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  Opinion   Columnists  11 Aug 2023  Shobhaa De | Rahul Baba, where’s your jhumka? What jhumka???

Shobhaa De | Rahul Baba, where’s your jhumka? What jhumka???

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com
Published : Aug 12, 2023, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Aug 12, 2023, 12:05 am IST

Parliament provides the most visible stage for performance art: who isn’t engaging in dramabaazi?

 Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with others during a protest of opposition MPs at the Parliament House complex during Monsoon session, in New Delhi, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)
  Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with others during a protest of opposition MPs at the Parliament House complex during Monsoon session, in New Delhi, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)

Phew! I’m so relieved Rahul Gandhi finally found his jhumka. What jhumka? Ummmm… the one he lost in Bareilly… or somewhere in Gujarat (2019), stupid! Everyone loses jhumkas somewhere. Some find them eventually, most don’t. India is experiencing its jhumka moment, okay? Now that Rahul Baba is back in his Type 8 bungalow at 12 Tughlaq Lane, all is well with the world. Imagine being banished from a beloved bungalow in a quiet lane, and being homeless for 136 days! Is this the “sachhai ki keemat” the poor guy was forced to pay after being convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by a Gujarat court for a loaded comment? His offence? Name calling. Very naughty! The 53-year- old is back in the game… back at home, which he says proudly: “Mera ghar poora Hindustan hai…” Sirji… please tell us what that means. Perhaps what he meant to say was: “Poora Hindustan mera ghar hai…” Now that makes perfect sense. But like Ranveer Singh’s rambunctious character Rocky, in the recent film, language ki gadbad hai. The interesting twists in Ranveer’s dialogues are irresistible (“where where you, there there he”) applies to Rahul. But it’s really the jhumka song that clinched the movie for audiences.

TMC MP Derek O’Brien also lost his jhumka the other day, when he was ordered to “leave the House immediately…” by a livid Jagdeep Dhankhar, behaving like the imperious Dhanalaxmi played by Jaya Bachchan in Rocky Aur Rani ki Prem Kahani, when she wants to throw Rani (Alia Bhatt) out of her house. By then, Dhanalaxmi has had enough of the jhumka-thumka nonsense, and wants to get back to business (laddoos).  She has to eat her words (and laddoos) finally, much like Jagdeep Dhankhar did, when the man he had lectured and banished was back in the House 26 minutes later. Jagdeep Dhankhar was no less autocratic than Jaya Bachchan in the movie, when he thundered: “Your demeanour was ignoble, does not justify the position you hold, you have upset the decorum of the ecosystem of the House. You have done it on purpose.” Gosh! Dhankhar-Dhanalaxmi faced the exact same problem: rebellion, defiance, outspokenness. Derek O’Brien is cute, but not as cute as Alia Bhatt who, as Rocky’s Rani, is at the receiving end of Dhanalaxmi’s ire for not respecting antiquated and fake “family values”.

So much was happening in the House mid-week, it was better than any masala film. In fact, when a frail Dr Manmohan Singh, dignified as always, came into view seated on a wheelchair, I immediately thought of veteran actor Dharmendra playing Kanwal Lund (Dhanalaxmi’s wheelchair-bound husband in the same film). Dharmendra was also looking for a jhumka (in his case, an old love, played by Shabana Azmi as Jamini). Manmohan Singh’s life in reality was a lot like Kunwal’s, bullied by a strong woman (Sonia Gandhi) and not allowed to open his mouth despite being the benign patriarch of a parivaar. Like our former PM, the country too was forced to take maun vrat back then. Seeing Dr Singh in their midst, the no-trust motion got sidelined for a moment or two, and we forgot everything momentarily, including the barb, “The PM was in foreign nations while Manipur was burning…”

The chattering classes seemed far more worried about Rahul Gandhi getting his bungalow back, even after he backed out of leading the crucial no-trust debate in Parliament, and let Congress floor managers push Gaurav Gogoi into the snakepit. Maybe Rahul was preoccupied and worried about getting new curtains? It’s not just Derek O’Brien who can be accused of “engaging in theatrics”: everyone is doing it. Parliament provides the most visible stage for performance art: who isn’t engaging in dramabaazi? It has become the biggest audition hall for political aspirants looking for a break. Look at the costumes! The “Parliament Lewks” compete with Bollywood’s airport looks, and every prominent neta has a “çhhaap” which looks carefully curated by a stylist. Sartorial statements have gone to the next level. But so far nobody has had the gumption to show up a la Ranveer Singh as Rocky… why Rocky? Ranveer Singh as Ranveer Singh (“I wake up looking like this, baby…”).

The debate over Karan Johar’s latest film is as fierce as anything in Parliament. It’s all about challenging your family. Check: Rahul Gandhi as part of the parliamentary contingent (Opposition INDIA bloc), upsetting the status quo. Dhanalaxmi sounds so familiar in the current political scenario: a person with rigid views -- dictatorial, menacing, moralistic, judgmental, egotistical, stuck in the past, self-seeking, ambitious, harsh, unforgiving, vindictive, arrogant, threatened… and… abjectly lonely! She trusts no one, hates most people, treats those around her with utter contempt, and metes out punishment cold-bloodedly, uncaring of consequences. Sounds familiar? But after lifelong bullying, her tyrannical reign is boldly confronted and overthrown by her own.

There’s a lesson in there for all bullies in our midst: those who believe they will be around forever. All it takes is one jhumka to destabilise and subvert a nasty system. Buck up, Rahul Baba, remember the movie’s tagline: “Swad wahi, soch nayi….” It’s a movie that also focuses on “them” versus “us”, inclusivity and exclusion.

These are crucial issues we can no longer run away from. As a run-up to India’s 76th Independence Day, I was asked by a leading daily to express my views on how and where I see the nation, going forward. Initially, I was keen to write the piece, having been inspired by so many prominent contributors who had expressed their vision so passionately. My excitement to share something meaningful started to vanish at some point… and that was it. Such a pity. My cynicism was getting in the way. And I couldn’t fake it. What could I possibly say that was all things bright and beautiful when it came to our women? Anything? No, na? Have we really come “a long way, baby?” in these past 76 years? You know the truth. We’ve all lived that truth. The women of Manipur are us. I couldn’t find my jhumka. I had no answer to: “What jhumka?”

Meanwhile, India’s biggest stylista, Shri Narendra Modi, has described home-spun khadi as a “weapon for those with self-respect…” Ummmm… great choice of words! But khadi as a weapon? Didn’t we always link khadi with ahimsa and Gandhiji? Referring to August 7 as “Swadeshi Movement Day” at the ninth National Handloom Day at Bharat Mandapam, two days before the 1942 Quit India Movement anniversary. I am reviewing my wardrobe and stockpiling weapons… I mean khadi saris. My self-respect is at stake. Yes, I have jhumkas to match.  

Tags: shobhaa de column, : rahul gandhi, prime minister narendra modi