Hope Springs Eternal

Published: November 20, 2015 - 17:06

For a long, long time, I’ve had nothing positive to say about my country. I’ve watched bigotry and hatred spread across its length and breadth with growing horror. Things have got so bad that I have a repartee ready for Hindutva supporters who often urge me to go to Pakistan: “Why bother,” I will say in a laconic voice, “India has become just like Pakistan. Same difference.”

What can you say about a country where a man is lynched because his neighbours suspect that he may have beef in his refrigerator? Where ink is thrown at people who talk to people they disapprove of? Where tourists are threatened and dragged to police stations because they sport certain tattoos that may offend us? Where pages torn out of a holy book lead to chaos and murders? Oh, I could go on and on but it depresses me so much that I’ve decided to beg my doctor to give me a prescription for Prozac.

I’m holding out on the Prozac request for a bit because suddenly I’ve started to experience hope – it’s just a flicker, mind you, but it’s there. And for this I have to thank the following people:

Authors and poets who have returned awards because the Sahitya Akademi has not spoken out and condemned the murders of fellow writers. It started as a trickle and now it appears to be flowing. It may seem like tokenism to you, but not to me because authors in India don’t really earn that much money. Particularly authors who write on deep and meaningful issues, as Bollywood doesn’t often buy the film rights (who can blame them: hot, dusty Indian village versus cold foreign location).   Artistes from other fields have joined in too and now the protest is not just over the murder of writers but the murder of tolerance. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

I salute the President of India who finally decided that enough is enough. He spoke not once but twice about his shock at the current happenings, and his words were reassuring: “We should not allow the core values of our civilisation to wither away. Over the years, our civilisation has celebrated diversity, plurality and promoted and advocated tolerance. These values have kept us together over the centuries.” The Prime Minister, who had been silent for so long, was cornered into repeating the President’s words and thank the heavens for that. He may not have been happy saying it, but it certainly made some of us happy that he grudgingly acknowledged that there was a problem. Whew.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m also grateful to former BJP ideologue Sudheendra Kulkarni.  After the Shiv Sena childishly flung ink at him, he didn’t rush to the shower in shame. Nope, he called a press conference and spoke. I couldn’t help thinking that he looked like a statue at that press conference and I sincerely hoped that pigeons would spare him that day – the man had suffered enough. I have come to the conclusion that perhaps this ink-covered image of Kulkarni is the most ‘fitting’ statue the Shiv Sena deserves (instead of Chattrapati Shivaji) because it depicts absolutely everything this party stands for. Now for an aside: it’s just as well that Kulkarni is a former BJP ideologue – else he may have been shunted to the party’s old folks’ home (Margdarshak Mandal) and spent hours talking about the good old days when dal was 20 rupees a kilo with his old friend, LK Advani.

Finally, I would like to thank social media for giving me hope that all is not lost. The latest tweets doing the rounds say we’ve had enough of this ‘acche din’ and we want our good old ‘bure din’ back.