"Two vadas please."
"A coffee here."
"Why is the pazham pori getting late."
"I only have two hands," Ittooppu snapped. The goat was busy, being the official food supplier for the first live, face-to-face debate Junglistan was to see. The programme was inspired by the series of debates between Presidential candidates in Amrika. Initially the Junglistan politicians were unwilling to join the tamasha, but promise of sponsorship money won them over. The sets were similar to the ones in Amrika, sofas on a stage large enough to allow free movement of the participants. The format even more engaging and exciting - there was to be no moderation of the debate.
The participants took their seats one by one. Castro Aravindan -- a wannabe revolutionary, a wannabe minister, a wannabe clean-up man, a wannabe Julian Assange - took the seat first. The monkey, the voice of the middle class, came dressed in an oversized khadi shirt, waved at the crowds, and took his seat frowning. Anybody could have read his face: Nothing is right with this country, I have got so much to do alone, and there is so little time to do it.
The next to step in was Sallu Bhai, Junglistan's law minister. The Oxford graduate wore a khadi kurta and pyjama. Sallu was to defend himself against allegations that a trust run by his family had swindled funds meant for the disabled. He had already filed defamation suits against the TV channel that aired the sting and was egging on his friends to do the same in every nook and corner of the world. The reporter, who filed the story, though troubled by the lawsuits, was now smiling at the prospect of a world tour, even if it meant a tour of courtrooms.
Jatin Tarkari sauntered to the stage with a complaining look that said, 'I shouldn't even be here!' The Junglistan Janata Party president was accused of taking land meant for farmers, diverting water, having shell companies with suspect addresses.
The last to step on the stage was Vallabhan. Married into the royal family of Junglistan, he was accused of using his powerful family links to strike profitable business deals with the biggest real estate developer, which were allegedly suspect or completely clean, depending on who you spoke to in the Jungle republic.
"What I say, you already know. And Sallu Bhai knows better, because it is his trust that works for the disabled which got funds based on forged documents," Aravindan began his opening remarks, "It's indeed defenceless, but still I would like to know what Sallu Bhai has to say in his defence."
Sallu Bhai, in reply, picked up two photographs from his briefcase and waved them. "Can you see this? This is proof of my trust's work," he said. Sallu then started listing equipment donated by his trust. A good 30 minutes later, he was yet to finish, and half the audience was falling asleep. If it was a strategy, Sallu's plan was working to the last dot.
Castro Aravindan, at the time, was looking at the photographs furnished given by Sallu with a magnifying glass. He studied them top to bottom, left to right, front to back, with the diligence of a forensic expert.
"Eureka," Aravindan couldn't hide his joy, "The dates don't match. The photos are from some other function."
"My dear friend, I forgot to take photos of the function I am talking about," Sallu said, "At the function in question, a doctor did a check-up. And at that time I didn't know you will come along with all these false, baseless non-sense."
"Castroji, aapke muh mein ghee-shakkar," said Tarkari.
"I am not finished yet, I am coming to you," Aravindan took out a bundle of papers, "What we see hear right now is the conspiracy of silence. Our Opposition leader here has a company in which unknown people who live in chawls have invested. It gets loans from a builder who benefited from his stint in power, his servant is a director in many of the investor companies. The inference is yours."
"All you say is true. I never denied any of it. The trouble is you guys don't know A or Z of running a business," Tarkari turned red like a tomato, "Let me explain. I believe in equity, equality and equanimity. What is the problem if I reward a slum dweller with a company or a servant with a directorship? I do it all with the calmness of a Sangakkara innings. I am a social entrepreneur. Main mil baant ke khaata hoon, not like some leaders who grow money on apple trees and don't even share it with the poor farmers."
"Worse, don't share where he gets those apple seeds from?" Mayilamma, who was in the audience, couldn't resist.
"Those must be genetically modified," shouted Gobar Singh from the crowd. The head of a fertilizer company had been lobbying for genetically modified seeds with little success to show.
