Awed by Radhe Maahttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/awed-by-radhe-maa/

Awed by Radhe Maa

How many 50-plus women can wield the trishul and a rose with equal aplomb?

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Radhe Maa knows better than to think clothes alone maketh the man.

Once I had a mini-skirt. It went with my 20s. Once I bought a red lipstick. It lay clotting in my purse. Once I was offered a shimmery magenta lehnga (yes, that used to be a colour). I paled at the sight of it. Once I skipped in the grass. I only dare break into a brisk walk now, and hope it’s a pleasant sight. Once I may have wanted to land kisses on some cheeks. I have fewer (please note the few-er) arms open in welcome now. Once I thought I would never look 51. I look at that mini-skirt, that lipstick, that lehnga, those cheeks — and know that too shall come to pass.

So yes, dear Radhe Maa, consider me awed. Even if awesome may not be the word I use for you. How many 50-plus women we know can wield the trishul and a full-bloom red rose with equal aplomb, legs in boots and arms in wedding bangles with equal chutzpah, dance freely and hug indiscriminately in equal measure, and when questioned, just lift a finger up and say: “He is with me”?

And, by all accounts, god has been kind. She has a following of thousands, including right-minded and high-minded celebrities, loves her diamonds and flaunts them, disarmed the most pestilential television reporters with a peck, and in that ultimate conquering of Bombay, is planning her son’s Bollywood debut, with shooting in Thailand. All that in one package.

Rahul Gandhi may seek kurta-pyjama politics, over suit-boot ki sarkar. And Narendra Modi may sweat his way through a stiff starched version of his own through a wickedly humid 90 minutes. The Congress vice president may experiment with a stubble to show his many faces, and the prime minister may only have one unchanging visage for the world, though framed by a collection of stoles. And both may have put their occasional sartorial flourishes aside and decided that the Indian janata only wants its politicians in Indian wear — just slightly under-ironed to just slightly over.

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Radhe Maa knows better than to think clothes alone maketh the man. Even when monogrammed. So she wore her skirt with more pride than the PM his jacket and sweaty kurta, and Rahul his own, sleeves-rolled-up style.

When confronted with her “obscene” photos, she didn’t even lapse into stony silence or sullenly tear up some negatives. Instead, she took on that skeleton in everyone’s closet: “What do you wear when you relax?”

Come to think of it, this election season, that may not be a bad benchmark to judge some by.

For the record, I can be seen in track pants that have seen better days most mornings, to ensure one can leave as is for the dash to the children’s bus-stop. And if kurta-pyjama is my attire of choice the rest of the time, it’s because I have finally accepted how futile the vanity of getting into clingy jeans is through Delhi weather.

From Asaduddin Owaisi to Pravin Togadia though, it is unlikely comfort decides what politicians wear for public appearances, though even they may draw the line at chappals — the footwear Rahul would have Bharat wear.

As for Radhe Maa, she doesn’t appear to have lost any followers yet — or that lipstick — though it is unlikely she will be seen in that mini again. Their loss.

shalini.langer@expressindia.com