Mutinous March, Trifecta, Kesri's Gate, and Apoplectic April
Mutinous: traitorous -– a concept that bounces off politicians.
Trifecta: a form of betting in which the first three places in a race
must be predicted in correct order – all stakes are on the third runner
to reach 7, Race Course Road.
Kesri's Gate: bizarre comedy that has set
the Congress stock nose-diving.
Apoplectic April: the month of Bakr-Id
-– the day when not enough old goats are led to the slaughter.
They call it Spring Fever, our frisky friends in Delhi Centre. In
March, the Budget of the year's first greenbacks appears, spring
showers turn dry dust to slush funds, but the Mad March Hare of
government leap about, drunk with power and the joy of skipping over
the saffron lotus flower. There is a bounce in one's step, a jingle in
the armour. For in the spring, even an old man's fancy turns to
defiance, or so Sitaram Kesri has declared.
In Neither Bloody, Nor Unbowed, Dorothy Parker waxes eloquent about
But I, despite expert advice
Keep doing things I think are nice,
And though to good I never come –
Inseparable are my nose and thumb.
Here in Bombay, the gulmohur, in stuck-out-tongue pink, is threatening
to appear around the few remaining trees at the Gateway of India. Maybe
for the Congress, "cherry blossom" is not yet what I think it will turn
out to be – the desi brand of shoe-polish preferred for blackening
countenances. We have celebrated here the ancient festival of Veronal
Up-the-Sensex, and the newly-canonised St Chidambaram's Day, and the
now-familiar Easter Eggs on Secular Face. The days were just about
seeming to get pleasant. But alas, 'twas not be, now that spring was
in the air! Who could have believed that if all's well at the Golden
Gate, little could be bright around the Unknown Soldier's Flame at
But of course, a glance at the headlines tells me that India is quite
within its inscrutable reason, and keeping time with the silly season:
Indo-Pak talks suffer Kashmir hiccup; CPI-M sponsors Hindutva course
for doctors (?!); Truckers' strike paralyses city-life; 13 killed, 57
injured in Jammu blasts; Mayawati retains 30 portfolios; V P Singh tries
to rearrange debris of collapse. Ah! A glimmer of hope: Andhra Pradesh
relaxes prohibition… But then comes the one after which I took up
heroin: Kesri places his cap before Sonia Gandhi.
Oh to hell with it; I can't keep up in the Srinivasanian literary
strain. Let me muck about in the sodden dirt of my vulgar grain. For
after all the crystalline skies and celestial comets, I can't help but
drag you down to earthy essentials: specifically, baniyaans – that's
what we desis call vests. And now that India's in the midst of an
administrative apoplexy, there's something I, er… gotta get offa my
Actually, it's all the media's frailty. If it hadn't been for the quick
clicks of our lensmen and the evil wits of our eds, I wouldn't have to
it been led. But within just two months of his having become the
Congress foreman, I gathered Kesri snaps into a mean little pile, which
I now call The Gene X Files:
Mr Kesri in a baniyaan, sprawled on a cot at MLA hostel;
Mr Kesri in a baniyaan, joyously petting his white Pomeranian;
Mr Kesri in a baniyaan, seeing off visitors at the gate;
Mr Kesri in a dunce-cap-like ethnic headdress. (And a ROTFL Laxman
cartoon of the same)
Mr Kesri smooching a startled Madhavrao Scindia;
Mr Kesri hugging a visibly mortified Mr Scindia… And even as I'd be
clipping out the damn things, I'd furiously be praying: O Lord, please
let the cultural attaches of various embassies miss today's front page.
The last time I felt so kaato to khoon nahi was when the late Giani
Zail Singh -– he of the strangely protruding achkan and perpetually
glazed expression -– clung to Ronald Reagan's hand, with the entire
international media recording the event. 'Twas not a handshake. While
walking down the red carpet, Gianiji, god bless his affectionate soul,
just slipped his hand into Mr Reagan's like Nancy would have. I'll tell
you one thing: None of his Hollywood background came to the Prez's
rescue that day.
