Drain The Swamp

(Photo Credit: Huw Cordey/Minden Pictures)

So we ran out one hot, dusty, desert afternoon in flapping Hawai chappals on the burning sand towards a rickety bridge.
Look, look they pointed towards the placid waters below.
Except for our panting and giggling there was no sound, no movement, nothing. The waters were quiet, thick and green.

Take this stone & throw it in the pond they urged.
So with all my might I did.
As soon as it hit the surface a sight that has never left me all these years emerged.
A mass of writhing, squirming, jerking, intertwined, twisted, coiled serpents came up with such force almost hissing in our faces, twelve feet above.
Recoiling in terror I could hear someone screaming till I realised it was I.
When I found the courage to look down again, the waters were thick, green, placid once more.
No sign at all of what was beneath.

Over the months a sort of a nervous nonchalance crept in.
While passing one would plop a stone and on cue the mass of hissing serpents would rise and then slither back quietly into their lives below.
It became an initiation of sorts for anyone joining this little band of friends to be taken to the rickety bridge.

This mere dot on the map, at the tethering edge of the Rann Of Kutch had lived alongside the putrid waters for decades.
Not many remembered when the snakes took over and began dictating their lives – when to cross the bridge to avoid the sunning reptiles, how hard to tap the stick to warn them of approaching humans, how to collect the rich dark clay from the banks without getting bitten.
With years came the stories, myths, legends and the snakes took on a life of their own.
Not one Additional District Commissioner could take the decision to clear and clean the place. Either because of his own fears of terrible repercussions or because the citizenry who wanted to let things be.



In May 2014, once the Lok Sabha election was done and dusted and the euphoria of the mandate had barely seeped in when the placid waters began hissing with activity.

We woke up one morning and discovered that the Christian community felt insecure and threatened.

Julio Rebiero poured out his angst in a national daily.
On cue breathless Barkha Dutt had him on her show and then Admiral Sushil Kumar reiterated similar sentiments.
Aamir’s Khan's wife wanted to leave India, or so he said and then with a little prodding Shahrukh Khan was not far behind.
For two shattered glass panes an entire country was tarred intolerant.

A close Christian friend in Singapore called one evening wondering whether she should make that move to her sister in Canada and only return to India to pack her bags.
Another friend recounted her surprise on how Christmas morning at a Delhi Church ended with the young Priest warning them of terrible times ahead and how only Arvind Kejriwal was that wall between the Believers & the Hindu hordes.
What happened overnight & how did it ?

Confronted with a completely unexpected onslaught, Social Media was quick on the uptake and tore into the narrative that was being constructed.
Challenging and countering it all the way till the hissing stopped and the serpents receded into the turgid, green waters……


The second stone plopped on the pond and Dadri’s beef episode hit us in the face.
The incident, the victim, the villains were ready and waiting when every media fatcat and his camera man descended upon this moffussil town.

Now suddenly we all had become a nation that killed people for what they ate. Never mind the theft.

Writers, poets, filmmakers came out to return awards. That is the certificates, but not the cash which they had spent and enjoyed. Or for that matter, the accommodations in which they were ensconced.
It was a message to the Government, so to speak, only to the extent that was convenient.

Shrill voices of panic from sound proof tv studios gave the impression that the country was burning, man was turning on man in the name of faith and food.
NDTV journalists asked loaded questions of visiting foreign CEOs poking and prodding them to get the reactions they wanted.

A small scale industry of journalists wrote dramatic school essays on Secularism, The Idea Of India, the India of their Childhood while Arundhati Roy with a chilling sweetness recited a litany of crimes committed by the new government and its controller ‘RSS’ with no regard for facts and dates.

Inane, obscure people were plucked out and presented by the Opposition parties in cahoots with certain influential sections of the media as the Next Big One to take on Narendra Modi.
The desperation was almost pathetic considering we all had barely recovered from the Last Big One, Arvind Kejriwal.

By the time the Surgical Strike took place and the panic stricken howl from the usual culprits emanated, most people in the country understood that this was something much more sinister.
These episodes, the build up with doomsday op-eds was not merely a noisy, argumentative, circus democracy where a billion opinions were clawing to be heard but a cabal, a dangerous & incestuous club that had been deeply threatened and was going to fight to death for the lucre it had sold its soul for. Damned be the country and its national security…. And they didn’t even make an attempt to hide it.

At that epiphanous moment it became crystal clear. The enemy was within and the surgical strike should have first cut off this gangrenous limb that poisoned the body.
Venom knew no bounds after an initial state of dumbfounded-ness that Demonetisation reduced us all to.
Those most affected showed themselves up with spluttering rage and predicting doom for Narendra Modi’s political life while assessing the devastation in their finances.

