Sunday, June 22, 2014

An era of Shuddh Hindi Romance coming up...?

This appeared in Sunday Times
    An era of  Shudh Hindi Romance coming up…?
 Perhaps, I should have written this column in Hindi. I have nothing against Hindi. Or any other language for that matter. In India, we have 22 official languages to choose from. Each one of those languages is rich and profound. Most Indians possess impressive language skills and can communicate reasonably well in four or five languages. Hindi is just one of them. So is English - our chutneyfied version of  it - which deserves official recognition as an Indian language. Apart from our mother tongues, many of us are fluent in at least  two more languages. This is an enormous national asset. Hindi has not been declared India’s national language so far.  And regardless of what the political class assumes, Hindi is neither spoken nor understood beyond North India. Even in Maharashtra where I live, Hindi is, at best , a second language after Marathi. Since both languages use the Devnagiri script,  people can read simple sentences without too much difficulty. That’s not the case in other States.  Mumbai has its own version of  spoken Hindi , popularly referred to as ‘Bambaiya’. This is street speak at its most colourful with a vivid use of  racy colloquialisms. I find ‘Bambaiya’ totally ‘Jhakaas’ – and I challenge anybody to come up with a shuddh Hindi substitute for that delicious exclamation.
Which is why, it is awfully annoying to note that the new government, while still taking baby steps managing our vast country, is sending out a few directives that are entirely out of sync with the mood of the nation. Take the recent Home Ministry order instructing government departments to stick to Hindi on social media platforms – sorry, this is not going to fly. Why the hell should someone who does not use Hindi as a primary language be compelled to express himself / herself in it? This smacks of an insidious attempt to gradually impose Hindi as THE language across India. And that , is not going to be accepted by a vast majority of Indians. DMK Chief, M. Karunanidhi stated as much when he said, “ This amounts to an attempt to treat Non-Hindi speakers as second class citizens.” Jayalalithaa has written a letter of protest as well. Government departments are manned by people from all over India. Their official accounts on social media are accessed by anybody and everybody interested in following what’s going on in the corridors of power. Why should such communication be restricted to Hindi? To counter argue – why not Bengali? Tamil? Urdu? Telugu? Why should Hindi alone be given this special status? NDA allies are unhappy, and so are many Indians, who believe in national integrity.
The real fear isn’t about the domination of Hindi in a country that is blessed by such a multiplicity of complex languages and dialects (over 2,000 and still counting!). For six decades, we have functioned just fine with our crazy khichdi of assorted linguistic flavours enhancing communication. Language is about reaching out and embracing differences of all kinds. Language is about expression and influence. Language is fluid and fantastic. It evolves organically and changes with each generation making unique contributions to it. There are other ways to ‘unify’ India, surely? Every language has its own unique cultural identity and status. It creates and occupies its own special space in history. Hindi is a beautiful language. But In India we are fortunate enough to have many, equally beautiful languages. It is important to respect linguistic diversities and not allow any one language group to overshadow the rest.  Let’s get this straight – all languages are equal in a democracy.

The new government has started off on a positive note with many worthy programmes and projects. For the ‘achhe din’ to continue, a re-look at some recent initiatives is urgently required. From the sacking of Governors to the stubborn refusal to deal firmly with Minister of State Nihalchand Meghwal ,  there have been significant missteps that cannot be easily overlooked.  The expectations riding on Modi’s government may be unrealistically high – but this Sarkar is obliged to live up to them, given the overwhelming mandate it has received. The ‘D-Word’ – Development – is a deadly one. It cannot be seen in isolation to mean economic development alone. Giving Hindi precedence over other languages (English included), could lead to resentment and hostility, divisiveness and suspicion. The most common fear being : It’s Hindi today. What will it be tomorrow? That’s a legitimate enough concern. Perhaps, the  new sarkar was merely testing the waters to gauge the response to the ‘Hindi Only’ instructions. Instead of looking ahead and hastening the globalization process via easy and accessible communication systems, we will be taking ten steps into the past. India could do with a massive dose of positivity and patriotism after a decade of fragmentation, frustration and chaos. Why not start by leaving the language option open to users? Otherwise, there will be many who’ll accuse the sarkar of  ‘ullu banaoing’ citizens by trying to push Hindi down their throats. Nahi chalega! Nahi chalega! Yeh dil maange more – language-wise and otherwise.
