India is in a funk. People are being persecuted mercilessly for their faith, for the way they dress, for what they eat, the way they chew their food (well, I persecute people for that, but it still counts). The Indian Taliban, aka the BJP, is to blame for all this persecution. The BJP, the ultra ultra right wing party, operating out of the Prime Minister’s Office, is directing a country-wide persecution of people they don’t like. They are actively fomenting intolerance. It is so important to them to increase the amount of intolerance in the country that they have a KPI for it, a metric that needs to be achieved. Every day a junior analyst updates the Daily Intolerance Meter (DIM), counting all obnoxious and intimidating statements made by members of one community against another.
The Prime Minister follows up on these DIMs religiously, pun not intended. I mean, it’s his office, it’s not called the Prime Minister’s Office for nothing. When he’s not outside of India, fomenting more intolerance in otherwise peace loving countries such as Kazakhstan, the Prime Minister appraises himself of the DIM and jumps for joy when he finds out that it has gone up, knowing that more people are intolerant than the day before, and that by extension, more people are unhappy than the day before. Promoting unhappiness in general and among Indians in particular is something that gives the Prime Minister great pleasure. He smiles and beams when this happens.
Thankfully People In Good Standing are not letting this pass unchallenged. They hold the original idea of India, the one that has held fast since independence in 1947 dear, safe and secure in the knowledge that before the Indian Taliban came to power, and barring the five years that it was in power between 1999 and 2004, there was never any intolerance. No Muslims, no Hindus, and certainly no Sikhs were ever persecuted by People In Good Standing during those years. Peace, love and happiness reigned supreme.
Intimidated by the Indian Taliban, by the daily bullying of the Prime Minister himself, the People In Good Standing have looked for and found original ways in which to protest, to resist the rifles pointed at them through their bedroom windows. Scientists and artists who in the past received awards from the Government have decided to return these as a sign of protest. They have dug deep in their closets, looking for the polypropylene phallic symbol (Indian awards are northing if not steeped in tribal culture) that was awarded to them fifteen or twenty years ago. Often they found themselves assisted by their spouses to unearth these works of art, to make sure that they are indeed returned to the Government, or to anyone who will still have them. Try as they might they are often not able to return the prize money that came with these awards as the exact same Rupees can’t be found, and returning other money in its place would seem wrong, unethical, something someone from the Indian Taliban might do, but not a Person In Good Standing.
Returning the prizes has led coincidentally to a brief but not unpleasant re - living of the original award receipt for many of these people in good standing. The newspapers quote their names ("Lata Venkateswaran, 1975 recipient of the State of Ooty’s Award for grammatically correct writing, returns award as protest against growing intolerance. Our correspondent in Hospeth reports”). Take that! Indian Taliban.
Stars, sculptors and authors are joining the fray. Anish Kapur, sculptor, complained of the Talibanization of India, and he is absolutely right to do so. The similarities between Prime Minister Modi, the de facto head of the Indian Taliban, and his late counterpart, Omar Abdullah, the head of the original Ben & Jerry’s Afghan Taliban, are too stark to be ignored. Prime Minister Modi takes selfies when and where he can, hurtling his grinning self image into cyberspace, Omar Abdullah had one photograph taken of himself during his lifetime, and considered that to be a mistake. For the record, so did anyone else who saw that photograph.
Prime Minister Modi exhorts people to protect their daughters, to not commit female infanticide, to reign in their wayward sons, and the Afghan Taliban stones women to death whom it believes have strayed from the true path. I mean, did it really take a British Indian sculptor to point out these similarities to us? Could we not have seen this with our own eyes?
Shobha Dey, the author and columnist, has thrown herself on the ramparts of Mumbai, channeling the wild energy of protesting students in Paris in 1967, and has dared the Indian Taliban to ban “beautiful, wonderful productions” such as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, staged recently in Mumbai, because there were moments of suggested intimacy between the two lead characters. That Beauty and the Beast should be banned for entirely different reasons, that two hours of schmaltz is a criminal offense in civilized societies, eluded Ms. Dey.
Aamir Khan, erstwhile actor and present day body building instructor, announced in a panel discussion that his wife wondered whether they should move to another country, “for the sake of their young son” and because of the fear of the growing intolerance. Moving out of India is not easy, forget the difficulties of getting a visa, those challenges don’t apply to People In Good Standing. Think instead of the difficulty of choosing where abroad, “over there”, one would move to.
Hounslow, conveniently located outside London, close to the airport, and with low overflying aircraft? Perhaps Bradford, in Northern England, with a population that is 75% South Asian. There could be no intolerance there. Or perhaps across the pond in the United States? Baltimore seems to have quietened down after the riots? St. Louis seems back to normal, and it’s not as if Indians were getting shot, it was those people wearing hoodies.
I know people think that all glitterati gravitate towards central London or Manhattan, but not so our glitterati. If they had to move over there, I’m sure they would do the right thing and choose Bradford or Baltimore, just to stick it to the Indian Taliban and its leader.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.