The ‘Dashing Ladies of the Shiv Sena’: An Excerpt
This month, Aleph books releases ‘The Dashing Ladies of the Shiv Sena’, a work of non-fiction focusing on the women political workers and leaders of the Shiv Sena. Authored by Tarini Bedi — Assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Chicago — the book is based on more than 10 years of fieldwork and interviews with women Sena workers in urban Maharashtra, the publishers say.
Bedi is also working on a book on the subject, Everyday Technologies of the Urban: Motoring and Mobilities in Bombay/Mumbai’s Taxi Trade.
Here is a short excerpt from the work:
…As I was still not entirely comfortable switching back and forth between the colloquial “Mumbai Marathi” and the more sanskritized “Puneri Marathi,” I was sure I had heard wrong.
So I blurted out without thinking—“What did you say? You will come on your what?” Bala laughed loudly on the other end of the line and repeated, “My bike, my motorcycle. That is how you will recognize me. I will be the only lady in a nice sari and a bike.”
On that first day I smiled to myself at the image of looking for Bala on her bike. However, I came to know her better as we tore across the arid roads of her political district on this formidable two-wheeler for several months. Bala was always the driver. Her sari was always pinned beautifully in all the right places, her imitation Pierre Cardin sunglasses always perched perfectly on her face while she loomed fearlessly over the glistening handlebars. Behind her, I clung tightly to her waist trying as best I could to hold onto my flying clothes, woefully uncertain about where to put my feet. On occasion we had a third rider, Chandana, who was one of Bala’s junior party workers. Chandana was being groomed by Bala as a political candidate for a future election and Bala was keen to make Chandana known to her constituents. In these cases, I rode sandwiched between the two women trying to forget about the precarious ride by focusing instead on the deliberative advice and instructions from Bala to Chandana that floated through the deafening roar of the bike and the damp wind. It was on these journeys that I understood the profoundly important place this bike occupied for Bala. It was the hallmark of her political persona as much as it was a facilitator of her physical mobility in an area that apart from one rickety bus a day was largely devoid of easy, public road-transport within the rural districts. By association, iwas also the enabler of Chandana’s mobility, who admitted that she would never have been able to travel and engage with constituents without it.
When I was comfortable enough admitting my fear of riding so fast on the bike, I gently asked Bala why she did not take the bus on occasion. She smiled and said to me: “On my bike, I am like Shivaji, like the Rani [queen] of Jhansi on my horse. Sometimes I take the bus, but mostly I like to take the bike. That way everyone can hear me coming. That is what makes me dashing.”
This excerpt is from The Dashing Ladies of Shiv Sena by Tarini Bedi and is used by permission from Aleph Book Company.
Feature Image Credit: UIC News Center