Weapons of maasi sestruction

Updated: Jan 19, 2020, 07:25 IST | Paromita Vohra |

I mean the flamboyant jhaad, that irascible tongue-lashing I call Weapon of Maasi Destruction (henceforth WMDs) delivered for wrongdoings you thought you got away with

Illustration/ Uday Mohite
Illustration/ Uday Mohite

picI would like to ask an important and decisive question for the times: are you Indian, if you have never been roundly scolded by an older auntie-person?

I'm not referring to annoying remarks of tradition enforcing ladies ("When getting married/pregnant/hair-dyed?"). I mean the flamboyant jhaad, that irascible tongue-lashing I call Weapon of Maasi Destruction (henceforth WMDs) delivered for wrongdoings you thought you got away with.

WMDs can be identified by the 4 Vs.

Velocity: Beady-eyed sentences in quick succession, paint a colourful picture of your sins past and present and consequently your bleak future. Yaniki khulla chittha. Recently, some Benaras ladies in a video administered this WMD to the government. In under five minutes they criticised the economy, scorned the poor quality of contemporary social fabric, and instructed straightening up. No space for argument provided, nowhere to hide.

Volume: WMDs are not quietly frosty. They are delivered at full volume, certain of their own rightness.

Vichitrata: The most crucial element of WMDs featuring creative descriptions (eg., Gujrat ka tadipar), acerbic observations and absurd comparisons. "Other children are eating and digesting stones. You are fussing about khichdi!". In one video, dadis from Shaheen Bagh, called a politician aate ke thaile. At the receiving end, you become so confused and distracted by these images and analogies, you're unable to respond. The absurdity's purpose is to disallow attempts at getting away with sophistry and words. Yaniki, chup chaap admit you are wrong.

Vernier Callipers: A choice question will have you in its narrow grip, wherein it's best to be motionless. A recent, resplendent demonstration of this was Judge Kamini
Lau asking the public prosecutor opposing Bhim Army's Chandrashekhar Azad's bail, "Protest is a right. Haven't you read the Constitution?" Say yes, you admit to
wrongful arrest. Say no, you basically disqualify yourself. You must stoically take the WMD and meekly do the right thing.

As gleeful reports of this dressing down showed, just like other people's boyfriends are best looking, so other people's WMDs are most entertaining. It is the schadenfreude, yaniki, teri musibat mein maza, of seeing the badmaash cousin who always gets away with things, getting it good.

That WMDs come from women is significant. The scolding's air of having tolerated misbehaviour until remaining quiet is impossible is rooted in experience. Women's skills in making things work, taking care of others go unrewarded, and their decision-making or access to power remains precarious. Those who are made to stand outside power know how to identify its subcutaneous veins, its masked behaviours best.

WMDs are designed to puncture pomposity and self-congratulatory herogiri; to cut things down to size for equality and get to the moral heart of the matter. They are not simply a humiliating show of power. Their humour, creativity and straight talk, take apart pretence inclusively, but also, declare a claim on you, an apnapan, where they pay attention to you, and demand an acknowledgement of their stake in social life.

That's why, even while elaborately despairing about your character ("so useless, he can't piss on a broken finger"), WMDs hope for your improvement, symbolised by that signature warning as in Lily Singh's excellent sketch Shit Punjabi Moms Say, "Main awan?" (Should I come?). Aunties and grannies in squares across the country, are delivering solid WMDs, saying "Main awan?". I would listen to them baba, out of love, respect, self-preservation. And Indianness.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at paromita.vohra@mid-day.com

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