Tuesday, October 14, 2014

UFO Sightings. (UFO as in Unexpected Foreign Object.)

Jeffrey Bernard is not everyone’s cup of tea. Or, more appropriately in his case, peg of Smirnoff. I was pointed to him by an erstwhile “friend of the family” who urged me to buy a copy of Low Life which, in case you didn’t know, is a collection of Bernard’s weekly columns in The Spectator, circa the late eighties. After I had done enjoying my mint-condition copy of Low Life and gushing high praise for Bernard all over the place, the aforesaid FOTF proceeded to “borrow” it promising prompt return thereof. I kept asking him for it and he kept unleashing a torrent of excuses to hold me at bay. Not only that. He kept borrowing more books from me – a notable one being Laura Hillenbrand’s breathtakingly brilliant Seabiscuit An American Legend http://bit.ly/1qlHT2i and also borrowed my contacts to break into advertising. Funny business, advertising. It willingly welcomes frauds and fakes and liars of every ilk and description, even generously endowing them with success. But unmasking faux friends is not the object of this post. Friends, Indians and countrymen, we are here to bury old musty, smelly, contemptible memories and praise Bernard fulsomely. All of which brings us to the “objects” hanging up there in the headline of this post. Poor Jeffrey was in the habit of discovering on the morning after unexpected foreign objects on his person. A paper clip in his pubic hair. The remains of last night’s Chinese takeaway in the pocket of his blazer. And, so on and so forth till the fat lady sings or the cows come home. You get the general idea? He also was a fanatic about overspending as well as adept at getting into trouble with the Internal Revenue and VAT people − and that too during Mrs Thatcher’s regime. What’s more, he excelled at backing the wrong horses ignoring his inner voice and marrying the (only for him) wrong women. Also, he kept popping in and out of hospitals whenever his body could stand the daily abuse no more and rebelled violently. All through his troubles, though, he kept on plodding somehow to the winning post (if you can call it that) dodging the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (to borrow an apt but all too frequently quoted turn of phrase from The Prince of Denmark’s Nunnery Scene (Hamlet, Act III, Scene I) and laughing his head off maniacally all the way to the Pay Out window. Graham Greene once confessed that he had “never once been bored by Jeffrey Bernard. If that is not high praise, then there’s John Osborne dubbing him “the Tony Hancock of journalism”. For the life of me, I didn’t know Tony Hancock from Adam until I googled the bloke. Then I found out that he was a popular British comedian on radio and TV in the fifties and sixties. He was the guy who said: “I don’t want any publicity − you get too many begging letters. If they’re anything like the ones I send out, I don’t want to know!” That sounds very Groucho-like. Meanwhile, excuse my ignorance. A man can’t be an encyclopedia but now he can pretend to be one if he has a laptop and an Internet connection or a smart phone. Bernard knew quite a bit about quite a few things, though. How he found the time and energy to stay so well-informed after making his presence felt at Coach and Horses, the renowned public house in Soho, twice a day, occasional appearances at assorted race courses in Britain and elsewhere, sponsored work-related jaunts abroad and partying several times a week in addition to writing his weekly column for The Spectator I shall never know. Apart from his self-deprecating sense of humour – a typically British character trait even more archetypal than the stiff upper lip of the British Raj, I reckon – whatever he wrote, often (I suspect) in a vodka-induced daze, seemed to flow out of his electric typewriter so utterly spontaneously, so effortlessly that I am envious every time I read him. And, I seldom am that otherwise, mind you. Moreover, once good ol’ Bernard turns berserkly bellicose as, for instance, when he is incensed at one of his pet hates like “a nut called Andrea Dworkin”, he is in his elements. Nothing short of total demolition would work for him. Meanwhile, having lost all hope of owning a freshly minted copy of Low Life, I was slowly sinking into a mire of depression until good ol’ Dadabhai Naoroji Road (formerly Hornby Road) http://bit.ly/1nkeGZB came to my rescue with bugles blowing and both guns blazing. One enchanted afternoon in the late nineties, a copy of the sequel, More Low Life, in “good” condition lying half-hidden in a pile in front of a pavement book vendor caught my eye. From then till now, I must have read and re-read it at least half a dozen times. And, I have been doubly cautious about whom I lend it to, even whom I boast about owing it to. You never know whom to trust anymore. Meanwhile, the erstwhile FOTF has managed to extract a sizeable bounty in kind out of Honourable Number Two Son (whom Charlie Chan would have described as “expensively educated offspring”) before breaking off all links with the Mankars. Well, well, c’est la vie! No kidding even with kids around.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

What’s in a name? A lot, it looks like.

