Amma Malini, the editor of Nu Woman was sitting with her Deputy Editor Usha Presswala. They had also invited Garam Paaji to the meeting.
 
"Usha, it is more than three years since the launch of Nu Woman and it still hasn't taken off," Amma said.
 
"Yes, Amma, I know. It is mainly because of the competition from Femina, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Savvy."
 
"We should do something about it," Amma said.
 
"Should I go and bash up the 'kutta kamina' hawkers who distribute these magazines," Garam Paaji shouted and getting up started flexing his biceps.
 
"Now, now, Garamji, there is no need for getting so garam," Amma said patting him on his back.
 
"Actually Amma, I have a brilliant idea," Usha said.
 
"What is it?"
 
"You know, the secret of success of our biggest rival Femina is the Miss India contest. I think we should also organise one."
 
"But then we would also end up imitating Femina just as Rekha and Zeenat Amaan used to ape me in Follywood."
 
"No, no. Our contest would be different. Miss India pageant is supposed to be to select a 'woman of substance'. But that's all balderdash. All they are measuring are the physical attributes - 36-24-36 or rather 24-12-24. Our contest, which we will call Srimati Bharat will judge the true worth of the contestants - their inner beauty, their emotional intelligence, their contribution to the society, et al."
 
"But how will that help us?"
 
"This will give our magazine terrific publicity as well as respectability. Please take my word, the sales will really zoom and soon Nu Woman will be numero uno."
 
Amma chewed her perfectly shaped lower lip for some time and then declared, "I think it is a good idea. Let us get started."

***

Six months, six days and six hours later the Srimati Bharat contest got off to a splendid start in the Priyanka Saadra stadium in New Delhi.
 
The compere was the most visible face of Indian TV - Shaker Sewman.
 
"Ladies and Gentleman after going through 21 gruelling rounds we have come to the final stage - the Q&A round. We have an expert panel of judges who will ask the questions. As I call out their names I request you to add to the canned applause by clapping your hands as loud as you can. Here are the names - Robert Saadra, the son-in-law of the nation, Laddoo Yadav, the Badshah of Behaal, India's most prosperous state, Macbull Fida Hussain the Messiah of Modern Art and Prannoy Coy, the great Indian Psephologist."
 
After the canned and the uncanned applause had died down, Shaker announced, "I now welcome the first contestant, Sonia - the Sphinx of the nation. As per the draw of lots she will face questions from Robert Saadra.
 
"Sasu Maa how would you like to define yourself?"
 
"Gandhi ghar ki bahu."
 
"What was the most memorable moment of your life?"
 
"When my dearest mummyji, gave up her dearest life in my dearest...I mean in my lap."
 
"What is your favourite proverb?"
 
"When in India do as the Romans do."
 
"Which is your favourite movie?"
 
"Roman Holiday."
 
"What about your favourite Hindi movie?
 
"Main chup rahoongi."
 
"But Sasu Maa, why are you reading all the answers from a paper?"
 
"When I can read my campaign speeches as well the speeches I make in Parliament from a paper, why can't I do the same thing here?"
 
There was a burst of applause and she walked away.
 
A portly figure clad in black, with a yellow cape around her massive shoulders, entered. It was Jaylolita the empress of Idlypuram. She was followed by three of her cut-outs. As soon as she sat down on a specially designed sofa several of her fans stormed the stage and threw themselves at her feet. She touched their foreheads with the big toe of her left foot and they left delighted at this unexpected benediction.
 
It was Ladoo Yadav's turn to ask the questions.
 
"Lolita, in the next elections why don't we forge an alliance. After all we have so much in common. You are facing almost as many corruption charges as I am. Sonia has been flirting with you as well as with me."
 
"I think it is a good idea. We can call it the National Corruption Alliance or the NCA. We can invite other experts in the field like Sukhram, Chautala, Harshad etc. Very soon our party will have even more members than even the NDA and we can rule the country."
 
"E..er...respected Contestant and most respected Judge, I think what is in progress is a contest and not a forum for signing bipartite agreements. If it is not too much of a trouble can we begin the Q&A session," Shaker reminded.
 
"Yes, ofcourse," Laddoo said the sarcasm totally lost on him. "Lolita what are your three favourite words?"
 
"I, me and myself."
 
"Have you ever had an affair?"
 
"Of course. I have been having an endless affair with myself for the last so many years."
 
"What is your ambition?"
 
"To rule India like an empress for as long as possible."
 
There was a roar from her supporters and twenty odd lungi clad gents rushed to the stage and fell at her feet. She stepped over them and walked away with a swish of her cape to the cries of 'Long live Puratchi Thalaivi." The next contestant was Malai Devi, the Maharani of Behaal. As per the draw of lots Prannoy Coy was to ask the questions.
 
"Malaiji, people say you consult Laddooji for everything."
 
"Of course I don't," snapped Malai and turning towards Laddoo asked, "Do I swami, do I?"
 
Laddoo shook his head and glared at Prannoy.
 
"Laddooji had declared that he would make the roads of Behaal as smooth as Amma Malini's cheeks but they look more like Om Puri's face?"
 
