Saturday, November 17, 2012

Balasaheb.....


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There's a Tiger in Maharashtra's tank! 


           Balasaheb is a phenomenon. A force of nature.Period. At the time of writing, he is struggling for his life, and as an apt newspaper headline put it , “ Thackeray remains critical,keeps city’s heart pounding.” Well, so far, both hearts are still pounding – his and the city’s. Balasaheb will go ( as all of us must) when he is good and ready to. Not one second earlier. That’s the kind of man he is. For the past few days we have been hearing several people across popular television channels paying pre-mature tributes to Maharashtra’s Tiger. If this seems somewhat inappropriate, indelicate and insensitive, that’s how the media works. I recall being asked by a leading channel to record my feelings about Balasaheb nearly a month ago. When I wondered aloud whether the enthusiastic anchor was jumping the gun, he answered smoothly, it was far better to have all the sound bytes and footage in place well in advance, rather than air an amateurishly put together tribute when the worst does happen. He had a point.Internationally, this is an old and common media practice. Obituaries of public figures are written months and even years in advance. And those public figures don’t have to be either ancient or ailing. This is a cold but far more professional approach which we in India find cringe-making. It’s true we  handle such matters with  a  highly exaggerated sense of sentimentality. We refuse to let go. We resist closure. And the imminent death of a ‘maha purush’ is a calamitous proposition, even if the person is what we call ‘serious’ and close to 90. In the case of Balasaheb, this refusal to accept the inevitable has been so pronounced as to be thought ridiculous. It was left to young Aditya Thackeray, Balasaheb’s grandson, to put things in perspective when he tweeted ‘Let us stay optimistic.’ Contrast the maturity of that comment with the reactions of  other, far older people speaking on behalf of the family, who kept insisting Balasaheb’s condition is ‘stable’ and that he is ‘improving’. Come on!
Then came the question of protocol. As VVIPs rushed to Matoshree on Thursday, breathless mediawallas reported each sighting with the sort of  excitement one reserves for red carpet arrivals at the Cannes Film Festival. Fortunately, the stars who turned up ( Amitabh, Abhishek. Salman and Aamir) were not asked the standard red carpet question by idiotic tv reporers, “ Who are you wearing?” Anything is possible when there is no other ‘news’ to fill those hours earmarked for something that does not take place on cue. This was largely true across the board, when Mumbai more or less came to a stand still, as offices hastily shut shop, store owners downed shutters and sensible people stayed home. The point is, none of the above was required , in order  to display profound grief and respect for someone who is , after all, a mere mortal, an octogenarian and a very sick person. Why should the public have feared a backlash for what is a natural cause , and not  a gory assassination? Why did the cops convert the area around Matoshree into an impenetrable fortress, instead of reassuring citizens that Mumbai is calm and functioning as usual? Why should Mumbaikars  have cowered and run for cover fearing an outbreak of violence? Violence is misplaced in this situation, even if loyal party workers wished to express their concern and anxiety. This sort of  fear psychosis only reinforces the stereotype and does no good to anybody. Least of all to the reputation of the political leader with a mass following in Maharashtra. It also leads to widespread panic and confusion, with citizens worried about the safety of their life , limbs and property. This is no way to ‘honour’ a revered leader. But that’s us. It is again our over sentimentality that compels us to beat our breasts and make a theatrical public display of  love.All this, while the cops stand around helplessly , insisting they cannot ‘interfere’ for fear of escalating the violence. That generally provides an excuse to potential arsonists  to go right ahead and burn  buses, taxis, cars…. anything inflammable. It’s hard to figure out how these wanton acts of destruction become demonstrations of asli sorrow. It is almost as if those who do not take to the streets and throw stones are not loyal enough to the great leader.
How can we change this mindset and bring more dignity to such occasions? When will a show of shameless sycophancy replace sincere sympathy? Why are there so many distinctions when it comes to meeting the families of those in precarious health conditions? Why the class system? The hierarchies? The power play? And the ongoing extension of what we call the VIP culture in India? Celebrities are ushered in instantly and given access to other celebrities waiting with the family. Plebs, who may have far more real admiration and love for the  leader, are subjected to a lathi charge. This is terribly lop- sided. And an annoyingly desi trait that we keep perpetrating. I was asked in hushed whispers by several Important People when I’d be visiting Matoshree. As also how well I know Balasaheb.
Frankly, my dear, that’s nobody’s business but mine!
Here's wishing Balasaheb a speedy recovery and an even longer life....

