Kiran’s Dance, Illiteracy and Symbolism

Kiran Bedi as performer

After the fast-feast, there are bound to be leftovers. They make for an interesting peep into the psyche of the performers and the spectators. There has been much shock expressed over Kiran Bedi’s ‘ghunghat’ dance at the Ramlila rally.

Bedi then moved on to theatrics and enacted what she said was how politicians behaved. Bedi pulled a scarf from the neck of a young activist on stage, wrapped her head with it and proceeded to mock MPs.

"You remove one mask, then you find another one, and then another. They change words according to time and place. Never trust them," she said.

What is the objection to? That she poked fun at the MPs or that she enacted this parodic scene? Despite my antipathy towards the whole movement, I fail to understand how this alone reduces her stature. Her calling this act a “game-changer” is a bit too delusionary, but at what point in time has there been no drama in this rally?

When Anna Hazare came on the music reality show “Little Champs”, he too sang a few lines of Gandhi's favourite bhajan “Vaishnao jan to”; Arvind Kejriwal asked the kids to come to the rally and give a boost to the ‘andolan’. Many singers and actors did. This was the nature of the movement. Ms. Bedi was just playing her part.

Does anyone recall Asma Jehangir and company singing in a television studio on one of those ‘aman’ programmes? Street theatre is very much about activism. Did not Sushma Swaraj dance, and was the objection to her doing so essentially relegated to tarnishing the image of Gandhi’s Rajghat?

Bedi as cop

The problem with Ms. Bedi’s stance is that she, who claimed to be the dissenting voice against any authority, is now calling herself a mere soldier. She is not even that and seems more like Anna’s nurse.

During the 1984 anti-Sikh riots there were pictures of her, lathi in hand, fighting the mobs. It was an iconic image that has stayed with some of us. But in later years, even as she was honoured as a ‘supercop’, she was accused of being a publicity hog.

Let us not forget that she has endorsed a detergent to show how to clean dirt. Whether we agree with her or not, this is what has been embedded in the public mind.

As for her opinion on politicians, is not the Jan Lokpal Bill fighting against the system’s version?

What I am trying to say is that she is pandering to type and not going beyond the script because it is the best option. As for her saying that our leaders wear masks, wasn’t Atal Behari Vajpayee called the “mukhota”?

Only because some of us – in fact many of us – do not agree with the Anna caravan, I do not see any reason to respect politicans as a reaction. We must respect Parliament and the Constitution. Individual ministers are known to be venal as are individual activists.

This brings us to the other leftover issue. Actor Om Puri got a whole lot of mileage for landing up slightly tipsy and making a speech where he called our ministers illiterate:

“I feel ashamed when an IAS or IPS salutes a "gawar" who is a Neta. We have more than 50 percent ‘gawar’ Netas. Don’t vote for them.”

It has resulted in much semantic knowledge of what really “gawaar” means. Is it crass, or lack of knowledge, or just illiterate? How does it matter? Is this the first time anyone has said this about our politicans? Did not Amitabh Bachchan, a neta once, call politics a cesspoll?

Om Puri in the last couple of years has shown that you may be literate and educated but you can still be crass. Literacy does not imbue people with decency or common sense. If anything, he has insulted the very aam aadmi, the considerable numbers of unlettered people that constitute the Indian population and who this Team Anna is claiming to be the voice of.

Political leaders have been quick to trot out numbers of MPs and their degrees. I remember a forward that was sent some years ago listing out Manmohan Singh’s impressive CV. What does it mean when it comes to the real world of steering the country outside the ‘economic progress’ bubble? How has the educated Narendra Modi fared with the common people? Did not the rustic Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was seen as a standup comic, gain respectability only after he was invited by the posh management institutes to lecture?

What is most amusing is that many of these foot soldiers, by putting their foot in the mouth, are only making Anna seem more saintly than he is. They are the shoulders he can happily fire the non-violent gun from. And to think that some people believe that the elite dislike Anna because he is a poor villager. Oh sure. Had he not been legitimised by candle-light, these barfers would not have been supporting him. Isn’t he too a “gawaar” and we do have a former top police officer saluting him? What a circle within circles. If this is not politics, then what is? Or shall we say politicans trussed up for the kursi, with the readymade words, “We think it will be better to fight from within the system”?