This appeared in Mumbai Mirror
Will the real Nihalchand please stand up?
One of the most cowardly lines in government lingo is “We’ll look into the matter.” When this annoying line gets tossed around while a 20-year-old woman is running from pillar to post fighting for justice… and quite possibly, her life, just hearing those meaningless words makes our blood boil. Because we know what the phrase actually means – it means zilch! Illey. By the time the authorities get around to ‘looking into the matter’, the traumatized woman may just be dead. That’s how bad it is. That’s how callous it has always been. Except, this time the narrative is different. It involves a Minister in Narendra Modi’s newly formed cabinet. It is he who is being accused of rape by the victim. And while he runs away from the media, refusing to respond to the charges, there is a bunch of inept BJP spokespersons ‘looking into the matter’. While these chaps continue to look, Nihalchand Meghwal, Modi’s Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers, calmly cools his heels and buys time, waiting for his political mentors to bail him out. And, no matter what outraged citizens feel, the brazen Minister will not step down! Worse, party bosses are backing him all the way.
On Arnab Goswami’s Newshour, a certain Mr. Rao suggested this was a case of mistaken identity and that the woman, who was 17 years old when she was repeatedly raped by – get this – 17 men, had got it all wrong!  He also insisted that the Nihalchand named by her, was a different Nihalchand - not the Minister! He went on to make the most preposterous comments about his co-panelists, audaciously saying some of us were ‘hallucinating’. Stuck with the lousiest job on earth (defending a colleague accused of rape and intimidation), Mr. Rao also dug his own grave in the bargain. Even assuming all of us were on hallucinatory drugs that night, what could Rao have said to save the Minister’s butt? The story is sordid enough, if true. According to the charges, a tender 17- year-old bride’s husband – yes, husband – pimped her to friends and influential people, in return for favours. Allegedly, the girl was drugged during these encounters and forced to oblige. When she did file a  police complaint against her tormentors, the case was closed and her charges dubbed ‘false and fabricated’. Ditto happened at the District Court. It is only after she filed a review petition that an additional district judge issued notices to Meghwal and 16 others.
 Once that happened, the story changed dramatically. The woman now claims the Minister’s goons come to her village every day to intimidate and threaten her. She says the Minister has offered her a job and large sums of money to delete his name from her complaint. Let’s take the most cynical scenario here, and assume the woman is lying through her teeth. Let’s give the men the benefit of the doubt and feel sorry for them. Let’s accept they could have been framed. Should the imbroglio end there? No way, Jose. It’s too late for that now. One of them is a liar. Which one? The woman is poor and to all appearances, fighting a lone battle against powerful men pitted against her. Their lives aren’t under threat. Hers is. What is the truth ? “ Let the courts decide” is the other cliché one hears over and over again. Given the snail pace of justice, that could take twenty or more years.  The woman will be 40- years- old by then. Nobody will remember the case or even the Minister’s name. Perhaps, that is the intention – to tire out a victim till someone either drops dead, or runs out of physical/monetary resources to pursue the case.
Most times, women facing sexual exploitation (whether within the family or outside it), are made to feel responsible for the abuse and placed on the backfoot. Terrorising a victim into silence is easy. Generally, it is via threats to her person. This case is murkier still, since her husband is involved. This is not all that uncommon. There are any number of  pimp-husbands in Mumbai ( Bollywood , corporate India, Police and other government agencies), who are notorious for  exploiting their wives. Nobody talks about it openly. But everybody knows who they are. We have men in Parliament who are complete rogues – bigamists, serial adulterers, paedophiles, black mailers and worse. Nihalchand’s will be one more case that will be ‘looked into’ eventually… if ever. Meanwhile, a 20-year-old victim has been asked by the cops if she can name witnesses and provide accurate dates when the alleged rapes took place!
