My disdain for CNBC and the pundits on it has prevented me from making millions.

I discovered this sad truth earlier today, when some talking head on the channel let slip the secret that’s been eluding me – and I am sure, many others like me – for years. “The trick to making money in the stock market” he revealed, “is to buy stocks cheap.”

No shit, Sherlock.

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Turnip: Welcome to the Crapola News Network. Today today today, we show you how India’s democratic system is furthering entrepreneurship and enterprise. We have with us someone who has come up with a business model unique to India. Welcome to the show, Mr. Rao D. Tell us about your model.

Rao D: Thanks Turnip. I am quite excited about it. I always believed that in our democracy, political parties and other bodies which aspire towards political power need to efficiently outsource their violence and goondaism to professionals. I mean, they’re politicians…their job is to screw things up….so obviously, efficient execution of anything, including violence, is not their forte. Well, I provide that service.

Charkha: Rao D, I take exception to your statement. I have no truck with this kind of statement so reminiscent of the politician-bashing middle class.

Rao D: Charkha, this has nothing to do with the politician-bashing middle class. It is a case of politicians bashing the middle-class. There’s a difference, so there’s no need to take offence.

Turnip: Are you are you are you saying that politicians can’t be violent?

Rao D: Of course they can be…but, being politicians, their violence is not result-oriented. Very inefficient. We, on the other hand, promise more bang for the buck. Hire us, and if you have to inflict violence on someone, we can take it to any degree you want: bruises, a broken bone, a few broken bones, a fractured skull etc. If you want an office vandalised, we can again deliver great results, depending on how much you pay: from a few windows smashed, to furniture and fixtures damaged or even completely destroyed to total arson ….we aim to please.

Turnip: Well, all that is fine, but why should a party spend money and come to you? Mob violence is supposed to be what these parties are good at.

Rao D: Why is any job or function outsourced? For efficiencies and savings. They may be good, but we are better. We train our employees well….there are specialisations, and depending on the kind of job you want, we send in the best. Political parties do not have our depth of experienced talent. We save political aspirants from maintaining an active, violence-ready political cadre, since sustaining such a cadre is an expensive job, particularly in this age of changing loyalties. Besides, it is our people who now risk arrests and prosecution, leaving the politicians free to make political mileage without fear – either fear of physical harm or fear of sharing the spoils. Again, given the very fragmented nature of our politics, very few parties have any kind of geographical reach. We, on the other hand, have an all-India reach….so your democratic protests are not confined only to your neighbourhood stronghold. Finally, in all our events, our media tie-ups ensure maximum press coverage. We have devised a proprietary algorithm that tells us, depending on the scene of action, where to place banners and posters for optimum coverage and impact. So why wouldn’t someone come to us?

Turnip: But now it is your employees who face possible lathis and prosecution. Surely that is a problem?

Rao D: Not at all. First, the police are always inactive when it comes to protests like these. Besides, even assuming they do their job once in a while, we retain the best lawyers and politicians, so diluted chargesheets, bail and extended paroles reduce the problem. Very often, we manage not to have a complaint registered at all. But we don’t worry too much about it. Our people know it is an occupational hazard. And with so many angst-ridden youth in India, staffing is never going to be a problem.

Turnip: Let’s come back to your business model. So you make money, but where is the scope for growth and expansion? Isn’t isn’t isn’t the outlook infructuous?

Rao D: Are you joking? We are going to see more and more of this in the future. It’s boom time, baby! This is going to be the only acceptable way of democratic protest in India. There will always be some neta Somewhere who will be upset with Someone about Something. Our projections show very healthy growth in earnings over the next five years. And all of it is from domestic demand. We are not worried about any slowdown or recession in any other country, or even in India. In fact, my business is also counter-cyclical…..trust me, Turnip and Charkha, your shares are going to be very valuab…..