I read The Wrap for entertainment news, Hollywood movies and TV stuff. Read and forget – that’s my usual routine. But this Wrap rap http://bit.ly/Z6qPXa did catch my eye instantly. There, we had Sharon Waxman, a former New York Times columnist, waxing eloquently and flinging a provocative challenge at The New York Times: “Hey, New York Times ‘Vows’ Section: Who Cares If ‘The Bride is Keeping Her Name'?”  (For a moment, it made me think of the good ol’ “Hark, who goes there?” routine.) Her bone of contention is the venerable newspaper making it a point to mention without fail in its Vows coverage that all the brides were keeping their respective maiden surnames.

At the height of the Feminist Movement, brides wore their maiden surnames as a badge of honour, you’ll recall. Later on, it became a matter of unstated routine, also a matter of convenience. Women started marrying later and later in life. By then they had kind of got accustomed to their original moniker. Also, career reasons as well as the long legal rigmarole involved in acquiring a new name may prompt the refusal to disturb the status quo.

Waxman’s target, though, seems to be the paper she worked for earlier. She points a finger at their boast about being the first to report same-sex nuptials. She would have preferred if her former employer had included significant details such as a Caucasian woman marrying an Afro-American or human interest tidbits such as the bride having lost 50 pounds of weight on her way to the church podium. And, so forth.

This is 2014. And, in the US of A, this issue is still being discussed. Will wonders never cease to pop up?

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Evil That Men Do. (We Indians are like that only.)

True tale. No names.

This story about masculine hegemony is from the seventies. It was told to me a while back by an erstwhile colleague from one of the ad agencies I worked for in those days. He happens to be a friend I am in off-and-on touch with even today. He was one of the two witnesses to the event.

Q: Why am I telling it now?

A: Because I came across it recently.

Q: Who does it concern?

A: One of my late (in every sense of the word) bosses for whom I used to have and still have tremendous respect as an advertising professional. He was highly regarded in the Indian and international Management Studies circles as well, by the way.

Q: Can I vouch for the veracity of the “story”?

A: I can vouch for the credibility of the source. Also, in the light of what I had heard on the workplace grapevine at that time but discarded as idle gossip, probability dons the sinister cloak of possibility. Moreover another friend with whom I have lost touch used to be a frequent head office visitor to the Bombay office around the time the event presumably took place and used to lodge at the boss’s apartment situated in a tony locality of the city. He too had dropped hints in passing about the dysfunctional family life with the head of the family always at loggerheads with his wife but a doting father to his daughter who was schooling at an upper-crust day school.

Q: So what is supposed to have happened, for Pete’s sake?

A:  The boss used to travel a lot on work and also his teaching engagements. One evening, the car picked him up at the airport and on its way back home took the Tulsi Pipe Road (now Senapati Bapat Marg) route. This road runs parallel to the Western Railway tracks. This was much before the three flyovers were built. All along the road were makeshift hutments out of some of which hooch was sold and flesh trade was plied. In other word, it was hardly the road on which to stroll leisurely after sunset. As the Big Man’s car was speeding along the not too brightly lit road, there suddenly flared up an altercation between the boss and the missus who had gone to receive him at the airport. Things took such an ugly turn after a while that the boss asked the chauffeur to stop the car and ordered the missus to step out. She had no alternative but to obey. No sooner had she stepped out of the car than the boss asked the chauffeur to start the car and head home. As to how and when she managed to reach home, my informant had no clue.

Q: So what’s the point of the tattletale-ing excursion?

A: If you’re expecting an outburst dripping with angst about clay-footed idols, perish the thought pronto. The only probable moral of the story to my way of thinking right here and now is expressed eloquently by Shakespeare’s famous words (Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene ii, Line 190):

“O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!
Then I, and you, and all of us fell down…”

Though averse to joining in community breast-beating and dirge-chanting, I shall make an exception in the present case and include myself – purely for old time’s sake − in this group mourning the fall from grace of a well-heeled, highly educated, cultured (or, gentrified?) Indian gentleman holding a top well-paying job in a leading ad agency and residing in one of the poshest pockets of Bombay (now Mumbai) because he behaved exactly like a denizen of the shanties abutting the Tulsi Pipe Road once his male ego and authority were challenged in the presence of witnesses. When the shanty dweller drove his wife out of their hovel, she was still allowed to remain in a familiar neighbourhood and could probably find a temporary refuge with a friendly neighbour until things cooled down. The boss’s missus was abandoned in an unknown, totally alien and most likely dangerous territory to fend for herself – a situation straight out of a Hollywood noir of the early fifties (Barbara Stanwyck and Richard Widmark, remember?). Good grief, Charlie Brown! Can we not tell the Red Baron to fly his Sopwith Camel real low and mow down such scum from the face of the earth?

