Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shobhaa : Never a Dull De



Good time of the year to launch a new title. 
Shobhaa: Never a Dull De will be released on 15th November at the Tata Lit Fest in Mumbai. I am looking forward to your reactions!
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This appeared in Asian Age...
                        Mine is bigger than yours….Sardar Vs. Sardar
India is a nation of statue worshippers. We have a peculiar relationship with our statues – old and new. In the days of the Raj, we  slavishly worshipped the magnificent statues of British Kings, Queens and Generals, which dotted our cities. This carried on for years and years, well after the sun had set over the Empire. I was very fond of one particular statue in Mumbai. It was called Kala Ghoda by locals. Well, it was a statue of a ghoda ( horse) and it was black (kala). Straightforward and simple. Nobody remembered nor cared which Britisher was atop this gorgeous ghoda. But everybody was aware of the statue’s existence. It was our favourite landmark. Every cabbie knew exactly where to go if you said ,  “ Kala Ghoda chalo.” One fine day, the statue disappeared. As did several other Raj statues. Parochialism and a misplaced sense of national honour led to officious netas insisting on getting rid of well loved symbols like this ghoda. I am told the statue found a new home somewhere in the city. Perhaps, in the zoo. Along with most of the other discarded relics from the Angrez past .
Years later, a rather strange statue of Rajiv Gandhi was installed in a pretty garden close to where I reside in South Mumbai.Why strange? Ummm, the first time I saw it after it was officially unveiled, I wondered what our former Prime Minister was doing with a lasso. He wasn’t a cowboy. Then, I looked again, and hello! what resembled a lasso was, in fact, a garland. And he was flinging it in the air, or at someone in the far distance. Nice! But errrr…. a little puzzling. Most of the other statues in and around Mumbai are of Shivaji Maharaj ( in keeping with local sentiment, of course!). There is a slightly stunted one of Netaji at Chowpatty. A pretty impressive one of  Dr. Ambedkar near the University. And a rather wonderful one of Tilak, along the beachfront. There is also the famous Khada Parsee. Translation: he is standing (khada) and he is Parsee. Therefore. We like obvious in Mumbai! Statues of other notable Parsee gentlemen are positioned in and around Churchgate station. I am guessing we will soon see multiple statues of Sachin Tendulkar  in and around  Dadar.
As one travels through India,  one notices just how our statue obsession has  grown during the past decade. Mayawati rules as the Statue Queen, of course. But beyond her turf, the maximum number of statues one encounters are of  Mahatama Gandhi. As the Father of the Nation, nobody has problems with that. But now comes the Statue of Statues – Sardar Patel’s. In Gujarat. Go ahead and shoot me for saying this, but considering Mahatma Gandhi also belongs to Gujarat…to India … to the world…. if such an ambitious  statue had to be erected at all, should it not have been the Mahatma’s? All of last week, we were witness to some really petty  political bickering over one of  India’s most important statesmen – Sardar Patel – the Iron Man. It was a pathetic attempt to ‘own’ Patel, like he was the bone being fought over in a kiddish dog-in-the- manger game being played by Modi and Singh. Both men emerged looking like pygmies, as they tried to outdo one another and lay claim to Sardar’s legacy. In any case,the entire project stinks of political opportunism . Suddenly, we have rediscovered Sardar! Suddenly, Modi has decided Sardar should have been the first prime minister of India. Suddenly, Manmohan Singh has co-opted the Sardar into the Congress fold! Listen you guys – you aren’t fooling anybody! And it is insulting the Sardar’s memory to exploit him so shamelessly to score cheap political points.Modi has said the farmers of Gujarat will contribute  iron to create the tallest statue on earth.Oh dear – that notches up one more stunt  - why just the farmers? And to compare the significance of the Sardar Statue  to the Statue of  Liberty in America or the gigantic statue of Jesus Christ that dominates Rio, is totally misleading. One is a symbol of collective national values , the other is religious. If at all, Modi wanted to make a major statement, he should have considered a pan Indian monument featuring a pantheon on national figures, like the magnificent heads of American Presidents carved out of rock at Mount Rushmore. Or Mahatma Gandhi, of course!
As and when the Sardar’s statue does get erected, we will have at least one new government in place. Possibly three! The very people who are hoping to gain political mileage from the Sardar, may or may not be around. The farmers who trustingly donating iron for their hero, may also be dead and gone. But so what? Our leaders remain callous and indifferent to farmer suicides. They care a jot about rising prices and food grains rotting across the countryside. By erecting this monumental statue at an equally monumental cost, how on earth will politicians serve the people they claim to care about and represent? Symbolism of this kind, is all very well. But it doesn’t fill empty stomachs. Or improve the quality of life. We talk about the staggering, long term impact of a shaky economy. Modi discusses ‘development’ from every available platform. Manmohan Singh discusses nothing at all. He just stares and keeps mum.
Poor Sardar Patel. If you really want to honour the great man’s memory, start schools, build hospitals, provide food to those who have none and a roof over every Indian’s head, clothe your people, and make sure they have the sort of future Sardar Patel had envisioned for his countrymen. That would be the right way to honour him. But I guess, it’s so much easier to build a statue with other people’s money… and claim all the glory!

7 comments:

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Someone who cares.. said...

Politicians being looked upon as pygmies..someone please sincerely convey such truly constructive thoughts to all those out there..my heartiest wishes!

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Latha said...

You have echoed the thoughts of 1B+ people of this country whose tax money is used without their permission. We are also to blame. Gallons of milk, honey, curds, fruits etc etc are poured over God statues everyday when millions of children are starving to death. Fanatics will kill me for writing this. But I don't care. Nobody cares for our poor enough to improve their lifestyles. That's why our country is the third one to have the world's poorest people after 66 years of the so called "independance". But for many no independance from poverty.

www.norman.com said...

But I guess it is easier to build a statue with other people's money... and claim glory.
Like I always say "THEY LIVE OF THE POOR" swindle the money that is due to the poor....
Latha, U don't have to worry for speaking out. These gandus are only in a minority and if people like U and I speak out they will put their tails between their legs and....

Norman.

Aditya said...

Always Nurturing!!
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