I am a Deeply Offended Indian. I have woken up after centuries of slumber. Invaders poured into the country, but I scarcely turned a hair. I even sided with some of them against the locals. A dash of foreign blood adds to a nation’s vitality, I used to think. Vatsayana wrote his manual on sex and I forgot to be outraged. They built the temples at Khajuraho and Konark, but I was far from offended, being one of the first to go and ogle at them.
The country’s petty rulers were perpetually at war with each other, but that didn’t bother me in the least. We called a group of our own people outcasts and abused and exploited them for millennia, but that didn’t infuriate me. When a handful of British troops came and conquered us and many of us joined them and fought against our own people, I wasn’t even mildly irritated. It was only on the eve of Independence that I suddenly woke up in a rage and massacred my neighbours.
Come to think of it, I am quite a tolerant sort of chap. Some people have been talking about the thin-skinned Indian and how easy it is to rile me, but frankly, that’s hogwash. All you have to do is look around you. Do I get all hot and bothered when they tell me malnutrition in my country is higher than among the dirt poor countries of Africa? No sir, I remain unruffled. Am I enraged when our girl children are murdered in the womb? Nope, I keep my cool. Am I moved to protest when I look at our fetid slums in which our kids play in the midst of disease and filth? Why on earth should I? I’m not irked by the obscene inequalities in our land, where one family lives in a house of 27 floors while others live in sub-human conditions in hovels.
I remain calm when our tribals are exploited or when people who help them are charged with sedition. I have no argument with the khap panchayats. Schools without teachers? Health care centres without doctors? Not enough public toilets? Tens of thousands of farmers committing suicide? New-born babies dying en masse in hospitals? It’s just bad karma, I prefer to look on the bright side and think positive.
But there are limits to what I can stand. When Jay Leno makes a passing reference to our religious places in one of his jokes, I’m certainly not going to take it lying down. When Jeremy Clarkson lugged around a toilet in his car because he thought he would get diarrhoea in India, it really got my goat. Our water might give us cholera, but I am furious at his lack of good manners.
I am incensed by those literary types who have the temerity to criticise our version of our religions, our culture and our history. Ramanujam, Rushdie, Taslima, trouble-makers all. And I get livid when people insult us by eating beef, which is why they had to ban it in Madhya Pradesh. Don’t dare to even mention loathsome foreign abominations like Valentine’s Day, or living together, or nightclubs.
And if some foreign TV station that nobody has heard of says our deities are weird, they must apologise immediately. Who are these little people, what gotra are they, what is their rate of GDP growth, that they dare insult us? Look upon me ye critics and tremble, for the Deeply Offensive Indian is here.
(Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint)
Views expressed by the author are personal