Turnip: Ummmmm, that’s all we have time for. Thank you for joining us. Time for a break, but when we come back, do we also love Obama very much? More importantly, does he love us? Find out, as we cover strategic aspects of the PM’s US speech. Only on the Crapola News Network.

Wǒ xiànzài zài xué Zhōngwén.

That basically means I am learning Mandarin. No, it’s not because I’m moving to Shanghai, or because I think Mandarin is someday going to rival English as a business language. It’s just that if I don’t switch to the Chinese ATP feed, from the English feed – with Brit commentators – we get in India, I’ll go off tennis forever.

What is it with these Brit commentators? I agree, Murray is a great player. But enough with the frigging hero-worship already. Sample this snippet from an imaginary Gonzalez-Roddick match (and it’s true of every other match today) :

Phil: ….and what an outstanding return of serve from Roddick…look at that angle! And Gonzo’s got to it with a spectacular forehand passing shot down the line. What a superb athlete he is…always making his opponent play the extra ball….

John: Yes, Phil. And you know who else can play so brilliantly?

Phil: Yes, John. Andy Murray. Such a sublime player. Such a complete player. And what a magnificent athlete he is. Truly a delight to watch.

John: Right you are, Phil. And a very thinking player as well. He reads the ball so well, Andy Murray does. I think we’re looking at a future Number 1…

Phil: Indeed, John. And dare I say it….the Wimbledon champion this year?

John: He does have what it takes….

During this time, Gonzo’s smashed rackets (twice), a streaker has run out on court (once) and Roddick has had a shouting match with the umpire over a disputed line-call (again)……but those damned Brit commentators are still going on about Murray!

Phil: Yes, I think Murray could even win the US open….

And so on….it’s enough to make me want to throw up. I thought it was the Indians who desperately look for heroes, especially in the realm of sports…..seems the Brits aren’t far behind. They’ve also done this in Formula 1, all of last year, when Golden Arse Hamilton could do no wrong. This year, thankfully, like water, Hammy Boy’s found his level and so we get to hear a lot less about him. It helps that the commentators have actually found a likeable Brit who’s winning, and have shifted allegiance en masse! So now, instead of breathless paeans to Hamilton, we have orgasmic odes to Jenson Button.

Not only do the Brits seem desperate for sports heroes, it’s almost as if they’ve learnt the Art of Irrelevant Commentary from what Hindi cricket commentary used to be, even during TV’s early days: “jee hahn, darshakon mein bahut hi harsho-ulhas, kaphi sankhya main yahan darshak moujood, outfield kaphi hara-bhara hain, match bahut hi romanchak sthithi main…… AUR YE OUT!……”.

Quickly followed by a commercial break.

Huh? Out? Who? What? How?

Quite clearly, Mandarin is the way to go!

Turnip: Welcome to the Crapola News Network. Today-today-today, we try and predict who will form the next government. That, quite literally, is the billion dollar question. The Co-Co-Congress, to keep the BJP out, will ally with anyone, including the Left, Amma and Behenji, unless each of these decides to ally with someone else, like the BJP or the Third Front, except that the Left will not ally with the BJP, even if they may ally with anyone else to keep the Congress out, unless they want to keep the BJP out, in which case they’ll ally with the Congress as well, unless the Congress wants to maintain its alliance with Mamta, in which case they won’t, which means that the BJP will ally with anyone willing to ally with them to form the government, including Mamta, Amma, Behenji and Naveen Patnaik, unless some or all of these decide to ally with the Congress to keep the BJP out, or with the Third Front to keep both the Congress and the BJP out, which means the Third Front constituents will ally with whoever is willing to ally with them to keep everyone else out, unless they ally with the Congress to keep the BJP out or with the BJP to keep the Congress out…and that will bring us back to Do! Sharad Pawar and Behenji will ally with whoever can increase their respective chances of becoming PM, though Behenji could also be swayed with the promise of a thousand statues. Mulayam will ally with anyone who can dismiss Behenji’s democratically elected government, Laloo will ally with anyone who will withdraw the cases against him, allot him the railway ministry again, and allow his family to run riot in Bihar, Amma will ally with anyone who will take down the DMK government and lob a few shells across the strait. Manmohan Singh is the UPA’s candidate for Prime Minister, unless allies like Sharad Pawar decide otherwise, in which case he is only the Congress candidate, unless Janpath decides otherwise, in which case someone else will be the candidate unless Rahul Baba says ‘yes I can and I will’ in which case he will be the Congress candidate as well as the UPA candidate. Simple, isn’t it?

