Bah! Taj

Taj tamasha: Indians get off on a concoction of silly sentimentality, half-baked plastic platitudes, and puke-inducing pop patriotism.

12 July, 2007:

In times of Pop Patriotism, the Taj Mahal basks in rejuvenated passion of a nation. The drive to be hep in the eyes of the world leaves little to imagination, as we ignore things that lie at the bottom of all the squalour we have been trying to do away with for more than 50 years now.

Scurvy of a Country

The Taj jaundice, brought upon by the oil refineries in Agra, created a furore. The refineries were asked to shut down or relocate. When all this died down, the Taj corridor debacle gaped in the face of a corrupt government. The latter, as is the case usually, managed to kill the controversy, and the Taj went back to fight it out on its own.

But that was then. Today, the Taj seems to stand almost where it was. On the banks of a stinking, black nullah called the Yamuna, with floating plastic bags to add to the scenic dilapidation. With a heavily silted bank of the erstwhile river, Yamuna provides a stark contrast against the yellowed ivory look of Taj. People came, people saw, and left in awe. Taj Mahal for forgotten again. Till recently.

The New Indian Idol Contest

Talent hunts are a rage. The country sits in front of the boob-tube with their favourite gadget Ė not the remote Ė but a flashy little mobile phone. As one singer after another beckons their audience to send their support via and SMS, the nation scurries to type out the fashionable code to the faceless four digit number.

Itís the new national pastime. Cricket and political parties be warned. People are voting, never in elections, but for their favourite idiot on the idiot box. Some genius idiot somewhere is sitting on the pulse of people. And has a brilliant insight.

ďVote for Taj!Ē

The bugle calls from all corners of the country, blaring at a thousand decibels over all major TV channels, swishing across the ticker instead of breaking news. Yes, a country has a new mission. Itís fashion with the pop passion of a fad. The mobiles are out, and in come those SMSes, from every nook and cranny, from grandpa to granny Ė everyone is voting again.

Mush Called Taj Mahal

The Taj sits serenely over the banks of Yamuna, and the first rays of sunlight touch the mighty dome. At first you think itís the eerie orange glow of the rising sun. Then, as the sun leaps over the eastern horizon, you realize the trauma. Yellowed from years of neglect, like a coffee loverís teeth, the monument desperately needs a dentist. Yellow teeth, like the Taj, need immediate attention. Maybe a toothpaste brand should endorse the Taj as its ambassador.

Love in the Times of Density

Suddenly everyone is looking at the Taj Mahal. Someone somewhere blabbed the possible inclusion of this monument in the Seven Wonders of the World. Someone in India hit gold with an idea. There is a song here, there is an ad there. And there are SMSes. Laluís land decides to make it official to vote. Love rules the air. Love for a nation, and itís one monument to proudly represent the face of the country that is stereotypically known across the world with the Taj Mahal. Ironic, just when you thought the world already acknowledges this architectural marvel of a certain maniacal love.

You find A. R. Rehman crooning a paean to One Love, along with that annoying ticker beneath to Vote for the Taj. A little boy is distributing the poster, requesting people to vote for the Taj. A noble soul who does pay attention to the kidís appeals, turns around only to discover the child is visually challenged. A touching effort, but then one is left to wonder at the little kidís inability to be believable. Kind of a poor cousin to the plethora of social advertising with pictures of a scraggly child, asking for your support to help her or him lead a better life. Yes, it is also fashionable to have children in advertising. Any product that has a cute little kid is bound to do well in the market, no matter how pernicious and precocious the kid sounds.

When a Remo Fernandes slams the SMS campaign, no one wants to listen. The protest is quietly buried underneath the spangles and confetti a cause like Taj promises.

Hope Flops Eternal

Akbar Khan is an excited man today. A few years ago, he ventured to recreate the romance of Taj, through a very forgettable Taj Mahal. Whoís Akbar Khan, you might ask. No answer of mine can make you recollect who he was, except perhaps the fact that he was the face on the song called Hadsa, sometime in early 80ís, which was later sabotaged by a somewhat underdressed Rakhi Sawant in a remix video recently. But thatís about Akbar Khan, when the director of this monumental flop heard about the race for Taj Mahal, he had to jump the band wagon. If thereís a better example of ďbehti Ganga mein haath dhonaĒ, this is it. He believes he will be able to revive his deadpan disaster, riding on the sudden Taj Pop Gravy Train.

Pop Goes the Patriot

I am the new face of the conscientious nation. I run in a marathon. I wear a red ribbon on December 1st. I wear a Live Strong plastic wrist band. I attend the charitable concert. I do all that, and when I get back home, I am tired, and I go back to sleep. I wake up, and I hear they are voting for the Taj. Oops! I hope I am not late. I cast my vote even before I attend the natureís call. Itís better to slip out the remnants of last nightís flatulent dinner, than be late for a cause.

I carry my bleeding heart on my sleeve as I step out. I stare in the face of the one who does not display the zeal I have cultivated for My Mahaan Bharat. I hold my head high, I am proud to be an Indian. I dig Anu Malikís ditty on East or West, India is the Best. I endorse everything the celeb brigade ratifies as the cause of the day. As long as there is a statement that goes well with my personality, my country will have my undying support. I will buy the plastic tricolor every Independence Day, and furl it out my car window as I step in to a disc in the evening. Heck, today I will wear my Orange T-shirt with green and white blings. Yes, I am the neo-nationalist, who believes the louder you talk, the more they believe you.

The Token Taj Mahal Thespianism

It is cool to support the Taj Mahal, after all, the world already looks at it as a wonder. The frenzy over the country to thump it down the worldís throat isnít funny, itís simply ironic. We should also vie for our pot-holed roads as a wonder of the world. After all, it takes amazing skills to drive and stay alive on those roads. We should also make the begging kid on the street a wonder. He can stand nonchalantly, making a pitiful face under a huge hoarding of wannabe Sachin kid selling a brand of washing powder. We should also make the municipal school a wonder, a system where truant teachers are more common than missing kids from classes. We should also make the bureaucracy a wonder that seems to have run a nation with its elephantine slowness, and an inherently inebriated mode of functioning. We should also make the morning time railway tracks a wonder, that is an eternal exposť on the tons of fecal manure the country is capable of offloading. But perhaps, this is never a good idea. When we proudly export those Persian carpets, itís just easy to sweep the dirt under the rug, and continue voting for the Taj, for all that is NOT an eyesore in the land of Mysore.





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