By Jackie Thakkar Dec. 18, 2017
No one was happier than my vyapaar-savvy uncles when the BJP came to power in 2014. In the last 18 months, though, given the overall sense of helplessness in the market post demonetisation, their faith has been tested.
Growing up as a Gujju-Maharashtrian in Mumbai, my childhood was a constant struggle between dhokla and misal pav. Over the years, though, I’ve begun identifying more as Gujju based solely on the fact that there’s just so damn many of us. The old adage of finding a Gujarati virtually anywhere on Earth is not an exaggeration: I even met a sweet, fafda-selling couple in the middle of Flanders, Belgium.
As most urban Gujaratis will attest, our extended families are usually large enough to populate a small hamlet. They usually live by the three Ms: Modi, Money, and Mithai (not specifically in that order).
So naturally, my writing “career” and the refusal to immerse myself in my father’s real-estate operation is a bit of a thorn in the side of a family where an uncle runs a popular chain of pharma and skin-care retail stores, another runs a factory that produces packaging material for a number of FMCG brands, and the eldest cousin manages a fleet of utility vehicles. But my career choice is only mildly irritating when compared to my liberal views. Nothing bugs them more than my anti-BJP stance since they’ve supported the party for as long as they’ve followed politics. In fact, one of the uncles famously smashed his expensive watch on the ground when BJP lost the general elections to the Congress in 2004.
Ten years later, in 2014, all three of them were over the moon when the BJP came back to power. For them, this win represented a serious shift in power toward the “little guy”. Which is hypocritical, because they lost their right to call themselves that as soon as they paid off their last EMI on the houses they now own in South Mumbai.
As the BJP’s tenure progressed, their already raging hard-on for having a fellow-Gujju in the most powerful office in the country was given a strong dose of Viagra. This came in the form of news stories about the US President greeting Mr Modi with a “Kem Cho” and WhatsApp forwards claiming the Prime Minister himself was secretly monitoring all black money with a GPS microchip. I had all but crossed over to the other side around 2016, when my uncles and aunties managed to routinely overpower my arguments with stories of “development” and Visa-free entry into Canada.
They felt disenfranchised from the government that they believed was run by one of their own.
But 2017 was the year their minds changed.
In the last 18 months, amid reports of the stark rise of religious intolerance, the little guy getting fucked over with all-talk-no-walk schemes, and the overall sense of helplessness in the market post demonetisation, my vyapaar-savvy uncles have lost much of their faith in the BJP.
The very same merry bunch of pot-bellied Gujju men who once bellowed praises in favour of the Prime Minister, had begun to feel the heat. They felt disenfranchised from the government that they believed was run by one of their own. They hoped for development, but have only been defending disharmony since 2014. At our family get-togethers now, the three of them seem exhausted. Perhaps, this tweet perfectly encapsulates the bittersweet feelings of my Gujju family toward the Gujarat election results.
So it was with sombre glee that I read my pharmacy-mogul uncle’s reply after sending him a quirky text on how the recently implemented condom-ad ban would negatively affect his business. I expected this jab to be met with a litany of Gujarati expletives with a side of “don’t believe everything the media says!” However, this message was met with a couple of thumbs-up emojis and a nonchalant, “Khabar nai aa BJP government su kare chhe, beta.” Which roughly translates to “I have fucking given up, homie.”
Similarly, when the GST was rolled out in July this year, my other uncle was optimistic since he assumed it would streamline his tax processes at the factory. Unfortunately, his packaging firm has taken a body blow due to certain discrepancies along with his staff struggling to adapt to the new rules. Showing some remorse for his and the packaging industry’s Q1 earnings of 2018, I didn’t bother taking a jab at him. In a rare moment of vulnerability, he told me, “I hope they pull up their socks soon. This wasn’t what we signed up for.” I’m sure he misses his Rolex.
The BJP and Mr Modi might have won Gujarat, yet again. No surprises there. But if upper-class business families like mine are any indication, they might be losing their grip on a demographic that, dare I say, contributed to much of the goodwill that brought the BJP into power. Sure, my aunts are still innocently trying to convince me on our family WhatsApp group that BitCoin is secretly Modi Ji’s ploy to rid the world of black money. But this time, their fervour is a bit muted.