The Great Soul had to his credit the freedom struggle of undivided India, an anti-imperialist project launched and pursued in nothing but a loin cloth and a danda. When the danda did not support the few kilos of lean meat attached to the spare frame of the Great Soul, a few of his female followers propped up Gandhi Ji on his many marches across India, vowing to liberate the Desh from the Colonialist, aspiring to achieve everything swadeshi, including self-rule. Leading crowds of thousands, inspiring millions, Mahatama Gandhi set into motion a series of events which were hard acts to follow. For it is not everyday that the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire is wrested away from three centuries of imperialist exploitation. Indeed, on the Richter scale of Earth-Shaking Movements, the Indian struggle for liberation and self-rule exceeds a ten given the scale of the project, and the historical connotations. A small, thin, balding man who often waved his finger in the grim faces of his firangifoes, embarrassing them no end by sitting cross-legged on the floor in nothing but his home-spun loin cloth, causing their stiff upper lips to become thin lines of contempt, the Mahatama was a Great Soul indeed.

Sixty-five years later, born to humble iron-mongers in an even more humble adobe abode, a young man who later grew up to be a youngish old man, was crowned the Lion King. Amidst much celebration, confabulation, commotion, and certification, this Man of Action, adored by minions and civil servants familiar with the tail-end of the Wagging Finger, was elevated to the exalted position of the King of Lions. Accompanied by a captive Bengal Tiger, erroneously referred to as a Lion, the King has recently entered history with achievements which would make the Mahatama want to renounce his loin cloth for a pair of loose baggy pants which conceal more than they reveal. Amongst the Lion King’s recent tour de force was the listing of, in the Guinness Book of World Records, the creation of the world’s largest flag, beating the previous record held by none other than the Mahatama’s India. The world’s largest flag was carried aloft by the eager hands of 24,200 students, all keen to show the world the stuff we are made of. And stuff it was:a green and white spectacle which ensured that this was a flag to contend with.

To provide the background for this unprecedented spectacle of supreme significance, the national anthem was to be sung by 180,000 students who had trained for this singular honour night and day, rehearsing in front of the mirrors of their respective homes, desirous of bringing national fame to their hard-working parents for whom putting a meal on the table occupies most of their time. A total of 180,000 plastic chairs were neatly placed in the huge stadium where this event was to be held, just in case the participants of the Jubilant Jamboree needed to rest before or after the collective feat of singing the national anthem. Clearly the chairs could not have served any other purpose since national anthems are never sung supine or seated. Perhaps the King of Lions has diversified his industry and has added the molding of plastic furniture to his long list of accomplishments, amongst which are the cutting of healthy trees along the canal, the building of a network of roads which would make the world’s greatest maze-negotiator champion salivate, and the running of the JanglaBus at the real cost of Rs.100 per trip, paid to the operators from funds which are coming out of a budget which could have served the subjects of the Lion King had they been put to use in the provision of health and education and meaningful jobs. Sadly, for the officials of the Guinness Book of World Records, the national anthem was never sung since the event was deemed to pose too much of a risk for the able custodians of citizen’s safety. Such was the sad end of a spectacle designed to over-awe the enemies of the King of the Jungle, the Lion of the Punjab, the Land of the Four and a Half Rivers, now that the great Ravi is nothing more than a sewer. A feat which required the sonorous strength of 180,000 young voices raised in unison, full of sound and fury, signifying something, was scuttled by concerns for their safety.

In the interest of further galvanising the spirit of Punjab’s Youth, we expect more such spectacles, outdoing even the Romans throwing hapless Christians to African Lions in the Coliseum. Clearly we have an advantage over the Romans, considering that the striped creature which serves as an escort and a mascot of the Lion King, despite being protected by law from public exhibition, is a ferocious toiger, not an ageing loin.

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