Politically Incorrect : This appeared in Sunday Times today....
A Tale of Two Women…..
On the surface it would appear Kalavati and Sheetal Moofatlal --- oops …. make that Mafatlal, have nothing in common but their gender. Think again. Last week they were both in the news and the media couldn’t get enough of them. Their lives are not all that dissimilar – they make headlines for the wrong reasons. Sheetal once declared that she’d gone into mourning after reading about couturier Gianni Versace’s murder. She told the press she only slept on Versace sheets. Kalavati has no sheets. Or so she claims. Both ladies are media savvy – they have perfected their soundbytes. Sheetal boasted she was more Page 1 worthy than Page 3 material. Well, during last week’s fiasco at Mumbai airport, she made it to both spaces. But Kalavati remains one- up on Sheetal when it comes to mega coverage, particularly in Delhi. Kalavati is discussed in Parliament.Sheetal is discussed by Parliamentarians. According to media investigations, both ladies are broke. But in reality, that does not appear so. Kalavati parades her abject poverty and foreign journos gobble it up. Sheetal flaunts her flamboyance and has any number of takers – from bling- worshipping paparazzi stationed to catch the front row action of Fashion Weeks in Milano ( her emeralds made it to international glossies), to local flash bulbwallas focusing on her jumbo rocks. Of course, rocks have a totally different meaning in Kalavati’s dreary life.
What is interesting about both their stories is the question that begs to be asked : vamps or victims? In Kalavati’s case, fate picked her for a pre-election role she had nothing to do with. India’s bonny Prince Rahul decided to drop in for a cuppa – and discovered there was no cuppa! It was Rahul’s aaha moment – his discovery of India. Moved by her desperate plight, our man promised to wave a magic wand and repeat the Cinderella act. Kalavati claims she got zilch. But Rahul’s boys insist lakhs and lakhs have been given to her. Not counting a cow with a generous fodder allowance. Like Oliver, the former share cropper from an obscure village in Vidharba wants more. Free electricity and the BPL card are clearly not enough. Sheetal has always wanted more, like any self- respecting Material Girl – more of everything - solitaires are a woman’s best friend, remember? From solitaires to a solitary night in a prison cell ( definitely no Versace sheets in this dump), it has been such a long journey for the curvaceous socialite who became a poor little rich girl with no friends, virtually overnight. The most ignominious part of L’Affaire Sheetal has been the demeaning admission that all that glitters may not be sterlite… oops--- sterling , and those rocks may be just that - valueless stones! Fakes and the super rich?? But of course . Sheetal may live down the rest of the disgrace, but to be caught ‘smuggling’ anything less than 24-carats is perhaps the worst crime in the social register.
Somehow, one can’t but feel there is something awfully amiss in the way Sheetal’s case was handled. Her ‘crime’ was that she did not declare dutiable luxury items. By all means punish her for that by fining her. Follow the book. That is the standard procedure for offenders in any case. But why describe her as a ‘smuggler’ and send her to jail for an offence several high profile individuals have been equally guilty of ? They were allowed to go home and pay up later. She was treated like a petty criminal. Two sets of rules for the same breach?? Not fair.
Kalavati and Sheetal stand tainted by the system. Kalavati did not ask for largesse – it was thrust on her. She is being used and positioned as a Slumdog Millionairess to suit a political agenda. Kalavati makes good copy. So does Sheetal. Mrs. Mafatlal’s reversal of fortune may make her a Millionairess Slumdog. Rahul urged his co-Parliamentarians not to laugh at Kalavati when Lalu joked about her. Sheetal has still to find a powerful enough champion to defend her. Kalavati has her cow ( at least on paper), Sheetal needs a cash cow to bail her out. A woman’s life is never easy. Kalavati and Sheetal – two sides of the same coin. Two faces of resurgent India.
Got back from Alibag in a bit of a stupor. Perhaps it was the intense heat, the call of the koel or the two movies I watched there ( Ang Lee's Lust:Caution, and " Notes on a Scandal''), but my brain is at rest ( very rarely does that happen!). It is Raj Thackeray's birthday today,as also my brother Ashok's. And yet, I cannot find two more dissimilar individuals. So much for Sun Signs. Can Linda Goodman be this wrong?? All along the route back to Mumbai, I spotted gigantic hoardings wishing 'Raj Saheb' a very long life. In the library of our home in Alibag, hangs a fantastic cariacature of Prince Charles. It is a water colour painted by none other than Raj Thackeray! My husband had bought it years ago at an exhibition. By any standards, it is a first rate work. It got me thinking about the Thackeray family's many talents. Uddhav is an excellent photographer. And Balasaheb, as we all know, a superb cartoonist. My husband has his work as well. Adolf Hitler's water colours were soft and sensitive. Art and autocracy, it would appear, have much in common.