Self-deprecating humour is a survival strategy of many human beings, a coping mechanism in dark times. This is true of the letter and spirit of Avay Shukla’s book, PolyTicks, DeMocKrazy & MumboJumbo, an insider masterpiece of political and social satire of India from 2014 to the present.

Shukla’s savage critique of the political system, which is dominated by the ‘alpha male honey badgers of LOOTyen’s Delhi’ comes from his relatable frustration and untired commitment to the idea of India and the democratic ideals promised by the Constitution.

The book depicts the painful transition of governance and political culture in contemporary India. Readers will experience Shukla’s words with laughter, and discover a deep sense of responsibility with rib-cracking humour to boot.

Sharp observation, uncensored reflection on ugly realities, and incisive and witty analysis of political culture and leadership are the pillars of this book. The author does not spare himself, calling his four decades of work in the IAS as “dubious service to the public”.

But writing this book should compensate. It makes significant a contribution to the existing literature on ethnography and political satire in India. The author’s unretiring spirit blossoms in smiling words of repugnance for a self-serving system that marginalises the majority of Indians.

In this Delhi the privileged, uncaring and arrogant are drunk with power. Corrupt people and their leaders live a subsidised luxurious life in the capital city. They have no care for the predicaments of everyday life of ordinary people, or the natural environment.

The criminal nexus between politicians, businesses and bureaucrats produces a five-star hotel within even Tihar jail. The irony in ‘Tihar Regency’ depicts the onslaught of the powerful and corrupt private capital on Indian democracy.

The Hindu way of ‘unearthing black money’ is a ruthless take on uncanny rituals of good governance in a corrupt system and its celebration within the cultural foundation of hoarding. Despite a growing ‘trust deficit’, the ‘chickens cross the road’ to normalise corporate loot and the circulation of elites within Indian society. In the name of electoral democracy and nationalism, people elect representatives who become their exploiters and oppressors.

The author laments the failures of intellectuals and educational systems that produce literacy but fail to train, educate or inspire creativity. This manufactured trust deficit and its culture permeates into every step of life in India, where beauty no longer “lies in the eyes of the beholder, it lies in the scalpel of the plastic surgeon”.

But it’s all fine as long as you kiss your wife or ex-wife at a party, in the absence of one or the other.

The author argues for a culture of criticism, tolerance and ‘sense of humour’ for the growth of an inclusive and sensitive society in India, which is under threat today. Today’s India is producing an illiberal praxis, where fraudulent godmen enjoy freedom while cartoonists and stand-up comedians suffer in prison.

The judiciaries have failed to protect individual freedom and progressive culture. India is becoming a republic of “dumb folks” even if they have smartphones and dream of living in smart cities. The rise of bigoted politicians like Subramaniam Swamy and so called actors like Salman Khan as well as journalists like Arnab Goswami are signs of a degenerate society with rotten growth.

MOPHOBIA, NOMOPHOBIA, TEXTAPHRENIA, TEXTIETY, FOMO, SELFITIS, IAD, SMA, PVS, DIGITAL POUTING and FAD. What do these ticklish abbreviations mean? Well, you need to buy and read this book to understand them, as well as the GLENLIVITAPP turncoat culture of powerplay at South Delhi dinner parties.

The “rebooting of India” is impossible as long as politics remains a playground of elite circulation. The Hindutva politics of “cultural revival” is in fact merely the preservation of old elites and their “animal spirits” by bribing gods and leaders.

Such agonising transitions are accelerated by the death of journalism and the growth of toxic and opinionated “prime time news tyranny” that is free from facts. ‘The fifty shades of no’ uncovers dwindling integrity in public life, and the collapse of law and order in Indian society. The public health is waiting for its last rites whereas the pious and rich celebrate life under the Hindutva regime.

In Modi’s India, the construction of a temple is more important than the construction of hospitals. Even the principles of neo-classical economics go for a toss due to the ignorance and directionless economic policies of the Modi government.

It is a non-performing government, an asset neither to the people nor to the democratic culture of the country. Dysfunctional Hindutva politics provides dividends to the corporates while the masses suffer in India.

Poor people are a major nuisance for the governing class, while living beings with citizenship rights are perpetually unaesthetic.

In the age of propaganda, junk ratings and trash reviews matter more for a corporate-driven government than the quality of human lives in the safe republic of holy cows and godmen. Health, education and human rights are moved to the unfathomable bottom of the sea as the RSS continues to celebrate the rise of Hindutva by lynching Muslims.

A culture of reactionary agitations is promoted by burning and banning books, censoring films, discarding liberal secularism and beheading reason and science, making impossible any form of social, political and intellectual engagement with national life.

As the RSS converts India into Lynchingstan, even food habits are not free from violence. It is also a place where sex is thought to be against Indian culture. In the age of Durex ads, cultural choice is confined to public relations driven by Arnab Goswami or Sunny Leone. The twain shall meet to write national glory as scripted by the loose cannons of Hindutva politics.

Avay Shukla takes his self-deprecating sense of humour to a different level in ‘playing fast and loose’, ‘dhan ki baat’ and ‘what is APP with this world, anyway?’ The fun gets addictive as the pages progress. It is dangerous to drive after reading these sections of the book, you might have an accident by laughing uncontrollably. They follow the best traditions of political satire and spare none.

The spirit of Khushwant Singh survives within the humorous writings of Avay Shukla. He has silently employed tropical humour in a cold spa to reflect on degeneration and painful transition of Indian democracy, economy and society.

Let us pray to our holy cows for the blessing of decolonising ourselves from cold English humour in order to do justice to a funny and brilliant book. It is easy and fun to read but astutely reminds us of our responsibilities as citizens of India.

The book leaves you addicted to laughter, as well as a lingering hangover because of its beautiful prose. It is a must-read to have fun while understanding the predicaments and irony of contemporary India.

This new India is slowly losing its soul and becoming a slaughterhouse of intelligence and tolerance.

Pippa Rann Books & Media have made it possible for readers to witness Avay Shukla’s wicked sense of humour in PolyTicks, DeMocKrazy & MumboJumbo, which is a testament to the courage and conviction of a writer and a publisher as well.