Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Atlaji!

I wrote this as my very first weekly column in the Mid_Day newspaper

23.3.98
Move over Bacchan, the new Abby is here.
When Mr. Vajpayee became PM the first time around in 1996, I remember listening to a scoop of sorts pulled off by Radio Mid-Day called “The PM on FM”. The Prime Minster of India talking about his favourite Hindi film songs. And as I listened, I was smitten. A man who could be moved by the poignant beauty of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s Lagta nahin hai dil mera, who had imagination to make Mere pairon mein ghungroo bandha de, toh phir meri chaal dekh le his campaign promise deserved my undying devotion. I’ve remained a bug-eyed fan ever since. But yesterday, as I read  his name in a newspaper, it hit me! Yes, girls, it’s finally happened. There’s a new Abby Baby on the block and he’s the PM.
Atal Behari. Apart from his initials, other qualifications to be the next Dhak-Dhak of India? Several. Tall(ish), dark(ish),  handsome(ish), a full, distinguished head of sexy, silvery hair, (no hair weaves, no dyes). Not Young (a mature seventy-one) but Angry (he asked Lata Mangeshkar about Aye mere watan ke logon -  “Aankh mein pani hum kyon bharen? Ankh mein angare hona chahiye”). There’s more. Intelligent, charismatic, telegenic. Makes great speeches, writes even better poetry, has the cutest twinkle in his eye, and is a spiffy dresser in the best dhoti-kurta tradition. And the icing on the cake? He’s single. (And willing to mingle, if we go the long list of  BJP allies including an impressive list of  power babes- Sushma, Uma, Jaya, Mamata.).  So….well, what can I say? Move over Amit, Atal is here (Atalji to you hoi-polloi, Atal to me).
Atal’s most endearing quality is that he comes across as human. Versus Sphinx (Sonia), Yeti (Kesri), Miss Piggy (Narsimha Rao), Winnie the Pooh (Gujral) and Rip Wan Winkle (Deve Gowda). He’s a regular guy like you and me. He likes the good life, (kheer and malpua and Chinese food), appreciates a good flick and is partial to a good tune. But most importantly, he has a sense of humour. I willing to trust anyone who has a sense of humour, and by that I don’t mean the kind when you crack up after you’ve just pulled the political rug from under your opponent’s feet and watched him break at least three ribs. True, the political company he keeps sucks. Jayalaitha, Murli Manohar Joshi, Subramaniam Swamy, Sanjay  Singh, dear ol’ Georgie-Porgie.  But look at what’s in the other witches’ cauldrons. Mulayam Singh, R. K. Dhawan. Laloo. Deve Gowda. Karunadhi. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble and how!

Drool apart, Vajpayee’s the most decent PM material we’ve had in a long time. There’s not too much the average Indian wants out of that august office today. Just someone who we can trust not to demolish this country any further, who has highest coefficient of least-corrupt-most-competent, and has a fairish chance of sticking around for five years. I think Attu shows healthy signs of being capable of all this. We finally have a PM who doesn’t go to sleep while the desh goes down the tube, (Nero just fiddled and those Dilip Kumarish pauses in between sentences are scary sometimes), doesn’t look like a leftover from Dino the Dinosaurs’ dinner and has a little more spine than your average jelly fish. And is cute to boot.
Let me sum it up. What was Atal’s rallying song to his party workers? “Jo wada kiya tha, nibhana padega” My response? “Jab ishq ka sauda kiya, phir kya ghabarana  humko aana padega.” So let’s give him a chance. After all,  if we can let Amitabh act after Mrityudaata, Atal deserves a second bash at PM-giri. Long Live Abby Baby.

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