 You decide who is hallucinating / concocting/ fabricating material here….while anonymous authorities promise to ‘look into the matter’.
This appeared on the NDTV blog...
                               It’s not about Preity alone…
That’s the damn problem with celebrity spats – the personal becomes more important than the larger issues raised. When such spats involve a beautiful and brave former ‘Bollywood star’, who is facing a slow and painful fade out, and a volatile rich man, who happens to be a former lover and current business partner, it’s a made-for-media story all the way. The easiest thing to do with all the juicy material flying around is to dismiss it as a high profile lovers’ tiff, as certain journos with deeply vested interests have tried to do. Once you reduce the case to nothing more serious than a former girl friend’s public pique at being dumped and possibly replaced by a younger, hotter woman,perspectives change and opinions alter. In Bambaiyaspeak, it becomes another flippant Bollywood ‘lafda’, worth milking by scoop- famished mediawallas .  It also makes Zinta look bad. Perhaps, that’s the whole idea. Preity is being projected as either a ‘poor thing’ who can’t handle rejection, or a neurotic, high –pitched , out of control woman chasing publicity at any cost. This is grossly unfair to Zinta. As it would be to any other woman caught in similar circumstances.
Let’s be honest : It takes guts to file an FIR against a powerful person who has allegedly been abusive in public. Abuse is abuse – verbal, physical, sexual. This is not a fight between equals. Pitted against Zinta is a wealthy, well connected, individual. Zinta will find herself increasingly isolated, not just by her own film industry colleagues (evasive!), but even by those in her social circuit. That’s Mumbai. Zinta is no longer regarded as a force to reckon with in Bollywood – she has made too many professional mistakes - turning a flop producer being the latest. That’s how it goes in the movie business – a female star is only as valuable as her last week’s box office collections. Most fans will find it difficult to recall Zinta’s last commercial hit. Becoming the part owner of an IPL team that narrowly missed the cup this season, has ensured a certain level of visibility.But the debacle that took place at the stadium on 30th May, and which is dominating media space right now, will only erode whatever is left of the PZ brand. India is not terribly kind to strong willed, outspoken women who are dubbed ‘trouble makers’ if they dare to raise their voices, especially against men. Zinta is such a woman. In the past, she has bravely stood up to pressure tactics by being the only witness to stand by earlier statements against the Indian Mafia in the notorious Bharat Shah case of  2003.Today, she’s at the centre of another ugly controversy and is being hauled over the coals across social media platforms.  Why not let the cops get on with their job? It must be noted that Zinta has not accused anybody of  molestation –sexual or otherwise. Her lawyer has sensibly relied on a Supreme Court verdict which specifies that the real test is whether an action “shocks the  sense of decency of a woman.”  If  Zinta was indeed called a “fucking whore”, a “ fucking bitch”  in the presence of several people inside a stadium,as she claims, and reminded of the fact that she is just a ‘bloody actress’, one would think it definitely qualifies as a fit case that must have shocked her sense of decency – as it would, any woman’s. And since Zinta’s ‘class’ was also allegedly questioned in the exchange, it is appropriate to point out that generally it is the abuser who displays his / her true class….not the victim!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Big " O" - Optimistic India!

This picture was taken at the Flamenco- Gypsies Festival. 3 days of magic under the stars!
This appeared in Asian Age...
                               The Big ‘O’….