False middle-class values. Don’t we all cling to them even after half suspecting how very hollow they are just because they seem congruent with the current benchmarks of belief and behaviour? They make us pose like judges even in matters where we have no jurisdiction, so to speak. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, who will step up to fling the first stone?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mirror, mirror on the wall. Whose statue is due for a fall?

I’m not much of a “let’s have one more statue” guy, no matter whose or how tall. (In my humble opinion, the proper place for statuary and paintings is a museum.) What intrigues me, though, about Dr Kusoom Vadgama’s objection to one more Gandhi statue in London http://bit.ly/1rGUo9P is the reason she uses as a prop: the inscrutable ol’ man’s obsession with sex and, particularly, his making much younger close relatives of the opposite sex the guinea pigs of his experiment with celibacy. (Once again, in my humble opinion, a simple one-too-many-statues objection would suffice.)

The Gandhian credentials of the currently irascible Kenya-born, Illinois-educated, London-based and musically inclined Optometrist and Historian are impeccable. That she has suddenly woken up to Gandhi’s cryptic sexual behaviour and preference for naked female companionship of young relatives is therefore a bit puzzling. The insensitive, self-righteous, eccentric and erratic old man http://bit.ly/XBGSvA had no qualms when logging in reports of his experiments in Harijan.

The other thing that intrigues me about the good Doctor is that, in spite of her historian’s insight into the worldwide feminist movement, she merely mentions Gandhi’s use of young women who were close relations as “guinea pigs” in his maha yagna (his fanciful nomenclature for "brahmacharya"/celibacy experiments). Dr Sushila Nayyar, his physician, personal masseur and off-and-on bed sharer, once told Ved Mehta that "brahmacharya" was a latter-day invention of Gandhi to ward off criticism of his interaction with his female intimates. Earlier, before Nayyar in her late teens went to medical school, she used to be his bed mate for reasons of nature cure. http://bit.ly/LWXS2N

One reason for Gandhi making Manu and Abha his bed mates could be easy accessibility as also their willingness to serve him no matter what. The other, most likely, was the power he knew he had over them as the patriarch of the family. Patriarchy and masculine hegemony, as is well-accepted by now, are the main culprits responsible for the continuing subjugation of women in India. Incest − and paedophilia − are the pathological (deviant) offshoots of patriarchy. Normal men tend to be protectors while deviant men, predators. Sometimes, a patriarch may inadvertently cross the line between the two roles back and forth harbouring ambivalent feelings towards women.

Do read Girja Kumar's BRAHMACHARYA Gandhi & His Women Associates. In this book based mostly on Gandhi’s writings. “… the so-called Mahatma comes out as manipulative, pathologically obsessive about sex and sin as well as power-crazed. His logic sounds circuitous, serpentine and often self-contradictory and specious, at times even inane. He apparently played God with the lives of those close to him. He was too intrusive and interfering.” http://bit.ly/LWXS2N

I have noticed that when it comes to writing or talking about the Father of the Nation, even normally sane and balanced people lose their nerve. They start to tread overcautiously as it they were walking on eggshells. Finally the ex-Gandhian good Doctor has spoken the so far unspoken. That’s a good beginning, methinks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In search of lost time: Remembrance of Govindas past.

