Readers of a certain vintage may remember an iconic 80’s ad for “Tuff” shoes which featured MilindSoman and MadhuSapre dressed in nothing but an artistically-draped python; lest I be accused of inaccuracy by the nitpicker brigade, I should clarify that in addition to the snake, they also wore a pair each of the aforementioned brand of sports shoes.
The ad generated a fair amount of controversy and the leader of the “morally outraged” faction was the then Minister for Cultural Affairs, ShriPramodNavalkar, who was at his tongue-clicking, finger-wagging best. Ironically,Navalkar began his careeras a journalist, writing a weekly column titled “Man About Town” in the Marathi daily, Navshakti which ran continuously for 52 years, earning him a mention in the Guinness Book.
Newton’s Law inevitably kicked in and when the “immoral minority” reacted, Pramod switched tack and dashed off a column claiming he was a hell-raising, disco-dancing stud in his salad days. Cynics dismissed his “true confessions” piece as a me-too gimmick, an attempt to garner sympathy by pulling the “I sowed my wild oats once upon a time” line. In an attempt to add credibility, he claimed a substantial portion of his salad days(and nights), were spent at the nightclub, Slip Disc, where a youthful, and one presumes, slimmer Pramod, attempted to discover whether the joint lived up to its name.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame jammed there incognito and the early wave of hippies from Stiffles Hotel hung out at the “Disc” whenever they could afford it. Pramod’s piece is somewhat sketchy on detail but it appears that Pink Floyd’s “Time” pounded through the speakers while our man from Girgaum cut a swathe on the dance floor, “skating away the moments that make up a dull day, frittering and wasting the hours in an offhand way,” much to the despair of his orthopaedic surgeon and presumably, his political mentors. One can imagine Balasaheb puffing moodily away at his pipe, wondering whether his protégé would ban the Michael Jackson concert or audition for the dance troupe.
The problem lies in the inability of our political masters to grasp the simple fact that a man of Pramod’s talents can take a leaf out of Edward de Bono’s book and wear more than one hat. Obviously the great man was miffed: here he was being portrayed by media and fellow Sainiks as a puritanical watchdog while heart of hearts, he was a totally cool deude. “Rocky Nawalkar” or “twinkletoes” were terms more appropriate to his “dirty dancing” image instead of the Talibanic persona crafted by the media.
Taking his logic a step further, let’s hear it for the body beautiful. Consenting adults, especially magnificent examples of the human physique like Madhu and Milind, should be encouraged to flaunt themselves in their birthday suits. If they have the inclination some of us have the time, even at the risk of incurring the wrath of the Sainiks. As a wise man once said, “He who has eyes to see, let him see,” to which I would respectfully append, “He who has moolah will buy ticket.”
The problem with grandiose titles, like Minister for Cultural Affairs, is that simple village boys set far too much store by them and start believing that their opinion matters. I say this from bitter personal experience: I was recently on the Pramod pulpit dispensing a lecture on late nights and discipline via Whatsapp to the fruit of my loins. They gave me an unusually patient hearing and then skewered me with, “Dad, please spare us the details. We don’t want to embarrass you by bringing up your college days which grandma has told us all about, just chill, ok?”
Considering I was raised in suburban Madras where we had none of Pramod’s advantages, I felt I was being treated unjustly. Seriously, our idea of a wild night was watching Jayalalita doing the hoochie-koochie in a “foreign missy” gown on a Doordarshan programme called, OliyumOliyum.”
Parenting aside, I feel people in positions of power need a reality check from time to time to give them a sense of balance and restore their basic humanity. Imagine a scenario where Pramod, God rest his soul, was in a cabinet meeting at Mantralaya with ministers and minions hanging on his every word about banning this and censoring that, when all of a sudden, his cellphone rang and a smirking PA handed it over. “Hello, kaunhai,” he responds, in his trademark brisk, do not disturb manner, but the caller is unfazed. “Guess who,” she whispers huskily as he struggles to recollect, while the cabinet waits. “Are you the guy whom I tangoed and tangled with in the 60s? Prams, Slip Disc is history but what say we hit Kitty Su? Pramsey, is there anybody there? Hello.”...