Shobhaa De | Bring on the dancers: It’s carnival time in India…

Columnist  | Shobhaa De

Opinion, Columnists

Kick up your heels, guys! The fun has just begun. Soon it will be Holi (March 8) and great things are happening in India’s courtyard

Indian-American Republican leader Nikki Haley (Photo: AP)

It’s been one hell of a fortnight, folks! Too much excitement and dhamaal. From the Adani thingie blowing up, to Air India taking off and startling the aviation world with that mind-boggling purchase of 470 aircraft (with IndiGo having ordered 500 Airbuses), to a super-glam Bollywood shaadi, topped with an I-T raid, sorry a survey, of the BBC offices, I’m ready to Tam Tam with the best.

Kick up your heels, guys! The fun has just begun. Soon it will be Holi (March 8) and great things are happening in India’s courtyard. “The sky’s the limit…!” exulted Rish the Dish, after the historic and dramatic Valentine’s Day deal was inked between Air India, Airbus and Rolls-Royce, making this the largest aviation contract in history ($115 billion). Great news for Britain, which is struggling to keep that tiny isle afloat against daunting odds. India was equally ecstatic when Air India signed the staggering deal -- its first mega-aircraft order in 17 years. Everyone sounded bahut khush -- Rishibhai, Macron Saab, Bidenji and our beloved Prime Ministerji. Win-win for all involved, a “shining example of mutually beneficial cooperation…” Joe Biden declared, even as, around the same time, Indian-American Republican leader Nikki Haley showed off her toned legs in a coral dress and announced she’s running for Prez in 2024. Yup! She’s ready to take on the two old boys Biden and Trump. I’ll go with the one with the better legs, thank you! But Nikki darling, do spare us the “I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants” spiel and focus on your agenda: to chase the two geriatrics out of town.

Throughout her political career, the Punjab di Kudi has boldly tackled race and gender issues, so the world can look forward to sizzling personal attacks and rousing debates from the fiery Sardarni. Married to Michael Haley, an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, Nikki has enough muscle power to plough through and make it to the White House. Can’t wait to see a rousing Balle Balle Bhangra at the Inaugural Ball! Now Nikki has a challenger in Vivek Ramaswamy, 37. Haven’t seen his legs. I am guessing Nikki’s are better. Rassam vs Butter Chicken… More bhangra coming up with Ajay Banga heading the World Bank. Tandoori Nights ahead!

While all this was going on, Queen Consort Camilla shrewdly gauged the mood of the natives (restless!) and agreed not to act vulgar by wearing “our” Kohinoor to the hubby King Charles’ May 6 coronation in London’s Westminster Abbey. Instead, she plans to create mini-royal history of her own by placing a recycled crown on her straw hair. A crown that was commissioned and worn by Queen Mary, consort of King George V, for the 1911 coronation. It’s a diamond-encrusted crown, mates, not an Alexander McQueen gown. Sorry, desh waasis, please don’t hold your breath waiting for the disputed 105-carat Kohinoor to be meekly sent back to India -- especially not after how we’ve treated a Brit institution: the hallowed BBC. Accused by BJP MP Mahesh Jethmalani of being funded by the Chinese with the sole aim of destabilizing India, the raids on the BBC offices led to intense debates in our drawing rooms. The chattering classes are saying how badmaash all foreign channels are… how we should not trust a single firang journo… how it’s time we put these arrogant people in their place, etc. The issue of the raid’s timing is dismissed as a mere coincidence, as the “survey” is only a routine procedural matter. It has nothing whatever to do with a certain documentary aired overseas by the channel and later banned in India. Heavens, no! Perish the thought! Didn’t you read what our official statement said??? Even though our respected home minister categorically said in an interview that the naughty BBC documentary (India: The Modi Question) was part of a sinister plot to defame our hugely popular Prime Minister. Mind you, Amit Shah’s ANI interview was recorded BEFORE the “survey”.

While we mediawallas struggle to find a better euphemism for the word “raid” and settle uneasily for “survey”, one can sense a slight change in the hawa regarding the coverage of recent significant events, like the Adani fiasco, which is still being (weakly) defended by our beleaguered finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, while the PM has sensibly distanced himself and steered clear of commenting on the biggest financial embarrassment to hit India (“Yeh dosti… hum nahi todenge”). It may take years to convincingly decode how and why the Adani mess happened, but even men and women on the street are aware that some big “lafda” took place. It’s only over-smart analysts with skin in the game who’re trying to claim the Adani imbroglio was just an awkward money- blip that citizens don’t really care about. Bakwas! Everybody knows. Everybody cares.

Oddly enough, it is three totally unconnected factors that have come together to alter the janata’s perception of the BJP as an invincible party that’s here to stay. First came the emotional/sentimental impact of Rahul Gandhi’s “Bharat Jodo”. He touched people’s hearts and nobody can take that away from him. Whether or not the “Pappu” tag will be revisited and eventually discarded is a different matter. But like Princess Diana’s instinctive, intuitive positioning of herself as “People’s Princess” became her invaluable legacy, Rahul Gandhi with his approachable, touchy-feely walkathon provided a sharp contrast to aloof leaders, refusing to interact directly with the people of their country, while displaying their own insecurities surrounded by commandos and a phalanx of bodyguards. Here was this guy walking throughout the length and breadth of India, informally chatting and laughing with his people, despite the horrific personal history of assassinations in his own family. He effortlessly won the tag of “People’s Politician’’.

Then came the message of love, patriotism and unity through the highest-grossing film in India’s history (Rs 1,000 crores and counting), with Shah Rukh Khan helming the mega movie. Shah Rukh Khan’s well- documented trauma when his son was wrongly accused of drug possession and arrested has not been forgotten by the public, who saw it as a vindictive act to intimidate the star. Along came Pathaan, and India is wildly cheering for SRK as much as for itself. After vindictiveness, comes vindication!

 Finally, the Adani catastrophe, which showed how, even with the most powerful people in the land backing you, there comes a tipping point in the guise of the Hindenburg papers, and the magic wand loses its power to protect and shield its chosen one.

Three coincidences that can transform our future. I am a great one for believing in timing and synchronicity. History has shown us over and over again that nothing and nobody is permanent. If 1.3 billion people are sensing change, change will happen.