Shobhaa De | Chana Kisney Khaaya… Rasode Mein Kaun Tha?

Columnist  | Shobhaa De

Opinion, Columnists

This is the aftereffect of the GDP debacle, which has set India back by a staggering 24 per cent

Courtesy: Yashraj Mukhate, Youtube

I am in my most aggro Kokilaben mood. Rewind to a highly successful 2010 TV soap titled Saath Nibhana Saathiya, which featured a ma-in-law from hell — Kokilaben. Along came Yashraj Mukhate, an engineer and music producer from Aurangabad, who picked up a line from the serial and turned it into a Kokilaben rap that attracted 2.8 million views on Instagram. Voila — Rasode mein kaun tha? went viral.

And I watched it over and over again to distract myself from the blah during Mumbai’s most loved Ganesh Festival, which was a total washout this year, because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

This is the aftereffect of the GDP debacle, which has set India back by a staggering 24 per cent. Oooooops! I find myself oscillating between Kokilaben screaming “Mein thi? Tu thi?” to mouthing the demented rantings of a television anchor, “Mujhe drugs do, drugs do, charas do, ganja do…” These are the two unchallenged champions of last week’s meme fest.

I am not the only citizen under unbearable stress right now.

Going by the disastrous state of affairs in India right now, citizens across the board are in urgent need of mind-numbing drugs — bring them on! How much more can they cope with, while also coping with Covid ka bhayanak crisis?

I am looking for some soothing peacock therapy. You know what that means, right? If Prime Minister Narendra Modi can seek solace in the company of a beautiful peacock and a couple of geese, hey… maybe that’s the solution to India’s myriad and insurmountable problems.

In the concrete jungle called Mumbai, finding the elusive national bird poses a challenge. Most of us, cooped up in cramped spaces, do not have the luxury of pampering hungry peacocks strolling across our vast lawns. Our beloved Prime Minister lives the grand life worthy of his grand position, in a grand mansion where stunning peacocks and well-fed geese roam.

A few kilometres away, there may be undernourished children of jobless parents wondering where their next meal is coming from. There is nobody to feed their open mouths or care about their emaciated frames. Different strokes for different folks.

Our trendsetting PM has already unveiled his many masks. The Covid masks, I mean. He prefers to cover his mouth and nose with colour coded, handwoven angavastrams, that change daily. It’s possible that they have been commissioned and sourced from master weavers across India. The same weavers who are staring at their silent looms, with no orders to keep them from starvation.

Their livelihoods have been doubly hit, now that our wise and wonderful PM has disbanded the Indian handicrafts and handloom boards, which so far had been doing a stellar job of providing steady incomes and finding markets for our weavers.

Without those committed office-bearers to manage the weaving communities spread across our 28 states, one wonders what the future holds for these gifted people? I guess, there is no cause for worry.

Our stylista PM can keep countless weavers in business just by himself, going by his frequent costume changes while feeding birds on his property. The elaborately staged photo shoots have enchanted his fans across continents who cannot get enough of his sartorial statements. The professionalism invested in getting the camera angles and lighting are being admired as well .

When I first saw the pics, I assumed it was a fashion shoot for the leading men’s lifestyle/fashion magazine GQ — the theme being, “Where peacocks gather…” But no! These shots were from our dynamic PM’s personal album, to be generously shared with his fawning followers.

An apt comparison between this shoot and the one which was widely shared by Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian Emperor, feeding lions while his country faced famine. This comparison was pointed out in a brilliant critique (“Compliant and Complicit”) by Sankarshan Thakur, which was published in The Telegraph.

The wonderfully written essay made me sigh with longing for those days when journalists and political commentators did what they are supposed to do — write ferociously. And make readers think.

At a dinner for eight (with Covid protocols in place) this week, I found myself sharing a table with some bhakts, who kept saying they were not bhakts but genuine admirers of our fabulous Prime Minister.

These are successful Gujarati businesspeople, living in tony neighbourhoods. It emerged during the course of the conversation that they read nothing! Knew little about history. And were culturally illiterate to boot.

But did they have opinions! All it needed was a few pointed questions about the tattered state of our economy, to get them to start frothing at the mouth. I figured -- why waste my precious breath… and switched to a topic they were eager to pounce on -- the sensational Sushant Singh Rajput investigation. One of the men present did not know what “ED” stood for! So even that topic was a dead loss.

When I mentioned an article in an American scientific publication which stated baldly that India “was in denial about the Covid-19 crisis…”, these folks changed the topic and spoke about how expertly and ably our Prime Minister was steering India towards new goals, new horizons.

It’s great to stay optimistic during a crisis -- but for that to be termed “optimism” one has to first admit there is a crisis! The same people had sons and daughters in America (their high dollar salaries were disclosed in awestruck terms by proud parents), who had declared their intention of never coming back to the country of their birth! If our future was this amazing, why were their children turning their backs on India? Jawab hai?

The reason why that silly dialogue Rasode Mein Kaun Tha went viral is simple.

At a time when citizens are struggling to come to terms with India’s desolate and arid financial landscape, and no salve has been offered by the Prime Minister after the minus 24 per cent GDP drop, all that we have is humour. Black humour!
But jokes and memes and birds and masks cannot fight the biggest battle confronting us — a harsh, unforgiving winter of our discontent.