There must be a world beyond Yogi Adityanath I keep telling myself. For the last week, television has been in a trance with a politician who we once consciously shunned. Now, we are in a 24 x 7 embrace with the new UP chief minister. The ‘fringe’ politician we once dismissed as a right wing extremist is now the Pied Piper of Gorakhpur. We want to know every little tidbit about the man, his past, the present, the future. We are told of how many cows he keeps in his temple precincts, how the Muslims of his area love him, how he is an ascetic who is incorruptible. Forget all the hate speeches, the communal vitriol, the maverick behaviour. That was then. Now, we are spinning saccharine ‘soft’ stories of the saffron robed man who is the change agent of UP politics. Give the Yogi a chance is the surround sound in the echo chamber that is social media. UP needs anti-Romeo squads even if it means treating a woman riding pillion with a man as a coercive act. UP needs a ban on illegal slaughterhouses because they are, well, illegal. So what if the lines between legal and illegal have vanished and thousands lose their livelihoods. Forget tunde kebab, let’s catch the gunde first is the new mantra.
There must also be a world beyond Goa politics. Who would have thought that a BJP government would be formed post election by bringing together independents and small groups, one of which at least was avowedly anti BJP before the election. All is fair at election time and if you live by the Mandovi, then remember that past animosities are easily washed away, all that matters is how to acquire power and ministerial perks.
There must also be a world beyond Uttarakhand politics. Almost all the defectors have won: hey, wasn’t Vijay Bahuguna dubbed corrupt and inefficient only till the other day? No worries, he is now a member of the new cabinet, rubbing shoulders with all those who attacked him when he was in power. Ditto with Manipur, where the lines between government and opposition again have been blurred by unadulterated political opportunism.
And yes, there is a world beyond Punjab too where the focus seems to be more on whether Navjot Sidhu can actually be both minister and celebrity tv host rather than on whether the new Congress government will fulfil its many tall promises, especially to the farmers and youth in the state. Actually, why even raise the question of conflict of interest between politics and television : if contemporary politics is being reduced to a comic act then Sidhu might as well engage in a comedy show on the small screen.
And it is this search for a world beyond politics and reporting on it that has brought me back to my first love: cricket. The last 48 hours have been spent watching the Indian team outbat and outbowl the Australians against the wonderful backdrop of the Himalayan mountains in Dharamsala. To watch this Indian team perform so admirably has been a delight. As a fan, I have been in dreamland, the snow capped peaks giving a surreal edge to the cricket. The cricketers are our true heroes, young Indian men from different corners of the country who have risen to the top through merit and hard work. No caste, no religion here, no divisiveness, no vote banks or short cuts to power, just pure talent on display. Our politics is corrupt and coarse. Our cricket is exciting and exuberant. We may have amongst the most inefficient governance systems in the world, but hey, we are also the number one test team in the world ! So forget our venal netas and celebrate our charismatic cricketers instead. If only for a few days. Trust me, it can be pure bliss.
Post script: For much of India, it seems saffron is the only colour to savour at the moment. For me, cheering our team on, it still remains the unifying tricolour, glorious as ever! So thank you Virat, Jadeja, Ashwin, Ajinkya, Rahul, Cheteshwar, Saha, Umesh, Murli, Karun, Bhuvi, and each and every member of Team India. You’ve made it a Gudi Padwa to remember! Thank god for cricket.