(Published in Business Standard on January 25, 2014)
So the revolution is upon us in Delhi. And it’s about time, much as people who read and write on laptops, and have enough money to holiday, might dislike the idea. We all secretly know that we make fun of Arvind Kejriwal’s scarf because it is in the style of the millions of ordinary men you see riding to or from work on their bicycles in the winter. That scarf makes him look as if he’s one of them, and this congruence is deeply scary to people who feel that power should stay, as it always has, in the hands of the sorts of people who make fun of the sorts of people who dress like Arvind Kejriwal. It’s like having to accept a salaryman at the billionaire’s table. While it’s impolite to say so, you know you have little in common with him and don’t actually think he deserves to be there. (At least that’s what I imagine billionaires think when a salaryman joins their table.)
Anyway, the men who wear scarves around their ears rather than their necks, who were once merely unreal extras passing about silently and sometimes invisibly in the movie of our lives, the men you send off to the store when the storekeeper says ‘Send a man’, have suddenly become extremely visible and also rather noisy. And as they coalesce from inconsequential outlines into very solid forms, it’s clear that there are many, many, many of them. So many that we can no longer go on pretending that they don’t exist or matter and shouldn’t be trying to get above their station. It appears that they’re marching up to our table, and we’re either going to have to shift up or give up the seat entirely.
Those of us who have laptops but are fans of the revolution, must prepare to face the music.
So, while the streets prepare to run merrily with blood, I’m emulating the musical quartet in Titanic, who see the end coming but, by god, are going to go down flying the flag. So they just stand there on the listing deck, fiddling their hearts out, doing their thing because that’s all they know how to do. They probably feel quietly heroic doing it, embodying the poignant transience of beauty and life in the fearful maw of the sea.
So, in the same spirit, I’ve applied polish to my fingernails for the first time in my life this January. They’re scarlet, which makes a convenient, easy-to-identify target for the revolutionaries. For the first week or two I had painted them black, but then my mother said that she felt as if a crow had flown in to breakfast with her. My mother is direct like that. But that’s not why I replaced black with red. I replaced it because I had to wear a red dress to do a tango performance. If the polish didn’t tip the revolutionaries off, tango dancing should do the trick.
And since music is what gives a sinking ship dignity, and should be tuneful, I’ve taken to getting together with a few other amateurs to plinkety plonk some songs out on various instruments. We all work (some of us more than others) but none of us can be accused of having a scarf around the ears. We sometimes sound like a bunch of deaf foghorns, but we sometimes get it right, or close enough. Plus, there’s always a bottle of whiskey, and sometimes a fireplace. Never was a foundering ship cosier. If we could sell our own songs someday, that would be money for jam. On the other hand, what’s the point? You can’t take it with you when you go.