How incredibly lucky are we in India! Think about it...so many essentials are perpetually in short supply. But the one thing we never run out of is—bores. No dearth of bores in our great and good land—that’s something worth celebrating, surely? We can do without diesel, water, power, food. Roti, kapda, makaan ko maaro goli! But bores? Mera Bharat Maha Boring. Mere Desh ke Bores in the Champions League. India would win all the major medals in the Bores’ Olympics. Well, at least we excel at something. Which is really amazing given our Boredom Threshold, which remains pretty high.
We tolerate bores...indulge them...praise them...pamper them. Why? We are extraordinarily unkind to animals, children, senior citizens and women. But bores have it really good in our society. Have we not heard of terminal boredom which kills? Why then does the milk of human kindness overflow when it comes to putting up with a bunch of people who can generate nothing more than a yawn each time they pop up on our radars? Maybe we are secretly masochistic and crave punishment. Or maybe we see bores as harmless creatures. That isn’t it, is it? Perhaps we are just too lazy to bother with bores. We let them be, just as we let roaches and other creepy-crawlies be. Because we are used to them. Our inbuilt intolerance is reserved for more important matters. ‘Outsiders’, for example. We also hyperventilate when we ourselves are monumentally bored—like during a cricket match when the run rate is so low one wonders whether the team is comatose.
The rest of the time is spent in a mild, good-natured way, fighting dengue and other afflictions. Trying not to get run over by killer buses. Attempting to stay alive in cramped, barricaded apartments with murderous watchmen guarding us. Or ducking bullets flying around as brothers shoot one another. All in a day’s work, as they say. Bollywood be damned. The multistar scripts of our daily lives are so action-packed, they make Dabangg-2,3,4 appear dull in comparison. The world is going nuts over Psy and his silly Gangnam dance. It’s nothing compared to Salman Khan’s buckle dance. Seeti maaroing is what we are good at. Which is why one wonders how come we are so relaxed about those bores? Why don’t we let them know when their sell-by dates expire? Surely it has nothing to do with politeness? We are one of the rudest people on earth! To bhi, we remain chup and when our bores refuse to khisko aside. Since hints and nudges have not worked so far, it’s time to give that bloody shove....
Having put my foot into it, I was very tempted to start with myself. One name that would not be challenged or contested. And I am neither fishing, nor being falsely modest. I jauntily assumed such an inclusion would be shot down by the chivalrous editor. However, in case some of you have strong feelings on the exclusion, do write in....
The difficult part was simply this: how does one separate maha bores from ordinary bores? We decided to be fair (but not lovely), and just list out the Top 10 Bores in no special order.
Main Text: Shobhaa Dé | Boring Quotient text: Team Outlook | Photographs: Narendra Bisht | Photo-imaging: Bishwadeep Moitra:
Narendra Modi, 62, Gujarat chief minister
Sorry about getting personal, but in Modi’s case, it’s impossible not to. He has carefully constructed a persona that is designed for media. Nothing but nothing about Gujarat’s chief minister is either natural or accidental. And how can it be? Given his controversial history, Brand Narendra Modi is bound to attract passionate comment. From his rapidly expanding girth, tightly sheathed in a peculiar short-sleeved garment (neither a kurta, nor a bush shirt), Modibhai generates heated debate each time he steps out. One gets the feeling he loves it...and thrives on it. But what is the man who is lobbying so obviously and so hard to become the next prime minister of India, actually saying? Very little. Yes, his pitch is consistent and it basically boils down to this: Come to Gujarat and make money. Terrific. That’s the sum total of his inspiring message. Who is he inviting to Gujarat? Fat cats who already have scads of lolly. Who does that benefit? Modi! Do his followers mind? Not at all. Does anybody dare raise the ‘G’ word (Godhra) any more? Naaaah. It’s old hat. The ‘new’, ‘improved’ Modi is as good at white-washing sordid recent history as that ‘new’, ‘improved’ detergent cleans soiled clothes.
