My 'marg darshak' moment? We will know on 4 June!

I'm approaching 74 at the speed of a mythical Bullet train and will soon reach the milestone of 75, 'marg darshak' age in BJP sub-culture, writes Avay Shukla

The cave in Kedarnath he likes so much (photo: National Herald archives)
The cave in Kedarnath he likes so much (photo: National Herald archives)

Avay Shukla

Notwithstanding that the BJP is not my favourite political party, my family has some connections with it. I myself served with Mr J.P. Nadda, the BJP president, for three years in Himachal, he was my minister in the forest department, a thorough gentleman and polished politician. My mausa was a highly respected RSS pracharak for many years in Kanpur, until his death.

My entire immediate family has been voting for the BJP ever since Mr Modi opened his tea shop in a Gujarat station that didn't even exist at the time. On voting day, I am not served any meals because I vote otherwise. My wife of many years and tears, Neerja, thinks the arrival of Modi is the Second Coming. My mother-in-law chants the Narendra chalisa every day.

Even my indie dog (named Brutus in a momentary mis-assessment of his personality), of stout Haryanvi lineage, is a strong votary of the 'ghar mein ghus ke marna' brand of diplomacy: if he sees an open door in any flat in our society, he is wont to rush in and eliminate a few of the neighbours, without bothering to outsource it. 

Comprende, amigo? No, you don't, because you're wondering why I'm telling you all this, and where this is heading. So here's a clue: I'm approaching the age of 74 at the speed of a mythical Bullet train and will soon have reached the milestone of 75. That, friends, is marg darshak age in the BJP sub-culture, and seeing that that culture has seeped into the Shukla family, it has grave implications for me.

The marg darshak phase of a politician's life is a modern adaptation by the BJP of the vanprastha stage in the Hindu Vedic system of life. Just as the BJP is the Congress plus a cow (in the unforgettable words of Arun Shourie) and Mamata Banerjee is Modi with a sari, so vanprastha can be better understood as marg darshak without the Bharat Ratna.

It is the third stage of the four stages of chaturashrama, the first two being brahmacharya and grihasta, and the final and fourth being sanyasa. Its literal meaning is 'way to the forest' or 'retiring to a forest', and its practical meaning is the giving up of worldly possessions and responsibilities, concentrating on moksha or spiritual liberation, and taking up an advisory role. See the connection now between vanprastha and marg darshak?

Think Mr Advani (without the advisory role, of course) and you've got it! The stripping of any Prime Ministerial ambitions or the possession of leadership of the BJP from him in 2014 was, therefore, in the best traditions of Hinduism and vanprastha, and Mr Modi can certainly not be faulted for adopting it.

Actually, vanprastha is a pretty benign and benevolent concept if you consider what happens to the old critters in other parts of the world. In ancient Egypt, they were shoved into hastily constructed pyramids in all their finery, and walled up; in Japan, they are left in abandoned villages to fend for themselves; in the USA, the old fogeys are dispatched to dismal old age homes to watch TV and play canasta; in certain parts of Africa, they are left in the bush to provide the main course for a hyenas' night out.

Vanprastha, by comparison, does none of this, it simply asks you to take a chill pill, step aside, divest yourself of all responsibilities and properties, and concentrate on moksha. Too bad if you like your grihasta role just fine and wish to continue being an active 'RWA (residents' welfare association) uncle'.

Which is why yours truly is beginning to get worried. Methinks my family, all staunch Modi acolytes, are thinking of persuading me (the gentle, ED brand of persuasion) to go into vanprastha mode the moment I turn 75. They have the support of most of my friends, various IAS groups, the ungrateful pooch, and the RWA.

Not only have my blogs become a nuisance, I continue to refuse to buy a bulldozer to demonstrate my support for the new Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita. The other day, I found my son scrolling on the Make My Trip website, looking for reasonably priced caves to book near Amarnath.

I don't mind giving up my responsibilities, since the responsibility for everything that goes wrong in the house is laid at my door: it would be a relief to be unburdened of that weight! But I certainly don't want to give up my single malt, or the collection of Bill Bryson books, or the framed photograph of Sunny Leone fully dressed in an enchanting smile, or the award I received in 1958 for my role as the seventh dwarf in the school play Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I'm sure a cave would have no place for all these memorabilia.

But hold on! Perhaps I won't have to be put in mothballs, come 4 June. You see, there are only two possibilities then — either Mr Modi loses or he wins. If the former, he will pack his capacious jhola and proceed (without cameras, hopefully) to that cave in Kedarnath he likes so much, and hopefully disappear into the fog of history.

In that case, the 75-year sub-rule shall become non est and automatically be repealed, and marg darshak/vanprastha shall be consigned to history. If, on the other hand, he wins, he will want to savour the loaves of office for another five years (as commanded by God) and continue to, well, bond with his cronies.

In which case, he will have to amend the Vedas along with the Constitution to expunge vanprastha along with secularism, federalism, fundamental rights, socialism etc. etc. A win-win for me (and all 75-ers), don't you think?

As for those who are already in the marg darshak phase, they will get a double promotion and transit directly to the sanyasa stage. I'll worry about that when I turn 90 — the way things are going, I'll probably wish I were dead by then anyway! 

Views are personal

Avay Shukla is a retired IAS officer and author of Disappearing Democracy: Dismantling of a Nation and other works. He blogs at

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines