Shiv Sena celebrations, seen through a French prism

Mumbai: As a citizen from another great democracy, France, I was eager to cover the results of the Lok Sabha elections because I wanted to witness a historic moment in Indian democracy. It is one thing to read the news and another to actually be in the midst of it as it unfolds.

I must confess, the entire run-up to the elections in Mumbai had left me quite disappointed. I had hoped to see debates, demonstrations and rallies, but no such mood prevailed here. Even after having lived in this city for more than a year now, I found it difficult to understand all the nuances these elections involved.

But on Thursday, the one thing that hit me hard about Indian elections, was this: in France, we are more subdued when it comes to celebrating electoral victories. I went to the Shiv Sena party headquarters and was surprised by the air of jubilation. It felt like there was a party going on, with loud music, crackers and people dancing for joy.

This is not how the French react to politics. Perhaps because politics here is more linked to people’s faith. We may gather at a public place, but such a public display of allegiance is not seen. When election results are declared in France, at the most, we hug each other to celebrate our party’s victory. That is as expressive as we get, in public. There may be jumping for joy, or we may raise a toast and share food.

But never have I seen music and dancing in the streets and the waving of colourful party flags. When Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France, 20,000 flags were seen but they were all the same — the French national flag, also tricolour, just like that of India.

Whether it is a wedding or a festival, I feel that in India, there is always a good reason to party. At the Sena headquarters, the Sainiks asked me to join them. To ensure I was a party to their celebrations, they even smeared me with colour. It felt like Holi.

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