For once, Putin was not at the far end of a long table. It was a round table, as is the mandatory requirement of round-table conferences. It was, of course, a huge table, to meet Putin’s demand that he should be at least six feet away from his neigbours on the table, who were Xi Jinping and Erdogan of Turkey. That long-held name of his country is now cold turkey and it is now called Turkiye, due to a decree by Erdogan. Then there were Kim of North Korea and Assad of Syria. Seated opposite Putin, Assad was very uncomfortable. One of Putin’s conditions for bombing Syria’s rebels into oblivion was that Assad shall never look him in the eye. So Assad kept looking pleadingly at Erdogan and the latter kept muttering, “I am doing what I can” with Kim wondering why Erdogan is so stuck on that sentence.

Putin declared his position as head of the table and called the meeting to order. Xi, unhappy at that usurpation, asked, “How long you intend to speak?” At any other time Putin would have snubbed his friend “without limits” but just now he needed Xi’s help to replenish his depleted armoury. “It is just the beginning,” he said helpfully. “Capitalists are not only uniting, they are trying to decouple from us. For long, we were so kind to them; we let them get rich while we waited. This is what we get in return. Let them decouple, we will couple among ourselves. We have so much skill and experience around this table. Let each of us talk of his area of specialisation and we shall form a Commission under him. But before that, I propose a name for our group: Insititutionalised Dictators’ International Organisation for Transformation.”

Assad, while looking at Erdogan, said softly, “The acronym may be a little awkward.” Putin glowered at him, “You think I haven’t thought of that? The present grave situation calls for ‘hiding our strengths and biding our time’ to borrow a phrase from the Great Nation with Chinese Characteristics.” While Xi was confused whether it was a compliment to his country or the mention of Deng’s famous phrase was meant to belittle Xi, Putin continued, “I want the enemy to know that we consider ourselves IDIOT and yet, we are institutionalised, ours is an international organisation and we are working for transformation. This shall lull them into taking a deep puff at their legalised marijuana bong and bring a beatific smile on their visage.” Others nodded in agreement and Assad even muttered, ” Sorry, my small head did not think of that.” The apology mollified Putin and he turned to Xi for sharing his area of specialisation.

Xi began by saying that China specialises in everything from creating real fake goods to creating real viruses with fake origins. “We specialise in stealing technology, buying elected representatives and lands in other countries and raising land disputes with neighbouring countries and of course, we specialise in transformation, as we transformed the spy balloon into a weather balloon. Yet, the biggest achievement of our country, unparalleled in the history of mankind, is in the field of demography. We can lower the population at the flick of a switch. Whenever we think we have too many people, we bring out a policy and it reduces the specific age group. Everybody was saying three months ago that China is going to have too many old people. I raised a finger, opened up the country and 1.5 million of the old were removed from the population register. They say they died because they had not been vaccinated. Yet, that was part of the plan and no accident. In my country, every birth, every death is planned, whether it is under the guise of famine, cultural revolution, one-child policy or the latest no-number-is-too-many-children policy.”

Everybody around the table clapped, Xi rose and made a bow and said, “in all humility, I accept the Chairmanship of the Demography Commission of IDIOT.” After a lot of applause and repeated bows by Xi, Putin turned to Kim. The Fat Boy began by praising the stability of his country for the last seventy years. “There has been no disturbance or protest in my country since our birth after the Korean War and that was before I was even born. As a result, we have progressed to the level of the most advanced country as has been proved by our success with hypersonic missiles. All this can be attributed to the wisdom encapsulated in my family genes, my father the Dear Leader Kin Jong-il and my grandfather, the Great Leader Kim Il-sung. I proudly accept the Chairmanship of the Commission on Family Values.” Assad was about to say that he also can ascribe the greatness of Syria to his family genes through his father the great Hafez al-Assad and that whenever he himself was assassinated, his son would take over the task of reducing edifices to rubble and pushing Syria towards the rouble. Yet, one look towards Putin told him to keep quiet. There was a round of applause and the Fat Boy made a vain attempt at a bow.

Erdogan said that in anticipation of the formation of IDIOT, he had been transforming his country from a democracy to dictatorship for the last two decades and has won international attention for his efforts. He has won every election, proving that dictatorships are better because they help in maintaining stability and continuity at the top while giving people the satisfaction of having voted. Kim intervened to say that though he does not hold elections as it was wasteful expenditure, if he ever did, he will get votes twice the number of adult population in Korea, as they are all his fans and will vote twice over. Erdogan nodded at Kim and said that he will keep that useful tip in mind. Continuing, he said, “Though we specialise in many things including being in NATO and Putin’s inner circle at the same time, our biggest achievement is making ancient buildings flexible. Hagia Sophia, made as a Church by Constantine, changed into a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II, further transformed into a museum by Ataturk, has been again changed to a mosque by me. This has saved the building for 2000 years from destruction and vandalism. I, with legendary Turkish politeness, accept the honour of Chairing the Commission for Preservation of Ancient Monuments Through Flexibility.” There was some applause and Erdogan placed his hand on his heart and made a bow.

Putin said that since Assad has already spoken without opening his mouth, in which he seems to have some difficulty, I will first speak for him and then for myself. With our help, Assad specialises in survival and that is so crucial for all of us. He deserves a place on the Commission for Survival of Dictators. Assad responded to the clapping by getting up and making a bow to Putin sitting right opposite and Putin raised his hand in benediction. Having performed that philanthropic duty of pitching in for the indigent, Putin spoke for himself. “We are in a war, though my people are not allowed to say that. We won some, lost some, but we made our people believe we won it all. For all of us around this table, it is the most important quest that people believe in what we say. We have specialized in ‘How to lose wars and still influence our people.’ We taught this to Assad and he is so successful, as will be his son after him.” Assad got up and gave a bow though nobody had applauded. Putin continued, “Since you insist, I accept the Chairmanship of the Commission for the Survival of Dictators with Assad as my Deputy, though in my own country, for obvious reasons, I do not have a real deputy.”

After the applause had died down, Xi quipped, “One commission we do not need is for finding a real deputy who might aspire to become a successor. Who needs a successor when we have all managed that we shall stay as the Supreme Leaders forever.”

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