Okay, here’s a chhotasa clarification for the innocents and prudes out there who are reading this: Bluntly put, the Big ‘O’ stands for  ‘Orgasm’. And unlike Diego Maradona who gushed, “ To beat Brazil in the final, in their own country, would be an orgasm’, this column is not about football. And the Big ‘O’ here stands for Optimism.  Desi optimism.There’s just no getting away from that blessed word these days. India is on a high. And every uncle one meets socially is busy dancing a jig and talking in rapturous terms about  this khaas optimism.Of course, the new, elevated mood has to do with the new government. Narendra Modi is here! And he will be leading the country out of a decade of darkness. Ironically, of course, soon after the Modi sarkar said, ‘Let there be light’, the power failed in Delhi! Never mind the depressing start to a century of  dazzle, poor Piyush Goyal was forced to go into instant damage control mode and resort to the oldest trick in the book – a trick that had been mastered by the Congresswallas – passing the buck. While Delhi cursed and sweltered in temperatures that would have been murderous even without the power cut, BJP  Netas assured agitators  they would fix the problem in two weeks, after pointing out it was all the fault of that wretched storm which brought down a couple of towers. But mainly it was the fault of the wretched UPA government. Granted, Piyush was not too far off the mark there, but one hopes buck passing is not going to become a regular feature of the new government. For, don’t forget, the key word to keep throwing around these days is ‘OPTIMISM’. And optimistic people don’t blame others. They tackle problems head on themselves.
At one of those dreary diplomatic functions ( warm wine, smelly suits, lousy food and fake conversations), three fellows walked up to ask whether I was also feeling – you’ve guessed it – optimistic.Never mind my answer! Later, at an informal dinner, close friends kept knocking back Camparis and saying how ‘optimistic’ they were feeling. At my favourite Bhaji (vegetable) gulley in Colaba, the mood was equally optimistic. The vendor selling lichees ( not the tainted ones from Kolkata, he kept assuring me), also told me about his optimism. My regular silversmith ( Gujarati) offered me a plate of dhokla with oversweet tea saying he was optimistic business would look up soon. A fancy educationist who runs a successful  commerce college, squeezed my hand warmly and cooed, “ I am so optimistic… my students are so optimistic… the young in India are so optimistic.” Great! Happy for you, honey! But why does nobody want to specify what he/she is so optimistic about!
With so much optimism going around, is there any space left for a teensy-weensy reality check? Is that even allowed? These days, it’s better to ask in advance what’s allowed and what isn’t . I mentioned this to one of India’s most successful industrialists, and he looked miffed. “ This is the time reserved for optimism.  Only optimism. We have to remain optimistic and focus on development. Look at the Sensex. Look at what’s happening across the board.” At another gathering of  ‘those who matter’, a few business people shuffled off when they sensed a slight dip in the optimism levels of our small group. Someone said, “No cynicism,please. India is rising….” Mild applause greeted this remark. “ Overall development is the need of the hour. We must remain optimistic,” an earnest aunty commented. Suddenly, I felt like we were all a part of Salvador Dali’s world. Or participating in the 21st century adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. To me, this kind of optimism is scary. I mention this as a response to a long letter I received from a gentleman who wanted  me to take back my words ‘for the sake of optimism… the young in India need optimism.”  His unsolicited advice was polite but somewhat menacing.
It’s come to a point I gag each time I hear the word ‘optimism’.  I want to shout, Hello! I  AM an optimist, okay? Have always been one. If I choose to articulate what I am observing / feeling / thinking / living…  does that make me less optimistic? Or more?? I would say more. For, I am optimistic enough to believe we still live in a vibrant, free environment that respects all kinds of divergent viewpoints and opinions. Am I wrong in thinking that? Am I the only one living under the false illusion that free speech is still a deeply cherished attribute? Or that democracy will protect individuals who don’t always conform to the diktats of  the majority in power? The simple answer is ‘Yes’. I do believe India values my freedoms as it does the freedoms of all its citizens.  I would say, this non-negotiable position makes me the ultimate optimist.  Perhaps, it’s time to redefine the true meaning of optimism. As of now, there is just one interpretation, one version. I wouldn’t call that optimism at all. A better description for this all-pervasive emotion which is dominating our lives right now is wish fulfillment. A billion plus wishes are posted on a long, long list. Even if a fraction of those wishes are granted, then perhaps we can truly go from being a not-so-Incredible India to a euphoric Optimistic India!


