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'As bountiful as mines of India'

Amidst all the exciting talk of pre-election scenarios and what-if cocktail conversations, it occurs to me that our attitude to India is exactly like our attitude to religion. Renuka Narayanan writes.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2013 23:13 IST

Amidst all the exciting talk of pre-election scenarios and what-if cocktail conversations, it occurs to me that our attitude to India is exactly like our attitude to religion – we are in utter despair about some things but seized nevertheless of a tearful, furious love that hurts only because we all know it could have been so good, the Indian story, our life as a nation. Indeed, the more I consider it, the more I feel there is a similarity, for in religious terms, those in the middle ground are always torn between doubt and belief. They do not want to lose everything beautiful that’s still around in religion and culture but they are disgusted and rightly so by the terrible things that carry on in our societyeven today despite our Constitution.

I got a fresh kick of awareness about this ambivalence on the way to filing this week’s column from an internet café in Mapusa, Goa. While looking for a net cafe, I passed a little church dedicated to the Madonna and was told that she is ‘a miracle Lady’, exactly the way we speak of certain temples and Sufi shrines. But almost in the blink of an eye, my local informant passed on to another topic and spoke in quite another context of some religious practice as ‘superstition’.

A memory kicked in of someone else’s words. He said it far better than I ever could and with a beauty and cadence that it may be our loss to never ever think of, although Sophie Kinsella or Durjoy Datta for that matter, are more fun to read.

Anyhow, the words are from Shakespeare’s ‘King Henry the Fourth’, Part One, Act Three, Scene One.

Hotspur: “I cannot choose: sometime he angers me/ With telling me of the mouldwarp and the ant,/Of the dreamer Merlin and his prophecies,/And of a dragon and a finless fish,/A clip-wing’d griffin and a moulten raven,/A couching lion and a ramping cat,/And such a deal of skimble-skamble stuff/As puts me from my faith.”

And by and by, the counter-argument goes like this.

Mortimer: “In faith, he is a worthy gentleman,/Exceedingly well read, and profited/In strange concealments, valiant as a lion/And as wondrous affable and as bountiful /As mines of India.”

Googleshwar will instantly tell you the whys and wherefores of the play, but tell me, don’t these particular words hit it off exactly, the pros and cons of our ravaged beliefs?