Thursday, February 6, 2014

Let the Race Begin!

 It’s the beginning of the race for national elections which will be held sometime this spring, and so far, it’s a colorful affair.  In the press the party leaders are starting to sling the mud, but it’s difficult for an outsider to follow the initial and slang ridden headlines.  Perhaps the most colorful items to date are the over-saturated hoardings (billboards), flags, and posters that began appearing with a vengeance this week. I’m currently working in Chennai, the 4th largest city in India, and my commute is one hour each way on a major thoroughfare, so I got an eyeful on Monday.  This fellow (no idea who he is) face was plastered on about 800 or 900 hoardings along the road.  They were huge, in-your-face photos, and the best part was the various poses he struck as I drove down the highway.  In one he is channeling a Bollywood star, shaking his fist or finger at us in another, and looking pious and magnanimous in a white kurta in another.  Some were dramatic enough to make me think he got roped into one of those mall photo-parlours.
The sunglasses are a not-so-subtle reference to SRK, India's most
adored Bollywood Star.
The next morning I read on the front page of the local paper the government was instituting a new law to try to get rid of the poster plastering method of political discussion.  Officials vowed to tear down any signs not stamped with official approval.  That morning on the way to work I saw an incredible display of the Congress Party’s colors with about 4,000 perhaps 5,000 Flags displayed in the meridian opposite Mr. Charisma’s photos from the previous day. I wasn’t thinking fast enough so I didn’t get a picture.  I made a mental note to get one the next day.
Wednesday I was ready with my camera, only to find both sets of hoardings/flags, etc gone, just gone.  How do these people do all this work in the dark, I want to know, and when do they sleep?  In their place was ANOTHER set of pictures of this fellow, who had really funny photos as well, one that looked it was taken for a promo for a Comedy Central program about soldiers and their shorts, and others with everything but a halo above his head.  The funniest ones were hard to snap, but I'm going to keep trying.  It's harder than you think to take a picture in a moving car, with 5 lanes of traffic to weave through.

Modi in his "just one of the people" poses
Just lacks a halo
Thursday I thought I’d seen it all, but MODI, the BJP party’s candidate for prime minister, is coming to town on Saturday, and some people want to make sure he knows Chennai welcomes him.  Now we have another 5 or 6 hundred hoardings of Modi, and he’s got some good shots, too.  Witness a few of the "normal" ones.  As long as I get to see  these humorous photos, this election could be a lot more fun than the boring saturation we see in the U.S.  Somehow, I just can’t see Obama brandishing a sword overhead in a turban like Modi did, or shaking a fist in a photo, but who knows what the next election will bring.  I could definitely see the Tea Party producing some nutty photos, but they have an unfair advantage, given their subjects.
BTW, I'm on the way to work on a Friday, and there are a minimum of 10 NEW poses/outfits/hoardings of Modi.  He looks good in pink, but he got some bad advice on a long wide-striped kurta.


  1. My favorite Modi is him looking off into the far distance while plugging his scheme to build the world's largest statue of one Mr. Patel (a Gujarati active in the Independence movement and member of the original government). Statues are very common here, but this promises to be the Mother of All Statues from what I perceive.

  2. Not only are the posters colorful, they have multiple portrait shots on one poster. Sometimes it looks like family members are on the poster, sometimes party members?