S.S. KARNADSHAW writes from Bangalore: As the Rahul Mahajan saga continues to unfold on television at half-hourly segments, there is one distinct clip of visual memory that repeatedly rewinds and plays itself in my mind.
It goes back to a month, May 3 to be precise, when papa Mahajan was being consigned to flames. Rahul was lighting his father’s pyre in a white linen shirt, with the sacred thread sticking firmly to his sweat-stained, water-drenched chest so as to be visible through the shirt.
That wasn’t what caught my attention—it was the blue jeans in which he went around the funeral pyre, pot in hand, that did. Jeans—nice, blue, faded and tight.
Wasn’t that very very unusual, I thought, for a son to be so casual and callous on a solemn occasion? A pair of jeans trousers, the very symbol of the “brute and amoral West,” was not what one would have expected at the funeral of the one of the most important members of India’s Hindu right-wing party.
Rites of passage are supposedly the most sacred, and even the most evolved non-believers make generous concessions on such an occasion. There is a mellow subservience of even the harshest ideology at the altars of death. But that day, only Rahul’s disoriented looks seemed to suit the occasion.
A cruel question can be asked in hindsight, but we will let that pass.
The oddness was sharper on the day because it was a BJP/RSS moment, it was also being widely televised as such. The entire BJP/RSS top brass was present for the funeral and the one who had died was a man who, once a humble swayamsevak-school teacher, had evolved in recent years into a shrewd and flamboyant political moneybag.
The BJP/RSS leaders present there on the day had made their political careers by being the most self-righteous and zealous protectors of Hindutva. Their xenophobia was well known with their “anti-Italian” rhetoric. But then why did they not advise their own cub-member to fall in line with Hindu ideas of samskara?
Rahul Mahajan’s sartorial idiosyncracy seemed all the more stark considering that it was Sushma Swaraj, as I&B minster, who prescribed a dress code for DD’s women newscasters?
Sauce for the Dilli goose is not sauce for the Mumbai gander?
Forget’s Pramod Mahajan‘s party colleagues, why was the boy’s mother not instructive? Why did the political-correct uncle Gopinath Munde not intervene? Why did not even a relative or a bystander point it out? Were they all taken in by emotions by a death that was 12 days coming, or was Rahul beyond everybody’s control even then?
I am not a great advocate of Hindu rituals, dharma and samskara; I am not crying because somebody did not do it to perfection, but occasions like these provide a perfect window to take a sneak peek at the brazen hypocrisy of Hindutva’s staunchest advocates.
I mean to say that they are the biggest unfaithfuls and non-believers of what they preach—as every single minute since Thursday night has revealed.
At best I could describe myself as a vague Left liberal or a social democrat but then that does not prevent me from speaking for decorum and decency, does it?
Even a father, whose legacy and money Rahul was inheriting wholesome, deserved something more fitting than jeans. Any wonder, then, that it didn’t come from a son who needed champagne and a bit of white powder to fortify himself for the tilanjali?