It’s summertime in a little village in north Kerala and living is as easy as watching red ants build anthills. Fish are jumping and coconuts are high. I am settling into a sort of country life – you know the kind where you cycle to the fish market everyday to buy fresh catch and then line up at the local “beverage store” for a bottle of rum while election campaigners in loud jeeps whizz past you promising a kilo of rice for two rupees. It’s all very simple really, far from the perverse crowds of Delhi… but something’s changed from when I was last here. I have had this funny feeling for a while and it takes me three hungover mornings to finally sink my teeth into the problem – it’s breakfast. The steaming idlis, dosas, appams and puttus have been replaced by the insipid of all cereals – white oats. And it’s an epidemic. TheÂ corner-shopÂ does not stock butter or bread but cans of oats are flying off the shelves faster than my uncle can down a glass full of brandy. Housewives are secretly replacing theirÂ puttu steamers with packets of this bland grain. This is some sort of a revolution and I have stepped right in the middle of it all.
Horrified with this discovery, I do what every self-respecting city slicker does in times of such enlightening moments – update one’s Facebook and Twitter status. Â But what’s this? My favourite bikini model says she’s fighting corruption and supports Anna Hazare – a name I haven’t heard in ages. She has 31 likes and 14 comments from her pretty friends all declaring undying support for Hazare. I google Anna Hazare and notice he’s the latest internet sensation edging out cute babies with lisps and big-breasted Hollywood women who pose naked on magazine covers each time they get pregnant. Hazare is a 73-year-old man who is giving up eating till the Establishment gives up democracy as we know it. He is, as the papers call him, the new youth icon.
I call up my cousin, a strong contender for Mr Kerala this year, to see if he’s got a clue about this siege that’s sweeping the nation. He wonders if Anna Hazare is a Scandinavian bodybuilder. I switch on TV to learn more about the people’s revolution (or Jasmine Revolution as some troll had put it) but the local Malayalam channels are only beamingÂ advertisements of shiny happy families gathering around the breakfast table, eating oats and jumping with joy. The advertisements are on heavy rotation, the smiling faces change but the message remains the same – Eat oats every morning. The state’s first chief minister EMS Namboodiripad may have failed to replace rice with macaroni in Kerala in the 50s, but the advertising brains of today have nailed this one to the wall with a sledgehammer.
I call up one of my friends in Delhi to let him in on this trivia but he tells me that he’s on his way to meet Swami Agnivesh. “WTF?” I yell. “Dude, he’s fighting against corruption and so am I,” says Jeff who regularly pays off cops each time they catch him driving drunk.
Another oats advertisement. This time a toothless kid is screaming out for it. I see the devil in his eyes. My aunt walks in with a bowl of that gummy broth. They’ve got her in this too. I am cornered by capitalist oats lobbyists who will make me a slave to this viscous dough, aÂ brain-deadÂ pawn bereft of the knowledge of a historic revolution happening in his own courtyard that will finally see an end to corruption of all forms.
But they won’t get me. In my tiny hamlet in this remote part of New India, I have finally found a cause to attach myself to. I want my usual breakfast back andÂ I will quit eating till I get this vapid mucilaginousÂ slush replaced with piping hotÂ puttus.
This is my personal battle and I will selfishly fight it alone.
The writer is Consulting Editor with Rolling Stone and guitarist for menwhopause. Follow him on twitter @anupkutty