Talking of leftover matters, I wonder why there isn’t much noise about the symbolism of two little girls offering Anna his first drink to break his fast – one was a Dalit, the other a Muslim, we were informed. I can imagine the communal harmony waalas applauding. I find it revolting. As though it is okay to drink from the hands of Dalits and Muslims. The only symbolism here seems to be the poor souls make for good water/message carriers; they cannot be the fount from which wisdom and change can spring.

End note:

Why has Rahul Gandhi been silent? It is the most sensible thing to do. The visible face of the country is the prime minister. By letting him manage with his core group is a smart move. Rahul, once he is anointed, will need the Mr. Clean image. That is probably his only USP.


  1. All these so-called "activist" make me remind Dorothy Parker. "I can't write five words but that I change seven." Well said Dorothy. Well said.

  2. FV

    Kiran Bedi - It was not the "ghoongat" act per se. That was the finale to a long tirade against Gopinath Munde and Ananth Kumar whom she saw somewhere in the crowd. She mocked, jeered and abused them. Therein lies the rub. She draws a pension from the Government ... before she goes ballistic she should return her medals and rescind her pension.

    Om Puri says he was not tipsy in an interview with Nidhi Razdan - the stumble is after effects of some spine surgery.

    All this on YouTube & ndtv.com.


  3. Farhan:

    Thanks on behalf of Dorothy Parker!

  4. TE:

    I find both aspects disturbing because they reduce the argument to simple pro and con. I am not taking up for either Bedi or Puri (the latter is a lost case) as is pretty obvious.

    The concentration, though, in mainstream discussion has been on the ghoonghat act and how unheroic it is for someone of her stature. I am pointing out the fallacy of this.

    She did jeer and call the MPs names. It is in bad taste, but not the first time anyone has done it. Again, my point.

    The Om Puri tipsy reference is based on news reports and does not absolve him. But again, we need to look beyond the way ganwaar is mentioned across the board.

    I think you wlll notice that I am talking not about the details but what they mean for different people and how ultimately it is all political, irrespective of who is saying/doing it.

    Only because I am against the Anna movement - and rabidly so, as I have pointed out in several posts - I am not willing to start looking at the political class with blinkers on.

    It is not only about Munde and Ananth Kumar...and we have the educated idiot Manish Tewari.

    PS: Bedi, for whatever it is worth, earned her stripes for her role as police officer. I am not sure whether a nautanki act negates that.

  5. Here is Om's comment later:

    "I was very emotional and I regret using those words, which may have hurt some sentiments. I could have opted for better words. I spoke like a man on the street..."

    This is what I questioned. The man in the street is being debased by the very people who are speaking up for the common man.

  6. FV

    These were matters of record.

    KB is is from the same neck of woods as I am and perceptions there are different. Surely she earned her stripes and her actions would have gone down well if she had stuck with the stripes. Unfortunately, she wore a cross-sword and star on her epaulettes. The episode was unbecoming.

    Had KB been a part of Habib Tanvir's "Charandas Chor" ( http://tinyurl.com/3f34y72 ) we could could have got a tickle out of it. Or justified it as satire or activism. Sadly - she was not.

    I am as rabidly against the LPB as you are ... perhaps more. And that hasn't yet converted to a love for our netas. But KB's act ... I draw a line

    Om Puri is a boor.


  7. TE:

    I guess we agree in the main, but not about a few details. For me it remains a troupe performance as much as Sushma Swaraj ticks off the PM during Parliament session by saying "woh kabhi kuchch kehte nahin".

    Om Puri will live off this for a while and as I said everyone is playing politics.

    PS: And a chaand Mubarak to you...the festival is tomorrow.

    In a chat, I was told by a Muslim gentleman, "Rozey nahin rakhengey magar Eid manayenge." So I guess I have not earned my Eid stripes!

  8. Farzana,
    Eid and Chaand Mubarak to you, other blogmates and your loved ones.
    "Rozey nahin rakhengey magar Eid manayenge."
    This may not be not too far from "This Eid - let the celebrations begin at McDonalds / ABC / XYZ".

  9. Thanks Mahesh, and may the cheer spread to you and yours. And how did you know I was looking for XYZ fast food too??

    PS: That remark was a challenge, not just an ordinary statement about no roza, but celebrations.

    Heck, if I can celebrate Friendship day, Anti-anti-anti day, hug a bear or bear hug day, then why not Id, or Eid, day?

  10. FV

    Eid Mubarak was for the festival ... waise - chand eid ka hi tha.


  11. Ab chaand tau sab ka hota hai...Muslims like splitting hairs over their copyrighted one!


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