Six farmers were killed while protesting for fair price for their produce in Madhya Pradesh’s opium country. India woke up to news that something was rotten in the middle kingdom of Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
All this while, we believed Madhya Pradesh farmers are the happiest in India, ruled by their own maternal uncle and mama knows best. He has been singing about the miracle agricultural growth rate for a while. Media has gleefully reported about the Madhya Pradesh model of agriculture, a la the Gujarat model of development.
“Among all the current statistics on the economy, the truly jaw-dropping one is MP’s agricultural growth rate,” so wrote TN Ninan, awed by the figures nearly doubling in a five-year period. Excellent was the common word in all the opeds on MP’s green revolution.
It is a good sign because MP has more than average people employed in agriculture. The national average is 55 per cent, while 70 per cent of Madhya Pradesh folks work the land. So the fields were atill, people were achill and all was uh...well. Basically, when we think of Madhya Pradesh, we think of All is Well. The midriff of India never catches our imagination. Neither on top, nor in the bottom. Neither happy, nor sad. Neither here, nor there. Moderately communal but largely peaceful. MP ajab, partly ghazab. Hindi-speaking but not the belt. No longer BIMARU, but bang in the middle of it.
That the mama will-take-care-of-it is not working any more. In the middle of it all, Shivraj Singh has a task at hand. Photo: India Today
Did you know 19 farmers were killed in a police firing in the same state in the past? Why would you? Even Madhya Pradesh doesn’t remember that. There’s a gentle, refreshing forgetfulness about Madhya Pradesh, just like they show in those ads.
Thanks to Rajasthan’s Piyush Pandey, MP tourism has the best adverts, which wrongly calls Madhya Pradesh the heart of India. If you look at the map and have fair knowledge of the human anatomy, you know it is not the heart but the stomach.
The stomach keeps the rest of the body alive, but is never considered critical or acknowledged as vital. Because it is covered. Its scars are concealed. Its complicated innards are not even known. The human intestine is 25 feet long, but since it packs in nicely in a small area, we don’t marvel at it. The stomach is like the middle class. Doing its job, paying the taxes yet never agitating for a home loan waiver. Getting with it and getting by.
Minor discomforts are blamed on gas (ask Bhopal). If it gets worse, pop a pill without even consulting a doctor. Jal-jeera, shikanji and pudina sherbet all good. Even worse? Sugar pills soaked in two drops of Nux Vomica and you are good.
The stomach gets attention only when things go terribly wrong. Like when an ultrasound shows a tumour has been growing for a couple of years and the cancer is in the fourth stage because Digene worked fine till now.
Like Vyapam, a scam spanning decades went undiscovered inspite of regular grumbling from within. But who cares about it unless it explodes into a tragedy? Gas and acidity not a major problem unless it’s a tragedy of the scale of Bhopal. Even then, the culprit gets to fly out of the country and die in a better place.
People go for a facial, regularly shave or shape their beards. Women take special care of the face. We notice the beauty with brains. In fact, stomach gets less attention than hands and feet. There is pedicure and manicure, expensive procedures to keep them looking lustrous. As prosperity grew, we stopped even eating for the stomach like the poor farts. Instead, cuisine caters to the tastebuds now.
Bhopal, apart from the tragedy, has forever struggled to keep up with Lucknow as a place of tehzeeb where four-letter words are laden with history and exotica. Indore, the other city, is satisfied calling itself Mini Bombay, instead of Full Indore.
The Nawab of Bhopal is more famous as Nawab of Pataudi, a settlement of hutments in Haryana, smaller than the Chhota talab of Bhopal. Why would someone not prefer being called the Nawab of Bhopal should boggle even Kareena Kapoor’s mind?
But it never bothered anyone. Except when SIMI exploded on the scene, there was sudden interest in how and why would that be centred in Madhya Pradesh. SIMI died its mediocre death.
But the times, they are a changin'. The stomach is increasingly under focus. The new fitness fads and celebrity washboard abs have suddenly brought the spotlight to the middle area. Something that was traditionally a sign of wellbeing and prosperity is now called obesity. A potbelly looks good only on Ganesha.
There’s an awareness about the stomach being in shape. Moms obsessed with feeding their fawns have become finicky about food and men have begun turning away from their favourite ale. To stay in shape.
That the mama will-take-care-of-it is not working any more. In the middle of it all, Shivraj Singh has a task at hand.
The growth figures mean nothing if the growth is all gas. And acidity like Mandsaur’s.