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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

From a Calcutta that resembles the pre-Naxal days to an India where beer costs less than petrol

So be it 2012

From a Calcutta that resembles the pre-Naxal days to an India where beer costs less than petrol, here’s Suhel Seth’s wish list for the New Year

This is the time of the year to ask and hopefully receive in the next 12 months. But then one should ask for city and country and not for oneself. 2011 has been a terrible year for Baba Ramdev. It has been equally harsh on Anna Hazare what with having to incur so many fasts only so that you and I don’t have to bribe some bloke. It has also been terrible for every Calcuttan who enters a hospital to get healed and then ends up dying because of some negligent fire. Which is why my wish list is going to be on a macro-level: much as the pronouncements of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. I am going to ensure that both Indians and my fellow Calcuttans are represented in this wish petition in equal measure so that 2012 is not as miserable as 2011 was.
Calcutta
I hope in 2012, our formidable chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, slows down a bit and gives us advance warning as to where she is coming and at what time. Her alacrity and the ability to surprise are rather daunting. I hope in 2012, she will actually enter police stations to talk to the policemen rather than free some thugs who belong to the Communist Party (as I am confident the Trinamul is as pure as the driven snow). I also hope she will arrest fewer people for negligence and more people for crimes against humanity such as stopping traffic every time there is a bandh to celebrate Rabindranath Tagore’s anniversary. I also hope Calcutta will see more industrialists setting up industry rather than being in jail.
I hope this city of Calcutta that I belong to will draw national-level attention for more than just The Telegraph Annual Debate and that we will actually do things that we think today rather than postpone doing anything at all since we are thinking about yesterday only to prove Tagore’s point.
I want to see 2012 emerge as the Year of the Bengali Heroine and I hope Rituparno Ghosh goes on to win a national award for his amazing effort at playing a man opposite Ranjit Mullick. It will be a first of sorts. I hope in the same vein, Derek ’Brien will conduct the Calcutta Quiz with even greater aplomb when he asks the Dear Leader as to when we will be out of a semi-permanent recession.
I will want to see a Calcutta that is busy changing itself before fighting for no FDI (foreign direct investment) in retail. I want to see the Maidan back to its glorious days and one where we can also see some cricketers emerge from the state of Bengal. I want to see men of Bengal play football rather than wait for Messi to come here and mess up our heads and tell us all that we were doing wrong. I want to see Calcutta re-emerge as the Mecca of advertising where we can once again celebrate the use of the English language in English advertising and where language does not have to be like our Chinese food: a mix of Punjabi and English.
I want to come back to a Calcutta which will celebrate the Pujas much as it used to without all the pomp of ostentation like what we see today. I want to come back to a Puja that will be simple and yet stunning. Where the food will be as important as the donations one may have made under coercion. I want camaraderie to be restored between our political leaders. I want to see a 2012 in which Mamata Banerjee and Buddhadev Bhattacharya will share some popcorn whilst watching Charulata, with Biman Bose helping them with their soft drinks. That is the kind of political unity Calcutta needs. And will, I hope, receive.
Finally I want to come back to a Calcutta which in 2012 will resemble 1967 without the Naxalites. Where clubs will be meant for people who can read and write. Where hotel bars will not play some Munni Badnam Hui but instead Nat King Cole and where schools will have children whose parents don’t necessarily own illegal land in Rajarhat.
India
I want to see a 2012 where, thanks to the Food Security Bill, we will pay less for beer and more for petrol. I want to see an India where the next Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) meet will not necessarily have to be held at Tihar Jail given how many venerable people have made it their abode in these times. I want to see an India where L.K. Advani will not be shy of travelling the length and breadth of India in an SUV rather than a sillyrath on four wheels and powered by a six-cylinder engine. It makes me weep.
I want to see a country that will finally go back to staging the Ramlila at the Ramlila Grounds rather than some hysterical people waving the Indian flag and that too on an empty stomach. I still, however, even in 2012, want to see Baba Ramdev is some fine women’s clothing, possibly designed by the exceptionally talented Anamika Khanna, so that when he runs from the police he seems like the Runaway Bride.
I want to see an India in 2012 where Manmohan Singh will actually speak to me, the citizen, rather than to some strange group of people who call themselves editors or for that matter jet-lagged reporters on his flight to and from India. I want the Prime Minister to finally exert himself. In fact, ideally I would like 2012 to be the Year of the Slap where the Prime Minister finally pulls in the courage and actually slaps someone. That will be the ultimate assertion of ManHood.
I want the Lokpal to be elected or nominated or whatever the hell they plan to do. But I want this Lokpal business finished so that we can then search for the next constitutional office that will prevent a corrupt Lokpal. I also want to see us resolve issues that pertain to dams in the south and statues in Uttar Pradesh. Ever since Mayawati erected so many statues of herself, there has been a sharp decline in the pigeon population in UP.
I also want the year 2012 to be a year of celebration for India. There are 12 months during which Sachin can try for his 100th ton. There are also a billion people who will hope we get at least one bronze at the London Olympics. I want our films to celebrate the India we have and not look for some superman who will then come and save India! I want our music to go beyond the rubbish we hear and instead I want our heroines back rather than have them as item girls.
I want Dev Anand to launch the first celestial film from heaven and for the redoubtable Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to score its music. But that is too far-fetched, I guess, because which Indian censor will want to die first before they give the film any certification?
I want so many things for this great country but the rest is a five-year plan. For instance, weeding our corruption from our lives, weeding out illiteracy from our Parliament, weeding out A. Raja and his ilk from public life and have a smiling Anna. But then for the above, the wait will be worth it.
As for the rest, have a splendid 2012. The rupee shall rise (or fall, depending on how you look at it); the temperatures too, but remember things can get much worse… and let’s hope they won’t. So it is with that thought in mind that I bear tidings of joy and peace to you and your families… for 2012 and beyond.