Charkha: Yes indeed, Turnip. Clear as mud. But the simple-minded viewers we cater to don’t really get it. They feel this whole process is confusing, convoluted and badly in need of reform. Whatever. Anyway, to appear fair and even-handed, we also want to present the other point of view. So, exclusively on Crapola News Network, we have Quirky Indian to explain a process of electoral reforms he has in mind. QI, thanks for swinging by.

QI: No problem, Charkha. I was hanging at a nearby tree. Well, my ideas are very simple. First, let the electorate in every constituency decide how much their collective vote is worth. This is the reserve price, and the constituency is then auctioned to the highest bidder. The money received is then equally distributed amongst the voters who voted to decide the constituency’s worth.

Once all constituencies are auctioned off, there will be a grand auction where bidders can win the right to form the government. There will be a Minimum Qualification Fee to form the government, as well as additional fees for every ministerial post the new government wants. The money thus collected again goes back to every citizen who bothered to vote…….

Turnip and Charkha (interrupting): But QI, your suggestions, apart from ensuring that every citizen has an equal share of the monetary pie, so to speak, actually make democracy in-in-infructuous, and will only lead to the complete corruption of democracy. Do you realise what this means? That people are paid for their votes, that their votes will actually be bought, with no thought to issues or governance or performance. That parliamentary support for government formation and ministerial berths will all be paid for and these democratic assets will be traded like in any other market, that there will be no accountability, no focus on development and governance and that elected representatives and ministers will now seek to recover the money spent on these various auctions … ……wait a minute, isn’t that exactly…….

(Very, Very Long Pause)

Turnip: Ummmm, thank you for watching the Crapola News Network.

Turnip: “Welcome to the Crapola News Network. In our top, in our top, in our top story today, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Dukhdardjee, said India had evidence of Pakistan being responsible for the Satyam fraud, and called upon Pakistan to behave responsibly and end financial terrorism. Apart from some e-mails to Satyam that originated in Pakistan, other evidence – available exclusively on Crapola – included the fact that there was an entity called PWC in Pakistan as well, which obviously masterminded, aided and abetted this fraud. “We are prepared for any eventuality and have kept all our options open” Mr. Dukhdardjee said, adding that he had spoken to his counterparts in the USA and the UK and pleaded with them to ask Pakistan to stop. “We are disappointed that after 25 years of requesting the USA to tell Pakistan not to trouble us, nothing has been done.” Taking a tough stand, he added, “Our patience is running out. A few more instances like Satyam, and there is a real possibility that we will consider serious action – for instance, multiple press-conferences like this on the same day.”

In view of the Sa-Sa-Satyam affair, security at other high-profile Indian companies has been strengthened. Special Personnel from SEBI, RBI, ICAI and the BSE have been rushed to the spot. The situation is believed to be tense, to be tense, to be tense but under control. The Prime Minister, Mr. MoanMoan Sing, in an impassioned speech to the nation – in which he blinked thrice, cleared his throat twice and actually looked away from the teleprompter on one occasion – said that the government condemned Pakistan’s complicity in this affair, and that they were ready to take the strongest possible measures to ensure that such scams do not come to light again.

Meanwhile, Affair-with-the-Minorities Minister, Mr. I. Wantolay, called the Satyam fraud a sinister attempt at deflecting attention from the Malegaon blasts, and hinted at right-wing Hindu involvement. Goohlayehum Yadav and Bummer Singh supported his theory and called for an, called for an, called for an impartial probe implicating the Hindu right.

