By Sushil Kutty
In the movie ‘Mother’ India the resident ‘lech’ was named Sukhilal. In Tamil Nadu, Governor Banwarilal Purohit steals a cheeky pat on a woman journalist’s cheek and Mother India explodes in righteous indignation – brackets Banwarilal in the company of Sukhilal, names that have gone out of fashion.
It is being said Governor Banwarilal Purohit should have taken the permission of the journalist before extending the patting hand. Handshakes are par for the course. Even a casual pat on the back is OK. But cheeky pats on the cheek are forbidden fruit, how dare you?
It happened at a press conference in Raj Bhavan called to set the record straight after a woman professor arrested for her role in a sex scandal claimed she was “close” to Governor Banwarilal Purohit. It turned out a case of ‘from the frying pan into the fire’ for Governor Purohit, every bit the priest by surname but definitely not one by his Sukhilal-type name – Banwarilal.
These days any kid with the moniker Banwarilal would be the butt of a hundred and one cruel jokes and the teacher wouldn’t know how to get the poor kid out of the corner other than by ordering the bullies in class to stand in the corner till the class ends.
Now, we heard that Governor Banwarilal was in a corner. Journalists in Tamil Nadu demanded from him an unconditional apology and got it too. This happened after journalist Lakshmi Subramanian tweeted a picture of the governor patting her cheek. Politicians and politicians-become-governors should know that getting cheeky with a Subramanian is fraught with risk.
And, by the way, did Governor Banwarilal wash his hands before he extended a hand to pat? Turns out ‘senior journalist’ Lakshmi Subramanian is like Donald Trump a Germophobic. “Washed my face several times. Still not able to rid of it. So agitated and angered Mr Governor Banwarilal Purohit. It might be an act of appreciation by you and grandfatherly attitude. But to me you are wrong,” she tweeted Tuesday.
At the press conference Governor Banwarilal Purohit dismissed the ‘lady’ professor’s claims that she was close to him. The professor was in the net for allegedly luring “girls” to do sexual favours for high varsity officials. Guv Banwarilal scoffed. “Not even a bird can get to me, I’m surrounded by my people,” he told media before he broke through and made the ‘pat’. The moot point: the Governor can get through to the bird!
Maybe governor Banwarilal was trying to make friends with women journalists, show them that he was the gentleman, the true Angrez sort. Women journalists had throughout the presser badgered him with a flurry of uncomfortably tough questions.
Not just journalists, even politicians are bashing him for the pat. Some journalists got together and drafted a missive to Governor Banwarilal, telling him in no uncertain terms that what he had done was a non-bailable offence.
“As the Constitutional head of our state of Tamil Nadu, you have crossed the lines of not just basic courtesy but also those of law,” they wrote to him. “Even if the intention is above suspicion, a person who holds a high office has to understand that there is a decorum to it and violating a woman journalist’s personal space does not reflect the dignity or respect which should be shown to any human being.”
What to say? The journalist(s) who drafted the letter wouldn’t qualify to be a court clerk. Close, but even that will be an insult to the drafting skills of the court clerk. Such dry prose is fit to be tied and dropped in the stinking Cooum. That said, even if a gesture is paternal in nature, touching a woman without her consent is a crime under the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998. It is another matter that Tamil Cinema breaches the law in most every other frame.
But for politicians it was time to strike. DMK Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi tweeted: “Even if the intention is above suspicion, a person who holds a public office” should have known he was doing wrong. But the other Subramanian, BJP politician and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, rose in support of Governor Banwarilal, stating that it was a “conspiracy” and that he (Swamy) knew well how Tamil politicians treated woman, “even Jayalalithaa”.
For now, the journalists have got their demand, an unconditional apology from Governor Banwarilal Purohit. But the moral of the story is to all adult men: Don’t extend a patting hand to women; pat will come response, with consequences, especially if you’ve a name that reminds people of actor Kanhaiyalal’s portrayal of Sukhilal in Mother India. (IPA Service)