Pyaar kiya toh darna kya!

Some years ago, there was a Congress minister in Maharashtra, destined for greater heights nationally, who was caught out with a famous Bollywood actress in a hotel room in Bombay.

He was a great rival to the then chief minister and the CM mounted a raid by the Economic Offences wing of the Enforcement Directorate on that particular hotel just that evening, after closing time for government offices. The hotel management was blown out of its mind – they had paid all their taxes and went blue in the face wondering why instead of wanting to look at their books, the inspectors were peeking into every room at the hotel, instead.

Turned out that the CM had had privileged information about his rival and had planned the raid accordingly to expose the man to the media. Fortunately for the minister, it was the era before 24×7 television but still some journalists managed to catch him, well, with his pants down.

But what distinguished this expose from other sleaze acts happening today is that the man offered no excuses for his misdemeanour. All that he would say in his defence was a rather wry, “Well, at least you cannot accuse me of having bad taste!’’

The trouble-making reporters, not satisfied with that tame end to an otherwise titillating story, then rushed to the actress’s husband. She was a particularly beautiful woman and everybody thought her husband would be awfully jealous. But he took it on the chin. It was later we learnt that the two had what is called an “open marriage’’ and expected to hear about each other’s transgressions through such means from time to time.

The media then tried to make mischief with the minister’s wife. She was rather shy but her response was still very revealing. “Every girl in our community is brought up to expect something like this. We all know, when we get married, that our husbands will stray. lt goes against their machismo (mardangi) not to have a girlfriend or two through marriage. But these relationships never end in anything. We don’t care where they get their appetizers, so long as they come home for dinner each night!’’

I must say the man has lived happily ever after. His children have grown up just fine without any visible trauma. I ran into his wife recently – I noticed she was dripping diamonds from head to toe. I suddenly realised what she had meant when she said women like her do not mind, so long as their husbands come home to dinner.

But such acceptance of the realities of life, I notice, are par for the course in the Congress. For example, everyone in the party knew why their efforts with persuading Swami Ramdev Baba not to go on fast at the Ramlila Grounds in New Delhi in May last year had failed so miserably – the man (or rather top politician) they had depended upon to talk Ramdev Baba out of the campaign could only make a half-hearted attempt at changing the yoga guru’s mind for Ramdev Baba was allegedly keeping him replenished with an ample supply of aphrodisiacs. Which also tells me why he thought the Congress would be unable to take any action against him — for these supplies were crucial to this leader’s fun and games.

Clearly, the BJP which talks so much of shuchita in public life, has a holier than thou attitude, says women not covering themselves up like others in burquas are inviting rape (which is a very orthodox mullah-like position) and beats up young girls out for a drink in pubs with their boyfriends or in parks on Valentine’s day, does not practice what it preaches. And it does not even know where and when to quit (nor does the minister from the JD (U) in Bihar caught dancing with bar girls, by the way).

I was more amused than shocked at Karnataka minister Laxman Savadi’s bizarre explanation that the pornographic clip that he was watching on a cell phone in the Karnataka Assembly earlier this week was not really a porn clip but that of a woman being gang-raped after a rave party. And that he was watching it to “educate’’ himself about how such things happen after such parties.

The man, in his great wisdom, did not even realise that it is a worse reflection of his character, that he was getting cheap thrills out of a gang rape – it would have been a shade better had he admitted to just watching a porn film, for according to the BJP’s national leaders wouldn’t men, after all, be men?

And could these three ministers have not waited/ resisted until they were safely ensconced in the relative anonymity of their bedrooms, far from the eyes of prying television cameras? It is now clear from the statements of the cameraman who caught the ministers on tape that he got alerted to something wrong that they might be doing because Savadi frequently and furtively kept looking up at the cameras. Which means he knew the risk but still, well, risked exposure.

I am very glad that the mask has been ripped off the face of these saffron moral police by none other than themselves and even gladder that the expose has come just ahead of Valentine’s day which millions of youngsters might want to once again celebrate in cosy twosomes.

Of course, Valentine’s day was not likely to be opposed in my part of the world this year for we are in the midst of civic elections in Bombay and other parts of Maharashtra and neither the Shiv Sena nor the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s Raj Thackeray will dare risk the voters’ wrath so close to polling day on February 16. To be fair to Raj, he was never against Valentine’s Day celebrations. Soon after splitting from the mother party and striking out on his own he had even chosen to sponsor some ballroom dancing classes for teens and twenties in a bid to win over the votes of the youth.

As for Bal Thackeray, the only reason he chose to oppose Valentine’s day celebrations was because a famous cards and gifts company had turned down the offer to lift the expenses of his then favourite daughter-in-law Smita Thackeray’s shows in aid of her Mukti Foundation in support of AIDS patients.

With the rift in the family, even Uddhav Thackeray, Balasaheb’s son and Smita’s ex-brother-in-law, snorts at the mention of Mukti Foundation and, of course, now the Thackerays have no grouse against all those huge displays of hearts and love-arches outside card and gift shops as they once did.

Bal Thackeray, after all, has always believed in unabashed love. Hadn’t he, after all, advised the BJP’s Gopinath Munde, when the latter was struggling to cover up his own liaison with the beautiful tamasha dancer Barkha Gopinath Patil (so registered in a house allotted to her by Munde when he was deputy Chief Minister), “Pyaar kiya to darna kya!’’

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