Fumbling Tumbling Into 2020 Like A Rolling Stone

Raman Swamy

India not only has the largest youth population in the world but the last two years have also seen a mobile revolution with the flood of affordable smartphones and the lowest data rates on earth.   Predictably, the interest in digital games and online sports has sky-rocketed.  

Such is the excitement among investors that big players like Alibaba, Youzu, Tencent and Nazara are already investing heavily in India’s mobile gaming sector, which is forecast to have a market value of over 400 US dollars by 2022.  

What attracts youngsters to online gaming is probably the sheer range of emotions, from ecstasy to frustration, of competing against a highly skilled non-human opponent.  It is an irresistible lure that can turn into an addiction with many psychiatrists warning that gaming obsession is a form of escapism from the real world into fantasy-land. 

But for most students and young nerds, it is just fun – which they feel adults are incapable of understanding.

However, what young India has probably not noticed is that their elders in public life have been playing political video games for years. 

All one has to do is take a look at what India’s ruling class has been doing all of the year gone by.  Every single party has in the last 12 months experienced more highs and lows than any gaming console can ever offer - and it is hard, cold reality from which there is no escape. 

Seven months ago, the BJP was delirious with joy, having won the biggest election in partisan memory.  The Leader was Right, the Future was Bright.  Nothing could possibly go wrong.  The Opposition had been squashed and reduced to pulp.  From here onwards it would be up, up and away - at the Centre, in the States and all over the Diaspora-inhabited planet.

Yet, today, at the dawn of what ought to have been the best and most ecstatic of new year’s, nobody more agonized, anguished, baffled than the average BJP MLA, ex-MLA or karyakarta. What happened?  Nobody knows.  None can explain.   The exhilarating game of governance has turned into a fumble-stumble-bungle-game, a virtual wide-awake nightmare. 

The Opposition pulp has miraculously turned into tangy fruit juice, which the public seems to be getting a taste for.  In State after State, voters have stopped buying into the fantasy promises of the visionary Leader and are instead showing their preference for tried and tested so-called failures of the past. 

All around, the roads are littered with broken promises, shattered teargas shells.  Urban youth are even abandoning studies and online gaming pursuits and marching through the streets chanting catchy slogans, holding aloft pungent posters, braving the winter chill and the sting of police lathis and bullets. 

This can’t be happening.  How can sure winners suddenly start looking like sore losers within such a short span of time – from May 2019 to December 2019?  How could hopes of achche din evaporate so quickly?  Now, whichever side you look, there is nothing but defiance and distrust and disgust.   

The economy has suffered a tyre puncture. No stepney is available. Nobody in the Union Cabinet knows how to get the vehicle moving again – or whether it will ever move again.  But the wheel of fortune keeps turning and there’s no telling who will be up or down.   

As 2020 dawns, it is beginning to look very much like one of those new genres of online gaming – the Fumble core game.  There is one called QWOP, which is particularly and excruciatingly frustrating. It seems like such a simple game – all you have to do is run. Like running a government shouldn’t be that hard - especially with 300 MPs on your side of the aisle. Even a child could do it.  

But that is the quirky magic of QWOP.  It turns out to be tougher than it seems.  To keep running you are allowed to use the Q, W, O and P keys to control the legs of an Olympic athlete.  As easy as passing a Bill through Parliament with a resounding Aye.   

But in actual practice it it’s a lot more complicated than that.  The keyboard controls are tricky and awkward.  You try to step high but you fall back with a thud.  After a while, because of the fall, you actually start going backward. 

Worse, all sorts of strangers and political has-beens start crowding around you, laughing like hyenas, baying for your blood, restricting your movements, cramping your style and making it even more difficult to hit the Q, W, O and P keys in the right sequence.

Running a country is not child’s play.  Nor is it just a video game pastime.  Governance is a game that is designed to make you fail – unless you have the basic skills. 

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Jan 2, 2020

Raman Swamy

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