Step away from your independent thought and put your hands where we can see them. Or we will overreact.
This has been a fantastic week for overreactors in India. Statistically, this has been the best week for overreactions since last week.
In Delhi, police shot dead a man doing stunts on a motorcycle, because that is the appropriate response to someone whose greatest crime was to think wheelies get people laid.
Then, in a movie theatre in Mumbai, Deepali Issar, wife of Puneet Issar, hit a man who did not stand in respect of the national anthem. She thought his behaviour to be disrespectful to India, and so she turned to the passage in the Gita which says “Om If that guy making out Om during D-Day Om doesn’t stand for the anthem, clock him Om in the head Om with a bottle Swaaha.”
First, a minute’s silence for the bureaucrat or politician who thought “This playing of the anthem before a movie is such a great idea. People will feel so patriOOHHH MY GOD IT’S OPTIMUS PRIME!” Second of all, if this is how Mrs Issar treats strangers who don’t stand for the anthem, I send prayers for Mr Issar, who she must belt every night for playing Duryodhan, the dastardliest dastardly person in Indian Mythology. When asked by a newspaper to comment, he said “My wife is a strong minded person” which is guy code for “I may have been in the Mahabharata, but did you see what she did to that dude? I want to live.”
As one of our most iconic symbols of nationalism, the anthem deserves respect. And yet the fact remains that standing up for the anthem is much like holding a chair out or a door open for a lady. It is not the law, it’s just a point of etiquette. I do have the right to not stand up while it plays. It is not a right I use often. I exercise it only when Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham is on, and that annoying child starts to sing it at school, much to the ham-filled joy of Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan.
If Mrs Issar’s point was to teach the man patriotism, she could have used a more subtle approach, like tapping him on the shoulder, or getting Sunny Deol to impale him with a hand-pump. If anything, her behavior has ensured that when this man hears the anthem, he is never going to think of India’s bounty and glory. All he’s going to think of is “Duryodhan’s lady-friend who beat me in the head so hard I think I actually understood Ship of Theseus.”
But the best piece of overreaction this week came from the MNS’ Raj Thackeray and the Congress' Nitesh Rane, who took umbrage when Shobhaa De suggested (in light of the creation of the state of The One That’s Not Madras) that perhaps Mumbai could be separated from Maharashtra.
This is how bad things are: Shobhaa De got in a fight with someone and she’s the good guy.
In response to her statement, Mr Thackeray said “dividing a state isn’t as easy as getting a divorce”. He forgets to mention that it is however as expensive, and often as liberating. But then again, who understands the sudden loss of power that follows a separation better than Raj Thackeray?
Nitesh Rane went further, saying that Ms De would soon be left with “no shobha forever”. One part of me is furious at him. Another part wants to hold up a GIF of Navjot Sidhu laughing and yelling “OYE GURU!” as a testament to the quality of the pun. And a third, large part of me thinks “No Shobha Forever” would be a great name for the next Bond film.
Both Mr Thackeray and Mr Rane are shining examples of a great Indian political truth. No matter how bitterly rival parties loathe each other, they can always put aside their differences to agree that yes, this is obviously the woman’s fault. No person, let alone a woman, should have to suffer the petulant bullying that they have subjected her to. Don’t look now gentlemen, but your inner Mithun-movie villain is showing. If this thug-like overreaction is your response to a casual idea about administrative change, I shudder to think how dull a day at the Maharashtra Assembly must be. This boorish attack is the stupidest thing Shobha De has ever had to face, and remember this is a person who sits across from Arnab Goswami and Suhel Seth three days a week.
How dare Ms De suggest that Mumbai be separated from Maharashtra? How dare she suggest something so shocking and unthinkable that it was thought of in 1955? I mean, this woman is clearly insane. Next she’ll say they should have two separate Ranji teams, and that’s just crazy talk. As far as I’m concerned, Ms De can say what she wants. As long as she stands for the national anthem of course.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo.