Are We In a Complicated Relationship with Aadhaar?

n my callow youth, I’ve had many flings. My passport was my first love; I remember holding on to it for dear life as I took my first flight abroad. When I turned 18, my driving licence, my gateway to make all my testosterone-fuelled Fast and Furious dreams come true, came into my life. This was followed by the voter ID card, definitive proof that I was now an adult worthy of electing the esteemed representatives of our country. Soon after I had a short, summer romance with the PAN card (although we were more like friends with benefits)I don’t regret any of these relationships. They all did their bit for me, helped me grow into the person I am today, and I’m still friends with most of them. But they failed to complete me; I couldn’t see them as an integral part of my life. I wanted something more from my partner. And then on a fine winter morning in January 2009, I met Aadhaar.
It was love at first sight. I was awestruck the moment Aadhaar scanned my eyes. She was slender like Aishwarya Rai, had glossy white skin like Yami Gautam, was smart and way ahead of her time with a colourful display picture and biometric scanner. In those days of ugly black-and-white government ID photos and flimsy cards, Aadhaar was like Tina to my Rahul. Kuch kuch hota hai, PAN, tum nahin samjhoge.
But before you think I am being shallow, let me tell you how deep my love was. I loved her for her intelligence and inner beauty. With her by my side, government welfare schemes and direct benefit transfers would be as easily accessible as giving a bribe and getting your work done at the Income Tax Department.
Aadhaar’s parents, the Congress, and especially her father, Nandan Nilekani, were extremely proud of her. They kept telling me about all her wonderful qualities and how she could change the life of any person she went out with. And they kept reiterating it 24X7, on TV, radio, Facebook, and Twitter. That’s when I knew I was in love.
Our first date was blissful. We connected and linked instantly, and she accompanied me everywhere, all the time. She had a special place in my wallet. And I wouldn’t miss a chance to tell my friends, relatives, cook, house help, and the entire village about her. In fact, I even introduced her to the village cows and buffaloes. Everyone from foreign tourists to Bangladeshi residents were awed by her.
I was convinced that she was the missing piece in the puzzle of my life and so, I decided to marry her. Obviously, there was resistance from my parents as they belonged to a different caste, i.e. the BJP. They tried quite hard to convince me that she had certain issues and would ruin my life in the long run. But I was determined and their effort was in vain.
Nandan, Daddy Cool, played a key part in our marriage and convincing my parents, the BJP, of her charm and greatness. There was a change of heart, and the BJP became accepting of Aadhaar after realising her potential. She got a royal welcome home and my parents spent like crazy on our pre-wedding shoot and advertising. In fact, she became like their daughter and they wished they had given birth to her.
But it spelt doom for our relationship.
Aadhaar had changed. Or maybe, I had. But there was trouble in paradise. A lot of people started to say that she had security issues. But if you ask me, she also had insecurity issues. She started getting a bit controlling and wanted to know about every aspect of my life.
When we first started dating, she wasn’t the kind of person who’d want us to share Facebook passwords so that there would be “no secrets among us”. I don’t want anyone to know that I can’t spell Schwarzenegger without help from Google! Back then, all she cared about was my name and where I lived. But after our marriage, she wanted to know about my bank account, my insurance, SIM cards, airline tickets, mutual funds, post office, loo timings, every tiny detail.
Let’s agree that the key to a healthy relationship is separate bathrooms and some semblance of space between a couple. But there was just no privacy between us.
Every morning I woke up, I got a message for a new thing I must link Aadhaar with. Earlier, she was very polite and well mannered in her requests but then she got just outright intimidating – setting deadlines and threatening me with consequences for missing them. There has been a complete communication breakdown and we don’t even get cosy anymore – I’m just busy keeping track of deadlines and court observations.
If it weren’t awful enough that she has all my secrets, now all her friends know everything about me because her phone did not have a password. My embarrassing pictures and the fact that I am a heavy snorer is now public knowledge. All my deepest and most personal thoughts are so poorly secured, it’s like watching Arsenal defend at home.
When I raised some questions, she told me I don’t have the right to privacy, and this is all part of being in a committed relationship. I couldn’t see a way out of it, and finally approached a counsellor for help. Every time the counsellor heard our case and told her to do something, she would find a way to bypass it. It didn’t surprise me at all, I’d always known she was a tricky customer. Aadhaar’s own parents had bailed on her.
With no option left, I finally approached the courts for a divorce. The courts were quite understanding and tried to help us resolve the matter and keep the relationship intact as well. They asked her to not snoop on my private information and convinced me that she played an important role in my life. But what about my embarrassing pictures that she already leaked? How do I make people unsee them?
As things stand today, like most relationships on Facebook, ours is complicated. We are in a love-hate relationship, she loves me and I hate her. 
It’s just like all those Black Mirror episodes: Everything starts out beautifully, but it’s obviously a trap. And then you die.

