Saturday, 11 January 2014

Of Symbolisms And Sanskar; Of Kejriwal And Alok Nath!

Choti Mata’s Note: Given the enthrallingly happening weeks that rang in this New Year, there were multiple contenders for the topic of this post. But ultimately, Arvind Kejriwal and Alok Nath emerged as the top contenders. Well, them and Devyani Khobragade. But, then this is Choti Mata’s space and is all about ‘good’ life lessons—lessons that were hard to find in a diplomatic mess replete with feet stomping nations, underpaying diplomats and cavity searches. So, in the end it was a coin toss between Kejriwal and Alok Nath. Only the coin did a Sholay (Remember the one time when that wretched coin stands on its edge. Yeah! That one) and the following is what…well followed.

Arvind Kejriwal is the new Nayak of the real world. Alok Nath is the new Rajnikanth of the virtual world. This is the latest world order. And it is, quite frankly, disturbing.

A whole lot of this disturbing for me is because every single time I think Nayak, my mind automatically replays that iconic mud fighting scene from the movie. Now, it may be just me but there is something about naked men in mud that is a total turn off for me. Even when the man in the mud is John Abraham (Remember Dhoom’s Tata Young video?). Replace John Abraham with Anil Kapoor and it’s a total power grid shutdown. Replace him with Arvind Kejriwal and I’d rather switch to solar power.

But of course I know that mud fighting skills were definitely not in the list of credentials that make Arvind Kejriwal who he is. His preliminary credentials are in fact way more impressive than his fictional counterpart could ever boast of. Nayak’s hero got lucky. Kejriwal, on the other hand has actually worked pretty hard for it. Which is exactly why I find Kejriwal’s Nayak comparisons so wrong and belittling. Apart from the weirdly disturbing imagery of course.

Validity of these comparisons apart, Kejriwal was as much of a sensation online as he was offline. He had captured imaginations…and the webspace. Which was obvious and understandable.

But then something happened. Something that was neither obvious nor understandable. Something called Alok Nath.

Out of the wild, unknown blue…or sanskari saffron, as the memes would have us believe, he came. He saw. He conquered. And became an internet phenomenon. Everyone went for a piece of it…him…well, the phenomena I mean. The social media was flooded with memes and jokes and everything else that the netizens thought was necessary to fulfill their sacrosanct duty towards this holy internet sensation.
Kejriwal had needed strategy, hard work and genuine intentions. But Alok Nath…he needed nothing except to be his awesome ‘sanskari’ self. Well that and couple of Hindi movie channels armed with way too many Sooraj Barjatya movies than can be deemed healthy for any society.

Juxtaposition of Arvind Kejriwal and Alok Nath is, however, in fact much more than a clever blog post device. It is a telling sign of our times—times where our contemporary virtual world is characterized by the incredible co-existence of idiocy with intellect. The virtual world where Kamaal R Khan is as iconic as Shah Rukh Khan and no one as much as squirms in discomfort. No one except, I presume, Shah Rukh Khan.

Vagaries of our fickle virtual spaces aside, there is something else which ties Arvind Kejriwal and Alok Nath—something that is slightly more meaningful and in deference to the spirit of this blog, you know lesson-ish.

The thing that ties them both up—is of course Sanskar. Only that Alok Nath, ostensibly, subscribes to the kind where one is required to touch elders’ feet while Kejriwal subscribes to the version where one is required to pull the rug from under elders’ feet…if they are corrupt that is. The point is, both are high on symbolism; both stand for (different) values that we had long presumed to have been buried in books and fed off to the railway rats (Those rats practically spend their entire life-spans between the rails. They still manage to be awfully fat. There has to be a reason!); both look better with a moustache.

Okay, you can ignore the last point.

There is, however, a difference. Alok Nath doesn’t thrive on the symbolism. Kejriwal does. And so, after his sanskari image went viral, he went on record to actually claim that he had a *ahem* wild young life complete with drunk outings and crazy girlfriends. The fans of his sankar, however, chose to ignore this. Possibly because they were incredulous. Imagining Alok Nath as a wild child might need a (un)healthy dose of creativity and quite a few rewatches of Bol Radha Bol. I doubt if anyone was up for it.

But there is another possible reason. It was ignored because it was convenient—because sustaining a symbolism is easier than actually questioning it. A human socio-intellectual inertia that is bound to replicate itself in case of Arvind Kejriwal. Not that he is going to do anything to damage the symbolism that defines his position. Quite the contrary. But there are others. There are always others. The others that will be ignored…for now.

The trouble with symbolism, however, is not these others. The trouble is that it has a short shelf life, presence or absence of others notwithstanding. It needs to be backed up—with substance…plenty of substance.
Because sooner or later, people will get bored with Alok Nath. Not because they are offended by his drunken romps and anti-sanskari past life. But because that is what people do. They get bored. And go back to Rajnikanth. And CID.

Kejriwal will need to remember this.


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