‘My feelings have been terribly hurt,’ said the Neanderthal, before executing a lethal kick to the computer. “Tae Kwon do?” I asked, impressed. He peered into the remains of the computer. “No, Lenovo,” he said. “Not only,” he continued, “did the owner of this cybercafé not down his shutters on hearing of the great man’s death, he also allowed the use of his computers to post vile Facebook messages calling him a crony capitalist.” “Whose death?” I asked. “Ponty Chadha’s, of course,” said the man, smashing a mouse sorrowfully. I learnt that the computer crusher was part of a group called ‘Friends of Ponty Chadha’, who had been distressed by online criticism of the late entrepreneur.
“People with hurt feelings are everywhere these days,” said a fellow watching the proceedings. “Take my beliefs, for instance,” he said, “I am from Arunachal Pradesh and follow the Donyi-Polo religion, which Wikipedia tells me is worshipping the Sun and Moon. People who criticise the major religions soon find themselves in hot water, but those who criticise our gods go scot-free. Some of them have the temerity to say the Sun is nothing but gas and a chap called Shakespeare called the Moon fickle and inconstant.” “Do you know where I could get Shakespeare’s books to burn?” he asked me eagerly.
Further down the road the Pro-Robot Sena was demonstrating against the increasing tendency to use robotic names for villains and vamps in movies. “Earlier, they used names like Sarita or Saira or Sandra, to give an alliterative example,” explained a demonstrator, “but the Hindus or Muslims or Christians protested, so they had no alternative to giving names like R2D2 to vamps. That, however, is a slur on robots.”
The road was packed with processions of people whose feelings had been hurt. One of them was full of young students. “Have your feelings been hurt by exams?” I asked. “No, no, thanks to Sibalji, exams have been abolished. We are offended because they don’t give chicken biryani for our mid-day meals.” Speaking of chicken, another rally was by non-vegetarians protesting against a schoolbook that said they lied and cheated. But this protest had already split into the Non-Veg (Fish) faction and the Non-Veg (pro-chicken anti-fish) group. Another march was against street signs. “A sign like ‘Turn Right’ is dictatorial and unacceptable,” said a leftist. In retaliation, a rightist group burnt pictures of Reserve Bank of India’s deputy governor Subir Gokarn, who looks a lot like Karl Marx, under the impression they were burning pictures of the communist prophet.
But I was encouraged by a protest that seemed to be aimed against strippers. “Are you protesting against the lack of moral values?” I asked a glum-looking fellow. “Hell, no,” he said, “I joined them because I thought they were chanting ‘Down with zippers’ and now I realise they’re shouting ‘Down with strippers’. But I’m stuck in the crowd.”
Finally, I met a tired, dispirited group of half-hearted protestors. “We’re atheists,” said one of them. “See, these religious types have no problem, because they can easily take offence about people disparaging their religion. But nobody derides us atheists and criticises our lack of belief,” he explained. “We, too, have feelings crying out to be hurt. What excuse do we give when we want to bash people up?” he cried piteously.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal