It's been raining movies this weekend. Agneepath followed by The Descendants.Not that I am complaining about either! More from me on both. The idea is to make the most of January's last Sunday... I bet half the world is sighing, "Oh God! First month gone in a flash!" Gayaa toh gayaa. As for me, I'm in the mood to sign up for a flash mob performance of 'Chikni Chameli' outside the Mantralaya. Better still, the mob should opt for the original Marathi version - 'Komdi Palali."
This appeared in the Asian Age today...
Maa…. Tujhe Salaam!
I’m writing this the morning after the night before.India’s 63rd Republic Day went off without an ‘incident’, and we should be so relieved. Imagine. It has come to that. For nearly a fortnight before the 26th Of January, there is an extra high alert all over the country.Which means it is not the best time to be traveling, especially if Delhi is your destination. First, you deal with the notorious fog ( surely, there’s a foreign hand somewhere?) that delays flights for hours on end. Then there’s the deadly red alert, which means further delays and mysterious procedures. Add to that, the presence of countless men in camouflage gear, bearing serious weapons and looking menacingly at weary, sleep deprived passengers. No, it’s not fun at all. The drill is slightly different in Mumbai, where the biggest Republic Day woes revolve around the ‘no booze’ rule. Restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars remain largely empty. And those die hard tipplers who can afford it, jump onto flights taking them for heavy duty r&r to Phuket ( shunned by the smart set these days, but popular with Bollywood holiday makers), Colombo or Rangoon( for the determinedly hip). Given the slight nip in the air, Mumbaikars grab the opportunity to air moth- balled shawls and sweaters and complain about catching a chill. Nobody really thinks about the State of the Nation while admiring the tastefully lit up Mantralaya. This is just as well. No matter what those bods in the Capital tell us, the story isn’t all that wonderful. And it’s slightly silly to keep pointing out the price of ‘mutter’ and ‘pyaaz’. Yes, those damned veggie prices are down by a couple of bucks. So what? The other, more significant statistics remain depressingly stagnant, and oppressively frustrating. At the moment, India’s report card isn’t reading well, never mind the fickle Sensex ka yo-yo. Or any of the other indicators of Bharat Mata’s ‘progress’ that swing as tantalizingly as Katrina Kaif’s hips in the latest superhit ‘item song’ (‘Chikni Chameli’ from ‘Agneepath’). Despite all the above, magic happens. As it did last evening, at a charming, old- fashioned Republic Day Reception , hosted by Shri K. Sankaranarayanan ,the well liked Governor of Maharashtra and his wife, Shrimati Radha , on the lawns of what has to be one of the grandest Raj Bhavans in India ( the one in Kolkata comes a close second).
I make it a point to attend these ‘At Homes’ each time I receive an invitation. Some Governors like me, some don’t. I’m guessing Shri Sankaranarayanan likes me, since I was invited for the second year running. This is just as well. I like him , too. And I enjoy the archaic drill on such occasions, replete with several colonial flourishes, like a military band playing Viennese waltzes, once they’re done with a brassy version of the national anthem. This is the moment everybody waits for. By then, a warm, melon hued sun is setting in the bay on the edge of the manicured lawns. A discreet drum roll alerts invitees to the presence of ‘Important Men’ who appear as if out of nowhere on top of a stone stairway that leads to the lawns. These represent the top brass of the State – Shri Prithivaj Chavan, the Chief Minister , and other members of the cabinet who walk right behind these two worthy gentleman. There is an appropriate hush, as members of the consular corps, visiting dignitaries ( the health minister from Quebec, this year), top cops, lawyers, business people, plus, assorted hustlers and other usual suspects stand aside respectfully to allow the slow passage of the Guv to a gilded sofa placed on a carpet over the lawn. While the Guv’s entourage follows at a small distance, various pushy invitees stalk and waylay the poor C.M.. thrusting cards into his hand, and clicking pictures with him on their cell phones ( Facebook, zindabad!).Meanwhile, a long queue starts to snake its way towards the gilded sofa, where the Guv and his gracious wife, nod and smile at people they are not likely to meet ever again. Tea is served . Coffee, too. Out of large stainless steel containers with convenient taps. Cake, sandwiches, samosas get piled on to the plates of those who aren’t busy schmoozing and sucking up to VIPs and prefer snacks over sycophancy. These form a minority. As the sun sinks into the Arabian Sea, a plaintive last post is sounded, and the tricolour comes down.Mercifully, no speeches are made. Not so mercifully, invitees complain that the parking lot this year has been shifted to Chowpatty Beach, nearly two kilometers away from the Raj Bhavan. Security issues are cited, but that explanation placates nobody. I spot India’s premier Oscar winner, Bhanu Athaiya, patiently waiting for her car. She is on an Oscar road trip across the country for a tv channel as a run up to the big event.It’s been years since an Indian won that precious Oscar. If only those dumb Hollywood guys who decide these things were to start a fresh category for the Best Item Song of the Year, India would win Oscar upon Oscar, year after year. Till such time, we’ll have to console ourselves and be grateful that Anil Kapoor gets mobbed in Agra, while Tom Cruise needs hired fans in Mumbai.
But for me, this lovely, newspaperless morning was made lovelier still when a friend sent me a link to a Youtube video that featured the good looking crew of Finnair dancing to a rollicking Bollywood track (“Om, Shanti, Om”) on a Republic Day flight to Delhi. Now, that’s what I call a real celebration. Why couldn’t Air India have thought of it first?