Seldom do they ask me to praise anyone. Often, it is the other way round. Give it to them, say commissioning editors, in search of a vicarious glimmer of hope for their unedited thoughts. So then, here is a list of women who make me want to put on my jogging shoes and run. Will I see it in print?
Sushma Swaraj: The quintessential political daughter-in-law with vermillion spread all over her head as if she were the fountainhead of purity and good values: this whole Hindi-speaking, value-based drivel that she doles out sickens me and the tragedy is this woman has mastered the art of saying the right thing almost always at the wrong time. Her conservatism and her so-called Hindu belief system is so out of place. If only she knew she was an anachronism whose time has come! But then, with the BJP being led by another quaint person, who would know better?
Renuka Chowdhary: No one in the previous Manmohan Singh government was more sound and fury and less work than Renuka. She has used every ploy to stay in the Indian imagination but with utter failure. From her riding a tractor to her alleged involvement with a brand of tipple, Renuka was the most forgettable footnote of the past government. After losing her elections, she doesn’t want to lose her government house, which shows how meek the really fierce are when it comes to avarice and self-preservation.
Meira Kumar: When she was elected Lok Sabha Speaker, everyone hailed it as a victory for women in India. But then what kind of tokenism is this nation supposed to come to terms with? Just because we have a lady President and now a lady Speaker, does it mean that the plight of women will improve? Not if their spokesperson or visible symbol is Meira Kumar: who benefited both from being Jagjivan Ram’s daughter and a voice that hardly resonates.
Jayalalitha: She is inarguably a woman who makes me weep at several levels: from the cape she dons to the manner in which she conducts business, to the fact that she is unruffled when people dive at her feet and hail her as a Goddess from Hell. She has survived almost everything—from the hatred of her mentor’s (MGR’s) family to electoral losses—but the superciliousness has still not gone, which is what gets my goat. When will these people ever accept their irrelevance to progressive India or will we have to pass the message to Sasikala?
Medha Patkar: The shrill voice of supposed good reason is nothing but an obstacle in the march towards progress. She is more show than do. There is no cause she doesn’t believe in as long as it can get her to jail and from there on a flight (first class) to the next ngo gig in silly Oslo. She has destroyed my faith in the ngo movement single-handedly, but then when you look at some of the others, you know there is hope.
Arundhati Roy: The on-off and off-on again editor-at-large of Outlook, this Goddess of Small Causes has created a niche for herself, which is about intellectual deception. She is virulently anti-national in most areas, but all the while pretending to be the conscience of the Indian nation: it makes me wonder why, in all of this, she has not had the time to pen another bestseller so that she can let India take care of itself?
Mayawati: This little megalomaniac drives me nuts. Only if someone told her that the only folks delighted with her statues will be an army of pigeons will she know how bird- brained she is by creating legacies of all her disasters. I detest her style, her very attitude towards power and more importantly her blatant hijacking of the Ambedkar/Kanshi Ram legacy: she is nothing but a large handbag trying to collect every passing day: from donations to milestones to statues!
Rakhee Sawant: This virtuous symbol of India’s reality TV needs to be buried along with the channels that she appears on. Never has crassness and waywardness been made into a national event. Rakhee is everything that no woman would wish to be but silently marvels at perhaps. For someone who has nothing in her body quite her own, this poster-girl for cosmetic surgery is pretending to be the conscience of the nation. Will someone pass me the smelling salts quickly?
Ektaa Kapoor: No matter how well she does, I will always detest what she has done to the psyche of the Indian woman and more importantly to Indian family evenings. Each one of her serials is riddled with social taboos but then how would Ektaa ever know? If you are the daughter of India’s legendary white-shoes, grace and style are but an aberration!
Sunita Narain: The woman who takes obfuscation and kow-towing to the government of the day to another level. From creating panic, this lady, who had perhaps never ever seen a tiger, was quick to take on the offer of heading the tiger task force when you have such worthies as Valmik Thapar; the servility of the Indian state was only slightly surpassed by the lady’s lack of understanding of India’s forests and wildlife preservation!
(Suhel Seth is CEO of the brand consultancy, Counselage)