I am talking here of the late forties to the early sixties, mind you. Life lived at and observed from the third-floor terrace flat at 233 Khetwadi Main Road. http://bit.ly/1fcggIG Govindas in those days were straggly, motley cavalcades of (mostly) domestic servants (“rama gadis”) working in South Bombay and a sprinkling of textile mill workers all of them belonging to friend circles (“mitra mandals”) of migrants from the Kokan region. They lived in low-rent tenements (“chawls”) in South and Central Bombay, for instance, in Girgaum (Thakurdwar, Mughbhat), Tardeo, Worli, Byculla, Parel and Lalbaug (what was collectively called Girangaon or Mill Town) using a single room as an all-bachelor, all-expenses-shared chummery sort of communal living space. Some of them worked in shifts in the mills; in their absence those not working at that time used the room to rest. For recreation, these groups sang in bhajan mandals, danced in groups and even rehearsed for plays. Out of these extracurricular pastimes arose the Govinda troupes, the Gauri-Ganapati dance groups and amateur play-staging groups. These migrant workers also went to the local gyms (“akhadas”) and played group sports like kabaddi and kho-kho. I remember watching a group rama gadis clad in colourful waists and shorts waving red handkerchiefs and dancing in honour of Goddess Gauri on the spacious terrace of 233 Khetwadi Main Road in (most probably) 1949 and 1950. The Mankars then used to host a three-day Gauri sojourn http://bit.ly/1vfvEIh at that address, you see.

Gokulashtami, the day the Govinda groups went around breaking dahi handis all over town, was a day no domestic servant or mill worker went to work. A typical Govinda troupe used to have twenty to thirty members who danced, pranced and swayed to the music played by a sanai player and a tasha beater all the way to the handi they had been invited to break. The signature tune was “Govinda alaa rey alla”, a kind of a playful warning about the Govinda approaching to plunder the handi. The handis, hung at a reasonable height, were “sponsored” by the residents of various localities, building or housing society – not by politicians or the local mafiasos. Naturally, the prize money did not run into lakhs or thousands. The top figures were at the most in hundreds. For the troupes, it was a labour of love.

A major attraction for the spectators crowding the balconies and terraces to watch the show was the opportunity to drench the Govinda pyramid with buckets of water once the handi was broken. Water wasn’t scarce in Bombay of yore. In anticipation of the Govindas, a few extra buckets would be dutifully stored on the morning of Gokulashtami. My guess is that the drenching custom must have been an offshoot of the story about the Gopis (dairy maids) of Gokul who loved Krishna, the divine toddler, with their heart and soul devising various playful and harmless ways to stop him from stealing the butter stored in the handi in the kitchen. The dancing group ritual resembles the warkari cavalcade of devotees merrily singing the praises of Vithoba and dancing with glee all the way to Pandharpur before the advent of the ekasashi (the eleventh day of the full moon cycle) in the months of Ashadh and Kartik. All this is a part of the vaishnav bhakti tradition as far as I can tell.

Come 1963 and one of my fellow residents in the Khetwadi neighbourhood http://bit.ly/1AwRSs1 forever changed this erstwhile subaltern celebration of the Krishna legend into a boisterous garish commercially-fuelled parody of its earlier avatar having completely stripped it of its original innocence. That was the year when Manmohan Desai’s Bluff Master featuring the Govinda signature tune suitably distorted to fit the mould of crass Hindi film lyrics was released. So bent was Desai on fully exploiting (what he probably shrewdly sensed to be) the commercial potential of the song that he hired Shammi Kapoor, the quintessential pucca Punjabi munda, to star in the movie and inject crude Punjabi machismo in what was earlier sung as an innocent and playful ditty celebrating Krishna’s childhood pranks.

The release of Bluff Master had caught the tide of fortune at the floods. Soon, everyone and his uncle (politicos and mafiasos included) wanted to ride the Govinda Alaa  bandwagon to stay in the public gaze. The same logic swelled the sponsorship coffers for the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsavs (community celebration of the Ganesh festival). The latter got a further fillip when Hum Se Badhkar Kaun hit the cinema halls in 1981 featuring the hit song “Deva Ho Deva”. In fact, such was the popularity of this song, that its inclusion became de rigueur in the Ganesh festival and immersion musical repertoire. Now handis were hung at daunting and competitive heights as the prize amounts continued to balloon. Also, the practice of Bollywood celebrities visiting various Ganesh pandals became a part of the routine with media groups footing the bill and making full use of the photo opportunities.

The next decade saw the advent of motorized Govindas (no more dancing cavalcades, thank you!).They operated like hard-core hit squads swiftly moving from one target handi to the next in order to maximize the day’s “take” with the prize money offered by some handi sponsors already hovering around a lakh of rupees or more. The hit squads had their own portable music systems playing Bollywood hits at ear-splitting volume. In the clamour and glitz and glamour, who would recall the Govindas of the past? And, by then, who cared in any case?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Is the original Idea of India dead once and for all?

The other day, when I was thinking of this whole rigmarole called the Idea of India, one question that had never occurred to me in the past suddenly bobbed up its inquisitive head in my mind.

