As I stepped out from the gate of my apartment, I was accosted by a man who looked like a spy who came from the Chanakya times. So, he asked, “why don’t you believe in religion or God?” Before I could answer he continued “you have chosen to forget your roots in this ancient land; the land that is like a factory, producing Gods for occasions: you have a god for education, wealth, valour; you have half a beast and a man-god; you have half of the women and man-god; you also have the god of small things; you have the monkey god; snake god and whatnots. Yet, you have chosen not to believe in one of them. “
He took a deep breath and continued “what about this great religion, Sanathana Dharma, its various texts, its Upanishads, the four Vedas, the Puranas, umpteen slokas, the four varnas…from your case file I know you are from better varna and you have chosen to disregard even your birth. You think all your engineering and management education was without the grace of God and of your own virtue” he paused.
I was already in a daze as to who this man was. But I caught the mention of the case file. “What case file you are talking about,” I asked him. “Ah! That he exclaimed, we randomly pick up citizens to track and your case happens to be a gold mine. We have been following you in WhatsApp, the writer’s portal and even in Quora. We read your post with interest and read in between the lines. We have decided you are the quintessential infidel.
We know that you dropped out of the alumni group since you could not stand the die-hard bhakts among your classmates. What is wrong if they believe that the current PM is the best thing to happen to our country. If not Him who else? At least won’t you agree that he has been the best PM since 2014? Won’t you agree that he is the most travelled Indian since 2014? Won’t you agree that there is hardly any leader worth his or her salt whom he has not hugged, a new kind of diplomacy brought to a halt by COVID? He is one among the most powerful leaders from whom even the President of America wants endorsement to woo the American Indians. For the first time, American Indians are getting counted as a group that is of some worth.
He again took a deep breath and continued. “Apart from being an infidel, you have no trust in this present government. What has not the government done for you, he asked. But continued without waiting for my reply. “I know, I know, you would like the rest of the Khan Market brigade talk of the economy…but let me ask you aren’t you getting your many coffees, few square meals and an occasional holiday and ordering out a few times a month? What more do you want? Haven’t you read that 810 million people are being provided monthly dole in the form of ration? Do you ever think about these people, the legacy of the 70 years of misrule? Haven’t you heard his announcement that our country is now free of open defecation? Now don’t ask how the government got this data when they don’t have data of how many migrants died during their home pilgrimage.
He looked into the small black notebook he was carrying. I know you have a grouse against Hindi being pushed and paused. I took the opportunity and butted in. “My mother tongue is Tamil, an ancient language. Even Him quotes from ThiruKural. My mother tongue and English are more than enough for me to survive and go about my life. Yet, I know passable Hindi which I have learnt to see movies of the Bollywood icon who has recently joined the Cow brigade. Not to mention the reincarnated Jhansi ki Rani, her mere utterings that I read in the paper gives me goose pimples. I added that it is the migrants from the northern States who need to learn one of the south Indian languages and stop saying Kannada gothilla (don’t know Kannada).
He got caught on the wrong foot literally and figuratively as he stepped on the cement slab that has been fixed properly on the footpath. I added salt to his wound when I commented as tax-paying citizens, we can’t even get easy to walk footpaths.
As if he wanted to change the subject he asked how about a cup of tea? Or coffee I asked him, adding that Bangalore is famous for filter coffee. Just to prod him I asked, “when does this country ever stop drinking tea or using paper or silk fabric as all of them originated from China.” He took a sip of coffee and remarked that the coffee is indeed good. As if caffeine lighted up his brain he said “on the topic of China, without giving an inch of our land we have made China the villain of the world. Our country is being appreciated for standing up to China’s bullying and most important of all our country has now stopped her focus on Pakistan and concentrating on China.”
Between you and me, he added, it was hight time we stopped our obsession with our little neighbour, size of Maharashtra and take on somebody equal like China. As a conciliatory gesture, he added that I see from your case file that you are an honest tax paying citizen and except for your brief stint at Jharkhand (close to rural Naxal activity) your case is not very strong.
But yet like in case of Dr Kafeel we might still put you in jail, starve and torture you even for a few months and that would teach you a lesson of your life, case or no case. So, take care of what you write. Big brother is watching.
That was when I snapped out of my reverie. In spite of being a cool afternoon, I found myself sweating on my brows. My wife asked, “what happened, you look like you met with a ghost?”
I didn’t respond to her question but said let us have some tea and proceeded to make a cuppa.