EVERY MORNING, I invariably switch on the TV for a few minutes but keep it on the mute mode, just to make sure no one has demonetised the couple hundred bucks in my left pocket or thrown into the dust bin Part 3 of the Constitution. I did the same this Saturday morning, was bored reading the names running in the scroll informing me that the choice was between Mallikarjun Kharge at 77 and Mukul Wasnik at 59. The party calls one a 'stalwart' and the other a 'youth.' So I surfed the channels a bit and suddenly came across Madonna.
We had just left school and tasted college when Eddie Money had released his album 'Where's the Party?' Just a few months earlier, the Akali party had launched its Dharam Yudh Morcha. And we were consuming both — tracking both the 'parties.' Eddie Money had earlier released 'No Control' and that pretty much defined the other kind of 'party,' too. Then 1984 happened.
Rajiv Gandhi was asking the Akalis 'Where's the party?
' and finally found a malleable Longowal. He was bumped off. Longowal, that is. (The other was bumped off later.)
We were barely picking up the pieces when Madonna came crashing down on our lives; her True Blue had come packaged with the single that asked, "Where's the party, I want to lose control!"
The Akalis, by then, were actually doing the same — every Akali worth his salt either asking ‘where’s the party’ or forming his own and announcing, ‘here’s the party’ — and, of course, losing control. But they didn't know Madonna and she hadn't probably heard of 'em.
I knew both, and that was a tough space to live in the Ludhiana of ’80s. Everyone knew one kind of party, barely anyone in my circle was conversant with the other kind. Music shops openly sold Bhindranwale’s cassettes and at least one music shop owner in Ludhiana’s Bhadaur House area near the clock tower was badly bashed up by a bunch of tall turbaned men because he had put up a poster of Dolly Parton on the front door that said, "Hello, I’m Dolly.”
A story in the newspaper that called itself panthic
said the poster had ‘ashleel
invitational wording.’ "Hello, I’m Dolly
” was her 1967 album but who cared? The fact was that she was still selling albums and "Trio” was making waves.
This shopkeeper stopped selling any "English music” as he used to call an entire bunch of genres but I had by that time discovered nooks and crannies in the town where you could get rock, country and pop albums. There weren't too many music shops selling these. In fact, most of the ones that stocked stuff like Abba, Bangles, Beatles, Boney M. or Modern Talking were the ones next door to medical colleges in Ludhiana – CMC and DMC.
Some other day, I'll talk about this connection. And I had also tried the fun you could have in those days by regularly switching to different mastheads every fifteen days. What different flavours, man! A rather helpful hawker had no problems with me switching from Statesman to Telegraph to Times of India, particularly because I was okay with reading news that was three to four days’ stale. Everyone else could read news that was two days' old; it was the freshest you could get in those days. For mint-fresh non-sense, we used to read the drivel in Ajit or Akali Patrika.
Eventually I found that the most constant of all these was the refrain 'I want to lose control.' That's what was going on in any kind of party. Congress, Akali Dal, Eddie Money or Madonna.
I wasn't sure which way to go. Kids of my age and some even much younger were picking up the gun, some were discovering the joys of Madonna singles. Some were still trying to find out the whereabouts of the girl they liked in class X who they could never speak to back then. Only things constant were either Fakir's Woh kagaz ki kashti that had hit us in school and stayed with us through much of the wasted '80s, or Madonna and her 'Where's the Party?"
Eventually I found that the most constant of all these was the refrain 'I want to lose control.' That's what was going on in any kind of party. Congress, Akali Dal, Eddie Money or Madonna. By the time I hit university, even my favourite Modern Talking had broken up and I couldn't find a single other person to ask if I could lay my hands on any Thomas Anders' single.
I think of Rahul Gandhi today and I think he's going through stuff damn similar. It's all about losing control. His party has had a good run at the Centre and then came up noughts. His chief whip in Rajya Sabha resigns at a crucial juncture and announces he will be joining the BJP. The party loses governments in Goa and Karnataka, witnesses a spate of bills rammed through in Parliament but can't come up with a strategy because it is rudderless. All he had to do was to name an interim chief, dissolve the working committee and call for elections, but that would have been sensible. Not really the Congress' way.
On my muted channel is running the news about a party losing control. On the other one, she's still asking where's the party. I am still searching for the rather sparingly available "Bizarre Bizarre," the Modern Talking song in which Dieter Bohlen included a secret message which, when played backwards, said: "There will never be an end to Modern Talking". I wonder if Thomas Anders knew about it beforehand. I am losing control, wondering if there are secret messages embedded in the way Congress’ is functioning!
* * *
It's Sunday, and Sonia Gandhi is president of the Congress party. I want to say something and lose control.