The Brown Sahib, A Legend In Our Lifetime


A warm tribute to his connect with his inner self and the masses.

By Roshan Cariappa

Having swallowed the last bits of his gourmet tea artfully, the Brown Sahib reclined in his seat. He checked back to see if the numbers on his last tweet varied. But, it had stagnated at about 20 retweets — 10 of them from folks he knew in real life. A dismal performance for something that could potentially reach 200,000 of his followers on Twitter. People didn’t care for his wit anymore. I mean, it wasn’t hilarious what he tweeted, but who doesn’t love a good sprinkle of ‘gaumutra’ in one’s verse?

People were swiftly losing their sense of humour, it seemed. It didn’t bode well for a writer of his type, who had nothing original to say, but said it in a manner that people associated with middling aesthetics, the kinds that they could talk about at boring parties. It was particularly profitable to prey on people’s insecurities. And in this nation of ours, there was never a short supply of that. Tomorrow, we would turn seventy. It would be a holiday; but, for someone who stayed home in his chambers, at his desk, and went to the occasional meeting, which he’d confess was too convivial to call work, it was a day he felt closer to the plebs. That’s all. He could be a man of the people. Of his people.

His predecessors wrote textbooks, received grants for research and enjoyed unbridled patronage at heritage centers and such. But his kind had been relegated to podcasts, columns in weeklies and only a reasonable following on social media, all of which he had garnered through his own doing. His fiction books loosely characterised his own middle class upbringing, something his simple-minded parents had toiled hard to achieve, as satire. He mocked their native sensibilities. He had discovered an audience which aspired to be just that — more than their parents’ generation.

He felt strongly about some things: the English language, cultural diversity, free markets, and most of all, that some people and their respective opinions didn’t merit any sort of reasonable inquiry. These people simply didn’t know better, and needed to be educated by the likes of him in proper grammar. He also loved many kinds of tea, something he could afford from not having to pay rent at his father’s house. He had married a woman to birth children, who would wear a full suit of protection while they skated the apartment rink. In his heart, he hoped they would be artists, something he could never stake claim to because he could recognise his limitations, if not to the world, to himself, in his chambers at his desk.

Lately, the winds had changed. It seemed people were more strident in their ways. His peers had written lengthy diagnoses in the editorial columns of many dailies. But it was customary to exaggerate things out of proportion, for how else would one draw attention? He expected the usual cycle of alarm to set in sequence things that would result in abject repudiation. It had worked for seventy years (since that wasn’t on an op-ed, you could actually trust his proposition). The thought began to grate at the back of his mind.

When the man with the beard came to office, three years ago, in convincing fashion, he had thought it an anomaly. His people had actually voted against his idea of India. He had since tried to ingratiate himself with this crowd. Unlike some of his peers who sought to demean this demographic of diverse, and yet, unthinking people, he even wrote mild mannered analysis to seem appreciative of what had happened. Those peers had since paid the price. While some looked like desperate fools clutching the last piece of floating wood off the Titanic, others had made unholy unions with those antithetical to the noble ideas his kind professed to hold. Still others had slipped into oblivion. He was appreciative of his tact. That, he could tell better from the others, some of his own even, was something to take pride in. He thought he could amalgamate with those who adopted his line of perceived indifference.

But, things hadn’t plateaued; instead, they were hurtling towards more chaos. What would he write of politics or culture when the fundamentals of his knowledge were turned on its head? A feeling of compunction ran over him; he should have opted for Economics as one of his majors. Economists could, at the very least, sound right even if they were wrong. He had no such escape route. When would his second least favourite party get its act together? They seemed even more clueless than he was at this point. A civilisation of 5000 years that claimed to be seventy had changed.

To make matters worse, someone replied to his tweet with a screenshot.





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