Boring Quotient Hat Trickster
Sachin Tendulkar, 39, Cricketer
Sachin’s a swell guy. Yes, really. He, the God-like creature we have unconditionally worshipped for 23 years, through good times and bad, through tennis elbows and back injuries. Through curly locks and distressed tresses. Through non-sawaris on his Ferrari. Through centuries and ducks. Now what’s left for the newly minted Member of Parliament to do? Er...there is the Bharat Ratna his devotees keep demanding. And had Pranabda not beaten him to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, there were absurd murmurs about Aapla Sachin as prezzie. Anything is possible when it involves a canny marketing team positioning the Master Blaster. Anything at all...except retirement. Bring up the ‘R-word’ at your own peril. It is not an option. God never retires. Which is fine. And may Sachin continue to bat for India even on his 60th birthday. But one thing he has to promise: no more interviews!
BQ Hair to Stay
Here’s an upfront admission: I have a soft spot for the Reluctant Prince of the Congress Party. I had a soft spot for his dad as well. What to do? These guys are like that only. Good-looking, non-threatening...and those dimples! Rahul Baba kitna sweet lagta hai! But one can’t lead a party or run a country armed with nothing more than those darling dimples. Or...or...can one? Going by the manner in which Rahul Baba is being pushed, it is entirely likely. If that’s scary, relax! It could get a lot worse. Think of the alternatives—Nitin? Narendra? Nitish? Rahul’s a chweetie-pie. One wishes he would just be left alone to do what comes naturally—hang with his buddies, party in London, attend fashion shows—in other words, do what any good-looking, immensely wealthy, well-connected, super powerful single guy would do—chill and have fun. But no! There are those (mama Sonia, included) who want to see him as The Saviour. Saviour of what? India—or their own skins? Poor chap has no choice but to pretend he’s interested in a life in politics. There he is gamely addressing the unwashed masses, occasionally putting his foot in the mouth, but otherwise sticking to the script given to him by his minders, Rahul Baba is still to outgrow his political diapers. But is anybody listening?
BQ Forever Prince
Mr Blue Turban has his last and final shot at redemption coming up real soon. If he shrewdly grabs it and performs a chhota sa miracle with India’s flip-flop economy, he’ll still be given credit for ‘liberating’ the country from its original socialist experiment that yielded little more than a gargan-tuan bureaucracy. India has been bored and fed up with the prime minister for the longest time. You know why? We often wonder whether he exists! His maun vrat on most issues has frustrated citizens to an extent they can’t help but mock him publicly. Even that doesn’t elicit reactions. Not an expression crosses his face. His eyes remain blank and stony no matter what. And the few times he does open his mouth, one hears uninspiring gobbledygook that is horribly aggravating. And yet, he hangs on and on and on. Because he suits the system. And mainly because he suits Madam. Between these two exceptionally inarticulate people, India struggles to make some sense of what’s going on. Imagine our pathetic haalat—suspended between the Sphinx (Sonia G) and the Robot (Manmohanji).
BQ Republic of Theek Hai
The minute someone in Calcutta addresses a woman as ‘Didi’, you are doomed. There are countless Didis floating around West Bengal’s chaotic capital. But there is only one Mamata di—thank God! What can one say about this one-woman toofan? She is so out of control as to be almost funny! How can anybody take this Didi seriously? Her tempestuous style of running her government is worrying. Slaps and shouts have replaced files and rules. And yet, the fact that nobody protests (er..., remember, you can be thrown into the clink for doodling), does make Mamatadi India’s Tyrant number one. Her hysterically pitched speeches impress her devotees in Calcutta’s teeming bastis. But make zero sense to others. Raving and ranting in a manner that overshadow a banshee, Mamata has made a career out of disruptive politics. The Commies are puffing on their pipes, swilling Scotch and having the last laugh. They know they’ll be back. Let Didi hyperventilate for now.