Saturday, June 7, 2014

An Open Letter to Jaya Bachchan... and more.

           Sorry about my long absence... I have some technical problem happening here. It's impossible for me to access my blog from my android phone. Which means I have to be home to post here. And since I work on an antiquated laptop with snail speed, it makes the entire operation somewhat daunting. But please don't give up on me! Keep those comments rolling...
This picture was clicked by my husband in Hong Kong last week.
     An open letter to Jaya Bachchan…
Dear Jaya,
I have known you for over forty years. I write this in anguish and pain. You are a senior representative of the Samajwadi Party in Parliament. But much more than your political avatar, you are a sensitive woman -  a wife, mother, grand-mother. Why have you not spoken up against the sexual atrocities being committed in Uttar Pradesh involving defenceless young girls? Or against what happened in Meghalaya with a Garo woman who had her head blown off for resisting her attackers? What crime had this 35- year-old tribal woman from the South Garo Hills district in Meghalaya committed? Obviously, it was the same one committed by the two teenage Dalit girls strung up on a mango tree in front of their humble hut in UP’s Badaun district earlier - all three victims were  born into wretchedness. They died in wretchedness.Their crime was poverty. We in India, demand justice, all the while knowing, there’s none. Not so long as Akhilesh Yadav, the brash, young Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh brazenly refuses to acknowledge the enormity of the crime. And he is not alone. Which makes me wonder : Has that most awful four-letter-word – RAPE – lost its impact on a society that has to deal with multiple rapes on  a daily basis? It certainly looks like nobody is willing to deal with these crimes, least of all, the authorities in UP. Here’s a nauseating comment from your senior SP leader Ramgopal Yadav, “ In most places when relationships between boys and girls come out in the open, it is termed as rape.” Jaya! Really!! Mulayam Singh’s response was still more arrogant, “ Google something else. Media’s job is to speculate.You do your work and let us do our work.” In other words ( pardon the French ),  “F**k off!”
 Jaya, I respect your outspokenness. And I have known you to speak your mind on several issues in the past. I appeal to you through this column, to break your silence on these ghastly, grisly, gory incidents, which have made it to the International press and generated enough of a backlash to provoke UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon into issuing a strongly worded condemnation of the Badaun incident. He  damned the ‘Boys will be boys’ comment and added, “Together we can empower more people to understand that violence against women degrades us all.” Going beyond the terrible press India has been receiving in this case, and also going beyond commercial issues (“ The advisory will impact tourism… foreign women will avoid visiting India ”), the more immediate concern is this: what can we do to stop such savagery? Jaya Bachchan, you can certainly play a powerful role in educating your political mentors by pointing out the immorality of their despicable behavior to them. If they fail to pay any heed to your advice, it would be best for you to disassociate yourself from this pathetic lot and resign from such a morally bankrupt party. That would win you a great deal of national respect.  Can you do that? Will you?
I was in Meghalaya a few weeks ago, and had the chance to interact with exceptional Garo women. We discussed several challenges faced by them in a rapidly changing society which is slowly coming to terms with new cultural contours that don’t always respect tribal traditions. Tragically,the blood curdling attempted rape and eventual murder of the 35-year-old Garo wife-and-mother could have happened to any woman in the village. Her assailants used an AK-rifle to blow her head off in the presence of her five children, after locking up her husband. There is cold bloodedness, sadism and sexual frustration evident here. Just as there was in the Badaun case. And just as there is in every rape that was ever perpetrated. Let’s not create categories for rape (“ This one involved guns…. and  is therefore worse than the other ones which used knives, ropes, stones”). A rape is a rape. It’s a crime not just against women but against humanity itself. Unless we are prepared to see it in that context, we will continue to downplay rape as something that happens when men can’t find a willing partner and attack the first woman… child… they come across.

 Do it Jaya. Force the SP top dogs to act against the murderers. You owe it to your countless fans. And to yourself.
     Mumbai Mirror last Saturday...                     
                      Smriti Irani keeps the flag flying….
