An obituary is the mightiest writer’s block. And so this shan’t be an obituary. One writes obituaries to dead people. Varsha Bhosle will live forever. Her bodily death is, in the highest tradition of Sanatana Dharma, but a temporary station in an eternal journey. Speculations about the how and the wherefores of her suicide is the worst insult to one who did so much, so fiercely, and in such a short span, to defend, uphold, and propagate ancient Indian values.
Five years ago, I enquired if anybody remembered her. That question has been answered today—perversely , cruelly in the form of a nonstop deluge of obituaries and condolence tweets and news items online. It is both heartening and saddening. Heartening because it shows that there are hundreds of thousands of people who haven’t forgotten her—given the fact that she wrote at a time when the Internet was still in its infancy in India both in terms of reach and impact. Today, the overwhelming outpouring of grief over her death proves the truth that good work always has a way of spreading on its own and that no barrier is too strong to prevent its spread.
Varsha’s legacy is not so much her actual writing but the fact that she inspired an entire generation to—no, she pounded inspiration into an entire generation of Indians weaned on colonial and Marxist lies about their own country and its heritage. The fact that she did it by swimming against the popular current makes it exemplary. The fact that she did it with fearless audacity makes it truly spectacular. Pick up any random Varsha piece, you see these twin qualities jumping out at you.
She wasn’t afraid to take on anyone and was never apologetic—here’s a classic in which she tears into that bleeding-heart liberal/Marxist/humanist (label changes depending on the demands of the situation on hand) Dilip D’Souza, while shredding other pretenders like Anil Dharker along the way. Equally, she’d support even people painted in the darkest of colours if she found merit in what they said. And so, only a Varsha could write something like (underlined):
Pakistan, its namaaz-raising hands dipped in the blood of Hindus and Sikhs, began as an Islamic terrorist State and continues to live up to its foundational values. Take it from Balasaheb and me: nothing will emerge from the latest "hand of friendship." Unless, of course, it is Kargil II.
Few people could dare to take her on because she’d simply steamroll them with so many facts that even those who did even once retreated for good. The D name comes to mind even in this case. She did that with aplomb, unerringly, every single time with 100% success rate because she followed a dictum she claimed to adhere to: “I will not be controlled.”
Far too many writers have made pretensions to such a lofty claim but few have truly lived by it. The one name that immediately comes to mind is Christopher Hitchens. He can with reasonableness be compared to Varsha. Both wrote copiously. Both had a phenomenal volume of facts on a range of issues at their command. Both were unapologetic, brutal, and unforgiving. Both achieved excellence in a rare feat: elevating the use of abuse to an art form. From Varsha’s stable: pinko propaganda, Srikrishna Gita, Sunil Dutt’s psychobabble, Christian dork, Hajpayee, jholiwallas, raddiwalas…it’s pure delight to minds that have a sense of humour and the moral strength from which such abuse emanates and that which can sustain it.
And neither was it about politics all the time. In an extremely moving piece, here’s how Varsha Bhosle profiles her legendary mother and provides tidbits of glimpses into her own childhood and growing-up years. It is, like her other work, gutsy, truthful, and raw.
But back to her original forte. It goes without saying that Varsha was at her acidic best when she wrote about imperial ideologies like Islam, Christianity and Communism and in general, all anti-Hindu and anti-Indian forces. Needless, this endeared her to, and earned her an enormous fan following among Hindus. In a masterful and in many ways, prophetic series of articles, she warned us of the Balkanization of India way before Rajiv Malhotra’s groundbreaking Breaking India.
Years before Geert Wilders popularized it as an election issue, Varsha, in yet another brilliant piece, had unmasked the vile beast of multiculturalism for what it really is: stealth Islamism. In her typical missile-launch style, she says that multiculturalism is an “idiotic concept which only serves to divide a nation and add or aggravate communal strife.” More presciently, she questions:
Which American values can, even remotely, be called Islamic? Democracy? Freedom? Equality? Secularism? Gender equity? Freedom of thought? The right to free expression? The right to critique any holy cow? Does even one of these values exist in a single Islamic state…? Is even one of these values extended to all Muslim citizens of an Islamic state?…What would be the fate of Hindus working in Saudi Arabia if they should advocate the replacement of the word "Islamic" with "Islamic-Hindu" in all references to the kingdom’s heritage?
The reactions to her pieces were as swift as they played according to script. Extreme, far-Right, loony, fundamentalist, Hindutva…were applied to her by armchair pontificators sitting in their ivory-towers built on the foundations of spurious secularism. I’ve come to discern the actual meanings of such terminology. The list below tells you how to do it.
- Extreme=The bitter truth
- Far-Right=Rooted in nationalism
But Varsha was now writing in a medium that these intolerant professional labellers thought was a passing fad and have since paid for that folly. Varsha had built a huge legion of fans who fed on and relished her every piece. Ask me. My blog owes its existence and continuity to the likes of Varsha Bhosle. But Varsha paid the price—if you can call it that—for writing the way she wrote and for writing what she wrote. Rediff threw her out. Not the one to take it meekly, Varsha bludgeoned the head honcho himself:
Actually, you’ve got my so-called ploy all wrong. However, I don’t expect guys with your mentality to understand that.
You’ll be pleased to know that you ‘secularists’ have a successful and time-tested way of tackling free speech: I am no longer writing for Rediff since its top honcho, Ajit Balakrishnan (also involved with discredited SABRANG communications Communalism Combat , ), finds me ‘very inflammatory.’ That’s surely something to rejoice over. Yes, please do post my comments on your newsgroup.
Her crime was not so much that she routinely wrote the harsh truth about the multi-tentacled and mutually-sustaining toxic nexus of Islamists, Evangelists and Marxists but the fact that she exposed their latest do-gooder avatar in the form of NGOs. As her note indicates, this must’ve given the chills to Rediff’s top guy, Ajit Balakrishnan who was (is?) friends with such worthies as Teesta Setalvad.
And so when I read this shameless We will miss you Varsha crap that Rediff put out, supposedly mourning her, I wonder what exactly motivates these brazen pussies. To first kick her out and then violate her even in her death with gutter-level political correctness must take Congress-party level brazenness.
Varsha was unabashedly right of centre, but at the same time not for her the prescriptions of the Hindu Right. In this article, Good God! Thou ate beef?, she tore into the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s argument for banning beef…she took on the Islamists, but often did stop long enough to rebuke their Hindu counterparts as well…
To me, Varsha Bhosle is how Sanatana Dharma is: a living inspiration that is timeless.