BQ Didi ko gussa kyon aata hai
First things first. He has an amazing life—and an even more amazing wife! Many books will be written on him. Sudha, meanwhile, will write many more books that are not on him. There will be a monsoon of books featuring or written by the Murthys. By any standards, they are an extraordinary couple. ‘Simble and humble’. Very. When ‘others’ in the same financial league are building extravagant homes and leading lives defined by super luxury, Murthy is busy making his own bed, perhaps washing his own shirt-pant, and generally leading the deliberately super frugal life of a billionaire who hates ostentation. This is a bit bizarre. What’s the point of all that wealth creation if the wealth remains notional? I’m sure Sudha likes nice saris (not that hers are not nice). And a few baubles now and then. But Shri Murthy will have none of it. Which kind of spoils the billionaires’ party. The rest start feeling guilty and embarrassed. They hesitate to book the Versailles Palace for their darling daughter’s 16th birthday party. They decided a couple of private jets for a family of four are enough and cancel the order for the third. They keep that beach villa in the South of France on hold. And hastily sell the brand-new super yacht for peanuts to that pushy builder next door. Narayana Murthy continues to spread goodness and light, ignoring the taunts of his less Gandhian peers. Please Sirji, don’t make everybody else feel this guilty! If you have such disdain for money, why did you make so much of it in the first place?
BQ Info? Sheesh!
Poor guy. It was never his fault, okay? Here he was, minding his own (rather messy) business in Ralegaon, whipping a few wicked drunkards, threatening to cut off the hands of those who thieve, ordering womenfolk to stay indoors at all times...all pretty lofty methods of ensuring them village folks behaved. Anna himself led a spartan existence, sleeping in the courtyard of the temple and majestically dispensing justice. All for the good of the people, of course. One fine day he decided it was time to take on the corrupt of the land and demand major reforms in the rotten state of India. This entirely unique idea found several takers. Soon, sweet old Anna was appropriated—not just by his super smart Gang of Four, but by the entire nation. Initially, Anna looked bewildered. But soon, he was an absolute pro at it. By the time he arrived in Delhi to begin the first of his several protest fasts, he had become national property. And his coterie had developed the enviable skills of top international event managers. Anna himself became incidental. He was produced and used as and when required, mainly for photo-ops. And then left to go hungry, while the coterie hogged the limelight, pranced and danced for the cameras, and provided pithy quotes which were attributed to poor Anna. His many followers, wearing the trademark topis declaring ‘Me too Anna Hazare’, soon reconciled themselves to the loss of power of that particular imagery. Anna himself lost the plot...and the coterie. His tedious harangues sounded monotonously recycled. And sure enough, the trusting, naive candle-bearers moved on looking for the next Messiah. Anna was never the new Mahatma. He was just a simple-minded peasant with good intentions. Now, he is just one more cipher nobody is interested in. Pity.
Boring Bonus Fasting and Furious
I want to be the ex-president’s hair stylist! Whether as the occupant of India’s grandest, most ostentatious address (Rashtrapati Bhavan), or more recently in his latest avatar as a freewheeling speaker on a permanent lecture circuit, the loveable, affable Abdul Kalam has never neglected his silvery locks. Not a single hair is out of place, as our friend travels across the country talking to students about how to lead a more meaningful life. He says the same old stuff. But he repeats it in such an engaging way that it doesn’t really matter. His child-like delivery, crammed with cliches that would have made Dale Carnegie blush, attract large crowds. His books, which package the same messages, continue to sell well. And yes, his trademark silvery locks (slightly thinning now), remain impeccably coiffed. Maybe he uses Aishwarya Rai-endorsed L’Oreal hair products, because like Rai, he’s “worth it”!
BQ The Halo Hurts
Each time we look at our stainless steel buckets, kitchen bartans and lotas, we see multi crores. That’s what they are worth when piled up at the centre of a fancy art gallery in London. What do we know about High Art that is making a major statement about popular culture? What our untrained, plebeian eyes see is hundreds of daily use utensils stacked up in a frightfully posh foreign setting. And we are authoritatively told by big-ticket art critics that those buckets and lotas are not just buckets and lotas. They are major works of art which are sold for millions of dollars. Nobody dares to argue. We go back to our own kitchens and bathrooms and start rearranging pots and pans hoping someone will notice the artistic vision behind the positioning. Stupid thing to do. Subodh has already done it! The possibility of Gupta running out of pots and pans doesn’t arise in India. Our mandis are full of them. So, as long as the western art buyers continue to put down serious money for desi bathroom accessories, Subodh stays in business. Apres la lota...le deluge?
