The Charming Ban-Ban Game

No smoking in Bhutan

I love bans. They are the most exciting things in our dull, dreary, middle class life. They lend magic and purpose to our existence. As indeed, I guess, they do to those who impose them. Without bans, I suspect our everyday life would lose much of its charm and playfulness. We will never have enough reasons to break the law. We will never pick up the courage to stand up and say: To hell with you; I am not falling in line.

Something new is banned every other day. The pretext is the same: It’s good for you and me. So smoking in public areas is banned. (This means: You can’t smoke where anyone can see you. So basements are fine. Bathrooms are fine. The streets are fine and while you are at it, you are welcome to litter as well.) You can’t get a drink after 11. You can’t get a drink at all in states like Gujarat because Gandhiji lived there. (Unless pssst you know the right bootleggers. Bootlegging in India is so big that rumour has it, more Scotch is bought and sold here than Scotland ever makes.) Then there’s music. The law says there must be no music after 10. So, concerts are out. (But yes, you can sit in your car and honk away as loudly as you want to at any hour of day or night, in front of a hospital if you so want.) My bedroom faces the street. I know.

Last week’s ban says you can’t watch “A” certified movies on TV. You can’t watch them even if the adult scenes are chopped off. (Rumours say 56 out of a total 82 scenes in The Dirty Picture were taken out and some of the older people in the audience thought they were watching The Sound of Music.) So, to watch the movie unexpurgated you need to ask your kid to download it from a torrent site where kids normally watch all the banned adult stuff. Another recent ban is on political cartoons in text books. Now this is wise. Children ought not to be laughing at politicians in classrooms. In fact, if UPA2 had its way, no one should be laughing at politicians at all. That’s why they have gifted us back breaking inflation, scary taxes, and an economy sliding downhill faster than a jet ski off an eel’s back. (The only reasons left to laugh are the cartoons on Lok Sabha TV.)

Not just cartoons. Comic strips are also banned. So no Savita Bhabhi, guys. (Sunny Leone is fine as long as she speaks Hindi with a cute American accent and pretends she is a Punjabi girl selling Incredible India to the West.) India’s finest comic strip, a wee bit naughty, is a strict no-no because bhabhis are a taboo subject. (Someone should have told this to Rabindranath Tagore.) Another ban is on parody twitter IDs. The PMO wants all IDs that resemble it yanked off the net. Twitter analysts claim this could leave the PMO with no followers at all, apart from hired bots and insomniacs who need something terribly boring to put themselves to sleep.

Dance bars are banned. (Dancing girls are awful for our morals, says our Home Minister, a fan of the late Aurangzeb and the man who fiddled while The Taj burned.) Live music has been taxed out of existence. (It’s only for the rich, says our Finance Minister.) The last Police Commissioner, sadly gone now, thought juice bars were also bad for our morals and sent out hockey stick wielding goon squads to thrash those who went there after 11, the Cinderella hour when all good people he said ought to be in bed. Whose bed? I wonder.

Alas, all the stuff I would like to see banned gets away. Black money. Corruption. Killing taxes. Bad behaviour in Parliament. The loot of public land and assets. Vandalism. Rioting. The politics of religion and caste. Instead, what we get are bans on more than 5 smses, tourists in game reserves, and mango pickles on airline flights. Bets are out on what the next will be. (The new vaginal rejuvenation cream?)

And thus goes on our ban-ban game.




This story from Sonam Pem

Sonam Pem has the distinction of being our very first author on Bhutanomics.