I had just stepped out of Bandra station after having climbed up and down the railway bridge. Globus, the retail outlet, were having a huge season-ending sale and I was in a tearing hurry to get there. All I needed was a rickshaw to get me to my destination. It was then that I noticed the ruckus.
A huge crowd was blocking the entrance and exit to and from the terminus. Cries of 'Hai! Hai!" and "Down with cultural imperialism" rent the air. There were a few interspersed "Go Back"s as well.
I was irritated. "What the hell was going on? Was this my unlucky day?" I thought.
Exiting the station and flagging down an auto was proving to be an uphill task. The posted police were either chatting among themselves or enjoying their cuppa-of-tea or flirting with their female counter-parts, waiting for the commotion to die down.
I retreated into the shelter of the terminus. I could wait a bit; I had time to kill.
A yell—"Boot polish, sir?"—pierced my left ear.
I looked down at the shoe-shine boy (man) and set my leathered left foot on the anvil.
"Kya ho raha hai? (What's going on?)", I asked him.
"Sir, it's a protest against Lalit Modi of the IPL organized by ____________".
He named a political party notorious for its espousal of aggravating politics and incendiary causes.
My curiosity was piqued. Lalit Modi was hiding in London.
What could the party workers of ____________ want with him?
I was about to question the shoe-shiner further when a stout woman, clad in a yellow polka-dot sari with the fall knotted around her waist, barged past me. Wiping her sweat-drenched brow with her 'pallu', she demanded "Nimboo-pani, bhaisaab (bro)" from the railway employee manning the refreshment stall nearby.
Her sodden back was to me but if looks could have killed, she would have dropped dead that very moment.
"So what is the issue they're raising?"
(My voice rises when I'm angered or upset.)
Taking a break from buttering my shoes with a lavish paste, the pedlar turned his weather-beaten face towards me when he was interrupted by a hoarse voice.
"We are protesting against Lalit Modi who is an affront to any decent society."
It was the overweight woman. Evidently, she had no qualms eavesdropping or participating in a third-party conversation. She was the typical busybody—she wouldn't keep her nose or mouth out of anybody's business, if she could help it.
I consider myself something of an expert on Lalit Modi and the IPL as my many articles on B/R will attest.
This seemed like a wonderful opportunity to parade my knowledge and show up this rude upstart.
"I guess, you're protesting the absconding of the IPL chairman?" I ventured.
The lime juice had arrived. The lady sipped on it but not before making a violent "no" with a shake of her vermillion forehead.
"Are you against Lalit Modi because he favoured his friends and families in the allocation of the IPL franchises?" I queried once more.
"No, no".The woman was wrapped up in her lemony slice of nirvana. Monosyllables was all she was going to deal in.
"Are you anti the alleged rigging of the auction process then?" I enquired further.
"Nahi. Not that." The glass was half-empty now. But the woman was not the slightest bit cooler or calmer. Rivulets of perspiration continued to stream down her face and neck. Her bulging eyes matched the other bulges she possessed.
I lowered the Big Gun.
"Are you then agitating against the $80 million fee that Mr. Modi paid WSG for selling the telecast rights to Sony as an intermediary? The BCCI have filed a criminal case against the man in Chennai."
"What's that? We're not bothered about that."
"Are you then protesting the way Modi tweets on and on? Has the resignation of Shashi Tharoor on that score upset you and your party? Isn't that a little late in the day?" I continued in exasperation. The stream of Nos was more than I could bear. I also happened to know that her party was no ally of Tharoor's benefactor.
"No way. Anything that causes a central minister to resign is good for us. More ammo for us. We lauded Modi for that."
"Then what exactly are you holding this dharna for?" I had run out of just reasons and felt like running out too. The atmosphere was claustrophobic.
"We are objecting to the cultural imperialism that Lalit Modi has inflicted on the Indian public by recruiting blonde, white women to serve as cheerleaders in the IPL. We are the Woman's Wing of the party."
The lime juice had been drained from the glass ;the activist was succoured.
"Don't you know that BBC journalist , Mihir Bose, called 'The pom-pom girls' 'a slap to Indian womanhood'. We agree whole-heartedly. Why are there no Indian women cheerleading?"
I was stumped. This was an entirely new take on the IPL mess.
"You see,", she continued, mistaking my silence for assent, "we have so many lovely young women who can dance as well or better than those 'goris'. And why do we have to copy their moves? We women can get the men's pulses racing clad in our saris. Don't you watch Aishwarya's, Priyanka's and Sushmita's movies? Their 'jatkas' and 'matkas' get the front-benchers whistling and roaring every time. Why this cultural imperialism? Whatever the whites do, we can do better. And that too fully clothed!"
I have nothing against the cheerleading squads. The highlight of my life in the recent past (viz. 2009 IPL) was my ability to rate the cheerleaders and rightly predict that the Deccan Chargers squad towered head-and-shoulders above the others on all criteria—moves,outfits and sheer glam. My informed opinion was ratified by a prominent news channel.
This was serious food for thought. It was going to take some time to digest.
The tap on my right boot was getting increasingly insistent. My shoes were now a shiny black; I could see my reflection in them.A customer was waiting and the shoeblack wanted me to move my fixated limbs.I paid him his price and wondered how best to extricate myself from an unpleasant situation.
Now that I had learnt the reason for the disturbance, I just wished to make it out of the station in one piece.
To my agreeable surprise, my lady-in-shining-armour was the political wrong 'un. The protestant bulldozed her way out and I passively followed in her wake. The acrid smell of burnt effigy filled my nostrils. Before I realized it , I was onto SV Road in a bright, shiny , yellow-and-black auto rickshaw.
The carriage had shot out as soon as I got both feet in. The driver had been in as much of a hurry to get the hell out of there.
While parked at the signal, the driver turned around to address me.He grinned toothily at me and spake his words of wisdom: "That Modi saab(sir) is stupid. All he had to do was get his Bollywood buddies to make a few movies ,replace the item songs with some cheerleading numbers, market them well and the pom-pom girls would have become an integral part of Indian culture. Bollywood is culture, didn't he know?"
I nodded wearily.
Now, that was an idea. Lalit Modi, in a Bollywood film, with all the masala, the stars, the cheerleading lasses and loads of exotic locations for the item numbers and the romantic ballads.
Yes, Lalit Modi, a Bollywood bio-pic starring you , featuring your life story will do just fine. Just let me know when it releases , so that I can stay home that week!
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Quote of the day:
The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards. – Arthur Koestler