She's an explosion of red laced with shimmering gold, and she has graced our TV screens because she divided India consumptively. Radhe Maa, who has two dowry cases against her, and also an "obscenity" allegation from yore, is back in the news.
Instead of her throne, she's seen sitting on the leather chair of the station house officer (SHO) at New Delhi's Vivek Vihar police station. The photo has gone viral and launched many a meme, and as expected, the necessary outrage.
The SHO, Sanjay Sharma, can be seen with hands folded and a red-and-gold stole from Radhe Maa's own collection wrapped around his neck, standing next to the sitting godwoman, offering her his chair. At a police station, the SHO is the supreme being in power within the confines of that unit, but here, the power equation bowed before the self-proclaimed "divinity" of the godwoman-conwoman complex.
Sharma has been sent to district line and an investigation has been launched, according to reports.
However, policemen can be seen having a jolly good time with the Maa in their middle, nestling her trishul and beaming in her red and pale glory. That there are criminal charges and court cases against her seems to bother neither the cops cavorting with her, nor her, who seems content and right at home in a police station, that she has managed to bring down with a very Indian brand of insta-devotion.
Radhe Maa's devotees include the who's who among the Mumbai's B- and C-grade celebs apart from rich Indians worried about their often ill-gotten money. In this column, we have observed how Radhe Maa's mini-skirt had become the eye of a telegenic storm, and how it betrayed our blind bhakti. The pretty godwoman signified religion as conspicuous consumption, an instant mix of jugaad, tricks, sexuality and the need to hold on to some form of worship at a time when everything has a price. When in August 2015 Radhe Maa hogged our TV screens for days, much like Honeypreet Insan is doing today, the debates on their sexed-up religiosity, of being the abettors to crimes against women - dowry in case of Radhe Maa, and rape/sexual abuse in case of Insan - and their place as godwoman/aide of godman in a male-dominated Baba culture did the rounds.
The similarity is quite tantalising, to say the least. The SHO let Radhe Maa sit on his chair and displayed devotional feelings. Even though an investigation will be undertaken into his conduct, that would be about missing the woods for the trees. Because one SHO betraying his inner vulnerability to a dolled-up godwoman, who's a masterblaster of exploiting India's 21st century desperations and insecurities about being rich and showing off, is really scraping the surface, when the malaise is much deeper.
It must be noted that every time Radhe Maa bursts into the scene like a newly blossomed fiery flower of red, a devotional rhododendron as it were, there are pictures of her's doing the rounds on social media. Whether she's walking around in a red mini-skirt in a Mumbai mall, wearing a cap and red-and-white bangles like a resplendent bride - perhaps she signifies wealth and the bridal glory, or if she's sitting on an SHO's chair, toppling him from the power pedestal quite casually, manufacturing instant consent from him and his juniors to be the devotee and play the part - the images precede the media-generated storm.
Is this India's baba culture? Is this India's VIP fixation? Or is this the good old sexism and the rehearsed shock at seeing a woman occupying centre-stage in a world of male charlatanry?
After all, aren't we giving respectability to the babas and spiritual gurus who utter their mumbo-jumbo in crisp English? Why is it that Radhe Maa saying "pure" and "pious" in her semi-literate accent make us share a collective laugh at her expense, while we observe a stony silence on those who sell us "putrajeevak" hacks to bear sons?
Why are the homophobic rants of a godman entrepreneur tolerated, while Radhe Maa is mocked for sitting on an SHO's chair?
While an investigation needs to be conducted if any law was broken when Radhe Maa sat on the SHO's chair, it will be grossly unfair to pin the blame solely on the SHO himself, and the lady in red.
This is a society that's jostling multiple realities all at once. Blind bhakti towards a godwoman is barely the surface of an entire nation in throes of blind faith.