A girl called Behenji


A girl called Behenji

New Delhi : Ms Mayawati Ji is the headline of a reproduction of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister’s motion of thanks to the Governor made in the Vidhan Sabha two days ago. It runs as an advertisement in some papers today. Font colour: red. The caption repeats the headline. Ms Mayawati Ji.

Few are mistaken about the positioning of Behenji’s authority in posters and advertisements. But if you had drifted away, Ms Mayawati Ji, will tease you back. In news again for allowing Padam Singh, a senior personal security officer to wipe dust off her shoes in Auraiya recently, Mayawati became a much surfed person on the Net yet again. Odd, isn’t it, how she continues to engage so many of us vicariously?

I wander into the Mayawati curiosity shop often enough, rising to a bait that she has perhaps never consciously dangled. Every day, while driving out of Noida, where I live, I look up at her posters, of which there are many. I gaze at her beige salwar kameez, her open sandals which become black dumpy shoes in winter, her hand raised like a political leader’s without the swagger of a cine star. Look at Me, she says in her body language.

Like most others, I find her gruff and cold in manner (having observed her at her public appearances) yet intensely compelling. A couple of years back when I saw her walking into the salon at Delhi’s Oberoi Hotel, I found myself checking out her skin and nails, as if seeking evidence whether she visited a beauty parlour regularly. Whoever was around looked at her too as if she was a film star. Not that she cared to respond. What is it about her then? Hooked to TV channels the other day as they ran the Padam Singh clip again and again, I spotted a Girl Called Behenji.

Insiders may insist that Behenji is regimental and private, a lady who defends her personal space like a tigress and is more military than Barbie at all times, in dressing, but I am not so sure. When she cut her oily plait to get this bob hair style that she sports even today, she gave the signal that she was a no-fuss working woman. Her loose, beige and brown salwar kameezes–long never kurti style–are akin to a uniform say her observers. Her faux leather handbags which are now a part of her statues all over the state speak the same language: I go to work, she is telling us, I mean business, I do not faff around.

And then, from time to time, the veneer cracks, on birthdays or celebrations and you can see her vulnerabilities shine like diamonds. Pink tack and bling, brocade salwar kameezes, gold bangles, diamond earrings, lavish thrones on which she sits like a raja (not a coquettish rani). Momentarily then, the conspiracy of silence around her personal likes and dislikes falls away as gossip about her facials and hair care sneaks out. Does she go to the Oberoi salon still in Delhi? No one is about to admit. But those who do talk on condition of anonymity say that she is hyper about her surroundings as about her appearances. She wants everything to be clean, in top form and in her own style.

What’s her style? Behenji girlish, I would say. Hair neatly combed, salwar kameezes in satiny fluid material allow a nice fall; then there is a biggish nose pin as well as an additional piercing done on her ears besides the diamonds she wears on her earlobe. Behenji may be mannish in her political goals but she is girlie in the way she has chosen beige and pink as the ruling colours of her style constituency. Each has been given its just place, never allowed to overlap. She loves to doll up. Let’s accept that raising funds for her electorate isn’t the only reason this girl celebrates her birthdays with four tier cakes and currency garlands. She has put some thought into her image and executed it. Few manage that.

So Behenji had a senior officer wiping the dust off her shoes and didn’t even bother to stop him. We can call it cruel authority, poor taste or insensitivity. But what about seeing it as a Little Girl called Behenji’s whimsy? Look At Me, Look At Me, that’s all she is saying. Maybe we should listen to her looks rather than looking at her speech all the time.