Lakhi Parshad, Member of Parliament by Meenakshi Jauhari Chawla

‘Outstanding Parliamentarian award for 2009 to Lakhi Parshad, MP from Bichupur, West Bengal, who has made an outstanding contribution to the working of the Lok Sabha by facilitating the live streaming of Parliament proceedings on the Internet.....’


The citation was long, the praise fulsome, and Lakhi Parshad revelled in it. He bowed low before the President as he accepted the scroll of honour and smiled for the television cameras and YouTube. He felt elated, important – almost as if he really had done something outstanding.




‘Māma, you are on the YouTube!’ The disembodied voice shouted excitedly in his ear.


 ‘What do you mean?’ he asked.


A squint at the watch showed him it was 7 am. He groaned. Young people these days were glued to the internet night and day. Didn’t they have a life? This nephew, his late sister’s son, was constantly at his laptop – he often forgot to carry his wallet, but the laptop, never! Why, the other day, when a friend had borrowed that laptop, he had come over to Lakhi Parshad’s office in the Party headquarters to work on the office computer. ‘Just for a half hour, Māma. And no, I will not look at any confidential information. I have to only update my blog and record a poem for the online mushaira...’ Online mushaira? That was a new one.


Lakhi Parshad did not really care what the fellow did – as long as nothing was disturbed and Dulal, his long-time secretary was not annoyed. Dulal had been by his side even when he was campaigning for the Lok Sabha election and when briefly, he had been sidelined by his party. Lakhi Parshad trusted him, perhaps even feared him a little, and that was because Dulal knew Lakhi Parshad from the inside out. He could divine Lakhi Parshad’s thoughts even before Lakhi Parshad could himself think them, and Lakhi Parshad could pretend all he liked with other people – not with Dulal. Lakhi Parshad often thought of Dulal as an x-ray machine, especially calibrated to read Lakhi Parshad’s every nerve and cell. And Lakhi Parshad could not do without this x-ray machine. Nothing ever perturbed Dulal – nothing surprised him or caused him great happiness or sorrow – everything was ‘manageable’, in his lukewarm words. Even when something worried him very much, and Lakhi Parshad knew that was so when Dulal took off his glasses and mopped at his forehead in a certain way, Dulal would find a way out eventually. He would pace up and down silently, mop his forehead in that typical way as if working the creases in his forehead to find a solution, and then, at long last, ask for a glass of water. That was the sign Dulal’s keen-edged brain had dismantled the crisis into its nuts and bolts and assembled the best solution. Lakhi Parshad, often in the eye of storms small and big, would resume breathing once Dulal asked for that glass of water. He knew then he would reach the shore.


‘It’s interesting!’ the nephew’s voice reminded him this Sunday morning.


‘What?’ Lakhi Parshad asked, distinctly irritable now.


‘What you are doing!’ followed by a chuckle.


There was a pause – a sound of indrawn breath – and then the call was disconnected.




‘Dulal, can you come over?’


Dulal heard the desperation in Lakhi Parshad’s voice. Not unusual. Lakhi Parshad was an old flawed friend, and for Dulal, somebody constantly needing to be rescued from himself. Dulal often wondered why he had stuck with Lakhi Parshad through the years. He had not married, and his only interests in life were reading the newspapers and watching old films. But managing Lakhi Parshad’s career was a time-consuming affair. Often he ended up sleeping on his living room sofa before the television, too tired to walk to the bedroom. As Lakhi Parshad’s voice trickled in weakly through his Blackberry, Dulal wondered, again, why he continued to man the MP’s anteroom.


‘What is it?’ Dulal asked, ‘I have just awakened and this is my first cup of tea.’


‘Please,’ Lakhi Parshad pleaded, ‘come immediately. You can have breakfast here with me. This is a real emergency, Dulal. I need you.’


In an unexpected flash, Dulal got his answer. He had remained with Lakhi Parshad because Lakhi Parshad needed him in a way nobody else did.


Within the hour, Dulal was having breakfast with Lakhi Parshad – the Sunday staple, aloo parathas and curd. Lakhi Parshad had met him at the door, dead man walking. Before even Dulal could settle down, the words had come pouring out.


‘In the ante-room ... Babita had come ... it all happened quickly ... the webcam had been left on by that rascal, Amit ... who, Amit?... my nephew, Amit, that rascal ... YouTube, and ... I will be expelled....'


Lakhi Parshad was shaken up – and Dulal did not need his x-ray vision to see it.


Now, as the servant gave him a second wonderfully rich paratha, Dulal looked at Lakhi Parshad and asked in a bemused tone, almost to himself. ‘Now, what did that Babita see in you?’


Lakhi Parshad smiled weakly. ‘Dulal, I did not plan it. I swear.’


Lakhi Parshad thought of Babita. She was the secretary of the Bonsai Society and had first come to his office about two months ago. Trespassers had overrun her ancestral house – a sprawling property worth crores – and she wanted his help in regaining control of it. More than her face, Lakhi Parshad remembered what he had felt on seeing her – a vague feeling of respect. She did not beg him for help, she did not bow or scrape. She simply asked him if he could use his influence in evicting the goons. Lakhi Parshad agreed to look into the matter. It was, after all, his mandate to help the people of his constituency. Thus began regular meetings between Lakhi Parshad and Babita.