Who invented the Idea of India as a Democratic Republic in the first place?
Taking a long backward look, the answer became obvious. It was a coterie of eminent Indians that included Harrow-educated Jawaharlal Nehru and Dt BR Ambedkar, a Columbia alumnus. It was this league of extraordinary gentlemen who chiseled and buffed the somewhat alien idea  conscientiously much before it became a reality on 15 
August 1947 and 26 January 1950.

Yes. The leaders of the Indian independence movement were mostly from the Western-educated middle class. They had been weaned, so to speak, on Socrates and Plato, Marx and Engels, Gibbon, Darwin, and Spencer, Smith and Keynes, Ruskin and Thoreau and Shaw among others. Many of these thinkers and writers hailed from Great Britain of which at the time India was a colony. Imbibing their thoughts, beliefs and opinions was ironically like being “colonial mimics” http://bit.ly/16Yhi4U of sorts. 

But surely it is obvious that there are as many Ideas of India as there are special interest groups and sub-groups, e.g., big business, labour, Dalits, OBCs, tribals and so forth. Each group’s Idea of India is needless to say calibrated to align with its special concerns.

Big business, for instance, would want maximum ROI, least interference from the government, unlimited access to natural resources and so forth. Ergo, the big business’s Idea of India would be a country with a politico-economic system – whether democratic or not − that treats business, particularly big business, with kid gloves and so forth.

It’s time we backtracked a bit, though. The founding fathers’ Idea of India was conceived against the backdrop of Nehru’s Discovery of India, the seminal ideological text on which the Nehruvian template of a liberal, secular, egalitarian democracy with a “composite” and inclusive culture and a socialistic economy was based. Nehru envisioned an Indian nation with the state entrusted with the task of ensuring that no single special interest group, e.g., the Hindu majority or big business, enjoyed significant privileges to the detriment of others. One of the corollaries of this vision was the Indian state taking over the lead role in the economic sphere.

Unfortunately, this meant the perpetuation of the Ma Baap Sarkar metaphor in the minds of the illiterate majority − enhanced further by the continuance of feudalistic behaviour of the bureaucracy, a legacy of the British Raj in any case. Furthermore, the adoption of another legacy of the British Raj – both Discovery of India and Constitution of India were written in English and the business of the Indian state continues to be transacted in English − and the accidental privilege thereby conferred on the miniscule English-speaking minority of the Indian population who ran the emerging state enterprises merely confounded the already somewhat cloudy scenario.

The Idea of India saga seems to have modeled itself on Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The first major crack in the Nehruvian template came with his daughter’s successive triumphs (Bangladesh, i.e., the splintering of Pakistan,  bank nationalization, abolition of privy purses, stoppage of food imports, a 20-year friendship pact with the USSR) culminating in the 1974 Pokharan nuclear blast that caught the world’s attention. All this prompted DK Barooah’s sycophantic “Indira is India, India is Indira” call. JP Narayan’s challenge to Indira Gandhi’s autocratic rule triggered off the June 1975 declaration of emergency.     

The other four significant events in post-Independence India that progressively sapped  the Nehruvian Idea of India of its relevance were the chronological order of occurrence the following:

[1] The anti-Sikh violence (1984)

[2] The Shah Bano case (1985)

[3] The Babri Masjid demolition (1992) and its aftermath (1992-93)

[4] The burning of a train at Godhra and the Gujarat riots (2002).

Apart from these, there is the on-going virtual occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and the North East by the Indian Army under the pretence of keeping peace – a policy without an iota of success in stemming the insurgency and the defiance of the Indian State. Equally worrying is the seemingly unstoppable resurgence of the Naxals in the so-called red corridor comprising those parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgrah, Jharkand, Madhya Prasesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal inhabited mainly by the marginalized Adivasi tribals trying to eke a living out of forest produce and primitive farming under constant threat from forestry officials and the mining mafia. 

Now that NaMo has all but demolished the flag bearers of the Nehruvian Idea of India, history has finally been consigned to the dustbin, maybe even to oblivion, where according to the “neo middle class” (a NaMo hypothesis according to Sunil Khilnani http://bit.ly/1gejUlY) it rightfully belongs.

Will it remain dead and buried for all times to come? Your guess is as good as mine.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Why NaMo is top-of-the-pops.

Our Founding Fathers made two monumental mistakes when power was transferred from the British Emperor to the Indian Government of India in August 1947.