For  Smriti Irani, achhey din aa gaye hain. And why not?  On the dramatic day  of the swearing in ceremony ,Smriti appeared on several channels when it was known she was going to be an important member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet. Smriti presented a picture of equipoise and confidence. There wasn’t a trace of exaggerated emotion as she calmly answered the standard questions (“How has the journey been so far… how do you see the journey for the next few years?”). An overawed Arnab Goswami gushed uncharacteristically as he kept repeating how Smriti at 38 , was the youngest cabinet minister  to hold office at the centre. He also mentioned Najma Heptullah’s age several times ( 78). And remarked how Najma was the oldest minister in Modi’s cabinet. And I thought to myself how perceptions have altered! Two strong, determined women representing different generations in the same cabinet. The best part about Smriti Irani’s remarkable career track has been her visible growth ( pardon, the pun). More, much more than her weight, it is her impressive evolution as an articulate and dynamic political leader, respected for her sobriety, clarity, modesty and commitment that has propelled her to her current job( Minister HRD). These are four key qualities which have paid Smriti rich dividends.When asked for the hundredth time about her ‘journey’, Smriti replied simply and patiently, “Let me be honest. I come from a lower middle class home. When I was growing up, all we could think of was having a roof over our head and a job to hang on to.”  This is the sort of transparent, down to earth admission that today’s India immediately connects with. No bombast. No bragging. The follow up question about losing in Amethi to Rahul Gandhi was dealt with equally gracefully when Smriti acknowledged her defeat without making any silly excuses. There was maturity and balance in all her responses. And this is what her admirers will look out for as she takes charge of her portfolio and gets down to work.
Smriti sure has come a long, long way from the time she was the darling of millions, playing the role of an overburdened ‘bahu’ in Ekta Kapoor’s breakthrough serial which had the nation completely hooked. Her transition from a mega television star to a BJP spokesperson happened seamlessly. At each turning point, Smriti found just the right words, the right tone, the right perspective. This couldn’t have been easy at a time when Modi was the favourite punching bag of the media and was routinely hauled over the coals for his controversial remarks and unconventional policies. Unlike her more agitated counterparts thrust into this unenviable role (defending the indefensible, night after tiresome night). Smriti remained super calm, opting for measured discourse over high pitched rhetoric. It was said she was Narendra Modi’s chosen one. It was equally obvious why she was in such an envied position. It would be most unfair to  sneer at  Smriti  for being the Boss’ pet. Managing so many egos within and outside her party, will be her new challenge. But what’s the bet Smriti will score over some of her more aggressive colleagues and maintain the dignity of her office? That’s the thing about some fortunate Power Ladies of today – they know exactly how to maintain the all important balance in their lives. We in Asia, are accustomed to women in positions that come with mega clout.We are equally accustomed to women so frighteningly marginalized, they don’t even have a shot at survival, forget anything else.
 In a scenario that is so dramatically divergent, someone like a Smriti Irani stands out just for being a sensible ‘aam aurat’, who has worked bloody hard to get to her position. From this moment on, her life will be transformed forever. She will be watched and monitored like never before. A huge responsibility rests on her shoulders. And the media, as we know too well, is not known to be kind towards high profile individuals dealing with challenging assignments. Somewhere, there is a nasty little spot inside most critics who wait for signs of weakness…. who wait for mistakes…. who wait to pounce on someone in the limelight. Especially if that someone is like a Smriti Irani … a comfortable-in-her-skin politician, ready to break the stereotype and take on adversaries, without once losing her dignity and self respect. Most significantly, Smriti does not threaten other women. One generation has grown up thinking of her as the beleaguered woman next door. A friendly padosan they can enjoy chai ,dhokla  and gupshup with. This is a huge plus – and Smriti is smart enough to recognize it as one.
Smriti Irani  has made ‘Gharelu’ cool. Good for Smriti Irani.
This appeared in The Week...
           Why I feel sorry for Sonia Gandhi….
