Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy b'day Raj

We are a culture of excess. I'm the 'n'th cultural commentator to say so; and for the 'n'th time I adduce the following observations to support the statement:

1) When our temple walls are carved, we see no wall, just carvings
2) When our brides dress, we see no bride, just costumes and ornaments
3) When politicians are garlanded, we see no politician, just garlands
4) When wedding cars are decorated, the driver sees no road, just an extravagant floral burst on the bonnet.

In keeping with the above, Raj Thackeray's supporters started putting up hoardings greeting their leader on his birthday 6 days before the great event, which is tomorrow. Tomorrow, he will grow up by a whole year. That's 365 days. Amazing! One can understand his supporters' hurry to get there first. It's like a Parsi wedding. You scramble for your place, put one end of your bottom on one end of a chair, then look triumphantly at others left walking dejectedly back to their frilled tables.

So the vantage points around the Thackeray residence have filled up fast--the mouth to his lane, the traffic island down the road, and of course Shivaji Park. By tomorrow, we shall see no road, park or traffic island, just hoards and hoards of hoardings.

The early birds got the best places of course--the ones at the mouth of his gully. They will greet him first as he drives out. Then, if he turns right, he will see six separate effusions (at present count), ranged jauntily around the traffic island, waiting excitedly to catch his eye. One of them rhymes: "A newly-created Maharashtra is what Shree (God) desires/ An almighty Raj is what Maharashtra desires." If Raj turns left instead of right as he very well might if he wants to walk his dogs in the park, he will see a line of jubilant greetings that go right round the circumference of the park.

Though one picture is said to be equal to a thousand words, the pictures on the hoardings reveal nothing of Thackeray's plans for the navanirmiti of this State. The tale they tell is mixed. He laughs his head off in one. In another his reflecting shades carry the image of dozens of tiny people all looking up at him. In a third, he has a threatening "we-will-not-tolerate-outsiders" look. But in a fourth he wears an "aggabai" expression with matching gesture. In this gesture typical of Marathi women caught by surprise, the fingers of one hand are laid lightly against the cheek, the eyes are opened wide and a coyish smile hides an incipient "Oh?"

If I were a Raj Thackeray supporter, I would find the greatest reassurance in the picture where the fingers of both his hands are entwined and held against the chin in vacant or in pensive mood. Those of us who have read their Wordsworth, know that such a mood occurs when poets have just returned from seeing a host of golden daffodils. The said daffodils will later flash upon the poet's inward eye, bringing him bliss. Raj Thackeray is not a poet but a visionary. When he falls into a vacant or a pensive mood, surely it is because his inward eye shows him expanding fields of daffodils reaching all the way to the horizon and covering every inch of ground in Maharashtra? After all, that is Shree's desire.

Speaking of god's desire for man's political advancement, I come to the most recent example of excess. The brothers Reddy of Bellary, Karnataka, have donated a 42 crore rupee crown of gold and diamonds to Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupathi. At present they own mines; but what they ardently desire is to occupy the throne of Karnataka. A television channel invited one of the temple priests from Tirupathi to explain the Reddys' action. Rather unfair of the channel, but the priest answered gamely, it's dharma. When the anchors appeared unconvinced, he offered another answer. It's faith he said. The anchors then pressed him with the loaded question, "Such excess in the time of recession," they asked. The priest said yes, it is faith.

Those of lesser faith than the Reddys, be warned. With 42 crore rupees of dharma sitting on his head, Lord Venkateshwara is not going to turn his head, or even his eyes in our direction. We might as well save our diamonds till the assembly elections are over. Once one of the Reddys becomes Chief Minister of Karnataka, we will be free to apply for our minor boons.