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What were you doing when the economy was going to the cows?

I know all of you are freaked out by the state of the economy. To be honest, I am less freaked out by the economy than by everyone freaking out about the economy.

Besides, I have my suspicions. It’s quite possible that everyone is stressed out only because they’ve been brainwashed by the fake news being disseminated by platforms such as al-Qaeda’s ISI-backed propaganda wing, Al News, which recently changed its name to Alt News. If that is the case, then the best remedy is what our Prime Minister has been advocating from Day 1: immerse yourself in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

I can tell you from personal experience that it works brilliantly. Whenever my anxiety levels shoot up, I start cleaning my room. In 20 minutes, I’m as calm as James Bond in a burning helicopter.

Contributing to the economy

Mental health benefits apart, there really is only one solution to our economic woes: Clean India. If every Indian goes out — or rather, doesn’t go out — and works hard to make the country Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2019, the economy will automatically get back on track.

Renowned economists have repeatedly pointed out that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan could add one percentage point to GDP growth every year. Starting from 2014, if each one of us had done our bit for Clean India, by 2017, the growth rate would have risen by 3% — from 8.7% to 11.7%. That it has instead shrunk to 5.7% is a sad commentary on our collective failure as citizens and patriots.

Therefore, in this difficult time, I call upon my fellow Indians to rededicate themselves to Swachh Bharat. If you were wondering whether I walk the talk, let me assure you that I’ve been working very hard to declare my home ODF.

As per government criteria, you can declare an area as ODF provided all bowel movements in the specified location occur inside a toilet. In my home, everyone does his or her bit for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan first thing in the morning. The only exception, of course, is my 15-month-old son, Kattabomman.

Kattabomman, as you all know, is a child prodigy in multiple domains, including literature, philosophy, Sanskrit, Python, and particle physics. But when it comes to doing potty, he behaves like any other baby of his age, which is to say, he doesn’t adhere to government guidelines against open defecation.

I got around this logjam by ensuring that he was always diapered around potty time. But recently he developed a bad case of diaper rash, to which my wife responded by unilaterally imposing a ‘diaper-free time’ every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. During this period, no one in the house is allowed to wear diapers. I personally had no objection to this policy, as I had graduated out of diapers at a very young age.

But over the past week, Kattabomman’s potty schedule has turned erratic, making it impossible to anticipate when or where he will go next. This unpredictability, combined with the draconian ‘diaper-free’ rule, has turned my home into the existential antithesis of an ODF zone.

The shit hit the fan, idiomatically speaking, last Friday, when I got back from work to discover that Kattabomman had committed a rather extreme form of literary criticism.

“Dei,” I asked him, “Why did you do potty on the cover of Salman Rushdie’s latest novel, The Golden House? Don’t you know he has won the Booker of Bookers and is a supporter of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?”

My son turned around and gave me a look that basically said, “Dei, what about the 13 other writers on whose covers I have done potty over the last five days? Did you ever ask me why I did it? Or did you keep quiet because all those novels were translations from vernacular languages whereas Rushdie writes in English? Despite such brazen hypocrisy, you call yourself a journalist?”

An answer to whataboutery

Needless to say, my son’s reaction forced me to introspect. Instead of dismissing it as facile whataboutery, as any liberal would have done, I asked myself some hard questions. What was I doing, for instance, when Kashmiri Pandits were being brutally evicted from Kashmir? Where was I in 1984? Did I condemn the Mughal conquest of India? Or the abduction of Sita by Ravana? Why did I keep quiet when Gandhi bumped into a bunch of peaceful bullets? What about Malda? Not to mention, vanaspati and Dalda?

And then it came to me in a blinding flash: if you truly love your country, you must act now, so that you have an answer ready when some day you are asked, what were you doing when the economy was going to the cows? I can proudly say: I was busy trying to grow the GDP by helping to make my country Open Defecation Free, starting with my own home. What about you?

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