Decades ago, my dear old grandmother (who had this thing for Jawaharlal
Nehru) had threatened to leave Hindustan for good if Jagjivan Ram ever
became PM; she claimed that her stomach heaved at the sight of all that
abundant down. It's not my fault that I've inherited her imperious
aesthetics: at the vision of Laloo Prasad Yadav, I, too, feel
Then there's the dhoti, and as with all things Indian, there are ways
and ways of wearing it and carrying it. On the one hand, we have the
impeccable babu-moshai style of Jyoti Basu and the upper-crust draping
by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On the other, we have Mulayam Singh Yadav's
ultra-dehaati insouciance -– part of the attire hiked high in hand, with
one leg exposed, and in one memorable photograph, even the thigh. OK,
so I'm an elitist, so beat me up. But why do I have to view such
skin-flicks with magnanimity?
Do you think I've digressed from my, umm, underlying point? No, no...
With the frightening prospect of Mr Kesri leading India, I hope to
impress upon you the dire need for explaining to India's leaders what
the term "public figure" entails. Fact is, or so says The Asian Age,
76% of Mumbaikars and I simply cannot bear the thought of the
baniyaan-flaunting Mr Kesri representing India in any diplomatic
capacity anywhere. As for domestic affairs, with Shailendra Mahato
naming Mr Kesri in his confessional statement on the JMM bribery case,
what's left to say?
Too, what Mr Kesri has accomplished by rudely jolting our roly-poly,
Karnataki Sleeping Beauty, counts as high treason in my right-wing
book. Whether one agrees with the logistics of it all or not, the
Kashmir talks were on, a popular Budget was underway, stock-brokers had
a song on the lips, Russia was playing ball -– and Mr Deve Gowda hadn't
done quite enough harm to warrant this extreme step. It's as plain as
those ubiquitous warts: with the UF consolidating at the Centre, and
the BJP veritably beefing up in the states, Sitaram Kesri could see the
throne quietly slipping away.
Among the reasons cited for the withdrawal of support were: the UF
government's a) determined efforts to marginalise the Congress; b)
failure to consolidate forces of secularism; c) failure to confront
communal forces; and, d) lack of serious attempt to arrest the
communal, divisive and separatist forces. Since I have tears of mirth
rolling down my cheeks at this moment, I shall restrict myself to
saying that the Congress, poor old thing, now seems to be fated to
stick around like a big bag of cement on the floor of India's political
But let me be kindly and suggest a leader for it. Ever since I saw an
old picture of a dashing Rajesh Pilot
in his Air Force uniform, I've
been feeling benevolent towards him (if Saisuresh Sivaswamy can hold a
flame for Madhavrao Scindia, don't you dare make a sexist remark about
me). In Pilot, the Congress has a commodity rare in its members – i e,
provable patriotism. After all, none can deny that he has faced for his
country a possible death. Or there's Sharad Pawar -– I simply adore a
man with a sense of humour. Once upon a rally, Sharadrao, with a
deadpan face, said, "Under the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the (Bal)
Thackeray family is instituting a dynastic rule over Maharashtra." All
that was missing was Sonia Gandhi's presence on the dais to turn it
into a Buster Keaton farce. Any Congressman who can talk so
conscientiously about the sins of dynastic rule, needs to be shown
But hark, the Srinivasanian muse is upon me again… Speaking of the
commandment to not chafe at others, I fear I do fail that test. It is
well recorded what the gladiators in Arena think, and catches the
fancies of this feisty old girl in the spring -– a case of Medusa
hissing while the virtuous lie writhing, atangle in the diffused Net.
Lowering the ideals of writing, emasculating secularist thinking, does
do much for one's brazen morale as a whole. For baniyaan or no
baniyaan,one uses what arms one finds in the interparietal battles on
the moral dimensions of rank usurpations.
In the end, I rather feel envious of the man who would be king. All
things considered, things have progressed rather better than gloomy
pundits's predictions on the destiny of the old guards's wing. Watching
all the approving Azads and Dhawans and Naiks going through a form of
ritual suicide, Sitaram Kesri will probably agree with Noel Coward when
that wit, in a flush of awareness of a certain reporter did say: "I see
him as one great stampede of lips directed at the nearest derrière."
For surely, this April, that will be the, er… bottom-line, indeed.
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