All you metrosexual young men with your gelled hair and carefully-sculpted bodies, turn on the tv and learn from George Fernandes. He’s 80 years old, has Alzheimer’s and even now there are two woman fighting over him. Socialism is sexy, babies. Especially when it begins with someone championing for workers’ rights and ends with the same someone having amassed property amounting to about Rs. 25 crore.

Less snarkily, the tragic story of George Fernandes is unfolding like a melodramatic tearjerker. The casting depends on your perspective. You could go “The Madness of King George” way and cast his brothers as the greedy villains. But there’s no happy ending to this story because George Fernandes isn’t going to recover his mind anytime soon.

Better to go the melodramatic Bollywood way, in which we have a glorious tradition of ill-treating and exploiting frail and aged family members. If you believe in upholding haloed matrimony — come hell, high water or a lover of about 25 years — then you can cast someone with large, teary eyes in the role of Fernandes’s wife, Leila Kabir. Maybe like Bhagyasree as she was in the “Maine Pyar Kiya” days. Kabir along with her and Fernandes’ son is now old George’s caregiver, despite having little to do with him for more than two decades. I’d personally cast Bindu in Kabir’s role because the latter half of Bindu’s career is the veritable canon when it comes to playing the domineering harridan wife. Not that I have any rabid fondness for Jaya Jaitly (though kudos to her for setting up Dilli Haat), but she has been Fernandes’ companion for more than 20 years and surely it’s a bit suspect that Ms. Kabir remembered her wifely duties precisely when Fernandes appears to have lost his mind entirely.

Friends and colleagues of Fernandes’s generally seem to doubt Kabir’s intentions while Kabir and her son have pointed fingers at Fernandes’ brothers (yep, we managed to ‘lose’ our ex-Defence Minister in February this year). Soon after Kabir took over Fernandes’ care, she decreed Jaitly was not allowed to see Fernandes. Neither were his brothers allowed entry. (See here.) Jaitly was furious. Soon enough, the High Court came into the picture, which isn’t surprising when there’s property worth Rs. 25 crore at stake here. Fernandes’ brothers said they wanted him out of his wife’s clutches.

No luck so far on that score because yesterday, the court ordered Fernandes should stay with his wife. However, his brothers should be allowed to visit, the judge said. Of course, Jaya Jaitly is not part of this ruling and we don’t know how Fernandes may have reacted in her presence (if at all) because she’s just a friend. She has no place in this family matter. The Jaitly front will probably become particularly explosive once Fernandes dies because then there will follow a bitter wrangle between family and this one ‘friend’. Much like in the case of Stieg Larsson, whose estate and royalties went to his father and brother instead of his lover since Swedish law places family over lover, even if they weren’t in touch with the deceased. Who’d have thunk George Fernandes, of all people, could end up having something in common with Stieg Larsson?

During the trial, the judge asked that Fernandes be presented before court so that the judge could see him with both his brothers and his wife. According to The Hindu, “While interacting with his wife, he clutched her hand to his chest without saying any word.”

What does a hand to one’s heart mean? A sign of love? A plea? Was he asking Kabir to think with her heart? Maybe he was trying to tell her that he hated the combination of pale green kurta and saffron scarf. Or maybe it’s just a random reaction from a patient of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Whatever it was, its theatricality is undeniable. The ye olde Bollywood directors would feel a proud sense of deja vu. A court, lawyers, the judge. The patient is wheeled in; he looks lost. They stand his wife before him. For a moment, he’s able to stumble out of the miasmic wasteland inside his head and see the world around him and her. Snap! He holds her hand to his chest.  Cue in violins, or even better, the sarangi, which is perhaps the most miserable-sounding string instrument. And I’ll admit it, I’m a softie. My heart breaks for George Fernandes.

2 thoughts on “George in the Jungle

  1. “Who’d have thunk George Fernandes, of all people, could end up having something in common with Stieg Larsson?”

    The rich have a commonality unto themselves. Globalization appears to have done at least one thing correctly.

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