Carol Andrade Column: Being Nidhi Choudhari

People tell me I’m funny, that I’m the zinger queen, that my one-liners are “howlarious”, that my “gift” is telling it like it is. Whatever the hell that means. The simple truth is that I discovered early on in life that the shortest route between problem and solution is to tell — well — the truth.

In the last week, with social media, followed by bureaucrats and politicians, convulsing over a tweet, I realise that I will have to sober up, get back to the books and revisit myself. While I was sleeping and zinging and delivering one-liners, the society in which I thought my goalposts were clearly positioned, has just moved them without telling me. And I am floundering. Let me explain.

A young bureaucrat in the BMC posted a tweet on Mahatma Gandhi that roiled not only the Twitterverse but also other social media networks and continues to have resonance in the media, with article after article detailing what happened. Here’s the tweet, by the way:

“What an exceptional celebration of the 150th birth anniversary year is going on. High time, we remove his face from our currency, his statues from across the world, name institutions/roads named after him! That would be a real tribute from all of us! ThankU Godse for 30.01.1948.”

In saner times, what’s the first thing you would think? Sarcasm, right? Or irony? For several reasons. First, no-one in a public position would broadcast such a personally revealing piece of garbage. Second, this is a young IAS officer and she has to be smart, if not intellectual. Third, isn’t commenting upon emotive issues like Gandhiji against service rules? Hmmm, maybe she’s not that smart. Fourth, COME ON, irony isn’t dead yet.

Fifth, it ticks the sarcasm boxes — dependent for effect upon readers, a patently insincere, extreme form of expression, the very fact that an authority figure is making such an extreme statement. Sixth, Nidhi Choudhari herself has said she was misunderstood and points to her own social media timeline for a character certificate on whether she is a Mahatma admirer or a traducer.

As expected, the caca, when it hit the fan shortly afterward, became a deluge of outrage. But the fact that she was shunted out of the BMC (in charge of implementation of plastics ban, a loser’s job, if ever there was one) and put into the state government to head its anti-encroachment cell (much better, in my opinion) shows that not everyone has completely lost the plot.

However, for a short time, there was a small window of doubt in my own mind about poor Ms Choudhari, created by the fell circumstances and the debased society that is India today. One, maybe she did mean it. After all, look at all the BJP netas and so-called society heavyweights who think nothing of abusing the Father of the Nation openly, while weighing the scale in favour of his assassin.

Sure, our PM has announced that MP from Bhopal Pragya Thakur will never be forgiven “in his heart” for saying what she did, but as she whizzes around Parliament in a wheelchair for effect, that is of little comfort. Two, not all Civil Service graduates are smart; look at our estimable Satyapal Singh, former (thankfully) police commissioner of Mumbai, former Union MOS in the human resources ministry, who is on record as saying Darwin was wrong about us descending from apes because he has never seen an ape turning into a man.

Three, if the time were right, she could have gotten away with it. Look at the garbage our service chiefs are talking about clouds obstructing radar, just to suck up to our Chief Scientist at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg (aka 7, Race Course Road). And fourth, given the first three, there is no reason to believe that she did not mean exactly what she said. Except that she did not mean it. She is being sarcastic, she said. It can be proved, she declared. She is a “worshipper” of the Mahatma, she adds.

I for one believe that sarcasm and irony, parody, satire and humour in all its forms are still alive in India. Heck, we need all of them just to stay alive or die laughing. I believe Ms Choudhari implicitly, and like Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Tushar, deplore the backlash against her as completely ungandhian. But it’s okay. Because I also believe that she has now been given a promotion that she deserves after all the nonsense hurled at her. Gandhiji must be chuckling.

Carol Andrade

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