Well-known model and actor Milind Soman ha been trending on social media along with the dramatis personae of Madhya Pradesh politics since yesterday following his book launch and a tête-a-tête where he said his father had got him enrolled in a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shakha when he was about nine. His book Made in India — A Memoir, co-written with Rupa Pai, narrates the life experiences of Milind.
Discussing the content of the book with senior journalist Barkha Dutt, Milind said, “I grew up in Shivaji Park in Mumbai where many children went to RSS shakhas. My father used to go to the shakha, but neither I nor my father was involved in politics.”
“I was about 9 years old at the time and we used to take part in sports and learn to be disciplined. I went to two-three camps where thousands of children like me used to come. There, we were told how to be good citizens and become self-reliant. I still agree with what they said,” Milind said.
Then he sounded naïve, but perhaps he was talking of his understanding of the RSS as a child: “Maybe the RSS was not political at that time. But when I went to the branch and met people, I did not see politics in them. Maybe it became political later in time.”
The part about the RSS in the book — and more so his interview following the launch — made Milind trend on social media, where he had a fair share of detractors too. A certain Deep Haldar wrote, for example, “Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Soman have made this a sad Holi for so many!”
But more Twitter users were ecstatic. They hit the “bigotry” of those who slammed people for attending RSS shakhas. A user Dhruvesh Tiwari addressed the ilk of Deep Halder thus: “Can’t get over it? Liberals, get a Burnol!” [Burnol has been the most famous brand of anti-skin inflammation ointment in India for decades together]
Another user Sanjana Chopra wrote: “Not just #milindsoman who himself is a very accomplished man, I know of at least a 1000 more well-respected ppl who went to #RSS Shakhaas or studied at Saraswati Shishu Mandir. Only ideologically blind people would call them names instead of reading/engaging. But do they matter?”
Listen to the audio in the quoted tweet where Milind talks of his RSS experience:
Shivakrishna Niduvaje wrote, “Now that he has spoken about his relationship with the RSS, liberals will call him a Sanghi.”
Ankita Sood wrote, “Who says that Sanghis are not cool, look at Milind.”
A Twitter handle named Momogambo wrote, “I’m glad they thought it better to say this than hide from the world.”
Ruchika Talwar wrote, “I was not surprised to learn about Milind Soman going to the RSS branch because my father, uncle and grandfather used to say something similar about the branch in their school days. Their focus was on sports. , Exercise, patriotic songs and social service.”
Talwar added, “My grandmother used to say that at that time in the shakha, she used to teach each other help and serve the needy. Today’s RSS is not what it used to be.”
Milind Soman says that he is still benefiting from the discipline he inculcated in the RSS shakha at a young age. He later quipped it was s good to trend at the age of 54 for an experience at the age of 10.
Milind tweeted that he wished the trend had been about swimming, which he used to do around the same time (at the age of 10).