Ganesh Chaturthi: When Every Middle-Class Family Turns Interior Designer and Art Decorator

When you grow up in a middle-class home, outlets for creativity are limited, much like political options in India. Right from school, pursuits like drawing, singing, and craft are considered “extracurricular activities” — basically a waste of time. If you excel at them, the only stage you’re offered is at family functions where dad tells you “Beta, uncle ko ganaa gaake sunao” or “Beta, dadi ki liye birthday card banao”. As a career choice, art is considered the bottom of the barrel. If you told your parents, you wanted to join a design school, they’d sit you down to tell you, “Yeh ameeron ke shauq hain, beta.” Only rich people can afford creative careers, because “scope nahi hai”.
Middle-class folks are required to curb their creativity the same way Hardik Pandya curbs his attacking instincts in Test cricket. However, there is one festival which turns into a mosh pit for the creative types – Ganesh Chaturthi.
Ganesha is the God of Fun, associated with music, modaks, and masti. Whether it is channelling your inner Bappi Lahiri to decorate the pandal or dancing like Govinda on crack during the visarjan, this is the middle-class Ganpati bhakt’s moment to shine.
The creative minds get to work days before Chaturthi. When you go to pick the murti, even mom turns into Michelangelo, chipping in with enthusiasm about the shape of Ganesha’s trunk, the intricacies of his jewellery, and the colour of his dhoti. Even a tiny detail like the mouse is not missed. I remember her saying once, “This mouse looks a little angry. We need a happy mouse.” But when it comes to ordering food at a restaurant or buying a TV at Vijay Sales, she’d show little interest. “Jo sab ko acha lage le lo”.
Once the perfect idol is picked, the group-craft project gets rolling. Stationery that hasn’t been used in years in pulled out, Chinese lights and lanterns are bought causing a dent to Make In India. Remember the fancy marriage invitation you received from your rich Marwari neighbours, envelopes studded with colourful stones, satin ribbons, unique gift boxes, and wrapping paper that mom had saved waiting for the perfect moment to bring them out? This is that moment.
The only person in the family who took to art and crafts in school becomes the head of the Ganpati Decoration Project. In my case, it is my little cousin who takes charge, instructing everyone on what to do. It’s great fun to watch grandparents fidgeting with sketch pens and dad struggling with clay.   
When out of ideas, the family nerd chips in. “More research is needed for this project,” he says and immediately starts googling for “home Ganpati decoration ideas”. Ganeshji is a cool customer, he seems happy if you put him in a cricket stadium, have him pose with army men, or put him in a cave along with a little message about the environment. And if you want to keep it simple, a few lights and some flowers are enough to make Bappa’s face glow.    
Once the decor plan is finalised, everyone gets cracking. It is one of the very few activities that brings the entire family together. This and mom’s monthly paani-puri party. Or if Sholay is playing on Sony.
As the struggle with the scissors begins, dad will joke about how he always sucked at craft and sister will start mocking dad’s terrible colour choices for the background. Why would anyone go for the orange and red combination? Mom doesn’t appreciate how lightly everyone is treating the project and expects perfection. “Arré woh paper ke phool acche nahin dikh rahe hain. Log kya kahenge?”  
This is just the beginning and soon tempers begin to fly. Should the mountain in the background have orange lights or green? Should the curtains be velvet or cotton? Should we keep the sweets on the left or the right? It is one of the few situations in the house when democracy prevails and majority decisions decide outcomes.
Once the decor is complete and you are in shiny new clothes with freshly purchased modaks in hand, the examiners, aka guests begin flocking to the house. “Yeh phool kitne sundar hain,” says the neighbouring aunty and everyone looks at mum and smiles. But there’s always someone like Mrs Sharma who will find some fault. “Yeh mountains bade fake lag rahe hain. Humare Monu ki saas ke ghar mein, itna beautiful decoration hai naa.” Time for a joint family eye roll. After guests leave mum suggests, “Next time, let’s make Monu’s saas in charge of the decor.”
Ganesh Chaturthi is when every parent turns interior designer, every kid a painter, every uncle a craft expert, and grandma is a jewellery designer. It’s an art exhibition of the middle-class — and every clay mountain or paper flower, is the pièce de résistance.