Opposition Leader Turdvani called for tougher laws to ensure that there was no repetition of such incidents, though his demand might be infructuous. This demand was quickly supported by ordinary citizens, many of whom called for stricter legislation along the lines of the Fraud Unearthing and Corporate Knavery (Updated Significantly) Act, though saner commentators warned that such acts could only sc-sc-screw us,  the citizens. Charkha.”

Charkha: “Yes, indeed, Turnip. It is very goose-bumpy. The US and UK governments have not really responded to India’s entreaties and have asked India to point fingers only on the basis of incontrovertible proof. In response, the government has decided to plead harder with them.

In related developments, Pakistan has condemned the Satyam fraud, promised full co-operation, denied involvement and called for UN intervention in Kashmir to make sure the root causes of corporate fraud could be addressed. When we come back after the break, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif and Rakhi Sawant tell us what they think went wrong with Satyam. Don’t go away!”

I’m still recovering from last night’s ordeal. What ordeal? Well, some ostensibly harmless channel-surfing has scarred me for life. I made the mistake of watching the new Mahabharat on TV. (I know, I know, what was I thinking?!)

There’s just one word to describe that experience. Awful. Actually, let’s add a few more words – abysmal, appalling, abominable.

If you thought the older version was bad, you really ought to see what Ekta’s done. The casting’s terrible, the sets unimpressive, the much-publicised costumes a letdown, the dialogues poor, the special effects tacky, the background sound (can’t dignify it by using the word music) grating, the attempts at humour tragically bad, the direction and editing equally poor and the actors – well, the actors just ham and ham and then ham some more. Yes, this series is a hamsome piece of work.

Ok. Let’s see. Surely I can find one – just one – good thing to say about her magnum opus. And, after much reflection, I can. The saving grace is that it’s only 30 minutes long.

But is that really such a revelation? Surely, anyone with half a brain (I realise I’ve left myself wide open here!) would’ve expected Ekta to stick to what she knows best.

Perhaps what I was expecting was something along the lines of Mrityunjay, an elegant, minimalist version of Karna’s story as told by Chandraprakash Dwivedi. It was on DD many years ago, and as was DD’s wont in those days, anything good was yanked off the air in a few weeks. (Krishi Darshan and Pragati Ki Ore, on the other hand, went on for ever!) So it was with Mrityunjay. Another series that depicted Ancient India beautifully – and by that I mean in visual terms – was Bharat Ek Khoj.

But of course, that was before good ol’ Rupert and his henchmen unleashed Ekta on the unsuspecting Indian audience, and changed India forever.

I haven’t had the courage to check out Ramayan yet, but going by the copious amounts of lipstick the male actors use while smiling beatifically down at us from billboards, I suppose it’s just as well I gave it a miss.

I wonder if Krishi Darshan’s still on.

I picked up Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions last week and just finished reading it. It’s been written by Smita Jain (she’s a fellow blogger on WordPress), and is about a hysterical television soap writer who gets blocked, decides to spy on people for inspiration and witnesses a murder. Except the murderer has seen her, and the cops think she may have done it.

It was a good read, though it got slow in parts during the third chapter. But then the pace picked up again and didn’t really flag after that.

What I liked about the book was that it is a spoof on the Indian film and television scene – all the K serials – and the convoluted, filmy plots that the protagonist comes up with are really funny. It’s very satirical and irreverent, and for me that’s always a good thing. The other nice feature is that you can sense a lot of care has gone into the crafting of the murder and its solution. It’s an intelligently plotted whodunit, even as it is a twisted homage to India’s obsession with the K-people (who I think are actually aliens, since they don’t resemble any man, woman or beast I know.) The boring bit was the whole romance angle – that was predictable, since you know that the duo that can’t stand each other has to end up in bed!

For those so inclined, there is some kinky role-play sex thrown in!

All in all, a good racy read. Paisa vasool.