Vinod Mehta’s Doodles

Exclusive. Our columnist gets his hands on what Vinod Mehta doodles during edit meets with the PM.

WrittenBy:Anand Ranganathan
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Hello, dear readers. This is your favourite uncle Rangarajan offering his jasmine-scented greetings without any excitement or exclamation. Why so uncle, you ask? Well, let me tell you youngsters a thing or two about Stockholm Syndrome. This week has been one of the most painful in my life. A new government is certain to come. I do not know who will be our next Minister of Culture – Hema Malini-ji or Uma Bharathi-ji. Lord have mercy upon your uncle’s soul if it is the latter. My good friend Paliniappan from the Sports ministry had told me once what a hard taskmaster Ms Bharathi was when she was the Sports Minister in the NDA government, of how she went piggy-back riding during the annual sports day steeplechase event, egging the exhausted steeplechaser unfortunate enough to be carrying her with “One more push!” “One more push!”

I’m telling you, dear readers, if Ms Bharathi becomes the Culture Minister, I’ll have no option but to seek VRS, something that Vaijanthi is most enthusiastic about. Ever since this Kejriwal fellow started to flex his 31-inch chest, your aunty is expressing herself more and more regularly. “Learn from him, Rangarajan!”, she tells me every evening. “Kejriwal has quit so many jobs, he must be getting his VRS from so many quarters, no? Just imagine if you had taken up 10 jobs and quit all of them, we’d be rolling in VRSs. But no – no one listens to Vaijanthi around here!”

Dear readers, your aunt’s scolding notwithstanding, the one person I always listen to is my boss, the Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari-ji. Last Friday she called me into her office. Her mood was sombre when I knocked and entered.

“Come in, Rangarajan”, she said, cradling a 17th century miniature painting in her hands. “So”, she added with a wry smile, “it all comes to an end”.

“No, no, madam”, I said choking with emotion. “Please don’t say like that. Your rule has been so memorable. Especially that last memo.”

“O, ha-ha, you’re funny, Ranga. I’ll miss you; I’ll miss my staff. They’ve been so kind and loving to me. Ram Khilawan!”, boss shouted suddenly, “how many times do I have to tell you to place the spittoon by my revolving chair! Useless cretin”.

Ram Khilawan crept forward and did the needful. As he was slipping past, the rascal pinched my upper arm and whispered: “Ab ki baar, Modi sarkar.”

Lord Ayappa! What was this world coming to?

“Madam”, I said as I watched her delve into the spittoon. “Madam, you called for me?”

“Yes. I need your help and it is quite urgent or I’ll be in a real soup. The wretched CAG has written our ministry a letter. Here, read it – what a stinker.”

Madam passed me the letter and I brought it close to my nose. Lord knows there was no stink.

Anyway, here it is:

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I placed the letter gently on madam’s table. So this is why madam was clearing her office and removing all these miniature paintings from the walls! I cleared my throat.

“Er, this is quite urgent, madam.”

“You said it, Rangarajan, you said it.”

I looked around. There was no one else in the room. “I did say it, madam”, I said, acknowledging my utterance.

“The new government is at our doorstep. It will be a calamity if the press gets a whiff of this letter. You know me, Rangarajan, my boy-”

“Yes, mother.”

“You know me. The orders were from above – what was I supposed to do? All these editors had to be placated with choicest artefacts of their liking or the government would’ve fallen, I was told.”

“Yes, madam”, I concurred, “we can safely say that emptying out the National Museum was in national interest.”

“That’s so well put, Ranga”, beamed the boss. “I’ll be sorry to be leaving your company.”

By the omnipotent thunder of Balaji, I wouldn’t deny that tear drops had started to form at the corners of my eyes. For all those who’ve never been to Stockholm, this is what is called Stockholm syndrome.

“Don’t cry, Rangarajan”, said boss, “you’ve got work to do!”

“Y-yes, madam”, I said, holding back jackfruit-sized tear drops.

“Now listen up. You need to visit the farmhouses and Lutyens’ bungalows of all these editors and take back our cultural relics without delay.”

“But, madam”, I said, “why would they simply hand them over to me? They’ll shout at me and throw me out and you know that.”

“I do”, said boss matter-of-factly. “A month ago when I’d dispatched Dhingra to Shekhar’s farmhouse for retrieving a Jamini, he let loose his Golden Retrievers at Dhingra. Poor Dhingra went walking and talking all the way to Safdarjung hospital.”

“Oh my bountiful lord!” I said, petrified.

“And you don’t want to know what Sagarika did to our Trivedi when he went to seize the Imperial Easter egg that Brezhnev had gifted Indira-ji.”

“No, madam, I don’t” I said. The same Paliniappan had told me of Ms Ghose’s army of Labradors that guard her palace 24X7.

“But don’t worry. I have a cunning plan. All these editors will fall in line if one man accompanies you.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Vinod Mehta.”

“Oh! But doesn’t he also have a few artefacts? I remember Galgotia once delivered the Harappan vase to Mr Mehta’s house in Nizamuddin…”

“He does, he does,” said Ms Kumari, “but it’s much easier to break a surahi and make it look like a Harappan vase than it is to paint fake Husains and SherGils. The paintings and t
he ornamental jewellery are what we’re really after, Ranga. Vases are kosher.”

