Here’s looking at you, kid!

Rupa Gulab

The day after Rahul Gandhi visited Mumbai, the screaming headlines in the papers were on the awe-struck lines of, 'He came, he saw, he conquered'. He won my affection too, despite the fact that I didn't happen to bump into him at a college, local train or an ATM. In retrospect, it's just as well that I was lazing at home that day because I may not have been able to resist the urge to slap him on the back and cheerfully holler, "Here's looking at you, kid!" His security chaps would have trussed me up like a thanksgiving turkey and packed me off to jail. Which would have been dreadful, because I'd probably have died of claustrophobia. On that momentous day, Mumbai's jails were packed as tightlyas sardine cans with frustrated black-flag wielding Shiv Sena workers.

While we always knew that Rahul Gandhi is charming, we weren't aware of the fact that he's a god-man as well - and a darn good one at that. Just one visit to Mumbai, and our lethargic and weak-willed state government did something they've never dared to do before: crush Shiv Sena protesters. Now, that's what I call a miracle -hallelujah

The tiger's roar was reduced to a muffled meow, and even more astonishing, Rahul Gandhi's good vibes didn't end there. Emboldened by his success, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan ensured that the state government provided protection for a Bollywood film, and the Shiv Sena was left with egg on its face and bits of torn posters of My Name is Khan in its grubby hands. If I could whistle, I'd have attempted a loud, piercing one. Since I can't, I sang a song from My Fair Lady to Chavan instead: the congratulatory song when Professor Higgins succeeded in his daunting task of making a cockney flower girl pass off as a Hungarian princess. It goes like this: "Tonight, old man, you did it! You did it! You did it! You said that you would do it, And indeed you did." 

The Rahul Gandhi feel good effect continues. Assured of protection, Mumbai's citizens didn't cower under their beds, they rushed to see the film. And now a bunch of citizens have become brave enough to start an anti-Sena group on a social networking site. If just one visit can take us so far, I wonder what Mumbai would be like if Rahul Gandhi dropped in more often? 

The young Mr Gandhi is increasingly being recognised as the people's prince. Not just because of his family name, but because he has the common touch. Look at a few glaring differences between him and other politicians: 

  • Preferred mode of transport: Rahul Gandhi - Train, chair car. Sharad Pawar - Plane, first class, with an extra seat.
  • Preferred rest-house: Rahul Gandhi -A pajama party in a Dalit village. Shashi Tharoor - 5-star hotel.
  •  Preferred female companions: Rahul Gandhi - Impoverished village belles. Amar Singh -Wealthy Bollywood stars.
  •  Preferred Advisors: Rahul Gandhi - Mummy and Dr Manmohan Singh. Sharad Pawar - Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray.

Gandhi's political opponents may sneer that he's doing it a bit brown, but we know that they're just plain jealous of his growing popularity. What makes me contemptuous of them is the fact that they could jolly well do the same for the people, but do they bother? Naah, it's so tedious and uncomfortable, and there aren't any 5-star hotels in villages. Besides, it's so much easier to criticise people who are doing the job you really should do, but don't want to.And now, if you're wondering if I'm looking forward to Rahul Gandhi as the future prime minister of India, the answer is a firm no. I think he's doing an amazing behind-the-scenes job. He makes Mayawati sweat. He makes the Thackerays look foolish. He rules, even though he doesn't have the nation's most coveted chair. Just like his mother. With these two Gandhis backstage, we may yet have a united, secular India.

Finally, I have a hot tip for chaps who manufacture masks of political figures: save those masks you make of Narendra Modi for Halloween's Day. And the rest of the year, concentrate on masks of Rahul Gandhi instead. For, he's a better man.

 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: MARCH 2010