Hawaii Chappal CM First Class First

Published: June 1, 2011 - 14:36

Well well well. Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee has emerged as the valiant Red Dragon slayer, bringing a humiliating end to 34 years of Left rule, sorry, make that misrule, in West Bengal. This is no mean achievement, so a fanfare of trumpets is in order. Despite the fact that she was possibly the laziest, most callously indifferent Union railway minister ever. And a miserable whiner to boot, vociferously blaming other people for sabotaging her work. 

Congratulations must be given not only to Mamatadi but also to her team of intellectuals, who deserted the Left in droves after the horrific Nandigram massacre and gravitated towards the new champion of the people as fast as their feet could carry them. I can't thank them enough for treating her as good quality raw material and moulding her into shape. Literally. They sternly put her on a strict diet and exercise programme as a result of which she ran for the state assembly elections on a treadmill. 

Now there is no way, absolutely no way, she can be confused with another victorious female chief minister, AIDMK Head Poncho Jayalalithaa aka the caped non-crusader. Yes, from now on, in photographs you can easily tell Didi and Amma apart, whew. Even so, there's room for further improvement. 

Keeping that in mind, I have just bought a fabulous 'Jai ho!' present for Mamatadi:  a tiny foldable travelling steam iron. Those dull crumpled sarees she sports are beginning to grate on my nerves. All the people of West Bengal are pinning their hopes on her to bring pride back to the state, talented weavers included - it's just not fair that she gives them such a bad name. 

And while I'm in grouse mode on all things sartorial, I have to say that too much, much too much, is being made of Mamatadi's penchant for wearing rubber slippers.  Personally, I think rubber slippers are fine if she's wearing them while warbling Rabindrasangeet in the shower or pottering about in her kitchen fixing her favourite snack: jhal moori. Wearing them outdoors, however, is downright tacky. Her ardent supporters have waxed hysterical about her rubber slipper fixation, saying that it shows what a beautifully humble person she is. Humble, my foot! 

I was born and brought up in Kolkata in the days when it was called Calcutta. And let me tell you that one of the most popular print advertisements for Bata's Hawaii chappals had the bold headline: 'First Class First'. For all the bemused non-Calcutta University grads who are reading this, acquiring a First Class First is the ultimate academic distinction. It earns you more marriage proposals than an NRI doctor with an 11-figure salary in dollars. Ergo, in West Bengal, Hawaii chappals have tremendous snob value. Sorry to have dashed that humble-down-to-her-pretty-little-feet myth, but the truth must be revealed. 

Finally, I have to make it very clear that rubber chappals and frumpy cotton sarees cannot fool people into believing that Mamatadi is an endearingly earthy person. Her heart may be in the right place, but the temperamental diva-like tantrums she displayed every so often in the past were annoying, to put it mildly. In my softer, kinder moments, I have often wondered if she suffers from severe bipolar disorder. But let me not rain on her parade - after all, I too am deeply grateful that the Left has finally been left behind. 

And let me thank her band of intellectuals for grooming her once again. Have you noticed that she shrieks much less than she did before? If they work on her even harder, her banshee moniker and irritating histrionics may well be history. Wouldn't it be absolutely marvellous if the queen of aggressive agitations transforms into the queen of efficient administration?  

I suggest that they use her mainly as a mascot. Allow her to deliver a few carefully scripted speeches and gag her the rest of the time. A little bit of peace and quiet in West Bengal wouldn't hurt. And if Mamatadi delivers during her first tenure as chief minister, I hereby solemnly declare that I will never ever sneer at her again.

This story is from print issue of HardNews