Dulal was watching the shadows crisscrossing the troubled visage and asked, ‘She was the one with the blue sari in your office that day when I had come with the Blackberry liaison officer, right?’


Lakhi Parshad thought for a moment – it seemed like a long time ago. ‘Yes, yes, that was her.’ He remembered the day because it had been a Tuesday – his fasting day and he wanted to get away from work around noon so he could rest a while. Babita had come in and before he could finish with her, Dulal had brought the Blackberry liaison person, a large florid man with a too-broad smile and too many words. Babita seemed like a comely champa flower in comparison. As she waited in the chair at the back, his eyes kept wandering in her direction.


Dulal, ever the practical man of the moment, wiped his fingers on the napkin and cleared his throat. ‘Ok, so now that you are a celebrity on the web, what needs to be done?’


Lakhi Parshad mumbled, ‘Damn that rascal, Amit. I wish I had never allowed him to use my office computer.’


‘Don’t blame that poor chap for your stupidity.’


Lakhi Parshad was vehement. ‘Why not? If he had not set up that recording thing for his poetry reading – that ... that ... mushaira or whatever ... it would have been all okay.’


Dulal nodded. But already, his mind was at work. He rose from the table and paced back and forth. The spectacles were removed, the forehead wiped and Lakhi Parshad sank in a corner – a heap of misery.


Suddenly the phone jangled and Dulal answered crisply, ‘Lakhi Parshad’s office.’


A momentary silence while the caller said something – Dulal’s reply in a raised voice confirmed Lakhi Parshad’s worst fears. ‘Arre, jao, you media people are always on the lookout for juicy gossip. You have no confirmation it was my MP. How can you tell? It could be an imposter.... Jao, jao, flash it across the TV screen all you want – don’t waste our time.’


Lakhi Parshad sank lower in the sofa and looked steadily at Dulal who glared hard at him and went back to pacing.


After what seemed like an eternity, he stopped. ‘Get me a glass of water.’


Lakhi Parshad heaved a sigh of relief. ‘I will tender my resignation.’ He said hurriedly. ‘I will go back to farming my land in the village....’


‘Shut up Lakhi,’ Dulal snapped. ‘I don’t know why I save you every time. One day I will let you hang!’




'Lakhi Parshad, how could you?’ The Speaker admonished him severely. The Speaker was an old-timer, a respected member of the House and Lakhi Parshad had nothing to say in his defence. ‘Tomorrow,’ the Speaker continued, ‘the opposition will be baying for your resignation. This is unpardonable.’


‘Yes sir, so it is.’ Feebly, he protested, ‘But sir, I do have a private life.’


‘Not when you are in public service,’ the Speaker countered forcefully, ‘and especially not on the internet.’


Lakhi Parshad nodded wordlessly. Dulal looked on silently letting the Speaker vent his ire. ‘Did you see the television yesterday? Every news channel is carrying it. My daughter told me your video on the YouTube was getting more hits than you can imagine. Here we are already battling the issue of corruption,’ he waved his hands indicating the range of issues the Party was battling. ‘And ... you ... you ... this....’


Then Dulal had interrupted, ‘Sir, Lakhi Parshad had a motive for this. His method was wrong, completely, absolutely wrong. But his motive was good.’


‘And what was his motive?’


‘Sir, our Lok Sabha is a chaotic place. Have you watched its proceedings on TV – on the Lok Sabha channel or when the news channels do a rerun during the evening news.’


‘I see it live … every day.’ The Speaker muttered dryly.


‘Yes, yes, indeed.’ Dulal smiled an apology. ‘But you see we can ensure that the MPs behave themselves and that work gets done.’




‘If the MPs knew that the House proceedings were being streamed on the internet live, that they were being watched in action, they would be better behaved. At least shoes and flower pots would not get thrown around....’


The Speaker was silent. Lakhi Parshad was seriously impressed by Dulal and his ability to sell a concept. But Dulal was not finished yet, ‘This is also an excellent source of revenue. Advertisers will line up for internet sites with such high hit rates as this would have and who knows, the Indian Parliament might actually be the first in the world to be an independent profit centre. The MPs could get their 500 percent salary hike without dipping into the taxpayers’ pockets.’ The last sentence was uttered softly.


It did not take long to convince the Speaker. The next day, when the expected storm broke in the House, a senior member of Lakhi Parshad’s party stood up to defend Lakhi Parshad and Lakhi Parshad was let off with a rap on his wrist and a little smile that said, ‘you naughty fella!’




Amit, Lakhi Parshad’s nephew, his late sister’s son, has set up a Facebook page for him – Lakhi Parshad, Member of Parliament. The page attracts a lot of traffic and Lakhi Parshad is giving final touches to his dream of becoming a minister in the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle. Amit plans to appoint himself IT Consultant to Minister Lakhi Parshad for a modest salary of Rs 50,000 a month (or more).


Dulal has bought himself the latest DVD set of Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara and a new LCD television. He wonders who is more suicidal: he to continue as Lakhi Parshad’s secretary or Lakhi Parshad to want to be minister.



Meenakshi Jauhari Chawla trained as a computer engineer but works for an independent publishing house in New Delhi. Her fiction has been published in The Little Magazine and Sahitya Akademi's journal, Indian Literature. Her poems were part of a poetry volume entitled I, Me, Myself (Unisun, Bangalore, 2010) and the The Poetry Society (India) Journal (2010). She lives in Gurgaon..