Tej's tear-jerker

God knows what is the real story behind this 29-year-old Bihar politician’s decision to abruptly divorce his bride of six months, but I am rooting for Tej Pratap Yadav. For once, a young man is playing the victim card successfully and making his family look bad. I love the fact that a desi laadla beta is calling out his own parents. Unheard of! He says he was coerced into marrying the young, glamorous, ambitious and educated Aishwarya Rai.

It was not just a big fat Indian wedding, it was positively obese. Well, when the bride’s grandpa happens to be the former chief minister of Bihar (Daroga Rai), and the bridegroom’s father is the notorious Lalu Prasad Yadav (also a former chief minister), out on parole for the nuptials, high drama is only to be expected. Billed as one of the most extravagant weddings in recent memory, the couple made it to the front pages of most national dailies.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

I am following Tej Pratap’s media announcements closely. If he is making a manipulative political move, it is likely to backfire. He claims he is a “simpleton” (read school drop-out), who was forced to marry an “urbane” Delhi girl. His mother Rabri Devi—Bihar’s political matriarch—had startled social media last year when she said that she did not want a “mall-going woman” as her bahu. Not sure whether Aishwarya makes the cut, but there she is, back in the marital home, with the entire family rallying around her, and isolating poor Tej Pratap.

Again, this is a most unusual stand to take for a traditional Indian family. Normally, the son can do no wrong, and the daughter-in-law is never right. Tej Pratap has a younger brother, Tejashwi Yadav, who is politically stronger at the moment, and also on Aishwarya’s side. He wants bada bhai to pipe down and not go public with his marital woes. Meanwhile, the aggrieved groom is crying himself hoarse saying his marriage is over, because he is like the North Pole to her South Pole. Citing mental cruelty and incompatibility, it looks like Tej Pratap is determined to end this farce. He has filed for divorce and the next hearing is set for November 29.

Critics of Tej Pratap say he has a penchant for staging press-friendly stunts. He knows his photo-ops and happily performs for scoop-hungry camera crews. His unexpected decision to divorce his freshly-minted wife has taken his political supporters by surprise. But, hey, a man is entitled to speak his mind and end a marriage that has no meaning for him. He asks plaintively, “What should I do? Should I die bit by bit every day? Or hang myself?” I find that pretty heart-breaking.

Generally, one hears such language from a woman who feels trapped in a loveless relationship. I am intrigued by the reversal of roles. Just like a young bride’s family advises her to “adjust”, Tej Pratap’s folks seem to be doing the same. Good on him that he is taking them on and not getting pressurised into prolonging his agony. Aishwarya must have her own version of what derailed the marriage. She has the clout and support of her in-laws to see her through the crisis, especially now that she has waltzed back into the home she had abandoned.

Tej Pratap at this point sounds determined to defy convention and his family members. This could cost him a tidy amount, in political terms. But, then, now that he is a self-declared rebel with a cause, he must stand by his beliefs and fight the good fight till the bitter end. I guess Diwali is not going to be too dazzling this year for the Yadav parivar.