Have you ever experienced a ‘party flip’? No, it’s not something sprung by Naveen Patnaik on unsuspecting allies expecting a manly pre-poll hug. It’s actually something far less sophisticated and commonplace.
Essentially, it’s the rather curious phenomenon of a person attending a party and finding himself airing views that he doesn’t believe in. In the process of hiding his strong differences of opinion, he discovers that it’s actually fun uttering the opinions of the others gathered.
Not too long ago, for instance, I was at a dinner full of jazz fiends. Now, I find the free-flowing variety of music tepid at best, bone-knucklingly boring at worst. But once in the middle of those practitioners of the Art of Cool wah-wahing to Miles Davis, Django Rheinfhart and other finger-snapping dudes, I magically started making pithy comments about ‘blue notes’ and Thelonious Monk. Yes. I felt pleasure in this false sense of camaraderie.
Variations of such evenings occur quite occasionally in my life. I temporarily keep my views tucked away, while pretending to be a fellow admirer of Merchant-Ivory movies, Noam Chomsky hyperventilations, Rabindrasangeet, Italian food, Slumdog Millionaire, The God of Small Things, newspaper columnists I hate... I’m so good with my ‘party flip’ that no one suspects that I’m lying through my buck teeth.
So why do I suddenly support or approve of things that I don’t like or care for? Well, to put it bluntly, it’s because I want to be loved — and, at least for the duration of the party, accepted — by the people whom I’m with.
<b1>I suspect that the sheer rush of ‘feeling loved’ was what also drove Varun Gandhi to first start his by-now infamous March 6 speech in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh, and then — emboldened by the hurrahs to his call for ‘hand-chopping’ — to finish his rant.
Unlike me, however, this hypocrite had a problem. The news of what Varun had told a crowd of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ folks went back to people like himself: us. It’s one thing telling dirty jokes about nuns to a gaggle of schoolboys. It’s quite another when the joke gets back to the teacher.
Wearing a long black kurta and a white churidar, the chubbiest Gandhi could have been a clapper in a qawwali were it not for the fact that he was wearing a bright red tilak, addressing a BJP rally and making anti-Muslim statements that would have made Balasaheb Thackeray lunge for the thesaurus.
If you look at the YouTube clip of his speech (www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jCRSzD01xI&feature=related), you’ll see that he doesn’t look too serious about what he’s saying. He looks like someone who’s simply loving the crowd reaction. On the dais, the young resident of Delhi’s Ashoka Road, author of a collection of poems in English titled The Otherness of Self, former student of the London School of Economics, and a guy who knows the difference between the phrases ‘Give a dog a bone’ and ‘I think I’m getting a boner’, is having a fun time and feeling more important than he has ever felt among his kind.
But take another look at the YouTube clip, especially at the image of the people laughing their heads off in the foreground (from the 17th to the 20th second on the video’s timeframe), and you realise that for the crowd listening to the BJP campaigner thundering on in the background, the chap’s a joke, eliciting the sort of fun that one gets seeing, say, a Miss Universe contestant talking about world peace and Mother Teresa.
Varun Gandhi reminds me of that joke about the blind Black man on the street who thinks he’s White and is shouting anti-Black slogans. The liberal passersby are appalled but can’t say anything because he’s Black; the White supremacists are confused but amused.
The fact is Varun is a joke. So could we, babalog folks like Varun himself, please treat him as that? Because before we made a big deal about the lad who discovered how ‘cool’ being communal in some parties can be, that’s pretty much what the gallery he was playing to was treating him as.