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Swim in a sea change

Whether it’s changing one’s opinion about gastronomy or about ideology, expanding the mind beyond set notions can be a mind-boggling experience, writes Kushalrani Gulab.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2008 00:21 IST
Kushalrani Gulab

Quick! Book me into the nearest loony bin because terrible things are happening to me. My eyes have crossed, my head is spinning and it seems to me that little green creatures from outer space are tugging my sleeve and demanding to be taken to my leader.

Given this distressing mental condition, it may surprise you to learn that I know exactly why I’m so afflicted. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m trying to read a book by a Nobel Prize-winning writer — though the symptoms are
similar (eyes crossing; head spinning). Instead, it’s because I have changed my mind.

Not physically of course. Brain transplants are still a way off, though if they do happen in my lifetime, I’d like a brain that can understand the works of Nobel laureates in literature please. It’s just that after a lifetime of being repulsed by the sight of green leafy vegetables — they completely put me off my biryani — I’ve suddenly discovered they’re not only edible, but actually tasty.

You can’t even begin to imagine the impact of a revelation like this on a carnivore like me — though if you want a picture, I suggest you talk to my local veggie-walla who faints whenever I point to the patta. All I can say is, I have never been so confused at mealtimes before in my life — all my food beliefs seem to have gone mad.

If that’s the way I feel when I change my mind about something as minor as palak, I can only offer my deepest sympathy — and a booking at the nearest loony bin if he starts seeing little green creatures — to L K Advani, leader of the Opposition in Parliament, who had to publicly express a change of mind about something his party, the BJP, is founded on: religion. Specifically, the idea that a person’s religion is a person’s defining characteristic.

There is no such thing as ‘Hindu terror’, ‘Islamic terror’ or ‘Sikh terror’, Advani said when talking about the Malegaon blasts case. Exactly, I thought, as I watched that speech on TV. Just as there’s no such thing as a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh, a Christian, or an anything. Only Indians.

It’s rare to witness a closed mind suddenly open (though I’m well aware that it was politically motivated), and I was
especially pleased because I’ve just finished one of the warmest, most inclusive and mind-opening books I’ve ever read —The Pregnant King, by Devdutt Pattanaik.

Based on an incident in the Mahabharata about a childless king who accidentally drank the potion meant to make his queens conceive and became pregnant himself, the book questions all our attitudes towards gender in every possible way. It isn’t didactic, however. It’s delightful.

It’s specifically about gender of course, but once you accept that people are people whatever their gender, it’s hard not to change your mind and accept that people are people whatever their religion. And that palak is just as nice as biryani, in its own way.