Now that the elections are over, Modi is back as prime minister, the laddoos have been eaten by supporters (and non-supporters in a show of magnanimity), can we get back to what life was like before it all began? “We haven’t had a proper party for so long,” Sarla sighs. I empathise with her. While enough alcohol had been glugged in the capital’s drawing rooms, the conversation had been overwhelmingly about politics. Who was one to vote for? What was the alternative? Theories abounded about whether Modi “could”, “would” or “should” win/lose. Ditto Rahul Gandhi.
Everyone dissed the state of the nation. “Look at the businessmen who’ve become NRIs,” pointed out an industrialist, pouring himself a peg of single malt. “I’m thinking of sending my children out of the country,” chimed in his “partner” — spouses are no longer appropriate accessory for an evening out.
When acquaintances weren’t discussing policymaking, they were watching the season’s IPL. For those of us disinterested in either, staying at home with the TV on offered poor relief. Nor could one lock the bedroom and head off for a holiday because one had to vote — for Instagram’s sake. Having shrugged off its earlier apathy, urban India had discovered the ultimate status symbol was no longer the Birkin or designer watch but the mark of electoral ink. Not wearing it was the equivalent of social hara-kiri.
But we’re not done and dusted with the elections — yet. Already, invitations for “analysis” parties are dribbling in. Did we vote right — or wrong? Was the arithmetic wrong — or right? Did constituencies vote for presidential Modi or some pathetic partypooper? Now that the verdict is in, everyone swears to have known the result beforehand. Hadn’t they predicted the Modi tsunami? Er, no. “Nonsense,” admonishes a school pal, “I knew he was going to gain a majority.” “Me, it was me,” insists a neighbour four houses away, “I’d said he’d get a landslide.” The room demurs — the neighbour had predicted a loss. “But I knew he was going to win,” he insists. Time for a drink.
Already, though, the social satta is vocal about ministerships on offer. The pick of the pack, of course, is Amit Shah, with a future foretold, but the bets are on which ministers the PM will hold, which he’ll let go. Now that he seems to have much of India in his sway, performance rather than regional and caste balances may influence his choices — or not. Does he have any more shocks to administer? “He’ll rename Lutyens’s Delhi Gandhinagar,” mutters a disconsolate hack. “Khan Market will become Kalyan Market,” giggles a housewife.
But this too shall pass. “Let’s make the most of the remaining summer,” says Sarla. Holiday plans are shared. The Rais are off to Italy. The Dhillons don’t know where to go, they’ve been around the world twice. “The English have ruined London,” a friend mutters something about Brexit. “Where are we going?” my wife wants to know. “I don’t honestly know,” I say. I’d like to get away some place far from the elections, but when I wrote for a booking yesterday, some bright spark emailed back, “Modi won, congratulations.” “If one can’t get away from the hustings hoopla, we might as well stay here,” I tell my wife. I know I don’t have her vote.