E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: That the Minister was not in a good mood was evident to the chairman of the slum clearance board, Shri Jhuggi, by the way the Minister twisted his fingers when he greeted him with a handshake.
As the meeting started, Jhuggi briefed the Minister and the board about the major works taken up by the board which again wasn’t received well by the dignitary .
As the secretary of the board, Shri Jhopad Patti, was reading the annual report, third para, second line and paused before a comma, the minister’s voice ‘Stop it!’ woke up the rest of the members from their slumber.
“I say stop it, full stop. I am tired of listening as to how many slums have been removed, how many water and electricity connections given, etc. Has anybody taken note of what has been done except for some local newspapers which nobody reads anyway? I want action that focuses national and international attention on us. Look at Dharavi….”
The gale that hit the room was a 300km/hour tornado.
Before the chairman could say, “But Mr Minister”, the Minister thundered again: “Don’t talk of removing the slums again! Let us give more facilities to them. We will convert part of it to build a studio. Hire some dance masters who will train our slum children to dance in the rain, on the train, on hume pipes and in the middle of traffic. If Gulzar and Rahman are not available get some local chaps.”
This was a180-degree shift by the Minister.
“And you two! I don’t want you wasting your time supervising the works of the studio like some village mesthris. I want you to go to Hollywood. I understand you can hire directors there by the roadside who are cheaper than the suits or—what is it?—-yes, ‘Tux’ or something worn for awards shows. Get them to direct a story of our slum. We have enough dogs in our slums. You also meet BAFTA, NAPHTA, Golden or Silver Globes. Are you with me?” the Minister barked at both of them.
“Yes, Sir,” was the duet.
“We don’t have enough time. Gandhi Nagar and Kodambakkam have enough writers spinning stories in local tea shops all day. We will get one of them to write a story. My wife will get somebody to stitch the costumes. You two make sure to sign up a gora to direct the film for us. Only that can get us awards and prizes. I will take care of funds. Some funds are always available under ‘emergencies’. I will ask CM to divert it to us.”
“Any questions?” demanded the Minister
“Sir, what will be our role?” squeaked one of the members.
“You will all get suitable roles, don’t worry. Make sure our slum children practice regularly before the final shots are taken. Some of you meet the TV channels and distribute pamphlets and make sure we get enough publicity. No, leave it—I will handle that myself. We should hit jackpot too. If Dharavi can do it, why can’t we? The only Oscar we hear around is Oscar Fernandes. We have to get the real Oscar too. I don’t mind taking a week off and going there to America. Jhuggi and Jhopad Patti, please realise we have to work as a team and no time to lose. Let’s start the work. Now!’
So ended the meeting of the slum clearance board.