Malavika’s Mumbaistan: This week’s noise
So, Nitish Kumar managed to dominate this week’s news cycle with his dramatic shrugging off of his alliance with the BJP, which from all reports appears to be a preemptive move against it ‘doing a Maharashtra’ in Bihar
So, Nitish Kumar managed to dominate this week’s news cycle with his dramatic shrugging off of his alliance with the BJP, which from all reports appears to be a preemptive move against it ‘doing a Maharashtra’ in Bihar.
Every media platform covering the event tied itself into knots about the boldness of his move- a veritable seizing of the bull by its horns and the obvious ethical questions it presented; and of course, given which side of the political divide they occupied reported it through that prism. Accordingly, Nitish was seen as a political opportunist who habitually sacrificed ideology for ambition or a wily and courageous contender who could emerge as a potential national opposition leader to challenge PM Modi in the 2024 hustings.
Such was his seismic effect on the news cycle that Maharashtra’s long-awaited cabinet announcement was almost knocked off the charts. (But obviously not off the minds of leaders of those states in alliance with the BJP whose MH activities have resulted in a trust deficit.
But, however, headline-grabbing his audacious move is, Nitish is a long way off from becoming any kind of contender if the results of recent nationwide poll indicates; 43% of the respondents prefer his former and current deputy CM RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, which means that far from emerging as a pan India opposition leader, unless maturity prevails in Yadav, Nitish will have to spend all his energy watching his own back in Bihar. The ambitions of alpha males-especially of the political variety are hazardous for opposition unity.
The news on the public health front isn’t reassuring. This Wednesday, Mumbai reported 852 Covid-19 cases, the highest daily rise after July 1, and there have been 80 swine flu cases since August 1, (along with 119 cases of gastroenteritis and 218 malaria cases have also been reported in the past eight days.) As if this was not cause for concern the awful-sounding monkeypox looms on the horizon and most worrying are reports of scientists tracking a new, animal-derived virus in eastern China that has infected at least several dozen people known as the novel Langya henipavirus.
And while every doctor and expert say there is no cause for panic, health rather than a government or state issue is a personal one and each individual should be aware and take adequate steps to ensure their own.
What was it like in the days before these health scares had not invaded our consciousness? Hard to imagine. But things were certainly more carefree. A recent glance through some of my earlier correspondence indicates that right up to March 2020, I used to sign off every email with a ‘cheers’. I often wonder when that person will return.
The sense of gloom and doom in Bollywood which no amount of airport-dressing and partying and preening for the paps can camouflage following the poor box office openings for Laal Singh Chaddha and Raksha Bandhan is palpable.
The Bollywood backlash which began with the suicide of SSR and assumed a life of its own on social media is an unfortunate fall out when seen in the larger light of public sentiment in the country.
As a symbol of privilege, Bollywood is low-hanging fruit and an easy one to attack given how it dominates the public imagination; nepotism, privilege, entitlement, wealth and flashy lifestyles are red flags when the mood of the nation for decades has been of growing anger and resentment.
Because regardless of the politics it is a fact that 75 years after independence the abyss between the haves and the have-nots is only increasing. Social media, conspicuous consumption, unemployment and price rise have only added to the ire of those who for years have been left out of the charmed circles that they watched another India benefit from. Call it religious, political, ideological, economic or social divide but Modi’s appeal is that he has managed to convince this India that he understands its pain and champions its aspirations.
And until his critics and opponents understand that there is a deeply held schism between the haves and the have-nots which will not go away until it is acknowledged, understood and addressed.
Unless both sides try to understand each other and find a common ground, there will be no end to the hatred, mistrust and whataboutery. In my daily life, I find myself interacting with many of those who do not share my points of view. Because often, beyond our political /ideological divisions there is a common ground of shared humanity that somehow brings us closer and perhaps more respectful of each other’s differences. This is where positive dialogue begins.
However, much we loathe those we do not agree with, we should never forgo our shared humanity and try to find common ground. That is the only way out of the mess we’re in.
The silver lining (if you could call it that) in Bollywood’s box office cloud is the overwhelming pan-Indian success of Southern films somehow confirms what I have believed for a long time: that the time has come for Dakshina Bharata the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana, to take on the thought leadership of the country and lead it out of its morass. And God knows there is no dearth of talent in this regard. If individuals like Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Shiv Nadar Raghuram Rajan, Shashi Tharoor, Shantanu Narayen Dr Raja Chelliah, Dr C Rangarajan, MK Stalin, Subramaniam Swamy (Yes Even Him) along with Vishwanathan Anand, AR Rahman, Menka and Mohan Guruswamy, Dr Sanjaya Baru, Indira Nooyi, MK Stalin, P Chidambaram, and Jairam Ramesh could pool their considerable resources into a cohesive vision for India, perhaps it could be just what the country requires at this point. And the success of southern films would be a harbinger of things to come.
A huge point in the South’s favour of course is the fact that relative decorum and modesty appear to still prevail there. (Yes, their dance moves might be energetic and sensual but on the whole, there appears to be a demurer sense of living.)
Recently I found myself watching a popular talk show and being appalled by its language and vulgarity. With the four-letter words and sexual innuendo frequently brandished it appeared like a like teenager desperately trying to appear cool saying ‘f*&$’ for the first time. The south mercifully seems uncontaminated on the whole by such behaviour.
Of course, this prudishness dates me horribly and flies in the face of international ( read Western) and current trends. This week pop icon Madonna revealed that in 1984 when she inadvertently flashed more of her posterior on stage than she’d intended to, her agents were sure it would be the end of her career. Well, five decades later her mega success proves just how bottom’s things have gone…