“Yes, madam.”

“Off you go now. And tell Tippy how urgently Chandy needs his help, alright?”

“Er, yes.”

“That reminds me – how the devil are we going to get that bronze Manu bust from Aakar Patel? God damn it! That bust alone was worth 19 anti-Modi articles. If we force Aakar to part with his beloved Manu, he might extract revenge by writing 19 pro-Modi pieces!”

“Point, madam.”

“Anyway, let me brood over it. Dismissed.”

It was nearing 9 o’clock by the time I reached Mr Mehta’s bungalow in Nizamuddin. I rang the bell. Nothing happened. I kept the bell pressed for a good minute. Total silence. I shouted “Mr Editor? Mr Editor!” hoping for a response. The next instant, it was as though a large furry tsunami had swept me off my feet! Lord only knows how I escaped getting mauled by this loathsome polar bear of a dog. Thankfully, a voice commanded him to reign in his primeval urges or your uncle would’ve been dog meat.

“Come here, boy!” rang the voice, “Down, boy, down.”

The monster took heed and parted company with my trembling leg.

“Who is it?” asked the same voice.

“Er, is that Mr Mehta?”

“Yes. Who is that – Arnab?”

“Myself Rangarajan from the Ministry of Culture, sir.”

“Well, whoever you are, come in.”

I ventured in. The beast was scrubbing its neck against his master’s leg.

“Stop it, Editor!” ordered Mr Mehta.

By the whiskers of Lambodar’s carrier! So the dog’s name was Editor! I didn’t have enough time to work out which newspaper had this canine been editing all these years as at that moment Mr Mehta gestured for me to take a seat.

“That’s me with all the world leaders, most of them now dead,” he said pointing to the wall opposite adorned with a hundred framed photographs.

“Er, very nice, sir.”

“Anyway, why are you here? Don’t you know it is nearly super primetime and I can be linked in to Arnab any moment? Times Now crew are in the other room setting the camera up.”

And with that Mr Mehta started to move his hand in a clockwise direction. It was hypnotic, the movement of the hand, like a sudarshan charka spinning ominously.

“What are you looking at?”

“N-nothing, sir.”


“My boss, Smt Chandresh Kumari – Chandy for you, sir – has sent me to ask you to accompany me with due consideration on an urgent mission that should ideally start from this very moment.”

“What kind of English is this?” said Mr Mehta. “Now let me see…Rangarajan…Ranga…did you ever write for Outlook?”

“No, sir.”

“Get to the point. What mission?”

I showed Mr Mehta the CAG letter.

“Holy mother of Rahul Gandhi!” he exclaimed after he had perused it.

“Sir, we need to start at once”, I said. “The closest bungalow from here is of Mr Sardesai’s. We need the Mohenjodaro Dancing girl from him.”

“Yes….yes, we do…yes…”

It appeared to me that Mr Mehta was lost in deep thought. I was wondering what might he be up to when suddenly the Times Now crew burst in and without any further ado linked him on to Arnab. It was a shock, the speed with which this transpired. I was asked by the cameraman to hide behind the sofa.

“Ah, Mr Mehta!” I could hear Arnab’s shrill voice even from this distance. “Ah, Mr Mehta. I see that your hand is rotating clockwise. This usually means you have some important news to share with us.”

“I do, Arnab,” said Mr Mehta and then in the same instant looked around and spotted me. “Hey, you!” he said to me, “come out!”

I had no choice but to emerge from my hiding.

Mr Mehta held me by my wrist and exhibited me to the nation. “This is Rangarajan, Arnab.”

And just like that, dear readers, I found myself on national television. I waved sheepishly.

“Through him,” continued Mr Mehta, “I’ve got to know that as many as 40 editors have been exhibiting rare Indian artefacts in their living rooms. Look at this CAG letter!”

By the malevolent lightning strike of Karthikeyan! What had Mr Mehta done?! I looked around for an escape passage but his grip was really strong – all that malt, I guess. I tried to purloin the letter from him but it was too late.

Meanwhile, Arnab was shouting uncontrollably. “Ladies and Gentlemen! Times Now has exposed yet another scam! And this is bigger than the coal scam! Breaking right now…breaking…Rajdeep and Karan exhibit artefacts instead of facts. Ladies and gentlemen…breaking…breaking…”

I don’t need to tell you, dear readers, what happened after that. What broke, in addition to the news, was my boss’ heart, and I had contributed in no small measure towards it. I had no option but to apply for a VRS. Now I await the clearance of my papers. Meanwhile, in revenge, I upload Mr Mehta’s doodle that he drew at the Prime Minister’s Editor’s meet. Here it is:

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There you have it, dear readers. Your uncle will no longer be able to serve his country. As soon as the VRS papers come through, I have plans for a family holiday, to Timbuktu, where, as Ms Kumari assures me, Mr Vinod Mehta is going to be residing. May the great lord give me strength to restrain my basest emotions on the off chance that I bump into him in Timbuktu.

The author can be contacted at and on Twitter @ARangarajan1972


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