30 September, 2020

Telephonic Loyalty

Telephonic Loyalty
MR Sukh Ram appears to be in one hell of a soup, but I wonder what the current opinion in his constituency is about his tribulations. One wet and frosty evening last winter in a village near Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, I was standing in the centre of the marketplace—two groceries, a mithai shop and a druggist's—and watching with amazement as a dozen labourers dredged mud and snow, and dug up the sides of the roads. The ground was infernally slippery, all sleet and mud, and the weather bitterly, clammily cold. "They're laying telephone lines," explained a grocer. "Since Sukh Ramji has been minister, all of us have got phones. And an electronic exchange." I then noticed that all four shops sported shiny new red handsets. "More new lines are coming," the man went on, positively preening. "Soon I'll have two phones in my shop." "But who do you call?" I asked. "This is such a small place." "Oh, we call one another up in the market and chat. And even if we didn't ring anyone, so what?" said he, looking at me with equal measures of pity, condescension and irritation. In the last Lok...


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