Lindsay Pereira: All in the name of nepotism

Why single out the Nehru-Gandhi family when politics, films and our roads and airports are all dominated by dynasties?

Rishi Kapoor was angry for much of last week. Naturally, I assumed this was because he had finally watched his films on DVD, or looked at his son's work and figured out that having a surname like Kapoor didn't guarantee talent as an actor. It turns out he was unhappy about the Congress naming important places like roads, railways and airports after the Nehrus and Gandhis.

He does have a valid point, even if it has taken him over six decades to complain about it. Why make foreigners assume that the only people who did something of importance in our country were the Gandhis? It's as if the rest of the country has produced no one of importance. Apparently, there are 17 central government schemes, 49 state schemes, 26 sports tournaments, 9 airports, 99 educational institutions and 37 medical institutions named after members of that family, and that is just half the list published online by a number of helpful Gandhi-obsessed folk.

The leaders themselves have nothing to do with the construction named after them - what exactly did Rajiv Gandhi have to do with the Bandra-Worli Sea Link anyway?
The leaders themselves have nothing to do with the construction named after them - what exactly did Rajiv Gandhi have to do with the Bandra-Worli Sea Link anyway?

Then again, why pick on just one family when every state in our country is obsessed with a person or two after whom they name a slew of roads, railways and airports? Bombay alone, for instance, has two airports and a railway station named after the same person. It also has a few hundred streets named after people none of us know a thing about, because we aren't told about them at the time of renaming. There are mysterious doctors, activists, even the odd film star's parent, with lanes and by-lanes named after them for unfathomable reasons.

What I find mildly absurd about Kapoor's annoyance regarding families hogging the limelight, is his failure to acknowledge the business he's in. He belongs to an industry where nepotism has ensured that your children and mine will forever be forced to endure the son or daughter of a Kapoor or Khan putting out puerile movies for our viewing displeasure. I'm pretty sure that, even as you read this, someone, somewhere, is working on a script with which to launch the movie careers of a star's daughter with another star's son or grandson.

Our collective obsession with family borders on the unhealthy. It ensures that the children of doctors will always be coerced into studying medicine, children of policemen will have no option but to join the force, and children of government employees will always be encouraged to ask for a bribe at a young age in order to do something for someone else. The saddest thing is how this makes it impossible for the children themselves to follow a path of their own choosing. Who is to say that Ranbir Kapoor would not have made a good scientist, for instance? A far stretch, I admit, given the aversion for education in all Bollywood households, but you get the point.

There's also a certain amount of hypocrisy involved when the Pawar family, Munde family, Yadav family, Badal family, Thackeray family, Patnaik family, Karunanidhi family and Scindia family all denounce 'dynastic politics'. They may not join Rishi Kapoor in denouncing the Gandhi family's naming of places, of course, because most of them are guilty of the same crime in the states they represent.

It's a misplaced sense of pride that compels our political parties to force fit a departed leader's name on all monuments. The leaders themselves have nothing to do with the construction named after them (what exactly did Rajiv Gandhi have to do with the construction of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link anyway?), but we have yet to evolve into a society that can live with generic names like Bandra Bridge, Parle Hospital, Dadar Station and Virar School.

Why do the Gandhis like the idea of naming everything after themselves? Because that's what Indian politicians do, and have always done. It's why our government condones the spending of so much time and money on renaming streets, buildings, railway stations and airports. More money is spent on renaming old things than building new ones. And of the few new things being built, not many have anything to do with the common man. This explains why our government is planning a very expensive statue in the middle of the sea instead of planning better roads that will make the lives of millions of commuters in our city easier. Our leaders don't care about how awful the hospital is, how unsafe the road, how filthy the railway station or how pointless the monument is. All they want is to see their names on it.

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereiraSend your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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