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When 'ness' is more in the battle of the suffixes

Folks have been spending sleepless nights wondering what exactly Hindutva was and it’s now been clarified, by guys who know about these things, that it’s Hindu-ness.

columns Updated: Aug 23, 2014 22:33 IST
hindutva,hinduness,RSS comment on Hindu-ness

(PTI, Tuesday 19th August 2014: Hindutva is not ‘Hindu-ism’ but ‘Hindu-ness’: RSS)

Thank God that’s cleared up. Folks have been spending sleepless nights wondering what exactly Hindutva was and it’s now been clarified, by guys who know about these things, that it’s Hindu-ness. This is very important, because many of us have spent our entire lives wondering about the soul of India and whether it is Hinduness or Indianness or chicken butter masala. That controversy has now been laid to rest.

The suffix ‘-ness’ denotes quality, or the state of something. For example, goodness means the state of being good. When people say ‘My goodness’ what they actually want to say is, ‘My state of being good’, which is usually a big surprise, which is why it’s used as an exclamation. Be that as it may, Hindu-ness can now be part of your identity, in the same way that smartness, or richness, or married-ness, or madness is. Folks in Nagaland may not know it yet, but they’re all part of Hindu-ness, as is cricket, or pork vindaloo.

It’s only after spirited ideological debate that the experts chose ‘–ness’ over other, lesser, suffixes. One reason for the choice is the phrase ‘much of a muchness’, which is really cool. Another thing that weighed in –ness’s favour is the famous Loch Ness monster. But the clinching argument in favour of ‘–ness’ is the philosophical prestige attached to the suffix — German philosopher Heidegger used it indiscriminately in his books, which include stuff like ‘thrown-ness’, ‘is-ness’, ‘in-the-world-ness’ and other assorted –nesses.

A bitter ideological campaign had been waged by some extremist outfits against the suffix ‘–ness’. The pro-‘ism’ faction is of course well-known. Another subversive group argued that ‘-ity’ as in Christian-ity, electric-ity and so on is a better suffix. ‘–Ity’ supporters pointed to the word Christianity, which means both the religion and the state of being a Christian and said it’s better than Christian-ness. They said ‘Hindu-ity’ rhymed with diversity. But the ‘–ness’ ideologues struck back, pointing out that the word ‘pity’ does not mean the state of being ‘p’.

Then there were the ‘–ish’ radicals, who said ‘–ish’ has a nuanced quality, where you want it to mean something yet not entirely so. Examples would include summer-ish and fattish. It has a fuzzy vagueness necessary to smooth political rough edges. Who could possibly argue with something being Hindu-ish, or Islam-ish, or Donyi-Polo-ish? But the ‘-ness’ supporters countered that people might start believing squish means squ-like, or swordfish swordf-like.

There have been other contenders in this war of the suffixes. Some believe the ‘–esque’ suffix is classier. ‘–Dom’, ‘-hood’, ‘-ship’, ‘-itude’, ‘-ian’ and ‘–osity’ have all been in the reckoning. But ‘–ness’ has emerged as the clear winner.

The all-important question now is, if we are all culturally part of Hindu-ness, what should we call ourselves? We can’t be mere Indians, of course, that would be blasphemy. The obvious choice would be to call ourselves Hindu-ness-ians. Our country will then be known as Hindu-ness-ia. As proud Hindunessians of Hindunessia, we can march unitedly ahead towards hindustrialisation. There is, though, one problem — people may confuse Hindunessia with Indonesia. Would Hindunesstan be better? Do we really want to be another ‘-stan’? How about Hindu-ness-anchal? The nation needs to debate this vital issue.

(Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal.)

First Published: Aug 23, 2014 22:30 IST