I am feeling exceedingly sorry for Sonia Gandhi -  not the politician, but the mother. Look at what happened recently – the soul destroying defeat of the Congress party, led by her beloved son, Rahul Gandhi was blamed squarely on the ma-beta combo. Not only was this the most humiliating moment for India’s oldest political party, but for Sonia Gandhi, it was also an admission that her son had flopped. And flopped  badly. Sonia did indeed take that to heart, as was obvious at the briefest press conference any national leader has held, during which Sonia conceded defeat, and all but yanked a broadly smiling Rahul away from the harsh glare of the spotlight, before the poor chap  made an even bigger fool of himself. Yes, she managed to recover her equilibrium a little after scowling, sulking and refusing to congratulate Narendra Modi after he was declared the prime minister designate. Since then, she has consistently refused to smile! Yes, she and sonny boy did the right thing by attending the historic swearing in ceremony and thereby avoiding another controversy. But Sonia’s grim visage told its own story. That  particular narrative has a lot to do with her disappointment with Rahul – the Prince who failed to deliver a royal result. It’s hard to say who one feels sorrier for – the mother or the son, in this case. My sympathies are with Sonia.
Let’s be honest, she has led a tough life. Not just as the widow of an assassinated prime minister, but also as one of the most feared / hated women on the subcontinent. No matter what her admirers claim, Sonia never managed to win our hearts. Whether that had to do with her aloofness, or the fact that her Italian origins acted as a barrier, despite her best efforts to become ‘one of us’, the truth is Sonia remained an outsider. Very few people understood what she was all about. The original sympathy wave was eventually replaced by resentment. This simmering anger against her was rarely articulated, such was her power and hold over the party. Sonia was perceived as a deep, secretive, closed individual, who showed zero tolerance towards anybody who opposed her diktats. The ‘official’ Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was reduced to a pathetic figurehead, unable or unwilling to assert himself, particularly during his second lackluster term in office. All this was discussed soto voce by courtiers too timid to take on ‘Madam’. And soon this paranoia extended to Madam’s son, the sweet Dimpled Darling, who lived in La La land and did what Mummy wanted him to.
Sonia must have nurtured many dreams for her handsome boy. If that were not the case, she would have left the country right after Rajiv Gandhi’s tragic death, as many Gandhi family well wishers expected her to. But Sonia is made of sterner stuff – she stayed. And waited. And that is where her calculations misfired. For all the careful grooming and nurturing she invested in her mild mannered son, the poor chap just couldn’t live up to the high expectations that were thrust on him, not just by his mother, but the entire country.
Rahul is still a happy-go-lucky bachelor boy. That must worry Sonia the mother. While Priyanka put up a fine show campaigning for mum and brother, there is the Robert Vadra factor looming large on the political horizon. Uma Bharati had made a categorical statement saying the next government would send Vadra to jail. Apart from this threat and other vexing family issues, Sonia will be coping with stepped up criticism from within the party she has so far controlled and dominated, without having to tolerate even a murmur of criticism against her autocratic style of  functioning .With Congressman Milind Deora boldly opening the Pandora’s box and questioning Rahul’s leadership, Sonia has a tough job of  fire fighting ahead of her. Given the fragile state of her own health (surely, it’s time she revealed the nature of this mysterious ailment?), Sonia’s decline in strictly political terms, seems imminent and inevitable. This may be the hardest part for Sonia to swallow. And one wonders  -  what next? Will Rahul finally find a suitable girl and bring her home to mummy? Will Priyanka decide to take the plunge and relieve both – her mother and brother of their responsibilities? Will the family business declare bankruptcy and call it a day after six decades of running an enterprise called India?
Above all, will Sonia the Supermom, sensibly step back and allow her son to make up his own mind as to what he wants to do with his life? Clearly, Rahul has not inherited the dominant political gene from the Gandhi family pool. Sonia needs to respect the verdict of the country, and that verdict is pretty unambiguous -  Rahul is not the change India was looking for.
Sorry, Sonia. Rahul’s a lovely chap. But Mother India needed another son.