Malai looked helplessly at Laddoo who mutttered under his breath to Prannoy, "You, gadha, if you ask any difficult questions, I'll set the entire Yadav clan after you. They'll chop you into bits and scatter the pieces in such areas where even your SCAR news team won't be able to reach."
 
Prannoy's beard turned white and he stammered, "M...Malaiji, what is the capital of Behaal?"
 
"P....Pati na....Patni...na..." Malai stopped and closed her eyes. She emerged from her trance full two minutes later and announced triumphantly, "Patna."
 
"Wah, Malai, wah!" Laddoo cheered and Malai bowed.
 
"If you win the Srimati Bharat title what will you do?"
 
"I would go on a fast unto death demanding that my Swami be named Srimaan Bharat, my nine patakhas be crowned Munni Bharat and Munna Bharat and my Jamai Raja 'Damaad e Bharat.
 
"Bheri good, bheri good," yelled Laddoo and Malai promptly touched his feet and walked away.
 
"Gentleman and Ladies, we now welcome the fourth and final contestant and she is none other than Madari Fixit sorry Madari Le Le or is it De De...."
 
"Ne Ne, you stupid," whispered some one.
 
"I..I am sorry please welcome the one and only Mrs.Madari Ne Ne and asking her questions will be the great Mac Bull Hussain."
 
"Madari da'ling how could you do this to me?"
 
"Do what da'ling? I never did anything to you nor allowed you to do anything to me."
 
"What I mean is how could you marry whatsisname? I can't imagine you going around with a name like Mrs. Madari Ne Ne for the rest of your life. How silly it sounds!"
 
"I feel perfectly comfortable. Throughout my life I have been warding off advances from young, middle aged, as well as old rakes like you by mumbling no, no, na, na - well ne ne is only a logical extension."
 
"But dearest you could have at least waited for the release of our magnum opus Gajagamini? Who is going to watch my film now? In Bharat, you know, no one has ever fantasised about a married woman except rascals like Ravana and Duryodhana."
 
"I am sorry da'ling, but at the rate my films were flopping I was scared even Ne Ne might say na na and ga ga ...sorry go..go away."
 
"May I interrupt this tete e tete and request you to start the Q&A session," Shaker said.
 
"Why not? I am more than willing to have a session with her anytime?"
 
"Oh! Come on Macbull, naughty boy. At least stop flirting now?"
 
"Madari dear, what is your first priority now?"
 
"To reveal to my Ne Ne - 'choli ke peechey kyay hai, choli key peechey."
 
"Wow, I really envy Ne Ne. Achha, what is your ambition?"
 
"To have half a dozen small Ne Nes. When they grow up I'll make a multistarrer in which my entire family will be cast. I will call it 'Hum Aath Aath Hain."
 
"Now, my Gajagamini, please dance to your favourite number."
 
In a jiffy Madari slipped out of the gown she was wearing to reveal an itsy bitsy bikini. She started dancing to the tune of her immortal hit while singing this sublime lyric:
 
        'O mere doctor bano na tum compounder
 
        Injection de do, pyaar le lo...'
 
There was a deafening applause as Madari danced away.
"With this we come to the end of the contest. While we wait for the honourable judges to announce the results let us take a short break."
 
As the audience waited with bated breath loud voices could be heard emanating from the direction in which the judges were seated. The voices grew louder and soon sounds, the like of which one hears in reel 17 of a Hindi potboiler when the hero is single handedly bashing up three and half dozen villains, with one arm tied behind his back, could be heard.
 
A few minutes later Garam Paaji stormed on to the stage. His shirt sleeves were torn, his trousers had gaping holes and his hair looked as if a lawn mower had been let loose on it.
 
"Ramgarh ke vaasiyon," he slurred, "These judges are all biased. Each one wants to give the crown to his wife, or girl friend or saasu. But there is only one woman who is fit to be Sri...Srimati Bharat and that is my Dhanno...oops... I mean my Basanti, my dream girl - Amma Malini. If anyone has a doubt he can come and challenge me. Main uska khoon pee jaaonga."
 
Laddooji, Macbull, Prannoy and Sadra trooped onto the stage and whimpered, "We agree...We agree."
 
Garam Paaji glared at Shaker and snapped his fingers.
 
"Y..yes, Paaji. Ladies and Gentleman as per the unanimous, unbiased and spontaneous decision of the judges the winner of the Srimati Bharat competition is none other than Garam Paaji's Soni Kudi Amma Malini."
 
There was a deafening applause and as Amma Malini got ready to move on to the stage Usha whispered, "But Amma what will happen to the credibility of Nu Woman? You are the organiser and you are winning the contest."
 
"I can't help it if all the judges decide in my favour can I? And moreover, I've decided no more editorship and all that bull manure for me. I'll now get into politics. All along I thought politics needed brains but after listening to these politicians I decided it doesn't need anything but brawn, a thick hide and loads of luck. I have with me Garam Paaji's brawn. After having survived for so long in the film industry my skin has become suitable thick. And lady luck has always been on my side. So politics here I come...." With these immortal words Amma Malini strode on to the stage to accept the title of Srimati Bharat from He Man Garam Dharam."

 

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