty Spudseller: But sir, the agricultural production figures are very good and it will be difficult to raise the prices when supplies are profuse.
Mumble Singh: What nonsense! It is so easy. Just ask Food Corporation to buy all the food produced by raising minimum procurement prices. FC doesn’t have enough storage space for all that grain and they will leave it in the open only to be destroyed by the elements and rodents. Simultaneously allow private buyers to buy as much as they can and let them hoard it, by selectively leaking this policy to them. You can depend upon the covetousness of your merchant classes to help you to the maximum in this noble endeavour. Soon your surplus will turn into a shortage. And then see the graph rising! That will put paid to any ambitions Sugar Daddy might have harboured.
Monty Spudseller: Brilliant sir. But what about Baabaa? How do you keep him in check?
Mumble Singh: You are still too young to understand the workings of a Faustian mind. Only when you have mastered all the arts and sciences do you look towards those teachers who can give you the knowledge of total control. I was lucky to have been apprenticed by that artful master Barasingarao who taught me so much. But what I learnt most from him was the art of total “inaction”. You do remember his famous statement; “taking no decision is also a decision”. How do you manipulate people and situations without appearing to be doing anything and yet things happen exactly as you wish and desire? I learnt this from Barasingarao, till then the only person who had completed a full five years as Prime Minister without belonging to the first family. How he managed to destroy the credibility of the Bhajan party by allowing them to demolish a disused mosque would have done credit even to Senor Machiavelli? And the manner in which he fixed those junglees from Jadphoonk was just amazing. Have you ever heard of large sums of cash given as bribe for votes being deposited in Bank accounts? Just look at the deep divisions he has left as his legacy. Not even that Mandal-vandal could achieve so much with his cock-eyed policies. It was his ego that got the better of him and his edifice came tumbling down like a house of cards. Now look at me. Do you see any ego? Similarly did Barasingha have an ego? No. That, my dear Monty, is the secret. All these Chewing Gums, Baabaas, Kapti Sybils have huge ego problems. They can never reach the heights that men like me can. The only person who could really be a threat is Plumberji, but his indiscretion in 1984 has sealed his fate. Now just keep doing what I tell you and we both will reap the benefits.
Monty Spudseller: What benefits sir? In our last term what have we made?
Mumble Singh: You are too immature. Is money everything for you? Haven’t you read your Faust? What did he ask for when the devil gave him his powers? Did he ask for diamonds and palaces or any such things? No. All he asked for was some fruit that was out of season and some exotic delicacies. Played some harmless tricks on the Pope. Yes, what he really hankered for most was the kiss of Helen, the queen of Sparta. You see, I do not even desire that. After all how much money do you need? Hasn’t the state taken care of all our needs? Is there anything we want that has not been provided? It is only the shallow minds that want to hoard and collect filthy lucre. Look at Sugar Daddy. He may be the richest man in the world, but what good is his money? Cannot even keep his lips straight. And all the time worried about his connections with the resident of Clifton Karachi. What has that connection got him? Maybe a few hundred billions. But is he going to take them with him to the next world? No, all that will remain here. But one word of indiscretion and he is finished. I am sure he must not even be sleeping well. Or look at our patron Lady Maindhi herself. What has she got from all that money she keeps in Swiss banks? She has opened herself to blackmail by Cockroachies and such unsavoury characters. What for? Just a few billion dollars in foreign banks? Now look at me. Could you seriously have thought that I would be requested, yes REQUESTED, to occupy this office by a descendent of the Imperial family? Me, a man without any properties! No money or assets worth the name! But here I am, dear Monty. Listen to me and keep following my instructions. You and I will still make history in this land.
Now go, and put the wheels in motion.