ONE CAN’T but envy Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At a time when most of us have been pummelled into even smaller selves by a tiny virus, eschewing the outside and tip-toeing around homes that are war zones, with frayed souls locked in together, it must be good to be able to just step away from it all. Those photos of Modi feeding peacocks and peahens while clearing files, underlined what we are all missing — the time from long, long time ago that we had anyone eating out of our hands; an indulgent photographer to record those Twitter moments; and, of course, a backyard as big as that.
It must require a certain kind of equanimity to have this fortitude when running a country in the face of problems such as the GDP, GST, Galwan, and now, above all, ganja.
Still, give me the fortitude of a Rhea Chakraborty, any day. A 28-year-old who is watching her life go up in ashes on live TV, for what, so far, are minor infractions that the late actor, and sudden ‘hero’, Sushant Singh Rajput, is as much guilty of; who must step out every day and face those cameras; who must watch everything she does, from what she wears to what food she orders; who must account for every conversation she has had in the past as well as one undisputedly close relationship (in an industry famously tight-lipped about them); who has the might of the State rallied against her; who is seeing her family go down with her; who must watch some of India’s mightiest prove to be only reel men; and who, most importantly, can’t dodge any questions. Not one.
And yet, making her way through that camera siege, her head held high, with no lensmen indulging her, seeking no shoulders to lean on, donning no dark glasses or veils to hide behind, Chakraborty has not given those who would have her break down, the satisfaction of enjoying her tears. On Tuesday, she walked to her third round of questioning, leading to her arrest, dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt that said let’s ‘smash patriarchy’ — the lawyer for Sushant Singh Rajput’s family earlier called a video of her dressed in white salwar-suit an attempt to show herself as “a simple woman”.
That remains the truth all those mythological years since the Ramayana and Mahabharata. What the world still wants is a sacrificial Sita, not the demanding Draupadi, who called out her husbands’ cowardice and avarice in subjecting her to a public stripping. A few tears, shed judiciously, might just have washed off many of Chakraborty’s so-called crimes.
Chakraborty did not choose that, despite knowing perhaps the heavy price a woman can pay for not being womanly enough. Half the world convicted Nupur Talwar of killing her daughter Aarushi based on the fact that she didn’t tear up on a TV show. Hillary Clinton spent her years as First Lady in the White House living down a statement that she had chosen to make a career for herself (and a successful one at that), rather than “sit at home, baking cookies”. A grouse raised often against German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s tallest leader, is that she is too staid and rational (as opposed to her counterpart across the Atlantic, presumably). Besides, being “motherless”. Running for her own presidency two decades after her White House stint as wife, Clinton (dressed firmly like Merkel in a pantsuit) packaged herself as a loving grandmother, but still one of the charges the Republicans threw at her was that she did not “smile enough”.
You know who did not smile enough? The PM in that peacock video. In fact, he looked stern and rather stricken as the peacocks and peahens obligingly waddled over. While the peacocks strutted their wares amidst the lush greens, as Modi walked along, with and around them, the peahens had their meals with the PM indoors. Whatever the hierarchy in the peafowl world, where it’s the males who are judged by appearances, they had to toe the line in this one.
National Editor Shalini Langer curates the ‘She Said’ column
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines