What a year it has been, thought Big M, gazing wistfully at the distant lights of the city, covered by smog. Sipping a cup of hot masala chai, Big M couldn’t help but replay in his mind the events of the last year.

It had all begun on a similar smog-covered evening exactly a year ago when he had called his entire team for a meeting to announce the decision to take on the rats and bandicoots that were becoming a menace in the city.

The weapon he planned to deploy was an animal unknown to most except some zoologists who had read about it in their college textbooks. And it had never been tested on this scale before. Big M had decided enough was enough. The rats and bandicoots had to be taught a lesson as they were stealing happily from the city’s granaries.

And so the strange beast — some called it a demon — was unleashed on an unsuspecting population. The fond hope was that it would make a meal of pesky rodents.

But Big M had not bargained for the demon’s big, unwieldy feet and the havoc they caused as it rampaged through the city trying to locate the rat holes.

Also, given the demon’s excessive appetite, it ended up snacking on the grains stored by the citizens as well.

Meanwhile Big M’s opponents who could never reconcile themselves to his occupying a chair they thought was rightfully theirs, smelt blood. They latched on to the monster even if they did not understand anything about this strange animal.

Hanging on to its tail, the fiery Lady MB thundered: “This is a big devil. It’s a devilish act unleashed on us by Big M!” The lady had lost all her grains, donated by various people, and was entitled to her outburst.

Another lady, who also answers to the name M, wailed uncontrollably as she held on to the behemoth’s trunk: “Not only has Big M cheated the people, he’s cheated me as well! This animal resembles my party symbol. Big M has done this only to win elections in my pradesh!”

But the response that Big M was waiting for was that of R, his principal opponent. And R did not disappoint.

“If I’m allowed to speak on this, there will be an earthquake,” he declared, even as he unsuccessfully tried to subdue the monster. But he refused to reveal his hand beyond that — mercifully so for the citizens. The last thing they needed was an earthquake.

Big M smiled at the thought of R’s remark even as there was a knock on the door and J, his colleague and confidante, walked in. J had played no small role in helping Big M ride over the storm from the collateral damage caused by the demon running amok.

While they both agreed in private that maybe it was a mistake to have set the beast loose, they knew they had to spin a jolly good yarn for the public. After all, the citizens were with Big M and believed him when he said the rats and the bandicoots would be caught one way or the other by the demon.

“So, the first anniversary of the Great Bandicoot Hunt is here and our friends across the road are sharpening their swords. What do we tell our citizens?” asked J.

Big M smiled. “Tell them the bandicoots are on the run and we have information on exactly how much grain they hoarded, and our officers will soon get after them. Get the message across that this was actually a strategy to get citizens to consume less carbohydrates. Grains aren’t that good for you, you know.”

And as J stared at him with a mix of confusion and amazement, Big M continued: “Don’t worry about our friends across the road. They weren’t able to pin us down a year ago when the demon was creating mayhem. Trust me, they will not be able to do so now. As long as they aim at me personally and not at what I do, we’re safe. Remember, a majority of the citizens are with me and trust me for my word.” The smile that followed was smug indeed.