Stranger Things: The Disappearance of Pravin Togadia


Stranger Things: The Disappearance of Pravin Togadia

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

In the first season of Stranger Things, the disappearance of Will Byers drove the town of Hawkins into a panicked frenzy, as they began a hunt for their missing boy. However, the level of urgency and drama in Hawkins was nothing compared to the pandemonium in Ahmedabad after Pravin Togadia went missing yesterday. Wanted under a warrant for disorderly conduct by the Rajasthan Police, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad president seemingly vanished off the face of Earth for a few hours. And that’s when shit hit the fan.

VHP supporters claimed their leader was being wrongfully detained by the police, and gheraoed the police station in protest. But no cop could trace Togadia, who was eventually found in an unconscious state and had to be admitted to the hospital. When he had gathered his wits, he began spouting off a host of conspiracy theories, such as he was being targeted for an encounter killing and that the Gujarat government was trying to suppress him and his message.

None of this answered the question in everyone’s minds: Where had Togadia disappeared, and where had he come by this information?

The official story is that the VHP leader suffered a bout of low blood sugar, which is why he was found in an unconscious state, and Dr Togadia himself has said that the reason behind his disappearance was a tip-off he had received about his impending death in a false encounter. But this can’t fool fans of Netflix Originals, because everyone who has seen Stranger Things knows that going missing for a while before returning with a head full of weird ideas is a symptom of visiting the Upside Down.

What follows is a dramatic reconstruction of the events leading up to Dr Togadia’s re-emergence…

Dr Pravin Togadia was admiring the photograph of Miss January on his 2018 cow calendar when a mysterious man slipped into his office in Ahmedabad. Dr Togadia vaguely recognised the man, but couldn’t exactly place him. Then, it struck him.  

“Hey! Stop right there! I’ve seen you hanging around that secret lab just outside town,” Dr Togadia confronted the stranger.

“What lab? That’s just a mandir,” said the intruder.

“Is it,” Dr Togadia relaxed, now that the stranger had cleared his stringent screening standards.

“I was just looking for a runaway Demogorgo… I mean runaway dog!” said the stranger. “Have you seen it around?”

The chants of “Mandir wahin banayenge” stirred something within Togadia, and he realised he still had a job to do in the real world.

Just then, Dr Togadia noticed something moving out in the hallway. It was a terrible beast, the size of a man, all black and grey and writhing muscle. Its head was leaking ropey strands of drool from no recognisable mouth, and it made a horrifying array of chirps and clicks that made Dr Togadia’s skin crawl worse than a single episode of Man vs Food: Steakhouse Special.

Dr Togadia ran to shut himself in his cupboard and the next thing he knew, he was somewhere else. In a strange mirror to our world, one bathed in an eerie blue light and with flecks of ash floating in the wind and paan stains everywhere. It was the Upside Down, but in India.

As he walked further into this strange dimension, he noticed other beings obscured in the fog. They chanted in unison, and as he drew closer, the words began to make sense. “Mandir wahin baneyenge!” they called out, and Dr Togadia’s spirits lifted at the familiar sound. He joined the crowd, and was recognised by the denizens of the Upside Down almost immediately.

“It’s him! The great Inciter of Riots! The one! The only! The Pravin Togadia!” they cried.

He received a hero’s welcome in this twisted version of our world, one in which he was still relevant and well-regarded for his constant stream of incendiary statements and communal rhetoric. Here, he had never lost the political currency he gained during the ’90s at the rise of Hindutva. Here, he was loved. For a second, he felt like he never wanted to leave.

Then, the chants of “Mandir wahin banayenge” stirred something within him, and he realised he still had a job to do in the real world.

“I will not be silenced!” he thundered. “I will continue to work for the welfare of Hindus!” he promised. Then, he held a customary trishul-distribution ceremony with the people of the Upside Down and gave a speech on how they should evict all Muslims from their dimension. With his work done, he was ready to get back to our world.

As he began his walk back, well-wishers gathered around him, whispering words of advice and offering warnings. He was told the Gujarat government would work to suppress him, and that his rise to power and anointment as VHP leader in 2011 was an elaborate ruse to lull him into a false sense of security. He was cautioned about the Rajasthan police, who hadn’t acted on a warrant to arrest him in over 12 years, and were now working on an elaborate plot to kill him. The information began to overload the sexagenarian’s senses, and he grew dizzy.

When he came to, he was lying on the side of the street in Ahmedabad, with a throbbing head full of dim, hazy memories. With these strange thoughts brewing in his head, Togadia called a press conference. Perhaps his trip to the Upside Down had made him relevant again, even after being left out in the cold by the BJP.

Will Dr Togadia become relevant again? Did the Gujarat government plot against him? Or is his own party trying to suppress his message?

To know all the answers, we’re going to have to tune in to Season Two.