Monumental mistake #1: They opted for universal franchise without universal literacy.

Monumental mistake #2: they did not dismantle the then prevailing framework and mindset of Feudalism before ushering in Democracy. Equally important, they did not bother to upgrade the bureaucracy set up by the British to serve the aims of the Imperialistic reign of subjugating and controlling the citizenry, of “keeping them in their proper place” at any cost as well as of extracting an annual tribute (“drain”) of £30 million (roughly Rs.450 million in contemporary exchange terms) in the reckoning of Dadabhai Naoroji (1825 -1917). http://bit.ly/1jgDmya (By the by, in Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith dubbed the British Rulers “plunderers of India”. http://bit.ly/1jCDpns)

In 1952, around 85% of the eligible voters in India’s first General Election – most  of whom still lived in abysmal poverty in the countryside − were angutha chchaap: they could neither read nor write. Ma-baap Sarkar, a legacy from the British Rulers, was the only political metaphor they understood and could relate to. The Indian National Congress won hands down. The 15% literate middle class had almost no say in the matter.

How different is the scenario at the time of the 2014 General Elections to constitute the 16th Lok Sabha?

Increasing urbanization particularly after globalization has swelled the ranks of the urban middle class. They want better living conditions, more jobs, better governance, less − if not zilch − corruption, decisive leadership, less inequality. The omnipresence of television, the Internet http://bit.ly/1ssnDhP and mobile phones has further fuelled these burgeoning aspirations. The BJP seems to be the party of choice of Middle India.

Like it or not, admit it or not, NaMo = BJP as of this moment. The personality cult for which it is fashionable to criticize the Congress is very much alive and kicking away merrily in the BJP. NaMo demolished every likely rival within the Party using tactics almost identical to the Indira Gandhi gambit against The Syndicate in the winter of 1969.  http://bit.ly/Rmeydm Employing IT imaginatively and extensively, he has been successful in reaching to, and enrolling for his cause, the urban (mostly middle class) youth.

The World Bank defines poverty as survival on less than $1.25 per day (2005 purchasing power parity) and says that, between 1981 and 2005, poverty in India dipped from 60% of the population to 42%. The number in 2010 was 33% (about 400 million people). http://bit.ly/1s2synE There is much dispute about the veracity of the Government of India and World Bank statistics. After making allowance for population growth in the interim, there appears to have been very little progress on the poverty alleviation front since 1947 – certainly nothing to boast about with claims like “India Shining”. The UPA-II efforts to alleviate poverty (Public Distribution System, Integrated Rural Development Program, Jawahar Rozgar Yojana and Training Rural Youth for Self Employment) have met with very limited success.

As for literacy, UNICEF tells us that between 2008 and 2012, 62.8% of Indians aged 15 years and over were able to read and write. The literacy rates in the age group 15 – 24 years for the same time span were 88.4% (male) and 74.4% (female).  The net primary school enrolment rate for 2008 – 2011 was 98.6%. It looks like the 2014 General Elections have a literate electorate. Does it mean that it will be a conscientious electorate?

Ironically though, if Middle India’s aspirations are contemporary, many from their ranks still respond to Feudalistic overtures: religion, caste, social status, respect for authority and the pecking order among others. NaMo seems to have understood this characteristic of the electorate well. To assure them that he means business, he talks down to them like a decisive leader. Every election speech is a diatribe, a raging tirade. 

He blunders on declaring that the elections are for  the 14th Lok Sabha in a rally in Gumla (Jharkhand); linking Chandragupta Maurya with the Gupta dynasty, giving Biharis credit for halting the victorious onslaught of Alexander and relocating Taxila in Bihar – all these in a Patna rally; bumping off Shyama Prasad Mookherji, Jan Sangh’s founder, in 1930 in London in a Kheda (Gujarat) meeting (in fact, he died in a Jammu & Kashmir prison in 1953); and changing Gandhi’s first name to “Mohanlal” in a Punjab rally.

The NaMo juggernaut thunders on regardless. His fans don’t seem to care about his historical inaccuracies. They have been brought up listening to lies and false promises mouthed by politicians. They want to believe in someone. That someone happens to be NaMo. His Gujarat governance record is not bad. His role in the 2002 riots seems to have been forgiven. His style of dealing with problems seems decisive. The saviour has been found at last. NaMo is the one.

All hail NaMo. Bow to NaMo. Kowtow to NaMo. There is no alternative left.