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Sunday Special » Columns

Posted at: Jun 10, 2018, 12:12 AM; last updated: Jun 10, 2018, 12:12 AM (IST)

Politics dwarfs real issues, again

Ira Pande
TOUCHSTONES
Ira Pande
One would expect some sane debates and suggestions from the worthies who chose to concentrate more on an RSS event

Ira Pande

At this time of year, when the sun has sapped all one’s energy and good humour, everyone seems to lose it. Not for nothing has this part of the year often been described as the silly season because with brains cooked by the heat (bheja-fry, as it’s popularly dubbed), one can expect little sense or reason. Take, for example, the enormous build-up to the Nagpur visit by our former President Pranab Mukherjee to attend an RSS event. For days on end, our media went to town on what he should have done (or not done), the likely text of his speech, who will benefit more from this and added comments and sound bytes from everyone, including his daughter. 

With Kashmir on the boil and an important visit by the Home Minister to offer an olive branch, the huge water crisis in our hill stations, visuals of angry farmers dumping their produce on the roads — one would expect some sane debates and suggestions from the worthies who chose to concentrate on Nagpur instead. As it happens, the ex-President spoke wisely and well, kept away from explosive topics (Gandhi’s assassination, Babri Masjid) and signalled that the time has come to bury the past and come together. Both the main speakers at that event presented their idea of India and acknowledged that the country is above their individual differences. 

So the Congress was left with little option, but to praise the very man they had just a few days ago almost declared a ‘tankhaiya’, while the RSS managed to beam into every home pictures of the silly PT display that they take such pride in. The interminable speeches and the sight of grown men playing schoolboys (now dressed thankfully in trousers rather than in loose knickers) could only inspire mirth. Pranab da’s speech in Bengali-English would have hardly been understood by the students it was meant to educate while Bhagwat’s Sanskritised Hindi must have flown over the heads of the English-speaking media it was aimed at. It seemed to me like an episode from Alice in Wonderland, where mad hatters and March hares exchange views while a dormouse falls into the teapot and dozes off. 

Tell me, then, who won and who lost this game of one-upmanship? The silly season, of course.

Let me also vent against a silly film I had the misfortune to see last week. Veere di Wedding appeared to promise a rocking time with dancing and feasting and the prospect of some charming babes on a girl-bonding spree. Above all, it was about a wedding and a Punjabi wedding to boot — a theme that has been a hugely successful formula since Meera Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, made almost 20 years ago. What we get instead is a lazy scriptwriter’s boring offering of what the new liberated woman is likely to be in this brave new world. As far as I am concerned, it was a shocking revelation of how shallow and irresponsible scripts are presented wearing the garb of ‘topical’ issues. Clothes, hairstyles and expensive holidays, the freedom to cuss and swear, drink and puke — this is what the new liberated feminist is meant to be. The nuanced soul-searching of a jilted and humiliated Kangana Ranaut and her blossoming into a woman of substance in Queen, or the quiet quest of a Sridevi in English Vinglish who is determined to learn English — these were films that offered hope to our girls battling patriarchy, poverty and a lack of good schools and teachers. 

If all we can offer as a vision of success is rich, spoilt brats taking off for a junket to Phuket, their foul language and disgusting behaviour, I can tell you that this is not what that aspirational girl in remote Bihar is seeking. In fact, it is not what even a normal middle class girl seeking admission to a halfway decent college in India is looking to replicate. The film manages to merge the silly season and a stupid worldview into a nightmare vision of the future. Well done, Ekta Kapoor.

I have been made a part of a citizens’ WhatsApp group on Nainital by a friend and am bombarded daily with horrifying posts on the extent of ecological degradation in my state of Uttarakhand. With its numerous lakes and springs, Kumaon was blessed by plentiful water. Who could have ever imagined that we would see a time when the lakes have plastic waste floating instead of water lilies and thirsty lines of harried householders fighting over each drop of water? Shimla is in a terminal stage of waterlessness and tourists are being asked to return because the town can no longer provide them with drinking water. The people are out on the streets, ready to lynch the municipal authorities. Can one blame them? For years, the councillors and state administration have ignored the warning signs and allowed reckless building activities and illegal hotels to rake it in. As long as they received their cut, they turned a blind eye to the town’s urgent need to expand and repair old creaking systems created a century ago by the British.

I am sure we can now look forward to endless scenes of flooded metros as the monsoon progresses into the country. We have seen them every silly season for the last decade. As I said, midsummer madness is a recurring motif in this land.

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