Sometimes back a pall of gloom descended on Mera Bharat Mahan. ISRO lost its contact with Chandrayaan’s Vikram lander. The lander was supposed to land on the moon, planet earth’s only satellite. But Vikram, perhaps named after Vikram Sarabhai, stopped sending signals. Chanda Mama Door Ke, we sang as kids. And Vikram’s failure reminded us that Chanda Mama is still a distant relative. The ISRO Chairman cried like a school boy. Narendra Modi hugged him like a doting headmaster. Deepak Chaurasia, a TV journalist, donned the costume of an astronaut and his TV studio turned into the moon. India’s best dramebaaz put nautanki companies to shame. Some nautanki companies downed their shutters after seeing Narendra Modi’s and Deepak Chaurasia’s antics. Their nautanki teams simply said that they can’t match Modi and Chaurasia. The whole moon landing was turned into a reality show on the lines of the Bigg Boss. Some BJPwallas commented that India had the flag on the moon while some countries had moon on their flags. A communal reference to the crescent on Islamic countries’ flags. Thankfully, unlike the BJP RSS fanatics, the moon is secular. If the moon graces the Pakistani flag, it also appears on Lord Shiva’s head!
But Modi hai to mumkin hai. Like Napoleon Bonaparte, Mr 56 inch has banished the word “impossible” from his dictionaries (Hindi, English and Gujarati). And onion prices have achieved what the Vikram lander couldn’t. Onion prices have skyrocketed and landed on the moon! Deepak Chaurasia can again don his astronaut costume. Rs 80 a kg. In the Hindu tradition, along with garlic, onion is considered a “taamsik” (sinful) item. A true Vaishnav (vegetarian) eats neither “lahsun” nor “pyaaj“. I think the Hindutva ideology has pushed Narendrabhai to hike onion prices. If onions are sold at Rs 80/kg, soon all Hindus will stop eating sinful food. They will survive on the Ganga Jal and Tulsi leaves. Bharatvarsha will become a Vishwa Guru.
But onions have another aspect too. Not spiritual but financial. If onions are cheap, they are preferred by the aam aadmi. The aam aadmi doesn’t wear 10 lakh suits and love his roti, pyaj and mirch. I have seen poor labourers eating rotis with onions and green chillies. There is neither sabzi nor daal in their plates. And these labourers are Hindus and Muslims. Sometimes, they share their rotis also. And green chillies. Vishwa Hindu Parishad may demand a blanket ban on “green” chillies because green is the colour of Islam. Union Minister Giriraj Singh will send everyone having green chillies to Pakistan.
And then our lovely pakoras. Can we imagine pakoras without onions? It is like Hamlet without the King of Denmark. Some pakoras are solely made of onions. They are called “pyaji” in Bihar, my home state. Some other pakoras have onions as ingredients. Rainy season is the season of pakoras. And no middle class debate is complete without mandatory chai pakora. Bombay has a different lingo. Here potatoes are called “batata” and onions “kanda”. Mumbaikars also love their kanda vadas. Some ladies and gentlemen avoid eating raw onions as they make their breath smelly. But I love raw onions even if they mean foul smell. Somebody has rightly said: An apple a day keeps a doctor away. An onion a day keeps everyone away! For an introvert like me, onions are good weapons to keep people away from me.
I have several Muslim friends who relish mutton do pyaja. As the name suggests this meat dish has onions twice the quantity of mutton. If one kg mutton is cooked,two kgs of onions are added. I routinely raid bawarchikhanas of Muslim friends to savour this dish. I am worried what will happen to mutton do pyaja with onion prices skyrocketing. The dastarkhwan of my Muslim friends will suffer terribly. Some of my distant relatives warn me that if I keep eating mutton at Muslims’ houses, I will end up in “narak” (the hell). I tell them that I have been living in Bihar since my birth! The life in the hell will be an improvement upon the life I live in Bihar!
Have some mercy, Modiji. The poor are missing their roti pyaj. The rich are worried about mutton do pyaja. If you make both the rich and the poor your enemies, who will vote for you? Don’t take voters for granted. Costly onions have brought tears to many netas’ eyes. Angry voters will put you aboard the Chandrayaan 3 and send you to the moon. And life will be quite tough there. Even if you start selling tea on the moon, nobody is there to buy it!
(Amitabh Kumar Das is a 1994 batch IPS Officer. His views are personal.)