Two weeks ago, the Hindustan Times had an interview of Arun Jaitley, in which he made this depressing statement:
Shouldn’t the taxmen have some idea about the correlation between your income and expenditure or the correlation between your income and lifestyle?
As far as I’m concerned, no they bloody shouldn’t. Accepting reluctantly that I do have to fork over about a quarter of my income in order to provide for my government’s questionable expenditure choices (an airline? really?), I draw the line at said government also demanding to know the complete details of my lifestyle on threat of financial penalty. Is nothing private? Can I no longer buy web hosting, Cities: Skylines, or The Princess Diaries XI: Royal Wedding without Jaitley poking his greasy nose into the affair? Moreover, if there is already sales tax and service tax, why do the taxmen give a damn about the correlation between income and expenditure? And as long as I pay everything on time and accurately, why is my lifestyle under suspicion from the get go?
This excessive preoccupation with other people’s lifestyles reminds me of the story of how my grandfather disliked Jammu.
My grandfather was a great man who climbed out of poverty thrice. The reason once wasn’t enough is that the first time he did it, Partition pushed him back into destitution, and the second time he did it, his sleazy younger brother pushed him back into poverty. But he kept going, like Chumbawumba.
On his third climb out of poverty, he was living in Jammu and running a small business, which had its office not too far away from his home. So rather than pack a lunch box, he would walk home every day for lunch, and then walk back to work.
One day, on his walk home, he was accosted by a stranger who told him enthusiastically, “Dharam Swarup ji, the matar pulao at your home smells excellent!”
He himself hadn’t know what was being made for lunch, but a stranger did (even if the reason for this was the prominent aroma of Jammu rice). He didn’t have any clue who the stranger was, but the stranger knew who he was. And this complete stranger had no compunctions about accosting him on the road.
Eventually my grandfather moved to Delhi, and as he was a great man, made sure that he brought all his relatives along with him. And for many years to come, he told these relatives (who then told me) this story to explain how rotten Jammu was, and how it was full of busybodies who kept sticking their noses into other people’s business (and kitchen windows).
Presumably this is not merely a Jammu problem, but an Indian small town problem. Which would explain why Arun Jaitley, despite having left his small town forty years ago to study, practice law, and practice politics in Delhi, is still obsessively peering into other people’s lifestyles. Woe.