To its credit the country stood behind the Government.
The ordinary man reconciled himself to queues and the inconveniences for the greater good.
And yes, the people believed and trusted the Prime Minister for working towards something unimaginable, almost impossible till now.

There’s no doubt a fatigue of sorts had set in at the amateurish, ham handed attempts at propping up paper tigers, reasons and agendas for questioning decisions and of course the rah rah team of a reluctant heir who would rather be on some beach than at an election rally.

We also came to recognise the names and faces of the old order who had been till then supremely content in their genteel environment which camouflaged a mercenary grittiness.
A tight little tribe, secure in the power they held and vicious in their fight to keep it.

They have been victories big and small. There have been missteps too.
There seems to be sometimes a certain discomfort with power.

Modi Govt in Office Not in Power by Minhaz Merchant

Whatever said, this four year journey has been a watershed.
How many of us realise its historic importance?

The big names we have always known, even grown up with – so many writers, authors, poets, Intellectuals, historians, social commentators, political pundits have fallen by the wayside. Did they let us down or did we outgrow them?

Today what was to be a Yuva Hunkar Rally was reduced to a damp squib.
Aspirational India it seems will not be distracted by caste despite ancien regime writers and intellectuals force feeding us.

Today, what could have been a stirring visit by an Opposition leader on foreign shore was just a weak and feeble attempt for him to gain much lost ground. The only interest, if at all, was if any hilarious bloopers could be shared.

However what has not escaped the people is that though the Opposition Leader and PM aspirant lacks intellectual depth, his Machiavellian handlers are not to be taken lightly.


The new young District Commissioner who took over from his predecessor was warned to leave the waters untouched, to skirt around the pond and to avoid the snakes.
However, one morning the people woke up to a bulldozer, a dredging machine and huge fishing net.
The entire exercise took a few days as we watched aghast the protesting mass of writhing, squirming, jerking, intertwined, twisted, coiled serpents were scooped up and taken away.

Was this even possible? How could something unimaginable such as this have happened?

But it did.
The waters and banks were cleaned and green. The rickety bridge reinforced and strengthened for vehicular traffic.
Before long, the snakes were part of folklore and we learnt to dabble our feet fearlessly in the pond.

The young District Commissioner was remembered for years as the man who undertook the impossible task and then his name faded away as others took on the mantle and saw to it that the pond remained clean and the snakes didn’t return.


Perchance one day, several years later, in my adulthood I learnt that water snakes are probably the least poisonous. Yes, dying of shock was possible but dying of water-snake bite improbable.

Drain The Swamp



  1. Nandi , love the way you build up the narration so elucidate and yet so interesting to read. Correctly said"The enemy was within and the surgical strike should have first cut off this gangrenous limb that poisoned the body. Modi had seen smaller version of this as CM and hence was able to take them by their horns. He has to tougher now more than he ever was.

  2. Nandni Ji , read your article. Very interesting to read. You have logically narrated the chain of events in the political field since 2014 and how the cabbal has been delegtimised. But all these happening kept the Govt bogged down to some extent. Hope before 2024 NaMo resolves long pending problems like UCC and population control to keep his vote bank intact.

  3. Agree with you. We need to go on draining the swamp every few years.

    1. Definitely the swamp needs to be constantly drained off the serpents before they become too big and too large to threaten even the administration or basic social fabric of innocent simple citizens.

  4. Your clarity of thought, your courage to stand up to the bigotry, your perspective... all so amazing.

  5. As always, beautifully articulated. Serpents indeed! Too many serpents nurtured by the grand old party - probably for activating at times like this when they are put out of power by the people. Yes, though their numbers are ever so gradually reducing their hiss can still be heard. Seven years now - the hopes of some of these serpents must be dashed. The swamp is being drained and this is good.

  6. With span of attention reducing drastically,this narration,its size & content both seem appropriate & involving ... Kudos

  7. Spot on. Writhing snakes are now taking help of snakes which don't belong to our environment, yet trying everything to bring down the efficient D. C.

  8. ma'am no one could have articulated better the poison splashed across the society with serpents in swamp multiplying at rapid rate, sheltered by anti-societal groups in order to get lost political power back. The 2nd time winner of mandate, like this DC, is clearing the swamp fast, of course with "Bulldozer" and "fishing net", with tools of law that was once considered toothless. He is the hope, he is the light at the end of tunnel.


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