BY Vani IN Guest post
BJP desperately needs a Nag Mani
“Look at that!” my grandmother said, pointing to the television screen where an “Icchadhari Nagin” (a shape-shifting serpent) was flicking its forked tongue in and out. “Nani, why are you watching this junk?” I asked. She glared at me and grunted in response, so did the others who sat beside her. Not that they would be interested in the supernatural, but it was pointless to suggest The Vampire Diaries, Lord of the Rings, Merlin or any of my other favourites. These fantasy aficionados didn’t need a Game of Thrones with its high quotient of gore, horror, nudity and erotica to tickle their minds, when a sari-clad, heavily made-up “dayan”, “chudail” or “nagin” could very well do the job.
I flopped into the bed and feigned interest in the story which I already knew by heart: an Icchadhari Nagin hounded by a snake charmer called Bhairav Baba for her “Nag Mani”, the wish-fulfilling snake gem. Interestingly, Bhairav Baba didn’t need to be a wildlife expert, adept at catching cobras; an ordinary lad with some skill on the “been” would work just as well. Looking at the number of movie and TV adaptations this one story has spurred over the last few decades, I couldn’t help imagining the royalties that would have accrued to the writer had he still been alive. And then I remembered my own royalty cheque and wished that this wasn’t fantasy, what if I too could have a Nag Mani!
My thoughts were interrupted by a wave of oohs and aahas from the kids sitting right next to me as they marvelled at the serpent body of the Icchadhari Nagin. How could they appreciate something so banal, I wondered? But then these were kids who had grown up on a crop of cartoonish adaptations of orcs, zombies, vampires and werewolves, which were not frightening at all. What I saw in front of me still looked promising. A commercial break gave me the much-needed respite.
I surfed past the family dramas to arrive at a news channel which had been predicting a landslide win for the BJP in the Bihar elections since morning, only to eat its own words by evening. “Poor Modiji,” I sighed, seeing how the BJP was overthrown by the Grand Alliance of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav. “The BJP needs a Nag Mani, that’s the only way its wishes will be fulfilled,” said my grandmother, sounding very much like Shekhar Gupta. “You are right, Nani,” I said to her, “and maybe it needs a Bhairav Baba, too, now that the party lost its own Prashant Kishor, oh, I mean Bhairav Baba to the Opposition. That might help it in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, now that Bihar is gone.”
The two minutes over, my cousins and aunts were jostling for the remote. Needless to say, it was a difficult half hour, and no sooner was it over than my grandmother started watching a fantasy drama based on Indian mythology, sympathising with a leaf-clad man who was running towards Lord Shiva crying “Trahimam, Trahimam” (please help me, please help me), while I couldn’t help finding his parallel in Shatrughan Sinha, wondering if that’s what he said to Nitish and Lalu when he went to congratulate them on their stupendous win this evening.