Karrupiah and Elangovan were two illiterate farmers in a small Tamil Nadu village. One day, after a long day of work Karrupiah was bicycling to the local saraya kadai (Village bar). Elangovan was returning on his bicycle from the shop. They crashed into each other. A scuffle broke out and the local constable intervened. The constable, who bore a grudge against the two for not lowering their lungis when he rode his moped in the village, booked cases against the two. Lack of street lights, amavasya and the absence of a cycle bell on Elangovans bicycle were noted as factors in the FIR. The case went to court.
The judge after hearing the case ruled in Karrupiah’s favor and ordered that the government make it mandatory for all bicycles to have a cycle bell. This judicial order was reported widely in the media. A group of lawyers under the CCACB (Concerned Citizens Against Cycle Bells) filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the ruling. After years of affidavits, counter affidavits, black gowned lawyers shouting “Objection your Honor” and emotionless dawaalis loosing their voices, the judge ordered the government to resolve the issue.
The government immediately constituted an advisory panel under the chairmanship of a retired IAS officer of the Transportation Ministry and a large posse of public servants. Apart from sumptuous lunches and pakoda-samosa high teas, the panel went on a fact finding mission to Europe and America to study their Bicycle bells and bicycle accident data. The committee managed to keep extending dead-lines until the IAS officer ran out of desk calendars to look for future dates. So he hastily googled the information and sent his report endorsing the stand that cycle bells be made compulsory.
The government drafted a bill to be tabled in the parliament. The bill languished for a few years since every time it came up for discussion the parliament would be adjourned sine die for members to attend khaini chewing contests in their constituencies or that members would stage a walkout protesting the amount of noise in the house when they tried to get some sleep.
The bill was finally brought for discussions in the midst of flying microphones and office furniture. The left wingers opposed it saying that in encroached on personal freedom and the right wingers protested that the sound “ding-dong” were foreign swear words disguised as auditory notes. The communists said that the proletariat must not be unduly subjugated and hence all vehicles, including cars and buses must also be fitted with cycle bells.
Widespread protests hit the nation. People rioted on streets burning Bell bottom pants and effigies of Graham Bell. The Bell Curve and dumbbells were boycotted. The opposition parties brought in a no-confidence motion against the government. After major horse trading, public vote auction and the party whips flogging their members mercilessly to ensure that party lines were not breached, the members voted and the government fell.
The opposition now laid claim to the throne government. The president, who was lulled out of his gardening activities, called on the opposition to form the government and to prove their majority on the floor. A new session of trading began anew. Bookmakers released odds on the results and the parliament members made a small fortune. The vote failed. The president who was once again trudged out of his favorite armchair was forced to dissolve the parliament and call for fresh elections.
The election commission has issued dates for general elections. The cycle bell bill is still in the pile. Since it is to come after the discussion on the eligibility of criminally convicted MP’s to stand for election, it sure never to see the light of day.
Two governments have fallen; a general election in scheduled and the public is restless; but Elangovan and Karuppiah have patched things up. Elangovan had to borrow money from the village lender to buy a cycle bell as ordered by the judge. He then had to sell the cycle because he couldn’t afford the interest on the bell. Karuppiah lost all his money on successive failed harvests. Now they both walk to the saraaya kadai together and share the drinks over a single plate of oorkaai.