I have always been intrigued and enamoured by powerful yet flawed women. Whether they are tinsel-town goddesses or every day mango-women, I love the magnificent, confident, captivating creatures that they are! As a young boy I gave my heart to Manju from Chaalbaaz, a lovable rogue and a complete badass. I grew up to fall hard for Jab We Met’s Geet who was at once careless, carefree, sensitive and talkative. I’m also madly in love with reality television’s gift to India, the boisterous, bombastic and very real Rakhi Sawant. I refuse to be hypocritical like most people, who probably binge watched Rakhi Ka Swayamwar in private, and then had the gall to call her a drama queen in public!
Needless to say that over the last few weeks, I have devoted every waking moment to following the shenanigans of our desi woman in red, our trishul-dhari-Lipstick-naari: Radhe Maa. Every year a rain forest is hacked to provide enough paper for posters, pamphlets, newsprint and sundry publicity material documenting how this self-proclaimed re-incarnation of the mother goddess is changing lives of millions of her devotees.
Infact, most people driving down either of the express highways in Mumbai can catch her in make-up reminiscent of The Dark Knight’s Joker, smiling beatifically at passersby from giant bill-boards by a company called Global Advertisers, presumably owned by a devotee.
Other devotees lavish her with expensive gifts like real estate, jewels, cash and clothes that represent questionable fashion choices. Radhe has devotees across genders and sexualities eating out of her perfectly manicured hand (not the one that bears the trident, the other one).
So how exactly did her fall from grace come about? Come to think of it, there has been talk of her alleged involvement in nefarious financial transactions for several years now. Even allegations of causing domestic disputes to eventually benefit from bringing about settlements are not new. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not her devotee and I certainly DO NOT condone any criminal activity allegedly committed by her. What I want to know is that if her alleged involvement in these crimes is what blew up Radhe’s story to warrant reams of newsprint and hours of air time? No, that couldn’t be it.
I think people got incensed at the sight of her in a red mini skirt. She seemed to be having a good time in a visibly upscale location. Now how can a Maa have fashion sense and how can she enjoy anything but abject poverty born out of repeated sacrifices for her children?
Radhe defies the idea of a stereotypical maa. She is NOTHING like the characters played Nirupa Roy in Manmohan Desai movies or Mother India’s Nargis Dutt. When people become gods, they cease to exist as mortal beings with feelings. Our misguided devotion compels us to imagine them as divine, sexless, desire-less creatures.
My super conservative Tamil granny wondered aloud, “She is a goddess! How can she wear such short clothes?” First an involuntary laugh escaped me when I found that even my granny thought Radhe was a goddess. Then I directed her attention to the pictures and figurines of goddesses on our pedestal that had fewer clothes on. Infact, one demon slaying warrior goddess was buck naked with only her hair and a bunch of skulls covering her modesty!
I also distinctly remember another widely publicized video of Radhe that was cited as proof of her depravity. It showed Radhe being touched and felt up while being lifted by her devotees. The breathless news-reporter spat out one word laden with judgment – ashleel or vulgar. See, this is what gets my goat. Who are we to comment on anyone like that?
How does consensually getting touched or felt up, in a private location, qualify as subject for a debate on morality? Why is it any of our business? What right do we have to speak about Radhe’s western clothes? She has no moral obligation to cover up like an Egyptian mummy! And why is it immoral to swing one’s hips to a peppy Bollywood number?
Interestingly, nobody is questioning the integrity of the person who filmed her with her consent but made the video public, in possible violation of her trust. This closeted misogyny baffles me!
Finally, like always, we have allowed ourselves to be distracted by frivolous and inconsequential topics. Frankly, we should only be debating and discussing the dowry case against her and the case filed on her by a television actress alleging that Radhe Maa had forced her to have sex with one of her devotees. That, if true, is unforgivable and I hope Radhe and her cronies are punished to the full extent of the law for it.
Radhe needs to be seen for what she is. She is a gifted seductress and plays to her strengths.
If I have to say it in a single sentence, I’d say Radhe might be a beautiful and super smart con woman who knows the tricks of her trade. She is also skilled at PR. Whether declaring herself as ‘pure and pious’ or kissing a TV reporter to silence his incessant questions, Radhe is always in control.
You could see a glimpse of her skill in this video where she silences Zee News reporter and friend Ashwin Kumar Pandey by kissing him:
Radhe knows how easy it is to bhaktify Indians with the right cocktail of religion, glamour and ‘maternal’ love. In a country where devotion is born primarily out of fear and manifests itself in mere rituals, is it fair to only vilify the perpetrator of a myth, most are willing and often desperate to believe or hold accountable the millions of believers that allow such con women to flourish?
And here is a video that tells us how Radhe maa has inspired mimicry...
Instagramer Unmesh Potdar zindabad!
(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals. ‘RainbowMan’ is Harish’s regular blog for The Quint)