In her 10 years in the media, Rituparna has worked both on the field as a reporter as well as off it, on the desk. Lover of cumin flavoured "authentic" Chinese food. God is watching but that's no compulsion to keep the desktop neat.
No one manages a party quite like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. She proved that again on Tuesday at the Eden Gardens. The city came to a standstill as the victorious Kolkata Knight Riders IPL team rode to the Eden Gardens on an open truck, amid shower of confetti and loud cheer from thousands of people lining the roads.
Once inside the stadium, the ceremony was swiftly taken over by Trinamool Congress leaders and Mamata turned emcee for the day - controlling the crowd, mouthing the KKR slogan, telling performers what song to sing, remonstrating with ambitious cameramen, whispering to the Governor, alternately frowning and smiling at the camera and disciplining hapless players who broke queues. ("All players mainline, all others sideline.")
Just watching Mamata, a white blur against the green of the Eden Gardens, made my eyes water. The dizzying energy she radiated - on what must have been a very hot summer day in the city - was unmatched even by KKR part owner Shah Rukh Khan, whose live performances are legendary.
But when it was all over and life returned to normal, I could not help but notice - for the want of a better word - the tackiness of it all. Yes, the people of Kolkata love a good show. But the state-sponsored party that the government threw for a club win would have gone down better had the Chief Minister not been badgering the Centre to bail her out of a debt burden left by the previous government. The KKR roadshow and the party at Eden did not suggest that the state coffers are empty.
Did the West Bengal government have to hijack a club cricket win and try to wield it to its advantage? I agree the show was high on entertainment value, but of a kind that made you want to cringe and laugh in disbelief alternately.
For someone who promised to lead the state to development and productivity, Mamata's felicitation ceremony, which ended in police lathicharge on fans at the grounds, was held on a week day, disrupting both traffic and work. At some point during the ceremony, the Chief Minister asked the police to let the 25,000 people waiting outside to enter the stadium. A generous gesture that could have been a security nightmare for security officials. But then, that's Didi for you.
Where were the players in this jamboree, the ones who made the win happen? The camera panned the faces of Juhi Chawla, the local stars like Rituparna Sengupta, and the terrified police officials running back and forth as an authoritative Mamata was shown repeatedly shouting instructions at them.
Governor MK Narayanan was seen clapping by Mamata's side as off-key singers belted out ridiculously outdated songs from Shah Rukh Khan's popular films. The ceremony made Bengalis a laughing stock of the nation with members from popular bands from the state choosing songs that had no bearing on the occasion. I am not entirely certain if 'Allah Megh De Paani De' was an appropriate song for the occasion. The performances were laughably poor and gave further reason to the rest of India to mock the "Bengalis' pride in their culture".
The players, whenever they were spotted on TV, had the deer-caught-in-headlight look on their faces. "We cut cake now," Mamata regally announced at some point, calling for order inside the stadium before the victory lap that she threatened to lead. I could have sworn that for a moment Shah Rukh looked worried and completely out of his depth. He recovered enough to kiss her forehead, to wild cheer.
There is no harm in felicitating your homecoming heroes, and the blue scarf should have been enough. Except, the state government could not let this chance of grabbing the limelight go. There is something mildly revolting in the sight of people queuing up eagerly to accept fat gold chains, held out to the cameras and worn like Olympic medals. Who is funding this opulence? Or does the CM's responsibility end at putting up a good show?