When Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and spy was arrested in 1917 by France on charges of spying for Germany, little would she have known of the iconic status she’d attain in the decades to come. So when our own Madhuri Gupta, diplomat at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was arrested on similar charges this year, it wasn’t entirely unnatural for a parallel to be drawn.
At 53, Madhuri could not match up to Mata Hari’s physical attributes (though a sex angle to the crime isn’t ruled out). She is nonetheless said to have been a well read charmer and glib talker who could win men over with conversation. What makes Madhuri’s act pettier though is her motivation. By her own admission, what she did was an act of revenge for not being given the right opportunities for professional growth. She remains unapologetic.
Indian men fortunately love women spies and vamps only on screen. So while one can’t wait to see Kareena play the part of a Pakistani spy in her beau’s Agent Vinod, we’d be more than happy to donate Madhuri to our neighbours.
To Nira Radia goes the credit of making ‘lobbyist’ sound like the most enticing career of the future. A lobbyist often requires a friendly broker to succeed in her mission. Fortunately the Radiagate tapes so far do not give any hint of the concerned journalists doubling up as brokers. At best, impropriety is what it was. Had it been otherwise, both the corporate and media worlds would be coping with greater ignominy.
We vividly recall that bald, stout, opportunist male politician whom people invariably refer to as ‘broker’ or ‘fixer’. Now with Nira Radia the underbelly of ‘women lobbyists’ stands exposed as well.
For a country devoured by corruption, an Indian man would much rather want to see Nira Radia cool her heels with buddy A. Raja than grace Mumbai’s social circuit. By the way if only the Radiagate tapes had been out a few years ago, we could have been lucky (or unlucky) to see a cinematic representation in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Corporate.
The case of Arundhati Roy is different. Thirteen years ago when she won the Booker prize, she became inspiration to a whole generation of Indian writers trying hard to break out of obscurity. Now it is her quest for the Nobel, perhaps, that has her play cheer leader to a host of self styled separatists ranging from an octogenarian, alleged hawala racketeer from Kashmir to Khalistanis, Maoists and extremists from the North East. Ms. Roy’s monumental transformation (read decline) never ceases to amaze me as I’m sure it does scores of other Indians.
Honouring her sedimentary charm, I’d much rather ask Ms. Roy out on a date. The eternal optimist in me thinks she might be game to locking horns with an erstwhile admirer and a lesser gifted fellow author.
When she’s adequately tipsy partly from the wine and mainly from my compliments, I’d then bounce off my queries to her.
One, how are these so-called separatist seminars which openly incite splitting up of the country and which she unabashedly patronizes, any different from the 26/11 mastermind, Hafiz Sayyed’s vituperative outbursts against India which we have always been protesting with the Pakistan government? Why should Ms. Roy then not be tried under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act?
Two, Ms.Roy’s supporters equate her with our freedom fighters; the difference being that while the freedom fighters fought an oppressive colonial rule, Ms. Roy is fighting what is the world’s most liberal, indulgent, democracy. Doesn’t that raise questions about Ms. Roy’s motives?
Three, wouldn’t Ms. Roy agree that it is only fair that an individual’s freedom of speech co-exist with the State’s freedom to curtail such speech that is detrimental to her national interests?
If Ms. Roy does provide me convincing, unprejudiced answers, I promise to take her more seriously in future.
The write up was first published in the Times of India.