"If he shares the spoils, I won't hold it against him. He is our Robin Hood."
"Talking of the conspiracy of silence, countrymen, I would like to bring to your notice our other expose. The one on Vallabhan. The government has given him a clean chit without going through the papers, and the JJP is silent on it. He himself hasn't spoken a word on it. Isn't he answerable to the law of the country? Isn't the government answerable to the Constitution of India?"
"The government knows who it is answerable to," Shambhu, the elephant said mischievously.
All eyes turned to Vallabhan. The stallion rose, moved a couple of steps to the edge of the stage, where he lifted a pair of dumb-bells and began his workouts, giving no heed to the calls by Aravindan and the howling spectators.
"Here is one man who believes in meeting problems with an iron hand," said Pachu, a tortoise.
"He need not answer," shouted Sallu Bhai, "He is a private citizen."
"He will be forced to answer," said Aravindan, "I have truckloads of evidence against him. I even brought them here just in case he wanted to have a look at them." He pointed at trucks parked outside.
At this point, Ittooppu served tea, dosa and sambhar to the orators, who by then had spent considerable amount of energy and were in dire need of carbons.
For Vallabhan he had designed a special menu: Chopped Moringa oleifera in special coconut sauce, cooked in coconut oil and served with Vigna mungo pancake. For dessert he was served slices of Mangifera indica. Yes, no ordinary dal-chaaval for him. And by the looks of it, he relished the meal.
A rejuvenated Vallabhan took the mike and dismissively shrugged off all the allegations, "These mango men in banana republic."
The assembled crowd started deciphering the encrypted message as they would dissect an Adoor movie. Try as much as they did, they couldn't unravel the many layers of hidden inner meanings of that one gem of a quote.
"He is ridiculing us aam aadmi," shouted Aravindan, "I beg your pardon, he is ridiculing you, aam aadmi, since I will soon be part of the khaas admi."
"He can say what he wants," announced Sallu Bhai, "He is a private citizen."
"My foot, private citizen," Aravindan shouted back.
"This is the height, first you accuse me, an Oxford-educated public servant, of swindling a couple of lakhs, and now you accuse a private citizen of fraud," Sallu had his arguments in place.
"Oh, you mean Oxford graduates are capable of quite bigger scams."
"This is getting too far, first you insult me, then my leader's family and now my alma mater. So far I worked with my pen, you don't know that behind this white khadi there is a junglee janwar. Don't let me take off the kurta."
"I wouldn't mind if Vallabhan did that," Mayilamma looked at him, but got no encouraging signs.
"Apne gali mein kutta bhi sher hota hai, in his own alley even a dog becomes a tiger."
"Mein tumhari naani yaad dila doonga, you will be reminded of your grandmother."
"Om shanti hi, om shanti hi," Vallabhan, who was so far disinterested, stepped in to restore some decorum.
"Closing remarks please," said Moscow Murali, Junglistan's own intellectual and anti-nuke crusader.
Sallu Bhai took the microphone first.
"Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai, Dekhna hai zor kitna baazu-e-kaatil mein hai."
Sobre. Strong. Serious. Sallu bhai took his seat.
"You stole my lines. I had planned this weeks in advance," Aravindan cried foul, he was like a kid who lost a toy, always complaining.
The monkey modulated his voice, gathered all the bass he could, and said with remarkable seriousness and originality, "Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai, Dekhna hai zor kitna baazu-e-kaatil mein hai."
"Very popular lines, I have heard it many times, who penned it?" Chinnu asked.
"Mamata Banerjee. She holds the copyright," Kovalan said.
"Who do you think won?" Chinnu asked again.
"I would say Vallabhan, he came across as smart and honest," replied Mayilamma.
"Smart because he earned his millions from scratch."
"Balance sheets that don't match, ghost bank loans, undervalued land deals and yet no whiff of a probe. Just because he is related to the royal family. Where else is this possible if not in a banana republic?"