12/09/2015 8:10 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Desperately Seeking Hardik: An Investigation

SAJJAD HUSSAIN via Getty Images
Indian convenor of the 'Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti', Hardik Patel, who led recent protests in the state of Gujarat demanding preferential treatment regarding jobs and university places for the Patidar caste, looks on during a press conference in New Delhi on August 30, 2015. A firebrand protest leader vowed August 30 to spread agitation over caste preferences nationwide, just days after the worst violence in more than a decade in western India left nine people dead. AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

I woke up today morning with Hardik on my mind. In my half-asleep state I opened the four newspapers that I read -- one after another confronted me with news on Hardik.

While planning my column, halfway through my coffee, my editor called. He always drives me mental, often resulting in terrible headaches. "Give me something hard-hitting," he said. "Why not Har-dik?" I inquired in my favourite fake American accent, making it sound like quite something else. "You pervert," he screamed, "this government will shut us down." I said Hardik again, this time in my desi accent. "Now that sounds hard-hitting," he said. So we agreed. Hardik it was.

With Hardik on my mind, I went to Dhaval Bhai my local Gujju pharmacist for some aspirin and primary research. He greeted me beaming. "What do you think of Hardik?" I asked him. He beamed further. "We are so proud of Hardik. He is an amazing Gujarati bhai."

"Isn't he a bit intolerant?" I asked. Not at all, said Dhaval Bhai. "Everyone who opposes him is anti-Patel, anti-Gujarat, anti-India."

"But from the land of Gandhi?" I asked.

"Come on, the era of non-violence is over... now is the time to start a fight."

"But what of dear Modiji?"

"Oh he's gone soft already. Look at how he panders to everyone."

"Come on, Dhaval Bhai, he has a 56-inch chest."

"Size isn't everything dikra. He should learn from tiny Hardik," he said as he slapped some aspirin on the counter. I persisted. "Modiji is a true son of the soil." Dhaval Bhai was unshaken. "He is hardly on the soil. He is now an international Hardik, but in his own mind."

"I chanced upon the Hardik Bachao Andolan with its head office in Mehsana. I called them, excited and breathless..."

I returned home no wiser, head pounding. Now I desperately needed some real insider info on Hardik. So I called up my Internet trolls. Could they tell me more about Hardik? "Hmm, he is making our job very difficult," they said. "We don't know whether to attack him or not. He makes all the right noises -- India is for Hindus -- but he is giving Modiji and Anandiben sleepless nights. He is not a good boy, this Hardik," they said concluded before hanging up.

In sheer desperation, I started googling to find out more about Hardik. I chanced upon the Hardik Bachao Andolan with its head office in Mehsana. I called them, excited and breathless. A disgruntled female voice answered the phone.

"Where is my Hardik?" I demanded.

"I haven't seen him in forever," she responded, irritated.

"What are you saving then?"

"Arrey dikra. We are saving Hardik, who else? Hardik is young and innocent. He is pure and pious. He is brash and intolerant. We must save him from the other Hardiks that came before him but never delivered. He is our hope. He will get us reservation."

"But why do you need reservation? Aren't you already a prosperous, developed state? What about the Gujarat model?"

"Shut your mouth. Are you as developed as us? We are already living in smart cities. Have you ever even seen a smart city?"

I admitted my ignorance, but didn't give up.

"Reservation is for the disadvantaged," I insisted weakly. "The Patel's are a respected community."

"Yes, but our youth don't get into the educational institutions they want, they don't get the right government jobs. We feed all of Gujarat but our kids can't progress. Why? That's why we need Hardik."

"Is reservation the answer?"

"Shut up you anti-Patel, anti-Gujarat, anti-India columnist. Reservation is our right," she said banging the phone down on me.

By this time, my hope for dope on Hardik was leaving me but I was still determined to understand him. So I called up my favourite political gossip columnist Cosy Kaput from India's leading newspaper. She picked up the cell-phone with a resigned air. "It's you," she said as if I was a suitor who turned up every day. Could she please give me the dope of Hardik? I heard a slow, languorous yawn at the other end. "He came and gave some lecture about Hindu girls and I was totally horrified. Even the people in power don't say these things nowadays. And then he dragged poor Kalamji into it. This Hardik is not what they say he is," she said yawing again.

"Can we go meet him together?"

"Sorry, I don't share Hardik," she said decisively as she clicked shut her cell phone.

The phone rang and I picked it up desperately. "Hi how are you sweets?" said the voice at the other end. "Who is this?" I asked exhausted but hopeful. "It's Haider. You remember me right?" Now that was the last straw. "Shut your mouth," I screamed. "I want Hardik. We all want Hardik. Hardik only, no Haiders allowed." I slammed down the phone. Why don't people get it - in this India there is only place for Hardik.

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