The idea is not borrowed from Arundhati Roy’s book—she is up there with Dawood and Hafeez on the NDA’s list of public enemies—but from Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister set up the Rajya Ananda Sansthan, the country’s first Department of Happiness. Now, sensing growing unhappiness among the janta, the Centre has set up a Ministry Aimed at Spreading Happiness (MASH). It follows the MP playbook where volunteers go around spreading happiness according to an instruction manual. Here’s how it has worked so far.
Small Time Trader: Hey Ram, my life is over. Demonetisation has destroyed my business which was all in cash, now I am broke, suffering from depression, my wife has left me and taken the kids, my relatives ignore me and my friends have unfriended me. I have this urge to hang myself from the nearest…
MASH Volunteer: Hang on, there’s no need for all that. Look on the bright side.
Trader: There is a bright side?
MASH Volunteer: Of course, demonetisation was always meant to produce long-term benefits, how long only Arun Jaitley knows, but I am here to spread happiness and my orders are to give you a hug so things will look better.
Trader: But you are a woman, if my wife sees me hugging….Oh I forgot, she’s left me.
MASH volunteer: For husbands deserted by their wives, we have a separate format to follow, it’s number three on the list of things we must do to spread happiness, it involves coming to your house to cook you food, giving your kids a bath, putting away your daily earnings in a Jan Dhan account…
Trader: I have no money for food which makes me part of the cashless society, the kids have left and,…never mind. I’ll try the Ministry for Job Creation, I hear they are performing miracles, making the unemployed self-employed.
Bus Conductor: I am unhappy. I work on a BEST bus but it’s becoming worse every day thanks to your ministry.
MASH Volunteer: We are here to banish unhappiness. What is the problem?
Bus Conductor: I have too many MASH volunteers on my route because it goes past your office. They have been instructed to give up their seats to spread happiness so they all stand and crowd the aisles while a majority of seats are unoccupied. It is driving me round the bend.
MASH volunteer: Let me check the instruction manual from the ministry. (Looking at a booklet): Here it is, give up your seat on a bus or train…
Bus Conductor: I can’t stand it.
MASH Volunteer: As Mr Jaitley says, these are speed bumps on the expressway to progress.
Shopkeeper: My life has turned upside down. After notebandi, I grab whatever cash I earn and put it into my bank account. It is driving me nuts.
MASH Volunteer: As in cashew?
Shopkeeper: As in nutbandi. No more cashews, I now earn peanuts, but my problem is with all you volunteers. I enter the bank and you people make way and let me jump the queue. I am just not used to a queue where people in front give way to people at the rear. It is unnerving.
MASH volunteer: Sorry sir, but giving way to others in the queue is item 8 in our instruction manual for spreading happiness.
Corporate Executive: I have the same problem. Fuel prices were driving me mad because I had to drive around my colony multiple times till I found a parking space. Now people give up their parking space for me. They say it is their way of spreading happiness.
MASH Volunteer: It is number nine in the list but what is the problem?
Corporate Executive: People voluntarily giving up a parking space in Delhi? It is the most unnatural thing in the world. I stay up all night wondering what the catch is…
Businessman: My business is in a mess thanks to GST…
MASH Volunteer: But that is our ministry’s motto as coined by Venkaiah Naidu, it stands for the Good Samaritan Touch.
Businessman: That’s the problem, I am still struggling with the fine print on GST and I am deluged with this other GST, people offering to tend my garden, cook me a meal or take me for a nice drive. Are the two GSTs connected? Take with one hand and give with the other? It could be called Switch Bharat.
MASH Volunteer: What sort of life is this? I spend my day hugging people with terrible BO, I give up my place in the queue, surrender my parking space, visit with strangers and cook them meals, water their gardens.
Ministry Official: It’s called patriotism. Or GST.