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A Mahila’s Missive

As a mahila, I feel the social environment has not been terribly friendly towards women and children

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Dear Bhaijaan,

It’s been two years. You may say, “Arrey.... what is two years?” Actually, two years is kaafi. Two years is the standard ‘testing period’ in any relationship. The world’s most significant love affairs are based on this two-year test. If, after 24 months of ardent courtship, the relationship stays stuck and has not moved forward beyond empty promises, then the partner feels dejected and rejected. I will not use the word ‘jilted’ because it is too filmy. However, Bollywood fires India’s imagination like nothing else. When we started our passionate engagement with you, it was with an old-fashioned idea of ‘Ek Dujjhe ke liye...” The voter fell in love with your persona. That much even your critics can’t deny. Men and women behaved like star-struck fans each time you spoke (at them, not to them... but so what?). The Modi Mania swept across India, and travelled abroad, with Modi groupies going ga-ga. We behaved like a nation of schoolkids. We regressed. We worshipped a man who promised us something we had not experienced for the longest time — Achchey Din.

But two years later, we are scratching our heads, rubbing our eyes and asking ourselves, “Were we such big fools? How did we blindly believe all those slogans and promises?” Well. We did. The vast majority definitely did. Belief is such a powerful emotion. It offers hope and salvation. When you charged into the arena and assured voters there would be progress, voters grabbed on to the wonderfully worded rhetoric, because such was the level of disillusionment with the earlier leaders. You looked smart. Dressed smart. Talked smart. What was there not to like? World leaders accepted your ‘jaadu ki jhappis’ (some of them with visible embarrassment), but back home we felt good seeing you, standing shoulder to shoulder with the best and the brightest. You held your own and we cheered, thinking ‘Bharat ka bhav badh gaya’. We are so naive and gullible in this regard. We are forever seeking validation from abroad. Like we crave an Oscar. And want all our beauty queens to come back with some silly crown on their pretty heads. But that’s us. Shrewdly, you played up our insecurities and we played into that game.

So, we can’t really blame you solely if this love affair has gone off track. We are both equally responsible. We trusted you despite everything (you know what we are referring to). Was that our biggest mistake? Perhaps it was. Marriage counsellors frequently advise warring couples to not rake up the past. It’s difficult, but they do it for practical reasons. We were also practical. We didn’t taunt you with whatever happened in Gujarat. Instead, we congratulated you on the Gujarat Model, and hoped the same model would work across India. It didn’t. It hasn’t. If you had admitted your own lapses, it would have been better. Sometimes, old boyfriends wait for 10-20 years and then say, “Sorry darling... I shouldn’t have done that... or said that.” By then the damage has been done! It’s too late. Nothing can be reversed. The same thing has happened with you and your team. Let’s call your team India’s sasural. Managing in-laws is never easy. But this has now become a ‘Saas-Bahu’ situation, just like those television serials from last decade! Today, the ‘saas’ in India has changed dramatically. So has the ‘bahu’. Family relationships are far more equal. Far more democratic.

Okay, relax. Not everything is terrible. Swachch Bharat was a great initiative — if only it had worked! A few other policy shifts were commendable as well. You spoke against crony capitalism. But one set of cronies has been replaced by another! You were determined to fight corruption. But it seems like only corrupt rivals are being fixed, while several new players have emerged in these two years, who are making as much money, if not more! What has changed?
Let’s not go into religion and attacks on those who hold different beliefs from the majority. Most of it is out there for historians to refer to and cross check in future. No contemporary historian wants to undertake this task — we know what happens to them. Forget history and sociology. What about our economy? How long can Indians keep staring at the sky and wonder, “Will the monsoons fail?” It’s not about the monsoons failure any longer. It is about efficient management of the resources such as they are. No more alibis and excuses.

As a mahila, I also feel the social environment has not been terribly friendly towards women and children. Two years ago, women voted for you in droves. They were sure you were on their side, that your government would safeguard their interests. Today, they remain where they were — abandoned and insecure. This is very worrying for us. We happily tied raakhis on your wrist, and admired your 56- inch chest. We were confident, this was the person who would demonstrate his commitment to our welfare. The only woman who seems to be the beneficiary of that sentiment is your HRD minister. Not that we are jealous or anything. Just hoping you’d be equally accommodating and considerate when it comes to real issues regarding our future.

Some would say, be more forgiving. Two years in power is hardly enough. Nobody can perform miracles in such a short time. So... chalo. In that spirit, let’s get an assurance from you that the remaining time in office will be spent on implementing all those fantastic programmes you had announced. Get even ten per cent of those off the ground. We are not mean and cruel. Just impatient and irritable. Nobody likes being taken for a ride. So many delirious romances fall apart when complacency sets in.

Bhaijaan, please don’t take India for a ride. An affair was started in May 2014. It deserves completion. Ours is an old-fashioned, traditional society. Conjugal bliss can be enjoyed only after a couple consummates the relationship in accordance with the shastras. We are ready to exchange a ‘jai mala’. Are you ready to commit?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Shobhaa Dé

Shobhaa Dé is a senior journalist and author. She is one of India's highest selling authors and a popular social commentator. Her works comprising both fiction and non-fiction have been featured in comparative literature courses at universities abroad and in India. Her writing has been translated into many regional languages as well as French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish

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