The Joke State

By Balakumar K Published on Nov 25, 2017 03:27 PM IST

These days, whenever my friends from other States or countries call me on my phone, the conversation usually reaches the point where they ask, ‘what the hell is happening in Tamil Nadu?’

The tone is always mocking. This is even from friends who happen to live in Kolkata. I mean Kolkata is in West Bengal, right? Having been ruled by the Commies for several colourless decades, strange that they feel derisive about another State. Moody’s Investors Service, if it had credit rating for States, would have given West Bengal ‘CAFG-’, classifying it under: ‘Landfill’.

Those from Delhi also look down upon us. This is not surprising though. Delhi looks up to only those in power. And that too only to suck up. Delhi has nothing but contempt for anything or anybody else. Delhi’s face is forever looking into its posterior.

Only those in Bengaluru are not scathing, and they may be so because they don’t have time for that as they are are still stuck at the Silk Board traffic.

If States were roles in our masala movies, Tamil Nadu would now be the comedic sidekick — a ridiculous punching bag, accepted in the scheme of things only for eliciting some laughter.

But Tamilnadu was not like this before. Yeah, it was conservative and prudish. It could be boring. The weather was predictable. We had summers starting in March and ending in March next. But still the jokes were on others. Every one made fun of Uttar Pradesh because, well, it was Uttar Pradesh. Where anything worked, including gravity, only if you were in the good books of the local politicos and government staff. The jibes were on Bihar as you could not tell it apart from Lalu Prasad Yadav’s cow shed.

Now all these States are laughing at Tamilnadu. How did things come to such a pass? Well, I can tell you using all my journalistic flair for guessing things up, the turning point was former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s near three months of hospitalisation and her subsequent death. That’s when Tamilnadu became the nation’s Vadivelu — an agent of laughter.

You know what happened then. The most powerful person in the State, the person who was the Chief Minister, had reportedly taken ill and rushed to hospital. In every other State, every kind of information possible would have been kept flowing in a seamless manner. But not here in Tamil Nadu. We in Tamil Nadu had no earthly idea what was happening. We got our news in intravenous drips — in infinitesimal, insignificant drops.

First they said, ‘it’s only a case of mild fever’. Then somebody realised that a fever wouldn’t need a Chief Minister, who has a full-fledged mini hospital kind of setup in her residence, to be ambulanced late in the night. So they added that she was also suffering from, ahem, dehydration. ‘Dehydration? Yeah, that sounds a pretty serious affliction. Hope they find a cure for it,’ was probably the thought behind it.

Meanwhile, the hospital where she was admitted to put out an official press release signed by a non-doctor person. Pray why? We suspect all the doctors in the hospital were busy poring over joke books, because it is only in a jokey world that a Chief Minister will end up being hospitalised for fever and dehydration.

While the doctors kept the fun quotient up, the politicos raised it to unbelievable heights as only they can. From Union Ministers to the Congress vice president to the local political heavyweights, all made a beeline to the hospital, walked in, walked out and told the mics shoved into their faces, ‘nothing to worry as medical science has improved. Dehydration is pretty much treatable these days’.

Not really. As the later events would prove, not one of them had gotten even near the floor where the former Chief Minister was reportedly being treated. So how did the politicos say that the Chief Minister was responding well to the treatment? Being politicos they probably had access to X-ray vision that enabled them to see through walls and floors.

Even as these events were happening, we as responsible citizens of this State, manfully rose to the occasion by coming up with wonderful memes. During that period of three months, we became the first proud State to achieve 100% literacy in memes.

Anyway, the eventual announcement of Jayalalithaa’s death and the subsequent events involving her confidante Sasikala, her family, the government have all been too bizarre even by the unbelievably bizarre standards of this State (the entire government was holed up in a seaside resort for days together). And after every such event, nation now rolls its collective eyes and says, ‘hah!, there goes Tamil Nadu again’.

So there we are. In a week’s time, the anniversary of the death that kickstarted it all will be observed. It will be a solemn occasion. We in Tamilnadu will suitably mark the occasion with two minutes of laughter.

For, we are the joke State.

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