37 comments:

P V Ariel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
P V Ariel said...

Blogger P V Ariel said...

Good Morning De,
A good start with a promotion to son's business. Good Collections. Keep it up Ranadip. Well, here comes our best wishes.
Balasheb phenomenon you very well put it. I liked the concluding para."How can we change this mindset and bring more dignity to such occasions? When will a show of shameless sycophancy replace sincere sympathy? Why are there so many distinctions when it comes to meeting the families of those in precarious health conditions? Why the class system? The hierarchies? The power play? And the ongoing extension of what we call the VIP culture in India?"
The questions yet to be answered.
Have a Good and wonderful day.
Nice to be the first commenter.
Best Regards
Philip

P V Ariel said...

PS: We Wish Balasaheb a miraculous recovery.
P V & Associates
Secunderabad, A.P.

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Venkat Chari said...

Marvelous article! I have been thinking of these things but unable to express my agonies regarding the mentalities of our people and our TV channels. You have very clearly showcased these things with good prudence.
The TV channels are resorting to projecting day-to-day trivial affairs as breaking news and cashing on it. They repeatedly flash the " Breaking News " banner on the screens while presenting the news adducing the viewers to eagerly concentrate on the screens. But all those breaking news turn out to be daily happening routine matters of some rape at a particular place, some robbery, some political clash, some fire accident or some burning of vehicles and property in mob violence etc. All these things have become very common now and projecting them as breaking news naturally spreads more hatred and violence in society. So some thing should be done to change the mentalities of our broadcasting media and the people in general.
Thanks to you once again for a nice article.

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Sammy said...

I couldn't agree more.

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Faraz Salat said...

The people of Mumbai have their rights to express. As the fans of Mr. Thackeray have the right to pour out their love openly, the common people have the right to invariably move freely, anywhere in Mumbai, whether Mr. Thackeray or his likes are healthy or not. Mr Thakeray's failing health should not cause a sense of fear in a commoner. Period.

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Manish Mishra said...

Since my childhood i have been told that media falls under educationist class. But now, as i am in my late 20 ask myslef..is it really?

No..absolutely not. Atlest in our country. The key role of media is to let the viewers aware of their rights, duties, good news, even bad news..and above all make them socially smart enough to copeup in all situations. Birth, death, marriage, fight or anything.

Many times i find even goondas are glamourised on tv as heros.So, this time if media is creating useless HYPE in the name of Balasaheb, is not new. This is bad. Heyy..Common you media guys. Set some standard.

Tsomo85 said...

"Stereotype" Yes, perhaps that's why there's joy in silently smiling within such a behaviors!!!!! The bad news of this world is not how people react to such a public figure but how much people don't know the definition of "HURT." Well, too bad for them! May Balasaheb rest in peace. Once a Tiger always a Tiger! More power to his son & grandson!

faceless apprentice said...

You have very nicely articulated the culture of celebrity death drama in India. However, I must say this "reverence" and "dignity" bestowed on this particular individual is misplaced. Things fear can do to people.

Also, Miss De, the possibility of violence is well anticipated by the general public after all the leader's supporters threatened violence against those who merely stated the fact that he was on a ventilator.

At the end of the day, I found shameful that eulogies were flowing from TV channels and print media for a person who is hated by large numbers of people and was responsible for rioting and death.

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Venkat Chari said...

Faceless apprentice and some others who represent Bala Saheb Thackeray as a villain and shame to society should learn that he was not the cause of what all happened under his guise. It is the mob and mob may include us also who are responsible for all riots and violence and deaths. So they should learn to respect people and don't dig their characters.

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Jogeshwar said...

BTW Have you read this? this is preposterous http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/21-year-old-girl-held-for-Facebook-post-questioning-Mumbais-Bal-Thackeray-shutdown/articleshow/17276979.cms
but as Voltaire famously said, I will defend to death the right to make such statements.

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faceless apprentice said...

Venkat Chari, his politics of hate created a generation of mobsters who went on to create havoc on the streets for the flimsiest of reasons without so much as getting a nod of disapproval from their leader. That is culpable in my opinion. The after effects continue - two girls arrested for questioning the shutdown of the city. Now you may argue it has nothing to do Thackarey himself. But what is abundantly clear is the fear psychosis and thought paralysis at play here born from his politics of hate. You are free to idolise or revere him just as I'm free to find him repulsive, antidemocratic, sectarian and least worthy of respect.

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RAJ47 said...

Balasaheb now rules the Heaven too..
First order to Yamraj...
Get that Kasab!

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