BQ Stainless Steals the Show
He insists he is not Bollywood’s ‘Thinking Actor’. Let’s believe him. But if he can be as spectacularly successful without wearing that mantle, it makes him the one and only Awesome Aamir. Wow! In his ‘talaash’ for perfection in all that he does (which includes travelling overseas with his newborn son Azad, strapped to his chest), Aamir has set near-impossible standards for others to emulate (in vain, in vain!). His limited-edition TV show got the numbers and the moolah. He wept. His interviewees wept. Viewers wept. It was a Sunday weepathon like no other. Awesome Aamir does not believe in half-measures. He is an all-or-noth-ing guy. He shuns labels, refuses to acknowledge he’s a control freak, but has the last word in everything regardless—whether it’s in the way his movies are shot, edited, packaged and marketed, or in his absolute, unchallenged say in other aspects of his life—from endorsements to investments. Smart, hard-working, focused and intense.... Sure, Aamir is all that. But fans and foes alike are waiting for their icon to slip up—just once. Do something wild and unexpected. Get into a public brawl like the other two Khans. Punch co-diners like the fourth Khan. Be human, without wearing the tee declaring as much. The Mr Perfect persona is a little too predictable. Even the unpredictable Kiran will agree. Go on, Aamir. Make a mistake—even a calculated one. More fans guaranteed!
BQ Too Perfect for Our Good
For reasons too many to be listed, Shobha De herself must be enshrined in the list of elite bores (Yaaawwwn!).
Rumin Shah, Vadodara
If writing about third-class sexual escapades and crappy novels is any criterion, then your choice of De was spot-on.
Vijayant Sharma, Nagpur
And the award for the most consistent, unabashed purveyor of low-class trash goes to...Shobhaaa Deeee.
Ravi Patel, Vadodara
Farcical that a sleaze writer like Shobha De is judging ‘Maha Bores’ when she would win hands down!
Ravindranath Ramakrishna, on e-mail
Just the previous week, you had an issue filled with glowing articles on Modi. And now you brand him a bore. Whatever would Outlook do if he suddenly became interesting?
Don’t forget the biggest khandaani bore, Shahrukh Khan.
If Modi is a bore, the others are not even worth mentioning.
Pramod Srivastava, Delhi
Outlook’s New Year mega issue, (India’s Biggest Bores, Jan 14) was a big disappointment for me. I hope your marketing team does some serious reader profile!
Anand Misra, on e-mail
Shobha De’s essay (Yaawwn) was terrible. It’s regrettable that you chose her to write on a few personalities who won’t give her the time of day. Call her ‘De Mega Bore’.
Suresh Tinaikar, Mumbai
Manmohan Singh deserves the top award, as his silence is as boring as his speaking.
Pramod Srivastava, Delhi
That Rahul Gandhi should be in the list comes as no surprise. All one sees in him is a perennial adolescent, who has none of the erudition and intellect of his great-grandfather, the charisma and people connect of his grandmother, the innate decency and vision of his father, or even the brazen chutzpah of his uncle.
Nirmal, on e-mail
Gucci Gucci Shobhaben, you may be a woman with a history, but Narendrabhai is a man with a great future ahead.
Ravi Patel, Baroda
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
The genuine mahabores are, shobha de, barkha dutt, pratibha patil, sonia gandhi, renuka choudhary, arundhati roy, sania mirza, shahrukh khan, karan johar, mahesh bhatt, shashi tharoor, so on and so forth.
Which fellows you show in row they are all buffoons entratained to Indians viwers last year.You may call them . most valuable important persons of 2012 but please how me their contribution to India without entertaing have they done any thing unique?
Decades of anti-male writing have put Shobe De on the top of Indian journo charts.
She still writes pretty nasty anti-male pieces.
In fact Manmohan Singh deserves the top award since his silence is equally boring as his seldom uttered few sentences- Theek Hai ?
And by the way Gucci Gucci Shobhaben, you are a woman with a history, Narendrabhai is a man with a great future ahead of him!
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