Mumbai high society is gearing up for a seriously pink saturday night. Paris Hilton will be in the city to flog her handbags. And party. I am in two minds... what do you guys think? Go or not go?? I am tempted. I have always been intrigued by this strange creature who has made a good living out of.... ummm... good living! Her cv reads : professional party girl. And that's what she does for a living! Parties! Parties HARD! And gets paid big bucks for it. It's a tough life, folks. But someone's got to live it, right??
This appeared in The Week.
One of the most unforgettable Bollywood dialogues remains , “Mere Paas Ma Hai,” and with good reason. Mothers have played a huge role in Indian society, and no matter how hard our desi men pretend or protest, at heart they are quintessential Mama’s Boys. No issues. If they think Mama knows best, so be it. But when the ‘boy’ happens to be a 41- year-old bachelor, positioned as the next prime minister of India, one begins to worry. One of the many text messages doing the rounds right after Rahul Gandhi’s ‘game changer’ address at zero hour, read, “Mummy ko aane do… phir sab ko dekh loonga.” Roughly translated, it says, “Just let my mother return… and I’ll fix everybody.” It was a reflection of popular sentiment. Now that Sonia Gandhi is back, all eyes are on her – will the ‘wave of anger’ turn? Will she assert herself and provide a reliable road map to a party that appears lost and confused?Most importantly, will she be able to get her son back on track, given that he is the chosen one? It may turn out to be Sonia’s toughest challenge to date. Not just as the mother of a young man who is about to don the prime minister’s mantle, but also the mother figure to a party of old men. Imagine the irony of it all. Most of those seeking her guidance are far older than she is. They too have been behaving like mixed up adolescents pining for a mataji to come home and take charge. This is not just comical but also very telling. Jayalalitha has been addressed as ‘Amma’ for the longest time, ever since she hit her forties. That too, by grown up guys in their fifties and sixties! For some hard to decode reason, Mayawati is addressed as Behenji and Mamata Banerjee as ‘Didi’. And ‘sister’ they shall stay.While Sonia is ‘Madam’ to one and all, her role is that of a stern, autocratic matriarch who rules over a large and chaotic family. Greying men seek her counsel unabashedly. While Rahul’s contemporaries are happy to play little boys in her presence. It was astonishing to note how the party elders regressed during her long absence and refused to take a strong position, perhaps afraid of the consequences. It was left to Rahul to finally accept the challenge and address the nation. It was seen as a tactical error by political experts, and he was mauled by critics.But someone had to do the dirty job and who better than the heir?
Being Sonia Gandhi was never easy. Not even when she was just the glamourous Italian bahu of the famous Gandhi family. Today, her role is still more complex and vulnerable.It’s a ‘damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t’ situation. If party bosses had carried on jauntily during her illness, people would have gloated, “See… that’s how dispensable she is.” But by reminding the country that all major decisions were on hold, awaiting Madam’s clearance, the party once again demonstrated its crippling dependence on one woman – Sonia.
A major crisis looms. If Rahul’s leadership is not unconditionally (and immediately) accepted, if Sonia is not in a physical condition to take full control of day-to-day issues, there will be an obvious and alarming vacuum. Who’s going to fill it? How soon?If an alternative is not identified and announced within the next few weeks, it will lead to demoralization and disappointment. Team Anna had gone to town with the Bharatmata imagery. It was a shrewd, calculated move to leverage India’s mother fixation. When citizens were repeatedly told they were protesting in order to uphold the honour of the motherland, it struck a strong emotional chord. Whether it’s our villagers or the educated middle class, one thing is instantly understood – protecting a mother’s dignity. Anybody challenging that, is seen as an enemy. Within the party, that’s also how Sonia is perceived. To attack her is to attack your own mother. It’s a delicate situation that the Congress bosses will have to skillfully negotiate as plans for the 2014 Elections get crystallized. If Sonia chooses to play a less assertive role due to health reasons, what happens to Rahul? Not to worry, folks. There is a solution in sight. The name is Priyanka. She can play mentor to not just her brother, but the party , too. Rahul’s trump card is here! And the new dialogue can then read : ‘Mere Paas Behen Hai.”