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Kafka in Gujarat

In the crowds gathered, many wore Narendra Modi masks and stared back at Mr Advani, cheering his speech— NDTV.com, December 11.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2012 22:26 IST
Manas Chakravarty

In the crowds gathered, many wore Narendra Modi masks and stared back at Mr Advani, cheering his speech— NDTV.com, December 11

One morning, when Bhavin Shah, also known as Gregor Samsa to his friends, woke from troubled dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into Narendra Modi. He sensed the change in his bones, which didn’t feel like a twenty-five-year old’s. He had a throbbing headache, the result of imbibing too freely the hooch supplied by the friendly neighbourhood bootlegger and he felt terribly tired. He raised his head and caught a quick glimpse of Modi’s familiar white beard and thick lips in the mirror on the opposite wall. His worst fears had come true.

Bhavin felt his little pot belly miserably. All those workouts, all those wasted visits to the gym only to land up with a 62-year-old’s body, he thought. What on earth would his girlfriend say? Would he ever be allowed in a disco again? His eyes were so weak he could barely stand the early morning light. He would have to wear spectacles, he thought. Would he be able to eat meat? He tried to conjure up a vision of chicken vindaloo, but a wave of nausea hit him.

Bhavin knew that such transformations weren’t uncommon — he had read Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, where the hero of the story woke up one day to find himself changed into a beetle. He was quite a Kafka fan, which is why his friends called him Gregor Samsa, the name of the character who became a beetle.

At least becoming Narendra Modi, thought Bhavin, was better than turning into a beetle. He was an admirer of Mr Modi, respecting him for his strong personality and his work. He had attended several of his election meetings. In fact, he was at the chief minister’s rally the previous night, where he had worn a Modi face mask, before settling down to an evening discussing Kafka over some foul rotgut. Shah wondered whether he would be able to eke out a wretched existence pretending to be Modi’s 3-D holographic image.

This was not the first time that Bhavin had thought he was being transformed. Last year, after a night spent at a dissolute study session where they analysed ‘Kafka and the semiotics of the Absurd’ over a bottle of moonshine, Bhavin had woken up thinking he had become Anna Hazare. Bhavin had been impressed with the old campaigner and had even bought a cap with “I am Anna Hazare” written on it. That morning, his bleary eyes had fallen on the cap and he had naturally assumed that he had undergone a Kafkaesque transformation. He then spent the next half an hour searching for his false teeth before he saw himself in the mirror and realised he hadn’t been metamorphosed after all.

This time though was different, thought Bhavin gloomily — the face in the mirror had been that of Narendra Modi. But just how big was his pot belly? Did he have grey hair on his chest? Ignoring his hangover, Bhavin decided to take a closer look and walked unsteadily to the mirror. And there he saw, praise the Lord, that he hadn’t changed at all, but had merely forgotten to take off his Narendra Modi face mask.

As he whooped with delight, Bhavin Shah made two resolutions: one, to burn every book by Kafka and two, to drink nothing but Scotch.

Views expressed by the author are personal