Shobhaa De | Will wrestlers, Rahul dent the ‘Glowing India’ story?

The Asian Age.  | Shobhaa De

Opinion, Columnists

With the general election right around the corner, India is gearing up for Ram Rajya. Even if, on paper, we remain a secular nation

Security personnel detain wrestler Sakshi Malik during wrestlers' protest march towards new Parliament building, in New Delhi, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (PTI Photo)


theek hi bola

Mohabbat ki Dukaan

Mohabbat ki Dukaan



I am looking at colourful double spreads in the newspapers announcing a “Rashtriya Ramayan Mahotsav”, in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh. It’s a very impressive initiative, with all manner of programmes via a mega festival to which both Indian and firang VVIPs are invited. In the words of Bhupesh Baghel, the devout chief minister of Chhattisgarh: “Lord Ram had spent most of his time in Chhattisgarh during his exile from Ayodhya. He is not only our Lord or an ideal but he is also our ‘bhanja’ (nephew). Chandkhuri, a village located around 27 km away from the state capital of Raipur, is (considered as) the birthplace of Mata Kaushalya, mother of Lord Ram… 25-foot-tall statues of Lord Ram will soon be installed across the state, and nine sites will be readied under the ‘Ram Van Gaman’ tourism circuit. It’s billed as a ‘divine spectacle’ with ‘captivating performances centred around the Aranya-kand’.’’

Badhaiya hai!

The timing is excellent. So are the optics.

With the general election right around the corner, India is gearing up for Ram Rajya. Even if, on paper, we remain a secular nation. A democracy. We saw the grand opening of the new Parliament, which resembled a Ram Lila celebration, given the presence of so many Hindu sadhus, sants and other holy men accompanying the Prime Minister, who was suitably swathed in silks and holding a golden sceptre (the Sengol). The entire ceremony was conducted like a coronation, only the crown was missing. So were several dignitaries and political leaders. But the loyal courtiers were there in full strength. Why quibble over such minor details? Forget the monumental cost incurred -- that criticism has been done to death. Forget issues with the design or the opulence -- India can afford it, okay? This is the time to show the world! The GDP has exceeded everyone’s expectations, and it’s only the cynics who are not convinced and remain unimpressed by the numbers.  The new narrative is about a “çonfident” India that is gob-smacking the world with its prosperity. The “Poor India” story is passe. Yes, yes, yes… the gareeb log are still around, baba. But we have made them invisible. The ameer log, on the other hand, are super visible, and the world is agog -- Itna wealthItni shaan! Wow!

If only we didn’t have to deal with a few nuisances like those women wrestlers! Look at them -- so insensitive! Spoiling the country’s image internationally and blaming a man for their troubles! The point is that women do not belong in akharas. What business do they have to indulge in such masculine sports? The first mistake was to let those Phogat sisters out of the house… Didn’t their father know better? Are the people in their village happy now? See how unruly these women are, resisting the law and creating a disturbance on the great day that our magnificent new Parliament was being inaugurated. Of course, they did it deliberately… purposely. To steal the limelight from our Prime Minister, who was the superstar heralding a new era. Instead of hailing him and rejoicing… we had to deal with this nonsense of wrestlers. So much unnecessary drama! Tantrums and accusations! What’s the point of winning medals for the country if you don’t know how to behave like decent, well brought up ladies in public? It’s a lesson for all parents of young girls who think their daughters can behave any which way, choose an inappropriate sport, go abroad and mix with foreigners, get wrong ideas in their heads, forget their culture, and behave like untamed, rowdy creatures, attracting attention and disgracing themselves.

As if defaming the motherland here in India is not shameful enough, there’s that Rahul Gandhi defaming the country on foreign shores. How can he call the Prime Minister a “specimen”? Does Pappu know the spelling of specimen? Such an insult! Look at the man’s cheek… what does he mean by saying: “Modi thinks he knows more than God!” Why state the obvious -- he does, na? Nobody doubts that. Naturally, Pappu got it back nice and proper from Pralhad Joshi, the highly popular parliamentary affairs minister, who shut him up with a sharp retort – “It’s funny how someone who knows nothing is suddenly an expert on everything.” Seriously, yaar… theek hi bola. Why go to some vague American university to open his “Mohabbat ki Dukaan”? Does he think he is Sid Malhotra? Now, that guy can legitimately open a “Mohabbat ki Dukaan” going by his Insta posts lugging his wife Kiara Advani’s shopping bags. But Rahul Gandhi selling mohabbat to a motley bunch of desis in California? That’s a bit much.

Rahul Baba really gets going when he’s overseas -- that’s a fact. America encourages such bak bak … and it is entirely possible Rahul is a stooge who gets used by those who invite him to spread anti-India propaganda. This trip, starting with the Santa Cruz meet-and-greet, concludes at the Jacob Javits Centre, the same large arena where the then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee had been felicitated in 2003. Let’s see how many bricks Rahul drops along the way -- enough to build a new stadium? Unless, of course, Rahul decides to take his much-needed R and R seriously and goes off on a skiing trip to Aspen. The hawa in Dilli is always garam (even in winter), and his Bharat Jodo Yatra must have taken a massive physical toll on his body. His over-exerted mind can do with some rest as well, before he makes more faux pas and dents the country’s image some more. Look at how the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has reacted to the wrestlers’ protests. Imagine advising us -- yes, us -- on how to handle this mamla (“We urge this investigation to be speedily concluded”). Big question: If Brij Bhushan Singh is held guilty, will he go ahead and challenge the courts to “hang” him? Bhai Saab, is that a threat or a promise?

Definitely, there’s an international conspiracy to badmouth India. We must stand together in this difficult hour and chant prayers. We must not allow the world to mock us, knowing it’s nothing but pure jealousy. India is not just shining, it is glowing. See where we have reached! Germany is in recession! Aur hamari economy is scaling new heights! Jai Shri Ram!